Teaching Tips Topics
– A Few Examples of Classroom Assessment Techniques
– Academic Integrity and Honor Code at HSU
– Attendance in Large Classes
– Cognitive Science and Learning Science Research
– Cooperative Learning-The 5 Basic Elements
– Creating Effective Learning Communities
– Dealing with Problematic Interactions with Students
– Digital Case Stories as Teaching Resources
– Effective Presentations
– Embedding Assessments
– Encouraging Student Questions
– End of Semester Grading
– Five Criteria of “Good Course” Design
– Getting Students to Read
– Grading Tips
– Helping Students Deal with Test Anxiety
– How to Make the First Day of Class Set the Stage for Success
– Importance of Students’ Prior Knowledge
– Keeping Your Classroom CRISP
– Learning Communities
– Leveraging Technology for Instruction
– Making Ideas Stick
– Managing the Paper Load
– Mid Semester Course Adjustments
– Principles of Effective Instructor-Student Interaction
– Promoting Team Skills for Group Projects
– Reference Management Programs
– Reflection Exercise on a Course’s “Big Question”
– Rubrics as Learning Guides
– Team Based Learning
– Ten Teaching Strategies Suggested by Research
– Test Construction for Closed-Answer or “Objective” Tests
– The Last Day of Class: Beginning at the End
– Time-Saving Strategies for Evaluating Student Writing
– Twitter for Faculty
– Using Clicker Technology in Large Classes
– Using Threaded Discussions to Build Community in a Course
– Using Universal Design For Learning to Meet the Needs of All Students
– Value Line
– “Vocabulary Across the Curriculum”: Word of the Day
– What Research Tells Us About Notetaking and Review of Notes
– Who’s Working harder?
– Why Did Student Achievement Go Up While My Teaching Evaluations Went Down?
– Writing Student Learning Outcomes
– Writing to Learn
A Few Examples of Classroom Assessment Techniques (top)
Wondering if your students are learning course concepts? Here are a few examples of classroom assessment techniques that you can use to collect data from your students in order to help you think about how to improve your teaching. You will notice that techniques at the beginning of the list are fairly general and easy to use. Techniques later on the list are more specific, more complex, and likely to require more time for you and for your students.
Minute paper: Give students three to five minutes to answer two questions: (1) “What was the most important thing you learned __?” (you fill in the blank: during today’s class, while doing the homework, while reading the assignment, etc.), and (2) “What important question remains unanswered?”
Students hand in their answers before they leave class. Use this information to find out if students are understanding the material in the same way that you intend them to. If they’re not, this information will help you make changes in what you present or how you present it.
Muddiest point: This technique is similar to the Minute Paper. It follows the same procedures, but focuses on what students DON’T understand. Near the end of class, ask students, “What was the muddiest point in __?” (you fill in the blank: today’s class, this week’s lecture, the reading assignment, etc.)
Allow students 2-3 minutes to write their answers on an index card or piece of paper, which they hand in to you before they leave. Use this information to help you decide what to emphasize or how much time to spend when you review material with students in future sessions.
Focused Lists: Identify a key point or concept that you expect students to know, and ask them to make a list of words and ideas associated with it. Give them a time limit (3-5 minutes) or an item limit (5-10 items), and collect their lists when they are done.
Use this information to help you understand how well students know and use the common vocabulary of the subject you are studying, to see what concepts they associate with one another, or to check their preconceptions before you introduce a topic in detail.
Defining Features Matrix: Ask students to distinguish concepts in terms of a single set of features. List the features on the side of the page, and the concepts across the top; ask the students to indicate (+) or (-) under each concept to show the presence or absence of each feature.
Use this information to help you determine students’ grasp of apparently similar concepts which may be easily confused with one another, or of apparently unrelated concepts which may share important characteristics.
Application cards: Ask students to write one possible real-world application of a theory or concept that has recently been covered. Use this information to see how thoroughly students understand and appreciate the importance of relatively abstract information that have been presented in class. Collect the cards directly, or if you have more time, allow small groups of students to compare their applications and comment on one another’s before they hand them in.
NOTE: Students who come up with poor or incorrect applications are likely to remember and learn those bad examples unless they receive feedback and examples of good applications. Other students’ applications might provide useful good examples for later class discussions.
Feedback forms: Like the forms commonly used for Student Evaluations and other opinion surveys, prepare your own brief survey focused on specific information that will be useful to you. Possible areas to focus on include class activities, assignments, quizzes, and the use of office hours.
Like other classroom assessment techniques, maintain a narrow focus on issues or concerns that will be useful for you. Use this information to quickly assess easily measurable features of what happens in your classroom (for example, satisfaction with the amount of time spent discussing the homework, perceived usefulness of small group activities, etc.).
Student-generated test questions: Ask students to prepare for an upcoming test by writing possible questions which they think could be on the test. By seeing what information they emphasize as most important for the test, you will see how they perceive what you are trying to teach them. Use this information to help you choose what to emphasize in review sessions (for example, if students are failing to notice some things that are very important). You can also use students’ questions to make a practice test. (Some instructors even use their students’ questions on the actual test.)
Writing-To-Learn projects: Students often turn in written projects for a grade. However, if you only collect their written work at the end of the term, it’s too late to use the insights that you gain from their work to help them improve their learning. Instead, collect early (ungraded) drafts of written work, learning journals, or other short written comments from students in order to get information about what they are learning and how they are organizing the information.
NOTE: If students do written work for you, they usually expect written feedback from you about what they have written. They probably will not appreciate taking time to write things for you if they don’t get written responses, especially because they’re not receiving grades for this work.
Written by: Tasha Souza, Humboldt State University, ELIXR Faculty Development Lead
Angelo, T. & Cross, P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Astin, A.W. (1991). Assessment for Excellence. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press.
Academic Integrity and Honor Code at HSU (top)
Academic integrity is one of the cornerstones of every university experience. HSU’s motto “Light and Truth” reveals the level of importance our institution places on honesty in all academic endeavors. We may like to think that every university student has already learned the merits of academic honesty before they have arrived at HSU, and has applied them without exception during their career.
However, it may come as a surprise to some that out of the 10,031 HSU student paper submissions to our “originality monitoring” software (Turnitin), during the period from March, 2002 to September, 2013, 2736 papers revealed 25%-100% unoriginal material (~27% of the total papers). (1) Granted, a significant portion of the 1570 may be the result of unintentional plagiarism.
Many professors express a belief that it is not their responsibility to teach students how to write well. That high quality, discipline specific writing will somehow be a skill set that students bring with them to the class. However, successful completion of English 100 does guarantee adequate preparation for all the writing needs a student will need in every discipline. (2)
So you might ask, “As an instructor, what can I do to help encourage academic integrity, and minimize unintentional (and intentional) plagiarism?”
1. By clearly defining your expectations in regards to discipline specific citation styles (APA, MLA, etc.) and by providing examples of appropriate citation practices, you may be able to help to minimize inadvertent unoriginal content in student papers. Additionally, you may wish to review and share with your students, the information pertaining to “Reference Management Programs” which was submitted by our former reference Librarian, Martha Johanson. (3) (http://www.humboldt.edu/celt/tips/reference_management_programs/)
2. HSU’s originality monitoring website, Turnitin is worthy of your consideration. The service is of no cost to you or your department, and it is relatively simple to establish an account and set up your course assignments. Please contact Riley Quarles (Riley.Quarles@humboldt.edu) for account instructions.
3. It is very important to mention here, that the most successful implementations of the Turnitin service follow a model of iterative submissions, which nurture the writing process, rather than a model of enforcement, which from some student’s perspective may create a “police state” mentality within the learning environment.
4. You may also wish to consider encouraging your students to construct their own Honor Code. Some universities embrace student participation in an honor code, which is developed and monitored by the students themselves. (4) They even have annual ceremonies to celebrate the virtuousness of honor.
Here is an example of a completely voluntary code:
“I give my word that I will be honest and honorable in all my dealings in this course. I pledge that I will not cheat in any form and that I will not assist or allow others to cheat. On my honor, I pledge to my instructor and to my classmates that I can be trusted in all that I say and do in this course and that I will not betray the trust that others in this course place in me.” (5)
5. At the very least, please consider a frank and utterly non-accusatory discussion at the beginning of each semester, in each of your courses, that will likely help guide our students towards the commendable Humboldt motto, of “Light and Truth.”
1. Turnitin Originality Monitoring. “The Turnitin originality report shows the paper’s text highlighted with any text that matches sources found in the Turnitin databases containing vast amounts of web content, previously submitted papers, and subscription-based journals and publications. So does Turnitin detect plagiarism? No – Turnitin offers a tool that helps educators (and their students) make informed evaluations of student work rapidly and move on to the important task of discerning what their students need in the way of instruction, correction or judicial action.”
Turnitin Software website blog http://turnitin.com/en_us/resources/blog
Please contact Riley Quarles (Riley.Quarles@humboldt.edu) for account instructions.
2. Writing Across the Curriculum, http://wac.colostate.edu/intro/
3. Reference Management Programs, Martha Johanson. (http://www.humboldt.edu/celt/tips/reference_management_programs/)
4. Academic Honor Codes, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honor_code
5. University of North Carolina, Wilmington, English 321, Honor Code,
6. Academic Honesty at Humboldt, http://www.humboldt.edu/studentrights/academic_honesty.php
Attendance in Large Classes (top)
Estimates suggest that over 60% of students in large classes deliberately cut them. Empty seats (and sadly, empty minds) are an issue, but there are some things you can do.
Some Things to Try:
Make the class informative, interesting, and relevant. Add variety and entertainment to lectures, such as animations, slide shows, demos, video clips, music, and guest speakers.
• Post outlines on your course web page or in Moodle, so that students know what to expect. They can use them as a guide for taking notes and not as a substitute for attending class.
• Use supplemental illustrations and examples that students can’t get any other place other than in class.
• Give exam-directed problems in class.
• Count class participation toward the final grade
• Give students a topic to think about for the next class discussion or a puzzle to solve either for fun or credit.
• Give regular pop or announced quizzes. Give quizzes at the beginning of class to get feedback on assigned reading or at the end to test comprehension.
• Give more scheduled exams covering less material.
• Give weekly in-class assignments that can be done in 20-30 minutes that give students the chance to apply what they have learned. Students can work individually or in pairs. Give students credit for completing assignments, but don’t grade them.
• Collect homework and give students credit for handing it in. You don’t have to do this every day to encourage attendance.
• Establish a policy that grades will be lowered according to the number of sessions missed.
Cognitive Science/Learning Science Research (top)
The more we know about cognitive science, the more we can adapt teaching to meet the needs of students.
Perhaps the most influential recent work in this area is the 2000 book, How people learn: Brain, mind experience and school by Bransford, et al. Most people can only hold about seven “bits” of memory in short term memory (the kind we use when an operator tells us a phone number and we need to use this information immediately to make a call). If we add more information to this memory, as is often the case in very dense lectures, virtually all information is lost.
We also know that even highly motivated students can pay attention to technical material for ONLY 10-20 minutes. This suggests that we break lectures and other presentations into manageable amounts of information frequently inserting active and cooperative strategies into an otherwise passive mode of processing/storing information.
Adapted from: Cooper, J.L. (2006). A Baker’s Dozen Ideas to Foster Engagement. Retrieved May 9, 2009, from Tomorrow’s Professor Web site: http://ctl.stanford.edu/Tomprof/postings/796.html
Cooperative Learning – The 5 Basic Elements (top)
Cooperative learning is much more than simply having students work in groups. Professors who try group work without building in the primary elements of cooperative learning usually have experiences that range somewhere between disappointment and catastrophe.
Common complaints with group work are:
• Students in the group having conversations that have nothing to do with the lesson or the class;
• Students becoming impatient with others in the group and ceasing to work cooperatively;
• One bright student doing most of the work and the other students in the group putting their names on it.
These activities do not occur during true cooperative learning. True cooperative learning has 5 elements that prevent such problems:
1. Positive Interdependence – The task must be structured so that members of the group sink or swim together; one member cannot succeed at the expense of others.
2. Face to Face Interaction – This exists when students assist and support one another’s efforts to learn. This occurs as students actively teach one another to solve problems and understand concepts.
3. Individual Accountability – This prevents a member from getting a free ride on the work of others and prevents low quality of work being accepted from an individual by peers in the group.
4. Social Skills – Groups improve as members learn to contribute positively, acquire trust and manage conflict. These skills are not innate; they must be learned by the teacher and taught to the students.
5. Group Processing – Processing time is usually the most neglected aspect of classroom teaching. In an effort to “cover the material” we forget that our objective is students’ learning, not just presenting material. Processing is essential to insure understanding. Talented students often have learned to do this effectively on their own; average students can be taught to be more effective. If questions such as, “What was the central underlying concept of today’s class?” or, “What is the step-by-step procedure through which we applied this concept to arrive at a successful solution?” are reviewed by the group as well as the aspects of how restating the concept or altering the process might lead to improved understanding, then students leave the class with more comprehension of the material than they would have without processing.
Adapted from: University of Colorado, Denver. (1993). Nutshell Notes: Newsletter for Teaching Excellence, 2(1). Denver, CO.
Johnson, D., Johnson, R., & Smith, K. (1991). Active Learning: Cooperation in the College Classroom. Edina, MI: Interaction Book Company.
Creating Effective Learning Communities (top)
According to the cognitive research covered in How People Learn, environments that best promote learning have four interdependent aspects—they focus on learners, well-organized knowledge, ongoing assessment for understanding, and community support and challenge.
1. Learner-centered: Learner-centered environments pay careful attention to the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs that learners bring to the educational setting. Teachers must realize that new knowledge is built on existing knowledge—students are not blank slates. Therefore, teachers need to uncover the incomplete understandings, false beliefs and naïve renditions of concepts that students have when they begin a course. If these are ignored, students may develop understandings very different from what the teacher intends them to gain.
2. Knowledge-centered: Knowledge-centered environments take seriously the need to help students learn the well-organized bodies of knowledge that support understanding and adaptive expertise. Teachers are wise to point their students directly toward clear learning goals—to tell students exactly what knowledge they will be gaining, and how they can use that knowledge. In addition, a strong foundational structure of basic concepts will give students a solid base on which to build further learning.
3. Assessment-centered: Assessment-centered environments provide frequent formal and informal opportunities for feedback focused on understanding, not memorization, to encourage and reward meaningful learning. Feedback is fundamental to learning, but feedback opportunities are often too scarce in classrooms. Students may receive grades on tests and essays, but these are summative assessments that occur at the end of projects. What are needed are formative assessments that provide students with opportunities to revise and improve the quality of their thinking and understanding. The goal is for students to gain meta-cognitive abilities to self-assess, reflect and rethink for better understanding.
4. Community-centered: Community-centered environments foster norms for people learning from one another, and continually attempting to improve. In such a community, students are encouraged to be active, constructive participants. Further, they are encouraged to make—and then learn from—mistakes. Intellectual camaraderie fosters support, challenge and collaboration.
The most effective learning environments contain all four of these interdependent foci.
Adapted from Vanderbilt Center for Teaching. Contributed by Tasha Souza.
Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L. and Cocking, R.R., (Eds.). (2000). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School. National Academies Press.
Dealing with Problematic Interactions with Students (top)
Dealing with Problematic Interactions with Students:
Guidelines and Strategies for Consideration
Wondering what to do when you have problematic student behavior in the classroom? Take a look at the various guidelines and strategies available:
1. Use the CSU Student Code of Conduct and HSU Attendance & Disruptive Behavior Policy to determine when student behavior interferes with the progress of your class.
