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These are a series of teaching tips based on observations of teaching as well as the literature on teaching. This document is credited to Dennis Baker, Ph.D., Assistant Dean for Faculty Development at Florida State University College of Medicine. This is not intended to represent original work but instead is based on a compilation of print and web resources. Such resources are available at http://www.med.fsu.edu/education/FacultyDevelopment/case_writing_resources.asp

3 Person Teach

The “3-Person Teach” is a technique designed to promote interaction, reveal misunderstandings and promote reflection. The technique is conducted as follows. The teacher (person 1) explains a principle or concept (e.g. the mechanism of action of drug x) and then asks students to pair up (persons 2 and 3). Each student in the pair then takes a turn at explaining the principle or concept to each other. This should take no more than 3-4 minutes. The teacher can walk around among the students during this exercise and listen for misunderstandings or confusion. Students often find they don’t understand something as well as they thought by doing this exercise. The teacher then provides the opportunity for students to ask him/her questions.

Teaching to the Whole Class

With the technology console located to one side of the room it is easy for us to fall into the trap of focusing our attention only on the students on that same side. Sometimes this happens because we are using PowerPoint slides and it is just easier to stay at the console to change them. One way to deal with this is to use the remote mouse provided with each console. This allows you to periodically move to the other side of the room. Using the remote mouse also allows you to move out among the students and to the back of the room. Moving around the room can increase interaction with the students, especially if you are asking questions. The remote mouse is easy to use with a little practice. If you are unfamiliar with the remote mouse, the key is to practice prior to your teaching session.

Another tool that can help you move around the classroom is the lapel microphone. A hard wired microphone is located on the console and a wireless lapel microphone is there which can be placed on your belt or in your pocket to permit you to move around. It is very important to do a sound check when using the lapel microphone. Be sure it is turned on and then ask your audience if sound is coming through the speakers in the ceiling. Also ask if the sound is clear without static. If the sound is of poor quality or if there is static coming through the speakers, the batteries for the microphone may be low.

Hint: It may be advisable not to wear the wireless microphone outside the classroom as you may forget to turn it off and what you say or “do” may be made public. Theoretically you could be outside the room talking with students or faculty between classes with your microphone “on” and everyone in the classroom could hear you loud and clear. I am not sure if the range extends to the restrooms but it probably is best if we don’t find out.

Using “Wait-Time” To Make Questions More Effective

The use of questions is a primary way we interact with learners in both large and small groups. The skillful use of questions not only increases the number of students who participate but also increases their level of thinking. Frequently, teachers ask questions but give learners very little time to think and construct answers. This results in teachers either repeating the question or answering their own questions. A questioning strategy called “wait-time” has been shown to give some amazing results. “Wait-time” is a 3 to 5 second period of silence (silence by the teacher) after he/she asks a question. Educational research has shown that allowing this 3 to 5 second period of silence can give the following results.

  • The number of student responses increases.
  • Students who respond infrequently, respond more frequently.
  • The length of student responses increases.
  • The depth of student responses increases.
  • Students respond with more confidence
  • Student-to-student interactions increase.

Well, you may be asking, “If this is so simple and the results so good, why don’t more teachers do it?” Answer: Some don’t know about it and for those who do, they find it isn’t so easy. Teachers seem to have this tendency to fill any silent space in the classroom with some sort of verbalization or with non-verbal cues that communicate that an answer is expected almost immediately. Using wait-time takes a practiced and concentrated effort. One strategy is to ask a question and then not make eye contact with the class such as looking down or making momentary eye contact with a teaching visual (PowerPoint slide) while at the same time saying silently to yourself, “One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi.” This strategy for being silent may sound a little silly but I know one person for whom this worked well.

Mary Budd Rowe, Ph.D., was a well known science educator who conceptualized and conducted the original research on wait-time. Dr. Rowe taught science education at several well known universities including Stanford University, Columbia, and the University of Florida. She passed away in 1997. To read more about wait-time go to http://www.ed.gov/databases/ERIC_Digests/ed370885.html.

The title of one of Dr. Rowe’s articles was, “Wait Time: Slowing Down May Be a Way of Speeding Up.” This title speaks to the power of the strategy.

I didn’t hear that.

It is sometimes difficult to hear the questions and comments made by students during our classes because of air conditioning noise, room layout, etc. Instructors can help with this by using the wireless microphone and repeating students’ comments and questions.This low tech solution is easy to do but it is hard to remember and probably feels a little uncomfortable until it has become a habit. This is something you might also want to remind guest speakers to do.

Getting off to a Good Start

Sometimes we feel there is so much information to teach that we need to just get into the delivery of the content as soon as a class session starts. However, some learners benefit from being given a context for how the class will go and what they are responsible for learning. One method for doing this is to take about 3-4 minutes at the beginning to give an overview of the session and to state the learning objectives (a.k.a. behavioral objectives, aims, outcomes, etc.) students will accomplish as a result of participating in the session. If you are going to teach via a PowerPoint presentation, the overview and the objectives can be your first couple of slides. The overview can be a bulleted list of the topics for the session and the learning objectives shown on the next slide might look like these.

  1. Define and compare the terms, inferential statistics and descriptive statistics.
  2. Given examples of inferential statistics and descriptive statistics in a medical journal article, correctly identify them.

At the end of the class you could show the objectives again to serve two purposes:

  1. Summarize what was to be learned
  2. Give students opportunity to self-assess relative to the learning objectives.

Using the Remote Mouse

There are two keys to successfully using the remote mouse in our classrooms. Key 1 is to become familiar with what each part of the mouse does. For example there is a left click, right click, etc. Key 2 is to practice with the mouse before giving a live presentation. If you used the remote mouse as it lays on the desk beside the monitor it will work just like the regular mouse. But the trouble can start when you pick it up!!! When you pick it up your index finger will naturally rest on a “trigger” on the front underneath side of the mouse. Squeezing this “trigger” will usually cause a message box to appear on the screen when you are using PowerPoint and then the trouble starts for you. Don’t squeeze the “trigger”!! Change the slides in PowerPoint by rolling the wheel on top of the mouse forward. Most importantly, practice with the remote mouse.