May 28, 2010

The Benefits of Using Classroom Assistants

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I work in a department that regularly enrolls 250 students in first-year classes, as do many other departments in colleges and universities. In my case, the situation is complicated by a small graduate program, too few teaching assistants, and an inability to break the larger classes into smaller sections for discussion. This makes for a very challenging teaching situation. I use groups in the large class one day per week, using activities I described previously in The Teaching Professor (March 2003). Since then, I have worked on solving the staff problem with senior undergraduate students. I call them classroom assistants (CAs).




May 25, 2010

Smile

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“One can still be committed to one’s discipline, one can still be scholarly, studious and literate … and SMILE while you are doing it.” That was the message early in John Huss’ session on humor at The Teaching Professor Conference this past weekend.


May 25, 2010

When Parents Come Calling: Tips for Academic Leaders

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An increasing part of any academic dean’s week is fielding calls (and sometimes unannounced visits) from concerned parents. These so-called “helicopter parents” are well-known to student life professionals. In the past, they’ve called to try and influence the admissions process, to negotiate improved housing assignments, and to manage the personal lives of their children.



May 21, 2010

A Creative Alternative to Boring Lab Reports

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Robert Badger, a professor of geology, describes the lab reports he wrote as a student in an introductory geology class. “I wrote tired, uninspired drivel, merely recounting a vague version of what the professor or teaching assistant had recited, without trying to analyze for myself what it was I had actually observed.” (p. 58) He promised himself that if he ever became a teacher he would not subject his students to “such tedious and pointless exercises.” (p. 58)


May 20, 2010

Revisiting Handouts

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Handouts—for many of us they are an essential part of teaching, but conceptually they are not something to which we devote much mental energy. With summer approaching or during the current break between semesters, maybe a review of what handouts can be used to accomplish might motivate us to reconsider how we use them. Could it be time to explore some other options?


May 20, 2010

Inquiry into the College Classroom

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Are our students learning? Are they developing? Are we having an impact? These questions are only a small sample of those that faculty ask before, during, and after each course that they teach. Faculty often attempt to answer such questions using the evidence they have—student remarks during class and office hours, student performance on examinations or homework assignments, student comments solicited via teaching evaluations, and their own classroom observations. While these forms of evidence can be useful, such informal assessments also can be misleading, particularly because they are generally not systematic or fully representative.