2. Differentiate between academic assessment (professional judgment concerning academic performance) and student conduct (fact, behavior that is not academic).
3. Differentiate between a disciplinary problem and a student disability or cultural/socioeconomic differences.
4. Be aware of rights of due process. http://www.humboldt.edu/housing/current/policies/judicial.html
5. Present formal warning as problematic interactions escalate. (Recommend that the verbal warning is followed with a summary of the warning in writing.)
6. Keep supervising faculty members informed of problematic interactions with students.
7. Document (for your own records) repeated disruptive behaviors as part of Due Process.
8. Use the appropriate campus resources to assist you in interacting with students.
1. Use the first day of class to establish climate for learning and set minimal guidelines for communication.
2. Identify special rules of conduct that operate within your classroom. (Recommend that these rules be listed in course syllabus.)
3. Send signals that you are in control of the classroom environment.
4. Consider frequency, seriousness, and outcomes when deciding how to respond to problematic student behavior.
5. Be increasingly direct as student misconduct escalates.
6. Use eye contact and proximity as methods of control.
7. Pause as problematic interactions begin to escalate.
8. Use a collaborative orientation (as opposed to I-You or We-They).
9. Couch reactions in terms of concern for student learning.
10. Show respect for your views and those of students.
Written by Tasha Souza.
Digital Case Stories as Teaching Resources (top)
Interested in trying out some new teaching strategies during the second half of the semester? Want a quick and engaging resource on best teaching practices without having to wade through long articles or read lengthy books when you have limited time? Interested in hearing about methods to enhance teaching and learning from faculty in similar disciplines with records of success?
Visit the ELIXR website http://elixr.merlot.org which offers a digital case story repository that hosts discipline-specific multimedia stories. All the stories are brief, applied, and demonstrate exemplary teaching practices for a particular topic.
You’ll find digital case stories on various topics such as Active Learning Strategies, Small Groups, Integrative Learning, Knowledge Surveys, Creativity, ConcepTests, and Just in Time Teaching to name a few.
You can easily search by topic or related discipline to find just what you need. Take some time to explore ELIXR!
Written by Tasha Souza.
Effective Presentations (top)
We have all been faced, at one time or another, with the struggle of creating a fascinating, engaging, interactive presentation. How does one create a presentation that not only engages their students, but also provides the necessary concepts? Not only are there a variety of presentation tools out there, but also a wide variety of techniques and tips.
1. Create goals. What do you want your students to learn?
2. Reduce content. Make it simple. Too much content in a presentation can do the opposite of what you want your students to take away. There is so much to remember; they remember almost nothing. By reducing content, we give students time for thinking and therefore providing those ‘takeaways.’
3. Make it clear. This provides students with some direction so they know where they are headed. Emphasize the two to three major concepts at the beginning and conclusion so your students will know what you deem important and what is expected of them.
4. Don’t let the technology be the presentation. You want the students to focus on you and the concepts you are discussing, not your presentation tool.
5. Observe the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. Venture capitalist, Guy Kawasaki says a presentation should have 10 slides, last no more than 20 minutes, and contain no font less than 30 points. However, research shows even shorter presentations (approximately 12 minutes or less) are more effective for maintaining attention. Try building in activities for each concept before you hit that 12-minute mark. This will break up the “presentation” and give time for critical thinking.
6. Use visual aids that are simple, easy to understand, and support the concepts you are trying to convey without too much clutter or animation. Visuals help students to learn more readily and retain more information. Using graphs and charts for statistics or data can often help drive home a point more clearly.
7. Add variety and interaction. Remember, your class will have students with a variety of learning styles. If you only teach to one style you will lose everyone else. This means adding visual, audio, and kinesthetic formats where appropriate. When students engage actively with material, they generally understand it better and remember it longer. Begin lectures with questions/problems for the students to consider. Invite students to participate. Using a tool such as Classroom Response Systems, i.e.: Clickers, can be valuable in active learning. Research has shown that clickers increase attendance, increase participation, and increase student enjoyment (Bruff 2009).
8. Resist the urge to read your slides. If you read every word, you will definitely lose your students’ attention. Limit one idea per slide.
9. Move around the room and make eye contact. A presentation remote gives you the flexibility of advancing your slides from anywhere in the room. Making eye contact is important in maintaining the attention of your students.
10. Plan for a disaster. Consider what could go wrong. Maybe the network is down or the computer won’t be working. Always have a back up.
Effective Presentation Tools:
Sometimes they say it is all about the tool. Again, the tool is there to support you, not be the focus. However, there is a mass of technology tools for presentations. Below is a list of the some of the more popular, suggested presentation tools.
Jing – Easy to use screen capture software. Add visuals to documents, online conversations, and more. http://www.techsmith.com/jing.html
Microsoft PowerPoint ($) – Slide presentation software. http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/powerpoint/default.aspx
Keynote Slide presentation software. ($) (Mac only) http://www.apple.com/iwork/keynote/
Flash – Creation of animation, interactive forms, games. http://www.adobe.com/products/flashplayer/
Camtasia ($) – Screen video capture software. Record on screen activity; captioning. http://www.techsmith.com/camtasia.asp
Prezi ($) -Live and on web presentations. http://prezi.com/
OmniOutliner ($) – Flexible program for creating, collecting, and organizing information. http://www.omnigroup.com/applications/omnioutliner/
iStockphoto ($) – Member-generated image and design community with over 4 million photographs, vector illustrations, video footage, audio tracks and Flash files. http://www.istockphoto.com/index.php
Flickr – Online photo management and sharing application. http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/
SlideShare – Web-based slide sharing application. http://www.slideshare.net/tour
LecShare – Creates accessible PowerPoint files. LecShare Pro has audio/video capabilities for $20 upgrade. http://www.lecshare.com (HSU License)
Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning. (2006). Tips for Teachers: Twenty Ways to Make Lectures More Participatory Retrieved Oct. 1, 2009, from Harvard University website: http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/html/icb.topic58474/TFTlectures.html
Hyatt, M. (2009). My Current Presentation Tools. Retrieved Oct. 1, 2009, from Michael Hyatt website: http://michaelhyatt.com/my-current-presentation-tools.html
Eggleston, S. (2009). The Key Steps to an Effective Presentation. Retrieved Oct. 1 from: http://seggleston.com/1/business/key-steps
Embedding Assessments (top)
Once you have your course Student Learning Outcomes (see previous Teaching Tip), it’s time to think about what activities you will ask your students to complete. It just makes sense to construct your assignments and test questions so that they elicit student performances that provide you with evidence that they know or can do what you specify in your SLOs.
At the risk of sounding insulting, too many of us do not stop and ask: “WHY am I giving my students this assignment or putting these questions on an exam?” This can be especially true when we rely on test banks or other assignment suggestions provided by text publishers. It may be useful to ask colleagues if your assignment prompts or test questions are actually constructed in a way that students’ responses to them will give you good evidence of whether they know or can do what you want them to.
You should be able to map your entire set of individual assignments (learning artifacts) and assessment measures to each of your learning outcomes, an example of which might look something like this:
You are now able to be more focused and purposeful in the planning and development of your course, aligning your instructional activities and appropriate assessment measures with your intended learning outcomes.
An additional benefit of this thoughtful approach is that when your course outcomes are aligned with your program’s major outcomes, then there will be a rich array of evidence available for assessing student learning at the program level.
Using multiple choice test questions for assessment purposes:
Encouraging Student Questions (top)
Isadore Rabbi, a Nobel-prize winning physicist, tells a story of his childhood in the Jewish ghetto of New York. When the children came home from school, their mothers would ask them, “What did you learn in school today?” But Isadore’s mother would ask him, “What good questions did you ask today?” Dr. Rabbi suggests he became a physicist and won the Nobel Prize because he was valued more for the questions he was asking than the answers he was giving (Barell, 1988).
Instructors will find these question prompts useful for promoting students’ critical thinking and for framing their own discussion questions. Developed and researched by King (1992; 1990; 1995), these question prompts or stems are based on Bloom’s Taxonomy, a hierarchical way of analyzing levels of thinking. The nature of the prompt requires students to design questions that go well beyond the usual “What is?” “What is?” “What is?” Requiring students to email you discussion questions or to post them to Moodle prior to a class session can encourage students to read assigned materials.
To initiate this activity, instructors assign outside reading or conduct a short lecture on a course-related topic. Students use the generic question stems or prompts as a guide for formulating their own specific questions about the content. You can email the following list to students (or post to Moodle), telling them how many questions—all using different prompts or stems—you expect them to submit for discussion. They fill in the blanks with appropriate content from the reading/lecture material. Encourage them to make the questions authentic, ones they truly want to discuss rather than ones they already have a pat answer for.
Generic Question Prompts/Stems:
Explain why ____. (Explain how ____.)
• What would happen if ____?
• What is the nature of ____?
• What are the strengths and weaknesses of ____?
• What is the difference between ___ and ___?
• Why is ____ happening?
• What is a new example of ____?
• How could ____ be used to ____?
• What are the implications of ____?
• What is ____ analogous to?
• How does ___ affect ____?
• How does ___ tie in with what we learned before?
• Why is ____ important?
• How are ____ and ____ similar?
• How does ____ apply to everyday life?
• What is a counter-argument for ____?
• What is the best ____, and why?
What is the solution to the problem of ____?
• Compare ____ and ____ with regard to ____?
• What do you think causes ____? Why?
• Do you agree or disagree with this statement: ____? What evidence is there to support your answer?
• What is another way to look at ____?
• What does ____ mean?
• Describe ____ in your own words.
• Summarize ____ in your own words.
Adapted from Barbara J. Millis, Director, The TEAM Center, University of Texas at San Antonio.
Contributed by Tasha Souza.
Barell, J. (1988). Cited in Costa and O’Leary (1988). Co-cognition: The cooperative development of the intellect. In Davidson, J. and Worsham, T (Eds.) Enhancing Thinking through Cooperative Learning. (1988, April). Cogitare: A Newsletter of the ASCD Network on Teaching Thinking, 3(1).
King, A. (1990). Enhancing peer interaction and learning in the classroom through reciprocal questioning. American Educational Research Journal, 27(4), 664-687.
King, A. (1992). Promoting active learning and collaborative learning in business administration classes. In T. J. Frecka (Ed.), Critical thinking, interactive learning and technology: Reaching for excellence in business education, 158-173. Arthur Andersen Foundation.
King, A. (1995, Winter). Guided peer questioning: A cooperative learning approach to critical thinking. Cooperative learning and college teaching, 5(2), pp. 15-19.
End of Semester Grading (top)
For the first many years of my teaching career, the grading of student papers and exams at the end of the term overwhelmed me. I dutifully wrote extensive comments on papers and exams, and I was an inveterate editor of grammar and punctuation (which I later learned in a Writing Across the Curriculum workshop is not even good pedagogical practice!). After several years of end of term almost all-nighters and exhaustion, I finally realized that only a handful of undergraduate students had ever come back to pick up their graded exams and papers. I was recycling virtually all of these student products after 3 years!
I was not familiar with rubrics in those days, so what I eventually developed was a shorthand system of flagging what was really bad or worn, and what was really good and thoughtful. I used a simple system of + and – in the margins. That way, if a student did come to collect their work the next term, I could rather easily find where the problems were in their exam responses or papers. And I stopped editing the papers for grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.
So if you are looking at stacks of student work to grade next week, you might take this tip from me. Develop quick and dirty shorthand to use to get through those papers faster.
Then in the future, require student papers/projects to be turned in a couple of weeks before the semester ends. This way you will have time to evaluate and return their work, to provide a closing of the loop of the learning process for them. Think of developing rubrics for your assignments. They make the grading process go so much faster, and if you share the rubrics with the students, you are helping to clarify their understanding of what is expected of t hem. Yes developing rubrics is time consuming at first, but well worth the effort for both the students and your own benefit.
Our eLearning Teaching Tips generally present concepts or tools that you can immediately apply to your teaching to make incremental and manageable positive change during a single semester. However, this week we are presenting an idea that will take several semesters of implementation to realize the full benefit. We are talking about electronic portfolios, more commonly known as ePortfolios.
The use of portfolios for assessment is not new to higher education. Art portfolios and writing portfolios have been employed for decades. So what is so special about electronic portfolios, (commonly known as ePortfolios)? ePortfolios extend this concept beyond the classroom by mapping student learning artifacts (assignments, quizzes, etc.) to a systematic series of learning outcomes at the course level, program/department, college, and university levels. In many cases this mapping extends to reflect national learning outcomes (LEAP http://www.aacu.org/leap/vision.cfm).
The benefit of aligning the assignment level learning outcomes all the way to the national learning outcomes is that the information collected on student learning on a daily basis right within the classroom then becomes directly applicable and valid for use in program assessment at all levels above the classroom level. This alignment takes the value of traditional print-based portfolios which have been primarily for student benefit, and extends its worth to the entire institution.
Students continue to benefit by having a repository to collect all of their learning artifacts (assignments, etc.), a method to reflect and think critically upon what they have learned, and a way to assemble and present themselves to future employers.
Faculty members benefit by having one task accomplish two goals, thereby reducing workload. When well defined learning outcomes are presented to the students, they will more fully understand the assignments and will likely develop higher quality products in their ePortfolio. And when these same learning outcomes are in alignment with departmental outcomes, program assessment then becomes a nearly automated process, using the ePortfolios as the core evidence of learning.
Administrators can benefit by measuring student learning across the entire university using the same ePortfolio instrument, thereby generating consistent and reliable data aggregation for analysis and decision making (evidence of learning). Additionally, the reports generated from within the ePortfolios have a direct, one-to-one relationship to the regional accrediting entities requirements.
For more information on the process of using ePortfolios to map assignments to higher level learning outcomes, please visit this video recorded at the CSU “ePortfolio Day of Planning” (http://teachingcommons.cdl.edu/eportfolio/resources/dop/mapping.html).
If you are interested in having more information on how ePortfolios at HSU might create a conscious “ePortfolio Culture”, you may want to watch this video from Dr. Maggie Beers (SFSU) (http://teachingcommons.cdl.edu/eportfolio/resources/dop/culture.html) This Teaching tip was submitted by Riley Quarles.
How to Make the First Day of Class Set the Stage for Success (top)
Ever feel like your first day of class is full of dreaded administrative tasks and boring syllabus review? In the ELIXR First Day of Class digital case story (by Joe Grimes and Cynthia Desrochers), you will see exemplar first day of class sessions and hear the rationale from faculty about their class session designs.
In addition, you will see activities, and learn strategies for, addressing first day of class goals including:
• Motivating students about the course and its outcomes
• Framing course content within a larger curriculum
• Developing expectations about workload and work processes
• Determining students’ prior experiences and capabilities
• Creating a comfortable and respectful working environment
• Completing essential administrative tasks
Goals for First Day of Class:
Don’t let your first day of class be a day that students dread. Rather, visit http://elixr.merlot.org/ and gain some useful strategies on enhancing a foundational day for your courses.
