Jennifer Haylett, Lecturer, Sociology

Teaching in higher education can pose many interesting challenges, from helping students engage in academic discourse with honesty and integrity, to facilitating effective group work, to going beyond traditional teaching methods and “flipping” course content. The strategies instructors incorporate into their course depend on course content, instructor experience and creativity, and the prior knowledge and motivation of students.

 

In this series, we will highlight an array of teaching strategies implemented by instructors at the University of Iowa. Each strategy, provided directly from the instructor, enhances student engagement and broadens the scope of understanding. 

 

Jennifer Haylett, Lecturer, Sociology 

 

  1. Encourage students to come to office hours. Because I anticipate that students may feel nervous communicating with their professors or unsure of how to initiate contact, I strongly and repeatedly encourage students to come to office hours. I explain what office hours are, why they might want to stop by, and topics that we could discuss. 
  2. Facilitate low-stakes discussions. When I begin a classroom discussion, I start with open-ended questions such as, “What caught your attention in this reading?  What did you find interesting or new?  What main points did you take away?” I find that open-ended questions tend to elicit more student participation and allow me to see what students are taking away from the readings.
  3. Model application of concepts and asking students to apply course concepts to their own life. I deliberately share parts of my own life and show them how sociological research can help me make sense of my experiences. I then task them to do the same. For instance, I might invite them to imagine how they, as sociologists, would connect their personal biographies to larger events in society. 
  4. Incorporate relevant material students find outside of the classroom. I encourage students to email me and share any instances they come across from relating sociological concepts/theories in their everyday life, whether it’s watching TV, reading online, or just going about their daily business. This task is optional and does not factor into their grade. I then incorporate these examples into lecture, acknowledging that they are student-generated.
  5. Assume students are excited to be in class and curious about the world around them. I find that assuming the best of students is a strategy that not only increases the pleasure I get from teaching but also increases the enthusiasm I see in students. In my experience, if I interact with students under the assumption that they are excited to learn, they are more likely to engage with course material and share their thoughts with the rest of the class.