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  • 101 Things to Do in the First Three Weeks of Class

    101 Things to Do in the First Three Weeks of Class. Want a successful start to the semester? How about setting expectations, learning students’ prior knowledge, motivating and engaging your students? Here are several strategies to implement right away. 

  • 101 Things to Do in the First Three Weeks of Class

    101 Things to Do in the First Three Weeks of Class. Want a successful start to the semester? How about setting expectations, learning students’ prior knowledge, motivating and engaging your students? Here are several strategies to implement right away. 

  • 10 Assessment Design Tips for Increasing Online Student Retention, Satisfaction and Learning

    10 Assessment Design Tips for Increasing Online Student Retention, Satisfaction and Learning - How much time do we put into the design of the assessment plans in our online courses? Is most of that time focused upon summative graded assignments that factor into the course grade? Or, do they also include opportunity for practice and informal feedback? I confess that I have an increasingly difficult time with online courses that limit assessment plans to a few papers, projects, quizzes, and tests. In an age of educational innovation and online learning, perhaps it is time to further explore enhancements to traditional notions of grading. Click here to read the suggested strategies. 

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Active Learning Strategies in Face-to-Face (and Online) Courses

    As numerous research studies suggest, teachers who desire increased student learning should adopt active learning. This article explores the research, defines active learning, discusses its value, offers suggestions for implementing it, and provides six concrete examples of active learning approaches: Thinking-Aloud Pair Problem-Solving; Three-Step Interview; Think-Pair-Share; Visible Quiz; Value Line; and Send/Pass-a-Problem. Here are the descriptions for these strategies and more.

  • Active Learning Strategies that Provide Great Feedback

    Active Learning Strategies that Provide Great Feedback. Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATS) 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.  There are many CATS to select depending on what you want to assess and how much time you have. Consider implementing these activities throughout the semester. Click here to learn more about CATS.

  • Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Types of Test Questions

    It’s good to regularly review the advantages and disadvantages of the most commonly used test questions, such as multiple-choice, true-false, short answer, and essay.  Also important is to think about the considerations when using the test banks that now frequently provide these questions. There are also several interesting variations that build on the above options

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • A Learner-Centered Syllabus Helps Set the Tone for Learning

    A Learner-Centered Syllabus Helps Set the Tone for Learning. At its most basic level, the syllabus is used to communicate information about the course, the instructor, learning objectives, assignments, grading policies, due dates, the university’s academic integrity statement, and, in some cases, an increasingly long list of strongly worded admonitions on what is and isn’t acceptable behavior in the college classroom. Could portraying the syllabus as a contract set up a less than optimal relationship?  This article suggests some areas to think about when writing your syllabus. 

  • A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop

    A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop. This latest research by Mueller & Oppenheimer, reported in Scientific American, states that students who used longhand to take notes remembered more and had a deeper understanding of the materials.  Reasons for better understanding and learning were because students were engaged in listening, digesting, and summarizing as they took notes.  See the article here.

  • Alternatives to the Traditional Final Exam

    Alternatives to the Traditional Final Exam. As you prepare your students for the final exam, keep in mind the following: research has shown that students vary the way they study depending on how they think they will be tested. For example, if students think they will be tested on details, they'll spend their time memorizing. If they know the test will ask them to apply theories and concepts to unique problems and situations, they'll practice this skill. This means that preparing for the final exam can be a powerful learning experience if we give students the information they need to study effectively. Providing sample questions is an excellent way to do this. The challenge is to create a final test which reflects what we most want students to learn. If you're interested in some alternatives to the traditional final exam, consider the following alternatives.

  • Alternatives to Traditional Testing

    Alternatives to Traditional Testing.  It is too late now to change, but you should keep this in mind for next semester when you think of diverse ways of assessing student learning. For many courses of varying format and size, across many disciplines, reasonable alternatives to traditional tests (i.e., paper-based T/F or Multiple Choice) exist. In fact, oftentimes the alternatives may even be advantageous to promote student learning and be more authentic means of students demonstrating what they have learned at the higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy (synthesis, analysis, evaluation).  Here are some suggestions.

