It’s Week 12 and tomorrow is Tax Day; we may be forgiven a certain lassitude. At this point in the semester we and our students can feel like travelers stuck on a bus trip that is taking way too long. No matter how fascinating we all found each other at the beginning of the journey, things may have gone a bit stale. Here are few quick tips for re-energizing your semester.
- Try something unexpected in class. One instant way to change the energy in the room? Music. Choose a piece of music to have playing as students enter the room—to hint at the topic of the day, to reduce anxiety before a test, or to reboot after a unit break. When I team-taught a super jumbo version of an introduction to religion class a few years ago, my colleague and I selected pieces to set the tone for our alternating lectures, David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” for my religion and gender session, k. d. lang’s “Constant Craving” for his on the Buddhist Four Noble Truths. It was a great way to build an affective relationship with so huge a group. Or ask your students to build a musical soundtrack for the topic under discussion, as this high school history teacher does.
- Shake up your relationship with classroom technology. If you regularly use clickers, video, live Tweeting, or even just humble PowerPoint, try going dark for a session. Or the reverse: fold one digital element into an otherwise low-tech class. (The incomparable and indefatigable Instructional Technology Consultants in TLP would be glad to help you think though an activity.) How would learning be reshaped by changing the way you, the students, and the course material interact?
- Feed your mind. We work at a university, where smart and creative people are doing smart, creative things every day. This is the forest all around us, but too often we can only see the giant task-shaped tree right in front of us. Check out the University Calendar, which you can conveniently filter according to your own proclivities: arts, athletics, lectures, tours, you name it. Tomorrow’s Middle East Studies Symposium and next week’s Turner Print Museum Student Print Exhibition do not relate directly to my area of teaching or research, but I suspect they will make me proud of our students, teach me something new, and help me remember why I chose an academic life—all of which are likely to make me a better teacher.
* Authored by Dr. Kate McCarthy.
From “The Flipped Classroom: Not Just for STEM:” Flipping a class isn’t an all or nothing affair. Turning just one lecture into a set of activities students do before class—typically reading and/or watching a video presentation of the day’s material—frees up class time for hands-on activities that require students to dig more deeply into the material using higher-order thinking skills—applying, analyzing, and evaluating, not just remembering. Students might work in teams on a case study or analyze data using material or theory introduced in the pre-class activity. In all of this work, the instructor can circulate among the students, checking for comprehension and helping deepen reflection. Keys to the success of a flipped session are that the pre-class activity have a scored component both to ensure students will do it and to set up the in-class activity; and that in-class work both use and extend the out-of-class material. Many instructors require the students to generate a question based on what they’ve viewed, or open the class with a quiz. It takes time and care to build an effective flipped class, so taking it one session at a time makes sense. And those of us who love our lectures needn’t give up all or even most of them to take advantage of this powerful technique. Our TLP Instructional Technology Consultants are available to help create flipped classroom activities, and have put some resources together here. Thanks to faculty presenters Denise Minor and Sarah Anderson!
From “Approaches to Learning and Teaching (Through) Writing:” Involve students in the process of defining good writing before they begin writing. Deb McCabe (CMAS) invites the class to generate a list of traits they admire in what they read and puts them on the board—understandable, engaging, easy-to-follow, etc. Having done this before, she knows that the traits are likely to fall into certain categories so she lists them in columns (without identifying headings). At the end of the exercise, she turns to the columns of traits and notes how clearly the students have identified key areas like structure, purpose and audience, clarity, mechanics, content richness, and voice. Not only are students now aware of the complexity of what makes for good writing (it’s not the same in a science journal and a political blog), but because they have been engaged in setting the terms, they are also more likely to think about these traits as they begin their own writing processes. Thanks to faculty presenters Deb McCabe, Chris Fosen, and Kim Jaxon!
* Authored by Dr. Katherine McCarthy.