Small changes in teaching: Giving them a say

In a series of articles in The Chronicle from his book “Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons From the Science of Learning“, James M. Lang presents simple and practical ideas which can produce big learning gains without requiring large changes in teaching or use of technology. In the fifth article, he gives some suggestions for giving students some control over their own learning:

  1. Student-generated exam questions: giving students some or most of a lecture to work in groups writing exam questions can help focus revision and think about what they have struggled to understand. A couple of these could then be used on a test. Asking students to write and vote on multiple choice questions, perhaps with a platform like PeerWise, can also be used as a way of developing understanding and identifying misconceptions. Some of the questions can be used in the tests and others released for formative assessment.
  2. Open assessments: leave a small part of the unit assessment to be decided by the students in one of the first classes, perhaps from a list. Ownership of the task will help to build self-motivation and deeper engagement.
  3. Class constitutions: involving the students in setting “class rules” can help establish a community of learners with a shared purpose. Examples of “rules” for negotiation could include how phones are used in class, how participation is assessed and expectations for teachers to respond to discussion board posts.
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