teaching large classes

Creating a Curriculum Map for Survey Courses

Introductory survey courses offer an overview of a broad topic or field of knowledge. They form the backbone of undergraduate education at most colleges and universities, and they also serve as the foundation courses for their disciplines.

An introductory survey course may be the only college-level course that non-majors take in the field, as well as the courses on which potential majors may base their decision of whether they will choose to major in that field. Despite their critical role in the higher education landscape, introductory survey courses are notorious for low rates of student achievement and satisfaction.

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How Do You Study? A Questionnaire for Students

Good instructional decision-making rests on accurate information. And in the case of tests and exams, we should be seeking student input more often than we do. No, we aren’t asking whether they want exams or what kind of exams they like. We need to know more about their learning experiences associated with the exams.

We’re making decisions about exams mostly based on suppositions—how we think they’re studying. We rely on feedback provided by their performance. Those with poor exam scores didn’t study, or they didn’t use good study strategies, or were so stressed by the exam they couldn’t think clearly. Those reasons aren’t all the same—they have different instructional implications. Exam performance feedback is after-the-fact input. Feedback collected at other times can provide details that enable us to better use exams and the events that surround them to promote learning and improve performance.

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Classroom Participation Strengths Inventory

Understanding temperament is very helpful in understanding the learning styles and approaches. So extroverts tend to prefer very high levels of external stimulation, tend to be energized by social activity, may avoid solitude, and are oriented to the outer world. Whereas introverts may easily feel overstimulated in social settings or exhausted by social activity. So they may seek solitude to recharge their batteries, and their orientation may be more likely to the inner world of thoughts and ideas.

Let's make the next connection to learning. In terms of preferences and in terms of the conditions in which students perform best, extroverts tend to prefer to work with others and learn with others, so project work, collaboration, group work, these are all preferences of the more
extroverted students.

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Discipline-Relevant Critical Thinking Skills and Outcomes

Critical Thinking demands explicit awareness, monitoring, control, and evaluation of one’s thinking, so add a meta-assignment (grade pass/fail) in which students reflect on and describe their thinking processes (metacognition, self-regulated learning). Sample prompts:

  • How did you arrive at your response/solution?
  • Describe the process by which you arrived at your solution and determined it was the best. How did you define the task/problem, decide which principles and concepts to apply, develop alternative approaches and solutions, and assess their feasibility, trade-offs, and relative worth?
  • How did you conduct your design/problem-solving/research process (steps taken, strategies used, problems encountered, how overcome)?
  • How did you set and modify your goals, strategies, and actions in response to other players? (after a simulation or role play)
  • What skills did you use or improve, and when will they be useful in the future?
  • Evaluate your strategies, performance, and success in achieving your goals.
  • What goals and strategies will guide your revision (if applicable)?
  • What learning value did this task have? What would you do differently?
  • What advice would you give next semester’s students before they do this assignment (preparation, strategies, pitfalls, value)?

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Sample To-Do Online Teaching Checklist

Daily Priorities

  • Check “Questions for Instructor” thread; respond to questions
  • Check internal course email; respond to questions
  • Check phone messages; respond to students
  • Check dropbox; grade submissions and provide feedback
  • Participate in discussion thread; record grades and comment codes on separate sheet while participating

Weekly Tasks

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Critical Thinking Verbs: Do Your Students Know What They Mean?

Analyze: Break something down into parts, such as a theory into its components, a process into its stages, or an event into its causes. Analysis involves characterizing the whole, identifying its parts, and showing how the parts interrelate.

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Four Key Questions About Large Classes

Teaching Large Classes: Course Design and Teaching Checklists

(1) List your top three or four concerns about teaching large classes         (2) Identify the parts of those concerns over which you have some level of control or capacity to change         (3)...

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Group Work: Assessment and Grading

Grading small group work can be a challenge. Most instructors use a combination of individual product and group product, often developing a percentage split based upon the assignment (e.g. 70% individual work and 30% group work).

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Classroom Observation Checklist

When observing or being observed you can use this checklist. It will help to identify areas that are going well and areas that need attention.

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Six Steps to an Effective Flex Learning Environment

Flexible learning, also known as modular learning, gives students some choice in their learning format. They get to decide whether they want to approach lessons or even entire courses in face-to-face, online, or blended classrooms. And they can switch back and forth between the formats without penalty or disadvantage.

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