March 25, 2014
Use a minute paper to evaluate what students actually learn from a lecture
Lectures enjoy a reputation for enabling an expert to efficiently communicate content to a large audience. A well-crafted lecture delivered by an engaging, knowledgeable presenter is a delight. Consider evaluating how well students retain the key points you intended to communicate in one of your best lectures (Kalman, 2007).
Review the content of one of your best-organized lectures. Select a strong, well-organized lecture based on content area you know well and feel confident about when you present material to your students. Identify the three most important points you hope students will retain from your lecture.
On the day you give this lecture in your class, close the class session by asking students to write down the three most important points they derived from the class.
Describe the three points you identified (put them on a Power Point slide, a transparency, or write them on the board). Ask how many of your students wrote down all three points on their minute paper. How many wrote down two of the points? One of the points?
Collect the minute papers and review what students actually wrote down. Reflect on the gap between your intended message and the message students heard. Consider how you might direct students’ attention to the key points during future lectures.
TED talks are masterful presentations, famous for the engaging style used by the expert presenters. Consider selecting a TED talk on a topic related to class content. Identify three main take-away points from the talk. Do students identify these key points?
An illusion of learning occurs when students evaluate how well they will remember material immediately after studying it. Immediately after study, content is active in immediate memory simply through the passive process of recent exposure. Students can easily access it and might believe they have stored the content effectively for long-term retention. However, immediate memory (short-term memory) is ephemeral. When a delay filled with another activity displaces content material from immediate memory, access to contents can deteriorate substantially unless learners engaged with the material in a way that promotes long-term retention.
A well-organized delivery creates an immediate sense of understanding, but this perception might be misleading, especially if the presenter does most of the work required to organize and create meaning (Carpenter et al. 2013). I do not propose to create disorganized lectures to make students exert effort to discover the meaning in a lecture and thereby learn more! Rather, introduce brief pair-share activities or thought questions during the lecture to focus student attention on key points. When you require students to actually do something with material related to a key point, the effort students expend to complete these activities makes this information more distinctive and memorable (Dunlosky, et al., 2013).
Carpenter, S. K., Wilford, M. M., Kornell, N., & Mullaney, K. M. (2013). Appearances can be deceiving: Instructor fluency increases perceptions of learning without increasing actual learning. Psychomic Bulletin & Review, 20, 1350-1356. DOI 10.3758/s13423-013-0442-z
Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14, 4-58. Doi: 10.1177/1529100612453266
Kalman, C. S. (2007). Successful science and engineering teaching in colleges and universities. Jossey-Bass/Wiley.
November 6, 2012
Protect your voice during lectures
Professors spend a lot of time talking, whether they spend their time advising and mentoring students, facilitating classroom discussions, making formal conference presentations, or teaching large lecture-format classes. One of the hazards of a profession that relies on vocal communication is that extended periods of speaking can tax the voice.
The Center for Instructional Innovation & Assessment at Western Washington University frequently offers a workshop (Lecturing without Tiring or Losing Your Voice) that is offered by Dr. Rich Brown, a professor in the Theatre Department. The teaching center recently excerpted segments of Dr. Brown’s workshop as a series of five training videos. Topics discussed in each video module include:
|An introduction to how parts of the body interact to produce voice quality
A demonstration of warm-up exercises
Guidelines for breath control
Placement of sound
Use of resonators to project the voice
Together, these video modules can help faculty learn healthy voice techniques that will enable them to project their voice during extended periods of speaking and keep their voice strong through a class or a long day of talking and maintain a healthy voice throughout a career.
The videos can be accessed at the following web site:
Thanks to the Center for Instructional Innovation & Assessment and Dr. Rich Brown, Western Washington University, for producing and sharing this resource with the teaching community.
April 10, 2012
Strategies for using group work in college classes
Are you interested in using group work but uncertain about how to manage this in a class? The Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at the University of British Columbia created a short video on the use of group work. The video discusses several types of research-based best practices for group activities, how to manage group work to keep the focus on learning, interviews with instructors and students about their experiences with group work, and demonstrations of different types of group activity in classroom settings.
The 15-minute video can be viewed in two parts on YouTube. The link below also provides access to this video in Flash and QuickTime formats.
