Friday, May 11, 2018


From Science Daily: Study shows for first time that a free, online course can change students' mindsets towards their mathematical abilities, leading to increased academic achievement. A free 'massive, open, online course' (MOOC) designed to change students' attitudes towards mathematics makes them more engaged in class -- leading to significantly higher test scores. Published in open-access journal Frontiers in Education, these findings go against the discouraging results of previous studies. It is the first of its kind to show the impact of an online course in changing students' mindsets and beliefs about mathematics and their achievement, with the potential for more widespread dissemination. Continue reading here.

From Faculty Focus: So much of what determines the overall success or failure of a course takes place well in advance of the first day of class. It’s the thoughtful contemplation of your vision for the course — from what you want your students to learn, to selecting the instructional activities, assignments, and materials that will fuel that learning, to determining how you will measure learning outcomes

From Univ. of Washington's The Daily: With all the recent advancement in science, from virtual reality to genetic editing to artificial intelligence, one issue that still plagues society is how best to teach students how these things work. Dr. Carl Wieman, one of the world’s leading thinkers on science education, spoke to a sizeable crowd at Kane Hall on Thursday, April 26 to outline techniques for finding more effective teaching tactics. Wieman holds a joint appointment as professor of physics and of the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University. He won the Nobel Prize in 2001 for his research in atomic and optical physics. Wieman, 67, argued for a shift away from lecture-style teaching toward what he calls an “active learning” process where students spend more time working with their peers than being talked to by professors. In his physics classes, Wieman isn’t just teaching material, he is teaching his students to become physicists through classroom activities, tests, and critical reasoning.

From Education Week: Contrary to popular stereotypes, many young people are acutely concerned about online privacy, spending significant time managing how they present themselves on social media and worrying about what happens to the digital trails they leave behind. That's the takeaway, at least, from new research presented here Sunday at the annual conference of the American Association of Educational Research by Claire Fontaine. As part of a small study, Fontaine and colleagues interviewed 28 teens and young adults, ranging from 16 to 26 years old. All were low-income New Yorkers, all owned a smartphone or similar mobile device, and all regularly used at least one social media platform. 


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Would you want to spend a day learning in your class? I love this question presented recently in a post by George Couros. He writes, "This is not to say that students should have no personal responsibility for their learning. But you can’t force someone to learn.  As an educator, the thing you have the most control over is not your students, but the experience you create for those learners." So what does that look like in our face-to-face and eLearning classes? How do we engage and inspire our students? What types of questions do we ask our students. I look back on my time in higher education (and even high school) as a student for a point of reference. When did I become bored and check out? It was usually when an instructor droned on and on and never tried to engage in any type of conversation or feedback. It was when the topic did not interest me and the instructor didn't explain to me why it was relevant or what important point we were building towards. So I look critically at my learning experiences and begin to see how I can make them more engaging and dynamic. What would I want to hear if I was sitting in my students' places? This idea is something that I was first exposed to by the research of Dr. Stephen Brookfield. His focus on critical self reflection has helped me to continuously remain vigilant about growing. He also inspired me to journal  in order to use the data to improve my teaching. So I return where we began. Would you want to spend a day, week, or semester in your class?

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Do you have a social network at your college? Are there people who support what you do and help to make you better? Have you established a mentoring relationship that provides you with the reinforcement or validation you may need at certain times? Dr. Maryellen Weimer shares in a recent post that she is thankful for her colleagues for a number of reasons. In writing the article, she also is able to create a list of expectations we should consider when reaching out for mentoring. She writes, "My colleagues disagree with me. They also agree, but it’s the disagreements that are rich with learning potential. I appreciate that my colleagues call out my arguments that aren’t persuasive, point out when what I propose doesn’t make sense, and just plain flat out tell me I’m wrong. Sometimes I am, but it’s the process of finding out that’s instructive and appreciated (usually after the fact, however)." A good mentoring relationship leaves both of the participants better off after the interaction. Because of the stress we encounter in our chosen professions, having a good mentor (whether senior-junior or peer-to-peer) can really make a difference over the tenure of our careers in academia.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Ed focused on the teaching of GRIT, a concept that emerged from research and personal experience of Dr. Angela Duckworth. Grit focuses on passion and perseverance as a way to help students persist and complete. The article writer (The way people usually solve such dilemmas — accepting sacrifices in the present in order to reach future goals — is with self-control. It’s no wonder, then, that colleges have placed great emphasis on teaching students better self-control. But the strategies that educators are recommending to build that self-control — a reliance on willpower and executive function to suppress emotions and desires for immediate pleasures — are precisely the wrong ones. Besides having a poor long-term success rate in general, the effectiveness of willpower drops precipitously when people are feeling tired, anxious, or stressed. And, unfortunately, that is exactly how many of today’s students often find themselves." He goes on to suggest that "strong interpersonal relationships were necessary to thrive. But to be identified as a good partner, a person had to be trustworthy, generous, fair, and diligent." Are those traits teachable? We can certainly talk about how someone who is fair or generous acts. We may be able to teach skills that support diligence. Trustworthiness can be modeled in the hopes that the student sees the value in attaining this trait. Creating learning experiences that allow students to practice these set of traits will take some time to develop. What do you think?

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.
Register

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.