AdjunctNation.com » In The Classroom http://www.adjunctnation.com News, Opinion, Analysis and More For the Adjunct Faculty Nation Tue, 05 Jul 2016 19:48:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 From Koala to Kangaroo—Getting Your Students Hopping With Active Learning http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/04/26/from-koala-to-kangaroo-getting-your-students-hopping-with-active-learning/ http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/04/26/from-koala-to-kangaroo-getting-your-students-hopping-with-active-learning/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 19:06:43 +0000 http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=7130 by Shawn Orr, Digital Educator

 You’ve probably seen this chart or another many times over the course of your teaching. Basically, it’s saying that we remember very little of what somebody talks to us about. We remember more if we can see it. We remember much more if we can actually practice it and experience it. Dottie Walters and her book Speak and Grow Rich and William Glasser and his Choice Theory both say that our students will learn and retain 90-95% of what they teach each other and what they are actually involved in the creation process. Who doesn’t want their students to know 90-95% of the course content? It’s not about earning the A, right? We don’t use grades to prove learning; that proves content mastery.

What can I do so that my students are actively involved, so they are learning and retaining? I look at the classes that I taught 22 years ago and I thought “Man, if I can pair my knowledge of the subject today, 22 years later, to what I knew then—I can’t believe how much more I know.” Certainly, that should be the way it is. Not only is new information coming in, but I’m teaching it. I’m learning and retaining and coming up with new ways to apply it every day. That is ultimately the goal. That’s what we’re looking at.

We’re going to look at 7 Icebreakers and 11 Active Learning Strategies to really engage your students in the classroom. My goal for you is that you walk away with one or two. Don’t feel overwhelmed if you see the things that I’m doing and I’m using, just pick one or two that will really resonate with your students and would really make a difference. Or pick one lecture that you’re saying “I know this is the lecture that my students really struggle with or it causes them boredom” and find one activity that you can use in there.

Icebreakers are any tool that we use to facilitate interaction, stimulate creative thinking and introduce new concepts and material. Usually when we think of icebreakers, we think of them as social ways to build connection. But, icebreakers are so much more than that. They also can be educational and topical. A way that we can introduce new content, we can help make ideas relevant, and help students think in the way that we need to that day. If I know I need my students to think creatively, I might start out my course with an icebreaker where they have to engage in a lot of creative thinking. Even something as easy as a Sudoku puzzle up on the Smartboard when they walk in. They start to think creatively and critically as we move into the content.

Active learning is any activity that gets students involved in the learning process with the goal of them constructing meaning. When they construct meaning, when they draw conclusions, when they collaborate with their peers, they will learn and retain the information.

Icebreaker #1: Create a “Name Card”

I do this in all my courses, and mine might be smaller than what some of you are. They range from 12-25 students, my largest class in 45. I have the goal that I will know every single student’s name by the end of the first week. If I want to increase retention, my students have to feel like they’re a part of a community and part of group that cares about them.

I have them do nametags. The nametags are obviously for me, but I bring in markers and poster board. It’s amazing how your tactile learners immediately are drawn to doing this project and start to talk to each other. Rather than having them just put their name, I have them put something on their card that’s relevant or interesting to them.

I always make myself a cheerleader because I’m always making fun of myself and my students will laugh with me because I always say “I am your biggest cheerleader. I will be so excited and there will be tears of joy that day you walk across that stage and graduate—I can hardly wait for that day. Know that I am in your corner. You’re responsible for your learning, but I am your biggest supporter.” My students will put everything. They’ll put guitars, pictures of computers, pictures of their kids, and their animals. All of a sudden, we are having a conversation about what is meaningful and important to them.

Now, I don’t have my students introduce them this way, but when I call on someone, I’ll ask “What is that on your card? I can’t make that out. You are the worst drawer I have ever seen. Explain that to me.” Then they’ll laugh and suddenly they are talking about something that’s relevant to them and pretty soon we’ve formed that sense of community. This is purely a social icebreaker.

Icebreaker #2: The Five Finger Introduction

This is my favorite icebreaker to do on the second day of classes called “The Five Finger Introduction.” I always tell my students it’s not the one finger introduction I get on the highway all the time because I’m a very slow driver, but this is the Five Finger Introduction. I poorly draw a hand on the board and then I say “You’re going to get with the person next to you and introduce these 5 Things:

  • Pointer finger: Tell them about yourself, your major, and what’s a one-word description of you as a student. Maybe they might say motivated or energetic or nervous.
  • Middle finger: Who is someone you look up to? Who is a mentor or somebody that you admire? Or, who is someone that you want to emulate you career after? And for many of my students, that’s the first time that think “What do I want my career to look like and who would be a great mentor?”
  • Ring finger: Who is someone you love? Somebody that’s going to be in your corner and really love and support you.
  • Pinky finger: Something you need to be a little more of or a little less of. Like, I could be a little more patient or I could be a little less of a procrastinator.
  • Thumb: What’s “thumb-thing” you would really love to discuss or learn? On the first day of class, I might make this about the topic in general. What is something you’re really excited to learn about Business? What is something that you really think is going to relevant to make you more marketable in this course? What are you excited about?

I’ve also done this activity halfway through the semester and just changed up some of these things. Like, what is something you need to do a little bit more in this class? Or, what is something you need me to do a little more in this class? What’s a learning style that you really hope I continue to do. There’s lots of ways you can change this up. This is also a great one to do online because it’s very visual.

Icebreaker #3: Teaching a blended or online class?

I’ve used this activity several times for my all-online courses. At Adrian College, we use Blackboard. I’ll post an image in the discussion forum and say “Introduce yourself to us, tell me why you’re taking this course, and then I want you to put a digital image that tells us something about who you are or what’s important to you.”

This is a picture that I might put up and I might say that I live on a farm, I’m passionate about horses, and this is my best friend and share a little bit about myself. Here is the reason this is a great an effective strategy in an online course: I like to frontload my courses in my blended courses. That means that anything that I’m going to have my students using over the term, I want them to try out in the first week. So if I want them to upload a paper, I want them to do it in a very low stakes assignment during the first part of the first couple weeks of class. If they’re going to be using the discussion board, if they’re going to be working in UCU on a group project, I want them to get in a try it out.

 

This right away tells me something about my students. If they cannot figure out how to attach a digital image, it tells me something about their computer skills, it gives me the opportunity to intervene early — before the first big paper is due, when they can’t figure out how to get it uploaded, and that frustration overwhelms them. It tells me a lot about their skills, plus it gives me a chance to really engage with them right away and talk about their pictures and share.

Icebreaker #4: Commonality

Commonality is not just a social icebreaker, but also an educational icebreaker. This could be a great way to start your course out or a great way to start a specific lesson out. I actually found this one on a science website and my students love this. I download these pictures from Google and click the boxes that are free to use, even commercially, and I pass them out as students walk in.

I always greet my students at the door when they walk in to help create that connection. They then have to get together, I’ll say in groups of four, and they have to figure out who their groups are. The group on the right-hand side is the Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie, which I do have to tell you, most of my students don’t know what Little House on the Prairie is. I grew up with that show and they don’t even know who Paul Ingalls is. It’s a very very sad state of society right now. But if I put the Simpsons up there or something like that, they might right away know who they were. You can put it in groups and then you can have them introduce each other in groups and you can also ask relevant questions.

Let’s say it’s the first day of a nursing class or a medical assisting class. Maybe I would use those pictures on the bottom. If we were able to chat and I could ask you who those were, I’m sure you’d be able to identify those right away as historically famous nurses. Florence Nightingale, who wrote books on nursing and still shapes the industry of nursing today; Mary Mahoney, the first African American Registered Nurse; Mary Breckinridge, who was part of the frontier nursing service and rode a horse to do her nursing. Sometimes if they don’t know who they are, but they also notice the have nursing caps, they’ll get together for nursing hats and ask for a hint. And then I’ll have them look up the history of these important people. You can do this in so many different ways. You can put four terms that go together. So maybe I would put “Planning,” “Organizing,” “Leading,” and “Controlling,” and the students that have those would have to figure out that those are the Four Functions of Management. There are lots of ways that you can make this relevant to your content area. The neat thing is, is that students tend to congregate in groups and teams of who they know. I want my students to know everyone in the classroom. I want them to feel like they have somebody to side beside somebody that they have to connect with. This is a great activity for that.

