Student making a mindmap on a whiteboard

Synthesis and Reflection

Once students have grasped a concept, help deepen their learning by getting them to analyze the material, synthesize what they know, and reflect on what they don't.

 

Mind (or concept) mapping

Remote adaptation: Possible in myCourses Discussions, and OneDrive and Zoom

  1. Ask students to identify key concepts about a topic.
  2. Provide students with examples of various mind map (visual representation) formats that can be used to express relationships among concepts. The examples should illustrate the use of basic elements, such as boxes, arrows (uni- or multi-directional), simple hierarchical relationships or “webs” coming from one central point.
  3. Have students create a mind map of the relationship among the key concepts.
  4. Ask students to compare and contrast their mind maps in pairs, working towards a single map that incorporates all agreed-upon elements.

Examples:

  • In an international relations course, students create a visual representation of the purposes, scope, impact and reach of the United Nations.
  • In a pharmacology course, students create a critical distinctions chart to compare and demonstrate the differences among similar drugs.
  • In a biology course, students draw the phases of mitosis, including a labelled diagram of the cell at each phase.

Variation:

Use software to develop maps in small groups on computers; have students share their maps with other students either in class or in online in myCourses.

Classify

Remote adaptation: Possible in myCourses Discussions

Instructions:

  1. Divide students into groups.
  2. Distribute a collection of items (e.g., images, words, sentences, artifacts) to each group.
  3. Allow students time to examine the items and classify them into categories.
  4. Ask participants to share their classifications and the reasoning behind them.
 

Examples:

  • In an art history course, show students images of sculptures.
  • In a geology course, distribute selections of rock types.
  • In a linguistics course, distribute lists of different types of phrases or clauses.
  • In a religious studies course, show images of ritual objects.

Variation:

Students can work individually rather than in groups.

Think-pair-share

Remote adaptation: Possible in Zoom

Instructions:

  • Pose a question (orally, in writing on a board, or projected onto a screen).
  • Ask students to think about the question on their own (1-2 min.).
  • Ask students to pair up with someone sitting near them and discuss their responses/thoughts (2-3 min.).
  • Regroup as a whole class and call for volunteers or randomly choose a few pairs to share their responses.

Examples:

  • In an epidemiology course, students offer potential diagnoses and treatments based on photographs of medical conditions and patient case histories.
  • In an education course that addresses classroom management, students describe how they would respond to an off-task student’s interruptive behavior. Students come up with a solution individually, then justify it in pairs, and then come to a consensus on an appropriate approach to the scenario.

Variations:

  • Intentionally choose different pairs to give summaries of their ideas each time this activity is carried out.
  • Have students work together to create a synthesis of ideas or come to a consensus.
  • After the pairs have discussed their responses, have two pairs discuss together (in groups of four students), in lieu of randomly choosing pairs to report out to the entire class.
  • Use visual stimuli (e.g., photographs, diagrams) as prompts for discussion.

Critical debate

Remote adaptation: Possible in myCourses Discussions and Zoom

Instructions:

  1. Present a problem or pose a question to the class.
  2. Divide the class in half.
  3. Assign each half a position to support.
  4. Moderate a class debate where students address the merits of one position over the other.

Example:

In a labor relations course, students debate proposed cuts to an employee benefits package. Half the students represent the business, which has been charged with reducing its budget; the other half represent the employee union, which objects to some of the proposed modifications.

Variations:

  • After arguing for one side, students argue for the opposite side, attempting to elicit new rationales.
  • Have students argue the side that is opposite to their true beliefs in order to deepen their overall understanding of the issue.

Barkley, E. F., Major, C. H., & Cross, K. P. (2014). Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty. (2nd Ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, pp. 180-181.

4 corners (write around the room)

Remote adaptation: Possible in myCourses Discussions, and OneDrive and Zoom

Instructions:

  1. Post large sheets of paper in each corner of the classroom. Each sheet of paper should have a different question written on it that relates to a topic being discussed in that class.
  2. Form groups.
  3. Provide each group with markers.
  4. Have each group move to a corner and brainstorm a list in response to the question posed. Set and keep a time limit for this activity to ensure that students have sufficient time at each of the corners.
  5. Have groups move clockwise to the next corner and add to the previous group’s responses. There should be no repetitions in responses. Only new responses should be added.
  6. Bring the class together for a whole-group discussion of the contents of each list.

Example:

In an English literature course: What are recurring features of Lord Byron’s poetry? How do these stylistic elements hint at his intended audience? What are the key traits of the Byronic hero?

Variations:

  • Students can put a check mark next to previously listed responses that are consistent with their lists.
  • Once students have completed this activity, they might organize the results using concept mapping so as to further solidify their understanding of the concepts’ relation to one another.

Exit cards

Remote adaptation: Possible in myCourses Discussions and Zoom

  1. Prepare a prompt that you will ask students to respond to in the last 5 minutes of class.
  2. Show the prompt on the screen or write it on the board.
  3. Ask students to respond individually, in writing. They can write on paper or post their response to a myCourses discussion forum. Let students know whether or not you would like anonymous submissions. (Anonymous submissions can be enabled in myCourses. Click to read how to enable anonymous discussions.)
  4. Have students submit their responses and then exit class.
  5. Review students’ responses.
  6. Decide whether or not to summarize results for sharing with students.
  7. Decide how students’ responses may inform your teaching in future class periods.

