Articles

When Mentoring New Faculty, Don’t Ignore These Issues

Beginning college teachers benefit when they have an instructional mentor. That fact is well established; as is the fact that mentoring benefits those who mentor. The influx of new faculty over the past few years has caused mentoring programs to flourish. All kinds of activities have been proposed so that mentors and mentees can spend their time together profitably. Addressed less often are those instructional topics particularly beneficial for the experienced and less-experienced teachers to address. Here’s a list of possibilities.

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Do More Tests Lead to More Learning?

Most college teachers assume that more tests are better than a few. Why? What caused us to decide on three or four unit tests followed by a final? Is there evidence that students don’t do as well in courses where there are only a midterm and a final? Why do we think that more tests might be better? And what do we mean by better? Higher grades? More learning?

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Three Tips for Handling Disruptive Online Students

Disruptive students, in any teaching and learning environment, are a challenge to manage, but they can be particularly so online. And it may take longer for an instructor to realize that a student is actually being disruptive online, since online communications can be ambiguous and one always wants to give students the benefit of the doubt.

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The Benefits of a Course Blog

Does it matter if students leave courses with a positive attitude toward the content area? Maybe successful acquisition of content is all that really matters. Maybe teachers don’t need to be concerned if students “liked” the content. As physics professors Duda and Garrett (reference below) point out, this is about more than whether or not students “liked” physics.

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Valuing and Rewarding Academic Advising

The literature has made us aware of the importance of a student’s connection with a faculty member, advisor, or other significant adult and its impact on academic success and retention of students. For first-generation students, this can be especially critical, as they require assistance not only in what to take and why, but also how to understand and negotiate this new and overwhelming environment. Universities employ a variety of methods and people to attempt to ensure that this connection be established and maintained. Advisors often fulfill this role for students in their first year in higher education.

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Three Simple Keys to Effective Classroom Management

Fall semester is well underway at my institution. Prior to classes starting I had the opportunity to have lunch with a couple of fellow faculty members. During our lunch, we discussed many topics related to the upcoming term, but classroom management emerged as a common point of contention.

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Building Rapport with Your Students

Rapport, defined as “the ability to maintain harmonious relationships based on affinity” (a definition cited in the article referenced below), is more colloquially thought of as what happens when two people “click”—they connect, interact well, and respond to each other favorably.

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Using Polling and Smartphones to Keep Students Engaged

Anyone teaching a class or giving a presentation faces a fundamental challenge. You want to make the most of every minute you have with your students, but it’s been proven that we can only retain about 20 minutes of content in our short-term memory before we have to reflect on it in order to move it to our long-term memory or it will be lost. Add to this the violently condensed attention span of the general population and anyone hoping to provide a content-rich education in the time slots of traditional classes faces an uphill battle.

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Responding to Student Questions When You Don’t Know the Answer

In a 2008 essay that was published in the Journal of Cell Science author Martin Schwartz writes of the “importance of stupidity” when doing research in the sciences. Schwartz argues that during his graduate research in the sciences, “the crucial lesson was that the scope of things I didn’t know wasn’t merely vast; it was, for all practical purposes, infinite.”

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