Another one that plays off this is that when I put my students into groups or teams, I use playing cards. When they walk in the classroom, they pull a playing card off the deck from the table. All my Kings go together, all my Aces go together, and that way they’re in a different group and a different team every time. It’s a really terrific way to get different students together.

I can also tell you sometimes I stack the groups the way I want them. I use MindTap, so I’m able to go in and look at how engaged my students are in a course. Not just how well they’re doing, but how much time they’re spending in their reading and how much time they’re spending in their activities. I can take my students that are highly engaged and pair them with my students that aren’t quite as engaged and might be struggling with some of the concepts. It’s a terrific way to create formative groups to help my students be successful. 

Icebreaker #5: Candy

I’m sure you’ve probably given little bags of M&Ms and for every one M&M you ate, you have to tell us one thing about yourself. That’s a social icebreaker. Let me tell you how to make it educational or topical. I’ll bring in the bags of M&Ms, but then I’ll say “For however many green M&Ms you have, that’s how many times you have to participate in class today.” If you have 3 M&Ms, 1 M&M, 4M&Ms, that’s how many of my questions you have to answer, that’s how many of my activities you have to participate in.

Until everyone has participated their number of times, that’s when we’ll be done for the day. Or, if everyone can participate their number of times before the halfway point, we’ll have an extra five minutes during the break. Students feel a sense of obligation to participate and can gauge when they’re being called out. They hold each other accountable for it.

Another cool way to do this, is to say “You have to share three things from this week’s lectures, or three facts from last week’s lectures, based on how many M&Ms you have, and tell us why they are important.”

This is a neat way to take this social icebreaker and make it so that’s it relevant to the content area.

Icebreaker #6: How many items can you remember?

I want everyone to grab a piece of scrap paper or something that’s sitting right there. What we’re going to do right now is we’re going to do an icebreaker. I had a colleague tell me, “Oh Shawn, I love your idea of doing icebreakers in class to engage your students, but I’m teaching PC repair. This isn’t really a great course to be able to do an icebreaker in.” I said, you know, what, I bet I could, I bet I could design an icebreaker that you could use in your class this coming week. This is the icebreaker I designed for him and it was wildly successful. It actually turned into the entire lecture for the class.

I’m going to show you something on the screen, and I’m going to just show it to you for a few seconds. Then I’m going to take it off and I want you to see how many of the items you can remember. Write them down, but don’t write anything down until I take the picture off the screen. Alright, here we go. Write down as many of those items as you can remember from what was on the screen. Here’s a hint: there are eight items.

So let me go ahead, show you what the items are then, and see how many you were actually able to remember. So obviously, there’s a flashlight. There’s a pair of tweezers. There’s a screwdriver, a jump drive. The band with the yellow on it is an anti-static band, and anti-shock band. There’s compressed air. That’s what that thing is supposed to be at the bottom. There is cable ties, an outlet. I asked my students, “How many can you remember?” We had a competition and I gave out a candy bar for whoever remembered the most. I asked, “What do all these items have in common?” One student raised their hand they said, “Well, that’s what this chapter was about. It was about all the items you should have available for you in your PC repair kit if somebody calls you to say there’s a problem with their computer, and they don’t believe it’s a software problem.” I’m like, brilliant. Let’s talk about each of these items then. What kind of screwdrivers and what does the textbook say? How many types did you have? What is the anti-static band for? It’s so you don’t shock yourself. And they’re like, “Oh Professor Orr, you’re so silly. It’s not for you. It’s so you don’t shock the computer. So that if you have static in you, it doesn’t shock the computer and ruin the data.” I’m like, oh that’s so brilliant.

Well who’s doing the teaching, right? Who’s doing the pushups? They’re teaching me what each of these tools are for and why you might need them. They look and go cable ties. Why in the heck would we need cable ties? All of a sudden they’re flipping through the pages of their book, looking it up and saying why do the experts say I need to have that in my tool kit. They’re doing the teaching. While this is a great icebreaker, a way to start out, it’s also a terrific way to lead right into the lecture and teach.

Think of the ways that you could adapt this. You could, if you were teaching a medical course, you could have a picture of a tray of everything you need to have for a specific blood draw. If you were teaching a business course, you could have all of the elements you have to have together if you want to do a flow chart. There’s a lot of different ways that you could do this. Obviously, it works better for classes that are very tactile and hands-on, but once again, just another really neat icebreaker.

Icebreaker #7: Reflection

Finally, my last icebreaker I want to share is an assessment icebreaker. I do a lot of informative and summative assessments and I really like Cross and Angelo’s Classroom Assessment Techniques. It’s one of the leading industry standards on really doing great classroom assessment, both formative and summative. It’s one of my coveted, cherished books that I use all the time as I look at how my students are doing within each class and what I can change to help them learn more effectively. Then summative assessment: How can I summarize how my students did at the end of a unit?

I love this reflections icebreaker. I do this one at the end of class. I’ll put these statements up: I liked this unit… It got me thinking about… Something that surprised me today…. Sometimes I’ll do PNI: what was one positive thing that happened today, one negative thing that happened, and something interesting that you learned. I usually have my students do these on note cards and then turn them in as they’re leaving. They hand them to me and there’s several ways that I use these. Sometimes I use them as formative assessments. So if I had a lot of students that say, I’m concerned about the steps to put together a title page. Or, I still don’t completely understand which side of the t-cell a debit goes on and which side a credit goes on. That informs my teaching. I know right away where to start my next class. Sometimes I use those as discussion board questions. So several students say I learned this interesting thing or I was surprised by this. I can put a great discussion board question up to get all of the students talking about that concept or that idea. So there’s lots of different ways. You can start your class off with this saying based on the reading or based on the homework, and have them do this and then flip through them during the break. I love doing these and I love doing this at the end.

Let me tell you one other quick way that I like to modify this. I give my students sticky notes, and on each side of the white board I’ll say write one thing that you really enjoyed in this first half of the course, one thing that you’re really clear on, and one thing you’re going to use. On the other side of the board, I want you to write down one thing that you’re concerned about and one question you wish I would answer in the second half of the class. Then when they go on break, I can flip through those post-it notes. If I have six questions, or six students all ask the same question, I know exactly where to start my learning. They’re engaged, they’re doing something, and they’re providing feedback.

Alright, those are seven icebreaker activities. I hope that you picked out one of those that you might be able to use in your course.

Let’s go ahead and jump forward, and look at what additional things we could do during our class time to really get my students active and engaged, really get them involved in the learning process. I found this interesting statistic about kangaroos. Much like T-Rexes, from Jurassic Park, kangaroos have really good eyesight, but they only respond to objects that are moving. So if I want my students to see the importance of the course content, I’ve got to get them moving. I’ve got to get them doing something with that content. If they’re just sitting back and taking it in, I don’t know if they’re really getting it until I do an assessment. If that midterm assessment they get a D on, it doesn’t mean they can’t still be successful, but it means we’ve got a long way to go versus getting them active and involved every single day in every single course.

Let me give you 11 more great activities and strategies that I’m using in my course. And before I jump into these, Britany, are there any specific questions that somebody needs addressed right now before we jump into active learning strategies?

>> Jackie asked earlier when you were first talking about your class, do you have a lot of first generation college students in your courses? Can you give us a little bit more about the demographics of your courses?

>> I taught at a small private college, a technical school for 19 years in Toledo. It was predominantly first generation college students. I had a lot of students that did not have role models for college that weren’t raised around the ideology of the importance of education. One of the things that I really tried to stress with them is that education is a great equalizer. It is the only thing that is really ever going to change someone’s socioeconomic status. If they’re hoping for the lottery to do that, it’s not going to happen. Education is the thing that’s going to make a difference in their lives and their children’s lives. Right now, I teach at Adrian College. We don’t have a lot of first generation college students. Adrian College is a private college in Adrian, Michigan. We have around 3,000 students. A bit of a different demographic there, but yes, I definitely have taught to a very wide variety of students. I also taught at Bowling Green State University as well for two years when I was a graduate assistant and then after I graduated.