  • A Model of Learning Objectives

    A Model of Learning Objectives. If you're not already familiar with Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, you may find it to be a useful guide for asking effective questions, developing learning objectives, and writing test items. Click here to learn more about Bloom's Taxonomy. Note: There will be a CTE workshop on Effective Multiple-Choice Test Design on Oct. 25th.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • An Inclusive Learning Environment

    An Inclusive Learning Environment.  Our student population has become more diverse; e.g., we have seen an increased international population, students from different backgrounds and achievement and with special needs.What are some teaching strategies and issues we should consider to provide a learning environment where all of our students can experience success?  Click here to see suggestions and strategies.  Also, CTE has two workshops that may be of interest to you on this topic:  October 22 and October 30.

  • An Innovative Learning Strategy for Exams: 2-Stage Exams and 2-Stage Reviews

    An Innovative Learning Strategy for Exams: 2-Stage Exams and 2-Stage Reviews. Students take an exam individually. Once they complete the exam they turn it in and get into a group with 3 other students. The students then take the identical test but this time they work together on the questions. There is one answer sheet for the group so they all have to come to agreement on each answer. Listening to their peers and arguing for their case helps them to understand the answer better, even if they had gotten the question correct on their individual test. This also works well for a review when students begin a new class and the instructor wants to review the prerequisite material.  Directions for this strategy for taking and review the exam are here.

  • A Periodic Table of Visualizatin

    A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods. You can grab your students' attention and help them to better understand classroom material by presenting information visually.  This "periodic table" describes a wide range of visual ways to display data, information, concepts, strategies, and metaphors. Click here to view it.

     

  • A "Radical" Course Revision

    A "Radical" Course Revision. Summer is a great time to revisit last year's courses and improve them for the coming year.  This article by Julie Stout of Indiana University describes her experiences revising courses and offers advice on the process.  Click here to learn more.  Note: to learn more, please visit CTE's list of summer workshops.  

  • Are Happier Students Better Performers?

    Are Happier Students Better Performers? The importance of student happiness cannot be underestimated as a determining factor in academic performance, especially in the context of today’s universities. However, teachers can be empowered in their roles as holistic educators and become positive mentors for their students, providing understanding, empathy and encouragement. Furthermore, they can also train students in developing their emotional resilience. This should be given particular emphasis in this day and age, where students are increasingly vulnerable to the negative effects of boredom, stress and frustration in their university courses. So, teachers have an increasingly important role as contributors to student happiness.  It can be said that a truly happy student is likely to excel in his academic pursuit.

  • Are You Telling Stories in the Classroom?

    Are You Telling Stories in the Classroom? I’m not speaking of lying or delivering fake news; I’m talking about an actual story. I like to avoid phrases like “meaning-making,” but that’s what a story can do for students—it allows them to listen, learn, and remember. Consider this: A story communicates something, by definition, and can entertain, amuse, delight, divert, provoke, offend, disturb, disappoint, but in all, a story can instruct.There are five parts to a story: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution. This is all fine and good, but a story delivered in the classroom, whether one of these single parts or the sum thereof, can be the spark to help students remember and recall information in a new way, and enable them to grasp the material.  We get to consume, hear a tale unravel. We get to learn something. 

  • A Simple Invitation - Please See Me.

    A Simple Invitation - Please See Me.  It all began with a simple message that I wrote on the tests or assignments of students who were struggling: “Please see me so we can discuss your performance on the test (or assignment). Let’s see what we can do to improve your grade.” Although initially I was not collecting data on the effectiveness of my “invitation,” I soon realized that most of students—about 80 percent—responded to it. Notably, those who met with me began to do better on future tests; their assignments improved as well.

  • Assessing Oral Presentations

    Assessing Oral Presentations. Toward the end of the semester, many courses require individual and group oral presentations to assess student learning.  Here is a helpful site with suggestions on preparing students to speak effectively and examples of rubrics to evaluate the presentations. Click here to learn more (Carleton College –SERC)

  • 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.

  • Assigning Course Grades

    Assigning Course Grades. We come to that time of the semester when we must do the difficult task of assigning the final course grades. What do we do with “borderline” grades? Should effort be considered? What about bonus points? Here are some strategies to consider when determining the final grade.

  • Assigning Course Grades

    Assigning Course Grades. Various grading practices are used by college and university faculty. Some examples are absolute standard, relative grading, percent grading, and grading on the curve. The Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning provides an examination of the more widely used methods and discussion of the advantages, disadvantages and fallacies associated with each.