An interesting strategy illustrated in the second video is the use of tablet-sized white boards that students use during group work on computational problems. The tablets are 12” x 9” dry-erase boards that are large enough to allow students in a group to share their final diagram, written response, or problem solution with the rest of the class in a pair-share activity. Students can easily erase and revise their solutions to problems while they work together as a group, so they are less hesitant to begin work on problems.
Link to the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative
April 3, 2012
Strategies that make ideas stick
Do students sometimes smile and nod while you present an important idea in class and then seem unable to explain it or seem to forget it entirely shortly afterward? Heath and Heath (2010) present 6 strategies that make new ideas more memorable.
Heath and Heath illustrate the narrative strategy by contrasting how well students learn the concepts from a series of lectures on various accounting practices (identifying revenue, computing current assets) to students who learned these concepts in the context of a story about two fictional students who launched a start-up company for a new product.
Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2007). Made to stick: Why some ideas survive and others die. Random House.
Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2010). Teaching that sticks. PDF file available from www.heathbrothers.com
January 10, 2012
First things first: Start lectures and classes with the most important ideas
One of the most robust findings in the psychology of memory is the phenomenon known as the serial position effect, which describes the pattern of recalling the information presented at the beginning of a list and the last few items in a list best. This phenomenon influences memory in many everyday situations. You are most likely to recall the names of the first and last people introduced during a meeting. Jurors are more likely to remember the first and last evidence presented during a trial.
During a typical 50-minute lecture, students are more likely to remember and retain material, information, and concepts that are presented during the first 15 minutes of class (Prime Time 1) and during the last 10 minutes of class (Prime Time 2).
Maximize student retention of the most important points of your lecture by discussing them during one or both of these Prime Times for learning. Resist the temptation to squander these critical times with mundane housekeeping tasks (routine announcements, taking attendance). Use Prime Time 1 to introduce important new course concepts and reinforce previous material. Use Prime Time 2 to summarize and reinforce the major content discussed during the day’s lecture.
This tip is based in part on a suggestion from Barbara Millis, Teaching and Learning Center, University of Texas at San Antonio (www.utsa.edu/tlc/).
November 29, 2011
Engaging students through interactive lectures
For over 500 years, lecture has been associated with teaching in higher education. In the medieval university, texts were rare and expensive. Instructors read texts aloud so that students could hear and take notes on them. During the renaissance, the practice of lecturing referred to public instructional discourse, with or without the reading of texts. In nineteenth century America, orators like Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Jennings Bryan grafted rhetorical skills honed at the pulpit with the academic tradition and raised lecture to an art form. The Chautauqua tradition of delivering polished, engaging, public lectures treated the lecture as a means for both public enlightenment and entertainment. Roosevelt claimed that Chautauqua lectures were "the most American thing in America."
The recent focus on collaborative learning and student engagement, bolstered by research findings that document the value of specific strategies to improve the retention of complex information, raises questions about the value of lectures as the primary mode of instruction. Is lecture truly an ineffective method for learning and teaching? The most correct answer is, "It depends." There are times when lecture may be the most appropriate instructional strategy to use.
When used properly, lecture can be an effective and enjoyable pedagogy. When used incorrectly or over-used, it can become a stumbling block to learning. The following guidelines will improve the value of lecture for promoting effective student learning:
This tip is based on a contribution from Devan Barker, Instructional Development, Brigham Young University Idaho (http://www.byui.edu/).
Angelo, T., & Cross, P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
November 8, 2011
Using game show formats to engage students with course content
Are you looking for a novel way to review material, encourage participation, or use an activity to refocus attention during a lecture? Consider incorporating games in your class to involve your students in the learning process.
Benefits of using games
Tips for successful use of games for learning
Want to try using a popular game show format for a class session? Several web sites offer free templates that enable you to transform a PowerPoint presentation into a game show. Download the template and add your course questions and material.
