In three quick steps, Solve a Teaching Problem, a very useful online interactive from the Eberly Center at Carnegie Mellon University, walks instructors through 35+ common teaching/classroom management problems in six general categories.
- Each of these six categories leads to "possible reasons for the problem you have selected."
- Each of these likely reasons, when clicked, provides an explanation of the problem behaviour and offers specific strategies for managing the problem.
- Clickable links to problems and reasons (and so suggested solutions) are provided below.
- Note: Some of the provided solutions direct instructors to CMU-specific resources. Lakehead University has comparable resources in most areas. Seek out our local options.
- Attitudes & Motivation
- Prerequisite Knowledge & Preparedness
- Critical Thinking & Applying Knowledge
- Group Skills & Dynamics
- Classroom Behavior & Etiquette
Select from responsive lists below to do the following:
- "Identify a PROBLEM encountered in teaching."
- "Identify possible REASONS for the problem."
- "Explore STRATEGIES to address the problem."
"Select the problem that best matches your situation":
1. Attitudes and Motivation
- Students lack an important component of critical thinking: how to ask the "right questions" in your context.
- Individual students may suffer from physical, mental, or other personal problems that affect motivation.
- Students and instructors have different expectations about classroom etiquette. (prior experiences, culture, disciplinary culture)
- The instructor did not clearly articulate the goals of the discussion, define the structure, and/or effectively manage the process within the defined structure.
- Students struggle in individual activities because they did not gain deep understanding during previous group work.
- Students often focus on superficial features instead of the underlying principles, concepts, or theories.
- Students have learned the individual skill or piece of knowledge but can’t apply it in complex contexts because they haven’t practiced the skills of integration and synthesis.
- Students have learned to rely on cues (from the teacher, textbook, or other parts of instruction) rather than learning themselves how to identify the appropriate approach.
- Other knowledge — from prior or current courses or from everyday life — can interfere with students’ ability to perform well in your course.
- Students don’t view knowledge as cumulative and useful across courses and hence don’t draw on relevant prior knowledge from other courses.
- You put your PowerPoint slides on Blackboard, and so students assume that those notes are enough information for them to master the subject/topic.
- Students are bored because they are not innately interested in the content and they don’t see the relevance to their academic and/or professional goals.
- Students are bored because they are not actively engaged in the lecture, which requires fifty minutes of focused attention.
- The lecture reiterates what is in the textbook, and since many students learn more effectively from reading than listening because they can read at their own pace, re-read if confused, etc., they opt to do that rather than attend lectures.
- Students whose first language is not English (who are not just international students) are having difficulty following the lecture.
- Students may lack either the general or the discipline-specific skills necessary to focus on the relevant aspects of the reading.
- Students might not see the relevance of readings to other course material or to their own lives.
- The amount of assigned reading may be unrealistic.
- Students think they can read the material just before an exam and get the same (or perhaps even greater) benefit.
2. Prerequisite Knowledge & Preparedness
- International students have different (stronger or weaker) cultural and language knowledge and skills.
- The course is offered as a summer course and attracts students with radically different skills and motivation.
- See B.1.b above
- See B.1.c above
- See B.1.h above.
- See B.1.j above
3. Critical Thinking & Applying Knowledge
- See B.2.a above.
- See B.1.b above.
- See B.2.d above.
- See B.1.h above.
- See B.2.g above.
4. Group Skills & Dynamics
- See B.2.e above.
5. Classroom Behaviors & Etiquette
- See B.1.a above.
- See B.1.f above.
- See B.2.e above.
- Students might not understand or may have different models of what is considered appropriate help or collaboration or what comprises plagiarism.
- Some students might feel an obligation to help certain other students succeed on exams—for example, a fraternity brother, sorority sister, team- or club-mate, or a more senior student in some cultures.
- Some students might cheat because they have poor study skills that prevent them from keeping up with the material.
- Students are more likely to cheat or plagiarize if the assessment is very high-stakes or if they have low expectations of success due to perceived lack of ability or test anxiety.
- Many students are highly motivated by grades and might not see a relationship between learning and grades.
- See B.1.k above.
6. Grading & Assessment
- Students in this generation tend to consider anything, including grades, as negotiable, and they perceive little or no cost in challenging a grade or requesting a re-grade.
- Students’ perspective on what grades are for and how they are determined may mismatch your perspective on these issues.
- Students don’t realize that they failed to fully address the task or that they misunderstood the task.
- Students believe the blame for their poor performance lies with the instructor rather than themselves.
- See B.1.d above.
- See B.5.e above.