Feed on
Posts
Comments

“Practice makes perfect” … right? If you have ever competed in a sport, played a musical instrument, or prepared for a driving exam, you know that not all practicing is equal. For instance, if you were to drive to school every day but never parallel park or learn how to merge onto the highway, chances are you will have difficulty executing those maneuvers on the road test. However, if you practice each skill required for the exam, you will likely have a more favorable final outcome.

Similar principles apply to student learning in college courses: it is necessary to practice the skills needed to produce high-quality work. Yet, assignments are often designed as one-off tasks with fewer opportunities for the process of skill development to play out (e.g. a single term paper or final exam). This can lead to frustration for educators, who may not be pleased with the final product, even if the assignment’s directions seemed like they were perfectly clear. It can also inhibit students’ attainment of important skills. For example, a student may write a final paper every semester but never learn how to write a proper literature review or how to cite sources. And for many students, comments on how to improve their writing for next semester may never be read or do not receive the requisite follow-up practice. How, then, can teachers be sure that students are receiving the proper training and skill development needed to succeed and achieve the learning goals of the course?

flikr photo "Scaffolding" by Kevin Dooley shared under a CC BY 2.0 license

flikr photo “Scaffolding” by Kevin Dooley
shared under a CC BY 2.0 license

One technique for teaching these important skills is to scaffold students’ work. This involves breaking down large assignments into parts and focusing on single skills along the way. A final paper could be dissected over the course of the semester into the introduction, literature review, analysis, conclusion, and bibliography or into the planning, writing, and revision stages. A final exam could be broken down into a number of quizzes or writing assignments. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that students understand each step of the process and receive resources and feedback with time to work on each component. Thus, like a construction project, students build up the foundation necessary to produce a strong and well-made final product.

Scaffolding can be incorporated into one’s teaching in other ways as well. When assigning a challenging reading assignment, some teachers provide a list of questions to answer or sections to focus on. Before introducing a complex equation, a statistician might spend some time reviewing theories and basic math needed to solve the problem. Or one might assign students to groups to discuss the background of the problem. A history professor might teach students the techniques of reading primary literature before asking them to interpret a difficult text. In each instance, students’ gaps in prior knowledge are filled in, allowing them to focus on higher-level thinking. By ensuring students have the necessary skills to complete each task, it allows them to become more independent learners and to develop greater mastery of the subject.

While it may require more time and energy upfront to scaffold an assignment or a difficult concept, the payoffs occur later in the semester when students have a clearer understanding of the tasks they are being asked to do and possess the skills needed to turn in higher quality work. Scaffolding saves time spent individually explaining to students how to write a proper literature review, for instance, and allows you to direct feedback to higher levels of thinking rather than smaller steps that students should be expected to complete along the way. You may already scaffold your teaching or student work and not even know it!

If you would like to try scaffolding an assignment or a lesson, think about the different skills students need to gain to achieve your established learning goals. Consider students’ prior knowledge and experience, how you can challenge students to develop those skills, and the types of support you can offer along the way. Scaffolding can be especially effective if students are given low-stakes opportunities to succeed (for example, if the assignment is ungraded or is a draft of a future product). Gradually, you can remove the support as students become stronger independent thinkers and successfully complete the assigned tasks on their own. Finally, be transparent with your students about what you are doing; they will have a clearer idea of your goals and will likely appreciate your efforts to improve their learning experience.

Resources

With the semester drawing to a close and final exams approaching, review sessions are sure to be at the front of your student’s minds. While typically not as focused as a regular lecture, review sessions can help students draw connections between the various topics covered throughout the course. What follows will be four techniques to help you rock your next review session.

  1. Reserve a spot (early):
    Unless you are going to hold the review session during class time, you will need to reserve a room large enough to fit all of your students at a time that works for the majority and since you will be competing with the rest of the university it helps to do this early. It can also be useful to schedule the review session more than one day ahead of the exam so that any potential issues identified during the session can be addressed before the final.
  2. Poll Students (early):
    While most students want all of the possible material covered in a review session. For a cumulative final, reviewing that much material in a one or two hour session is daunting, both for you and for the students. By polling the students (Sakai, or ask in class) on which sections they feel weakest on, you can better plan how to allot the time of the review session.
  3. Active Learning:
    In contrast to a lecture-based content-heavy review session, recent research [1] suggests that incorporating active learning exercises into review sessions can lead to large gains for students, whereas passive lecturing tends to only encourage a student’s illusion of mastery [2].

