May 31, 2013

Advice for New Faculty: Start with the Syllabus


The ability to teach is not something that one either has or does not have. Teachers are not born. Rather, they are made, through hard work, research, continual learning, and practice. Any teacher, no matter how experienced or new, can improve, and even the best teacher’s skills can degrade if he or she does not pay attention to continual improvement. Teachers are made through hard work and persistence.

May 29, 2013

Understanding the Role of Intuition in Teaching


What is intuition? It’s one of those terms that is hard to get a handle on. And yet teachers rely on their intuition every day. A situation unfolds in class: some kid in the back moves restlessly and takes an iPod out of his back pack. Those sitting nearby look at what he’s doing. A couple of them start whispering as he continues to fuss with his iPod. Some students in the next row glance backward. The teacher continues to present information. She pauses to ask a question, and all the while she’s sees what’s happening in the back of the room. She rightly assumes that she’s lost the attention of students back there. She opts for an abrupt break in the instructional action. She stops talking, turns to the board and, without speaking, writes a question there. Then she faces the class. “Stand up. Everybody stand up.” Students shuffle to their feet. “Now look at this question. Spend the next couple of minutes talking with the persons around you. In two minutes I want answers and examples.”

May 22, 2013

How to Get Better Feedback from Students


It’s that time of the year when end-of-course ratings and student comments are collected. When the feedback arrives, the quality often disappoints—and if the feedback is collected online, fewer students even bother to respond. Most of the comments are dashed off half thoughts, difficult to decipher. Complaints aren’t accompanied with constructive suggestions. Yes, some do say really nice things, but others sound off with pretty awful comments. However, I don’t think students are entirely at fault here.

May 20, 2013

From Passive Viewing to Active Learning: Simple Techniques for Applying Active Learning Strategies to Online Course Videos


From Web-enhanced face-to-face courses to MOOCs, flipped, blended, and fully online courses, videos are an integral component of today’s educational landscape—from kindergarten all the way through higher education.

May 17, 2013

Student Motivation: It’s More Complicated Than We Think


Motivation—there are two kinds: intrinsic, which involves doing something because we want to do it, and extrinsic, which is doing something because we have to do it. A negative relationship exists between the two. Extrinsic motivation undermines intrinsic motivation. Students won’t be attending class because they want to if attending class is required. As a result of this negative relationship, students don’t have much intrinsic motivation because it’s been beaten out of them by most extrinsic educational experiences. And that’s a nutshell version of how most teachers understand motivation.

May 15, 2013

Learner-Centered Teaching: Good Places to Begin


It’s probably the question I’m most asked in workshops on learner-centered teaching. “What are some good places to start? My students aren’t used to learner-centered approaches.” Sometimes the questioner is honest enough to add, “and I haven’t used many previously.” Before the specifics, here’s some general recommendations: start slowly (for example, don’t add 14 learner-centered strategies to a mostly lecture course); try simple, reasonably straightforward activities first; and define success before implementing the activity. As for those “good places” to begin infusing your teaching with learner-centered strategies, here are some approaches to try.

May 14, 2013

Engaging Students: Friendly but Not Their Friend


Today’s college instructors are expected not only to be engaging in their classes, but to engage students outside the classroom. Whether it’s supervising service-learning, taking students to professional conferences, leading study sessions in coffee houses, or inviting students into our homes, faculty are now expected to be with students in ways that change the kinds of relationships teachers and students have in the classroom. Teachers now interact with their students in a variety of contexts, many of them informal and some of them purely social. These new roles blur the line between being friendly toward students and being a friend of students. This matters whether you’ve been teaching for a while and no longer look like a student or whether your academic career is just starting. All faculty need to know how to build supportive and positive, but businesslike, relationships with students.

May 13, 2013

Tips for Building Social Presence in Your Online Class


You’ve been assigned your first online class to teach and you feel like you’re ready. You’ve done your homework and learned the ins and outs of the institution’s course management system. You’ve structured your content in purposeful ways and developed thoughtful guiding questions to situate student learning and motivate them. When the class starts, however, you realize that while everything is technically functioning correctly, many of the students are not engaged. While you were looking forward to teaching online and interacting with students, the students are approaching your course as if it’s an independent study. This wasn’t what you anticipated when you agreed to teach online!

May 10, 2013

Exams: Maximizing Their Learning Potential


We give students exams for two reasons: First, we have a professional responsibility to verify their mastery of the material. Second, we give exams because they promote learning. Unfortunately, too often the first reason overshadows the second. We tend to take learning outcomes for granted. We assume the learning happens, almost automatically, provided the student studies. But what if we considered how, as designers of exam experiences, we might maximize their inherent potential? Would any of these possibilities make for more and better learning from the exams your students take?