M 358K Instructor Materials
Tips for Teaching with Minimal Lecturing
(AKA, How to get students to read the book and engage in class
I. Students are likely to be more comfortable participating in class
(and/or feel more obliged to participate) if you know their names. So make an effort to learn names. Tips
on doing this.
II. Try to have a first day activity that requires some oral student
participation. This could be as simple as having each student state
their name, major, and anything else relevant.
III. Prepare a first-day "handout" (posted on the web rather than
handed it out) that states explicitly your
expectations for students, including expectations for homework and
IV. Do not give reading
assignments that just
consist of "Read pp. xxx - yyy." Instead,
give extended reading assignments that also include:
example (using an old textbook) -- see especially "Nature of the
Course", "Homework", "Guidelines for Written Homework", "Class
and Attendance", "Authorized and Unauthorized Collaboration," and
- On the first day of class, show the handout and point out
especially important sections.
- Assign this handout for reading for the second class day.
- On the second class day, ask if there are any questions on the
- A "study guide" that points out things like:
A list of exercises (especially conceptual exercises) to
reinforce the reading and for possible class discussion.
- Places that need especially careful reading
- Possible confusion of technical and everyday meanings of words
- Where a concept being introduced will be important later
here to see examples of such extended reading assignments (using an
- Note that most exercise sections of Stats: Data and Models begin with
exercises that are very good for this purpose.
- Also include instructions to try computer demos when relevant
to the reading
V. Do not start class with,
"Are there any questions on the reading or exercises?" Instead, start class by asking the
questions on the reading and exercises.
VI. Proceed to more complicated problems
- Start with questions that can be phrased as "yes/no" or multiple
- Ask for a show of hands for each possible answer, rather than
having individual students respond.
- If not many students raise their hand for any
possibility, ask for a show of hands on a question like, "Who
doesn't have a clue?"
- If there is disagreement in response, ask for a volunteer to
defend each choice that had hands raised. (If there are no volunteers,
call on someone.)
- Try to resist the temptation to tell (or to show by your
what the right answer is -- instead, ask the rest of the class
questions like, "Do you agree?" or, "Do you buy the explanation?"
VII. Whenever possible/appropriate, interject comments pointing
out "the big picture," or "recurring themes," or why something is
- Encourage students to bring
written details to class to show on the doc cam if they prefer that to
VIII. "Are there any questions on the reading or homework that we
haven't addressed yet?" might come toward the end of the class.
IX. Note that item V included some tips on classroom management. Here
are some more:
- When you ask the class a question, give students enough
formulate their answers and get up their nerve to volunteer. I was once
told to count silently and slowly to five before calling on someone. I
disagree with that advice -- my experience is that it's often
necessary to count (slowly and silently) to thirty
or more. That may seem like a long time at first, but it can really
- Remember that the objective is to get as many students as
to participate in class discussion. To help accomplish this,
- Remind students to raise their hand and wait to be called on.
- Don't always call on the first student who raises their hand.
- Try to make a mental note of who has been talking and who
and call on the students who have been talking the least.
- Similarly, when students are asking questions, or discussion
lively, be sure to act as "traffic manager" -- one hand might tell one
student to wait, while you point to another to contribute. Sometimes
you may need to say to an eager one, "Just a minute -- X hasn't had a
chance to say anything yet." (But remember to come back to the
student whom you held back initially.)
- As you get to know the students, you may notice that students
have something worthwhile to say may be shy about volunteering.
Sometimes saying something like, "X, you look like you might have
something to say/have a question," can help.
Updated July 4, 2013