Written by: Tasha Souza, Humboldt State University, ELIXR Faculty Development Lead
Center for Instructional Development and Research. (n.d.). First Day of Class. Retrieved May 9, 2009, from University of Washington CIDR Web site: http://www.washington.edu/teaching/
Center for Instructional Development and Research. (1998). Preparing for the First Day of Class. Teaching and Learning Bulletin, 1(3). Retrieved May 9, 2009, from University of Washington CIDR Web site: http://www.washington.edu/teaching/
Grimes, J. & Desrochers, C. (n.d.) Making your 1st class session really first class. Retrieved May 9, 2009, from MERLOT ELIXR Web site: http://pachyderm.cdl.edu/elixr-stories/1stday-slo/
Davis, B.G. (1993). The First Day of Class. Tools for Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Retrieved May 9, 2009, from UC Berkeley Web site: http://teaching.berkeley.edu/what-do-first-day-class
Sacramento State – Teaching Tips Web page: http://www.csus.edu/HHS/faculty/Faculty%20Resources%20Docs/25-Whaton1stDay.pdf
Teaching Resource Center. (n.d.) Teaching at the University of Virginia: A Handbook for Faculty and Teaching Assistants. Retrieved May 9, 2009, from University of Virginia TRC Publications Web site: http://trc.virginia.edu/Publications/Teaching_UVA/I_First_Day.htm
Five Criteria of “Good Course” Design (top)
Five Criteria of “Good Course” Design
These five simple concepts will help achieve student learning outcomes by engaging students with the materials and providing course structure and consistency.
1. Challenge students to HIGHER LEVEL LEARNING: All courses require some “lower level” learning, i.e., comprehending and remembering basic information and concepts. But many courses never get beyond this. Examples of “higher level learning” include problem solving, decision making, critical thinking, and creative thinking.
2. Use ACTIVE FORMS OF LEARNING: Some learning will be “passive”, i.e., reading and listening. But “higher level learning,” almost by definition, requires active learning. One learns to solve problems by solving problems; one learns to think critically by thinking critically; etc.
3. Give FREQUENT and IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK to students on the quality of their learning: Higher level learning and active learning require frequent and immediate feedback for students to know whether they are “doing it” correctly. “Frequent” means weekly or daily; feedback consisting of “two mid-terms and a final” is not sufficient. “Immediate” means during the same class if possible, or at the next class session.
4. Use a STRUCTURED SEQUENCE OF DIFFERENT LEARNING ACTIVITIES: Any course needs a variety of forms of learning (e.g., lectures, discussions, small groups, writing, etc.), both to support different kinds of learning goals and different learning styles. But these various learning activities also need to be structured in a sequence such that earlier classes lay the foundation for complex and higher level learning tasks in later classes.
5. Have a FAIR SYSTEM FOR ASSESSING AND GRADING STUDENTS: Even when students feel they are learning something significant, they are unhappy if their grade does not reflect this. The grading system should be objective, reliable, based on learning, flexible, and communicated in writing.
Adapted from: Fink, L.D. (1999). Fink’s Five Principles of Good Course Design. University of Oklahoma Instructional Development Program, July 19, 1999. Retrieved May 9, 2009, from Honolulu Community College Faculty Development Web page: http://www2.honolulu.hawaii.edu/facdev/
Center for Instructional Development and Research. (1999). Designing a Course. Teaching and Learning Bulletin, 2(1). Retrieved May 9, 2009, from University of Washington CIDR Web site: http://www.washington.edu/teaching/
Center for Instructional Development and Research. (1999). Transforming a Course. Teaching and Learning Bulletin, 2(4). Retrieved May 9, 2009, from University of Washington CIDR Web site: http://www.washington.edu/teaching/teaching-resources/archive-of-cidr-bulletins-on-teaching-and-learning/
Davis, B.G. (1999). Preparing or Revising a Course. Tools for Teaching. Berkeley: Jossey-Bass. Retrieved May 9, 2009, from Honolulu Community College Faculty Development Web page: http://www2.honolulu.hawaii.edu/facdev/
Getting Students to Read (top)
You’ve discovered that many of your students aren’t reading. Why not? Are you spending too much time summarizing the readings so that students think there is no need to read? Are you not holding students accountable for the reading? Do students fail to see the reading as meaningful and worthwhile? If the answer might be “yes” to any of the above questions then read the following to explore what you can do to get students to read…
Pre-Reading Motivation Strategies:
• Pique their curiosity about the reading. Tell them why you’ve chosen each selection. Give them questions to ponder as they do the reading.
• Refer to the readings frequently. Have students turn to the visuals, graphs, and tables in the readings during class.
• Inform the class how you want students to read a particular selection. Do you want them to skim, deep read, take notes, outline, focus on a particular area? Do you want them to read to find the major argument, to define certain terms, to question the author, etc.?
Reading Assignment Strategies:
• Develop reading guides with questions for students to answer while they read.
• Ask students to submit a concise summary of the main points or a personal response to the reading assignmnt.
• Ask students to bring in 2-3 questions they have about the material read. Have them get into pairs or small groups to decide on the best question to present to the class. Answering these questions can take the place of a lecture and can be more responsive to the students’ needs. Can collect the questions for credit.
• Ask students to mark with a highlighter or post-it the most significant passages and have them share during class as the basis for discussion.
• Require students to use course readings as part of their formal writing assignments. This will minimize the likelihood of plagiarism and use of paper-mills.
• Reading assignments can be long or short, ungraded, or graded credit/no credit or for points. To reduce the grading load, you can randomly select particular items to grade, such as odd-numbered answers on a reading guide, or you can select particular pre-determined days (unbeknownst to the students) in which the assignments will be graded.
Written by: Tasha J. Souza, Humboldt State University
Boyd, D. R. (2003). Using Textbooks Effectively: Getting Students to Read Them. Observer, 16, 6. Retrieved from http://www.psychologicalscience.org/teaching/tips/tips_0603.cfm
Hansen, S. (2008). Engaged Reading: Getting Students Beyond the Yellow Highlighter. Workshop handouts presented at the POD conference, Reno, NV.
Hobson, E.H. (2004). Getting Students to Read: Fourteen Tips. Idea Paper, 40, 1-6. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2009, from The Idea Center Web site: http://www.theideacenter.org/sites/default/files/Idea_Paper_40.pdf
Grading Tips (top)
Learn methods to work more efficiently without sacrificing the quality of the feedback to students. These tips are effective for any classroom subject, particularly those that use essay or short answer exam questions.
• Develop a standard comment sheet to distribute to all students in a particular course. Instead of writing comments on the students’ individual papers, write them on your computer as composite feedback. This approach is far quicker, and you can turn frequently made comments into a boilerplate response.
-Give advice on how to solve or correct commonly missed points or problems
-Provide brief examples from anonymous student papers to illustrate the best responses
-List important feedback about your grading process, such as how you determined partial credit
• You can also provide quick individual feedback.
-Attach a sheet of paper, if necessary, containing some brief individual comments
-Provide checkmarks or brief symbols on the actual paper to indicate errors that students can correct themselves to regain some of their lost points
• Remember to use your timer as you grade!
Adapted from: Millis, Barbara, The Teaching & Learning Center, The University of Texas at San Antonio (http://www.utsa.edu/tlc)
Helping Students Deal with Test Anxiety (top)
Exams, particularly at the end of the semester, are a common occurrence for any university student. As faculty, we have all taken our share of exams, I suspect some with great results and at other times, not so great. But how many times, as a student, did a faculty member give YOU information to assist you with the actual taking of the exam. We all want our students to do well on exams, and we spend a great deal of time in class helping students to learn material, with the hope that they will not only acquire new knowledge, but also that they will do well on the test.
Unfortunately, some students struggle a great deal when it comes time for the test due to anxiety, and there are things we can do as faculty to assist them. By providing a situation that is as stress reduced as possible, we provide students an opportunity to do their best.
One thing you can do is to give them an opportunity to practice with questions that are similar to the ones that will be on the test. This can be accomplished by designing your class with short quizzes and letting students know the questions on the quizzes are very similar in structure to those on the test. Maybe even include one or two of the first items on the exam from the quizzes. The familiarity of the items will help the students to relax a bit. You could also have a review session, during which you show students the “types” of questions that will appear on the exam.
It is a good idea to have one or two relatively easy questions to start the exam. On game shows you probably noticed how easy the first few questions are. Those are designed to help the contestant to relax so they can do their best. This same effect will also help your students. Many students relax as soon as they answer a question correctly, so what better place than the first question.
It is also important for student to NOT expect to get a perfect score on the test. That is, they should expect to miss some questions, that way, when they encounter a question or two they can’t answer they don’t automatically panic. While covering material, help students in class to organize the material into meaningful blocks. This will help them by providing valuable retrieval cues at the time of the exam. This works in everyday memory. For example, if you have several items to pick up at the grocery store after work and don’t have a list, it is easier to remember the items if you block them by meal. What do you need as breakfast items, lunch items, and so on. The same techniques can be used for class material, helping students to put information into meaningful categories.
It is also VERY helpful to let them know that being prepared is one of the best defenses against anxiety on test day. There is no better way to remain calm than to know the material REALLY well. One problem students face is when they pull an all-nighter to study for a big test. Not only does fatigue increase anxiety, during the cramming session people tend to eat all the wrong foods. Mention to students the value of getting a good night’s sleep the evening before a big exam and to eat right. For example, fresh fruits can help reduce stress, whereas artificial sweeteners, carbonated soft drinks, fried foods, junk foods, and foods with heavy spices can all increase anxiety.
You can also provide some test taking strategies. Some students overlook basic ideas, such as skipping a question or two if they go blank on multiple choice items. Oh, and tell them that if they go blank on an essay and there are multiple choice questions read through those for possible cues to get you started on the essay. They can also just start to free write if you go blank and at times what you write will trigger memories for needed material.
It is really important to point out to students that everyone gets nervous on exam days, and if they feel anxious it is a natural response. Those who look around the room and assume everyone else is calm will start to worry even more, thinking the nervousness they are feeling is indicative of how panicked they might be. And tell students that if they do get nervous during the exam, take a few deep – long breaths to relax. Maybe even close their eyes for just a minute or so and focus on relaxing.
Let your students know that if their test anxiety is really bad that they can go to the Learning Commons for help. Scoring poorly on an exam because someone doesn’t know the material is anticipated; scoring poorly because he is overwhelmed with fear is a problem that needs to be addressed.
Adapted from: Todd Zakrajsek, Executive Director, Center for Faculty Excellence, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, firstname.lastname@example.org. Contributed by Tasha Souza.
Importance of Students’ Prior Knowledge (top)
A logical extension of the view that new knowledge must be constructed from existing knowledge is that teachers need to pay attention to the incomplete understandings, the false beliefs, and the naive renditions of concepts that learners bring with them to a given subject. Teachers then need to build on these ideas in ways that help each student achieve a more mature understanding. If students’ initial ideas and beliefs are ignored, the understandings that they develop can be very different from what the teacher intends.
To determine if your students understand, and to possibly uncover misconceptions, use the following strategies:
1. Have students put in their own words a key concept. You might even identify a particular audience. (Examples: Explain the concept of “corporation” to high school students; Explain an “irrevocable trust” to a group of retirees.)
2. Have students offer their own applications and/or examples for a key concept (Examples: Stephen Covey recommends “Win-win performance agreements”: give two specific applications, one related to current news and one related to your own life. Give a concrete example of the concept “due process.”)
3. Have students formulate ways to show relationships (Example: concept maps)
Adapted from: Millis, B. (n.d.) The Teaching & Learning Center, The University of Texas at San Antonio. Retrieved January 15, 2009, from University of Texas San Antonio Web site: http://www.utsa.edu/tlc
Keeping Your Classroom CRISP (top)
Are you and your millennial students losing your focus in the classroom? Feeling like you need to make some changes in your courses but time is at issue?
Our burden of responsibilities—email, program assessment, committee work, etc.—seems to grow each year. Is there something faculty can do to regain that focus in the classroom that leads to greater student learning? Absolutely, and it’s not that difficult.
Keeping Your Class C.R.I.S.P.—A Refresher Course
Here are five things you can do so your daily class organization promotes learning: Contextualize. Review. Iterate. Summarize. Preview.
HGTV (Home & Garden Television)has become quite popular by showing viewers how to decorate their homes. The cable channel’s methodology is simple—every room needs one focal point, and everything in the room ought to contribute to that end with the final goal of unity—pulling the entire home together.
If there were such a thing as The Pedagogy Channel (TPC), it would doubtless stress that classrooms work the same way: not only seeking unity for each individual session but also developing a seamless flow for the entire course—sort of a pedagogical feng shui. So until TPC launches, we’ll offer you some tips to redesign your classroom for more effective, unified learning through the C.R.I.S.P. approach.
Rather than jumping into the day’s topic, begin your class with what Gerry Nosich calls “the fundamental and powerful concept.” For example, instead of starting the class with a general announcement such as “Today we’ll be examining Poe’s `Ligeia’,” provide a focal point that informs the entire hour: “Today we’ll be looking at Poe’s `Ligeia’ through the dark magnifying glass of the Gothic tale.”
At that point, you might move on by providing a brief PowerPoint presentation that includes a definition of the concept, perhaps by conducting a mini-lecture about the conventions of the Gothic tale, or you might have preselected a group of students to research and present that information. Even low techies can write GOTHIC TALE in bold letters on the board as a reminder of the day’s focus.
This focus on a singular concept will also serve your students well in the entirety of their domain/field. Ideally, you are helping them develop a knowledge base, and transferable skills. Understanding how “Ligeia” exemplifies the gothic tale illuminates much Romantic Literature as well as introducing a key element in Southern Literature. In addition, the notion of convention (e.g., the Gothic motif of the dark and stormy night) is fundamental to all literature and will aid students in further literary analysis regardless of the specific course.
Once students know where you are going with the class, immediately tie that focus into previous class foci (to aid this process, encourage your students to study their notes after each class and skim over them just before the next class starts).
Research demonstrates that students learn best when they can attach new knowledge to old knowledge. When you review, you also prime their pumps on that learning process by exemplifying and modeling how it works.
“A few weeks ago we were studying the Neoclassic Age, with its emphasis on reason, as the way by which people knew and understood the world around them. Coming at the end of the18th century, the Gothic reflects a tension between this old way of confronting the universe and a newer way, the Romantic’s reliance on emotion and intuition’s ability to grasp things beyond the reach of reason. Do you see any of this tension in `Ligeia’?”
Students can now dive into this new world of Poe from a strong platform, no matter the methodology you choose from this point.
Throughout the class, continually emphasize the powerful and fundamental concept around which the session is built. While you could simply point to your writing on the wall periodically, you create deeper learning experiences by having your students actively engaged in the iteration process. One method Nosich recommends to provide students a framework for learning the day’s new concept is the SEE-ing I.
Have each student take a few minutes on paper to State his/her definition of the Gothic, Elaborate on it with a paraphrasing sentence beginning with “In other words … .” Exemplify it with a sentence starting “For example … .” Illustrate it with a sentence beginning “It’s like ….” Then have them share their thoughts through a brief discussion.
Importantly, this exercise leads students beyond memorizing and parroting yours or a group’s definition. For variety, you can facilitate deeper learning by such techniques as pair-and-share moments. Additionally, have students draw analogies between “Ligeia” in your course and other examples of the Gothic they recognize in television, (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), movies (Van Helsing), and other courses (“A Rose for Emily” in Southern Lit).
While keeping their focus on the Gothic, move your students along the revised Bloom’s taxonomy. Have them apply the convention of the Gothic mansion to Poe’s ruined abbey in “Ligeia.” Analyze the conventions that do and do not appear in the story, evaluate several possible meanings of the “ruby-colored fluid,” and create an interpretation that takes into account seemingly disparate details in Poe’s story, such as the semi-Druidical carvings, the pentagonal-shaped room, and the placement of the bed.
Don’t forget that if you are conditioning your students through these active learning methods, you shouldn’t design your assessments—tests, papers, and exams—to reflect this approach. Multiple-choice or fill-in-the-blank tests and encyclopedia-like papers run counter to the learning strategies you have been promoting.
