4 tips for teaching large lecture courses

by Gillian Wheat
PhD student, University of Florida

Professors assigned to teach large lecture courses are faced with the challenge of delivering engaging lectures to a large number of students on a regular basis.  Although this may seem daunting, it is not an insurmountable task.

Keeping these four aspects of teaching large lecture courses in mind can help professors make sure they are being effective.

Tip #1 — Holding the students’ attention

Holding the attention of students is vital to the success of a large lecture course.  Professors can do so by perfecting their delivery and displaying a positive attitude.  Varying the structure of each lesson is another way to keep the students engaged.

 Tip # 2 — Promote active learning

Including opportunities for active learning within a lecture will encourage the students to learn how to think about the material being covered.  Tactics that can be used to facilitate active learning include question posting, learning cells, and the pause procedure.

Tip # 3 — Discourage anonymity of students

Students who feel like they matter are more likely to feel a sense of responsibility in a large lecture course.  Professors may not be able to memorize the name of every student, but doing something as simple as arriving early to chat with students can make a difference.

Tip #4 — Be organized

Being organized and planning ahead are extremely important when teaching a large lecture course.  Professors must set clear expectations and figure out how to successfully communicate with students both inside and outside class.

Here are a few books that contain useful insight for professors who are assigned to teach a large lecture course:

  • McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers.
  • Engaging Large Classes: Strategies and Techniques for College Faculty.
  • What’s the Use of Lectures?

Gillian Wheat is a student in Mass Communication Teaching (MMC 6930).

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Tips for developing and administering multiple-choice tests

by Antionette Rollins
Master’s student, University of Florida

While multiple choice testing is not an ideal form of testing, it may be the only option for educators in some cases—especially when teaching a large lecture course. Although these tests have their disadvantages, such as encouraging guessing and emphasizing recognition skills, they allow teachers to test a large number of students at once and are usually easier to grade than more subjective tests.

Here are some helpful DOs and DON’Ts if you ever find that you need to compose and administer a multiple choice test or quiz, which will probably be at least once in your teaching career.
DOs for creating multiple-choice tests
  • Test more than recognition
  • Put the majority of the words in the stem
  • Have only one clear answer
  • Use the same number of options throughout
  • Randomize correct answers
  • Make all distractors reasonable
DON’Ts for creating multiple-choice tests
  • Don’t use double negatives
  • Don’t have “all of the above” or “none of the above” options
  • Don’t use grammatically incorrect language—especially in distractors
  • Don’t try to trick students
Tips for administering multiple-choice tests
       Create different test forms
       Use different seating arrangements on test days
       Have students sign academic dishonesty pledge before tests
For more comprehensive lists and further information on multiple choice tests, please visit The Learning Coach and refer to the University of Florida’s teaching assistant handbook.
Antionette Rollins is a student in Mass Communication Teaching (MMC 6930).

4 tips for designing a successful group project

by Seul Lee
PhD student, University of Florida

Group projects are important for students majoring in advertising, public relations, journalism and telecommunication because those industries require a higher level of cooperation.  If structured well, group projects can promote important intellectual and social skills and can help students prepare for work world in advance.

Group projects are distinguished from group activities in that group projects are more likely to be long-term-based and require group product(s), such as a written report, a presentation, a design work, or a paper.

Positive group experiences contribute to develop skills specific to collaborative efforts and to have a field experience with real-world clients. However, there are often typical problematic group members, such as a free rider, a dictator, the do-it-all, the procrastinator, the socializer, the academically poor student, the quiet student, and/or the complainer.

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Advice for preventing plagiarism and cheating in the college classroom

by Arlena Jackson
PhD student, University of Florida

Prevention is the best solution to mitigating plagiarism and cheating in the class room. When prevention is the priority, the teacher commits to investing the time that is needed to help students understand their assignments and the resources available to students to assist them with writing and to provide tutoring as needed.

Creating a classroom culture that promotes academic honesty can be fosters by the class syllabus. The syllabus can serve as a written document that guides the class format and assignments from start to finish, enabling students to plan the time needed to complete assignments and requiring them to turn in big projects in stages to prevent them from trying to complete too much work at the last minute. The syllabus is a great tool to remind  students to their university academic honor code and code of conduct.

