Teaching Tips

2007-2010

#16 April 22, 2010 Assess Students’ Understanding Along the Way

Assessment should drive instruction, not the other way around. If we find out our students do not understand what we are teaching until the final assessment, it is too late. So, instead of waiting, it is in the best interest of the students to assess their understanding along the way.

One way to quickly assess how students are doing is the “one-minute essay.” At the end of each class, the professor can ask: What is the big point you learned in class today? What is the one unanswered question you leave class with today?

Exit cards are another way to measure for understanding. With five minutes or so left at the end of class, professors can ask one question about the content or concepts from the day’s lesson. Students answer the question and hand their answer to the teacher as they “exit” the class for that day.

No matter the formative assessment, it is important to keep in mind that to measure for understanding requires transfer. Can the student use the ideas from your class and transfer them to a novel situation/reading/problem? Perhaps asking how what they are learning applies to last semester, their major, or their lives will provide a window into their thinking.

#15 February 12, 2010 Strategies That Help Engage Students As Active Learners

Are you looking for strategies that help engage students as active learners? How about ways to keep students focused on the lecture and not their iPhones. Well,try the following strategies:

• Think-Pair-Share
Instead of asking a question and allowing one student to respond, have all students reflect on the question, discuss it with their neighbor and then call on students for responses.

• Concept Tests
Provide students with a conceptual multiple choice question (restricted to the level of comprehension or application in Blooms Taxonomy) and have them explain to their neighbor why they think their answer is correct.

• Question of the Day
At the beginning of class provide students with a question that focuses on the important points of that lecture. Encourage students to discuss the question and then write down their answers. Collect all the student responses.

The above strategies for interactive lectures were adopted from the following website http://serc.carleton.edu/sp/library/interactive/index.html

#14 February 1, 2010 Teaching Suggestions for Starting Off the Semester

SOURCE: “101 Things You Can do the First Three Weeks of Class” By Joyce T. Povlacs

“*Collect students’ current telephone numbers and addresses and let them know that you may need to reach them.

*Find out about your students via questions on an index card.

*Seek out a different student each day and get to know something about him or her.

*Start the lecture with a puzzle, question, paradox, picture, or cartoon on slide or transparency to focus on the day’s topic.

*Stage a figurative “coffee break” about twenty minutes into the hour; tell an anecdote, invite students to put down pens and pencils, refer to a current event, shift media.

*Hand out supplemental study aids: library use, study tips, supplemental readings and exercises.

*Tell about your current research interests and how you got there from your own beginnings in the discipline.

*Take students with you to hear guest speakers or special programs on campus.”

#13 December 10, 2009 Tips for Grading

From: Stanford University’s Center for Teaching and Learning “Tips for Grading”

“*Before Grading
Announce grading policies before hand, and be sympathetic but firm. Decide with your teaching team how firm to be and on what constitutes an exception to the rules. As often as possible, try to get these grading guidelines in writing, for each assignment if necessary.

*Read a few assignments before you begin grading just to get a sense of the range and the ways students are responding to the assignment-if a substantial number of students are answering questions or presenting arguments differently than expected, your expectations or the answer key (in the case of an exam or problem set) may need to be re-worked.

*Survival Skill Tip: if you have a big stack of papers to grade (more than 30), pace yourself! Try to read no more than five papers a day so that you stay fresh and positive while grading.

*Consider which order to grade your papers…alphabetically? Randomly? With names covered to avoid bias? Average to good? Save the worst for last? The best for last? Problem students first? This may change over the quarter but be conscious of your methods and experiment to find out what works best for you.

*Grade when you’re in a good mood with energy and in a supportive environment. . . If necessary, when in a rush, sacrifice detailed comments rather than overall quality of grading.

*While Grading Papers and Exams:
1. Make comments in pencil
2. With papers, if you have time, read each paper the first time for content
3. Read the paper through a second time for: analytical substance, argument structure, use of supporting material, quality of writing, persuasiveness, overall clarity, internal consistency, discerning between assumptions and value judgments vs. analysis and argument.”

#12 November 30, 2009 Tips for Better Teaching

SOURCE: Tips for Better Teaching. By Ted Hipple and Tricia McClam

“Good teachers seem to have a lot of different activities going on in their classrooms, not concurrently, of course, but over time. True, they lecture, they have class recitations. But they do a lot of other things too:

  • They have students give occasional oral reports, say of three or four minutes in length. These might open the class and lead in to the professor’s presentation.
  • They pause for what we’ll call the “instant group activity.” . . . A technique we’ve found is simply to move away from the lectern, approach the students, and say, “Please talk with me.” This courteous request usually elicits responses and it conveys to students a sense of, “Look, gang, we’re all in this teaching-learning business together; let’s help each other out.”
  • They vary the furniture arrangement if they can. If the chairs move, they move them, in a semicircle one day, rows another, a circle a third. And if they use seating charts, they change them every so often.
  • They bring in occasional guest speakers, a colleague in their field or someone from beyond the university’s walls, to provide variety in presentation and viewpoint …”

#11 November 12, 2009 People Your Ideas

SOURCE: 147 Practical Tips for Teaching Professors. By Robert Magnan.

