Intuition Is What You Need to Take Home!

by Caroline Delaire, Civil and Environmental Engineering
I quickly realized that the class generated a lot of anxiety. Students, undergraduate and graduate alike, were surprised and challenged by the quantity of equations and algebra involved in lectures and homeworks. I helped them the best I could with solving problem sets, but at the same time I started to understand that by focusing on algebra and equations students were at risk of missing the point of the class: gaining practical knowledge about water chemistry. They were simply not developing the intuition that would help them address real world environmental issues!

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.

The Importance of Implicit Feature Awareness for Problem Solving in Organic Chemistry

by Jordan Axelson, Chemistry
During 2012, I served as head GSI for both first and second semesters of organic chemistry (Chemistry 3A and 3B). Despite the utility of resonance in solving problems presented during these classes, I found that at the end of Chem 3B, many students still struggled to understand and apply resonance…To alleviate this challenge, I built a kit that included a stainless steel “whiteboard,” dry-erase markers, and colored magnetic pieces meant to represent a single lobe of a p-orbital.

Achieving Widespread Participation through Evidence-Based Classroom Discourse

by Elise Piazza, Undergraduate and Interdisciplinary Studies (Home Department: Vision Science)
On my first day as a graduate student instructor for Introduction to Cognitive Science, I noticed that participation was limited to a few students, while the rest sat silently, either intimidated or bored…As an experimental psychologist, I decided to introduce my scientific approach to teaching by turning our discussion section into an experiment.

Bringing Archaeological Theory ‘Down to Earth’

by Anna Harkey, Anthropology
Abstract concepts can present a real challenge, and for most — and especially for the high percentage of freshmen who take the class each semester — the whole concept of a “theoretical perspective” is entirely foreign. They soon learn the names of different schools of theory, names of scholars associated with each, and details of case studies demonstrating what each looks like in practice. But as exams loomed closer last spring, Q&A time with my sections revealed that many were still confused.

The Hip Bone is Connected to the Thigh Bone: Fostering Higher-Order Learning by Not Answering Students’ Questions

by Julie Wesp, Anthropology
I wanted to create an environment that would stimulate higher-order learning and instill a deeper understanding and organization of the information. Answering the kind of questions the students were asking did not help them to piece together the parts into a whole; it only insinuated that repetitive memorization was the key to success. In an effort to break this cycle, during the next section I simply stopped answering them.

The Advantages of Rearranging the Topics Covered in a Course

by Peyam Tabrizian, Mathematics
in the spirit of my Math 54 experience as a student and as a GSI, I decided to reorganize things. Instead of teaching the course in two separate chunks, I mixed the topics up in a way that I would first teach a linear algebra concept, and then immediately apply it to differential equations.

Policy Consulting Simulations as a Tool for Understanding and Applying Economic Concepts

by Anna Rubin, Public Policy
Assigning students to small groups leveraged the economics background that many students brought to this class by putting them in the role of a peer teacher… This structure…help[ed] students struggling to understand core concepts…[and created] opportunities for all students to apply these concepts to public policy questions.

Using Students’ Design Work to Teach Design Theory and Criticism

by Shawhin Roudbari, Architecture
When students brought their own work to this “theory class” they crossed a threshold…It’s one thing for students to read that postmodernism in architecture was partly a post-Fordist reaction to a modernist ethos. It’s another thing for them to situate their own work in an un-periodized historical context of the present.

Bringing Concepts to Life through Field Trips

by Allison Kidder, Environmental Science, Policy, & Management
I needed to find another way to help bring these concepts to life for my students. I recalled learning most intently when seeing examples of each concept out in the field in their unique spatial and temporal context. Using a little imagination and the wide variety of UC Berkeley’s campus resources available to us, I devised a series of field trips for my students on weeks they were learning new concepts. We traveled all over campus.