Notes on Seminar teaching

Notes on Seminar teaching

Shared by Kristine Yu

Session information

From Center for Teaching and Faculty Development conversations on
teaching, facilitated by Peter Lindsay, [2013–10–10 Thu]

SEMINAR TEACHING | Thursday, October 10, 11:15 AM to 12:45 PM |
Teaching seminars involves striking a balance between directing a
discussion and letting it go where students want to take it. Are there
effective ways to achieve both objectives, and, failing that, is it
better to err on one side rather than the other? How does the group
dynamic affect discussion? Are there steps instructors can take to
insure a safe and vibrant discussion?

Dr. Peter Lindsay is an Associate Professor of Political Science and
Philosophy and the former Director of the Center for Teaching and
Learning at Georgia State University. He has taught at Harvard
University, the University of New Hampshire and the University of
Toronto, and has been the recipient of numerous teaching awards.

Handout notes

  1. Getting started
    1. review previous session
    2. provide outline of the day’s discussion (to facilitate note taking)
    3. read tricky passage and ask for comments
    4. quick – 3 min – writing prompt
    5. emotional reaction to readings
    6. a sharp question
  2. Asking the right questions
    1. not factual
    2. apply, analyze, critique and/or evaluate what they’ve learned
    3. explain the relationships bewteen things they’ve learned
    4. compare things they’ve learned
    5. clarify a point
    6. issues that are meaningful; to which they can relate
    7. that give them confidence; to which they can provide some
      form of answer
    8. with answers that don’t presuppose knowledge of the reading
    9. about a common experience, perhaps one you create
    10. sub-questions (if they can’t answer the ones you ask)
    11. worst question: any questions?
  3. Handling tension
    1. when students deadlock in disagreement, have them switch sides
    2. periodically summarize differences
    3. 2-column method (“pros” and “cons”)
    4. Don’t necessarily avoid tension. Use as a teaching moment
  4. Toning down talkative students
    1. talk to student out of class
    2. appoint observers and have them report
    3. video or audio tape class and play back to them
    4. fishbowl – divide class into discussants and observers
  5. Encouraging quiet ones
    1. Reasons sutdents don’t contribute
      1. they aren’t learning
      2. scared that they’re not worthy
      3. professors can’t keep mouths shut
      4. cultural barriers
      5. seating not conducive
      6. haven’t done reading / aren’t prepared
    2. Solutions
      1. they aren’t learning:
        1. summarize the problems every so often
        2. have them clarify points
        3. summarize main points of class at the end so they see
          that they’ve learned
      2. scared that they’re not worthy:
        1. don’t come down too hard, reward/encourage shy ones
        2. get them to know each other – encourage social inclusion
        3. split up in sub groups
          1. think, pair, share
          2. divide up into groups according to some criteria
        4. have them write initial answers down
        5. talk to student after class
        6. get to know them and ask them about things they know
        7. ask questions they can provide some form of answer to
      3. professors can’t keep mouths shut
        1. don’t tell them the answers
        2. wait for 5 seconds
        3. give up a bit of control
      4. cultural barriers
        1. emphasize the first day and on syllabus that
          participation is crucial
        2. meet with them privately
      5. seating not conducive – change it
      6. haven’t done reading/aren’t prepared
        1. response papers
        2. have students bring passages they found puzzling,
          interesting, or important
        3. quizzes
        4. get them interested in doing it
  6. Ending the discussion
    1. ask a student to summarize
    2. minute paper summary
    3. end in the middle of a conversation (leaving them wanting more)
  7. Resources
    1. Brookfield: Discussion as a Way of Teaching
    2. Center for Teaching and Faculty Development
    3. Maier and Maier, “An experimental test of the effects of
      ‘developmental’ vs ‘free’ discussion on the quality of group
      decisions”. Journal of Applied Psychology (1957) 41, 320–323
    4. Nilson, Teaching at its best, Ch. 13
    5. McKeachie, Teaching Tips, Ch. 5

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *