March 19, 2013
Cognitive warm-ups to wake up student thinking skills
How can you ensure that students arrive to class on time and prepared to engage in the learning activities planned? How can you begin each class with an enthusiastic activity that wakes up your students and gets them ready to focus on the business of learning?
Cognitive warm-ups are like pre-exercise stretches for the mind and the attention span.
Warm-ups consist of an event or activity that will challenge your students, engage them in relevant thinking skills, and create an engaging transition between when students arrive and the beginning of class. A cognitive warm-up should align with course goals and relate to topics you plan to discuss that day, although they might relate to general thinking skills important to the discipline. Warm-up activities should be brief and interactive. Solving a puzzle or having a laugh would probably work as a warm-up.
Suggestions for cognitive warm-up activities
Warm-ups as mid-class breaks in longer class sessions
For a 90-minute class or a long evening class, you can use a warm-up activity as a mid-class refresher to help refocus attention following a break. Investing 5 minutes of class time for an activity that engages and motivates students is a small price to pay for the dividend of refocused attention.
Once you have a suitable collection of activities, you can introduce a warm-up at the beginning of the term and use a warm-up every day. Regular use can motivate students to attend class and arrive on time, if only because they are curious about what you found to introduce the current topic. You might prefer to experiment with less frequent warm-ups until you develop a collection of suitable activities for your course.
This tip is based on a teaching strategy submitted to the Teaching Issues Writing Consortium by Fred W. Sanborn, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology & Director, Teaching & Learning Center, North Carolina Wesleyan College (firstname.lastname@example.org).
January 29, 2013
Strategies for learning student name
UWF promotes itself as student-centered institution “where the buildings have numbers and the students have names.” Continued growth and larger class sizes create challenges to faculty who want to maintain this commitment to student engagement. Learning a student’s name makes that student feel valued. Small changes that improve the sense of community in a class can make a big difference for student engagement and learning
Barbara Millis collected strategies used by several colleagues to help them learn the names of their students and build a sense of rapport and community in their classes.
Seating charts: Divide and conquer
If your class is small enough, you can use a seating chart to help learn student names. Instructors can assign seats or make a chart based on seats that students select during the first week of class. Students are fairly territorial about their seats and sit in the same location all term when seats are not assigned. Divide your seating charts into blocks with no more than 6 students per block. Work on learning the names of the 6 students in one block during each class session. Make a point of visiting with the students in a new block during class. Once you learn the names of students in one block, include them in your visits with students in the next block to keep names you’ve learned fresh in memory. (Dee Fink)
Create an office hours visit assignment for your course
Require students to visit you during office hours during the first two or three weeks of the term, even if the visit is limited to only a few minutes. You might not learn all student names during these one-on-one visits, but an early break-the-ice visit ensures that students can locate your office and encourages them to arrange content-focused visits later in the term. This strategy is especially useful in classes with large first-year enrollments. Many first-year students are naïve about the expectations of academic life and are reluctant to intrude on faculty during their office hours. They may benefit from an extra push to engage in a one-on-one conversation with an instructor. (Gerry Wojnar)
Use student’s names when you talk to them, even if you have to ask their name first
We frequently recognize the names of our students when we see or hear their names. We might recognize many of our students’ faces, but have difficulty connecting names to faces. When a student visits your office or you see one of your students outside class, greet the student by name (if you know it), or ask “please remind me of your name” (if you don’t know it). When you use the student’s name, students love this confirmation that you know them. If you don’t know the student’s name, request it and use it during your conversation. You will show the student that you care enough to try to learn and use students’ names. Students appreciate your effort. Both strategies build rapport with students. (Susan Robison)
Ask students to make and use name tents during class
In smaller classes, you can ask students to print their name in large letters on name tents and place the name tents on their desk. You and other students can then read their names and associate names with faces. Make a point of using names when you call on students during class. Gradually, you will learn names and rely less on reading the names from the tents. (Kejing Liu & Susan Robison).
