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  • 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

  • Learning Fundamental Principles, Generalizations, or Theories

    How can we improve our students comprehension of basic principle? How can students show they "comprehend" a principle, generalization or theory? Bloom talks about three ways: 1) Translation: restate the principles, generalization or theory in their own words, b) Interpretation: involve the student's recognition that the communication is describing the operation of a principle, c) Extrapolation: making of predictions based on understanding of the trends, tendencies or conditions described in the communication. This article describes the teaching strategies to promote these levels of understanding, along with ways to assess their understanding.  

  • Six Causes of Student Resistance (to Learning)

    A lot of students just don’t seem all that interested in learning. Most faculty work hard to help students find that missing motivation. They try a wide range of active learning strategies, and those approaches are successful with a lot of students but not all students. Stephen Brookfield writes about students who are beyond being passive about learning—they just plain resist it. He suggests that teachers can’t respond successfully unless they are knowledgeable about the sources of resistance to learning. Here are the reasons for student resistance.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • First Day of Class Activities that Create a Climate for Learning

    There’s no discounting the importance of the first day of class. What happens that day sets the tone for the rest of the course. Outlined below are a few novel activities for using that first day of class to emphasize the importance of learning and the responsibility students share for shaping the classroom environment.

  • First Impressions: Activities for the First Day of Class

    The old expression that you never have a second chance to make a first impression is certainly true in the classroom. Early in my career, I tried several first-day-of-class strategies, ranging from briefly introducing the course and dismissing students early to spending the entire time reviewing policies and procedures, but I began to feel that I was missing an important opportunity. Students are never more attentive than they are on the first day of class, when they’re eager to determine what kind of professor they’re dealing with, and although it is tempting to delay the real work of teaching and learning until the class list has stabilized, it can be difficult to change even the subtle norms that are established during this initial class. Several years ago, I tried a new approach, and I’ve been using it with great success ever since. Here are some strategies to help students begin using the skills they need.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Raising Student Motivation During the Pandemic

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

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • Use of Laptops in the Classroom: Research and Best Practices

    Use of Laptops: Research and Best Practices. Laptops and mobile devices are appearing in greater numbers in the classroom. Many faculty see this trend as an opportunity for more innovative teaching and increased student engagement. However, other faculty worry about potential distractions that can appear. Here are the results of a research study by the U. of Michigan teaching center on student perceptions of how laptops affect attentiveness, engagement, and learning, and ways faculty can effectively use laptops. 

  • 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. 

  • The Promising Syllabus

    The Promising Syllabus. In the few weeks before school starts, everyone across campus is creating or reviewing their syllabus for the upcoming semester. Ken Bain, author of the award-winning book “What the Best College Teachers Do,” says that using a different approach in composing the promising syllabus “can stimulate deeper and more enthusiastic student learning.” Click here to learn more about this innovative syllabus approach.

  • 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.

  • Practical Considerations in Online Learning: Asynchronous and Synchronous Environments.

    (from Tomorrow’s Professor). Practical Considerations in Online Learning: Asynchronous and Synchronous Environments.  Online classes can be conducted either synchronously (real-time virtual classrooms or chat) or asynchronously, meaning that postings are staggered. Our preference, based on our experiences with online teaching, is for the asynchronous environment. It is the creation of community in that environment to which all of our previous discussion relates. The asynchronous environment allows participants to log on to the class or discussion at any time, think about what is being discussed, and post their own responses when they wish. However, recent advances in synchronous technology, as well as increasing skill with its use, are helping us see the benefits of this form of technology in community building and the delivery of an online class.

  • 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.

  • 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. 


  • Moving Classes Online Is Hard. Online Discussion Can Help

    (from Inside Higher Ed) Moving Classes Online Is Hard. Online Discussion Can Help. Teaching online requires an intentional, thoughtful approach to instructional design, especially at a time when students are being asked to transition at an unprecedented pace in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. Amid the turmoil, it’s troubling -- if not surprising -- that challenges with the move to online learning will have the greatest impact on the students who are most at risk: research suggests that struggling students often have the most trouble succeeding in online programs. A growing body of evidence indicates that the biggest barrier to achieving equivalent success rates in online learning has been tackling the challenge of cultivating the sort of collaboration, engagement and discussion that are often the hallmark of great teaching and learning environments. Thoughtful instructional design and intentional use of technology can help make the most of online discussion to help improve student outcomes. Here are a few tips to navigate to for online programs. 

