Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Julie DuNeen has written an interesting piece about the habits of successful teachers. She writes, "If you ask a student what makes him or her successful in school, you probably won’t hear about some fantastic new book or video lecture series. Most likely you will hear something like, it was all Mr. Jones. He just never gave up on me. What students take away from a successful education usually centers on a personal connection with a teacher who instilled passion and inspiration for their subject. It’s difficult to measure success, and in the world of academia, educators are continually re-evaluating how to quantify learning. But the first and most important question to ask is: Are teachers reaching their students? Here are 25 things successful educators do differently.

At the height of the buzz around MOOCs and flipped classrooms three years ago, Bridget Ford worried that administrators might try to replace her introductory history course with a batch of videos. She agreed that something should change: Drop-outs and failures were high in the 200-person class—at about 13 percent. But the assistant professor of history at California State University at East Bay wanted something less drastic than giving up on live lectures entirely. Looking through a collection of teaching portfolios by her colleagues helped reassure her that she could redesign her course while preserving what worked about the classroom experience. Plenty of colleagues on other campuses were wrestling with the same question, she saw in the portfolios, and they were finding ways that tried new approaches without throwing out the old completely—call it turning the class on its side rather than making a full flip. For her, that meant reducing the amount of lecture time and spending part of class sessions on team-based projects. “It was helpful to me to see that my field wasn’t an outlier in arriving at a middle ground,” she says. Continue reading here.

As we approach the final exam period, reminding your students about good study habits that lead to success is important. Many students are still under the impression that cramming or "pulling an all-nighter" is the way to learn. Here is an article that focuses on how rest can actually make you perform better on assessments. It begins, "Sleep is critical for mind and body health. Without it, the effects can be severe. But what if you suffer from insomnia? Neuroscientist Claudia Aguirre provides seven healthy tips for a better night’s sleep."

Monday, November 21, 2016

Many students struggle with early college courses—whether developmental courses preparing them for college-level math and English or introductory courses in subjects like biology, psychology and business. Colleges and universities concerned with high failure rates in these courses are exploring how new learning technologies, like courseware that delivers and personalizes instructional content, can help faculty adapt the learning experience to the needs of individual students. So what do we know about these learning technologies? Find out here.

There is a lot of talk these days about student debt and the challenges that families face managing this burden. Rightfully so, particularly at a time when too many families are struggling with flat wages and rising costs. But the discussion of a debt crisis often fails to address what I would argue is the greater crisis: the fact that more than half of those who start college fail to finish. Think about it: Tens of millions of people in the US are saddled with student debt and have no degree to help pay it off. They won’t get the substantial return on their investment—graduates with a bachelor’s degree earn about $1 million more in additional income over their lifetime than those with only a high school diploma—and they typically have not developed the adaptive learning skills that will help them prosper in a rapidly changing economy. See what Michael Crow, President of Arizona State says next here.

Did you know that students are more likely to view your content pages if it includes a video? Take a look at this.

“It’s estimated most human beings only use 10% of their brains’ capacity,” said Morgan Freeman–playing a well-known neurologist in the film Lucy. See what follows here.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Canvas, our open online learning management system, recently announced the immediate availability of a new annotation feature in its mobile application. This new functionality allows students to open, annotate, and submit an assignment directly within Canvas. Historically this has been accomplished through a third-party app, which can create an additional expense for our students. Providing one platform where all of these capabilities reside eliminates the need for students to buy additional software and reduces the need for paper, both cost saving actions. The mobile annotation feature allows instructors to spend less time demonstrating procedures for moving and transitioning digital assignments and more time teaching. Digitizing assignments inside Canvas also allows instructors to grade assignments using the Canvas SpeedGrader. Read more here.

Learning is about personal relationships. Deep learning doesn’t happen through reading or rote memorization online any more than in the physical world. It is the experiences and meaningful conversations (or maybe human interactions) within a course that enable students to critically reflect, and deepen their learning. All too often, online students feel isolated, which can decrease motivation and increase attrition. When learning occurs entirely through computer-mediated instruction, professors often overlook simple steps like asking participants to introduce themselves. Details like asking your students to create a video introduction to a class can have a powerful impact. Video-based introductions can help develop a community of learners more quickly than simply posting text on a discussion board. Students who are in courses with introductory videos have been shown to actively participate in online discussions very early in the course. And research shows that learners who are more engaged and have higher levels of interaction, have higher success rates. Read more here.

