As followers of the blog know, I’m teaching US Intellectual History (1865 to the present) for the first time next semester. This is my first “lecture” course. I have taught seminar courses on historical methodology several times and I taught a unique hybrid of a course last year on South Africa, which incorporated films and special speakers.
I was chatting with our Director of Undergraduate Studies about the course yesterday and he encouraged me to seminar the lecture (in my words). He said its fine to go with my instincts to lead discussion, develop creative group activities, and in general work with, rather than against, the shorter attention spans of our current students. He said I wasn’t to feel like I needed to get up and lecture twice a week, or even once a week, for the whole 75 minutes. I was already planning to have a day of discussion devoted to the primary sources, but also planning to spend at least part of the week lecturing. I enjoy lecturing and I think I am an engaging lecturer (part of my acting background). I think students also enjoy the passiveness of lecture–some learn from it and others do not. That said, I was inspired and relieved that the DUS said I could treat a 40 person lecture more like a seminar.
What ideas do you all have to keep students engaged and learning in lecture courses? Some of the things I have thought about are as follows:
–Having students submit weekly reading responses
–Having students peer critique each other’s weekly reading responses.
–Lead discussion based on weekly reading responses
–Have students research the background of individual authors
–Have students develop the discussion questions for the week
–Each day, pull two students’ names out of the hat to ask the discussion questions for the day (from my friend and colleague Sophie Roberts)
–Throw up a quote from the reading on the powerpoint to start off the discussion
–Encourage students to make connections between readings by putting together groups where one person is responsible for each reading.
–Essays instead of content exams
I know there are many more, but it’s back to grading for me!