Often the articles highlighted in The Teaching Professor are examples of pedagogical scholarship that could beneficially be done in many fields. That is the case with this piece on developing writing assignments, but it also contains content useful to any faculty member who uses writing assignments as a major method of assessing student learning in a course.
Bridging that gap between the classroom and the real world is one of my main goals as a faculty member. When I first started teaching, fresh out of the professional world, I struggled with having my students only receive a textbook education. I wanted them to not only learn the concepts relevant to their field, but I wanted them to be able to experience it as well. I was growing tired of hearing that our graduates were struggling with applying the information they had received in school. It seemed the same topics such as writing, communication, and critical thinking, were constantly being mentioned as areas of improvement for our students from professionals in the field.
Required introductory courses—that’s how most students meet our disciplines or, as John Zipp says (he’s writing specifically about sociology), they are the “public face” of the field.
One of the strengths of gamification is that it provides visible milestones of the student’s mastery of content in real time (when it is well designed). Too often in an instructional setting, the learner doesn’t know whether or not he or she really understands or can apply the knowledge they are learning. There is often no visible sign of mastery of the content or application of the content.
Do you ever wonder whether your students care about your course material? Do you question whether your students appreciate how the information you address in class is relevant to them? Do you feel like there is often a mismatch between your intentions for your class and what your students actually want to learn?
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.
“Students in inverted classrooms need to have more space to reflect on their learning activities so that they can make necessary connections to course content” (Strayer, 2012).
If you were to observe a flipped classroom, what do you think would it look like? Maybe students are working in groups. Maybe each group is working on a different problem. Maybe the instructor is walking around the room talking with each group and checking on the students’ progress. And each group of students is probably asking a different question each time the instructor walks by. It’s probably noisy since everyone is talking to each other or engaged in a task. And students are probably standing up or leaning in towards one another to hear their group members talk about the next task. Students might be writing in a workbook, typing on their laptops, or watching a video on the screen of some new technological device.
It used to be called team teaching, but that term is now used less often to describe the collaboration of colleagues when they jointly teach the same course. Multiple instructors may be involved in the course, each delivering a freestanding module; or two instructors may do the course together, each in class every day with all course activities and assignments integrated. And there are variations of each of these models.
The term flipped classroom has become a hot topic in higher education. Ideas about and opinions about flipped learning environments vary. Some consider it simply another way of talking about student-centered learning. Others view flipped classrooms as the most cutting-edge approach to learning. Still others see flipping as just another fad that will eventually run its course.
There’s lots of research documenting the positive effects of group experiences on learning outcomes. Less is known about the specific aspects of group experiences that contribute to their overall positive impact. Thomas Tomcho and Rob Foels decided to explore this question by looking at the research on group learning in the field of psychology, as reported in the journal Teaching of Psychology.