The classroom is a non-stop hub of feedback: test grades, assignment scores, paper comments, peer review, individual conferences, nonverbal cues, and more. Feedback is essential for student learning. Still, students’ ability to process and use feedback varies widely. We have some students who eagerly accept feedback or carefully apply rough draft comments, while many others dread or dismiss their professors’ notes or reject exam grades as “unfair.” Although feedback is integral to our classrooms and work spaces, we often forget to teach students how to manage it. Two Harvard law professors, Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, argue that identifying different kinds of feedback is a good place to start. Continue reading here.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Since we are about to open registration for the Spring 2017 semester, I thought you might like related to that topic. June Y. Chu has an interesting take on student majors. "As an adviser to college-age students, it could be easy for me to say major in what you love and be done. Research shows that employers often recruit for transferable skills, and there is no direct correlation between one’s major and career. In fact, Forbes magazine has presented research findings indicating that only 27 percent of college graduates are working in a job that relates to their major. Google the phrase “Does your major matter?” and you will find that most articles out there succinctly state, “Nope, doesn’t matter.” Yet, sometimes, it does. To be better advisers, we need to consider the cultural baggage a student brings to a conversation when discussing their major."

If you were not able to attend the classroom management faculty development session yesterday, we missed you. The good news is there are more sessions planned, so I encourage you to take a look at the events calendar. One of the topics we discussed was the use of humor in the classroom. Mary Bart offers her take on this teaching technique in a new post. She writes, "I am still pretty regularly criticized for my use of humor—I have been known to use too much. The long-standing objection is that education is serious business. It’s no laughing matter. Our goal is education; not entertainment. Writing about the history of humor in the classroom, Debra Korobkin notes that before the 20th century, “collectively, teachers perceived instructing with a sense of humor as unprofessional, uncontrolled, and undignified.” (p. 154) Use humor and don’t expect to be taken as a serious professional. Some of that thinking still lingers today." Continue reading here.

Scientists can now map what happens neurologically when new information influences a person to change his or her mind, a finding that offers more insight into the mechanics of learning according to a recent research paper. "At a fundamental level, it is difficult to measure what someone knows," said co-author and psychology associate professor Alison Preston. "In our new paper, we employ brain decoding techniques that allow us deeper insight into the knowledge people have available to make decisions. We were able to measure when a person's knowledge changes to reflect new goals or opinions." The process, researchers said, involves two components of the brain working together to update and "bias" conceptual knowledge with new information to form new ideas. Continue reading here.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Karin Fischer says if you want to find a model that works for low-income students, look no further than the armed services in the U.S. Was Daniel M. Piston college material? A decade ago, as a high-school student in Syracuse, N.Y., Mr. Piston didn’t think so. He lacked focus. His grades were so-so. And it wasn’t like he was surrounded by college graduates; of his family, only his mother had earned an associate degree. "The truth is," Mr. Piston says, "I didn’t think I was smart enough for college." After finishing high school, he signed up for an automotive-technology program at nearby Onondaga Community College — a similar course his senior year was the first thing he had been any good at, he says — but, still unmoored, he dropped out after two semesters. He found himself on the doorstep of the local Navy recruiter. The Navy promised excitement, and it offered something else: a life path. Continue reading here.

It all began with a simple message that I wrote on the tests or assignments of students who were struggling: “Please see me so we can discuss your performance on the test (or assignment). Let’s see what we can do to improve your grade.” Although initially I was not collecting data on the effectiveness of my “invitation,” I soon realized that most of students—about 80 percent—responded to it. Notably, those who met with me began to do better on future tests; their assignments improved as well. When students did not respond to my invitation, after about a week I reached out to them with a simple email. Some responded, some did not. Over time it became difficult to ignore the benefits of having those meetings with students who were struggling. I think the most important message of these meetings was to convey to them that they were not simply a name in my gradebook but that I really cared about their learning and their success. Continue reading here.

