May 21, 2012

Academic Rigor: Lessons from Room 10


Room 10 was often an uncomfortable place. I dreaded having to walk in there. Room 10 felt a bit like Hell’s Kitchen and my teacher, Mrs. H, was the Gordon Ramsey of chemistry teachers, to use a current analogy. Was the teacher really that mean and the course that tough? Yes, she was mean and AP chemistry was one difficult course. Mrs. H’s handwriting was atrocious, and by today’s standards, she didn’t create a supportive learning environment. Despite all this, I noticed that the best students at my school signed up for AP chemistry with Mrs. H. I hesitated before signing up for the course, but something drew me to the experience.

May 16, 2012

Giving Student Choices on How Assignments Are Weighted


Not so long ago in the blog we explored the weighting of course assignments. The more certain assignments count in the grading scheme, the more time students are likely to devote to them. That makes determining how much each assignments counts an important decision. Since then I’ve come across several reports and some research that suggest we should consider giving students a choice on assignment weightings. For example, if the course contains a number of quizzes and collectively they count for 20% of the grade, a student could decide at the beginning of the course to raise that percentage to 30 with the weight of the major exams decreased by a corresponding amount. Or, say there are three assignments in the course that equal 75% of the grade, the student could designate a weight for each assignment between 15% and 45% but the three must total 75%.

May 11, 2012

An Interesting Group Work Model


It has a long, not-easy-to-remember name: Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning. It usually goes by its acronym: POGIL. It’s a model designed to replace lectures (though not necessarily all of them). Students discuss course material in teams, and they use carefully designed material that involves sequenced sets of questions—that’s the guided-inquiry part of the model. The process part relates to what is generally a three-phase learning cycle that involves exploration, invention, and application. It is derived from Piaget’s work on mental functioning.

May 10, 2012

Failure and Learning


One of my retirement goals has been to finally get good at knitting. I learned how when I was a child, but I’ve never had the time to really master the craft. Retirement is when you’re supposed to realize some of these lifelong ambitions because you’re running out of time. And so I’ve been knitting lots of different things, using lots of different techniques.

May 9, 2012

Enough Time to Make a Difference in Students’ Lives


It’s that time of the year when students leave us. Some graduate and we celebrate their growth and intellectual accomplishments. We are sorry to see them go. Others cross the stage and their parting is no cause for sweet sorrow. Some leave without ever crossing the stage. And some temporarily leave, returning in the fall or for a summer session.

May 8, 2012

Understanding Collegial Relationships within Academic Departments


In a mixed-methods study, Meghan Pifer, assistant professor in the Academic Development and Counseling Department at Lock Haven University, looked at the dynamics of informal intradepartmental relationships in two departments to determine how networks can affect faculty members’ access to resources, and ultimately their career success and satisfaction.