I’ve recently had the opportunity to talk to several folks at universities outside the United States about teaching. It’s been eye-opening to see some big differences with how we do things at Yale. Just two weeks ago, a fact-finding contingent visited from the University of Amsterdam (UvA), an institution that has a much more top down approach to education.
Much of the best teaching at Yale is done by our language instructors, and on this episode we are joined by Theresa Schenker, senior lector and director of the German language program. Theresa shares her general approach to teaching as well as many ways she gets students creatively engaged in her classroom including telecollaboration, movie making, and web quests.
Several departments at Yale provide amazing structured support for their students writing senior essays. Environmental Studies provides a detailed Senior Essay Handbook as well as a full year colloquium where students get support for developing research questions, writing, discussing and presenting. In Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, students do a junior seminar on theory and methods followed by a full year senior colloquium that focuses on writing an excellent senior essay.
In this episode we discuss two important papers in the scholarship of teaching and learning. The first, written by John Hattie in 2003, identifies what characteristics distinguish expert teachers from other teachers. The second, by Hattie and his colleague Helen Timperley (2007), investigates what kinds of feedback are most effective.
Last fall I used the Piazza discussion forums to let students ask questions and get answers outside of class. It was a huge success and this term I looked forward to more of the same. Strangely, however, I noticed participation in the forums has been much lower this year. As of the end of the fifth week of classes, students have posted just 47 questions compared to 77 questions posted at this point last year. What’s changed?
Historian and Dean of Yale College Jonathan Holloway joins us on this episode to talk about his highly acclaimed undergraduate lecture course on African-American history from emancipation to the present. We also discuss his role as dean of the college in shaping the quality of undergraduate education at Yale, and how his experience as dean has affected his own teaching.
On Wednesday I had lunch with five students from my 130 person econometrics class. These were the five that responded to the invitation I had sent to everyone the day before. Over lunch I asked what they thought of the date for the upcoming midterm exam. They universally hated it.
This semester I have about 140 students in my econometrics class. We meet twice a week in a big lecture hall, and while I try to make it as interactive as possible, it’s not nearly as personal as the small (10-20 student) classes I teach. It’s also a lousy environment for students to learn how to actually analyze data. This is something they have to learn by doing, and most folks who teach data analysis expect students to acquire the skill on their own by working through projects or problem sets. I think in-person support can greatly accelerate this kind of learning, especially in an introductory class.