Monday, March 28, 2011

Are your students working on their assignments?

Tips for Teaching from the Writing Consortium

Initiated by :
Sally L. Kuhlenschmidt, Ph.D.
Director, Faculty Center for Excellence in Teaching (FaCET)
Western Kentucky University Bowling Green

When Doing Less for Students May Help Them Learn More

If your philosophy includes the notion that students should leave college more independent and self-reliant than when they entered or if you have ever used the words entitled and students today in the same sentence, read on.

1. Suggest steps that students can take to solve academic problems, alerting them to use resources and people and to consider schedules. Often these steps mirror what adults do in order to solve life problems (such as a broken home appliance):
  • review your notes or course text material (read appliance instructional manual)
  • check with a classmate (seek advice from your neighbor)
  • come to office hours (call Sear's appliance repair department)
  • ask the professor in class (schedule a home repair visit)
2. Craft student-made rubrics for student-constructed assignments/projects Student-constructed projects (e.g., essays, posters, art projects) have essential criteria and performance levels. Bring in a ready-made example project and ask students to determine the essentials (4-6 optimum) and what a beginning, satisfactory, and stellar fulfillment of each criterion would be. Type up as a rubric and distribute, thus providing students an understanding
of :
  • (1) the project's essential criteria,
  • (2) the levels of performance,
  • (3) a road map for doing their project, and
  • (4) the assessment tool for self, peer, and teacher evaluation of the final project.
If projects are too cumbersome for office-storing, conduct a class sharing session and capture a digital camera image of each project and student instead of collecting.

3. Guide students to monitor their own progress on assignments Set aside class time to discuss dividing assignments into segments, the steps toward completion of each segment, and a tentative timeline. At a couple critical times throughout the term, discuss (and collect?) have done and have yet to do lists with students.

4. Limit your corrections and lengthy identical feedback on student papers When you correct students' writing, do they truly learn the writing rules or merely copy your edits? If the latter, consider making a hash mark(s) in the margin of a line with error(s) and asking students to find and correct their own errors. Another rule of thumb is to mark only the first 10 mechanical errors in a paper, and then ask students to correct the remainder and resubmit. For general feedback to the entire class, consider putting only letter codes by errors on individual papers (e.g., RO for run-onsentence) and either (1) preparing a page of explanations (codes and the rules) and distributing or (2) giving oral explanations (with examples) as part of a total-class-feedback session.

Adapted from submission by:
Dr. Cynthia Desrochers
Institute for Teaching and Learning, Faculty Director
California State University

Recall and Relate

To prepare students to thoroughly understand new material, plan an activity that bridges their existing knowledge of the topic to the new information you're planning to introduce. In particular, recall and relate activities can help students focus on the new instructional material and process it more effectively.

Recall : One way to help students link old and new can be a simple review of previously learned facts, concepts, or procedures that are associated with the new material. Students may appreciate having their memories refreshed before they start processing the new material. It will also allow you to learn what students already know and understand before making your own instructional points.

Relate : Another way to prepare students for new information is to help them cognitively put the new knowledge into an existing framework. Pose a question or series of questions that stimulate thinking and focus on the instructional topic. Ask questions that have several possible answers (Example: Why does an employee quit? How can you tell how intelligent someone is?). Promote a discussion that probes student opinions, hypotheses, or conclusions. As the classroom discussion advances, point out similarities or differences between the new knowledge and old knowledge, so that the new knowledge is tied to the old.

Submitted by:
Faculty Development Center
Bellarmine University
Louisville, Kentucky
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