April 16, 2013
Closing the term: Solicit advice from current students for future students
Recruit your successful students to serve as mentors to students in your future classes. Near the end of the term, ask your current students in your classes to write down advice they would give to students who will take the course the next term. What should these students do to be successful in your class?
On the first class day, distribute the letters. Give a different letter from a previous student to each new student. After reading their letter, ask the students to exchange letters with a nearby student. Repeat this process several times so that each student has the opportunity to read a few letters. Then have a class discussion in which students identify common themes in the letters of advice.
The student mentors will write things like, “Be sure to do the homework Dr. Jones assigns for the chapter about ____ because it really helps you understand the concepts,” or, “Get yourself into a study group to go over the material outside of class—that really helped me and all my group members make it through this class,” etc.
Current students generally write advice for new students that is positive, even if the recommendations are things like, “This is a really hard subject; you will have to work in this class. But if you follow the syllabus and ask Dr. Jones for help, you will get through.”
The fact that the advice comes from students who survived your course is a key attribute to the persuasiveness of the advice. Your new students would likely value such advice if they had a chance encounter with your former students, knew those students passed the course, and had the opportunity to get pointers on how to ace the course. This strategy ensures that current students will “encounter” several previous students.
This tip is based on a teaching strategy submitted to the Teaching Issues Writing Consortium by Jeff King, Ed.D., Executive Director, Center for Excellence in Transformative Teaching & Learning, University of Central Oklahoma.
WKU Writer’s Consortium
October 9, 2012
Resources for teaching strategies (ASKe site at Oxford Brookes University)
Oxford Brookes University Business School (UK) established the Assessment Standards Knowledge exchange (ASKe), which is currently associated with the Pedagogy Research Centre. ASKe publishes brochures (called the 1, 2, 3, leaflets) that describe practical and effective evidence-based strategies that faculty can implement to improve students' learning. All of the suggestions are based on research evidence and can be implemented in a few steps. The brochures are short (2-8 pages) and can be downloaded as PDF files.
The URL for the ASKe index of current titles is:
Current titles include:
How to make your feedback work in three easy steps
Using generic feedback effectively
Making peer feedback work in three easy steps
Getting the most from Groupwork Assessment
Cultivating community: Why it's worth doing and three ways of getting there
Reduce the risk of plagiarism in just 30 mins
August 16, 2011
Getting to know your students
Use part of the first day of class to gather some information about the students in your class, how they perceived their roles as students, and their expectations about the class by asking them to respond to two questions:
Before class, write your own answers to these questions so that you can identify matches and mismatches in your assumptions about teaching and learning and those of your students. Students from varying cultural backgrounds may respond to these questions in unexpected ways.
This activity is also a great self-reflection exercise to articulate your thoughts about teaching and learning that will help you develop a statement of your philosophy of teaching.
Based in part on a tip submitted by Emma Bourassa, Instructor, ESL Department, Thompson Rivers University (http://www.tru.ca/).
January 4, 2011
Engage students in your course by placing it in the context of the student’s major
Students enroll in courses for a variety of reasons, some intrinsic, some extrinsic. They might be curious about a topic or discipline. They might have heard positive comments about an instructor from other students. Or the course might be required, either for all majors in a discipline (or related discipline) or as an option to meet a graduation requirement.
Students who register for a course for intrinsic reasons arrive on the first day excited and motivated to engage in the course. Students who register primarily because a course satisfies a requirement might feel coerced in their choice and be resistant to engaging in the course. How can instructors engage and motivate students who arrive with ambivalence about the course?
Students sometimes select a major without fully understanding the breadth and skill expectations of the discipline. They might regard some required courses merely as obstacles to their goals rather than as important components of the knowledge and skills that characterize the discipline. The first day of a class is a good opportunity to place the course in the context of the major and clarify the importance of the learning outcomes associated with that course for development of professional skill in the discipline.
Courses that function as service courses to a variety of majors may present additional challenges, although the subset of learning outcomes that align with the program outcomes the course serves should be identified. Instructors might benefit by learning which students are enrolled in their course to pursue a major in the discipline and which students are enrolled for other reasons. This information can be useful later in the term when selecting specific examples of applications to discuss in class. Including applications that are relevant to service programs as well as applications within the major discipline will help keep these students engaged throughout the term.
