Talk Teaching

Talk Teaching

Photo of Tammy Rahhal

Tammy Rahhal
2022-23 Chancellor's Fellow

In Spring 2023, Senior Lecturer Tammy Rahhal (Psychological and Brain Sciences), as part of her experience as a Chancellor's Fellow, wrote the following series of teaching tips that appeared in the CTL newsletter.

Creating clear course expectations for academic honesty

Every semester, I worry about making sure my students understand what acceptable and unacceptable behavior in my course.  Students often say that every instructor has different expectations around academic honesty (AH), and they are often confused.  Is the exam open note?  Can they work together on assignments?  How might they use emerging technologies? Multiple messages around AH is the key to students’ understanding of your policies.  First, provide clear expectations around AH in your syllabus.  Additionally, place highly visible AH guidelines in Moodle. Show a slide in class before each assessment that clearly explains appropriate behavior for that assessment.  Allow students to ask questions about AH before they have an opportunity to engage in dishonest behavior. Provide them specific examples of dishonest work.  Finally, have students sign an “AH Agreement” before every exam to remind them of the class/university policies. 

Reconnecting and Reengaging after Spring Break

After a week-long break, I often find that student engagement and participation wanes.    Instructors can counter that lull by proactively addressing the problem in multiple ways.  I send the class a welcome-back email to remind students what content we last covered and prepare them for the week ahead.  In my large lectures, I start that first class back with a full-class activity that has all students engaging actively with content in a fun, easy way.  In small seminars, I begin class with a small group activity where students discuss their breaks in a way relevant to course material. Re-energizing your students can reconnect them with the course content, reset the classroom climate, and set the stage for the rest of the semester. 

How silence can foster course participation

We all hope to begin each semester with a classroom filled with student interaction. Those first classes shape the dynamics for the entire semester. Even in large lectures, you can get students asking and answering many questions during class. Start your first class with low stakes questions that can have multiple answers. Students will likely respond, but it may take time. It is hard for the first student to respond in front of 300 peers.

Try to be patient and allow 20 or even 30 seconds of silence while waiting for that brave individual to finally raise their hand. Once one student responds, followed by your validation, others will quickly follow. After a couple of moments like these, your problem will not be getting students to participate but rather one of too many raised hands. It's a good problem to have.