Students prefer differentiated instruction and I prefer authentic assessment. For the students, I generally teach (1) via a lecture or (2) through cooperative learning workshops. I begin class by (A) writing questions/comments students want to discuss from the reading on the board, (B) reviewing the course outline on the syllabus—reminders of quizzes, tests, essay due dates, (C) commenting on the essay assignment (e.g., see rubric, VAIL tutorial, path to J-Stor, how I want students to cite), and (D) introducing the day’s topic.
My lectures are complex. I begin with PowerPoint. These are created from the textbook’s publisher. I replace about 1/3rd of the slides with pictures / graphs / cartoons (google images–> type in topic and cartoon, i.e. bureaucracy cartoon). Then, I try to replace another 1/3rd of the slides with primary source examples or related news. Thus, my PowerPoints are very different from the original, however, the best content (my quiz content) remains. I generally use the PowerPoint for 10 minutes and then take a break to expand the concept via chalk (or a dry-erase marker), perchance relating the class topic (elections, political participation, political parties) with a Downsian political continuum analysis.
I have created a way to successfully initiate informal collaborative learning projects in mass lecture halls (see Teaching and Learning Conference paper). In addition to PowerPoint lectures in conjunction with my extensive use of chalk; I sometimes implement 45 minute cooperative learning projects using primary print material. In general, students silently read related topics (8-10 different data papers). Next, students locate classmates whom also read the same data handout. They collaborate to determine the thesis, evidence, and best quote. Following, I call on
specific groups so that I may lead the students in discussion—to share their unique results with the class. Finally, I connect all of the students’ answers over about 25 minutes to the theme of the lecture. Professionally, I provide the entire group workshops that my students have rated highly effective on my blog for education collaboration (and your review).1 I believe that collaboration increase efficacy, understanding, networking, and professional student development.
Demonstration is integral to authentic assessment. I allow student to retake online quizzes and tests because I want them to look-up every answer. This is surely a habit worth teaching. Of particular salience, regarding the required essays, I provide students with a rubric that demands: (1) analysis of the textbook(s) with relevant quotes, (2) critical analysis of a scholarly article with relevant quotes, (3) the implications of the former analysis for political scientists, community development, and identity. I believe that the teacher has the responsibility to create assessments which will help develop life-long learning skills.
In short, my teaching philosophy is that the teacher should engage in differentiated instruction and the students should demonstrate authentic assessment. Regarding the former, I “change” my lecture regularly between PowerPoints outlining the text material, pictures (e.g., cartoons) to relay the topic’s message, and real-world events which help explain the chapter topic. Or, I start class with a cooperative learning project which helps students analyze primary documents first individually and then in groups. I use the students’ analysis to engage the lecture. I believe that this propels critical thinking, robust learning, collaborative engagement, and life-long learning.