March 31, 2011

A Lifeline for Those Teaching Large Classes


Simon, who teaches very large economics classes wonders in a blog comment if the kind of facilitative learning described in the March 2 post is possible in mass classes. I’d like to use this post to address his query. First off, as any large course instructor knows, teaching those big, required, introductory courses is not easy. In fact, it may well be the most difficult teaching assignment given to teachers. In my mind this raises a host of intriguing questions about who should be teaching and taking those courses. But that’s a topic for another post.

March 30, 2011

Time Management Strategies for Student Writers


Is it me or do students often seem surprised by just how long the writing process takes? When I first started teaching, I never thought to address the issue of time management with my students. Over the course of my next several classes, however, I started to notice a pattern in students’ comments, such as: The work in this class is really, really time consuming; I’ve never spent this much time writing before; and I didn’t realize it would take SO much time but I am really happy with the end results.

March 29, 2011

Four Characteristics of Successful Teachers


The quest to identify the ingredients, components, and qualities of effective instruction has been a long one. Starting in the 1930s, researchers sought to identify the common characteristics of good teachers. Since then, virtually everybody who might have an opinion has been asked, surveyed, or interviewed. Students have been asked at the beginning, middle, and end of their college careers. Alumni have been asked years after graduating. Colleagues within departments and across them have been asked, as have administrators, from local department heads to college presidents.

March 28, 2011

“But This is What I’ve Always Done” – Tips for Avoiding Teaching Ruts


As an undergrad I had a hard time settling on a major so I sampled a lot of different courses during my first couple of years. I remember signing up for one course that looked perfect because it combined two of my interests — media and American politics. In addition to learning about the changing dynamics between the two from a historical perspective, I was excited to see how the professor would incorporate the current presidential election into the course.

March 25, 2011

Competition and Cooperation: Can They Co-exist in a Classroom?


I have been thinking about a comment David posted on the February 23 entry which discussed group testing. He wrote, “When faced with any form of collaborative work … students will make considerable efforts to implement a ‘divide and conquer’ method: split the assigned work somehow and do it individually with almost no collaboration at all.”

March 24, 2011

At Two-Year Colleges, Critical Thinking is Critical Indeed


Community colleges are notorious for embracing pedagogical fads—what faculty members sometimes refer to derisively as “the flavor of the month.”

A decade ago that “flavor” was critical thinking. We attended workshops and seminars, listened to keynotes and consultants, all so we could help students learn to think critically. Then the fervor died down as the next fad swept in.

March 22, 2011

Academically Adrift toward Learning?


On the one hand, a forceful budget of bad news at a time rife with negatives about higher education. On the other, the stubborn hope that we will do better. Those who believe higher education can do a better job—and I am one—will acknowledge the force of Academically Adrift as wake-up call. Although that call is not new, the rhetorical effects of this book are powerful.

March 18, 2011

Administratively Adrift, Too


College professors have long bemoaned the fact that they view the product or outcome of higher education differently from their students. Ask a professor what the goal of a college education is, and the answer you’re likely to hear is wisdom, knowledge, insight, understanding, or some variant of these. Ask the same question of a student (or that student’s parents), and you’re likely to hear an answer like a diploma, a job, or lots of money. That difference in perspective is certainly not new and, although some generations of college students are more idealistic or socially engaged than others, it’s certainly not surprising that American families tend to make college decisions in terms of return on investment; that’s how they make most of their other decisions, too, at least when the question involves how they should spend their money.