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?
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
Effective Teaching Strategies
It was soon after my son enrolled in a local junior college that I realized something was wrong. Success, which seemed to come so easy to him in high school, was suddenly out of reach. In fact, he was failing every course! I quickly learned that in high school he did not have to exert any effort and was taught to simply memorize material.
Thank-you notes make people happy. For as much joy as they give me, I don’t send them enough. In fact, I think writing thank-you notes is a dying art. They’re overlooked forms of positive closure. Gratitude on its own is powerful, and when it’s exchanged, it feels amazing. After I thought about what notes of gratitude could accomplish, I started emailing thank-you notes to my students, waiting until well after the semester for the most impact.
Looking to incorporate some learner-centered teaching principles into your courses but aren’t sure where to begin? Here are 10 activities for building student engagement and getting students more actively involved in their learning.
As an educator, I have an embarrassing confession: When I was younger, I was an incredibly difficult student.
Read something? … On a good day, maybe I’d do some skimming.
Prepare ahead of time? … Nah, another student will do the talking.
Pay attention in class? … What for? Why does this even matter to me?!
When a family gathers around the table to share a meal, the one who prepared and served the fare most likely spent time pondering the recipes, considering the meal’s consumers, and selecting the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables. As in the kitchen, so it is in the classroom. Faculty also ponder content, consider the lesson’s recipients, and select the right balance of lecture, group processing, and independent demonstration of competence. We decide upon our objectives for the lesson and we build our processes around the objectives, seeking to ensure that we reach everyone in our classrooms, online or face to face.
College teachers often enter their classrooms with thousands of hours of experience in their chosen field, and they typically face students who have little to no experience with that field of study. In this setting, teachers may take for granted all that they know and are able to do. In a sense, they expect students to “get inside their head.” One of the joys of teaching is finding ways to take complex topics and present them in such a way that students begin their own journey of discovery.
There’s no arguing with Ryan’s (2009) observation that “coming to class prepared and with some background knowledge transforms students from passive to active learners” (para. 3). But how to get our students to this state of “transformation readiness” is an age-old issue challenging most instructors throughout their careers. I’m sure the struggle also extends to my own students, who are aspiring or practicing language-teaching professionals juggling multiple personal, academic, and professional demands. Research shows that reasons for not completing reading assignments also include factors such as reading comprehension, low student self-confidence, and lack of interest in the topic (e.g., Lei, Bartlett, Gorney, & Herschbach, 2010).
Every course has assignments, but do they get the attention they deserve or do the same versions end up in the syllabus year after year? How much variety is there in the assignments students complete, in degree programs or even across their years at the institution? Bottom line: we think there’s more that could be done with assignments, and this feature aims to provide examples that illustrate innovative approaches and thoughtful attention to design details.
In today’s college practicum experiences, it is sometimes quite difficult for students to find quality field or clinical placements to log hours of pre-professional experiences. Hospitals, clinics, and school districts maintain busy schedules and are not always willing to allow interns into their facilities to practice their professional skills on an ongoing basis.