“People your ideas.

Where do you get the ideas you present in your lectures? From Pasteur or Spinoza or Sartre or Euclid or Michelet or Dostoevski … So, put the words back into their mouths. Ok, maybe you don’t do voices. Tell stories, ‘live and in person.’ Try something like, ‘The year: 1665, the place: England, and a scientist named Issac Newton is watching the moon and wondering…’ When you present differing opinions, why not have the proponents argue among themselves or hold a panel discussion? Distinguish between characters through voices, or with hats, or by changing position or standing beneath names written across the board. That’s performing. The idea is basic: sometimes life dries out when it’s brought into the classroom. We should allow it to live as much as possible.”

#10 October 28, 2009 “Any questions?”: Generating Student Inquiry

“To help students answer their own questions, you need to first teach students to ask the right kinds of questions for the right purposes. Show students that questions can be structured around the types of information sought. For example,Bloom’s Taxonomy of the cognitive domain provides a categorization of thought processes from least to most complex; a good framework for posing questions at increasingly higher levels of understanding. Providing students with question stems will help them with this process. Another categorization of questions describes questions as input (requiring recall of facts or derivations from sensory data); processing (requiring the drawing of relationships among data); or output (requiring students to hypothesize, speculate, create, generalize, evaluate). Once students understand that they need to identify what it is they want to know, they can then select the appropriate questions to ask.

Because generating their own questions will be new to most students, they will need encouragement. You can help students feel comfortable asking questions if you create an environment in which inquiry is not only accepted but fostered. By modeling the questioning process and scaffolding student discourse you can mold students’ actions, interactions, and thought processes. One way to begin would be to have students write questions prior to studying a new topic, performing a new task, or taking part in a new activity. Ask them to use the question stems to write a question at each level of thought. Use the students’ questions to guide investigations, activities, or discussions. During these, have students think about particular questions and seek answers through their interactions with the teacher and other students. Afterwards, have students reflect upon the questions they asked to determine if the questions helped them learn. At this time, too, have students write new questions based on their prior questions and the teaching/learning activities.”

SOURCE: This week’s tip is brought to you by Nancy McClure of Fairmont State College: Fairmont, West Virginia via Stanford University’s Tomorrow’s Professor Blog.

#9 March 17, 2008 “Principle of Charity”

This week’s teaching tip was submitted by Konstantina Myrianthopoulos of the Department of Psychology here at Adelphi University. The Teaching and Advisement Committee loved her tip and we are proud to share it with the campus community.

“Spend some time with students talking about the “principle of charity.” I notice that students are quick to judge and criticize a theory or new idea, without having an adequate understanding of the specific theory. When reading a new theory or idea we should try to suspend our beliefs, tolerate ambiguity, withhold judgement and seek to understand rather than seeking contradictions and difficulties.

Any theory or new idea can be critiqued but we should read and listen as if we had no personal attitudes so that we remain open, receptive and then we will be able to absorb and understand the new information. Once an adequate understanding is achieved, new ideas and theories can be critiqued.”

#8 February 27, 2008 Conduct a Mini-Lecture on “How to Read.”

Most students don’t really know how to read a book. It seems like such a simple thing to a faculty member. The sheer volume of our reading forces us to learn how to effectively read and note the main points. Students, on the other hand, tend to approach a book in a linear fashion, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, from beginning to end.

Consider including a mini-lecture on reading various kinds of books. Give instruction on how to: read the chapters, identify the main points, take notes while reading, and how to highlight. You might also include how to skim the beginning and end of chapters, use the sub-headings, or understand tables and illustrations.

Within the first few weeks of classes, have students read a single chapter and bring in the highlighted text and annotated notes they have taken on the reading. Either in small groups or individually, check to see if they are highlighting the entire page (most common student error), or, incorrectly identifying the main points of the reading.

By teaching the students to critically read, class discussions can be richer, and the student is encouraged to really “own” the material they are reading.

#7 December 17, 2007 Slam Poetry

This teaching tip is from teacher and award-winning Slam Poet–Taylor Maki. He speaks about his experience teaching in the lower grades, but his message resonates for all of us who teach.

Taylor Maki on ‘What teachers make’: http://youtube.com/watch?v=tpog1_NFd2Q&feature=related

What is Slam Poetry?

