Faculty Focus

HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS

Course Design

An Approach that Decreases Failure Rates in Introductory Courses

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.

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Recommendations for Blended Learning Course Design

In an interview with Online Classroom, Veronica Diaz, associate director of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, offered the following advice for creating a better blended course:

Begin with a solid foundation in online learning pedagogy and technical knowledge. “If you are an experienced online instructor, you are much more likely to produce a much higher-quality blended course because you’ve been involved in all the technology-mediated types of issues that you would have come across in an online modality. So you’re familiar with what can go wrong. You have something you can really build on.”

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Teaching Something You Don’t Like: A Model That Works

I am not a history buff and do not enjoy teaching or learning about history in general. So, as an instructor who is required to teach the history of my field, I have had a difficult time finding an interesting way of relaying the information. Needing a new approach, I decided to see if I could adapt the Family Involvement Model. This research-based model found that when family members are involved in the courses of Latino college students, their persistence and success in higher education improves. The model is based on the idea of including family to promote students’ education and as such supports the old premise that you really don’t understand something unless you can convey that knowledge to another person.

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Blended Learning Course Design Mistakes to Avoid

Blended learning course design entails more than simply converting content for online delivery or finding ways to supplement an existing face-to-face course. Ideally, designing a blended course would begin with identifying learning outcomes and topics, creating assignments and activities, determining how interaction will occur, and selecting the technologies to best achieve those learning outcomes. However, a variety of constraints often affect the way blended courses are developed, which can compromise their quality.

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An Assignment that Prevents Plagiarism

A qualitative study of plagiarism reported that although students know that plagiarism is wrong, most are quite confused about what actually constitutes plagiarism. The availability of so many online resources has exacerbated the problem. Cut-and-paste features expedite using the material of others. Studies are also showing that students do not think the principles of ownership apply to online resources the same way they do to published material. Finally, many faculty are still struggling to master the rules of referencing that apply to Web-based resources, which does not excuse but certainly explains why students find referencing these materials so confusing.

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Making the Most of Fieldwork Learning Experiences

Fieldwork refers to any component of the curriculum that involves leaving the classroom and learning through firsthand experience. Most instructors incorporate fieldwork to help students understand theory, develop skills, integrate knowledge, build tacit knowledge, develop meaning in places, and work with peers and instructors in alternate settings.

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I Don’t Have Time to Teach That: The Benefits of Faculty-Librarian Collaborations

Community College instructors have a great deal to teach: study skills, a college orientation to education, and the actual course information for their discipline. They also know that their students must be information literate, must know how to find supplementary information for each course, how to use information effectively, and how to credit their sources appropriately. In this regard, Washington State Community and Technical Colleges have been working under an LSTA grant on Information Literacy from 2008-2012 (Washington). Lower Columbia College libraries have been using the grant to integrate librarians or library tutorials into face-to-face and online classes, thereby offering information literacy instruction to students without increasing the teaching load of the discipline instructors. When incorporated with research assignments, this instruction, along with embedded librarians, facilitates both student learning and faculty grading of assignments.

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Helping Students Write Better Lab Reports

One of the messages of the Writing Across the Curriculum movement is that writing skills can be developed in any course and that often the best place to start is with current assignments that involve writing. That’s where chemists Gragson and Hagen started. They were disappointed in the quality of student writing in their “journal-style” lab reports. Despite giving students a sample lab, a writing manual, and lots of good feedback, the quality of the lab reports was low and did not improve across the 10 to 15 lab reports students prepared.

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Service-Learning Course Development

Service-learning courses offer a combination of academic content, service experience, and critical reflection. To make service-learning successful, consider the following recommendations from Barbara Jacoby, Faculty Associate for Leadership and Community Service-Learning at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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A Syllabus Tip: Embed Big Questions

Much has been written about the course syllabus. It’s an important tool for classroom management, for setting the tone, for outlining expectations, and for meeting department and university requirements. It’s an essential document in a higher education course, but do your students read it? And if they do read it, do they see the real purpose of the course beyond the attendance policy and exam dates? Here’s one strategy that will not only encourage your students to read the syllabus, but it will also allow you to stimulate discussion, create curiosity, and assess students’ knowledge on the first day of class.

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