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You do not have to lecture for entire class periods. In this episode, Maria shares a three-step procedure that can make your classes more interesting and help students learn at a deeper level.
Welcome to Teaching and Learning Matters. I’m Dr. Maria Yon from the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The purpose of this episode is to help you think about how you are using in-class time. Do you feel that your teaching is as effective as it can be and that students are learning? Will students leave class feeling that their time there has been worthwhile?
A trap that many of us fall into is that we end up lecturing the entire class period. One of the reasons is that students haven’t prepared ahead of time. Engaging them in in-class activities is futile. So, we feel that we have to pass on the information that is already in the text. They end up taking notes on the content that is already in the text. Think about your typical class session. What is happening there? What are you doing? What are students doing? Do you feel you need to make any changes?
I would like to recommend a three-step procedure that should work for most class sessions. The three steps are: first exposure, processing, and assessment. The first exposure step is where we require students to prepare ahead of time for in-class learning. This is where students encounter new information, vocabulary, and concepts.
First exposure can be done by having students read the text individually, maybe writing a response to the readings, or interacting with the content on-line in some way. Short lectures done on-line, perhaps as podcasts, that focus on the key points can be effective in preparing students for class. The key in this first step is to hold them accountable for the first-exposure part of learning. Once they realize that you have expectations for their being prepared and that class activities depend on it, they will more than likely come to class ready to engage in the next step—processing the content.
You may choose to begin class with a follow-up to their preparation by giving a short lecture or review. The purpose is to highlight the key points or teach the more difficult content to which they have already been exposed. You might hold a discussion around questions that students have. But, at least half of the class time is spent in the second step—processing by actively engaging students in learning and practicing the content. You develop activities where students are required to apply, synthesize, compare and contrast, or solve problems based on the material to which they have been exposed. These activities can be done either individually or in groups. Brain research tells us that learners must be engaged with the content at a deeper level in order for learning to take place.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say students were required to read a chapter on segregation in the South before coming to class. Both sides of the argument are presented in the text. What will you do in class? Do you need to lecture or perhaps expand on the text? What will you do to help students process what they have read? One way might be to have students plan a defense for one side of the issue and defend it in class. Another idea is to give them a problem-solving scenario that involves a segregation issue. Or ask them what our country would be like if our society was still forcibly segregated by race. These are good small group assignments. Be prepared to ask them questions to expand their thinking when they report back to the large group.
The third part of the lesson is the assessment piece. I am referring here to an assessment of the day’s lesson. What can you do to determine if they met the goal of the lesson? This should be something that doesn’t take long to complete and is not necessarily for a grade. It might be as simple as asking students, “What did you learn today that you didn’t know before?” or “Is segregation ever justified?”
I hope that you have found this helpful in rethinking your use of class time. So try these three steps: first exposure, processing, and assessment of learning. I think that both you and your students will find class more interesting and that the processing step will help students learn more and at a deeper level.
Thanks for listening. Tune in again. And remember--teaching and learning matters.
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