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  • Online and Hybrid Courses

    (from Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching) Online and Hybrid Courses.  As we consider these two methods of delivery, here are some helpful strategies. Online courses are those in which at least 80 percent of course content is delivered online. Blended (sometimes called hybrid) instruction has between 30 and 80 percent of the course content delivered online with some face-to-face interaction. Blended and online courses not only change how content is delivered, they also redefine traditional educational roles and provide different opportunities for learning. Making the shift to online learning can increase the potential for learners to take charge of their own learning process and facilitate the development of a sense of community among them. 

     

  • Six Things Faculty Can Do to Promote Student Engagement

    (from Faculty Focus). Six Things Faculty Can Do to Promote Student Engagement.  Start with redefining participation. For example, let it include more than verbal comments. Invite students to contribute electronically—with an email or post on the course website—with a question they didn’t ask in class, a comment they didn’t get to make, or a thought that came to them after class. Remind students that listening is also part of participation! Model and promote good listening skills. For example: “Did you hear wht Fredric just said? That’s an explanation also belongs in your notes.” Other strategies to promote student engagement include defining what learning is and designing authentic assignments and learning experiences.

  • Equitable Exams During COVID-19

    (from Inside Higher Ed) Equitable Exams During COVID-19. The equitability of online learning was called into question in March when institutions ceased classroom instruction. Educational institutions had to face the disparity of technological access needed to transition students to an online environment. Though recent data from the Pew Research Center show that 73 percent of adults have home broadband internet, the disaggregated data by household income paints a different picture. To mitigate some of the inequity, some institutions moved to pass/fail rather than letter grades, offering more flexibility to students. Now, institutions must consider equitable final exams. Even under normal circumstances, instructors must consider the purpose of an exam. Is it formative or summative? Are we testing for skill acquisition or memorization of knowledge? What is the purpose of the time limit? What is an acceptable deadline? As final exams draw near, instructors must consider how to create, administer and score final exams that are fair and equitable during this pivotal time.

  • Creating and Using Rubrics

    (from Carnegie Mellon University - The Eberly Center) Creating and Using Rubrics. A rubric is a scoring tool that explicitly describes the instructor’s performance expectations for an assignment or piece of work. A rubric identifies: criteria - the aspects of performance (e.g., argument, evidence, clarity) that will be assessed, descriptor - the characteristics associated with each dimension (e.g., argument is demonstrable and original, evidence is diverse and compelling), and the performance levels - a rating scale that identifies students’ level of mastery within each criterion. In addition, rubrics can be used to provide feedback to students on diverse types of assignments, from papers, projects, and oral presentations to artistic performances and group projects. Rubrics provide many benefits for both the instructor and the students.

  • Considerations About Exams When Teaching Remotely

    (from The Derek Bok Center for Teaching & Learning). Considerations About Exams When Teaching Remotely. Exams remain a popular form of capstone assessment. There are a number of reasons for this, not least of which is their efficiency— for students to review large swaths of the material covered over the entire semester with an eye to synthesis and distillation. By comparison with a research paper or other common forms of end-of-term assessment, final exams ordinarily have the distinct advantage of standing "outside" the term, giving students the impetus to reflect back on the totality of their learning without consuming significant amounts of in- or out-of-class time during the semester itself. With the move to remote teaching the ordinary boundaries between synchronous, in-class work and asynchronous, out of class assessment are already changing, and the extrinsic motivation of grades—on which, admittedly, final exams depend rather more than other, more generative forms of capstone assessment—has decreased significantly. Given these facts, how might you modify your plans for testing students? 

  • Transforming Your Online Teaching From Crisis to Community

    (from Inside Higher Ed) Transforming Your Online Teaching From Crisis to Community. In this current time, it is important to remember that “going online” is not the same as teaching or learning. We must eschew the technocratic utopianism that implies that, simply by teaching remotely, professors are doing their jobs. We need to learn -- quickly -- from the extensive research and experience of professors all over who have done the teaching, research and publishing in this area, and who can advise us on what is most effective.The biggest takeaway from the research on effective teaching online is that we cannot teach the same way online that we would in person: we need to innovate and use the tools available to us to build our class periods differently. Of importance is “engaged” learning: understanding the condition of our students’ lives and finding the best ways of teaching within (rather than in spite of) those conditions.  Here is a simple way to create an engaged learning experience online.

