Optimizing review sessions
Contributed by: Marc Pollack
What makes a great review session? As TAs, we are meant to go over days of material in a much shorter period of time, convey that information to a diverse audience, and generally provide preparation for exams. However, we don’t want students to just walk out of a review session with the tools to get an A and then toss the information aside. We want what they learn to last. Balancing the need for exam preparation with the goal of deep learning is no easy task, and there are many views on how to do it. TAs have to balance the need to cover every topic in the class with student concerns and interests, managing both the breadth of those topics and the depth of more difficult issues. We have to meet the expectations of both students and the professor, becoming knowledgeable in all the topics of the class.
So, what do we do to make this process work? A good review session is one well-prepared for, with notes and extensive conversations directing much of what goes into it. Preparing to adapt to student demands is also important, and to student needs. Emailed questions can provide a strong basis for a successful review session. Provide meaningful opportunities for students to process the information by pushing them to interact and think in the review session – use active learning to stimulate thinking. TAs should also learn from their experiences, receiving feedback on how well students are learning from them during and after the session. There are also opportunities to improve review sessions by altering the way we think about them, using strategies to push students to write out exam questions, then critique and collectively answer them. We have opportunities to innovate with our review of the material, and strategies like this can help engage students without just teaching to the test.