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.

Building the Big Picture

by Alejandra Figueroa-Clarevega, Molecular and Cell Biology
During discussion sections I became aware that my students were…studying the material as individual, independent, non-related facts. It was like trying to assemble a 3,000-piece puzzle without having a picture to refer to. Thus my goal became to help my students understand the context that would allow them to collect the facts more easily, group similar ideas together, and be able to place them in relationship to each other.

An Effective Review Session (without Teaching to the Test)

by Stacy Jackson, Energy & Resources Group
Nearly everyone has attended review sessions that provided a big boost in preparation and sessions that were a huge waste of time. All of us hope to deliver the “big boost” session, but how [do you] provide effective preparation without teaching to the test, especially in the common situation of having seen the exam in advance?

Bringing Astronomy Down to Earth: A Teaching Strategy That Helps Develop Intuition

by Aaron Lee, Astronomy
I found that students were far too trusting of their calculators, possibly due to a fear of math, and they blindly accepted whatever the calculator returned. My solution…was to include weekly activities that taught students how to relate new concepts to familiar experiences to develop their intuition about the subject matter.