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.

Encouraging Full Participation in Section

by Suzanne Scoggins, International and Area Studies (Home Department: Political Science)
When a few students dominate, it diminishes the opportunity to hear different voices. This pattern, once established, worsens with time, and by the end of a semester, only a handful of students may be participating in section…Once I began asking groups of two to participate in section, I noticed a marked improvement in overall participation rates. Prior to using this strategy, a “good” section was one in which about half of the students spoke in class. After focusing on groups of two, I found that an “average” discussion was one in which all but one or two students spoke up.

Consensus Techniques for Learning Together

by Genevieve Painter, Legal Studies (home department Jurisprudence and Social Policy)
Sorting through masses of research is a key learning objective of the reading and composition seminar. Students reported feeling overwhelmed as they confronted a wealth of sources and ideas in preparing their final papers. What is one way that participatory social movements deal with analyzing an excess of information? Card clustering!

Seeing for Yourself

by Ryan Turner, Astronomy (Home Department: Earth and Planetary Science)
Not everything we learn in school is easily quantified, and the goal of the C12 star party did not include specific learning objectives. The effectiveness of the project was measured in oohs and aahs as students took their first look through the eyepiece.

Problem Solving and the Random Number Generator

by Justin Hollenback, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Based on the mistakes the students were making, I felt that the example problems I presented weren’t conveying the material as well as I wanted. Students did not appear engaged or actively learning during lecture. In response, I developed a strategy … to make the process of working out example problems in class more interactive.

Breaking Down the Barriers Inhibiting Effective Learning Environments

by Yekaterina Miroshnikova, Molecular and Cell Biology (Home Department: Bioengineering)
I decided to set up an unconventional discussion section environment… I strategically utilized the uneven playing field in students’ prior knowledge to our benefit by facilitating team-based learning…[and] I taught the entirety of the material in a hands-on and application-based style.

Engaging with the Thesis Statement: Developing Metacognitive Skills

by Jennifer Johnson, Linguistics (Home Department: Education)
I needed to develop in-class peer review and self review activities that assist students in exploring, understanding, and contesting feedback. … How do I help students develop metacognitive skills — in other words, reflect on their reflections?

Confidence and the Character of Discussion: Attending to Framing Effects

by Lindsay Crawford, Philosophy
By making students more conscious of the degree to which modes of presentation shape the seemingly neutral space of discussion, the students who tended to feel intimidated by more assertive students came to realize that many of the factors that encourage and shape their feelings of intimidation are irrelevant to the quality of the positions being evaluated.

(Feminist) Dreams Really Do Come True

by Anastasia Kayiatos, Slavic
As the students of the introductory course (many of them first-years) sift through these dense texts (for many, their first brushes with theory), it is easy for them to feel alienated by the language….My job is to make sure they know that feminist theory’s difficult lexicon is not an exercise in esotericism designed to disempower them. On the contrary, I strive to demonstrate throughout the semester, feminist scholars invent new vocabulary with a deliberate political aim of empowerment.

From Theory to Obama: Innovative Teaching Methods to Increase Participation

by Zoe Harris, Public Health
One morning, my classroom was abuzz with a debate over whether to vote yes or no on Proposition 2…Instead of my original lesson plan, carefully typed up with several handouts, I sat and listened to their debate. Students who only spoke when I cold-called them were the center of the discussion. “STOP!” I raised my arms while students glared at me nervously. “Today, we are going to apply Wilson’s theory of concentrated versus diffuse interests to decide which way you would vote on Proposition 2.” (Stunned looks all around.)