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This week I was hosted for two splendid days at the University of California at Santa Cruz by Professor Jody Greene, Director, Center for Innovations in Teaching and Learning.  I met so many legendary scholars, brilliant profs and students, and learned so much.   At a meeting of humanities and social science faculty interested in innovations in teaching, I asked everyone to share their “best trick” for turning a large lecture class or a smaller seminar discussion into an interactive, active learning environment.  Here are 33 suggestions that anyone can adapt, with thanks to Prof Greene for taking these excellent notes:
  1. Divided 70 people into seven groups of 10 and ask where they want it to go
  2. Leave it to the class to decide what the final project will be.
  3. Sending students into the field, community based, to create a documentary film.
  4. Give out the final on the first day of class. Students can be using it all term.
  5. Collaborative syllabus in a grad class that gave students the opportunity to choose the reading.
  6. Gave an option for the final where there were mandatory questions and an option to generate their own question as well.
  7. Designed a card game with writing students. Created a game she could play with the students next quarter, with a new group of students.
  8. Not only diagnose problems, but come up with solutions and write a grant proposal to fund the solutions
  9. Have students do a Bechdel test (film with women talking to each other)
  10. Have students select a word that matters to them. Become the word by writing from the word’s perspective.
  11. Divide course into groups and had them write their own family history.
  12. Each class a group of students reports what was covered in the previous class and take students.
  13. Had people from Ecuador and Peru Skyping in. Students translate, control media, and ask questions and lead discussion.
  14. Bring a life story to the first day of class and ask the students what they need to know to understand the life story. The class was designed around what the student would need to know. Students found readings and pitched readings.
  15. Students had to come up with a question about sustainability, ask questions all over campus, compress in to a two minute podcast.
  16. Undergrad students Create a workshop for high school students to get the students interested in reading the play.
  17. Assigned each student a hashtag, go for 90 minutes and take pictures that would go with the hashtag, and then generate metadata from the pictures.
  18. Had students invent titles for specific scenes of the tempest. Generate discussion out of that. Then voted on the titles as a class.
  19. To help students understand technology, had students replicate letter folding and encryption. Students had to decipher.
  20. Podcast assignment.
  21. History class. Going and having students talk to someone who is older and may have lived through the history they are discussing in class. In the last day everyone shares what they have learned from their interlocutors.
  22. Create a website (the whole class) after reading a memoir.
  23. Creative Writing, every student offered one word to make a poem by the whole class.
  24. Ask students to inhabit a theorist and channel that person to debate on an issue or question.
  25. Mini ethnography of a material object, and include non visual sense and non textual element as part of the object.
  26. Teaching database research, assuming a level of instinctive or habitual search talent. Begin with a search.
  27. Have students listen to volunteers in a clinic, and determine genre appropriate to the need.
  28. Have students collectively determine the meaning of a difficult text by working in small groups (jigsaw method).
  29. Copy one sentence from the reading—each student and the teacher. Have everyone read that sentence.
  30. Text rendering—sentence, then a phrase, then a word. Go around and have each person say a word.
  31. Everyone stand up in the middle of class. Or in the middle of an exam.
  32. Next class—you come up with something interesting we could do in class.
  33. Have them bring a crib sheet to the final examination.

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Cathy N. Davidson

Cathy N. Davidson

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