Use student photos in the ClassMate roster to associate names with faces
Print a copy of the roster with student photos and bring this to class during the first week and during exams. In the early weeks, you might use the roster to call on students and compare their appearance in class with the roster photo. Bring the roster to an early exam and see if you can match students in the class with their names by comparing their photo to their appearance that day. This also deters wandering eyes during the exam. (Susan Robison)
This tip is based on a teaching strategy submitted to the Teaching Issues Writing Consortium by Barbara Millis, Teaching and Learning Center, University of Texas at San Antonio.
WKU Writer’s Consortium
January 22, 2013
Use an in-class scavenger hunt to introduce students to one another
An ice-breaker activity builds community in any class, but it is particularly useful if you plan to include group work in your class.
To prepare for this activity, download the class roster from ClassMate and request information about the primary major and residence of your enrolled students.
Activity for small classes (30 or fewer students)
Create a 3-column table with one row for each student enrolled in your class. Label the left-hand column Major and list the names of majors you identify for all enrolled students in the cells of this column, duplicating entries as needed. For example, if 9 students identify Biology as their major and 6 identify History, enter Biology in 9 cells in this column and History in 6 cells. If all students in your class have the same major, you could download information about the students’ residence city from ClassMate, label the first column Home City and enter the names of cities in the first column instead of majors. Label the middle column Classmate’s Name and the right-hand column Favorite Hobby/Activity. Leave the cells in the middle and right-hand columns blank.
Ask the students to circulate among their classmates to learn the missing information (names and interests) and fill in the empty cells in their matrix. Provide about 15-20 minutes for this process. The room will be abuzz with conversation. Students like this activity; it gives them an opportunity to meet their classmates and learn something about them – sometimes with surprising results.
Activity for larger classes (more than 30 students)
Students in large classes will not be able to meet every other student in 15-20 minutes. Modify the table and search process to limit the search to about 20 individuals by limiting the size of the table to 20 rows of empty cells. Label the left-hand column Name, the middle column Major (or Home City), and the right-hand column Favorite Hobby/Activity. The students will talk with nearby classmates and fill in as many rows as possible within the 15-20 minutes allowed.
This tip is based on a teaching strategy submitted to the Teaching Issues Writing Consortium by Ernest C. Linsay, Director, Faculty Development & Support, Wilmington University.
WKU Writer’s Consortium
February 7, 2012
Build rapport with students by gathering and responding to student feedback
One of the best ways to find out if students are learning is to ask them. Whether you use an in-class activity or an out-of-class assignment, there are several efficient and effective ways to gather student feedback in order to gauge their learning.
At the beginning or the end of class, ask students a question about their learning and have them write for one minute in response. Possible questions include:
Student responses to these questions can help you shape your coverage of content, help you gauge students’ understanding, and influence your choices for the next time you teach the course.
Cover Letter Assignment
When students hand in an assignment, ask them to provide a “cover letter” in which they reflect on and describe the process they used when completing the assignment. Student comments in a cover letter might describe
This assignment helps students focus on the process of learning as well as attending to the characteristics of the final product.
At the mid-point of the term, ask students to respond anonymously to three questions:
Review and respond to this student feedback in the following class. Talk about patterns that you noticed in what students said was working. Identify those areas that might need adjustment and explain which changes can be made and which ones cannot be made.
For each of these three student feedback options, one of the most important things that you can do to build class rapport is respond. Whether you make changes or not, students like to know that they have been heard. Make sure to bring your feedback gathering full-circle by responding to students’ learning and their questions in class.
For additional information on gathering student feedback, check out the following book:
Thomas Angelo and Patricia Cross,Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers.
This book is in the CULTA library and available for check out.
This tip is based on a teaching strategy suggested by Kathryn Linder, Ph.D., Assistant Director, Center for Teaching Excellence, Suffolk University.
November 8, 2011
Using game show formats to engage students with course content
Are you looking for a novel way to review material, encourage participation, or use an activity to refocus attention during a lecture? Consider incorporating games in your class to involve your students in the learning process.
Benefits of using games
Tips for successful use of games for learning
Want to try using a popular game show format for a class session? Several web sites offer free templates that enable you to transform a PowerPoint presentation into a game show. Download the template and add your course questions and material.
Downloadable Game Templates
PowerPoint Games (http://jc-schools.net/tutorials/ppt-games/)
Includes Who Wants to be a Millionaire (PowerPoint Template by Mark E. Damon), Jeopardy, & Password
Template for Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?