Downloadable Game Templates
PowerPoint Games (http://jc-schools.net/tutorials/ppt-games/)
Includes Who Wants to be a Millionaire (PowerPoint Template by Mark E. Damon), Jeopardy, & Password
Family Feud Demo Video
Template: http://www.gameshowvideos.com/files/feud.pptx (Link removed 2/22/12)
This tip is based on a contribution from Allison Boye, Suzanne Tapp, and Micah Meixner Logan, Teaching, Learning, and Technology Center, Texas Tech University (http://www.tltc.ttu.edu).
Millis, B.J. and Cottell, P.G. (1998). Cooperative learning for higher education faculty. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press.
Jones, K. (1997). Games and simulations made easy: Practical tips to improve learning through gaming. London: Kogan Page Ltd.
Rosato, J.L. (1995). All I ever needed to know about teaching law school I learned teaching kindergarten: Introducing gaming techniques into the law school classroom. Journal of Legal Education, 45, 568 – 581.
Sarason, Y. and Banbury, C. (2004). Active learning facilitated by using a game-show format, or who doesn’t want to be a millionaire? Journal of Management Education, 28, 509 – 518.
October 18, 2011
Create graphic organizers to improve student learning in large lectures
A graphic organizer or set of essential questions provides an overall organization for material that instructors discuss during a lecture. Cognitive research has demonstrated that individuals retain more information when they have a structure that organizes the new information. Mnemonic devices often depend on existing learned structures to organize new learning and function as reliable retrieval cues for new information. When organizing structures are also related to the relations between newly-learned concepts, these structures promote understanding and articulation of these meaningful relations as well as retrieval of content (Bransford & Johnson, 1973; Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 1999).
Organize your lecture on a given day around a big-picture question or relation between concepts that can be illustrated through a graphic organizer. The organizer can take the form of a concept map, a matrix or grid, a flow chart, or a list of 3 or 4 key questions. If instructors provide the basic structure as a handout (distributed at the start of class or posted in D2L for printing before class), students can use the organizer while taking class notes. Alternatively, students might rework notes taken during class to incorporate key points into the appropriate areas of the graphic organizer. Both exercises will help students identify the key concepts and details discussed during class and integrate these individual details into a coherent whole.
Tip based on suggestions included in Sibley, J., and Canuto, L. (2010). Guide to teaching for new faculty at UBC. Available at http://issuu.com/ubc-aspc-cis/docs/faculty_guide-2010
Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.). (1999). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Bransford, J. D., & Johnson, M. K. (1973). Considerations of some problems of comprehension. In W. G. Chase (Ed.), Visual information processing. Orlando, FL: Academic Press.
September 20, 2011
Not just fun and games! Structure class demonstrations to reinforce learning goals
Classroom demonstrations that illustrate an important process, phenomenon, or application of a concept can generate interest and engage students with course material. Although students enjoy classroom demonstrations, they sometimes remember the activity but do not remember the course learning goals that instructors want to promote when they design the demonstration. An effective demonstration connects student memories of the classroom experience with the concepts the activity was designed to demonstrate.
Strategies that transform an entertaining demonstration into an effective learning experience
Bransford, J. D., & Johnson, M. K. (1972). Contextual prerequisites for understanding: Some investigations of comprehension and recall. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 11, 717-726.
Holst, V. F., & Pezdek, K. (1992). Scripts for typical crimes and their effects on memory for eyewitness testimony. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 6, 573-587.
Pyper, B. A. (2008). Best practices in physics demonstrations or “Oh, I thought this was just for entertainment.” Power Point slides for a presentation at the AAPT UT/ID section meeting, Boise, ID.
September 6, 2011
Use PowerPoint to prompt engaging learning activities during class
Dilbert depicts PowerPoint presentations as a direct route to slumber and employee revolt. PowerPoint presentations need not be deadly. Instructors can create slides that prompt class activities that engage students, motivate meaningful class discussion, and promote deep learning (Berk, 2011).
Instructors commonly organize and plan the presentation of content while they create a set of PowerPoint slides. Consider creating slides to plan and prompt engaging learning activities at key points during a class presentation.
Instructors who use personal response systems (clickers) can add a slide that poses a question to evaluate student understanding of a critical concept or to ask students to apply a model or principle to a specific application. Allow students a moment to think individually or discuss the question in small groups before they record their response to the question with their clickers.
