of Dr. Steven L. Berg

Giving Students a Choice

Often, I give students choices about how the class is conducted.  When I do so–more often than not–they make the correct choices.  For example, I have been asking students if we should spend an entire three hour class period in the library or if we should spend two partial class periods in the library.  Two of my classes elected the one day option.  Both of these classes are using the library time well.

My third class did not use their first day in the library as well as they could have; something they freely admitted when we discussed the outcomes of their research.  It is not that they are bad students, but the three hour block did not work well for them.   I considered not giving them the choice I had given the other classes.  Instead, I thought about deciding that we would use two partial days.  But I decided that this was not going to be a decision that I made; that–as I had done with my other classes–I would give them the choice.

With virtually no discussion, the students in the class decided on the two day option.  They did not want to devote a three hour block to library research.  Intuitively they knew the correct process for themselves and they selected it.  Because it was their decision, they are more invested in the course than had I imposed my decision on them–even though the two decisions were identical.

What would have happened if the students had decided on the three hour block?  Even before the decision was made, I had already thought of several strategies that I could have used to assist them use their time better.  It would have been a winning situation either way.

One of the reasons why I need to work harder by turning classes over to students is that I get pushed to incorporate new information into my classes.  Today, while discussing an upcoming presentation I am giving on World War II propaganda films, a small group of students started speculating on what types of propaganda films were available in World War I.  I said I would take the responsibility to look into this.  So, today, I began doing research int his area.  Although they were not part of the discussion, the team looking at the Spanish Civil War could also be interested in propaganda.  So I will look into that as well.

For the Empire

Zepped is a film starring Charlie Chaplin

The battle of the Somme


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