Preview and Review

In the speech course I took from Lionel Crocker at Denison University, I was encouraged to "tell ’em what you’re going to them ’em, tell ’em, and then tell ’em what you’ve told them." For me, this mantra transfers well to effective teaching. With technology, we can add, "repackage the same message in different modes and with a rich array of examples," and "allow ’em to hear it again and again until they get it." And finally, in the spirit of interactive learning, "allow ’em to work with each concept, over and over—before, during, and after presentation." As a preview technique, it’s hard to beat having students read the textbook in advance. This can be reinforced in several ways. Each student can be asked to complete three to five questions on a multiple-choice "survey," with the results automatically recorded in Blackboard or WebCT. Or I might ask each student to e-mail me their "muddiest point" (see my November 2001 Syllabus column).

One of my favorite preview strategies is to ask Student A to draft a paragraph-long answer to a key question, e-mail the draft for refinement to Student B, and then have Student C further revise the paragraph, negotiate consensus approval with A and B, and submit the answer on behalf of all three students. Students are encouraged to teach one another, and my grading task is cut by two-thirds.

One of my colleagues, physicist Danny Shapiro, constructs "double-jeopardy" quizzes. Students are given a multiple-choice question. When they select an option (even the correct one), a counterargument appears on the screen. The student is then given the option of changing the original answer or writing a sentence or two in justification of their original choice. This is a wonderful pedagogical technique, one that closely simulates a discussion with a student in one’s office, but I have found that well-constructed quizzes require many hours of preparation.

For review, Harvard University’s Richard Lyman encourages all of us to use the "oneminute quiz." This works very well with or without technology. In my classes, all students are at networked computers and signed in to our chat room. Following a 20-minute lecture, I ask each student to prepare a one- or two-sentence summary of the concept-of-the-day. At the signal, they simultaneously submit their summaries to the chat room. Our in-class discussion will then typically focus on honing to perfection two or three of the best submissions. These alternate statements of the basic concept can then be used for still later review.

Another effective strategy is to ask students at the beginning of their next class to summarize what they learned during the previous session.

After class, assignments may include asking a team to construct their own Web page on the concept-of-the-day, requiring teams to develop PowerPoint presentations using the concept, writing one-page essays (either individually or as teams) describing how the concept is applied in the real world, or simply answering a few follow-up questions.

Another one of my colleagues in physics, Rick Matthews, has redesigned his in-class demonstrations into segments of 30 seconds or less, so they can be videotaped and digitized for later viewing and review.As both preview and review techniques, repetition and involvement enhance understanding and facilitate retention.

About the Author

David Brown (brown@wfu.edu) is vice president and dean of the International Center for Computer Enhanced Learning at Wake Forest University.

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