CURRENT ARTICLE • May 8th studying outside

Using Reading Prompts to Encourage Critical Thinking

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“Students can critically read in a variety of ways:

  • When they raise vital questions and problems from the text,
  • When they gather and assess relevant information and then offer plausible interpretations of that information,
  • When they test their interpretations against previous knowledge or experience …,
  • When they examine their assumptions and the implications of those assumptions, and
  • When they use what they have read to communicate effectively with others or to develop potential solutions to complex problems.” (p. 127)

And don’t we all wish our students read this way! Unfortunately most of them don’t, and the challenge is finding those strategies and approaches that help them develop these sophisticated reading skills. Terry Tomasek, who crafted this description of critical reading, proposes one of those kinds of strategies.

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OTHER RECENT ARTICLES

tips for better web meetings May 4

Ten Tips for Hosting a Web Meeting

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I’ve been working in the Innovation in Learning Center at the University of South Alabama since 2012, helping faculty use technology to improve their learning outcomes. During that time, I’ve found web conferencing situations to be some of my most rewarding and frustrating experiences. Web conferencing applications enable instructors to extend the benefits of live classroom interaction into online spaces. They also allow students to meet together online as they collaborate and grow in their knowledge and skills. When it all comes together, it’s a beautiful thing.


online teaching May 3

Reviving the Joy of Teaching

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I have been an educator for 49 years. Throughout the years, I have seen innovation and experimentation in educational theory, practice, and style. I have experienced personal success, and failure in meeting the needs of students. For most of that time I have loved the practice and the art of teaching. I was rewarded by the feedback I have received from the many individuals whose lives I have influenced along the way. I relished the success of my students, both those school leaders and those I taught in a graduate education school leadership program. What made my

What made my relationship with these individuals special and rewarding? It was the human interaction marked by the personal connection that teachers can have with their students. It was the act of seeing the students regularly whether the setting was in a public school or a higher education classroom. It was the discussions, in and out of class, the sharing of ideas, helping students consider their futures, discussing the difficulties some were experiencing, and it was hearing about their successes that made teaching enjoyable and satisfying.

Then something changed that began to diminish the satisfaction I felt from teaching.

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encouraging student feedback May 3

Encouraging Student Evaluations Without Giving Extra Credit

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Gone are the days of handing out course evaluations during the last week of class and asking students to fill them out and place them in the envelope in the front of the room. Now, students are sent an email with a link or perhaps are given directions in their learning management system on how to fill out class evaluations. With evaluations now handled remotely, it’s no surprise that the percentage of students who complete them has shrunk considerably.

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cheating scenarios May 3

Scenarios: Is It Cheating?

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The collection of cheating scenarios provided below are adapted from a variety used in research on academic integrity. What makes these scenarios such helpful learning tools is their identification of specific behaviors and the context in which they occur. Some of the scenarios also highlight the involvement of enablers, those who make the cheating possible or increase the likelihood of success.

Scenarios like these can be used in a variety of different ways. Here are some suggestions.

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learning objectives May 2

Learning Objectives: Where We Start and Where We End

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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.


class lecture May 1

Creating a Respectful Community: Lessons from the Middle East

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My family and I have had the privilege of living in the Middle East for nearly three decades. In addition to the extraordinary Arab hospitality we have enjoyed, it also has been a time of learning. Many of my parochial assumptions have been challenged, not the least being my understandings about teaching and learning.

A notable feature of education in the region (as in much of the world) is an emphasis on rote learning. I received the bulk of my formal education in Australia and United States—countries where there is a strong focus on the development of autonomy through critical thinking. With some ethnocentric arrogance, I initially viewed the local education systems here in the Middle East as backward and destructive. These systems resulted from and contributed to the sort of authoritarian dictatorships that prevail in many parts of the world.

Over time, however, I have gained a more nuanced appreciation of local learning approaches and I believe there are elements that Western educators may do well to consider or reconsider.

In his seminal work on intercultural rhetoric, Robert Kaplan offers a set of foundational questions: (1) What may be discussed? (2) Who has the authority to speak/write? (3) What form(s) may the writing take? (4) What is evidence? (5) What arrangement of evidence is likely to appeal (be convincing) to readers?

The answers to these questions are profoundly shaped by culture. In particular, I am struck by the fundamentally different understandings of the first two questions in collectivist and individualistic societies. In individualistic societies, such as Australia and United States, the normative assumption is that it is right and healthy to promote the development of a strong autonomous voice in students. We encourage students to speak with confidence, question assumptions, and challenge those in authority.

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Responding to microaggressions in college classroom April 30

Responding to Microaggressions in the Classroom: Taking ACTION

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The term “microaggression” was coined in 1970 to name relatively slight, subtle, and often unintentional offenses that cause harm (Pierce, 1970). Since then, a substantial body of research on microaggressions has demonstrated their prevalence and harmful effects (Boysen, 2012; Solorzan, et. al., 2010; Suárez-Orozco, et. al., 2015; Sue, 2010).


student presentations April 27

Learning to Fail or Failing to Teach?

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I recently took a position with a new institution and was asked to teach a senior seminar course. I determined that the best method for the students to show synthesis of knowledge was for them to develop a series of presentations investigating topics, problems, or issues in the field of kinesiology. The students were tasked with investigating and developing solutions from the current body of research. The first semester I taught the course, students were given a checklist of requirements and rubric for each presentation. I spent a short amount of time discussing the presentations during class and answering any questions students had. After each presentation they received their rubric and written feedback on their performance. As you can see in the table, the average grade actually went down with each presentation students gave during my first semester teaching the course.