by Anna Rissanen
While collecting evidence and reading about high impact practices in teaching and learning in higher education it has become clear to me that there is more than enough information available.
How do you know which teaching approaches are going to give you the most return of investment of your precious time and energy?
That is the quest I have been on the last decade. Teaching large classes is a humbling experience and will challenge anyone to ponder how learning works. Is the way we teach effective? And importantly, what are students learning? Are they learning what we want them to learn? Do they use deep learning or do they just memorize and use surface learning while trying to get good grades?
I have gotten guidance in the right direction while attending dozens of workshops, seminars, conferences, reading books, literature and research about teaching and learning in higher education. And it can get confusing. Teaching is an art form that requires consistent reflection and modifications based on feedback and outcomes seen in students. Maybe I can help with some recommendations, don’t hesitate to get in touch (email@example.com). But for the purpose of a short blog, here are my two top recommendations to get the best return of your teaching improvements:
- Learning with Peers
The knowledge gap between experts (professors) and novice learners (students) causes many misunderstandings and misconceptions. One of the most effective approaches according to significant amount of research is to allow students to teach each other by explaining concepts, collaborating, short group work etc. They understand each other’s knowledge gaps and confusion, and can within minutes clear out misconceptions. Also, teaching others is one of the most powerful ways to learn and retain new information. Watch a quick video here from Physics professor Eric Mazur, and then read more about peer teaching methods.
- Feedback (formative assessment) combined with good student-teacher relationship
Students learn effectively when they get timely feedback, also known as formative feedback. Formative feedback is one of the most powerful tools in teaching. Here is a comprehensive list of ways you can start activating your students, and use timely feedback in class. Feedback provides important information about what the students are learning or not learning. I also found this link that lists some of the attributes of professors that foster good teacher-student relationships, another super power that leads to higher learning outcomes. Have fun!
In summary, we can invite students on a learning journey with us by intriguing their curiosity. We can intrigue students by offering them more choice and showing the links of the learning/content to their future careers, to society and to global challenges.
Other interesting websites:
Perusall – how to get students to read the textbook and collaborate while reading:
Effective teaching practices – summary of what leads to higher learning outcomes:
Example of teaching empathy, inclusivity and self-awareness in large first year classes: