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Teaching Effectiveness

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Teaching Effectiveness

The Center for Faculty Excellence (CFE) works with faculty to integrate effective and innovative pedagogies and technologies into their curricula. The resources on this page combine research-based practices, innovative techniques, and hands-on applications to encourage teaching enhancement and professional development. We hope you find these resources helpful to enhance your students’ educational experiences.  

Blended Course Design and Teaching

Blended course design is a way of leveraging both in class and outside class activities to promote learning and use your time effectively in both formats. Blended courses, also commonly referred to as a hybrid course, is a course format that uses both face-to-face and online teaching. Blended courses specifically remove face-to-face time from the total time spent on class commitments to online time. Learning activities and assessments can occur both online and face-to-face.

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Classroom Observation

A classroom observation is a formal or informal observation of teaching while it is taking place in a classroom or other learning environment. Typically conducted by fellow instructors or instructional consultants, classroom observations are often used to provide instructors with constructive critical feedback aimed at enhancing their classroom management and instructional techniques. Classroom observations, an integral part of enhancing teaching and learning in the classroom, usually consists of a pre-observation consultation, in-class observation, a post-observation discussion, and finally a reflective practice.

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Effective Lecturing

 

Lecturing is one of the most common delivery methods of content in the classroom. One powerful advantage of lecturing is that it gives instructors great control over what is taught within a limited time. It also creates opportunity for instructors to share their expertise through stories of how they themselves have applied the course content students are learning in their own professional life. However, lecturing is often criticized for its monotonous presentation of information and lengthy one-way communication which therefore is lacking student engagement. Specifically, the criticism of lecturing is threefold:

  • Lecturing does not promote active learning that helps students digest content effectively.
  • Lecturing is instructor-oriented, as such, students are passive learners in their learning process.
  • Lecturing is often paired with monomodal, summative assessments such as quizzes and exams to collect student feedback.

When lecturing is appropriate for teaching, some practical strategies can make lectures more engaging, interesting, and effective for both small and large classes.

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International Faculty Teaching in the American Classroom

When early-career international faculty members teach in the American classroom, they naturally would compare their own educational and teaching traditions in countries where they came from. What were some of the initial surprises you faced when you first taught in the American classroom? What were the most notable cultural differences and challenges? What challenges your expectations the most? What strategies you have taken accordingly? What are the best parts of your teaching so far?  What unique perspectives you bring to the classroom as an international instructor? And how could the University support you better in your cultural transition as an international instructor?
 
In the path of reflecting on these questions, international faculty can recognize better the difference in views on the role of an instructor and students in the American classroom. The difference has a far-reaching impact on how teaching should be taught, and how learning should be acquired. By devoting a conscious effort to understand the divergences between one’s home and American educational system, international faculty may become more comprehensible to the dissimilarities.  In the light of careful comparison of the dissimilarities, international faculty can come up with effective strategies when they interact with their students.

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Mid-Term Student Evaluation

Mid-term student feedback collects information early enough to address learning issues and adjust instruction accordingly while the course is in progress.

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Seven Alternative Strategies to Do In-Class Discussions

1. GALLERY WALK 

a.k.a. Chat Stations – Q&A, tours for Peer feedback

Workshop: Seven Alternatives Strategies to Do In-Class Discussions 

Basic Structure: Stations or posters are set up around the classroom, on the walls or on tables. 

Small groups of students travel from station to station together, performing some kind of task or responding to a prompt, either of which will result in a conversation.

Variation: Some Gallery Walks stay true to the term gallery, where groups of students create informative posters, then act as tour guides or docents, giving other students a short presentation about their poster and conducting a Q&A about it. 

2. CONCENTRIC CIRCLES

a.k.a. Speed Dating – Peer review, peer teaching

Basic Structure:

1.     Students form two circles, one inside circle and one outside circle. Each student on the inside is paired with a student on the outside; they face each other.

2.     The teacher poses a question to the whole group and pairs of students discuss their responses with each other. Then the teacher signals students to rotate: Students on the outside circle move one space to the right so they are standing in front of a new person (or sitting, as they are in the video). 

3.     Now the teacher poses a new question, and the process is repeated.

Variation: Instead of two circles, 

1.     students could also form two straight lines facing one another. Instead of “rotating” to switch partners, one line just slides over one spot, and the leftover person on the end comes around to the beginning of the line. 

2.     Some professors use this strategy to have students teach one piece of content to their fellow students, making it less of a discussion strategy and more of a peer teaching format. In fact, many of these protocols could be used for peer teaching as well.

3. CONVER-STATIONS

Basic Structure: This is a small-group discussion strategy that gives students exposure to more of their peers’ ideas and prevents the stagnation that can happen when a group doesn’t happen to have the right chemistry. 

1.      Students are placed into a few groups of 4-6 students each and are given a discussion question to talk about. 

2.      After sufficient time has passed for the discussion to develop, one or two students from each group rotate to a different group, while the other group members remain where they are. 

3.      Once in their new group, they will discuss a different, but related question, and they may also share some of the key points from their last group’s conversation. 

4.      For the next rotation, students who have not rotated before may be chosen to move, resulting in groups that are continually evolving.

4. HOT SEAT 

a.k.a Role Playing

Basic Structure: One student assumes the role of a book character, significant figure in history, or concept (such as a tornado, an animal, or the Titanic). Sitting in front of the rest of the class, the student responds to classmates’ questions while staying in character in that role.

Variation: Give more students the opportunity to be in the hot seat while increasing everyone’s participation by having students do hot seat discussions in small groups, where one person per group acts as the “character” and three or four others ask them questions. 

In another variation, several students could form a panel of different characters, taking questions from the class all together and interacting with one another like guests on a TV talk show.

5. SNOWBALL DISCUSSION

a.k.a. Pyramid Discussion – from small to whole class

Basic Structure: This strategy allows students to hear different and more perspectives. 

1.     Students begin in pairs, responding to a discussion question only with a single partner. After each person has had a chance to share their ideas, the pair joins another pair, creating a group of four. 

2.     Pairs share their ideas with the pair they just joined. Next, groups of four join to form groups of eight, and so on, until the whole class is joined up in one large discussion.

Variation: This structure could be used to share ideas on a topic, or students could be required to reach consensus on a few key points every time they join up with a new group.

6. CONER EXERCISE

Basic Structure: This strategy is especially good when instructors don’t have adequate time to teach lots of content, so each group can take up and delve into one task/category and share their thoughts with the class later.

Steps are: 
1. Set up several corners or white boards. 

2. Each group moves to a corner and brainstorms a list in response to a question or a task posed to the entire class.

3. Move to the next corner – expand on the previous group’s examples.

4. Review/summarize the contents of each list as a class.

Variation: In pairs or small groups, students write down their responses in a white paper, then pass along to a different person/group. 

7. Mini Peer Teaching

Basic Structure: This strategy changes from the sit-and-listen learning environment that students are used to in college classrooms.

1.  Begins with the teacher spending a few minutes introducing a concept to the class

2.  Next, the teacher says Teach!, the class responds with Okay!, and pairs of students take turns re-teaching the concept to each other. 

3.  This strategy is like think-pair-share, but it’s faster-paced. It focuses more on re-teaching than general sharing, and students are encouraged to use gestures to animate their discussion. 

4.  It is one of the 10-2 strategies when instructors lecture about 10 minutes, stop intentionally, give students 2-3 minutes to digest and reflect on the content. 

Assessment is crucial to determining whether you and your students are meeting the goals outlined for a course. Grading enables you to fairly capture student achievement and to provide feedback for student growth. This page is designed to connect you to key resources as you consider your assessment and grading approach.