Teaching Tips

Incorporating Active Learning

Active learningOverview:  We’ve been hearing a lot about active learning these days, but what, exactly, does active learning mean? Neal (2010) defines active learning as “educational methods in which students are involved in higher-order thinking (analysis, synthesis, evaluation). The term therefore primarily reflects what is going on in a student’s mind, whether or not the body (or the mouth) is physically active.” Studies show that active learning can increase students’ attention in class, as well as their retention of ideas, leading to more effective, gratifying, and memorable learning outcomes. In fact, most people learn better from actively engaging with material than they do from passively listening to a speaker or reading from a textbook.  Active learning strategies have students “doing” things—analyzing, creating, role playing, experiencing, reflecting, etc.

What are the basic elements of active learning?  According to the Center for Teaching & Learning at the University of Minnesota, the four Basic Active Learning Activities are the same elements you are probably already using in your class:

  1. Talking and listening – Students actively process information when they ask or answer questions, comment, present, and explain. When students go beyond passive listening to relate, analyze, and use what they are hearing, they are engaged in active learning. Discussions and Interactive Lectures are useful strategies.
  2. Writing – Students can actively process information by putting it in their own words; this can help students organize their thoughts and reflections and prepare them for discussion. Check out these suggestions for Informal Writing Activities from the University of Minnesota.
  3. Reading – Instructors often expect students to learn through reading. It’s easy for students to read passively in order “to get it done.”  Providing questions, summary exercises, opportunities for posts or reflection, etc., can transform it into an active process.  Students can often benefit from instruction on Active Reading.
  4. Reflecting – Class periods are often packed with information. Students sometimes need time to process the material and connect it to what they’ve already learned.  Reflecting on the applications and implications of new knowledge can help develop higher-order thinking skills and Metacognition.

Examples of Active Learning Strategies:  Try these strategies in the classroom:

Individual Activities:

  • The “One Minute Paper”
  • Muddiest (or Clearest) Point
  • Affective Response
  • Daily Journal
  • Reading Quiz
  • Clarification Pauses
  • Response to a Demonstration or other Teacher-Centered Activity

Paired Activities:

  • Discussion
  • Note Comparison/Sharing
  • Evaluation of Another Student’s Work

Small-Group Activities:

  • Cooperative Groups in Class
  • Active Review Sessions
  • Work at the Blackboard
  • Concept Mapping
  • Visual Lists
  • Jigsaw Group Projects
  • Role Playing
  • Panel Discussions
  • Debates
  • Games

For more information, contact the Institute for Teaching and Learning at itl@uconn.edu.

 

 

 

 

Improving Spoken English

Teaching Tip:  Language Consultations for International Faculty and Postdocs

 

languagesWhat are faculty consultations?  Faculty development specialists at UConn’s Institute for Teaching and Learning provide feedback to faculty members seeking advice and support for their teaching.

How can ITL help international faculty and postdocs?  ITL has consultants who specialize in dealing with the unique linguistic and cultural challenges faced by instructors and researchers whose first language is not English or who lived most of their lives outside the USA. Language consultations are currently available on the Storrs campus. There is no charge for the services. As with general consultation services, ITL’s services are not limited to problem resolution; in fact, some of UConn’s most successful teachers have been known to take advantage of consultation services to expand their repertoire and try new teaching techniques.  To request a consultation, simply send an email to ITL@uconn.edu.

What does a typical language consultation involve?  Consultations may range from a single meeting to a series of meetings spanning an entire semester, depending upon the needs and interests of the faculty member or postdoc.  Consultants are able to help in a variety of areas including:

  • Evaluating  pronunciation and listening
  • Working on all aspects of pronunciation, including individual sounds, stress, and intonation
  • Setting up realistic pronunciation goals and a plan to achieve them
  • Surveying cross-cultural differences that might be affecting classroom effectiveness
  • Investigating students’ evaluations to determine what parcel of neutral or negative feedback might be due to pronunciation or cultural issues
  • Developing classroom practices and attitudes that conform to American undergraduate students’ expectations
  • Observing or videotaping classes for feedback
  • Offering guidance on written materials, classroom resources and presentations

All services rendered in consultations are confidential and shared only with the client. ITL does not provide information or evaluation for tenure, promotion, or hiring decisions; clients, however, may use consultation reports as they see fit.

For more information, contact the Institute for Teaching and Learning at itl@uconn.edu.

Arranging for Faculty Development Consultations

talkingWhat are faculty consultations?  Faculty development specialists at UConn’s Institute for Teaching and Learning provide feedback to faculty members seeking advice and support for their teaching.

Who can request a consultation?  General consultation services are available to all UConn faculty members and at all campuses.  There is no charge for the services.  Although consultations offer a great way to resolve difficult teaching issues, ITL’s services are not limited to problem resolution; in fact, some of UConn’s most successful teachers have been known to take advantage of consultation services to expand their repertoire and try new teaching techniques.  To request a consultation, simply send an email to ITL@uconn.edu.

