Facing Mid-semester Doldrums with new Ideas

At the mid-semester point, we can start to see and feel fatigue setting in for both our students and ourselves. Finding that spark of creativity and enthusiasm can bring our classes to life and give us the energy to finish the semester as strong as we began. It can be as simple as new discussion starters, innovative ways to structure assignments or useful encouragement for students.

Working from the experience and practice of other faculty is often helpful. The Center for Teaching and Learning at UNC Charlotte has compiled an impressive list of Best Practices in College Teaching that looks at the kinds of challenges we all face.

  • The Thoughtful Questions section is full of stimulating one-liners for those times when there is a lag in the discussion. These can also be used for critical thinking about course material and concepts.
  • Use the Rewarding Learner Participation section to help move discussions forward in ways that simple praise doesn’t often do.

This is just a fraction of what this link has to offer!

You are sure to find your own favorite new ideas to try. Our challenge to you is try one new idea during your next class. Write it into your lesson plan for the day. Then chose another and another….

Fall Semester at GCC: Welcome back!

As we start making plans for our classes and our students, we have to admire how much has changed in a few short months. During the summer GCC has been thriving, growing and moving in exciting directions. The commitment to students, staff, faculty and the community remains strong, but the tools that allow us to create and foster success have expanded and deepened.

For instance, you have probably noticed the new look of the GCC website—these changes make the site more mobile-friendly. There are new technology and moodle resources to help students and faculty. Plus there are new posts and links at the Teaching and Learning site to help solve problems, see common challenges in new ways and support the vital work that happens at GCC.

But perhaps most importantly, we have new students and many returning students who will be new to each of us. They will look to us to nurture, support and encourage their educational goals. While each of us has our own tried and true methods, the best teachers and staff are those who are looking to improve, innovate and take risks. Now is the ideal time to try something new…. and there are resources to help do that! Read about the moment that Eric Mazur’s teaching changed dramatically.

The start of the semester is exciting—full of transitions and fresh starts. This is the time to “hook” students and get them interested in your class and the work they will do! Take a look at 101 ideas for the First Three weeks of Class.

Syllabus help:

General Tips and Ideas:

Also available on the Teaching and Learning website are ideas for working with diverse populations, motivating students, designing courses and assignments, etc. You can use the search tool or the menu on the right hand side of the site. If there are resources you have to share or ideas for additional resources, please let me know at sheldonl@gcc.mass.edu.

Have a great semester!

Increasing Motivation: Let’s Go!

It has been a long winter—the cold and dark days affect motivation and commitment to academics. This is true for students and if we are honest, it is true for faculty and staff. At midpoint of the spring semester, there is a certain level of fatigue that needs to be addressed.

First, let’s tackle students:

For a theoretical orientation to motivation and science of motivating learners, look here.

Although this link is to the Geoscience Department at Carlton College, the information here about motivating students is applicable to any department and any population of students.  Take a look at how faculty behaviors can directly impact student motivation. You make a huge difference in your classroom!

Not to be outdone, Vanderbilt University examines the types of motivation students possess and how we can tap into these in ways that encourage success and GRIT when the going gets tough.

Now, let’s address the needs of faculty and staff. If you feel like your “get-up-and go” got up and went, then this link is for you:

Perhaps, there is a 12-step program for motivation, but maybe 7 steps are all you really need. Or maybe 8 steps are better.

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Semester: Let’s Get Started!

What an electrifying time of year— a new year and the start of a new semester! The next two weeks are sure to be filled with excitement and questions. Don’t worry! There are many resources to help you be successful in the classroom, with your advisees and colleagues.

Maybe you are teaching a new course or contemplating changes to an existing class. To design your course and overcome common teaching challenges look to Honolulu Community College for articles and useful tips. From first day success to course design, they have it all.  For those teaching a new course, the Step by Step: Planning a College Course can help take your course from concept to a fully-designed course efficiently. Allow yourself plenty of time at each steps to consider what you want students to learning and how to achieve those learning goals in ways that are stimulating and engaging.

You might be wondering how to be better organized and more efficient. Part of teaching is materials management…what to do with all the papers and course materials?! Saving materials from one semester to the next can plunge our offices into chaos. Get a handle on all the detritus of teaching without stress using these helpful tips from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Saving paper and materials is only part of the task…saving time and being efficient is also key.

