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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.

    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.

    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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    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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    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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    Providing wait-time for students to process and gain confidence

    Silence in the classroom can feel uncomfortable for students and instructors alike, but processing information takes time. Waiting for several seconds after asking a question so that students, particularly introverted ones, are able to gather their thoughts before responding is proven to expand participation and improve the quality of student responses. In this video, Bob Kegan and Dan Levy discuss their strategies for using wait-time in the classroom, which Levy calls “one of the most underused weapons that an instructor has at his/her disposal.”

    Circulating the room to elicit participation

    Although the physical setup of a classroom typically points toward a lectern or podium, moving around the space intentionally can send important nonverbal signals to students. In this video, Dan Levy describes how he rarely stays “tethered to the front of the room,” especially when trying to elicit participation, stimulate debate, or encourage a particular student to venture deeper on a particular point.

    Conducting in-class polling and peer discussion

    In a lecture-style course, it can be challenging to assess student understanding in real-time, and the voices of frequent participants are not always representative of the class as a whole. Just because no one asks a question, it does not mean the whole group is on the same page. To get a quick snapshot students’ understand of new material, in-class polling can be useful. In this video, Dan Levy demonstrates how he uses interactive polls to check for understanding and peer discussion to clarify misunderstandings.

    Modifying plans to excite deeper learning

    What sparks deeper learning is not always neatly predictable. Sometimes instructors must move “off-script” to harness serendipitous moments of discovery. This requires flexibility, quick decision-making, and deft plan-tweaking. In this video, Dan Levy uncovers his thought process in one such classroom moment and explains his decision to withhold a correct answer from his students. The cliffhanger serves to kindle curiosity among students, many of whom conclude the week energized and eager to deepen their understanding.

    Designing focused discussions for relevance and transfer of knowledge

    “When am I ever going to use this?” is a question more commonly asked in grade school classrooms than in undergraduate and graduate school ones, but instructors in higher education often consider the relevance and transferability of their course material nonetheless. To ensure that her course content is relevant and useful to students’ lives, Jane Mansbridge centers class material around transferable, real-world takeaways. In this video, she describes how by doing so, she gives her students “tools” she hopes they will take with them forever.

    Framing discussion as a three-way conversation

    By framing class discussions as a three-way conversation between authors, students, and herself, Jane Mansbridge broadens and enlivens students’ interaction with course material. This clever framing encourages students to consider the author’s point of view, place his/her writing in historical context, and uncover assumptions that underpin the author’s argument. Framing discussions this way can be an especially powerful technique for instructors teaching historical texts. When done well, it is almost as if the authors are present in the classroom.

    Using pre-work to honor diverse voices and structure the discussion

    It’s always powerful when students’ original thinking plays an integral role in the structure and design of lessons. Making this thinking known and/or visible can foster a sense of ownership among students. In this video, Jane Mansbridge uses student reading responses to structure a tightly structured discussion and ensure that diverse perspectives are heard.

    Enforcing expectations for sharp, concise comments

    If efficiency and accuracy are the goal, finding a way to keep students’ contributions short becomes imperative. Doing so can grow less uncomfortable, however, once expectations are made clear about airtime. Building strong relationships with students always helps, too. In this video, to facilitate an efficient discussion, Jane Mansbridge sets explicit expectations about student contributions. In doing so, Mansbridge demonstrates that discussion and efficiency need not be mutually exclusive.

    Continuing the teacher-student conversation through written feedback

    Invariably, not all good ideas will be heard during the course of a discussion, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be heard at all. By requiring students to write responses to weekly readings before class, instructors can take a pulse on student thinking and use students’ written ideas to plan lectures and discussions. Through timely and detailed written feedback on such responses, Jane Mansbridge establishes an ongoing dialogue with students that extends far beyond the four walls of the classroom.

    Building intense learning environments through simulation design

    Simulations aim to replicate realistic problems from the field in a relatively controlled classroom environment. However, this is difficult since field-based problems are vulnerable to contextual changes, complicated by divergent social interests, and seldom straightforward. In this video, Brian Mandell and his teaching team discuss how they design classroom simulation experiences that mirror the real world and ratchet up pressure for students. This global negotiation simulation in particular features misaligned interests, cultural clashes, and periodic news bulletins that shift the very...

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    Preparing students for a simulation

    Complex, multi-party simulations require careful preparation. With so many moving parts, students should have some understanding of what to expect and how to appropriately prepare. In this video, Mandell and his teaching team describe the materials and instructions students receive before simulations. While all groups receive general instructions which provide broad details about the case, each group member also receives his or her own confidential instructions outlining individual interests, allies, and adversaries. To prepare, students study both sets of instructions closely,...

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    Leveraging the teaching team in a simulation

    The more complex a simulation becomes, the more important a well-organized teaching team is for an instructor. Having multiple teaching assistants allows lead instructors to delegate responsibilities procedurally and purposefully. In this video, Mandell’s teaching team reflects on some of the different roles they play throughout simulations. These roles range from gathering data for the whole class debriefs after simulations to coaching students individually as they negotiate. 

    Giving peer feedback promptly with "hot" debriefs

    Though simulations can be powerful learning experiences on their own, students’ learning is enhanced when instructors give them adequate time to process what they just experienced. Particularly when pressure runs high, fostering a structured space for students to debrief is critical. In Brian Mandell’s class, immediately after simulations conclude, student groups offer each member feedback about their performance in the activity. With the simulation still fresh in students’ minds, “hot” debriefs become candid spaces in which students provide one another specific, constructive support....

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    Synthesizing simulation takeaways through lecture

    If simulations plunk students right in the middle of the action, what is the role of the instructor? Though instructors in simulation-based classrooms typically play the role of facilitators rather than lecturers, a strategically placed lecture gives the disciplinary expert in the room a chance to distill key conceptual takeaways from student-centered activities. This video shows how Brian Mandell commences full group sessions by delivering a mini-lecture that responds directly to what students just experienced. The analytic lecture aims to, in Mandell’s words, provide students...

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    Presenting simulation data to spark discussion and reflection

    Failing to debrief after an intense simulation is a missed opportunity, but when simulation debriefs fail to draw on specifics from the activity, this can also short circuit discussion and reflection. Accordingly, providing fresh, relevant data from a recently conducted simulation can deepen debrief conversations and offer students concrete details to drive their reflections. In this video, Mandell and his teaching assistant share both quantitative and qualitative data from the simulation to enliven and enhance the full group debrief. Calling upon specific groups to...

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