Slam poetry is a form of performance poetry that occurs within a competitive poetry event, called a “slam”, at which poets perform their own poems that are “judged” on a numeric scale by randomly picked members of the audience.

Taylor Mali is considered to be the most successful poetry slam strategist of all time, having led six of his seven national poetry slam teams to the finals stage and winning the championship itself a record four times before anyone had even tied him at three. Mali was one of the original poets to appear on the HBO original series “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry.” He was also the “golden-tongued, Armani clad villain” of Paul Devlin’s 1997 documentary film “SlamNation,” which chronicled the National Poetry Slam Championship of 1996, the year of Mali’s first national team championship.

#6 October 9, 2007 One-Minute Evaluations

This week’s Teaching Tip is brought to you by the Senate Committee on Teaching and Advisement and the Scholar as Teacher from the McGraw Center at Princeton University.

Whether you try a new approach or not, you may find it helpful to end the class with a one-minute evaluation.

The “one-minute paper” is an exercise in which you ask students to take a moment at the end of class to write down a key point from the lecture or the discussion or identify a question they still have. Perusing these comments can help you determine if students are where you want them to be at that point in the class. Start the next class with responds to students comments or questions briefly during the next class.

The “one-sentence summary” exercise asks students to summarize a key concept, method, or reading in one sentence by responding to a question, such as, “What is the author arguing?” “What is the cause/result of this process?” These short writing exercises may reveal students misconceptions or struggles with the material.

Students can hand these in anonymously, or with their names.

#5 April 30, 2007 Learn From Your Successes

This week’s tip is brought to you by the Faculty Senate on Teaching and Advisement and The Princeton University McGraw Center on Teaching and Learning.

As we near the end of the semester, here is a reflective teaching tip:

Every time we teach a course, we learn something more about how students learn in our disciplines.

Although we may think that we’ll remember these insights after the semester ends, it is worth while to write down our thoughts while they’re fresh. So after the semester’s activities subside but before the memory fades, to take a few moments to compile your insights, successes, and missed opportunities from this semester. Doing this now will help you teach more effectively and efficiently next time. A structured process is to review the syllabus at the end of the semester and note in what lectures the students were fully engaged, and in what lectures did they seem distant. Or you could do it in a free form.

For a more interactive method — if your course has Lab Instructors or Teaching Assistants, invite them to your office for an end-of-the-year thanks and the chance to find out from them where the students seemed strong and confident, and where they asked for more explanation.

#4 April 10, 2007 Try Sharing Your Thought Process To Encourage a Dynamic dialogue

During a lecture, when you are making a particularly challenging  observation or drawing a conclusion based on evidence, pause and share with your students what they should be asking themselves:

  • How can I make a claim like this?
  • Where could I find alternative or conflicting ideas about this issue?
  • What’s another way to make this argument or test this hypothesis?

I combine this method with theatrics. I save a front row seat in my classroom, and after I make a bold statement, I sit down in the seat and “heckle” myself from the audience.

For example, in the last workshop on Active Teaching for faculty, I began by saying “Active teaching engages students and improves teaching”. Then I sat down in the classroom seat and said loudly: “No, active teaching wastes time and is not what students come for. They come to hear you teach.” From there the faculty could begin a real dialogue about the pros and cons of active teaching.

#3 Feb 26, 2007 Consider Outlining Your Lecture On The Board

Brought to you by the Berkeley Compendium

An engineering professor says “I prefer to use the outline method from the start, I put up my outline before class begins, I think this emphasizes the importance of major ideas better because they are revealed in the beginning of the lecture, and the students can follow, and know where we are in the lesson.”

Whereas a professor in the biological sciences says that she outlines her lectures on the board as she goes along. On a separate section of the blackboard she also writes down any technical terms or names of scientists that the students might not know how to spell.

“The outline serves to reinforce visually what I am saying,” she explains. “Furthermore, it makes clear to everyone where we have been and where we are going. An added bonus is that writing the outline on the board as I go along slows down my lecture pace: it serves as an automatic `brake’ and keeps me from racing through the material.”

#2 Feb 12, 2007 Borrow Your Students Lecture’s Notes

Brought to you by the Berkeley Compendium on Teaching.

Periodically try borrowing lecture notes from several students. You can review them for a short time before class begins, or after class.

The best way to select students’ notes is at random. Faculty members who have used this technique warn that it can be a very chastening as well as useful experience. “There was an incredible difference between what I thought I had said and the points I thought I had stressed, and what the students heard or felt was important to write down,” one faculty member reported.

#1 Jan 20, 2007 Using Slides, Maps or Handouts

Brought to you from Harvard University:

When using slides, maps or handouts, ask the students what they see before you tell them what you see. Doing this helps students think about a problem as you introduce it.

 
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