Consider Adding More Structure to Your Courses
Students in courses with low structure will have relatively few opportunities to earn credit, with overall grades largely hinging on only a few assignments. While these courses are still common in higher education, numerous studies have shown that students of all backgrounds benefit from courses with more structure. Hogan and Sathy describe highly structured courses as those that require students to repeatedly practice the skills they will need to succeed in the course. Highly structured courses will hold students accountable for completing work before, during, and after class meetings, and will provide students with many chances to earn credit over the term.
Some ways to add structure to your course:
Always open class by telling students the goals you have for their learning and how the day’s class will facilitate that learning.
Require pre-class assignments such as quizzes, discussion board posts, or response sheets students can use to guide their engagement with assigned materials.
Require all students to participate in class by offering several different ways of doing so, such as small-group discussion, polling, and individual written responses.
Require all students to reflect on the learning they’ve done after each class, using assignments such as a brief writing about what they learned and how what they’ve done has moved them closer to achieving the learning goals you’ve outlined for the course.
Reward participation in pre-, during, and after class work by awarding students a small number of points toward their overall grade through this participation.
Some students may feel that, in highly structured courses, they are not receiving enough instruction from faculty. You can head off this concern by emphasizing that learning is a practice they are responsible for rather than simply a result of attending class.
Most students respond very positively to highly structured courses. Hogan and Sathy note that students tend to feel that they are members of a community in highly structured courses that require robust participation and collaboration among students. Highly structured pedagogy has also been shown to especially benefit marginalized students, closing gaps in performance that can proliferate in courses with low structure.
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