How to improve our classes

Once again Joshua Kim had a post in Inside Higher Ed that caught my attention.  This time he is reviewing the work of a recent graduate, Lucretia Witte, who made a presentation at Joshua’s institution about her research entitled “Student Views on Technology and Teaching”.

Ms. Witte’s work looks pretty good to me.  What I really liked from Joshua’s post about her work were her tips for applying the research.  This is what Joshua said about them:

The four things that every professor can do “THIS WEEK” (Lucretia’s words) to make each course more student-friendly include (with the sentences in quotes pulled directly from the handout):

1. Ensure that all readings, articles, presentations and videos (all course material) are available in the course management system.
2. “Create a weekly reading assessment that asks students to formulate or discuss the most important things you wanted them to get out the this week’s articles.”
3. “Make your syllabus a living document and let students know about changes via class emails – it will put your class in the forefront of their minds.”
4. “Use technology to help students engage with one another – create peer review groups for papers or discussion groups online.”

Some of this isn’t terribly new to me, but it is always good to be reminded.  Also, there are things here that I don’t do on a regular basis — like the reading assessments and the peer review groups.  So I am going to try to incorporate more of those things into my classes this semester.

I really like her idea of making the syllabus a living document.  Mine always changes once I meet the students in any particular class and see that what looked so good on paper over the break just isn’t going to work this time.  And I try to keep students informed of the changes.  But I see her suggestion as embracing those changes more than I have.  If I make a bigger deal of them than I do and really draw students’ attention to them rather than being embarrassed that I can’t ever stick to the syllabus, it could really help students in the class.  So that is something I am going to do.

Kim’s post is a good read and includes a link to an earlier post he wrote about Witte.  Both are worth a read.

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