Faculty Focus

HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS

learning goals

low-stakes writing assignment

Using Low-Stakes Writing Assignments to Achieve Learning Goals

During my time as a teaching fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the importance of student learning goals and student learning objectives to quality course design and management. Learning goals, often broad in nature, are most commonly applied at the course level. Learning objectives are statements about measurable expectations and behaviors that can contribute to the achievement of the learning goals.

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Adding Choice to Assignment Options: A Few Course Design Considerations

No, the objective isn’t to make assignments optional, but two benefits accrue when students are given some choice about assignments. The first is motivational—when students select the method they will use to master the material, they can pick an option they think they’d like to complete. And if an assignment option looks appealing, that increases the chance that students will spend more time working on it and more learning can then result. Second, the practice confronts students with themselves as learners. With teacher guidance, they can be challenged to consider why they find some assignments preferable. They can be encouraged to consider what skills the assignment involves and whether those are skills they have or need to work on developing. A strategy such as this moves students in the direction of autonomy and maturity as learners.

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Avoiding Information Overload: Remembering Course Goals

In more than 20 years of teaching, I have learned that too much information frustrates rather than inspires students. Today, however, with a few clicks of the computer mouse, any teacher can retrieve an overabundance of information. What is more, courseware makes distributing this information to students amazingly easy. As a result, teachers risk (unintentionally) giving students much more information than they can reasonably digest, including electronic texts, supplementary texts, and background information. The key to avoiding information overload is remembering course goals.

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Gimme an A! Confronting Presuppositions about Grading

Sometimes, in informal conversations with colleagues, I hear a statement like this, “Yeah, not a great semester, I doled out a lot of C’s.” I wonder, did this professor create learning goals that were unobtainable by most of the class or did this professor lack the skills to facilitate learning? I present this provocative lead-in as an invitation to reflect upon our presuppositions regarding grading.

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Deciding What Your Students Must Learn

You were hired because of your deep subject matter expertise; knowledge you want to share with your students. The problem is, the number of hours in a typical semester hasn’t changed, but the amount of information in your discipline continues to grow…and it’s all critical. Or is it?

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Learning Goals: Faculty and Students Don’t Agree

The findings of a recent study documenting differences between the priorities that faculty and students give to various learning goals will not come as a surprise to many. Those differences are an undercurrent that flow through most classes.

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Finding the ‘Sweet Spot’ of Teaching and Learning

Avid golfers and baseball players often talk about the elusive “sweet spot.” Find it, and you can make the ball go exactly where you want it to go, almost effortlessly. There’s a sweet spot to teaching, too. And, just like in sports, it takes a little experimentation to find and is a thing of beauty when you get it right.

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Techniques for Helping Students Take Control of Their Learning

It’s a balancing act educators often face …how to structure interactions with students to provide appropriate levels of assistance, while encouraging them to take ownership of their learning. In preparation for an online seminar on this topic Dr. Ike Shibley, associate professor of Chemistry at Penn State – Berks, provided a few strategies for faculty to try.

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Applying Learning Agreements in the Classroom

As a former editor in the business profession and now educator, I see connections between business and classroom best practices, especially applying professional development plans and performance reflection exercises as academic learning agreements in order to promote student leadership and engagement.

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