    1. Concept Map: Have students sketch out a map connecting the various concepts that will be on the exam.
    2. Notebook Comparison: Have students compare their notes on a topic or section with a partner and discuss why they may have recorded the information differently.
    3. Problem Solving: Provide a set of problems for each topic and have students work on them together.
  4. Match the Format:
    One of the best ways to help your students prepare for the exam is to give them a taste of the type of problems that will be on the exam. If the test is going to be primarily calculations, sprinkling practice calculations throughout the review session will better prepare the student than if you provided them with multiple choice questions.

If you found this helpful and find yourself wanting more practice with review sessions consider attending the workshop Leading Review Sessions hosted by the Kaneb Center.

References:

[1] Active review sessions can advance student learning. Terence G. Favero. 

[2] Brown, P. C., Roediger, H. L., & McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Make it stick: The science of successful learning.

The following is a guest post by Bridget Arend, director of university teaching at the University of Denver.


“We’ve reviewed this type of problem in class many, many times. Then I change a few details and my students act like they have never seen it before!” Have you ever found yourself uttering this sentiment? This is a common issue, especially when teaching problem solving or decision-making skills. Being able to apply previously-learned concepts and skills to a new context is called transfer. Transfer is one of the most valued aspects of learning; after all, isn’t a main goal of college to prepare students to go out and solve real life problems? Unfortunately, considerable studies have indicated that transfer does not occur automatically and can be difficult to achieve.

In higher education, we often put emphasis on the answers and conclusions of what we teach. Yet when our goal is to teach students to transfer learning – often through problem solving, case studies and lab work – it is actually more valuable to focus on the processes and the structure of the problem, rather than the answers. Below are a few guidelines to help foster transfer in problem solving:

  1. Transfer requires significant original learning. Make sure students have enough time to truly learn a concept or skill in the first place, ideally within a realistic context.
  2. At the same time, we should also provide students with examples from multiple contexts to help them see that the deeper underlying structures are applicable to other situations.
  3. When using multiple examples, spend time comparing and identifying similarities and differences. “What if we changed this one aspect of the problem? What if we completed the steps in a different order? Why are the outcomes of these two case studies so different?”
  4. Use your assignments and discussions to focus students’ time on the steps and patterns of a problem. Ask them to “show their work.” Identify common pitfalls and use sample problems that specifically address these pitfalls. Explore incorrect steps and patterns to show why they do not work.
  5. Recognize that you may fall into the “expert blind spot” where you simply don’t remember what it’s like to not know how to solve a certain problem. When modeling the process, take sufficient time, more than you think you need, to articulate the decisions and assumptions that underlie each step. When teaching students to solve problems, if we keep our focus on the process, we can better help students learn how to transfer their learned skills to multiple contexts.

Resources

2015-2016 Teaching Issues Writing Consortium’s Teaching Tips Davis, J.R. & Arend, B. (2013) Seven Ways of Learning: A Resource for More Purposeful, Effective, and Enjoyable College Teaching. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Perkins, D.N., & Salomon, G. (1988) Teaching for Transfer. Educational Leadership, v46 n1, p22-32.

Willingham, D. (2009). Why Don’t Students Like School? A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions about How the Mind Works and What it Means for the Classroom. (San Francisco: Jossey Bass).


Call for Applications:

The Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning seeks graduate students with teaching experience to serve as Kaneb Center Graduate Associates for Spring 2016 and the 2016-2017 academic year. Kaneb Graduate Associates facilitate workshops on effective teaching, develop teaching resources, and contribute to other activities to help graduate students and postdocs grow as teachers. This position is an excellent opportunity to develop as an instructor, a professional, and a leader.

Throughout the academic year, Kaneb Graduate Associates contribute an average of 5 hours per week, scheduled according to availability, and receive an hourly rate of $16.67. Graduate Associates attend weekly meetings with Dr. Kristi Rudenga, Assistant Directory of the Kaneb Center, during which they contribute content and ideas for Kaneb Center program planning. They will receive additional training in May (1.5 work days required; dates scheduled according to availability). In some cases, additional hours and additional pay may be available.

Applicants should have completed one or more semesters of TAing or teaching, preferably at Notre Dame, before holding this position. Postdocs may be eligible; contact krudenga@nd.edu for more information. Advisor and DGS approval will be required before hiring is finalized. Applicants must be in residence during the fall and spring semesters and must be available the week of August 15 for orientation events.

