Ten Things to Make the First Day (and the Rest) of the Semester Successful
By Mary C. Clement, Berry College, GA As published in The Teaching Professor, Volume 21, Number 7, August/September 2007
I like to arrive in the classroom well before the students. It gives me time to get things organized. I create an entrance table (I use chairs or desks if there's no table) that holds handouts for students to pick up. From day one the students learn the routine: they arrive, pick up handouts on the entrance table, and read the screen for instructions. They know what to do, and it saves time. Here's how I recommend introducing the routine on day one.
Note: The "today we will" list lets me walk around the room, teach from the projection system, and then look at the list for what I should do next. I tend not to forget things if I have the list. As the semester progresses, the "today we will" list might contain warm-up questions that then appear as test questions. The list helps students who arrive late or leave early see what they have missed.]
You can always add one fun question:
Teaching College Students with Learning Disabilities
Authors: Stan F. Shaw, Sally S. Scott, and Joan M. McGuire
During the last quarter century, the concepts of mainstreaming, least restrictive environment and inclusion encouraged public schools to serve more students with disabilities in K-12 general education classes, and there has been a corresponding increase in the number of students with disabilities who attend college.
At the college level, issues in educating students with disabilities are often different than those affecting K-12 education, and the instructional climate is changing. Taken together, these trends call for a more systematic method of accommodating diverse learning needs. This digest presents the issues and offers a practical approach to improving instruction for students with learning disabilities (LD).
Disability Law at the College Level is Not as Prescriptive At the college level, the prescriptive Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is not applicable. While two civil rights laws, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), provide for equal access for "otherwise qualified" students with disabilities, exactly how equal access applies to instruction is less clear (Brinckerhoff, McGuire & Shaw, 2002).
The Instructional Climate in Higher Education is Changing Traditionally, many college professors have emphasized content over pedagogy, raising concerns about their knowledge of effective instructional strategies, especially for students with disabilities. In the 21st century an increased emphasis on pedagogy in higher education is creating opportunities to improve instruction for college students with LD. A high rate of faculty turnover has been projected for this decade (Magner, 2000), offering an opportunity for new faculty to enter academia at a time when teaching skills are valued.
Additionally, information technology can support instructional approaches previously not feasible in the college classroom. Effective instruction by faculty is now viewed as a critical element in the accessibility of learning environments (Scott & Gregg, 2000). In many colleges a major role of Disability Services personnel is to collaborate with faculty to help students become self-determined, independent learners (Shaw & Dukes, 2001).
With more students with LD attending college and a mixed level of pedagogical expertise among faculty, expecting faculty to make individual modifications and accommodations can be problematic. A more systematic method of meeting the needs of diverse learners is required, and Universal Design for Instruction (UDI) is such a model.
Universal Design for Instruction The general concept of Universal Design (UD) includes a specific set of principles to systematically incorporate accessible features into a design instead of retrofitting changes or accommodations. As applied in the field of architecture, UD results in the creation of environments and products that are as usable as possible by a diverse range of individuals.
Building on the framework of UD and its principles (Follette, Story, Mueller, & Mace, 1998), UDI anticipates the needs of diverse learners and incorporates effective strategies into curriculum and instruction to make learning more accessible. By focusing on methods and strategies that promote learning for all students, UDI embraces an inclusionary approach that enables students with disabilities to overcome some of their barriers to learning.
When the principles of UD are adapted to reflect the instructional practices that have been acknowledged as effective with students with LD, a more inclusive paradigm for teaching emerges. UDI provides a conceptual framework for thinking about access and inclusion for diverse individuals.
Principles of Universal Design for Instruction* The UDI framework consists of nine general principles (Scott, McGuire, & Shaw, 2001) to guide faculty in thinking about and developing instruction for a broad range of students.
1.Equitable use-Instruction is designed to be useful to and accessible by people with diverse abilities. It provides the same means of use for all students, identical whenever possible, equivalent when not. Example: Using web-based courseware products with links to on-line resources so all students can access materials, regardless of varying academic preparation, distance from campus, etc.
2.Flexibility in use-Instruction is designed to accommodate a wide range of individual abilities. It provides choice in methods of use. Example: Using varied instructional methods (lecture with a visual outline, group activities, use of stories, or web-based discussions) to support different ways of learning.
3.Simple and intuitive instruction-Instruction is designed in a straightforward and predictable manner, regardless of the student's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level. It eliminates unnecessary complexity. Example: Providing a grading scheme for papers or projects to clearly state performance expectations.
