Teaching Strategy Resource Shelf

blog navigation

teaching strategies

blog posts

  • Faculty Tips for Starting the Semester Remotely

    (from Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning). Faculty Tips for Starting the Semester Remotely. The first week of the semester is a critical time for setting the tone of the course, motivating and exciting students for learning, beginning to form a community, and establishing your expectations for students. Here are a few tips for accomplishing these goals when you must start the semester remotely, so that you don’t lose that opportunity, such as prioritize well-being for yourself and your students, set clear communications with your students, and create opportunities for the students to know each other. We have also compiled student tips for starting the semester remotely, which you may want to share with your students.

  • The Rhythms of the Semester: Implications for Practice, Persona

    (from Faculty Focus). The Rhythms of the Semester: Implications for Practice, Persona. We begin each semester on a different note than we end on. The early weeks hold promise and high hopes, both often curtailed when the first assignments are graded. The final weeks find us somewhere between being reluctant or relieved to see a class move on. There is an inexplicable but evident interaction between our teaching persona and the persona a class develops throughout a semester. Some structural factors influence both: among them—the type and level of a course, the discipline, the time of day, and whether the students are a cohort or a unique collection of individuals. Using our understanding of the effects and predictability of the arc, we can help students effectively navigate through the highs and lows of a course. 

  • Make the Most of the First Day of Class

    (from Carnegie Mellon University – Eberly Center). Make the Most of the First Day of Class (Loosely based on Lyons et al. 2003). The first day of class always creates some nervousness, even for seasoned instructors. It helps to have a mental checklist of objectives to accomplish so that you and your students come away with the impression that the course is off to a good start.

    The first class meeting should serve at least two basic purposes: 1) To clarify all reasonable questions students might have relative to the course objectives, as well as your expectations for their performance in class. As students leave the first meeting, they should believe in your competence to teach the course, be able to predict the nature of your instruction, and know what you will require of them and 2) To give you an understanding of who is taking your course and what their expectations are.  These two basic purposes expand into a set of eight concrete objectives.  

  • Last Day of Class

    (from Berkeley University Center for Teaching & Learning). Last Day of Class. "Not with a whimper, but a bang." – (A revisionist view of T.S. Eliot). 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."  Here is a potpourri of ideas from Berkeley faculty

  • Parting Ways: Ending Your Course

    (from Association for Psychological Sciences). Parting Ways: Ending Your Course. Much emphasis has been placed on the use of activities at the beginning of a course to provide opportunities for introductions, begin to create a comfortable classroom atmosphere to encourage discussion and learning, or develop a sense of community and group identity. In many teaching books (e.g., McKeachie, 1999) there is an entire chapter devoted to getting started and what to do on the first day of a course such as breaking the ice, introducing the teacher and textbook, and allowing time for questions. Much less attention has been given to the equally important task of providing closure at the end of a course or seminar.

    After a great deal of time developing a sense of comfort and community in the classroom, ignoring class endings seems awkward and abrupt to both students and faculty. Here are some suggested “parting-ways” techniques.

  • Last Day of Class

    (from Berkeley University Center for Teaching & Learning). 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). Here is a potpourri of ideas from Berkeley faculty.

  • Final Exams

    (from Harvard University, Bok Center).  Final Exams. Final exams remain one of the most common genre of capstone assignments, set at the end of courses in order to give students (and instructors) the opportunity to synthesize and reflect on the full arc of the semester. To some degree, the popularity of exams among instructors and students may owe something to their sheer familiarity. Often, because instructors assume that students are familiar with the form, they also assume that students need relatively little preparation in order to do well on them, thus freeing up class time for more content coverage. This is not always the case, however, and in order for exams to fulfill their potential for assessing certain levels of understanding, instructors must be clear about the purpose of what they will ask students to do, write good questions, and scaffold students into the exam. 

    Before you settle on a particular genre of assessment, we recommend that you visit these pages on capstone assignmentswriting effective assignment prompts, and sequencing and scaffolding.

