By Phillip Wankat and Frank Oreovicz
YOU CAN SCORE BIG WITH YOUR ENGINEERING
STUDENTS BY USING THESE TEACHING TIPS.
Do you find yourself teaching to a room full of zombies?
The class seems enthusiastic at first, but their attention
inevitably wanes. And the apathy is contagious. Even you lose
interest. Here are 10 proven steps that can bring you and
your class back to life.
- Prepare a list of educational objectives. They will help
students know what to study and what they'll be able
to do after completing the class. Studies show that students
learn more when provided with this information. Use the
well-known Bloom's Taxonomy to develop objectives.
- Teach inductively. Undergraduates generally learn new
material best when it's introduced with simple, specific
examples. Once these are mastered, more difficult ones can
be presented and a general procedure developed.
- Avoid MEGO ("my eyes glaze over") by dividing
lectures into segments separated by activity breaks. The
maximum attention span of most students seems to be about
- Practice active learning during the activity breaks. Ask
small groups of students to undertake activities such as
brainstorming, developing questions for the instructor,
or solving a problem. This activity will energize students
for the next lecture segment.
- Be enthusiastic. The reason most of us became professors
is because we love the material we teach. Share that enthusiasm
and explain why the material is important. Enthusiastic
professors have enthusiastic students.
- Learn students' names. Knowing the names of students
is absolutely necessary for developing a rapport with them.
By doing so, you'll reduce discipline problems and
- Come early and stay late. Coming early allows you time
to set up the classroom and sends the message that you want
to be there. Staying late is the best way to answer questions.
- Increase student work time. Students who study more learn
more. Encourage study groups for homework and projects.
Have one question on the test that is closely related to
homework so that its benefits are obvious.
- Reduce or eliminate time pressure on tests. The purpose
of a test is to distinguish between students who know the
material and those who don't. Students need time to
show what they know. Reduce the length of tests or provide
- After the first test, ask students how you can help them
learn. Give them five minutes to fill out 3" x 5"
cards. You will get a number of useful responses. But for
this to work, you must follow up on some of them. In large
classes we're usually asked to tell students to shut
up. By reading such requests out loud, it makes it OK to
ask students to be quiet.
Phillip Wankat is head of interdisciplinary engineering
and the Clifton L. Lovell Distinguished Professor of Chemical
Engineering at Purdue University. Frank Oreovicz is an education
communications specialist at Purdue's chemical engineering
school. They can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.