The Kaneb Center encourages applications that will help us to build a team diverse in culture, background, and academic discipline.

To apply, please submit the information below to kaneb@nd.edu by midnight, November 1, 2015. Interviews will take place in November 2015.

· Name
· Phone
· Email
· Department
· Current year in graduate school & anticipated year of graduation
· Paragraph describing your interest in this position
· Description of your participation in professional development activities in your department or elsewhere (teaching workshops, panel discussions, reading groups, etc…), as well as any leadership roles you have taken on in these activities.
· A 1-2 page summary of your teaching experiences, strengths, and strategies.
· Description of a workshop or seminar you would like to implement. These may be current programs that you will revise or programs that are brand new to the Kaneb Center.

Take a break this fall and check out a book on teaching or pedagogy from the Kaneb Center Library. Two recommendations from our staff are Teaching What You Don’t Know and Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.

Teaching What You Don’t Know by Therese Huston is a well-researched and practical guide on how to not only survive but thrive when you are teaching a new class outside of your expertise.  The book provides useful tips on a variety of topics ranging from structuring the class, coming up with engaging activities, and leveraging your lack of expertise to better relate to the students. The Kaneb Center highly recommends this book for new faculty, or for anyone who will be teaching a new class and is feeling unprepared.

Make It Stick by Brown, Roediger and McDaniel explores the science behind learning and memory and provides helpful suggestions on how to strengthen these skills. A combination of research studies and personal anecdotes woven together into an engaging narrative leads the readers through the common misconceptions of studying and how to overcome the illusions of mastery to really “make it stick” when learning something new.

If you are a graduate student and  these types of books sounds interesting and you love teaching, consider applying to be a graduate student associate, see the call below.

Call for Applications:

The Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning seeks graduate students with teaching experience to serve as Kaneb Center Graduate Associates for Spring 2016 and the 2016-2017 academic year. Kaneb Graduate Associates facilitate workshops on effective teaching, develop teaching resources, and contribute to other activities to help graduate students and postdocs grow as teachers. This position is an excellent opportunity to develop as an instructor, a professional, and a leader.

Throughout the academic year, Kaneb Graduate Associates contribute an average of 5 hours per week, scheduled according to availability, and receive an hourly rate of $16.67. Graduate Associates attend weekly meetings with Dr. Kristi Rudenga, Assistant Directory of the Kaneb Center, during which they contribute content and ideas for Kaneb Center program planning. They will receive additional training in May (1.5 work days required; dates scheduled according to availability). In some cases, additional hours and additional pay may be available.

Applicants should have completed one or more semesters of TAing or teaching, preferably at Notre Dame, before holding this position. Postdocs may be eligible; contact krudenga@nd.edu for more information. Advisor and DGS approval will be required before hiring is finalized. Applicants must be in residence during the fall and spring semesters and must be available the week of August 15 for orientation events.

The Kaneb Center encourages applications that will help us to build a team diverse in culture, background, and academic discipline.

To apply, please submit the information below to kaneb@nd.edu by midnight, November 1, 2015. Interviews will take place in November 2015.

· Name
· Phone
· Email
· Department
· Current year in graduate school & anticipated year of graduation
· Paragraph describing your interest in this position
· Description of your participation in professional development activities in your department or elsewhere (teaching workshops, panel discussions, reading groups, etc…), as well as any leadership roles you have taken on in these activities.
· A 1-2 page summary of your teaching experiences, strengths, and strategies.
· Description of a workshop or seminar you would like to implement. These may be current programs that you will revise or programs that are brand new to the Kaneb Center.

Have a wonderful Fall Break.

In a previous post, we discussed how to use graduate school teaching experience to prepare for the academic job market. But what about those preparing for careers in industry, business, government, service, or other non-academic or alternative-academic jobs? Should graduate students interested in non-academic jobs spend time teaching their own class or learning about teaching during graduate school? Even if you are not planning a career in academia or are unsure about your desired profession, teaching experience can be a vital component of an effective résumé when applying for jobs. Here are a few tips for how to use your teaching experience for the non-academic job market:

Concise Descriptions and Transferable Skills

In contrast to an academic curriculum vitae, in which you would give a longer description of your teaching experience, non-academic résumés require concise descriptions of your graduate school experiences. When describing your teaching responsibilities, focus on the many transferable skills that come with teaching: leadership, management, development, mentoring, training, interpersonal communication, working independently and in a fast-paced environment, facilitating discussion, assessing progress, coordination, and many more. These are tangible skills that are highly valued in the workplace and that allow you to frame your teaching in ways that are especially relevant for the particular job you are applying for.

