Browse our collection of two-minute teaching tips for new ideas on engaging your students, saving time with marking, navigating new technologies, and more.

Questions about how to implement these ideas in your class?

Book a consultation with a CEE staff member and we can help you design an approach that fits your discipline, course type and teaching context.

Do you have a great idea for teaching that could benefit other instructors? Submit it to our GIFTs collection by sending an email to Nanda Dimitrov, Senior Director at

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Chalk Talk (Silent Discussion)

Chalk talk is a silent and visual way to engage students with thought provoking questions in class. Developed by Stephen Brookfield (Brookfield and Preskill, 2012), it creates an opportunity for students who are less comfortable speaking up in front of a large group to contribute to discussions and brainstorming. It is used to invite students to share diverse perspectives, make connections between ideas and share prior knowledge.

Activity Steps:

1. Write the guiding question on the board or large poster paper in class or on a digital whiteboard such as Jamboard in an online course. For example:

  • Psychology of Addictions Course: What does addiction sound and feel like to you?
  • Engineering Design Course: What do you think of when you hear the term “human centered/user centered design”?
  • Environmental Science: Given what we know about climate science and climate change, what will life in Vancouver be like in 2100 A.D.?
  • Teacher Education: How will students use critical thinking in their careers after graduation?
  • Political Science: What factors influence voter behaviour the most?

2. Explain that the class will engage in a silent activity for approximately 10 minutes (longer if you have a large class).

3. Invite students take a marker and add comments and questions to the board, draw or make connections between ideas and concepts.

4. Let students know that there may be silence and pauses between posts, and that silence and reflection are important parts of the activity.

5. Provide alternative ways of participating for students with mobility challenges who may have difficulty getting to the board in a lecture hall with stairs. For example, they can write their comment on a large sticky note and a peer or a TA can add it to the board.

6. Invite students to review the board (in groups if you are teaching a large class).

7. Lead a traditional (not silent) discussion to explore the ideas on the board further.

  • Invite students to share what patterns they noticed.
  • Ask the class which questions or issues they would like to explore further.

Try this:

  • Use chalk talk at the beginning and the end of the semester using the same key question to show students how their knowledge of the subject has deepened during the term.
  • Invite the class to reflect on how a silent activity changed the dynamics of class discussion and how they felt about contributing.

Adapted from: 

Equitable Grading Strategies

Consider the following strategies to reduce potential bias in your approach to grading: 

  • Cover students’ names while grading an assignment.
  • Ask students to put their names on the last page of the exam or paper instead of the first.
  • Use a rubric with clear criteria to assess performance.
  • Mark exams one answer at a time (for short answer or essay exams) so your criteria remain more consistent.
  • Shuffle the papers to avoid bias based on order.
  • Allow project retakes to reward learning, not penalize it = and allow better scores to override the old ones.
  • Use a 0-4 scale rather than a 0-100 scale (which is mathematically oriented towards failure).

Exam wrappers

Exam wrappers are short worksheets that students complete when an exam is marked and returned to them. Reflection questions help students think beyond their grade and help the instructor learn about students’ assessment experiences and how they can better support learning.

Questions can include:

  • How much time did I spend preparing for the exam?
  • How did I spend my study time (e.g. re-watched lectures, summarized notes, sample problem sets)?
  • What caused me to lose marks (e.g. lack of understanding concepts, unclear expectations, difficulty remembering concepts, mistakes in calculations)?
  • How will I prepare differently for the next exam?
  • Click here to see examples of exam and homework wrappers in STEM disciplines

Last Class Reflection

Use the last day of class to help students transfer what they learned in your course to new contexts and situations by facilitating a reflection. Last class reflections can also provide you with valuable insights on the impact of your teaching, which you can include in a teaching dossier or consider when revising your course.

Sample guiding questions:

  • What were the two most meaningful and memorable learning activities in this course?
  • What is one thing you learned in this course that you will use in other courses?
  • What skills did you learn in this course that you will use in your future career?
  • What is one way that this course has helped you think critically about your role in the world, your role as a professional, or the impact you can make in society?
  • What is one piece of advice you would give to students taking this course?


Do you want to energize your seminar or tutorial discussions through a new brainstorming approach? Try Quescussion, a discussion in which participants can only contribute questions – as opposed to statements. Quescussion is a great way to assess the prior knowledge of students about a topic at the beginning of a class. It works with class sizes from 10 to 400 students, in person or online.  

How does it work?

Start the discussion by asking a broad, but provocative question. For example, an instructor in a Library Science course asked: "Should public libraries charge membership fees?" Participants may only add to the discussion in the form of questions. Two other people need to speak before a participant can contribute again. If someone makes a statement, everyone yells “statement.” 

1. Participants may only add to the discussion in the form of questions.

2. Two other people need to speak before a participant can contribute again.

3. If someone makes a statement, everyone yells “statement.”

You and your TA can record the questions on the board and invite students to select the ones they want to explore more deeply using dotmocracy (voting with dots) at the end of the session.

Want to learn more?  

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)

How do you know that your students are learning? Try a quick classroom assessment technique or CAT.  

CATs are five-minute activities that can provide valuable insight into the course concepts that that your students have mastered, and the ones they are struggling with. For example, ask students to complete an exit ticket, one minute paper, or quick concept map at the end of your next class. Be sure to report back on the results and let students know how you are adjusting your examples or teaching plan based on the results of the assessment.


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