No matter how well class is going, stop five minutes before the end. Whether you’re in the midst of a brilliant PowerPoint, an insightful lecture, intense Socratic questioning, or effective group work, you need to make a definite segue into this segment with a conditioning prompt such as “Let’s summarize today’s main ideas.”
Since you are promoting active learning, try to have the students provide the key points and how they work together relative the session’s organizing concept. Finally, ask if there are any questions about the session—in this case, details in “Ligeia,” conventions such as the damsel-in-distress or the mysterious stranger, or how the othic atmosphere in this story relates to that seen previously in Irving’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”
Before your students make that lemming-like rush for the exit, give them specific directions on what they need to be looking for in their next assignment. Rather than the generic, “Don’t forget to read “The Fall of the House of Usher” for next time, guide them to “Identify the same four or five conventions of Gothic lit that you just covered in the summa ry. See if you can find the same tension between rational and supernatural explanations for the eerie events that occur.” Again, you have provided your .students with a focus for their reading, a bridge between where they’ve been and where they’ll be going.
Remember that old strategy from speech class: “Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, and tell ‘em what you’ve told ‘em”? The C.R.I.S.P. approach promotes the same goals of organization, unity, and flow. Not only do students feel comfortable knowing exactly what’s going on at any class session and how the material fits into the course as a whole, but also you have helped to make fundamental and powerful concepts stick, whether teaching a course in American Lit. or Biology.
When food is crisp, it’s more digestible. When your class is C.R.I.S.P., your students are more able to eat up what’s cooking, and deep learning is more apt to occur.
“Finding the Core of the Idea”
In Made to Stick (2007) Chip and Dan Heath demonstrate that the key to making an idea stick—i.e., understood, remembered and have lasting impact—is to keep it simple by “finding the core of the idea”(17). Through an analysis of advertising and political campaigns, the Heaths essentially support Nosich’s “fundamental and powerful concepts” idea. The Heaths’ insight is applicable to education as I recently discovered when I was asked to teach an American Literature I class (a course I have taught many times) for a colleague. Taking someone else’s class is always daunting because the guest lecturer doesn’t know the students, what they have learned so far, what has been stressed, or even the usual class format.
Before guest facilitating a discussion on Poe’s “The Purloined Letter,” I determined in a brief discussion with my colleague what we considered the course core: literary conventions. I then made the class C.R.I.S.P. by contexting the concept of conventions, reviewing what conventions the class had covered recently (i.e., the Gothic), iterating the conventions of the detective story as found in “The Purloined Letter,” summarizing these conventions toward the end of the session, and previewing the material for their next class—Hawthorne’s use of another set of conventions, those belonging to the Romance.
The result was a 50-minute session that unified that class, previous classes, and future classes, thus increasing the chances for student learning.
Adapted from Hal Blythe and Charlie Sweet, Eastern Kentucky University. Contributed by Tasha Souza.
Learning Communities (top)
Learning Communities have a statistically significant impact on student persistence to graduation – particularly when combined with cooperative/collaborative learning that can foster the kind of student/student and student/faculty interaction that is found to be the most powerful predictors of student success in the college experience.
Careful planning of both curriculum and pedagogy around a limited number of central, thematic constructs and pedagogy stressing interactive learning has great potential in fostering student achievement, persistence to graduation, educational citizenship and other cognitive affective outcomes.
Cooper, J.L. (2006). A Baker’s Dozen Ideas to Foster Engagement. Retrieved May 9, 2009, from Tomorrow’s Professor Web site: https://teachingcommons.stanford.edu/
Leveraging Technology for Instruction (top)
Leveraging Technology for Instruction
Teaching often involves three types of interaction: student-teacher interaction, student-student interaction, and student-content interaction. Adjusting your lesson design to include activities that can enhance student-student interaction or student-content interaction can also contribute to learning while maintaining instructional quality. When adjusting your course design for student-content interaction, consider using the following resources: Research Roadmap and MERLOT.
This online tutorial (available at: http://library.humboldt.edu/researchroadmap/index.html) is an introduction to research skills. The seven, self-paced units in Research Roadmap are designed to teach students how to find appropriate sources for their papers so you don’t have to spend time doing this in class. They cover the basics, including how to distinguish between popular and scholarly sources, how information flows in different disciplines, how to select a topic and develop research questions, and how to search for, find, and evaluate information sources, as well as the ethics of information use, including copyright and fair use, how to avoid plagiarism, and how to cite sources correctly.
Research Roadmap includes a number of animations and interactive exercises and is ADA compliant. The units may be used as a whole or separately in any combination. Each includes a self-scoring quiz, the results of which can be sent to you if you instruct your students to enter your email address as part of their logon to the given quiz. You may add all of Research Roadmap, or any unit or combination, to the Moodle site for your course.
NOTE: Research Roadmap is intended to help improve how students research, so that they can tackle information problems in a variety of disciplines. For HSU-specific information with examples of how to search some of our databases, how to use our interlibrary loan service, etc., you may also be interested in the brief, captioned online video tutorials that we have created. The page includes links to tutorials from other universities that may also be of interest.
Description: MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning & Online Teaching) is a collection of over 20,000 free and peer-reviewed online teaching and learning materials. Merlot (available at: http://www.merlot.org/merlot/index.htm) also offers a free and open community to share, advise, and evaluate online teaching and learning materials.
How MERLOT can be used for teaching on furlough days:
1. Define the type of student-content interaction you want to provide (e.g., students interacting with one or a combination of the following content types: presentations/lectures, more explanation, more practice exercises/assignment, additional practice tests/quizzes, more references, complete tutorial, etc.) on a particular learning objective. Example: To provide additional explanation to students on how to read music by using an online tutorial.
2. Review/select a Merlot tutorial
Description: Interactive tutorial for learning to read music
Title: Reading Music
Material Type: Tutorial
Technical Format: Flash
3. For feedback, have each student write one sentence on each of the following: (1) what I now understand better and (2) one thing that is still confusing, and have them bring this to the next class meeting. At next class meeting, collect these responses, and start class with a review, randomly selecting from feedback submitted. Submitted papers can be used for attendance. Then proceed with re-teaching (if necessary) or to new lesson.
Go to: http://www.merlot.org
Click Learning Materials (under Exploring Merlot)
Choose from the following Material Types:
Drill and Practice
Learning Object Repository
Social Networking Tool
Workshop and Training Material
Or browse according to discipline:
Academic Support Services
Mathematics and Statistics
Science and Technology
Tip by Rowena Santiago, Teaching Resource Center, CSUSB
Making Ideas Stick (top)
Are you having problems getting those classroom ideas to attach themselves to the seemingly Teflon-coated brains of your students? While active learning, deep learning, and critical thinking approaches offer effective help, so too does a recent bestseller in the business world.
The Heath brothers’ Made to Stick http://heathbrothers.com/books/made-to-stick/ explains why some major political slogans (e.g., “It’s the economy, stupid”) and advertising campaigns (e.g., “Where’s the beef?”) have become part of our collective consciousnesses. Importantly, the book’s key concepts can be adapted to instructional strategies you can use.
According to Chip and Dan Heath, ideas that stick—i.e., are “understood,” “remembered, and have lasting impact” (Heath & Heath, 2007, p. 8)—fall into six categories, templates, or principles. As the authors explain, “here’s our checklist for creating a successful idea: a Simple Unexpected Concrete Credentialed Emotional Story”—S.U.C.C.E.S. (Heath & Heath, 2007, p. 18).
Simple. Every course and every classroom session has many ideas to get across, but the key, the Heaths claim, “is finding the core of the idea” (Heath & Heath, 2007, p. 27). Critical thinking guru Gerald Nosich concurs, calling the core “fundamental and powerful concepts” (Nosich, 2005, p. 104-107). And if you can keep the idea short and compact it is more memorable. For instance, when we were teaching Romantic poetry, we derived our core concept from a Wordsworth quote: Romantic poetry is “the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotion.” Every poem we taught was then explained through this simple, compact idea.
Unexpected. To hold your class’ attention, you need to occasionally surprise them, generating interest and curiosity by thwarting expectations. Literature classes, for example, are supposed to be serious, but we surprise our students with an easy way to remember the definition of Romantic poetry: think of it acronymically as S.O.P.E. opera. The popular form of a television soap opera (which they do watch) produces a similar overly emotional impact as Shelley’s “I fall upon the thorns of life/I bleed” (“Ode to the West Wind”), and the unexpected juxtaposition of a popular and serious art form makes the key concept memorable.
Concrete. As the Heaths assert, we “must explain our ideas in terms of human actions, in terms of sensory information” (Heath & Heath, 2007, p. 17). Rendering an abstract literary concept in terms of a popular weekday (or night-time) visual format helps the audience retain the information. Moreover, as students learn by attaching new knowledge to old, we have reminded them of something with which they are familiar (soap opera) and attached to it something new (the definition of Romantic poetry).
Credible. Making an idea credible can involve details, statistics, or examples. We can prove our Romantic definition by having our students randomly pick any poem in the Romantic period and then examine it to spontaneously discover overflowing emotion. That exercise gets them beyond merely accepting a Ph.D.’s words as a credentialed authority.
Admittedly it’s difficult to get students to feel about all classroom ideas. However, you can make them
emotionally connect with the concrete examples of the ideas you introduce. The former Alabama coach Bear Bryant once claimed that people don’t tie to an English class, but they do to football. Making your examples as concrete as Crimson Tide players and games allows the attachment of emotions. Of course, most Romantic poems contain an emotion to which students can easily tie, whether it’s Wordsworth’s nostalgia “(e.g., “Tintern Abbey”) or Coleridge’s loneliness (e.g., “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”).
Stories. Any time you want to grab your students’ attention, sit on your desk and cross your legs in the manner of the ancient storytellers. Tell the class a tale relevant to a key concept, whether it’s a moment from your childhood or a literary anecdote. We make literary figures very real and memorable by narrating one good story about each. Any student who’s gone through one of our American lit classes can recall Robert Frost’s trying to read the poem he composed for President Kennedy’s inauguration or the Wordsworth-Coleridge walking tour of the lake country.
While we can’t guarantee the Heath brothers’ “SUCCES” approach will work 100% of the time, it’s a worthy complement to active learning, deep learning, and critical thinking approaches. Some studies have shown that 90% of everything students learn in class is forgotten in three months. Using the “SUCCES” methodology might help you improve that rate. We still have students from 20 years ago who come up to us at alumni weekend and shout “FABONSY,” proving they can still remember the silly acronym for the seven conjunctions (For, And, But, Or, No, So, Yet) that require a comma when linking independent clauses.
Adapted from: Sweet, Charlie, Co-Director, Teaching & Learning Center, Eastern Kentucky University http://www.tlc.eku.edu
Heath, C. & Heath, D. (2007). Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. New York, Random House.
Nosich, G. (2005). Learning to Think Things Through. Upper Saddle River, NJ, Pearson.
Managing the Paper Load (top)
Many faculty resist adding writing assignments to courses because they fear the extra burden of grading papers. That’s a well-grounded fear. There is no way around some extra work. There is no machine that responds to student writing as you do in the context of your instruction. That said, several practices ensure that you won’t bury yourself in paper grading.
Many instructors spend their time responding to writing after the student is finished. However, we know that students write best when they submit drafts to peers or to their professor that they can revise after receiving feedback. So, if your students write formal papers, you owe it to them to give them feedback on their work (preferably in a draft) and a chance to revise by putting your comments into practice. Drafts are the place to encourage students to dig deeper, to be more analytical, to augment their source material, to consider different organizational patterns— in other words, to make major improvements.
If you are working harder than your students, then something is wrong. Here are some tips for avoiding the paper trap.
• Use informal assignments to get quick readings on what students are thinking and learning by collecting short, informal writing for quick review, assigning credit or no credit. These types of low- stakes assignments can be as important to student learning as high-stakes formal writing, and they add a writing and critical thinking component to your course without adding grading time.
• Concentrate on what is most important: Offer high-level comments (dealing with quality of thinking, argument, organization, or use of sources and supporting information). Attend to the success of the whole essay (rather than local or sentence level concerns) as you read the students’ drafts.
• Don’t spend time on post-mortems. Extensive comments on a final draft waste your time; several studies suggest that students don’t benefit from the professor’s comments on a final draft (Kennedy). If you are grading a final draft that students will not be able to revise, keep your comments brief and summative. A grading rubric works well in this instance.
• Don’t become the editor/proofreader who marks every mechanical error. When held to appropriate standards, students can generally correct most of their own errors. If they have major grammar or punctuation problems, explain the problem in general terms (some faculty create grammar hotsheets to hand out when they return drafts to students), refer them to a good website or handbook, and tell them you expect them to fix their errors—your final grade will reflect correctness.
• Set up peer review groups. Have students exchange drafts after you have given them a checklist of what to look for. Even better, devote part of a class to teaching students how to conduct peer reviews. It’s time well spent. Students benefit from reading and critiquing each other’s papers; for many, seeing how classmates have composed an assignment is as useful as the specific feedback they receive on their own composition.
• Distribute a rubric for each assignment to identify the features you want in a piece of writing (or a presentation), and use it as a checklist for evaluation. Have students evaluate their own or each others’ work in relation to the rubric. Students can be surprisingly accurate judges of their own work.
• Use quick evaluations with a “checkmark” for satisfactory/meets expectations, “+” for work that goes beyond expectations, and “-” for work that fails to meet your expectations.
• Encourage students to use the Writing Center which can provide feedback to students developing their drafts or polishing their final drafts. In addition, it is the place for students to learn how to identify and correct many of their own mechanical errors.
• Assign two or three papers; then ask students to submit their best effort for your evaluation. In other words, students choose to revise and submit their best work. This procedure allows students to explore several areas or problems, while you evaluate only one paper per student. (Papers not submitted could be given several points based on a simple rubric.)
• Respond to the class, rather than the individual. As you grade, keep a running log of common problems that can be discussed with the whole class. Don’t mark problems individually; instead, present them to the whole class in a mini-lesson.
• Use web-based discussion tools (bulletin boards): Moodle allows you to post a discussion question and have students respond in writing. They can learn to write thoughtful responses and to engage in written discussion of the issues in your class. You can read these quickly, and they are often of high interest. You can give credit without grading and correcting. Here is a URL for one teacher’s rubric for classroom discussion posts: http://www3.delta.edu/annader/syllabus/pta.html
University of Delaware Writing Center. (2006). Faculty Resources. Retrieved Sept. 14, 2009, from University of Delaware website: http://www.cas.udel.edu/writing-center/Pages/Faculty-Resources.aspx
Bean, J.C. (2001). Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active
Learning in the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Kennedy, M.L. (2002). The Online Manual for Writing Across the Curriculum. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2009, from SUNY Cortland website: http://www2.cortland.edu/departments/english/wrc/wac/index.dot
Other useful web sites with excellent coverage of these topics:
Calibrated Peer Review (NSF) (n.d.) Web-based writing and peer review. Retrieved Sept. 14, 2009, from CPR website: http://cpr.molsci.ucla.edu/Home.aspx
Colorado School of Mines Campus Writing Program. (n.d.) How to Reduce Grading Time and Stress. Retrieved Sept. 14, 2009, from CWP website: http://hennebach.mines.edu/UserFiles/File/LAIS/WAC/ReducingStress.pdf
Manoa Writing Program. (2009). Handling the Paper Load. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2009, from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa website: http://manoa.hawaii.edu/mwp/faculty/teaching-tips/handling-workload
Metacognition can be an invaluable tool to help students focus on the learning process itself and help themselves find the best ways to learn.
