Ground Rules and Expectations
Structure in the classroom begins with ground rules and expectations. Quoting Kent (2011):
- Let’s turn off digital devices and engage each other
- I expect rigor in oral and written work
- Papers are due on the day they are due
- Papers get evaluated meticulously
- Papers are handed back the next period
- Interviews for those with problematic work are mandatory
- At the end of each week, students get a short message summing up the week’s work and pointing out what we will be doing the next week (Kent, 2011, p. 137).
Setting expectations for interaction is discussed the first day. As noted by Reed (2002):
- Discuss a process for effective participation and interaction, and reach agreement. Students can then be asked to manage the process in subsequent sessions.
- Recognize that differences of opinion may cause discord. Interruptions can be prevented by making eye contact with the interrupter. State that others must first finish speaking and the interrupter will be recognized in turn.
- “Disarm disruptive individuals by allowing them to respond and then redirect the discussion to the other students” (Reed, 2002, p. 9).
- “Encourage positive interaction by asking for a response from each student. Looking for different viewpoints and identifying the common threads and synergies among them provides positive reinforcement” (Reed, 2002, p. 9).
Know Your Students
Volk (2011) recommends setting the tone of your course by letting students know that they are welcomed in your course:
- Read the roster out loud to yourself
- Sound out names that are unfamiliar and take note of stumbles
- Speaking the name helps attach them to faces
- A student who know she or he will be called on by name feels accountable to the instructor and the class
- Prepare an introductory questionnaire for the first day of class, and ask:
- Do students consider themselves shy or talkative, slow or fast, procrastinators or work horses? How do your students prefer to learn?
- The reason they are taking this class: Are these majors in your field?
- What previous coursework have they had?
- What prior courses or readings have they completed on the subject matter?
- About their favorite food or place to visit in the city
- Is there something that you think would be helpful for me to know about you? (This may help students disclose work or family responsibilities)
- Students to sketch a self-portrait (Volk, 2011, pp. 122-123).
Preparing the Class Session
Each class session demands preparation. Structure “comes about through thorough planning and organization” (Reed, 2002). Write out a plan for the time allotted that includes the material that needs to be covered, and what method you will use to cover it. For example, here are the headings for a chart, and a sample first line.
|Session 6 – [Date] – Topic:|
Questions regarding homework
|In groups of three,
students discuss homework
and each group decides on
one question to ask on today’s topic
Consider using a large font size so that you can glance at it to keep your pace.
Managing the Classroom
You are in the position of authority, which students have been trained to understand since they started school. There is an expectation as a result that students should be quiet and passive to listen to the “expert.” Yet to engage learners, there is a need for them to participate in concert with your direction. Maintaining order (authority) and managing interaction (ceding authority) are handled by:
- Physical presence: “body language, proximity, eye contact” are your tools. For example, placing yourself close to a student or group of students indicates their need for attentiveness.
- Stand in front of students to take “control of the flow of ideas and the level of interaction” (Reed, 2002, p. 9).
- Sit among the students, or in the back of the room where students lead the discussion or present material (Reed, 2002).
Fostering Learning Through Interaction
Adsit (2011) provides tips for lectures that are engaging, informative and participatory.
Audience Engagement and Interactivity
Audience attention wanes after 12-20 minutes. Design your class sessions with “activity breaks” to allow your students to process, review and apply the material that you present.
- Ask a question or pose a problem to be solved individually
- Have students work in pairs or trios on a problem or discuss a question
- Use a video or film clip to illustrate the topic
- Present a case study for discussion
Tip: Quick-Thinks (Johnston & Cooper, 1997)
Incorporate active-thinking opportunities in lectures by pausing every 12-18 minutes for two minutes for students to discuss and rework their notes. Quick-Think questions:
- Select the best response
- Correct the error
- Complete a sentence starter
- Compare or contrast
- Support a statement
- Reorder the steps>
- Reach a conclusion
- Paraphrase the idea
Tip: Feedback Lecture (Johnston & Cooper, 1997)
Give two, twenty-minute lectures per class meeting with an instructor-posed discussion question after each twenty-minute lecture.
Ask conversation starters, questions that are provocative and open-ended.
Conversation starters include:
- Discuss the choices on a multiple choice question;
- Select the best response from a range of choices
- Ask students to discuss in small groups how to rephrase a concept or question with new or different terms
- Write one question from the prior session on an index card and group the cards by responses; have students answer the questions
Avoid asking “Are there any questions?” The question suggests a “Yes” or “No” response. According to Adsit (2011), students have been conditioned to see this question as the termination of a segment, and either wish to move on or are reluctant to show that they have a question.
Using Visual Teaching for Learning
Images are everywhere: “Visual information fills the screens, pages, and spaces that surround us through the day. Research into human learning demonstrates the power of these visuals in shaping our understanding of the world. Not only do people process images more quickly than text, we tend to rely on our visual experience even when it contradicts our conceptual knowledge of a topic” (Hoffman, 1998, quoted by Little and Felten, 2010, p. 5).
