On the Cutting Edge - Professional Development for Geoscience Faculty
Classroom Observation Project
Understanding and Improving our Teaching using the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP)
Cutting Edge > Classroom Observation Project > Creating a Student-Centered Classroom > Student-Instructor Interaction

Student-Instructor Classroom Interaction

What is student-instructor classroom interaction and how does it affect learning?

This theme addresses the climate of communication between the instructor and students in class. Lessons where students have multiple opportunities to communicate with the teacher are essential for the effective construction of student knowledge. By welcoming curiosity and encouraging students to raise their own questions about the content or claims being discussed, the instructor can guide students to develop habits of mind for framing and answering questions. When an instructor creates a climate of respect in the classroom and encourages students to generate their own ideas involving scientific ways of thinking, students are more likely to think deeply and persist in the face of challenges (AAAS, 1989; Weinstein et al., 2006). The Pedagogy in Action module on Interactive Lectures can provide guidance for drawing students into the lecture by engaging them in working with the material.

Characteristics/examples of classes with low and high student-teacher classroom interaction

Classes with an emphasis on lecture are effective for delivering large volumes of content in limited time but provide few opportunities for student-instructor interaction. While this teaching method may appeal to a few highly motivated students, it can often leave much of the class disengaged from the content. Such classes are often characterized by instructors who take the first shout-out answers to questions (often from the same few students) or answer their own questions too quickly.

In contrast, more student-centered classes provide adequate time during activities for students to think about concepts, receive feedback, and/or participate in discussions that may guide the direction of the lesson. Some activities may allow students freedom to engage in their own learning (e.g., online search for relevant information) and/or may involve the students using the instructor as a resource to provide information as needed. This "guide-on-the-side" model is indicative of highly reformed, student-centered classrooms.

Consider structuring your class so that it:

Tips and examples for improving student-teacher classroom interaction

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