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.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

What will higher education look like in 2025 or 2100? Those are two of the questions the faculty asked recently at Stanford University. They were specifically looking at the student experience and how they imagined it will change. In their own words, "A design team from the Stanford worked with hundreds of perceptive, creative, and generous students, faculty, and administrators over the course of a year to explore this territory." The project culminated in Stanford2025, an online and in-person exhibit on higher education circa 2025, imagined from the perspective of the year 2100. One of the project's leaders, Kelly Schmutte, said, "The world is rapidly changing, and the types of leaders and citizens that we need to be graduating are changing. Our problems are more challenging and ambiguous." Read more here.

Larry Ferlazzo is an educationalist who strongly believes that we should be helping all students become self-regulated learners. In his new book Building a Community of Self-Motivated Learners: Strategies to Help Students Thrive in School and Beyond, he provides research on extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, and describes the four qualities that have been identified as critical to helping students motivate themselves: autonomy, competence, relatedness, and relevance. He says, "A high-quality relationship with a teacher whom they respect is a key element of helping students develop intrinsic motivation." Read more here.

Students who frequently check their grades throughout the semester tend to get better marks than do those who look less often. That’s one of the findings from a new study by Blackboard, a company that sells course-management software to hundreds of colleges. It’s probably one of the deepest data dives ever done on student clicks on college web systems, analyzing aggregate data from 70,000 courses at 927 colleges and universities in North America during the spring 2016 semester. The promise: Big data could lead to insights on how to keep struggling students on track, or at least let professors test their long-held assumptions about student habits. Read more here or listen to the podcast.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Here is a great way to start your semester off right. Make a few resolutions and stick to them. We can always improve our teaching toolkit and David Gooblar shares his ideas in this article. I really like his suggestions and have adopted them for my class. Let me know what you think.

"When given a reading assignment, some students feel they have met their obligation if they have forced their eyes to ‘touch’ (in appropriate sequence) each word on the pages assigned. How can we entice students to read the material we assign, and how do we help them develop strategies for deep comprehension and retention of the material? Are there subtle ways we can prod them to read and help them develop literary skills—without spending our own precious time explicitly teaching ‘reading?" Find out in this article by Dr. Maryellen Weimer.

"I firmly believe that there is a direct correlation between what we expect of our students and what we get. We know that higher expectations generate greater learning. But we also know that higher expectations alone are not sufficient. Greater learning also results from support — support that can be provided, for example, by college-success courses in which common readings are often used." See what else Dr. John Gardner has to say about student success.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Joshua Kim's post on where our focus should be in college classrooms is very insightful. Of the three recommendations he makes, I am happy to say we are actually working on all three. Not as efficiently as we could if we had more resources but nevertheless all three are foci. Kim writes, "Teaching and learning are core to the mission and operation of (almost) every college and university. An erosion of the relative quality in teaching and learning, (as compared to peer schools or emerging competitors), will eventually result in an inability to compete for students, faculty, and funding." Continue reading here.

Ready for the semester to begin? No really, we are starting August 22. Did I just hear a few screams? The first day of the semester always seems to sneak up on us. Sims Wyeth has a good post on how we can increase the impact of our opening remarks. You know, the stuff you say every first day of class. It turns out that students form a really strong opinion of us on that first day and it may not change much over the course of the semester. He writes, "It turns out that our first impressions are not altogether accurate. Scientists call our tendency to leap to judgment the Fundamental Attribution Error. Nevertheless, as speakers, we can take advantage of this human frailty. When we step to the front of the room to deliver a presentation and all eyes are on us, we can take control using the tools at our disposal: physical, vocal, and verbal skills meant to capture the mind of the listener." Continue reading here.

