2017 Teaching Highlights 🎉

While it’s easy to be cynical about the sentimentality and goal-setting that accompanies the end of a year, we believe reflection and self-improvement are always laudable goals and ones that are at the heart of good pedagogy. Before we turn to thinking about ways can improve our teaching practice in 2018, let’s take a moment to appreciate some of our colleagues’ most successful activities and assignments in 2017.

The following teaching highlights were compiled by Emma Bjorngard-Basayne and Kristi Kaeppel. All contributors are instructors at UConn.

😊 Student Validation: “I’ve tried to validate my students when they express nervousness about an assignment or presentation. I paraphrase what they say (e.g., am I hearing you correctly that public speaking makes you feel uncomfortable?) and then I affirm their experience by saying things like “many people feel that way” or “public speaking makes me nervous too.” I find that it builds a more trusting and supporting classroom environment.- Emma Bjorngard-Basayne, Philosophy

📚 Letters of Reflection on Writing: Students wrote letters of reflection on their edits of an essay and handed them in with their final drafts. “Students used them to discuss how they revised their work, what steps they took to improve their writing, and their writing process. I found these letters insightful and helpful when I graded their second draft. I could see what changes they made and why.”– Marc Reyes, History and Digital Media & Design

Kevin from the famous movie Home Alone waves goodbye in a window while snow falls
Bye, bye 2017! Hello 2018.

👯 Co-Teaching: “Collaborating is not only part of my commitment to feminist praxis in the classroom, it gave me the unique and infinitely valuable experience of learning and growing as a teaching professional from my co-teacher. . . it gave me an opportunity to see how my colleague structured and prepared for lectures. Seeing how well-received it was by students was just the icing on the cake!”- Lynne Alexander, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

📝 Notes of Encouragement: To encourage students, particularly women, to take more philosophy classes, Emily sends notes of encouragement. “I started doing this just by sending quick emails at the end of the semester or talking to students when they came to office hours. Students were incredibly receptive. I’ve had about 10 students tell me they’re going to take more philosophy classes.”- Emily Piece, Philosophy

🔍 Weekly Review Quizzes: “Even though quizzes have a negative connotation, they are actually one of the most effective means of reviewing material as they prompt students to actively retrieve information. This year, I gave students ungraded, low-stakes quizzes to help them review and to see what material I needed to spend more time on in my instruction.” – Kristi Kaeppel, Adult Learning

📖 Discussion Leader: Each week, a student is assigned to the role of discussion leader, responsible for bringing in prompts to ensure the flow of discussion. In one version of the activity, Emily Pierce required discussion leaders to bring in a one page summary of the topic that day with thought-provoking questions. This doubled as a study guide for students. Alternatively, Mandy Long met with students prior to their facilitation, noting that the meetings are “a time for me to fill them in on how to structure and phrase questions and what kinds of responses to anticipate. It also helps me get to know them better.”- Mandy Long & Emily Pierce, Philosophy

📊 Tech Tools for Exam Prep & Discussion: “I started using Piazza and Poll Everywhere. Piazza is a discussion forum created for mathematical content. I used Poll Everywhere to give students practice on true and false questions in preparation for their final exam. The feedback I received for using it was great.”- Andrew Miller, Mathematics

📍Group Teaching with Assigned Roles: “When I was teaching Descartes Meditations I did something called: Teach Me Descartes’ Meditations.‘ I separated the class into teams who would become experts on whichever Meditation I assigned to their group. Then they had to pick one student to present a synopsis of the section, one student to define terminology used in the text that might be confusing, one student to raise possible problems with the particular section, and another student who posed a question to the class for further discussion. After they spent about 20 minutes talking amongst themselves, they did 5-8 minute presentations, and then I rounded them up at the end to offer the connections between the topic.”- Heather Muraviov, Philosophy