Faculty Focus

Unleashing the Power of Examples

students paying attention

College teachers often enter their classrooms with thousands of hours of experience in their chosen field, and they typically face students who have little to no experience with that field of study. In this setting, teachers may take for granted all that they know and are able to do. In a sense, they expect students to “get inside their head.” One of the joys of teaching is finding ways to take complex topics and present them in such a way that students begin their own journey of discovery.

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Three Ways to Promote Student Ownership of Reading Assignments

There’s no arguing with Ryan’s (2009) observation that “coming to class prepared and with some background knowledge transforms students from passive to active learners” (para. 3). But how to get our students to this state of “transformation readiness” is an age-old issue challenging most instructors throughout their careers. I’m sure the struggle also extends to my own students, who are aspiring or practicing language-teaching professionals juggling multiple personal, academic, and professional demands. Research shows that reasons for not completing reading assignments also include factors such as reading comprehension, low student self-confidence, and lack of interest in the topic (e.g., Lei, Bartlett, Gorney, & Herschbach, 2010).

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Research Highlights How Easily, Readily Students Fabricate Excuses

female college student smiling

“My grandmother fell down on her patio and I had to go stay with her for a few days and she does not have internet or a computer and all of my research was in my dorm room …”

When students are unable to comply with some aspect of an academic task (e.g. due date, assignment length, quality of work), there is potential for them to communicate reasons as to why they were unable to complete the task to their instructor. At this point the students have a choice, in which case they can either provide legitimate reasons for not being able to complete or to submit their coursework, or they can communicate something which is a deliberate attempt to deceive the instructor. A student may communicate information designed to deceive or construct a fraudulent claim to an instructor in order to avoid the undesirable consequences (e.g. a bad grade that may hurt the student’s overall standing in a class) of not complying with the academic task. Roig and Caso (2005) found that the frequency of which providing fraudulent claims occurs in an academic environment is approximately equal to, if not greater than, more commonly identified forms of academic dishonesty such as cheating and plagiarism. Ferrari et al. (1998) indicated that fraudulent claim making was utilized by as many as 70% of American college students. However, this phenomenon has received limited empirical attention in recent time in comparison to other forms of academically dishonest behavior.

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The Almond Joy of Providing Feedback to Students

providing effective feedback

Providing detailed feedback is a critical component of effective teaching. Feedback serves as a one-to-one conversation with students and can be a powerful tool to teach course content, mentor students, and help them to develop a growth mindset (Dweck, 2006). Decades of research have identified the characteristics of good feedback as expedient, specific, and related to the expectations of the task (Nichols & Macfarlane‐Dick, 2006). Feedback must also provide students with information about how to improve their work, which is focused on future learning (Sadler, 1989).

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When Students Lead the Discussion

student-led discussion

A few years ago, my colleague Brenda Whitney spoke at a workshop about how class discussion can take on many different forms, each with its own style and descriptive moniker. Paraphrasing and borrowing language from her handout, with a few revisions of my own, these discussion styles include:

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A Video-based Exit Ticket Sparks Engagement

creating a video exit ticket

The proliferation of low-cost, easy-to-use technology has opened the door for students to discover new ways of acquiring and constructing knowledge and representing their thinking (Bene 2015, iv). After attending an educational technology conference last year, I opted to extend my classroom pedagogy to better incorporate technology and promote active learning.

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Plagiarize-Proof Your Writing Assignments

writing-assignment

Plagiarism seems like a clear-cut crime: if the words of another author appear in one’s writing without appropriate attribution, that writer has “stolen” those words. U.S. higher education institutions take the offense seriously: minor cases often result in probation, suspension, or expulsion. This black-and-white perspective toward plagiarism, however, does not effectively identify, prevent, or resolve writing issues.

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“Everybody with Me?” and Other Not-so-useful Questions

ineffective question prompts

“Any questions?” “Is everybody with me?” “Does this make sense?” I have asked my students these vague types of questions many times and the most common response was...silence. But how should I interpret the silence? Perhaps the students understand everything completely and therefore have no questions. Maybe they have questions but are afraid to ask them out of fear of looking stupid. Or it could mean that they are so lost they don’t even know what to ask! Only our boldest students would say; “Um, you lost me 10 minutes ago, can you repeat the whole thing again?”

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Preparing Your TA for the Job

Preparing your TA for the job

The Teaching Assistant (TA) job is typically filled by an upper-level university student or graduate student. It’s a job that requires one to play several different roles. First and foremost, the TA is a student and must complete all responsibilities to maintain this status. Second, the TA has a responsibility to the hiring professor. To the professor, the TA is the assistant and must abide by the requirements set out by the professor. Third, the TA has a responsibility to the students in the class. The role here is that of teacher, tutor, and occasionally advisor.

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Taking Notes on the Reading

taking notes on the reading

Every course has assignments, but do they get the attention they deserve or do the same versions end up in the syllabus year after year? How much variety is there in the assignments students complete, in degree programs or even across their years at the institution? Bottom line: we think there’s more that could be done with assignments, and this feature aims to provide examples that illustrate innovative approaches and thoughtful attention to design details.

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