Teaching tips

The following ideas have been (or will be) posted on Blackboard at Binghamton University, visible on the MyBb page of faculty members and instructors. If you have a suggestion for an addition to this list, contact Hilton Baxter at

  • Students appreciate any effort by instructors to know their names, especially in large classes. One strategy to help learn students' names is to have each student write a few bits of information about themselves on an index card (interests, goals, unusual personal background, etc.) and turn them in. Use the cards to help identify students within the classroom and enable you to call on people by name during discussion.
  • Human attention span is limited. Break up a classroom hour into shorter segments — perhaps 7-9 minutes of lecture, then a short written response activity, then a discussion, before returning to lecture mode.
  • Sitting for long periods of time can lower student energy and attention. Consider having everyone stand up and stretch halfway through class, or create an activity related to the class topic which would involve students moving around in the classroom for a specific amount of time.
  • What concepts or processes in your subject can be illustrated through student participation? The spectrum of opinion on a controversial topic can be dramatized by having students stand across the front of the classroom ranging from one extreme to another. A timeline can be illustrated by lining students up, each representing a specific time period (with each student possibly holding an item to illustrate an aspect of her or his time).
  • Think-pair-share is a simple process which can increase student involvement in class. Pose a specific question which involves knowledge of the subject and critical thinking. Give students 2-3 minutes to think and/or write their response to the the question. At a signal, students turn to a neighbor and share their responses for 3-5 minutes. Then the entire class discusses the range of responses, differences and reasoning.
  • Have a student work through a problem during class in front of everyone. During the process, encourage the entire class to help the student, so everyone sees the steps involved and can contribute to the solution. This can also uncover misconceptions among students, or allow you to highlight different solutions that could be valid.
  • Invite students to find videos (online, such as on YouTube), television shows or films that may relate to the class topic. Then ask them to analyze and compare the portrayal of the topic using other sources, including class texts, library resources, etc. Besides uncovering popular misconceptions, this can prompt discussions of how knowledge is validated and verified.
  • It can be hard to regain order in a large class after small-group activities. Bring a small bell, kitchen timer or chime to class. Or play music through the classroom speakers during small-group work, then fade the music away when it's time to wrap up.
  • Collect news articles, photos and cartoons that relate to the course topics. Share these with the class when relevant, to reinforce points you present, or for comparison and discussion as a class. Ask students what they might create (synthesize) using various media in response to the examples you bring and the topics themselves.
Center for Learning and Teaching
Institute for Student-Centered Learning
Binghamton University

Last Updated: 7/23/15