Faculty Focus

Mining the Analogy

Using analogies in your teaching.

"Genius without education is like silver in the mine.” Benjamin Franklin may not have realized at the time that he was actually using a tool for the education he espoused, namely, the analogy. More than a simple witticism, the statement can be explored for rich conceptual parallels. Although a familiar teaching tool periodically invoked as a creative clarification, we faculty may not fully appreciate how an analogy might be mined for its full value. In higher education in particular, creation of an effective analogy is a worthy endeavor because it serves not only to instruct, but also potentially to hone the deeper, more complex higher order thinking skills we aspire to teach students.

The cognitive and educational benefits of using analogy (relational or analogical reasoning) in education, especially primary and secondary, have been well explored. Although research-based recommendations have not been made for every college-level subject, principles with practical implications have been identified. Of particular interest to faculty should be the 2015 assertion Richland and Simms offer in WIREs Cognitive Science that “relational reasoning can be productively considered the cognitive underpinning of higher order thinking,” where this type of reasoning is “the process of representing information and objects in the world as systems of relationships (which) can be compared, contrasted, and combined in novel ways depending on contextual goals.” They note the beauty of the dual benefit. Analogy is both “a tool for promoting content acquisition and a basic cognitive mechanism for using information flexibly and across contexts.” For an analogy to serve as both a tool for basic understanding and development of complex reasoning, it must be carefully and intentionally designed and delivered.

An effective analogy may be pursued in many contexts. It may provide motivation in an intro course or illuminate complex concepts of an upper-level subject. It’s an invaluable means of encouraging visualization of what cannot be seen or experienced. Once it creates a spark of recognition, it may cascade into a deeper and broader appreciation of the subject, often creating the desire to delve further. However, as the foundation beneath a house determines its livability, the careful construction of the analogy with a clear view of the instructional goals determines its fruitfulness.

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Is My Teaching Learner-Centered?

learner-centered teaching

It’s hard to say—we have no definitive measures of learner-centeredness or even mutually agreed upon definitions. And yet, when we talk about it, there’s an assumption that we all understand the reference.

Teaching Professor Blog My friend Linda recently gave me a beautifully illustrated children’s book that contains nothing but questions. It reminded me how good questions, like beams of light, cut through the fog and illuminate what was once obscured. And so, to help us further explore and understand what it means to be learner-centered, I’ve generated a set of questions. For the record, these questions were not empirically developed, and they haven’t been validated in any systematic way. However, they do reflect the characteristics regularly associated with learner-centered teaching.

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Using Grace and Accountability to Uphold Course Expectations

minimizing student excuses

Hello. My car caught on fire last night after leaving homecoming game. I carry my laptop everywhere I go. I’m in the process of strapping to get another one. I’m just glad I got out cause the driver door was

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Disruptive Students: Personality Styles and Recommended Responses

sleeping in class

In a perfect world, college students would always be eager, well disciplined, and respectful.

In the real world, some students come to class late, miss deadlines, or fall asleep during lectures. Others monopolize class time, make insulting or abusive comments, and even physically threaten or intimidate other students and professors.

In extreme incidents, there is even the occasional student who poses a dangerous risk to the entire community.

A supplement to the Coping with Seven Disruptive Personality Types in the Classroom whitepaper, this quick reference guide explains how to recognize typical styles of troublesome behavior and exactly what to do in response.

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From Barely There to Fully Present: Three Ways to Improve Your Instructor Presence

instructor presence when teaching online

I recently received a frantic phone call from a distraught colleague who had just received her student evaluations after teaching her first online course. Tearfully, she shared with me sample student comments such as, “I didn’t get any feedback on my assignments until it was too late to help me with the next assignment,” and “I never heard from my instructor. It was like she was barely there.”

Frustrated because she felt that she had been doing a good job of communicating with her students, and also fearful because her adjunct position depended in part on receiving positive student evaluations, she asked for help in setting up an improvement plan for the next course.

