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The University of Texas at Austin Division of Student Affairs

Texas Well-being

In-class Instructional Practices

The kinds of instructional practices used in a classroom will vary according to any number of factors, including the material taught, size of the classroom and learning objectives. One instructional practice that all students can benefit from is knowing what is expected of them by being given a clear framework they can use to anchor their knowledge and progress (Balgopal, Casper, Atadero, & Rambo-Hernandez, 2017). Finding ways to provide structured, intentional and transparent assessment practices can limit anxiety and improve a student’s learning, retention and testing performance (Chiou, Wang, & Lee, 2014; Cross & Angelo, 1988). Encourage them to ask questions and seek help.

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My course pairs students with elders residing in assisted-living/healthcare facilities to provide companionship and social support. By building long-term relationships, students develop the soft skills of empathy, respect and caring attitudes which are important in their future careers.
—Holli Temple
College of Pharmacy

Simple Ideas:
  • Review previously learned content before introducing new information.
  • Connect course content to the real world.
  • Be explicit about objectives related to abstract learning such as thinking processes and problem-solving, and explicitly show students how these types of learning relate to content, activities, exams, etc.
  • Plan instruction, including any activities or discussion, effectively.
  • Incorporate “think, turn, talk” during lessons.
    • Think: Have students think about their responses to a question or idea.
    • Turn: Ask students to turn to a partner.
    • Talk: Have students share their thinking about the question or idea with their partners.
  • Incorporate writing-to-learn activities such as admit or exit tickets, non-stop writes, silent conversations and write-arounds.
    • Admit ticket: A brief writing activity at the beginning of class to review previous learning.
    • Exit ticket: A brief writing activity to review what was learned in class or preview what will be learned in the next class.
    • Non-stop write: Timed writing activity in which students take two to four minutes to write about their thinking, questions or ideas related to what they’ve learned.
    • Silent conversation: An activity similar to “think, turn, talk” but instead of talking about their thinking, partners write about their thinking, read what one another has written, and respond to it in writing. Each written response is usually timed for one to two minutes.
    • Write-around: An activity similar to a silent conversation, but instead of partnering with one person, students pass their written responses around in a group of four to five.
  • To check for understanding, ask students to give you a thumbs-up, thumbs-sideways or thumbs-down to represent how they’re feeling about the content. If there are very few thumbs-ups, then you can probe further to learn the specific causes of difficulty.
  • Incorporate quick, informal assessments to gauge student mastery of concepts and provide immediate feedback.

Professor using an iPad to teach students a specific concept

More Complex Ideas:

  • Allow students to apply knowledge and not only memorize information.
  • Create cooperative learning activities to engage students in application, analysis and synthesis. Establish norms with students for how to work collaboratively.
  • As students work in pairs or small groups, listen to their ideas and questions, and make note of what specific students say. During the whole-group discussion, ask different students if you can share their comments during the paired/small-group work. This technique is especially helpful for engaging students who are reticent about talking in front of the whole class.
  • Use worked examples and non-examples. Non-examples are problems that have been done incorrectly. Have students find the mistakes and work in partners or groups to resolve them.
  • Allow students to begin work on a homework, lab or other assignment in class to get support from you and their fellow students before completing the assignment on their own.
  • Offer choices in assignments and tasks, including exam structure (e.g., multiple-choice vs. short-answer vs. oral response).
  • Create assignments in which the results can be utilized by a community or campus initiative.
  • Invite outside speakers who can connect learning to civic engagement.

Professor using The How of Happiness book to incorporate wellness strategies into his instruction

The whole student