Tag Archives: strategies

How to get students to have productive discussions using clickers


PhysPort posted a great article on “How can I get students to have productive discussions of clicker questions?” on their blog on supporting physics teaching with research-based resources.

Clicker questions are increasingly being used to stimulate student discussion and provide faculty and students with timely feedback. Research suggests that discussing clicker questions can lead to increased student learning, and that students exchanging constructive criticism can generate conceptual change.

What can you do as an instructor to encourage all students to have productive discussion? We conducted studies of what students say to each other during clicker discussions when instructors use different instructional techniques. Here’s what we and others have learned and how you can apply it in your classroom:

Clickers has been a very useful strategy to engage students in class in many universities (including McGill), even in large class environments. In-class feedback can help students focus on what is important, practice problems or ideas in class and enage with their fellow classmates in discussion.

Polling@McGill can be used for free by any instructor, TA or student on campus. Students can use their own smartphones, tablets or laptops to respond in real-time to questions in class. If you are interested in using the system, just sign up on the Polling@McGill website.

Are you using Polling@McGill in your courses? Do you have any stories you would like to share? Let us know!

Getting Students to Attend to Important Course Information: First Day myCourses “Scavenger Hunt”


magnifying-glass-with-words.JPGOn the first day of classes, I, like other instructors, share either a hard copy or electronic copy of the course outline with students. (Actually, at McGill, the course outline must be provided to students during the first week of classes according to the McGill Charter of Students’ Rights (Chapter One, Article 10.2 – amended by McGill Senate 21 January 2009 – of the Handbook on Student Rights and Responsibilities, available as a PDF). I hope all students will be motivated to read it attentively on their own because it has information that is important for them to succeed at the course. But my hope has been repeatedly dashed. So, I tried a more directive approach: orally “walking” students through salient points of the course outline (can you say tedious?) and asking students to pose questions about anything that’s unclear. No questions. Great. It’s confirmation that I write clear course outlines. Probably not. More likely, students don’t have enough time to take in the content of this truly important document.

So, I switched approaches again. On the first day of class, students now have to engage in an awareness-raising activity whereby they have to find important information in the course outline. Continue reading Getting Students to Attend to Important Course Information: First Day myCourses “Scavenger Hunt”

Creativity (and why it’s important)


This post is part of the Aspirations to Action series created as a follow-up to the Teaching What’s Important Symposium.

As an aspiring urban planning scholar, I’m frequently exposed to discussions about the importance of creativity to cities. I should preface this by stressing just how multifaceted the field of urban planning is… There are so many ways to approach things in urban planning. It’s both a blessing and a curse really… but that is a story for another day and time.

Right. So. Creativity. Continue reading Creativity (and why it’s important)

Linking Theory to Practice – A little more action, please


This post is part of the Aspirations to Action series created as a follow-up to the Teaching What’s Important Symposium.

Linking theory to practice is an important learning aspiration. Let’s be honest: how many times have you heard the one about the undergrad who steps out of his/her cap and gown into the real world to realize a split second later that they know so much but know so little. You’ve heard it, right? (Perhaps even experienced that feeling yourself). It is the shared responsibility of lecturers and instructors to try to mitigate that moment — to work together so students are prepared for life after graduation, equipped with enough theory to understand the world, and enough practical experience to challenge that same understanding. So how do we create opportunities that inspire students to seek out links between theory and practice? Here are some ideas already put into practice by McGill professors…. Continue reading Linking Theory to Practice – A little more action, please

Aspirations to action – a blog series


As a follow-up to the Teaching What’s Important (TWI) Symposium, held in December 2015, here is a blog series that brings to the fore some of the key discussion points of the event.

The fundamental question guiding the symposium was: What is most important for students to learn at university? During that time, we listened carefully to your contributions and recorded your input. Today we present a new blog series that builds on the aspirations you shared during the event.

These learning aspirations will be the key focus of this bi-weekly series, as we bring you our thoughts, some fresh ideas, and — most importantly — examples of teaching strategies used by McGill professors that aim to promote student engagement and learning both inside and outside the classroom.

We want to keep the conversation about achieving aspirations going, but we also want to make visible the range of exciting teaching methods used across the McGill campus.  We invite you to keep your ears to the ground, to connect and to share ideas about effective teaching strategies.

Stay tuned!

Filipa Pajević & Marcy Slapcoff, Teaching and Learning Services

Aspirations to Actions returns every other Thursday with new content pertaining to one or more learning aspirations!

Developing engaged citizens through critical thinking


Terry HebertWhat happens when students are asked to write for an audience who knows little about the discipline?” Guest speaker Professor Terry Hébert addressed this question at a November 20, 2015 session entitled Developing Engaged Citizens through Critical Thinking, the most recent event organized by the Assessment in Large Classes Advisory Group.

Continue reading Developing engaged citizens through critical thinking