“A ‘metacognitive’ approach to instruction can help students learn to take control of their own learning by defining learning goals and monitoring their progress towards them.”
Teaching and Learning Implications:
• Challenge students to share their thought processes, particularly as they problem-solve. Think-aloud paired problem solving works well in many disciplines such as math and reading.
• Ask students to submit an assessment paper answering questions such as, “What challenged you the most about this assignment?” “What did you learn that surprised you?” “What would you do differently if you had two more weeks?” or “What would you change, if you could?”
• As you lecture, stop and ask questions such as, “How fully and consistently were you concentrating on the lecture during these few minutes?” “Did you get distracted at any point? If so, how did you bring your attention back into focus?” “What were you doing to record the information you were receiving? How successful were you?” “What were you doing to make connections between this “new” information and what you already know?” or “What did you expect to come next in the lecture and why?”
• Help students learn to think in your discipline. Students should learn to approach a physics problem differently than they would approach the analysis/interpretation of a poem in a literature class.
Adapted from: Millis, Barbara J., Director, The TEAM Center, University of Texas at San Antonio,
Bransford, J. D., A. Brown, and R. R. Cocking (Eds.). (1999). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington, D. C.: National Academy Press. Available from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368
Just-in-time teaching for critical topics and skills
by Joan Van Duzer
Attaining competence with some concepts and skills requires repetition and practice. Instructors can use class time more efficiently if they create short digitized learning objects that describe a particular concept or demonstrate a skill that students struggle to learn. Create an out-of-class assignment in which students view the micro-lecture and then complete an activity, small project, or written assignment that entails applying the concept or using the skill. Micro-lectures can be as short as 60 seconds to 5 minutes or as long as 15-20 minutes.
Micro-lectures should focus on a specific concept or skill. The micro-lecture technique works best with content that can be explained in small chunks. An advantage is that narrowly-focused micro-lectures allow students to access instruction on a specific concept or skill they need to practice. They do not have to wade through a longer presentation to review one specific topic. Students can return to a micro-lecture any number of times to get the practice they need.
Use micro-lectures to:
• Provide an overview for a particular concept or small group of related concepts.
• Demonstrate a single problem-solving procedure (e.g., solving a particular type of problem in physics, chemistry, statistics, algebra, etc).
• Provide step-by-step instructions and demonstrate completion of a task or laboratory procedure.
• Create the micro-lecture as a narrated power point, audio-only recording, screencast, or short video. The eLearning staff (BSS 527) or Video Production (Gist Hall 205A) can provide guidance and technical support if you need help using these technologies. Most software is available at no cost.
• Prepare a script in advance. Save time by writing what you plan to say and use it to time your presentation. Not only will it help you reduce the number of “takes” but it will be invaluable when preparing the captioning or text equivalent transcript to assure universal accessibility.
• Structure the micro-lecture carefully. Prepare a 15-30 second introduction and conclusion for each micro-lecture to create an appropriate context for the content presented or the skill or procedure demonstrated.
• Include an activity, example problem, or written assignment as a follow-up assignment. Require students to apply the learning from the micro-lecture. Students overestimate their understanding and need concrete feedback to determine whether they have adequately learned the material. If they need to see the demonstration again, micro-lectures are short enough to allow students to view them as often as needed.
• Upload the micro-lectures into your course content in Moodle. Students are more likely to use micro-lectures and complete the application activity if the work is a course requirement that contributes to the final grade. You might be able to construct a quiz for content material that provides immediate feedback to students about the quality of their learning without increasing your grading burden during the term.
Adapted from: University of West Florida, Center for University Teaching, Learning & Assessment
Shieh, D. (2009). These lectures are gone in 60 seconds. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 55 (26), A13.
Mid Semester Course Adjustments (top)
The sixth or seventh week of a semester long course is a good time to gather information from your students about their perceptions of what is working and what is not in your course. You may want to use the process of Mid Semester Evaluation that Diane Johnson facilitates. You can find more information about this process at: http://humboldt.edu/celt/midsem
While it may be ideal to have a trained facilitator conduct such an evaluation, you can do this yourself. At the end of a class session, ask your students to write their responses anonymously to the following questions:
1. What helps you learn in this course?
2. What improvements would you like, and how would you suggest they be made?
If you are implementing a new pedagogy, you might modify the questions to specifically illicit student reactions to that innovation. For example:
1. How is the Team Based Learning helping you learn in this course?
2. What improvements in Team Based Learning process would you like, and how would you suggest they be made?
It is critically important that you report back to the students in your next class session what you have learned from their comments. Discuss with them what changes you plan to make based on their suggestions and why. Also discuss with them changes they suggested that you can’t or won’t implement and explain why.
This seemingly simple process allows you to “catch” impediments to student learning while there is still time to make adjustments in assignments and your teaching strategies. There is evidence that strongly suggests that using and responding to a mid-semester evaluation improves end of the semester student evaluations of your teaching.
Written by: Judith Little, former Assessment Coordinator, Humboldt State University
For additional information see:
Mid-Course Adjustments: http://www.wku.edu/teaching/booklets/midcourse.pdf
Utilizing “notetaker” handouts can be effective in large and small classes and is a concept easily adapted to online teaching.
Purpose: a.) present concepts; b.) promote higher-order thinking; c.) assess knowledge & mastery; d.) make information relevant; e.) link content to previous material; f.) engage students in learning content.
Process: A notetaker is a handout given to students before class by which they receive and interact with an organized (but incomplete) body of information intended to promote learning. By deliberately building in learning activities, students engage with the content and become active agents in their own learning. Notetakers emphasize the structure and connections between your content. To use the notetaker as the class progresses, have students work individually or in small groups to complete the activities. Out of class, have students complete the notetaker and bring it to class.
Typical learning tasks that might appear in a notetaker:
• Check which attributes of … are correct (excellent assessment)
• Label the diagram, which direction will forces act on this…
• Select, pick out, identify, classify or categorize
• Mark the line on the graph that represents…
• Circle parts of the mathematical formula
• Mark on the map/diagram…
• List factors that inhibit/promote…
• Make a scale drawing (great to assess misconceptions/preconceptions)
• Balance the chemical equation
• Provide words that link these 2 concepts
• Predict what will happen if…
Potential Learning Benefits to Student
• Reinforces recall of lesson content
• Promotes higher-order thinking skills
• Assists students in learning how to learn
• Models selecting and organizing information
• Provides a product for later review
Potential Teaching-Learning Benefits
• Reinforces student preparation
• Introduces concepts & their connections
• Focuses student attention on a learning task
• Injects your personality into the lesson
• Telegraphs what is important
• Allows teachers to show students what they will learn
Potential Teaching Benefits to Instructor
• Prevents you from inadvertently skipping information or objectives
• Allows you to inject humor into the lesson
• Creates a time-flexible lesson
• Produces clear, easy-to-follow lesson plan
• Puts effective questions into lesson
• Allows both direct and indirect questioning
• Assesses student understanding
• Builds variety of learning tasks into lesson
• Allows for individual to group learning
• Helps students make up work when absent
• Makes productive use of class time
• Facilitates transition from one concept to the next
• Builds closure into lesson
• Helps new instructors become better teachers
Adapted from: Millis, Barbara, The Teaching & Learning Center, The University of Texas at San Antonio. Retrieved January 15, 2009, from University of Texas San Antonio Web site: http://www.utsa.edu/tlc
Noyd, R. (2005, October). A Simple and Effective Way to Drive Content, Promote Thinking & Assess Mastery. Workshop presented at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Principles of Effective Instructor-Student Interaction (top)
Wanting some quick suggestions on having improved communication with your students? Take a moment to review this short list of suggestions.
1. Be clear about your role as an instructor in the course. What characteristics best define you in the teaching role? What are the boundaries of your responsibility?
2. Be explicit in your expectations of students early in the course. What learning outcomes are you attempting to achieve? How do you expect students to interact with you?
3. Be clear and careful in your instructions for assignments. Use learning outcomes in the design of assignments. Explicate the skills students must demonstrate be consistent in your application of grading criteria.
4. Attempt to listen carefully before you respond or judge. Use paraphrasing to clarify the other’s comments. Check to see whether you’ve been accurate. Use questions to probe for further information.
5. Be aware of opportunities to establish goals with students. Have students participate in establishing goals for their own development. Live up to your own commitments and expect them to do the same.
6. Look for opportunities to give positive or constructive feedback. Go ahead and show your appreciation when it’s appropriate. Give credit for what’s right at the same time that you correct what’s wrong. Show respect in your response to student comments. Indicate that you expect good performance from all students.
7. Be aware of the context for communication. Choose a time and setting appropriate for the topic. Delay or “buy time” when necessary.
8. Be prepared to manage conflict situations. Determine what the conflict is about (substantive, personal, procedural) Try to channel it to an appropriate expression that serves your objectives in the course (productive conflict). Use a problem solving (win-win) orientation. Handle some conflict situations outside of class if possible. Request assistance if necessary.
9. Be prepared to assist troubled students. Know the limits of your own skill or responsibility. Be aware of department and university resources.
Adapted from the Center for Instructional Development and Research, University of Washington. Contributed by Tasha Souza.
Promoting Team Skills for Group Projects (top)
How do your students respond when they discover that you expect them to work in groups on a project in your class? Are they excited about the opportunity to develop their skills with team work and leadership? Are they terrified that they will be a part of the “team from hell?” Instructors also regard group work with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. A dysfunctional team can make life difficult for the instructor as well as the members of the problematic team.
Cooperative learning and group projects can produce deep and enduring learning for team members. However, a dysfunctional team may actually interfere with learning (Oakley, Felder, Brent, & Elhajj, 2004). Students working on a group project for the first time frequently do not have the skills for social interaction, project management, time management, and conflict resolution needed for a successful group experience. Include activities to develop student teamwork skills as part of the course or project activities to increase the success of student learning from the project and decrease the frequency of dysfunctional groups.
Teams function better when they are comprised of a heterogeneous group of individuals. When students create teams on their own, they tend to congregate with friends and individuals they perceive to be similar to themselves. Collect information about the characteristics of students in your class before forming teams. Use this information to assign students to teams with an appropriate mix of talents and backgrounds.
Create an initial team activity that focuses on process issues. The activity should allow team members to learn about their individual communication styles, academic skills, and social skills. Ask each team to develop a list of policies and expectations for team behavior. These might include statements about showing up for meetings, meeting deadlines, sharing work equitably, etc.
Hold individual students accountable for their team behavior and contribution to the group project. Create a rubric for peer evaluations of individual contributions to the final project or have the teams create a rubric as part of their policy activity. Use these evaluations to determine part of individual grades on the project.
What do students need to learn to be effective team members?
Teaching students team skills by forming groups and setting them to work is a bit like teaching students to swim by tossing them into the deep end of the pool and hoping things work out well. If your goal is to help students learn team skills, create a project that must be completed collaboratively. If a project lends itself to “division of labor” strategies, team members will simply divide the project into component parts and work independently.
Provide opportunities for reflection on the group process. Ask team members to meet from time to time to assess how well the project is moving along. They should identify obstacles (from unanticipated complications with the project to problems with social loafing) and develop solutions. Process discussions provide opportunities for timely conflict management. Give students in the group an opportunity to vent about what is not going well and identify potential solutions to the problem (Breslow, 1998).
Ask students to keep a journal in which they make observations about specific group processes. Students may need guidance in how to reflect effectively on group processes. Effective reflections should describe how the group behaves as a team and how individual members do or do not contribute to effective group function. Students should describe group communication patterns (Who talks? Who doesn’t talk? Do team members listen to one another? Do they interrupt?), organization and planning (How are tasks assigned to team members? How are priorities for sub-tasks determined?), and group dynamics (What happens if a team member misses a deadline or submits poor quality work? Describe conflicts that arise. How did the group resolve its conflicts?). Finally, reflections should identify strategies for improving group function (Breslow, 1998).
Adapted from CUTLA Teaching Tips, University of West Florida http://uwf.edu/cutla/. Volume 1, Fall 2008. Contributed by Tasha Souza.
Breslow, L. (1998). Teaching work skills. MIT Teaching and Learning Laboratory. Retrieved Jan. 15, 2010 from MIT website: http://tll.mit.edu/
Breslow, L. (1998). Teaching work skills, Part 2. MIT Teaching and Learning Laboratory. Retrieved Jan. 15, 2010 from MIT website: http://tll.mit.edu/
Reference Management Programs (top)
A critical part of the student research process is keeping track of references (citations)—journal papers, books, web pages, facts, pictures, quotes, etc—that support their research so that they can properly cite them in their work using a required publication style. In an increasing online research environment reference management programs can assist by:
• Collecting references from online sources, e.g., the HSU Library Catalog, research databases, web pages, and other sources; or by manual input.
• Storing and managing these references in searchable folders.
• Linking to the full text of references, if available, and allowing addition of personal notes.
• Generating bibliographies or inserting references into papers composed in Microsoft Word or other word processors and automatically formatting them in a required publication style, e.g., MLA, APA , or CSE.
Two Recommended Programs:
• EndNote Web (http://www.endnoteweb.com/) — This web-based program is available free to all HSU students, faculty and staff as part of the HSU Library’s subscription to Thomson/Reuters databases. The program is available wherever there is Internet access. Continuing access to this program is available for up to two years after leaving HSU.
• Zotero (http://www.zotero.org/) — This is a free open-source add-on for Firefox that lives in the browser after being downloaded and installed. To increase portability of collected and stored references Zotero can be synchronized with their online site so that references can be accessed from any location. A second portability option is to use Portable Firefox (http://www.zotero.org/support/kb/portable_firefox) which can be stored on a USB drive or HSU network drive.
Both these programs are available to all HSU students, faculty and staff. References created in one program can be ported to the other program or to another reference management program (http://library.humboldt.edu/~rls/references.html).
In addition to using the basic functions of these programs to improve the student research process one can:
• Create stand-alone bibliographies or annotated bibliographies. Both programs have output formats for annotated bibliographies.
• Collaboratively build or share a reference list for class or group research projects. Both programs allow the creation of user groups. Anyone can set up a group with the extent of user access determined by the group owner. Access can be read only, entirely read and write, or read and write to selective group members.
• Check student progress towards completion of an assigned research project by having students generate a report of sources compiled to date.
• Generate class reading lists with full text links that can be imbedded into Moodle or any web page.
See Zotero’s Use Cases (http://www.zotero.org/support/use_cases) for other examples of classroom use.
Correlation with Student Learning:
Use of these programs can enhance student learning by:
• Increasing research competence and critical evaluation of reference sources.
• Increasing understanding of and competence in source documentation.
• Using program search features to discover new information connections among reference sources that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
• Building self-identification as an emerging scholar in a discipline as a student collects reference sources as a freshman and continues the process through the completion of a senior project.
For a learning “scenario” see EDUCAUSE’s 7 things you should know about…Zotero (http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7041.pdf”)
Both EndNote Web and Zotero have excellent online documentation and tutorials at their sites. In addition see:
• Using EndNote Web at HSU (Humboldt State University Library) http://library.humboldt.edu/~rls/endnote_web.html
• Zotero (Georgia State University Library) http://research.library.gsu.edu/zotero
Written by and Adapted from: Martha Johanson, former Humboldt State University Library & Rowena Santiago, Teaching Resource Center, CSUSB
Reflection Exercise on a Course’s “Big Question” (top)
In What the Best College Teachers Do, Ken Bain describes how many of the teachers that he studied prepared to teach by devising a “big question,” one that their course would help students address. I use a big question to encourage students to reflect on what they have learned in a course. In the first class meeting of a semester, I present a big question that the course will address and ask the students to write a page or less in which they reflect on the question, and write a response to the question as they would answer it now and indicating what knowledge they used to formulate the answer.