Family Feud Demo Video
This tip is based on a contribution from Allison Boye, Suzanne Tapp, and Micah Meixner Logan, Teaching, Learning, and Technology Center, Texas Tech University.
Millis, B.J. and Cottell, P.G. (1998). Cooperative learning for higher education faculty. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press.
Jones, K. (1997). Games and simulations made easy: Practical tips to improve learning through gaming. London: Kogan Page Ltd.
Rosato, J.L. (1995). All I ever needed to know about teaching law school I learned teaching kindergarten: Introducing gaming techniques into the law school classroom. Journal of Legal Education, 45, 568 – 581.
Sarason, Y. and Banbury, C. (2004). Active learning facilitated by using a game-show format, or who doesn’t want to be a millionaire? Journal of Management Education, 28, 509 – 518.
April 26, 2011
Establish expectations for appropriate team citizenship behavior to develop team skills and address team dynamic problems proactively
An important learning outcome for group work is that students learn to function effectively as a team member by engaging in appropriate team citizenship behaviors and communicating clearly and civilly with team members.
Unfortunately, students working in teams are frequently expected to either bring these skills to the team project or discover these skills on their own while completing a team project. When students and faculty experience negative outcomes from dysfunctional teams that cannot meet these expectations, they dread subsequent assignments that entail group work.
The following assignment establishes expectations for appropriate team behavior and a rubric for evaluating these skills:
Ask students to meet with their team members (or hold a threaded discussion in D2L) on the characteristics and behaviors of an exemplary group member by answering the following questions:
As a class activity, ask members of the various teams to share their descriptions. Develop a rubric or other grading/feedback form that uses the criteria described in the team discussions.
Students typically generate appropriate criteria and descriptions of exemplary and problematic team member behaviors in these activities. This rubric can then be used for peer evaluation of individual contributions to the group project. Although you might be able to predict the content of the rubric students generate during this activity, do not be tempted to save class time and simply provide a rubric you create. The process of identifying and defining student-generated criteria establishes norms for group work, communicates these expectations clearly, and develops consensus among students that these expectations are appropriate.
Hold students accountable for good team behavior by using this rubric to compute a component of student grades. For example, in addition to the grade the group receives for the final product produced for a group project, each member will receive an individual grade that is determined by the following components:
This tip is based on a suggestion from Dr. Claire Lamonica, Associate Director, Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology, Illinois State University.
March 22, 2011
Improve classroom dynamics through inclusion: Use the Classmate photo roster to connect names with faces and call on students by name
Learning student names at the start of a new semester can be challenging. Many students decide to attend a regional comprehensive university like the University of West Florida rather than a large university because they expect that the smaller class sizes and lower student-faculty ratios at UWF will increase their ability to get to know and interact with faculty. They may be disappointed if they attend class regularly, participate occasionally, and find that their instructor still does not know their name. When faculty can recognize students and recall their names when calling on them during class or during out-of-class conversations, students feel a stronger sense of community and inclusion in the class. The classroom dynamic may also improve, fostering more frequent participation and student engagement.
The class rosters available through Classmate now include student photos. These photos can work as handy tools to aid instructors in learning and recalling student names. Learning the names of many students in a large enrollment class can be a daunting task. Make this task more manageable by creating small groups of students and learning the names of students in one group at a time. Usually one page from the Classmate roster prints approximately five or six student faces and names, which should be a manageable number for one day. Limit your study to one page of student photos on any given day.
Open one page of the roster at the lectern during class (or bring a printed copy of the page) and scan the audience as class discussion gets underway. Search for the faces of students in the group on your page and call on these students by name during class. At the end of the class, return to the photos in the roster and rehearse the faces and names of these students once more to reinforce your memory. Prior to the next class session, review these faces and names. Once you are familiar with the names and faces of students in this group, select a new page in the roster and focus on this new set of students during class. Gradually, you will be able to match the names and faces of a large number of your students.
Thanks to Michelle Hale Williams, Government & Political Science, University of West Florida, for this suggestion.
