Classroom Activities

Students learn best when actively engaged in learning tasks, and there are many ways to incorporate active learning techniques into your class.

Encouraging Participation

Most instructors worry that students will not speak up in class. By helping students better prepare for section, instructors can ensure more frequent class participation.

Integrating Sociology into Students’ Lives through Twitter

by Shelly Steward, Sociology
To make theory a way of seeing and understanding the world, [students] needed to be reminded of it outside of lectures, sections, and assignments. How could I insert sociological ideas into students’ everyday lives beyond the classroom? My strategy to address this problem was to create a course Twitter account.

The Tipping Point: Encouraging Inclusive Participation Through Productive Failure in a Highly Diverse Student Setting

by Sandile Hlatshwayo, Economics
There are several benefits to this warm-up approach. Primarily… students who must first attempt to solve problems with very little instruction tend to learn the concepts better once they are given formal instruction. Second, students experience less fear over offering incorrect answers as making public errors becomes a normalized part of the classroom experience. Finally, and centrally, students that tend to be non-participators participate…

Sketching Social Theory Collectively

by Chris Herring, Sociology
While most professors have converted to Power Point, sociology professor Michael Burawoy remains wedded to the blackboard and diagrams relentlessly… [A] primary task became figuring out a way to get my students to take these illustrations as the starting point for discussion rather than the end-point.

What Is It to Truly ‘See’ and How to Deal with the Unseen

By Alexandra Courtois de Vicose, History of Art
When confronted with a Monet water landscape last spring and asked, “What do you see?” [my students] rightly answered, “A boat.” “You understand this shape as a boat because, culturally, you know what a boat looks like. Keep in mind, however, this is but an amalgamation of pigment on a two-dimensional surface. So, really, what do you see?”

Starting with Art for the First Time

Elaine Yau, History of Art
I have often noted that students who have never had an art history course can be overwhelmed by a commonplace assumption that artistic “masterpieces” are self-evidently great. This point of departure usually results in hackneyed discussions about beauty, perfection, or “pinnacles of civilization.” I wanted my first writing assignment to provide a structured, accessible process for formal analysis that would equip students with a vocabulary from which to build their own interpretations confidently — to treat paintings as primary sources from a moment in history.

Interpretation as Staging: A Lesson in Dramatic Literature

by Jordan Greenwald, Comparative Literature
I…came to realize that this lesson could not be learned through class discussion alone, since asking these questions while leading discussion is pedagogically less effective than getting students to ask those questions themselves. I therefore decided, with the encouragement of my co-instructor, to design a group assignment that would familiarize students with the choices one makes when bringing a dramatic text to life.

Empowered Learning: History, Collaboratively

by Jesse Cordes Selbin, English
I believe that education functions best when students are not merely passive recipients, but collaborative creators, of knowledge. To that end, I designed an ongoing assignment wherein students used online software to contribute to a collective historical timeline of the nineteenth century…The function of the timeline was primarily informational: it was intended to give a deeper understanding of a historical era. But its crucial secondary function was to ask students to reconceptualize their own role as creators and perpetrators of historical narrative.

Developing Interactive Applets to Help Students Visualize Multivariable Calculus

by Thunwa Theerakarn, Mathematics
For many concepts in this subject, having geometric intuition is very helpful for a better understanding. However, many students struggle to visualize these concepts because they cannot actually “see” them…To help students develop geometric thinking, I used Mathematica to create interactive applets that can display multiple three-dimensional graphics at the same time and can overlay extra information on those graphics.