Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Shortcut for Rubrics

Option 1. Spend a lot of time and energy developing through trial and error a rubric that genuinely tracks learning outcomes effectively.

Option 2. Download rubrics rigorously developed by the VALUE Rubric Development Project for the free use of all faculty (Association of American Colleges and Universities).

If only all choices were so easy!

Still not sold on rubrics? Listen to this episode of Teaching in Higher Ed to change your mind.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Teaching Naked

Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your Classroom Will Improve Student Learning by Jose Antonio Bowen.

(Note. Pants are not optional. "Teaching Naked" is Bowen's term for face-to-face teaching, in contrast to teaching that takes place through the many electronic outlets now available to us.)

It's a catchy and provocative title, but don't be fooled! This is no Luddite manifesto. Curmudgeons looking for a case against instructional technologies will be disappointed. Here Bowen argues powerfully for the effectiveness of technology for learning. Or at least, he argues for its effectiveness when implemented thoughtfully, in accord with research results in the science of learning.

Don't have time for the book? Try the Ted Talk. Don't have time for a 17 minute Ted Talk? Adjust the settings and watch on 1.5x speed!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Teaching in Higher Ed

Now you can sharpen your teaching excellence as you sip your coffee on the morning commute! Listen to the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast hosted by Bonni Stachowiak. More than 100 episodes are available. Give 'em a try: it might improve your classroom teaching...and your commute!

Recent episodes:

Monday, January 30, 2017

Welcoming Wikipedia in the Classroom

From the mailbag: A reader brings to my attention the Wiki Education Foundation.

Tagline: Inspiring Learning. Enriching Wikipedia.

Mission: Connecting higher education to the publishing power of Wikipedia. Bridging Wikipedia and academia creates opportunities for any learner to contribute to, and access, open knowledge.

Example 1:  "Five Reasons a Wikipedia Assignment is Better Than A Term Paper."

Example 2: "Why Wikipedia Assignments Work for Digital Literacy."

Convinced? Or if less than convinced, at least willing to give it a try? Get started here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Long Live the Lecture?

With all the buzz about "active learning," has the lecture gone the way of the rotary dial telephone? 

The Atlantic explores this issue in "Should Colleges Really Eliminate the College Lecture?" 

Apparently, The Atlantic has a history of defending the lecture. Here's 2013's "Don't Give Up On The Lecture."

"Teachers who stand in front of their classes and deliver instruction are not "out-of-touch experts"—they're role models."

Monday, April 11, 2016

Teaching Students How To Learn

Saundra McGuire's Teach Students How to Learn: Strategies You Can Incorporate Into Any Course to Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills, and Motivation is now available for checkout in the Office of Professional Development.

Image from

"An electrifying book! McGuire demonstrates how learning strategies can improve learning―and then charges faculty to teach them, complete with the slides for doing so in your class. . . A must read―and must do―for every teacher who struggles with students who don’t learn as much as they could or should!" (Tara Gray, Ph.D., Director)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Teaching Transparency

In "One Easy Way Faculty Can Improve Student Success," Cook and Fusch discuss the notion of teaching transparency and the empirical evidence suggesting it particularly helps underrepresented, first-generation, and low-income students.

Image courtesy of khunaspix at

Takeaway quote:
When students don't understand how a particular assignment will help them learn course material, they often perceive the assignment as "busy work" -- and fail to complete it successfully. Teaching transparently — explaining why the activity is important and what skills and knowledge students will learn — changes that dynamic, because faculty address the assignment's relevance as soon as they introduce an activity.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

What Doesn't Work

In this November 2015 post we discussed Make It Stick, a book on the science of successful learning. Looking for the Cliff's Notes version? Here's an article by the same authors: "Classroom Practice – Effortless Learning Is A Dangerous Illusion."*

An overview:

Illusion 1

Repeated exposure burns new knowledge into memory.

Illusion 2

Single-focus, rapid-fire practice hones new skills.

Illusion 3

If learning feels easy, it is a sign you are mastering it.

Illusion 4

We are good judges of what we know and don't know.

*Peter Brown, Henry Roediger, Mark McDaniel.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Small Changes in Teaching: The Minutes Before Class

The Chronicle recently published an article of the same title. Its subtitle: 3 Simple Ways You Can Set Up the Day's Learning Before the Metaphorical Bell Rings.

In the spirit of seizing those valuable minutes before class, our own Laura Power briefly presented at Big Faculty Council the following classroom warm-up:

In Laura's words, it's "kind of cheesy," but who among us is opposed to a little cheese if it's effective?

So how does author James Lange propose that we make an opportunity of those usually-wasted minutes before class?

1. Mingle with students. At an individual level, ask students how they are doing. Strike up a conversation. Lay the foundations for the beginning of trust-filled student teacher relationship.

2. Provide the big picture. According to Lange, "Novice learners tend to see facts, concepts, and skills as discrete, isolated pieces of knowledge, without any awareness of the connections that join them all together." In those minutes before class, we can help students fit those pieces into a broader, coherent whole. Write the day's agenda on the board or an outline of the day's material. Once class begins, refer back to the outline or agenda, explicitly pointing out how the material hangs together in the larger framework.

3. Spark wonder. Display something interesting for students to observe as they enter the classroom, focusing their informal conversation and providing a launching point for discussion as class begins. Says Lange, "[It can be ] a great sentence in a writing class; a newspaper headline in a political science class; an audio clip for a music class; an artifact in an archeology class."

What other small changes can we make in those pre-class minutes to enhance our students' learning? For related reading, consider "You don't Have to Wait for the Clock to Strike to Start Teaching."