December 7, 2010
Use T-charts to develop metacognitive skills in students
T-Charts are tables or matrices (graphic organizers) in which students list and examine facets of a topic, such as the pros and cons of a position, describe the advantages and disadvantages of several potential solutions to a problem, or identify pieces of information on a controversial topic as either facts or opinions.
Use T-Charts to develop skills. We often assume that students already know the skills they need to thrive in our classrooms. However, students often cannot describe the specific behaviors intended by words faculty use to describe their expectations for classroom behaviors, such as participation, preparation or listening. Similarly, students do not necessarily connect behaviors such as punctuality, use of communication tools, and characteristics of their discourse with teachers and peers to the concept of civility.
Consider the responses students might give to the following question: What are the boundaries for an acceptable response when a peer makes a point you find offensive? Students might not respond to this prompt by articulating specific behaviors. The ability of students to articulate and engage in appropriate behaviors that faculty describe in response to this question represent team skills that are critical to successful functioning in a collaborative workplace.
In addition to using a T-chart to develop firm expectations about team skill, this activity can be used to help students develop specific study skills, such as reading a textbook or listening for and understanding another’s point of view. Create a T-chart to show visually what “active listening” sounds and looks like in terms of specific behaviors.
An instructor could develop a T-chart to describe expectations and distribute this as a handout. However, creating a chart collaboratively can have a more powerful effect because the activity will develop consensus and create buy-in. Constructing a T-chart with student input requires about 5 minutes of class time. The activity can also be used to encourage students to model some of the skills. This activity is a great opportunity for creating student engagement and class participation, often with a refreshing touch of humor. T-charts can be created to focus on any skill you would like to develop.
This tip was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium, (sponsored by Western Kentucky University) by Michael Dabney, Director, Center for the Advancement of Innovative Teaching, Hawaii Pacific University.
September 7, 2010
Request feedback from your students about your course during the term
Model the use of formative feedback for your students and reinforce the credibility of the end-of-term course evaluations. Discuss the value for both you and your students of constructive, formative feedback about the class structure and your teaching. Point out to your students that evaluative feedback from students at the end of the term does nothing to benefit the students who are currently enrolled in the course. Faculty simply can’t correct a problem that they don’t know about. If they learn about a problem only after the term ends, the problem might be corrected in the following term and benefit those students, but it can’t possibly be resolved for students during the current term.
Consider conducting a mid-course evaluation.
Not all suggestions or comments can be acted on (nor should all suggestions be acted on). Instructors can draw attention in class to those changes they make based on student suggestions and explain why some suggestions cannot be implemented (e.g., dispensing with exams or grading, ending an evening class half an hour early every night). The fact that you take the comments seriously and responded to those that you can reasonably implement strengthens students’ beliefs that you take course evaluations seriously.
This tip is based in part by a tip submitted by Michael Dabney, Director, Center for the Advancement of Innovative Teaching, Hawaii Pacific University.
February 12, 2008
Engaged students are connected to faculty, fellow students, and other campus activities.
Encourage students to develop connections with their classmates. Ask your students to exchange contact information. Encourage students to develop relations with one another for mutual support in your class. You might request that your students form study groups or develop networks for sharing lecture notes.
January 8, 2008
Engage students with your class and with one another by creating a welcoming class environment. Ask early-arriving students to serve as “greeters” who will welcome students as they arrive. “Greeters” should introduce themselves to other students as they arrive. This activity will facilitate the creation of community within the classroom and help students meet one another.
Tip courtesy of Dr. Donna Duffy, participant at the Lilly Conference on College and University Teaching (Traverse City).
November 6, 2007
Can a student be too engaged?
Have a student who talks too much and monopolizes class time? Talk to this student after class. Praise the student for his or her confidence and command of the material. Then ask the student to help you engage other students in the class.
September 25, 2007
Connect with students in your class.
Arrive at the classroom 10 minutes before class begins. Engage students in informal conversation about how their classes are going.
Updated 04/03/13 lrg
To report errors and/or broken links on the CUTLA website, please contact us at email@example.com.
Center for University Teaching, Learning, and Assessment | Bldg. 53, Room 208 | 11000 University Pkwy. | Pensacola, FL 32514 | USA | (850) 473-7435 | Campus Map | Text Only | Site map