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Guest Post: How I Deal With the 1st Day of Class Syndrome at Texas Tech

January 17, 2012

Phillip Flamm, who is the Core Course Coordinator for OM at Texas Tech U., provides today’s Guest Post–his 6th for us.  Phillip teaches in the ISQS Department at the Rawls College of Business. He can be reached at p.flamm@ttu.edu.

It seems that large classes (>150) tend to have certain challenging characteristics no matter what the course. One of the most maddening issues is the impact of the student syndrome. In short, students feel less engaged in large classes and therefore sometimes start very slowly. I have incorporated several tactics that help motivate students to start course work immediately:

  • I pick a good student from past classes to speak briefly the first day. I leave the room so the class will expect an honest appraisal from the ex-student. They detail exactly what it takes to make a good grade in the course with an emphasis on getting started (purchasing the book, joining a focus group, time management calendar, etc.) immediately.
  • My course, Operations Management, is half lecture and half lab (semester long project requirement). I teach all the lectures and I have 7 or 8 lab instructors who teach 14 labs. The first day, lab instructors show recorded video descriptions of lab project requirements so each student will get the same idea of what is required. 
  • Also in the first day’s lecture I detail exactly what it takes to make a good grade:
    • Join a focus group (7 different times available) to verify their notes.
    • Utilize PRS clickers to answer extra credit questions.
    • Utilize custom notes pages in the back of the text book to record their personal lecture notes.
    • Point out poor grade statistics of students with no text book.
    • And what’s in it for them:
      • Develop skills that recruiters want (work well in teams, verbal and written presentations, developing a business plan)
      • Evidence that students have used their projects as successful talking points in interview situations to get a job.

It is impossible to motivate everyone to start fast, but hitting the students from several angles initially seems to help.

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