learner-centered teaching strategies
Active learning

Learner-Centered Teaching: 10 Ideas for Getting Started

Looking to incorporate some learner-centered teaching principles into your courses but aren’t sure where to begin? Here are 10 activities for building student engagement and getting students more actively involved in their learning.

Strategy One: Creating the Climate for Learning

  • Use the same activity but with a different topic. For example, before the first discussion in a class, you might have students talk about the best and worst class discussions they’ve observed. Have them explain what the teacher did and what the students did.
  • The activity can be used as an icebreaker for group work. Say you’ve put students together in work groups. Have them start to get to know each other by talking about the best and worst group experiences they’ve had and what they need to do individually and collectively to have this group function well.
  • At the end of the best/worst course discussion, ask a student to take a picture of the board (constructive use of cell phone in class) and send it to you. Then you can send a copy to each student. Obviously, you can write down what students said and distribute a paper or electronic copy.
  • Use the description of the best class as an early course feedback mechanism. During the second or third week of the course, have students rate the items they listed. For example, if they said, “The teacher respects students”; ask them to rate on a five-point scale how well that’s happening in class so far. You might rate them on some of the student characteristics.

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getting students to read what's assigned
Teaching Strategies and Techniques

10 Strategies for Promoting Accountability and Investment in Reading Assignments

As teachers, we see value in what we assign students, but students don’t always appreciate the relevance or understand the purpose of their assignments. Required readings are a great example of this disconnect. However, when students have some input into their learning, their response to assignments (yes, even reading assignments) changes. Rather than requiring fill-in-the-blank reading guides or giving weekly quizzes to “motivate” students to do assigned readings, professors can give students some alternatives. We can design those alternatives to give students greater choice and responsibility for their learning, thereby making the assignments more meaningful. Here is a collection of reading assignment alternatives we use and recommend.

  1. Non-structured Notes: Allow students to submit notes on assigned readings in various formats. These formats may include a detailed outline, graphic organizer, poster, summary paragraphs, or other visual representations of the material. Different format samples can be shared with the entire class or within small groups to stimulate discussion of the readings.

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tips for using Quizlet in college classroom
Tools and Technology

Tips from the Pros: Promoting Active Learning with Quizlet

How best to engage students and provide opportunities for active learning is a question we find ourselves thinking about and discussing often with colleagues. Quizlet is a user-friendly, technology-based quizzing system that works well to engage students in both face-to-face and online learning environments. Instructors can use it to create their own study set or browse through and use existing study sets. Study sets consist of groups of questions presenting content that students have reviewed. The content is presented as terms, definitions, pictures, diagrams, and labels, making the program flexible and effective for many disciplines. For example, an anatomy professor could insert pictures or diagrams of the skeletal system, and students may be charged with either labeling or identifying the correct term.

Quizlet has many functions both inside and outside of the classroom. One common use of Quizlet is its flashcard function, which is useful to review course content. In order to engage in the flashcard function, students click on a study set and then click on the flashcard icon. Next, one at a time, a definition is revealed and the student types in a term. The program indicates if the answer is correct and how many terms the student has answered correctly. In addition to flashcards, students can engage in a matching game. For the matching game, students click on a study set and then click on the matching game icon. Next, all the terms and definitions are on the screen in a scattered pattern and the student clicks on a term and drags it to the correct definition. The Gravity game is another popular activity using a video game format where students test their knowledge by answering questions before asteroids hit the ground.

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online teaching
Reflections

Reviving the Joy of Teaching

I have been an educator for 49 years. Throughout the years, I have seen innovation and experimentation in educational theory, practice, and style. I have experienced personal success, and failure in meeting the needs of students. For most of that time I have loved the practice and the art of teaching. I was rewarded by the feedback I have received from the many individuals whose lives I have influenced along the way. I relished the success of my students, both those school leaders and those I taught in a graduate education school leadership program. What made my

What made my relationship with these individuals special and rewarding? It was the human interaction marked by the personal connection that teachers can have with their students. It was the act of seeing the students regularly whether the setting was in a public school or a higher education classroom. It was the discussions, in and out of class, the sharing of ideas, helping students consider their futures, discussing the difficulties some were experiencing, and it was hearing about their successes that made teaching enjoyable and satisfying.

Then something changed that began to diminish the satisfaction I felt from teaching.

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encouraging student feedback
Feedback Prompts

Encouraging Student Evaluations Without Giving Extra Credit

Gone are the days of handing out course evaluations during the last week of class and asking students to fill them out and place them in the envelope in the front of the room. Now, students are sent an email with a link or perhaps are given directions in their learning management system on how to fill out class evaluations. With evaluations now handled remotely, it’s no surprise that the percentage of students who complete them has shrunk considerably.

