creating climate for learning. Male professor

Creating a Climate for Learning: A Survey for Students and Teachers

How well a class functions is the result of both what the teacher does and what the students do. The way we solicit course evaluation feedback reinforces students’ tendency to see the teacher as the one who’s responsible for whether it was a good class. Teachers do play a significant role, but they don’t make or break a class without a lot of student input. We need to be using evaluation activities that make clear that what happens in class is a shared responsibility.

Here’s a feedback activity that highlights the roles played by teachers and students. It can be configured in a variety of different ways—three options are recommended here.

  • Students can provide input on the conditions for learning created by the instructor.
  • The instructor can provide input on how well students are functioning as a community of learners.
  • The students can evaluate the course in terms of how it functions as a learning community.

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A Checklist for Better PowerPoint Presentations

We've all sat through some pretty horrific PowerPoint presentations. Too much text. Tiny font. Confusing graphs. Dizzying slide transitions and effects. Cheesy clip art. Poor color combinations. The list goes on and on.

But don’t blame PowerPoint just because some slide shows are bad. Blame the presenter. When used appropriately, PowerPoint is an effective tool for increasing student attention and participation.

Here are a few basic guidelines for creating more effective presentation slides:

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30 Tips for Writing Good Multiple-Choice Questions

Multiple-choice tests don’t get much respect. Maybe it’s because they’re associated with memorization, old-fashioned standardized tests, and other situations in which the answer is likely to be “C.”

Yet when properly designed, multiple-choice tests can be a vital addition to your testing tool box. Outlined here are 30 tips for writing good multiple-choice questions.

All the suggestions that follow stem from two basic precepts:

  • Remove all barriers that will keep a knowledgeable student from getting the item right.
  • Remove all clues that will help a less-than-knowledgeable student get the item right.

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teaching large classes

Creating a Curriculum Map for Survey Courses

Introductory survey courses offer an overview of a broad topic or field of knowledge. They form the backbone of undergraduate education at most colleges and universities, and they also serve as the foundation courses for their disciplines.

An introductory survey course may be the only college-level course that non-majors take in the field, as well as the courses on which potential majors may base their decision of whether they will choose to major in that field. Despite their critical role in the higher education landscape, introductory survey courses are notorious for low rates of student achievement and satisfaction.

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How Do You Study? A Questionnaire for Students

Good instructional decision-making rests on accurate information. And in the case of tests and exams, we should be seeking student input more often than we do. No, we aren’t asking whether they want exams or what kind of exams they like. We need to know more about their learning experiences associated with the exams.

We’re making decisions about exams mostly based on suppositions—how we think they’re studying. We rely on feedback provided by their performance. Those with poor exam scores didn’t study, or they didn’t use good study strategies, or were so stressed by the exam they couldn’t think clearly. Those reasons aren’t all the same—they have different instructional implications. Exam performance feedback is after-the-fact input. Feedback collected at other times can provide details that enable us to better use exams and the events that surround them to promote learning and improve performance.

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Classroom Participation Strengths Inventory

Understanding temperament is very helpful in understanding the learning styles and approaches. So extroverts tend to prefer very high levels of external stimulation, tend to be energized by social activity, may avoid solitude, and are oriented to the outer world. Whereas introverts may easily feel overstimulated in social settings or exhausted by social activity. So they may seek solitude to recharge their batteries, and their orientation may be more likely to the inner world of thoughts and ideas.

Let's make the next connection to learning. In terms of preferences and in terms of the conditions in which students perform best, extroverts tend to prefer to work with others and learn with others, so project work, collaboration, group work, these are all preferences of the more extroverted students.

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Discipline-Relevant Critical Thinking Skills and Outcomes

Critical Thinking demands explicit awareness, monitoring, control, and evaluation of one’s thinking, so add a meta-assignment (grade pass/fail) in which students reflect on and describe their thinking processes (metacognition, self-regulated learning). Sample prompts:

  • How did you arrive at your response/solution?
  • Describe the process by which you arrived at your solution and determined it was the best. How did you define the task/problem, decide which principles and concepts to apply, develop alternative approaches and solutions, and assess their feasibility, trade-offs, and relative worth?
  • How did you conduct your design/problem-solving/research process (steps taken, strategies used, problems encountered, how overcome)?
  • How did you set and modify your goals, strategies, and actions in response to other players? (after a simulation or role play)
  • What skills did you use or improve, and when will they be useful in the future?
  • Evaluate your strategies, performance, and success in achieving your goals.
  • What goals and strategies will guide your revision (if applicable)?
  • What learning value did this task have? What would you do differently?
  • What advice would you give next semester’s students before they do this assignment (preparation, strategies, pitfalls, value)?

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Sample To-Do Online Teaching Checklist

Daily Priorities

  • Check “Questions for Instructor” thread; respond to questions
  • Check internal course email; respond to questions
  • Check phone messages; respond to students
  • Check dropbox; grade submissions and provide feedback
  • Participate in discussion thread; record grades and comment codes on separate sheet while participating

Weekly Tasks

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Critical Thinking Verbs: Do Your Students Know What They Mean?

Analyze: Break something down into parts, such as a theory into its components, a process into its stages, or an event into its causes. Analysis involves characterizing the whole, identifying its parts, and showing how the parts interrelate.

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Four Key Questions About Large Classes

Teaching Large Classes: Course Design and Teaching Checklists

(1) List your top three or four concerns about teaching large classes         (2) Identify the parts of those concerns over which you have some level of control or capacity to change         (3)...

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