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  • ChatGPT: A Must-See Before the Semester Begin

    (From Faculty Focus). ChatGPT: A Must-See Before the Semester Begins. I have seen friends on Facebook create decent songs and stunning artistic creations with little knowledge of music or art, all after spending a bit of time getting to know an AI art or music generator. But since the grammar assistants in my word processors often flag what is already correct and miss what I wish they should have caught, I’ve never felt AI writing was advancing very quickly.

    And then I met ChatGPT. The Facebook teaching page for my university has taken off on the topic, so I took a deep dive into what it can do. I’ve seen it create (in a flash) movie scripts and comic strips, sonnets and grant proposals, graduate course syllabi and lessons. It can execute math problems, showing all its work with written explanations. Nearly any writing prompt one might assign to be completed outside of class (with a few notable exceptions) can be written pretty well, quickly, at no cost, and undetectable by our current plagiarism software by anyone who takes a little time to learn the nuances of ChatGPT. I am spending the day after Christmas writing this because I don’t want anyone to lament, “Why didn’t anyone warn me about this sooner?”

  • Teaching with Care: Why Community is at the Heart of Successful Pedagogy

    (from Faculty Focus). Teaching with Care: Why Community is at the Heart of Successful Pedagogy. Teaching during the pandemic meant harnessing the power of community to build a classroom in which students could succeed, because they understood that a caring attitude was at the heart of such an endeavor; this lesson carries on even as we move forward. Crafting a community is as essential as providing high-level content and goes to the heart of successful pedagogy. In fact, relationship building is a key determinant of classroom success, according to researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (Mehta, 2020). A feeling of belonging can mitigate fears and counter the isolation that can take hold of students trying to navigate college. Community is also correlated with an enhanced level of engagement (Borup, Graham, West, R.E. et al, 2020). The more instructors are willing to formulate a foundation of belonging and shared mission, the more students will be inclined to participate. Emphasizing community as a cornerstone of strong pedagogy is one of the most effective ways to deepen learning and is something that helps all members of the classroom.  

  • An End-of-Semester Message to All Students

    (from Stony Brook University Division of Student Affairs). An End-of-Semester Message to All Students. As classes have ended and we are in the midst of finals, think about sending an end-of-semester message to your students as a wonderful send-off. An email letter can wish the students well and provide some advice and helpful resources.  

  • Reflective Teaching

    (from UC Berkeley Center for Teaching & Learning) Reflective Teaching.  Reflecting on our teaching experiences, from the effectiveness of assignments to the opportunities for student interaction, is key to refining our courses and overall teaching practice. Reflective teaching can also help us gain closure on what may have felt like an especially long and challenging semester.

    The goal of critical self-reflection is to gain an increased awareness of our teaching from different vantage points (Brookfield 1995). Collecting multiple and varied perspectives on our teaching can help inform our intuitions about teaching through an evidence-based understanding of whether students are learning effectively. Stephen Brookfield, in Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher, proposes four lenses to use when examining and assessing our teaching. 

  • Examining the Benefits of Cumulative Tests and Finals

    (from Faculty Focus). Examining the Benefits of Cumulative Tests and Finals. With the academic year nearly over and final exams upon us, it’s a good time to consider how we assess student knowledge in our courses. Cumulative finals are still used in many courses, but a significant number of faculty have backed away from them because they are so unpopular with students, who strongly voice their preferences for exams that include only questions on content covered in that unit or module. Although teachers should not ignore or discount student preferences across the board, there is the larger issue of which testing procedures best promote deep learning and lasting retention of course content. The evidence on the side of cumulative exams and finals is pretty much overwhelming, and those empirical results should not come as a surprise. An exam with questions on current and previous content encourages continued interaction with course material, and the more students deal with the content, the better the chances they will remember it. Students don’t like cumulative exams for the very reason they ought to be used: preparing for them requires more time and energy devoted to understanding and remembering course content.

    Cumulative finals are better than unit tests, but cumulative exams across the course are the best option if the goal is long-term retention. Good and plentiful research documents that students taking cumulative exams during the course score significantly higher when given content exams after the course is over. 

  • Assigning Course Grades.

    (from UIUC CITL) Assigning Course Grades. The end-of-course grades assigned by instructors are intended to convey the level of achievement of each student in the class. These grades are used by students, other faculty, university administrators, and prospective employers to make a multitude of different decisions. Unless instructors use generally-accepted policies and practices in assigning grades, these grades are apt to convey misinformation and lead the decision-maker astray. When grading policies and practices are carefully formulated and reviewed periodically, they can serve well the many purposes for which they are used.

