The Get Engaged: Tips for Student Engagement series is a weekly e-mail message that describes an instructional strategy that faculty might find helpful in promoting active learning and student engagement. The Get Engaged tips are based on the scholarly literature on teaching and suggestions from faculty who have successfully used the strategy in their teaching.
Do you have an instructional strategy that improves student learning or promotes student engagement with your class? Send a description of your teaching tip to Claudia Stanny (firstname.lastname@example.org) at the Center for University Teaching, Learning, and Assessment for posting in a future Get Engaged mailing.
If you do not currently receive the Get Engaged e-mail but would like to receive future postings, contact CUTLA (email@example.com), and you will be added to the distribution list.
April 23, 2013
Use learning contracts to encourage students to take responsibility for their learning
Create learning contracts for students in your courses with the following two purposes:
For first course assignment, ask students to create a draft of a learning contract in which the student establishes a learning goal to accomplish in your course during the term. Students should also describe the support they hope to receive from you (their instructor) and from their peers (their classmates) to help them attain this goal.
The learning contract format contains the following elements:
A statement of the learning goal that meets the following criteria:
The student should describe each of the following in his/her learning contract:
During the first class session, include an activity in which students learn to write a learning goal using Bloom´s taxonomy (see the CUTLA web site for information on Bloom’s: http://uwf.edu/cutla/assessstudent.cfm and http://uwf.edu/cutla/writingslo.cfm). During the second class session, students should give one another feedback on their learning contracts and make adjustments to eliminate actions and expectations that are not reasonable. Ask students to submit their final draft at the end of class or post it in eLearning by the end of the week.
During the term, ask students to complete a self-assessment exercise two or three times before the end of the term. In this activity, the students should evaluate their progress toward achieving their learning goals by responding to closed and open ended questions.
Suggestions for self-assessment questions:
Distribute the self-assessment to students through e-mail as a Google Form, which will enable you to collect responses in an Excel spreadsheet. Summarize the students’ responses during class to facilitate a group discussion on how the class is progressing and how students feel about their learning progress. The learning contract activity engages students in the course content and helps instructors identify aspects of the class that students perceive to help and hinder their learning. The self-assessments help students become aware of the relation between their activities and effort and their level of success in attaining their learning goals.
This tip is based on a teaching strategy submitted to the Teaching Issues Writing Consortium by Anabella Martinez, Professor of the Education Department and Director of the Centro for Teaching Excellence (CEDU), Universidad del Norte (Barranquilla, Colombia).
WKU Writer’s Consortium
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
April 9, 2013
Peer and self-evaluation of participation in discussion
We often focus on presentation skills as oral communication skills, but students more frequently need to either lead or contribute to productive group discussions. Small group discussions can easily go off the rails when students indulge in off-topic talking, inadequate listening, and disrespectful behavior. The dynamic quality of class discussion presents challenges to faculty who would like to hold students accountable for the quality of their participation in these discussions.
Multhaup (2008) describes how to prepare students for substantive class discussions and suggests two strategies for evaluating student contributions to class discussion. Many of these strategies can be adapted for the online environment.
Establish ground rules for effective class discussion(first week of class)
Establish expectations for class discussions by facilitating a think-pair-share activity during the first week of the term.
Use the comments from the group discussion to identify some ground rules and expectations for individual participation in class discussion during the remainder of the term.
Adaptation for eLearning: Create a threaded discussion based on questions such as
Peer evaluation of the quality of participation in discussion
Require students to complete a Participation Survey 3 or 4 times during the term. Each student must complete the following three evaluation elements for every student in the class, including themselves:
Compile the collective (anonymous) feedback for individual students and distribute this feedback to each student. If necessary, edit comments or add your own comments.
Adaptation for eLearning: Create a drop box assignment or survey in eLearning in which students answer these questions. You can make completion of the feedback a graded assignment (completed/not completed), compile the feedback information for individual students, and distribute this feedback through the course email function or provide it as feedback in the dropbox.
If you ask students to facilitate discussion, gather peer feedback about this skill
After each facilitated discussion, members of a discussion group complete a peer feedback survey for the discussion leader. The peer feedback answers the following questions:
Provide feedback several times during the term to enable students to improve their participation and discussion skills over time.
Multhaup, K. S. (2008, Spring). Using class discussions to improve oral communication skills. Teaching Tips (APA Division 20 – Adult Development and Aging).
April 2, 2013
Identify bottlenecks to student learning to develop improved learning strategies
Faculty are experts in their disciplines. The cognitive skills that comprise expertise can also create barriers to instruction. Experts internalize disciplinary cognitive skills and procedures through extensive practice and repetition to the point where they can execute these skills without deliberate thought. The automation of these skills (developing skilled disciplinary habits of thought) enables experts to devote their attention to areas that are difficult. However, this automation can also make it more difficult for experts to clearly articulate and explain how they carry out skilled behaviors. A solution that appears to simply “pop into the head” of an expert may actually be based on a complex series of cognitive steps that play out rapidly in the mind of the expert. When explaining the solution to a novice, the expert might omit one or more intermediary steps.
From a student’s perspective, experts solve problems through processes that seem mysterious and hidden. Students might not know all the intermediate steps hidden below the surface of the fluid performance of an expert. The “curse of expertise” sometimes prevents experts from accurately anticipating the obstacles that impair the learning of novices (Hinds, 1999). The detailed steps experts follow when they solve a problem become less obvious after years of practice enable experts to execute these steps automatically. Experts tend to represent and describe their knowledge in abstract language that interferes with clear communication with novices (Hinds, Patterson, & Pfeffer, 2001; Nickerson, 1999). The challenge facing experts who teach is to articulate their implicit knowledge so that it is explicit and accessible to students.
