Activity Explanations- compiled handouts

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					                                                                             Center for Teaching Excellence
                                                    Graduate Student Teaching Excellence Series, Spring 2011


Case studies … present realistic, complex, and contextually rich situations and often involve a dilemma,
conflict, or problem that one or more of the characters in the case must negotiate… They “bridge the
gap between theory and practice and between the academy and the workplace” (Barkley, Cross, and
Major 2005, p.182). They also give students practice identifying the parameters of a problem,
recognizing and articulating positions, evaluating courses of action, and arguing different points of view.

Case studies vary in length and detail, and can be used in a number of ways, depending on the case itself
and on the instructor’s goals.
    They can be short (a few paragraphs) or long (e.g. 20+ pages).
    They can be used in lecture-based or discussion-based classes.
    They can be real, with all the detail drawn from actual people and circumstances, or simply
    They can provide all the relevant data students need to discuss and resolve the central issue, or
        only some of it, requiring students to identify, and possibly fill in (via outside research), the
        missing information.
    They can require students to examine multiple aspects of a problem, or just a circumscribed
    They can require students to propose a solution for the case or simply to identify the
        parameters of the problem.

Using case studies:
1. Give students ample time to read and think about the case.
2. Introduce the case briefly and provide some guidelines for how to approach it. Provide a clear task
    for groups to accomplish.
3. Create groups and monitor them to make sure everyone is involved.
4. Have groups present their solutions/reasoning.
5. Ask questions for clarification and to move discussion to another level.
6. Synthesize issues raised.

Excerpted from Carnegie Mellon Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence
                                                                              Center for Teaching Excellence
                                                     Graduate Student Teaching Excellence Series, Spring 2011

“A simple definition of role-playing is a loose simulation in which students assume the roles of
individuals or groups in a real-life situation. Contemporary issues in the social sciences are often
appropriate for these kinds of simulations (for example, the placement of a toxic-waste dump, the
forced integration of a white neighborhood, or the opening of a nuclear power plant). In order to plan
such an exercise, the teacher must clearly identify the situation, define the roles of the interest groups
involved, and specify the task for each group (usually to propose a position or course of action). These
proposals will inevitably conflict--ideologically, tactically, racially, regionally, or in some other
fundamental way. Of course, students need to be well-prepared for the exercise--having not only
researched their own positions, but those of the other side of the issue. The class usually begins with a
mini-lecture to establish the context and setting, after which students work on their proposals in their
assigned groups. When they have finished, the teacher can hear the proposals and immediately
incorporate them into a lecture on how closely they reflect positions people have taken in these
conflicts (and the implications for society). Or, instead, the teacher could arrange a class convention in
which the interest groups would caucus to develop strategies and coalitions for achieving their goals.
There are probably additional ways to conclude the exercise, but in every case it is important for the
teacher to identify the things students were to have learned (or, preferably, for students to identify
these outcomes).”

Excerpted from
Center for Faculty Excellence at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Hard Sciences:
Role Playing may also include live-action simulations—asking students to physically depict aspects of a
problem or model
                                                                             Center for Teaching Excellence
                                                    Graduate Student Teaching Excellence Series, Spring 2011


Deciding what format of debate is right for your situation requires you to do some preparation. You
need to determine what your goals are for the classroom, what kind of constraints you might have that
would limit the kinds of activities you can do, and what kinds of debate formats will fit in with your
educational goals... If you wanted to use a debate to warm up a classroom, you would want to have a
format that ensured that everyone had an opportunity or a requirement to speak. If you wanted to use
a debate as a final project where students were required to prove their mastery of a subject in a clash of
ideas, then a formal debate whose ground rules were clearly established would give the participants
enough time and opportunity to prepare.

Public forum debates mimic traditional assemblies of people gathered to discuss a controversy. In this
debate, no one is required to speak or participate if they choose not to. Instead, a moderator introduces
a particular topic and asks for participants. Volunteers choose to speak on the issue and make points to
the general body. Often a particular question is presented that is voted on at the end of the session by
the participants.