This provides me with an understanding of the knowledge base and potential misconceptions that the students bring to the course. At the end of the semester, I ask the students to address the original big question again. I encourage them to revisit their response paper from the first class.
At the time students write the first paper, I indicate that there will be a second part to this assignment, one that will require them to respond to the same question at the end of the semester. I give points for completing this “reflection” assignment, only if both papers have been submitted.
Students use varied approaches when they respond to the question a second time. Some students incorporate comments from the first paper into the second paper, often refuting points made in the first paper with new insights gained through the semester. Other students write the second response and do not look at their earlier response until they have completed the second paper. Still other students start with their first response, and then expand on that first response to create a second response.
Regardless of the approach taken, students are much more expansive in the second response than they were on their earlier attempt to answer the question. I have found that having students answer the same big question for the course at the beginning and again at the end of the course serves multiple purposes including encouraging students to reflect on their learning and address misconceptions, while providing a very practical way for me to assess the impact of the course on student learning.
Adapted from: Stephen, Mary, Director, Reinert Center for Teaching Excellence, Associate Professor, Educational Studies, Saint Louis University
Bain, K. (1994). What the Best College Teachers Do. Harvard University Press.
Bain, K. (n.d.) . Enhancing Learning through Reflection. Retrieved May 9, 2009, from University of Oregon Teaching Effectiveness Program Web site: http://tep.uoregon.edu/showcase/crmodel/strategies/learning_through_reflection.html
This brainstorming technique can create an active learning environment in small and large courses.
Purpose(s): To brainstorm ideas about a given topic in a way that gets students actively involved. Roundtable can be used for review and recall, for predictions, for practicing a skill, or for idea-generation. It reinforces the value of teamwork.
Steps: Students in a small group (3-5 in number) respond in turn to a question or problem by writing their ideas on a single sheet of paper that circulates rapidly among them. As they write, students say the idea out loud because: a.) Silence in a setting like this is boring, rather than golden; b.) Other team members need to be reflecting on the proffered thoughts; c.) Variety results because teammates learn immediately that someone has come up with an idea they can’t repeat; and d.) Hearing the responses said aloud means that students do not have to waste valuable brainstorming time by reading the previous ideas on the page. Team members ideally should not skip turns, but if their thoughts are at a standstill, it is better to say “Pass” rather than to turn the brainstorm into a brain drizzle. To encourage more equal participation, the “Pass” option can be limited to one round. As the paper circulates clockwise, or to the students’ left-hand sides, team members record ideas as rapidly as possible, resulting in the quick generation of a number of ideas. As with other brainstorming activities, students should not slow the flow of creative ideas by stopping to explain, question, or evaluate.
Variations: Rather than circulate a blank sheet of paper, students can circulate a sheet containing “prompts” or a diagram, (e.g., In an architecture class, the paper contains three subheadings: “Doric, Ionic, Corinthian” and students in turn add the distinguishing elements of these types of Greek architecture.) Several rounds can occur: in a biology class, for example, students identify the components of the respiratory system and then in another round, add their functions.
Assessment and follow-on: You can determine how well students understand concepts by collecting the Roundtables and reviewing them. Roundtables usually form the basis for later discussions, projects, or assignments.
Examples from various disciplines: Government: describe the various international roles played by the United Nations; Art: identify the defining characteristics of impressionistic painting; Medicine or Psychology: list the various symptoms of schizophrenia, AIDS, or co-dependency; History: summarize the most important events of 1918 or any other significant year; Engineering: provide examples of well-known engineering trusses.
Adapted from: Millis, Barbara, The Teaching & Learning Center, The University of Texas at San Antonio. Retrieved January 15, 2009, from University of Texas San Antonio Web site: http://www.utsa.edu/tlc
Rubrics as Learning Guides (top)
“It is amazing how much better my students’ work has become as my expectations and guidelines become clearer.” – A faculty member reflecting on the use of assessment rubrics
I know that feeling. When no one is clear on what’s expected, everyone worries about the grade (the only indicator). When the assessment process is clearly articulated, learners are able to focus on the learning and the experience, and usually surpass my expectations. Over the years, as I have harmonized my course designs, linking objectives and outcomes with specific projects and reflecting these in guidelines, descriptions and assessment rubrics, I have felt the focus of my courses change. By using rubrics and scoring sheets to make the assessment process more transparent, the focus shifts from test-taking and grade anxiety towards learning, effort and excellence.
Here are just a few of the advantages:
• Learners can see exactly what they are expected to do to get the grade they want (they become responsible for their learning) and can move towards mastery learning.
• Questions and meetings about grades given drop to zero (or near zero, depending on how the rubric or grading sheet is introduced, used and developed)
• Assignments, projects and learning experiences are richer and more creative as learners interpret, reinvent and re-conceptualize ways to meet the articulated expectations.
• Limits or eliminates the “Will this be on the test?” questions.
• Assessment guidelines provide an objective reference point that allow learners and faculty (learning facilitators) to assess work and discuss how to improve it (and/or why a grade was given)
• Keeps everyone (learner and faculty alike) ‘honest’ and objective in how they assign grades to various components of a project/activity.
• Supports learners in developing critical skills as well as the ability to self-assess, peer-assess and think about their learning process (metacognition).
“Rubric” is the term applied to the most detailed and comprehensive of these assessment guides. In simple terms, a rubric shows how learners will be assessed and/or graded. In other words, a rubric provides a clear guide as to how ‘what learners do’ in a course will be assessed. In formal terms, the following provides a standard definition: A scoring rubric is a set of ordered categories to which a given piece of work can be compared. Scoring rubrics specify the qualities or processes that must be exhibited in order for a performance to be assigned a particular evaluative rating. – Peter McDaniel (1994), Understanding Educational Measurement.
Rubrics come in different types (holistic, analytic, general and task-specific) and are designed for different purposes (overall course evaluation reference, skill/competency/component assessment, feedback guidelines), and are designed for use assessing various outcomes (assignments, activities, products, projects, presentations, performances, practica, portfolios, etc.) by different people (faculty, learner, peers, colleagues). They support formative and summative assessment and guide the learner’s growth and improve the quality of the learning products, activities and experiences. To understand the different dimensions of a rubric and how one is constructed, see this Rubric for Rubrics (http://www.tltgroup.org/resources/Rubrics/A_Rubric_for_Rubrics.htm), or use it to evaluate your own.
Here are a few of the steps for creating your own rubric:
1. Identify the type and purpose of the Rubric – What will you assess/evaluate and why?
2. Identify Distinct Criteria to be evaluated – Which objectives/expectations do you want to highlight? (Pull details from your course/assignment/activity descriptions, making distinctions between criteria clear).
3. Determine your levels of assessment – What will be your range and scoring scales? Will you link them to simple numeric base scores? Percentages? Grades or GPAs?
4. Describe each level for each of the criteria, clearly differentiating between them – How will you differentiate between the levels of expectation for each criterion? (To develop clear descriptions for where a product/performance would fall along the continuum of levels, start at the bottom (unacceptable) and top (mastery) levels and work your way “in”).
5. Involve learners in development and effective use of the Rubric – How will you involve learners in the development of the assessment rubric? (Such engagement in the initial/on-going design helps to increase their awareness of expectations, what they are learning and their responsibility in the learning process).
6. Pre-test and retest your rubric – How will you ensure that your rubric remains valid and reliable? (Plan to develop it over time, looking at each use with a new group of learners (or a colleague) as an opportunity to tweak and enhance it).
For more details, information on types, a rubric to assess your rubric, and access to sample rubrics and scoring sheets, see: http://tltgroup.org/resources/Rubrics.htm.
Adapted from Dr. Bonnie B. Mullinix, Sr. Consultant, Faculty and Educational Development Teaching, Learning and Technology Group http://www.tltgroup.org/.
Contributed by Tasha Souza.
Rubrics, http://tltgroup.org/resources/Rubrics.htm – background, types and uses, rubric for rubric, and sample rubrics and scoring sheets
Flashlight 2.0 Matrix Survey, http://www.tltgroup.org/Flashlight/FLO2/see.htm – survey and online rubric assessment tool
Rubistar, http://rubistar.4teachers.org/index.php – online rubrics generator/information
Team Based Learning (top)
Team Based Learning – Contributed by Joy Adams
Reading quiz. The very term makes me cringe and often inspires the same response in my students. On the one hand, we as instructors want to encourage students to be responsible for their own learning. Reading quizzes promote student accountability and provide us with feedback on student learning that helps us to better meet their needs and fulfill our course objectives. On the other hand, “quizzing” has become synonymous with rote memorization and regurgitation, often performed in isolation. As such, the typical reading quiz does little to challenge students’ higher-order thinking skills or provide them with the sorts of experiences they can expect to find in the professional world or in advanced studies.
Professor Larry Michaelsen has developed a technique known as “Team-Based Learning” (TBL), which advocates and details a three-fold “paradigm shift” to transform the traditional classroom learning and teaching experience:
1) Primary learning objectives shift from knowing concepts to using concepts for problem solving
2) The instructor’s role shifts from expert (“sage on the stage”) to facilitator (“guide on the side”)
3) Students shift from passive learners with limited responsibility for their learning to active learners with an increased responsibility for their learning. (http://www.teambasedlearning.org)
Michaelsen’s approach to TBL entails a holistic transformation of course design. Each instructional unit is organized as follows:
1) Students conduct preparatory activities (such as completing assigned readings and small-stakes homework exercises) outside of class independently.
2) The Readiness Assurance Process (RAP) is employed to ensure personal accountability and comprehension of course information prior to proceeding. A RAP takes approximately one class period and consists of three steps:
a) Students first complete the quiz independently, retaining a copy of their responses.
b) Students then immediately re-quiz in permanent, heterogeneous peer groups of five to seven students. Each team works together to achieve consensus on the correct answers, encouraging discussion and debate. Group quizzes are administered on scratch-off “lottery ticket” type quiz forms (available at the CELT office) to provide immediate feedback regarding the correct answer.
c) The group can submit an “appeal” for any missed responses, on the basis of either ambiguity in the test question or ambiguity in the reading. The instructor may grant/deny an appeal based on the quality and completeness of the arguments and supporting documentation submitted.
3) Students then demonstrate mastery of the course material by completing an in-class application exercise with their team over the course of one or more class periods.
The cycle is repeated for each instructional unit of the course. The instructor may occasionally deliver “mini-lectures” for clarification, but the large majority of the coursework is completed in peer groups.
Michaelsen (2004) explains that he has completely replaced traditional lectures and exams with TBL. His research reveals the following benefits of the approach:
– “Small groups” are transformed into learning “teams.” Students are individually accountable, in addition to being accountable to their peer groups. – A stand-alone “teaching technique” becomes an “instructional strategy.” – The quality of student learning and engagement is enhanced. – The instructor’s enjoyment of teaching is often transformed or restored.
So, how realistic is such a paradigm shift, given the structural constraints of our physical classroom spaces, tighter budgets, and larger classes, among others? While I have not yet adopted the TBL approach wholesale, I have successfully experimented with a partial implementation that has been met with great enthusiasm by students and enhanced my experience as an instructor.
In GEOG 304 (Migrations and Mosaics), I implemented the RAP, but stopped short of adopting the team-based application exercises. Even this modified approach conferred the advantages of TBL cited above. Students actually looked forward to quiz days (as did I) – they enjoyed discussing the material with their peers, learning from one another’s interpretations of the reading, and having a less “structured” classroom experience. I sat with different teams throughout the quiz to observe their group dynamics and listen to their discussions, which yielded a great deal of insight into what the students were (or were not) learning from the readings.
The “scratch-off” forms made the quizzes more interactive and — dare I say? — fun. Getting the correct answer not only meant “points,” but felt like “winning.” I observed a lot of “team spirit” within, and playful rivalries between, the teams of students. The immediate feedback lent instant credibility to less assertive students who had been “outvoted” by their team mates, empowering more reticent participants. And about 95% of the time, the team score surpassed any single individual’s score, demonstrating the power of collaborative thinking and problem-solving and ensuring student buy-in.
Through informal small-stakes writing assignments, I asked my students to comment on their perceptions of TBL, both at mid-semester and at the end of the semester. They were unanimous in their support for my continued use of the technique, and all agreed that it enhanced their learning and engagement with the course. The only critiques centered on the staging of the quizzes. While Michaelsen boasts of successfully using the technique in 200-person, fixed-seat lecture halls, my students felt our 50-seat classroom (fixed seats) was difficult to navigate and very loud during our quiz periods. However, if these are their only complaints about reading quizzes using TBL, then I’m more than satisfied with the outcome.
Contributed by: Joy Adams, Assistant Professor of Geography
Michaelsen, L., A. Knight, and L. D. Fink, eds.. 2004. Team-based learning: A transformative use of small groups in college teaching. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing. *Note: The online resources cover most of the key information and are suitable and sufficient for beginners. The book includes specific case studies and it is probably most useful to advanced practitioners.
Ten Teaching Strategies Suggested by Research (top)
These ten simple tips can dramatically enhance student learning experiences.
(Adapted from the Center for Instructional Development & Research, University of Washington, by Tasha Souza)
1. Have students write about what they are learning.
“Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in class listening to teachers, memorizing prepackaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves.” (Chickering & Gamson, 1987, p. 3)
2. Encourage faculty-student contact, in and out of class.
“Frequent interaction with faculty members is more strongly related to satisfaction with college than any other type of involvement, or, indeed, any other student or institutional characteristic.” (Astin, 1985, p. 133-151)
3. Get students working with one another on substantive tasks, in and out of class.
“Student’s academic performance and satisfaction at college are tied closely to involvement with faculty and other students around substantive work.” (Light, 1992, p. 18)
4. Give prompt and frequent feedback to students about their progress.
5. Communicate high expectations.
6. Make standards and grading criteria explicit.
7. Help students to achieve those expectations and criteria.
8. Respect diverse talents and ways of learning.
9. Use problems, questions, or issues, not merely content coverage, as points of entry into the subject and as sources of Motivation for sustained inquiry.
“Students learn what they care about and remember what they understand.” (Ericksen, 1984, p. 51)
10. Make courses assignment-centered rather than merely text-and lecture-centered. Then focus on helping students successfully complete the assignments.
Adapted from: Center for Instructional Development & Research, University of Washington, http://www.washington.edu/teaching/
Astin, A. (1985). Achieving Educational Excellence. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Bonwell, C. C. & Eison, J. A. (1991). Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom. ASHE–ERIC Higher Education Report No. 1. Washington, D.C.: George Washington University, School of Education and Human Development.
Chickering, A. W. & Gamson, Z.F. (1987). Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. AAHE Bulletin, 39(7),3-7.
Ericksen, S. C. (1984). The Essence of Good Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Feldman, K. A. (1988). Effective college teaching from the students’ and faculty’s view: matched or mismatched priorities? Research in Higher Education 28, 291–344.
Frost, S. H. (1991). Contact, involvement, and persistence: contributors to students’ success. Academic Advising for Student Success: A System of Shared Responsibility. ASHE–ERIC Higher Education Report No. 3. Washington, D.C.: George Washington University, School of Education and Human Development.
