Discussion as a teaching tool — pros, cons and teaching tactics

by Minch Minchin
Ph.D and J.D. student, University of Florida

Minch Minchin

Minch Minchin

Class discussions as a pedagogical tool are as old as teaching, itself.

Yet despite discussion’s rich and ancient lineage, some teachers may be wary of promoting discussions in their classrooms. Such fears are not without merit, as there are practical limitations to discussions as well as the potential for things simply to go wrong:

  • Students may not be prepared and have nothing to say (and silence is often perceived as awkward).
  • If students do all the talking, the teacher may not be able to cover the requisite material.
  • Students may ask questions for which the teacher is unprepared or doesn’t know the answer to.
  • The discussion may become controversial, off topic or out of hand.
  • One or two students may dominate the conversation.
  • Students may think the teacher is neglecting his/her responsibilities and making the students do all the work.
  • Students accustomed to passive learning may need to be re-wired to function within a discussion framework.
  • Skillfully guiding discussion rather than merely stating the facts in a lecture is generally a lot more difficult.
  • The room—especially auditorium-style rooms—may not be spatially conducive to discussion.
  • The class may be too big for entire-class discussions.

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4 strategies to prevent academic dishonesty

by Margaret Gaylord
Master’s Student, University of Florida

Margaret Gaylord

Margaret Gaylord

Academic dishonesty has reached epidemic proportions, starting as early as middle school.  Cheating is a complicated problem, not just explained away by a lazy student. The good news is that educators can be a critical part of education and prevention for their students on this subject.

Who Cheats? 

Honors students, weak students, low GPA students, high GPA students, students of color, students who are white, middle class students. In a phrase, all types of students.

We have seen evidence of cheating in places we would not expect: Harvard and the Air Force Academy, to name two. The point is, there is no typical student that can be identified as a chronic cheater. More effectively, instructors can find ways to reduce the incidence of cheating through practical changes in their own classrooms.

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9 principles of Universal Design assist in designing more effective instruction for students with learning disabilities

by Amanda Kastrinos
Master’s student, University of Florida

Amanda Kastrinos

Amanda Kastrinos

The goal of any successful instructor is to teach the course in a way all students will understand. But how can college teachers plan instruction for students with special needs, specifically students with learning disabilities?

With the passage of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Americans with Disabilities Act, teachers are required to make necessary accommodations to any student with a learning disability.

As the law states, “No otherwise qualified person with a disability shall, solely by reason of his/her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity of a public entity”  (Section 504).

Some of these accommodations could include providing a note-taker, preferential seating, additional time on tests and assignments, providing copies of lesson plans and assignments, or allowing video or audio recording of lectures.

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