As we continue to broaden the innovative learning opportunities, it is always important to remember that student success is as important as providing scheduling options for our students. Rob Kelly has written an interesting article on this topic. He says, "Offering different kinds of courses is not a simple matter of taking the content and dividing it in ways to fill an unusual time slot. Imagine converting a lecture-based course that normally meets three times a week to a block format that consists of a single four-hour session. The instructor might be a great lecturer, but it’s unlikely that he or she could engage students for hours at a time. “There is a world of difference, or there should be a world of difference, between teaching a class that meets three times a week for fifty minutes, teaching that same class that meets once a week from eight until noon, teaching that class in an accelerated format that meets three or four days a week, or teaching it online,” Glenn says. “As we get better at offering these different formats, hopefully we get better at delivering the instruction in these formats.” Continuing reading here.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Here is an interesting article about the battle for attention that our reading assignments face. Stop what you’re doing. Well, keep reading. Just stop everything else that you’re doing. Mute your music. Turn off your television. Put down your sandwich and ignore that text message. While you’re at it, put your phone away entirely. (Unless you’re reading this on your phone. In which case, don’t. But the other rules still apply.) Just read. You are now monotasking. Maybe this doesn’t feel like a big deal. Doing one thing at a time isn’t a new idea. Indeed, multitasking, that bulwark of anemic résumés everywhere, has come under fire in recent years. A 2014 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that interruptions as brief as two to three seconds — which is to say, less than the amount of time it would take you to toggle from this article to your email and back again — were enough to double the number of errors participants made in an assigned task.

Here is an interesting story about faculty-led solutions to student learning issues. "The long search for an answer to one of higher education’s most pressing questions led here, to the basement of a bistro outside Hartford. What do students really learn in college? To find answers, about 20 faculty members from Central Connecticut State University came to spend the waning days of summer break analyzing hundreds of samples of students’ work. Carl R. Lovitt, their provost, gave them a pep talk over bagels and coffee: "You are engaged in work of meaningful national significance." Academe has been pilloried for decades, he said, for its lack of accountability. This project could remedy that. It’s the kind of acronym-heavy, jargon-laced endeavor that’s easily overlooked. But by measuring students’ intellectual skills, it might turn out to provide telling insight into one of higher education’s central functions." Keep reading

There are a number of faculty development events coming up. The first is this Wednesday at 4:00 pm. Turnitin is offering a free webinar on how to use the Quickmarks feature to give students really useful feedback. Register here. On Tuesday, October 25 at 3:00 pm, the Teaching+Learning Center's Canvas Series continues with a session on the use of Gradebook. Register now. In response to your request, the Teaching+Learning Center will host a session on classroom management on November 3 at 3:00 pm. You can register now for that session. For those of you looking to build and keep an engaging classroom experience, the Teaching+Learning Center will host a session on November 29 at 3:00 pm. You can reserve your spot now. If you are looking for a specific faculty development topic, please let me know. If you would like to have a private consultation, please send me an email request at

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Faculty Learning Communities have proven to be a great way to deliver professional development at BRCC but the residual effect is even more impactful as colleagues share ideas discovered during the FLC sessions with office-mates and others. We are now planning for the next round of FLCs for the fall 2016 semester. If you have not yet participated in the survey to determine the best time and days to meet, I encourage you do it now. Besides being a great way to explore new pedagogy, you will inevitably make a connection with a colleague from another division that will quickly turn into a new friendship. Building community is just a lucky byproduct of FLCs. Look for more information about FLCs next week.

Dr. Lori Desautels writes, "When presented with new material, standards, and complicated topics, we need to be focused and calm as we approach our assignments. We can use brain breaks and focused-attention practices to positively impact our emotional states and learning. A brain break is a short period of time when we change up the dull routine of incoming information that arrives via predictable, tedious, well-worn roadways. A focused-attention practice is a brain exercise for quieting the thousands of thoughts that distract and frustrate us each day." Here are some strategies you can use in your classes now.

