When an exam approaches, virtually all students agree they need to study and most will, albeit with varying intensity. Most will study the same way they always have—using the strategies they think work. The question students won’t ask is: How should I study for this exam? They don’t recognize that what they need to learn can and should be studied in different ways.
Are there barriers to inclusion lurking in your courses?
After meeting at a diversity and inclusion session of the 2013 Professional and Organization Development Network (POD Network) Conference in Pittsburgh, the three of us set out to develop a tool to help faculty examine their courses through a diversity lens. We were driven by a lack of available resources that provide a practical approach to digging deep into the nuances of one’s course.
Many students struggle with college-level reading and writing assignments. Part of it is simply not knowing how to get the essentials from a text. I have been experimenting with a simple method I call GSSW: Gather, Sort, Shrink, and Wrap.
The goal of using this method is that students learn to write an essay, based on the readings, that is exemplary of organized, clear, accurate, and critical thinking.
Where do your new ideas about teaching and learning come from? Perhaps some come from Faculty Focus and this blog? We certainly hope so! But most college teachers don’t get instructional ideas from the literature. They get them from other teachers, usually in face-to-face or electronic exchanges. Interesting, isn’t it, how much pedagogical information is passed on and around in these very informal ways.
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Questions for teaching-learning discussion groups or individual reflection
In this week’s Teaching Professor Blog, I offered strategies to help move our conversations about teaching beyond the “tips and tricks” to the kind of thought-provoking discussions that help promote, motivate, and sustain our growth as teachers.
Here I have outlined potential questions that can be used in a discussion group or for individual reflection. The exercise centers on those unpopular assignments that we sometimes give our students and is based on an article in this Journal on Excellence in College Teaching:
DeWall, N., (2016). Millennials by heart: Memorization as an active learning strategy for the SparkNotes Generation. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 27 (4), 77-91.
A synopsis: Nichole DeWall gives students an assignment they hate. Students must scan, paraphrase, and memorize a self-selected passage or poem from one of the assigned texts. Then they recite the memorized material in private to her, and teach the passage to classmates in a short, interactive presentation. Finally, they write a low-stakes reflective essay about the experience.
The article explores the rationale behind the assignment, why it’s appropriate, especially for Millennial students, and what they learn by doing it.
Even though it’s an article about an assignment few faculty will ever use, it’s well-worth reading and even more worth discussing because it raises issues much larger than the details of her assignment.
POTENTIAL DISCUSSION TOPICS AND QUESTIONS
Should we give students an assignment they hate?
“The assignment’s ability to make students uncomfortable increases its value.” (p. 80)
“Piercing Millennial students’ egos allows them to be open to truly transformational learning. Therefore it is neither necessary nor desirable for the classroom to feel like a seamless extension of our Millennial student’s native worlds.” (p. 80)
“Students sharpen their metacognitive skills when they memorize, teach, and reflect upon their poems; they also leave my classes with constant companions that may just help them make sense out of their lives. For these reasons, I continue to ask my students to commit verse to memory every semester, despite their objections (and, often, my colleagues, bewilderment).” (p. 87)
How do students see classrooms? Do they act the same way in the classroom as they do everywhere else because we have failed to make classroom spaces look and feel different from everywhere else?
Does an assignment that causes discomfort produce a different kind of learning? If so, how is it different and is it a better kind of learning?
How much discomfort is enough, too much, and how does a teacher make that determination?
Most faculty work to make classroom environments feel safe and comfortable. Does giving an assignment that makes students uncomfortable compromise that objective?
How many of our assignments cause discomfort? Enough? Not enough?
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Many educators have an uneasy alliance with technology. They may be unsure about its value in accomplishing learning goals or how it can enhance the teaching experience. Because technologies are not necessarily designed with the classroom in mind, educators who want to avail themselves of these tools are often challenged on how to integrate them into the course curriculum.
In How Can I Align Technology with My Pedagogical Goals?, Dr. Dave Yearwood, professor at the University of North Dakota, outlines many of the ways that educators can use selected technology tools to drive student performance and engagement.
This transcript will help you:
- Assess your pedagogical and technological assets and deficiencies
- Use the results of the assessment to state how you could better support student learning through e-pedagogical practices
- Use a multimedia approach that emphasizes audio, visual, and experiential learning
- Adapt—rather than adopt—selected technologies to accomplish learning goals
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A learning assessment technique (LAT) is a three-part integrated structure that helps teachers to first identify significant learning goals, then to implement effectively the kinds of learning activities that help achieve those goals, and finally—and perhaps most importantly—to analyze and report
on the learning outcomes that have been achieved from those learning activities.
LATs are correlated to Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning, such that there are about 6–10 techniques for each of the learning dimensions, including techniques to help students learn the foundational knowledge of the subject and help students apply that foundational knowledge to real situations so that it becomes useful and much more meaningful to them.
There are techniques that help students integrate ideas—different realms of knowledge—so that the learning is more powerful. There are techniques to help students recognize the personal and social implications of what they are learning, which is what Dee Fink calls the human dimension. There are techniques to help students care about what they are learning so that they’re willing to put the effort into what they need to learn. And finally, there are techniques to help students become better and more self-directing learners (learning how to learn).
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Much has been written, both in Faculty Focus and elsewhere, about cell phones in the classroom. Such pieces typically break into two categories: whether to ban or not to ban, and techniques for using devices productively for educational purposes.
As helpful as those discussions are, conspicuously absent most of the time are students’ views. Do they even want their phones available in class, or are the devices simply attractive nuisances? Is a classroom without cell phones desirable from their standpoint—and if so, what would it take to achieve such an environment? Last spring, I decided to find out.
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What are communities of practice?
A community of practice is a network of people who exchange knowledge about a common profession. Members of the community exchange best practices and share evidence and results while supporting each other on a personal level. Good examples of these communities are the LinkedIn groups that can be found for nearly any profession.
While communities of practice are common and valuable in the working world, too often the interactions within a course are designed to apply only to that course, rather than prepare the student for the broader discussion within the profession that they will encounter after leaving school. That’s why I focus on forming communities of practice within my online courses.
A gradual approach to communities of practice
While there are various ways to promote communities of practices in online courses, I find discussion forums are the easiest place to start. When I design my discussion forums for my classes, I use a gradual design approach that spans the entire semester. The idea is to use the forum to facilitate a pathway toward communities of practice for the students.
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It is very rewarding personally and professionally to teach psychology in higher education. As I reflect on teaching and working with students, I am mindful of the five key ingredients I have found to be valuable to their success in a course.
The first ingredient is creating a trusting, safe, and respectful learning environment for students to thrive. When students feel comfortable in their learning environment, they feel confident to express their ideas, ask questions, and connect with the course in a meaningful way.
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