Planning learning activities
This module section title sounds like it implies more work, doesn't
it? That may be true, but the amount of work may actually be pretty
minimal. For instance, finding some appropriate graphics to insert into
a text-heavy PowerPoint presentation may be the very thing that some
students--say, those who prefer visual-nonverbal input or those for
whom English is not a first language--need to grasp a difficult concept.
Another example might involve using "buzz groups" to get students
to recall prior knowledge, rather than spoon-feeding it to them in a
review. Buzz groups, sometimes called dyad discussions, can be done
in small classes or large auditoriums. More importantly, they create
active learning opportunities, even if they are only a couple minutes
Relevant personal information
In the personal information sections above we have identified some,
but not all, categories of personal student information that impact
learning. Below you will find activities to accommodate learners that
fit within each category below:
- Students have different native languages and varying levels of proficiency
- Create or revise text-based materials to help students identify
key words and concepts.
- Use appropriate graphics to provide contextual clues and/or to
provide alternative means to learning complex topics.
- Reinforce understanding of important vocabulary words or course
concepts through handouts or simple, ungraded quizzes.
- Students may have had different learning experiences at the university
or at other universities.
- If there is specific prerequisite information that your students
must know before beginning some portion of your course, identify
it on the course website and in your syllabus. This gives students
the opportunity to review the material in advance in case you do
not have time to cover it in class.
- Students have a variety of outside responsibilities, such as work
- Consider the workload for your course. Touch base with your students
a couple of times per semester to determine the average amount of
time it takes to complete labs or assignments.
- Students do not all have equal access to technology.
- When creating assignments that require students to use technology,
make sure that all students have sufficient access to complete the
- Example: For an assignment requiring specialized
software like ChemDraw, make sure that campus computer laboratories
have the application or that the software can be obtained easily.
- Work with lab managers to maximize the amount of time that the
labs are available for students to practice skills.
(We're missing the Activity Box that should be here. Should be: 1. Describe how you would accommodate students with low English proficiency.)
Learning styles and preferences
In the learning styles sections above, we identified some, but not
all, learning styles and preferences. If you would like additional information
on student learning styles, visit the Learning
Styles module. Below you will find activities to accommodate students
with different learning styles:
- Intuitive: Use language that alerts intuitive learners
at important points in a lecture, like "Picture a cell wall."
- Sensory: Give students several sensory mechanisms to access
the material, such as a physical description, a picture, etc.
- Input modality
- Visual - nonverbal (graphics-based visuals)
- Use visual aids: lists, diagrams, charts, pictures, films,
concept maps, real objects, etc.
- Guide students through visualization exercises, which help
students to imagine a situation or problem.
- Demonstrate assigned tasks.
- Visual - verbal (text-based visuals)
- Write instructions for all assignments and tests.
- Assign followup reading for any class lectures and discussions.
- Use visual - verbal aids: handouts, outlines or lecture summary
notes, written definitions of new terms, written and oral explanations
for charts, graphs, and diagrams, etc.
- Present information through lectures, class discussions, small
group activities, films, and tapes.
- Brainstorm ideas aloud with students before beginning a reading
or writing assignment.
- Provide oral explanations of all charts, graphs, diagrams,
time lines, and pictures.
- Tactile or kinesthetic
- Require students to complete assignments with a partner or
- Encourage students to manipulate and assemble objects, materials,
- Encourage students to draw, underline, and highlight information
in class notes and assigned readings.
- Inductive: Present a case to the students and work with
them to determine the underlying principles or theories.
- Deductive: Present a principle or theory to the students
and work with them to determine its consequences and applications.
- Active: Use buzz groups to give students a chance to interact
with each other and the material.
- Reflective: Create assignments that require students to
think about and prepare for upcoming lectures.
- Sequential and Global: You can help both sequential and
global learners with the same simple presentation strategy. First,
give an overview of the concept you are going to cover next. Then,
break it down sequentially. Finally, summarize what you have covered
to show how the steps fit within the big picture.
1. Outline a presentation for your course and note the learning
styles that different techniques or activities accommodate.
Prior education and work experience
Students will come to your course with a wide spectrum of educational
and practical experiences, both in your general field and within the
specific content for your course. Below you will find activities to
help your students check their knowledge for misconceptions and to test
their skills for gaps or inconsistencies.
- Students may have gone through the appropriate prerequisite courses,
but that does not mean that they learned or retained the information
that they need for your course. Provide quizzes and opportunities
in lab for students to show that they know what they are supposed
- Some students may have worked in laboratories doing research for
a grant project or for another professor's research project. However,
graduate students or other laboratory workers may have shown your
student some techniques that do not match what you would like to see
in your course. Take a brief poll to see how many students have had
prior lab experience. Individually meet with these students and discuss
what they did in those labs.
1. Create a quiz or brief lab activity that will determine how
much prerequisite knowledge, or how many prerequisite skills,
students can apply correctly.
Expectations of course outcomes
Below you will find activities to help you meet students' expectations
of the course:
- Survey students to find out what they want to get from the course,
beyond the defined course objectives.
- Conduct a midsemester evaluation to determine how well you are meeting
the expectations that students expressed in the first week.
- Discuss the results of the midsemester evaluation with the students.
Ask them to brainstorm solutions for expectations that have not been
met and for which there are not yet plans.
Design a Student Expectation Survey to give students on the first
week of class.
Motivation for taking the course
Students will take your course for different reasons. Below you will
find some suggested activities to accommodate these motivations
- Students may take your course to meet a general education requirement.
- Identify or create resources to help non-science majors succeed
in your course.
- Students may take your course as a prerequisite to other courses.
- Identify all courses for which your course is a prerequisite and
find out what specific information will be used in those courses.
- Whenever possible, take a brief moment to point out the knowledge
and skills that students will be required to use in future courses.
- Students may take your course in preparation for a particular career
- Whenever possible, take time to discuss knowledge or skills that
will be applied in various occupations.
- Students may take your course to satisfy personal curiosity about
- Identify or create optional resources that will allow highly motivated
students to apply course concepts to new situations or to learn
tangential aspects of course concepts.
1. Identify or create optional resources that will allow students
to go beyond the course requirements or objectives.