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With such a broad array of valuable teaching methods available, even conscientious university instructors can find it difficult to know just where to begin, much less what strategy to adopt in acquiring so many diverse skills. Rather than letting indecision undermine action, however, sometimes it is simply best to start somewhere. Becoming a better teacher does not require mastering all the best methods and theories out there—it might only take introducing one new item in the next class. “The Next Class” provides simple teaching suggestions, which instructors can easily incorporate into their very next class meeting, whether it is in the next week, the next day, or the next fifteen minutes.
The Strategy: Begin class with a brief, 5-minute review.
After providing your students with a class outline and objectives for the day, start with a brief review of the most important concepts/skills introduced in your previous class. Whenever possible, ask questions which allow your students to articulate the concepts or demonstrate skills. Provide guidance, correction, and amplification as necessary. Then use this review to draw explicit connections to new material for the day.
Objective: Mastery of key concepts/skills.
Instructors sometimes delay review until just before a major assessment, like an exam, while some provide no review at all. Mastery of key concepts and skills, however, requires frequent reinforcement, articulation, and performance. Deeper learning will also be more likely to occur when earlier and later materials are connected explicitly. Finally, if new, more advanced concepts and skills rely upon mastery of earlier material, it is critical to ensure mastery of component skills before proceeding.
Rationale: Recollection of Prior Knowledge. Reinforcement. Presentation of hierarchy of knowledge.
Conducting a review of a previous class’s main concepts/skills serves several purposes. First, you will convey your own hierarchy of knowledge explicitly to your students. Experts sometimes forget that identifying the key concepts from within a block of information represents a skill in itself. Secondly, a brief review recalls students’ prior knowledge, an important task, since new knowledge forms through connections to existing knowledge. Third, student attention in a standard class tends to wane over time. The first five minutes, when student attention levels remain optimal, presents one of the best opportunities to highlight the most important aspects of a previous class, including those which you might have introduced later in that class.
After your next class, please drop us a line to know how this strategy worked for you and your students! firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Teaching Times newsletter is devoted to the support of teaching and learning at the University of Pittsburgh. The Teaching Times shares faculty teaching experiences, strategies and techniques that can be applied in classrooms across the University. The Teaching Times welcomes letters and articles from faculty about any topic affecting University teaching and learning.
Carol DeArment, Editor
Joel Brady, Copy Editor & Columnist
Michelle Lane-Ogden, Copy Editor & Web-Publisher