To learn more about preventative measures that are available to teachers, please visit this site, which is sponsored by the University of Florida’s Warrington School of Business:

http://warrington.ufl.edu/itsp/docs/instructor/OnlineAssessment.pdf

Here you’ll find recommended teaching activities for preventing cheating and plagiarism. My favorite is the 21 tips for handling technology advanced cheating.

As a teacher, be sure to check to see what resources your university provides to assist you in determining plagiarism in student writing. For example, the University of Florida provides Turnitin.

Remember, you are not alone. Familiarize yourself with the department at your university who is responsible for managing academic dishonesty violations. At the University of Florida, the Dean of Students Office manages this process and should be contacted when assistance is needed to manage academic dishonesty or code of conduct violations.

Arlena Jackson is a student in Mass Communication Teaching.

6 tips for promoting cultural diversity in the classroom

by Alexa Lopez
English Education graduate student, University of Florida

The United States is becoming more diverse – and so are our classrooms.

As future teachers, we must make sure that our classrooms are inclusive environments where cultures are respected and celebrated. By doing this, we will not only motivate our diverse students and help them better adjust to the American culture, but we will also be helping all our students become well-rounded global citizens.

Also, remember that multicultural students will not be the only ones in your classroom experiencing stressors related to diversity that will affect them academically. All students come from unique backgrounds and, as a result, have varied expectations of the college classroom that are grounded in their communities, families and previous academic experiences.

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Using technology to promote student-centered learning

by Hasani McIntosh
PhD student, University of Florida

Technology is found everywhere, touching almost every part of our lives, our communities, and our homes.  But many teachers are still hesitant to allow it onto their classrooms.  Never the less, classrooms have come a long way and growth will only continue.  There’s a unique feel when walking into a modern workplace like Google or Apple. Students should do their best to immolate work environments.

Incorporating technology into the classroom is important for adapting to modern times.  As teachers we have a responsibility to prepare students for the real world. The professional realm is saturated with all kinds of innovations.  Computers can no longer be restricted to computer labs.  For example, accepting papers electronically is now common practice.

The Web connects students to experts in the real world and provides numerous opportunities for expressing understanding through images, sound, and text. New tech tools for visualizing and modeling, especially in the sciences, offer students ways to experiment and observe phenomenon and to view results in graphic ways that aid understanding. And, as an added benefit, with technology tools and a project-learning approach, students are more likely to stay engaged and on task, reducing behavioral problems in the classroom.

Technology isn’t the Golden Fleece.  The use of technology won’t make you the best instructor.  Effective instructors are likely to use technology effectively; ineffective instructors are likely to use technology ineffectively.  Technology should supplement instruction.  Technology is a stimulus, not the end to all quests for knowledge.  Education MUST have a learner-centered approach.

Integrating technology into classroom instruction means more than teaching basic computer skills and software programs in a separate computer class. Effective technology integration must happen across the curriculum with the intention of supporting lesson plans.

Resources:

Svinicki and McKeachie — Some researchers report that although many public schools have access to the Internet, some students may be less experienced with using the Internet because their homes can’t afford it. Therefore, an instructor might want to have each student fill out a survey designed to gather information about each.

Hasani McIntosh is a student in Mass Communication Teaching

Using discussion helps promote student learning

by Carina Seagrave
UF master’s student

My presentation topic was Using Discussion in the Classroom.  Some important information which should have been taken from my presentation is listed below:

  • Discussion helps students internalize lessons
  • Discussion gives teacher another method for testing their students
  • Discussion helps us form arguments, articulate positions and learn from others
  • The Socratic Method is when a teacher argues against a student’s point of view to get them to see another
  • Information Retrieval helps teacher’s test student knowledge but isn’t a discussion technique

In addition to what I shared in my teaching presentation,  I wanted to include a few other points.

The first is to divide class time into lecture, discussion, group work, and visual aids. The average attention span of a human being is about 45 minutes so teachers should always keep that in mind when teaching.

The second is that teachers should always reword what students say during discussion so that (A) students who didn’t hear it can get it a second time and (B) to clarify information before speaking further on it.

An important resource to my presentation and a great resource for new teachers was the “Penn State Teacher II.”  This handbook was written for new teachers at the university level and is a compilation of helpful articles written by scholars on teaching.

Carina Seagrave is a student in Mass Communication Teaching.