If you have little or no experience teaching with student-active approaches, we suggest that you start with "turn-to-your-neighbor". (For definitions, select highlighted term, read the information in the Teaching section, and return). This technique can be used in classes of all sizes, at various points during your lecture, and once or more times each class.
The idea is to give your students a question, puzzle, or problem — which they discuss with students sitting around them — or with a partner. "Turn-to-your-neighbor" is often used as a set-up for an all-class discussion.
It is very important that the students see the value of doing this collaborative work — because the question is challenging, for instance, and "two heads are better than one". Therefore, one of the real challenges in using this approach is developing the questions.
TIEE Issues give you question/problems and so you can focus on practicing using "turn-to-your-neighbor". For example, this method is suggested for Data #4 in the Disturbance Issue where you can see how we recommend using it.
Student-active teaching takes a lot of time (and patience) — if it was easy to do, more faculty would be teaching this way! So, pick one or two approaches that you think will work for you, use them repeatedly, get feedback from your students, modify what you are doing, and try it again. Then you can try other approaches.
For tips, see Teaching Resources: Essay: Guided Discussions.
Pick a question that will take a few minutes for your students to discuss with one another. "Turn-to-your-neighbor" questions can be used as a set-up for a topic — such as to pique students' interest. For instance, to interest students in introduced species you could list 3 common introduced U.S. birds (e.g. house sparrow) and one native bird — and ask them to decide which one is the native.
If you are teaching a large class in a lecture hall, how you handle the logistical aspects of student-active teaching is especially important. The last thing you want is chaos and wasted time!
If you are unfamilure with a term or method referenced in TIEE you will find it defined in the Teaching Resources: GLOSSARY.