Faculty Focus

HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS

student engagement

Active learning that distracts from learning

Active Learning That Distracts from Learning

Because I teach mixed demographic courses, I often look out at a sea of distracted and unmotivated faces. Motivation is a large part of learning (Pintrich and deGroot, 2003). So, I use active learning activities, such as think-pair-share, to not only motivate students (Marbach-Ad et al., 2001), but also to enhance student learning (Bonwell and Eison, 1919; Freeman et al., 2014). If I’m being honest, active learning also has the added perk of distracting students from the monotony of my voice. Yet, in the past few years, I have begun to wonder if I have taken it too far? Am I simply using active learning as a way of keeping bored students active?

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physics club - students work together

Join the Club: The Benefits of Getting Students Involved with Departmental Clubs

Faculty mentorship is widely seen as an important factor in a successful undergraduate education. A recent 2018 Strada-Gallup Alumni Survey, “Mentoring College Students To Success” shows that successful faculty mentorship is critical in encouraging students to pursue their careers and dreams. Yet, only 64 percent of students had a mentor and the number is less for underrepresented groups. As faculty, how can we connect to students outside the classroom beyond merely hoping they show up to office hours?

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active learning strategies

Three Active Learning Strategies You Can Do in 10 Minutes or Less

A 2015 survey of Faculty Focus readers found that the number one barrier preventing faculty from implementing the flipped classroom model and other active learning experiences into their courses is TIME. Faculty reported they don’t have time to plan extra learner-centered activities, due to increasing responsibilities, and they don’t have time to implement the activities in class because there’s too much content to cover.

If you feel this way, you’re not alone. But, you can still create engaging learning experiences for students. And you can do it in 10 minutes (or less).

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Encouraging class discussion.

Creating the Space for Engaged Discussions

It’s a new academic year, and optimism and energy are in abundant supply. There are new ideas for class, new ways to engage students, and great questions to wrestle with as the intersections between past and present have rarely been so obvious. And it all goes swimmingly, it seems, until the first time we actually launch a discussion. Then those faces that seemed to be so cheerful–nodding along as we talked about how our class could be challenging, provocative, even FUN–now stare back blankly. It was as if posing a question triggered an actual electric shock that stunned them into a catatonic state. No…wait! Someone looked up. Eye contact? We look at them hopefully, ready for someone to bravely interrupt the increasingly awkward silence. They meet our gaze for a split second, their eyes widen in panic, and all of a sudden there seems to be something much more compelling to look at on the floor next to their chair. It’s as if the air goes out of the room. Everyone seemed to be on board with a discussion-based class until we actually gave them the chance to embark. Then, abandon ship.

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