Ideas & Suggestions

Below are some tangible ways to implement the insights from the summit into your classroom structure.

Upload Recordings

For slow learners, those that need to miss class on occasion for good reason, for students that miss a step during class, students that want to take better notes, or those that need to review material to learn it fully:

  • Record lectures and upload them after each class day for students to re-watch. 

  • To encourage a deadline for catching up, the recorded lectures could be pulled from the site after a certain period of time. 

  • For small class sizes, recorded lectures could be available upon request from a student that misses class, to create open communication between the professor and student.

Allow Flexible Attendance Days

​For many students, the option of taking an unexcused absence is unappealing due to the stigma of being lazy or irresponsible. Instead, consider:

  • Openly allowing students to watch recorded lectures for a certain number of classes, due to mental or physical health needs. 

  • Taking attendance, and giving a small completion-based grade for attending a certain percentage of classes, such that a zero score would affect an overall grade, but a less-than-perfect would not.

Virtual or In-Person Office Hours, and Other Avenues

  • Allow students to come to office hours via Zoom or in-person depending on their schedule ability and learning needs. 

  • Allow students to send emails during office hours for a quick response, if the above options aren't accessible.

  • Allow students to raise questions at the beginning of lecture from the homework. 

  • Have students talk in pairs or small groups about what is confusing for them, and record it on a slip of paper to be passed in anonymously.  

  • Post detailed homework solutions and provide time to discuss answer key.

Empowering Students to Choose Their Approach for Learning

Some students learn best in the classroom. Some students greatly prefer the flipped classroom approach because it allows them to learn at their own pace, or in a setting or timing curated to their learning needs. Providing a range of options for students with different needs could look like:​

  • One class day per week is dedicated to lecture, where students can decide to attend in-person or watch at their own pace, or both. The other class day could be dedicated to in-person collaboration and application. A comprehension assignment could assure that students are coming to the other class day prepared to collaborate.

Identify areas of the class that could incorporate autonomy

  • Look at your previous syllabus and identify some areas of your class that can reasonably accommodate student choice or independence. Guiding question: "Are there areas of my class that have lessons or directions that are set in stone? Do they need to be? Could this be an area to extend choice to students?

  • This could be areas where students learn a concept, and choose an area of interest to apply it in. 

  • Students are tasked to find a good example of a phenomena. 

  • Students are tasked to compare and contrast a class concept with one of their choice.

Ideas for Varying Assignment Types

Some students feel that a variety of assignments and methods for absorbing the material helps them learn more deeply and identify the best way to reach their 'aha' moment. 

  • Survey. To get an idea of what is working, considering surveying former students and asking which assignment types or lecture-delivery methods (or combination) worked best for them. 

  • Candid conversations in person. Mid-semester, ask students which delivery and assignment methods are working, and continue with the methods that are serving that class best.

Ideas for Autonomy in Lecture

If it's difficult to incorporate an element of choice into assignments, consider:

  • Pre-class reading responses, that you can use to gauge understanding and points of interest. You could bring up specific students' responses (anonymously) to use as discussion points.

  • Frequently asking students what they would like to explore in the next lecture. This gets students thinking about what they still want to know. 

  • Leaving time built into lecture for discussions to diverge from the planned path, allowing students to tie topics to their specific interests.

  • Leaving time built into the end of lecture for students to share what they found interesting. This helps stay on top of what students think is interesting and relevant.

Professor - Student Check-In

Check in with students often in regards to deadlines, material presentation, class content, etc. to cultivate a shared sense of purpose working towards learning goals. ​The best questions try to understand what students themselves would do differently to learn better. You might ask:

  • "If you had to suggest one change for this class, either assignments, lecture style, etc, to help yourself learn better, what would it be?"

  • "Are the homework assignments actually helping you learn the material? Which ones? Why or why not?"

  • "Are the deadlines of this class working for your learning needs? What would be your ideal deadline schedule?" [Be open to changing within reason if asking]. 

