students in class September 28

Why Policies Fail to Promote Better Learning Decisions


Policies are necessary. They serve as a warning to students: this is what will happen if you are absent, miss an exam, turn work in late, text or surf the Web during class, and the like. Most institutions recommend teachers spell out consequences in their syllabi. Some schools employ institution-wide policies for certain behaviors like academic dishonesty. If policies are supposed to prevent these unproductive behaviors, why do students still engage in them? Are there reasons why policies don’t work?

student at white board July 29

A Learner-Centered Syllabus Helps Set the Tone for Learning


At its most basic level, the syllabus is used to communicate information about the course, the instructor, learning objectives, assignments, grading policies, due dates, the university’s academic integrity statement, and, in some cases, an increasingly long list of strongly worded admonitions on what is and isn’t acceptable behavior in the college classroom.

Professor smiling in class June 19

Tonic for the Boring Syllabus


It had happened before, sitting at the computer, working on a syllabus, again, fluctuating between excitement about a new course and a vague sense that life itself was being sucked out of me one sterile byte at a time. I was fighting boredom. And this was supposed to interest students? I tried to imagine it igniting their curiosity, but instead I saw them staring at it with the enthusiasm saved for the fine print on a life insurance policy. But they must read it. It is their life insurance policy for a future full of knowledge and wisdom! It defines how we’re going to relate! As I sat there writing my syllabus I had a vision of the Ferris Bueller video of the professor droning on and on while asking for input: “Anyone? Anyone?” That was not where I wanted to go. I had to stop and rethink what I was doing.

male student on campus April 17

Teaching College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders


An increasing number of individuals are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), particularly the higher functioning form of autism previously known as Asperger’s disorder. Many of these individuals choose to attend college and it is no longer unusual to encounter them in your classes. Although they can be excellent students, those with ASD may come across as odd or eccentric with idiosyncratic behaviors and interests. This can make their presence in the classroom somewhat vexing for instructors who do not understand the challenges and strengths of these students.

four students daydreaming230 January 26

Strategies for Preventing Student Resistance


“What if the students revolt?” “What if I ask them to talk to a neighbor, and they simply refuse?” “What if they do not see active learning as teaching?” “What if they just want me to lecture?” “What if my teaching evaluation scores plummet?” “Even if I am excited about innovative teaching and learning, what if I encounter student resistance?”

When teachers try something different in the classroom and students resist, the teacher may back down. Often, this is due to fear of what will happen to their student evaluations and contract renewals. I have been told by many instructors that they once tried active learning but the students hated it, so they went back to what was tried and true. (Silverthorn, 2006, p. 139)

moreguefile140505 May 5, 2014

Tips for Handling Student Excuses


As new teachers very quickly learn, students will come up with all kinds of excuses for missing assignments and other work. Students will never say, “I missed the exam because I was out late last night—it was one dollar taps at the Silver Horse, you know how it goes.” As a result, teachers must have a policy for handling these situations, which invariably involves a decision on trust.

why students cheat January 6, 2014

Practical Tips for Minimizing Cheating During Exams


There is nothing more disheartening and stressful than having to formally accuse a student of cheating on an exam. Was the student looking at his neighbor’s exam or just glancing away from his test for a mental break? Did the student ask someone how to fill out the name portion of the instruction page, or did she obtain an answer to a test question? Did the two students with identical written answers prepare study notes together or cheat off one another while someone was asking the professor a question during the exam?

Fotosearch_WomanComputer August 12, 2013

Advice for the First Day of Class: Today We Will


The first day of class is critical. What happens on the first day, even in the first moments, sets the tone for the entire course. The impression you make will last the entire semester, and today’s students are not shy about sharing their opinions. Most students will make up their minds about the course and the instructor during that first class period.

26256041_web April 15, 2013

Cell Phones in the Classroom: What’s Your Policy?


Are we old fuddy-duddies when we ask (demand) students to put away their cell phones in the classroom or clinical areas? Students tell me this is just the way it is now, but I disagree. I teach courses in health sciences. Students practice in the hospitals, interacting with and caring for real patients. My colleagues and I have found students with their phones in their pockets, in their socks, and in their waist bands in order to have access to their precious smart phones but still hide them from instructors. We have found students sitting on stools texting while the hospital preceptors did the work. Some students are one phone call or text away from dismissal from the program before they stop using cell phones in classroom or clinical setting. What is the answer to this problem? Are faculty members being too demanding by placing cell phone restrictions in syllabi or clinical handbooks?