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 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.

  • Learning to Analyze and Critically Evaluate Ideas, Arguments, and Points of View

    Learning to Analyze and Critically Evaluate Ideas, Arguments, and Points of View. The critical evaluation of ideas, arguments, and points of view is important for the development of students as autonomous thinkers. It is only through this critical evaluation that students can distinguish among competing claims for truth and determine which arguments and points of view they can trust and those of which they should be skeptical. This article describe ways for students to develop disciplinary critical thinking.

  • Content Tyranny

    Content Tyranny. Have you ever said, “I don’t have time for that, I have too much to teach”?  Content tyranny happens when the need to “cover the content” receives higher priority over enhancing student learning.  Click here to learn what are the myths that lead to content tyranny and successful strategies.

  • Getting Students to Read: Fourteen Tips

    Getting Students to Read: Fourteen Tips. “Whenever faculty get together to talk about student writing or critical thinking, they inevitably turn also to problems of student reading.” (Bean, 1996, p. 133). The first question is “Is a textbook necessary for this course?”  If so, there are strategies you can use to enhance the value of reading the text and assignments and activities to enhance the reading.


  • 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

  • Unlearning: A Critical Element in the Learning Process

    Unlearning: A Critical Element in the Learning Process. Virginia Lee states that prior knowledge is arguably the single most important factor in learning. Unless we as instructors engage prior knowledge—the good, the bad, and the ugly, we risk sabotaging the new learning we work so hard to put in place and fighting the misunderstanding students continue to hold. Click here to read her article.

  • “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. 

  • Cinderella Deadlines: Reconsidering Timelines for Student Work

    (From Faculty Focus). Cinderella Deadlines: Reconsidering Timelines for Student Work.  In preparation for the coming semester, a faculty member recently asked me how to change deadlines on the LMS to midnight on a given day. After helping the professor, I started thinking about why we might need to reconsider this option, both for our own good and for our students. Before electronic submissions for papers were an option, students often had to turn in written assignments for professors during class—a practice some professors still employ. The general idea around these deadlines, whether at the beginning or end of class, largely centers on a shared schedule and the convenience of being in the same place at the same time. However, with more and more professors using electronic communication and accepting work through services like Turnitin, email, drop boxes, and LMS forums, the ease of shared proximity has become less relevant, and the range of possible deadlines has grown. The advent of digital submissions should offer us a chance to think about deadlines in new ways and to reflect on our deadline policies. As Maryellen Weimer points out, “It’s useful to look at the policies as a whole and ask what kind of climate they collectively create. What’s their relationship to learning? How do they promote it, individually and collectively?” There are more questions we could ask ourselves about deadlines.

  • Have a Paper Slam.

    Have a Paper Slam. Student often write research papers, but may not have an opportunity to learn about other students’ research. A paper slam is an innovative way to facilitate this learning without devoting many class sessions to student presentations. Check out page 4 of the April 2008 issue of The Teaching Professor.

  • 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.

  • How to Create Memorable Lectures

    How to Create Memorable Lectures. In general, students capture only 20–40 percent of a lecture’s main ideas in their notes and retain only 10% after three weeks if they do not review their notes.  All instructors hope that their lectures will be the memorable, but these numbers present a clear challenge.  Stanford’s teaching center provides some considerations on how students attend to, make sense of, and absorb new information. Click here to read the article.

  • 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.

  • Role-Play: An Often Misused Active Learning Strategy

    Role-Play: An Often Misused Active Learning Strategy. Role-playing can enliven discussions and give students the opportunity to explore different sides of an issue.  The paper, from the POD Network Teaching Excellence Essay Series, contains an overview of role-playing and a role-playing technique you can use at any point in the semester.   Here is the link.

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • 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

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

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

  • 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.

  • Mindsets Toward Learning

    Mindsets Toward Learning. A mindset, first described by Carol Dweck, is a view you have of yourself as a learner, and it affects all the decisions you make about your learning-the effort you put forth, the risks you take, how you deal with failures and criticism, and how much of a challenge you are willing to accept. Mindsets can be fixed or growth. There are strategies your students can adopt to promote a growth mindset and to be a successful learner.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

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

  • 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!