  • Assigning Final Course Grades

    (from UIUC Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning – CITL) Assigning Final 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 are carefully formulated and reviewed periodically, they can serve well the many purposes for which they are used

  • Assigning Final Course Grades

    Assigning Final Course Grades.  Assigning final course grades is one of the most important responsibilities of an instructor. This grade should accurately represent the level of a student’s achievement.  Click here to learn CTE’s suggestions for sound policies and practices when determining course grades.

     

  • A Strategy to Get Student Buy-In for Active Learning

    A Strategy to Get Student Buy-In for Active Learning. A professor had asked himself, “Do my students know why I ask them to learn this way?” He had moved away from an almost entirely lecture-and-exam format to a more active class using small groups working on authentic problems. However, he was frustrated because his students didn’t understand the value of preparing before coming to class or the benefits of his teaching this way. Here is the assignment and the first-day questions he used to get student buy-in for active learning.

  • A syllabus is more than a contract...

    A syllabus is more than a contract... “Whether it is intended or not, the quality of the syllabus is a fairly reliable indicator of the quality of teaching and learning that will take place in a course.” (Woolcock, 2003).  How does your syllabus rate? Read this article to learn more about constructing your course and its syllabus. 

  • Awake, Accountable, and Engaged

    Awake, Accountable, and Engaged. As the semester winds down, your students may begin to lose focus.  This posting from Tomorrow's Professor offers two easy techniques to keep them engaged in lectures. Click here to learn more.

  • Back to Basics: PowerPoint Skills

    Back to Basics: PowerPoint Skills. Creating presentations with PowerPoint is easy; creating effective instruction with PowerPoint is not.  This page from the University of Vermont collects both familiar and unique advice for avoiding "death by PowerPoint."

  • 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.

  • Basic Differences Between First-Generation and Non-First-Generation Students

    Basic Differences Between First-Generation and Non-First-Generation Students. Our student population is becoming more diverse. One of the differences that we see is a growing population of first-generation college students.  These students in their first year must grapple with a variety of tough questions about themselves, their reasons for attending college, and the challenges of their new environment. Here is an article that describes some of their experiences. 

  • Before You Skip My Class

    Before You Skip My Class.  Your syllabus should already contain an attendance policy.  Even if it doesn't, you'll need to deal with students who skip your class.  J. Ben Deaton from the Georgia Institute of Technology discusses the four types of students you may encounter, and makes his own suggestions about how to approach them. Click here to read

  • Best Grading Practices to Support Student Learning

    Best Grading Practices to Support Student Learning.  Grades provide valuable information about our students' achievement and they are also very powerful in influencing what and how our students study. In this helpful article, several types of exams are described, along with guidelines in how to select the appropriate one. To learn more about effective grading practices, register for the Nov. 8th workshop.

  • Best Practices for Designing and Grading Exams

    Best Practices for Designing and Grading Exams. There are many forms of exams: from multiple-choice and true/false to short answers and essays. In choosing which form to use, consider the advantages and disadvantages of each and how to structure the exam.  Here is a valuable overview (U. of Michigan, CRLT) of the science of developing valid and reliable exams. 

  • 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. 

  • 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.) 

  • 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.

  • Boredom Busters – When Students Say the Reading is Boring

    Boredom Busters – When Students Say the Reading is Boring. For many students in classes, the struggle to comprehend a challenging text often results in disengagement, not increased effort. Academic reading can trigger an understandable defense mechanism in students; they can avoid the discomfort of some difficult tasks by calling the work “boring.” This is a special kind of boredom. Unlike the boredom we associate with repetitive or simplistic tasks – think assembly line work here – academic boredom results from cognitive overload rather than lack of stimulation. The brain has too much to deal with, rather than too little, and so it shuts down, says, “Thank you, but I’ve already had my fill today,” and defends the student against further stress by allowing him or her to “tune out” for the class. Academic boredom, or what composition scholar Charles Bazerman calls pseudo-boredom, is thus a type of guard dog against feelings of confusion and insecurity. This article describes some ways to help students understand difficult texts.

  • 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.

     

  • Building Professor-Student Relationships in an Age of Social Networking

    Building Professor-Student Relationships in an Age of Social Networking. Sometimes the only interactions we may have with students occurs online. In this article are some insights shared by one professor on how to have a good rapport with students online while avoiding any miscommunications and maintaining a professional relationship. Also, included are a few suggestions for establishing authority and professional boundaries while still maintaining professor-student relationships characterized by warmth and friendliness.