April 29

Mindfulness in the Classroom

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After reading and hearing about the physical and mental benefits of meditation, I decided to take up the practice several years ago. This led to some discussions with colleagues at work, which eventually morphed into the idea of using mindfulness in the classroom. Mindfulness is a way to pause and reflect on the here and now. To be fully present in what is happening in the present, without worry about the future or past. The idea is that teaching this philosophy and using activities and practices in the classroom should allow students to release tension and anxiety so they can focus on the material in the classroom. Rather than coming to my biology class lamenting over the test they just took in another class, worrying about the homework, or making a check-list of “to dos”, the student can release that tension become present with my biology course.


focusing activities to engage students April 26

Three Focusing Activities to Engage Students in the First Five Minutes of Class

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In the previous two articles, I shared ideas to address student accountability and student preparation in the flipped classroom. Based on your feedback and emails, getting students to come to class prepared is an ongoing challenge for many of us! In this article, I’d like to keep the conversation going by zeroing in on the importance of the first five minutes of class.



physics club - students work together April 22

Join the Club: The Benefits of Getting Students Involved with Departmental Clubs

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Faculty mentorship is widely seen as an important factor in a successful undergraduate education. A recent 2018 Strada-Gallup Alumni Survey, “Mentoring College Students To Success” shows that successful faculty mentorship is critical in encouraging students to pursue their careers and dreams. Yet, only 64 percent of students had a mentor and the number is less for underrepresented groups. As faculty, how can we connect to students outside the classroom beyond merely hoping they show up to office hours?


Newton's Cradle with red ball April 19

Start Small, Finish Big

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You’ve just returned from a Teaching Professor Conference or read of an innovative teaching strategy in a book you devoured. You desperately want to incorporate the innovations you’ve learned into your own courses, but at that exact moment, you feel your energy drain when you imagine hearing unsupportive administrators utter their stern objections “to keep things the way they are.” You pause to look around, seeing older colleagues who have more teaching years behind than ahead of them—“I tried that once . . . “—knowing that they never received the administrative nod for their innovations.


connecting the readings April 17

Connecting the Disconnect Between Class Time and Course Readings

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“What do the readings have to do with class?” “Why do we even have to do the readings?”

After spending more than a decade supporting college faculty in teaching, I have heard students utter these statements numerous times. I often observe classes and conduct mid-course focus groups with students. It continues to surprise me that students regularly question how the readings connect to class. Certainly, instructors would not be assigning readings that had nothing to do with the course! Given how much we worry about students not doing the readings, why would we assign unrelated readings? Yet, frequently, in courses in different disciplines, I’ve heard this type of feedback from students, “We don’t understand the readings, they have nothing to do with what we talk about in class.”


IRS - Lessons for online classroom April 15

Five Lessons Online Faculty Can Learn from the IRS

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Another Tax Day is upon us. I’ll keep this post brief, just in case you haven’t yet filed.

The Internal Revenue Service is good for lots of things, but it’s not usually viewed as a source of sound teaching advice. In 2016, however, the government agency created an online publication called the Behavioral Insights Toolkit. At just 72 pages, the toolkit is a relatively short guide for IRS employees and researchers to help promote compliance and improve taxpayer engagement by leveraging strong communication practices.


exam review session April 12

Helping Students Memorize: Tips from Cognitive Science

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I was wrapping up a presentation on memory and learning when a colleague asked, “How do we help students learn in courses where there’s a lot of memorization?” He explained that he taught introductory-level human anatomy, and although the course wasn’t all memorization, it did challenge students’ capacity to retain dozens of new terms and concepts.


should we round up grades April 10

Grading Dilemma: Should We Round Up?

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Among the trickiest decisions teachers make is whether to round up the final grade for a student who is just a few points shy of a passing score.

Although some students need a “second lap” to master academic skills needed for later coursework, repeating courses makes it harder for students to progress toward a degree. Time is money (literally, in higher education), and when students are asked to spend more of both on a class they already took, they may get discouraged or drop out. This is a consequence we need to take seriously, as nearly half of students do not complete a bachelor’s degree in four years.


engage students with cue-do-review April 8

Recipe for Teaching: Cue-Do-Review

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When a family gathers around the table to share a meal, the one who prepared and served the fare most likely spent time pondering the recipes, considering the meal’s consumers, and selecting the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables. As in the kitchen, so it is in the classroom. Faculty also ponder content, consider the lesson’s recipients, and select the right balance of lecture, group processing, and independent demonstration of competence. We decide upon our objectives for the lesson and we build our processes around the objectives, seeking to ensure that we reach everyone in our classrooms, online or face to face.