Teaching Tips

I’ve decided to make a new category for this blog. I figured it might be a good idea to write down good tips for teaching that I come across for later use.

Today’s tip: Don’t be afraid of silence.

Sometimes teachers pause their lectures for questions. Often, these pauses last about four seconds or less. Four seconds is enough time for a student with a burning question to wrestle the embarrassment of stopping class and raise his or her hand. Four seconds is not enough for most people to carefully consider what has been presented and assess what they do and don’t understand. And sometimes, a student doesn’t even have a question, but just needs some time to think.

For this reason, instead of a teacher asking the class if there are any questions and then pausing for four seconds with chalk in hand, the teacher might try putting the chalk down and saying, “everyone take half a minute to process that.” By making the action of processing an imperative, the student sees that there is value in stopping to think. Also, 30 seconds is a long time in the classroom. It’s the kind of time necessary to actually formulate questions of substance.

That’s the tip of the day. Don’t be afraid of silence. Ask the students to take half a minute to process.

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2 thoughts on “Teaching Tips

  1. Good idea, Chuck.
    Let me just add that the best teacher I ever had was a guy named Robert Kennedy at the College of Marin, from whom I took accounting and economics. He had this uncanny ability to answer students’ questions before they could raise their hands and ask. Granted this was graduate level stuff, but still….

    Ask Mom about him. She used him as an expert witness in one of her big cases with Neil.

    1. I’m glad to see you’re finally reading my blog! I know you’ll like my physics series in the “essays” category. Also my climate change post is in that category, albeit at the bottom somewhere.

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