Teaching Stories

Owen Gallupe: Adapting to the Needs of Students

Owen Gallupe
Owen Gallupe

Lack of participation in the classroom is a problem many instructors face. The composition of students in a course is variable: one term a class might be full of extroverts who thrive on discussion, but next term there might be a preponderance of introverts. The latter was a situation Dr. Owen Gallupe encountered – and successfully overcame – in the Fall Term of 2013.

Now in his second year of teaching at Waterloo, Gallupe – an Assistant Professor in Legal Studies and Sociology – strives to adapt his teaching methods to address the needs of his learners. Gallupe understands the importance of early feedback in his classes and relies on it to enhance his teaching: “I use it as a method to inform, and it gives me useful tips on how I can help students succeed.” After soliciting student feedback within the first few weeks of his Social Statistics class, he realized that students were finding the pace of the class too fast. This surprised Gallupe, who had assumed that his students’ lack of questions was an indication that they understood the material. In fact, the students had many questions, but were reluctant to voice them in class. After some brainstorming, Gallupe decided to provide his students with an alternative means of asking questions: he created an online chat room that students could use during class.

This technology solution initially met with some skepticism. Some students feared that it might be a barrier that would further deter participation. However, the online chat room worked perfectly. It was a welcoming forum where students could anonymously ask questions during class. Teaching Assistant David Hoffman monitored the chat room while a class was proceeding, answering many of the queries himself and directing others to the instructor. If students typed “please slow down” or “please repeat,” then Hoffman conveyed that to Gallupe. “It was a hit,” says Hoffman. “It gave shyer students a chance to ask questions, and for students to get answers to minor questions that they would have never normally thought to ask in class.” Thanks to the online, in-class chat room, not only did the number of student questions increase, but a sense of mutual engagement developed among students who were previously not communicating.

In addition to the online chat room, Gallupe also uses other educational technologies in his courses, including videotaping classes and posting them in the LMS. “The more resources I give my students,” says Gallupe, “and the more I give them what they need, the more chance they have to succeed.”

Owen Gallupe was interviewed by co-op student Gowsi Gowribalan, Special Projects (Teaching Stories), CTE. 

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More Resources

CTE has developed numerous resources on educational technologies such as the ones referred to in this teaching story. You can access them here