Tips from the McMaster Community

Sometimes, I suspect that students do not understand parts of my lectures.
Don Woods, Chemical Engineering

Whenever I think that my students are having trouble understanding the material I use one of the following strategies:

Ombudspeople: I ask for volunteers to act as ombudspeople for the class. These students, usually three or four in a class of 75, must agree to meet with me once a week in order to give me feedback on how the class is going and tell me any specific problems that the class is having. This gives the reserved students a chance to talk to another student rather than having to come to me when they are having difficulty. I always get a good idea of where the class needs more help from this process.

Red Cards: At the beginning of a lecture period I provide each student with a 10"x 10" red card as they enter the class room. I then explain to the class that if they don't understand something during the lecture, they should raise the red card with one hand. This allows them to keep on taking notes while giving me the message that they don't understand. When I look up and see a sea of red cards, then I know it's wise to stop and clear up the misunderstanding.

One Minute Paper: At the end of some classes I ask the students to take one minute and write anonymously, "What I learned..." and "What I still don't know...". I collect these statements at the end of the class. This gives me a good idea of how well the students are understanding and how well I am doing.

These types of continual feedback help me, even in large classes, to keep track of how we are all doing.

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