Perhaps you are considering how to communicate better with your advisees and help them be more successful in their courses. The advisor-advisee relationship is often strengthened through clear communication and enhanced listening skills. Monmouth Community College offers some simple, yet effective tools to help you grow your academic relationships and be a better advisor.  Understanding our role as an advisor can help us to make the most of each interaction with students and be their advocate, mentor, motivating force and cheerleader.

Building Your Online Class

Pedagogy for Online Instruction

Online learning is a significantly different experience for both students and instructors. It is not a simple transfer of content and classroom activities to the virtual world. Instructors must consider how students will navigate content and engage with the learning process when that process is removed from its traditional setting.

According to West Virginia University’s Tips for Teaching Online, pedagogical changes must occur to make the online teaching/learning experience a positive one. Look for ways to adapt your face-to-face class and to ways to add new elements.

Whether you are new to online teaching or an experienced instructor, there are many common challenges related to course design.While it is impossible for students to have the same exact experience in an online class as they do in a face-to-face classroom, we can make the experience just as rewarding and satisfying using these tips for Humanizing Your Online Course.

Just as critical as pedagogy, is strong knowledge of your learning management system, Moodle and learning how to navigate this tool.

Other considerations when building your course might include the size and type of files you use. Remember that some students may have difficulty with large files or downloading depending on the strength of their connection. This can be a significant problem for students in rural areas. See the comments of GCC President Bob Pura and Chief Information Officer Michael Assaf in the Chronicle.

Helpful resources for online course creation:

11 Strategies for Managing Your Online Courses

Designing Online Courses: models-for-improvement

Five Common Pitfalls of Online Course Design from Faculty Focus

10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching

Report on Online Course Design13 Strategies for Faculty

Report on Online Course Quality

Balancing Online Course Workload

7 Assessment Challenges of Moving your Class online

 

 

Approaches to Teaching

There is no single approach to teaching that works best. What we do in the classroom depends on who we are, who our students are, what we are teaching, and many other factors. There are some guiding principles that can help use to create the condition that support and promote learning.

 

Looking at this graphic, it seems that active classroom activities may help students learn and retain information in ways that traditional lectures do not. Get students engaged and excited about their learning using Active Learning methods.

Look for ways to prompt students to think more deeply about course concepts and the learning process through Prompts That Get Students to Analyze, Reflect, Relate, and Question.

The Flipped Classroom

The Flipped Classroom is a teaching approach that moves lectures outside of the classroom to allow classroom time to be spent in more dynamic learning activities. Before arriving to class, students often watch recorded video lectures and read through lecture materials, complete a basic assessment to ensure they have understood basic concepts. They then arrive in the classroom ready to engage with their peers in discussions and other student-centered learning activities. Looking at the Learning Pyramid provides some incentive to move away from lectures to more practice-based activities in the classroom.

Overview: Watch one instructors approach in her YouTube video

The Flipped Classroom: Pro and Cons

Flipping A Class: A How-to Guide for Beginners

This teaching strategy seems to be gaining momentum because it gets results. Shaking up tried and true teaching methods can be controversial and this approach is not for everyone, but for some teachers and students, it is breathing new life into the learning experience. Read more from the NYTimes on the Flipped Classroom.

Communication and Writing Resources

Using Motivational Interviewing to Communicate with Students

Teachers and advisors who use motivational interviewing (MI) enhance their listening and problem-solving skills to become more effective communicators and create better rapport with students. MI has been shown as an effective method for creating dialogue, rapport and ultimately helping to motivate students. Following specific techniques and a methodological approach, motivational interviewing can help students move forward, see alternative paths toward their goal and take ownership.

Motivational Interviewing Thought & Action

WAC:  Writing Across the Curriculum 

Creating a Classroom Community

How we communicate and talk with students helps to establish the tone of our classroom community. This article from the NEA, Seven Ways to Talk with Your Students, can help improve how you talk with students and the messages you send about not only your course, but also the process of learning and being a student.

The flip side is getting students to talk in class and engage with content, each other and you. Get them involved in discussions and class activities using these suggestions from Stamford. David Brooks provides interesting and thoughtful strategies in his piece, Getting Students to Talk, for the Chronicle of Higher Education. Tapping into student motivation can be critical for achieving optimal participation.

And, what happens when something goes wrong? Take a deep breath and look for a solution.