Faculty Focus

HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS

Articles

writing on sticky note

You’re Going to Want to Write This Down

On a more-or-less regular basis, I find myself looking for something that I’ve written about in the newsletter or blog, which I only vaguely remember. Inevitably, my search leads me to something else that I’ve completely forgotten… and it is such a good idea or such an interesting finding. How could I have forgotten it? I kick myself, and resolve to work harder to remember this good stuff.

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boring lecture

The Worst Lecture Ever

Instructor: “OK class, this semester we’ll be giving presentations.”
Students: Collective groan
Instructor: “AND…you’ll be providing each other with feedback.”
Students: Deep sighs and suspicious glances around the room, wondering if they can trust their peers

Does any of this sound familiar? So many professors require presentations and peer feedback in their courses. Indeed, effective oral skills, well-designed presentations, and quality feedback are attributes that employers typically want from graduates. However, these skills are often expected to exist without appropriate support and training.

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student with pile of books

It’s Not About Hard or Easy Courses

Now here’s an argument I haven’t heard before: Improving your instruction makes it easier for students to learn. If it’s easier for them to learn, they won’t work as hard in the course, and that means they could learn less. It’s called offsetting behavior and we can’t ask students about it directly because it would be disingenuous for them to admit to studying less when learning becomes easier.

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adult studying online

Student Engagement Strategies for the Online Learning Environment

During the past year and a half, our faculty development unit has been gathering data from students about how engaged they felt in their online courses. We wanted to use this data to develop a variety of strategies for faculty to use to better engage their students. Research provides evidence for the connection between higher student engagement and persistence and retention in online programs (Boston, et al., 2010; Wyatt, 2011). Encouraging student engagement is especially important in the online environment where attrition rates are higher than in the face-to-face setting (Allen & Seaman, 2015; Boston & Ice, 2011).

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student studying in library

Hands-On Assignment Awakens Student Creativity

If you read the syllabus of an Introduction to Sociology course, you’ll notice we have ambitious goals for our students. We not only want our students to understand sociological theories, we want them to use these theories to meaningfully analyze their everyday experiences, interactions, and observations and draw greater meaning from them. How can we encourage this type of engagement in an introductory sociology class? I have realized that the key is by guiding students to think innovatively through a self-directed research project where the students are the drivers of their learning process.

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students doing lab experiment

Active Learning: In Need of Deeper Exploration

Most of us think we know what active learning is. The word engagement quickly comes to mind. Or, we describe what it isn’t: passive learning. Definitions also abound. The one proposed by Bonwell and Eison in an early (and now classic) active learning monograph is widely referenced: involving “students in doing things and thinking about the things they are doing.” (p. 2)

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students writing in class

Unexpected Benefits of Grading Effort and Habit

Effort and habit are instrumental to learning and writing, but they are often dimly lit in our grading systems. That light needs to brighten with the help of new research and popular literature that highlight how essential habit, effort, and perseverance are to learning. I’ve used an effort-aware grading system in my teaching for some time now, a B-grading contract that locks hardworking students into a minimum final grade of B. For grades rising above B, the quality of the writing is the focus (the product), but only for students who fulfill the contract (the process).

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in class group work

Clear Criteria: A Good Way to Improve Participation

I continue to be impressed by the need for teachers to clarify common aspects of instruction instead of assuming that students’ understanding of what they entail are the same as ours. Participation is a good example. How often is it defined in the course syllabus? How often is it characterized beyond the basics when it’s discussed at the beginning of the course or at different times throughout the semester? We do probably agree on the essentials—questions, answers, and comments—but much more than that is needed if classroom interaction is to realize its potential as a student engagement strategy. Here’s an example of the degree of clarification I think we should be after:

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Students working in library with professor

Between the Lines of Our Pedagogy

Our teaching persona is expressed in how we go about shaping the learning environment. A purposeful integration of our teaching persona helps link students with content in subtle ways. This matters because we’re after an expression of teaching persona that plays a constructive role in creating a learning environment where learners thrive and teachers flourish.

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