Innovative Pedagogies

In your teaching, look for ways to incorporate innovative teaching techniques. For instance, consider trying a community-based learning approach, which will not only benefit students in your class, but will also allow you to create partnerships with leaders in the local community and demonstrate the broader implications of your subject area. Or, show your digital prowess by developing media-rich assignments and integrating technology into the classroom. Utilizing innovative pedagogies gives you an additional opportunity to talk about transferable skills in your teaching and creative approaches you have taken to delivering course content.

Teaching Evaluations and Certificates

Highlighting strong teaching evaluations shows that you are a well-rounded scholar and can apply your research skills to other areas. It also indicates that you can present difficult material to non-experts in an accessible fashion and that you have a breadth of skills rather than just a narrow research specialization. Furthermore, teaching can benefit your research by creating new connections and developing the “real-world” implications of your work. While it is unlikely that you would be asked to provide official teaching evaluations for a job application, they make for good anecdotal evidence to be used in an interview with potential employers. Additionally, consider working towards one of the three teaching certificates offered by the Kaneb Center: Striving for Excellence in TeachingAdvanced Teaching Scholar, and Teaching Well Using Technology. Teaching certificates can be listed on your résumé as a signal of your professional development, successful teaching, and commitment to your work.

Kaneb Center Services

If you are interested in developing new and innovative pedagogical techniques, or would like to discuss your teaching strategies or evaluations, contact the Kaneb Center to set up an individual consultation. We also offer a number of workshops to promote teaching excellence and to give you experience talking about teaching. For assistance translating your teaching experience into marketable skills, as well as guidance for the non-academic job market, contact Notre Dame’s Graduate Career Services office.

Teaching Resources for the Non-Academic Job Market

Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever. – Indian Proverb

Stories are used in so many ways to teach and persuade, whether that be through fairy tales, fables, books, movies, etc. While our culture is such that we no longer sit around the campfire listening to our elders, there is still a special place in our hearts for good storytellers. Sermons, TED talks, political addresses, these are all examples of modern day stories that do more than just share information; they change us. A good story engages us, it touches us deeply and can stay with us for years and throughout all of this it shapes how we see ourselves and the world. Compare this to a typical lecture where the students are itching to leave and are often only paying attention to ensure they can remember the information for the next quiz or test and it raises the question, how can we bring the power of stories effectively into our classes?

Incorporating storytelling into a class can be done primarily in two ways. The easier method is doing it from the front of the classroom and taking the responsibility upon yourself. However, with some preparation, having your students sharing their own stories is doable and can help form a strong sense of community within a classroom. This post will briefly explore some helpful suggestions for implementing storytelling in either setting.

Storytelling: Instructor

So that we are on the same page, it will be helpful to remind ourselves of the key elements of any good story. As we go through this list, examples from a variety of fields will be provided.

  • Characters: Who are your characters? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What relationships exist between the characters? In a history class on the World Wars the characters could be the various countries with the relationships being the numerous treaties and pacts that existed.
  • Challenge: What challenge are the characters facing? Why is this story or topic important? An economics class could look at the 2008 recession and examine the challenges that needed to be overcome to prevent a larger collapse.
  • Motivation: Why are the characters behaving in a specific way? Why must they be the ones to face the challenge? While care must be taken, using motivation in a chemistry class can provide a helpful picture to new students. Intermolecular interactions can be initially described in an anthropomorphized way where a sodium atom is happy to give up its one valence electron to the cool atoms like chlorine and bromine so that they can both reach a noble state.
  • Setting: What is the backdrop of the story, how does this affect the characters and the story? A sociology class might examine The Communist Manifesto after first seeing how the industrial revolution has changed so much of society.
  • Obstacles: What is preventing the characters from solving the challenge? A biology or biochemistry course could examine the difficulties surrounding protein crystallization. The inspiration for this example comes from a short video entitled The Making of a Scientist.  
  • Climax: How do the characters overcome the obstacles, what transformations and events were necessary? A political science class could examine what events were ultimately necessary for an amendment to make in into the constitution.
  • Conclusion: This is the time to tie up the loose ends and draw a strong connection between the theme of the story and the lesson or topic of the class that you were trying to get across.

Now keeping these elements and examples in mind a few ways to complement a normal lecture with stories are presented.