Examples

  • “What were three key points or “take-aways” from today’s class?”
  • “What is a question you have about what we discussed today?”
  • “What did you want to learn more about?”
  • “Create a quiz question based on today’s discussion.”
  • “Which topics from today’s class do you think would be important to include in an end-of-module quiz?”

Variations:

  • Use exit cards according to the 3-2-1 format (see 3-2-1: Purposeful Reading in this document):
    • Any class: Write 3 things you learned in today’s class; 2 questions you have about today’s material; 1 aspect of today’s class that you enjoyed.
    • In a course on the International Criminal Court (ICC): Write 3 differences between the ICC and tribunals such as Nuremberg, 2 similarities between the ICC and tribunals, and 1 question you still have. (Example from: Facing History <https://www.facinghistory.org/resource-library/teaching-strategies/3-2-1>.)

Note to future self

Remote adaptation: Possible in myCourses Assignments

Instructions:

  1. Ask students to write a letter to a “future self” that describes their current thinking on a course-related topic or concept where students need to see progression of thinking.
  2. Collect the letters.
  3. Redistribute the letters to students in class at a later date.
  4. Ask students to read their letters and reflect on how their thinking has changed.

Variation:

Provide students with envelopes on which they fill in their mailing address. Collect letters and envelopes for mailing to students at a later date by Canada Post.

Advice letter

Remote adaptation: Possible in myCourses Assignments

Instructions:

  1. Sometime during the last week or two of classes, ask students to write a letter of advice to future students on how to be successful students in that course. Allow students to decide whether or not to include their name.
  2. Collect the letters.
  3. Share the letters with students the next time you teach the course.

Variation:

Have students email you their letters.

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Muddiest point

Remote adaptation: Possible in myCourses Assignments

Instructions:

  1. Toward the end of class, ask students to write down what seemed most confusing to them – the “muddiest point” of the class period. Encourage students to be specific when identifying the source of confusion.
  2. Have students submit their writing.
  3. Begin the next class by reviewing selected “muddiest points” and using students’ feedback as entry points for discussion of areas that multiple students found to be unclear.

Examples:

  • What was the “muddiest point” of the material discussed today?
  • Write one thing that wasn’t clear to you from today’s class material. Why do you think this was confusing?

Variations:

  • Students attempt to answer one another’s “muddiest point” questions.
  • Students indicate what information they would need to better grasp the course material discussed.

One minute paper/free write

Remote adaptation: Possible in myCourses Assignments

Instructions:

  1. Assign a topic or pose a question pertinent to the content of a given class period.
  2. Ask students to write for 1-5 minutes on the topic or in response to the question.

Examples:

  • In a survey course on art history, students describe the characteristics of Impressionism.
  • In a Canadian studies course: “What are some of the ways in which climate change is affecting the Arctic and its inhabitants?”

Variations:

  • This strategy can be used as an “exit card” —a means for students to summarize what they understood to be the key points of the class period. (See: How do I get students to reflect on their learning?)
  • Students can approach a new topic by writing down what they know and want to know at the beginning of the class, and then follow this at the end of the class with a reflection of what they learned.
  • Word Journal: Students summarize the entire topic of the class on paper with a single word. Then, they write a paragraph to explain their word choice.

Word Journal: Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Dialogue journal/clinical log book

Remote adaptation: Possible in OneDrive

Instructions:

  1. Explain that students will be both writers and responders.
  2. Clarify parameters and expectations for writing and responding to journal entries.
  3. Explain to students:
    1. They should draw a line down their journal page a few inches in from the right margin.
    2. On the left side of the page, the writer reflects upon an assignment, clinical experience, lecture, class activity or discussion and writes comments and questions.
    3. The respondent reads the journal entry and on the right side of the page, responds with their reaction, ideas, questions for clarification, etc.
  4. Read students’ journal entries and responses.

Example:

In a course on clinical practice, students reflect upon their stage or other experiences with patient care – decisions made are explained with a rationale, and outstanding questions are posed for feedback.

Variations:

  • Keep a community dialogue journal for all students to record questions or ask for clarification; students respond to one another’s questions within the journal. Questions may also be addressed in-class. Alternatively, a myCourses discussion thread can serve this purpose.
  • Have students write their journal entries in letter format.

Barkley, E. F., Major, C. H., & Cross, K. P. (2014). Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty. (2nd Ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

One-sentence summary

Remote adaptation: Possible in myCourses Discussions and Zoom

Instructions:

Ask students to creatively summarize the topic in one sentence that incorporates who/what/when/where/why/how, as appropriate.

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Harvesting

Remote adaptation: Possible in myCourses Discussions

Instructions:

  1. After an experience/activity in class, ask students to reflect on and write down:
    • what they learned
    • so what: why it’s important and what the implications are
    • now what: how the learning can be applied
  2. Have students share their responses in small groups or with the whole class.

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Get one, give one

Instructions:

  1. Ask students to fold a piece of paper in half and write “Give one” on one side and “Get one” on the other side.
  2. On the “Give one” side, ask them to write four insights from today’s material.
  3. Have students stand up and find a partner. Each student shares one idea from their “Give one” side of the paper and writes down one idea on the “Get one” side of the paper.
  4. Have students continue finding new partners in an effort to fill their “Get one” side of the paper with new ideas.

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

 


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