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.
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.
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...
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.
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...
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...
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.
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...
Instead of the “I talk, you listen” structure of traditional lectures, mixing up the activities in a lecture course is likely to nurture deeper understanding. Bob Kegan peppers activities throughout his lectures, adding variety and dynamism into what could otherwise be a lengthy, teacher-centered lecture. In this video, Kegan suggests that university instructors think more like bike instructors: It’s not enough to just talk about your content, you must give students a chance to “get on” and try it out.
Class discussions don’t only have to take place within the four walls of the classroom. Establishing resources and platforms to continue discussions outside of class can help students extend their learning and feel more engaged with your course. In this video, Tina Grotzer discusses how she uses online discussion boards and in-person meetings to make sure all of her students get the chance to have their questions answered and feel seen as members of the class community.
Students who are mentally prepared for class and know what to expect from the day’s schedule are able to be more attentive and focused on course material. In this video, Tina Grotzer demonstrates different ways to help students feel present in the classroom and allocate their mental energy to the day’s learning.
A lecturer who acts primarily as a “sage on the stage” for an entire class session will likely struggle to gauge or sustain student attention and energy. By incorporating frequent, purposeful questioning into lectures, instructors can keep students energized and deepen their understanding. Brett Flehinger uses factual, analytical, and overarching questions during his lectures to draw out student voices and check the class’s “temperature.”
Paying close attention to what’s going on in a classroom can help determine when to delve deeper on a given topic and when to re-teach something that may have been confusing. Through keen observation and “show of hands” solicitations, Bob Kegan stays attuned to the classroom’s ebbs and flows. Regular “temperature-taking” allows him to adapt lesson trajectories accordingly and gain insight into student understanding.
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.”
A classic challenge for the lecturers is how to fit all relevant material into the timeframe of a short class period, not to mention a short semester. When a student makes an insightful point that would take the class in a new direction, instructors must decide: Do I go on a worthwhile tangent to address the student’s point, or do I proceed as I had planned? In this video, Brett Flehinger shares why he allows student contributions to shape the path a class takes and how he makes strategic adjustments on the fly.
While slides can be helpful for displaying class material, they also tend to be static and relatively passive. Conversely, co-constructing knowledge on the board with students can help make definitions and key concepts come alive. In this video, Paola Arlotta describes how recording students’ ideas on the board engages them in collaboratively “building the class material” and involves them more deeply in the learning process.
Giving students substantial time during class to pause, reflect on, and verbally process their understanding can help them consolidate their learning and generate new ideas. These practices can also help teaching teams stay abreast of how students’ thinking is changing. In this video, Tina Grotzer explains how and why she gives students the space and time to reflect in class.
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.
It is tempting, even natural, to want to present material exactly how you like to receive it, but if you do this you may be reaching only a small cohort of students. In reality, students receive and process information in a variety of ways. Lecturers may reach more students by varying the ways they present material and offering multiple entry points for complex concepts. In this video, Bob Kegan describes the range of tactics he uses to teach students in his large-enrollment lecture course.
Instead of using class time to deliver a pre-written speech, it can be helpful to spend part of the lecture thinking aloud for your students. Exposing your own thought processes can be a powerful, authentic way to acclimate students to a discipline. Sharing experiences that helped you understand concepts more deeply can additionally offer students a window into your intellectual journey, adding a human dimension to the subject matter. In this video, Bob Kegan discusses how thinking out loud during lectures models the reasoning with which he expects his students to become fluent and...