  • Online Teaching: KIS (Keep it Simple)

    (from Alison Yang, Online Teaching@KIS) Online Teaching: KIS (Keep it Simple).  As many of us had to quickly transform our scheduled face-to-face course to unscheduled online courses, we were suddenly faced with a myriad of decisions. Should I teach synchronously or asynchronously? What assignments and quizzes can I keep? And in what format? Here is a handy chart (Do this – Not that) that will help you to make effective, realistic decisions that will benefit both you and your students.

  • What is Using Media to Enhance Teaching and Learning?

    (From SERC at Carlton College). What is Using Media to Enhance Teaching and Learning? The term media was first used to describe newspapers more than two centuries ago. Today media has many different connotations. For instance, there are mass media, print media, visual media and social media. While media can take on many different forms, the purpose of all media is universally the same -- media is a channel of communication. Media can be used in direct instruction, active learning teaching strategies and student projects.  Media can be used in almost any discipline to enhance learning, both in class, and also for out-of-class assignments. Short film and television clips, written articles, and blog postings can be viewed to reinforce concepts and spark discussion. Songs and music videos, especially when the lyrics are made available, can be used to the same effect. 

  • Going Multimodal: 5 Tips for Making the Switch to Multimodal Assignments

    (From Faculty Focus) Going Multimodal: 5 Tips for Making the Switch to Multimodal Assignments. With written communication becoming increasingly multimodal—from newspaper websites to your social media feed to your learning management system’s announcements page—researchers and practitioners alike have made the case for the value of multimodal assignments. While much of this work focuses on the theoretical changes, this article offers practical suggestions for faculty members with limited experience designing multimodal assignments who’d like to convert some of their traditional assignments to multimodal ones. An assignment is multimodal if it invites students to engage in more than one medium of communication, or if it gives students the opportunity to select from several potential media.

  • An Adjusted Humane Syllabus - ‘Nobody Signed Up for This’: One Professor’s Guidelines for an Interrupted Semester.

    An Adjusted Humane Syllabus - ‘Nobody Signed Up for This’: One Professor’s Guidelines for an Interrupted Semester. Brandon L. Bayne was trying to plot out a plan for a disrupted semester when he took a big step back. He was planning to revise the assignments for “Religion in America,” a course with 120 students, predominantly juniors and seniors. But he realized that he first wanted to write out some guiding principles. He came up with five, including “the humane option is the best option” and “we cannot just do the same thing online.” Each principle has several subparts. Though he drafted the list for his own use, Bayne decided to share it with his students — and on social media, where it has resonated with instructors of all kinds who are working to connect with students under the same unprecedented circumstances.

  • Five Ways to Promote Student Autonomy in Online Discussions

    Five Ways to Promote Student Autonomy in Online Discussions. “Write an initial post and then reply to two of your classmates.” These are the standard requirements for students participating in online course discussions. Discussions in an online course play a vital role in creating substantive interactions, aiming to capture the spirit of discourse in face-to-face settings. This, however, can look and feel like busy work, making the purpose of online discussions unclear to students.  The standard blueprint is safe but has been exhausted. “Initial posts” can be counterintuitive—in essence, they require students to complete small writing assignments individually before giving other students feedback on their work (Liberman, 2019). How can we think outside of the box of posting and replying when it comes to these discussions? One way is to use online discussions as an opportunity to promote student autonomy and ask students to be active participants not only in how they respond to class discussions, but how they initiate them. Here are five considerations for promoting student autonomy while also breaking the online discussion mold.

  • Ten Ways to Overcome Barriers to Student Engagement Online

    Ten Ways to Overcome Barriers to Student Engagement Online. Student engagement is a concept often discussed in education and an abundance of research exists on the topic. Student engagement is something instructors want to see and feel in their classrooms. Generally, student engagement tends to be viewed as the level of interest students show towards the topic being taught; their interaction with the content, instructor, and peers; and their motivation to learn and progress through the course. Online learning presents new challenges when compared to a traditional classroom because students are separated from their instructor by a computer screen. How can we engage our students in the content, learning activities, and assessments? How can we prevent feelings of frustration or isolation and keep them motivated? These questions are frequently asked by online instructors looking to maintain the same levels of engagement they see and feel in their face-to-face classrooms. Here are the strategies to try.

