Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Challenge all students

What is "abundance learning?"  It sounds incredible.  Who among us does not want, not just learning, but abundance learning?  I ran across this term in a recent Campus Technology blog (thank you Professor Guffey!). In this post, Trent Batson writes about in-class and out-of-class learning:

"[N]ow, student-centered learning has, as a concept, particularly in the past five years, come to encompass a vastly wider variety of choices, about how to design and plan for it....the distinction is not just rhetorical, but a life style distinction: scarcity learning (content delivery) in the classroom or abundance learning (discovery) often out in real-world situations. In scarcity learning, the student is the target for delivery systems, while in abundance learning the student is the locus, the starting point, of learning.

"While both scarcity learning (predictable, more controlled) and abundance learning (discovery, inventiveness) have their values, the confounding factor is the question, not about what students or faculty members simply like, but instead: What kind of approach best prepares students to become life long learners, always curious, not afraid of the inevitable changes that will occur in their lifetime?"

Asking students to regain their curiosity, to become inventive and engaged in discovery, is perhaps the hardest task we have as teachers.  Think of the challenges of today's curriculum in two ways.  Students are challenged to change their assumptions, become better at learning, and direct their own learning outside of class time.  Teachers are challenged to better design courses for teaching and learning and to be intentional about use of time both in and out of class. If we say that we want student-centered learning, then think of the implications for us.  Who is at the center of our rooms, ourselves or our students?  Who is doing all the work with the textbook, us (for lectures and tests) or our students (taking notes, studying in groups)?  Who is answering the questions, us or our students?

I have to admit, I love course design.  The pot of gold is the course that is organized, directive, effective for every student in the room, and teaches students to be both critical and creative thinkers.  One of these days my course will be perfect.  Won't yours?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Office art--just for fun

Just for fun and to inspire your own office or cubicle creativity, an image from the article "Extraordinary Art Created from Ordinary Office Supplies."

For other images, go to the Environmental Graffiti blog!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Even in large lecture courses, faculty can engage with students!

Last spring, the TENN TLC  joined with ITC (Innovative Technology Consulting) to present a workshop on blended learning, also called hybrid education (terms which refer to using technology in conjunction with in-class teaching methods).  Called "Deepening Student Responsibility," the workshop posited that by pushing lecture materials, reading assignments, discussion forums, and quizzes to course management platforms, students will be held more responsible for learning base information and will use classroom time for problem-solving and deeper discussions with faculty and peers.

This fall, New York University will pilot placing lectures on open source (online) venues in ten courses and training those faculty to run discussion sections instead of delivering lectures in class.  According to the Chronicle article by Marc Parry,  NYU will "publish academic material online as free, open courseware [and ] explore ways to reprogram the roles of professors in large undergraduate classes, using technology to free them up for more personal instruction."  Parry also reports that "Professors who assign some sophisticated online material produced by the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University have reported similar changes in classroom focus."

Many faculty are trying this approach on their own.  What has your experience been?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Are you relevant? Are you culturally relevant?

With the arrival of the Beloit Mindset List, we who teach and are much older than our students are reminded of our age!  We may remember wrist watches and phones with cords.  And maybe we NEVER watched MTV as a kid.  And perhaps we understand references to Dirty Harry and John McEnroe.

The list, though, raises another issue and that is cultural relevancy in the classroom.  The Mindset List has a tendancy towards a majority culture in an era when our society is more diverse than ever.  Cultural relevance is the practice of thinking about the differences in your classroom and making your content relevant for students from diverse backgrounds.  What would the Mindset List look like if it reflected cultural relevancy?

We could expand the mindset list:
  • Students today have never heard of an LA Riot (any of them) and didn't see Rodney King on TV,
  • or have seen a Spike Lee movie.
  • They think we've always had an MLK day.
  •  The year 1980 marked the opening of a decade of public controversy over US refugee policy
    ACT UP is more than acting up with your parents
  • The women in college don't have to get a guy to co-sign a loan--because they are women.
  • Students haven't heard of Geraldine Ferraro.
The lesson is, be relevant!  When you bring examples into class, think about the cultural representation.  Even when you use student names in a scenario, vary the types of names that you use.  Consider these and other ways to connect with your students.

Even if you used to own an 8 track.

