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Teaching Strategy Resource Shelf

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  • Raising Student Motivation During the Pandemic

    (From Tomorrow’s Professor). Raising Student Motivation During the Pandemic. In spring 2020, faculty across the country stood up to the challenging task of not only transitioning and adapting to online modes of instruction but also multi-tasking through learning new technology, advising, having online office hours, attending official meetings, responding to students who would request Zoom meetings outside of office hours, and much more. Everyone came together with one underlying motive—students’ benefit. Now, as we look forward, we need to make decisions based on a long-term perspective. Student motivation will be a major concern, irrespective of which study model is adopted: online, blended, hybrid, or a myriad variation. For simplicity, I have clubbed all variants of remote/online learning modes and termed them as Pandemic learning modes. This article delves into approaches for constructive student engagement that can help raise student motivation.

  • Want Your Students to Think Creative and Critically? How about Teaching Them?

    (from R. Brent and R. Felder at NC State Univ). Want Your Students to Think Creative and Critically? How about Teaching Them? Two popular targets on the list of Things These Students Can’t Do are creative thinking (coming up with innovative ideas) and critical thinking (making judgments or choices and backing them up with evidence and logic). When our colleagues complain to us that their students can’t do them, after we make appropriate sympathetic noises we ask, “Where were they supposed to learn to do it?” The answers may vary, but one we rarely hear is “In my class.” Through a lot of practice and feedback is how you acquired your skills. You were either given or voluntarily took on tasks, and with someone else’s help or on your own you learned how to do them. The more you did them, the better you got. Unfortunately, creative and critical thinking are not routinely taught in our schools, nor are they activities that students eagerly learn on their own. It shouldn’t surprise us when our students can’t magically do them on our assignments and exams.

  • How to Make Your Virtual Discussions Engaging, Effective, and Equitable in Eight Steps

    (From Faculty Focus) How to Make Your Virtual Discussions Engaging, Effective, and Equitable in Eight Steps. The perfect class discussion can feel like something of an alchemy. From the instructor’s preparation to the students’ personalities, many ingredients can enable or challenge the social construction of knowledge in a class community. As Jay Howard suggests, quality discussions require a great deal of planning and an understanding of social, emotional, and intellectual dynamics (Howard 2019). In times like this, it’s urgent to consider how we can facilitate meaningful discussions in virtual environments. Challenges are understandable, but with practice there are some ways to reduce silence and uncertainty while bolstering engagement and equity in virtual discussions. If we’re open about trying new strategies, reflecting on them, and trying again, we can transform this moment into an opportunity to motivate and connect with our students. 

  • Listen to and Acknowledge Participants - Essential Abilities of Effective Presenters

    (From Tomorrow’s Professor). Listen to and Acknowledge Participants - Essential Abilities of Effective Presenters. Two deeply human desires are to be listened to and acknowledged. How we listen and acknowledge contributes much to the quality of our relationships, and how we as presenters listen to and acknowledge participants contributes much to the quality of their learning. As we think about participants in a learning environment, two tensions come to mind. First is their internal tension associated with not knowing or discovering that they don’t know. The second is a self-inflicted tension created when what an individual doesn’t know. What is ironic here is that for learning to take place, tension must be present. The key is not to eliminate tension; rather, it is to manage the tension by reframing it from being associated with emotional threat to being associated with cognitive challenge. When well-managed, the cognitive tension is high and the psychological tension is low. The safe learning environment is a state of relaxed alertness.

  • Cameras and Masks: Sustaining Emotional Connections with Your Students in an Age of COVID19 (Part 1 of 2). 

    (From Stanford’s Tomorrow’s Professor) Cameras and Masks: Sustaining Emotional Connections with Your Students in an Age of COVID19 (Part 1 of 2).  This posting, the first of two parts, gives some excellent tips on how to connect effectively with your students both in-person and online. Creating an environment that enhances student learning requires up-to-date content, pedagogy based on the latest research in teaching and learning, and an emotional investment in positive student learning outcomes. Students need to feel that instructors care if they succeed, and they prefer those who demonstrate authenticity in their teaching style. In traditional classes, there are several ways instructors can show their commitment: learning students’ names, revealing personal details about themselves, listening carefully to what students have to say, and so forth. But this well-researched advice has always been premised on a model of in-person face-to-face classes, in which instructors and students are in the same room and can see each other’s full faces. Under our new conditions, what can instructors do to establish and sustain connections with students? Here are some suggestions for adapting to the new realities.

