Effective Teaching Strategies in Higher Education

Article excerpt

Research about the learning process has demonstrated that learning occurs when students are actively engaged, have opportunities for interaction with others, are presented with challenging situations or questions that require critical thinking skills, and are surrounded by a nurturing learning environment. This article will present ways to actively involve students through lectures, as well as through examples of other teaching strategies that are effective in helping students develop in-depth understanding of new concepts.

Discussions in pairs or small groups about information presented in a lecture can be a useful method of helping students explore concepts and share their experiences or understanding of the information. Two examples of how to structure group-discussion time come from Kagan's (Cooperative Learning, 1994) cooperative learning strategies: "Think, Pair, Share" and "Numbered Heads Together." In Think, Pair, Share, students are given a challenging question relating to the lecture that they must first think about, then pair up with another student to discuss, and then share their ideas with the class. When using Numbered Heads Together, students are put in equal-sized small groups to discuss a topic, or put their "heads together" to make sure that they all understand the concept. Each student numbers off in the group, and after the discussion, the instructor calls out different numbers for students with that number to stand and share answers, thus requiring individual accountability in the group. Finally, an alternative to an instructor lecture is to have student group presentations about a topic.

Students also can be actively involved during a lecture by the use of a listening guide, which lists major points of the lecture. Students use the listening guide to fill in information about each point. Another summarization strategy is the "3, 2, 1" method. At the end of class, students write, or are assigned, these prompts to answer: three things I learned today, two things I heard today that I need to further ponder, and one thing I would like to learn more about relating to this topic. …