Top Ten Ways to Improve the Classroom Experience

“Conversations with Master Teachers” shared hard-won lessons from the classroom

“Conversations with Master Teachers” drew about 150 participants on Oct. 14, eager to learn classroom techniques from experienced educators.

Experienced and successful teachers from across the campus gathered Oct. 14 at the HUB to share the hardearned wisdom of their years in the classroom.

“Conversations with Master Teachers,” was organized by the Office for Undergraduate Education. Steve Brint, vice provost, said about 150 participants circulated every 15 minutes to a new table and a new topic.

“It was like speed dating across 17 different teaching topics,” he said. “We had graduate students, post-docs, and faculty. It was so successful that I’m sure we will do this again.”   

For those who could not make it, here are a few important points for anyone trying to convey important subject matter in a classroom setting:

Steven Brint

Steven Brint

1. Find ways that this class material promotes personal growth, professional accomplishment or community value.

2. Use “hooks” at the beginning of class to focus attention. It might be a provocative question, a video, a quiz, a demonstration, or a relevant quote.

3. Good teaching depends on creating a bridge from what the student already knows, to what the teacher is trying to convey. Do not assume knowledge. Build that scaffold for every important topic.

4. Emphasize that good writing is not magic. It comes from writing every day, revising many times, and a steady diet of good reading.

5. In science, not every idea is equal. Emphasize that students can discover which ideas are correct and which ideas have been tested and can be discarded.

6. Consider ways that blogs and social media can increase course engagement inside and outside the classroom.

7. Encourage students to accept constructive feedback, and admit a better idea when they hear it. Key to this is the example of the teacher. Do you accept constructive feedback? Your vulnerability increases your credibility.

8. Do your reasoning aloud. Let students see your thought process.

9. Keep students alert by asking their views, even if they don’t raise their hands.

10. Use homework assignments and performance to adjust teaching, so that gaps in knowledge can be addressed before the quarter is over.

A list of UCR teachers who shared their knowledge: Stu Kreiger and Robin Russin (Theater); Jack Eichler (Chemistry); Tim Paine (Entomology); George Haggerty (English); Perry Link (Comparative Literature); Michael Jayme, Goldberry Long and Charmaine Craig (Creative Writing); Deborah Wong (Music); Steven Axelrod (English); Derek Burrill (Media and Cultural Studies); Ward Beyermann and Gabriela Canalizo (Physics); Gene Nothnagel, Jim Burnette and Alex Cortez (Botany);  Michele Renee Salzman and David Biggs (History); Christine Victorino (Office of Undergraduate Education); Sheryl Hathaway (Computing & Communications); Nigel Hughes (Geology); Steven Brint (Sociology & Public Policy); Matthew Mahutga and Robert Nash Parker (Sociology);  Josh Fenton (University Writing Program); Mary Gauvain Larry Rosenblum and Kelly Huffman (Psychology); Bradley Hyman (Biology);  Jason Weems (Art History); Yat Sun Poon and David Weisbart (Mathematics); Kevin Esterling (Political Science & Public Policy).

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