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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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