Faculty Showcase: Andy Sherbo makes learning relevant
Andy Sherbo is known as an instructor with high energy and a sense of humor. When watching him teach an Analysis of Securities class in the Daniels College of Business, it’s easy to see him making constant eye-contact with students, calling on them by name, and keeping them engaged and energized as he constantly circulates around the room.
However, keeping students engaged and learning involves more than having a bustling personality. During class time Andy is also relying on lessons of attention and information processing to help students learn and retain information.
Get students attention
To begin with, students can’t learn if they are not paying attention in the first place. In Andy’s class, students are not explicitly graded for class participation, but they are clearly encouraged to participate actively and rarely a few minutes go by without hearing a student’s voice. Andy is constantly asking students to help explain, answer, and apply the concepts being learned. He also switches between using examples, referencing the text, writing on the board, and walking through real life examples as appropriate to help teach different concepts and keep students engaged.
Help focus attention
A common challenge in teaching is the reality that students don’t always know what information is important or how concepts relate to each other. Instructors often have to make this explicit to help students learn. Andy consistently uses cues to help students recognize how new ideas and information relate to the overall class concepts. You will hear him saying, “here’s the big picture,” “here’s what I want to see,” and, “this is important, let’s review that again,” to explicitly give students cues about relationships and main takeaways. Key concepts are repeated throughout the class period to reinforce their importance.
Make it relevant
In addition, students have better attention and retention when what they are learning something that they perceive as relevant to their own lives. Andy often engages in applying course concepts by walking through real-life examples as a class. In a recent class he used a Colorado-based company to demonstrate how to apply a stock valuation model, casually remarking, “many DU graduates work at this company.” The students pulled up real-time data in class and were asked to make judgments calls, “would you buy or sell?” or “what would you recommend?” giving students a taste of how this specific class ties to their future careers.
Gaining students attention, helping them realize what is important, and making it relevant can be can used in all aspects of teaching. When reviewing a commonly missed exam question, Andy discusses the concept but makes it about more than the exam by again relating to their future jobs. “Your clients would not be happy with this type of response, it would not be a good day at the office!”