Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The BRCC community works hard at retaining students to completion (whether that be an academic credential, transfer to a bachelor's program or finding a job) and is not alone in searching for that "magic" solution. The truth is there isn't one intervention or approach that will serve all students. The solutions are as varied and diverse as our students. Looking at two research studies about retention and students enrolled in developmental education courses shows some surprising findings and useful interventions. In work done by Pamela S. Pruett and Beverly Absher, using data from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement, findings indicated that retention was significantly impacted by grade point average, engagement, type of remedial/developmental courses, time spent preparing for class, parents’ educational level, and students’ income level (measured indirectly by loans). They found that "Students who persist in college ask questions in class and contribute to class discussions, make class presentations, and work with other students on projects during class or outside the class (essentially engagement)." Gloria Crisp and Chryssa Delgado, in their study The Impact of Developmental Education on Community College Persistence and Vertical Transfer, demonstrate that developmental education may overall serve to decrease community college students’ odds of successfully transferring to a 4-year institution. Both studies offer suggestions for programming that could improve retention of students in developmental education courses.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Since we have learning objectives for each class we teach that correspond to broader course objectives, it is important to do a self check from time to time to make sure we are staying on track with both. Continuing to explore this topic, I have become more aware of alignment between the two in relation to my teaching. One of my course objectives is to help student to become better at critical thinking. Posing problems for them to solve and engaging them in group discussion while allowing for reflection time has created a truly active learning experience in my classroom. Lisa Nielsen's recent post about George Couros' book The Innovator’s Mindset provides a really clear visual for this process. Couros says that if we want innovative students, we must become innovative teachers. He goes on to list eight elements that he has noticed innovative teachers use to create this active learning environment that allows students to unleash their creativity. Continue reading here.

Friday, February 16, 2018

What does learner-centered teaching look like? That is the question Dr. Maryellen Weimer asks in her latest post. She writes, "It’s hard to say—we have no definitive measures of learner-centeredness or even mutually agreed upon definitions. And yet, when we talk about it, there’s an assumption that we all understand the reference." That is true of so many things. As education science continues to evolve and new discoveries are made, are we making sure that everyone understands what we are talking about? She continues, "My friend Linda recently gave me a beautifully illustrated children’s book that contains nothing but questions. It reminded me how good questions, like beams of light, cut through the fog and illuminate what was once obscured. And so, to help us further explore and understand what it means to be learner-centered, I’ve generated a set of questions. For the record, these questions were not empirically developed, and they haven’t been validated in any systematic way. However, they do reflect the characteristics regularly associated with learner-centered teaching." Keep reading here and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Are you looking to add diverse perspectives into your course curriculum? Then don't miss the professional development webinar set for February 22 at 1:00 pm. This NISOD webinar, titled Are Your Students Global Citizens? How to Teach Diversity to the Leaders of Tomorrow, is a great first step. The webinar information notes that teaching diversity requires strong relationships that encourage dialogue and action so today’s students become tomorrow’s leaders. Confederation College has embedded Indigenous knowledge into classrooms since 2010 through specially developed Indigenous Learning Outcomes (ILO). The infusion of ILOs into program-specific courses throughout the college provides all students with opportunities to develop an understanding of Indigenous Knowledge through diverse world views and cultural frameworks in relation to their chosen career field. The concept of embedding diverse perspectives into the curriculum is a transferable skill. This webinar presents the ILOs as a case study while encouraging participants to adapt the model to fit their own curriculum. This webinar also demonstrates how embedding diverse perspectives into the classroom leads to a better understanding of cultural frameworks and how incorporating Indigenous Knowledge into the curriculum can improve critical-thinking skills.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Understanding what your students expect from you and the course they are taking may be as simple as asking them. However, research has shown that many students enter college with misconceptions about what they will be expected to do. This can happen more in first-generation students but some of the tendencies are exhibited by all students. In the College Success Skills course we offer at BRCC, one of the first classroom discussions we have is about the similarities and differences between high school and college. It is very often an eye opening discussion. If you are looking to share some of the differences, Dr. Sarah Forbes has written a nice post about this subject. She writes, "At our institution, we have noticed that many students have been given false expectations from their high school teachers and counselors regarding the level of effort they will need to expend. Students are often told that college will be easy, giving the impression that effort will not be necessary. Further, our students often have insufficient prior experience from which to guide their behaviors. College courses are more rigorous and conducted at a faster pace with a higher workload than they are used to in high school. Give students the benefit of the doubt because they initially have no idea they are not prepared for college. For example, if students fail to turn in an assignment, don’t assume they are apathetic about their education. If students fail to respond to your emails, don’t assume they are ignoring your information. Use these situations as teachable moments for the whole class, sharing both the rationale behind the assignment/email/etc., as well as your expectations for them." Read the entire article here.