  • Cameras and Masks: Sustaining Emotional Connections with Your Students in an Age of COVID19 (Part 2 of 2)

    (From Stanford’s Tomorrow’s Professor). Cameras and Masks: Sustaining Emotional Connections with Your Students in an Age of COVID19 (Part 2 of 2) Several colleagues mentioned that when they arrive at a point in their synchronous class where they want to have a full class discussion, they request that students turn their cameras on, if they are not on already. They report their participation rates go up when they do this. After the discussion is over, students can turn the cameras off again. But be prepared to lose some participants.

     An instructor told me that he was “struggling somewhat to get more than a couple people to talk during the Zoom sessions. It was suggested that instructors give students the option to turn their cameras off, so I told the students that while I prefer their cameras to be on, they can go dark if it slows their internet too much. After I announced this policy during class, there was a steep drop in the number of students whose faces I can see. The main problem is that it’s now very hard to tell if they’re paying attention unless they speak up, but I’ve also found it somewhat disconcerting. If I were to do it over again, I’d tell them they can let me know if they have a reason they need to have their camera off, but otherwise we learn best when we can see each other.” This comment again highlights the importance of discussing your camera-on/off policies with students at the outset and working toward a collectively-agreed policy. Remember to be flexible and empathetic.

  • Informal Early Feedback (IEF): A Valuable Opportunity for Just-in-Time Feedback

    Informal Early Feedback (IEF): A Valuable Opportunity for Just-in-Time Feedback.  Student evaluations of teaching are an important part of the feedback that instructors receive. This feedback can be especially helpful when it is collected midway in the semester. Our students can tell us if we explain clearly, are well-organized, grade fairly, and more. They may also be able to tell us if the activities we give them are well-aligned with the ways we evaluate their learning. Responding to students’ comments by discussing them in class, and making changes as appropriate, can lead to increased motivation, better learning, and possibly improved end-of-semester student ratings. Here is a description of the Informal Early Process (IEF) process and sample forms for you to adapt.   Also, CITL is offering two workshops this week and next to help you design your own IEF forms.  For more assistance, contact CITL.

  • The Most Crucial Two Minutes of Class

    (From Faculty Focus). The Most Crucial Two Minutes of Class. As an educator, I have an embarrassing confession: When I was younger, I was an incredibly difficult student.

    Read something? … On a good day, maybe I’d do some skimming.   Prepare ahead of time? … Nah, another student will do the talking. Pay attention in class? … What for? Why does this even matter to me?!

    There within that last cringe-worthy question lies the problem. For anyone who has been at the front of a classroom, you know that one of the greatest obstacles to learning is student apathy. To help overcome this barrier, I recommend the “motivation step,” a brief, introductory discussion designed to articulate why the material is significant. Not just because it may be on an exam, but rather because it will have real life, lasting consequences. It is a practice that immediately addresses that elephant in the room: Why the material matters.

  • Remotely Hands-On: Teaching lab sciences and the fine arts during COVID-19.

    (From Inside Higher Ed). Remotely Hands-On: Teaching lab sciences and the fine arts during COVID-19. This is the COVID-19 era, in which instructors who teach fundamentally hands-on courses across fields are finding ways to make remote learning work. McGreal stated, “it’s an exciting chance for us to do some things for an online format that will make our face-to-face classes better than ever before.” Take ice carving. McGreal plans to save the videos he’s made of fish and swan carvings for his students this semester and share them with his classes going forward. That way, he said, students can watch the videos in advance of class and be more prepared to attempt their own sculptures when they meet. “They’re coming into our worlds now instead of a steel, sterile classroom, and it makes you feel more comfortable.”  For STEM: Michelle Stocker, assistant professor of geobiology at Virginia Tech, agreed that “for this semester we can make it work. I wouldn’t necessarily say we like doing this at all, though.” The upper-level course is designed to be challenging and extremely hands-on, with students handling skeletal materials for 2.5 hours at a time. Students can’t interact with the materials as they can in the lab. So Stocker asks them to interact with each other more. Students are encouraged to virtually share bones they found on COVID-19-safe walks in the woods, for example, and the class works to identify the animal and what might have happened to it.  Here is additional information for simulations and the arts.

  • Back to the Basics: Revisiting the ABCs of Teaching Online Courses

    (From Faculty Focus). Back to the Basics: Revisiting the ABCs of Teaching Online Courses. The global pandemic sent higher education institutions into a whirlwind as many faculty members scrambled to make the rapid transition from traditional to online courses. However, COVID-19 revealed the creativity and resilience of our administrators, faculty, and staff. As efforts are implemented to foster a learning environment that engages all students, the challenges of digital access have been magnified, and the steep learning curve for faculty members who are new to the digital space has revealed the need for ongoing training. To equip faculty with best practices for teaching online, understanding the pedagogy of online education is foundational. The following is a summary of the fundamental things online instructors should remember to create an engaging, inclusive, and equitable learning environment for all students.