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.
The body of evidence documenting the effectiveness of cooperative learning is already impressive. The large and regularly cited meta-analysis of Johnson and Johnson published in 1987 reviews 378 studies that explore the use of cooperative learning groups in a wide range of settings. More than half of the studies reviewed favored cooperation in groups compared with only 10 percent favoring individual effort.
Last semester I implemented a different kind of final exam. In the past I have used the standard multiple-choice and short-answer exams. I was thinking about making a change when I discovered Beyond Tests and Quizzes: Creative Assessment in the College Classroom, edited by Richard J. Mezeske and Barbara A. Mezeske. The second chapter, “Concept Mapping: Assessing Pre-Service Teachers’ Understanding and Knowledge,” describes an assessment method that tests higher-level thinking. The author shared his experience using concept maps as a final exam, included an example of the final exam project, offered rubrics for grading, and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the strategy. I decided this was the change I was going to make.
Teaching to students’ strengths and interests can promote creative and critical thinking. But requesting creative responses often engenders the exact opposite of creativity. “Just tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it.” “How many words does it need to be?” “What should I write about to get a good grade?” “I’m not creative.” Often these comments are accompanied with sighs, groans, or no responses at all (in the case of online students), indicating just how much students resist when asked to be creative. And these responses are even more prevalent in required and prerequisite courses. So how do we overcome the resistance and encourage creative ideas and thinking from our students?
As an instructional designer and online instructor at the Community College of Baltimore County Catonsville, Dionne Thorne has worked with many instructors as they develop their online courses. Based on this experience, she offers the following advice on the course design process:
A small but growing number of faculty at major universities are experimenting with the inverted or flipped classroom. It’s an instructional model popularized by, among other influences, a Ted Talk by Khan Academy founder Salman Khan, which has received more than 2.5 million views. Institutions as varied as Duke University’s School of Medicine, Boston University’s College of Engineering, and the University of Washington School of Business have joined Clemson, Michigan State, the University of Texas, and many others in experimenting with changing from in-class lectures to video lectures and using class time to explore the challenging and more difficult aspects of course content.
Blended learning does not simply involve shifting portions of face-to-face instruction online. Ultimately, a blended course will require reconceptualization of the entire learning process. That’s where ADDIE comes in.
The ADDIE method is an acronym that stands for analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. It is a critically important tool for designing blended courses.
The design of your course pages can have a significant effect on the learning experience in your online course. Good design can draw students in, help them comprehend the information the first time they read it, and enable them to easily retrieve information, says Sheree Webb, an instructional designer at Tyler Junior College.
Introductory courses are packed with content. Teachers struggle to get through it during class; students struggle to master it outside of class. Too often learning consists of memorizing material that’s used on the exam but not retained long after. Faculty know they should use more strategies that engage students, but those approaches take time and, in most courses, that’s in very short supply.
The Little Assignment with the Big Impact: Reading, Writing, Critical Reflection, and Meaningful Discussion
Several years ago, I came across the Purposeful Reading Assignment that was reported to encourage students to read, reflect, and write about readings assigned for class. Research (Roberts and Roberts, 2008) and experience tell us that supporting students’ reading, writing, and reflective practices is one of the most challenging aspects of learning and teaching. Although this assignment appeared to be simple, it has proven to be an influential tool for learning and has increased engagement and participation among my students.