Student ratings can provide helpful and legitimate feedback. Unfortunately, all too often, students give very little time or thought to end-of-course evaluations, or they use them as an opportunity to make mean-spirited comments about the instructor. And, all things being equal, an instructor who teaches a challenging course will score lower than an instructor whose course is less rigorous.
Steven Johnson attributes much of the progress humanity made in science during the Enlightenment to the widespread practice at the time of “commonplacing.” People would carry around a notebook in which they would record interesting passages that they read, comments from others, or thoughts that they had (Johnson, 86).
Creating an environment that engages students in the learning journey is not always easy. Sometimes as faculty members we ask ourselves, “Are we taking this learning journey by ourselves?” Several years ago as I began my scholarly exploration of the utility of mind mapping as a teaching and learning tool to foster critical thinking, my colleague and I instituted a mind mapping learning activity which has helped to promote student engagement in the classroom.
The goal of most majors is to develop the kind of critical thinking skills students will need to address the not clearly defined and conceptually complicated problems that most professionals regularly face. Faculty in the Finance Department at Seattle University wondered if they were preparing their majors to solve these kinds of problems.
Interaction has always been seen as a key component of an online course. Whether it is student-student or student-teacher interaction, the ability to discuss and exchange ideas has long been considered to be the piece that adds value to an online course, keeping it from becoming simply the posting of written course material on a web page, the digital equivalent of a correspondence course. In fact, many programs promote the highly interactive nature of their curriculum as evidence of its educational value.
Finding ways to actively engage your students can significantly enhance student learning. In an email interview with The Teaching Professor, Alice Cassidy PhD explains how to select and implement active learning techniques that are well suited to your content and students.
A new edition of a classic book on the curriculum suggests eight lessons from the learning literature with implications for course and curriculum planning. Any list like this tends to simplify a lot of complicated research and offer generalizations that apply most, but certainly not all, of the time. Despite these caveats, lists like this are valuable. They give busy faculty a sense of the landscape and offer principles that can guide decision making, in this case about courses and curricula.
How do you explain the learning objectives for your course, or each unit of your course? If you’re like most faculty, you probably put together a carefully crafted bulleted list of what you want students to learn. And, if you’re like most faculty, you probably know that most students give that list a cursory glance at best.
Student entitlement can be defined academically: “a self-centered disposition characterized by a general disregard for traditional faculty relationship boundaries and authority” (p. 198), or it can be described more functionally: “a sense that they [students] deserve what they want because they want it and want it now.” (p. 197)
Providing students with mentors can be an effective way for students to learn directly from experts in real-world situations. It’s a technique used widely in face-to-face courses, and it can work in online courses as well. Al Widman, professor of management and business administration at Berkeley College, has matched students with practitioner mentors in his online undergraduate non-profit management course.