Researchers at Indiana University have been exploring ways to make implicit expert knowledge explicit through a process called Decoding the Disciplines. They identify three types of bottlenecks or obstacles to learning.
The Decoding the Disciplines process helps expert faculty identify conceptual bottlenecks and discover strategies to help make implicit expert strategies explicit and devise learning activities that will help students develop these skills. The process involves the following steps:
Interested faculty can learn more about Decoding the Disciplines and read about specific disciplinary examples by visiting the Decoding the Disciplines web site.
Diaz, A., Middendorf, J., Pace, D., & Shopkow, L. (2008). The History Learning Project: A department “decodes” its students. The Journal of American History, 94, 1211-1224. doi: 10.2307/25095328
Hinds, P. J. (1999). The curse of expertise: The effects of expertise and debiasing methods on predictions of novice performance. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 5, 205-221. doi: 10.1037/1076-898X.5.2.205
Hinds, P. J., Patterson, M., & Pfeffer, J. (2001). Bothered by abstraction: The effect of expertise on knowledge transfer and subsequent novice performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 1232-1243. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.86.6.1232
Middendorf, J., & Pace, D. (2004). Decoding the disciplines: A model for helping students learn disciplinary ways of thinking. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2004, 1-12. doi: 10.1002/tl.142
Nickerson, R. S. (1999). How we know – and sometimes misjudge – what others know: Imputing one’s own knowledge to others. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 737-759. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.125.6.737
March 26, 2013
Improve group dynamics by clarifying and assigning roles to group members
Instructors can improve dynamics in small groups by facilitating a discussion to clarify norms for effective group work before they create groups. Assign each group member a specific role for the group activity. This preparation enables students to avoid typical pitfalls of small group work such as uneven participation and difficulty keeping members on task.
Before Groups Begin Working
Facilitate a class discussion of group work norms. The discussion should include the following topics:
Introduce and explain group roles. The instructor can tweak assigned roles to fit their needs for the activity planned.
Randomly assign students to groups and roles in the group. You can distribute cards from a deck of playing cards (use multiple decks for large classes). Assign students to groups of 4 by the type of card they receive (aces of all suits will be in one group). Assign roles in the group by the suit of the card (e.g., the person holding the card with hearts will take the role of scribe).
Roles for a project include:
Roles for a discussion include:
Other group roles:
Get feedback from the students as to how the process went – either through discussion, anonymous written feedback or some combination of methods.
Adapted from Elizabeth Cohen’s Designing Groupwork: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom.
A description of functions carried out by each role can be found at Starting Point: Teaching Entry Level Geoscience (Carleton College).
This tip is based on a teaching strategy submitted to the Teaching Issues Writing Consortium by Erin Hill, Ph. D., Karen Rosenberg, Writing Center Director, and Dr. Robin Angotti, Associate Professor of Education, University of Washington Bothell.
WKU Writer’s Consortium
March 19, 2013
Cognitive warm-ups to wake up student thinking skills
How can you ensure that students arrive to class on time and prepared to engage in the learning activities planned? How can you begin each class with an enthusiastic activity that wakes up your students and gets them ready to focus on the business of learning?
Cognitive warm-ups are like pre-exercise stretches for the mind and the attention span.
Warm-ups consist of an event or activity that will challenge your students, engage them in relevant thinking skills, and create an engaging transition between when students arrive and the beginning of class. A cognitive warm-up should align with course goals and relate to topics you plan to discuss that day, although they might relate to general thinking skills important to the discipline. Warm-up activities should be brief, interactive, and involve solving a puzzle or having a laugh would probably work as a warm-up.
Suggestions for cognitive warm-up activities
Warm-ups as mid-class breaks in longer class sessions
For a 90-minute class or a long evening class, you can use a warm-up activity as a mid-class refresher to help refocus attention following a break. Investing 5 minutes of class time for an activity that engages and motivates students is a small price to pay for the dividend of refocused attention.
Once you have a suitable collection of activities, you can introduce a warm-up at the beginning of the term and use a warm-up every day. Regular use can motivate students to attend class and arrive on time, if only because they are curious about what you found to introduce the current topic. You might prefer to experiment with less frequent warm-ups until you develop a collection of suitable activities for your course.
This tip is based on a teaching strategy submitted to the Teaching Issues Writing Consortium by Fred W. Sanborn, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology & Director, Teaching & Learning Center, North Carolina Wesleyan College (firstname.lastname@example.org).
March 5, 2013
Use clicker questions as prompts for peer instruction
Instructors can use clicker questions to initiate a pair-share activity or peer instruction. When using peer instruction, faculty pose a question about a concept that many students have difficulty understanding. When presented as a ConcepTest clicker question, the answer options include statements of erroneous beliefs and misconceptions many students have about this topic. Before displaying the correct answer to the question, instructors ask students to discuss their answer with another student and try to persuade one another of the correct answer. When the question is posed a second time, more students will answer correctly, based on information they learn through discussion with peers. Instructors should follow a peer instruction activity with a discussion of why alternatives that represent misconceptions are wrong. They can elicit these comments from students. This activity creates unambiguous feedback about the correct response and reinforces the value of the peer learning activity.