     

  • Don't Spam Your Students and Other Practical Communication Tips

    (from Faculty Focus) Don't Spam Your Students and Other Practical Communication Tips.  Like us, students get a lot of messages in their inbox, which leads to students’ eyes glazing over, and then our messages get lost in the mix. How can we avoid that? Set up a consistent communication protocol that is shared with students the first week and then stick to it.

    Here’s an example: Once a week, send students a message that includes what is upcoming along with other important information or announcements. Send that update on the same day each week so that students know that on Friday (or whichever day you choose) they will get a class update. We are going for quality rather than quantity. Yes, this takes a little planning ahead, but the resulting clarity of communication will pay off. Here are ways to maximize communication through other means, such as announcements section, course webpage, and student-friendly assignment schedule.

  • The Sound of Silence Can Be Deafening and the Questions You Ask Your Students Can Provoke It

    (From Stanford’s Tomorrow’s Professor). The Sound of Silence Can Be Deafening and the Questions You Ask Your Students Can Provoke It. A colleague recently told me that the students in his undergraduate class “didn’t want to talk.” He and I had previously talked about how to get students more engaged, and I had suggested to him that he ask questions. I probed, “What kinds of questions have you asked your students?” He replied, “Well, the first question I asked this morning was ‘What is the main point of the article I assigned for the day?’” Nobody said anything. I pointed out that even I might be afraid to answer such a question. Such questions pose a severe challenge to the confidence of undergraduate students, because the instructor knows the answer and they don’t. The answer is a “fact” which the instructor clearly thinks the students should have already known before they came to class. When it comes to answering questions about “facts,” there are many ways to be wrong, but only one way to be right. When faced with this dilemma, students are understandably silent.

    I suggested that he come up with nonthreatening questions: questions that didn’t put a student’s self-confidence and reputation at risk. There are better ways which start with different types of questions. 

  • The Art of Cold Calling

    (from Harvard University The Christensen Center for Teaching & Learning). The Art of Cold Calling. If you are looking to better engage students in the classroom, cold calling can be a great way to spark discussion and foster an inclusionary environment. Yes, this method can be used to set the tone for class expectations, but it isn’t about shaming the unprepared. Done right, cold calling can serve up meaningful dialogue while also allowing a variety of students a chance to contribute, whether it’s by offering a deserving nod to an oft-prepared student or highlighting another’s expertise and background. Unsure how to properly use cold calling in your classroom? Let’s explore the why, who, and how.

  • Strategies for Preventing Student Resistance

    (from Faculty Focus). Strategies for Preventing Student Resistance. When teachers try something different in the classroom and students resist, the teacher may back down. Often, this is due to fear of what will happen to their student evaluations and contract renewals. There is little doubt that the potential for student resistance in response to attempting a new teaching strategy is a widespread fear of many instructors. Even the rumor that another instructor who tried innovative approaches may have experienced student resistance could be enough to deter instructors from ever trying these teaching methods themselves.

    While addressing student resistance in a classroom when it arises is no doubt a key concern for many instructors, preventing student resistance altogether would seem to be the ultimate goal. Here are several such teaching strategies, connected where possible to the research literatures.

  • Blogs, Wikis, and Discussion Boards

    (from Carnegie Mellon University Eberly Center). Blogs, Wikis, and Discussion Boards. Blogs, wikis, and discussion boards are web-based platforms through which students can create and share content as well as interact with each other and the instructor. There is quite a bit of overlap in the feature sets of these tools, however, how they tend to be authored, organized, and used offer distinguishing characteristics. This chart describes who is responsible for creating and sharing the content, the type of content, and the default approach to content organization (See "How do I know if it's a good fit?" for typical educational uses and examples.) 

  • 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. When writing for blogs, students can experiment and interact digitally in a relaxed and low-risk environment. 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. Learn more here

  • Could Your Assignments Use a Tune-Up?

