Teaching Stories

Kanstantsin Tsedryk: Paradigm Shifts


Kanstantsin Tsedryk, Department of French Studies

Written by Ilia Zenkov, Special Projects (Teaching Stories), CTE. 

The walk to the classroom on the third floor of the Modern Languages Building is quite plain and leads to an even plainer brown door. There’s nothing striking about this classroom – except for the energy and excitement radiating not only from the instructor smiling at the front of the classroom, but from the clusters of eager and bustling students. The instructor in question Dr. Kanstantsin Tsedryk looks to his students and sees a community, a family, a tightly knit group of people from all different backgrounds, yet with many similar ambitions.

Tsedryk is uncompromising in his determination to bring his students together to create an experience that doesn’t just teach them French grammar, but rather changes the way they approach their learning. Tsedryk eschews the traditional model of language learning where students memorize patterns and lists. Instead, he advocates that learning a language – and learning in general – is not about cramming, memorizing, and ultimately forgetting, but rather about creating a sense of academic excitement that motivates students to engage with the material. Tsedryk explains that in order to truly learn, his students must change their perspectives; instead of trying to make sense of French syntax using English principles, he pushes his students toward a more fundamental paradigm shift. The objective is to encourage students to take control of their own learning. How does he accomplish such an ambitious endeavour? The answer lies in the fact that Tsedryk’s enthusiasm in the classroom is rivaled only by his preparation outside of it.

Kanstantsin’s commitment to excellence in teaching extends to every facet of his professional life.
Tsedryk’s preparation is analogous to that of a performer. He plans and constructs his props, he practices and rehearses for the classroom, and – most important – he delivers his lessons with gusto. Tsedryk starts with intricately timed presentations that make use of engaging visual design, transitions, and flow. Next, he organizes his students into groups and equips them with thoughtfully constructed activities to guide them through the lesson and consolidate their learning. Tsedryk emphasizes the importance of peer instruction, explaining that it is a critical step in his goal of changing his students’ perspectives. He points out that 20 individuals offer a much greater breadth and scope of experiences, contexts, and ideas than he alone can provide.

Technology offers us so much in the way of learning, yet much of it is either ignored or, worse, misused. Tsedryk has an exacting set of criteria for the technology he uses in his classroom, cornerstones of which are usability and accessibility. When adopting a technology, there must be a clear need for it. The selected platform must be a perfect fit to that purpose, otherwise it can become detrimental. Next, it must be free and available to everyone. Tsedryk stresses participation and involvement in his classroom, which is why he may be seen handing his phone to a student so that he or she can participate in Kahoot!, a learning platform that allows instructors to create their own “Kahoots,” designed for game-based learning. Tsedryk projects his Kahoot onto the main screen, and students interact with it and each other using their smart phones. He formulates his questions so that when students answer incorrectly they are not discouraged and bewildered but rather experience an “aha!” moment about some aspect of the French language.

Tsedryk’s devotion and enthusiasm for his students, along with his meticulously planned lessons, create an unforgettable classroom. Ultimately, Tsedryk hopes that his students will put to good use not only the language, but those crucial teamwork, communication, and learning skills he cultivates. As his student Jade Bedley observes, “His passion for the French language really shows through his teaching, and I think it's what makes him such a great professor.”

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More Resources

CTE has developed more than 100 Teaching Tips. Each one is a succinct document that conveys useful ideas and practical methods for effective teaching. Some of the Teaching Tips that are relevant to the strategies mentioned in this Teaching Story include the following:

Also check out an excellent French Grammar website developed by Kanstantsin Tsedryk.