  • Organic Online Discussions: Saving Time and Increasing Engagement

    Organic Online Discussions: Saving Time and Increasing Engagement. I used to dread online discussions as much as many students do. However, after implementing a simple change, I was as eager to join my online discussions as I was to talk with my students in classroom conversations. The modification is easy:  I adjusted the structure of my online discussions from students starting threads (you know the drill, post-and-reply-to-two) to the instructor starting them, which creates a more organic discussion structure similar to classroom conversations. This simple modification, along with asking open-ended questions from the deep end of Bloom’s Taxonomy, creates discussions that support student learning and engagement with the material and each other.

  • Advice for how to make grading more equitable (opinion).

    Advice for how to make grading more equitable (opinion). Ask any faculty member about how they grade their students, and they will probably explain the precise weights they give quizzes, tests, papers, labs and other factors -- as well as how they average student results over the term to determine a final grade. Even though the scholarship, technology and pedagogy of postsecondary courses have significantly evolved in the last century, the ways students are graded has remained unchanged. This should come as no surprise, considering that most college and university faculty members receive no training in how to grade, either in graduate school or professional development on the job, and so most typically grade as they were graded. Plus, because faculty members rarely receive support to examine and learn about grading, each professor’s grading policies are filtered through their own individual beliefs about how students learn, how to motivate them and how best to describe student achievement. As a result, grades often vary within a department and even within a course taught by different instructors. Here are improved grading practices.

  • Grading and Performance Rubrics

    Grading and Performance Rubrics. A rubric is a scoring tool that explicitly represents the performance expectations for an assignment or piece of work. A rubric divides the assigned work into component parts and provides clear descriptions of the characteristics of the work associated with each component, at varying levels of mastery. Rubrics can be used for a wide array of assignments: papers, projects, oral presentations, artistic performances, group projects, etc. Rubrics can be used as scoring or grading guides, to provide formative feedback to support and guide ongoing learning efforts, or both.

  • Helping Students Memorize: Tips from Cognitive Science

    Helping Students Memorize: Tips from Cognitive Science. I was wrapping up a presentation on memory and learning when a colleague asked, “How do we help students learn in courses where there’s a lot of memorization?” He explained that he taught introductory-level human anatomy, and although the course wasn’t all memorization, it did challenge students’ capacity to retain dozens of new terms and concepts. The question itself is tricky because most teaching professionals are heavily invested in the idea that learning isn’t about being able to regurgitate facts on an exam. We also worry, and with good reason, that emphasizing rote learning steals time and effort away from the deeper thinking that we want students to do.  Here are some techniques that target this specific teaching and learning challenge.  

  • Reading Textbooks: The College Plague

    Reading Textbooks: The College Plague. First, let’s acknowledge this universal epidemic. College students despise reading textbooks and e-books that cover content with academic information. Fortunately, I discovered a cure for the reading plague that only requires five teaspoons of ingestion: 1) survey 2) question 3) read 4) retrieve and 5) review. In my class, I have found the SQ3R Method to be a step-by-step approach to learning and studying from textbooks. Although it took my students time and practice to master this method, it has been valuable in regards to preparing students for more content-driven class discussions, increased retention and understanding of information, strategic study skills, and test preparation.

  • Culturally Responsive Teaching and Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

    Culturally Responsive Teaching and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Educational experiences for our students that integrate Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT), a philosophy of education that centers students’ cultural backgrounds as essential to their learning (Ladson-Billings,1994), is a powerful tool for preparing them for today’s professional environment, which increasingly acknowledges diversity as integral to success. People from different cultures arrive in our classrooms with culturally-based differences that influence how they interact with our courses. This does not mean that certain students (with certain identities) are capable of doing higher level work while other students (with other identities) are not. In other words, UDL and CRT are not about de facto tracking. Rather, by incorporating a range of learning strategies to address multiple perspectives, values, entry points, and opportunities for acquiring and demonstrating knowledge, educators can amplify the benefits of diversity.

  • 10 Practical Approaches to Teaching.

    10 Practical Approaches to Teaching. Students from different walks of life converge in a classroom for learning. They have different capabilities and personalities, adding to the diversity that comes with learning institutions. As such, if you want to be an effective teacher, you need to formulate and implement creative and innovative strategies that are practical and meet the needs of students. This applies to all teachers despite the duration they have been teaching. However, it can be difficult to know what works best with your students and what won’t work. You cannot apply a ‘one size fits all’ approach. You have to blend a range of different strategies practical enough to your practice. To offer the best classroom experience to students, you need to improve your teaching practice, build collegiality, and delve deeper into content knowledge. As such, here are some practical teaching tips for educators.