    (from Faculty focus). Could Your Assignments Use a Tune-Up?  How do students think about assignments? A lot never get past the idea that they’re basically unpleasant things faculty make them do. What does interest a lot of students is finding out what the teacher wants in the assignment, not so much what the assignments asks but more seeking insight as to what the teacher “likes.” Discover that and there’s a better chance of a good grade, or so the thinking goes. Unfortunately, very few students look at an assignment and think, now there’s an interesting learning opportunity. And how do faculty think about assignments? With multiple courses and lots of other work besides, with each new assignment developed there’s a tendency to first consider the amount of grading that will come with it. Assignments are what students ride on their way to learning. Our responsibility is to provide good vehicle maintenance and recognition when it’s time for a trade-in. 

  • Creating Engaging Assignments

    (from Stanford University - Tomorrow's Professor's Postings). Creating Engaging Assignments. For many years, teachers have focused on the importance of engaging students deeply in their work since we know that effort and motivation are central to learning. Here are three case studies of course assignments that led to significant engagement by students: student choice, high-stakes assignments (e.g., presenting for an external audience), and using drama as a teaching tool. Similar assignments could be incorporated, with appropriate adaptations, in many other contexts.

  • 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 a workshop on Sept. 22nd to help you design your own IEF forms. For more assistance, contact CITL

  • Increase Student Learning in Only 3 Seconds.

    (from Faculty Focus). Increase Student Learning in Only 3 Seconds. 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. In 1972, Mary Budd Rowe coined the phrase “wait time” to describe the period of time between a teacher’s question and a student’s response. Rowe found that teachers typically wait between .7 seconds and 1.5 seconds before speaking after they have asked a question. However, when teachers utilize wait times of 3 seconds or more, Rowe found that there were demonstrated increases in student creativity and learning. Read more here

  • Lighting the Path: Making Connections Between Classes and Careers

    (from Faculty Focus). Lighting the Path: Making Connections Between Classes and Careers. Students can have a hard time seeing how general education requirements and foundational classes help them achieve their goals. Students, especially adult learners, want to make measurable progress toward their degrees right out of the gate. Actually, want might be too weak a word. As they balance jobs, families, an income gap, and student debt that grows weekly, they need to make progress as a tangible achievement to keep them going. What I want to focus on are potential solutions, or at least actions we can take toward solutions. If we view a student’s educational journey as a continuity, as a process with incremental progress, how do we put the imprint of this journey on individual classes? We can do this in part by creating a context for the learning in our courses and through instilling a sense of direction by infusing reflection in the classroom. Sometimes it’s text, sometimes video or audio—there are dozens of ways to connect and dozens of potential locations for this interaction to take place: gradebook feedback, inbox, the discussion board. The key is to have meaningful conversations with our students, a dialogue, not a sermon from the mount but an interchange—a back and forth

  • Use Revise and Resubmit Instead of Extra Credit

    (from Faculty Focus) Use Revise and Resubmit Instead of Extra Credit. Many faculty provide extra credit or give in to student requests for extra credit, but this is not always an efficient way to produce learning. The major problem with extra credit is that it does not address a student’s actual deficiency. In most cases, the issue of extra credit occurs when there is some deficiency in a student’s performance that hurt their grade and they want to do something to improve it. But whatever they do to improve their grade is “extra,” meaning not the same as the problematic performance. For this reason, extra credit does not address the fundamental issue that motivated the extra credit. If a student gets a poor grade on an assignment in my class because they did not understand the human genome project, it is that understanding which needs to be addressed. It is not an objection to arbitrarily redefine “extra credit” to include a built-in revise and resubmit option for students. That is simply a misuse of the term. 

  • Make the Most of the First Day of Class

    Make the Most of the First Day of Class. The first day of class always creates some nervousness, even for seasoned instructors. It helps to have a mental checklist of objectives to accomplish so that you and your students come away with the impression that the course is off to a good start. The first class meeting should serve at least two basic purposes: 1) to clarify all reasonable questions students might have relative to the course objectives, as well as your expectations for their performance in class. As students leave the first meeting, they should believe in your competence to teach the course, be able to predict the nature of your instruction, and know what you will require of them and 2) to give you an understanding of who is taking your course and what their expectations are. Here are eight concrete objectives from these two purposes.

