Leading Effective Discussions

How can instructors ensure class discussions are effective? First, let’s define some characteristics of good discussions, and why they are valuable for learning. Discussions work best when students:

  • Are interpreting concepts (and learning) from each other
  • Are bridging the gap between instructor-speak and their own understanding
  • Are engaging in active and thoughtful inquiry
  • Can incorporate instructor feedback to guide new ways of thinking

Tip 1 – Enable confidence: Evidence also shows that smaller groups, assigning discussion roles (listener, facilitator, devil’s advocate) and integrating awareness of group dynamics can all enhance learning by reducing fear and improving comfort levels during discussions.

Tip 2 – Pause often: Give time for reflection and processing during discussions. Students need to organize information, form thoughts, and develop their arguments. Example: use a quick-write to first let students compose their responses to a discussion prompt, then begin the verbal discussion.

Tip 3 – Socratic Solutions: Facilitate discovery by giving students clues instead of answers. Incite curiosity to encourage critical thinking; motivate them with fresh questions, and entice them to analyze further unknowns.

Tell-Ask-Mitchell_2001

Enhancing Student Success with High-Impact Practices (HIPs)

ImpactIn case you missed it, here is a brief summary of CETL Director Brian Smentkowski’s workshop on High-Impact Practices.

The AACU explains the problem in their HIPs overview:

“On almost all campuses, utilization of active learning practices is unsystematic, to the detriment of student learning…”
                                                  – The American Association of Colleges and Universities 

High-Impact Practices (HIPs) help to effectively broaden active learning opportunities across the campus.

  • What are HIPs? High-impact practices (HIPs) are curriculum-integrated active learning experiences and large-scale programs designed to maximize student engagement and participation.
  • Examples of HIPs: Service learning, Internships, Study Abroad, Undergraduate Research Projects, Capstone & Culminating courses, First-year Learning Communities, General. Ed. Common Read, etc.
  • Why are HIPs effective? HIPs work because they drive student engagement and encourage big accomplishments in active, collaborative programs. Students become immersed in rewarding, challenging tasks that promote community-enhanced learning.
  • HIPs key elements: High-expectation, high-visibility tasks over extended time periods leading to deeper learning; substantive interactions with peers and faculty, frequent and constructive feedback; structured opportunities for reflection; integrates complex, relevant and real-world learning.

Although HIPs are often characterized by broad-reach programs, elements of HIPs are also effective on a smaller scale with active learning strategies such as peer feedback, design projects, and team problem-solving assignments.

Contact CETL if you’d like to learn more, or read how HIPs are being implemented in the resources below:

 

Designing For Visual Learning

Visual_LearningWhen thinking about ways to improve your course design, don’t underestimate the power of visuals. As we learn more about cognitive science, it’s becoming clear that visual learning should have a very significant role in instruction.

There is some compelling evidence on the benefits of incorporating meaningful visuals to enhance learning. Educational studies show that we are “wired” to quickly comprehend and remember visual information, bolstering the theory of ‘dual-coding.’

Visit Vanderbilt University’s website Visual Thinking to see how visuals can work their magic in presentations, student note-taking, and assessment as part of data analysis, research, or creative design projects.

Similar to the drive to implement digital literacy in our coursework, students are starting to clamor for more educational emphasis on visual literacy as they recognize its enormous influence in our changing world.

(Sources:  Hyerle, 2000)

Avoid These 5 Big Problems in Online Teaching

What are some of your biggest challenges with online teaching?  Here are some common problems that we hear about, and how you can easily avoid them.problems

1. The Absent Instructor. After all the upfront work required to prepare an online course, it can be tempting to let it run on “auto-pilot” once the semester starts. This is one of online students’ top complaints; they may feel isolated and alone in the online environment. The Fix: Communicate your presence early and often, with frequent announcements, content updates, and comments. Share your observations about student learning. Let students know you’re there and are actively monitoring their progress.

2. The Confusing Assignment. Vague assignment criteria in online courses can cause double trouble. First, students won’t know what you expect them to do, leading to frustration and paralysis. Then you may get an avalanche of emails requesting clarification. The Fix: Provide crystal clear criteria for each online assignment, including rubrics and examples. Try to anticipate what might cause confusion, and add details and FAQs to avoid this common problem.

3. The DFWOnline students are known to Drop, Withdraw, and Fail more frequently for predictable reasons. They might lack technology skills, or not yet have the discipline or time management abilities required for online courses. The Fix: Mitigate this by building a supportive learning community with Q&A forums, or optional live sessions where students can get help informally to stay on track and succeed. You can also check your Blackboard analytics (Performance Dashboard) to identify who’s not logging in, then reach out to them privately for support.

4. The Engagement DoldrumsOnline students can quickly lose motivation to complete required work if the course is not engaging them, leading to more DFW problems. To Fix: Use adult learning principles to engage. Provide multimedia content options and open-ended discussions that foster new ways of thinking. Relate learning tasks to students’ professional experiences, and give several real-world challenges, problems, and project choices to get them excited.

5. The Contrived Discussion. Rigid post & reply discussion requirements can lead to stale responses and feed into negative online teaching stereotypes. The Fix: Make online discussions purposeful with meaningful experience-driven questions that encourage storytelling and genuine dialog. Students can also practice leading online discussions to demonstrate their team facilitation prowess and hone effective communication skills.

More information: How Not to Design Your Online Course, Design For Learning: 10 Best Practices

Inspiring Student Learning: The Five C’s

Looking for tried-and-true ways to get your students motivated? Joe Ruhl has found some effective methods that will inspire new generations of students. He calls them the “Five C’s” and in a nutshell, he recommends these five easy-to-remember elements that you can integrate into your course design to help inspire student learning:

  1. Choice (e.g. a variety of different projects)
  2. Collaboration (teamwork)
  3. Communication – (collaborative)
  4. Critical thinking (problem solving)
  5. Creativity (encouraging innovation)

If you hang in there until the end of the TED Talk, there is one more “C” to add to this list, and he hints that it might be the MOST important one of all: “Caring.” Enjoy!

How to Get a Good Grade (Center!)

With a few simple steps, you can build an accurate grade center, then use the My Grades tool so your students can track their progress.

Here are some easy ways to make your grade center a clear and correct reflection of student’s work.

  1. For face-to-face courses, build grade columns that reflect points accurately. An easy way to check: Hover over the Total column to see how your grade center adds up.
  2. Use the Manage > Column Organization view for clarity and clean-up. If you have column “clutter,” use this view to check total points and move columns around.
    ManageColumnOrganization
  3. Simplify your grade center by removing default columns you don’t use. For example, feel free to delete the Weighted Total column if you don’t use weighted grades.
  4. Categorize your grade columns first if you want to drop lowest score from a group of tests, or assign percentages to create a Weighted total.
  5. Use Student Preview to check My Grades for accuracy. This shows exactly what your students will see.
    StudentPreview
  6. Check the BbLearn Help site for step-by-step help with more complex grade center tasks. Call, email, or visit us in the Education Building, Room 220 for friendly advice.

It might seem challenging to set up your Grade Center, but we are here to help you get it right.

Educating Generation Z

It's your turnConsider the characteristics of Gen Z students coming into your classes, comfortable in their digital world, and ready to fully engage online to prepare for their future career.

Are your courses providing the kinds of experiences, projects, and skills-based practice that will motivate and challenge these students? Or are you playing it safe with old-school lecture and testing?

Taking risks with collaborative group work learning models or using new technologies is worth it, not just because digital natives will benefit. It also models a love of learning on your part, and a willingness to make change, to fail and keep trying.

Some risks; many rewards.