Visual teaching is important: The classroom should allow students to blend, mix, and match “knowledge drawn from diverse textual sources and communication media” (Luke, quoted by Little and Felten, 2010, p. 5). Visual representations of data and meaning, from art to motion charts “are powerful tools” and students need help to “become proficient at both analyzing and composing with visual forms” (Little and Felten, 2010, p. 6). To do this, Little and Felten (2010) suggest the following:
Images as Illustration
Illustration is the least likely to enhance student understanding of how images make meaning.
- Including an image in a slide presentation as visual interest but not discussing it or inviting students to analyze the image.
- Students skip over the graphs in a textbook, believing the text alone provides information.
- “Move beyond using images as a presentation tool to using them as objects of interpretation, argument, and analysis aligned with disciplinary skills” (Little and Felten, 2010, p. 6).
Images as a Means for Interpretation
- Help students understand that the tools we use to collect pictures of the world (e.g., cameras, MRI scanners) change how we think about the world and each other.
- “Inviting students to examine the images to describe our experiences in the world (e.g., photographs, YouTube videos, graphs, Web sites) alter their understanding of it” (Little and Felten, 2010, pp. 6-7).
- Use existing databases from which to draw data as a means of having students integrate visual and numerical data. This allows for discussion of observations, inferences and interpretations of the visual images, which are composed with intention and design (Little and Felten, 2010, p. 7).
Images as Illumination
- “Images can promote new understanding or deepen engagement with a subject” (Little and Felten, 2010, p. 7).
- Using images as metaphors for difficult concepts or to prompt students’ memory is helpful to “shift the emotional tenor of a scholarly discussion on an important issue which might easily be abstracted or dehumanized. Because images simultaneously engage thinking and feeling, they can illuminate the real, human significance of course material” (Little and Felten, 2010, p. 7)
Images across the Curriculum
- Teach students to see critically and to compose with visual forms that are discipline-appropriate.
- What the instructor as expert sees is not what students necessarily see, since “experts see meaning and patterns quickly” (Little and Felten, 2010, p. 7). Share your expert’s view with students by demonstrating how to analyze, select, and create visuals and learn to write about them to help students both “retain information and make meaning of data in new ways” (Little and Felten, 2010, p. 8).
Examples of Integration of Visual Images
- Using Wordle.net (free application), create a “tag cloud” by pasting the text of a short story to help students “begin analyzing themes and frequency of word usage” (Little and Felten, 2010, p. 7).
- Geography students can create tag clouds as study guides of units
- In an interdisciplinary course, students “hand in tag clouds of their essays along with a short reflection on what they learned about their own writing from it” (p. 7)
- A Chemistry professor “shows students photographs of everyday scenes, including an abandoned house and a bike rider. After asking them ‘Where is the chemistry?’ in each picture, he asks them to list questions about chemical processes the images provoke…[this] primes students to being thinking like scientists” (p. 7).
Resources to Help Build Your Visual Library
- Librarians in the Ursula C. Schwerin Library (4th Floor) can help with Fair Use (Link to fair use, found in the library) and multimedia composition, visual resources such as ArtStor (a database of images available by institutional subscription)
- Videos on library
- Specialized search engines like Sprixi and Cool Iris
- Library of Congress’ American Memory
- SPACE site for social and environmental science
- Tools: PowerPoint, Windows Movie Maker, iMovie, Prezi, Visualization Motion Chart (displays how multiple variables change over time), open source video platform Kaltura.
Fostering Class Discussion
Principles of good discussion (#35), as specified by Brookfield and Presskill (2007), are to be used under the following appropriate conditions:
- When multiple perspectives on content are possible
- When applications of content to real life settings are being considered
- When students already have grasped the essentials or basics of what is being discussed, the ‘grammar’ of the activity
- When there is a genuine openness about where the discussion might lead.
Further, the chances for good discussion are raised when:
- The instructor works with the group to set ground rules for the discussion
- You distribute criteria and indicators for discussion participation that stress listening carefully to others’ comments, showing how others’ comments connect or differ, and asking questions of others
- You model the kinds of behaviors you’re looking ofr in discussion and let students know you’re doing this
- You provide some scaffolding for students’ participation by assigning roles or conversational moves and using specific techniques
- You hold discussion ONLY after students have read or thought about the topic, have written some reflections on it, and have brought multiple copies of these to class to share with peers. The discussion begins with students reading each others’ reflections on the topic
- You end each discussion NOT by giving a summary of conclusions but by listing new issues and unresolved questions the discussion has raised.
TIP: The Three-Person Rule (#30) (Brookfield & Presskill, 2007)
This simple rule is designed to ensure that no one person in a discussion can monopolize the conversation.
The rule: Once you have spoken you are not allowed to make another contribution to the discussion until at least three other group members have spoken. The only time this rule is not observed is if someone directly asks you to expand on a comment you’ve already made.
TIP: Discussion Audit (#29) (Brookfield & Presskill, 2007)
When moving from small to large class discussions one way to make the transition is to use a discussion inventory or audit. Here, each member of the small groups writes a brief response on a 3×5 card to one of the following questions:
- What was the most important point made in the small group discussion you’ve just had?
- What was the most confusing or puzzling point made in the small group discussion you’ve just had?
- What new learning happened in the small group discussion you’ve just had?
- Based on your small group discussion, what idea do you think it would be good to explore more deeply in the next part of the class?