Faculty Focus

HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS

Teaching and Learning

Peer-Led Team Learning Model Yields Impressive Results

Evidence that students can learn from each other continues to grow. The quality of some of the research documenting that fact is impressive. Here are highlights from a study in which peers were used to facilitate discussion groups in a large general chemistry course.

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Teaching Risk-Taking in the College Classroom

Are your students too conservative? I don’t mean their politics—I’m talking about their attitudes toward ideas and actions that are new, difficult, or complicated. Many of my writing students are conservative learners: they worry about grades and want to “play it safe,” they don’t take time to imagine alternatives, or they have low skill or confidence levels that reduce their abilities to try new things. And sometimes my own teaching or grading practices undermine my invitations to take the intellectual risks that are crucial to student learning.

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When Faculty and Student Expectations Collide

“It is a story replicated in many history classrooms during the semester. Students have once again done poorly on an assignment or exam. Their essays are the sites of massive, undifferentiated data dumps. They have paraphrased primary sources instead of analyzing them, ignored argumentation, confused past and present, and failed completely to grasp the ‘otherness’ of a different era.” (p. 1211)

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Feedback Techniques that Improve Student Writing

Yvonne is frustrated. She wants to do well in her language arts class, but each essay she completes fails to earn her the grade she believes she deserves. Although her teacher thoughtfully writes out corrective comments on her essays, to Yvonne these seem to run together, forming a nonsensical sea of red ink. With each assignment, she feels less capable and grows more resentful of her instructor.

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Developing Students’ Self-Directed Learning Skills

Self-directed learning skills involve the ability to manage learning tasks without having them directed by others. They are skills necessary for effective lifelong learning and are one of many learning skills students are expected to develop in college. The expectation is that students will become self-directed learners as they mature and gain content knowledge. Here’s a study showing how students can become self-directed with explicit instruction.

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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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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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To Improve Students’ Problem Solving Skills Add Group Work to the Equation

Problem solving is “what you do when you don’t know what to do.”

What a simple, straightforward definition for something often defined in much more complex ways. But problem solving doesn’t always mean the same thing. It might be the solution to a specific problem, like those that appear on math quizzes, or it might be a collection of possibilities that respond to a complex open-ended problem. But however it’s defined, problem solving is one of those skills all teachers aspire to have their students develop.

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Technology Hasn’t Helped Students' Study Skills, Research Finds

In the space of one generation, college students have gone from studying with highlighters and wire notebooks to laptops, netbooks and, now, iPads.

But despite the prevalence of technology on campuses, a new study indicates that computers alone can’t keep students from falling into their same weak study habits from their ink-and-paper days.

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