What does a typical consultation entail?  Consultations may entail anything from a single meeting to a series of meetings spanning an entire semester, depending upon the needs and interests of the faculty member.  Some of the topics and formats that can be addressed in consultations include the following:

  • Classroom related issues or concerns
  • Student evaluations
  • Instructional methods: active learning techniques, flipped classrooms, group work, discussions, interactive lectures, etc.
  • Instructional design of courses or redesign of existing courses
  • Resources on specific teaching topics: teaching freshmen, classroom management, civility, teaching large classes, midterm feedback on teaching, etc.
  • Presentation skills
  • Observations or videotaping and feedback
  • Hybridizing and applying educational technologies to achieve learning and course objectives

All services rendered in consultations are confidential and shared only with the client. ITL does not provide information or evaluation for tenure, promotion, or hiring decisions; clients, however, may use consultation reports as they see fit.

For more information, contact the Institute for Teaching and Learning at itl@uconn.edu.

 

 

Choosing a Classroom Ice-Breaker for the First Day, Aug 2015

teaching tip2

The first day of classes can be daunting for both students and faculty:  Students may be anxious about their professors, as well as about the work load of the course and other expectations; their instructors are likely to be anxious about establishing a positive first impression, conveying the syllabus and other information about the course, and generally setting the right tone for the next 14 weeks.

One way to ease that anxiety is to try an ice breaker, perhaps playing a name game or encouraging students to mingle as they complete a scavenger hunt aimed at learning about one another.  Marilyn Weimer offers the following advice in the “Teaching Professor Blog”:

  • Best and Worst Classes—On one section of the board, write “The best class I ever had,” and on another write, “The worst class I ever had.” Under each, write the subheadings, “What the students did” and “What the teacher did.”  Then ask students to add attributes to lists, being careful not to identify names of teachers or courses.  Afterward, discuss among the class how to capture the best attributes and avoid the worst this semester.
  • First Day Graffiti—On sections of the board or separate flip charts, write the beginning of a sentence; for example, “I learn best in classes where the teacher ___,” “Students in courses help me learn when they ___,” and “I am most likely to participate in classes when ___.” Have students walk around the room and finish the sentences, then discuss them and their significance to your course as a class.
  • Syllabus Speed dating—We hand out syllabi, but do students actually read them? This technique teams students up to search the syllabus and find answers to a series questions, such as “How will participation be graded?” or “What citation style is required in this class? Why?”  This encourages interaction and collaboration while ensuring that your syllabus gets read.

These techniques come from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/first-day-of-class-activities-that-create-a-climate-for-learning/#sthash.bokzVvgc.dpuf.

For even more ideas, visit http://www.crlt.umich.edu/tstrategies/tsfdc.

For more information, contact ITL at itl@uconn.edu.

Designing your Syllabus, Aug 2015

teaching tip3Does your Syllabus Make the Grade?

Use the following checklist to create a syllabus that your students will actually read and use:

  • Provide contact information and office hours
  • Present an overview of the course description, goals and objectives
  • List required materials
  • Describe the schedule, assignments, and assessments
  • Clarify policies (including grading criteria) and expectations

Introduce the syllabus to your students on the first day of class.  If necessary, show them how to read the syllabus; perhaps even conduct a group activity (e.g., a syllabus scavenger hunt) or quiz to ensure that students have read and understand all components of the syllabus.

Create a syllabus before the start of your course, and be sure to distribute it—perhaps by posting it on HuskyCT.  But don’t stop there; continue to revise the syllabus, marking it up throughout the semester to improve it for the next time you teach the course.  Visit http://cetl.uconn.edu/syllabus/ for sample syllabi and other syllabus-development details.

For more information, contact ITL at itl@uconn.edu.

Choosing Classroom Ice Breakers, Jan 2015

The first day of classes can be daunting for both students and faculty:  Students may be anxious about their professors, as well as about the work load of the course and other expectations; their instructors are likely to be anxious about establishing a positive first impression, conveying the syllabus and other information about the course, and generally setting the right tone for the next 14 weeks.

One way to ease that anxiety is to try an ice breaker, perhaps playing a name game or encouraging students to mingle as they complete a scavenger hunt aimed at learning about one another.  Marilyn Weimer offers the following advice in the “Teaching Professor Blog”:

  • Best and Worst Classes—On one section of the board, write “The best class I ever had,” and on another write, “The worst class I ever had.” Under each, write the subheadings, “What the students did” and “What the teacher did.”  Then ask students to add attributes to lists, being careful not to identify names of teachers or courses.  Afterward, discuss among the class how to capture the best attributes and avoid the worst this semester.
  • First Day Graffiti—On sections of the board or separate flip charts, write the beginning of a sentence; for example, “I learn best in classes where the teacher ___,” “Students in courses help me learn when they ___,” and “I am most likely to participate in classes when ___.” Have students walk around the room and finish the sentences, then discuss them and their significance to your course as a class.
  • Syllabus Speed dating—We hand out syllabi, but do students actually read them? This technique teams students up to search the syllabus and find answers to a series questions, such as “How will participation be graded?”  or “What citation style is required in this class? Why?”  This encourages interaction and collaboration while ensuring that your syllabus gets read.

See more about these techniques at this Faculty Focus article on First Day Class Activities.

For more information, contact the Institute for Teaching and Learning at itl@uconn.edu.