Faculty Focus

It’s Not Too Early to Begin Preparing Students for Cumulative Finals

Author: Maryellen Weimer, PhD
Posted: January 23, 2015, 12:55 pm

There are a couple of reasons why students don’t like comprehensive finals. First, they’re more work. Rather than four weeks’ worth of material to know and understand, there’s a semester or term’s worth of content to deal with. However, the research highlighted in an article in this issue of the newsletter and more like it strongly supports that continued interaction with the content increases the chances that it will be remembered and can be used subsequently. Students also don’t like comprehensive exams because most of them don’t use good cross-course study strategies. They wait until finals week and then they start reviewing. Here are some ways teachers can help students develop and use study strategies that make preparing for and doing well on comprehensive finals easier.

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Supporting International Students Online

Author: Michiko Kobayashi, PhD
Posted: January 22, 2015, 12:55 pm

According to a recent report by the Institute of International Education, there were more than 764,400 international students enrolled in U.S. universities and colleges in 2011/2012. This was a 7 percent increase from the previous school year. International student services on campus organize social events to facilitate interaction between international and American students and provide academic support for those from non-English-speaking countries. Despite their efforts to promote diversity, the transition to American universities is still challenging for international students. Many feel homesick and experience emotional stresses due to cultural differences and have difficulty in making American friends and sustaining long-term relationships.

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Why Students Don’t Attend Office Hours

Author: Maryellen Weimer, PhD
Posted: January 21, 2015, 12:55 pm

More than 600 students answered 17 survey items about one of their courses in order to help researchers explore factors that influence students’ use of office hours. The research goal was to identify ways instructors could increase the use of office hours because so many students don’t take advantage of this opportunity to interact with faculty. Sixty-six percent of these students reported that they had not attended office hours for the course in question. The remaining third had been to the instructor’s office once. Only 8% reported attending office hours more than once a month. These percentages are consistent with previous findings.

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Keeping Students on Board with Concept Maps

Author: Maryellen Weimer, PhD
Posted: January 20, 2015, 12:56 pm

The benefits of concept maps are well established. They encourage students to organize knowledge and do so in ways meaningful to them. They help students sort out, prioritize, and understand relationships between terms, concepts, and ideas. Students can also use concept maps to forge relationships between new knowledge and what they already know.

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Six Tips for Preparing Your Online Course

Author: Rob Kelly
Posted: January 16, 2015, 12:55 pm

Careful preparation is essential to the success of an online course “to provide a positive experience for the students and to be able to maximize your time with students so that you’re not spending time on reworking things that weren’t clear up front,” says Ann Millacci, associate professor of education at the University of Cincinnati. In an interview with Online Classroom, she offered the following advice on preparing your course for your learners:

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Five Tips for Dealing with Combative Students in the Online Environment

Author: Victoria Smith, PhD
Posted: January 15, 2015, 1:17 pm

Whether one teaches at the university, secondary, or elementary levels, all teachers encounter combative students. Mary Bart (2012) writes, “Even if you do everything right, there will be students who push your buttons.” However, many teachers struggle with how to handle disciplinary problems with these students. The following are methods that I find effective when dealing with a challenging student either in my online university classrooms or in email interactions with traditional, ground students:

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Effective Ways to Structure Discussion

Author: Maryellen Weimer, PhD
Posted: January 14, 2015, 12:45 pm

The use of online discussion in both blended and fully online courses has made clear that those exchanges are more productive if they are structured, if there’s a protocol that guides the interaction. This kind of structure is more important in the online environment because those discussions are usually asynchronous and minus all the nonverbal cues that facilitate face-to-face exchanges. But I’m wondering if more structure might benefit our in-class discussions as well.

Students struggle with academic discourse. They have conversations (or is it chats?) with each other, but not discussions like those we aspire to have in our courses. And although students understand there’s a difference between the two, they don’t always know exactly how they’re supposed to talk about academic content when discussing it with teachers and classmates. Would providing more structure provide that clarity and make the value of discussions more obvious to students?

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Plagiarism: An Interesting Disconnect between Students’ Thoughts and Actions

Author: Maryellen Weimer, PhD
Posted: January 13, 2015, 12:55 pm

Almost 800 business, engineering, education, and health services students completed a fairly typical plagiarism survey. They were asked how strongly they agreed with a statement defining plagiarism as copying text and inserting it in a paper without citing the source. They were asked how often they engaged in this specific behavior. As in many other survey studies, 75 percent of these students agreed or strongly agreed that copying text without referencing it was plagiarism. Eighty-one percent said that the behavior should result in strong punishment, and 84 percent said that they never or rarely engaged in this practice. None of those results are new or particularly surprising.

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Using Fundamental Concepts and Essential Questions to Promote Critical Thinking

Author: Julie Schrock, PhD and Steven Benko, PhD
Posted: January 12, 2015, 12:45 pm

Could your students identify the most important concepts in your discipline? Do they leave your class understanding these most fundamental concepts, including the ability to reason using these concepts to answer essential questions? Do your students become critical thinkers who connect concepts and practices in your course with other courses? With their future professional lives?

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The Power of Storytelling in the College Classroom

Author: Sal S. Buffo
Posted: January 9, 2015, 12:46 pm

I love stories; stories about life, our personal experiences, the happy and the sad. Stories teach us about how the world sometimes works and how we relate to it. When I was young, I used to love to hear my parents talk about their experiences when they were young. Their stories gave me the opportunity to learn not only about their lives, but also gave me a better understanding of my culture, the traditions of my family, and its history. In a sense, these stories gave me a better understanding of myself. Stories put into context information that would otherwise remain fragmented, pieces of this and that, thrown into a catchall closet in which items are tossed and usually hopelessly lost.