  • Using Your Syllabus as a Learning Resource

    Using Your Syllabus as a Learning Resource.  We know students do not take it upon themselves to read the syllabus. Yet syllabus indifference still bewilders me after teaching for 25 years, given that my syllabi are conveniently available online and in hard copy, and are replete with information virtually assuring success with my courses. Tired of asking students to “read the syllabus for that information,” a number of years ago I decided to incorporate my syllabus into each class meeting as a learning resource. Three strategies have proven quite successful.

  • Ten Tips for More Efficient and Effective Grading

    (from Faculty Focus). Ten Tips for More Efficient and Effective Grading. Many instructors dread grading, not just because grading takes up a sizable amount of time and can prove itself a tedious task, but also because instructors struggle with grading effectively and efficiently. However, effective grading does not have to take inordinate amounts of time, nor does one need to sacrifice quality for speed. The following tips can help instructors grade more effectively while enhancing student learning

  • A Mountain of Grading

    (from Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching). A Mountain of Grading. Now that the final exams are almost over, do you find yourself facing a large mountain of grading? And, perhaps, you wonder if you are spending more time grading than your students spent completing that assignment?  Consider the notion of “light grading” where you limit your comments or notations to those your students can use for further learning or improvement.  Here are some suggestions on how to do that.

  • Ending the Semester

    (from Georgetown University The Teaching Commons). Ending the Semester. A semester is a marathon effort, and, by the time you reach the end of it, it’s quite possible that everyone—you and the students both—will be exhausted, and perhaps very ready to leave the course behind. But one last thoughtful push can ensure that the course’s conclusion is meaningful in its own right. Think about a) looking back, b) gathering feedback, and c) looking forward regarding this semester's courses

  • Fizzle or Finale: The Final Day of Class

    (from Duquesne University Center for Teaching Excellence). 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? Some ways are: give a momento, “pass the torch,” and make emotional connections.

  • Assigning Course Grades

    (from University of Illinois Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning). 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 are practices that 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? With careful thought and periodic review, most instructors can develop satisfactory, defensible grading policies and procedures.

  • Stop Giving Them Answers: Make Them Think!

    (from Faculty Focus) Stop Giving Them Answers: Make Them Think! Higher education has recently changed in faster and more dynamic ways than anticipated. COVID-19 is an immediate factor, but the access to information is more prevalent now than 15 years ago. Many students’ learning habits do not include long nights in the library reading through textbooks or searching through library stacks. Information is at students’ fingertips, and the desire for immediate access to information is only growing. There is a real sense in which students want answers now, and as educators, we are tasked with cultivating the intellect, which is a laborious process. “Learning is deeper and more durable when it’s effortful” (Brown, Roediger, & McDaniel, 2014). In other words, deep learning is hard work. We know this, and we are faced with convincing students that deep learning is meaningful and rewarding.

    Consequently, we are charged with developing and refining our students into professional learners who are efficient at thinking critically, completing tasks, and ready to enter the “real world.” As Nagro et al. (2018) stated, accomplishing this means structuring our classrooms to emphasize student choice and allowing authentic learning through individual and group activities.

  • The Feynman Technique: The Best Way to Learn Anything

    (from Pocket Worthy). The Feynman Technique: The Best Way to Learn Anything. There are two types of knowledge and most of us focus on the wrong one. The first type of knowledge focuses on knowing the name of something. The second focuses on knowing something. These are not the same thing. The famous Nobel winning physicist Richard Feynman understood the difference between knowing something and knowing the name of something and it’s one of the most important reasons for his success. In fact, he created a formula for learning that ensured he understood something better than everyone else. There are four simple steps to the Feynman Technique: 1) Choose a Concept, 2) Teach it to a Toddler, 3) Identify Gaps and Go Back to The Source Material, 4) Review and Simplify (optional). 

