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How to Engage an Undergrad?

It’s mid-August, and the school year is nigh. On Dynamics of Cats, Steinn Sigurðsson provides a blueprint for a successful academic term, and yes, you should take notes. Steinn writes, “Ideally, the primary teaching delivery would be a wise person at the end of a log [...] unfortunately wise people are in desperately short supply.” More often the wise person is on the floor of a crowded auditorium. But Steinn believes the lecture is a strong foundation for learning—as long as students build on it “after class, over coffee, on the library steps, over lunch, drinking beer and during the all valuable late night sessions back in the dorms!” Meanwhile, Chad Orzel can’t ignore the “tons of education research showing that a traditional lecture format doesn’t work as well as more active techniques.” This fall, he’ll try to cut his lecturing “down to almost nothing in favor of in-class discussion/ problem solving/ questions/ etc.” But will students come to class prepared? Or will they crack their textbooks on the eve of the exam?