1) Issuing my slides in advance with words missing
I have seen this done very effectively, however it requires one to be well-prepared and a little upfront effort. It involves providing the presentation slides to the students in advance but with certain words and concepts left blank. Many students prefer to have the slides in advance so that they can take notes directly on them. On the other hand, teachers generally want to encourage active class participation, often asking questions in advance of covering the topic and the related slide. By distributing incomplete slides, both the student and teacher are well served.
2) Adding video or audio material outside class
Video or audio material either as pre-read or supplementary material can free up more of the limited and valuable class time to in depth discussion, debate and questioning. This is related to the practices involved in the flipped classroom and massive open online courses (MOOC’s). Again this requires some upfront planning and effort, especially if you are recording your own material.
3) Testing individuals orally
A 15’ interview/ discussion with each student grounded in a defined subject area or individual project would give each student the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and critical thinking abilities in a forum that can not be replicated by paper-based testing. The difficulty is the time commitment for teachers: In a class of 30, this would require the better part of two full days.
4) Holding small group discussions
Related to item 3), is the concept of meeting with small groups of students to discuss course material and especially pre-assigned cases to assist them in developing their abilities to think creatively and critically, infer, detect trends and debate. This often occurs in tutorials, but poor attendance is the norm.
5) Adding interim milestones to larger projects
To get the best results, it is advantageous to have some checks to be sure each student is focusing on the right things, not missing major components, or building on a fatal flaw. Interim milestones such as a brief proposal, list of the key topics/issues to be examined, proposed table of contents, initial list of references, project plan, and rough draft/ preliminary report can all provide the instructor the opportunity to review the progress to date and suggest areas for focus, inclusion, improvement and correction.
6) Employing peer review as part of interim project milestones
Related to item 5), is the idea of having at least some of these interim milestones reviewed by your peers. This works especially well when the task/assignment is similar but not the identical for each student as there will be common themes but each case will be different. Examples include having each student review a different novel, play, political/ social issue, historical event, famous person, company/stock, technology or science project.
7) Completing a large project based on exceeding a standard
Following on from items 5) and 6), the concept follows more of a pass/ fail criteria like a driver’s test (as well as a graduate thesis). The project is deemed complete and a pass, once it meets a particular acceptance criteria for quality, thoroughness and insight (perhaps as defined by a rubric). Submissions that do not meet the criteria receive comments and guidance in order that the student can improve the weak components and re-submit the project (a number of times if necessary). This ensures that all students eventually complete a project that meets or exceeds a desired standard and that they have acquire the requisite skills and knowledge.
8) Providing self-assesments
A number of textbooks provide short answer and even multiple choice questions at the end of each chapter. Math texts in particular have always provided answers to selected questions at the back of the book. These are valuable tools for self-assessment and could be expanded by having teachers developing similar quizzes and problem sets with an accompanying answer sheet to their lecture material and other supporting materials (readings, books, videos etc.). Such self-assessment tools puts the focus on learning and off grades.
9) Giving permission to try and fail
Unfortunately, most schooling is overly grade-driven. Students are taught set material and then tested on it. All their grades are accumulated into a final grade, so doing well on each and every test is important. Although such testing was devised to encourage student learning and provide feedback, in many cases the student focus becomes solely on test taking based on cramming and short-term memorization. Stress, competition (to stay ahead of the bell curve) and "getting it done" are the key outcomes not the hoped for enjoyment, interest, creative expression and actual learning.
Experiential learning, learning from experience or learning by reflecting on doing, is seen as a valuable addition to this standard “chalk and talk” teaching/ testing paradigm. Examples include field trips, performances, lab work and even demonstrations. While these activities can indeed be more interesting and enjoyable, as well as promote learning, they tend to remain well structured to permit grading while discouraging creativity and risk-taking.
A specific form of experiential learning that I have termed Experimental learning or learning by undertaking experiments, incorporates creativity but with that comes the risk of failures. Science fair type projects, art work, creative writing and even debating can fit this experimental category. Learning from all failures or missteps is extremely powerful and should not be discouraged. However, grading the outcomes of these experiments and creative activities can stifle them. If grading must be undertaken on these projects, it should focus on the process as opposed to the results.
I plan to try out items 1), 2), 4), 5), 8) and 9) in the course I am currently co-teaching. Items 3), 6), and 7) will have to wait as they are not as feasible in a large class and in some cases may not conform to the academic policies of a fairly conservative institution.
Follow-up note: I have recently and successfully implemented examples of: 1) in an IP lecture, 2) in a video on financial bonds, 4) in a GamBit course, 5) for a company analysis project and 9) in an exercise involving contacting potential employers.
Thoughts and links to items concerned with education and learning.