  • "Is what we're doing during class time helping you learn? Are the lectures effective? The pace? What would YOU change?"

Eliciting Thinking, Connections, Curiosity: "What do you already know about...?"

Ask students to share what they already know about a certain topic. Drawing out what they already know primes students to build upon that foundation with what's to come in class. Learning happens when students voluntarily engage and make connections to their previous knowledge and experiences. Questions to elicit thinking include: 

  • "What do you think of when you think about ________?"

  • *Referring to last lecture* "Who can tell me about _____ from last class? How might it relate to ______?"

  • "What do you already know about ____?"

  • "Tell me about a time when ____?"

Ideas for Interesting, Real World Examples

Students feel a difference in motivation and engagement when real-world examples are timely and interesting. The most direct way to understand what is interesting to current students is to ask them. 

  • Case studies from interesting current events, rather than dated case studies

  • Teachable moments from current events 

  • Assignments that allow for students to application to current topics

Ideas for Increasing Motivation by Showing Relevance

  • Set the stage at the beginning of the semester for how this knowledge or skill can be used​ in the real world. 

  • Industry speakers (in-person or zoom). Speakers can explain how they're practically applying a skill, the value of a skill, and will help students to connect their learning to the larger picture and their post-grad goals. 

  • Incorporate real-world projects such as working with industry sponsors, scenarios, case studies, etc. 

  • Explain the tangible benefits, such as resume talking points, jobs obtainable, etc. 

Ideas for Purpose of Assignments

  • Quality > Quantity. When possible, give students assignments that have a clear purpose that extends beyond memorization. Students feel they're better able to dedicate themselves to fewer, high-quality, intentional assignments. 

  • Assignments that model work that students can picture themselves doing in the workplace. "HW1: Your boss needs you to reconcile and merge these lists using Excel..."; "Write an article for the Times about..."

Ideas for Hands-On Projects

  • Reach out to recent alum in your field of studies--for example, newly-minted programmers, columnists, consultants--and ask what they wish they would have learned via a hands-on project in college. ​

  • Find community partners that can provide mock problems they're facing, for student groups to solve. 

  • Encourage staying informed. Assign low-stakes, completion-based grade for reading news articles on the topic.

Asking Students About Learning Styles and Environment

Asking students about how they learn best often provides the "why" behind why some students come to lecture, and others don't. Students can also share what they want to be held accountable for in order to learn well. 

​Open-Ended Survey, to understand how students learn best. At the beginning of the semester, you could allow students to answer open-endedly:

  • "What environment do you learn best in?" 

  • "What has worked best for you in past classes to 'get' the material?"

  • "What should you hold yourself accountable for to learn well?"

​Multiple Choice Survey. Allow students to choose which "Learning Needs" sound most like them, with an option to elaborate or write their own, including these choices pulled from the Summit:

  • "I need to be in the classroom environment to learn and focus best" 

  • "I need to go at my own pace. I often find myself referring to or preferring learning the material outside of lecture."

  • "I often need 1:1 help outside of class to have my questions answered."

  • "The option to miss class for mental or physical health reasons is something I usually need to take advantage of"

  • If these descriptions do not capture your learning style, please elaborate or write your own: ________________

Norms and Guiding Principles for Group Work

Norm-setting for group-project work, not just discussions, because perfect practice makes perfect. Many students have established norms in their discussion-based classes, but few do the same norm-setting process prior to group projects and collaborative work. Rather than allowing students to repeatedly practice poor group-work habits, such as one person carrying the team, consider:​

  • Having students create a team contract in advance of the project that guides mutual expectations, rather than a lagging peer review at the end. 

  • Prompting teams to share their strengths. 

  • Encouraging teams to work together in real time for some deliverables, rather than dividing and conquering from the start.

Norms and Guiding Principles for Discussions

​​A sense of belonging and safety are in a reciprocal relationship with meaningful connections. By supporting one, the other grows. Norm-setting allows students to identify a shared vision for what a productive discussion is and the values and actions that enable it. Norms can look like:

  • Participation guidelines, such as monitoring how often someone shares. 

