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                          Teaching an undergraduate class graduate class
                                       Is there a difference
                                           Ravi Pendse and Everett Johnson
                                          Department of Electrical Engineering
                                               Wichita State University
                                               Wichita, KS 67260-0044

Abstract                                                        described. When the author started teaching the graduate
                                                                courses, it was assumed by the author (perhaps incorrectly)
During the past few years, prior to obtaining his               that all the wonderful ideas used in undergraduate courses
doctorate, one of the authors had considerable                  would work well in the graduate course. Different ideas
experience and success teaching several undergraduate           used for graduate courses are also described. Problems
courses in Digital System Design. The observation that          encountered while dealing with graduate students are
the courses were successful is based on the credit hour         described, and ideas used to solve these problems are also
production and retention of the students in these classes.      presented.
 The author uses very novel and innovative teaching
methods which have worked very well in the                      Innovative Teaching Ideas
undergraduate classes.       After completion of his
doctorate, the author joined the Electrical Engineering         One of the authors had written a paper [1] describing novel
Department at Wichita State University as a faculty             and innovative ideas used in his classes. These include
member. As is generally the case, the author is now             things as simple as going to class early to calling students at
teaching one graduate course and one undergraduate              home.
course each semester. Are the novel ideas that work so
well in the undergraduate classes being used in the             Go to the class early:        We feel that it is a great idea to
graduate courses? If they are, are they working?                go to the class at least five minutes early for every class.
Should a faculty member sit down and think about how            This allows time for talking informally with students about
they will teach a graduate course? Is mentorship from a         current events, or just some small talk. It is our observation
senior faculty member desirable, especially as it pertains      that this allows the students to see a faculty member as a
to teaching graduate courses? The focus of this paper is        friendly person, someone with whom they can talk easily.
to describe the approach used and possible solutions to         During the times when one has a difficult lecture ahead, it
                                                                may help a faculty member relax by going to class early and
these questions.
                                                                getting a feel of the environment. This same idea was used
                                                                by the author in the graduate courses. It was very useful
Introduction                                                    especially since most of the graduate courses involve
                                                                increased use of audio/visual equipment, and going to class
Credit hour production and retention of students is an          early allowed the set up of equipment to go much more
important criterion in this age of declining enrollments.       smoothly.
More and more universities and colleges are exploring
different ideas to recruit and retain students, there by        Friend and a Mentor: We believe that students will
increasing credit hour production. One of the authors, while    learn more in a class if they perceive their faculty member
a doctoral student, used several unique teaching ideas which    as a friend. It is a great idea to emphasize to the students
resulted in considerable credit hour production and             what type of relationship one expects with them.
retention of the students. After completion of his doctorate,   Throughout the semester, the author emphasizes to the
 this author now teaches both graduate and undergraduate        students that they are his friends and if they need
courses. Working in academia places additional demands          mentorship, the author is always available.         We have
with need for research, publications, and service. The need     noticed that students will study harder for a class in which
to perform state-of-the-art research may leave very little      the instructor is like a friend to them. Just telling them is
time for innovative teaching preparation.         Is there a    not enough. What a faculty member does outside of the
difference between how to teach a graduate class versus an      class room to convey this idea is equally important. Most
undergraduate class? What role does mentorship play in          of us have very good people skills and can sense when a
academia? In this paper, different teaching ideas that have     student might be under stress. When we see such an
worked for the author in undergraduate classes are              individual in our office, do we just answer this persons
questions and go on with our business? Is it a good idea to      particular and in school in general. If someone is having a
ask the person how he/she is doing and if everything is fine?    problem, suggest to them an appropriate solution. This
 We feel that asking these simple questions and offering         shows a student that you really care. Once they know you
them help if they need it goes long way to establish a great     care, they will respond. If a student misses a class and you
relationship with a student. This idea has worked well in        became aware of it, what do you do? Call the student to
both graduate and undergraduate classes. Many students           find out what was wrong and offer help. This further
are choosing this author to be their advisor because they feel   emphasizes that you care. E-mail works quite well too.
comfortable with him.                                            With our graduate students, the phone calls did not work too
                                                                 well as most of them work and were not available. The E-
Learn their names:          It is our opinion that learning      mail worked lot better in this instance.
students' names as soon as possible conveys a very
important opinion to a student, "they are important". One        Method of teaching: Whatever your style of teaching is, it
 quick way to learn their names is to have them turn in          is a great idea to share with the class what it is. One of the
copies of their ID cards. Using every opportunity available      authors uses the T4(source unknown) method of instruction.
to study their faces from the ID cards and using them as a        Tell them what you are going to teach them(T), teach it(T),
picture guide during the class has allowed us to recognize       tell them what you taught them(T) and tell them what you
most of the students in less than three weeks. The student       are going to teach them in the next class(T). When one
comments confirm our opinion that students really                uses this method, at every point in time a student is aware
appreciate instructors who take time to learn their names.       of what they are learning and why. Students are very
The graduate classes tend to be little smaller at Wichita        appreciative of this approach. It helps a student to come to
State University, as is the case in most universities. For       the class well prepared. With our undergraduate students
smaller classes, this idea even works faster with authors        (at least most of them), we have encountered no trouble