4.Perceptible information-Instruction is designed so that necessary information is communicated effectively, regardless of ambient conditions or the student's sensory abilities. Example: Selecting text books, reading material, and other instructional supports in digital format so students with diverse needs can access materials through print or by using technological supports (e.g., screen reader, text enlarger).
5.Tolerance for error-Instruction anticipates variation in individual student learning pace and requisite skills. Example: Structuring a long-term course project with the option of turning in individual project components separately for constructive feedback and for integration into the final product.
6.Low physical effort-Instruction is designed to minimize nonessential physical effort in order to allow maximum attention to learning. Note: This principle does not apply when physical effort is integral to essential requirements of a course. Example: Allowing students to use a word processor for writing and editing papers or essay exams.
7.Size and space for approach and use-Instruction is designed with consideration for appropriate size and space for approach, reach, manipulations, and use regardless of a student's body size, posture, mobility, and communication needs. Example: Using a circular seating arrangement in small class settings to allow students to see and face speakers during discussion-important for students with attention problems.
8.A community of learners-The instructional environment promotes interaction and communication among students and between students and faculty. Example: Fostering communication among students in and out of class by structuring study and discussion groups, e-mail lists, or chat rooms.
9.Instructional climate-Instruction is designed to be welcoming and inclusive. High expectations are espoused for all students. Example: Creating a statement on the syllabus affirming the need for students to respect diversity, underscoring the expectation of tolerance, and encouraging students to discuss any special learning needs with the instructor.
Examples of UDI in Practice
Example #1: Equitable Use: As Dr. Smith reflected on adjustments to her lecture course, she realized that for the last three semesters she had had at least one student with a learning disability who had requested a notetaker. In planning for the next semester, Dr. Smith anticipated this need by posting class notes on the class web site, making the notes available in the same form to all students (Principle #1, Equitable Use).
Any student with a learning disability would have immediate access to a complete set of lecture notes and would no longer need a notetaker. Informal discussions with students and end-of-semester course evaluations indicated that many students found this a useful instructional feature, including students whose primary language is not English, students with attention deficits, and students wanting to preview the day's instruction. This instructional support resulted in a more "usable" environment for students with diverse learning needs.
Example #2: Flexible Use: As Dr. Hagan prepared his class syllabus for English Composition, he thought about his previous semester. All students were required to submit four papers. He had provided clear due dates, but was constantly bombarded with requests for extended deadlines. "I need extra time on writing assignments." "I have two other tests on the same day." In thinking about the schedule for the next semester, Dr. Hagan changed his scheduling procedure: He would allow students to set their own due dates for the four papers (Principle #2: Flexibility in Use).
Since students set their own schedules and could adjust the submission dates to fit other demands on their time, no late papers were accepted. In the course of the semester, Dr. Hagan found that having papers come in at different times enhanced his teaching. With one or two papers submitted each class session, he could grade the work and get feedback to students more promptly while being responsive to other demands on students' time.
A Step Toward the Future As College instructors learn to implement these principles, they will be able to more effectively teach all students, including those with learning disabilities, with reduced reliance on accommodations. To do this, college faculties need support for responding to student diversity and a means of sharing their knowledge. A website, facultyware.com, is being built to offer such support.
Brinckerhoff, L.C., McGuire, J.M., & Shaw, S.F. (2002). Postsecondary education and transition for students with learning disabilities (Second Edition). Austin,TX: PRO-ED.
Follette Story, M., Mueller, J.L., & Mace, R.L. (1998). The universal design file: Designing for people of all ages and abilities. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State University, The Center for Universal Design.
Magner, D.K. (2000, March 17). The imminent surge in retirement. Chronicle of Higher Education, 46(28), A18-A20.
Scott, S.S., & Gregg, N. (2000). Meeting the evolving needs of faculty in providing access for college students with LD. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 33, 158-167.
Scott, S., McGuire, J.M., & Foley, T.E. (2001). Universal design for instruction: An exploration of principles for anticipating and responding to student diversity in the classroom. Storrs, CT: Center on Postsecondary Education and Disability.
Scott, S., McGuire, J., & Shaw, S. (in press). Universal design for instruction: A new paradigm for adult instruction in postsecondary education. Remedial and Special Education.
Scott, S., McGuire, J.M., & Shaw, S. (2001). Principles of universal design for instruction. Storrs, CT: Center on Postsecondary Education and Disability.
Shaw, S.F., & Dukes, L.L. (2001). Program standards for disability services in higher education. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 14(2), 81-90.
* Note: Adapted from Principles of Universal Design for Instruction by Sally Scott, Joan McGuire and Stan Shaw (2001). Center on Postsecondary Education and Disability, University of Connecticut. Users of this digest may copy and disseminate this information with the provision that they credit Scott, McGuire and Shaw.