  • The Sound of Silence Can Be Deafening and the Questions You Ask Your Students Can Provoke It

    (from Stanford University’s Tomorrow’s Professor) The Sound of Silence Can Be Deafening and the Questions You Ask Your Students Can Provoke It. A colleague recently told me that the students in his undergraduate class “didn’t want to talk.” I probed, “What kinds of questions have you asked your students?” He replied, “Well, the first question I asked this morning was ‘What is the main point of the article I assigned for the day?’” Nobody said anything. I pointed out that even I might be afraid to answer such a question. Such questions pose a severe challenge to the confidence of undergraduate students, because the instructor knows the answer and they don’t. When it comes to answering questions about “facts,” there are many ways to be wrong, but only one way to be right. When faced with this dilemma, students are understandably silent. I suggested that he come up with nonthreatening questions: questions that didn’t put a student’s self-confidence and reputation at risk.

  • The Big Bang of Motivation: Questions That Evoke Wonder in Our Students

    (from Faculty Focus). The Big Bang of Motivation: Questions That Evoke Wonder in Our Students. Many college and university professors name student motivation and engagement as their top challenge. It’s a common belief that motivation is a character trait that is either present or missing in each student. However, if we look back upon our personal histories as learners, we can all think of times when we participated half-heartedly. Many of us can also recall teachers who kindled in us a deep connection to the topics in their courses despite an absence of such interest when we first entered their classrooms. We became highly motivated to participate in the learning process, perhaps even developing a lifelong interest in the field. How did these teachers ignite this interest in us? While the topic of human motivation still contains many mysteries, researchers have discovered fascinating clues about what sparks a desire to learn. Amidst all of the factors that influence human motivation to learn, wonder might be seen as the “big bang” because it is such an essential starting point in any passionate path of inquiry.

  • Extending the Shelf Life of Your Instructional Videos: Six Common Pitfalls to Avoid

    (from Faculty Focus) Extending the Shelf Life of Your Instructional Videos: Six Common Pitfalls to Avoid. When instructional video is produced thoughtfully and used to promote active engagement, it can improve student motivation, learning, and performance, make content more memorable, and bring highly visual material to life. Video has other benefits as well. It allows students to watch lectures at their own pace, rewinding and re-watching as needed. It lets instructors assign lectures as homework, opening up class time for interaction. And it can reduce the total time faculty need to spend preparing and delivering the same material for different semesters or audiences. Once you’ve recorded a video, you can–theoretically–use it again and again.

    I say “theoretically” because it’s not as easy as it sounds. In fact, there are a number of small mistakes that can shorten the shelf-life of video unnecessarily, limit its reusability, and compel you to re-record sooner than you’d like. Here are six strategies that can help you avoid these pitfalls and make videos that last

  • Best Practices for Video Creation

    (From UIUC Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning) Best Practices for Video Creation. Without a set shop, makeup department, or (even) camera operator, many key aesthetics that viewers have grown accustomed to may get overlooked when recording on your own. Following the best practices listed below will improve your students' lecture viewing experience. These tips also double as a checklist of non-technical elements that you can control to ensure minimum distraction away from your intended message/teaching. Additional information are Media Planning Guide (PDF), Illinois Media Space, and video editing tips. 

  • Building Classroom Community Spirit Online.

    (from Inside Higher Ed). Building Classroom Community Spirit Online. As instructors, we can underestimate how much informal, class-adjacent social interactions encourage students to participate in class, write Zachary Nowak and Sarah Bramao-Ramos. In the pre-COVID-19 days, the five minutes that my students sat quietly chatting before I put the first slide up on the screen were facilitating the smooth functioning of my classes. But I never realized that until the coronavirus hit. It seemed clear to me that I would have to try to foster virtually something like what happens naturally for in-person classes. My response was to create a series of three assignments for students to do what I called “class-adjacent socializing.”  We developed instructions as a longish, FAQ-style prompt for the class-adjacent socializing. We had to reiterate, several times, that these were intended to be class-adjacent events, not class-related events. The goal was not for the students to discuss the class material: the goal was to get them comfortable enough with each other that it would be easier to have those discussions when they met online. Even when we return to in-person instruction, we will continue to actively foster these previously casual interactions.