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storytime in library
Reflections

A University Professor Teaches in the K-12 Classroom

During my recent sabbatical, I had the unique opportunity to teach full-day sessions for 14 weeks in two different K-12 settings. Here’s how that happened. I decided to propose this unique sabbatical project because my students regularly asked me about the clinical experience phase of the university’s library science program. The prospect of taking PRAXIS exams (two are required for library science certification) in a testing center and completing background checks and required Pennsylvania Department of Education paperwork were all student stressors. And although those of us teaching in the program can explain and mentor student teaching experiences in a library setting, our students knew very well that most of us had done our student teaching many years prior. Since then, the overall process has evolved to include complications such as required certification tests, background checks, fingerprints, and such. More to the point, I wanted to actually live the experience as a student might.

I didn’t arrive at my faculty position in this department via the more traditional route. I came to university teaching by way of the military, time in corporate America, and teaching at a community college. At this point, I do have a couple of master’s degrees, higher education teaching experience, and am a practicing and certified Pennsylvania Professional Public Librarian, but before my sabbatical I was not K-12 certified. Once my sabbatical project was approved I set out to “walk the walk,” doing the same steps required of our teacher candidates. First, there was some additional course work I needed to fill in certain gaps in my higher education-focused master’s degree in library science. Accordingly, to prepare for the sabbatical, I completed four courses outside the library science domain. Next, I obtained the clearances I did not yet possess or were not current enough to satisfy school district requirements, completed the requisite medical exams, and processed the paperwork at the sponsoring school district in order to be voted in and invited as a “student” teacher by the schoolboard.

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discussion board rubrics
Rubrics

Rubrics for Online Discussions

A well-designed rubric is an effective tool for communicating expectations, streamlining the grading process, minimizing grade challenges, and establishing performance benchmarks.

In "Seven Ways to Facilitate Effective Online Discussions," Brian Udermann discussed some of the benefits of using rubrics to help keep instructors and students on the same page.

“Share your rubric with students so they know what to expect and how they will be graded,” said Udermann, director of online education at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. “And if you do give a student a two out of five or a one out of five, be specific in your feedback. ‘Here’s the reason you got the score that you did.’ It’s kind of an eye-opener for them and usually gets their attention.”

Here are two examples of rubrics Udermann shared during his program.

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Tools for adding animation to your course.
Tools and Technology

Simple Animation for Your Courses

Animation is an engaging format for delivering online content. We see it used in TED-Ed presentations, educational documentaries, and elsewhere. It is also much easier to make than many people think. Simple and free, or inexpensive, online systems allow anyone to make animated videos in a variety of formats. The creator chooses from a menu of characters, actions, and backgrounds; adds a narration audio track; and then chooses how the elements will move around a scene. These systems only take a few minutes to learn, and while they will not win you an Oscar, they are perfectly fine for online teaching.

One use of animation is to publicize a course on the faculty member’s webpage. I made one announcing a faculty development course that used two characters talking in a bar about challenges they face in teaching, with one announcing my course as a solution. Yes, it sounds hokey, but it’s an attention grabber that sets the tone of my training as interesting and innovative. We do little to inform students about courses or try to interest them before they sign up. Normally, they just get a brief description in a course catalog or perhaps a syllabus. An animated video will capture students’ attention and get them motivated to take the course. Animated videos can also be used in an online course to introduce a week’s content, what students should do, and what students will get out of each activity. They can also be used to deliver content itself if the instructor prefers not to use other video formats. Take a look at this example of an animation used to deliver a lesson on animal ethics: https://youtu.be/3HAMk_ZYO7g.

Another option is to have students make animations as assessments. I have had students make animations that teach a topic. This is far more engaging to the student than a traditional paper, and students will respond with surprising amounts of creativity. Plus, the videos can be added to the course content itself to educate future students.

Here are some easy to use animation systems for making your own videos.

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group work project
Worksheets and Checklists

Group Work: Peer and Self-Assessment Form

Overall, how effectively did your group work together in learning the course subject matter? (circle the appropriate response)

not at all            poorly              adequately                  well                  extremely well

1                             2                        3                                  4                                  5

 

How many of the group members participated actively most of the time?
(circle the appropriate number)

not at all            poorly              adequately                  well                  extremely well

1                             2                        3                                  4                                  5

 

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Active learning

The Success of Four Activities Designed to Engage Students

How can we engage students who are enrolled in large courses so they become active learners? I used four activities designed to get students involved, support their efforts to learn, and personalize the material in an introductory psychology course. How well did they work? For analysis, I divided the 52 students in my course into four groups, or quadrants, using their final overall course scores to place them in high- to low-performance groups. Final course scores were computed as points on a scale of 1 to 100, which were then reported as letter grades. Then I looked at how involved students in each group were in the engagement activities. I’ll start with a description of each of the engagement activities and then provide a summary of how well each of these approaches engaged students in learning the course content..

Optional retake exams. There were three in-class exams (each worth 20 percent) and a final exam. Each exam included short-answer and essay questions. Students could opt to retake any or all of the three in-class exams. The retakes, administered electronically, were personalized. For questions that students missed on the exam, new versions of the questions appeared on their individually constructed retake exam. Retakes were therefore a mastery system that encouraged students to focus on those concepts they did not understand. Based on the retake scores, points were added, not subtracted.

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