Kurfiss, J. (1987). Critical Thinking. ASHE–ERIC Higher Education Report No. 2. Washington, D.C.: George Washington University, School of Education and Human Development.
Light, R. J. (1992). The Harvard Assessment Seminars: Second Report. Harvard University School of Education.
Pascarella, E. T. and Terenzini, P.T. (1991). How College Affects Students. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Penrose, A. M. (1992) To write or not to write: effects of task and task interpretation on learning through writing. Written Communication 9, 465-500.
Test Construction for Closed-Answer or “Objective” Tests (top)
Objective tests have the advantages of allowing an instructor to assess a large and potentially representative sample of course material and allow for reliable and efficient scoring. The disadvantages of objective tests include a tendency to emphasize only “recognition” skills, the ease with which correct answers can be guessed on many item types, and the inability to measure students’ organization and synthesis of material.
One way to write multiple choice questions that require more than recall is to develop questions that resemble miniature “cases” or situations. Provide a small collection of data, such as a description of a situation, a series of graphs, quotes, a paragraph, or any cluster of the kinds of raw information that might be appropriate material for the activities of your discipline. Then develop a series of questions based on that material. These questions might require students to apply learned concepts to the case, to combine data, to make a prediction on the outcome of a process, to analyze a relationship between pieces of the information, or to synthesize pieces of information into a new concept.
Here are a few additional guidelines to keep in mind when writing multiple-choice tests:
• The item-stem (the lead-in to the choices) should clearly formulate a problem.
• As much of the question as possible should be included in the stem.
• Randomize occurrence of the correct response (e.g., you don’t always want “C” to be the right answer). Statistically, B and C are the most common correct answers. After you have constructed the test, go back check that the answers are distributed randomly across all choices.
• Make sure there is only one clearly correct answer (unless you are instructing students to select more than one).
• Make the wording in the response choices consistent with the item stem.
• Beware of using answers such as “none of these” or “all of the above.”
• Use negatives sparingly in the question or stem; do not use double negatives.
• Beware of using sets of opposite answers unless more than one pair is presented (e.g., go to work, not go to work).
• Beware of providing irrelevant grammatical cues.
Adapted from: Indiana University Teaching Handbook. (2007). Teaching Methods: Test Construction. Retrieved January 15, 2009, from Indiana University Web site: http://teaching.iub.edu/finder/wrapper.php?inc_id=s2_7_assess_03_tests.shtml
The Last Day of Class: Beginning at the End (top)
Final Examination Review. Term Project Presentations. Last minute questions.
These are some common topics for the last day of class that underscore the ending of the course. But if college graduations are called “commencements,” can we redefine the last day of class as a beginning?
We hope that our students will carry with them what they have learned, and apply, integrate, and develop this knowledge well beyond the final exam or term project. In this sense, the ending of the course is, to paraphrase T.S. Eliot, where students start from. The last day of class offers you a chance to glimpse into your students’ future and foresee the lasting impact of your teaching.
Below are some examples of questions you might pose on the last day of class, or as an assignment prior to that session. Some questions will fit your course better than others, or you might develop your own queries to mark the “beginning at the end” of the course.
Formats might also vary: students may be asked to write their responses individually and then share them in pairs or in small groups, or responses might be submitted online, perhaps using a Web 2.0 technology such as Wiki.
Whatever the format, such exercises at the end of a course might suspend, even for a moment, students’ focus on final grades. In that moment, we can quietly celebrate education as more than an end in itself, and remind our students and ourselves that learning should never end.
• What did you expect to learn in this course? Did you learn it?
• Have you changed your opinions or views as a result of this course? Why or why not?
• Did your view of [topic/discipline] change as a result of this course? Why or why not?
• Complete the following sentences: One thing I was surprised to learn in this course is: … I was surprised to learn this because …
• If someone asked you, “what did you learn in [name of class],” how would you respond? How do you think you would respond in five years from now?
• Complete the following sentence: I used to think … but now I think …
• Complete the following sentence: I used to … but now I will …
• If you could share one idea from this course with others, what would it be, and why?
• One thing I would like to learn more about is:
Adapted from: Kiren Dosanjh Zucker, Faculty Development Director, CSU Northridge
Time-Saving Strategies for Evaluating Student Writing (top)
Praise students for what they have done well. Pointing out strengths is more effective than pointing out weaknesses. Hillocks notes the “great deal of evidence that teacher comments in and of themselves have no effect on student writing except when they are focused on how well the students have accomplished the main point of the assignment and provide further feedback on matters which have already been taught and reinforced.”
Paul Deiderich concluded from his own research on teacher commentary and student motivation that “noticing and praising whatever a student does well improves writing more than any kind or amount of correction of what he/she does badly, and that is especially important for the less able writers who need all the encouragement they can get.”
Some suggestions for commenting on student writing include:
• Focus comments on higher-order concerns—ideas, development, organization, focus.
• Limit comments on higher-order concerns to one, two, or three major changes you’d like to see.
• Avoid (or limit) marking grammatical and mechanical errors
• Engage in “minimal marking.”
• Identify patterns.
• Mark grammatical and mechanical errors in one paragraph only.
Adapted from: Jackson, R. (n.d.) Time-Saving Strategies for Evaluating Student Writing. Retrieved May 9, 2009, from Texas State University Resources for Teaching Web site: http://www.liberalarts.txstate.edu/faculty/resources-nominations/timesavingstrategies.html
Anson, C., Schwiebert, J., & Williamson, M.M. (1993). Writing Across the Curriculum: An Annotated Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Bean, J. (1996). Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Duke, C. and Sanchez, R. (2001). Assessing Writing Across the Curriculum. Durham: Carolina Academic Press.
Conference on College Composition and Communication. (2006). Writing Assessment: A Position Statement. Retrieved May 9, 2009, from National Council of Teachers of English Web site: http:/www.ncte.org/cccc/resources/positions/writingassessment
Daiker, D. (1989). Learning to Praise. In C. Anson (Ed.), Writing and Response: Theory, Practice and Research. Urbana, IL: NCTE.
Hartwell, P. (1987). Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar. In T. Enos (Ed.), A Sourcebook for Basic Writing Teachers (p. 348-372). New York, NY: Random House.
Twitter for Faculty (top)
Even if you haven’t used Twitter yet, it’s very likely that you have seen or heard reference to the social networking website at some point over the last year. That’s because Twitter is increasing in popularity, especially among educators. According to Twitter in Higher Education: Usage Habits and Trends of Today’s College Faculty, published this year by Faculty Focus, around 30% of the 2000 higher education professionals they interviewed use Twitter either in a personal or professional capacity.
Part of the appeal of Twitter is that it is very easy to use. You can use a cell phone, a smartphone (like the iPhone or Blackberry), or downloadable software to update your Twitter account, in addition to sending messages by logging in to Twitter.com. Your updates, or “tweets,” can then be viewed by your followers and you can also see a stream of recent tweets from the people you follow.
How faculty are using it
According to Faculty Focus, nearly a third of the 2,000 higher education professionals they surveyed use Twitter. Those educators reported that they use the micro-blogging service in several important ways. Their responses reflect the fact that Tweets must be 140 characters or less, which means that this tool is most useful for quick updates rather than in-depth written analysis.
Networking is a very common reason faculty use Twitter. Faculty members follow colleagues in their field to discover URLs of interest or announcements for events they might be interested in. Educators also use Twitter to arrange meet-ups and participate in the Twitter “back channel” at conferences. You can also follow conferences you are unable to attend. You might also use Twitter to poll your followers for quick input on research questions, job searches, and teaching problems.
Some faculty also use the service to communicate with students. You could use it to take attendance, post reminders about assignments, or offer extra credit assignments. Foreign language instructors have used it as a way to get their students to practice their written language skills.
Nearly 13% of the Faculty Focus report respondents said that they tried Twitter but no longer use it, and more than half said they have never used Twitter. Faculty respondents had many reasons for not using Twitter, including doubting its educational relevance, not having time to use it, or simply not knowing how to use it. Others want to learn more about the possible educational applications before forging ahead.
The best way to learn more about Twitter is to sign up for an account at https://twitter.com/. You can use the site’s search function to look for individuals and organizational representatives to follow, either by name or email address, or you can search for topics to monitor.
In addition to hands-on experience, take a look at the resources below for more information about how faculty are using Twitter:
Faculty Focus. (2009). Twitter in higher education: Usage habits and trends of today’s college faculty. Retrieved October 10, 2009, from Faculty Focus website: http://www.facultyfocus.com/
Online Colleges. (2009). 50 ways to use Twitter in the college classroom. Retrieved October 1, 2009, from Online Colleges website: http://www.onlinecolleges.net/2009/06/08/50-ways-to-use-twitter-in-the-college-classroom/
Using Universal Design For Learning to Meet the Needs of All Students (top)
Worried that your teaching isn’t reaching ALL of your students? Looking for strategies to meet the needs of students who struggle to learn for a variety of reasons without compromising the rigorous standards of a course? The key to helping all students succeed is to remove barriers from course design, teaching methods, and curriculum materials. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an effective pedagogical approach that removes such barriers and enhances learning for students with varied backgrounds, learning styles, abilities and disabilities.
• the process of making our course concepts educationally accessible regardless of learning style or ability.
• a proactive approach to designing course instruction, materials, and content to benefit students of all learning styles so that you can avoid making needed adaptations as an afterthought.
Universal Design for Learning asks educators to:
• REPRESENT information in multiple formats and media,
• provide multiple ways to ENGAGE students’ interest and motivation, and
• provide multiple pathways for students to EXPRESS what they have learned.
Visit the ELIXR website (http://elixr.merlot.org/) to hear from an experienced professor about her utilization of the principles of UDL in order to remove barriers and better meet student needs. In the ELIXR Universal Design for Learning digital case story, you see examples of, and will learn strategies for, embracing the principles of UDL.
Given the central role of teaching and learning in our professional lives, faculty need concrete ways to enhance effectiveness in the classroom in support of greater student achievement. Explore the following resources on Universal Design for Learning and consider adopting principles of UDL to better meet your students’ needs.
Written by: Tasha J. Souza, Humboldt State University
University of Washington, Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology (DO-IT)
Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST)
Creating a More Accessible Course Syllabus
Using Threaded Discussions to Build Community in a Course (top)
Lang (2008) argues that building community can be difficult if the only opportunity for interaction occurs during regularly-scheduled class time. In contrast, threaded discussion in the online environment provides access to asynchronous discussion 24/7.
However, this technology will only be effective for community building if students are engaged in the discussions. If participation is optional, students won’t participate.
One way to quickly create an engaging and relevant threaded discussion is to require that students post a 2-paragraph response to the reading for a given week and respond to at least one classmate who has not yet received a reply. Be sure the deadlines for posts and replies are staggered to facilitate exchanges before the class meets on the assigned topic.
If the discussions and student postings are not used during regular class meetings and discussions, students will perceive threaded discussions as “make work.” Skim the postings before class to identify specific topics or questions common to many students. At the beginning of class, briefly discuss common comments and address any important misconceptions or questions included in the posts so students can see how their input enriches the class.
Adapted from: Lang, J. M. (2008). On course: A week-by-week guide to your first semester of college teaching. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Using Clicker Technology in Large Classes (top)
As you prepare to submit your textbook orders this week, remember to alert the Bookstore if you plan to use student response systems (“clickers”) in your class next semester so they can have an adequate supply of used and new clickers available at the lowest possible cost for students.
Are you still “on the fence” about using clickers? Embedding questions in a large lecture and requiring student responses via clickers can motivate students to attend class, complete readings and assignments as preparation for class discussion, generate interest in course material, evaluate student learning mid-lecture, or apply new learning to conceptual or practical problems. The types of questions posed and how the instructor uses student responses are important for the successful use of these devices.
Woelk (2008) provides a useful taxonomy of the types of questions that can be posed:
• I am here (attendance questions, demographic questions)
• I am prepared (factual questions about the assigned reading)
• I am interested (questions that pose course topics in a context that relates to student interest – e.g., preceding a discussion of saline concentrations with a question about the mass of salt found in the blood of an average human)
• I learn (questions that evaluate student learning of a topic just covered in lecture)
• I understand (questions that evaluate conceptual understanding or application of new material presented in lecture)
• I apply (questions that require students to make a prediction based on new learning)
• I will (questions that pose an open-ended problem for students to consider before the next class – questions that bridge the content of adjacent classes)
Students enrolled in sections of courses that included clicker questions during lectures outperformed students enrolled in sections (taught by the same instructor) in which students could answer questions as an optional out-of-class activity (Radosevich, et al., 2008; Reay, 2008; Woelk, 2008). The improvements observed in exam performance persist in long-term follow-up exams.
Adapted from: University of West Florida’s Center for University Teaching, Learning, and Assessment.
Bruff, D. (2009). Teaching with Classroom Response Systems: Creating Active Learning Environments. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass (In the CELT Library)
CELT. (2009). Clickers in the Classroom Quick Start Guide from the HSU’s Center for Excellence in Learning & Teaching. (Available from CELT)
EDUCAUSE. (2005). 7 Things You Should Know About Clickers. Retrieved Nov. 10, 2009, from EDUCAUSE website: http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7002.pdf
Radosevich, D. J., Salomon, R., Radosevich, D., M., & Kahn, P. (2008). Using student response systems to increase motivation, learning, and knowledge retention. Innovate 5 (1). Retrieved from Innovate website Sept. 30, 2008: http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=499
Reay, N. W., Li, P., & Bao, L. (2008). Testing a new voting machine question methodology. American Journal of Physics, 76, 171-178.
Woelk, K. (2008). Optimizing the use of personal response devices (clickers) in large-enrollment introductory courses. Journal of Chemical Education, 85, 1400-1405.
Value Line (top)
Want an engaging active-learning strategy that is effective in small and large classes (if carefully structured) and useful in online settings as well?
A “value line” ascertains students’ opinions in a quick and visual way by asking them to line up according to how strongly they agree or disagree with a statement or proposition. It allows teachers to structure paired or four-person discussions on controversial topics with a range of viewpoints in each group.
State the issue, perhaps giving arguments for or against the proposition. Ask students, after a moment of “think time,” to choose a number on a one-to-five scale that best describes their position on the issue. To save time, have the students jot down their number before the next step. Next, ask students who have chosen “one” to stand at a designated point along the wall of the room. The students who have chosen “two” follow them, and so forth until all students are lined up. Stretch the line sufficiently so that students don’t bunch together.
After the students have formed a line based on their opinions, identify the midpoint. The easiest way to do this is to ask students to ignore the original number they selected as the basis for their location in the line. Then, have them count off, calling out numbers from one end of the line-up to the other, giving each a unique identifying number. Find the median student by dividing the last number by two.
Pair students for a discussion by folding the line backwards, pairing the students at each end. For more in-depth discussions, you can form groups of four. Form the first group by taking one student from each end of the line and two from its midpoint. In a class of 40, for example, call the numbers 1, 40, 15, and 14. The next team would consist of students 2, 39, 16, 13, and so on.
This activity results in a very public display of opinion: Don’t use it if students will be uncomfortable or embarrassed. Establish clear ground rules for the discussion. Identifying workshop leaders, recorders, reporters and time-keepers can add structure. Carefully monitor the discussions by sitting in with groups.
• In an online setting, students can email their “one-to-five” number to you. You can then form discussion groups for a threaded discussion based on the student responses.
• You can use a similar line-up to identify “study buddies” or to form review or coaching sessions with students lining up based upon their confidence in their content knowledge or skill abilities.
Examples from various disciplines:
Instructors could ask students to respond to the following statements:
• The United States was justified in dropping the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
• Funds should be diverted from other medical research into AIDS programs.
