A strategy to improve a challenging class

Peter Filene has a suggestion for dealing with a course that does not seem to be going well. If discussions falter, responses to the readings are cursory at best, and you do not seem to be getting through to students, Filene suggests involving the students in diagnosing the problems. Distribute index cards to the students and ask them to evaluate the course by responding to questions. These can be very general, as in “What is going well?” and “What do you think could be improved or changed?”. The questions, alternatively, could be more focused on specific issues: “How does the difficulty of the readings compare to your other courses?”, “What holds you back from participating in discussions,” etc.

At the end of the exercise, you can collect the index cards, take them home and think about your students’ answers. Or you can shuffle the cards, return them to the students, and have each student read a card aloud, beginning a class-wide discussion of what’s wrong with the class and how the problems can be fixed.  -DG

Source: Filene, Peter. The Joy of Teaching : A Practical Guide for New College Instructors. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 2005, 71-73.