We are used to discussing topics with our colleagues. They know the material, have already thought a lot about it, and can answer questions quickly. We want conversations in class to clip along at a similar pace—there’s always lots of material the class needs to get through.
Sometimes it’s good to revisit an instructional standby. Discussion is a staple in most teachers’ repertoire of strategies, but it frequently disappoints. So few students are willing to participate and they tend to be the same ones. The students who do contribute often do so tentatively, blandly, and pretty much without anything that sounds like interest or conviction. On some days it’s just easier to present the material.
The findings of a recent study documenting differences between the priorities that faculty and students give to various learning goals will not come as a surprise to many. Those differences are an undercurrent that flow through most classes.
Department chairs and deans face many challenges in their roles. One of the most difficult is the evaluation of faculty regarding teaching effectiveness. This is particularly challenging for two reasons: (1) lack of formal preparation for instructors concerning teaching, and (2) limited choice of evaluation tools. One tool, classroom observation, can help address both of these issues and provide an objective measure of teaching effectiveness.
When we teach online courses there are many fundamental issues that concern us: knowledge of our subjects, teaching strategies, engagement of students, school policies, deadlines, grading and returning of assignments, posting announcements, and responding to students—the list goes on.
Many college students struggle with their reading assignments. As a teacher educator with expertise in reading development and disability, I find it useful to model effective reading strategies and provide immediate feedback on those strategies frequently used by students. One versatile method I use with undergraduates involves examination of what they underline (or highlight). Throughout the semester, I ask students to refer to their assigned readings and share with the class passages they underlined and reasons for their selection. In this way, the types of thinking that accompanies purposeful, active reading become more apparent.
Only 51 percent of high school graduates who took the ACT met ACT’s College Readiness Benchmark for Reading, which demonstrates their readiness to handle the reading requirements for typical first-year college coursework. For some groups, the percentage is even more discouraging: African American students are at 21 percent, while Hispanic American students and students from families whose annual income is less than $30,000 are both at 33 percent.
Like many new online instructors, Laurie Lorence, an English instructor at San Diego Community College, initially created online courses that were fairly linear and mostly text. She quickly realized that such an approach would not work for her students, particularly those in her pre-college learning courses.
When I first began teaching online, I believed that anytime students wrote anything, they should be held accountable for both spelling and grammar and my discussion rubric reflected that. As a result, I got very brief, very stiff, very formal discussion posts in which students were clearly speaking to me rather than to each other.