RIOT: Want to improve your teaching? Be organized.

Today’s article:
Teaching Clearly Can Be a Deceptively Simple Way to Improve Learning
By Dan Berrett

I read this article a few weeks ago, and was drawn to the focus on the importance of basic teaching skills. The author cites three different studies presented at the Association for the Study of Higher Education, each of which focuses on students’ perceptions of how organized and clear their professors are in class. Each of these studies used data from the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education which looks at results of critical thinking tests, approaches to learning, student motivation, and student perceptions of their professors’ teaching, which is the focus of this article.

The first study looks at the relationship between student perceptions of organized teaching and gains in critical thinking skills between the beginning and end of student’s first years at college. It found that there was not a significant correlation overall between the two, for minority students who entered far behind white students in critical thinking skills, those with high perceptions of faculty teaching in an organized increased their critical thinking skills five times as much as non-minority students.

The second study found that when students perceived good teaching quality, their reflective learning skills greatly improved over four years.

The final study looked at ‘meaningful interactions with faculty members outside class, along with clear and organized teaching,’ correlated closely with positive effects on student motivation during their first year in college.

The message behind these studies is that one of the best ways to improve student learning, regardless of whether you are flipping the classroom, teaching in traditional ways or somewhere in-between, is to focus on your own organizational skills, make sure that you explain concepts and skills in a clear way, and prepare well for class.

The only real methods mentioned in the article for doing this was to either have someone else observe your class and provide feedback or to tape your own class and watch it. These are two of the most difficult (and rewarding) ways to improve your own teaching, but there are many other useful methods that can be helpful.

For discussion today, I would like to talk about different methods we can use, including the two mentioned above, that might help with organization and clarity in teaching. How could we go about doing this in an organized way in the coming semester?

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