Faculty Focus

HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS

Articles

student feedback

A New Twist on End-of-Semester Evaluations

Those who write about teaching persona (the slice of our identities that constitutes the “public teaching self”) encourage us to start by reflecting on the messages we want to send to students. A dialogue with ourselves is a useful beginning, but for the last days of a semester another option might be more intriguing and revealing.

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Online classrooms and their associated technological tools are constantly evolving

Desirable Difficulties in Convenient Coursework

The phrase “desirable difficulties” was first coined in the nineties by psychologist Robert Bjork to describe learning conditions that introduced inconveniences to yield greater learner retention of material. According to the literature, the more work that is required to learn a concept, the greater the mastery (Sparks, 2011). To illustrate, a classical example of a desirable difficulty is found in the use of flashcards as study tools. Flashcards typically display only partial information, as a cue for the user to recall a more complete set of facts. When compared to lecture notes, flashcards require a student to work harder in recalling materials and are therefore especially effective study tools. As such, flashcards have been popular among students for decades.

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3 Cool Tech Tools to Consider for the Digital Classroom

3 Cool Tech Tools to Consider for the Digital Classroom

It is imperative that educators find new ways to incorporate technology to stay current. This can be done by considering tools and applications that will not only enhance a students’ educational experience but also support teaching and learning. We offer three tools/applications that supports this notion here:

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student with pile of books

Literacy Levels Among College Students

When I confront “problems of practice” in my teaching, I like to turn to my smart friends for advice. About a year ago, I was really confounded by my students’ trouble with reading for deep understanding. While I could see that the students were completing assigned readings, they weren’t always able to process the information deeply to analyze the concepts or apply the content to new situations. Since I don’t have much experience teaching reading, I turned to my colleague, Dr. Jennifer Shettel. Jen is a literacy professor and has run several tremendously successful close-reading workshops in our area. I figured she could give some advice. Our conversations prompted some pedagogical experimentation with different literacy-based strategies which Jen and I will be sharing in a preconference workshop at The Teaching Professor Conference this June.

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Mindfulness in the Classroom

After reading and hearing about the physical and mental benefits of meditation, I decided to take up the practice several years ago. This led to some discussions with colleagues at work, which eventually morphed into the idea of using mindfulness in the classroom. Mindfulness is a way to pause and reflect on the here and now. To be fully present in what is happening in the present, without worry about the future or past. The idea is that teaching this philosophy and using activities and practices in the classroom should allow students to release tension and anxiety so they can focus on the material in the classroom. Rather than coming to my biology class lamenting over the test they just took in another class, worrying about the homework, or making a check-list of “to dos”, the student can release that tension become present with my biology course.

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focusing activities to engage students

Three Focusing Activities to Engage Students in the First Five Minutes of Class

In the previous two articles, I shared ideas to address student accountability and student preparation in the flipped classroom. Based on your feedback and emails, getting students to come to class prepared is an ongoing challenge for many of us! In this article, I’d like to keep the conversation going by zeroing in on the importance of the first five minutes of class.

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improving lectures - making material relevant

The Most Crucial Two Minutes of Class

As an educator, I have an embarrassing confession: When I was younger, I was an incredibly difficult student.

Read something? … On a good day, maybe I’d do some skimming.

Prepare ahead of time? … Nah, another student will do the talking.

Pay attention in class? … What for? Why does this even matter to me?!

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physics club - students work together

Join the Club: The Benefits of Getting Students Involved with Departmental Clubs

Faculty mentorship is widely seen as an important factor in a successful undergraduate education. A recent 2018 Strada-Gallup Alumni Survey, “Mentoring College Students To Success” shows that successful faculty mentorship is critical in encouraging students to pursue their careers and dreams. Yet, only 64 percent of students had a mentor and the number is less for underrepresented groups. As faculty, how can we connect to students outside the classroom beyond merely hoping they show up to office hours?

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Newton's Cradle with red ball

Start Small, Finish Big

You’ve just returned from a Teaching Professor Conference or read of an innovative teaching strategy in a book you devoured. You desperately want to incorporate the innovations you’ve learned into your own courses, but at that exact moment, you feel your energy drain when you imagine hearing unsupportive administrators utter their stern objections “to keep things the way they are.” You pause to look around, seeing older colleagues who have more teaching years behind than ahead of them—“I tried that once . . . “—knowing that they never received the administrative nod for their innovations.

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