learning names in less than a week.                              with a student using that fourth T and coming to class well
                                                                 prepared. With our graduate students, this author had to
Office visits: We strongly feel that it is a great idea for a    explicitly assign the fourth T as a reading assignment. Even
student to see a faculty member in action in his/her office.     with that, there was lot of trouble getting most of them to
What can we do with those shy students who never want to         come to the class well prepared. What was the problem? In
come and visit you in your office? One of the authors            the undergraduate classes, the author uses pop quizs to
requires all his students to come and pick up their graded       check student's understanding of a concept. Some of the
work for the first few weeks in person. Another colleague        pop quizs may include the material from the fourth T. In a
of ours requires his students to come to the office for design   graduate courses it is not common to use a pop quiz. The
conferences very early in the semester. What we have seen        first author (in his enthusiasm) having concluded that this
is that minority students who tend to be shy, open up real       was the problem (lack of a quiz) decided to give pop quizs
well when they are not in a class room. These office visits      in his graduate class. That was a very unpopular decision
allow a student to see the friendly side of their teacher,       and the author heard about it in his evaluations. How could
making them want to study harder. During these visits we         he have handled this situation differently? The answer is
recommend asking some simple questions about the class.          mentorship.
Some of them could be; Is there something about the class        Mentorship: The first author who ran into difficulties
that should be changed? Is there anything about the class        while teaching a graduate course was able to solve some of
that they like? We have received many valuable suggestions       those problems using mentorship from his colleagues in the
from students through these discussions. Before asking           department. One of solutions used to make sure that
these questions, it is good idea to make a student aware of      graduate students come to the class well prepared was to
the fact that everyone who visits will be asked these            take them into confidence during office visits and to let them
questions. This allows them to realize that they are not the     know that the faculty member is counting on their
only ones who are volunteering in-person feedback. With          participation. This approach and not the pop quiz approach
the graduate students, this office time could be used to         worked great with the graduate students. It is our opinion
discuss their research interests and even suggest to them the    that every approach that works well in an undergraduate
names of the faculty involved in that field. The graduate        class may or may not work in a graduate class. It also our
students are quite appreciative of this type of help.            opinion that mentorship from a more experienced faculty
                                                                 member to a junior faculty member is very valuable.
Phone calls/E-mail: To facilitate more communication
outside of the class, one of the authors collects the phone      Review sessions: Periodic review sessions work real well,
numbers of all the students in the early part of the semester.   especially when class size is very large. These review
 Sometime during the semester, it is a great idea to call all    sessions are conducted outside regular class time and are
the students to see how they are doing in the class in           optional. During these review sessions, which tend to be
typically smaller in size, the author has observed that          presentation also makes up a short five to ten minute quiz
students who are generally shy in the class open up and          that everyone has to take. This has worked really well in the
participate. The problem of a large class size may               graduate courses, and students have done some really
intimidate some students into not participating in class room    wonderful presentations.
discussion. Smaller review sessions give them an                 Conclusions: Based on the experience of the past two
opportunity to share their ideas in front of a smaller           semesters, it is our observation that good teaching
audience. This in turn gives them confidence to express          techniques will work in any class, graduate or
themselves in the large classes. The author has observed         undergraduate. A faculty member does need to sit down
that students enthusiastically support the idea of review        and think more about how to teach a graduate course as the
sessions. The first author, while a graduate student, had no     type of the audience is quite different. Students will be
difficulty finding time to conduct such review sessions.         appreciative when a faculty member will come across as a
With all the added responsibilities of a full-time faculty       friend and mentor. Mentorship from a senior colleague is
member, it is difficult to find time to conduct such review      an invaluable tool for new faculty members. Good teaching,
sessions. The approach we use involves conducting peer           just like good research, needs considerable investment of
review sessions where students help each other and               time and talent.
instructor works more like a moderator. The instructor need      References
not be present for every such session and may be present
part of the time for other sessions. These peer review           1.      Ravi Pendse. "Teaching Techniques--What works
sessions have worked equally well. The students are              for me'" Proceedings of the ASEE Midwest Section
appreciative of each others' efforts, and it has served to       meeting, March 1994, Lincoln, Nebraska
motivate some of the weaker students. Because of the very
nature of the graduate courses, we do not recommend
review sessions for the graduate students. Instead we have
seminar/research meetings where students gather and share
what their research needs are for a project and make
informal presentations. These informal presentations help
student get ready for formal presentations and also assist
them in finding required information.

Periodic Evaluation: The first author has designed special
evaluation sheets that are given to students to evaluate their
teacher every five weeks. The students are given the
evaluation forms to take home. This allows the students to
be honest as they can have their friends fill in the comments
or type it in. The evaluation sheets are collected in the next
class by passing an envelope around. In the third class, the
author takes time to respond to any negative comments that
students might have made. This shows the student that
criticism is welcome and that the instructor is willing to
listen to them. The positive comments that students make
give an instructor valuable feedback on what is working.
One other advantage of these evaluations is that one gets the
feedback during the semester and not after the semester has
ended. Using these evaluations, if something an instructor
is doing is not working, changes can made before the
damage is done. Using some form of instructor evaluation
throughout the semester is a great idea.

Student Lectures: This technique is recommended only
for graduate courses. In this approach, the students work in
a group and select a topic from the list of current topics
provided by the instructor. All the students are required to
use the T4 or appropriate method for their lectures. They
are asked to teach the topic as if it was their class. The
entire class participates, and the group making the

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