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Professional Resources for Teaching & Learning

News and resources for faculty and staff

Are they paying attention?

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

When we love what we teach, it can be hard to see why students are not equally enthralled. In many cases, we have dedicated our careers to the field and still find it exciting. But, what happens when that passion is not shared by the students?

Faculty can start to feel a little disappointed by students’ lack of interest and unrequited love for subject matter. Sometimes it is a combination of the subject, teaching style and a whole host of other factors that can lead to students’ attention straying. When students don’t see what that what they are learning is meaningful or relevant, they can “check out.”  While not every subject is going to appeal to every student, there are things that faculty can do to keep students engaged and actively learning. In short, we have to teach them to pay attention and be present in the classroom.

The burden of paying attention does rest with the student, but faculty who engage students on multiple levels can increase attention and encourage the development of this skill in their students.

Here are some things you can do to keep students engaged and focused:

  • Change activities often (every 15 minutes or so)
  • Replace long lectures with other learning activities like case studies and discussions. Click here for some alternatives to lectures from Salmon Khan.
  • Include small group work or partner work that allows students to talk and share their ideas.
  • Ask questions that encourage students to get involved in class.
  • Make the material relevant to their lives and careers. Show them how it fits together.

Getting to know students can make a significant difference in the level of accountability they feel to faculty and the course. Call on them by name and check in with them if they are not on-task. A simple “You seemed a little distracted today, what’s going on?” can make all the difference. It let’s student know that you are paying attention.


Can We Teach Students How to Pay Attention? by Maryellen Weimer, PhD

How to pay attention in class—tips for college students by Ginny Gaylor

Tools for Engaging Students from Dartmouth College





Rights in Online Courses for students and faculty

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Recently HASTAC [Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advance Collaboratory] published an online learner’s bill of rights and dealing with critiques of such a bill of rights.   Another posting addresses the issues of online assignments in public sites, such as blogs, wikis and other forums.  The issue of credit and enrollments for MOOCs [Massive Open Online Courses] has also been featured in the NY Times  and Chronicle of Higher Education, in luring students to MOOCS.  Additional challenges demonstrate some challenges with WHO is teaching the course, suggested by a recent article:  On the internet, nobody knows you’re the wrong professor! 

Assessment, Cheating and Online learning

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Explorations of the assessment, cheating and delivery of online learning continues.  A recent article regarding how students cheat in online courses was further explored.  Additional resources for assessment of online and hybrid delivery are provided by Quality Matters.  Assessment and efficacy of online learning is explored by several organizations, f or grading rubrics,  including Assessment of learning in Higher Education. Other sources include Three reasons teachers hate grading and what to do about them. Another resource, Prof Hacker at Chronicle of Higher Education continues to post hints on grading, from tools, digital tools, and rubrics.

National Resources on assessment and grading rubrics, mostly by discipline and interdisciplinary organization include American Association of Colleges and Universities AACU-LEAP rubrics and assessment at AACU-LEAP as well as the  National Institute for Learning Outcomes and Assessment at NILOA.





































located at NILOA National Institute of Learning Outcomes and Assessment and AACU American Association of Colleges and Universities LEAP.

First Day and Syllabus

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Your first day course materials and classroom activities set the tone for the semester.  Many experts on creating course materials, assignments and activities, suggest a learner centered approach.   Learning centered pedagogy is the feature of one effort. Most suggest that you use the first day to develop a sense of community and connection among the students.  Many icebreakers and activities are located at Teaching Tips.  Another strategy,  Backwards design suggests a three step process: identify learning outcomes,  develop assessment strategies, and plan instruction.  MCCC day faculty must include these materials in first day handouts and MCCC DCE faculty must included these materials.  You may also wish to review past posts, such as Creating a syllabus 3, and  use the ‘search’ feature on the teaching and learning site,  for syllabus,  first day handouts, classroom pedagogy and assessment.

Syllabus Preparation and Lectures

Monday, January 13th, 2014

ProfHacker of the Chronicle of Higher Education regularly posts ideas, fixes, make-overs, and concrete suggestions for syllabus creation.   Teaching resolutions for the new semester provides some syllabus guidelines.  Previous posts on Teaching and Learning site also provide other syllabus ideas.  A new view of the potential value of multiple choice exams is also provided.  For those who teach online, an article on adapting your powerpoint lectures may be useful.  Additionally, HASTAC recently published Why students complain about grades and what we can do about it.

Civic Engagement and value of college education

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Civic engagement and value of a college education with liberal arts courses in increasingly important to employers.  A case for liberal arts degrees and courses suggests both may increase civic engagement after graduation. Additionally, employers want broadly educated college graduates a new survey reveals.   Using digital media in all courses with a focus on popular culture, justice and equity may enable students to see the relevance of everyday experiences in courses as well as promote civic engagement.  The Pew research center also reported how digital media suggests  electronic ways in which citizens engage in politics and community.   Political activity is growing online but “slacktivism”  remains a challenge.  Still the completion of at least  some college courses provides citizens with speaking and writing abilities, making them more likely to speaking public and contact legislators.




Massachusetts CC Advising Conference

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

 Massachusetts Community College Advising Association conference

Friday, June 14th from 8:30 – 3:30 at North Shore Community College . Diane O’Hearn and Shane Hammond will  be conference presenters.  Contact Anna or Julie if you would like to attend.  MCCADA Registraion Form 2013 and MCCADA Session Descriptions .

MOOCs, retention, and more challenges

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Recent stories about MOOCS and San Jose State were in the news.  San Jose State professors pushed back against EdX, one of the top three providers of MOOCS.  An open letter from Professors at San Jose State to Professor Michael Sandel to request he take a stand on how some public universities may use MOOCs to force curriculum and content onto their professors and classrooms.  Professor Sandel responded supporting San Jose State professors, suggesting that his MOOC on Justice and Philosophy was never intended to replace face to face classroom discussions.  Another report by Todd Tauber suggest that students are bored in online courses and that  MOOCs have less that 5% retention rate, even though thousands sign up for the course, raising the question, if MOOCs can ever really replace institutionally designed online courses and web enhanced courses. Finally, Georgia Tech and Udacity have made an agreement to offer a master’s program in computer science and questions about the the quality of the potential program has been raised.

Grading, machine scoring and more

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Recently the news has described the challenges to machine scored essays.  One group suggests that machine scoring can not do what human professors and teachers can accomplish.  Others suggest that robo-readers can accurately score essays and writing. Other articles discuss the role of humans in grading differently, and more inclusively. Another sources discusses the pros/cons of grading with letters/numbers. Ultimately, the decisions about how to grade and whether machines can grade essays will be with college professors for some time.

MOOCs: Retention rates, challenges, and more

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

A recent NY Times article, reminds us that MOOCs {Massive Open Online Courses]  and their usefulness for credit bearing degree programs still may remain illusive.  While the article rates the usefulness, the interaction with the ‘star’ professors, the variability in course content, the retention rate is still dismal.  The author also indicates for many of the MOOCs he enrolled in, the student to professor and the student to student interaction was poor.  Additionally, Amherst College  rejects joining EdX, one of the three major MOOC providers, and questions MOOC viability for  transfer for credit into their curricula.  A further NY times blog questions the potential high costs of MOOCS>

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