     

  • Six Things Faculty Can Do to Promote Student Engagement

    (from Faculty Focus). Six Things Faculty Can Do to Promote Student Engagement.  Starting with redefining participation. 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

  • Boosting Student Motivation Through Connected Reflection

    (from Faculty Focus). Boosting Student Motivation Through Connected Reflection. Universities are mandated to be the ultimate “learning culture,” powered by faculty who embody lifelong learning. We know that reflection is essential to learning; it’s the foundation of “continuous improvement,” that ceaseless cultivation of our skills and spirits as we work in the world. And this year, our reflection comes in time of global crisis—all the more reason to reflect on what matters most in our lives and our students’ lives, in our communities, and in our teaching and learning within our courses. Here are seven ways to facilitate motivation, metacognition, and a learning community.

  • Transforming Midterm Evaluations into a Metacognitive Pause

    (from Faculty Focus). Transforming Midterm Evaluations into a Metacognitive Pause. Midterm evaluations often tip toward students’ (unexamined) likes and dislikes. By leveraging the weight of the midterm pause and inviting students to reflect on their development, midterm evaluations can become more learning-centered. Cued by our language, students can become aware of a distinction—that we’re not asking what they like, but what is helping them learn. This opportunity for students to learn about their learning yields valuable insights that not only inform instructors about the effects of our methods, but also ground students in their own learning processes, deepening their confidence in and commitment to their development in the second half of the course. Many students in this particular evening course were returning learners, and so it felt beneficial to use the natural pause at midterm as an opportunity to grow their confidence by reflecting on the learning process and taking stock of their own development. I therefore tailored my midterm questions with a metacognitive slant that would prompt students to identify and articulate dimensions of and supports for their learning. Learning experts often talk about the necessary “difficulty” and “disorientation” that is part of learning. “Can you share about what has been most challenging for you so far in this course?” (Disorienting even?) “What have you learned from this difficulty? What helped you in overcoming the challenge(s)?”

  • Starter Activities to Begin Any Class

    (from Faculty Focus). Starter Activities to Begin Any Class.  What can you implement in your classes that can review content, establish a foundation for the day’s topic, encourage student participation, and get students prepared for the day’s activities?  Whether you call them starter activities, bell work, or focusing activities, a predictable, formatted, content-based beginning of class activity can be used to achieve these goals.  Beginning of class activities have previously been used to gain student attention, provide accountability, review material, engage with new content, or establish routines. To gain students’ attention, class might begin by using multi-media, hands-on activities, surprising events, humor, or appealing to students’ emotions (Davis, 2009). Or class might start with a repeating set of slides, asking students to sequence steps or sketch a content-related drawing (Honeycutt, 2019). Here are some suggestions

  • When Directions are the Problem

    (from Faculty Focus) When Directions are the Problem. Instructors often experience problems between the directions given for an assignment and the work submitted by a student. Students miss important parts of questions; they may fail to understand the directions; and they produce work which the instructor finds unacceptable. Unfortunately, students may fail to see what the instructor sees for the end product, leading to loss of time and learning. John Hattie (2015) found that instructors who directly teach what is expected, have improved student outcomes with a large effect size (Cohen’s d = 0.77).

    Templating, where instructors explicitly develop, teach, and model expectations, improves learning and reduces time spent trying to implement directions and is rooted in Bandura’s social learning theory by helping students define, interpret, and mimic what was observed (Bandura & Walters, 1977). There are four components to consider: develop a minimum and a maximum for each criteria, give students a laundry list of expectations, use a checklist for the template, and model expectations.

