Course Design

College students working together in class.

Four Types of Group Work Activities to Engage Students

Collaboration helps to develop many of the key skills that will be required of students for their future success. Students can develop many of these so-called “soft skills,” or Essential Employability Skills, by engaging in group work and other forms of collaboration (Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development 2005). Collaboration leads to greater retention, improved student achievement, and increased self-esteem and metacognition, and it can be used to facilitate active learning and to promote inclusion by increasing contact among diverse groups (Bossert 1988; Bowman, Frame, and Kennette 2013; Hennessey 1999; Kennette and Frank 2010; Kramarski and Mevarech 2003; Rajaram and Pereira-Pasarin 2007; U.S. Department of Education 1992). Despite the many benefits of group work, instructors are sometimes hesitant to use it due to some of its well-known pitfalls (social loafing, disputes, individualized grading, student bemoaning, etc.).

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student at internship

Assessing Social Science Internships Using the Business Model

Regardless of the academic program, internships can be a key piece of any student’s academic experience. In my involvement as an internship coordinator for political science, the only assessment model I had was what I knew from my experience as an undergraduate and graduate student. This included working with faculty to identify an internship opportunity, being placed, accomplishing a minimum number of hours, writing a journal of daily activities, and writing a reflection paper on the overall experience and its relation to my academic coursework. Once these minimum requirements were satisfied, a passing grade was bestowed, given that internships are a pass/fail class. Now, as a faculty member, I had become concerned that a more rigorous assessment was needed.

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Professor in front of class

What Happens in a Course is a Shared Responsibility

One thing about student evaluations that troubles me is how they give students the impression that it’s the teacher who makes or breaks the course. A few instruments query students about their own efforts, but I’m not sure those kinds of questions make it clear that what happens in any course is the combined result of teacher and student actions. Early in my teaching career, I heard a wise colleague tell students, “It’s not my class. It’s not your class. It’s our class, and together we will make it a good or not-so-good learning experience.”

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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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Laptop and books on desk of classroom.

Extending the Shelf-Life of Your Instructional Videos: Six Common Pitfalls to Avoid

When instructional video is produced thoughtfully and used to promote active engagement, it can improve student motivation, learning, and performance, make content more memorable, and bring highly visual material to life (Ljubojevic et al, 2014; Zhang et al, 2006; Hegeman, 2015; Hsin & Cigas, 2013; Merkt et al, 2011; Kay, 2012; Schwan & Riempp, 2014; Routt et al, 2015; Jarvis & Dickie, 2009).

Video has other benefits as well. It allows students to watch lectures at their own pace, rewinding and re-watching as needed. It lets instructors assign lectures as homework, opening up class time for interaction. And it can reduce the total time faculty need to spend preparing and delivering the same material for different semesters or audiences. Once you’ve recorded a video, you can–theoretically–use it again and again.

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Courses That Are Hard, but Not Too Hard: Finding the Sweet Spot

I have been doing some reading and thinking about hard courses. Courses need to be challenging, but when they become too hard, students stop trying and little learning results. So how do we find that sweet spot between hard and not too hard? More importantly, how do we create that sweet spot in our own courses through the decisions we make about content, assignments, and exams?

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What You Are Teaching? What Are They Learning?

Consider the lessons we learn without being fully aware they are taking place. Take something simple, such as walking into a new building for the first time. With everyone and everything you observe, your mind is giving you feedback based on a multitude of judgments. These impressions, while sometimes incorrect, come to us with little effort. Yet they could loosely be considered teaching and learning without calling it either. I have found this to be a fruitful concept from a pedagogical standpoint. How many of us actively question this point to ourselves, “What am I teaching students, and what are they learning?”

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Three Perspectives to Invigorate Your Teaching

Let’s face it, most faculty were good students and always did well in school. For students, having a professor who is adept at learning can be inspiring. But what if academic work comes so naturally to faculty that they have trouble relating to the average student?

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