Active Learning Strategy #1: Identify the “Gold Nuggets”

So lecturing. Do I lecture in my classes? I absolutely lecture. I think students need direct instruction. They need to know what’s important in the content. If they could just take the chapter and read it and understand the key points, they probably wouldn’t need me. However, I will tell you there’s several things that I do. One of the things that I do for my students. I use MindTap e-books, so I’m actually able to annotate the chapters for my students. I’m able to go in and highlight the first chapter and leave them post-it notes, and then it pushes right into their electronic book, the e-book. When the students get their e-book, the first chapters highlighted for them list post-it notes I’ve left them throughout. This is why this concept is important. This is how this is going to be relevant. We’re going to be talking about this in class. Remember when Matt made a comment in class about this? Here it is.

When I lecture, I lecture on what I like to consider the “gold nuggets”—the few key concepts that every single student in my course must know in order to be successful. Then, we do a lot of active learning strategies and activities. In a 75-minute course, I’m going to lecture at the most 15 to 20 minutes. The key most important points. Then we’re going to take the gold nuggets and then the silver nuggets, the five or six additional pieces of information that students should know, and we’re going to do active learning strategies. We’re going to do activities. We’re going to do application. We’re going to do case studies. We’re going to do all these kinds of 11 activities that I’m getting ready to share with you in class. And then those bronze nuggets, the things that the students could know, those extras, those things that our A students are going to be able to pick out and are going to know as well, those are the things that are going to also be part of the homework for after. We’re really extending the line. The gold nuggets and lecture, then the gold and silver nuggets and activity and practice, and then the gold, silver and bronze nuggets in their homework.

As we look at some of these active learning, I think we should lecture, but it needs to be limited. This is a whole other webinar series, but I really, really love teaching a flipped classroom where my students watch their lectures outside of the class. I record 15-minute lectures with something that they have to deal with the first time I get a flipped class. I didn’t have my students do anything. I just sent them an electronic version of the lecture, and almost nobody watched it. My students don’t really do optional. I don’t either, right. If my grades are due Wednesday at noon, I’m probably still working on them Wednesday morning. We’re busy, and our students are busy. If I send a lecture out, there’s also a worksheet that goes with it. There’s the discussion posts they have to answer based on the lecture. There’s a quiz that accompanies it. I’m not saying don’t lecture, but we just want to limit what we’re actually lecturing on.

Active Learning Strategy #2: Plickers

Alright, here’s a really cool new active learning strategy. I actually heard about this from one of my peers and it’s called Plickers. Now probably many of you use polling in your classroom. My favorite site for polling is polleverywhere.com. I love Poll Everywhere. Students can use their cell phones. I ask poll questions. They use their cell phones to put responses in. It can be an A, B, C, D. I can have them text in their response, and what answer did you get to number seven and everybody text in their answers.

However, inevitably I get a student that says, “Oh, I don’t have a phone,” or, “The internet’s so slow I can’t get it to work.” So one of my colleagues introduced me to this. It’s called Plickers. You go to Plickers.com and you download these free squares. They look kind of like QR codes and each side of the square has a letter on it, A, B, C and D. So I ask a question like, “Joe is writing a new job description. Which level of management is he engaging in? If you think it’s planning, say A. If you think it’s leading, say B. If you think it’s controlling, say D.” Then the student holds up their Plicker, their paper Plicker for whichever side they think is correct. If they think it’s A, they hold the side up that says A and nobody can see which side they’re holding up. I take my device, my phone or my iPad, and I scan the room with it. All of the data pops up on the board for them to see. It’s live polling, but the only person that has to have an electronic device is me the teacher. You could actually also take attendance this way because each of those cards also has a number on it. Number one can be Mary, number two can be Joe, and number three can be Sally. I can scan the room and take attendance. I can scan the room again after the break and see who came back on time. I can scan the room again at the end to make sure everybody’s still there.

There’s lots of fun ways you can do this. I have a mixture of students. I find that some of my older students often have really, really strong critical thinking skills and my younger students are really comfortable with technology. Often when I use these, I put them in groups and teams and I’ll ask questions and give them a chance to work together on the answer. Then I’ll have the hold up their answers as a group.

Here’s the best thing. This formative assessment, if everyone in my group gets the correct answer or 90% of the class answers it correctly, I know, “Move on in the lecture Shawn. They’ve got it.” If half my class gets it wrong, it’s a red flag for me. Stop, reengage, let’s talk about this concept. Let’s give them a new example, and then let’s ask another question and try again. So very, very easy to use. You go to Plickers.com. You type in your questions. You print out these free sheets. You can actually buy them if you want as well. They come laminated and all that. And then you just pass them out in class and use them just like Plickers. Very, very cool tool. I hope somebody can use those in your class.

There are lots of neat ways that you can use that active learning strategy, but once again, instead of my students just sitting back and one or two students answering all the questions, everybody is contributing. Because their answers are anonymous, nobody knows if you’re the one that said A and everybody else say D.

Active Learning Strategy #3: Flyswatter Trivia (low-tech clickers)

If you don’t like Poll Everywhere where your students have devices and you don’t like Plickers where you have the device, here’s another one. This is called Flyswatter Trivia. My students love this. I never let them out of class early, not even ten minutes. You know, I’m trying to teach them work ethic, right, and marketability. So if we even have 10 or 15 minutes, they beg me to get out the Flyswatters. They get in teams, usually based on playing cards, and I ask them a question from the chapter. If I can do a 20 minute lecture, we have time to play and use activities and have them use this. They’re not all easy. It’s not like lowest level knowledge thinking. I might ask a case study question: What would be the best leadership style to use if somebody fell down the stairs? They have to know what the leadership styles are and they have to be able to apply it. They slap their flyswatter down and whoever’s on the bottom, closest to the X taped to the table, get to answer first. If they say, “Oh, the best leadership style would be participatory.” I’m like shoot, I’m sorry. That was a great guess. You’re right, there is a place for that, but we’ll talk about that in a second. Who is the next color? The next color will get a chance to answer.

Now if nobody on the team gets it right, the question goes back to their team. While they’re trying to answer, everyone else in the room is furiously scrolling through their e-book or flipping through their book or their notes trying to find the answers. They’re active. They’re engaged. I’m not up there saying, “In a crisis, don’t ever use the participatory.” You definitely need to use the leadership style where you make a decision and you come right in and do it. My students are doing the pushups here.

There’s 100 different ways that you can use this. I have learned that with active learning, you’ve got to learn to embrace a little chaos. My boys will sometimes beat each other with those flyswatters and we have fun with it.

I’ve learned to embrace chaos, because if my students are talking, especially about the content and engaging and flipping through pages, they’re doing the pushups, and they’re learning.

Active Learning Strategy #4: Treasure Hunting Definitions (Card Split)

Here’s another one: Treasure hunt. I told you I always greet my students when they come in the door. Sometimes I make up flashcards, and my books come with fabulous flashcards. We can make custom flashcards. I can add flashcards and send them out and I can print the flashcards out. What I’ll do is I’ll print them out, cut them out, and as they come in, I give them. So one person gets operational planning, the next person gets strategic planning, and then other people get definitions. They have to go and pair up, much like that commonality where they had to find if they were part of the Ingalls family. They have to find who has the definition to their word or who has the term to their definition. Then, they sit together in class forming connections.

There’s two ways that I’ve used this. I either do my lecture and when I get to operational planning I say “Who has that card?” Those two stand up and give us the definition. Or, I just say “Today, there’s 20 key definitions that we need to go through and when it comes to your definition you’re going to stand up and give us a definition. You’re going to explain it, and you’re going to give us a relevant example.” They would stand up and say, “Oh, operational planning. It’s the day-to-day operations. I work at Chipotle, and when my manager is doing operational planning she’s making a schedule for the week.” All of a sudden they’re standing up and making it relevant to them. They’re teaching each other. They’re giving a lecture. I’m providing the lecture and the guidance, but they’re the ones that are creating a lecture.

Active Learning Strategy #5: Text Your Thoughts

On days that I allow my students to use technology, I really love these two free texting apps. What students do is they download one of these two free texting apps, Text Now or Text Plus, and it gives them a generic telephone number. Now, they don’t have to download the free app. If they want to give out their telephone number, they can. Then, they pick somebody’s telephone number, and I’ll ask a question, and I’ll say text your answer.

