How can teachers and learners transfer information most effectively? Instructional design, routed in cognitive and behavioral psychology, frequently involves employing new media. Turn to Faculty Focus for the latest developments in instructional design.
May 6 - The Little Assignment with the Big Impact: Reading, Writing, Critical Reflection, and Meaningful Discussion
Several years ago, I came across the Purposeful Reading Assignment that was reported to encourage students to read, reflect, and write about readings assigned for class. Research (Roberts and Roberts, 2008) and experience tell us that supporting students’ reading, writing, and reflective practices is one of the most challenging aspects of learning and teaching. Although this assignment appeared to be simple, it has proven to be an influential tool for learning and has increased engagement and participation among my students.
“How do you determine what can be flipped?”
With all of this discussion around flipped classrooms, more instructors are asking this question and wondering when and where flipped strategies are best integrated into the learning environment. Certainly, some topics lend themselves more easily to flipped strategies than others, but every lesson plan has the opportunity for at least one “flippable moment.” This is the moment during class when you stop talking at your students and “flip” the work to them instead. This is the moment when you allow your students to struggle, ask questions, solve problems, and do the “heavy lifting” required to learn the material.
February 12 - Using the E-Portfolio to Validate Student Learning
Too often our students consider their work in the classroom as required assignments—not work that has anything to do with what they will be doing in the real world. Oh, maybe they are picking up some skills they might use in their future employment, but that’s about it. As teachers, how do we get students to understand that the work they do in our classes—such as team projects, community service, technical papers, and even research—is relevant to what they will be doing after they graduate? How do we encourage them to keep their materials and use them to validate their work as students? I think I have an answer. Teaching an e-portfolio capstone course for several years has given me a perspective that I believe should be the framework for validating student learning outcomes across all institutions of higher education.
Online homework has great appeal for instructors, especially those teaching large courses. By using online assignments, instructors don’t have to collect, grade, and promptly return large quantities of homework assignments. Online programs provide instructors with feedback on student performance that can be used to modify the presentation of material in class. Online homework is also beneficial to students. They get feedback promptly, even more promptly than that provided by very conscientious instructors. Online homework can also be designed so that it allows students to work on areas that frequently cause trouble and/or on areas where the individual student is having difficulty.
December 14 - Assignments That Promote Critical Thinking
Teaching students to think critically has long been a goal of education. Some, like the authors of the article highlighted here, think it’s a goal whose importance has increased. When today’s students graduate, they “must fend for themselves in an information environment characterized by a fragmented media establishment, blurb-driven news coverage, and an increasingly polarized political system. Given the normative bias, questionable logic, and contorted facts that people face these days, it is essential that students learn to discern and evaluate different types of information.” (p. 619)
Experiential learning is widely recognized as a high-impact educational practice that occurs outside the classroom through experiences such as internships, study abroad, and service-learning. However, experiential learning works very well inside the classroom as well. In fact, there are a number of reasons why faculty may want to facilitate an experiential learning component in class rather than outside of class.
Many of us who teach in higher education do not have a teaching background, nor do we have experience in curriculum development. We know our content areas and are experts in our fields, but structuring learning experiences for students may or may not be our strong suit. We’ve written a syllabus (or were handed one to use) and have developed some pretty impressive assessments, projects, and papers in order to evaluate our students’ progress through the content. Sometimes we discover that students either don’t perform well on the learning experiences we’ve designed or they experience a great deal of frustration with what they consider high stakes assignments. Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1978) proposes that it’s important to determine the area (zone) between what a student can accomplish unaided and what that same student can accomplish with assistance.
In an interview with The Teaching Professor, Christine Stanley, vice president and associate provost for diversity and professor of higher education administration at Texas A&M University, and Matt Ouellett, associate director of the Center for Teaching & Faculty Development at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, offered a brief overview of their approach to creating a learning environment that is welcoming to students of all backgrounds.
This study begins with some pretty bleak facts. It lists other research documenting the failure rates for introductory courses in biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics, and physics. Some are as high as 85 percent; only two are less than 30 percent. “Failure has grave consequences. In addition to the emotional and financial toll that failing students bear, they may take longer to graduate, leave the STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] disciplines or drop out of school entirely.” (p. 175) The question is whether there might be approaches to teaching these courses (and others at the introductory level) that reduce failure rates without decreasing course rigor.
September 20 - Recommendations for Blended Learning Course Design
In an interview with Online Classroom, Veronica Diaz, associate director of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, offered the following advice for creating a better blended course:
Begin with a solid foundation in online learning pedagogy and technical knowledge. “If you are an experienced online instructor, you are much more likely to produce a much higher-quality blended course because you’ve been involved in all the technology-mediated types of issues that you would have come across in an online modality. So you’re familiar with what can go wrong. You have something you can really build on.”