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.

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.