Unfortunately, my colleague’s frustrating experience is not uncommon for instructors new to the online environment. Managing instructor presence—students’ perceptions of how instructors interact with them and guide their learning during a course—is the key to overcoming that frustration. It’s not unusual for instructors and students to have widely different perceptions of instructor presence during the same course.

For instructors who may be teaching multiple courses and spending large blocks of time answering student email, the time spent on their courses makes them feel fully present and fully engaged. To students, however, who may be looking for interaction from the instructor on the course discussion boards, it may seem the instructor is “barely there” because there is little trace of him or her in the course.

How would your students rate your instructor presence on a continuum from “barely there” to “fully present”? If there’s a difference between your students’ perception and your perception of your instructor presence, you can improve your presence with some simple strategies.

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Reading Reframed for the Community College Classroom

college-level reading skills

When people hear I’m a professor of reading at a local community college, I’m often met with some variation of, “Really? You teach reading...in college?”

The assumption implied, of course, is that college students should already know how to read, that reading as a focus of study belongs in the elementary classroom. For most people reading this article, the fact that students struggle with collegiate-level text is not revelatory. Indeed, the office-doorway concerns swapped amongst faculty are confirmed by various reports, such as the one cited in the U.S. Department of Education’s recent review of developmental education, which noted that approximately 40% of first-year community college students enrolled in at least one developmental course in the 2011-2012 year (2017).

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McGraw-Hill Education Expands Options to Make Course Materials More Affordable With New Rental Program

McGraw-Hill Education announced last week the latest in a series of initiatives to make course materials more affordable and effective for millions of U.S. college students by launching a new textbook and eBook rental program for its more than 250 copyright 2019 titles, as well as all future titles.

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Faculty Learning Communities: Making the Connection, Virtually

Online faculty learning community

Technology has enabled a boom in online education. No longer does location dictate where students can take classes and/or where instructors can teach. While this increased flexibility is appealing to many, it can also lead to feelings of disconnect and isolation (Dolan, 2011). As educational leaders, we want to be able to connect with the instructors who are teaching in our programs. As faculty, we want to be included in professional development opportunities and conversations about curriculum with our peers. But how can this be accomplished when people are not available at the same time or located in the same place? Well, by using technology.

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A Collaborative Midterm Student Evaluation

mid-semester feedback

Can students collaborate on the feedback they provide faculty? How would that kind of input be collected? Both are legitimate questions, and both were answered by a group of marketing faculty who developed, implemented, and assessed the approach.

The first argument, supported by research cited in their article, establishes the value of collecting midterm feedback from students. Students tend to take the activity more seriously because they still have a vested interest in the course. The teachers have the rest of the course to make changes that could potentially improve their learning experiences. There’s also research that documents when midcourse feedback is collected and the results are discussed with students, end-of-course ratings improve. And they don’t improve because teachers are doing everything students recommend—sometimes a policy doesn’t need to be changed so much as it needs to be better explained.

The faculty involved in this project reasoned that having students collaborate on feedback for the instructor might have several advantages. It could increase student engagement with the process. Almost across the board now, there are concerns about the low response rates generated by online course evaluations. In addition, students don’t generally put much effort into the feedback they provide. In one study cited in the article, students self-reported taking an average of 2.5 minutes to complete their evaluations. Because doing an evaluation collaboratively was unique and happened midcourse, faculty thought that maybe students would get more involved in the process.

They also wondered if the quality of the feedback might be improved by the interactive exchange required to complete it. And along with that, they thought the process could increase students’ feelings of accountability by virtue of providing feedback in a public venue. Perhaps it would be harder for students to get away with making highly critical, personal comments.

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Save Time and Promote Learning? Yes, You Can!

time-saving strategies for college faculty.

Teaching well takes time—time to prepare content and course materials, to interact with students in class, during office hours and electronically, to keep up with developments in the field, to grade and provide constructive feedback, and that just starts the

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