interactive teaching strategies April 9

Interactive Strategies for Engaging Large and Small Classes Alike

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As the associate director at Tulane’s Center for Engaged Learning and Teaching (CELT), I work with faculty to help them transform their classrooms into more engaged spaces. One way to do that is by creating opportunities for interaction between the professor and the students and between the students themselves. I always start the conversation on this topic with three questions:

  1. What is the purpose of making a class interactive?
  2. What does an interactive class look like?
  3. What gets in the way of you creating a more interactive space in your classroom?


helping quiet students participate March 15

An Approach for Helping Quiet Students Find Their Voices

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“I’m afraid I’ll be the only one to think my thoughts, that no one else will see it the way I do. I don’t want to be wrong.”

That was the response by a student to a comment I made asking him to consider participating more in class discussions. The conversation took place one day after class toward the end of the 2017 spring semester when he asked me to sign an academic progress report. He was a good student and submitted quality papers on a timely basis. Yet, while he paid attention to my lectures and everyone’s remarks in class, he rarely spoke.


Using Assignment Choice to Promote Course Relevancy February 23

Using Assignment Choice to Promote Course Relevancy

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As a teacher of a subject that I adore and cherish, I often find myself scrambling for enough time to cover everything that needs to be covered and still find a clever way to introduce yet another “cool story” that will further convince my students that my field (microbiology) is relevant to everyday life.

No doubt I am not alone in this challenge of finding ways to demonstrate relevancy of what we teach, but not at the complete expense of the time and effort we desperately need to guide our students through challenging, key concepts and ideas.


college-level reading skills February 12

Reading Reframed for the Community College Classroom

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When people hear I’m a professor of reading at a local community college, I’m often met with some variation of, “Really? You teach reading…in college?”

The assumption implied, of course, is that college students should already know how to read, that reading as a focus of study belongs in the elementary classroom. For most people reading this article, the fact that students struggle with collegiate-level text is not revelatory. Indeed, the office-doorway concerns swapped amongst faculty are confirmed by various reports, such as the one cited in the U.S. Department of Education’s recent review of developmental education, which noted that approximately 40% of first-year community college students enrolled in at least one developmental course in the 2011-2012 year (2017).


Encouraging class discussion. January 8

Creating the Space for Engaged Discussions

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It’s a new academic year, and optimism and energy are in abundant supply. There are new ideas for class, new ways to engage students, and great questions to wrestle with as the intersections between past and present have rarely been so obvious. And it all goes swimmingly, it seems, until the first time we actually launch a discussion. Then those faces that seemed to be so cheerful–nodding along as we talked about how our class could be challenging, provocative, even FUN–now stare back blankly. It was as if posing a question triggered an actual electric shock that stunned them into a catatonic state. No…wait! Someone looked up. Eye contact? We look at them hopefully, ready for someone to bravely interrupt the increasingly awkward silence. They meet our gaze for a split second, their eyes widen in panic, and all of a sudden there seems to be something much more compelling to look at on the floor next to their chair. It’s as if the air goes out of the room. Everyone seemed to be on board with a discussion-based class until we actually gave them the chance to embark. Then, abandon ship.


professor and student meeting to discuss writing December 11, 2017

Meaningful Learning through One-on-One Conferences

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Graduate students frequently get the chance to meet one-on-one with their professors. Yet at the undergraduate level, especially during the first year, students rarely get that chance, unless they take the initiative to come to office hours or schedule a meeting.

This is unfortunate. I teach first-year writing, and at least once every semester, I meet one-on-one with each of my students, usually to review a draft of their first paper. My students love these conferences, partly because they offer a chance for personal contact with their instructor, and partly because the conferences provide them with uniquely meaningful feedback.


humor in the classroom - fake glasses November 13, 2017

You’re Funnier Than You Think: Using Humor in the Classroom

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First, we want everyone reading this to go ahead and lower their expectations. While the two of us are big fans of comedy and using humor in many walks of life, we aren’t terribly funny ourselves. But here’s the thing: that’s sort of the point. While we’re not comedians, we use humor as a teaching tool. And so can you!


question mark on computer October 20, 2017

Teaching with the Test: Questions that Build Students’ Self-Awareness

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Mention “teaching to the test” among educators and you will certainly hear a lot about what is wrong with education today and probably more about the importance of teaching critical thinking (and how this cannot be done when you are teaching to the test). Let me suggest a slightly different take on working with tests and the development of, if not critical thinking, greater self-awareness among students as learners—teaching with the test as a form of Socratic mentoring.


multicolored notecards October 13, 2017

A Simple Trick for Getting Students to Ask Questions in Class

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Your students have questions, but they rarely ask them—especially at the beginning of the semester. They feel awkward or embarrassed, or maybe it’s just inertia. Whatever the cause, the vast majority of student questions go unasked. For teachers, this is wildly frustrating because we can’t answer the questions they don’t ask (though some questions can be anticipated). In many cases, the unasked questions represent anxieties and uncertainties that negatively affect students’ performance in class and inhibits their learning. This is a particular problem in the sophomore composition class I teach. It has a reputation as a difficult class, so many students arrive intimidated and nervous.


Young professor with students September 29, 2017

How to Make the Most of Your First Year of Teaching

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Crowdsourcing advice for new faculty

This fall, thousands of new college teachers walked into their very own classrooms for the first time. They’ve ignored the butterflies, handled the inevitable technical malfunctions with aplomb, and learned to successfully navigate both the campus web portal and the faculty parking lot.

But there’s so much to learn, and none of it has to do with course content. They’ve had some real affirming moments, but most days feel like a race to stay a step ahead of the students. They feel like imposters … worried that their students, their colleagues, and, worst of all, their department chair will discover that they really don’t know how to teach.