December 7, 2010
Use T-charts to develop metacognitive skills in students
T-Charts are tables or matrices (graphic organizers) in which students list and examine facets of a topic, such as the pros and cons of a position, describe the advantages and disadvantages of several potential solutions to a problem, or identify pieces of information on a controversial topic as either facts or opinions.
Use T-Charts to develop skills. We often assume that students already know the skills they need to thrive in our classrooms. However, students often cannot describe the specific behaviors intended by words faculty use to describe their expectations for classroom behaviors, such as participation, preparation or listening. Similarly, students do not necessarily connect behaviors such as punctuality, use of communication tools, and characteristics of their discourse with teachers and peers to the concept of civility.
Consider the responses students might give to the following question: What are the boundaries for an acceptable response when a peer makes a point you find offensive? Students might not respond to this prompt by articulating specific behaviors. The ability of students to articulate and engage in appropriate behaviors that faculty describe in response to this question represent team skills that are critical to successful functioning in a collaborative workplace.
In addition to using a T-chart to develop firm expectations about team skill, this activity can be used to help students develop specific study skills, such as reading a textbook or listening for and understanding another’s point of view. Create a T-chart to show visually what “active listening” sounds and looks like in terms of specific behaviors.
An instructor could develop a T-chart to describe expectations and distribute this as a handout. However, creating a chart collaboratively can have a more powerful effect because the activity will develop consensus and create buy-in. Constructing a T-chart with student input requires about 5 minutes of class time. The activity can also be used to encourage students to model some of the skills. This activity is a great opportunity for creating student engagement and class participation, often with a refreshing touch of humor. T-charts can be created to focus on any skill you would like to develop.
This tip was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium, (sponsored by Western Kentucky University) by Michael Dabney, Director, Teaching and Learning Center, Hawaii Pacific University (http://www.hpu.edu/index.cfm?contentID=9473&siteID=1).
November 9, 2010
Improve the technical preparation of students in your class by describing the technical skills and specialized software needed for your course during course registration
Students will begin registering for courses on November 15.
All UWF students are expected to have an active ArgoNet e-mail account, regular access to e-mail (2-3 times a week), and basic skills in the use of a word processor. Many courses make additional demands on technology skills, including the ability to use web conferencing for Elluminate sessions, access to D2L, the ability to use course functions in D2L (such as uploading material to an assignment drop box), and the use of specialized software required for tasks such as statistical analysis, creation of power point presentations, or creation and manipulation of digital images.
The academic course search pages on the UWF web site include icons for each course that allow students to view the course syllabus, determine whether the course is an eLearning course or a distance learning course (and whether the instructor will be present in the location for that section), determine the extent of computer use expected in the course, and identify other technology needs associated with the course (special software available only in a lab, Elluminate, need to purchase a clicker, use of proctored exams, and other specialized software or technology needs).
If you expect students to use specific technology in your course, identify these needs on your syllabus and set the appropriate technology codes for the course. After logging into MyUWF, select the Classmate App and then click on the Syllabus/Tech Codes link under Action to open an interface for uploading your syllabus. This interface also includes drop-down menus that allow instructors to set technology codes for their course. When a technology code is selected, the appropriate icon will appear in the course search output for this course. A full list of the technology codes available for the course search interface can be found at https://nautical.uwf.edu/people/techCodesExplained.cfm.
April 6, 2010
Help students organize their learning by identifying the “big questions” for your course
Gerald Nosich (2009) points out that any large body of knowledge has a core belief, “a fundamental and powerful concept . . . that can be used to explain or think out a huge body of questions, problems, information, and situations.” Fundamental concepts are useful for instruction because they help students understand and organize the course content. Blythe and Sweet note that they begin their courses in World Literature each semester with a discussion of one fundamental idea that illuminates the overall content of the course: Art reflects its culture. In each subsequent class, they discuss how the work studied that day reveals something about the culture that produced it.
