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.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Clemson University psychology professor has published research revealing a positive link between mood, motivation and physical activity during work and study. June J. Pilcher, alumni distinguished professor of psychology, studied the cognitive effects of physical activity workstations and traditional desks on Clemson student volunteers. The results of the study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, suggest the inclusion of light physical activity during work or study has positive effects without detracting from work or study effectiveness. Pilcher wanted to determine whether or not the positive benefits associated with light exercise could be attained while working in sedentary environments. According to Pilcher, working in sedentary environments might not be harmful in the short term, but this type of behavior is related to long-term chronic disease and physical frailty.

If you are looking to increase participation in classroom discussion, you should take a look at this three part post from Lolita Paff. She shares several methods from the research literature that may prove useful in your classes. She writes, "Whether a teacher incorporates protocols, empty rewards, or signals, the key to engaging interactions that advance learning is students’ role in setting and administering the process. Shared control promotes shared responsibility for learning. The teacher isn’t dictating rules about participation. The teacher isn’t solely responsible for ensuring the discussions are successful."

Teaching has completely become a different ball game with the adoption of modern tools of education technology that have been incorporated in classrooms all over the world. There are quite a few positive changes that have come into effect but even though technology has been seeping slowly into the world of education, there are people who are still in the dark about the advantages of technology in teaching. Let’s have a look at some of the ways technology can impact teaching and how it can connect students from all over the world to a global classroom. Continue reading here.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Meg Conlan has a good article about how using technology in the college classroom (F2F and virtually) is preparing students for the real world after graduation. She writes, "Landing that first post-grad job may be difficult, but many college seniors think they’ve got the digital skills employers want, thanks to their time on campus. That insight comes from McGraw-Hill Education’s third annual Workforce Readiness Survey, which states that 52 percent of students surveyed believe that their use of technology during college classes and study sessions will help them secure a job."

Assessment tools offer tremendous advantages to both the instructor and the learner, and are thus an important part of instructional design. Despite their importance, developing quality assessments is not as simple or straightforward as one might think. A great deal of care needs to go into developing quality assessments to ensure that the question actually assesses the target knowledge rather than something else, such as test-taking skills. Additionally, the instructor needs to remain open to revising questions based on learner performance—if all students get a single question wrong or right, both are considered poor questions and both should be removed from the test because they’re actually not testing anything. Thus, instructors need to pay attention to student performance on each individual testing item to ensure each one is doing its job of actually assessing the target knowledge. Are you looking to improve your test-question writing skills. Here is an article with some basic tips.

Dr. Lindsay Doukopoulos notes, "Teaching first-semester freshmen presents some unique challenges. You are teaching them not only your subject, but also how to be college students. One of the best strategies I have found is to begin with a collaborative project that asks them to research their new home: the campus." Read the entire article here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

It seems that we talk a lot about motivation but it truly is such a complex topic that it needs lots of study. Michelle Pacansky-Brock provides the latest bit of thought on this topic and how it specifically impacts students taking courses online. She writes, "It’s not a fixed trait that some humans either have or don’t have. Rather, motivation is more like water; its qualities are impacted by other forces. Water can be serene and glass-like one day and rough and choppy the next, depending on factors like the weather or the number and type of boats in use. Motivation is similarly influenced by outside factors." Continue reading here. 

In the next year alone, an estimated 2.5 million middle-skill jobs will be added to the workforce, accounting for a whopping 40 percent of all job growth. These professions — welders, pharmacy technicians, paralegals, automotive technicians, and aviation workers— offer a solid pathway to the middle class yet require less training than a traditional four-year degree. Still, these jobs require a specialized skill-set which is usually provided by community colleges. Dawn Gerrain has written an article for Educause Review on this topic. Read more here.

Gamification was one of the topics we discussed in the Creating Self-Regulated Learners Faculty Learning Community today. Many faculty have successfully implemented gamification techniques and the research shows that it can be highly effective. One of the areas that has shown improvement is student engagement with the course material and participation in discussions. Barata, Gama, Jorge, and Gonçalves provide some good examples in their Improving Participation and Learning with Gamification article. Stott and Neustaedteris provide a good review of existing literature on the subject as well as a case study on three different applications of gamification in the post-secondary setting. As in all course redesign it will take some time to add gamification, but the research literature seems to be demonstrating that it can improve student success.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

If you were ever dissatisfied with the quality of peer feedback in your classes, Christina Moore's article can definitely help you and, most importantly, help your students offer and receive better feedback from their colleagues.She writes, "I started teaching students that peer review is a two-way street. Getting useful feedback depends on how students frame their requests for it. Developing this skill not only teaches students how to receive effective feedback, but also gets them in the habit of reflecting on and analyzing their work."

