college student sitting outside with laptop December 12, 2016

Five Ways to Make Your Online Classrooms More Interactive


The convenience and flexibility of the online learning environment allows learners to develop new skills and further their education, regardless of where they live. However, for all of its benefits, online learning can sometimes feel isolating for students and faculty. The question is: how do you build a sense of community in your online courses? One approach involves cultivating more interaction—between you and your students and among the students themselves. Here are five practical tips for increasing the human connection in your online classrooms.

students studying in the library December 7, 2016

A Memo to Students about Studying for Finals


To: My Students
From: Your Professor
Re: Studying for Finals

The end of the semester is rarely pretty. You’re tired; I’m tired. You’ve got a zillion things to get done—ditto for me. You’ve also got grades hanging in the balance to be decided by how you perform on the final exam. The pressure is on, and it’s not just this course. It’s all of them.

students texting December 5, 2016

Teaching Students about Their Digital Footprints


Our students live in an online world. They’re emotionally and physically attached to their devices and many of their relationships exist within technology. As educators, there are many ways that we have had to adapt to this changing landscape of communication within our teaching, and when I look around my institution, I think we’re doing a remarkable job at keeping up with the rapid pace of change.

Pensive college student using laptop November 30, 2016

What Are We Communicating to Students When We Write?


Do we communicate more with students in writing than we used to? I think so. In addition to the course syllabus, the usual handouts, and written feedback on papers, projects, and performances, we now share all kinds of electronic messages with students. We exchange emails, post announcements on course management systems, and participate in online discussions. Those who use PowerPoint tend to make rather text-heavy slides. And if you happen to teach online, then virtually all your communication with students occurs via some written format.

student studying in library November 28, 2016

Enhancing Learning through Zest, Grit, and Sweat


Early in my career, I focused most of my efforts on teaching content. That is, after all, what most of us are hired to do, right? With experience and greater understanding of how learning works, my attention shifted toward metacognition. I began investing lots of time and energy reading and identifying ways to help students grow as learners while they learned the content.

student struggling with test November 14, 2016

Teaching Students How to Manage Feedback


The classroom is a non-stop hub of feedback: test grades, assignment scores, paper comments, peer review, individual conferences, nonverbal cues, and more. Feedback is essential for student learning.

Still, students’ ability to process and use feedback varies widely. We have some students who eagerly accept feedback or carefully apply rough draft comments, while many others dread or dismiss their professors’ notes or reject exam grades as “unfair.” Although feedback is integral to our classrooms and work spaces, we often forget to teach students how to manage it.

student working on laptop November 11, 2016

Wikipedia Projects for Learning


Most teachers consider Wikipedia the devil’s realm, a place where rumor and misinformation are spread. But in reality, studies have found that Wikipedia has an accuracy of a regular encyclopedia. Inaccurate information is quickly corrected by volunteer editors, and there are strict standards for entering content, including the rule that “everything must be cited.” Most important, Wikipedia is the place where many, if not most, people go to get initial information on a topic. This makes it probably the most important information source on the Internet, and because editing is public, it presents a wonderful opportunity for students to create articles as class assignments.

student studying late at night November 9, 2016

Courses That Are Hard, but Not Too Hard: Finding the Sweet Spot


I have been doing some reading and thinking about hard courses. Courses need to be challenging, but when they become too hard, students stop trying and little learning results. So how do we find that sweet spot between hard and not too hard? More importantly, how do we create that sweet spot in our own courses through the decisions we make about content, assignments, and exams?

students working on project November 7, 2016

The Power of Transparency in Your Teaching


The most recent issue of Peer Review (Winter/Spring 2016; published by AACU) highlights the powerful impact ‘transparency’ can have on learning for all students. One aspect of transparency is making obvious the intellectual practices involved in completing and evaluating a learning task. But making these processes visible for students is more easily said than done; we are experts in our fields for the very reasons that our thinking and evaluating are automatic and subconscious. It’s hard to describe exactly what we do intellectually when we synthesize or integrate, critique, or create. Similarly, it’s difficult to articulate the differences between an assignment we score as an A and one to which we give a B. Thus, a challenge in achieving transparency is developing a deep awareness of our own processes. Only then can we explicitly teach those thinking processes. In my own case, thinking about thinking (aka metacognition) was a new pedagogical consideration and it took time to learn this new set of skills in the context of teaching biology. So I was tickled pink one day last September when, at my new institution, I was able to problem-solve on my feet. I was teaching a new-to-me set of skills (writing outside of science) in a new-to-me format (discussion) to a population of students with whom I had no prior experience and in a class I’d never taught before.