Faculty in STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) have developed extensive collections of questions designed to probe student understanding of difficult concepts. Conduct a Google search on the terms ConcepTest and the name of your discipline to locate resources and examples of ConcepTest questions. Research on the impact of peer instruction activities supported by discussions of these questions indicates that peer instruction promotes deep and enduring learning.
Constructing questions that probe difficult concepts and identify common student misconceptions can be a daunting task. Fortunately, many faculty who use clicker questions for peer instruction collect their best questions and share these with other instructors. An excellent collection of clicker question collections is posted on the Concordia University Centre for Teaching and Learning Services website.
The site provides links to databases of clicker and ConcepTest questions for the following disciplines:
Chemistry (4 databases)
Mathematics (2 databases)
Many of these clicker questions use the ConcepTest format pioneered by Eric Mazur for implementing peer instruction in physics classes at Harvard. The Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative (University of British Columbia) has an excellent set of resources for the use of clickers to promote student learning. This site also provides links to collections of ConcepTest and clicker questions for STEM disciplines.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science hosts a collection of questions that assess conceptual understanding of concepts in the sciences and identify common misconceptions held by students (with data on the percentage of students in grades 6-8 and 9-12 who endorse these misconceptions). The site also includes an archive of scholarly publications that document the existence of these misconceptions.
A related initiative associated with Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) examines how POGIL methods can be implemented through clicker questions. A discussion of this work in college courses in STEM can be found on the POGIL site.
February 26, 2013
Use online writing diagnostics to develop self-editing skills and improve writing
Because few academics receive formal training in how to write for their discipline, they might avoid attempting to teach their students to write. If faculty or student writers search for models of writing in published articles, they will encounter few examples worth emulating. Sword (2012) evaluated the prose of 1,000 articles (100 articles from each of 10 disciplines: medicine, evolutionary biology, computer science, higher education, psychology, anthropology, law, philosophy, history, and literary studies). All articles appeared in well-regarded peer-reviewed journals with high impact factor ratings. Sword found examples in every discipline in which writers engaged readers and wrote persuasive, compelling arguments in clear prose. She also found many examples of dense, jargon-laden, impenetrable prose.
Stylish academic writing provides good advice to faculty writers who hope to refine their scholarly prose. The book is written for professional academic writers, but graduate student writers can benefit from this advice. Sword hosts a free, online writing diagnostic (the WritersDiet Test). You can submit a sample of up to 1,000 words of text and receive feedback on whether your writing is fit and lean or flabby. The diagnostic will not identify errors in grammar. Instead, it rates five categories of language use: verbs, nouns, prepositions, waste words (it, this, that, there), and adjectives and adverbs. Use the feedback to reflect on and edit your writing.
Have some fun! Submit a CUTLA teaching tip to the WritersDiet Test. (I already have!)
Use the WritersDiet Test to improve student writing
Use the WritersDiet Test to help students improve and edit their writing. Sword (nd) advises instructors to assign a short assignment (2 or 3 paragraphs with at least 300 words) to give students practice with self-editing skills. Discuss how students should interpret the diagnostic feedback. Ask them to edit and resubmit their assignment to the WritersDiet Test and include copies of the diagnostic feedback from both diagnostic evaluations when they submit their final assignment for grading. You might require students to write a short reflection about what they learned about writing by using the WritersDiet Test.
Sword, H. (2012). Stylish academic writing. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Sword, H. (nd). Teaching with the Writer’s Diet. (PDF)
February 19, 2013
Use Google Sites to organize and monitor group activity on a class project
Google Sites provides a simple interface to build a course web site and organize information for a course, individual team projects, or collaborations with a research group. Google Sites has a large number of templates to get you and your students started.
Create a collaborative space in which students can share materials, edit common documents, and communicate with one another about a class project. Create pages on the site to serve as document archives (file cabinet), make announcements, or host topical discussions. Google web pages on the site can include images, links, a table of contents, text boxes, videos, and other Google apps. You (and members of student teams) can track who makes changes to the site and when changes were made to hold students accountable for their individual contributions.
Need help? All Google Apps include comprehensive help pages. At the top right corner of the window, click the gear-shaped icon. The menu will allow you to change your settings (preferences) and will also direct you to the help pages, which are indexed and searchable.
This tip is based on a teaching strategy submitted to the Teaching Issues Writing Consortium by Francine Glazer, PhD, Assistant Provost and Director, Center for Teaching and Learning, New York Institute of Technology.
WKU Writer’s Consortium
February 12, 2013
Improve communication with international students
International study presents students with multiple challenges. They must function in a new university in a country and culture that is new to them. In addition to adjusting to the culture of Pensacola (new foods, new customs), international students must adjust to the academic culture at UWF, which may differ in many ways from their home institution. One of the most obvious challenges these students face is the challenge of functioning in English.
The International Student Office offers suggestions to help improve communications between faculty and international students
Erin Stanley provided additional information on the challenges faced by international students and the challenges instructors might experience in helping international students adjust to the culture of academia in the United States. A PDF of this presentation is posted on the CUTLA web site on the Campus Resources for Faculty and Adjunct Faculty Resources pages. Faculty can also access this file through the link in this teaching tip.
This tip is based on teaching strategy suggested by Rachel Errington and Erin Stanley, International Student Office.