Spontaneous Argumentation (SPAR) debating…consists of two debaters drawing a topic for debate out
of a hat and then, with a few minutes of preparation, engaging in a quick debate on the subject.
         Affirmative speaker - 1 minute
         Negative speaker asks questions of the first affirmative speaker - 1 minute
         Negative speaker - 1 minute
         Affirmative speaker asks questions of the first negative speaker - 1 minute
         Audience questions and comments - 5 minutes

Excerpted from the International Debate Education Association

Fishbowl Debates/ Discussions
In this type of discussion, students are put into small groups or pairs to discuss their talking points
before the larger discussion begins. To start the discussion, one member from each group comes to the
floor. The other members from each group do not speak, but listen carefully and take notes so that they
are prepared to enter the discussion at any time. At random points, the instructor (or a student
discussion moderator) will ask someone on the floor to switch out with one of his/her group members
who has been listening, and the new member comes to the floor and picks up the discussion where
his/her partner left off. By the end of the discussion, everyone has been rotated in and out and had a
chance to participate.
                                                                             Center for Teaching Excellence
                                                    Graduate Student Teaching Excellence Series, Spring 2011

Note-Taking Pairs
The objective is to engage students with their notes during class in order to integrate their notes on new
material with previous material, to clarify major and minor points, and to increase accuracy in note-
taking. Approximate time: two to five minutes.

The procedure is as follows: 1) at the end of a lecture segment (15 minutes is a good length), students
pair up to complete a task with their notes; for example, they could summarize the three major
arguments of the lecture, choose the most important idea that will appear on the exam, check the
accuracy of some information, or use the notes to solve an example problem; the instructor may
generate a question from the group for the pairs to work on; 2) the instructor may ask students to turn
in their answers.

Excerpted directly from the University of Minnesota, Center for Teaching and Learning. "Active

Pausing with Questions
Pause in the lecture after making a major point. Show students a multiple-choice question based on the
material you have been talking about. (Example: "If the incidence rate of tuberculosis (TB) increased due
to an increase in immunocompromised AIDS patients, but the duration of tuberculosis infections
remained the same, the prevalence of TB would a) increase, b) decrease, or c) not change.") Ask
students to vote on the right answer, and then turn to their neighbors to persuade them of the answer
within the space of two minutes (talking to a few people is easier than speaking up in a large group).
When time is up, ask them to vote a second time. Usually far more students arrive at the correct answer
when voting the second time.

Excerpted directly from the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard University. "Tips for
Teachers: Twenty Ways to Make Lectures More Participatory." Retrieved October 7, 2009 from

Lectures Structured around Questions
Based on the ideas of Ron Yaros, who teaches in the dept of communication at the University of Utah:
Rather than organizing his PowerPoint presentations around outline topics, Ron organizes his lecture
around five or six questions -- big, conceptual questions that the separate parts of the lecture answer
with the content he wants students to learn.

Additionally, he pauses once or twice a class, after he has posed a question, to let the students discuss
what they think the answer might be. Then he provides his answer. At the end of each lecture, he gives
students a quiz that asks them to respond in writing to one of the questions from the outline. The quiz,
Ron explains, "offers another in-class opportunity for students to review and to clarify one of the main
topics from my lecture, instead of just stuffing their notes away until the next major test." Because the
students never know which question will appear on the quiz at the end of the hour, they take notes well
enough to answer all of them; the quizzes improve lecture attendance; and their placement at the end
of the class helps eliminate the backpack commotion that usually begins when students sense the end of
the lecture.

Excerpted from: Lang, James M. "Shaking Things Up," The Chronicle of Higher Education. Oct. 30, 2006.
Retrieved Oct. 7, 2009 from
                                                                               Center for Teaching Excellence
                                                      Graduate Student Teaching Excellence Series, Spring 2011

Begin by having students spend 5 minutes writing their thoughts on the day's discussion question. They
should write whatever comes to mind without making corrections. After 5 minutes, students pass their
notebooks to another student, who spends an additional 5 minutes reading the thoughts and
freewriting in response. Continue the process a few times, as time allows, so that students have
engaged in an extended dialogue with each other on paper, and are ready to start talking about the

Excerpted from: Lang, James M. "Shaking Things Up," The Chronicle of Higher Education. Oct. 30, 2006.
Retrieved Oct. 7, 2009 from

Minute Paper –Before or After: Lecture and Seminar
At the beginning of a seminar/discussion section, ask the students to spend 1-2 minutes answering a
question (designed by the instructor) about the readings, recounting and explaining the most important
points of the readings, identifying areas of confusion in the readings, or responding to a quote/prompt
set out by the instructor. This activity gets the students thinking about the material—hopefully avoiding
that initial slump when the instructor tries to get the ball rolling with a question at the start of class and
none of the students seem to remember what they’ve read. It also helps them identify what interests or
confuses them, possible questions to ask the instructor, and what particular parts of the rest of the class
they should pay extra-special attention to. The instructor can decide whether or not to collect the
written responses.