If it was a college success course, and I was teaching note taking, I might ask the question, “What would happen if you use the Cornell notetaking method and you had an instructor that talked really fast? What’s likely to happen. Predict.” That is a very high level of thinking. So they text their answer to somebody. I always tell them to use an emoji. If you’re sure your answer is right, give it a thumbs up. If you have no idea if you’re right, give it a thumbs down. Let them know how sure you are. Then, I’ll have some people share their answers. It’s safe to share because it wasn’t their answer. They didn’t say if the person’s wrong, that’s on them, not them, and they don’t know who the person is. Because they have a generic number.

There’s lots of ways you can use it. What answer did you get to number seven on the homework? Kind of like the phone a friend for Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Why should you put important information in the beginning of a memo? Oh, because often the only part of a memo people read. So all of a sudden I have my students engage with the content. They’re texting each other. They’re talking.

Now, I love technology. I embrace and I use it. I will let you know I kind of went into the technology generation kicking and screaming a little bit. Now, I’ve realized if we’re not talking about technology for the sake of the bells and whistles, if we’re really talking about it for how we can engage our students, there are amazing technologies that we can use to engage students. I love texting. I also have my technology-free Tuesdays where we don’t use any technology in class. That’s a day where we really focus on interpersonal skills and talking things out and doing case studies. However, on a day that we’re using technology, my students love doing this. Do I know that they’re not texting their boyfriend or checking on their kids? No, probably not, but I’m always walking around. If they are the person that didn’t get a text answer back, you know they’re holding up their phone going, “Hey, my person didn’t text me yet. I don’t have an answer to share.” And you could also put them in small groups.

To learn more (and to hear about Shawn’s icebreakers and active learning strategies), access the webinar recording, part of the Striving for Excellence* series.

*The Striving for Excellence Series a collaboration between Cengage Learning and the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD), a membership organization committed to promoting and celebrating excellence in teaching, learning, and leadership at community and technical colleges. Recognizing the growing need for adjunct support, Cengage Learning and NISOD are partnering to co-host a series of webinars, podcasts, and blog posts covering professional development topics for adjunct faculty and administrators. To learn more about this partnership, visit http://www.nisod.org/cengage.

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10 Dreaded Mistakes College Teachers Make http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/01/19/10-dreaded-mistakes-college-teachers-make/ http://www.adjunctnation.com/2016/01/19/10-dreaded-mistakes-college-teachers-make/#comments Tue, 19 Jan 2016 18:57:31 +0000 http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=6527 by Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

Confused about how to teach? The best thing you can do is avoid mistakes. There are 10 Terrible Mistakes College Teachers Make. Learn how to avoid teaching mistakes.

Most of the college instructors I have known don’t make these 10 terrible mistakes. The ones who do don’t last long. Here are 10 ways in which instructors, mainly new adjuncts, demonstrate an inability to teach, a lack of concern for their job as a teacher, and/or negative feelings toward students.

The “I Can’t Teach” Mistakes

Some adjuncts, those with little or no prior teaching experience, may not intuitively know how to teach. Based on my experience, the overriding problem is not this lack of knowledge and skill but the fact that these instructors don’t seem interested in learning.

There are two groups of adjuncts who make the following three mistakes. There are those teaching career and technical education (CTE) courses who lack the innate skills to be a teacher. Some of the best instructors I know teach CTE courses, but for whatever reason this group produces more than its share of failures. There are also instructors with advanced degrees, often doctorates, who cannot relate to their students. I have seen this several times with science instructors who had worked in industry for years.

There is so much that goes into teaching. I am not attempting to claim that only three knowledge or skill base mistakes may result. But what I list are three critical mistakes that students don’t like and which can lead to the demise of an instructor.

  1. Telling vs. Teaching – These instructors tell their students what they need to know. This is a type of lecturing void of examples and without student involvement. These instructors do not engage the class. They do nothing to make their students think.
  2. Reading – There are few things that annoy students more than reading to them out of the textbook, yet this is a complaint I hear. And this is one I recently witnessed during a classroom observation. If you want your students to think you are not prepared and that you don’t know.
  3. Rich Learning Experiences – Some instructors fail to use technology in the classroom to enrich the learning experience. For example, they don’t use PowerPoints and the don’t utilize relevant resources on the Web. Some don’t use it outside the classroom either. They pass up the opportunity to create a teaching presence using programs like Blackboard and Moodle. There are many other ways to create rich learning experiences such as films, role playing, field trips, group work, and much, much more. However, these instructor fail to employ them.

The “I Don’t Care” Mistakes

Most if not all instructors will tell you they care, but they don’t always back that up with their actions. Many of them are adjuncts with full-time jobs who want to teach for two reasons. They like talking about their area of expertise and they want some extra income. There are three mistakes these instructors make, and that is not counting the major, overriding faux pas. They should not have attempted to teach if they didn’t love teaching.

  1. Preparation – These instructors assume they can wing it and come to class without a lesson plan. They seem to think they can awe their students with their knowledge and experience. What awes their students is the instructor’s lack of preparation and resultant inability to help them learn. For more on this check out my article entitled Do Boy Scouts Make the Best Instructors?
  2. Efficiency – Some instructors don’t effectively use the entire class period, which means they don’t give their students what they paid for. They arrive late, use the first part of class for their own preparation time, waste time telling stories and chatting, grant long breaks, and dismiss class early. Pretty cushy job if you can get it. Some seem to think this was the job they signed on for, but sooner or later learn they were wrong.
  3. Quality – I first addressed this issue in an earlier article entitle The Perceived Quality of a College Instructor. These individuals have poor board skills. If they use slides the slides are poorly done. Their handouts look like copies of copies of copies. They may be blurred, canted at an angle, or off-centered so that some of the text cut off. These instructors don’t project a professional appearance. On a couple occasions, I have had to speak to an adjunct about his attire. Teachers wearing ragged cutoffs and flip-flops don’t cut it in my classrooms.

The “I Don’t Like You” Mistakes

The reality is that there will be students you don’t like. Under most circumstances, however, you should avoid displaying verbally or through body language that you do not care for such a student. Of course, when a student displays an offensive or threatening behavior, you must take decisive action. At these times don’t worry about displaying your disdain for the student. But don’t lower yourself to the student’s level.

Some instructors send signals to their students which the students interpret as he/she doesn’t like me. If your students like you, they will forgive a multitude of teaching sins. However, I can assure you that they won’t like you if you don’t like them. You cannot fake this. My belief is that when instructors display these last four behaviors they really don’t care for their students.

  1. Getting to Know Students – Granted, this is difficult if not impossible in a large lecture section. Once, about half way through a semester, I was invited to speak to a class of 10 to 12 students. I couldn’t believe it. The instructor asked a student, “What’s your name again?” Recently, five students came to me with a list of complaints about their instructor, one of which had to do with name tags. They were seven weeks into the semester and there were only eight students but the instructor was making them wear name tags.
  2. Answering Questions – The instructor’s job is to help students learn. A common complaint I hear from students is that their instructor wouldn’t answer their questions. This sends the message that the instructor doesn’t care enough to help students. Or, it may be that he or she doesn’t know the answer. But if that is so, the instructor has displayed disregard for students by not being prepared to answer their questions.
  3. Responding to Messages – Another complaint I hear from students is that their instructor does not respond in timely fashion to their emails or phone messages. I don’t require my adjuncts to check their email every day. I tell them to do so just often enough so their students won’t run to me and complain,
  4. Attitude – I am both saddened and angered when I hear about an instructor who criticizes and ridicules students. Yes, I have known instructors like this. I had two instructors last fall who admitted to getting into classroom arguments with students. Occasionally I hear complaints from students about sarcasm, something I witnessed it for the first time in a recent classroom observation. An admittedly difficult student challenged the instructor who immediately retaliated with a sarcastic put-down. Remember, the instructor sets the tone for the class, not the students.

How to Avoid the 10 Terrible Mistakes

Avoid the “I Can’t Teach” mistakes by learning how to teach. Okay, I have once again stated the obvious, but why isn’t it obvious to some adjuncts? Talk to the person who hired you and ask about resources your college may have. Ask someone to observe you. Ask other instructors for advice. And, if all else fails, read my blog. (You knew that was coming. 😉 )

Avoid the “I Don’t Care” mistakes by putting in the time and effort. There are no shortcuts. Wait, maybe there is one. You can avoid these mistakes by not teaching. And interestingly enough, not teaching is the only way to avoid the “I Don’t Like You” mistakes. Sorry, there is no way around this one.

