Course Structure and Content
One of my most recent courses, Communication and the Family, was centered on student engagement and expansion of knowledge. This included paper assignments and frequent group activities. The group activities took the form of inquiry-based learning (IBL): answering questions, interpreting, analyzing, or synthesizing data. The goal of utilizing IBL is to improve or cultivate students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills, in addition to mastering the objectives of the course. After each IBL activity, I will hold a discussion on group findings (each member of the group is expected to participate) and address critical information that has been overlooked.
Class content will take the form of various sources, including book chapters, journal articles, and news articles. The social sciences call for a multitude of perspectives, therefore drawing material from a single textbook will not suffice. To further enrich the course, I will encourage students to use technology in class, such as laptops, tablets, and phones, to find information that is relevant to the course discussion at hand.
In large lecture halls where discussion is less conducive, I like to ensure that students are still engaged and participating. One way to do this is through an interactive lecture in which I “micro” lecture for five- to ten-minutes, then allow students to complete a classroom assessment technique, such as a think-pair-share exercise or multiple choice questions to assess whether they have understood the material.
In smaller, seminar-based classes, discussion becomes a critical part of the learning process. Thus, students are advised from the first day of class to contribute meaningfully to class discussions. This means students are expected to discuss the assigned readings in greater depth. Blog posts are assigned throughout the semester to complement in-class discussion and provide students with writing practice. Class will begin with a discussion about the blog posts, in addition to a bridge from last class. Then, I will either begin a semi-structured discussion on the assigned readings for class, or conduct an IBL group project. By semi-structured discussion, I mean one in which I address the concepts, themes, and passages I deem critical, but also leave room for students to discuss their reactions or what they did not understand.
I seek to create a respectful and welcoming atmosphere for students to participate. One way to do this is to ask students to compile a list of ground rules for discussion, for example, “no interruptions.” This holds students accountable for breaking the rules. Another helpful method, one which will particularly encourage more quiet or apprehensive students to participate, is to take stack. Taking stack involves writing down the names of students who have raised their hands, allowing each person to go once before calling on a different person. The stack strategy gives preference to quieter students who have not participated and ensures that all students have an opportunity to speak. Each student must participate at least twice in the discussion each class session to receive full points for the class participation requirement.
By the end of each class, I will ask students to write a one-sentence summary of the class discussion. This assignment counts toward student participation and has a couple of purposes. The first purpose is to ensure that students are actively engaged in the discussion. The second purpose is to equip students with practice with how to succintly synthesize complex information. The final purpose is to assess how well students understood the content. In this way, the one-sentence summaries provide feedback for how to begin the next class, and whether I need to clarify any misconceptions.
Aside from the classroom, email is the primary medium I will use to communicate with students. Students are encouraged to meet with me during office hours or at a time convenient for them, to discuss any challenges they have with the course, research interests and ideas, or questions about studying communication at the graduate level.
It is important for instructors to evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching methods and strategies. That is why I intend to use student feedback and student assessments to measure teaching effectiveness and student receptiveness of my teaching style. It is also vital for teachers to strive for improvement in their teaching strategies. I intend to do this by participating in teaching workshops, conducting research on education and teaching, attending teaching conferences, and taking courses on pedagogy.