ff-icon-default-200x200 March 28, 2013

How to Handle Student Excuses


“Grandpa’s heart exploded, but he’s fine now,” one student reported the morning after missing a scheduled exam. “I caught dyslexia from another student last semester,” responded another when his teacher asked him about all the spelling mistakes in his paper. And then there was the pet rabbit that swallowed a needle on the day of the big group presentation. Excuses like these are so preposterous that they can’t help but make us laugh, but dealing with them is no laughing matter.

level230 March 8, 2013

Classroom Management: Finding the Balance Between Too Rigid and Too Flexible


For quite some time now I’ve been interested in a widely held set of assumptions faculty make about the need to assert control at the beginning of a course. The argument goes something like this: When a course starts, the teacher needs to set the rules and clearly establish who’s in charge. If the course goes well, meaning students abide by the rules and do not challenge the teacher’s authority, then the teacher can gradually ease up and be a bit looser about the rules. The rationale behind this approach rests on the assumption that if a teacher loses control of a class, it is very hard to regain the upper hand. In these cases, student behaviors have compromised the climate for learning so seriously that the teacher has an ethical responsibility to intervene and reassert control.

iStock_circle-discussion230 January 28, 2013

Love the One You’re With: Creating a Classroom Community


It’s the first day of class. They shuffle in, spot similar life-forms, and slip in with that group. Hipsters sporting wild hair and tats, buttoned-up and serious young scholars, middle-aged moms and dads, maybe a couple of aging hippies. One or two sad souls choose spots isolated from the others; they don’t want to identify with them for reasons of insecurity, arrogance, or something else.

19272116_web October 8, 2012

Classroom Management Tips for Regaining Control of the Classroom


Losing control of the classroom can be one of the most frustrating and intimidating experiences for both new and experienced teachers. Losing control can happen in several different ways. The most common would be where the class is distracted. This could be from a situation outside the classroom such as noisy conversation in the hall, or from an event elsewhere that students find out about, such as a rumor of the football coach getting fired. Losing control can also happen within the classroom, such as when one student monopolizes the discussion, or where there is a general lack of interest in the lecture, and many students are obviously not paying attention. Here are nine possible ways to regain students’ attention.

ff-icon-default-200x200 June 4, 2012

Dealing with Difficult Students and Other Classroom Disruptions


Problem students come in all forms, and may be “difficult” for wide variety of behaviors. While it’s impossible to create neat little categories that adequately describe the full range of problems encountered by college faculty, a good starting point may be to classify the behaviors as annoying, disruptive, or dangerous. Each requires a different type of response based on the context of the behavior.

ff-icon-default-200x200 August 22, 2011

Do’s and Don’ts for Promoting Academic Integrity


Donald McCabe’ s 2005 article “Cheating Among College And University Students: A North American Perspective” is often cited for its sobering statistics regarding the prevalence of cheating in higher education.

The numbers are alarming and do require a serious response, but have you ever turned the numbers upside down? For example, if 42 percent of college students admit to working with others on individual assignments, that means 58 percent aren’t getting help from others and those students would like you to do something about the 42 percent. If 38 percent admit to plagiarizing, that means 62 percent aren’t plagiarizing and those students expect you to do something about the 38 percent.

ff-icon-default-200x200 July 26, 2011

Final Lesson: You Don’t Get an A for Just Showing Up


Students’ expectations for top marks, whether they earned them or not, unfortunately can be coupled with foolish tendencies on the part of some teachers (this writer excepted of course) to play the role of the avuncular professor. The kindly avuncular professor is easily deluded to think that “encouraging” students with exaggerated praise and slight grade inflation will be helpful. It isn’t. How do I know? For me, the tell-tale sign is that often after handing in my grades, I feel a mild self-loathing. This is the feeling I get when I give grades that don’t truly reflect the totality of what I experience from students.

angryguywithf July 25, 2011

Hate Springs Eternal: Teaching in a Disharmonious Classroom


A few weeks ago I did what professors all over the land did: I logged my students’ grades and handed them in. This capped the end of an academic year in which I have never been more reviled and hated. In fact, this semester I gave my students permission to hate me to the fullest, and I in turn allowed myself the drunken freedom of “hating” them as well.