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).
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
April 7, 2009
Micro-lectures: Just-in-time teaching for critical topics and skills
Attaining competence with some concepts and skills requires repetition and practice. Instructors can use class time more efficiently if they create short electronic modules that discuss a particular concept or demonstrate a skill that students struggle to learn. Create an out-of-class assignment in which students view the micro-lecture and then complete an activity, small project, or written assignment that entails applying the concept or using the skill. Micro-lectures can be as short as 60 seconds to 5 minutes or as long as 15-20 minutes.
Use micro-lectures to:
Shieh, D. (2009). These lectures are gone in 60 seconds. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 55 (26), Page A13.
Want to create a micro-lecture and need help?
Contact the Academic Technology Center: http://uwf.edu/atc/
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.
February 24, 2009
Establish norms and expectations for individual contributions to group work
Students who are new to group work may be uncertain about how to be an effective member of the group. Establish clear expectations for good group citizenship and team skills by asking students to develop a group contract. You can assist this process by providing a sample contract that students could adapt to the needs of specific groups and projects.
A group contract should include two types of information:
TRACE Tips: Making Group Contracts provides examples of guidelines that students might include in a group contract, including guidelines that address student effort and attendance issues, procedures for group meetings, roles of group members, behavioral expectations, and a procedure for resolving conflict within the group.
TRACE Tips: Making Group Contracts
Centre for Teaching Excellence
University of Waterloo
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
June 24, 2008
Participation in class discussion is a valuable tool for increasing student engagement. Achieving consistent and constructive participation in class discussion can be a challenge. Students may be reluctant to participate in discussion if they are uncertain about faculty expectations for meaningful contributions or unclear about the ground rules for appropriate behavior. Students can be assigned specific conversational roles such as facilitator (in charge of presenting the basic information to be discussed and posing relevant questions for discussion), summarizer (keeps notes of the discussion and provides a brief summary at the close of the discussion), process observer (monitors group dynamics and ensures that others participate in the discussion), evidence assessor (asks individuals who make a contribution to describe the evidence that supports the assertion). Before class presentations in which discussion is expected, individual students can be assigned each of these roles for different presentations. Alternatively, students can rotate through each role during different class meetings. Assigned roles with clear descriptions of the expectations associated with each role will increase student participation, limit the tendency for a few students to dominate discussions, and improve the overall quality of class discussions. A more complete description of conversational roles can be found in Brookfield and Preskill (2005).
Brookfield, S. D., & Preskill, S. (2005). Discussion as a way of teaching: Tools and techniques for democratic classrooms (2nd ed). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
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.
Source: Not Quite 101 Ways to Learning Students’ Names, Michael Palmer (Spring, 2004). University of Virginia Teaching Resource Center. Web site: http://trc.virginia.edu/Publications/Teaching_Concerns/Misc_Tips/Learn_Names.htm
April 29, 2008
Create a Strong Ending for Your Class
Ask students to write a letter to the future students of the course. Have them summarize the course material, discuss study techniques and learning strategies that helped them learn, explain problem areas they encountered with the material, and describe the class in terms of a general introduction for future students. Grade this work as a pass/fail (done/not done) assignment. The comments and suggestions might be used as part of a handout for students on the first day of class the next time you teach this course.
Haussermann, Carol. "How do you end your class?"
Faculty Center for Excellence in Teaching, Western Kentucky University
March 4, 2008
Include examples of findings and ideas from student papers or presentations to illustrate relevant points in your lectures. This practice will help establish a community-of-learners atmosphere that encourages students to take their own scholarly work seriously. You can also promote student awareness of the scholarly work of colleagues in your department by using examples of their current research to illustrate topics in your lecture.
Thanks to Stephanie D. Moussalli, Ph.D. (Accounting) for this suggestion.
February 26, 2008
Promote a respectful environment in your classroom to improve student engagement. For example, protect your student’s privacy. When making comments in class or while returning graded work, ensure that the strategies you use or comments you make do not reveal information about the student’s performance to the rest of the class.
February 12, 2008
Engaged students are connected to faculty, fellow students, and other campus activities.
Encourage students to develop connections with their classmates. Ask your students to exchange contact information. Encourage students to develop relations with one another for mutual support in your class. You might request that your students form study groups or develop networks for sharing lecture notes.
January 8, 2008
Engage students with your class and with one another by creating a welcoming class environment. Ask early-arriving students to serve as “greeters” who will welcome students as they arrive. “Greeters” should introduce themselves to other students as they arrive. This activity will facilitate the creation of community within the classroom and help students meet one another.
Tip courtesy of Dr. Donna Duffy, participant at the Lilly Conference on College and University Teaching (Traverse City).
November 6, 2007
Can a student be too engaged?
Have a student who talks too much and monopolizes class time? Talk to this student after class. Praise the student for his or her confidence and command of the material. Then ask the student to help you engage other students in the class.
October 16, 2007
Start and end your class on time. It is exciting to be so engaging that you can’t let your students go. But students may have another class on the other side of campus. Keeping students beyond the class time interferes with their ability to be engaged in their next class. If you arrive a bit early to engage students in conversation before class, you improve student engagement in your class and demonstrate that you value the time in class.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Connect with students in your class.
Arrive at the classroom 10 minutes before class begins. Engage students in informal conversation about how their classes are going.
Updated 02/28/12 mhh cdw
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