“Let’s begin today where we stopped last class.” How many college classes start this way every day? Some students attend by searching their notes or books to discover where the prior class concluded. But, for most learners, this opening fails to capture their attention, and they struggle to find some connections to the topic.
Effective Teaching Strategies
Some students tell us they hate groups—as in really hate groups. Why do faculty love groups so much, they ask. I work hard, I’m smart, I can get good grades by myself, these students insist. Other students are a waste. I end up doing all the work and they get the good grade I earned for the group. Why do you, Professor Byrnes, make me work in a group. I hate groups!
Librarians as partners is a relationship that may not have occurred to you, but as librarians we think it’s one you ought to explore. Librarians are qualified to help you with pedagogical issues that go way beyond how to find a book or search a database.
Once I passed my 50th semester of introductory biology, I began to regret that my profession doesn’t have a real apprenticeship for teaching—why should every young professor facing his or her first big class…have to make the same mistakes I did and, perhaps more important, why should they not know that everybody…has the same problems?
Not all disengaged students fall into the stereotype of the slacker who comes late to class (if at all), or is as easy to spot as Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. In fact there are a number of students who are masters at playing the game … doing just enough to get by … attending class but not really participating, much less engaging with the content.
Incorporating material that addresses diversity issues in classes has positive effects on a number of learning outcomes. The success of efforts to make curricula more diverse depends to a large degree on faculty willingness to incorporate these materials because control of the curriculum remains in faculty hands—both collectively, in terms of course and program approval processes, and individually, in terms of daily decisions about what to teach.
Most teachers work to add interest to lecture material in an attempt to gain student attention. If they aren’t attending, they aren’t listening, and if they aren’t listening, it’s pretty hard to imagine them learning anything from a lecture. But is there a point at which the interesting details are more arresting than the content? And if that’s so, do those kinds of details get in the way of attempts to learn and apply content?
I don’t know why I didn’t see it before. After 10 years of teaching, I finally realize why students get so nervous about exams. It’s because taking an exam is a performance. It’s just like American Idol , when they are doing the first round of auditions. You can have great natural ability and sound terrific, but when the spotlight shines down as you stand in front of the judges and the TV cameras, can you make it happen?
If you think everybody’s pretty much on board with the idea of active learning, think again. I was surprised to find an article that in its opening paragraph describes active learning as “a philosophy and movement that portends trouble for the future of higher education and the American professoriate.”
After years of stating my expectations for tutorial participation orally, I have developed a rubric that I think both improves my accountability as an assessor and provides my students with a clear sense of my expectations for class discussions. It also makes clear my focus in the small group setting: creating a “learners-centered,” as opposed to a “learner-centered,” environment.