  1. Case studies: Case studies are usually mini-stories that are focused on a key theme. They are the modern version of a fable and can be integrated into a class as an active learning exercise or made the focus of an entire lecture. A brief google search of “case studies in <insert topic>” should get you started with this activity.
  2. Role-playing:  Have the students act out portions of the story or historic event. This will turn them from passive into active learners, especially if they are encouraged to research the motivation for their specific character. This will work better for smaller classes where everyone can play a part and will take some amount of preparation.
  3. Lecture as a story: Depending on the course this suggestion could be difficult. The intent is not to add a story here or there to illustrate a point, but rather to tell the entire lecture as a story. One would begin by connecting the above story elements with the topic of the lecture and then instead of delivering a lecture, go through these steps spinning the story. Introduce the cast of characters, establish the challenge and the character’s motivations for taking on this challenge. Describe the setting and its importance and proceed to the obstacles and finally the climax. Throughout this, make use of suspense, foreshadowing, humor, and other narrative techniques to transport the students into the world your words are creating.

The above are just a few suggestions of how you as the professor can bring stories into the classroom. What follows focuses more on how to engage your students in this creative process.

Storytelling: Students

If the focus of the class has been changed to include more stories then asking students to contribute their own will not be as difficult. Papers lend themselves well to requiring story elements but there are other ways to get students involved in this endeavor.

  1. Alternate Ending: After introducing a topic or story in class, ask students to create their own alternate ending. Tell them the goal of their story should be to answer “What if?”, that is, their stories should explore how the world would differ if one key point were changed. If Archduke Ferdinand Francis was not assassinated, would the first World War still have occurred?
  2. Storytelling project: Have a storytelling project on an important concept in the class. Encourage the students to use something other than the written word to tell their story, e.g.  digital, verbal, visual. The Kaneb Center’s Technology Remix site has many helpful suggestions for non-traditional projects. Spend a class period (or a portion), either as a whole, or in groups allowing the students to share their creations.
  3. Story Analysis: Have students perform a story analysis of a topic related to but not covered in the class. Have them identify the key characters and their motivation, describe the setting, and explore the obstacles and how they led to the climax and ultimate conclusion.

If you get stuck as you begin to incorporate these elements of storytelling into your lectures, classes, and assignments there are many sources of inspiration to draw upon. Open a well-written book and instead of reading for narrative, reflect on how the author is describing the story. If you prefer listening to stories, there are a variety of fantastic programs that are continually producing engaging stories, examples include This American Life, TED Talks, and many others. Finally, the Kaneb center is tentatively planning a workshop on storytelling in the classroom for spring 2016 so keep your eyes open for our spring workshop list and keep telling stories.

Resources

Storytelling in Teaching by  Melanie C. Green

Storytelling as Pedagogy by Janel Seeley

The semester is one month old, and for better or worse the climate of your classroom has largely been cemented.  Students know what to expect, and their expectation shape-and sometimes limit-what learning objectives can be accomplished.  Hopefully things are going well; but if you are like most teachers, you probably have identified ways the learning in your classroom could be improved.  Perhaps students are not as engaged as you would like.  Maybe some pupils are staring at their phones and laptops; perhaps some are even falling asleep.  Is there anything you can do midsemester to revitalize your classroom?

