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    Tracking the Learning Process Using Design Notebooks

    Given the messiness of the design process, it’s important for students to be able to track their own learning while they engage in projects. In this video, Eric Mazur outlines how he uses design notebooks in his class in which students document all elements of their project- and team-building experience. Students submit design notebooks with their completed projects and are graded for their completeness and quality of reflections. These notebooks help reinforce the principles of iterative development that underpin project-based learning and further emphasize the...

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    Project-Based Learning

    To develop deep conceptual understanding of abstract concepts, particularly in the sciences, students need to do more than just read textbooks or listen in lecture halls. They need to find ways to actively develop their understanding, observe and reflect on how these concepts introduced in class actually operate in the real world. In classes that utilize a Project-Based Learning approach, students try to solve challenging everyday problems by learning about and applying key class concepts. In a well-designed problem, students are meaningfully engaged in an authentic social...

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    Team-Based Learning

    In classes that utilize a Team-Based Learning approach, students grapple with challenging problems that they can only solve by working together to learn and apply key class concepts. To achieve this, teams must be intentionally designed, and class norms and expectations for a safe and welcoming learning environment must be strongly reinforced. When this happens, students can learn from and with each other in ways that do not just facilitate content mastery but also foster social skills for future success in an increasingly collaborative world. 

    How do...

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    Getting to know your students

    In a large enrollment lecture course, it may seem like there are few opportunities to get to know your students more personally. In this video, Dan Levy demonstrates how, despite a class’s large size, instructors can still take concerted steps to better know their students. Levy pushes himself to learn more about his students’ interests and backgrounds, resulting in a friendly, welcoming space where students feel comfortable participating and taking risks.

    Modeling norms for actively listening and building on comments

    Powerful class discussions feel and sound conversational, not forced. They brim with incisive commentary, active listening, follow-up questions, and thoughtful rejoinders. But these characteristics of rich academic discourse do not always come naturally to students. The discussion facilitator plays a pivotal role in laying the groundwork for such authentic dialogue by both articulating expectations and personally modeling those expectations. In this video, Tim McCarthy consciously uses students' names, makes eye contact, and articulates connections between students' comments to...

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    Using the physical space to support a democratic philosophy

    While students certainly pay attention to their professor’s verbal communication, they also pick up on nonverbal cues. Sitting in a circle with your students instead of standing over them, or empowering them to participate without necessarily waiting to be called on can foster a democratic culture where all voices matter equally. In this video, Christina “V” Villarreal explains how she purposefully arranges her classroom and uses physical cues to build a classroom community that “agentizes” her students.

    Exercising gentle humor strategically

    An unenergetic, monotone delivery of instruction can easily stifle a student’s intellectual curiosity. The simple addition of humor, however, might keep students more engaged. It has even been shown to increase student learning. By cleverly sprinkling witticisms, amusing anecdotes, and self-deprecating quips throughout his lectures, Bob Kegan keeps the tone light in what can oftentimes be serious, tense subject matter. The result is a welcoming environment in which students feel comfortable and close to their professor.

    Fostering a culture of valuing different ways of thinking

    Students enter classrooms expecting to learn new material from the sources instructors select as well as from instructors themselves. An often underappreciated source of new learning, however, remains a student’s classmates. Fellow students’ fresh perspectives can foster new ways of thinking and yield constructive, unconsidered insights. In this video, Brett Flehinger describes why he refers to his class as a “collective brain,” a metaphor for the collaborative, participatory learning process he strives to create in his lecture classroom.

    Developing A Learning Culture

    Some academic environments emphasize to students that being “right“ is what matters most. In Dan Levy’s class, however, what really matters is sound thinking, regardless of whether or not such thinking results in the “right” answer. In this video, Levy describes how he sees his job not as “coming with the truth,” but rather as inviting students into activities designed to authentically making them think.

    Prioritizing unheard voices and perspectives

    Classes can easily fall into a routine where the same students talk again and again, yielding an unequal distribution of airtime. Part of this is out of the instructor’s control: some students, whether because of their interests or backgrounds, feel much more comfortable and motivated to openly share their opinions than others. In this video, Gretchen Brion-Meisels reflects on the need to balance these louder voices with voices and perspectives that might otherwise go unheard. This includes giving more space and time for students who rarely volunteer to speak; students who offer...

