Recently, in a class discussion, my professor let the students speak on the issue of silence. Many students in that class were either K-12 school or college teachers. They shared their experiences and perceptions of silent students — both native and non-native speakers of English. Some of my classmates were not familiar with the culture of silence in foreign countries. Personally, this class reminded me of my own experience of understanding the U.S. classroom experience a few years ago.
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In the mid-1990s, college faculty members were introduced to the concept of classroom assessment techniques (CATs) by Angelo and Cross (1993). These formative assessment strategies were learner-centered, teacher-directed ongoing activities that were rooted in good teaching practice. They were designed to provide relatively quick and useful feedback to the faculty member about what students did and did not understand in order to enhance the teaching and learning process.
When I began teaching, I encountered many students who didn’t know things. I had to grade papers that were filled with long, complicated narrations, written by students who clearly didn’t have a clue what they were writing about. Students continue to take this strategy, fervently hoping that the grader won’t recognize their ignorance, or will award at least a few partial credit points. How I longed for a simple “I don’t know” as an answer.
When I heard a teacher tell me that they were creating recorded lectures for courses as homework assignments and spending classroom time on discussions and more active learning, I knew right then the value of the lecture capture tools.
Whose problem is it when there is a perception that the performance of a faculty or staff member has not been satisfactory? Consider the following scenario. A chairperson is conducting an annual performance appraisal of a faculty member and says, “Your teaching seems to have been quite good this year, based on both student and peer evaluations. Your research productivity exceeded our institutional expectations. And you served on more than your share of departmental committees, worked with the recommended number of advisees, and even chaired an important search for us. But there’s still this lingering perception out there that you’re just not a team player, that you put your own agenda ahead of the department’s. I’m worried that that’s going to hurt you when you come up for promotion in a few years. I’m not saying that this is my opinion or that it’s even justified; I’m just saying that it’s a common perception.”
For some students, a writing assignment takes weeks of research, writing and revisions. For others, the ingredients are more along the lines of Google, CTRL+C and CTRL+V. And for others still, the assignment is nothing more than a transaction with an online essay mill.
If the course involves a graded group project, should instructors let students form their own groups or should the instructor create the groups? This decision is not always easy or obvious. Some students lobby hard to form their own groups, arguing that knowing each other ensures that they will be able to work together productively. On the other hand, in the world of work, most of the time employees do not get to pick their collaborators. There’s a task, and those with knowledge and relevant skills are formed into a group and assigned to complete the project, solve the problem, or develop the product.
Our student newspaper recently ran a story about students bringing their cell phones and computers to class. Not surprisingly, all of the teachers interviewed were against the practice on the grounds that these devices distracted students from class material. Some went so far as to forbid students from using them in class, although you have to wonder if they can really enforce such a rule.