Changing the Structure for the First Day of Class

The first day of class is incredibly formulaic. We review our syllabus and typically outline our expectations and the various rules unique to our course, but we forget that undergraduates often take multiple courses. So if we are expecting students to remember all the nuances of our courses, so are others, which according to Roy Starling alters a student’s composure drastically, namely from “learning to survival.”

Instead Starling have suggested to reformat the first day of class in two different ways to prevent this from happening:

  • For the first day of class, have students engage in group work so students 1) can meet each other and 2) be introduced to the course content.
  • For the first day of class, emphasize the assignments’ reasoning instead of its requirements so students understand that the assignments are designed to help them gain certain skills.
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To quiz or not to quiz

There has been quite a bit of controversy as to whether or not quizzing periodically and consistently is helpful for students.

Recent research by Batsell and colleagues (2016) has found students performed better across all three different testing conditions where tests were either identical to the quizzes throughout the semester, similar to the quizzes throughout the semester, and completely different both on wording as well as concepts from quizzes throughout the semester. Batsell and colleagues (2016) offer several reasons why this effect may be occurring such as instructor style or type of semester, but the explanation that they believe is most plausible is the daily engagement with the course material. By having scheduled quizzes, students are 1) engaging with bits of information at a time instead of gigabytes (i.e., cramming for their exam the night before) and 2) reviewing the material for a sum total longer than if quizzes were not scheduled (i.e., again not cramming for eight hours the night before).

For the primary source, see Batsell et al. (2016)