  1. Revisit Your Classroom Policies.
    Hopefully, at the beginning of the semester you articulated to your class a clear policy on student participation and engagement in class.  If so, now may be a good time to gently remind students about your policy.  Many teachers also prohibit the use of cell phones and computers in the classroom.  If the misuse of technology in class is a problem, it may be time to address it.What if you do not have such policies in place? While it is less than ideal to introduce a new policy midsemester, in some cases it might be necessary.  If you are in this situation, you could inform students that you are beginning a new unit or section of the course which requires extra participation, and thus (for example) phones, laptops, and tablets are no longer permitted.
  1. Use Student-Active Learning Assignments
    Student active learning is frequently discussed and encouraged on this blog, so we do not have to rehash it here.  (For a discussion of student-active learning and examples, see for instance: http://blogs.nd.edu/kaneb/2015/03/30/active-learning-in-the-stem-disciplines/). Most importantly, assigning student-active learning in class is vital for teaching critical thinking and fostering deep learning; but it also helps students stay engaged in class.
  1. Attend to Student-Generated Learning Goals
    Design the content of each class so that it addresses your students’ questions and concerns.  If students are generating some of the learning goals of the class, they are more likely to be engaged.  Discover what your students are interested in by allowing them to express their concerns and questions either before class via email or a message board or at the beginning of class.  Connect their questions/concerns with your own learning goals for the class and refer back to their questions/concerns as the class unfolds.  Lastly, make notes for next time.  There is a good chance that you will be teaching the same course or course content again.  You can revise your course for the future so that course content better connects with common student-generated learning goals.
  1. Tell a Story
    Good story tellers can make anything sound interesting.  Practice telling a story about your course material.  Why does it matter?  How does it connect to real life?   What problem does it solve or address?  Why are you so excited about it?  If you are not excited about the material, think of someone who is and get inside their head.  Students are much more likely to pay attention if the relevance and significance of the class material is explained.
  1. Appeal to the Heart
    Help students connect to course material emotionally.  When you tell a story about the course material (see #4 above), appeal to the students’ emotions.  If the course material seems extra heady, tell an emotional story about a scientist or scholar related to the course material.  For example, an apparently boring chemistry equation may become extremely interesting if a student learns about the life struggles of the Chemist who wrote the equation.  Finally, don’t underestimate the power of a thoughtful joke.
  1. Work on Delivery
    Embrace your role as an actor on a stage.  This does not mean becoming “theatrical,” though for some taking on a “theatrical” persona is an effective means of teaching.   Remember the basics:  don’t read from your notes, make eye contact throughout the room, and smile.  Also consider varying your voice: raise and lower your volume and pitch, slow down and speed up (not too fast, of course).  Use body language, gestures and facial expressions.  Present two sides of an issue by staging a conversation with yourself using two distinct voices.
  1. Teach Student Self-Monitoring
    Students who know how to self-monitor their own learning are more likely to be engaged in class.  Toward this end, teach students to ask themselves self-diagnostic questions like: “Do I understand the day’s learning goals?” and, “Are my notes clear and complete?” Each class day, communicate the class’s learning goals, and tell students that they are responsible for these goals.  Throughout class, ask students if they understand the learning goals and invite questions.  At the end of each class, have students complete a self-diagnostic exercise such as a low-stakes quiz or have them read through their notes to see if their notes have any holes.

Further reading:

  • James Cooper, et al., discuss the concept of the “interactive lecture:”
    Cooper, James L., Robinson, Pamela & Ball, David. The Interactive Lecture: Reconciling Group and Active Learning Strategies with Traditional Instructional Formats. Exchanges: The Online Journal of Teaching and Learning in the CSU http://www.calstate.edu/ITL/exchanges/viewpoints/1161_Cooper.html

For a longer discussion on student-active learning, see:

and more recently:

For something out of the box:

Graduate school offers many opportunities for students to talk about and present their research, but often provides fewer opportunities to discuss teaching. For those planning an academic career, the reality is that, in many jobs, at least some portion of your time will consist of teaching and interacting with students. Thus, whether you are just starting or are finishing your graduate work, now is a great time to think about how your teaching can impact your job search preparations. Here are a few teaching tips for Notre Dame graduate students at all levels to prepare for the academic job market.

Evaluations

Evaluations of your teaching are one of the primary pieces of evidence used to prove to potential employers that you can successfully fulfill the teaching obligations of the position. During your time in graduate school, seek opportunities to teach a lab, tutorial, discussion section, or independent course where you will receive official teaching evaluations. (At Notre Dame, these are known as Course Instructor Feedback forms, or CIFs.) Potential employers will often request student evaluations of teaching, so having an official record with strong evaluations will go a long way towards proving you can teach effectively. If you are a teaching assistant or deliver a guest lecture in a course without CIFs, it can also be a good idea to ask the instructor of record to distribute their own student evaluations of your teaching. Though they are not official evaluations, they offer at least an informal assessment of your teaching capabilities. Another valuable type of evaluation is to ask a professor to observe your teaching and write specifically about their observations in a letter of recommendation.

Teaching Certificates

An additional way to signal your commitment to quality teaching is by attending workshops on teaching and learning and by earning one of the teaching certificates offered by the Kaneb Center. After attending five qualifying workshops and writing a brief reflection statement, you are eligible to receive the Striving for Excellence in Teaching certificate. The Kaneb Center also offers an Advanced Teaching Scholar certificate and the newly re-designed Teaching Well Using Technology certificate. All three look great on your curriculum vitae or resume.