• Every woman is entitled to abortion on demand.
• The United States should adopt a flat income tax rate.
• The United States should begin an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq.
Adapted from: Barbara J. Millis, Director, The TEAM Center, University of Texas at San Antonio
Contributed by Tasha Souza.
“Vocabulary Across the Curriculum”: Word of the Day (top)
Wishing your students had more powerful vocabularies? Want to get the students engaged in the subject matter in the first few minutes of class?
Pick any word that you feel a college graduate should be familiar with or should know for your class. Write the word on the board as soon as you enter class.
Ask students to turn to their neighbor and see if each can explain the meaning to the other. Then poll the class for a meaning. Supply the meaning yourself if answers aren’t forthcoming. The entire exercise should take less than 90 seconds. One can use variations of this to introduce discipline-specific content. For instance “Geography Across the Curriculum” (place of the day) or “History Across the Curriculum” (historical character of the day) are fun themes that can broaden students’ general education.
In addition to teaching vocabulary, this exercise gets students’ minds actively involved and provides a kind of jump-start to the class. If the word is carefully chosen, it can be the start of an entire discussion about the concept or topic that you intend to teach that day. The accumulated knowledge that results from a tiny investment of time at the start of each class can be impressive over a semester.
What Research Tells Us About Notetaking and Review of Notes (top)
Research on notetaking indicates that taking notes in class and reviewing those notes (either in class or afterward) has a positive impact on student learning. Various studies confirm that students who take notes score higher on both immediate and delayed tests of recall and synthesis than students who do not take notes.
Pausing. The simplest way to engage students and improve their notes is to build in short pauses (two to three minutes) a few times during the lecture when students can review and rework their notes. Further, giving them the opportunity to briefly summarize their notes (or respond to a review question) with a partner increases retention significantly.
Handouts. Faculty can support student notetaking by distributing handouts for students to use while taking notes. Students take better notes and review material more effectually if faculty provide a “scaffold,” such as an outline, an overview, or other advance organizer for students to use while taking notes.
In summary, notetaking facilitates both recall of factual material and the synthesis and application of new knowledge, particularly when notes are reviewed prior to exams.
Adapted from: DeZure, D., Kaplan, M., & Deerman, M.A. (2001). Research on Student Notetaking: Implications for Faculty and Graduate Student Instructors. CRLT Occasional Paper No. 16. Retrieved May 9, 2009, from CRLT Web site: http://www.crlt.umich.edu/publinks/CRLT_no16.pdf
Bligh, D. (2000). What’s the use of lectures? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Johnstone, A. H., & Su, W. Y. (1994). Lectures—a learning experience? Education in Chemistry, 31 (1), 75- 76, 79.
Kiewra, K. A., DuBois, N., Christian, D., McShane, A., Meyerhoffer, M., & Roskelley, D. (1991). Note-taking functions and techniques. Journal of Education Psychology, 83 (2), 240-245.
Who’s Working harder? (top)
Check all the statements that apply to you:
___ I am exhausted after teaching.
___ I often lose my voice while teaching.
___ Teaching is like a stage performance.
___ Teaching is like an athletic event.
___ Students find me entertaining, but I am not sure they are learning.
___ My students yawn a lot.
If you checked more than a couple of boxes, you may want to re-examine who is doing most of the work in your classes. The harder you work, the less your students work, and students learn best when they are active.
Energetic, inspiring, entertaining teachers are a gift to a classroom. If you are lucky enough to be one of those teachers, you should always use those skills to present your material in a way that is memorable and that holds students’ attention. But be sure to also “get out of the way” so that your students have space to create, hypothesize, make mistakes and otherwise funnel their energy into producing something.
Here are few ideas to shift the workload from teacher to students:
• Do a quiz or practice activity (for material you have not yet covered) at the beginning of the lesson and see how students do. Tell them they don’t have all of the tools yet and that you expect them to make mistakes. Follow up with a “lecture” that you give in response to students’ questions.
• Insist that students start a critique. Save your own comments for last.
• Instead of lecturing, hand out notes with all of the information and a task that students have to complete, using that information.
• When a student asks for clarification, redirect the question and have another student answer.
• When sharing something that excites you, save your input until the students have had a chance to respond to the question: What do you notice about this work? Give them a chance to get excited first, then join in.
By shifting the workload, you are not abdicating your responsibilities to students. You are merely giving them space to take responsibility for their own learning and to internalize the knowledge and skills you are teaching.
Academy of Art University Faculty Development Team. (2009). Who’s Working Harder? Retrieved April 5, 2009, from Academy of Art Web site: http://faculty.academyart.edu/resource/tips/1812.html
Why Did Student Achievement Go Up While My Teaching Evaluations Went Down? (top)
Have you experienced this scenario or something close? You redesign a course, making it more learning centered, shifting from a predominately lecture-and-exam format to (a) students completing reading assignments outside-of-class;( b) students taking an online assessment of reading assignments; © students receiving only short mini-lectures of confusing points from the readings; and (d) students applying their readings in-class through problem solving activities and small-group discussions. After which you see these results: (a) increased classroom activity, energy, and fun; (b) student achievement improves and grades go up; and © student satisfaction and evaluations of your teaching go down! What?
Gary A. Smith (University of New Mexico) writes about this baffling situation in his article First-Day Questions for the Learner-Centered Classroom (The National Teaching & Learning Forum, Vol. 17, No. 5, September 2008, 1-4). He offers the following explanations and some suggestions for building better student understanding about our learning-centered practices.
Students may be content to take lecture notes, cram the night before for exams, and quickly forget memorizes facts because it is less work. Moreover, they may not understand how they learn and why we might teach in a more learning-centered way. Because of this, we need to discuss learning with our students in order to seek their buy-in if we are planning to ask them to construct deeper meaning at an application/problem-solving level.
The following semester, Professor Smith projected the following questions on the screen, not knowing if this buy-in activity would work:
“Thinking of what you want to get out of your college education and this course, which of the following is most important to you?
1. Acquiring information (facts, principles, concepts) 
2. Learning how to use information and knowledge in new situations 
3. Developing lifelong learning skills” (p. 2) 
Next, he polled students and counted the number of responses for each goal. The numbers they gave are shown in brackets above. Class discussion followed with advocates for each of the three options stating their case. Next, he posed the following question:
“All three of these goals are clearly important. However, let’s think for a moment of how best to accomplish these goals. Learning is not a spectator sport—it takes work; that includes work in the classroom and work that you do outside of the classroom. So, of these three goals, which do you think you can make headway on outside of class by your own reading and studying, and which do you think would be best achieved in class working with your classmates and me?” (p. 3)
Students concluded that reading to acquire information was the easiest for them to do independently as homework, and that pursuing goals 2 and 3 could not be achieved by listening to a lecture. Hence, the students were now beginning to understand why they had to actively do things in class, work harder in class, and do the reading before class, in a learning-centered classroom. Would they do it? Yes. The results: The increased student achievement continued this second semester, as evidenced by assignments and exams, and Professor Smith’s teaching evaluations “rose to their highest levels.” (p. 3)
Adapted from Gary Smith. Contributed by Cynthia Desrochers, California State University
First-Day Questions for the Learner-Centered Classroom
Writing Student Learning Outcomes (top)
Many institutions of higher education, including Humboldt State University, are now entering the “age of evidence”. This involves evaluating institutional effectiveness by systematically measuring, documenting, and improving what students actually learn throughout their academic career. Defining your courses’ Learning Outcomes is a primary step in the evaluation process.
But where to begin?
Learning outcomes are the overarching statements of what students will achieve or be able to do as a result of the course. Blooms Taxonomy suggests that cognitive competency in a field begins with knowledge level learning, and advances up the taxonomy to comprehension, application, and then on to the higher order skills involved in analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. (1)
In order to help you express the distinct performance expectations of your students, you may wish to consider writing your learning outcomes using verbs similar to those found in the following table. (3)
Achieving this Cognitive Competency… … Means your students can do one or more of the following…
Knowledge: arrange, define, duplicate, know, label, list, match, memorize, name, order, quote, recognize, recall, repeat, reproduce, restate, retain
Comprehension: characterize, classify, complete, depict, describe, discuss, establish, explain, express, identify, illustrate, locate, recognize, report, relate, review, sort, translate
Application: administer, apply, calculate, choose, compute, conduct, demonstrate, dramatize, employ, implement, interpret, operate, perform, practice, prescribe, role playing, sketch, solve
Analysis: analyze, appraise, categorize, compare, contrast, critique, diagram, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, experiment, explore, inventory, investigate, question, research, test
Synthesis: combine, compose, consolidate, construct, create, design, formulate, hypothesize, integrate, merge, organize, plan, propose, synthesize, systematize, theorize, unite, write
Evaluation: appraise, argue, assess, critique, defend, envision, estimate, evaluate, examine, grade, inspect, judge, justify, rank, rate, review, value
A Few Examples
Here are some examples of Learning Outcomes using verbs categorized by Bloom’s Taxonomy (3)
First Order Learning Outcome (knowledge)
Given several types of plant leaves, the student will be able to define at least three categories for classifying them.
Second Order Learning Outcome (comprehension)
• Given several examples of each, the student will be able to classify materials according to their physical properties as gas, liquid, or solid.
Third Order Learning Outcome (application)
• The student will be able to demonstrate the steps in facilitating an interest-based mediation.
Fourth Order Learning Outcome (analysis)
• The student will be able to analyze the speech text using the five-part rhetorical framework.
Fifth Order Learning Outcome (synthesis)
• The student will be able to construct a model of a carbon atom.
Sixth Order Learning Outcome (evaluation)
• The student will be able to provide a Marxist critique of consumer culture.
Putting It Into Practice
Now that you have the lingo, you can begin the task of aligning your instructional activities and appropriate assessment measures with your intended Learning Outcomes.
More To Come
Watch the University Announcements for our related teaching tip on “Embedding Assessment”.
1. How to Develop a Clear Goal Statement for a Course http://www.acu.edu/academics/adamscenter/course_design/syllabus/coursegoal.html
2. Shopping List of Verbs for Bloom’s Taxonomy, http://www.acu.edu/academics/adamscenter/documents/course_goal.htm#shoppinglistofverbsforbloomtaxonomy (.pdf)
3. Examples of Behavioral Verbs and Student Activities, http://www.adprima.com/examples.htm
This Teaching Tip was submitted by Riley Quarles.
Writing to Learn (top)
When you think of adding writing to your class, what comes to mind? Probably research reports, essays, reviews of the literature, term papers or position papers. These formal assignments offer students an opportunity to develop and communicate information and ideas in a traditional high-stakes way that demands a lot of your time in grading. It may be a better use of your time, however, to use and easy-to-implement low-stakes writing activities that also engage students in thinking and writing. At The St. Louis College of Pharmacy, Eric Hobson and Kenneth Schafermeyer developed a number of low-stakes writing activities for a class of 182 students, based on six criteria. (These criteria also work for oral assignments.)
1. Writing should be easily integrated.
2. Writing should be an efficient learning tool, serving multiple goals concurrently.
3. Writing should be woven into the coursework.
4. Writing should build designated higher-order critical thinking skills.
5. Writing should enhance students’ problem-solving abilities.
6. Writing should not become a burden to evaluate.
Low Stakes Assignments
These varied mini-papers can bring considerable writing into the classroom. While writing might typically receive credit, it need not all be graded. Students can use writing to learn content without your grading everything.
Minute-writes –On 3×5 note cards, students write a quick response to a question you pose at some point during class. The question might be on the previous night’s reading, or it might ask students to link two recent lecture topics. You might post the question on the board for students who arrive early and want an extra few minutes to consider and write. A minute might seem too short, but with practice, students learn to be concise and on topic. As an added benefit, students are primed and ready to go when you begin your lecture or class discussion. After collecting the cards, you can quickly review a few before launching the day’s lecture or activities to see how well students understand. Additionally, these cards replace the calling of roll.
At the end of the class, pose a minute-write question about the day’s material. If students seem to be confused, you know immediately and can send a clarifying email or begin the next class addressing the issue. Students, aware that you will be looking over these minute-writes, usually come to class prepared to settle down and focus immediately. They begin think of writing as a crucial form of learning. Finally, knowing that they may be asked to comment on a reading assignment, students are encouraged to keep up with the homework.
Microthemes – If the topic or question is important, you can begin class with something longer—a microtheme of five minutes or so. Used mid-class, a micro-theme serves as a break between activities. After students write, usually on both sides of a large note card (5×8), they turn their responses in, or trade them with a classmate in a think-pair-share activity. You can adapt microthemes to include any of the following:
Quote Responses – Students write for five minutes about one or two key quotations you post from previous night’s reading. Thus, they focus on the important or difficult parts of the reading. You may ask them to share their responses in pairs or small groups, reporting out the issues that still remain after discussion. This reporting can come as a brief oral activity or the group can create one new note card for you (or your TAs) to read.
Mid-lecture Feedback – These work well mid-lecture or near the end of class, especially if the lecture is complex. Students write questions about the lecture or about questions posed during a lecture. This activity helps them zero in on what they may not understand. You can ask a few students to read their comments and allow for some questions and answers or discussion—perhaps by students who might not normally raise their hands in class. Students who have questions or ideas that don’t get aired have nonetheless gained by focusing on the material at hand and writing their questions or comments.
Doubting/Believing Game – Engaging in Peter Elbow’s Doubting/Believing game, students explore two sides of an issue. First, students earnestly doubt a proposition and then summarize their conclusions in writing. Next, they earnestly believe the same position, again summarize evidence. Doubts and beliefs are then shared in pairs or small groups.
Guided Journals or Learning Logs –In ongoing journals, students write summaries of concepts raised in class. Log entries may be metacognitive (where students reflect on their own learning process). In these, students respond to your prompts such as What’s been difficult to understand? What problems are most interesting? What areas do you need to review? The idea is not for students to write sparkling prose, but for them to probe for ideas and reflect productively.
Have students keep their journals in a three-ring binder on loose-leaf paper, then, they turn in only the paper. You can also invite email submissions. You can’t read all the journals, but you can collect pages periodically or from a random number of students each time. Silvia and Hom at UC Davis suggest Journal Roulette. Students are assigned to one of 12 groups. On a given day, the instructor rolls the dice and collects journals from the group whose number has been rolled.
Grading journals can be simple – use a checkmark system and write one or two comments prompted by what the student has written: I think your ideas on wind dynamics are a bit unusual, but actually they are supported by some research. You might look at Hartley and Korach. Such response show your students that you have read the entries and are engaged, even if briefly, with them. Such personal responses are important and valued by students in large classes.
Reading Journals – You can require reading journal entries as homework, assigning two or three responses a week to the textbook or other readings. You need not collect all of them weekly, but do collect them regularly and give credit for effort. Students know you are reading their work and become more current with the out-of-class reading. Reading journals work best when you generate questions for students. Your prompts should help students go beyond summary early in the semester to higher-order thinking skills such as analysis or synthesis later in the semester. Summarize the three main points of each of this week’s readings, focusing on data embedded in graphs and tables. Does some data weaken the authors’ main points? Our readings argue two sides of globalization. Can you argue a third position?
Question/Comment Box – Keep a shoebox where students can anonymously put note cards with questions at the end of class. Questions can be about lecture content, concerns about how material is covered in class, or outside reading. While their comments are extremely short, students learn that their written comments or questions must be clear in order to be understood.
Adapted from The University of Delaware Writing Center
April 2006. Contributed by Tasha Souza.