Faculty Focus

HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS

Take Advantage of Opportunities to Sustain Your Instructional Vitality

As my work on career-long growth and development for college teachers progresses, I continue to fret about the haphazard way we take care of our instructional health. To begin (and this is not our fault), we work hard and are way too busy. Whether it’s teaching five courses a semester or teaching less but having a research agenda that must be moving forward and continuously productive, we have precious little time for one more thing that might interfere with the frenetic motions required to keep our heads above water.

Read More »
female professor in front of white board

Rejuvenating Experiences: Tales of an Unlikely Classroom Collaboration

The end of a long academic year is probably the time when we are most open to the idea of a rejuvenating instructional experience. In a recent workshop, I heard two teachers describe just such an experience. They team-taught an introductory English lit course with content that explored veteran experiences. Before the workshop started, it was clear they were an unlikely team. She was the rather typical English prof, a tad disorganized, fussing with the technology, comfortably relaxed before the group. He was a former Marine, standing off to the side, trying to look relaxed but actually more at attention than at ease.

Read More »
instructional risk-taking

Taking Risks in Your Teaching

Often in workshops when I’m speaking about the process of implementing change—deciding what to change and how to change it or considering whether to add a new instructional strategy—the question of risk lurks in the choices being considered. When attending a workshop or program that offers a range of instructional possibilities, teachers typically respond to some favorably. I see it—they write down the idea, nod, or maybe ask a follow-up question to be sure they understand the details. Not all the ideas presented get this favorable response. Occasionally, the response is overtly negative. But more often there is no response. The idea doesn’t resonate.

Read More »
instructional advice

Giving and Receiving Instructional Advice

How much instructional advice have you heard over the years? How often when you talk about an instructional issue are you given advice, whether you ask for it or not? Let’s say you’re a new teacher or you’re teaching a class you haven’t taught before or something unexpected happens in your class; if you’d like some advice, all you need to do is ask. Anybody who’s spent any time in the classroom seemingly has the right to offer advice. And if you’d rather read advice, there’s still plenty offered in the pedagogical literature, to say nothing of blogs and other social media sources.

Read More »
students in lecture hall

Thinking about What Happened. . .

When a discussion didn’t go anywhere.

When a group couldn’t seem to work together.

When the answer was wrong.

When the grade was unexpected.

When not all that many students are paying attention.

Read More »
arranging students into groups

A More Strategic Approach to Arranging Students into Groups

What’s the best way to put students into groups? It’s the first task that confronts teachers who want students to work together. And the best reply is one of those “it depends” answers. Here are the questions on which it depends.

Should teachers let students form the groups? Students often prefer this approach. They tend to pick people they know, classmates who are friends, those in the same major, and those who share the same race. It’s more comfortable working with people who are known and similar. When groups are composed of friends, they sometimes struggle with the transition to a more professional relationship. They’re used to socializing, but now there are tasks to complete and that means functioning in different roles. If the group work is a project that requires extended collaboration and will benefit from a variety of opinions and perspectives, letting students form the groups may not be the best approach. On the other hand, for short, ad-hoc group work and for students who may be shy and not used to working with peers, knowing others in the group makes the experience less intimidating.

Read More »

Remembering the Coach Who Was a Teacher

I lost a dear friend last month, the colleague and mentor who taught me more about teaching and learning than anyone else. Over the years, Larry Spence wrote a number of pithy pieces for The Teaching Professor. Here’s my favorite.

Read More »
student motivation

Five Keys to Motivating Students

Recently I had reason to revisit Paul Pintrich’s meta-analysis on motivation. It’s still the piece I most often see referenced when it comes to what’s known about student motivation. Subsequent research continues to confirm the generalizations reported in it. Like most articles that synthesize the results of many studies, it’s long, detailed, and liberally peppered with educational jargon. It does have a clear, easy to follow organizational structure and most notably, it spells out implications—what teachers might consider doing in response to what the research says motivates students. Here’s a quick run-down of those generalizations and their implications. 

Read More »
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.

Read More »
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.

Read More »