Links to cultural relevancy:
Center for Culturally Responsible Teaching and Learning

Teaching Diverse Learners: Cultural Responsibility


Friday, August 13, 2010

First Impressions in the Classroom

Our first day of class at UT is coming up soon!  What can you do with your students to make a good first impression, including setting the tone for serious academic work? Here's some tips for your first day.
  1. Start with some interaction and save the syllabus for later!
  2. Smile and introduce yourself with some more personal information to make yourself accessible and "real" (say something light, such as telling them where you are from, about your favorite food or movie, for instance, or tell an illustrative story about why you chose your field).
  3. Start using names immediately.  For instance, use your roster to note who is who, draw a seating chart, have students make "name tents" for their desk or table, or call on students randomly in a lecture hall. ("Jerome, where are you?  Could you tell me what motivated you to take this class?")
    Joan Middendorf writes, "In his 1993 book, What Matters in College, Alexander Austin reviewed the literature on college teaching, finding two things that made the biggest difference in getting students involved in the under-graduate experience: greater faculty-student interaction and greater student-student interaction. Though learning student names may seem a trivial matter in the entire university enterprise, it is a powerful means to foster both of these interactions" (see http://www.ntlf.com/html/lib/bib/names.htm for the full article). 
  4.  Ask students to introduce themselves.  In a lecture hall, you could use clickers to survey students.  In smaller classrooms, they could introduce themselves and say where they are from.  You can also use this opportunity to gather information about their learning up to this point.  For a class of under 50 students, bring in index cards and have them write down information about previous learning experiences and their expectations of your class. You can also ask them about their schedules and what is competing for their time this semester.
    For more about informal assessment of learning, visit the National Teacher Forum page on classroom assessment (or CATS).
  5. Finally, enjoy your class and show this enjoyment.  Remember that despite any nervousness or your hectic schedule, this is time for you to enjoy your subject and your students!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New Faculty Advice

I found this post from Inside Higher Ed to be very interesting.  Here's blogger Rob Weir's list of things to remember, for all new faculty:

"Below is a checklist of things you should do right now — as in yesterday. Copy it, do everything on it, and thank me later. These things won’t make the first-week chaos go away, but if you dispatch these details you’ll increase your odds of arriving to week two in possession of partial sanity.
  • Syllabus sent to department secretary for copying.
  • Parking sticker and campus ID obtained.
  • Checked with bookstore for an update on my order.
  • All necessary paperwork completed at HR.
  • My office is stocked with supplies.
  • All necessary keys are in my possession.
  • I have visited each of my classrooms and have tested the equipment in each.
  • Library specialist meetings scheduled.
  • Needed AV equipment has been reserved.
  • I have jumped through needed IT hoops."
Weir's points are excellent, particularly at a large campus like UT.  The rest of the article counters some assumptions you might have made!  Here's my two cents: if you teach using Blackboard, start the online training now.  Once you complete the exercises, it may take two days before IT can process your approval and let you into your course.  And definitely check out your rooms.  There's a wide variety of classroom situations here on campus, so be prepared!  And finally, when you visit the rooms, log your walking time between classes.  When I first arrived, I didn't realize how long it would take to walk down Volunteer or Andy Holt to get to some buildings. In fact, I still encounter building acronyms that are unfamiliar--and I've been here nearly a year.  Finally, it is worth setting up Blackboard just so you can contact your students early (emailing the entire roster at once is handy) and give them a way to contact you or your department.  If something goes wrong on the first day--such as the room gets switched at the last minute--they'll know who to call or text!  Enjoy classes next week, everyone.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Life of the Mind at UT

Please join me today at 3 pm at the Baker Center's Toyota room for a workshop on teaching Tracy Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains.  We will be focusing on guiding discussion.  Did you know that faculty who use indirect teacher talk and build on student ideas will improve student outcomes and performance (Angelo and Cross 1993)?  Indirect teacher talk includes affirmative words and praise (yes, good, interesting etc), the use of ideas (your comment, Darryl, reminds us to think about...), and asking questions (could you say more about this?  Kati, what do you think about Yvonne's statement?  Could you all tell me, what is another application of Kati's idea?).

For more on Paul Farmer and Partners in Health, visit http://www.pih.org/ or watch Farmer on Aids
How a college class can change your life or Farmer on Human Rights.

Listen to NPR's Melissa Block, on  All Things Considered, talk with the author, Tracy Kidder: 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Welcome to a new school semester!

Hello and welcome back.  We have added a blog to the Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center website in the hope that we can distribute more information to you faster--information about teaching techniques, items in education news, and reminders about our upcoming workshops.

For this first post, we want to direct you to our new Humor Page. It's a work in progress, so please send ideas!
Check it out at http://tenntlc.utk.edu/humor.html.