  • Calling Online (actually All..)Instructors: There’s a Secret Bonus Level!

    Calling Online (actually All..) Instructors: There’s a Secret Bonus Level! Back in 2005, my online courses were designed according to the “read and reply twice” design format, then in vogue among instructional designers. The interactions that I had with my learners were largely formulaic, and I was really good at them. I responded to my students’ discussion posts and activity submissions within hours of deadlines, and I did my best to move conversations forward by asking learners to make connections and begin new avenues of inquiry. Fast forward to 2018: several game platforms and dozens of video games later. About the same time that we were playing Lego City Undercover, I was discovering that my “great” online courses could be strengthened even further by paying attention to barriers that I hadn’t previously understood well—or hadn’t even noticed at all. One of those barriers is grades. In addition to exploring ungrading, I also learned that spaced practice is one of the best ways to study and remember information and techniques. We reinforce our learning when we can re-visit concepts and ideas just before we shift them out of short-term memory and forget them. I’m looking all over my everyday experiences for hints about how our minds work when we learn things, and everywhere that I can take down barriers to learning

  • Increase Student Learning in Only 3 Seconds.

    Increase Student Learning in Only 3 Seconds. I credit my husband as the inspiration for this article. He is a writing professor who is exceptionally good at waiting. He has a unique ability (and probably disturbing to some) to ask his students a question and then wait…wait through the awkward silence, wait through the students’ sideways glances and shifting in desk chairs until a brave student decides to volunteer and answer his question. His willingness to wait inspires me and has challenged me to use this technique with my own students. Interestingly, there is a lot of research on teacher’s use of waiting in the classroom and the positive effects it can have for student engagement and learning. The best news of all? Improving student learning only takes 3 seconds.

  • Learning to Cross the Road: What Do You Show Your Students?

    Learning to Cross the Road: What Do You Show Your Students? Q: Why did the chicken cross the road? A: To show the squirrel it could be done. Most of us attempt to teach our subjects by telling students things, that is, describing, identifying, defining, specifying, explaining, lecturing, etc. We spend uncounted hours attempting to transmit our well-learned information and vital insights by clearly stating what we want students to know and understand. It can be quite rewarding because explaining things feels good and seems like real teaching. It is also not unusual for this to produce frustration later on when we discover from assessments, or from later attempts to reference earlier material, that our explaining things did not lead to a fundamental understanding that we’d hoped to convey. Here are three steps to go beyond information giving.

  • Office Hours Off Campus

    Office Hours Off Campus. Dr. Campbell teaches large biology lecture courses at the University of Pittsburgh and few students came to his office to discuss problems they were having with his course. However, when he was sitting on the steps in front of the library reading the newspaper, students stopped to ask questions about that day’s lecture. He decided he would regularly read his newspaper there and when the weather turned colder, he moved to a coffee shop frequented by students. Before long, he was regularly meeting students off campus and never in his office. Here are some of the things that happened: impromptu study groups, mentoring, better teaching.

  • Four Ways to Spark Engaging Classroom Discussions

    Four Ways to Spark Engaging Classroom Discussions. How can you creatively and engagingly start a classroom discussion and when should one close? When you are in the middle of a discussion, how do you know when to turn it in a different direction? Students are most engaged in learning when they’re verbally interacting with course material, the professor, and their classmates, research shows. Yet pulling off a great classroom discussion that involves all students is such a complex and challenging topic that we’ve broken it down into two course modules: one focused on planning effective classroom discussions and another focused on facilitating them. Fortunately, there are research-based techniques that are known to work. Dr. Brookfield and ACUE Director of Content Development Laurie Pendleton provide four tips to keep students focused and engaged in meaningful classroom discussions.

  • Navigating the Need for Rigor and Engagement: How to Make Fruitful Class Discussions Happen

    Navigating the Need for Rigor and Engagement: How to Make Fruitful Class Discussions Happen. Teaching by discussion can also seem forbidding because it makes instructors uncomfortably aware of their shortcomings. Lecturers can delude themselves that their courses are going well, but discussion leaders know when their teaching is failing to rouse the students’ interest by the indifferent quality of responses and the general torpor of the class. Why do we lecture so much? All teachers experience a tension between the need for engagement and the need for rigor. Without rigor, the students won’t learn what we want them to; without engagement, they won’t learn anything at all. Realizing that students need to discuss is helpful, but actually knowing how to make them discuss is another matter—it’s a skill that has to be learned. The challenge is not getting them to talk, but doing so without sacrificing too much rigor—how to ensure high-quality thinking and talking which engages the whole class.  Here are some rules to consider.

