Faculty Focus

HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS

innovative quiz strategies

An Innovative Quiz Strategy

Here’s an interesting way to incorporate collaboration in a quizzing strategy, with some pretty impressive results.

Beginning with the mechanics: students took three quizzes in an introductory pharmaceutical science course. First, they completed the quiz individually. After answering each question, they indicated how confident they were that their answer was correct—5 for absolutely certain and 1 for not knowing and guessing. Then for a period of time (length not specified in the article), they were allowed to collaborate with others seated near them on quiz answers. After that discussion, they could change their quiz answers, if they desired. At that point, they again rated their confidence in the correctness of the answers. Quiz answer sheets and confidence levels were then turned in. Immediately, correct quiz answers were revealed and once again students had the opportunity to discuss answers with each other.

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negative course evaluations

What to Do About Those Negative Comments on Course Evaluations

If there’s a downside to another academic year coming to a successful close, it’s reading course evaluations. This post explores how we respond to those one or two low evaluations and the occasional negative comments found in answers to the open-ended questions. Do we have a tendency to over-react? I know I did.

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studying for exams

Rethinking Rereading

There’s plenty of good research on study strategies that promote learning. It’s also well-documented that students don’t always use them. As most of us are well aware, procrastination gets in the way of learning. Cramming ends up being mostly a shoveling exercise—digging up details and dropping them into short term-memory. But there’s also evidence that students don’t know that some strategies do more for learning than others. And guess what? Neither do some faculty.

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student-led study groups

The Benefits of Study Groups

Maybe we should be making a stronger pitch for student-led study groups. There’s all sorts of research documenting how students can learn from each other. But, as regularly noted here and elsewhere, that learning doesn’t happen automatically, and some of us worry that it’s not likely to occur in a study group where there’s no supervision and distractions abound. Recent findings should encourage us to give study groups a second look.

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talking with students about cheating

Cheating: Can We Be Doing More to Promote Academic Integrity?

The most common approach to cheating involves trying to prevent it—multiple versions of a test, roving observation during tests, software that detects plagiarism, policies that prohibit it.  However, if we look at cheating across the board, what we’re doing to stop it hasn’t been all that successful. Depending on the study, the percentage of students who say they’ve cheated runs between 50% and 90% with more results falling on the high side of that range. Can we be doing more? Here are some ideas.

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learning objectives

Learning Objectives: Where We Start and Where We End

On the surface, learning objectives don’t seem all that complicated. You begin with an objective or you can work backwards from the desired outcome. Then you select an activity or assignment that accomplishes the objective or outcome. After completion of the activity or assignment, you assess to discover if students did in fact learn what was proposed. All that’s very appropriate. Teachers should be clear about what students need to know and be able to do when a course ends. But too often that’s where it stops. We don’t go any further in our thinking about our learning objectives. There’s another, more challenging, set of questions that also merit our attention.

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the hardest students to teach

The Hardest Students to Teach

Some students are more challenging to teach than others. They require pedagogical skills of a different and higher order. Sometimes it’s easier to sigh and just turn away. And that’s legitimate in the sense that students (indeed, people of all sorts) have to figure things out for themselves. But many of us were such “works in progress” when we were in college, and a teacher (or several of them) ended up being instrumental in moving us in more productive directions. It’s for that reason I’d like us to consider some of these challenging students, each one a unique individual, but many displaying the same counterproductive attitudes and actions. Descriptions of these students come much more easily than solutions to what’s holding them back. Said more directly, my goal here is to start this conversation and ask for your wisdom, insights, and experiences with students who are tough to teach.

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cheating in college classroom

Activities that Promote Awareness of What Is and Isn’t Cheating

Although some behaviors are pretty much universally identified as cheating (copying exam answers, for example), we’re not in agreement on everything. Particularly significant are disagreements between faculty and students (for example, students don’t think cheating occurs if they look something up on their phone and can’t find it; faculty consider cheating in terms of intent). In many cases, there is the question of degree (when, for example, collaboration crosses the line and becomes cheating). The effectiveness of cheating prevention mechanisms can be increased by clarifying upfront what is and isn’t cheating. Here’s a collection of activities faculty can use to ensure that students understand the behaviors that constitute cheating.

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courses with heavy workloads

Course Workload: What Influences Student Perceptions?

Course workload is yet another of those amorphous terms regularly used in print and conversation for which we have loose and different understandings. It’s a term with connections to various topics: hard and easy courses, standards and rigor, effort and accomplishment. For students, courses with a heavy workload can create feelings of stress. Their beliefs about the amount of work involved in a course sometimes (or is it regularly?) influence their decisions about what courses to take. In an end-of-course rating comment, a student wrote of a colleague’s course: “It’s very good. She’s an excellent teacher, but engineering students should be advised not to take it. It’s too much work for a required course not related to the major.”

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