Identifying a few fundamental concepts for your course serves two purposes. First, it demonstrates your own mastery of the subject. Second, it creates a touchstone for your students to organize their understanding of new content throughout the semester. These fundamental concepts will also transfer to other courses within the discipline. When students complete a course in World Literature and then take a course in English or American Literature, they will begin these courses with the advantage of knowing that the works they will study will reveal aspects of English or American culture.
Tip contributed by Hal Blythe and Charlie Sweet, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY.
Nosich, G. (2009). Learning to think things through: A guide to critical thinking across the curriculum (3rd ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
January 12, 2010
Help students succeed in your course by sharing effective study strategies
As experts in academia, faculty sometimes forget that the study habits that enabled them to be successful as students and distinguished them as competitive applicants to graduate programs were (and continue to be) rare skills among undergraduate students. Share your expertise as a student with your students and describe the skills and habits they should acquire to be successful in your course.
An example of this sharing of expertise is the following handout that Julie Ann Williams provides to students in her Operations Management course at the beginning of the term. Although some of her advice is specific to successful completion of this course, much advice is transferrable to other courses.
How to Be Successful in MAN3504
Thanks to Julie Ann Williams for sharing this handout.
Julie Ann Stuart Williams, Ph.D., P.E.
Department of Management/MIS
University of West Florida
December 1, 2009
Electronic Information Literacy: Promoting Netiquette in your Class
The campus migration to Gmail provides us with an opportunity to revisit how faculty and students use e-mail for communication. Capitalize on this opportunity by discussing e-mail netiquette with students in your class.
The introduction of electronic communication (e-mail, online threaded discussions, Twitter feeds, etc.) to class interaction poses a new set of challenges for instructors: Teaching students to communicate professionally in electronic media. Faculty might initially think of this issue mainly in terms of their own response to inappropriate language from students in e-mail (Hey! Missed class yesterday. Did I miss anything?) and posts to online discussions (i don’t get the reading this week – booooooring : - ( will this be on the test?).
Effective communication through electronic media is an important skill. Help your students develop this skill with the following strategies:
Good web guidelines on netiquette can be found at the following:
Virginia Commonwealth University
Center for Teaching Excellence
Texas Tech University
Teaching, Learning, and Technology Center
August 25, 2009
Setting the tone for your class: Guiding students toward effective study strategies
Use class time during the first week of the term to provide students with guidelines and suggestions for successful study strategies. Examples of study discussion topics included the following:
Karpicke, J. D., Butler, A. C., & Roediger, III, H. L. (2009). Metacognitive strategies in student learning: Do students practice retrieval when they study on their own? Memory, 17, 471-479.
January 6, 2009
Setting the Tone for your Class
Use the instructional strategies you plan to use during the semester on the first day. If you want students to talk in class, create a discussion activity for the first day. If you plan to use groups, put students in groups and have them complete a relevant activity on the first day. If you plan to ask students to write, have students complete a short reflective writing activity. If you want the students to be in charge of their own learning, start with an activity in which students are the experts and cannot rely on you for information. For example, introductory psychology courses often address common myths about human behavior. An instructor might include a brainstorming activity in which students identify common myths about student behaviors in dorms.
For additional suggestions for the first day of class, consult the following web site:
Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence
Carnegie Mellon University
December 2, 2008
Setting and Clarifying Expectations and Goals in the First Week of Class
Consider beginning your class by asking students why they are in your class and what they expect to gain from their experience in this class (Benjamin, 2005). Instructors may be surprised to learn that students frequently have different goals for their courses. An activity that identifies and clarifies instructor and student expectations and goals can benefit both students and instructors. An explicit comparison of student and instructor goals creates student buy-in to the course and provides the instructor with an opportunity to explain why he or she uses certain teaching strategies, activities, and course assignments. Instructors can also explain how the course fits into the overall curriculum for the discipline and describe the skills students can expect to acquire that will benefit them in subsequent courses and future professional activities.
The following first-week activity helps establish a common set of goals and expectations (Barnett, 1999).
Ask students to write down their goals and expectations for the course by asking the following questions:
Immediate pair-share activity
Ask students to work in groups of 3-4 and compare their goals.