February 5, 2013
Flipping Your Class with a Combination of a Case-study, Role-play, and Collaborative Learning
Instructors who are interested in experimenting with a “flipped class” format can use this activity to structure the pre-class preparation assignment and in-class active learning. This activity combines a case study with in-class role-play and collaborative learning to promote student learning. This activity is time-consuming and requires some preparation, which makes making it a good choice for a “flipped classroom” experience. Assign preparatory readings to students as pre-class homework. Plan to devote an entire class period for the group collaborative learning activity.
The case study component is a narrative that addresses a realistic issue and provides a basis for student discussion of important topics and problem-solving strategies. Cases can be based on actual events or a scenario you create to include key elements you want the class to discuss.
In the role-play component, each student assumes the role of one character in the case scenario. Players take responsibility for acting out roles in the case narrative, either through literal acting or by taking responsibility for making the decisions typically made by that character in the decision-making process enacted in the scenario.
The collaborative learning component of this activity is a Jigsaw technique. Students work in a small group to discuss the topic assigned and develop strategies for explaining the topic to others. Each group works on a different aspect of the case to become the “experts” on their assigned topic. Students then leave their expert group and join a new group comprised of one member from each expert topic group. In the new group, each student must teach his/her topic to the other members of the group. Finally, students rejoin their original group, discuss their experiences in the second group, and prepare to share their reflection on the case in a discussion with the entire class.
Pre-class assignment to prepare students for in-class activity
Assign a case for the students to read (with supporting documents as needed). The case should provide sufficient information on the topic to support a rich discussion. Assign the reading for the case (including supporting documents) ahead of class so students are prepared to learn from the class activity. Materials for the case study can be obtained from multiple sources:
Collaborative learning activity during class meeting
For example, if an environmental issue were to be addressed in the case study, different students could argue from the perspectives of a member of the general public, a representative from the business community, a scientist, a politician, or other relevant roles. This technique works well for case studies in disciplines that address multiple points of view (e.g., medical, political, economic, ethical, scientific, or other perspectives).
Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Brislin, T. (1995). Active learning in applied ethics instruction. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching. 6, 87-95.
MERLOT is a program of the California State University, in partnership with higher education institutions, professional societies, and industry. The MERLOT site archives peer reviewed teaching and learning materials in Arts, Business, Education Humanities, Mathematics and Statistics, Science and Technology, Social Sciences, and Workforce Development.
The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, located at the University at Buffalo, houses an award-winning collection of peer-reviewed case studies for multiple STEM disciplines that faculty can download and use in their courses. The work of NCCSTS has been supported by the National Science Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and the U.S. Department of Education.
This tip is based on a teaching strategy submitted to the Teaching Issues Writing Consortium by Bill Burke, Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT), University of Kentucky.
WKU Writer’s Consortium
January 29, 2013
Strategies for learning student name
UWF promotes itself as student-centered institution “where the buildings have numbers and the students have names.” Continued growth and larger class sizes create challenges to faculty who want to maintain this commitment to student engagement. Learning a student’s name makes that student feel valued. Small changes that improve the sense of community in a class can make a big difference for student engagement and learning
Barbara Millis collected strategies used by several colleagues to help them learn the names of their students and build a sense of rapport and community in their classes.
Seating charts: Divide and conquer
If your class is small enough, you can use a seating chart to help learn student names. Instructors can assign seats or make a chart based on seats that students select during the first week of class. Students are fairly territorial about their seats and sit in the same location all term when seats are not assigned. Divide your seating charts into blocks with no more than 6 students per block. Work on learning the names of the 6 students in one block during each class session. Make a point of visiting with the students in a new block during class. Once you learn the names of students in one block, include them in your visits with student in the next block to keep names you’ve learned fresh in memory. (Dee Fink)
Create an office hours visit assignment for your course
Require students to visit you during office hours during the first two or three weeks of the term, even if the visit is limited to only a few minutes. You might not learn all student names during these one-on-one visits, but an early break-the-ice visit ensures that students can locate your office and encourages them to arrange content-focused visits later in the term. This strategy is especially useful in classes with large first-year enrollments. Many first-year students are naïve about the expectations of academic life and are reluctant to intrude on faculty during their office hours. They may benefit from an extra push to engage in a one-on-one conversation with an instructor. (Gerry Wojnar)
Use student’s names when you talk to them, even if you have to ask their name first
We frequently recognize the names of our students when we see or hear their names. We might recognize many of our students’ faces, but have difficulty connecting names to faces. When a student visits your office or you see one of your students outside class, greet the student by name (if you know it), or ask “please remind me of your name” (if you don’t know it). When you use the student’s name, students love this confirmation that you know them. If you don’t know the student’s name, request it and use it during your conversation. You will show the student that you care enough to try to learn and use students’ names. Students appreciate your effort. Both strategies build rapport with students. (Susan Robison)
Ask students to make and use name tents during class
In smaller classes, you can ask students to print their name in large letters on name tents and place the name tents on their desk. You and other students can then read their names and associate names with faces. Make a point of using names when you call on students during class. Gradually, you will learn names and rely less on reading the names from the tents. (Kejing Liu & Susan Robison).
Use student photos in the ClassMate roster to associate names with faces
Print a copy of the roster with student photos and bring this to class during the first week and during exams. In the early weeks, you might use the roster to call on students and compare their appearance in class with the roster photo. Bring the roster to an early exam and see if you can match students in the class with their names by comparing their photo to their appearance that day. This also deters wandering eyes during the exam. (Susan Robison)
This tip is based on a teaching strategy submitted to the Teaching Issues Writing Consortium by Barbara Millis, Teaching and Learning Center, University of Texas at San Antonio.