Reprinted with permission from AdjunctAssistance.com.

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Tips for Designing and Using Rubrics http://www.adjunctnation.com/2015/11/13/tips-for-designing-and-using-rubrics/ http://www.adjunctnation.com/2015/11/13/tips-for-designing-and-using-rubrics/#comments Fri, 13 Nov 2015 19:50:48 +0000 http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=6363 by Andrew Miller

Rubrics are a beast. Grrrrrrr! They are time-consuming to construct, challenging to write and sometimes hard to use effectively. They are everywhere. There are rubrics all over the web, plus tools to create them, and as educators, it can overwhelm us. Rubrics are driven by reforms, from standards-based grading to assessment for learning. With so many competing purposes, it only makes sense that rubrics remain a beast to create and to use. Here are some (only some) tips for designing and using effective rubrics. Regardless of the reforms and structures you have in place, these can be used by all educators.

1) Use Parallel Language
Make sure that the language from column to column is similar, that syntax and wording correspond. Of course, the words will change for each section or assignment, as will the expectations. But in terms of readability, you need to make sure that the rubric can be easily read from left to right or vice versa. In addition, if you have an indicator described in one category, then it needs to be described in the next category, whether it is about “having” or “not having” something. This is all about clarity and transparency to students.

2) Use Student Friendly Language!
Tip #1 hints at a larger issue. If the students can’t understand the rubric, then how do you expect it to guide instruction, reflection and assessment? If you want students to engage in using the rubric, they have to understand it. Make sure the language is learning-level appropriate. If you use academic language or concepts, then you’ll need time to teach students those meanings and concepts.

3) Use the Rubric with Your Students… Please!!!
You have to use the rubric with the students. It means nothing to them if you don’t. We’ve all had that time when we gave students the rubric and they threw it away, or the papers lay across the room like snow at the end of class. In order for students to keep a rubric, and more importantly to find it useful in terms of their learning, they must see a reason for using it. Students should understand that the rubric is there to help them reflect, self-assess, unpack, critique and more. Use it as a conversation piece during student-led conferences and parent-teacher conferences. If students and stakeholders use a rubric, they will understand the expectations and their relevancy to learning.

4) Don’t Use Too Many Columns
This has to do with organization in general. You want the rubric to be comprehensible and organized. We’ve all been in the situation where we feel like it’s a stretch to move a criterion in a rubric across many columns. Perhaps there are just too many columns? Pick the right amount so that the criteria flow logically and naturally across levels.

5) Common Rubrics and Templates are Awesome
Avoid rubric fatigue, as in creating rubrics to the point where you just can’t do it any more. This can be done with common rubrics that students see across multiple classroom activities, and through creating templates that you can alter slightly as needed. Design those templates for learning targets or similar performance tasks in your classroom. It’s easy to change these types of rubrics later. In terms of common rubrics, students need routines, and what better way to create that routine than with a common rubric for a department or grade level? Students feel more confident when they go into different classrooms with the knowledge that expectations are the same. The easiest rubrics I have seen are used commonly for practices that all teachers work on, such as reading, writing and 21st century skills. Figure out your common practices and create a single rubric your team can use.

6) Rely on Descriptive Language
The most effective descriptions you can use are specific descriptions. That means avoiding words like “good” and “excellent.” At the same time, don’t rely on numbers, such as number of resources, as your crutch. Instead of saying “find excellent sources” or “use three sources,” focus your rubric language on the quality use of whatever sources students find, and on the best possible way of aligning that data to the work. It isn’t about the number of sources, and “excellent” is too vague for students. Be specific and descriptive.

These are some useful tips for rubrics, and I’m sure you have many yourselves that come from your experience as educators. One of my favorite books for rubrics is Creating and Recognizing Quality Rubrics. It has helped me refine my rubrics and work with teachers to refine their own. It has great examples and non-examples, as well as a rubric for rubrics! Funny, huh? There are many books and resources out there to help you create rubrics, and many rubrics that are great. However, I encourage you all to not only create your own in order to practice and improve your abilities as educators, but also to avoid adopting a rubric instantly. Consider whether is has to be customized to fit your needs and, more importantly, the needs of your students. Be critical of the rubrics out there, but at the same time use the resources that are already available. Please share your best practices with the community!

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Five Ways You May Be Killing Student Motivation http://www.adjunctnation.com/2015/10/19/five-ways-you-may-be-killing-student-motivation/ http://www.adjunctnation.com/2015/10/19/five-ways-you-may-be-killing-student-motivation/#comments Mon, 19 Oct 2015 16:16:24 +0000 http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=6294 by Chase Mielke

“What are your thoughts on student motivation?” my principal recently asked. Knowing that I have an interest in motivation, as well as a love of working with at-risk students, he wanted to know my thoughts on why our achievement gap wasn’t narrowing.

As a teacher, I of course had many thoughts. But, the many thoughts I have on student motivation are just that: my thoughts. And, ultimately, the thoughts that matter most are the students’. So, rather than dive into a discourse of which I was not the best source, I asked my principal a simple question: Why don’t we ask the students?

So, we did.

We sat down with my group of at-risk sophomores – a large majority of whom were in our bottom 30% academically. The stage was set for these students to be completely open and honest; nothing they shared would have a negative influence on their experience in school. They were given a few days to think about factors that affect their motivation in school.

What we had intended to be a quick conversation sparked a deep discussion consuming the whole 70 minute period. Out of the whole conversation, many themes arose – themes worth sharing to a larger community because change begins with understanding.

1. Grading pitfalls

For a struggling student, falling into a pit with a low-grade – without systems to recover – is a recipe for learned helplessness. Many students remarked how frustrating it was to struggle in a class and reach a point where their effort wouldn’t matter.

The most common motivation killers were:

A) Heavily weighted assessments

We all know that not all students who show understanding of content and work hard on assignments, only to bomb tests because of cognitive challenges, stress, or any other host of “test-taking factors.” More than a few students said things like, “I hate how I can be doing well on all my assignments and projects, then fail a test, and all of a sudden I’m failing the class.”

B) No opportunities to revise or re-submit

Surprisingly, students weren’t griping for those finals week extra credit chances to inflate grades at the end. They wanted chances to revise tests, essays, and assignments throughout a class. They wanted chances to turn things in late – even with penalties.


 

So what?

My realization here was how much grading practices can contribute to learned helplessness. It makes sense: If I don’t feel like my effort will be enough to help me pull myself out of a failure pit, then what’s the point? As a teacher, then, I must consider what opportunities I can provide – such as revision opportunities – that shift students back into an internal locus of control.


 

2. Lecturing

Students talked often about how often their teachers talk. Despite an educational culture that is putting the focus on students doing the work of learning, many students discussed teachers who talk the entire class period. They stressed how hard it is to stay motivated when they just sit and listen. One of the most common suggestions students gave for helping motivation was hands-on opportunities. They even acknowledged that not every lesson can involve a lab or project. But, they said they’d at least like to be able to talk and share their ideas or practice on their own more often.


So what?

Stephen King once received great feedback from an editor who rejected one of his early writings. The editor said, “2nd draft = 1st draft – 10%.” What if we approached our lectures similarly? “What I say = What I want to say – 10%” Even a 10% shift towards student response opportunities could be a great start to keeping brains active and motivated.


3. Poor explanations

We pressed students often to focus on solutions rather than gripe about specific teachers. In doing so, we realized another theme: Students lose motivation when they don’t understand.

Seems like a no-brainer. But, the learning here is that teachers aren’t intentionally trying to destroy student understanding. Just the opposite was true: Teachers were trying to help students “get-it,” but the understanding was lost in translation. Among the most common comments were:

“I hate when I ask teachers to explain something again and they say, ‘Weren’t you paying attention!?’ They assume I was being lazy but I really was trying. It just didn’t make sense.”

“I can’t stand when I say something doesn’t make sense and the teacher explains it exactly the same way they did the first time. After they keep doing that, I don’t even bother asking.”


So what?

I’m a huge fan of John Hattie’s work, in particular his urging teachers to get more feedback from students and to be conscious of knowledge gaps. My learning is to a) ask for feedback more regularly on my ability to explain concepts and b) ask students what they do understand before trying to re-teach – next time in a different way.


