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 Lorraine Brewer gave a presentation titled, “Refocusing Our Distracted Students: From Civil Inattention to Engaged Exploration,” at the Wally Cordes Chair Discussion sponsored by the TFSC. One thing she emphasized was that there have always been distractions, this is not new.  We need to learn to refocus students attention and recognize that sometimes there are things that […]

 Lorraine Brewer faculty photoLorraine Brewer gave a presentation titled, “Refocusing Our Distracted Students: From Civil Inattention to Engaged Exploration,” at the Wally Cordes Chair Discussion sponsored by the TFSC. One thing she emphasized was that there have always been distractions, this is not new.  We need to learn to refocus students attention and recognize that sometimes there are things that are out of our control. Our job is to engage and connect with students to get them interested in what is happening in the classroom.

In this talk Brewer shared her experiences in teaching and reflected on how Wally Cordes inspired her teaching. Not only did professor Brewer observe Cordes teach, she learned how to manage a classroom and shared struggles that he had in the classroom.  She highlighted that even the best teachers sometimes struggle and this is not a bad thing!  It challenges us to do better and focus on helping students.

Some of the ideas she shared included:

  • We have all had that experience where we were a novice in the classroom who was on the cusp of understanding … remember that feeling and empathize with our students who are often in that place.
  • If we are not challenging our students to be the best they can be, we are doing something wrong!  
  • How you ask a question matters!  Don’t ask “do you have any questions?” Instead ask “what information is still confusing?” or “what can I clarify?”
  • Having difficulty getting students to talk?  Have them think for a moment then discuss in groups before sharing with the whole class.  This creates a safer space for risk taking.
  • After asking a question, pause and count to 10 and walk around the room.  A student will answer to avoid the silence!
  • Ask students for feedback on how things can improve.
  • Make asking and answering questions fun!  Pass a ball around the room and whoever is holding the ball when a question is asked, must answer the question.
  • Restate your learning objectives
  • Summarize information or have students summarize the material periodically.
  • Bring in jokes!  Have students send you jokes or cartoons (make sure they are clean and politically correct!).
  • Try to “shrink the room” to make everyone feel like they are involved and participating even in the large classroom.
  • Be honest with students and share expectations
  • We are going to mess up, that is ok!
  • Above all, let them know you care!

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For more information on Lorraine Brewer’s teaching methods, the presentation can be downloaded and viewed as a PDF: Lorraine Brewer: “Refocusing Our Distracted Students: From Civil Inattention to Engaged Exploration” or you can email her at lobrewer@uark.edu

Brewer also provided a helpful handout with questions that she asks herself to ensure she is doing what she can to engage students in the classroom: Encouraging Student Success Through Our Teaching

This content was developed from a presentation by Lorraine Brewer which was sponsored by the The Wally Cordes Teaching and Faculty Support Center (TFSC) at the University of Arkansas.