An instructor who does not use clickers can present a slide that poses a question as a prompt for small group discussion (e.g., as a pair-share activity) or a brief in-class written response to the question (e.g., a minute paper).
Share responses to the prompt with the entire class. If using clicker questions, display a chart summarizing the pattern of responses from the group. Otherwise, ask for a show of hands for typical responses or initiate a class discussion in which several groups report the consensus response from their discussion.
Wrap up the discussion and refocus attention on the content that triggered the activity.
Include no more than one or two of these engagement slides during a class session to engage student interest and focus attention on critical points for the day’s lesson.
Berk, R. A. (2011). “Powerpoint® engagement” techniques to foster deep learning. Journal of Faculty Development, 25, 45-48.
Bruff, D. (2009). Teaching with classroom response systems: Creating active learning environments. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
March 22, 2011
Improve classroom dynamics through inclusion: Use the Classmate photo roster to connect names with faces and call on students by name
Learning student names at the start of a new semester can be challenging. Many students decide to attend a regional comprehensive university like the University of West Florida rather than a large university because they expect that the smaller class sizes and lower student-faculty ratios at UWF will increase their ability to get to know and interact with faculty. They may be disappointed if they attend class regularly, participate occasionally, and find that their instructor still does not know their name. When faculty can recognize students and recall their names when calling on them during class or during out-of-class conversations, students feel a stronger sense of community and inclusion in the class. The classroom dynamic may also improve, fostering more frequent participation and student engagement.
The class rosters available through Classmate now include student photos. These photos can work as handy tools to aid instructors in learning and recalling student names. Learning the names of many students in a large enrollment class can be a daunting task. Make this task more manageable by creating small groups of students and learning the names of students in one group at a time. Usually one page from the Classmate roster prints approximately five or six student faces and names, which should be a manageable number for one day. Limit your study to one page of student photos on any given day.
Open one page of the roster at the lectern during class (or bring a printed copy of the page) and scan the audience as class discussion gets underway. Search for the faces of students in the group on your page and call on these students by name during class. At the end of the class, return to the photos in the roster and rehearse the faces and names of these students once more to reinforce your memory. Prior to the next class session, review these faces and names. Once you are familiar with the names and faces of students in this group, select a new page in the roster and focus on this new set of students during class. Gradually, you will be able to match the names and faces of a large number of your students.
Thanks to Michelle Hale Williams, Government & Political Science, University of West Florida, for this suggestion.
February 10, 2009
Keep ‘em on their toes: Engage students in lecture classes by creating variety
Predictability is one of the most deadly characteristics of a presentation. Variation produces powerful effects on audience attention and engagement (Middendorf & Kalish, 1996). One of the evils of PowerPoint presentations is that they tend to chain us to the podium where the computer is housed. Sometimes we get hidden behind the computer screen (not an engaging location).
Movement draws attention. Break up the predictable routine of lecture by varying your location. Change your position from day to day and move around the room during a particular class. Instructors may be unaware of the reinforcing effects of attentive students on their classroom behavior. We are drawn to locations in the classroom where our most attentive students sit. Although their attention reinforces us and increases our attentiveness to them, we need to ensure that we include and engage the entire class. Make an effort to make eye contact with the student lurking in the back row as well as the student who is eagerly attentive.
Middendorf, J. & Kalish, A. (1996). The “change-up” in lectures. The National Teaching & Learning Forum, 5 (2), 1-5.
April 7, 2009
Micro-lectures: Just-in-time teaching for critical topics and skills
Attaining competence with some concepts and skills requires repetition and practice. Instructors can use class time more efficiently if they create short electronic modules that discuss a particular concept or demonstrate a skill that students struggle to learn. Create an out-of-class assignment in which students view the micro-lecture and then complete an activity, small project, or written assignment that entails applying the concept or using the skill. Micro-lectures can be as short as 60 seconds to 5 minutes or as long as 15-20 minutes.
Use micro-lectures to:
Shieh, D. (2009). These lectures are gone in 60 seconds. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 55 (26), Page A13.
Want to create a micro-lecture and need help?
Contact the Academic Technology Center: http://uwf.edu/atc/
Updated 12/03/12 cdw
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