Valerie Powell, assistant professor of art at Sam Houston State University, decided to supplement her face-to-face courses to extend the classroom and provide opportunities for students who are not comfortable speaking up in the face-to-face environment. Rather than demanding that students interact using a specific tools, she offers options “to meet students where they are.”
Here’s a set of questions about large classes that I’m thinking we ought to be discussing more than we are.
1. How many students make it a large class? Teachers who do and don’t teach large classes have their opinions, but it’s not clear who has the right answer. Often faculty views seem related to the size of their college or university. I once consulted at a small liberal arts college where I was asked to sign a petition against classes enrolling more than 35 students. At about the same time, I saw a list of the 10 courses most often taken by beginning students at my R1 university. Only two—English composition and physical education—enrolled fewer than 30 students, and most had many more.
In the 1970s, my mother, a fifth-grade teacher, would lament, “The TV remote has ruined my classroom! I can almost feel the kids trying to point a clicker at me to change the channel!” Little did she know that college students today don’t need to wish for a remote control to switch from their professor to entertainment—an endless assortment of distractions are all on their smart phones.
Successfully transferring a face-to-face course to the online learning environment requires careful preparations that take into account differences between these two modalities.
“If you simply take your face-to-face class and put it online and teach it electronically, you will fail miserably,” says Paul S. Caron, director of education at Lewiston-Auburn College, whose first experience teaching online taught him some valuable lessons about how to provide students with an effective, supportive, and motivating learning experience.
I just finished putting together some materials on grading policies for a series of Magna 20-Minute Mentor programs, and I am left with several important take-aways on the powerful role of grading policies. I’m not talking here about the grades themselves, but instead the policies we choose as teachers.
Perhaps no other word has been as popular in higher education during the past few years as the term “flipped.” As a result, there is no shortage of ideas and opinions about flipped learning environments. Some faculty consider it another way to talk about student-centered learning. Others view flipped classrooms as an entirely new approach to teaching and learning. Still others see flipping as just another instructional fad that will eventually run its course.
Faculty Focus recently surveyed its readers to gain a better understanding of their views on flipped learning. The survey sought to find out who’s flipping, who’s not, and the barriers and benefits to those who flip. The findings are available in today’s report, Flipped Classroom Trends: A Survey of College Faculty.
Is this situation at all like what you’re experiencing? Class sizes are steadily increasing, students need more opportunities to practice critical thinking skills, and you need to keep the amount of time devoted to grading under control. That was the situation facing a group of molecular biology and biochemistry professors teaching an advanced recombinant DNA course. They designed an interesting assessment alternative that addressed what they were experiencing.
This summer I am reading Linda Nilson’s book Creating Self-Regulated Learners: Strategies to Strengthen Students’ Self-Awareness and Learning Skills, which offers instructors a wealth of assignments and activities to help students grow their self-regulation and metacognitive abilities. Teaching students how to learn well on their own and to evaluate that learning is a goal I have been pursuing for the past few years, and I am convinced that occasional, brief self-assessment exercises can help college students perform better as well as understand the learning process.
Many faculty seek to make creative use of films in their teaching, whether in traditional class screenings or through flipped classrooms. However, there are many obstacles to teaching with videos: the costs and constraints of DVD as a technology; limited DVD collections at some libraries; time involved in creating videos for one’s own classes; the popularized, questionable nature of many videos found on YouTube; the lack of institutional subscriptions to mainstream streaming services; and copyright concerns. Fortunately, in recent years, most campus libraries have subscribed to copyright-licensed and academically oriented streaming video collections such as Kanopy, NBC Learn, Films on Demand, PBS Video Collection, and Swank’s Digital Campus. These “Netflix” of academia offer fantastic functionalities and curated content designed with pedagogy in mind.
We are definitely way more interested in learning than we used to be. In the early years of my teaching and faculty development work, it was all about teaching: improve it and students will automatically learn more. Now the focus is on how students learn and the implications that has for how we teach.
Lately I’ve been wondering about the learning practices of those of us who teach—what we know about ourselves as learners and how that knowledge influences the decisions we make about teaching. I’ve been trying to recall what I’ve thought about myself as a learner when I was in college. I think I self-identified as a student. I took courses and learned content. I liked some subjects and didn’t like others, which was sort of related to what I thought I could do. But the concept of learning as an entity was pretty much a big amorphous fuzz.