Discussion courses

David W. Kramer kramer.8 at OSU.EDU
Tue Nov 18 09:44:32 EST 1997

If students have access to e-mail at Bellarmine, you might try having them
send their comments and analysis (of a scientific article or news item from
the newspaper) to other members of the class via e-mail.  You can get them
started by giving them questions about the article:
        What did you learn that you didn't know before?
        What did you already know about this article?
        What would you like to know in addition to the article's content,
i.e., what additional information would you like to have about this
phenomenon?  Where could you look for that information?

Perhaps initially they could send their comments to you and then you could
forward them anonymously to other class members.  Eventually students can
send their own comments directly to everyone in the class.  If you're into
games, have the students vote on the comment/analysis they like best then
give a small prize (my students like candy bars!) to the winner.  Students
don't mind having their names revealed if a prize is involved!

I have found that students like sending e-mail messages and feel less
threatened when they are not commenting face to face.  After they have
exchanged e-mail they find it much easier to exchange comments in class.
Using e-mail early in the quarter with my students in Introductory Plant
Biology has really increased their willingness to enter into class
Dave Kramer

>   Next semester I am teaching an upper-division, undergraduate
>biology course in which I want students to engage in seminar-type
>discussions. I tried it last year but felt that the
>students never really did feel comfortable enough to speak freely.
>   I am trying to think of some sort of game or exercise that we could
>try the first week of class to break the ice. One idea is that in the
>first week or so have students come to class with prepared written
>comments or questions about the biological topic for that day and then
>exchange them with other students anonymously. Each student then would be
>asked to read someone elses comment or question aloud to the class for
>us to discuss.....my theory is that students might soon realize that other
>students are really not any more clever than they are about these topics
>and after awhile would start begging to read their own comments instead of
>someone elses. Eventually, they might not even have to write their
>comments ahead of time.
>   Does anyone else have a better idea on getting students to
>make significant contributions to class discussion?
>Dave Robinson
>Biology Dept
>Bellarmine College
>Louisville, KY

Dr. David W. Kramer
Department of Plant Biology
Ohio State University at Mansfield
1680 University Drive
Mansfield, OH  44906-1547
(419) 755-4344  FAX:  (419) 755-4367
e-mail:  kramer.8 at osu.edu

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