  • Prompts to help frame perspectives, not disagreements, such as, "I thought of it this way, because______"

  • Norms to encourage mutual understanding, such as asking someone a follow-up question instead of accepting an argument 'at face value'.

Ideas for Checking In With Students

  • “Describe your week in three words”--pass it in on a slip of paper, option to leave anonymous

  • Give a thumbs up, down, or sideways on how you’re doing. 

  • “What do your other classes look like this week?”

Quick Prompts for Personal Connection

  • “Weekend stories” as a five minute intro activity to lecture each week.

  • "What's going on on-campus this week? What do you think/feel about ____?"

  • Start each class with an intention or non-denominational prayer, ask for intentions

Balancing In-Person Connection with Flexible Learning Options

The easiest way to guarantee connection is to provide fully in-person delivery. However, despite feeling connected, the in-person set-pace lecture is unideal for many students. 

  • Lecture-Watch Sessions. Have a classroom open for students to watch flipped-classroom lecture content with their classmates, but at different paces. A TA can be present to answer questions. 

  • More flexibly-paced lectures for slow learners and note-takers. This includes time for questions, short breaks, stories to recapture attention or allow students to catch up. Posting materials after class also allows these learners to succeed. 

  • Real-time collaborative group work that is based off of out-of-class lecture or reading. This prioritizes connection while still providing flexibility for students to absorb the lecture content in a way that makes sense for their learning needs.

Options for Office Hours

  • Allow students to come to office hours via Zoom or in-person depending on their schedule ability and learning needs. 

  • Allow students to send emails during office hours for a quick response, if the above options aren't accessible.

  • Allow students to raise questions at the beginning of lecture from the homework.

Checking In for Understanding

  • Have students talk in pairs about what they still have questions on, or thoughts on a deadline. Write them down on a slip of paper to be anonymously passed in. 

  • Low-stakes quizzes that model exam questions to gauge exam-readiness.

Modeling Success Leading Up to Exams

​Students want a transparent understanding of what is expected of them on exam day. Ways of preparing students for how they'll be tested include:

  • Low-stakes quizzes that model exam questions to help students study effectively.  

  • Practice tests for students to gauge exam readiness. Practice exams that provide a clear model of what students will be expected to do on the exam. 

  • Homework and assignments that translate into exam-readiness. The content and style of homework and assignments translates to exam-preparedness. 

  • An exam format sheet that details the various sections and problem types the exam will cover.

Ideas for Road-Mapping

  • A master timeline slide of the course that starts off each class, showing where the class is at in the content. 

  • Segue. Taking the time to show concretely, or asking students to explain, how the current unit relates to the subsequent unit. 

  • Key ideas lists, that summarize the most important points or chapters from each unit, for students to pay attention to as they prepare for final exams. 

  • Incremental assignments that ask students to consolidate or practice problems using the key ideas and skills from that unit. One assignment per unit is sufficient; together, the assignments sum to all the important knowledge from the course, which the student can take with them.

Authentic Assessments

The term "authentic assessments" is currently used to describe assessments that closely mimic what students might be expected to do in a real-life scenario. Some definitions include that students should be able to demonstrate their knowledge in ways that fit their strengths and interests. Below are some basic differences between traditional assessments and authentic assessments:

Traditional Assessments: 

  • Responses are chosen from a set of provided answers. 

  • Typically one right answer to a question. 

  • Students might not be asked why a certain answer is the correct one. 

  • Knowledge is typically demonstrated via pen and paper exams. 

Authentic Assessments:

  • Knowledge is demonstrated in ways that mimic real world opportunities and contexts. 

  • Multiple solutions to problems - not only about knowing the right answer, but how you got to the right answer.

  • Allows for teachers to understand a student's thought process.

  • Student-centered. Students are able to display their personal strength