• Use paradoxes, puzzles, and apparent contradictions to engage students.

  • Make connections to current events and everyday phenomena.

  • Begin each class with something familiar and important to students.

  • End each class by summarizing the main points you have made.

  • Adopt a reasonable and adjustable pace that balances content coverage and student understanding.

  • Consider using slides, videos, films, CD-ROMs, and computer simulations to enhance presentations, but remember that:

  • Students cannot take notes in darkened rooms.

  • The text needs to be large enough to read from the back of the room.

  • Students need time to summarize their observations and to draw and note conclusions.

  • Pay attention to delivery:

  • Maintain eye contact with students in all parts of the room.

  • Step out from behind the lecture bench when feasible.

  • Move around, but not so much that it is distracting.

  • Talk to the students, not the blackboard.

  • If using the board, avoid blocking it with AV projectors or screens.

  • Shift the mood and intensity.

  • Vary presentation techniques.

At the beginning of a course, discuss with your students several strategies for effectively engaging in and learning from your classes. Some may just listen, others will take notes, and still others may try to transcribe your words. Some students may want to tape the class session. If you want to encourage a particular form of student participation, make clear your expectations, the reasons for them, and how students' learning will benefit.

Asking Questions

Whether in lecture, discussion sections, laboratories, or individual encounters, questioning is an important part of guiding students' learning. When students ask questions, they are often seeking to shortcut the learning process by getting the right answer from an authority figure. However, it is the processes of arriving at an answer and assessing the validity of an answer that are usually more important, particularly if the student can apply these processes to the next question. Both of these processes are obscured if the teacher simply gives the requested answer. Often, the Socratic method-meeting a student's question with another (perhaps leading) question-forces students (while often frustrating them) to offer possible answers, supporting reasons, and assessments. In fact, posing questions can be an effective teaching technique. Here are some tips for the effective use of questions:

  • Wait long enough to indicate that you expect students to think before answering. Some students know that if they are silent the professor will give the answer (Rowe, 1974).

  • Solicit the answer from a volunteer or a selected student.

  • Determine the student's confidence level as you listen to the answer.

  • Solicit alternative answers or elaboration to provide material for comparison, contrast, and assessment.

  • Solicit additional responses from the same students with a leading question or follow-up observation.

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