Are you considering how you can create opportunities for students to apply course content outside the classroom? The IDEA Center has a great paper on this topic. Here is a brief excerpt. Although there are many examples in academia, nursing education offers one of the clearest examples of applying course content outside the classroom. Learning content in the classroom is supplemented with field-based application, in some cases, from the very first courses in a nursing program. Nursing students complete many hours working in hospitals alongside licensed nurses to apply their learning and sharpen their skills. And it doesn’t take a nurse educator to understand that this learning outside the classroom is vital to a nursing student’s education. No one would want to be treated by a nurse that only had classroom experience!

Creating online courses doesn’t end at uploading videos to your site and getting enrollments. As an online educator, you need to ensure that your students are actively participating in your course and getting real value out of it. This will pay off in the long run as people come to recognize your course as the most valuable in the market. In this post, Dr. Eileen McGurty, an expert in online education, shares her strategies for boosting participation in online courses.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Now that you have finished posting your grades, it is time to take a look at your student rating report. This can be accessed using your Canvas account. As I have said in the past, taking a look today and then putting it away for a week will help give you some perspective. The next time you take a look, really open yourself up to "hear" your student's perspective. The IDEA Center also has some sage advice ON THIS TOPIC in this paper.

Implementing active learning is a fantastic way to liven up discussions and encourage higher-level thinking. But what does active learning look like in practice? Shawn Orr, Manager of Faculty Training & Engagement at Cengage Learning, recently led a webinar on this very topic, in which she shared strategies she uses to get her students enthusiastically participating.  You can access the webinar here.

Do you consider yourself a risk taker? Some of us would like to try new things but assume that it may be overwhelming or not worth the effort. Karine Veldhoen has a blog post that encourages us to take the risk. She writes, "Pedagogy is the method or practice of teaching an academic subject or theoretical concept. We are pedagogues, yet we can always try new methods or practices and take risks. It will be out of our comfort zone and might even be scary. We won't feel like an expert, but it might be exhilarating, and who knows what our potential is? What new pedagogy can you risk? Project-based learning? A new technology? A different assessment method? Student-led conferences?" Read the entire post here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

If you are looking to spend some time this summer enhancing your teaching toolkit, the Teaching+Learning Center will be hosting a Faculty Learning Community (FLC). The topic will include strategies to strengthen students' self-awareness and learning skills. We will meet five times at a date and time to be determined by the FLC membership and will use Dr. Linda Nilson's book Creating Self-Regulated Learners (which will be provided by the Teaching+Learning Center). If you are interested in participating or need additional information, please send an email to

Dr. Randy Bass has written a thought provoking post about the intersection of what we know about teaching and the application of that knowledge to enhance learning. A growing appreciation for the porous boundaries between the classroom and life experience, along with the power of social learning, authentic audiences, and integrative contexts, has created not only promising changes in learning but also disruptive moments in teaching. Our understanding of learning has expanded at a rate that has far outpaced our conceptions of teaching. This tension between an expansion of learning and the limits of our structures is intrinsic to the learning paradigm. Read the entire post here.

Yoram Neumann and Edith Neumann tell us what we have learned about online education over the past few decades. In its infancy, online learning was viewed as a more accessible alternative for students unable to commit to the traditional higher education path. But in recent years online education has been gaining more acceptance. The most recent U.S. Department of Education data from fall 2014 indicate that 5.8 million students took at least one online course, with 2.85 million of them studying exclusively online. After thousands of online launches and millions of students, it is important to assess the advancement made in online learning as we look to further enhance online learning for future students. Read more here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Most of you are familiar with the active learning paradigm that encourages students to listen, write, read, discuss, and apply new knowledge so that it becomes part of their long-term memories. Dr. Rodger Bybee and his colleagues have come up with a similar pedagogy based on teaching in the sciences. It is called the 5E Learning Cycle and is based on the constructivist view of learning. The five E's are engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate. Using this process allows the instructor to identify and challenge students' misconceptions and provide students time to explore, investigate, and reconstruct their knowledge. You can learn more about this process in the article Which Comes First-Language or Content? in the Science Teacher magazine (April/May 2016).

When teaching in a traditional classroom, we are often able to assess how our students learning best through observation, low-stakes feedback, or by using active learning methods. So how does that work in an online environment? Adrienne Erin has an interesting post about just that. "Different Learning Styles: How to balance your eLearning program" describes the way different learners might be motivated to learn. She notes, "Learners work alone, in groups or with instructors. Interactions with others are either synchronous or asynchronous. Because of its open-ended nature, eLearning has exceptional advantages. Learners can be located anywhere in the world, as long as an ISP is available." Read more here. To learn more about the dual coding theory, click here.

With the final exam period beginning on Monday, you may notice that your students are more tense and anxious. This is certainly understandable as they struggle to indicate to you what they have learned and how they can apply it. Dr. Maryellen Weimer has posted an informational piece about how you can help your students lower their anxiety and produce their best work. She writes, " Teachers can’t cure test anxiety. But they can offer remedies that students should be encouraged to try. Information about good study strategies should be included in every course. Sometimes that information is more persuasive if it comes from fellow classmates. Discussion of the study strategies used for the test ought to be part of the debrief session." Read more here.