too many books October 12

More Content Doesn’t Equal More Learning


With access to a world of information as close as our phones, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all there is to teach. New material continues to emerge in every academic discipline, and teachers feel a tremendous responsibility not only to stay current themselves, but to ensure that their learners are up to date on the most recent findings. Add to this information explosion the passionate desire by faculty members to share their particular areas of expertise and it’s easy to see why content continues to grow like the mythical Hydra of Greek legend. And like Hercules, who with each effort to cut off one of Hydra’s nine heads only to have two more grow in its place, faculty struggle to tame their content monsters.

guest speaker in clasroom May 11

Getting the Most out of Guest Experts Who Speak to Your Class


Inviting guest speakers into your classroom is a classic teaching strategy. Welcoming other voices into the classroom provides students with access to other perspectives, adds variety to the classroom routine, and demonstrates that learning is a collaborative enterprise. At the same time, however, presentations by guest experts are often plagued by a variety of design flaws that hinder their educational effectiveness. Guest experts, being unfamiliar with the mastery level of the students in the class, may speak over the heads of the students, or they may present their material at a level that is inappropriately introductory. Because they are generally unfamiliar with the class curriculum, they may repeat information that the students have already learned, or their comments may not connect in any clear way with what the students already know and what they are currently learning.

stressedstudent September 25, 2014

Why Don’t We Teach the Telephone Book?


I don’t get it! Every fall the new telephone book arrives, filled with lots of information and with loads of new numbers, so why don’t we design a class that covers this material? Nowhere do we teach this information. Why don’t we expect folks to study the telephone book and memorize the numbers? Grudgingly, I am forced to admit that no real justification for memorizing telephone numbers exists, as tempting as it might be for me to teach this course.

For one thing, there are just too many numbers. Back when there were only a dozen or so, it might have been possible to memorize them all—not that it would have served any existential purpose, but just as an exercise. Now there are way too many. My critics tell me the real problem is that the telephone book is pretty useful as a reference. It is well organized and easy to find a number when you need it. In fact, it turns out that most people have no interest in memorizing telephone numbers and only learn those they use regularly, although speed dial can remove even that reason. Basically, all that folks need to know is how to use a phone book.

November 1, 2013

What Makes Service-Learning Unique: Reflection and Reciprocity


Let’s start out by defining our terms. The definition of service-learning differentiates it from volunteering and old-fashioned community service.

It is true that there are many definitions about service-learning floating around, some since the 1970s. In fact, everyone reading this probably has one. But this definition is a solid working one, succinctly covering the distinctives:

January 31, 2013

Capstone Courses Vary in Terms of Goals, Objectives, Structures and Assignments


Capstone courses are now a requirement in many departments, programs, and college curricula. They vary across different dimensions, indicating that although their value is universally recognized, they share few common features. For starters, they are offered at various levels; at the department level for students in a particular major, at the college level, say, for students in engineering, and at the university level as a general education integrative experience.

tree planting.120807.230 August 7, 2012

Making the Most of Fieldwork Learning Experiences


Fieldwork refers to any component of the curriculum that involves leaving the classroom and learning through firsthand experience. Most instructors incorporate fieldwork to help students understand theory, develop skills, integrate knowledge, build tacit knowledge, develop meaning in places, and work with peers and instructors in alternate settings.

studentgroupwork August 30, 2011

Eight Lessons about Student Learning and What They Mean for You


A new edition of a classic book on the curriculum suggests eight lessons from the learning literature with implications for course and curriculum planning. Any list like this tends to simplify a lot of complicated research and offer generalizations that apply most, but certainly not all, of the time. Despite these caveats, lists like this are valuable. They give busy faculty a sense of the landscape and offer principles that can guide decision making, in this case about courses and curricula.