WKU Writer’s Consortium
January 22, 2013
Use an in-class scavenger hunt to introduce students to one another
An ice-breaker activity builds community in any class, but it is particularly useful if you plan to include group work in your class.
To prepare for this activity, download the class roster from ClassMate and request information about the primary major and residence of your enrolled students.
Activity for small classes (30 or fewer students)
Create a 3-column table with one row for each student enrolled in your class. Label the left-hand column Major and list the names of majors you identify for all enrolled students in the cells of this column, duplicating entries as needed. For example, if 9 students identify Biology as their major and 6 identify History, enter Biology in 9 cells in this column and History in 6 cells. If all students in your class have the same major, you could download information about the students’ residence city from ClassMate, label the first column Home City and enter the names of cities in the first column instead of majors. Label the middle column Classmate’s Name and the right-hand column Favorite Hobby/Activity. Leave the cells in the middle and right-hand columns blank.
Ask the students to circulate among their classmates to learn the missing information (names and interests) and fill in the empty cells in their matrix. Provide about 15-20 minutes for this process. The room will be abuzz with conversation. Students like this activity; it gives them an opportunity to meet their classmates and learn something about them – sometimes with surprising results.
Activity for larger classes (more than 30 students)
Students in large classes will not be able to meet every other student in 15-20 minutes. Modify the table and search process to limit the search to about 20 individuals by limiting the size of the table to 20 rows of empty cells. Label the left-hand column Name, the middle column Major (or Home City), and the right-hand column Favorite Hobby/Activity. The students will talk with nearby classmates and fill in as many rows as possible within the 15-20 minutes allowed.
This tip is based on a teaching strategy submitted to the Teaching Issues Writing Consortium by Ernest C. Linsay, Director, Faculty Development & Support, Wilmington University.
WKU Writer’s Consortium
January 15, 2013
How should I respond to a student who seems despondent?
The Suicide Outreach and Support (SOS) program is a suicide prevention program that is based on suicide prevention strategies that are applicable to broad populations and are well-suited for the general campus population. The SOS program also includes a special emphasis on reaching military-affiliated students (active duty servicepersons, veterans, and military spouses and dependents) and students in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (GLBTQ) community.
The SOS program at UWF includes training sessions for faculty, staff, and students, a Suicide Prevention Coalition, a Student Organization Network, and a Social Marketing Campaign to increase knowledge and awareness of suicide warning signs and risk factors among members of the UWF community, including information about several national suicide hotline resources.
Faculty may be particularly interested in the QPR Gatekeeper Training, which will help faculty develop the ability to recognize warning signs of potential suicidal thoughts and respond effectively to individuals who present these warning signs.
QPR is easy to learn. Trainings will be scheduled for two hours with the second hour being an optional role play session. Only one hour is required for certification. They are free to students, faculty and staff. The UWF Counseling Center will offer three training workshops during the spring terms:
|Monday, January 28, 2013, 2 PM – 4 PM|
|Monday, March 11, 2013, 10 AM – 12 noon|
|Thursday, May 9, 2013, 3 PM – 5 PM|
All workshops will be held in BLDG 960 (Counseling & Wellness) Room 258
Sign up for one of these QPR workshops.
Contact April Glenn to schedule additional training (474-2420 or e-mail: email@example.com).
Faculty can also visit the Counseling Center web site, which includes a resource page on suicide prevention, including the resource, How to Help a Student Who May be Having Thoughts about Suicide. This document discusses the warning signs of suicidal ideation, specific actions individuals should take if they are concerned about a person, and follow-up actions they should take when responding to student or colleague.
Thanks to April Glenn, Student Counseling Specialist, UWF Counseling Center, for this teaching tip.
January 8, 2013
Using electronic tools to organize your class
Faculty can choose among several options to remind students of course activities and deadlines and help students stay on task.
If you teach an online course or use eLearning to supplement a face-to-face course, you can create deadlines in the calendar function in eLearning. Students will see notifications of impending deadlines whenever they open the course in eLearning.
Create a News item to alert students to an impending deadline. Encourage your students to set Notifications in eLearning. Students can request eLearning to send them reminders of upcoming deadlines for the Dropbox or to notify them when a new item appears in their course News or a new message is posted to a discussion forum. Students can choose to receive their notifications in an e-mail or as a text message to their mobile device.
Encourage students to regulate their progress by creating a Checklist of assignments in eLearning. Checklist items include brief descriptions of assignments and the date each assignment is due. Students monitor their progress by checking off each item as they complete it. You can create multiple short checklists for items due in each module of a course or you can create a global checklist for all items due during the term. ATC provides details about the mechanics of using checklist in AskATC.
Google apps strategies
You can create multiple Google calendars in your UWF Gmail account. Create one calendar for each course you teach and enter class meetings, readings, and assignment due dates on the class calendar. Students in your class can subscribe to the calendar for your course. When you make a change to the course calendar, the change will automatically appear in the students’ accounts. Since student email at UWF is hosted by Gmail, students can access the Google Apps calendar whenever they check their email.
Create a Google site for your course. Add countdown gadgets (search on the public gadgets for countdown options) to remind students of the number of days to each assignment deadline.This tip is based on a teaching strategy submitted to the Teaching Issues Writing Consortium by Francine Glazer, PhD, Assistant Provost and Director, Center for Teaching and Learning, New York Institute of Technology.
