Synthesize, Mix, and Create


Online and hybrid courses tempt instructors to provide students with ALL the resources, background information, activities and expecting students to go through each thing and absorb it all.  A major pitfall is that we Expect students to consume knowledge rather than create it.

My goal is to remove some of the busy work and streamline the readings and activities in way that scaffolds precisely what I want students to learn from the interaction online or in-person. My teaching philosophy is that students should “feel” or experience something in order to learn it because it requires them to incorporate what they have read into their own lives and perceptions. They need to synthesize what is read or taught in the class with their lives outside of class. They need to mix various perspectives via readings/ assignments, communication between peers, and instructor-to-peer interactions to solidify their understanding of a particular topic. They need to demonstrate this understanding by creating a product or communicating their outcomes to a wide range of audiences — instructors are one audience but they should be also communicating with peers and the public, too.

To actually accomplish this and avoid this pitfall, I plan on building in time with the material for the students by again, reducing the number of assignments but increasing the depth. For example, instead of three readings and checking knowledge with a quiz, I plan on one reading with a structured assignment for them to process it individually, and demonstrate their understanding through discussion prompts for students to communicate with each other and broadening their perspective on an issue.

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4 Responses to Synthesize, Mix, and Create

  1. sjennife says:

    Reducing the number of assignments while increasing the depth is a grand idea!

  2. reynolry says:

    I love how you illustrated your objective with the gif!

  3. stiegers says:

    What kind of discussion prompts are you using? How many students can you “successfully” manage in these discussions?

    • sakumak says:

      Depending on how big the class is, my discussion prompts are usually aimed at setting up the students to be critical about something and have them “discover” the answer. Off the top of my head- here’s an example, after reading an article on the “Racist History of Portland” (, I’ll give the class 2-minutes on a specific talking/listening exercise where they can just express what they thought and felt about the article with a partner (this helps them process emotions and cluttered thoughts). Then I’ll open it up for discussion by asking specific questions about why income disparity exists between Black and White people generations later (specifically leading to redlining but also discussion regarding Oregon’s constitution); how that that contributes to health disparities. This works well in a class up to 50 undergrads but that’s because this is heavy, emotional stuff so I would recommend beyond that. I’ve managed classes with maybe 100 students with less emotional discussions but questions are still usually something they have to critically think about that I’m directing toward a point I want to make. Hope that helps!

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