May 28, 2010

The Benefits of Using Classroom Assistants


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

When Parents Come Calling: Tips for Academic Leaders


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


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

Inquiry into the College Classroom


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.

May 18, 2010

Mid-Career Faculty: Staying Challenged and Enthused


“Mid-career faculty can easily reach a plateau where professional goals are less clear, even while an array of attractive personal and professional options may be available. The absence of motivating professional goals can cause professors to settle into a dull routine or begin to invest their energies in activities outside of their professional lives.” (p. 49)

May 17, 2010

How to Screen, Train, and Keep Quality Adjuncts


Adjunct faculty make up approximately half of all instructional faculty in degree-granting institutions (National Center for Education Statistics, 2008). Some teach online and some in a traditional classroom-based setting. Some work at private colleges, others for large public universities, and still others at community colleges. Adjuncts represent a diverse group professionals with a wide variety of backgrounds, but they do have at least one thing in common: they’re under increased scrutiny to demonstrate their effectiveness.