Orientations for New Faculty and Graduate Teaching Assistants

This week and next, CTAL is welcoming new graduate teaching assistants at New Graduate Student Orientation and new faculty, at New Faculty Orientation (in collaboration with the Office of the Provost). In addition, CTAL staff will be traveling to Wilmington, Dover, and Georgetown campuses to welcome our colleagues there, as well as the Associate in Arts faculty members. Throughout these events, CTAL will be conducting workshops on inclusive teaching, syllabus design, and what you need to know to get started on the right foot from the first day of the semester.



Techniques for Peer Instruction

In this article, Stephanie Chasteen reviews the results on the effective use of peer instruction. Specifically, she first lists the instruction cycle for incorporating peer instruction in the classroom and then answers seven key questions about peer instruction:

1. Does it matter if students vote/think individually first?

2. Does it matter if you show students the histogram (after the first vote)?

3. When should you have students discuss the question?

4. Does peer discussion matter?

5. How much time should be given for voting?

6. How much does the instructor’s cues and explanation matter?

7. Does grading matter?

At last, she provides a flow chart as a guidance on how to use peer instruction for instructors.

This is the last entry of the semester, we will be back this summer with more interesting articles on teaching and learning. Stay tuned!

Peer instruction

This week is an interesting video from Dr Eric Mazur, professor of Physics in Harvard. In this video, Dr Mazur explains how he came to abandon lecturing for peer instruction. Although he thought he was doing an excellent job of teaching by looking at student evaluations, he realized that students actually understood little of the physics principles he was teaching. Trying to explain them again to students was fruitless. In a desperate effort, he told students to discuss those concepts among themselves. What he found was that students were better prepared to teach peers complex ideas since they had only just mastered them. He thus now only teaches through peer instruction, guiding students into learning.

Using Self-Assessment with Students

David Gooblar explains in this piece why he uses self-assessment at the end of the semester with his students.

There are many reasons to have students complete self-evaluations at semester’s end, but perhaps the best is that the exercise encourages metacognition. (…) metacognition is a significantly valuable tool at the end of a course, when there are so many opportunities for self-reflection. At that point, students have been working on the same subject for more than three months; before they move on to other courses, and other professors, give them time and space to reflect on what they’ve done, and how they’ve done it.

Gooblar offers several techniques to stir up this metacognition among students. Those techniques can be up-front about the end goals, but they can also be more subtle in approach.