  • First Assignment Helps Establish Expectations

    (From Faculty Focus). First Assignment Helps Establish Expectations. There is a lot to cover on the first day of class. You establish procedures and convey expectations. You review the syllabus and, if you’re teaching a lab, safety protocol. You also spend some time teaching some material. While you might not make an assignment for the first day, you still should use some time on the first day to talk about your expectations for students’ work and how you assign grades. Although you explain grading on the first day, expect to review it again when you return the first assignments, papers, and exams. 

  • 5 Faculty Best Practices Before the First Day of Online Class

    (from Wiley Educational Services). 5 Faculty Best Practices Before the First Day of Online Class. For faculty who teach online, the days leading up to the first week of class are critical for both you and your students. By using this time to prepare your students for what is to come, you can help alleviate student fears and anxieties, as well as limit the number of emails you receive. For example, sending students a few introductory announcements,  and welcoming them into the classroom (e.g., through a video) can help establish a stronger student-teacher relationship. Click here for five simple actions you can take before the first day of class to help prepare yourself to teach online and to make your students feel more comfortable about the upcoming course.

  • Sample Syllabus Quiz Questions

    (from ASU Teach Online). Sample Syllabus Quiz Questions. A syllabus quiz acts as a contract to verify understanding of important elements of the syllabus. The purpose of a syllabus quiz is not only to familiarize students with the syllabus content, but also gives students a chance to reflect on questions that were asked in previous terms. This helps the instructor avoid answering the same questions repeatedly, and a syllabus quiz can ensure that students are responsible for their own learning.

    A syllabus quiz helps to clarify any misconceptions about course content or policies, such as late work. Important procedures can be reviewed and technical issues can be covered. The course structure and where to locate due dates can be included, as well as the instructor’s preferred method of communication. Providing immediate feedback after completing the syllabus quiz will minimize confusion. Here are some sample questions to ask

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

    (From Faculty Focus). 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.

  • Lessons from Teaching in Fall 2020: What to Keep, What to Ditch, and What to Change

    (from Cynthia Brame, Vanderbilt University – Center for Teaching). Lessons from Teaching in Fall 2020: What to Keep, What to Ditch, and What to Change. This fall, I got the opportunity to teach online for the first time. As with most times, I do something hard for the first time, I found some things that worked, some things that didn’t, and some things that I think had promise but need significant tweaking.  So what worked? (Organization) What didn’t? (Small group discussion boards) What would I tweak? (Small groups in class). And what are challenges that currently have me stumped?  Read on!

  • 11 Steps to Planning a Course You’ve Never Taught Before

    (from Faculty Focus). 11 Steps to Planning a Course You’ve Never Taught Before. You wait with anticipation. You receive the email: Course assignments are posted. You click on your Course Assignment. And—you’re assigned to teach a course that you have never taught before. Maybe you feel excitement, maybe you feel anxiety, or some mixture of the two. Emotion aside, how do you plan a new course? Planning a new course can seem intimidating, even anxiety-provoking, but it doesn’t have to be. You can start planning with confidence and getting your mental energy away from worry and back to the most important thing: teaching and reaching your students. Here are concrete steps you can take to start planning a brand-new course you have never taught before

  • An Effective Syllabus to Reflect Your Course Design

    (from Vanderbilt University and University of Illinois teaching centers). An Effective Syllabus to Reflect Your Course Design. A syllabus serves many functions in a class. In The Course Syllabus: A Learning Centered Approach (2008, 2nd Ed.) Judith Grunert O’Brien, Barbara J. Millis and Margaret W. Cohen identify at least sixteen elements of a learner-centered syllabus. First: a good syllabus relies on thoughtful course design. The strongest syllabi are built on a solid foundation of course design. Here are some steps to create an effective syllabus. In addition, please check out our Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning page on syllabus design.

  • State of Mind in the College Classroom

    (from Faculty Focus) State of Mind in the College Classroom. (NOTE: Even though this article is from 2018, it is even more relevant during these unanticipated times). There’s a mental health crisis on today’s college campuses. According to research conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness: one in four college students have a diagnosable illness, 40 percent do not seek help, 80 percent feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities, and 50 percent have become so anxious that they struggle in school.

