Friday, November 25, 2011

Interactive Assignments and Activities for Undergraduate Classrooms (Post 5/5) - "But Why Do I Have to Take This Class"



This week is dedicated to interactive assignments and activities for undergraduate classrooms! :) I am highlighting some activities from our university's 8th Annual Excellence in Teaching Conference.

Here is our five highlighted activity! - "But Why Do I Have to Take This Class" by Tracey Holley (I am so proud of her! She is my colleague in the Communication Studies Department!)

A Small Description of the Activity:

Instructors of General Education courses face an uphill battle with student mentality.  Each semester for twenty-three years I have launched the first day session with an query as to why the students have chosen to take my class.  Each inquiry has resulted in the same response; they did not choose to take my course, it was forced upon them in the guise of a "requirement."  After approximately 186 repetitions of this question I have come to two conclusions: 1) simplified, students do not want to take my class.  If given a choice they would enroll in underwater basket weaving before Fundamentals of Communication. Students do not see an inherent use for the theories or skills associated with Communication studies.  2) It is my job to not only engage the student in a class that begins with a preconceived notion of uselessness, but to inform the student of not only the necessity of obtaining the skills and information the course provides, but the helpfulness of applying that knowledge in their everyday lives.

I plan to present my techniques for involving students in a core class from day one.  These techniques include perception quizzes, critical listening skills, critical reading, and cultural applications of skills. However, these skill are not presented to the student with the single objective of involvement, but also to ensure they understand the link between core classes and critical thinking/reading skills.  A final objective of these techniques is to enable the students to apply their knowledge to various situations, not just academia.

Activity Handouts:
Supplemental Material:

Ms. Holley used to ask her students why they are taking the course.   However, now she provides the students with quiz questions

- Examples - math, ... brain teasers
- Test their Frame of reference - 'take from' vs 'subtract'
- Critical reading and listening - animals on Moses' ark
- 'A bird in the the Hand' - stereotypes and perception process
- Nonverbal - nickels and coins
- Frames of reference - eg., napkin and serviette
- Repetition signifies importance - wood burning stove
- Gestures = importance
- Thought process
- Show them the necessity for the course and why it is required
- Recommended book to read is The Disappearing Spoon
- (See attached PowerPoint)

What do you think about this activity?


J. Edwards

Millennial Professor - Jennifer T. Edwards, Ed.D.
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