Research has shown a correlation between writing and student engagement. Writing reflects thinking and help to shape and influence thinking. Teachers should assign writing tasks to improve intellectual skills, remember, review and translate own ideas into their own language.
Rule of Thumb for Building writing assignments in your courses:
What are some possible written assignments for student engagement?
McGlynn, A. (2001) Successful Beginnings for College Teaching Atwood Publishing:Madison, WI.
(Adapted from Joy of Teaching, Peter Filene)
Why do over 86% of professors lecture? How can we improve on this popular modality?
Students should leave lecture with questions they want to explore but with an understanding of the significance of this content. Why are we learning this information?
Remember to Be Enthusiastic, so don’t read the entire lecture. Use eye contact, gestures and movement to signal your enthusiasm.
Remember to Be Organized, use multiple modalities of learning visual, auditory (have students read quotes or listen to audio tape), even silence
60 second essay
Lecture; debate and vote
Setting Up Study Teams
From the hard copy book Tools for Teaching by Barbara Gross Davis; Jossey-Bass Publishers: San Francisco, 1993. Linking to this book chapter from other websites is permissible. However, the contents of this chapter may not be copied, printed, or distributed in hard copy form without permission.]
Tell Students about the benefits of study teams. Study teams meet regularly outside of class to study together, read and review course material, complete course assignments, comment on each other's written work, prepare for tests and exams, and help each other with difficulties that are encountered in class. Study teams assume students will help each other and by explaining learn more.
Explain how study teams work. Study teams can work in a number of ways.
If Study teams are optional, offer students extra credit for participation. For example, students who are members of an official study team might get bonus points for each assignment, based on the average grade received by the individual group members. (Source: "Study Groups Pay Off," 1991)
Let students know what their responsibilities are as a study team member. Students who participate in study teams agree to do the following:
In addition, let students know that they can improve the effectiveness of their study teams by making sure each session has a clearly articulated agenda and purpose. They can also work more efficiently if all logistical arrangements are set for the semester: meeting time, length, and location.
Help students locate meeting rooms. Arrange with your department or campus room scheduler to make available small meeting rooms for study teams.
Limit groups to no more than six students. Groups larger than six have several drawbacks: it is too easy for students to become passive observers rather than active participants.
Let students select their own study teams unless you have a large class. Since the groups are designed to last the term and will meet outside of class, give students the opportunity to form groups of three to six members. Arrange one or two open groups for students who do not know others in the class. If your class is very large and letting students select their own groups seems too difficult, have students sign up for teams scheduled to meet at particular times. (Source: Walvoord, 1986)
Use a portion of class time for arranging study groups. Announce that study groups will be set up during the third or fourth week of the course. At that time, hand out a description of study teams and students' responsibilities, and let students talk among themselves to form groups or to sign up for scheduled time slots. Suggest that all members of the study team exchange phone numbers. Encourage the study teams to select one person as the convener who will let all members know where the group is to meet.
Devote a class session to study teams. Ask students to meet in their study teams to review course material or prepare for an upcoming exam or assignment. Use the time to check in with the groups to see how well they are operating. Some faculty regularly substitute study team meetings for lectures. To the extent possible, meet with a study team during an office hour or review the work of a study team sometime during the semester.
Beckman, M. "Collaborative Learning: Preparation for the Workplace and Democracy" College Teaching, 1990, 38(4), 128-133.
Chickering, A. W, and Gamson, Z. F (eds.), Applying the Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no.47. San Francisco: JosseyBass, 1991.
Collier, K. G. "Peer-Group Learning in Higher Education: The Development of Higher-order Skills." Studies in Higher Education, 1980, 5(1), 55-62.
Connery, B. A. "Group Work and Collaborative Writing." Teaching at Davis, 1988, 14(1), 2-4. (Publication of the Teaching Resources Center, University of California at Davis)
Cooper, J. "Cooperative Learning and College Teaching: Tips from the Trenches." Teaching Professor, 1990, 4(5), 1-2.
Cooper, J., and Associates. Cooperative Learning and College Instruction. Long Beach: Institute for Teaching and Learning, California State University, 1990.
Fiechtner, S. B., and Davis, E. A. "Why Some Groups Fail: A Survey of Students' Experiences with Learning Groups." In A. Goodsell, M. Maher, V. Tinto, and Associates (eds.), Collaborative Learning: A Sourcebook for Higher Education. University Park: National Center on Postsecondary Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, Pennsylvania State University, 1992.