  • Study Strategies for a Test

    Study Strategies for a Test. Many courses have already administered quizzes and/or exams.  Often our students over-estimate or underestimate their knowledge and skills.  Also, are your students maximizing their efforts in studying for an exam?  Here is a checklist to share with your students to help them in their preparation.

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

    Time to administer the 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 process and sample forms for you to adapt.  You can always contact CITL for assistance.

  • Helping Students Memorize: Tips from Cognitive Science

    Helping Students Memorize: Tips from Cognitive Science. I was wrapping up a presentation on memory and learning when a colleague asked, “How do we help students learn in courses where there’s a lot of memorization?” He explained that he taught introductory-level human anatomy, and although the course wasn’t all memorization, it did challenge students’ capacity to retain dozens of new terms and concepts. The question itself is tricky because most teaching professionals are heavily invested in the idea that learning isn’t about being able to regurgitate facts on an exam. We also worry, and with good reason, that emphasizing rote learning steals time and effort away from the deeper thinking that we want students to do.  Here are some techniques that target this specific teaching and learning challenge.  

  • Creating Cartoons to Spark Engagement and Learning

    Creating Cartoons to Spark Engagement and Learning. As instructors, we are constantly looking for new ways to capture our students’ attention and increase their participation in our classes, especially in the online modalities. We spend countless hours crafting weekly announcements for classes and then inevitably receive multiple emails from our students asking the very same questions. The question remains, how do we get them to read our posts? It was precisely that problem I was trying to solve when I came across several articles touting the benefits of comics in higher education classrooms. I knew I couldn’t create an entire comic book, but I wondered if I could create a content-related cartoon that would not only capture students’ attention and maybe make them laugh, but also interest them enough that they would read the entire announcement or post. After a positive response, I decided to provide my online and face-to-face students the opportunity to try their hand at cartoon creation. This activity provide more ways for students to develop higher levels of assimilation and creation (Bloom’s Taxonomy, 2001)

  • Rethinking Deadline and Late Penalty Policies…Again

    Rethinking Deadline and Late Penalty Policies…Again. Recurring discussions regarding the syllabus pertain to handling excuses, extension requests, and late work, because teachers regularly deal with those issues. Suggested remedies range from giving one-time grace to assuming deception as the norm. If you have been a teacher for any length of time, you already have some sort of policy and have maybe modified it more than once. With this article, I am providing a peek at how and why I morphed from a rigid to a more flexible deadline/late penalty policy and what I observed as a result.   

  • Advice for the First Day of Class: Today We Will.

    Advice for the First Day of Class: Today We Will. The first day of class is critical. What happens on the first day, even in the first moments, sets the tone for the entire course. The impression you make will last the entire semester, and today’s students are not shy about sharing their opinions. Most students will make up their minds about the course and the instructor during that first class period. That is why you must use the first day, the first moments of class, to inspire confidence in your abilities and create a classroom atmosphere where the rules are clear; expectations are high; and yet students feel welcome, comfortable, and engaged.

  • Strategies for Better Course Evaluations and Analyzing Student Feedback

    Strategies for Better Course Evaluations and Analyzing Student Feedback.  Here are four steps to better course evaluations: make course expectations explicit, establish clear criteria for grading, get formative feedback early, and analyze student feedback. 

  • End of Semester Evaluations

    End of Semester Evaluations. Most universities use final course evaluations to solicit feedback from students. The results of these evaluations can be used to inform the next offering of the course, as well as—ideally in conjunction with many other forms of evidence of teaching effectiveness—the career trajectory of the instructor.  How do you interpret summative feedback and use it to improve your teaching? Here are four main challenges that teachers may face when interpreting end-of-course feedback from students

  • Fizzle or Finale: The Final Day of Class

    Fizzle or Finale: The Final Day of Class. Many courses end with a fizzle.  Frank Heppner (2007) aptly says, “In most classes, The Last Lecture was about as memorable as the rest of the class had been – that is, not very.”  The final class should bring the course to an appropriate conclusion or finale. “For many..., the last day of class comes and goes without ceremony, yet it provides an opportunity to bring the student-teacher experience to a close in a way that students appreciate and enjoy” (Lucas and Bernstein, 2008). How can you make the final day into a finale? 

