Midterm drags

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Maria:
Does anybody have any suggestions or advice about dealing with the midterm drags, both on the part of the instructor and the student?

Cat:
I'd try using instructional strategies or a project that is totally unexpected. The challenge is tying it in with what you are supposed to be teaching, but these kinds of "lifts" can often refresh the class. I read about one statistics teacher who decided to do a mini-project using data to determine inequalities in lending practices. Students gathered and analyzed statistics from banks, loan officers, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, etc. and interpreted the results. I'm sure there are other ideas that can be used with many subject areas!

B.F.:
I have students get into small groups of three or four and discuss a class topic. I ask that one person in each group be prepared to summarize their discussion to the entire class. Sometimes I have them come up with real-life examples for class topics. I write down the good examples they come up with and use them in future semesters.

Ph.D. Candidate:
It may depend upon the discipline your course is in, but here is a suggestion. I teach natural-resource-related topics, so I often use guest speakers to talk about timely, real-life issues in the field.

Of course it helps if you know that your guest speaker will do a pretty good job of not boring everyone. I had one speaker that brought props, Power Point slides, and handouts -- this person was so delighted to have been asked to come to a university campus to speak that he pulled out all the bells and whistles to make his presentation a real delight for everyone, which it was.

There is also nothing wrong with breaking students up into groups for discussion, then having them present information back to class.

A word of caution: I have also seen faculty who were guest speakers who presented research that was outdated material, handouts that were yellowed, torn, marked up -- pretty dismal and embarrassing actually -- so you may want to be sure that if you use a guest speaker, they are technologically able and enthusiastic about coming.

Good luck.

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Maria:
These are all really good ideas.  

Our students don't want lectures, but here they seemed to have taken a collective strike against reading course material on a regular basis. That makes small group exercises very difficult. There is also a sort of heavy passiveness, especially in morning classes. I have an 8 a.m. class, and since this is a residential school some of the students come to class 10 minutes after getting out of bed. I have even seen PJs!

My 8 a.m. class had an exam on Tuesday. I knew that they would not have read the textbook for Thursday's meeting, so I came up with this exercise. I found all kinds of Web pages for the topics in the chapter. I had them read those pages, and then pair up and teach each other about the material they had just read. Then we all got back together and discussed the material, and I highlighted important issues on the chalkboard. They stayed awake.

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