Goodsell, A., Maher, M., Tinto, V, and Associates (eds.). Collaborative Learning: A Sourcebook for Higher Education. University Park: National Center on Postsecondary Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, Pennsylvania State University, 1992. Guskey, T R. Improving Student Learning in College Classrooms. Springfield, Ill: Thomas, 1988.
Hendrickson, A. D. "Cooperative Group Test-Taking." Focus, 1990,5(2), 6 (Publication of the Office of Educational Development Programs, University of Minnesota) Johnson, D. W, and Johnson, R. T. Cooperation and Competition: Theory and Research. Edina, Minn.: Interaction Books, 1989.
Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., and Smith, K. A. Cooperative Learning:Increasing College Faculty Instructional Productivity. ASHE-FRIC Higher Education Report No.4. Washington, D.C.: School of Education and Human Development, George Washington University, 1991.
Kohn, A. No Contest: The Case Against Competition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986.
Light, R. J. The Havard Assessment Seminars: Second Report. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 1992.
McKeachie, W. J., Pintrich, P R., Lin, Y.-G., and Smith, D.A.F. Teaching and Learning in the College Classroom: A Review of the Research Literature. Ann Arbor: National Center for
Research to Improve Postsecondary Teaching and Learning, University of Michigan, 1986.
Rau, W., and Heyl, B. S. "Humanizing the College Classrooms: Collaborative Learning and Social Organization Among Students." Teaching Sociology, 1990, 18(2), 141-155.
Sansalone, M. "Teaching Structural Engineering Through Case Studies and Competitions." CUE, 1989, 2(2), 7. (Newsletter available from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y)
Slavin, R. F. "Cooperative Learning." Review of Educational Research, 1980, 50(2), 315-342.
Slavin, R. E. "When Does Cooperative Learning Increase Student Achievement?" Psychological Bulletin, 1983, 94(3), 429-445.
Smith, K. A. "Cooperative Learning Groups." In S. F. Schmoberg (ed.), Strategies for Active Teaching and Learning in University Classrooms. Minneapolis: Office of Educational Development Programs, University of Minnesota, 1986.
"Study Groups Pay Off." Teaching Professor, 1991, 5(7), 7.
Tiberius, R. G. Small Group Teaching: A Trouble-Shooting Guide. Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education Press, 1990.
Toppins, A. D. "Teaching by Testing: A Group Consensus Approach." College Teaching, 1989, 37(3), 96-99.
Walvoord, B. F Helping Students Write Well: A Guide for Teachers in All Disciplines. (2nd ed.) New York: Modern Language Association, 1986.
Whitman, N. A. Peer Teaching: To Teach Is to Learn Twice. Washington, D.C.: ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No.4. Washington, D.C.: Association for the Study of Higher Education, 1988
From the hard copy book Tools for Teaching by Barbara Gross Davis; Jossey-Bass Publishers: San Francisco, 1993. Linking to this book chapter from other websites is permissible. However, the contents of this chapter may not be copied, printed, or distributed in hard copy form without permission.
Organizing Learning Groups
Decide how the groups will be formed. Some faculty prefer randomly assigning students to groups to maximize their heterogeneity: a mix of males and females, verbal and quiet students, the cynical and the optimistic (Fiechtner and Davis, 1992; Smith, 1986). Some faculty let students choose with whom they want to work, although this runs the risk that groups will socialize too much and that students will self-segregate (Cooper, 1990). Self-selected groups seem to work best in small classes, for classes of majors who already know one another, or in small residential colleges (Walvoord, 1986). Still other instructors prefer to form the groups themselves, taking into account students' prior achievement, levels of preparation, work habits, ethnicity, and gender (Connery, 1988). A middle ground, proposed by Walvoord (1986), is to ask students to express a preference, if they wish, then make the assignments yourself. You could, for example, ask students to write down the names of three students with whom they would most like to work.
Be conscious of group size. In general, groups of four or five members work best. Larger groups decrease each member's opportunity to participate actively. The less skillful the group members, the smaller the groups should be. The shorter amount of time available, the smaller the groups should be. (Sources: Cooper, 1990; Johnson, Johnson, and Smith, 1991; Smith, 1986)
Keep groups together. When a group is not working well, avoid breaking it up, even if the group requests it. The addition of the floundering group's members to ongoing groups may throw off their group process, and the bailed-out troubled group does not learn to cope with its unproductive interactions. (Source: Wolvoord, 1986)
Help groups plan how to proceed. Ask each group to devise a plan of action: who will be doing what and when. Review the groups' written plans or meet with each group to discuss its plan.
