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.
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.
“Wait, I do not have time to understand this, just tell me how to get the right answer.” How many times has a professor heard that before an exam? One of the biggest transitions a student can make when starting college is to take ownership of their own learning process. Once students grasp that the point of higher education is their learning and understanding, not test scores, a life-long learner has been created. But how can faculty guide students on this path?
David Silva describes important techniques built around the motto “For Us, By Us” or FUBU. According to FUBU, 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”).” This can be achieved by a simple “muddiest point” card in which students fill out a card on the way out of each lecture describing what confused them the most about what was just discussed. The professor starts the next class by guiding the students through their own discussion of the muddiest point from the previous lecture. In other words, rather than the professor telling students what they should know, we can give them the space to figure that out for themselves, and to help each other in the process.”