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    Norm-Setting at the Beginning of the Semester

    It is easy to have a “set it and forget it” mentality when it comes to establishing class norms. In this video, Gretchen Brion-Meisels discusses an alternative approach, where class norms are framed as aspirations and goals that need to be affirmed and reaffirmed as the course unfolds. She begins by introducing a key quote that establishes her philosophy on learning, then reminds students about this way of thinking as the semester proceeds. As she explains, she does this because her aim is not to construct norms that “make people happy” but rather to create a classroom culture where...

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    Using Research to Set Discussion Norms

    While many classrooms set norms and expectations at the start of the semester, grounding this exercise in relevant research can foster more intentional learning communities while building connections between course content and classroom culture. Norm-setting with your students can also be a great opportunity to work collaboratively with them make decisions about your class structures and your teaching. In this video, Tina Grotzer explains her practice of setting discussion norms by using research in the first days of class.

    Creating a safe environment for wrong answers

    Thinking like a scientist means coming up with hypotheses, even ones that might seem plausible but are ultimately incorrect. In her biology course, Paola Arlotta responds to student comments, including the incorrect ones, with positive feedback. In this video, Arlotta explains that by doing so she aims to create an environment in which students feel comfortable thinking creatively and speaking up even when they are stretched to the limits of what they know for certain.

    Cultivating a classroom community of risk-taking

    Students enter each new classroom asking themselves a flurry of questions: What will the instructor be like? Do I have enough background knowledge to be successful? Will the classroom feel safe enough for me to share ideas? Research shows that when instructors create learning environments where students feel safe, valued, and respected, those instructors create the conditions necessary for all students to achieve at their potential. In this video, Bob Kegan discusses the steps he takes to cultivate such an environment.

    Encouraging a willingness to get it wrong

    Students often pay close attention to how instructors receive wrong answers. Students who feel shut down by a professor after taking an intellectual risk may think twice before they raise their hands next time. Instructors sensitive to this possibility nurture curiosity by acknowledging the difficulty of a text, inviting students to share initial understandings, providing clear feedback, and normalizing the process of being incorrect as a crucial step on the journey toward understanding.  In this video, Jane Mansbridge describes how she channels candor and curiosity to create a...

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    Shaking up the classroom arrangement

    Where students sit in your classroom can have a big impact on their interactions with each other, and by extension, their learning. Moreover, seating patterns among students can solidify very quickly, making dialogic possiblities all the more difficult. In this video, Tina Grotzer explains why she has students change where they sit at key points in the semester and how these changes affect classroom climate.

    Fostering an environment where everyone is a teacher and learner

    In this video, Gretchen Brion-Meisels reflects on the various roles that she plays while checking in with students in small group discussions. Depending on what she hears from students, she either digs in as an active participant or listens in and prompts students with an additional question before moving on. Regardless of what she does to keep students’ discussions generative, Brion-Meisels is committed to demonstrating humility in her approach to teaching. She actively acknowledges and models uncertainty in her own scholarship and practice which in turn encourages students to...

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    Using the iPad for interactive problem solving

    In a conventional lecture class, an instructor typically finds out whether students have learned the material only after it has been assessed, which can happen days, weeks, even months after the material was presented. But particularly in a class that demands mathematical reasoning skills, inviting students to show their thinking publicly during class allows the instructor to get a sense of students’ understanding and reasoning in order to make adjustments in real-time. Dan Levy invites students to use an iPad projected to the front of the class in order to demonstrate the...

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    Planning ahead to facilitate the inclusion of student contributions

    One of the lecturer’s biggest fears remains ending class without having addressed enough of the material he/she planned to cover. To prevent this, Paola Arlotta identifies four or five key topics to address in a particular lecture before class. If discussion runs long on one of those topics, she makes quick decisions about how to reshuffle timing to ensure her objectives are met by the end of the lesson.

    Employing handouts as a study guide to highlight important concepts

    In lectures, students often have difficulty discerning what is most important. Some students resolve this dilemma by frantically copying down as much as they can, whereas others might assume the most important information will appear in assignments. Both of these sets of students leave class without clear takeaways. Dan Levy gets around this challenge by offering interactive handouts that serve as in-class note-taking guides and after-class “study guides.” Levy uses his handouts to orient the class to the key questions, and he provides students space on the handouts to answer those...

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