Regularly check in with the groups. If the task spans several weeks, you will want to establish checkpoints with the groups. Ask groups to turn in outlines or drafts or to meet with you.
Provide mechanisms for groups to deal with uncooperative members.
Walvoord (1986) recommends telling the class that after the group task is completed, each student will submit to the instructor an anonymous assessment of the participation of the other group members: who did extra work and who shirked work. If several people indicate that an individual did less than a fair share, that person could receive a lower grade than the rest of the group. This system works, says Walvoord, if groups have a chance in the middle of the project to discuss whether any members are not doing their share. Members who are perceived as shirkers then have an opportunity to make amends. Here are some other options for dealing with shirkers:
Perhaps the best way to assure comparable effort among all group members is to design activities in which there is a clear division of labor and each student must contribute if the group is to reach its goal. (Sources: Connery, 1988; Walvoord, 1986)
Evaluating Group Work
Dealing with Student and Faculty Concerns About Group Work
"I paid my tuition to learn from a professor, not to have to work with my classmates, who don't know as much." Let students know at the beginning of the term that you will be using some group techniques. Inform students about the research studies on the effectiveness of collaborative learning and describe the role it will play in your course. (Source: Cooper and Associates, 1990)
"Our group just isn't working out." Encourage students to stick with it.
"Students won't want to work in groups." The best advice is to explain your rationale, design well-structured meaningful tasks, give students clear directions, set expectations for how team members are to contribute and interact, and invite students to try it. (Source: Cooper and Associates, 1990)
"Students won't work well in groups."
"If I do group work, I won't be able to cover as much material during the semester as I do when I lecture." Yes, adding group work may mean covering fewer topics. But research shows that students who work in groups develop an increased ability to solve problems and evidence greater understanding of the material. (Source: Cooper and Associates, 1990)
One of the challenges of educators is developing the tools to facilitate students to think critically. Below are some tools, which can be used to enhance critical, thinking in your class. If we want to help students develop this power (to think and to do),” to train the youth to be thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other men's thought." (E.G. White, Ed. p. 17), we as professor must be willing to encourage students to find answers instead of proving all of the answers for our students.
Lrynock, Karoline and Robb, Louise (1999). Problem Solved: How to Coach Cognition. Educational Leadership, 57:29-32.
Tsui, Lisa (2000). Effects of Campus Culture on Student' Critical Thinking. Review of Higher Education, 23:421-441.
Paul, Richard, Binker, A.J.A, Martin, Douglas, Vetrano, Chris, and Kreklau, Heidi (1989). Critical Thinking Handbook: 6th-9th Grades. Rohnert Park, CA: Center for Critical Thinking and Moral Critique.
By L. Dee Fink. Reprinted with permission of the University of Oklahoma Instructional Development Program, July 19, 1999.
What can we do on the first day of class? What should we do?
One common answer is simply to start lecturing: "This is day one, here is lecture one, away we go." Another possibility is: "Here is the syllabus, go buy your books and we will see you at the next scheduled class period." Neither of these two options seems desirable. But what are some other possibilities?
Several years ago a group of professors at the University of Oklahoma visited each other on the first day of class and then discussed what they saw each other doing. But the discussion quickly went from what they observed, to "What might be done?" They eventually identified nine attractive possibilities, as described below. A teacher should not feel obliged to do all of these, but doing even one or several of them on the first day (or during the first week) would seem to accomplish a number of important tasks for getting a class started in the right way.
This can be done in a variety of ways:
But letting students know right from the outset that they will be active participants seems like a good approach.
Not all students come to all classes with a clear idea of why this subject is important. The teacher may need to help them understand the significance of the course. The sooner this is done, the sooner the students will be ready to invest time and energy in the task of learning the subject matter.
This can involve such things as what the teacher considers appropriate amounts of study time and homework for the class, the importance of turning homework in on time, expectations about in-class behavior, how the teacher wants to relate to students, and how much interaction among students is desired. The first day also offers an opportunity to find out what expectations the students have of the teacher and of the class.
Almost any class will be more enjoyable for both the teacher and the students if they know each other a bit. This exchange can be started with introductions, sharing some background information, etc.
Sometimes students can relate to the teacher more productively if they can see him or her as a human being, i.e., as something more than just an authority figure or subject matter expert. Sharing personal stories and being able to laugh at you can help this process.
Sometimes this happens automatically, but at other times students need to know about the teacher's prior work experience, travel experience, or research and publications in an area. Having this knowledge can help students gain confidence that the "teacher knows what she or he is talking about."
Different teachers prefer different classroom climates: intense, relaxed, formal, personal, humorous, serious, etc. Whatever climate you want, you should try to establish this early and set the tone for the rest of the semester.
