27 Embrace the FUBU of Teaching

A photo David Silva
Figure 27.1: David Silva

David Silva

If the best teaching is student-centered, then the best teachers are often our students. Indeed, some of the best learning can be achieved by adopting the principle of “FUBU” (for us, by us”). In a FUBU universe, students become the primary agents of their own learning by providing feedback and creating artifacts that emerge out of their own experience (“by us”) for their own benefit (“for us”).

Consider the FUBU-ness of the “muddiest-point” card activity. This technique requires a stack of index cards, a minute of class time, and five to twenty minutes of your attention. At the end of class, distribute the index cards and invite students to write what they feel is the muddiest point of that day. You could ask them, “Which of today’s concepts, theories, definitions, explanations, or examples do you still not quite get?” Encourage them keep things simple: don’t overthink, don’t write more than a sentence, and don’t include their name. As the students depart, they drop their anonymous cards into a box by the door (part of the ritual that I think is small but meaningful). Through this exercise, you ensure that they exit thinking about the day’s learning and you end the session with valuable formative data about how to start the next class.

In a FUBU universe, students become the primary agents of their own learning.

When you do meet next, preface any review with an explicit acknowledgement of their contribution to the process: “Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the muddiest point in our last class meeting. Before we forge ahead with today’s class, I want to address the most commonly raised muddiest point by asking you all this: (insert relevant question here).” Then let them talk it through for a few minutes, guiding the discussion only as necessary and, if possible, creating a segue into the current day’s content.>

A powerful variant of the muddiest-point exercise can be implemented about a week before an exam. In this FUBU activity, you hand out larger notecards and invite students to spend the last ten minutes of class flipping through their notes from past weeks, identifying material that isn’t so clear. Rather than limiting them to a single muddy point, raise the limit to five. At the end of ten minutes, dismiss the class, inviting them to deposit their cards into the box. Upon returning to your workspace, fire up your electronic device and transcribe what you’ve received, taking care to organize the material by grouping like comments and moving the most commonly cited items to the top of the list. You can then disseminate this compilation of muddy points as a “FUBU study guide.” This study guide should not contain any attempt by you to teach. Refrain from any editorializing: no tips, comments, hints, or references. Simply collate, organize, and share. How they choose to use the information in the FUBU study guide is up to them. Sure, you might encourage your students to gather outside of class in small groups to discuss the items as means of preparing for the exam – and maybe even learning the material – but from there, they own the process.

A photo of UT Arlington campus with overlayed text reading, "When and why did you come to love your subject area?"
Figure 27.2: UT Arlington
A photo Brent Iverson
Figure 27.3: Brent Iverson

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