Thursday, January 17, 2008

Breaking Up a Long Class

A new property prof writes:

My class is an hour and forty minutes twice a week.  While this is good for me (only two times rather than three per week), I know that I need some good ideas for keeping students engaged for that length of time.  I know I can break them into small groups, hand out problems, etc., but I was also thinking about film clips or other sorts of media to break up the standard class.  Do you or any of your colleagues do this?  Any other advice for keeping a long class lively?

I sometimes use small group discussions to break up a long class, but not as much as I could.  Any thoughts?  I'd imagine that Brophy, being a rock star and all, is the master of this kind of thing.

Ben Barros

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Thanks, Ben, for the invitation to join this important conversation. An hour forty minutes is a long time to sit, for sure. I'm sort of surprised there isn't a break built into that schedule. On a lot of my exams, I give students a break part way through. That's worthy of a post at some point.

Back to the hour forty minute class. Couple of quick points here. I like the idea of breaking students into groups now and then, to let them discuss problems. Another common solution to this--and this works well for shorter classes, too--is to divide the class material into short segments (15 minutes or so). Every fifteen minutes, try to re-trigger students' attention, recap what the questions for the last fifteen minutes have been, recap your key points, then introduce the key question for the next fifteen minutes. My sense from some of the trial ad literature is that most people (think of students like jurors) have attention spans of at most fifteen minutes. Then you need to re-engage them.

So, my sympathies to both the prof and the students in this situation. And I think there's a lesson in this for all of us: break each class into manageable chunks of material.

Posted by: Alfred | Jan 17, 2008 1:06:38 PM

The room in which I teach Property is wired with a SmartBoard that also has high-speed Internet access.

This allows for using short video clips streamed from the Internet.

It was especially helpful just recently when I taught Mortgages and was able to show a few clips about the subprime situation.

I've always been surprised how a short video clip not just gets their attention but often generates great discussion.

Indeed, there's a short Seinfeld clip about "re-gifting" a gift (and the legal/social consequences of doing so) that I used this fall for the first time and received very strong positive feedback.

Posted by: Chad Emerson | Jan 22, 2008 9:01:56 AM

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