Thursday, September 24, 2015

Getting Them to Read Our Comments

Most of the time we think of teaching as something that only happens within classroom walls. But in fact, most of us do our teaching in a variety of environments now. Meeting with students in our offices, exchanging emails about their work, interacting online through a learning management system or course blog — all of that is teaching. Writing comments in the margins of a student’s paper is a form of teaching, too, one with great potential to spark learning. Far too often, though, that last kind of teaching can feel like a one-way conversation. Research seems to suggest that the feedback we provide on student work has minimal effect on their future work. It’s worth asking: Are our students even reading the comments we leave on their papers? And if they do read them, do they think about them long enough and deeply enough to actually learn from them? Many instructors I know worry that their students look at returned work just long enough to find out their grades, and then shove the papers into their bags to be forgotten forever. Consequently, many of us write our comments with a grade-centered approach in mind: Our feedback is there to justify the grade in case the student complains. It’s a paper trail, rather than a constructive document aimed at helping students improve. Some have blamed that state of affairs on our tendency to correct — to focus our efforts retrospectively, on what students did wrong, rather than on how they might improve. Instead, we should recast our feedback as “feedforward,” and focus on making suggestions for future practice. That is sound advice. But perhaps as important as what we’re writing on student work is when we’re writing it.
Read Getting Them To Read Our Comments

The Unwritten Rules of College

. . . As an increasingly broad and diverse cross section of students enters higher education, knowing those rules matters more than ever. Without them, students stumble. They might miss the point of a paper, drift during discussions, or feel overwhelmed or aimless. But all students can thrive, Ms. Winkelmes says, if the tacit curriculum is made plain. When teaching is what she calls "transparent," students better understand the rationale for assignments and how they’re evaluated. New research on several campuses shows that students taught that way are more confident academically and feel as if they belong in college, which helps predict whether they succeed and remain enrolled. The data suggest one practice in particular — giving assignments — that, done transparently, has a significant effect on students. Here at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, where Ms. Winkelmes is now principal investigator of the project Transparency in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, she has distilled that finding into a straightforward protocol. Professors who have signed on to the project consider three questions when creating assignments: what, exactly, they’re asking students to do (the "task"); why students have to do it (the "purpose"); and how the work will be evaluated (the "criteria"). Then the instructors explain those things to their students. That’s it.

Read The Unwritten Rules of College

New York Times/The Education Issue: Is College Tuition Really Too High?

Interesting NYT piece about the costs and benefits of college tuition.

To read more, click here.

Teaching Roundtable Rethinking Classroom and Learning Spaces

In preparation for Asbury and Roy O. West Library renovations, we are hosting a session to examine examples of classroom and learning spaces on other campuses. Discuss with your colleagues thoughts on how to maximize student learning through renovated spaces. 

Please RSVP for lunch.

Re-Imagining Learning Spaces: Design, Technology, and Assessment Learning Space Rating System Building Community with FLEXspace: The Flexible Learning Environments eXchange Room to Experiment

Professional Development Roundtable Navigating ADA Accommodations in the Classroom

A relaxed and honest discussion of the impact of ADA Accommodations in the classroom.


Teaching Roundtable Online Learning Alternatives for Student Polling and Strategies for Managing Distraction

Join Tim Cope, Hilary Eppley, and Jin Kim for a demonstration and discussion of "Online Learning: Alternatives for Student Polling and Strategies for Managing Distraction." After a brief overview of polling platforms by Jin Kim, Tim and Hilary will show how they have been using PollEverywhere and Socrative to assess students' learning in their courses. Session includes a discussion of strategies to manage distraction. 

Please RSVP for lunch.

5 Ways to Use Live Online Polls in the Classroom (K-12 but useful for higher ed) Digital distraction in the classroom Helping Students Learn in an Age of Digital Distraction Understanding Digital Distractions to Improve Teaching and Learning

Teaching Roundtable Using "They Say/I Say" in FYS Courses

Are you using or have you used "They Say/I Say" in your FYS or W courses? Would you like to know how others are using this book in their courses? Come join the Writing Program for a lunch discussion about integrating "They Say/I Say" into your course content. Bring examples of assignments you have used with this book.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

