Teaching Strategy Resource Shelf

Is Your Syllabus a Boring One Or a Promising One?

Published Date:January 12, 2017

Is Your Syllabus a Boring One or a Promising One?  Rather than read aloud your syllabus on the first day, how do you lively up a boring syllabus?  Clip art? More jokes? Perhaps even just one joke? A better method would be to adopt the idea of the "promising syllabus," a concept developed by Ken Bain, whose book (What the Best College Teachers Do, 2004). He doesn't claim to have originated the idea of the promising syllabus -- he discovered it, he said, from his review of the syllabi of outstanding college and university teachers, in which he found a common approach and some common features. "The promising syllabus," Bain wrote via e-mail, "fundamentally recognizes that people will learn best and most deeply when they have a strong sense of control over their own education rather than feeling manipulated by someone else's demands." A promising syllabus contains three key components.

Published Date: January 12, 2017


Make the Most of the First Day of Class

Published Date:January 12, 2017

Make the Most of the First Day of Class.  The first day of class always creates some nervousness, even for seasoned instructors. It helps to have a mental checklist of objectives to accomplish so that you and your students come away with the impression that the course is off to a good start. The first class meeting should serve at least two basic purposes: a) to clarify all reasonable questions students might have relative to the course objectives, as well as your expectations for their performance in class. As students leave the first meeting, they should believe in your competence to teach the course, be able to predict the nature of your instruction, and know what you will require of them and b) to give you an understanding of who is taking your course and what their expectations are. These two basic purposes expand into a set of eight concrete objectives that will maximize opportunities in your first day

Published Date: January 12, 2017


Final Exam Review Ideas

Published Date:November 29, 2016

Final Exam Review Ideas. In a study of student perceptions of teacher misbehaviors, Kearny, Plax, Hays and Ivey (1991) report that a common complaint by students involved “unfair testing” practices. Faculty misbehaviors related to tests as reported by students were trick questions, ambiguous questions, tests too difficult, and no exam reviews.  Here are some ways to help students prepare for the final exam and to reduce student anxiety. (Weimer, 1998).

Published Date: November 29, 2016


School’s Out! Almost. Strategies for the Last Day of Class

Published Date:November 29, 2016

School’s Out! Almost. Strategies for the Last Day of Class. The first day of class usually gets all the attention, and the last day of class is often neglected. By the end of a semester, the energy of most students and instructors has waned, and both have settled into comfortable routines. Too often, activities (if there are any) for the last day of class are cobbled together the night before, or the instructor gives a bland ‘wrap-up’ lecture summarizing the previous weeks. This is the challenge: how to create a last day of class that leaves students thinking about what a great course they took, and leaves you wanting to teach it again next year. Here are ways to make the last day substantive, engaging, and meaningful.

Published Date: November 29, 2016


Courses That Are Hard, but Not Too Hard: Finding the Sweet Spot

Published Date:November 9, 2016

Courses That Are Hard, but Not Too Hard: Finding the Sweet Spot. Courses need to be challenging, but when they become too hard, students stop trying and little learning results. So how do we find that sweet spot between hard and not too hard? More importantly, how do we create that sweet spot in our own courses through the decisions we make about content, assignments, and exams?  One solution is to give students opportunities to work on content in class and then listen closely to their conversations. Are they working hard, experiencing some frustration, but finally figuring it out? How much effort are they expending? Additional strategies, including exam wrappers, are discussed.

Published Date: November 9, 2016


Exam Wrapper

Published Date:November 9, 2016

Exam Wrapper. Here’s a strategy that helps students look at more than the grade when an exam is returned. An exam wrapper (I like the name) is a handout attached to the exam that students complete as part of the exam debrief process. The wrapper directs students “to review and analyze their performance (and the instructor’s feedback) with an eye toward adapting their future learning.” (Ambrose et al, 2010, p. 251). Here is a more detailed description of the exam wrapper strategy.

Published Date: November 9, 2016