Ideas for customizing the lab experience

We tend to think that lab courses must march students through a well-rehearsed set of steps that include presentation of theoretical background and foundational concepts, safety considerations for the lab at hand, methods and procedures to be followed, measurement and...

Journaling for reflection and critical thinking

Reflective writing can help us carry ourselves through processes of change. Learning is a process of change and research shows that journal writing can support students across disciplines in connecting with and making meaning of their learning.

Bring robust labs to online classes

As we discover, test and improve methods of online teaching, one category of courses, the science laboratory based class, has resisted many efforts to bring lab units to the online realm. But this need not be the case. There are several models, methods and ready made solutions available to instructors or departments who are contemplating this transition. In this Teaching Tip, we cover the range of options available.
Illustration: University of Munich Remotely Controlled Lab on Millikan’s Experiment web interface.

Get students to give feedback beyond “good job”

Let’s not be satisfied with the “feedback sandwich approach” in course discussion. Providing guidance and setting expectations for what good discussion feedback looks like can help move students beyond giving comments that do not prompt further discussion, build on an argument or rethink one’s own stance.

Bring your expertise front and center

Let go of some of the how. How will the student generate the video? How will the student submit his or her paper? Focus on the what and the why. Grab your list of learning objectives and analyze course learning experiences and assessments to determine if they support students progressing toward course outcomes.

Create “microlearning” for reinforced learning

Social media is full of short bursts of content pushed out to viewers to be accessed when and where the viewer has time. You can do the same thing with “microLearning:” simple, short and concise learning opportunities that reinforce learning.

What, you think this is funny?

The best kind of joke is the one that forces students to rethink content in a new light and see it from a different perspective. But achieving this can be difficult. Wanzer illustrates the pitfalls in using humor to achieve this end.

Motivating students to connect with course content

Getting the busy student to prepare for class prior to trying to do course work is difficult at best. This tip delves into this problem and provides a few recommendations for faculty to try. Should you feel your students need this type of encouragement, look to a model that places content right at hand to how most students tend to approach learning and participating in a course.

Creating significant learning experiences

Our purpose as instructors is to facilitate new student understandings. But, what are understandings? Are there different kinds? It seems they can be simple, such as remembering the elements of the periodic table, or extremely complex, such as discovering new knowledge about oneself and one’s relationship with the world.

Lying, deceit and effective teaching

The subject of the lie has been pondered, defined and debated over centuries, across cultures and in various situations. Lies come in many forms, some harmless, others pernicious. Is there any place for lies in the classroom? You may wish to consider these examples before reflecting on that.

Make your next field trip virtually good

Research shows that the educational outcomes associated with field trips are not dependent on a face to face visit. Outcomes are instead based on student engagement driven by activities before, during and after visits to a site. This Teaching Tip provides an overview of good practices and a starting point for those considering using field trips in their class.

How to prepare for fall while enjoying summer

Summer is in full swing! You are camping, gardening, roadtripping, hiking, netflixing, swatting at mosquitoes — maybe even teaching. Meanwhile, you’re actively ignoring that buzz behind your ear: Fall’s coming … Teaching … Teaching … Teaching. No one will blame you for swatting that buzz away until, say, August. It’s summer, after all. But what if you could do something now to make your course development a month or two from now a bit easier?

Release content when students are ready

In most disciplines, there are skills that need to be learned and understood before moving on to something more complicated. Without a solid foundation, moving on to more difficult endeavors can be challenging as well as frustrating and can be a hurdle the student is not able to get over.

Teaching language online offers unique opportunities

A well designed and delivered course in any subject area can benefit from a focus on interaction and student contribution. Foreign language courses can be successfully taught online, as well as make more effective use of a teacher’s valuable time. Avoid the managerial teacher-talk of the face-to-face classroom and find more time for students to produce language and engage in one-on-one discussion with the instructor.

