Monday, April 18, 2016

Five Better Practice Tips for Spicing Things Up

Daily grind of teaching got you down?  Finding it difficult to put spring break behind you?  Try these five teaching practices by Roben Torosyan to improve outcomes and liven up your classes.

Wait—Most teachers know that they should wait after asking a question in class, but they don’t accurately perceive how long they wait.  Often, teachers wait less than a second before calling on someone, pacing nervously, or rephrasing the question.  Consciously taking the time to wait three to five seconds will allow students adequate time to speak up, answer more fully, and ask better questions themselves.

Kick-start your opening; shout before you walk out—Be sure to start and end your classes with something memorable.  Drama and action can motivate learning in class and after it’s over.  Kick-start your opening with an especially dramatic example, an unobvious questions, the answer to a difficult homework problem, a relevant cartoon, or some intriguing background music.  End by having students shout out a one-word takeaway.  Or ask the question you’ll start the next class with.

Do less and do it more deeply—Imagine a list of 12 learning objectives.  Next, imagine that you need to rate each as essential, important, or of minor importance.  Now, what if you were challenged a little more to select no more than five objectives as essential and important?  Most faculty would find this difficult to do, but it is a significant thing to consider when creating your own curriculum.  With doing more things comes spending less time on each thing.  Therefore, consider the fact that each daily plan should include no more than three to five vital takeaways that students will understand, be able to do, or think differently about.

Grade smarter, not just harder—It’s no question that a large portion of an instructor’s time is spent grading.  They take the time to write comments only to discover that students continue to make the same mistakes in future assignments.  Instead, try returning problem-sets marked only right or wrong and have students find and correct their errors before points are assigned for work.  Only mark one page of a draft, noting the problems that students can look for in the rest of their paper.  Challenge students to correct their mistakes for further revisions.  Offer more clarifying feedback.  Rather than mentioning that something is “unclear,” guide the student to “expand, explain, and give examples.”  Lead and end critical comments with strengths.

Mix it up—It’s an easy thing to find yourself falling into ruts and using the same activities over and over.  Consider switching up your usual “think/pair/share” exercise with a small group activity or a large group debate.  Don’t just mix up activities, but also presentation modes (visual, aural, kinetic) so that the content comes to students in a variety of different ways.

Adapted from: Roben Torosyan for Magna Publications
By: Jessica Moser 

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