July 22, 2013

“I Don’t Like This One Little Bit.” Tales from a Flipped Classroom

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The Internet flipped learning before instructors did. Want to find out something? Google it. Wikipedia it. Use your laptop or smartphone or iPad. That’s where the “answers” are. Some of us initially reacted to this cyber-democratization of information asserting, “This isn’t right! The Internet is full of incomplete and simply wrong information.” But the challenge to the classroom was more profound. It has raised questions among students and even administrators about the need for face-to-face classrooms at all, as if correct information and unchallenged “opinions” were all that was needed.


April 9, 2013

Active Learning: Changed Attitudes and Improved Performance

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In reviewing the research on active learning in statistics, the authors of the article cited below, who are statistics faculty themselves, found some research in which certain active learning experiences did not produce measurable gains on exam performance. They “suspect the key components of successful active learning approaches are using activities to explain concepts and requiring students to demonstrate that they understand these concepts by having them answer very specific rather than general questions.” (p. 3)


December 5, 2012

Designing Assignments that Accomplish Course Goals

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I’m betting that many of you are in the midst of grading a large stack of papers, projects or other final assignments. Too often these end-of-course pieces of work don’t live up to our expectations or students’ potential. It’s easy for us (especially the elders among us) to bemoan the fact that students aren’t what they used to be. It’s better to use our discontent to consider whether our course assignments are effectively accomplishing our course goals.


September 28, 2012

An Approach that Decreases Failure Rates in Introductory Courses

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This study begins with some pretty bleak facts. It lists other research documenting the failure rates for introductory courses in biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics, and physics. Some are as high as 85 percent; only two are less than 30 percent. “Failure has grave consequences. In addition to the emotional and financial toll that failing students bear, they may take longer to graduate, leave the STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] disciplines or drop out of school entirely.” (p. 175) The question is whether there might be approaches to teaching these courses (and others at the introductory level) that reduce failure rates without decreasing course rigor.


March 21, 2012

Thinking Developmentally: Designing Courses with a Progression of Learning Experiences

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Thinking developmentally is one of those instructional design issues that we don’t do often enough. We understand that different learning experiences are appropriate for students at different levels. We expect a higher caliber of work from seniors than from those just starting college. But how often do we purposefully design a progression of learning experiences?


August 30, 2011

Eight Lessons about Student Learning and What They Mean for You

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A new edition of a classic book on the curriculum suggests eight lessons from the learning literature with implications for course and curriculum planning. Any list like this tends to simplify a lot of complicated research and offer generalizations that apply most, but certainly not all, of the time. Despite these caveats, lists like this are valuable. They give busy faculty a sense of the landscape and offer principles that can guide decision making, in this case about courses and curricula.



March 17, 2011

Instructional Design Strategies for Freshening Up Your Course

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This week I’m writing articles for an upcoming issue of The Teaching Professor newsletter and that always prompts lots of reading, thinking, rethinking and revising. Two articles I’m highlighting for the March issue begin with instructional problems, plagiarism in one and poorly written lab reports in the other, which are addressed by thoughtful and creatively designed assignments. With the plagiarism problem, it’s a brand new assignment and with the poorly written lab reports, it’s a complete redesign of the lab report assignment.