In my doctoral program I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing from graduates about their lives after getting a faculty position. There seemed to be a drastic disconnect between what I was learning and what skills I may be using when I moved into one of those positions.

I assumed I would teach like I had been taught. I would stand at the front of the room, tell students what information I wanted them to know, and then answer questions. I later learned this “Sage on the Stage” process wasn’t the best way to teach or learn.

Changes in academia

In the days of yore, the immense privilege of seeing and learning from THE expert was a luxury reserved for very few. Those that reached this were so appreciative of the opportunity that they would hang on every word the sage had to offer. And if they didn’t, good luck getting the sage to repeat themselves (I’m imagining a grumpy old man completely befuddled as some “insignificant student” tries to derail whatever topic/tantrum he’s on).

So now we have too many sages… or too many students?… Meh, both generally good directions. But I think we would be hard pressed to find one of us as THE expert in the field. Not trying to be disparaging here, but when fields grow, we get more (I really wanted to say “corn” here) individuals that carry the same or similar knowledge.

Thus, we get the present day consumer, who sees college as a given, a rollover from high school, or maybe just something to do while they figure out this strange life they have. And our charge is to provide this consumer with the product they paid for.

I know, totally isn’t as ego boosting as a hundred uniformed undergraduates clambering to hear every word you say. Yet we still have to transmit our knowledge to these less interested students (well, less interested on average).

Gathering the elusive “interest”

How do we drum up interest? We can choose topics that are more relevant or inspiring, we can make the material more personal, or solicit opinions. We also have to be warry of the natural waning of interest if we stay in any one mode for too long.

This is where pedagogy has really put its best foot forward by giving us a plethora of tools that relate specifically to getting and keeping the attention of students.

<maybe start here?> I know many of you already know some (or all) of the following techniques, but our current situation adds some difficulty in streamlining these tools. And of course I’m no encyclopedia or paragon of teaching knowledge, so please help me out on this list! Add more in the comments or talk about a modification you’ve used to get the techniques to work in a blended classroom. If you see one you haven’t heard of, google it. I’m sure it will lead to interesting and novel approaches.


Techniques I’ve used:

-Flipped classroom

-Consistent breaks (usually me telling a tangential fact about the topic)

-Minute papers

-Peer instruction (how do we get around the “two separate” classes [face-to-face/remote]?)

-Focusing on understanding (less memorization)

-Simple games about the material


Let me know about ones you’ve used or modified!

(now I’ll really know who makes it to the end of these posts) 😛


-Tim Burnett, Instructor of Kinesiology

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