November 27, 2012
Good sources make good content: Improve student information literacy skills to improve quality of written assignments
The best student papers are written clearly, discuss content that is relevant to the disciplinary topic, and accurately analyze and synthesize good quality information to support logical conclusions based on evidence. The best students find and use good sources and use the information they find ethically.
Faculty who want to promote these learning outcomes can collaborate with a reference librarian, who will help instructors in several ways. Subject specialist librarians will develop library workshops that will promote information literacy skills in the instructor’s discipline. Reference librarians can show students how to use library data bases to identify scholarly sources for their discipline, construct data-base search strategies that use appropriate key words and other search terms, evaluate the quality of sources identified in a search, and cite scholarly sources appropriately.
Two reference librarians at UWF recently collected assessment data from instructors who requested library instruction workshops for their courses. In both cases, the overall quality of the student work submitted for class assignments was positively correlated with the overall quality of the sources students cited. Although better students (who write better papers) are likely to already know how to seek out high quality sources, a library instruction workshop might help weaker students identify and select higher quality sources and improve the quality of their assignment submissions.
Reference librarians are eager to help faculty develop assignments designed to improve student skills in using scholarly sources. Faculty can contact the reference librarian for their discipline and schedule a customized information literacy workshop that will meet the specific needs of students in the courses they teach. Contact the reference librarian for your discipline to discuss how you might collaborate to create an effective information literacy assignment and associated library workshop.
This tip is based on teaching strategy suggested by Britt McGowan, Melissa Gonzalez, and Shari Johnson, Reference Librarians at the Pace Library.
November 13, 2012
Why students don’t read: Strategies to increase student preparation for class
A “flipped” class requires students to read assigned materials and complete other assigned work that prepares them to apply new learning during in-class activities that promote deep learning of course content and skills. Instructors can assign readings, but what if students do not complete these readings before coming to class?
Hoeft (2012) reports that 56%-68% of students in a first-year class reported that they did not read assigned material before class. The most common reasons students give to explain why they did not read assigned materials are:
Students who say that they read the assigned materials usually said that they were motivated to complete reading assignments because they were concerned about grades.
Students who say that they did not complete assigned readings suggested that instructors might increase the number of students who read assigned material if they
Hoeft tried each strategy in one of three different courses. She found that reading quizzes and supplementary graded work successfully motivated students to complete assigned reading (74% of students in a course that used reading quizzes; 95% of students in a course that used an assigned, graded reading journal). Although more students reported reading when the journal assignment was used as a motivator, an independent measure of reading comprehension indicated that quizzes improved comprehension more than the journal assignment. Students in the reading journal assignment class appeared to read superficially, skimming the readings to find answers to questions included in the assignment; students in the reading quiz class appeared to read more deeply because the reading quizzes tapped reading content in less predictable ways than did the journal assignments.
Instructors can implement reading quizzes by creating self-grading quizzes in eLearning as graded assignments. Close access to the quizzes on the due date for the assigned reading to motivate students to complete the reading before class sessions. Alternatively, some instructors implement reading quizzes in the first 5 minutes of the class meeting (perhaps as clicker questions). If completed during class, the reading quizzes also serve to motivate students to attend class and participate in planned learning activities.
Hoeft, M. E. (2012). Why university students don’t read: What professors can do to increase compliance. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 6, (2).
November 6, 2012
Protect your voice during lectures
Professors spend a lot of time talking, whether they spend their time advising and mentoring students, facilitating classroom discussions, making formal conference presentations, or teaching large lecture-format classes. One of the hazards of a profession that relies on vocal communication is that extended periods of speaking can tax the voice.
The Center for Instructional Innovation & Assessment at Western Washington University frequently offers a workshop (Lecturing without Tiring or Losing Your Voice) that is offered by Dr. Rich Brown, a professor in the Theatre Department. The teaching center recently excerpted segments of Dr. Brown’s workshop as a series of five training videos. Topics discussed in each video module include:
|An introduction to how parts of the body interact to produce voice quality
A demonstration of warm-up exercises
Guidelines for breath control
Placement of sound
Use of resonators to project the voice
Together, these video modules can help faculty learn healthy voice techniques that will enable them to project their voice during extended periods of speaking and keep their voice strong through a class or a long day of talking and maintain a healthy voice throughout a career.
Thanks to the Center for Instructional Innovation & Assessment and Dr. Rich Brown, Western Washington University, for producing and sharing this resource with the teaching community.
October 30, 2012
Discussing the ethics of research projects that collect data from people
The Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology has posted an electronic resource that helps faculty teach students about ethics in scholarly endeavors that require the collection of data from human participants.
Beyond Milgram: Expanding research ethics education to participant responsibilities (Barber & Bagsby, 2012) describes participant ethics and an educational approach to participant rights and responsibilities with a special focus on the reciprocal nature of the researcher-participant relationship. It includes four instructor resources
|(a)||websites that discuss participants rights and responsibilities,|
|(b)||a student learning module,|
|(c)||supplemental module resources (a Knowledge Retention Quiz, answers to the quiz, a questionnaire to assess students’ beliefs about research ethics, and suggested discussion questions), and|
|(d)||references for additional resources and readings.|
These resources might be useful to faculty who teach research methods courses in disciplines that depend on data collected from people. These resources will also be useful to any faculty who are engaged in research projects on teaching strategies (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) that depend on assessment data gathered from students as evidence.
