Consider the following exam day scenario. While the students are taking their exam, you look up from the paper you’re grading and see a student repeatedly looking at another student’s exam. When your eyes meet his, he appears nervous. What should you do next?
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
Effective Teaching Strategies
The prospect of teaching topics outside one’s area of expertise can be unsettling for even the most confident faculty member. Nevertheless, due to factors such as budget cuts and curricular changes, faculty are increasingly being asked to teach in unfamiliar territory.
A student once lamented that he had attended a class for an entire semester and uttered only one word: “Here.” Although taking attendance is a routine administrative chore, it is not related to teaching and learning, right? Wrong! You can turn roll call into a tool that implants the topic for the ensuing class in students’ minds, sets the tone for the class, and encourages the development of community in your classroom by using a variety of attendance prompts.
Developing sophisticated but essential learning skills is especially challenging in large classes. That’s why we regularly report on strategies that faculty members have developed and are using in large classes. The cases in point here are three different biochemistry courses in which faculty members have been using online, asynchronous discussion groups to develop problem-solving skills.
Staring at a blank screen the night before the research paper was due—this was the dilemma faced by my upper-level science students. The paper, the product of their independent research projects, is an important part of our curriculum and one component of our assessment of their scientific writing skills.
It’s been a while since I was an undergrad, but I still remember my two favorite professors. They had completely different personalities and teaching styles, they even taught in different departments, but they did some things in very similar ways. I think that’s what made them so effective. It really wasn’t the content — although that was part of it — it was more the classroom experience they created.
Teaching undergraduate research when laboratories are involved is a time-consuming and costly endeavor, especially at those institutions without graduate assistants. One faculty member working alongside two or three students for four hours a week for one credit isn’t a particularly viable approach. For faculty who use undergrads to support their research programs, this approach slows down productivity as proficient students graduate and new ones must be trained in an unending cycle.
What skills do you wish your students had prior to taking your course? Reading comprehension, time management, listening, note-taking, critical thinking, test-taking? Let’s face it, most students could benefit from taking a course in learning how to learn. But who wants to take a study skills class?
Generating participation in a large class discussion is fraught with teaching land mines. We can call on people who raise their hands, but too often it is always the same people. We can ask to hear from someone else and risk offending those who have been volunteering, so that there are even fewer hands. We can call on people randomly and risk embarrassing those who aren’t prepared or don’t understand. Maybe that will motivate them to prepare, or it may just be reflected in our teaching evaluations. I’d like to share an exercise that broadens class participation and offers a way around these potential risks.
When first visualizing an online mathematics course, I saw a barren, text-only environment where students learned primarily from the textbook and where instructors provided text-based direction, clarification, and assistance. But typing is not teaching and reading is not learning. Students deserve more from online courses than regurgitated textbooks and opportunities to teach themselves. With today’s technology, we can create a rich learning environment.