student reading outside campus building
Blended and Flipped

An Assignment Strategy to Get Students to Come to Class Prepared

Why do students come to class unprepared? Because teachers tend to lecture on the material, and students find it most efficient to let them lecture first and then read later. But if your students came to class prepared, would they acquire a deeper understanding of the material?

What I’ve heard for years from teachers is, “If I could only get my students to come prepared, then I could rock and roll in class.” But how do you get students prepared? Rather than finding a solution, this quandary typically comes down to a faculty member bemoaning the current state of students. But it is possible: you can get your students to come to class prepared.

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Online Learning

How to Make Online Group Projects More Effective

When we look at the value of collaborative group work, the research is clear: group work is beneficial to learning. It improves retention, critical thinking, persistence, motivation, satisfaction, engagement, time on-task, and the list goes on and on.

Now, these benefits are not unique to the online classroom. Collaborative group work is valuable whether you’re sitting in a face-to-face classroom or in an online classroom. But it’s important to remember that some of these benefits are uniquely suited for the online classroom.

Think for a minute about students in an online course. Most of them are sitting at home, maybe at work. They’re alone at a computer. It’s just them and the monitor. It’s not the most engaging atmosphere.

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Teaching Strategies and Techniques

When Saying ‘No’ to a Student Might Be Saying ‘Yes’ to Learning!

Last summer, I reached the point of eligibility for early retirement. I thought about taking the leap but did not. I decided to keep teaching, asking myself, how hard could it be to teach for another few years? Harder than I imagined, as it turned out.

For most of my career teaching composition in community colleges, my students have tended to be adults, older and more mature than the typical high school graduate. Increasingly, however, my students are young, immature, and not particularly well attuned to the expectations of college teachers. A recent incident with one such student taught me something about the value of saying “no” to students.

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Preparing to Teach

The First Days of Class: Building Authenticity and Community

Regardless of whether you’ve been teaching for 15 years or 15 minutes, how to act and what to do on the first day of class seems to be something many faculty are constantly revising. The impact of the lasting nature of the first impression may lead to nervousness on the first day of the semester. Consequently, many of us may feel pressured to adopt a personality or plan that doesn’t necessarily resonate with who we are for the rest of the semester or in our outside lives.

We’ve discovered some ways that not only help you feel prepared for class but also create an authentic community conducive to learning in a non-threatening environment. What follows are a few of our best practices.

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Teaching Strategies and Techniques

Learning More about Student Participation

A lot of good research has been done on participation in college classrooms. Here are some key findings and references that provide excellent background and reasons why working to get more students participating is so important.

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Teaching Strategies and Techniques

Communication Strategies to Engage Students and Encourage Learning

When I first began working with teachers who represented different disciplines, I learned that a lot of college professors are very stuck on their own content. And they believe that it, along with the pedagogy that they use for presenting it to students, is what causes learning to occur. It is absolutely true that credible, effective teachers are—first and foremost—subject-matter experts. Years of education and experience have helped us build this knowledge base that we use as the foundation for our teaching. Then we work hard at developing unique, innovative, in-class pedagogy and assignments for our students.

But why is it that, despite our expertise and all this effort, we still struggle to get our students engaged, motivated, performing well, and understanding what it is we want for them as students? Years of research suggests that the secret sauce, so to speak, is communication. More specifically, the teacher’s communication plays a powerful role as the source of all kinds of messages in and around the college classroom.

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Grading and Feedback

Punctuating Error: Strategies to Help Students Become More Disciplined Writers

When final paper time looms, students become increasingly anxious about the grammatical errors they believe lurk in their writing. That belief is so strong it can undermine their drafts. Even worse, students have come to expect that their professors will point out errors—and make corrections—that seem invisible to student eyes. Such a learned practice dissuades students from the far more productive work of rewriting sentences that would remove many of those errors just as invisibly.

Helping students learn how to revise and rewrite should be our priority so that their writing becomes more effective and they’re able to eyeball what remaining errors need correcting. Nevertheless, even with that process, some errors persist. For years, I struggled with determining how much instruction to devote to error, how to time such instruction, and where to conduct it—classroom, conference, or paper annotations—so that my efforts would prove more helpful than hurtful.

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Classroom Climate

What’s Your Teaching Persona?

From a dictionary: per·so·na, pərˈsōnə/ noun
persona; plural noun: personae; plural noun: personas
the aspect of someone's character that is presented to or perceived by others.
"her public persona": synonyms: image, face, public face, character, personality, identify, self
From the writings of university teachers:
“…in addition to having a theory and a subject, all professors develop a persona, a public teaching self which may be either an exaggeration or an evasion of our private self.” (Elaine Showalter, p. 38).

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Preparing to Teach

Refresh Your Course: Step-by-Step

You’ve decided you need to update, redesign, refresh your course. Maybe for your own reasons, such poor student performance. Or perhaps you want to try a new technique or a tool. Or maybe your reasons are external, such as a change in the curriculum or new material or a new text.

Most instructors simply don't have enough time to do everything we'd like to do in our teaching, including redesigning our courses. I’d like to share my process, which will allow you to be systematic about how you go about changing your course, keeping it fresh for you and for your students—and letting learning happen the way we intend it to.

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Classroom Climate

Everybody Present: Mindfulness in the Classroom

Did you know that the average attention span in the year 2000 was 12 seconds? And 12 years later, in the year 2012, the average attention span had gone down to eight seconds. So by my calculations, in the year 2036, the attention span will be down to zero, and we will all finally be living in the moment. Well, maybe not. And in fact, probably quite the opposite. And by the way, just for your information, the average attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds.

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