CURRENT ARTICLE • May 23rd studying for exams

Rethinking Rereading

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There’s plenty of good research on study strategies that promote learning. It’s also well-documented that students don’t always use them. As most of us are well aware, procrastination gets in the way of learning. Cramming ends up being mostly a shoveling exercise—digging up details and dropping them into short term-memory. But there’s also evidence that students don’t know that some strategies do more for learning than others. And guess what? Neither do some faculty.

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inclusive classroom May 21

Five Ways to Promote a More Inclusive Classroom

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The graduation gap continues to exist between traditional and nontraditional students. Although the classroom experience has not been the focus of most institutions’ retention and persistence efforts, faculty can and do play a major role for improving the retention and success of all students. It’s a topic covered extensively in my new book, Creating the Path to Success in the Classroom: Teaching to Close the Graduation Gap for Minority, First-Generation, and Academically Unprepared Students, released earlier this month. While recognizing that there are no easy answers, I offer ideas that can be incorporated in, or modified to align with, faculty’s existing teaching methods. Following are a few excerpts from chapter two, where I suggest five steps for promoting an inclusive classroom:


internship learning contract May 18

Using Appreciative Inquiry with Internship Learning Contracts

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Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a conceptual framework that intentionally asks positive questions as a process to create shared meaning among participants by integrating stories that focus on success, possibilities, and achievement. The approach can be transformational for students, especially those who are engaged in internships, practicums, and/or capstone projects. The basic tenet is to generate awareness of strengths through appreciative dialogues while implementing strategies that align with individual and organizational desired outcomes and goals. The initiative occurs first between the student and the seminar instructor and then later expands to include others, such as practicum/internship site supervisors, co-workers, and clients.


student-led study groups May 16

The Benefits of Study Groups

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Maybe we should be making a stronger pitch for student-led study groups. There’s all sorts of research documenting how students can learn from each other. But, as regularly noted here and elsewhere, that learning doesn’t happen automatically, and some of us worry that it’s not likely to occur in a study group where there’s no supervision and distractions abound. Recent findings should encourage us to give study groups a second look.


learner-centered teaching strategies May 15

Learner-Centered Teaching: 10 Ideas for Getting Started

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Looking to incorporate some learner-centered teaching principles into your courses but aren’t sure where to begin? Here are 10 activities for building student engagement and getting students more actively involved in their learning.

Strategy One: Creating the Climate for Learning

  • Use the same activity but with a different topic. For example, before the first discussion in a class, you might have students talk about the best and worst class discussions they’ve observed. Have them explain what the teacher did and what the students did.
  • The activity can be used as an icebreaker for group work. Say you’ve put students together in work groups. Have them start to get to know each other by talking about the best and worst group experiences they’ve had and what they need to do individually and collectively to have this group function well.
  • At the end of the best/worst course discussion, ask a student to take a picture of the board (constructive use of cell phone in class) and send it to you. Then you can send a copy to each student. Obviously, you can write down what students said and distribute a paper or electronic copy.
  • Use the description of the best class as an early course feedback mechanism. During the second or third week of the course, have students rate the items they listed. For example, if they said, “The teacher respects students”; ask them to rate on a five-point scale how well that’s happening in class so far. You might rate them on some of the student characteristics.

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Strategies for Discussing Religion in Secular Studies Classes May 14

Strategies for Discussing Religion in Secular Studies Classes

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Religion. Faith. Spirituality. Some faculty may view these phenomena as significant influences on the human experience, others as challenges to intellectualism and the scientific method. There are also academics who struggle with their position, perceiving the power embedded in these ideologies and practices as potentially beneficial as well as restrictive. Most would agree that theology elicits a range of strong and often-personal reactions. Why, then, would faculty teaching secular studies courses want to raise the topic of religion in their classes when they could play it safe and leave the subject entirely to the specialists, their colleagues in religious studies?


getting students to read what's assigned May 10

10 Strategies for Promoting Accountability and Investment in Reading Assignments

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As teachers, we see value in what we assign students, but students don’t always appreciate the relevance or understand the purpose of their assignments. Required readings are a great example of this disconnect. However, when students have some input into their learning, their response to assignments (yes, even reading assignments) changes. Rather than requiring fill-in-the-blank reading guides or giving weekly quizzes to “motivate” students to do assigned readings, professors can give students some alternatives. We can design those alternatives to give students greater choice and responsibility for their learning, thereby making the assignments more meaningful. Here is a collection of reading assignment alternatives we use and recommend.

  1. Non-structured Notes: Allow students to submit notes on assigned readings in various formats. These formats may include a detailed outline, graphic organizer, poster, summary paragraphs, or other visual representations of the material. Different format samples can be shared with the entire class or within small groups to stimulate discussion of the readings.

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tips for using Quizlet in college classroom May 10

Tips from the Pros: Promoting Active Learning with Quizlet

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How best to engage students and provide opportunities for active learning is a question we find ourselves thinking about and discussing often with colleagues. Quizlet is a user-friendly, technology-based quizzing system that works well to engage students in both face-to-face and online learning environments. Instructors can use it to create their own study set or browse through and use existing study sets. Study sets consist of groups of questions presenting content that students have reviewed. The content is presented as terms, definitions, pictures, diagrams, and labels, making the program flexible and effective for many disciplines. For example, an anatomy professor could insert pictures or diagrams of the skeletal system, and students may be charged with either labeling or identifying the correct term.

Quizlet has many functions both inside and outside of the classroom. One common use of Quizlet is its flashcard function, which is useful to review course content. In order to engage in the flashcard function, students click on a study set and then click on the flashcard icon. Next, one at a time, a definition is revealed and the student types in a term. The program indicates if the answer is correct and how many terms the student has answered correctly. In addition to flashcards, students can engage in a matching game. For the matching game, students click on a study set and then click on the matching game icon. Next, all the terms and definitions are on the screen in a scattered pattern and the student clicks on a term and drags it to the correct definition. The Gravity game is another popular activity using a video game format where students test their knowledge by answering questions before asteroids hit the ground.

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talking with students about cheating May 9

Cheating: Can We Be Doing More to Promote Academic Integrity?

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The most common approach to cheating involves trying to prevent it—multiple versions of a test, roving observation during tests, software that detects plagiarism, policies that prohibit it.  However, if we look at cheating across the board, what we’re doing to stop it hasn’t been all that successful. Depending on the study, the percentage of students who say they’ve cheated runs between 50% and 90% with more results falling on the high side of that range. Can we be doing more? Here are some ideas.