Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Counting the days?

Are you hitting a mid-semester slump?  Don't just wait until spring break; help yourself and your students by doing something to shake them up now! 

Have you done a formative assessment with your students yet?  At the end of class, ask them to write (anonymously) for one minute on the pros and cons of class up to this point.  Collect and read these assessments and look for patterns.  Return to class with a short report back.  Tell them about the strengths of the course as they see it, and let them know what you can adjust to solve problems (and what is out of your control--such as changing their 8 a.m. class to noon!)

Re-energize your class with some fresh pedagogies.  Here's two ideas from blogger Rob Weir of Inside Higher Ed:
  • Change the usual routine: If you customarily lecture in a class, try having a discussion. (If you have a mammoth lecture class you’ll need to act more a talk show host walking into the studio audience, but you can still do this. Punctuate questions and discussion with quick lecture soundbites.) If you usually discuss, give a lecture. If it's appropriate and logistically possible, make a sign-up sheet, suspend classes for a week, and require students to stop by for a one-to-one tutorial or planning session.
  • Change the backdrop: Come to class armed with something that's not generally part of your repertoire. Play a piece of music and ask students to analyze it. Project a single slide, ask students to write down everything they observe on the image, and discuss their responses. Invite a guest to take over your class for a day. Set up an experiment and abruptly tell students that you’re reversing roles — they’ll conduct and explain it while you listen. Conduct a nature walk with your bio students, or discourse on Emerson while walking by campus nature spots. Let your imagination run wild. The worst that can happen is that you’ll try something that doesn’t work and you can share a good laugh about it the next class. (“Okay, so that wasn’t my most brilliant idea ever!”

On that last note, consider ways to be more playful with learning in a class or two.  Conduct a study review by playing a jeopardy game (bring a bag of candy for the winners) and have the students create the questions (if they are missing any items, you can add your own questions at that point). Put students in groups and have them create a 1 minute "ad" or skit for a concept that you want them to learn.  They can use their phones to take videos and then post on Blackboard. For a class of 35 or less, bring in large pieces of paper and markers and have them create concept maps. Make these activities non-graded so that students feel free to experiment.

Send in your ideas for changing things up!

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