4. Content

Relevance, relevance, relevance. A major factor in student amotivation was feeling like the content was either not useful or too challenging. This is nothing new to teachers: We all have students who ask, “What’s the point of this.” Yet, the answer we give is important. Students commented that “You’ll need this for your next class/college” is more annoying than helpful. They want relevance now as well as in the future. They want it to be relevant to their lives not relevant to our lives.

In addition to the relevance concern is the scaffolding concern. As an ELA teacher, I asked my class what percentage of the content we read is interesting to them. The average? 10%. I then followed up asking what percentage of the content we read was too difficult to understand independently. The average here? 15% Imagine the effect on motivation when the content is both dreadfully boring and dreadfully challenging.


So what?

I need to ask some tough questions about my content. Yes, there are things beyond my control that I must teach, but I must look at what I can control and work from there. For example, it’s easy to get frustrated and angry when kids don’t come in the next day having completed their reading homework. But, do I really expect them to trudge through something that is boring and beyond their ability at home? Can I do a better job of coaching their reading in class and/or finding resources that are more relevant? Yes.


5. Lack of respect and lack of joy

This was THE most discussed topic that hurt student motivation. Over and over students described how much a respectful classroom environment affected their willingness to work hard and learn. The frustration could be summed up in one students’ statement: “They expect us to act like adults but treat us like children.”

My biggest shock came from a survey my principal gave the class. He asked two questions:

– Of the teachers you’ve had in this school, what percentage do you think like their job?

– Of the teachers you’ve had in this school, what percentage do you think like kids?

The average of both answers? 10%


So what?

To any teacher, these answers would be frustrating. We could point to any number of justifications for why students might feel this way, such as, “Kids today think they deserverespect rather than having to earn it first.” As I’ve heard before, though, blaming and justifying are like rocking chairs: They give us something to do, but don’t get us anywhere.


So what do we do? I again return to the value of surveying student perceptions often, getting consistent, honest feedback. Just as no quality teacher is intentionally trying to teach content poorly, no quality teacher is trying to disrespect students. There is simply a miscommunication.

At the end of our discussion, I had more questions than answers. There were still so many things I wanted to know about each student’s motivation. But, to get there, the process of understanding has

1. Ask for truth

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” – Gloria Steinem

2. Improve my teaching accordingly

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” – Aldous Huxley

3. Repeat

“If [a method] fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” – F.D.R.

What action steps will you be taking this coming year to create more motivating contexts for your students?

This post originally appeared on WeAreTeachers.com.  

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Active Learning vs. Lecturing in the College Classroom http://www.adjunctnation.com/2015/10/13/active-learning-vs-lecturing-in-the-college-classroom/ http://www.adjunctnation.com/2015/10/13/active-learning-vs-lecturing-in-the-college-classroom/#comments Tue, 13 Oct 2015 19:07:48 +0000 http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=6273 by Paul T. Corrigan

One often hears of active learning as a new approach. In contrast, lecturing is the traditional method. Those who support active learning consider it an innovation. Those who do not consider it “another in a long line of educational fads,” as Michael Prince notes. The sequence and chronology remain undisputed either way. Lecturing came first. It has always been with us. Active learning came later. It has been on the scene for a relatively short time.

Even one as well informed as Wilbert McKeachie calls lecturing “probably the oldest teaching method.” Similarly, while Marilyn Page declares active learning “not a new concept,” she goes on to date it only as far back as the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with Rousseau, Pestalozzi, and Dewey. Time and again in her dissertation on the history of active learning, she explicitly describes it in terms of a “rejection of traditional teaching methods.”

I think these common ways of talking about active learning and lecturing constitute a historical and rhetorical misstep. That is, saying that lecturing precedes active learning is not accurate and does not frame the discussion productively.

If we are talking about the two as philosophies and movements, it seems accurate to date active learning to the past two centuries and decades, respectively. Does that mean that it came after lecturing? Not necessarily. It is not entirely clear whether lecturing developed into either a philosophy or a movement until after and in reaction to the active learning movement. For that matter, it is not even clear whether it has even done so yet. We do not hear much about “the lecturing movement” or “the philosophy of lecturing.”

Alternatively, if we are talking about practices and phenomena, we can pinpoint the origin of lecturing as we know it to the European Middle Ages. But active learning reaches back much farther. Active learning as a phenomenon wherein learners “do meaningful activities and think about what they are doing” (Prince) reaches back as far as learning itself.

As long as we compare philosophies with philosophies, practices with practices, phenomena with phenomena—and not, say, a medieval practice with a modern philosophy as so many implicitly do—active learning emerges before lecturing. So let me propose the following as a way of talking about active learning and lecturing:

Active learning names an innate process through which humans come to know things, whether how to use fire, care for children, bake break, do algebra, scan for iambic pentameter, or list the principal events of the French Revolution. Lecturing names an invention of medieval universities, originally used for duplicating textbooks (before printing presses) and later adapted for other purposes.

It makes sense that those who see active learning principally in terms of a series of specific practices that have received attention lately might consider it a recent happening, and possibly a fad. Barbara J. Millis offers “Thinking-Aloud Pair Problem Solving,” “Three-Step Interview,” “Think-Pair-Share,” “Visible Quiz,” “Value Line,” and “Send/Pass-a-Problem” as examples. I would add project-based learning, problem-based learning, place-based learning, team-based learning, service learning, the use of “clickers,” and the “flipped” classroom.  These certainly do not predate lecturing.

I argue, however, for a view where active learning refers not merely to specific practices like these but rather to a larger phenomenon and a broader practice, that is, the phenomenon of learning through doing-and-reflecting and the practice of supporting the same. This view puts active learning before lecturing not just chronologically but also taxonomically, as it were, a prior happening and a prior sort of happening.

While specific ways of implementing active learning (as much as lecturing) originate in cultural history, the phenomenon itself originates innatural history. To find its roots we have to look to human psychology and biology. We can also trace active learning as far back as anthropology and archaeology allow. With the learning of hunting, farming, crafting, building. Of medicine, theology, law. Of child-raising, leading, orating. With parents teaching children. Shamans, initiates. Craftspersons, apprentices. All of this takes place actively.

In the broadest sense, active learning even includes learning that happens during lecturing. If students perchance to learn something during a lecture, it is because they actively participate in listening, considering, and remembering what they hear. Of course, that internal doing and reflecting happens to be quite the long shot when one sits students in rows and talks at them for hours, repeatedly, for years. Nonetheless, when learning happens under such conditions, it too is active learning.

Even if active learning has only recently been given that name, it has been practiced with intentionality as long as teaching and learning have been practiced with intentionality, even before the use of fire, one imagines. While the contemporary pedagogies of active learning may offer new insights and practices, they represent, at root, renewed attention to the oldest and deepest ways of teaching and learning.

Why does it matter to recognize that active learning has an ancient history and that lecturing only has a medieval history? For one, it’s a matter of accuracy. For another, it’s a matter of framing. New ways of teaching may just be fads and, as fads, merely options, inadvisable ones at that. Traditional methods are tried and true. They have the weight and dignity of precedence and history. Even those who do not feel bound to tradition will still often go with tradition when the only other options are fads.

It seems that the failure of active learning practices to gain wider purchase in contemporary education, despite the current active learning movements, can be attributed in part to the common misunderstanding that lecturing is the traditional approach, not active learning . But, when we take an epochal perspective, it turns out that active learning has an ancient history, while lecturing is the fad, a blip in the history of learning.

Of course, some aspects of active learning as a philosophy, movement, and set of specific practices are recent developments. We should acknowledge and celebrate those as such, while also remaining aware and on occasion wary with respect to whether or not they have yet been sufficiently established, pragmatically, theoretically, or empirically. Just as we should do with all living and developing practices.

But we should not surrender to lecturing the weight of tradition and the dignity of longevity. Lecturing as we know it has been around for mere centuries. These distinctions belong to the much older practice of learning by “doing and reflecting.”

Active Learning Techniques for Your Classroom

Leading question A question so framed as to guide the student questioned to respond with a particular obvious answer. This answer is then explored in further depth which may ultimately conclude with an answer that was not so explicit, or one that fosters cognitive dissonance, moral challenging, or self-questioning on the part of the student.

Puzzle, enigma, contradiction Information presented to student that is accurate, but is either incomplete, ambiguous, or paradoxical in nature.