Share the group’s goals and expectations with the class as a whole.
During this discussion, the instructor should identify his/her goals and expectations, highlight those goals that are shared with students, and describe the role of the course in the larger curriculum. When possible, discuss how student-generated goals might be attained within the context of the overall course goals.
Instructors might get some insights into student motivation from this activity. Sometimes we will discover opportunities that allow us to meet unanticipated student needs by making minor adjustments without compromising the primary goals of the course. Benjamin (2005) argues that this activity allows instructors to publicly respond to student needs without necessarily making major changes to their courses. The discussion sets a collaborative tone at the onset of the course, improves student motivation, and enhances overall satisfaction with the course. Similarly, Barnett (1999) reports that students are more understanding of the need for the quantity of work demanded during the course when the role of these assignments for developing skill is made clear at the outset.
Barnett, M. A. (1999). On the same wavelength? Clarifying course expectations and goals. Teaching Concerns. Newsletter of the Teaching Resource Center for Faculty and Teaching Assistants, University of Virginia. (http://trc.virginia.edu)
Benjamin, Jr., L. T. (2005). Setting course goals: Privileges and responsibilities in a world of ideas. Teaching of Psychology, 32, 146-149.
August 26, 2008
The First Class Meeting: Setting the Tone for your Class
The first day of class is full of symbolic messages (Lang, 2008). Your arrival time sends a symbolic message about your attitude about timeliness. Your dress sends a message about your perception of your role as an instructor. Your behavior during class sends a message about your enthusiasm for your discipline and the way you plan to conduct the class during the term. If the first class meeting consists of a lecture on the syllabus that ends early, this sends a message that time in class is dispensable. Requiring students to talk during the first class meeting establishes a clear expectation that they will participate and contribute to future class discussions.
During the first class meeting, ask students to find a partner and identify 2 or 3 questions about the syllabus and the course. The questions might be about information you did not include on the syllabus or they might address information that is included on the syllabus but that the students don’t understand. A general discussion of the syllabus on the first day gives students an overview of the structure of the course and creates an opportunity for you to preview the “big issues” you plan to address and allows you to communicate your excitement about your discipline.
Lang, J. M. (2008). On course: A week-by-week guide to your first semester of college teaching. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
August 19, 2008
Describe Expectations for Classroom Behavior in Your Syllabus
Many instructors include a paragraph about expectations for classroom behavior in their syllabus. (See the CUTLA web page on syllabus construction for a discussion of recommended and required elements of a UWF syllabus.) This practice may be particularly useful for courses with large enrollments of “millennial” students, who may arrive in college classes with attitudes about acceptable classroom behavior that differ from the expectations of faculty.
Some instructors leave this section of their syllabus open and hold a discussion during the first class meeting to establish mutual rules of conduct that will promote learning. In this activity, students identify student behaviors that disrupt their ability to concentrate and learn during class. They may also describe instructor behaviors that benefit (or disrupt) their ability to learn. Similarly, instructors contribute their expectations about student demeanor. This discussion helps socialize students who might be uninformed about appropriate academic behavior and allows the class to reach consensus about how it will function as a community.
CUTLA web page on syllabus construction: http://uwf.edu/cutla/frs-syllabus.cfm
May 13, 2008
Use the first day of class to set the tone for the remainder of the term. Engaged students are expected to ask questions and participate in class. Create an activity on the first day that will engage students and force them to speak. An easy way to do this is to use an icebreaker activity that will enable students to meet one another. This has the added benefit that comes when students develop a personal connection with classmates and potential study partners.
A simple icebreaker activity is to arrange students in groups of 3-5. Give the students 5 minutes to introduce themselves to each other and identify three non-obvious things they have in common (hobbies, city where they grew up, travel to another country, musical interests, etc.). Each group should report back to the entire class, introducing the members of the group and noting their common characteristics. Students might misinterpret this activity as pure fun-and-games, so take some time to explain your goals to learn student names, introduce students to potential study-buddies, and create a class expectation that everyone can (and will) participate.
Updated 11/26/13 tjf
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