Faculty Focus

HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS

Teaching and Learning

Second Life Provides Real-World Benefits

As digital natives, today’s college students have instigated a transformation of the learning process. The Internet and immersive user-generated online worlds like Second Life are changing the way that college students gather and process information in all aspects of their lives. At a time when students will turn to Google rather than visit the library, or search Wikipedia instead of asking for a reference librarian, professors need to rethink how we use technology in our classrooms.

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Learning Goals: Faculty and Students Don’t Agree

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.

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Helping At-Risk Students Succeed in the College Classroom

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.

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Interested but Noncompliant Students: Annoyance or Opportunity

If you have been teaching for any time at all, I’ll bet you’ve encountered what I call the interested but noncompliant student (hereafter, the INC). Here are some examples encountered in my courses: In an ancient language course, one INC would not take the trouble to learn her noun forms and verb endings but, fascinated by the language, went online to find an inscription that she tried to decipher. Another INC read more than I have in a subdivision of my field. He wanted to talk about it endlessly before and after class, so much so that I had to chase him away to give other students a chance to talk to me. Am I describing student behaviors that sound familiar?

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What Students Expect from Instructors, Other Students

Some years back The Teaching Professor featured an article highlighting Mano Singham’s wonderful piece describing how he moved away from a very authoritarian, rule-centered syllabus (reference below). It’s one of my very favorite articles—I reference it regularly in presentations, and it appears on almost every bibliography I distribute.

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Do Faculty Give up on Students?

Most faculty (especially those reading a publication like this) do care about students. We wouldn’t be doing all that we do if we didn’t. However, some semesters are long, some students are difficult, we get behind, we have too much on our plates, and we get stressed and tired. When that’s how we’re feeling we don’t always show that concern in tangible ways.

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Guiding Student Reflection

When learners reflect, they thoughtfully consider (or reconsider) an experience. If the reflection is critical, it challenges the customary ways of understanding or explaining an experience. Critical reflection questions meanings and looks at assumptions. The opportunity to reflect on experiences develops critical thinking skills and helps students to learn things for themselves.

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A Classroom Icebreaker with a Lesson that Lasts

I bring a box to the first day of class — especially if it’s a course with beginning students. At precisely the time class starts, I walk into the room with my box filled with random, quirky objects. I like to include a small Alf doll, a pad of Post-its, some scissors, perhaps a can of Slim-Fast, a candle, a rock, a comb, and maybe six or seven other objects indiscriminately gathered as I leave for class. As soon as I enter the room, I put the box on the table; take each article out; place it on the table; and finally, when all of them are out, return them to the box. Then I ask the students to take out a piece of paper and write down as many of the items as they can remember.

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Reconsidering Grading Students on Class Participation

A common phrase uttered during the first day of class is: “You will be graded on class participation.” As instructors we know what we expect. But what exactly do our students think we mean by that statement? The longer I’ve taught the more I’ve come to realize that students may not really know.

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