Keri C. Hornbuckle, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Keri C. Hornbuckle, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

This series highlights an array of teaching strategies implemented by faculty members at the University of Iowa. Each strategy enhances student engagement and broadens the scope of their learning.  


Learning everyone’s name prior to the first day of class:  I don’t have a great memory for faces or names so this is really a challenge for me.  But I have observed how effective it is, so I keep trying.  I learned a few excellent strategies from my colleague Allen Bradley and have used it the last few years in my large undergraduate courses. I put the student ID photos on slides in PowerPoint with an animation of their name.  So, I use the file like flashcards.  I set up PowerPoint viewer on my phone and review the photos and names when I can.  Allen is the master of this technique, however.  He learns about 300 names prior to the first day of his Engineering Problem Solving course for first year engineering students.  It has a big impact on those students.


Using clickers to gauge student understanding of key topics:  Clicker questions serve as a quick survey of learning at least once a week in my undergraduate courses. I usually do multiple choice and I don’t use the scores for grading.  Clickers are great for getting the conversation going in class, and. often I am surprised with how well—or how poorly—students understand a topic. It provided great feedback for me and my students.  Students also receive a point for each survey response. I give points and publish in the gradebook each day so they can see I recognize their participation.


Videos or pencasts of problem solving: I used lecture capture (Panopto) and ShowMe to record short solutions to difficult homework problems—a technique I learned from my colleague Craig Just.  It’s time consuming, but I get good feedback from students and it seems to improve their efforts.  ShowMe work well on my ipad and ipencil, but I can’t really edit the product. Because the recordings are really short (5 minutes), I just redo them if I make a mistake. 


ICON reading quizzes: I let students refer to the reading and the internet  while they do the 45-minute, multiple-choice quiz, so they usually do well.  At the beginning of class, I use the ‘Quiz Statistics’ screen on Icon to show students what they missed and fill in the gaps.  This strategy allows me to move into the topic lecture quickly, knowing that the students have kept up with the reading and I have learned what they have trouble understanding.


Peer review of short writing assignments: I like having an easy way for students to anonymously see each other’s work.  I’ve used several different software programs supported by OTLT.  Each year it gets easier to do.  I get mixed feedback on this strategy from students.  Younger students find it more stressful.  Even though I deny it, they often think they are being graded by their peers rather than me.  I still like it however, and feel it is important for students to start learning early on how to give effective feedback.