A line of research (done mostly in Australia and Great Britain) has been exploring what prompts students to opt for deep or surface approaches to learning. So far this research has established strong links between the approaches taken to teaching and those taken to learning. If teachers are focused on covering large amounts of content and do so with few attempts to involve and engage students, students tend to learn the material by memorizing it, often without much understanding of it. This new work involved a 388-student cohort enrolled in a first-year biology course and explored the relationship between the ways students emotionally experience a course and the approach that they take to learning in the course.
Do you ever wonder whether your students care about your course material? Do you question whether your students appreciate how the information you address in class is relevant to them? Do you feel like there is often a mismatch between your intentions for your class and what your students actually want to learn?
My colleague Chuck Walker, a psychology professor at St. Bonaventure University (NY), shared a collection of instructional strategies that illustrate how the principles of positive psychology might be applied in the classroom. (For examples see: http://wellbeingincollege.org/faculty-resources) I especially like this one.
How do we make learning messy and unpredictable for our students—and why? I posed this question to the members of the Teaching Professor group on LinkedIn in July, and a lively and insightful discussion immediately began. This article is based upon the insights shared in the discussion.
Thinking developmentally is one of those instructional design issues that we don’t do often enough. We understand that different learning experiences are appropriate for students at different levels. We expect a higher caliber of work from seniors than from those just starting college. But how often do we purposefully design a progression of learning experiences?
You were hired because of your deep subject matter expertise; knowledge you want to share with your students. The problem is, the number of hours in a typical semester hasn’t changed, but the amount of information in your discipline continues to grow…and it’s all critical. Or is it?
In every course there are certain core concepts and principles that are important for each student to learn, develop into useful knowledge, and apply appropriately. What’s not important is how they learn these core concepts.
I recently set out to make introductory managerial accounting a more effective learning experience for students. The course is typically taken in a student’s first or second year. The range of experiences students bring to the course can be quite diverse. Some may have never been employed, still live at home, and have parents who work in white-collar jobs. Others may have worked and lived on their own, and have family who may own or run a store or work in factories. This diversity means that some students have no mental picture of how goods are manufactured, while others understand the process required to get a product to the customer.
A biology class works with a local environmental organization to test water samples from the Chesapeake Bay. A graphics design class helps a non-profit organization build a new website. A childhood development class serves as mentors to at-risk students in an after-school program.
Andrea Henne, dean of online and distributed learning in the San Diego Community College District, recommends creating online courses composed of modules—discrete, self-contained learning experiences—and uses a course development method that specifies what to include in each module.