Faculty Focus

HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS

Teaching and Learning

What Group Dynamics Can Teach Us about Classroom Learning

I am unabashedly proud of my pedagogical article resource file. I’ve been collecting good articles on teaching and learning since the early ’80s. I use the file almost every day, and in the process of looking for a particular article, I regularly stumble onto others whose contents I remember when I see them but have otherwise forgotten.

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Why Doesn’t Teacher Feedback Improve Student Performance?

Sometimes feedback leads to better performance, but not all the time and not as often as teachers would like, given the time and effort they devote to providing students feedback. It’s easy to blame students who seem interested only in the grade—do they even read the feedback? Most report that they do, but even those who pay attention to it don’t seem able to act on it—they make the same errors in subsequent assignments. Why is that?

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The ‘I Deserve a Better Grade on This’ Conversation

It’s a conversation most faculty would rather not have. The student is unhappy about a grade on a paper, project, exam, or for the course itself. It’s also a conversation most students would rather not have. In the study referenced below, only 16.8 percent of students who reported they had received a grade other than what they thought their work deserved actually went to see the professor to discuss the grade.

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The Effects of Collaborative Testing

Although letting students work together on exam questions is still not a common instructional practice, it has been used more than might be expected and in a variety of ways. Sometimes students work together in groups; other times with a partner. Sometimes those groups are assembled by the instructor and sometimes students are allowed to select their partners or group members. Sometimes the groups share multiple exam experiences; other times they work collaboratively only once. Sometimes the group submits one exam with everyone in the group receiving that grade; other times students may talk about exam questions and answers but submit exams individually.

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Student Presentations: Do They Benefit Those Who Listen?

Almost everyone agrees that student presentations benefit the presenter in significant ways. By doing presentations, students learn how to speak in front a group, a broadly applicable professional skill. They learn how to prepare material for public presentation, and practice (especially with feedback) improves their speaking skills. But those of us who have students do presentations in class know there’s a downside—and that’s how the rest of the class responds to these presentations. When the teacher talks, students more or less have to pay attention, at least some of the time, but when their classmates present, they can be comatose. Not only does this make it more difficult for the presenter, it means the students listening are not likely having any sort of learning experience.

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Peer-led Reading Groups Boost Engagement and Retention

A legal historian by training, I have taught many general education courses that draw students from across majors and disciplines. It is not uncommon for the 21st century college student to become somewhat disengaged with the works of Plato or Kant, and this is especially the case when these readings are complex and/or students are outside their topical comfort zones. As a result, in-class discussion suffers, momentum and dialogue are hindered, and students may feel alienated from the course. This is exacerbated by varying levels of engagement with out-of-class readings, producing uneven student learning outcomes.

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Should You Be Using Rubrics?

Use of rubrics in higher education is comparatively recent. These grading aids that communicate “expectations for an assignment by listing the criteria or what counts, and describing levels of quality from excellent to poor” (p. 435) are being used to assess a variety of assignments such as literature reviews, reflective writings, bibliographies, oral presentations, critical thinking, portfolios, and projects. They are also being used across a range of disciplines, but so far the number of faculty using them remains small.

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Engaging Students in a Habit of Gratitude

Many labels have been applied to the current generation of college students, many of them disparaging: lazy, distracted, aimless, needy, greedy, and self-absorbed. Some of the emerging adults who populate college classrooms earn these labels with their classroom behaviors and mediocre performance. However, within most men and women who are 18-22 years old, there is a capacity for greater things.

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student collaboration

Promoting Student Success Through Collaboration

Last week, a student named Mary visited me during my office hours and presented me with an interesting dilemma. In one of her classes, a professor had distributed a study guide with a series of questions to help the students prepare for an upcoming exam. Mary, being the millennial student that she is, decided to upload the study guide into Google Docs and invite the rest of the class to contribute to the document. Students answered the study guide questions from each of their individual notes and then refined the answers from their peers.

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