Podcast by Maryellen Weimer on “How to Keep Your Teaching Fresh”

The weekend is here! If you are going venturing somewhere this weekend and you are in need for something that deviates from radio music, you should look into this free podcast by Maryellen Weimer on “How to Keep Your Teaching Fresh.” Click here for the free podcast!

Complaining about Students Nowadays

A wonderful piece by Dr. Maryellen Weimer on the cancerous effects of complaining about ‘students these days’ .. In fact, despite continuously complaining about students being unprepared, unenthusiastic, unmotivated, etc., there is little data that supports that “students these days” are any different from “students those days!”

Approaching the Beginning of the “Job Search”

By far the most nerve-racking period of time for a Ph.D. student — finding a “job.” Between research and teaching, it seems like time flies by. Here is a helpful time table to help you keep on track!

The Use of Humor in Classroom: Appropriate or Not?

As instructors, we take what we teach seriously, which is often results in bland and dry material for students. Dr. Maryellen Weimer discusses how we can use humor (article linked here), to engage students and create a sense of community in our classrooms.

A trade-off between meeting preset deadlines and mastery of the material.

Rutgers University Center for Teaching Advancement and Assessment Research’s Twitter often posts great articles! See this tweet about The Atlantic‘s on focusing mastery of skills over meeting (e.g., degree, semester, exam) deadlines.

Fear of Mistakes

Instructors often take on many roles. One of which is being a parent to the students, and like every parent, we often fear allowing our students make mistakes. Our fear is somewhat rational, however, because mistakes influences their grades, mistakes uses valuable time covering the same content, and mistakes impacts students’ motivation. For a more lengthy discussion, view this article: Are We Afraid to Let Students Make Mistakes? by Dr. Maryellen Weimer.

A Tip to Help Struggling Students

Because higher education demands large classrooms of students, the struggling students often slip through the cracks. Dr. Micah Sadigh, a professor at Cedar Crest College, has found great success in: A Simple Invitation: Please See Me! to encourage to have one-on-one meetings with him!

What are the top five teaching challenges?

The top five teaching challenges according to Reader Survey are:

  1. Students arriving to class unprepared
  2. Students unprepared for the intensity of college
  3. Budget cuts
  4. Motivation
  5. Technological distractions

Read more at: Reader Survey Finds Unprepared Students a Persistent Problem

Focusing on your Learners by Involving them in the Process (FLIP)

An article by Dr. Barbi Honeycutt about three ways we can “FLIP” a classroom without technology or what she calls “unplugged”: 3 Ways You Can Use Index Cards to FLIP Your Class: Another ‘Unplugged’ Flipped Strategy

Using Learning Goals

As instructors, we all want our students to learn; identifying and assessing what has been learned is key to making sure we achieve our goals and that our students benefit.

What is a learning goal?

A learning goal, or learning outcome, is what we want our students to get out of the course. At the university level, these goals unite traditional liberal arts and research goals with the demands for success post-undergraduate in the 21st century. At the individual classroom level, learning goals contribute to this larger mission while also attending specifically to the mission of the individual department and the individual course. These outcomes might come in the form of content mastery or skills knowledge, in a broad variety of areas. For example, learning outcomes in an introductory biology course will likely include knowledge about basic biological facts, like cell processes, but will also include knowledge and experience in proper lab conduct—both of which are crucial for future success in the sciences.

How to define learning goals

As instructors, we do want our students to learn certain things in certain ways, as well as to be able to do certain things. By framing these “things” as learning goals, we articulate more specifically what they are, how they can be attained, and whether or not our students have attained them. Some considerations in articulating learning goals are the appropriateness of the goal to the level of the course, what is the content students should know, and what skills you want them to have.

In an introductory course, learning goals will be different from what they will be in an advanced course—both in content and skills. While an introductory course might focus on learning how to do a close reading or how to act properly in a lab, an advanced course might focus on centralized higher order skills like contextual critical analysis or designing research projects. Content too is based on skill level, a 100-level course might ask for familiarity, while a 300-level course might ask for mastery. Articulating these goals prior to the start of the course will define the path the course takes, from readings, to assignments, to how classroom time is spent.

Once learning outcomes have been defined for the course, instructors can also break these goals into smaller chunks that together will equal the larger goals. In other words, the overall learning goal becomes point Z, and this breakdown draws the map to get there from point A, the start of the semester.

Making these points evident can strengthen teaching and provide important landmarks for students as they move through the course. For example, by breaking down “improve chemistry lab skills” into constituent parts, like “master two substance titration” both instructor and student will be able to more clearly mark progress.

Assessing learning Goals

Throughout the semester, it is crucial to assess and also provide opportunities for students to self-assess whether progress is made towards learning goals. These can range from traditional exams, to indirect assessments such as surveys and informal writing assignments. Peer and self-assessments can also encourage students to reflect on their own role in the learning process. By designing assessments based on your already articulated learning goals, continuity can be established, and learning processes can be improved.