teaching online October 30, 2015

Promoting Learning: The Instructor’s Main Mission or a Secondary Duty?

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As instructors, promoting learning is, or at least should be, our primary task. As an online instructor, I must enforce deadlines, respond to requests for accommodations, post announcements, provide guidance and clarity, assess student performance, provide feedback, and post grades. Instructors have a variety of duties inside and outside the classroom to meet the standards required by the university, yet our primary mission should remain ensuring that students are gaining new knowledge.


study group October 29, 2015

Peer Assessment that Improves Performance in Groups

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Peer assessment in groups has been shown to effectively address a number of group process issues, but only if the peer assessment has a formative component. Many studies have shown that if peer assessment is used at the end of a group project, group members will punish their dysfunctional members—those who didn’t do work, didn’t turn work in on time, didn’t come to meetings, and didn’t do quality work—but they won’t confront those group members when they commit those dysfunctional behaviors. After-the-fact peer assessment gives the teacher input on who did and didn’t contribute in the group, but it doesn’t change what happened in that group or help students learn how to confront group member problems when they emerge.


October 28, 2015

Is Viewing Learning Analytics the Same as Checking Your ‘Likes’?

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Today’s young adults are often criticized for turning to social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram for real-time feedback, but new research from McGraw-Hill Education suggests that this behavior could be a significant asset when it comes to studying with the help of technology. According to “The Impact of Technology on College Student Study Habits,” the third report in an annual series conducted by McGraw-Hill Education and fielded by Hanover Research, 87% of college students report that having access to data analytics regarding their academic performance can have a positive impact on their learning experience. The finding suggests that students seek the same immediate feedback in the classroom as they do in social media and that this can be beneficial to learning.


student studying October 28, 2015

What’s a Good Faith Effort?

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In some types of assignments, it’s the process that’s more important than the product. Journals and online discussion exchanges, even homework problems, are good examples. Students are thinking and learning as they work to sort through ideas, apply content, or figure out how to solve problems. So what the student needs to get credit for is not the product, but the process. And the way most faculty make that determination is by deciding whether the student has made a good faith effort.


students in a circle October 27, 2015

Using Personal Stories to Engage Students in Conversation

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Engaging students in class conversation is not always an easy task. Even though we may make class participation part of their final grade, stress its importance in the syllabus, and give subtle (and not so subtle) reminders of this throughout the semester, there are always days when students simply do not want to participate in the class discussions.



group work project October 23, 2015

Developing Students’ Learning Philosophies

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Last year the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta ran a pilot study to consider the efficacy of using e-portfolios to deepen students’ learning. We were interested in developing a structure that would enable us to determine how well our students were learning Augustana’s core skill requirements (writing, speaking, critical thinking, and information literacy).


frustrated student October 22, 2015

Dropping Scores: The Case for Hope

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In “Calculating Final Course Grades: What About Dropping Scores or Offering a Replacement?” (The Teaching Professor March 2014), the editor notes that “some students … assume that course content is a breeze, [so] the first exam serve[s] as a wake-up call.” (p. 6) In two Introductory Psychology classes (150 students), I recently implemented an effective three-step strategy for getting the best out of such students (and, indeed, all students).



one student in lecture hall October 20, 2015

Calculating Final Course Grades: What about Dropping Scores or Offering a Replacement?

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Instructors commonly cope with a missed test or failed exam (this may also apply to quizzes) by letting students drop their lowest score. Sometimes the lowest score is replaced by an extra exam or quiz. Sometimes the tests are worth different amounts, with the first test worth less, the second worth a bit more, and the third worth more than the first two—but not as much as the final.