    What might a faculty member consider to establish sound grading policies and practices? The issues which contribute to making grading a controversial topic are primarily philosophical in nature. There are no research studies that can answer questions like: What should an "A" grade mean? What percent of the students in my class should receive a "C?" Should spelling and grammar be judged in assigning a grade to a paper? What should a course grade represent? These "should" questions require value judgments rather than an interpretation of research data; the answer to each will vary from instructor to instructor. But all instructors must ask similar questions and find acceptable answers to them in establishing their own grading policies

  • Strategies to Warm Teaching While Maintaining High Expectations

    (from Scholarly Teacher). Strategies to Warm Teaching While Maintaining High Expectations. In a landmark article, Chickering and Gamson (1987) noted that a principle of good practice in undergraduate education is communicating high expectations. Hattie and colleagues (Donohoo et al., 2018; Hattie & Yates, 2013) reported that having high expectations is one of the strongest predictors of learning. It is noteworthy that these researchers speak of high expectations rather than rigor. Although some feel that high expectations are synonymous with rigor, these concepts are not the same. Increasingly, the meaning of rigor and how it is demonstrated is being questioned (Supiano, 2022). Traditionally, the old-school concept of rigor leads to “washing students out,” teaching a “gate-keeping course,” and ensuring that many students earn lower grades. Some faculty wear student failure as a badge of honor that supposedly demonstrates their rigor. Jack and Sathy (2021) argue that it is time to get rid of “rigor,” and replace it with more inclusive teaching practices that still hold high standards for our students. In other words, moving from the teaching-oriented concept of rigor to a more learning-oriented concept of high expectations. To help students to do their best, along with maintaining high expectations, we can create warmer teaching strategies that focus on compassion and support for our students and their learning. Student success, not failure, should be our badge of honor. 

  • The Benefits of Using Students as Guest Speakers

    (From Faculty Focus). The Benefits of Using Students as Guest Speakers. Last year I received a grant to support bringing guest scholars to my class. The idea was to find students with some expertise relevant to my courses and invite them to present in class, thereby giving the class a perspective on the material that I couldn’t provide. The grant enabled me to pay the guest scholars a stipend for their work. I had both the guest scholars and students complete questionnaires after these visits to class. 

    Here’s the rationale behind the idea. The task of the teaching professor is to educate, but what does that mean? The traditional notion is that education is something done to the students by the professor. The contrary radical notion is that education is something done by students for themselves—the old comparison between the student as container and the student as plant. A middle ground, which seems closer to reality than either of these theoretical positions, is that education is something done both by the professor with the students and by the students with the professor.


  • Teaching with Blogs

    (From Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching) Teaching with Blogs. Although people often think of social media as a space for non-academic interactions, blogs can be helpful tools for instructors interested in enhancing their students’ communication skills and increasing their students’ investment in learning. Blogs can be spaces for informal or formal writing by students, and the capacity of blogs to support multiple forms of media (images, videos, links, and so on) can help students bring creativity to their communication. Most blogs includes tools for commenting and discussion, enabling students to engage their ideas in conversation with others, either within their local learning communities or on the open Web.

    Student writing is often seen by just one person on the planet (their instructor), which can make writing assignments feel like “busy work.” The dynamic interaction between writer and audience that blogs facilitate can help students see real value in their academic writing and take that writing more seriously. Blogs can be an excellent balance between the rigor and structure of a formal written assignment and the freedom to experiment with ideas and arguments. 

  • Getting the Most out of Guest Experts Who Speak to Your Class

    (from Faculty Focus). Getting the Most out of Guest Experts Who Speak to Your Class. Inviting guest speakers into your classroom is a classic teaching strategy. Welcoming other voices into the classroom provides students with access to other perspectives, adds variety to the classroom routine, and demonstrates that learning is a collaborative enterprise. At the same time, however, presentations by guest experts are often plagued by a variety of design flaws that hinder their educational effectiveness. Guest experts, being unfamiliar with the mastery level of the students in the class, may speak over the heads of the students, or they may present their material at a level that is inappropriately introductory. Because they are generally unfamiliar with the class curriculum, they may repeat information that the students have already learned, or their comments may not connect in any clear way with what the students already know and what they are currently learning. 

    Miscommunication between the guest expert and the host professor, furthermore, may result in the guest’s presentation running either too short or, more commonly, too long. Despite these hurdles, the increasingly collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of higher education makes the kind of partnerships represented by guest-expert arrangements more important than ever. With a little extra preparation, professors can increase the likelihood of a productive guest expert experience