  • Last Day of Class. Make the last day count

    Last Day of Class. Make the last day count. Too often, the last day of a class can be taken up with housekeeping-information on the final, last minute details, and course evaluations. But as Richard Lyons, author of several books on college teaching says, "the final class is a key student retention milepost." Some suggestions are: “Thank the class” (where one professor says,  "I take some time to thank the students for their part in the course and to tell them what they did to make my job easier (e.g. worked hard, asked questions, were cheerful, etc.) and “Students' concluding remarks” (after providing your own remarks, ask for theirs).

  • Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) as Useful Feedback Tools

    Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs). Classroom Assessment Techniques are generally simple, non-graded, anonymous, in-class activities designed to give you and your students useful feedback on the teaching-learning process as it is happening. CATs can be used to improve the teaching and learning that occurs in a class. Results from CATs can guide teachers in fine-tuning their teaching strategies to better meet student needs. Here are 2 sources that provide examples of CATs techniques that one can easily implement in their teaching.

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

    “Everybody with Me?” and Other Not-so-useful Questions. “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?” Another problem with vague prompts is that people, especially students, often suffer from “overconfidence bias.” The best alternative to the vague “any questions?” prompt is to use a brief Classroom Assessment Technique or CAT (Angelo and Cross, 1993). CATs do not need to be elaborate or require extensive preparation or class time. 

  • Active Learning for the College Classroom

    Active Learning for the College Classroom. The past decade has seen an explosion of interest among college faculty in the teaching methods variously grouped under the terms 'active learning' and 'cooperative learning'. The majority of all college faculty still teach their classes in the traditional lecture mode. Some of the criticism and hesitation seems to originate in the idea that techniques of active and cooperative learning are genuine alternatives to, rather than enhancements of, professors' lectures. We provide below a survey of a wide variety of active learning techniques which can be used to supplement rather than replace lectures. We are not advocating complete abandonment of lecturing; the lecture is a very efficient way to present information but use of the lecture as the only mode of instruction presents problems for both the instructor and the students. There is a large amount of research attesting to the benefits of active learning.

  • Unleashing the Power of Examples

    Unleashing the Power of Examples. 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. 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. Generally speaking, students learn through explanation, example, and experience (Maxwell, 1978). Examples and illustrations are powerful ways to broaden and deepen student learning. One of the challenges facing teachers is selecting the most effective examples and knowing when and how to best use them. Here are some ways to implement powerful examples.

  • Can’t or Won’t: The Culture of Helplessness.

    Can’t or Won’t: The Culture of Helplessness. We might provide the most detailed of instructions, but students will still find a reason to challenge those instructions as inadequate and shift the responsibility of the work to us, writes Lori Isbell. She reports about the increasing “helplessness” of our students and their tendency to send emails and text messages of all sorts with the most basic questions about the most obvious matters. It is a helplessness, I believe, that is part feigned and part real, but nevertheless it is a problem that is eroding academe.  Students and faculty then bat back and forth of who is responsibility for the clarity of a task. Yet that is not necessarily because the students lack academic ability -- although that may be true as well at the community college level -- but because they lack academic agency, it seems. They are unable or unwilling to recognize their own role in developing college skills, in earning a college education.

  • Research Highlights How Easily, Readily Students Fabricate Excuses.

    Research Highlights How Easily, Readily Students Fabricate Excuses. 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. This study described found that individuals do engage in reporting claims in an attempt to deceive their instructor even when motivated by academic tasks with low academic consequences and, possibly more alarmingly, that many students possess great confidence in their abilities to “get away with” reporting fraudulent claims. 

  • Reliable Sources: Promoting Critical Thinking in the [Mis]information Age.

     Reliable Sources: Promoting Critical Thinking in the [Mis]information AgeInformation cannot always be trusted. Despite popular opinion regarding the devastating impact of the Internet on the modern age, the inherent untrustworthiness of information is not new. Satire, misinformation, and disinformation have been circulating for centuries, even long before the printed word. However, thanks to the relative ease of creating and sharing content online, our students are confronted with publications created solely to entertain, persuade, and incite via incorrect or incomplete statistics. The traditional steps of the research process--such as resource evaluation--have seemingly fallen to the wayside in deference to instant gratification and confirmation bias.  Making critical thinkers of burgeoning researchers in an age of information overload and “fake news” requires three steps to help students and faculty alike reevaluate the nature of research as it is viewed in and outside of the classroom.