The development of this 33-page resource (downloadable as a PDF document) was supported by a 2011 OTRP Instructional Resource Award to Dr. Barber.
Thanks to Ted Bosack, Executive Director, Society for the Teaching of Psychology and Professor Emeritus, Providence College, for contributions to this teaching tip.
October 23, 2012
Provide students with feedback early and often in their learning. Teach them how to give themselves feedback so they can become independent learners.
Students need regular feedback to direct their attention and energies toward activities that will help them improve their performance, avoid major errors and dead ends, and avoid developing habits or learning things they later will have to unlearn (sometimes at great cost). Constructive feedback also serves as a motivating form of interaction between teacher and learner, and among learners. Selective feedback on key examples create opportunities for students to observe and reflect on their performance and internalize the voice of the "coach." When students develop the ability to observe and critique their own performance and give themselves corrective feedback, they are on the way toward becoming independent learners.
Don't assume that students understand new concepts you’ve explained. Ask them to briefly write about the "muddiest point" in a particular reading, lab exercise, or lecture. Respond to the most common areas of confusion in your next class. Find out what students are actually doing with the feedback you currently provide. Do they read and use the comments you write on papers and exams? You can model how you make use of the feedback you get on your work. Few students understand the revise-and-resubmit practices common in academic publishing.
Create opportunities for students to use your comments to improve their work. When assignments are clearly identified as multiple opportunities to practice and improve based on feedback, students will be motivated to make good use of the feedback you provide.
Angelo, T. A. (1993). A “teacher’s dozen”: Fourteen general, research-based principles for improving higher learning in our classrooms. AAHE Bulletin, April, 3-13.
Check the Topical Archive of Get Engaged Teaching Tips for previous tips on providing feedback and using peer review:
October 16, 2012
Promote active learning and critical thinking skills in STEM by teaching with case studies
Schools of medicine, law and business have a long tradition of assigning cases to help students learn critical concepts and apply them to real-world applications.
Cases can be used to structure class discussion of critical issues or they can be assigned as projects for small group structured learning activities (team learning, problem-based learning, and other types of collaborative learning). A well-written case study will introduce students to essential disciplinary content and concepts. Case studies require students to use disciplinary thinking skills to analyze and propose effective solutions to real-world problems. Thus, students get practice using critical thinking skills on problems that connect course content to important issues and problems they may encounter in current news.
If you are new to using case studies and unsure about how to write a good case study or structure a learning activity based on case studies, you can find an outstanding collection of peer-reviewed cases on the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science (NCCSTS) web site (sponsored by the National Science Foundation). Case materials include the case handout (materials students receive when they begin the case study assignment), teaching notes (background material, suggestions for classroom management, discussion of critical learning outcomes for the case, and scholarly references), and an answer key or rubric to help instructors evaluate student work.
The NCCSTS collection includes analysis cases, dilemma/decision cases, cases that include discussions guided through clicker questions, cases for laboratory work, cases designed specifically for problem-based learning, guided discussions, debates, mock trials, jig-saw group learning activities, and role-play activities.
All cases archived on the NCCSTS site are peer reviewed. Faculty at UWF who develop their own case materials might consider submitting their work to NCCSTS as a component of their scholarship of teaching.
Visit the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science and search their collection peer-reviewed cases:
http://sciencecases.lib.buffalo.edu/cs/collection/ (Link is inactive)
The data base is searchable by keyword, STEM discipline (identified as subject heading in the search engine menus), educational level (lower-division undergraduate, upper-division undergraduate, graduate, professional school, etc.), type of case, or topic area (ethics, scientific method, pseudoscience, social issues, legal issues, etc.).
Look under the Teaching Resources section to find publications, including downloadable PDF files with guidelines for writing and using case studies in teaching.
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.
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
eLearning crashed just as I tried to submit my paper to the Drop Box! Ensure students have technical assistance with eLearning when planning assignments
Our culture has a long tradition of deadlines that end at midnight (think of the deadline for filing your taxes with the IRS). Although students “ought” to plan their work to accommodate unexpected obstacles near the submission deadline, some deadlines might be more punitive to procrastinators than others. A particularly punishing deadline is one that occurs when students have no access to assistance with last-minute technical problems.
When you select deadlines for student work that requires the use of technology (e.g., electronic submissions of work to a drop box in eLearning, access to a timed online quiz, assignments that require use of a limited-access piece of technology), give some consideration to when campus help resources are available to students for technical support.
September 25, 2012
What is your professional impact?
You worked hard to collect data, prepare a manuscript to report your findings, and successfully publish them in a disciplinary peer-reviewed journal. What impact will your work have on researchers in your discipline?
Faculty can document the impact of their scholarly work by collecting information about the acceptance rates of the journals that publish their work. Some journals will publish an impact factor for the journal. What is the impact of the article you wrote that appears in that journal?
One strategy now available to faculty is to search for their articles in Google Scholar and track the citation of these articles (click on the My Citations menu to create a personal profile and monitor citation activity).
Another option is to create a profile for your scholarly work in the Web of Science. This service will provide information about the work you cite and the authors who cite your work. You can produce useful graphics that illustrate the breadth of scholarly impact associated with a single publication.
Contact a reference librarian to learn more about how to set up a profile in the Web of Science. On October 5, 2012, Amy Braden, Thomson Reuters, will facilitate a workshop in which she will demonstrate how the Web of Science works. Reference librarians will work with individual faculty in a hands-on workshop to help faculty set up profiles in the Web of Science and select graphic displays that illustrate the impact of their work.
