February 8, 2012, 3:00 pm
Last semester I taught my favorite book, Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. With nightly reading assignments that take three to four hours, I expect students to fall behind. So I wasn’t surprised when, a few days in, I asked if everyone had done all the reading and the majority of the class avoided looking at me. Such are the occupational hazards of teaching.
We’re only a few weeks into the semester, but experience shows that it’s never too early for students to get behind in their reading—even if you’re not teaching amazing post-print fiction. While students clearly have the right to choose what they will and will not read, when a significant portion of the class falls behind it can make it very difficult to lead a class discussion.
Last semester, I heard a strategy from my friend and colleague Alyssa Stalsberg-Canelli for dealing with exactly this problem: have the students…
September 19, 2011, 3:00 pm
In many courses, class discussion is a central part of student learning. Whether you’re using the Socratic method or aiming for something much more freeform, getting your students to voice their (sometimes not fully-formed) thoughts can be an especially effective way of engaging active learning.
What do you do if your students are reluctant to talk? Erin wrote a great post early last year with specific suggestions for addressing this situation. What if only a few students actually participate in class discussion regularly? This is undesirable for two reasons. First, their thoughts take on a disproportionate weight in the conversations, and second, the other students are allowed to coast, letting these few students do the majority of the work necessary in class discussion.
One activity that I’ve found quite useful was developed by Frank Lyman thirty years ago and goes by the name “
June 8, 2011, 8:00 am
ProfHacker has frequently featured tips about learning student names, and about facilitating class discussion. Today, I wanted to highlight an app, Pikme, that speaks to both of these concerns. What’s more, Pikme is an app developed by a professor at Rowan University, Smitesh Bakrania, and his mechanical engineering students, Ryan Sikorski and Mike Goldberg.
Pikme lets you create up to five classes of students. Currently, the only way to add students into a class is by hand, although the app does let you take photos of the students, which probably facilitates name-learning. The entertaining part of the app comes during class discussion: If you want to call on a student at random, just open the app and shake the phone, and it will suggest a student. It also gives you the chance to rate the students’ response as you can see in this montage of screenshots:
May 13, 2011, 8:00 am
I’m teaching a writing class this summer, and I recently stumbled upon an effective method for encouraging students to discuss each others’ drafts. It involves their thumbs. Allow me to explain . . .
Because our schedule is pretty compressed, each student is writing a number of short assignments per week. Each assignment comes with very specific instructions and a fairly detailed rubric for evaluation. On Monday, for example, we might discuss the conventions for writing a one-page report about a recent community event. On Tuesday, the students peer review their drafts of this report, but we then discuss the next assignment, which could be an evaluation of a lengthy news article on a topic of their choice. On Wednesday, they turn in the one-page report, peer review their drafts of the evaluation, and begin talking about the next assignment.
In short, there’s a lot going on each day….
May 13, 2010, 6:00 pm
A few days ago, Nels wrote a post titled “Leading Effective Classroom Discussions on Controversial Issues.” In this post, I’d like to talk about some of the same kinds of concerns, from the perspective of someone who teaches Political Science and writing.
Each fall, I teach two sections (one a four-credit, writing intensive section, the other a standard three-credit, non-writing-intensive section) of a 100-level course titled “Political Issues.” We cover a wide range of topics, from the use of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, to the medical use of marijuana, to presidential war powers, to immigration. Getting students to talk about these sorts of issues usually isn’t a problem, but as you might imagine, keeping discussions productive–especially in sections populated primarily with first-year students–can be quite a challenge.
For both sections, among the goals…
May 10, 2010, 6:00 pm
A few weeks ago, I walked to my university’s library to pick up a copy of Tanya Horeck’s Public Rape: Representing Violation in Fiction and Film that had been sent to me through interlibrary loan. As the student worker brought the book over to me, she glanced from the book’s title to me and back again. When I handed her my ID, she looked at my name and said, “Oh, you teach Gender Studies, don’t you? I’ve heard of you.” It’s true that I have a bit of a reputation on my campus. Last year, I taught a year-long honors seminar on the theme of pain that coincided with a public lecture series. Each week, we would meet to talk about Abu Ghraib, crystal meth addition, rape jokes, or artistic and literary representations of personal and public traumas. Earlier this semester, one of my advisees referred to me as the campus sex-and-death guy.
Colleagues often ask how and why I teach…
January 27, 2010, 6:00 pm
. . . unless you are trying to run a classroom discussion, in which case silence can be counterproductive, discouraging, frustrating–in short, deadly. I learned about how to deal with the silent classroom, as I tend to learn most things, the hard way.
My college has a four-week intercession in January. There are a lot of great opportunities for faculty and students during this term: study-travel, interdisciplinary team-teaching, special-topics courses, field trips . . . it’s almost an embarrassment of riches. The downside to all of these prospects is that classes are very intense and time-consuming. My first Jan-Term, I offered a 4-credit course that met 12 hours a week (this is typical). I was really excited about the class: enrollment was high; I had some great guest speakers lined up as well as a field trip to a nearby archive; and most of all, I was teaching the class on a…