Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dr. Angela Dalhoe on Sustained Group Work

Group activities, much like groups of butternut squash puree, are much less likely to cause indigestion when they are prepared with close attention to consistency. Dr. Angela Dalhoe, Department of Special Education, advocates for consistent, pre-organized group activities in her classes:

In many of my classes, we do group activities every week. The groups are established at the beginning of the semester (the students even come up with their own group names – credit goes to Dr. Todd Stephens for the idea) and remain in place for the entire course. I give each group their own folder, which acts as our primary method for relaying assignments: each week I place a new prompt in the group folders for them to complete by the end of class and return back to me in the same folder. For larger classes I think this is essential: it gives the students (and I) a takeaway from the content, helps me with keeping attendance, and allows me to easily identify students and groups who are excelling with the material and who are struggling a bit more with it.

Interviewed by: Jon Pumper

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dr. Allen Keniston on Student Interaction

The student-professor relationship is often a tricky one, an odd hybrid of professional and informal communication. Dr. Allen Keniston, Department of Psychology, shares his philosophy on interacting with students:

There are those who believe that warm human interaction between professors and students should be minimized, but I believe there is a level of congenial interaction that is important to successful teaching. For example, in a figurative and literal way shaking hands is ok. I don’t know if it works for everyone, but it does for me.  I like to introduce myself individually (if the classroom is small enough) to each of my students. I ask them the kind of questions you’d ask in any type of group setting in which you are getting to know each other; nothing too personal or too close, but enough to establish rapport.  This is my take on creating an atmosphere of friendliness, exchange, and collegiality. In a strict sense professors are not their student’s colleagues, but I like to, at the very least, encourage students to believe they have a stake in and capacity for influence in the class comparable to mine.  
Interviewed by: Jon Pumper

Monday, November 10, 2014

Teaching Tip: Dr. Eric Jamelske on Student Collaboration

Getting students to work with each other motivates them to attend and excel in class. Dr. Eric Jamelske, Department of Economics, shares how he sets the pace for student collaboration right away each semester:

I really believe in creating a welcoming, collaborative atmosphere. I start off each semester by implementing a problem-solving activity that is difficult to solve individually. The moral of the activity is that students need to use the resources around them; namely, other students, the teaching assistants, and myself. This creates a feeling that we’re all in this together: it serves as a symbol that we’re collaborative learners and friends. I don’t know if any more students necessarily come to my office hours because of this, but I do think that students use each other more often as learning resources.
Interviewed by: Jon Pumper

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Teaching Tip: Dr. Mary Beth Leibham on Purposeful Assignments

Assignments are often viewed as the prearranged hoops to jump through in order to pass a class. The rare student may appreciate an assignment as a tool for learning and understanding, but the majority of students view them as tedious tasks that annoyingly inhibit them from more enjoyable activities. Dr. Mary Beth Leibham, Department of Psychology, shares how she explains the purpose behind her assignments:

I’ve found it really helpful when explaining the guidelines of an assignment to take the extra two minutes to explain the purpose it serves for the students. I don’t only tell them what they need to do, but also why the assignment will be helpful and why I’ve designed the assignment as such. It’s as simple as, ‘I’m giving you this assignment because I think it will help you do x and y, or increase your understanding of z’. I acknowledge to the students the fact that the assignment may not be the easiest and/or most thrilling for some of them, but remind them that I’m coming at it from a specific angle with a definite purpose in mind. I often ask the students for feedback after the assignment is completed to see if the students recognized the learning objective, and usually get very positive responses. 
Interviewed by: Jon Pumper

Friday, November 7, 2014

Teaching Tip: Dr. Leah Olson-McBride on Minute Writes

Minute Writes are the quickest, easiest, and most immediate way to get feedback from students. Dr. Leah Olson-McBride, Department of Social Work, describes how she implements them in her class:

I use the Minute Writes in content heavy classes, like my Research Methods course. Students write on scrap paper and anonymously put down what they get, and what they don’t get regarding that day’s material. I also added a restaurant-comment prompt they can address: what can I do to improve your experience in this class? The students will fill these out occasionally, mostly when I get a read that a lot of people are not getting it. I’ll read them after class, and if I see any big themes about things they aren’t understanding, I reteach that material at the beginning of the next class in a different way. Having the additional source of feedback on how the overall course is going is really helpful too: it’s as useful to hear that everything is going all right as it is to hear that you need to change something.
Interviewed by: Jon Pumper

For more information and variations on the Minute Write, view Carleton College’s compilation here.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms – Will Richardson

The internet has revolutionized many things, spanning from how we eat popcorn to how we view cats (though if you’re like me, no amount of transmission lines, wireless signals, or optical fiber could change how I feel about cats.) Among the many things the internet has completely reworked is reading and writing: there are now modes of written information that can be viewed, recreated, and theorized that didn’t exist before.  Teachers have tapped into those modes as unique tools for learning integrating everything from blogs to Facebook in the classroom. If you are interested in diving into what the internet can offer for you, this book provides simple, how-to steps for teaching with:
  • Weblogs
  • Wikis
  • Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds and aggregators
  • Social bookmarking
  • Online photo galleries
  • Facebook, MySpace, Twitter

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Teaching Tip: Dr. Tom Kemp on Anecdotal Asides

Student attention spans have always been short, and they are only getting shorter. Dr. Tom Kemp, professor of Economics, gives a tip on how to get students through dense (but necessary) material:

Pay close attention to the class; that’s how I know when to break it up. When it’s clear that the majority of the class is no longer paying attention to what I am saying, it’s not really useful to continue. There’s more value in breaking into something else in order to get them back into what I’d like to discuss. I’ll tell stories, create goofy analogies, or continue a running gag: there is always a side-story to be told, something that is relevant to the course but is more engaging than the theoretical material that we need to cover. Don’t be afraid to draw on real-life experiences: students may find this useful as a scaffolding device for their own learning. 

Interviewed by: Jon Pumper

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Collaborating Online – Rena M. Pallof & Keith Pratt

Online education is like an ungarnished chicken breast: it’s nourishing, comforting, but tragically disappointing without a healthy dose of spice. Collaborating Online provides faculty with examples of creative online activities that break the mold of traditional online education. If you are looking for ideas, inspiration, or ways to get students to interact in a collaborative virtual environment, this book is a fast, resourceful read.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Teaching Tip: Dr. Anne Hlas on Framing Questions

Creating a classroom environment where everyone contributes is not an easy thing to do. Dr. Anne Hlas, Department of Languages, speaks to the significance questioning has in engaging every student:

Questioning is one of the most important things we do. A carefully constructed question can help engage more students and guide their thinking. In many classes you get the really eager students who will raise their hands or blurt out answers right away; however, you also have the shyer students, who need to be actively drawn out. Framing a question is one way to build in some processing time and increase the quality of answers provided by students. Framing the question consists of teachers clarifying how they want students to answer a question. For example, we might say,  ‘I am going to wait for ten hands before I take an answer’ or ‘take time to think and write the answer down, I’ll take answers in one minute.’ In addition, we may frame a question in a way that asks students to show their response with their hands (e.g. thumbs up/down), by sitting/standing, or with visual indicators (e.g. agree/disagree).  In this way, we can engage a broader range of students, and ultimately, the entire classroom. 
Interviewed by: Jon Pumper