Insight, epiphany The capacity to discern the inward or hidden nature of things or of perceiving in an intuitive manner. A comprehension or perception of a topic by means of a sudden intuitive realization.

Empathy Identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives. The attribution of one’s own feelings to a situation or person in a story.

Connecting a topic Pointing out similarities between the topic to be studied and one that is more contemporary, more familiar, or more interesting to your students.

Stereotype, conventional wisdom A conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image that often stands in for reality. These can be explored further by examining them in more complexity, in different contexts, or analyzing the rationales/origins for the stereotypes in the first place.

Challenges to knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes Devil’s advocate: to argue against a cause or position not as a committed opponent but purely in order to provoke a discussion or argument, or to determine the validity of the cause or position. Focused questioning: Questioning designed to extract the underlying assumptions, situatedness, or logical construction of a cause, position, or opinion.

Poll, pretest A poll is a survey conducted about a topic by asking questions that can be answered by yes/no or agree/disagree. These generally give quick collective feedback which can influence the ensuing instruction, although it is usually not detailed in nature and does not assess individual student perceptions. A pretest is an examination given before the instruction that tests what students will be expected to know after the instruction. It enables instructors to know what kinds of initial knowledge and misconceptions students have when they begin the module of instruction.

Brainstorming A method of collaborative problem solving in which all members of a group spontaneously contribute ideas, or a similar process undertaken by an individual to solve a problem by rapidly generating and recording a variety of possible solutions.

Active Learning Strategies courtesy of the Office of Instructional Consulting, School of Education, Indiana University Bloomington. Click here to see the full list of active learning tips and strategies. 

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Legally Armed Students in Your Classrooms: Ready or Not Here They Come http://www.adjunctnation.com/2015/10/13/legally-armed-students-in-your-classrooms-ready-or-not-here-they-come/ http://www.adjunctnation.com/2015/10/13/legally-armed-students-in-your-classrooms-ready-or-not-here-they-come/#comments Tue, 13 Oct 2015 18:49:51 +0000 http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=6270 By Elaine Godfrey

A professor emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin very publicly quitearlier this month in response to a new state law that allows students to bring their handguns into all classrooms and offices — including his 500-person introductory economics lectures. The professor, Daniel Hamermesh, has become a symbol for frustrated faculty nervous over the spreading of campus concealed-carry laws.

In the wake of recent campus shootings — two in two states on October 9 alone — not every professor thinks more guns are better. Especially since Chris Harper-Mercer, the man who killed nine people at Umpqua Community College on October 1, was reportedly angered over being corrected by Professor Lawrence Levine in an “uncomfortable exchange.” Levine was among those killed by Harper-Mercer a few days later.

A new state law, signed by Texas governor Greg Abbott on June 1, allows students and faculty members with a concealed-handgun license to enter campus buildings with a pistol. Texas law already permits concealed-carry on college campuses, but as of August 1, 2016, concealed weapons will be allowed into almost all classrooms and offices as well.

“With a huge group of students my perception is that the risk that a disgruntled student might bring a gun into the classroom and start shooting at me has been substantially enhanced by the concealed-carry law,” Hamermesh, 72, wrote. He announced his resignation in a letter sent to university president Gregory Fenves on October 4, explaining that he would not be fulfilling his contract to teach fall economics classes through 2017 “out of self-protection.”

The campus concealed-carry law, as well as the general “gun culture” of Texas, had always been a worry to Hamermesh, but when 500 students gain the right to bring weapons into his economics lectures, he said he fears the worst.

“Having a gun in his or her pocket, not with any plan in mind, just as an impulse, to pull it out and shoot at me,” Hamermesh explained to the Daily Intelligencer, “that’s the real worry.”

Hamermesh says it’s not uncommon for some students to act irrationally about grades and schoolwork. “I’ve taught some 20,000 students over the years, and I’ve had enough students come to the office complaining, and some of them get pretty riled up.”

Concealed-weapons laws are being loosened up nationwide. Nineteen U.S. states have banned concealed-carry on campus altogether, and 23 have decided to leave it up to the schools themselves. But Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin are the eight states with provisions allowing handguns to be carried on public postsecondary campuses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

But, clearly, the decisions of state legislatures don’t always reflect the feelings of university faculty members. Roughly 94 percent of faculty members did not favor anyone carrying concealed handguns on college campuses, according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Community Health that questioned nearly 800 faculty members in a random sample of 15 state universities. The majority of these faculty members (98 percent) felt that handguns created more risk for students and staff.

In fact, at UT Austin, more than 400 faculty members have signed a petition to “refuse guns in their classrooms.”

“If people feel there might be a gun in the classroom, students have said that it makes them feel like they would be much more hesitant to raise controversial issues,” UT history professor and petition organizer Joan Neuberger told Daily Kos. “The classroom is a very special place, and it needs to be a safe place, and that means safe from guns.”

Dr. Chad Kautzer, assistant professor in the philosophy department at University of Colorado at Denver, knows this feeling all too well.

Kautzer, along with other faculty members, led the petition against the university in 2012 to ban concealed weapons from being allowed on state campuses. Despite having support from “a vast majority of faculty” and being unanimously endorsed by the university’s School of Medicine, the petition was unsuccessful in the state House.

“We felt like we signed on to this job in this campus community under different conditions than we live with now,” Kautzer told Daily Intelligencer. “The idea that our students would bring guns to our offices and classrooms was never part of the deal when we considered going into this field.”

Kautzer says the growing trend of concealed-carry laws leaves faculty feeling helpless. “There’s a sense of anger, there’s a sense of betrayal, so I think as more and more universities allow concealed-carry, I think you’re going to get more and more resistance.”

Hamermesh acknowledged that it’s fairly easy for him to quit over this since he was already transitioning into retirement. “It’s low-cost to me, although I am giving up some money I would’ve gotten, but for anybody else to do it it’d be really difficult because they’d have careers they’re in the middle of.”

He added he has already heard from one concerned Connecticut mother whose high-school daughter is no longer considering attending UT because she is afraid of the concealed-carry law.

But there isn’t much of an organized network of resistance — at least not one that can rival the gun lobby, Kautzer explains. He simply hopes that faculty will become more aware of the spread of concealed-carry laws and can be prepared to fight if they disagree. Kautzer suggests that Hamermesh’s resignation is a catalyst for other faculty who don’t support concealed-carry at public schools.

“I really applaud him,” Kautzer says of Hamermesh. “Those are the kinds of things that inform everyone else around the country that this is coming to your campus soon, so you better get ready.”

“The law will make the university less good,” Hamermesh says. “Think of somebody who wants to leave his or her current job, a distinguished professor. They have lots of alternatives. This makes the university less attractive.”

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Prof Punks Chem Students—Sends Imposter to Teach First Day of Class http://www.adjunctnation.com/2014/09/03/prof-punks-chem-students-sends-imposter-to-teach-first-day-of-class/ http://www.adjunctnation.com/2014/09/03/prof-punks-chem-students-sends-imposter-to-teach-first-day-of-class/#comments Wed, 03 Sep 2014 18:41:07 +0000 http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=5991 This prank is proof that any professorial-looking man with a bald head and khakis can walk to the front of a freshman chemistry class on the first day of college and have his way with the ignorant newcomers for as long as his gravitas will carry him. Or until the real professor walks in.

The prank, in which the impostor scares a classroom full of incoming freshmen with threats of failure and confiscated electronic devices (the horror!), was executed at the University of Rochester by comedy group The Chamber Boys on the first day of school last year.

The clip made such a splash that the school eventually released a video about the real Professor H — Ben Hafensteiner — who was apparently in on the prank:

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We Need a New Way to Teach Economics http://www.adjunctnation.com/2014/06/04/we-need-a-new-way-to-teach-economics/ http://www.adjunctnation.com/2014/06/04/we-need-a-new-way-to-teach-economics/#comments Wed, 04 Jun 2014 14:08:41 +0000 http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=5913 by John Komlos, PhD

Remember the walkout of students from their Principles of Economics class at Harvard a couple of years ago in solidarity with the ‘Occupy” movement? They thought that the economics they were being taught was doctrinaire, failed to provide a balanced perspective on the real existing economy, and did not show sufficient empathy for the 45 million people living in poverty. No wonder, the economics being taught on blackboards in almost all classrooms makes it appear as though markets descended straight from heaven while maintaining a conspiracy of silence on the Achilles heals of free markets such as not paying sufficient attention to safety, not caring enough about the environment, and being indifferent to the welfare of future generations.

econNow John Cassidy reports in the New Yorker that a group of students in 16 countries are pushing back on the arrogance of mainstream economists and are demanding that a more realistic economics be taught with fewer abstractions, less emphasis on mathematical methods of problem solving, and more attention devoted to the plight of the underclass.