Rick Sheridan has a great article suggesting ways we can improve student attendance. He writes, "The general consensus among most faculty members is that regular class attendance helps students learn and retain the course content more effectively. According to Park & Kerr (1990), research demonstrates that the lack of attendance was statistically significant in explaining why a student received a poor grade." To see his suggestions, click here.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

We have shared research here in the past about how the brain learns. Rachel Barry explains that she spent her summer reading John Medina's Brain Rules. She writes, "This book helped me to understand how our brain works and how our societal norms tend to go against the natural inclinations of the human brain. I also never realized how much I was creating my own frustrations: in work, school, and life. This book both confirmed and contradicted some of my beliefs and practices, providing years of research and clear examples to back their opinions." Click here to learn more about her thoughts on the book.

It is about that time in the semester when some of our students discover that missing class is very detrimental to their grades and success. They often ask to meet and talk about how they can catch up. My answer is always the same. Get organized. I then help them do just that by showing them how to create a schedule on their cellphone or in their planner. I encourage them to spend some time writing down everything that they do during the week. I do this to help them discover free time that can then be used for studying. I also do this to illustrate that they are usually overestimating the time they thing they are spending preparing for classes. That is another thing. We need to remind them from time to time that the reading we require is actually a big part of their learning process and that class time should really be more about questions for clarification. Earlier this week I sent you a student success tip that I called the Weight Watcher approach to time management. I encourage you to take another look at that especially when your students come in and complain that they don't have enough time to be successful. Everything is a teachable moment.

Dale Schlundt asks us to "consider the lessons we learn without being fully aware they are taking place. Take something simple, such as walking into a new building for the first time. With everyone and everything you observe, your mind is giving you feedback based on a multitude of judgments. These impressions, while sometimes incorrect, come to us with little effort. Yet they could loosely be considered teaching and learning without calling it either. I have found this to be a fruitful concept from a pedagogical standpoint. How many of us actively question this point to ourselves, “What am I teaching students, and what are they learning?” To continue reading his post, click here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Foundational or “soft” skills occupy an unusual position in the debate over America’s workforce. Employers say these skills are hard to find, but they are also notoriously hard to define. Soft skills are called crucial and then treated dismissively in the next breath, as if these were abilities any child should have. “Works well with others” is a cliché on a school report card, but businesses grind to a halt when employees can’t meet deadlines, treat customers with respect, or waste time scrambling to properly format a document. Take a look at what employers want in the full report.

Regardless of their credentials, many freshmen doubt that they have the necessary brainpower or social adeptness to succeed in college. This fear of failing hits poor, minority and first-generation college students especially hard. If they flunk an exam, or a professor doesn’t call on them, their fears about whether they belong may well be confirmed. The cycle of doubt becomes self-reinforcing, and students are more likely to drop out. The good news is that this dismal script can be rewritten. Several recent research projects show that, with the right nudge, students can acquire ways of thinking that helps them thrive. Continue reading here.

Have you ever wondered if your students are as concerned about their learning as you are? If you prioritize student learning, you may be the only person in your classroom with that goal. Learning-centered teachers seek to coauthor classroom experiences with their students, whereas students may seek only to be taught passively. How might you inspire your students to share accountability for their learning? These five considerations can help you teach your students to be learning centered, too. Continue reading here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Alana Joli Abbott  writes, "It can be frustrating to face a classroom of college students who appear uninterested in the material and topic of the course, or to ask a question of the class and receive only silence in response. How can you increase class participation? Engaging students in learning can be a challenge, but there are many techniques you can use to grab the attention of your college students and hold their interest. In some cases, you can integrate elements of pop culture into their assignments." Continue reading here.

James Lang writes, "I have always been less concerned about those students than with the collateral damage they’re causing. If students choose to distract themselves in my classroom, they will find a way to do so whether they have a laptop or not. The real problem arises from their ability to distract others who may be trying valiantly to pay attention and learn but whose eyes are continually drawn to the video playing on their neighbor’s laptop." Continue reading here.

David Gooblar writes, "So much of the work that goes into teaching is necessarily invisible. Nobody sees your best teaching days — when everything clicks, when you get your class to truly see the world differently — except for the students in the room. Most of us don’t teach for plaudits, but it’s a shame that our best work in the classroom is usually unseen by our peers and superiors. It’s also a shame that those of us who want to improve as teachers don’t get the benefit of learning directly from excellent teachers in our fields." Continue reading here.