Monday, January 8, 2018

New year's resolutions are a great way to refocus on your teaching. Nothing like the class schedule and preparing for a new semester to get us started in a new direction. It is also a good time to incorporate the idea of resolutions into your classes by having your students make resolutions for the semester. One of the areas I will be focusing on this semester is listening more and speaking less. Having my students dive deep into a stimulating classroom discussion is always such a joy. You can actually see the creativity and discovery happening right in front of you (or virtually if you are teaching an eLearning class). But beginning a new "habit" and having it stick requires effort and planning. So I plan to begin on the first day; perfect for more listening as I am trying to learn the names of my students, their aspirations and motivations. Of course we all dread the point where the students stop sharing and there is silence. We feel compelled to fill every second with "sound" but should we? Dr. Kevin Gannon shares his tips for encouraging engagement in the classroom in the latest post on the Faculty Focus blog. He writes, "I’d like to suggest that a flagging discussion, or one that fails to launch entirely, is most often the fault of something other than our students. Sure, there are some students who haven’t done the reading or who refuse to participate come hell or high water. But most of our students are receptive to at least the idea of engaged, active learning. The key is to turn that general willingness into specific practices. Here are some strategies and methods that have proven effective for me across survey and upper-level courses, small and large classes, in rooms that may or may not allow any deviation from the regimented rows-and-columns arrangement." Take a look at his specific tips here. Welcome to the beginning of what I hope will be a successful semester for you and your students.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

As we approach the end of another semester, we turn our attention to a final assessment. Something that will allow us to determine if our students learned and (maybe even more importantly) can they apply their learning and solve problems. Once again, Dr. Maryellen Weimer gives us a great article that illustrates insight into how and why students should study. She notes that " Students’ success as learners would advance if they had a larger repertoire of study strategies, if they could match study strategies with learning tasks, and if they constructively confronted how they studied with how they performed. Students need help on all three fronts, but courses are already packed with content. Most teachers have time to do little more than admonish students to study hard, avoid cramming and memorizing minutia, and abstain from any sort of cheating." She goes on to provide some recent research on the matter. Take a look at the entire article here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

We are regularly told that if we can just make our classes more exciting, our students would be motivated to learn. While I have found that to be true, I have also come to believe that using self-motivation and critical self-reflection is vital for any student to really become what I would call a super learner. This type of person wants to learn about new things because they understand that it enhances their quality of life. While they do want to get a great job (don't we all?) they know that hard work pays off and that learning for the sake of being a better informed person can be motivation enough. As I was going through my bookmark list, I found an article from 2013 that validates my observations. “Boring but Important: A Self-Transcendent Purpose for Learning Fosters Academic Self-Regulation”, is a paper that was published based on research by David S. Yeager, Marlone D. Henderson, Sidney D’Mello, David Paunesku, Gregory M. Walton, Brian J. Spitzer, and Angela Lee Duckworth. They write, “Many important learning tasks feel uninteresting and tedious to learners. This research proposed that promoting a pro-social, self-transcendent purpose could improve academic self-regulation on such tasks. Results showed that a self-transcendent purpose for learning increased the tendency to attempt to deeply learn from the tedious academic task.” Because their research was very extensive and actually included four studies, I strongly encourage you dive into the article here.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

We are rapidly approaching the part of the semester/term when our students seem to really begin to zone out. They are waiting for the Thanksgiving break or the end of the semester, or something. Now is a really good time to look at using active learning in your classes. Dr. Maryellen Weimer offers some great ideas in this article. One of the suggestions she offers is, "How often do you ask a question and when do you ask it? How often does depend on the teacher but there’s evidence from more than one study that a lot of us over estimate how often we ask questions. How often should you seek student contributions? More than you do? Do you ask after you’ve covered a chunk of content and are thinking about how much you still have to get through? Do you ask at the end of the period when a lot of students are hoping nobody says anything so they can get out a couple of minutes early?"

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Every now and then, someone posts a blog about their undergraduate experience. It is usually written by someone who is now an instructor in college. Sometimes the post is more about reminiscing rather than providing good ideas built on their experience.