This often takes the form of going through the syllabus, presuming you have a syllabus with this information in it: what reading material the students will need; what kind of homework will be involved; what you office hours are; where your office is located; how the class grade will be determined; what your policies are regarding attendance, late papers, make-up exams, etc.
Generally starting with some kind of overview of the subject will facilitate this introduction.
Remember that it is imperative that you do on the first day whatever it is you want the class to do the rest of the semester. If you want them to discuss, discuss on the first day. If you want them to work in small groups, find something for them to do in small groups on the first day.
“Focus on Faculty” is a publication of the Brigham Young University Faculty Center, D. Lynn Sorenson, Ed.
Getting students to read before coming to class
Don Norton, BYU English Department
A perpetual problem in teaching is conducting class when few students have read the assigned material. This is a problem regardless of whether one is teaching a traditional “book-reading” course or a course with Web-based materials. For years I have been collecting ideas on how to get more students to read their assignments before class. Here are some suggestions from my collection:
1. Cues. First, it is axiomatic that a teacher accompany any reading assignment with a clear statement of the purpose or direction of the reading. It is ineffective simply to say to students, “Read these pages or that chapter for Friday.” Give students a set of study questions. Explain what they should look for in the assigned readings. Give them cues on what is most important or what in the reading they will be responsible for.
2. Quizzes. A common tactic (and often student detested) is the pop quiz. Such a quiz can be effective if students know what will be tested, if the quizzes’ purposes are clear, if the questions perhaps promote discussion and learning, or if the quizzes are given regularly. Or, to encourage students to read before class, give them a set of short essay questions, one of which will be used for a five-minute quiz at the beginning of the next class. These quizzes assure preparation and are easy to grade.
3. Study questions (from teachers). Accompany each reading assignment with key study questions. Alert students they may be called on randomly to answer those questions in class.
4. Discussion questions (from students). At the beginning of class, invite each student to submit at least two questions for discussion. Then call on students at random to respond to the student-generated questions.
5. Summaries. Assign students at the beginning of class to submit a concise summary of the main points of the assigned material or a personal response to some part of the reading assignment.
6. Syllabus. At the beginning of the semester include in the syllabus a precise calendar of assignments along with explicit counsel on “how to succeed” in the class: general reading objectives, reading and test preparation strategies, perhaps even sample test questions.
7. Less is more? Discuss with students the reasonableness of the reading load you assign. If the load is heavy, then perhaps the students need help with how to handle it. Perhaps the load is simply too heavy.
8. The ideal. Create in the classroom such a fervor and interest in upcoming assignments that students cannot restrain themselves from coming to class prepared.
The integration of faith and learning is at the essence of authentic Christian higher education and should be wholeheartedly implemented across the campus and across the curriculum. This was once the goal of almost every college in America. http://www.uu.edu/dockery/092000-erlc.htm Integrating faith and learning is much more than prayer and worship at the beginning of the class. However, it is also much more than intellectual integration. It also involves serving as an example through our lifestyle and profession/disciplines for our students. Our relationship with our students should reflect our faith. If our lives do not exemplify our faith, if our students do not see Christ in us, then integration of faith and learning is incomplete. Integration of faith must be holistic.
As you prepare for your first day of class, remember:
“This integration, this "faithful intellect," will guide and guard our students not just while at the university but throughout their journey through the postmodern sea, where they will face a lifelong barrage of demands for belief, indulgence, and consumption. Our role as faculty is to give them the tools they can hone and use both now and in the future.” http://www.virtualsalt.com/integrat.htm
Adapted from Dr. Larry Burton lecture and web site cited above.
NEW STUDENTS, NEW SEMESTER HOW TO REMEMBER NAMES AND FACES
By Myron Jaworsky Associate Faculty, Accounting, Pima Community College, Tucson, Arizona
It's the first day of a new semester. In addition to the enthusiasm and optimism inherent in new beginnings, we as teachers also must confront a humbling task: how to learn the names and faces of the 20 to 40 unfamiliar students expectantly sitting before us.
And we must learn them quickly! In teaching, as in so many other fields, first impressions count for much.
Actually, there is a technique that can reliably be used to associate the names and faces of at least 75% of a typical first day class size of 20-40 new students
Before coming to class, read the class roster several times. Focus on the last names and honorifics (Mr./Ms.). Memorize as many of them as you can.
By familiarizing ourselves with the names beforehand, we set up a kind of cognitive dissonance. Under this procedure, paradoxically, students with unusual names become easier to remember.
