June 29, 2012

Professional Faculty Development: The Necessary Fourth Leg


The well-known three-legged stool of academic life—teaching, research, and service—has been assumed to cover the main responsibilities of faculty in academic communities. But is there a missing leg that would add strength and stability to the stool? I propose there is. It’s professional faculty development, and I would also propose that faculty committed to teaching should be its most articulate advocates.

June 28, 2012

Preventing Bullying in the Academic Workplace


Does your institution have a policy that addresses bullying? If it does not, there are some pretty compelling reasons to consider creating such a policy. In an interview with Academic Leader, Suzanne Milton, chair of the faculty bargaining unit at Eastern Washington University, talked about bullying and its consequences, and ways to address it to create a workplace more conducive to getting work done without a lot of problems.

June 27, 2012

Three Ways to Ask Better Questions in the Classroom


I’ve been doing some presentations on classroom interaction and thinking yet again about how we could do better with our questions — the ones we ask in class or online. Good questions make students think, they encourage participation and I think they improve the caliber of the answers students give and the questions they ask. To achieve those worthwhile outcomes more regularly, I’d like to recommend three actions that have the potential to improve our questioning.

June 26, 2012

Four Levels of Student Reflection


Promoting reflection is a goal endorsed by many faculty. They believe that students need to develop skills that will enable them to look at a piece of work they produce or an aspect of their professional practice and make accurate judgments about it. It’s not an easy skill to acquire, and practice is essential to its development. If teachers are giving students opportunities to reflect, they need to be able to assess how well students are reflecting and provide feedback that deepens the students’ skills.

June 20, 2012

Five Reasons Getting Students to Talk is Worth the Effort


“I just don’t see how students learn anything when they talk to each other,” a faculty member told me recently. “Their conversations are so superficial. They get things wrong. I can hardly stand to listen to them.”

Although I don’t agree, I can understand the feelings. Students talk about content as novices; faculty discuss it as experts. Novices do talk about things superficially, incorrectly and not very systematically. And those types of exchanges do cause experts all kinds of consternation. But there are good reasons to let students talk about course content. Here are five.

June 19, 2012

Helping Students Write Better Lab Reports


One of the messages of the Writing Across the Curriculum movement is that writing skills can be developed in any course and that often the best place to start is with current assignments that involve writing. That’s where chemists Gragson and Hagen started. They were disappointed in the quality of student writing in their “journal-style” lab reports. Despite giving students a sample lab, a writing manual, and lots of good feedback, the quality of the lab reports was low and did not improve across the 10 to 15 lab reports students prepared.

June 18, 2012

Students Share Their Thoughts on Active 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.”
– A. Chickering and Z.F. Gamson, “Seven principles for good practice,” AAHE Bulletin 39 (March 1987), 3-7.

June 15, 2012

Students as Formative Assessment Partners


“Creating a climate that maximizes student accomplishment in any discipline focuses on student learning instead of assigning grades. This requires students to be involved as partners in the assessment of learning and to use assessment results to change their own learning tactics.” (p. 136) The authors of this comment continue by pointing out that this assessment involves the use of formative feedback and that feedback has the greatest benefit when it addresses multiple aspects of learning. This kind of assessment should contain feedback on the product (the completed task) and feedback on progress (the extent to which the student is improving over time). The article then describes a number of formative feedback activities that illustrate how students can be involved as partners in the assessment process. Their involvement means that formative feedback can be given more frequently.