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.

X-Axis, Y-Axis, and Zzzz’s: Plotting Narrative at 8 AM

by Wendy Xin, English
How, I wondered, might one instill an understanding of composition useful to engineering, political science, history, biology, literature, and math majors alike, when the nature of assigned readings across disciplines varied so widely? And how would the class find pleasure in engaging metacritically with the concept of narrative at 8 a.m., a time when most of us aren’t even used to experiencing narrative?

The End of Romance: Teaching Students to Rethink ‘Wild’ Africa

by Amy Wolfson, African American Studies
One of the most poignant challenges I faced while teaching…was grappling with the preconceived notions and biases about Africa that students bring to the classroom. Romanticized and exoticized as wild, uncivilized, and mystical, Africa is often portrayed in the media as a homogenous space full of wild animals, warring tribes, and dictators…For most of [my students], Africa had modern problems, but no modern cultures.

Self-Portraiture as a Teaching Tool

by William Coleman, History of Art
It was my hope that paintings that have meant so much to me could be made to speak anew…[that] canvases laden with allegorical references would become legible again, equipping our group of newcomers with crucial analytical skills for the course…Despite best laid plans, it became apparent early in the semester that many students found these complex paintings…utterly incomprehensible.

Understanding Long-Term Ecological Change with Tree Rings

by Kevin Krasnow, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management
I decided to leverage my own research to devise an inquiry-based experience for students to explore the history of our own Sierra Nevada forests…This led to a lively discussion…[and the students] were engaged in a way that they never would have been if I had merely told them the history of fire in the Sierras.

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.

Anatomy of an Essay

by Lynn Huang, English
I realized that students did not understand the difference between evidence and analysis in their own writing….I introduced the idea that we can “dissect” and analytically color-code an essay in order to make its internal structure visible, and to determine what makes it an effective (or ineffective) paper.

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.

Language Pedagogy as a Group Effort

by Rahul Bjørn Parson, South and Southeast Asian Studies
I had learned while teaching South Asian language and literature courses that all my students come with different experiences and abilities and varying knowledge of the region and culture; and that often the best pedagogical method is to empower the students to teach each other.

Teaching Students How to Create a Picture Worth a Thousand Words

by Julie Ullman, Molecular and Cell Biology
Precision in language is an unspoken tenet of scientific disciplines, and it is fair to have strict requirements for that in exams. Yet the question arose: How could I help to level the achievement gap between students who worked in science and had extensive, confident scientific lexicons and those who didn’t, while at the same time challenging everyone?