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Teaching Tips: Reviewing Material

Bank Comments

Keep a bank of comments about frequent errors students make and organize them in groups for easy access—if you see many errors on the same topic, keep those related comments together. Consider grouping comments according to module, assignment, and chapter; or by theme, like grammar, content, and organization. Then, use these banked comments as problem-solving exercises for the students to investigate and develop responses in groups. You could use the results of this activity to develop an FAQ for the course to post for current and future students.

Adapted from Smith, V., & Palenque, S. M., Faculty Focus (February 2, 2015). Ten tips for more efficient and effective grading. Magna Publications.

This teaching tip was sent in by Ellen McEwan, PhD Candidate, CEHHS and GRA at the TennTLC.

(originally posted on Oct. 22, 2015)

Unwrap the Class

Ask two students to ‘unwrap the class’ by summarizing what happened in the previous class meeting. This gets everyone centered and refocused on the material wrapperat hand—it provides a good review and puts you well on your way to discussing the day’s topic. You may want to alert students at the end of class that it will be their turn to unwrap the class at the next meeting.

(originally posted on Sept. 3, 2015)

‘Chunking’ to Review for Final Exams

The final exam period for students is typically marked by high anxiety. In many classes, material covered in a final exam spans a considerable period of time—students may be responsible for material dating from the last mid-term, or perhaps from the full course. Regardless, the amount of material typically covered in a final exam is considerable. Studying multiple chapters of a textbook, readings, or extensive notes can be overwhelming, especially if students haven’t kept up or have fallen behind due to term projects in other classes.

Memory theory affirms that our ability to access information is often related to how much we rehearse the information. An important tip to give your students based on this theory is to encourage them not to read too much at one time (e.g., a whole chapter). Instead, suggest that they read in subheadings and stop after each subheading to ask the simple questions, “what did I just read?” Doing this primes a recall task similar to being quizzed over the material.

After each main section, students should go back and review the critical pieces of information by subheadings, whether a definition, an explanation, or an application. This process is called ‘chunking’ the task and exposes students to the same information at least three times. Students who read an entire chapter before pausing to reflect recall relatively little compared to students who read the chapter in chunks. This is also true for reviewing shorter texts and extensive notes.

While we, as academics, might think this is an obvious strategy for studying, for our students, it is not always so. Therefore, it’s important to provide the tip!

(originally posted on Dec. 1, 2014)


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