How to make self-assessment fun

How do your students know whether they have mastered a concept before they take a formal assessment? Your students may take advantage of online textbook resources that include cognitive tutors to test their knowledge if available. And, methods such as iterative assignments with defined revision cycles, group discussion, interactive video, a pre-quiz, and class review time can help as well.

Teach them to do it badly

At the closing of SXSWEdu a few years ago, I watched one of the most memorable keynote addresses to educators that I have ever seen. Jeffrey Tambor quoted one of his favorite writers, Henry Miller, as saying “I did not learn to write, until my teacher told me to ‘do it badly.’”

Boost creativity through combinatory play

Combinatory play is the process of considering two or more unrelated ideas, topics, images, disciplines, etc. and putting them together in a way that is new. Experimentation, deconstruction, synthesis, iteration and failure are part of this process of learning and discovery. Combinatory play utilizes a wide range of learning domains that help to feed creativity and innovation.

Test early, test often, and always cumulative

There are powerful alternatives to final exams including final projects and final presentations, but if you’re set on giving a final exam, consider making it comprehensive. Further, consider frequent cumulative benchmark quizzes as part of your students’ practice regimen.

When it comes to marathon running, it has often been said that the race is really about the last few miles. “I ran great for the first 18 miles, but my time really fell off toward the finish.” No. The race IS the last few miles. The marathon is a long challenge requiring deep and substantial practice in order to attain mastery. So it can be with our designed learning experiences.

Translating down to peers creates deep learning

Creating a simplified version of a concept is a rich learning activity for the student who plays the role of teacher, but also for the student who is being tutored. This teaching tip provides examples and guidance on using the technique in your class. Communicating a simplified translation of a concept for a peer is a learning activity that compounds deep understanding, communication skills and reflection.

Ways to improve learning objectives

Learning objectives are often overlooked because they aren’t well-written. Selecting active words to describe your expectations can help students succeed and help you plan activities and assessments to fulfill those objectives. Learning Objectives. Learning Outcomes. Course Goals. Do I have your attention or have you just skipped over it like most students tend to do?

Use video to capture students’ attention

Engage your students via voice over visuals. You can do it with tools you already have. Sure, you can make a video and incorporate it, but if you’re not quite ready, don’t despair. Put your voice into your course today. Use Keynote (or PowerPoint) and Quicktime to bring your materials to life.

Connecting with your field

You are an ambassador for your discipline. Imagine that you can put aside every external constraint when teaching your class: school and departmental requirements, considerations of technology, classroom seating, student prior knowledge and your own busy schedule. Forget. All. About. That.

Informal learning

‘Informal learning’ can be described as the learning process that takes place outside the educational institution. It is spontaneous, self-directed, not curriculum-based or qualification oriented and is accidental in nature.1 For example, clicking through on a Facebook link out of curiosity and learning about something as a result.

Online presentations can be successful

Have you been inspired by a Ted Talk? Do you look to YouTube to watch an expert in your field? With increases in web conferencing tools and improved broadband services, there are many opportunities to deliver online presentations. The ubiquity of mobile devices able to record video and the availability of server space to share recordings allows students to share public presentations with those who aren’t in the same location.

What is an A?

What type of work genuinely merits an A grade? The UAF grading system describes an A grade as appropriate for work that “indicates a thorough mastery of course content and outstanding performance in completion of course requirements.”

Why we teach

As we emerge from the caverns of winter and slip from the madness of March into bright, warm April and true spring, maybe it is safe to take a moment and ask ourselves why we do it. Given our current budget challenges, it is perhaps even essential we ask the question. What is our source of inspiration? What is the real reason we teach?

Exam review – strategies for better engagement

Many classes have an exam scheduled around the middle of the term. Having a review session before an exam can be a good way to reinforce the main ideas that you’re trying to get across to your students. Although cramming for exams does not promote good practices for long-term learning, studies do show that having some kind of review before an exam can improve test scores.

The care and feeding of progress

I’d advise everyone who uses Blackboard’s Grade Center to embed this tip—or a link to this WordPress post supporting it—in your “Getting Started” folder. It’s perfect for the student to understand how to see your feedback.