Start the class by introducing yourself and describing your background and expectations for the course. Conclude by saying that you would like to learn more about them, but there isn't time for everyone to be as longwinded as you've been. Hand out a "Student Expectations Survey" that asks for a name, address, and phone number(s), and includes an open-ended essay question about backgrounds and expectations. Allow students at least 15 minutes of writing time.
While the students are busy writing, take the opportunity to study their faces, clothing styles, posture, haircuts - anything, in short, that you can use to personalize the individual student.
In addition to absorbing the "tableau" of visual information presented by individual students, set up a mnemonic position framework. For example, in a traditional classroom layout, call the first row on your left "A", the second row, "B" and so on. Similarly, call the first student in row"A", 1; the second, 2, etc. Modify this positional framework to fit various possible seating arrangements.
This framework is the heart of the techniques presented. It relies on a curious fact of student sociobiology: students almost invariably return to the same seat they occupied during the first class, or in reasonable proximity.
Collect the student papers. Then, starting with position "A1," ask the students to introduce themselves and say a few words about themselves and their expectations for the course.
Again, this step, like the preceding ones, is not very different from ordinary classroom practice and sound group leadership. But it does set up the next step.
While listening as carefully as possible to what student "A1" is saying, find the name on the class roster and code "A1" next to it. (Obviously, if the student is not on the roster, write in the name and the code.) If you have memorized or nearly memorized the set of names, and have carefully studied the faces and appearances of your students, then the positional code will serve as the link or index between names and faces!
As soon as you can after class, read the "Student Expectations Surveys," covering up the names of the student. Attempt to remember the name, based on your recollections of what students said in class about themselves. Refer to your class roster and position-code the "Student Expectations Survey" so that you can "triangulate" if necessary.
Before the second class meeting, review the surnames and honorifics of the students on the class roster. Reread the "Survey" and attempt to recollect names, faces and places.
By this point, the majority of the names, faces and places should be almost committed to memory, and if during the second class you don't mind using the roster with positional codes as a kind of crib sheet -- well, you can make it seem as thought you know more names and faces that you really do.
Make no mistake: this technique does require a certain amount of work. Like anything else, practice makes it easier and easier to apply. Bit is it worth the effort?
There is no doubt, in my mind at least, that "the pain is worth the gain." In my own career as a student, I remember that my best teachers always seemed to take some extra effort to learn (and use) students' names as quickly as possible. The worst (i.e., graduate assistants in large undergraduate lecture courses) never bothered. Teachers cannot claim to be concerned about how well their students learn, if they themselves do not try as hard as they can to show they care about one of the most important possessions anyone can have in a mass civilization: a face and a name.
Intended to Challenge the Professional Development of All Teachers Compiled by Tom Drummond North Seattle Community College
Recognizing that teaching is both art and science, I advance this list of dimensions of excellence as a starting point for discussions about the performances that we as teachers strive for and may help each other obtain. While the skills of teaching are widely researched and described, they are rarely rewarded, mostly, I think, because we don't share this common language about best practices. Instead of directly addressing learning to teach well, we often erroneously assume new teachers know how to teach because they used to be students.
The Best Practices chosen here focus on those aspects of classroom teaching competence that are visible to oneself and to others and thus become useful for formative evaluation. When components of excellence can be defined in language that details teaching actions that are confirmable performances, that is, neither minutely technical nor remotely abstract, we could investigate those actions in practice, either collaboratively or individually. For if a component can be self-perceived near the time it occurs, it can be modified or strengthened. That's how professionals, who must engage themselves in reflective practice, get better. In this spirit I offer a list of what I have struggled to learn to do in my 20+ years of college teaching about teaching. Even though classrooms vary in content and goals, I believe this core set of Best Practices does apply to most adult education environments, in both vocational and academic areas, albeit in differing degrees. It is my attempt to specify which of the myriad things and relations in teaching deserve close study.
In our previous tip, we discussed several of the leading models of student learning styles, and suggested the employment of one may well hold positive impact on student retention, program completion and related accountability objectives. Now that the new academic year is up and running, let's take a look at some of the dynamics of our individual teaching styles.
You have likely heard your entire career that we "teach as we have been taught." While I have not seen hard research on this issue, we do not doubt its veracity. Digging a bit deeper however, we are increasingly convinced that each of us also derives much of our individual teaching style from our individual learning style. That is what has worked for us as a student has probably convinced us that it likely works for many students, and therefore it drives much of what we do in front of the classroom. Richard Felder, of North Carolina State University, has researched this issue extensively, and some of his thoughts are quite revealing.
