Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Teaching Large Classes: Using the Exit Ticket Strategy

Due to the vast amount of students in large class settings, many professors face the same challenge of how to gauge what your students have taken away from a particular session.  Did they truly understand the main ideas of the lecture?  Did they have any questions that weren't answered?  These issues can be eased through the use of exit ticket strategies

An exit ticket is something each student hands in before leaving at the end of class.  On it, students might answer a question, state the main point of the lecture, or ask a question that they have about the content that had been covered.  The ticket can be a note card, a scrap of notebook paper, or a sticky note.  The only real requirement of the ticket itself is that it must be able to serve as a way for students to convey a message to the professor.

Here are some ways to utilize an exit ticket within your class:

1. Ask students to take the last few minutes of class to write about what they believed was the most important point in class that day.

2. Have students write a question they still have regarding the material.

3. Ask students to answer a specific question that you come up with regarding the material that was covered in class that day.

After this has been completed, simply provide a space for students to hand in or drop off their exit tickets before they leave, and viola!  You have instant feedback on your most recent lecture.

This strategy enables you to reinforce concepts that were confusing to students, and to see what main concepts students left class knowing.

Other ways to include the exit ticket strategy include:
  • Requiring post-class discussion posts on D2L to see if students have questions about the content covered in class each day.
  • Instead of handing in their tickets, students could use the last few minutes of class to discuss the things they wrote about on their cards with their peers around them.  Often, this leads to clarification through discussion with each other.
  • Exit tickets don't necessarily need to used at the end of class.  If you'd like to implement them at the beginning or middle to evoke discussion or problem-solving, go for it!

 Tip Provided By: Jessica Moser

Monday, September 21, 2015

Contract Learning: Pros and Cons

"Allowing students to decide which grade they wish to strive for, which activities they will engage in, and how they will demonstrate that they have satisfactorily completed their studies permits a teacher to seize upon powerful motivating forces within individual students ... This notion shifts responsibility for learning from the teacher to the student, but at the same time offers an incentive by insuring success under known conditions. Students are challenged without being threatened." (Frymier, 1965)

Research and implementation of learning contracts within the classroom has been taking place for more than fifty years.  However, for those of us who have not interacted first hand with a learning contract, it may seem like a foreign world.  Here are some things to keep in mind about learning contracts in order to be more informed about whether they are the right fit for you in your own classroom.

What is a learning contract?

A learning contract is a written agreement between you and your students on an individual level that identifies the content that each student will be learning, specifies the methods and strategies that will be used to learn the content, and specific resources that will be used in order to learn the content.  From there, the student compiles specific types of evidence they will be using to demonstrate learning and how the evidence will be validated.

How do students know what to include on learning contracts?

Teachers may choose to allow students to creatively come up with their own ways to demonstrate learning, or more frequently, teachers provide a list of pre-approved options for students to choose from.

What are the benefits of learning contracts?

Students are required to become more self-directing and more responsible for their own learning.
Choice is a powerful thing.  Studies have shown that students learn material more deeply and permanently if they learn through projects of their own choice instead of direct lecturing or teaching.
Using learning contracts directly creates individualized instruction between teacher and student.  Since both you, and your students will be creating a contract together, you continue to stay engaged in the learning process together.

What are the negatives of learning contracts?

Research proves that required learning contracts are not nearly as beneficial as those that are willingly agreed upon.  Therefore, it is suggested that you offer the choice to enter into a learning contract, and allow students to choose between that or a required project that doesn’t allow the same amount of choice.
Students may break the contract.  Before determining that learning contracts are something that you want to utilize as a teaching tool, you should first consider what consequences you are willing to enforce should a student break their learning contract.

Interested in creating a learning contract, but not sure where to begin?
Click here for instructions on how to design your own. 

Tip Provided By:  Jessica Moser

Monday, September 14, 2015

Teaching Tip: "Today We Will"

Disengagement and lack of accountability are just a few issues that are commonly seen in college students.  With ever-growing classroom sizes, how do we continue to keep students engaged and accountable for what they’re learning?  Two words: learning objectives.  As seen in successful primary and secondary classrooms across the globe, students tend to work best when they understand what their learning objectives are for each class period.  Thus embarks “Today We Will” learning.  

A concept taken from listing learning objectives, “Today We Will” requires only 2 things. 

1. Teachers write “Today We Will” and then a list of the main things they hope their students to learn or take away from their class that day.  

2. Teachers keep that list up for students to see for the entirety of the class period.  

Simply listing the objectives for class that day provides students with a road map of what they can expect and listen for throughout class.  This keeps students engaged in a checklist of sorts, allowing them to keep track of each of the main points your lesson focuses on, and what they should make note of as important for future classes, assignments, projects, or exams.  

A “Today We Will” list also prompts student questions if they become lost or confused on a particular topic.  Writing out your objectives makes students more accountable for making sure they fully understand each concept before the class is over.

Keep in mind that your "Today We Will" list doesn't have to be absolutely specific.  You might choose to include a statement like, "Today we will go over three big questions that are on the midterm." Not only does this make students more attentive, it also encourages them to attend class, arrive on time, and compensate for any portion that they may have missed.

Tip Provided By:  Jessica Moser