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A “Best of” List that Celebrates the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning

Author: Maryellen Weimer, PhD
Posted: January 7, 2015, 1:12 pm

It’s that time of the year when everybody is doing their “Best of 2014” lists, and I have one of my own that I’ve been wanting to do for some time now.

It will not come as a surprise to anyone that in order to prepare The Teaching Professor newsletter each month and this blog every week, I read a lot of pedagogical literature. But perhaps you would be surprised to know there are close to 100 pedagogical periodicals, at least that’s how many I am aware of at this point. When writing my book, Scholarly Work on Teaching and Learning, I did my best to find them all and when the book was finished I was quite confident I had. However, the book was out less than a week before I was getting notes about journals I had missed and I’m still discovering new ones. Most of these journals are discipline-based, but there’s a significant number of cross-disciplinary publications as well.

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Is Praise Undermining Student Motivation?

Author: John Orlando, PhD
Posted: January 5, 2015, 12:55 pm

We think of praise as a good thing, even admirable. Don’t we praise our kids when they show us the drawing that they made in art class? To be anti-praise is almost like being anti-good person. We praise others in order to motivate them to improve achievement, as well as increase self-esteem. What can possibly be wrong with that?

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Our 14 Most Popular Articles of 2014, Part 2

Author: Mary Bart
Posted: December 19, 2014, 12:55 pm

Today concludes our countdown of the top 14 articles of 2014. On Wednesday we revealed article number 14 on down to number eight. Today’s post reveals the seven most popular articles of the year. Each article’s ranking is based on a combination of factors, including e-newsletter open and click-thru rates, social shares, reader comments, web traffic, reprint requests, and other reader engagement metrics.

Here they are, articles 7-1, starting with number 7:

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Our 14 Most Popular Articles of 2014

Author: Mary Bart
Posted: December 17, 2014, 1:47 pm

As another year draws to a close, the editorial team at Faculty Focus looks back on some of the top articles of the past year. Throughout 2014, we published approximately 225 articles. The articles covered a wide range of topics – including group work, course redesign, flipped learning, and grading strategies. In a two-part series, which runs today and Friday, we reveal the top 14 articles for 2014. Each article’s ranking is based on a combination of factors, including e-newsletter open and click-thru rates, social shares, reader comments, web traffic, reprint requests, and other reader engagement metrics.

Today’s post lists articles 8-14, starting with number 14.

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Our Weekly Conversation about Teaching and Learning

Author: Maryellen Weimer, PhD
Posted: December 15, 2014, 12:19 pm

In this the final post for 2014, I wanted to say thanks to those of you who take time to add comments after the posts. I don’t respond because I’ve had my say. However, I do read every comment and often wish I could gather a group of you together for coffee (maybe something stronger, it is the holiday season) and continue the conversation.

We are still struggling with finding time and venues that expedite conversations about teaching and learning. The most pressing teaching issues of the moment tend to occupy our attention—test questions we need to write, reaction papers to record, the technology needed for a class activity tomorrow, or that routinely absent student who wants an extension. When we do encounter each other, we talk about these daily details but not about issues that merit deeper discussions.

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How to Communicate the Value of Your Faculty Development Center

Author: Jennifer Patterson Lorenzetti
Posted: December 12, 2014, 12:58 pm

Consider this hypothetical situation: The vice president of academic affairs has just sent you a cryptic email asking you to define the impact of your faculty development center. Could you do so? What would you say? How would you measure the impact?

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WizIQ Launches e-Learning Tool to Create Video Lectures

Author: Company News
Posted: December 11, 2014, 2:08 pm

Online education platform WizIQ launches WizIQ Recordor, an easy to use authoring tool for teachers to create synchronized video lectures using their PowerPoint presentations. The tool runs as a simple add-in to Microsoft PowerPoint and is free to download.

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Developing Students’ Self-Assessment Skills

Author: Maryellen Weimer, PhD
Posted: December 10, 2014, 12:56 pm

I’ve been rereading some of the research on student self-assessment and thinking about how students develop these skills. They are important in college, all but essential in most professions, but they’re rarely taught explicitly. We assume (or hope) they’re the kind of skills student can pick up on their own, even though most of us see evidence to the contrary. Many students, especially beginning ones, routinely overestimate their ability and underestimate the difficulty of course content. How often did I hear this comment about my courses: “A communication course? Gotta be a piece of cake. I’ve been talking since I was 3.”

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Cruel Student Comments: Seven Ways to Soothe the Sting

Author: Isis Artze-Vega, EdD
Posted: December 8, 2014, 1:11 pm

Reading students’ comments on official end-of-term evaluations—or worse, online at sites like RateMyProfessors.com—can be depressing, often even demoralizing. So it’s understandable that some faculty look only at the quantitative ratings; others skim the written section; and many others have vowed to never again read the public online comments. It’s simply too painful.

How else might you respond? Here are seven suggestions for soothing the sting from even the most hurtful student comments:

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How to Deal with Incivility in the Online Classroom

Author: Rob Kelly
Posted: December 5, 2014, 12:35 pm

Incivility in the online classroom can take many forms. Angela Stone Schmidt, director of graduate programs in the School of Nursing and associate dean College of Nursing & Health Professions at Arkansas State University—Jonesboro, uses Morrisette’s definition: “interfering with a cooperative learning atmosphere.” So in addition to inappropriate, rude, offensive, or bullying behaviors, Schmidt considers behaviors such as academic dishonesty, over-participation or domination and under-participation to be forms of incivility. In an interview with Online Classroom, she offered the following advice on how to reduce incivility with a proactive stance and how to address it when it does occur:

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