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.
Business schools have a reputation for demanding students and high quality teaching. On this episode of the Teach Better Podcast, Professor Olav Sorenson from the Yale School of Management (SOM) tells us what actually happens over there. Along the way, he explains his own almost technology-free teaching style, as well as how SOM recently reformed its core MBA curriculum.
In this episode we talk with Cyra Levenson from the Yale Center for British Art and Yale Professor of American Studies, History, and African-American Studies, Matt Jacobson about incorporating real artifacts and works of art into your teaching. Specifically, we talk about why you might want to do such a thing, and how you can get started doing it.
I’ve had plenty of students criticize my teaching over the years, but no one has ever accused me of lecturing in a monotone voice. On the other hand, this is a common complaint I’ve heard about other instructors including a colleague who approached me the other day for advice on what he could do about it. I had no idea, but I did know this was a perfect question for the POD mailing list! If you’re a college teacher and you’ve never heard of the Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network in Higher Education, you are really missing out on some great discussion of teaching in higher ed, and a community of folks who both know a lot and really care.
Before he retired in Spring of 2015, John Bryan Starr taught two of the most highly regarded classes at Yale about the politics and policy surrounding public schools in the United States. These classes had a unique structure where students read and discussed the material outside class in small groups and continued their discussions in the classroom. In the words of one of his students, “You could just trust upon entering class every week that you were guaranteed a profound learning experience in those two hours.” In this episode of the Teach Better Podcast, John Starr shares his secrets.
This spring one of the best teachers in our department, Steve Berry, won the Lex Hixon ’63 Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Social Sciences. He won because he does a great job with one of our hardest classes to teach: Introductory Microeconomics. This big (300-400 student) lecture serves a wide range of students. Some have strong math backgrounds and are planning to major in economics, while others are just there because they think it’s important to learn something about how the economy works. Steve appeals to this diverse group with a combination of engaging lectures and well-designed problem sets. He gets positive course evaluations and a large fraction of the class goes on to take more advanced economics courses.