Religion. Faith. Spirituality. Some faculty may view these phenomena as significant influences on the human experience, others as challenges to intellectualism and the scientific method. There are also academics who struggle with their position, perceiving the power embedded in these ideologies and practices as potentially beneficial as well as restrictive. Most would agree that theology elicits a range of strong and often-personal reactions. Why, then, would faculty teaching secular studies courses want to raise the topic of religion in their classes when they could play it safe and leave the subject entirely to the specialists, their colleagues in religious studies?
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
Many of us have visions of a classroom full of bright-eyed students scribbling notes, nodding thoughtfully, and laughing at our jokes. The reality of the college classroom experience can be quite different, and student engagement sometimes feels like a difficult prize to earn.
The most common approach to cheating involves trying to prevent it—multiple versions of a test, roving observation during tests, software that detects plagiarism, policies that prohibit it. However, if we look at cheating across the board, what we’re doing to stop it hasn’t been all that successful. Depending on the study, the percentage of students who say they’ve cheated runs between 50% and 90% with more results falling on the high side of that range. Can we be doing more? Here are some ideas.
An analysis of more than 2,000 college classes in science, technology, engineering and math has imparted a lesson that might resonate with many students who sat through them: Enough with the lectures, already.
I’ve been working in the Innovation in Learning Center at the University of South Alabama since 2012, helping faculty use technology to improve their learning outcomes. During that time, I’ve found web conferencing situations to be some of my most rewarding and frustrating experiences. Web conferencing applications enable instructors to extend the benefits of live classroom interaction into online spaces. They also allow students to meet together online as they collaborate and grow in their knowledge and skills. When it all comes together, it’s a beautiful thing.
On the surface, learning objectives don’t seem all that complicated. You begin with an objective or you can work backwards from the desired outcome. Then you select an activity or assignment that accomplishes the objective or outcome. After completion of the activity or assignment, you assess to discover if students did in fact learn what was proposed. All that’s very appropriate. Teachers should be clear about what students need to know and be able to do when a course ends. But too often that’s where it stops. We don’t go any further in our thinking about our learning objectives. There’s another, more challenging, set of questions that also merit our attention.
The term “microaggression” was coined in 1970 to name relatively slight, subtle, and often unintentional offenses that cause harm (Pierce, 1970). Since then, a substantial body of research on microaggressions has demonstrated their prevalence and harmful effects (Boysen, 2012; Solorzan, et. al., 2010; Suárez-Orozco, et. al., 2015; Sue, 2010).
I recently took a position with a new institution and was asked to teach a senior seminar course. I determined that the best method for the students to show synthesis of knowledge was for them to develop a series of presentations investigating topics, problems, or issues in the field of kinesiology. The students were tasked with investigating and developing solutions from the current body of research. The first semester I taught the course, students were given a checklist of requirements and rubric for each presentation. I spent a short amount of time discussing the presentations during class and answering any questions students had. After each presentation they received their rubric and written feedback on their performance. As you can see in the table, the average grade actually went down with each presentation students gave during my first semester teaching the course.
Some students are more challenging to teach than others. They require pedagogical skills of a different and higher order. Sometimes it’s easier to sigh and just turn away. And that’s legitimate in the sense that students (indeed, people of all sorts) have to figure things out for themselves. But many of us were such “works in progress” when we were in college, and a teacher (or several of them) ended up being instrumental in moving us in more productive directions. It’s for that reason I’d like us to consider some of these challenging students, each one a unique individual, but many displaying the same counterproductive attitudes and actions. Descriptions of these students come much more easily than solutions to what’s holding them back. Said more directly, my goal here is to start this conversation and ask for your wisdom, insights, and experiences with students who are tough to teach.
A 2015 survey of Faculty Focus readers found that the number one barrier preventing faculty from implementing the flipped classroom model and other active learning experiences into their courses is TIME. Faculty reported they don’t have time to plan extra learner-centered activities, due to increasing responsibilities, and they don’t have time to implement the activities in class because there’s too much content to cover.
If you feel this way, you’re not alone. But, you can still create engaging learning experiences for students. And you can do it in 10 minutes (or less).