Jedi Mind Tricks for Teaching

“There are ways to improve your evals without sacrificing the rigor of your class.”


Here’s one I use all the time: I tell my students WHY they are doing a particular assignment, and I tell them about the pedagogical reasons behind it. I show them that I am teaching in a way that will benefit them. For example, I assign what I call “writing exercises” at the beginning of every class. These are five-minute assignments that ask for answers to questions about the reading for that day. I tell my students that the questions on these writing exercises will vary in form and in content. Sometimes they will ask about details, sometimes they will ask about the author’s argument, sometimes they will ask for examples of evidence the author used to make her argument, sometimes they will ask the students to make analogies, or to provide examples of something from their own experience, etc.

My point is this: I tell my students that these assignments are designed to allow each and every one of them to shine at some point during the semester, since they will enable students to show off their own individual strengths in reading and processing the material under study. They eat this up with a spoon. In other words, I’ve just set myself up to look like the most fabulous, thoughtful, and sensitive professor ever, since I’ve just demonstrated that I want all of my students to succeed on these assignments.

This is a very useful idea. It is something I have intended to do every semester and don’t always remember. I think we need to talk about this in class.

Perhaps I can do what I did once before and make a link list of those things which I want to remember to do in my next class. Or perhaps I could just add it to my syllabus for next semester.

Both quotes are from systeme_d via theCHE fora.

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