  • Fostering Student Learning through the Use of Debates

    Fostering Student Learning through the Use of Debates. There are many ways to get students engaged in a classroom, but when topics are controversial or taboo, students may shy away from sharing their thoughts on the subject. In contrast, some may be so overly passionate about a topic that they proselytize their point. One tactic that helps students feel comfortable enough to speak about controversial topics is through debates that are structured and promote students’ preparedness in defending or opposing a particular stance on a topic.

  • Hitting Pause – 65 Lecture Breaks to Refresh and Reinforce Learning

    Hitting Pause – 65 Lecture Breaks to Refresh and Reinforce Learning. If we slip into a colleague’s classroom, we see a lot of what Jensen (2008) calls “nonstop learning” (p. 220), which is when teachers talk and there are no pauses for students to interact with what they are hearing. This is what we observe: The teacher is in the front of the room at the podium, PowerPoint slides are up on the screen, and the only break occurs when the instructor momentarily stops explaining and asks a question. If anyone responds, usually a student near the front of the room answers before anyone else has a chance to think of an answer. If instructors who think that their students are actively engaged because one person has come up with an answer to a question could observe their classrooms from the back of the room, they might notice that many of their students are looking at e-mail, texting on their mobile phones, and not paying attention. Students might wish that there was a pause button connected to their college professors. How helpful it would be if their instructors recognized the need to stop talking occasionally so that learners could rewind, take a moment to check for understanding, and prepare to continue.

  • How Good Are Your Discussion Facilitation Skills?

    How Good Are Your Discussion Facilitation Skills? Successfully leading and guiding student discussions requires a range of fairly sophisticated communication skills. At the same time teachers are monitoring what’s being said about the content, they must keep track of the discussion itself. Is it on topic? How many students want to speak? Who’s already spoken and wants to speak again? How many aren’t listening? Is it time to move to a different topic? What’s the thinking behind that student question? How might the discussion be wrapped up?  Most of us are not trained discussion facilitators.  Here is an empirically developed instrument that can be used to more clearly identify the various skills involved in effective discussion facilitation and to gather student feedback that can help you assess yours

  • What We Can Learn from a Bad Day of Teaching

    What We Can Learn from a Bad Day of Teaching. We’ve all been in the classroom when our lessons flop, our students get restless, and we feel like captains of a sinking ship. Jena Lynch claims that all teachers have bad days, but the best teachers are the ones who can learn from their mistakes. She will reflect on a bad teaching day and what she learned from it. You are encouraged to take a reflective approach to your own teaching for your students’ benefit and for your professional development.

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

    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 process and sample forms for you to adapt. Also, CITL is offering two workshops next week (Feb. 4th and 6th) to help you design your own IEF form.

  • Ideas to Create a Welcoming, Engaging and Inclusive Classroom

    Ideas to Create a Welcoming, Engaging and Inclusive Classroom. The teaching-learning process is an inherently social act. Throughout the learning process students interact with the instructor, their peers and the course content, often simultaneously in a classroom setting. All of these interactions help shape their success in the course. Instructors can support student success by being mindful of the social and emotional dynamics in their course and ensuring the learning environment is one that is welcoming, engaging, and inclusive. In preparing to teach a course, consider specific actions you might take to create a positive learning experience. It can be small simple things, or more involved and mindful actions you take throughout the semester.

  • Strategies for Starting the Semester Well

    Strategies for Starting the Semester Well. Whether you have been teaching for several years or are beginning to teach your very first semester, being prepared for the start of the semester will help make the transition successful for you and your students. The following is a list of strategies you can use the first day and into the first weeks of the semester that will help you create an engaging, motivating, and organized classroom environment.

  • End-of-the-Semester Reflection from the Teachers Point of View

    End-of-the-Semester Reflection from the Teachers Point of View. Make self-reflection a part of the end of the term teaching process. Self-reflection helps you retain the insights you’ve gained along the way as you have been teaching the current course, and it will inspire you to seek out new approaches; you’ll feel more comfortable, confident, and engaged next semester. Some areas to consider are general reflections and what to do with the information you gathered.