Complexity

Challenge

You are presenting complex concepts and realize that students are overwhelmed.

Strategies

For all students, processing time is critical. If you’re an experienced teacher, perhaps you ‘know’ that the material is difficult to understand, and that students need time to understand it. However, don’t give up on trying new presentation techniques. For example:

  • Ensure that the presentation begins with basic elements that all students understand; then build to a more complex level.

  • If using visual aids, reexamine their effectiveness. (Refer to TEACHING: Visuals for suggestions.)

  • If not using visual aids, consider using them to explain difficult concepts.

  • If a captionist is present in your classroom, review the transcript after the class – and read it from a student perspective.

  • If your campus provides video services, have someone videotape your class and review the tape. Then ask yourself:

    • Have you presented material in a logical progression?

    • Are there false starts, backtracking, or drifting?

    • Have you been clear when you’ve changed the topic?

    • Is the class really interactive, or do you unexpectedly dominate discussion? If your goal is to have interaction, obtain specific measures of the interaction. For example, measure the amount of time you and the students are talking, and the number of students contributing to discussion.

    • Is your presentation style what you expected? Do you use examples or stories effectively to convey your point?

  • If you ask students to hold questions until the end of class, reconsider this policy, especially if you want students to understand as the material is being presented.

  • Ask for a student who understands the concept to explain it to his/her peers. You may be surprised by the different approach the student takes.

  • Have students write an explanation of the subject and review these. Use the material as feedback on student understanding.

   
Related Video: 
What teaching behaviors impede your learning of difficult concepts? What teaching strategies could help you to understand a very difficult, complex concept? - Kyle