Education: Higher Education Teaching Methods

Kyle Ward writes:In regards to the posting about higher education I am in complete agreement with the idea that straight lecturing is arguably not the most effective way for us to reach our students, and I am curious to find out what others do to improve their classes.   I find that when I don't lecture, but rather require my students to do some outside work and then contribute to the class through discussion or participation, I usually end up with a room full of students trying to avoid eye contact with me so that I won't call on them in class.

I am blessed with having a "Smartroom" which allows me to show videos, Powerpoint presentations and the Internet on a big screen at the front of the room but I also feel that by using all this equipment I am often walking a fine line between showmenship and substance in order to keep my students intrigued.  And although you are right about documentaries really improving in the past few years don't professors run the risk of being labeled "Captain Video" if they are caught by the administration showing too many videos in class? If other WAISers have overcome the mass lecture hall syndrome and have sure fired ways of keeping students involved and learning without a 50 minute lecture from the "sage on the stage" I would be very interested in hearing about it.

RH: The documentaries would be watched on the students' own time, not in class. My unfortunate students will remember the method I used in large classes on civilization. Most students are not trained to read carefully. I therefore chose an important work, and  before each class they were required to read one chapter carefully. The class would open with my asking 15 short but carefully prepared questions designed to test their comprehension, sense of geography, sense of history, vocabulary, etc. The rest of the time was spent discussing the right answers to the questions.  The method gave accurate results, expressing in numbers my assessment of the students.  Any hint of favoritism was avoided.


Your comments are invited. Read the home page of the World Association of International Studies (WAIS) by simply double-clicking on: Mail to Ronald Hilton, Hoover Institution, Stanford, CA 94305-6010. Please inform us of any change of e-mail address.

Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: November 19, 2004