    How can faculty support students who are facing these issues? Showing students kindness goes a long way. Creating a classroom environment that exudes kindness and concern for students’ well-being sends a message to students that not only do we care about them, but we support them. Facilitating this type of classroom environment can enable students to take the necessary steps to approach their instructor when they are having a difficult time. A safe and supportive classroom environment helps students begin a conversation about the challenges they are dealing with during the semester. This in turn can lead faculty to assist a student in exploring support services available to them on campus, so they do not have to suffer in silence.

  • Parting Ways: Ending Your Course

    (from Association for Psychological Science). Parting Ways: Ending Your Course. Much emphasis has been placed on the use of activities at the beginning of a course to provide opportunities for introductions, begin to create a comfortable classroom atmosphere to encourage discussion and learning, or develop a sense of community and group identity. In many teaching books (e.g., McKeachie, 1999) there is an entire chapter devoted to getting started and what to do on the first day of a course such as breaking the ice, introducing the teacher and textbook, and allowing time for questions. Much less attention has been given to the equally important task of providing closure at the end of a course or seminar. After a great deal of time developing a sense of comfort and community in the classroom, ignoring class endings seems awkward and abrupt to both students and faculty. Use “parting-ways” techniques such as providing emotional and psychological closure, allowing an opportunity to summarize central ideas and review content, and using strategies that add to students’ entire semester-long experience and sense of accomplishment.

  • Fourteen Simple Strategies to Reduce Cheating in Online Examinations

    (from Faculty Focus). Fourteen Simple Strategies to Reduce Cheating in Online Examinations. The end of the academic term often brings final examinations and cumulative assessments to test students’ knowledge of course materials. With 30% of college students taking online courses (Allen & Segman, 2017), and that number expeditiously increasing, so will the need for administering exams within the online learning environment. Many instructors are hesitant to include exams within their online courses because of the potential of compromising academic integrity. Virtual live proctoring technologies but may be too expensive and not part of the instructor’s institution’s distance education infrastructure. Additionally, having students take exams under the eye of an online proctor may negatively impact student success on the exam (Lieberman, 2018). Even without expensive virtual proctoring tools, there are many ways that instructors can leverage the inherent features within their institution’s Learning Management System (LMS) to decrease cheating during online examinations. Here are 14 ways to do so: from writing questions based on higher-order thinking skills to having students sign an academic integrity contract. 

  • Teaching Higher Levels of Learning at the End of the Semester

    (From Boise State University teaching center).Teaching Higher Levels of Learning at the End of the Semester. Towards the end of the semester, students and instructors alike are often worn out and tempted to take one of two avenues: 1) They may be enticed to turn on cruise control, check out mentally, and start winter break a few weeks early. This first option may be particularly attractive when final class sessions are devoted to student presentations or 2) Students and instructors may be enticed to shift into high gear, to overwork and cram as much as possible. This second option lures students who have been slacking and instructors who have fallen behind schedule. Cramming helps no one.  Here are some effective strategies to implement.

     

  • A Generation Defined by the Pandemic

    (From Inside Higher Ed). A Generation Defined by the Pandemic. A new survey about student experiences during the fall semester and the coronavirus pandemic found that stress, anxiety and loneliness were their overriding concern. The data are representative of the real-life challenges and uncertainty that students say they face. Uncertainty, instability and self-doubt have been common themes in the lives of college students during 2020 as their education and career plans shift due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

    These were the general feelings expressed by about 450 college students and recent alumni who responded to a small, open-ended survey conducted by a pair of 2020 graduates, and reiterated on a larger scale in a new nationally representative survey of 4,000 undergraduates by the Strada Education Network. The various responses show that heightened stress and anxiety -- whether about achieving academic success, finding future employment or paying for the next meal -- is currently dominating the student psyche. Uncertainty, instability and self-doubt have been common themes in the lives of college students during 2020 as their education and career plans shift due to the coronavirus pandemic.