Second instalment: “One teaching technique that made a difference in my class…” - IndiaBioscience

Learning by playing

Ranjana Agrawal, HOD Biotechnology and Assistant Professor in Zoology, Kanoria PG Mahila Mahavidyalaya, Jaipur; supplements classroom teaching with games to engage students as she assesses their learning.

To break the monotony of traditional lectures, sometimes I supplement classroom pedagogy with games. Usually, I will select a topic that has been recently taught and design diverse games around that, ranging from painting to acting.

Students are divided in two teams for Charades, which I have used to review syllabus items; such as terms pertaining to instruments or biological processes. Once it is answered correctly, we quickly revise the corresponding topics. I regularly organise Rangoli and painting competitions where students draw phenomena like replication, cloning, bacterial gene transfer, etc. Drawing helps students in understanding the concepts and adding vivid colours from their imagination gives them a creative high.

Many times, I try to give daily life examples, to help students understand complex concepts. For instance, while teaching Immunology, I connect body’s defence system with our country’s defence system. Our army, navy and air wings have different functions and work together to fight foreign invaders trying to invade Line of Control. Similarly, our body’s defence [immune] system has different cells with specialised functions to fight the pathogenic microbes that invade the body. The signaling molecules or ligands specifically interact with receptors, akin to a postman bringing messages to specific addresses. Examples such as these are intended to make biological concepts more concrete and relatable to students.

On occasion, I also ask students to give extempore speeches, to gauge their knowledge about a concept. This also helps them develop their public speaking skills. One class a week, I divide the whole class in 3 or 4 teams for quizzes. These can include combinations of visual rounds, buzzer rounds, and rapid-fire rounds on specific themes like immunology, biochemistry, haematology etc. Quizzes help them quickly review what they have studied in previous classes. Together with the ease of design and execution during regular lectures, games such as these make teaching and learning enjoyable. This serves many purposes− students have fun learning, develop healthy competitive spirit towards their peers; and as their instructor, I can analyse their understanding of the topic.

Recall technique based on the concept maps

Aashutosh Mule teaches BSc (Biotechnology) at Vivekanand Education Society’s College of Arts Science & Commerce, Mumbai. He shares his ‘recall technique’ based on concept maps.

(Image credit: Aashutosh Mule)

Concept mapping is a well known instructional technique. However, for all its benefits; understanding how to draw concept maps does not come naturally to students. Here I describe how I help my students develop this skill.

When a student studies a topic, whether during a lecture or during self-study, I call it a focussed mode session. As depicted in the figure, the first focussed mode session on the path of learning a topic is the first lecture attended by the students. At this point, they use keywords from the textbook, lecture notes or blackboard, to start on their concept maps.

In the next class, I start by asking them to recall content covered in the previous class on a blank sheet. I emphasize the amount of recall as the yardstick by which I assess their level of understanding — my goal is to get them to 100% through successive attempts. In subsequent lectures, more of the content on the same topic is taught, and after each class, students add new information to the same concept map they developed at the beginning of each class.

Through implementing this technique, I have witnessed increased excitement in students for the revision sessions, which otherwise can seem monotonous and boring. Not just that, they also seem excited to put their understanding to test. The process infuses confidence in students to willingly come forward to test themselves.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Making students, to draw their own concept maps helps them to clearly understand the roadmap of where the lecture is heading and also where they stand in terms of ‘actual’ recalling vs recognition. I remember a curious activity we performed in a workshop. The participants were asked whether everybody has seen a Panda. And everyone said ‘yes’. But when they were given a blank sketch of Panda to color exactly the way it looks like, not one of us could actually come out with an authentic Panda with black shades on right parts.:grinning: This shows that recognition is not the same as recalling. And doing an activity associated with a concept/ learning outcome helps us to understand how much we have actually understood and how much we think we understand. There is nothing like an activity even if it is just paper work to consolidate the student’s understanding.