Explaining outcomes improves student learning

Thanks to Dr. Rajat Mittal for setting up this blog where all IIT Kanpur faculty can share ideas on how to improve learning on campus.

This particular idea is more based on what I have read and heard from experts in learning area, and not based on my own research or experience.

The student engagement in a class improves significantly if they know why they are sitting in the class and what they will learn in due course. Explaining the outcomes operate at three levels. At the top level, students need to know what this course is about, what are the topics that will be covered, what will the student be able to do after doing this course, and possibly how this course fits into the larger scheme of curriculum. Explaining this in the very first lecture would take only 5 minutes but would help in either student becoming engaged and more attentive in the class, or deciding that some other course would be a better idea (in case this course is elective).

The lowest level of explaining outcome is a lecture. If the faculty members can take one minute of time at the beginning of every lecture, say what topics are going to be covered in that lecture, and perhaps connect it with what was done in the previous lecture, it strongly improves the attention of the students.

An intermediate level of outcomes is a module, a part of the course which would be covered in a few lectures. Besides the engagement that happens when students know why and what of the course, an additional advantage of talking about module level outcomes is that the student realizes that a new topic also means another chance to get back into the course. Sometimes for various reasons, students lose interest and then always feel left behind. But if there is a clear indication to the student that a new module is starting which is of course connected to everything else being taught in the course, but yet it is possible to understand it better without going into the details of the previous module. This would enhance his/her interest as well as attendance in the class.

Dheeraj Sanghi, CSE Department

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Posted in Lectures

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