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

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