Teaching Philosophy and Portfolio

As you gain experience as a teaching assistant or instructor of record, take notes on strategies and techniques that work well or that you would like to try in your teaching. Consider assembling your notes into a formative teaching portfolio, including a list of highlights from each semester of your teaching, examples of feedback on student work, letters of recommendation you have written, sample assignments, and anything else you may want to save for the future. This portfolio can be adapted to be submitted as part of a job application and will include materials to help you devise and articulate your teaching philosophy. As you assemble your portfolio, consider what you want your students to learn, how you help them learn it, and how you assess their learning in your classes.

Syllabi

If you are applying for jobs teaching courses that you do not have experience teaching, you might consider writing a high quality syllabus for the topic to indicate that you have thought about how you would teach the class. It is also helpful to think about courses you could potentially teach and to gather syllabi from others in the discipline to see how those classes are taught elsewhere. Having syllabi drafted will also reduce course preparation time once you begin your academic career.

Services and Upcoming Workshops

The Kaneb Center is an excellent resource for graduate students preparing to go on the academic job market. We offer individual consultations to discuss your teaching needs or to review your evaluations, syllabi, and other teaching materials. We also offer a number of workshops to promote teaching excellence and to give you experience talking about teaching. Some of our upcoming workshops that are especially relevant for the job market include:

Recommended Teaching & Learning Books for The Job Market

Procrastination is one of the most common issues affecting students today. A recent study reports that ~95% [1] of students claim they suffer from at least some form of procrastination. As educators, we occupy an important role in our student’s lives and we have the opportunity to help students get a handle on academic procrastination.

There are many excuses students make to explain their tendencies to procrastinate, e.g. being busy or the claim that they work better under pressure. However, one of the most common reasons for procrastination is “fear of failure” [2]. This fear can easily turn into procrastination, because by delaying the start of the assignment, the student is then able to externalize their fear. If they receive a poor grade, the student can say to themselves that their failure is not their fault, rather, they just ran out of time.

While a lot of the methods to combat procrastination require that the student is willing to change [3], as instructors, we have a lot of power to help students when we are designing assignments and classes. Three simple ways to help prevent procrastination are shown below.

  • Splitting assignments: Procrastination sometime arises because students are not able to split a large assignment into smaller pieces. This weakness can be treated by breaking up the work ourselves and assigning a number of deliverables over the course of a few weeks or months. If the term paper is due December 1st, then we can help students structure their time by having the topic due in early October with an annotated bibliography of 5-10 sources due by early November.
  • Awareness/Mindfulness: While splitting up the assignment does help, it does not prepare the student to develop this important life skill. Thus, spending time explaining to the students why you are doing this and encouraging them to be mindful about their choices will further help your students see how to tackle large assignments themselves.
  • Interventions: Strunk and Spencer [4], showed that a small intervention at the beginning of the semester could be effective at decreasing a student’s proclivity to procrastinate. The researchers did this by talking with students who had turned in their first assignment late. They explained various strategies for minimizing this behavior and then observed those students throughout the rest of the semester and saw that instances of procrastination went down for the experimental group as compared to the control.

These are just a few ways to help structure your class and assignments to help students control their procrastination. Below, you will find a few sites that offer a number of strategies and tips to help overcome procrastination which may prove helpful to provide to students either during an intervention or perhaps on a policy sheet at the beginning of a semester.

  1. Procrastinus
  2. Princeton: Avoiding Procrastination
  3. Oregon State: Managing Procrastination
  4. 20 Tips to Reduce Academic Procrastination (PDF)

 

References

[1] Steel, P. (2007). The nature of procrastination. Psychological Bulletin, 133(1), 65-94.

[2] https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/fear-of-failure.htm

[3] Grunschel, C. & Schopenhauer, L. (in press). Why are students (not) motivated to change academic procrastination? An investigation based on the Transtheoretical Model of change. Journal of College Student Development.

[4] Strunk, K. K., & Spencer, J. M. (2012). A brief intervention for reducing procrastination. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 16(1), 91-96.

It’s the start of the third week of class and you’re teaching a discussion-based course. You’ve attended a Kaneb workshop on leading discussion and remember hearing that if students don’t speak on the first day of class, they’re more likely not to speak at all. So on the first day, you had students partner up to get to know each other and then introduce their partners to the class. In the several class days since, you’ve made a concerted effort not to answer your own questions and silently count to ten after you ask a question to give plenty of time for students’ answers. You’ve called on one or two silent students directly to encourage them to speak, but you feel uncomfortable doing this too often because putting them on the spot can feel awkward. Yet still only about half the class speaks up regularly. You’re not sure what else to do and are secretly hoping the problem solves itself, but are pretty sure that’s not likely to happen, and aren’t sure what else to try next.