Felder states that individual teaching styles may be defined in terms of the answers we provide to five questions:
Problems occur because there are often significant mismatches between the learning styles of most college students and the teaching styles of most college professors. The key to addressing the issue is present a variety of styles to all learners, so that students are not consistently taught in their least preferred mode. Among others, Felder recommends:
Why not invest some time in reflecting upon your individual teaching style, and making some small adjustments that might increase your instructional effectiveness?
The Last Day of Class:
Faculty members spend lots of time preparing for the first day of class but the last day of class is just as important as the first. Here are some teaching tips for the last day of class.
Consider devoting the last day of class to an overall review of the course concepts and issues.
"It's hard for students to fit each lecture or assignment into the big picture," says a professor of business administration. "I believe that it's important to give an overall review so that students can compare where they were at the beginning of the course to where they are now.
"By highlighting the main concepts and issues and how they fit together, you give students a conceptual framework for retaining what they have learned in the course as well as for preparing for the final examination."
Remember the end of semester is time to celebrate.
Todd Zakrajsek, University of Central Michigan, facit.cmich.edu/videos/tfft-last-day.html
By Barbara Gross Davis, University of California, Berkeley. From Tools for Teaching, copyright by Jossey-Bass
There are no hard-and-fast rules about the best ways to grade. In fact, as Erickson and Strommer (1991) point out, how you grade depends a great deal on your values, assumptions, and educational philosophy: if you view introductory courses as "weeder" classes -- to separate out students who lack potential for future success in the field -- you are likely to take a different grading approach than someone who views introductory courses as teaching important skills that all students need to master.
All faculty agree, however, that grades provide information on how well students are learning (Erickson and Strommer, 1991). But grades also serve other purposes. Scriven (1974) has identified at least six functions of grading:
Clearly state grading procedures in your course syllabus, and go over this information in class. Students want to know how their grades will be determined, the weights of various tests and assignments, and the model of grading you will be using to calculate their grades: will the class be graded on a curve or by absolute standards? If you intend to make allowances for extra credit, late assignments, or revision of papers, clearly state your policies.
Set policies on late work. Will you refuse to accept any late work? Deduct points according to how late the work is submitted? Handle late work on a case-by-case basis? Offer a grace period? "
Avoid modifying your grading policies during the term. Midcourse changes may erode students' confidence in your fairness, consistency, objectivity, and organizational skills. If you must make a change, give your students a complete explanation. (Source: Frisbie, Diamond, and Ory, 1979)
Provide enough opportunities for students to show you what they know. By giving students many opportunities to show you what they know, you will have a more accurate picture of their abilities and will avoid penalizing a student who has an off day at the time of a test. So in addition to a final exam, give one or two midterms and one or two short papers. For lower-division courses, Erickson and Strommer (1991) recommend giving shorter tests or written assignments and scheduling some form of evaluation every two or three weeks.
Consider allowing students to choose among alternative assignments. One instructor presents a list of activities with assigned points for each that take into account the assignments' educational and motivational value, difficulty, and probable amount of effort required. Students are told how many points are needed for an A, a B, or a C, and they choose a combination of assignments that meets the grade they desire for that portion of the course. Here are some possible activities:
(Source: Davis, Wood, and Wilson, 1983)
Stress to students that grades reflect work on a specific task and are not judgments about people. Remind students that a teacher grades only a piece of paper. You might also let students know, if appropriate, that research shows that grades bear little or no relationship to measures of adult accomplishment (Eble, 1988, p. 156).
Give encouragement to students who are performing poorly. If students are having difficulty, do what you can to help them improve on the next assignment or exam. If they do perform well, take this into account when averaging the early low score with the later higher one. (Source: Lowman, 1984)
Deal directly with students who are angry or upset about their grade. Ask an upset student to take a day or more to cool off. It is also helpful to ask the student to prepare in writing the complaint or justification for a grade change. When you meet with the student in your office, have all the relevant materials at hand: the test questions, answer key or criteria, and examples of good answers. Listen to the student's concerns or read the memo with an open mind and respond in a calm manner. Don't allow yourself to become antagonized, and don't antagonize the student. Describe the key elements of a good answer, and point out how the student's response was incomplete or incorrect. Help the student understand your reasons for assigning the grade that you did. Take time to think about the student's request or to reread the exam if you need to, but resist pressures to change a grade because of a student's personal needs (to get into graduate school or maintain status on the dean's list). If appropriate, for final course grades, offer to write a letter to the student's adviser or to others, describing the student's work in detail and indicating any extenuating circumstances that may have hurt the grade. (Sources: Allen and Rueter, 1990; McKeachie, 1986)
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