The Web of Science workshop will be held in the Library Conference Room and Library Classroom on Friday, October 5, 2012 (11:00 AM – 1:30 PM). The program will begin with a lunch and presentation by Amy Braden and conclude with guided hands-on practice with the data base in the Library Classroom.
September 18, 2012
How should I respond to suspected academic misconduct, student grievances, and grade appeals?
Faculty often experience anger and outrage when they discover evidence that a student may have cheated on an exam, plagiarized sources in written work, or committed some other form of academic misconduct. However justified the emotion, this anger is probably not the best component of an effective, professional response to this student.
As sure as you may be about a case, remember that a student has a right to due process. Gather your evidence (the originality report from Turnitin, samples of previous written work submitted by the student, statements from witnesses of cheating during an exam) and calmly present your interpretation of the evidence in an initial meeting with the student.
Contact staff at the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities to determine if this is a first offense for this student. First offenses are handled differently (with a stronger emphasis on educating the student) than are second offenses, which follow a different procedure. Attend to and adhere to University policy. Failure to report a first offense creates a situation in which a savvy, seemingly-contrite offender can slip through the system undetected through multiple offenses. The revised policy enables first-time offenders to who learn from their mistakes and avoid the most disastrous consequences (provided the first offense is not a real doozy!).
The University of West Florida recently revised the policies related to academic misconduct, student grievances, and grade appeals. The revised policies are posted on the Student Affairs web site.
September 11, 2012
Help students improve their study skills
Students often need explicit guidance on effective study strategies. The SQ3R technique is an effective study strategy that has been described and promoted in countless textbooks in multiple disciplines.
David Myers, author of a widely-used text for introductory psychology, recently produced a narrated animated video (Make Things Memorable!) that provides an engaging and short (at just over 5 minutes) overview of the SQ3R method. David Myers describes the SQ3R technique for study and discusses psychological research findings on the “testing and retrieval effect” that explain why these strategies improve student learning.
If you teach a course with a large enrollment of first year students, consider providing your students with a referral to this video. Post a link to it from your faculty web page or include a link in your course materials in eLearning.
September 4, 2012
Promote academic integrity: Educate students about plagiarism and respond effectively to violations
Although all students know that they should not plagiarize and that punishments for plagiarism can be severe, many students are unable to clearly describe why a faculty member would judge that a piece of writing was plagiarized or recognize that a sample of writing uses inappropriate forms of paraphrasing or improperly cites sources material.
Many faculty discuss plagiarism and the consequences of discoveries that a student has plagiarized in their classes and on course syllabi. Fewer faculty actively show students how to use ideas from source materials in their writing with appropriate use of summaries and paraphrases. Disciplinary variations in authorship practices create inconsistent messages to students about appropriate authorship practices.
Disciplinary writing skills include disciplinary norms for use of direct quotations, paraphrases, citation of ideas, and other authorship practices. Like many non-content, “soft” disciplinary skills, these skills have traditionally been part of the implicit curriculum. Students have been expected to arrive on campus with full mastery of these skills or acquire these skills without direct instruction. Students can acquire these skills much more efficiently if they receive unambiguous, direct instruction. Students will improve their writing skills and their compliance with expectations for academic integrity in authorship when thy have explicit guidelines and clear examples of correct practices in their courses.
The Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology recently published an online resource, Educating students about plagiarism (Lamoreaux, Darnell, Sheehan, & Tusher, 2012), that describes instructional strategies that help educate students about plagiarism and helps faculty understand how to handle plagiarism if they suspect it in student work submitted for their classes. This resource provides links to the following downloadable instructional materials:
Academic Integrity Week at UWF: September 10-14
The University of West Florida Policies on Academic Misconduct, including a flowchart that describes the steps faculty at UWF should follow when handling a report of academic misconduct, are available on the Academic Affairs website.
Thanks to Ted Bosack, Executive Director, Society for the Teaching of Psychology and Professor Emeritus, Providence College, for contributions to this teaching tip.
August 27, 2012
Twenty-minute faculty development webinar series continues through the fall term
The Monday Morning Mentor programs are 20-minute online webinars produced by Magna Publications (publisher of The Teaching Professor newsletter). Topics include strategies for effective teaching, creating community in the classroom, use (and abuse) of technology in face-to-face classes, teaching strategies for the online environment, strategies for responding effectively to conflicts associated student behaviors.
CUTLA will distribute a link for each webinar late in the week preceding a scheduled broadcast (each link is unique to a broadcast topic). This link includes access to a web site where UWF faculty will find downloadable PDF files of the PowerPoint slides for the webinar, supplemental materials, and a link to view the webinar. [The CUTLA subscription to these webinars is limited to employees of UWF only; do not forward your link to others!]
Can't view the webinar on Monday Morning? Tune in later that week!
Webinars are first broadcast at 9:00 AM Central time on the Monday listed in the schedule.
However, faculty can access the webinar at any time (24 hours a day) during the week following the initial broadcast date.
If you viewed any Monday Morning Mentor webinars during the Spring Term or have comments on the webinars broadcast this fall, please send your comments to Claudia Stanny (firstname.lastname@example.org). I plan to evaluate the usefulness of these webinars before making a decision to renew the subscription in 2013. Look for an online survey about the Monday Morning Mentor series this fall!
Updated 04/23/13 cdw
To report errors and/or broken links on the CUTLA website, please contact us at email@example.com.
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