My Love-Hate Relationship With TurnItIn

I’ve fully embraced the benefits and strictures of being a professor in the digital age. In both my online courses and live ones, I have come to rely upon our online classroom portal to disseminate course information, post reminders, log grades, and to serve as the primary method by which students turn in their papers. I don’t know if it is necessarily sounder to do everything electronically, but it’s a system that’s been honed course after course and seems to work well for both sides of the lectern. Still, there are aspects of it that trouble me. Every paper turned in to my class Dropbox gets automatically run against TurnItIn’s plagiarism-detection tool. I detest plagiarists; they are the bane of my professional existence. I’ve done my best to stamp out plagiarism with antiformulaic assignment prompts, rotating exams, and gentle reminders through the semester that committing plagiarism invites the devil into your soul. Still, I get students who, either from Machiavellian overconfidence or through abject laziness, plagiarize. And so if asked, I’ll not pretend otherwise — I love TurnItIn. It’s painless, effective, and just as important, already there for me to use. It saves me some relatively significant number of hours each term, agonizingly Google-searching the paper of an unremarkable student who has suddenly turned into David Foster Wallace on the final exam. And when I am forced to pursue an instance of academic dishonesty, it provides a nice, tidy, official-looking report that tends to convince students of the authority and weight behind the meeting we are currently having. So I use it, happily. But recently I got an email from a student concerned about TurnItIn on dual grounds. The student was nontraditional, and this was his first college course in some years. He was concerned first about accidentally plagiarizing, and wondered (na├»vely, but completely understandably) if TurnItIn let students run their work through free to make sure this didn’t happen. Second, the student didn’t like the idea of being forced to surrender his work to a company that would make money from it. He was articulate, respectful, and tentative. Read more...

University of Georgia Bets $4.4 Million That Small Classes Can Bolster Learning

The University of Georgia, seeking to improve the classroom experience of its undergraduates, has begun a faculty hiring spree to reduce enrollments in hundreds of courses. The university will hire 56 full-time, teaching-focused lecturers and professors over this academic year. It is one of several recent efforts at the research-focused institution to improve its educational environment. Others include the creation of a series of freshman seminars and the requirement that incoming students participate in a hands-on learning experience. "It’s a piece in a larger puzzle," said Rahul Shrivastav, vice president for instruction. The addition of instructional faculty represents only a 3-percent increase to the university’s full-time teaching staff, but it is notable for its focus. Other institutions have announced large, multi-year hiring campaigns in recent years, but they typically aim to bolster research capacity. In cutting down class sizes, Georgia took a strategic approach, Mr. Shrivastav said. Administrators examined data to find the courses that students most frequently dropped out of, withdrew from, and failed. Consulting with deans and department heads, the academic leaders further zeroed in on courses with the worst bottlenecks that stymied student progress. A slate emerged of 319 courses across 81 majors, including introductory courses in business, chemistry, mathematics, and political science. "There could have been 100 more," Mr. Shrivastav said. Students this semester are enrolled in 120 new, smaller sections of nine courses. Some sections, like "Legal and Regulatory Environment of Business," were halved, going from 140 to about 70. Others experienced comparatively modest trims, like "Calculus I for Science and Engineering," from an average of 39 students to 29. Most of the new sections across departments now have between 23 and 30 students. There was no ideal class-size target, just the governing principle that smaller is better. The goal, Mr. Shrivastav said, was, "Let’s try for really small courses where it will be a more personalized, more interactive experience." Read more...

TEACH Act Update: The Path to Voluntary Guidelines for Accessible Instructional Materials

In November 2013, the Technology, Equality, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education (TEACH) Act was introduced in Congress. The bill was intended to foster the development of voluntary accessibility guidelines for postsecondary electronic instructional materials and related technologies. The higher education community, however, expressed concern that the way the act sought to accomplish this would likely prevent it from doing so, to the detriment of both students with disabilities and the institutions that seek to serve them. Starting in the fall of 2014, major higher education associations, including the American Council on Education (ACE) and EDUCAUSE, began working with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) to develop a legislative proposal that could achieve the shared goal of all three communities—generating sustained progress in the accessibility of postsecondary electronic instructional materials. This webinar will address the progress the groups have achieved in developing draft legislation, including its core elements, as well as its likely path through the legislative process.

For more information, click here. For Software Accessibility Suit, click here.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Teaching Faculty Forum Karla Erickson (Sociology, Grinnell) "Institutional Whiteness and Mentoring"

In this talk, Erickson discusses her experiences with making whiteness an object of curiosity and investigation in a liberal arts setting.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Professional Development Roundtable From Trigger Warnings to Title IX: Sensitive Topics on Syllabi and in the Classroom

In this roundtable session, members of the Title IX Team will facilitate conversation over the inclusion of warnings about sensitive material in the classroom and on syllabi.