Friday, March 28, 2014

An Active Learning Strategy for Reviewing Course Material

How can we verify that our students actually read and understand assigned material? The following active learning strategy provides an indication of what students read and understand.
Preparation for Class:
1.    Compose twelve to sixteen questions that cover the assigned reading and/or questions that address the salient points for a test. Try to include critical thinking questions.
2.    Determine the number of groups based on an equal number of questions per group.  For example, if there are 12 questions, designate four groups made up of three students, or for 16 questions, four groups of four. Just be sure to use an even number of questions and groups.
3.    Move students into groups by either pre-selecting group members or by using a random selection process. A random selection process could include assigning students to groups by birthday, color of their shirt, home location, by handing them a colored tag as they enter the room, etc. 
4.    If possible, rearrange chairs/desks so that the groups are easily identifiable.
In-class Activity:
1.    Distribute the questions; assign three to four questions to each group. 
2.    While students are answering their assigned questions, list each group on the board and provide a space for their answers.
3.    As the groups answer their questions, have them list their responses on the board.
3.    When all groups have written their answers on the board, assign each group to review the answers of another group. If in analyzing the responses on the board, a group determines that the answer is not complete or inaccurate, they are free to change that answer.
4.    Once all groups have finished, review all of the answers, asking students if they all agree with each response or if they have a question about a particular answer. As you review each response, you might want to ask students where the answer is located in the text and/or how they came up with their answers.
TIP:  If this activity is used for a test review, students should be taking notes about the answers on the board/class discussion.

This Teaching Tip was developed by Carole Kendy, English Professor.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Strategies for Responding to Grade Change Requests

In general, most students do not ask for a grade change even though they might benefit from the process. The following suggestions are intended to both diffuse a student’s frustration or anger about a grade and make the situation a learning one:
  1. Consider adding a statement to your syllabus that addresses requests for grade changes and/or explain on the first day of class that you are happy to discuss their concerns about a grade privately. While it may be constructive to spend class time reviewing an exam, discussing a specific student’s grade is generally not productive and can result in other students "jumping on the bandwagon" (Nilson).
  2. In your policy, indicate that you will be happy to discuss their questions and concerns after 48 hours. This gives the student time to "cool off," and it gives the instructor time to consider the student’s viewpoint without becoming defensive.
  3. Require that students include in writing why their answer is correct and include any appropriate sources. During this process the student might realize the instructor is correct in his/her analysis. In addition, the instructor can adjust the grade accordingly if the student’s request is legitimate.
When discussing a grade with a student, consider the following:
  1. Listen carefully, and when possible, summarize what they are saying to ensure that they feel heard and that you understand what they are saying.
  2. Show empathy by using "I" versus "you" statements as much as possible and by acknowledging any frustration they have about getting a lower than expected grade.
  3. Provide guidance on how to better prepare for the next assignment or exam.
  4. Ask the student to "think out loud," as if they are taking the exam, to gain insight about their thinking process.
  5. Do acknowledge the value of discussing their grade concerns, even if you cannot justify giving them credit for their answer.


"How Do I Respond to Students Who Complain about Grades?" Center for Teaching and Learning. University of Minnesota, 2009. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.
Nilson, Linda B. "Teaching At Its Best." San Francisco: Bass, 2010. Print.