The Review Class

I don't do review classes.

Why not? Because reviewing is an individualized process. It's not really something that can be done in a classroom for a hundred or more students simultaneously.

Think of it this way. You might have trouble understanding a certain concept. Does everyone in the class have similar difficulty? If so, then a review might be warranted. But how do I know what students don't understand? I don't.

OK, I actually do--but to a very limited extent. If I get email from someone asking me to explain a concept again, I'll know that that person didn't get it the first time. But I almost never get questions on the exact same concepts from different students. If I did, I'd realize there were problems connecting the teaching to the learning. (That's probably my fault, in that case.)

Still, if I try to review a concept that, say, 50% of the class doesn't get, it might be beneficial. But the rest of the class--who got it already--are sitting there, yawning, chatting, texting, sleeping, kissing, etc., because they're bored out their minds. This isn't a great use of class time.

From my point of view, I've taught the material already. I've tried to do my best job to make it understandable--despite the complexity of some of the things I cover. If I just go over everything again...well, if no one understood it the first time, how are they going to understand it if I go over the exact same things again? Again, it's not worth the time.

Now, I'm not pessimistic about things. I have some hope that classroom response systems ("clickers") can help. Students bring these gadgets to class, and answer questions that the instructor puts into his or her PowerPoints. This is a great way of assessing learning because it's so immediate. I can present a concept, and right after, test to see if anyone is getting it. There are downsides, too: the clickers are an extra cost for students, and it's a real pain to come up with great testing questions.

I've done a research study on clickers, which found that students like them (when they're free). So there's still some work to be done. Maybe if more classes used clickers, I'd be more willing to use them in my classes. Answer in the comments: How many of your courses currently use clickers?

But back to the topic of reviews. If I as an instructor don't do review classes, what are students to do? Easy answer: do your own review. You should know the concepts you're having trouble understanding. Then what? Ask me for help, or ask the teaching assistant. That's what we're here for. This actually takes more of my time, because I'll be meeting students outside of class time, or answering email. But you'll end up with a greater understanding and probably a better grade.

Why aren't you studying?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...
on

None of my classes currenlty use the clickers for mainly the same reason: the cost. I also agree that it would be a waste to have to buy a clicker for just one class. I think that the clickers will become a lot more resonable when more classes start using them. I also agree with not holding a review class because in my experience I am the one yawning through the whole review class. Review classes only become practical in classes of 40 or less students.

Anonymous said...
on

none of my classes use clickers, and actually i'd never heard of them until now. they sound like a really good idea though, to make sure you understand the material as it's being gone over... i agree with no review classes, too. i find that answering the questions in the text and the questions at the beginning of the lecture notes seems to do a pretty good job for my understanding.

Anonymous said...
on

i have a friend who uses a clicker in his physics class, i don't think it's that much of a difference maker. However, I think the fill-in-the-blank notes would be more effective if the blanks were posted online. I never skip psych class and never plan on doing so however when i am writing intermittent words it feels i don't absorb the information as it comes as naturally as if i were just reading from the screen/watching a video that uses application of what we are learning. Maybe that's just me.

Anonymous said...
on

none of my classes are using the clickers right now, I think it's only (or mostly) just physics that use them.

i generally don't like reviews in the sense that the teacher actually goes through the material. I always find it useful for the prof to go over an outline of what needs to be known on the exam (or even post it online). Having someone give a rough outline in like 6-7 minutes helps me organize my brain and all the stuff that I need to know. that's just personally at least.

Derek Bruff said...
on

To put these two ideas (clickers and review sessions) together more directly, I'll note that clickers work very well for review sessions. You can have students answer a series of clicker questions during a review session. Anytime a majority of students answer the question incorrectly, you take time to explain that question, knowing that your explanation is benefiting a lot of students. If not enough students miss the question, you skip the explanation and move on.

Doing so also has the additional benefit of giving your students a better idea of what kinds of questions you'll be asking on your test, assuming that the multiple-choice clicker questions are similar in nature to your test questions (even if the test questions aren't multiple choice).

Anonymous said...
on

I agree that review classes aren't very useful, I find that I don't go to "review" classes because I feel I'm using my time more effectively by studying independently. That being said, as someone else mentioned, it's nice if the professor takes 5 minutes are so to give a VERY broad overview of the main topic areas to be mindful of when studying.
I've heard of the clickers, but I've never seen them used. I definitely wouldn't want to buy one for just one class though.

Anonymous said...
on

My organic chem prof mentioned clickers once, but other than that I haven't had the chance to use them. I think clickers would be great for class interaction and review questions at the end of topics.
As for review sessions: I come to every class, but I find these review sessions helpful. Sometimes questions come up that I hadn't even considered, and I learn something new (something I may not have considered before). Also, a general overview of the test helps me organize the content and focus my studying on areas that will be focused on more heavily or areas that I feel are my weakest.
In conclusion: I strongly support some type of review, or at least a breakdown/overview of what the test (especially the final) will emphasize.

Kelli said...
on

I've had one class that used clickers and I thought they were kind of neat and also helped you as a student to measure your understanding. As well they sometimes acted as motivation to make you pay attention because you knew that a question was coming up. It also gives a good idea of what points are really important and what the prof's exam questions might be like. In this particular Biochemistry class we only had to give a $20 deposit up front which we got back at the end of the semester when we returned our clickers. Overall, I think it most definitely was a good experience for me :)

Scott said...
on

Personally, I am a big fan of the iClickers. I've used them in a couple of my classes in the past, and it really helps for a couple of reasons. First, the iClicker system allows the instructor to know if the message is getting across, and it also allows the student to actively participate in the material (which is especially hard to do in large classes).

As for the cost. Like any other student, I am not looking for more fees to tack onto my ever expensive education. However, the iClicker costs only 35 dollars, and is reusable. Worst case scenario, you can sell it back to the bookstore and get half of your money back. I've definitely seen more value in it than I have in some of the 100 dollar textbooks/paperweights I've collected over the years.

Amanda said...
on

one of my classes (LABMP400/500) uses the iclicker - it's not that expensive, if you compare the benefit of interactive learning than just sitting and trying to absorb information in class. we have around 6 question for a 50-minute lecture. It's a great way for the prof to elaborate on topics that he found were important and that the class might not fully understand. I wish more classes would use them!

Find It