Teaching Strategy Resource Shelf

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Teaching Strategy Resource Shelf

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  • How Good Are Your Discussion Facilitation Skills?

    Successfully leading and guiding student discussions requires a range of fairly sophisticated communication skills. At the same time teachers are monitoring what’s being said about the content, they must keep track of the discussion itself. Is it on topic? How many students want to speak? Who’s already spoken and wants to speak again? How many aren’t listening? Is it time to move to a different topic? What’s the thinking behind that student question? How might the discussion be wrapped up?  Most of us are not trained discussion facilitators. Here is an empirically developed instrument that can be used to more clearly identify the various skills involved in effective discussion facilitation and to gather student feedback that can help you assess yours.

  • Facilitating Class Discussions: Understanding Group Development and Dynamics.

    Facilitating discussions requires the ability to engage different perspectives and skills in response to the needs of the group. How well a group works together depends upon the dynamics among participants and the ability of the facilitator to gauge and respond to these dynamics. An effective facilitator works to create an inclusive learning environment while being prepared to set boundaries and rules when necessary. Yet, even experienced facilitators can be confronted with situations or individuals that prevent the group from functioning. This essay describes some reflective practices that can prepare facilitators and participants for productive group discussions.

  • Improving Your Test Questions

    An effective test can accurately measure what students know but also the kind of knowledge and the depth of that knowledge.  It can also provide you with key information regarding alignment of the learning objectives stated at the beginning of the course with what is being assessed in your exam. Implementing key testing principles and making good decisions regarding exam types, test items, and grading are ways to ensure that student learning is accurately measured. Here are some tips from our Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning. You can also register for our CITL workshop on Oct. 4th (Improving Our Testing and Grading of Student Achievement) to learn more.

  • How Should I Study for the Exam?

    When an exam approaches, virtually all students agree they need to study and most will, albeit with varying intensity. Most will study the same way they always have—using the strategies they think work. The question students won’t ask is: How should I study for this exam? They don’t recognize that what they need to learn can and should be studied in different ways. 

    When they get a good grade on an exam, students regularly attribute the success to luck. Students’ success as learners would advance if they had a larger repertoire of study strategies, if they could match study strategies with learning tasks, and if they constructively confronted how they studied with how they performed. Students need help on all three fronts, but courses are already packed with content. Most teachers have time to do little more than admonish students to study hard, avoid cramming and memorizing minutia, and abstain from any sort of cheating. Here is a short survey to administer to your students and how to start a short discussion on “How to study for this exam."

  • To Improve Learning, More Researchers Say Students Should Feel Like They Belong in the Classroom

    About a third of the students who started college in 2009 have since dropped out, joining the millions of young adults who never entered college in the first place. Several years into a massive push by both the federal government and states to increase postsecondary graduation rates, education policymakers across the country are asking what else they can do to get more students to and through college. There’s one seemingly simple solution according to David Yeager, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin: Tell students they belong in higher education. However, they caution, the oft-used term growth mindset – the self-belief that a student’s abilities can grow through hard work and effort – doesn’t mean just praising kids for trying. Here is a description of the important student toolkit that focuses on qualities like grit, persistence, and learning from mistakes.

  • Does It Matter How Students Feel about a Course?

    A line of research (done mostly in Australia and Great Britain) has been exploring what prompts students to opt for deep or surface approaches to learning. So far this research has established strong links between the approaches taken to teaching and those taken to learning. If teachers are focused on covering large amounts of content and do so with few attempts to involve and engage students, students tend to learn the material by memorizing it, often without much understanding of it. The 18-item instrument these researchers developed contains three subscales: one with questions associated with positive emotions such as pride, hope, and confidence, and two that measure negative emotions, one associated with frustration, anger, and boredom and the second with anxiety and shame. All three of these analyses “show significant relations between students’ emotional experience, their approaches to learning and their learning outcomes.” (p. 816). The more pragmatic question involves what teachers can do to help student have positive emotional experiences in the course.

  • First Impressions: Activities for the First Day of Class

    The old expression that you never have a second chance to make a first impression is certainly true in the classroom. Early in my career, I tried several first-day-of-class strategies, ranging from briefly introducing the course and dismissing students early to spending the entire time reviewing policies and procedures, but I began to feel that I was missing an important opportunity. Students are never more attentive than they are on the first day of class, when they’re eager to determine what kind of professor they’re dealing with, and although it is tempting to delay the real work of teaching and learning until the class list has stabilized, it can be difficult to change even the subtle norms that are established during this initial class. Several years ago, I tried a new approach, and I’ve been using it with great success ever since. Here are some strategies to help students begin using the skills they need.

  • First Day of Class Activities that Create a Climate for Learning

    There’s no discounting the importance of the first day of class. What happens that day sets the tone for the rest of the course. Outlined below are a few novel activities for using that first day of class to emphasize the importance of learning and the responsibility students share for shaping the classroom environment.

  • 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.