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Understanding your students will help instructors use the proper techniques according to the characteristics of the group.

Hi Russell,
An instructor that strives to improve each time he or she teaches will constantly work on ways of gaining information about the characteristics of the current group of students. A suggestion would be to develop a method of identifying the characteristics of the students that can be done at the beginning of the class. This method will save time and allow for better planning for the course.

I agree, I try to learn as much and gather as much information about my students as possible. Although I strive for professionalism in my image, I also take time out to show students that I am a human being who cares about their well being, goals and success. Planning for your students are best done early - yet I have learned that I must be flexible as well, as each class I encounter new and different students.

Hi Lily,
Your key point about showing your students that you are human is a good one. As you remember from the first course one of the key elements of success for instructors is to be a good model. A model is one that shows students respect and caring.
Flexibility is a key ingredient to successful teaching. As you mentioned you can plan in advance for what you what the course to look like, the requirements, etc. but there is always the need for flexibility when the students actually enter the classroom. Each class is different as well as each student and you must have within your planning the ability to meet those differences.

Anyone can present new material. To teach you must connect at some level with your students. Coincidentially students need to feel connected to the class to be successful. WIn, win.

Hi Joseph,
You are right about needing the connection between instructor and student. The human factor is the most important part of teaching. If you can develop rapport with your students, then the content flow will be easier.
By giving the students opportunities for success early in the course then building on these successes throughout the phase will serve to keep the student engaged and focused on completing the requirements.

I see understanding students as the crucial part of determining what techniques to use. How does instructor get a good reead of them and tailor the technique quickly?

Hi Andrew,
The first step is observation. I like to be in the classroom when the students enter, I am looking for the groups they come in, where they set, who they set with, do the have a cohort group that they travel from class to class with, etc. These observational items help me to understand the challenge I have to create a learning community for that class.
In addition I use “ice breaker” activities centered around the subject matter to give me insight into the students I have. I can quickly determine the vocal ones, the listeners, the shy, etc. This also helps me arrange my presentations to include everyone.
I use feedback all the time to assess how I am doing and this gives me a read on the students.
By being a student of human behavior you will gain much insight and ability to meet diverse student needs.

Can you give an example of some of the ice breaking activities you use in the classroom?

Hi Joe,
I do things like have the students bring in a different day we can celebrate, like Talk Like a Pirate day. It is silly but it gets them to looking for these days. It gives us a few minutes to focus on something other than our course content, plus it helps get them settled down.
I have a Jeopardy game on PP that the students like to play. I create teams and they play it as everyone is getting settled in.
I also have the students share something good that happened to them coming to class. It gets them talking.
I don't use these every class period but I do have something that catches their attention which then leads me into the topic for that day.

I try to let my students see the human side of me in a relaxed manner. When I was very new to teaching, I would be embarrassed if the students 'caught' me telling them something that was not correct. I no longer feel that way and can even laugh at myself in front of the students if I give them an incorrect answer. This seems to brighten them up and allows them to see me as a human being, warts and all.

Hi Teresa,
Spoken like a true experienced educator. It is amazing how we change our approach as we gain experience.

Dr. Meers,

It's nice to hear that these things work for you but, they seem elementary to me.I would hope that as college professors and instructors we can draw our students in with the excitement of our research, expertise, and knowledge. This is what needs to catch their attention. Silliness is good in a class when used as a type of respite from a thoroughness of course content not as a form that focuses attention away from course content. Or, even, use appropriate silliness that reinforces the meticulous demands of a course.


Hi Patrick,
Thank you for your comments. I appreciate where you are coming from with your intent on providing intense knowledge acquisition opportunities for your students and I desire the same for mine. As I teach advanced doctoral seminars as well as entry level freshman courses I get to see a continuum of learning in my courses.
I am not sure of your definition of silliness as that is not of what I am speaking about. Learning opportunities that are fun and engaging do not constitute silliness by my definition. Though we do have some enjoyable activities where we celebrate certain nonsense days or events as a diversion from our advanced research or learning efforts. We also celebrate significant events in the lives of our students, such as birthdays, births, promotion, etc. To step away from research is a way of relieving stress. When we regroup after a potluck meal or pizza we are ready as a learning group to bear down on the acquisition of knowledge and skills. This helps to create a cycle of learning that is both effective and efficient.
Instructors need to develop rapport with their students and they can do some of that development work over a sandwich and a cup of coffee. As instructors we are not trying to become buddies with our students but we can become fellow professionals with them and earn their respect in the process.

Dr. Meers,

I appreciate your reply.
The reason I used the word silliness in my reply to you was due to your phrase "It's silly but...".
Surely, as someone who teaches "advanced doctoral classes" you know the difference between 'it works' as a relaxation tool and, 'it works' as a learning tool.
Here's the issue I have with game-playing and Talk Like A Pirate Day in the classroom: they marginalize, minimize, and depreciate the importance and value of education.
I am sure students look forward to the celebrate days like Talk Like A Pirate Day and, appreciate a recounting of a good thing that happened to them before class.
Will the students remember the wonder and discovery of something new-- knowledge and skills that will translate into a better life-- or, how convivial is the class? It's all about priority and direction. The first thing the student will remember about the class is they had to talk like a pirate and it was a fun thing to do. The second thing they'll remember may be ( may be) the course content. Its all about priority and direction.

If an instructor in my department uses the Jeopardy game format I require them to present it
in a more complex manner than a game. It becomes an assignment with guidelines, a rubrics, and specific goals. The student is no longer the gameshow contestant but is now the planner, the organizer, and the researcher. The game, which is no longer a game, is still an enjoyable experience but ratches it up a couple of notches so that the traditional and non-tradtional student has the knowledge (not the feeling) of control. The student now controls the game through planning skills, organization skills, and research skills. This is education (ex ducere-to lead oneself out of). Its all about priority and direction.

There is one last thought I would like to add here. It concerns an instructor's reply from Module #2 who has the students sculpt molecules and the like from clay. This is wonderful ingenuity. First because it incorporates cognitive acquisition skills with tactile, mechanical skills; secondly, it goes beyond just creating and includes the naming while creating which builds a bridge between left brain and right brain isolatiion tendencies. This is good
stuff. Its all about priority and directiion.


Hi Patrick,
As many teachers as they are, there are that many different approaches to delivering instruction. I really appreciate your comments about how you deliver your instruction.
Each approach if it works for that instructor and that setting is one that should be used to keep instruction student focused.
Having done 25 years of research in cognitive processing and traumatic brain injury rehabilitation I have developed some strategies for helping students retain instructional content. These strategies include associative learning based upon loci points. Thus, the suggestions that are included in the course.
Keep up the good work with your students.

Hello everyone,

One thing I always like to talk about with my students is my personal experience with online course, and I also share some of my experiences with them...the good, the bad, and even some of the ugly. Doing this creates a level understanding between me and the students. This lets them know that I understand exactly where they are coming from, and that I also understand their concerns and fears. I would highly recommend to any online instructor (who may have taken online courses at some point) to share your experiences with your students. Thanks, Elisabeth

Hi Elisabeth,
Good advice concerning sharing experiences about online courses. This will help students to understand what they may face and benefit from the experiences of others.

Understanding your students'learning styles is imperative to the planning process. It is important to plan lectures and classroom activities around all three styles so that each student is engaged in the learning process.

Hi Kimberly,
You make a good point about planning for all the learning preference areas. This way you know you will be sharing information through a medium that "hits" on the at least one of the areas. This will give much comfort to students as they know they do not have to spend so much time on processing and can concentrate on taking in the required information.

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