Teaching Strategy Resource Shelf

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Teaching Strategy Resource Shelf

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  • Preparing Your Students for Final Exams

    Preparing Your Students for Final Exams. Final Exams are stressful to make, to give, to take, and to grade—not to mention, a critical element in the evaluation of students. Typically comprehensive, they carry more weight than mid-terms and other tests given throughout they semester, and provide that “final” opportunity for students to demonstrate what they’ve learned. But, as reported in an article in UC-Berkeley’s New Faculty Teaching Newsletter, students often complain that “final exams do not always test the kinds of knowledge…asked for in homework or quizzes or presented in lectures” (Tollefson, 2007). Whether this complaint is valid or not, it is important that we devote our best effort to creating good final exams. Here are nine helpful suggestions to prepare your students.

  • Alternatives to Traditional Testing

    Alternatives to Traditional Testing.  It is too late now to change, but you should keep this in mind for next semester when you think of diverse ways of assessing student learning. For many courses of varying format and size, across many disciplines, reasonable alternatives to traditional tests (i.e., paper-based T/F or Multiple Choice) exist. In fact, oftentimes the alternatives may even be advantageous to promote student learning and be more authentic means of students demonstrating what they have learned at the higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy (synthesis, analysis, evaluation).  Here are some suggestions.

  • Rubrics: An Undervalued Teaching Tool

    Rubrics: An Undervalued Teaching Tool. English teachers know a few things about managing the paper load. But managing isn’t leading. We should do more than manage the load; we should lead our students through the writing process (invention, drafting, and revising) to help them become independent thinkers who can effectively present their ideas to an audience. Rubrics offer an effective way to guide thinking and learning in any course that requires a paper or writing-intensive project.

  • Why Open-book Tests Deserve a Place in Your Courses

    Why Open-book Tests Deserve a Place in Your Courses. With the proliferation of learning management systems (LMS), many instructors now incorporate web-based technologies into their courses. While posting slides and readings online are common practices, the LMS can also be leveraged for testing. Purely online courses typically employ some form of web-based testing tool, but they are also useful for hybrid and face-to-face (F2F) offerings. Some instructors, however, are reluctant to embrace online testing. Their concerns can be wide ranging, but chief among them is cheating. Instead of wasting valuable time to deter cheating, open-book tests shift the onus of responsibility onto the students themselves. They are the ones who must track down answers and page through online notes.

  • Test Anxiety: Causes and Remedies

    Test Anxiety: Causes and Remedies. There hasn’t been a lot written recently about test anxiety, but that doesn’t mean it’s no longer an issue for a significant number of students. Those of us who don’t suffer from test anxiety—and I’m betting that’s most faculty—can find it hard to be sympathetic. Life is full of tests, and students need to get over it. Besides, if students have studied and prepared, there’s no reason for them to feel excessively anxious about a test. Perhaps we should start by reestablishing that test anxiety is a legitimate problem. A significant amount of research says that it can affect students in kindergarten right on up through college and graduate school.  Teachers can’t cure test anxiety. But they can offer remedies that students should be encouraged to try. Information about good study strategies should be included in every course.

  • Testing what you’re Teaching without Teaching to the Test

    Testing what you’re Teaching without Teaching to the Test. Have your students ever told you that your tests are too hard? Tricky? Unfair? Many of us have heard these or similar comments. The conundrum is that, in some circumstances, those students may be right. Assessing student learning is a big responsibility.  Assessments (e.g., tests, quizzes, projects, and presentations) that are haphazardly constructed, even if unintentionally, can result in scores and grades that misrepresent the true extent of students’ knowledge and leave students confused about what they should have been learning. Fortunately, in three easy steps, test blueprinting can better ensure that we are testing what we’re teaching.

  • Learning with Students vs. Doing for Students

    Learning with Students vs. Doing for Students. Here’s a quote, “I see myself as a learner first, thus I create my classes with learners, not for them ….”  When I think about classes I think about myself as a teacher first. So, I’ve been trying to imagine facing a teaching task from the perspective of a learner. The quote represents another push away from teaching and toward learning. But the preposition “with” makes it something more than just another admonition to be more learner-centered. Classes are created with learners, not for them. Even given my long-standing interest in learner-centered teaching, I have to be honest and admit, I created courses and now create workshops for learners, not with them.  Perhaps here is a way by doing beneficial things for students if I use what I have learned by doing things with them.

  • Are Happier Students Better Performers?

    Are Happier Students Better Performers? The importance of student happiness cannot be underestimated as a determining factor in academic performance, especially in the context of today’s universities. However, teachers can be empowered in their roles as holistic educators and become positive mentors for their students, providing understanding, empathy and encouragement. Furthermore, they can also train students in developing their emotional resilience. This should be given particular emphasis in this day and age, where students are increasingly vulnerable to the negative effects of boredom, stress and frustration in their university courses. So, teachers have an increasingly important role as contributors to student happiness.  It can be said that a truly happy student is likely to excel in his academic pursuit.

  • Do Quizzes Improve Student Learning? A Look at the Evidence

    Do Quizzes Improve Student Learning? A Look at the Evidence. There’s a lot of talk these days about evidence-based instructional practices. Recently I’ve been trying to locate the evidence that supports quizzing, wondering if it merits the evidence-based label. Tracking down this evidence in our discipline-based research is challenging because although quizzing has been studied across our disciplines, it’s not easily searchable. What this evidence tells us is that given a particular set of conditions, quizzes produce positive results, in most cases a range of them. And that gives us three things to consider: quizzes are an evidence-based instructional strategy only in a general sense; to determine if quizzes produce the desired results, evidence is needed; and consideration of the instructional design is of profound importance. Additional details are here.

  • Three Guidelines and Two Workarounds for Tackling Makeup Exam Policies

    Three Guidelines and Two Workarounds for Tackling Makeup Exam Policies. Are you one of the many instructors who loathe makeup exam requests? Makeup exams often create more work and can put us in the awkward position of judging the truthfulness of our students’ excuses. Although we can’t avoid makeup requests entirely, we can better prepare ourselves and our students by having a transparent and fair makeup exam policy. When designing your policy, always ask yourself: Does the policy allow students to learn what you want them to learn in your course? Here are three guidelines for an effective makeup exam policy and two possible workarounds