Traditionally we make resolutions around the first of the year. But what if we made resolutions tied to each of our new semesters. Adjustments and corrections based on critical self-reflection are what I am talking about. David Gooblar provides us with a good start and writes, "The real new year in academe— the time for new beginnings and fresh starts — comes now, in August. I’ve had time away from the classroom to recharge my batteries and to forget about teaching for a while. I want to be a better teacher this year than I was last year. August is my month of big plans, of good intentions, of new leaves ready to be turned over." Continue reading here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

When Alice E. Marwick, an assistant professor of media studies at Fordham University, assigned her social-media class to create a post on BuzzFeed, the instructions were simple: Go viral. Several students nailed the assignment, collecting more than 50,000 hits on their listicles and quizzes — BuzzFeed’s bread-and-butter articles. One student devised a quiz on She’s the Man, a quirky romantic comedy from 2006, that surpassed 250,000 page views in mere days, surprising the student and leaving her professor and classmates in awe. Ms. Marwick is one of several professors using BuzzFeed’s free publishing platform in its community section for class assignments. The section is open to anybody who wants to create a post, and instructors are using it to teach a variety of subjects, including marketing, creative writing, human development, and even the work of the ancient Roman poet Ovid. Continue reading here.

Take a look at Antonio Tooley's post if you are asking your students to do a research paper. He notes, "Writing a research paper does not actually take long at all. Your students can do a 10-page paper in one day if they really knuckle down and get going. The most annoying things about this academic assignment are at the beginning and the end of the process: the research and the bibliography. Your students will seldom find all the information they need in one database. When they do have enough information, they then have to wade through hundreds of pages of obfuscating language that academics love to use to get a couple of pages of useful material. Once they have the ample resource materials to back their arguments, students then need to “bag it and tag it” in preparation for the citations and references." Read more here.

When failing lessons need to be abandoned, it's time to implement a sponge. Madeline Hunter originated the term sponge activities to describe "learning activities that soak up precious time that would otherwise be lost." The best sponges are academically rich and provoke laughter. Nicholas Ferroni says that laughter activates dopamine and the learning centers of the brain.So give your students a dopamine snack when they finish the test earlier than expected or when the Wi-Fi goes out. Download the list of sponge learning experiences.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Joshua Kim asks, "Is there really a war on lecturing going on across higher ed?  Do learning professionals want to kill the lecture? Read Christine Gross-Loh’s Atlantic piece, Should Colleges Really Eliminate the College Lecture?, and you would be forgiven in thinking that there is and that we do. The anti-lecture cadre is characterized as comparing the traditional lecture to "bloodletting—an outdated practice that has long been in need of radical reform". This story makes for a neat argument. Who has not experienced the power of a transformative lecture?  Who would not support the need for professors to “model the art of argument”? And who is not critical of the tendency of educational pundits and administrators to blindly follow the latest educational fads? Let me be very clear.  There exists no campaign - no organized plot or plan - to eliminate the college lecture.  There is a movement across many schools to improve learning.  The lecture is, and always will be, part of the mix of a rich and varied learning ecosystem." Continue reading here.

Now that you’ve finished assessing your students, it’s time to turn the assessment process around by looking in the mirror. If you limped across the finish line last semester, it may be time to identify some new strategies for self-care. In our “Tending the Teacher” session at the recent Teaching Professor Conference in Washington, D.C., we presented a menu of ideas to help faculty design a balanced and productive work life.  Here are our top tips.

Aubree Evans writes, "Let’s face it, most faculty were good students and always did well in school. For students, having a professor who is adept at learning can be inspiring. But what if academic work comes so naturally to faculty that they have trouble relating to the average student? I’ve worked with several faculty members who fall into this category. “Rose,” a business professor, stands out in my memory. When I suggested that she break her online course into modules to make the weekly tasks more manageable for students, she was baffled. “Everything is in the syllabus!” she responded. She then explained that when she was in college, she began each course by carefully reading the syllabus and organizing the assignments into a schedule that she diligently followed throughout the semester. It didn’t make sense to Rose to repeat that information again in modules. When I suggested that school must have come easily to her, she agreed. However, our university serves many students who don’t have much experience with academic learning strategies that may come naturally to faculty." Continue reading here.