In most classrooms free markets become God’s gift to humanity, government is the boogeyman, and taxation is a simple burden on society’s well-being. What nonsense! Taxes are used to finance schools, basic research, and infrastructure and markets go haywire without adequate government backstop as the recent “mother of all financial crisis” so amply demonstrated. But professional economists are immune to such real-world evidence. After all, the models work perfectly well on the blackboard.

But the models are so simplistic that they present a caricature of the real existing economy. Charles Ferguson in his Oscar-winning documentary “Inside Job” demonstrated most vividly the culpability of academic economists. The Federal Reserve in DC has no less than 300 PhD economists working for it, yet they were incapable of seeing the crisis brewing for years. Presumably those who dared to disagree with Greenspan’s ideology that bubbles were nothing to worry about and that markets worked perfectly well without government regulation became outcasts.

That was exactly the way Brooksley Born, who was the single top-ranking government official with sufficient common sense to attempt to regulate derivatives, was bullied until she resigned. And the warnings of economists like Hyman Minsky, who had been warning of the inherent instability of the financial sector, were anathema to people like Ben Bernanke. Ben mentioned him on occasion in uncivil tones which sufficed to banish Minsky from the classrooms and textbooks of this country. Such censorship American style belies the ideal of the university of being open to dissenting viewpoints.

So don’t be surprised that students around the world demand a more colorful palate of perspectives. After all, markets are man-made institutions. So the human element with its emotions and complex psychology should be an integral part of the discipline. These students do not want economics to become a branch of mathematics.

Greenspan’s congressional confession, that he made a mistake and that his ideology was wrong made absolutely no impression on academic economists. They continue to disregard not only Minsky but other major economists who dissent from the mainstream’s depiction of homo oeconomicus, such as John K. Galbraith, Th. Veblen, H. Simon, and–believe it or not–when I took macroeconomics in graduate school from Nobel-prize winning economist Robert Lucas, even the name of J.M. Keynes—arguably the greatest economist of the 20th century–was banned from discussion. So if nonconformists are banned from the classroom how are students going to get a balanced overview to the subject?

This is particularly important for students of Principles of Economics because there are more than a million of them every year and most of them do not take another economics course at all. So all they are exposed to is the mainstream’s view that super rationality reigns in the market inhabited by consumers with sufficient brain power to know every detail of the economy and therefore are not satisfied with anything less than achieving an optimum outcome. They possess perfect understanding of all the nuances in small print and perfect foresight from the beginning to the end of their lives and are not inhibited by the challenges of information overload insofar as information is free, available instantaneously, and a cinch to understand. So the market works perfectly well on the blackboard. What the students are demanding is that it work as well in real life and not only in Fairfax County, VA but also in Harlem, NY.

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RateMyProfessor 2013 “Best Profs” List Filled With Non-Tenured Faculty http://www.adjunctnation.com/2013/09/19/ratemyprofessor-2013-best-profs-list-filled-with-non-tenured-faculty/ http://www.adjunctnation.com/2013/09/19/ratemyprofessor-2013-best-profs-list-filled-with-non-tenured-faculty/#comments Thu, 19 Sep 2013 16:40:32 +0000 http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=5704 by P.D. Lesko

The second highest rated “professor” in the United States on the faculty rating website RateMyProfessor.com is Devon Hanahan. Hanahan, who teaches Spanish at the University of Charleston, is a non-tenured faculty member. She has taught at the college for 16 years. What is Hanahan’s secret to success in the classroom, or at least earning the highest marks possible from her students? This is from Hanahan’s teaching philosophy page on her College of Charleston faculty website:

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College of Charleston Spanish Instructor Devon Hanahan.

I believe that every student that comes into my classroom will learn something in it. It is my responsibility to find a way to reach each one of those students and to discover his or her interest and method of learning. To that end I try to incorporate many different approaches to teaching each day, and I praise and encourage my students when they succeed. I carry a clipboard all the time to keep track of the students with whom I have spoken each day, and I try (and usually succeed) to speak to every one of them every day. The students sense that I am excited about their learning, and that enthusiasm contributes to their own desire to learn. In no way does my “cheerleader” approach diminish the demands of the curriculum. I expect a lot from my students, but because they see that I am willing to give a lot in return, they in turn are willing to do the work.

Hanahan was rated number two in the nation by RateMyProfessor users. In this video, she talks about why teaching the same courses and the same materials never gets old for her:

About one-third of the top-ranked professors hold part-time or full-time temporary faculty positions. RateMyProfessor.com also released a list of the colleges with the most highly-ranked teaching faculty. While the list is dominated by state schools, such as the University of Wisconsin and the University of Michigan, according to officials at RateMyProfessor.com, the size of a college or university—and thus the size of the student population—doesn’t influence the rankings. In 2013, the U.S. college with the most highly ranked faculty members by students was Duke University. However, teaching at the colleges ranked in the top ten at RateMyProfessor there are, literally, tens of thousands of non-tenured faculty. For example, at 10th ranked University of Michigan, approximately 40 percent of the college’s faculty teach off the tenure-track.

If you are among those faculty members who are not generally enthusiastic about the “service” RateMyProfessor provides to the academic community, join the club. In this AdjunctNation piece by Jennifer Berkshire, she looks at the underbelly of the industry and how it impacts faculty members.

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Almost 70 Percent of Classroom Faculty Fear The Growth of Online Learning http://www.adjunctnation.com/2012/07/09/almost-60-percent-of-faculty-fear-the-growth-of-online-learning/ http://www.adjunctnation.com/2012/07/09/almost-60-percent-of-faculty-fear-the-growth-of-online-learning/#comments Mon, 09 Jul 2012 17:56:50 +0000 http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=4424 Over six million students are now taking at least one online course, upping the rate of online enrollment to 10 times that of traditional higher education. Yet, while the world is reveling in free online classes, faculty members are frightened by the Internet’s growing popularity, according to a survey by the Babson Survey Research Group.

The report, which polled 4,564 faculty members, reveals that 58 percent of respondents described themselves as filled with “more fear than excitement” over the growth of online education. However, about 75 percent of the respondents were full-time faculty members, “many of whose teaching careers predate the online boom.”

Nearly 70 percent of the respondents who taught solely in the classroom said they feared the online boom, which doesn’t come at much of a surprise. The traditional lecture might not be dead, but it is severely flawed, and the professors who don’t incorporate some alternative, whether it be peer learning or an online component, won’t be able to keep up. Online education will turn from a supplement into a replacement, and that’s where the fear is leaking in.

But will the replacement be reputable? Sixty-six percent of respondents said the learning outcomes from online courses were inferior to that of traditional courses. Yet, the future still looks promising. Nearly 40 percent of full-time professors said “online learning has the potential to match classroom learning,” while another 14 percent claimed to have a neutral opinion, “putting the naysayers under 50 percent.”

Much like the traditional classroom environment, online courses will be dependent on the quality of the instructor. When speaking with local educators about the future of the MBA, many were optimistic about where online education could play a role. John Gallaugher, a professor of information systems at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management, admitted, “New learning tools will allow us to outsource lecture time spent on rote work, so we can have more applied learning by doing.”

What online education is forcing schools to do is revamp and modernize their curriculum. As Babson’s Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School Dennis Hanno said, “It has pushed schools to come up with a value proposition.”

Companies like 2tor have tried helping universities adapt by partnering with them to build, administer and market online degree programs. To 2tor co-founder Jeremy Johnson, “The 21st century will largely be dominated by the schools that go online first,” and those “who embrace technology and change are going to have an oversized advantage.”

If anything, this survey’s highlighted what teachers can’t afford to continue — fear this change. The longer educators go without embracing online education in their traditional settings, the quicker online education will consume them. Argue all you will, but the sooner faculty members hop on board, the sooner they can make a meaningful impact. If they want to keep control of their classroom, they’ll need to gain control of online education.

 

 

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