At the end of the lecture (or a segment of the lecture), have students take 1-5 minutes to write a
response. A specific question based on the lecture's content could be posed by the instructor, or the
prompt could simply be to write down everything they remember or what they considered most
important from the lecture. The instructor can decide whether or not to collect the written responses.

Muddiest Point
At the end of a class period, students are asked to take 1-5 minutes to write down the "muddiest point,"
or the part of the lecture that was least clear to them. These responses are collected by the instructor,
who then analyses them for trends and chooses 1-2 points to review in the next lecture. While this
activity does not encourage any interaction among students, it does promote interaction between the
students and instructor.

Discussion Questions
Have students submit, in advance of class, via email, questions pertaining to the reading or the
professor’s lecture—what particular concepts are they seeking additional guidance on. These can be
‘clarification questions’—whereby students need something in the reading more clearly explained, or
‘discussion questions’—where students want to discuss with the class the application of an idea to the
real world/ in a scenario other than that used in the reading.
                                                                               Center for Teaching Excellence
                                                      Graduate Student Teaching Excellence Series, Spring 2011

Peer teaching
Research has shown that students who are required to teach something learn concepts better than if
they are taught the material in conventional ways. In other words, teaching is a more effective learning
strategy than being taught, and it makes sense to use this principle in the classroom to increase learning.
Pairing students at learning tasks is more effective than having students work alone (a good reason for
having lab partners in the natural sciences).
        Peer teaching can easily be incorporated in most classes. For example, you could make an
assignment in which students must prepare their own questions on the main points of a reading
selection; in class, have students work in pairs or small groups, alternately asking and answering
questions they have prepared. During the session, you can move from group to group, giving feedback
and asking and answering questions yourself. Students are more willing to share their views in small
groups and often develop deeper insights about the material than they would working alone.
         In math-related courses, students could be required to make up original problems to solve
(after completing a regular homework assignment). Instead of the oral report so often used in social
science classes, why not require students to prepare a lesson on the topic? Their grades could depend,
in part, on how well the class answers questions on that topic. Exercise caution in using this strategy,
however, for undergraduates not only need instructions about how to teach a lesson, they also should
know the criteria you will use for evaluating their performance.*

         Jigsawing utilizes student-teaching, but in a larger-group scenario. For this activity, students would
first be split into groups; each group would be assigned a separate topic to study more in-depth. For
example, each group could be assigned a different sub-section from a reading assignment or a different
concept from a recent lecture. Students spend time “becoming experts” on their topic, sharing ideas and
insights with their group members.
         Next, these groups are broken up, and new groups are formed—now consisting of one “expert”
from the former groups (ie all subject areas will be represented in the new groups). Now, students teach
their new group members the concept for which they were responsible.
         The instructor should eves-drop for quality-control, and also be available to answer any questions.
At the end of the exchange, the instructor should ask if anyone still has any confusion or would like further
clarification. Assigning a one-minute writing exercise at the end, asking each student to write down what
they are still confused about (or, if they are not confused, what they found most helpful), and then
collecting these assignments will allow the instructor to ensure that all students learned the essentials.

Games and simulations are closely related, and there are mixed varieties: simulation games,
nonsimulation games, and non-game simulations. Games are activities in which there are winners and
losers, definite sets of rules for “moves,” and frequent use of props or other paraphernalia. For example,
in a game used in sociology classes, players are randomly assigned to several different groups and
provided with colored markers that represent money. They are told to maximize their cash through
negotiations and trade
 with other groups, but the rules for trading markers are actually stacked against
 certain groups — they literally cannot win. This game allows students to experience in a
 small way life in a rigid class society in which improvement of one’s condition is made difficult or
 impossible by the society’s economic rules.*

*Adapted from Teaching at Carolina (1998). Chapel Hill: Center for Teaching and Learning,
University of
North Carolina.