We’ve all been there. It can be a challenge to get quiet students to talk! They often struggle with perfectionism, shyness, and performance anxiety; they may simply have a natural bent for quietude. Rest assured, though, there are plenty of techniques to foster speaking up in class, and it’s important to challenge all students to learn how to participate successfully in a group environment. For very talkative students, this may mean learning to stop speaking sometimes and for quieter students, challenging themselves to speak up a little more. In this post, I’ll run through a number of suggestions to encourage quiet students to contribute. Try one or try them all—though maybe not all on the same day!

From the beginning, engineer an environment that encourages students to speak. Arrange the classroom in a circle to foster conversation. On the first few days of class, employ small group discussion activities so students get to know and trust each other. It’s O.K.—desirable, in fact, especially in the early days of class—if your students do a little personal socializing, not strictly assigned discussion, in those small groups. Explain on the syllabus what role discussion plays in your class and make it a significant part of the participation grade (perhaps even assigning a daily grade), because discussion is a vital part of classroom learning and you truly want to hear what your students have to say. Be clear in your own communication with students, and demonstrate empathy and caring. Get to know their names and a little bit about them. Explain in some detail what discussion is like in your classroom: consider describing particular behaviors you want to see from students and the preparation you expect them to do. Here are a few examples:

Behaviors you might ask of students:

  • no need to raise hands—just start talking, as long as you don’t talk over others
  • show respect for others’ points of view, especially when you disagree (you, the instructor, can perhaps demonstrate a few good responses, such as “I can see where Sarah’s coming from, but I see it differently” or “Jack’s point was insightful; I’d like to offer an alternative,” and model these in your own contributions to discussion)
  • pay attention and respond to the group dynamics to encourage everyone to speak: if you are talking a lot, try limiting yourself to two or three comments per class period. If you are not talking at all, or very little, challenge yourself to make one or two comments per class period.
  • remember that it’s absolutely fine to be wrong and sharing unfinished ideas is welcome—perfectly polished answers are not the goal. Exploration is!

Preparation you might expect of them:

  • prepare readings in advance
  • bring in answers to discussion questions circulated ahead of time
  • bring in questions that came up during the reading
  • write response journals and post them on the course website/blog or email them to the class in advance

 

As you move through the semester, you’ll likely find that you want to troubleshoot, tweak, and improve your discussions. Even if you incorporated all of the strategies above you’d likely still have a quiet student or two in your group. When you encounter that, consider some of these strategies:

  • distribute and discuss a tip sheet for dealing with fear of public speaking (see Grinnell College link below). Reassure all students that fear of speaking up is completely normal and share with them a few techniques to try out.
  • bring in a provocative question about the material and, starting on one side of the room and moving to the other, ask every student in turn to give a short answer
  • 1- or 2-minute freewrite. This can be useful in a variety of settings: you can ask students to write for 2 minutes about anything on their minds about the day’s material, or you can ask them to reflect on a particular question. You can also use the quick freewrite at any point when discussion stalls, or if students seem to want to talk but are struggling to get answers out.
  • ask for non-verbal participation sometimes: give students flashcards or use a technology service so that they can vote yes/no or give numbered answers in response to questions.
  • know your students’ names and call on them directly. If they don’t have an answer to give, even when you do call on them, let them know that’s O.K. and move on to someone else.
  • add more humor! Show a funny clip, have gregarious students act out a skit, tell some jokes, illustrate your point with an amusing story. Laughing together is a wonderful way to warm up the room.
  • give a “self quiz”: at the start of discussion, ask students to write down the most interesting thing about the day’s material and one question about it. Take volunteers or pick students (or both) to share their answers and get the discussion going.
  • have students sign up to give mini-lectures on discussion material on various days
  • finally, don’t forget to acknowledge the effort quiet students are making when they start speaking up in class. Even if the contributions they offer are really off-base, you can find something to praise while guiding them towards a more correct answer: “You make a great point here, Shawna. Have you thought about idea X? How might that affect your answer?” or “I can tell you’ve been spending time with the material, Jeremy. Let’s all talk more about the interesting idea you brought up. What do other people think?”

The takeaway point: you will encounter quiet students who need encouragement to speak. Be respectful and kind with them, and try a few different techniques. You may not convert the very quiet into gregarious participants (nor is that, perhaps, a desirable goal), but you’re sure to see success if you help them take small steps.

 

Resources and Further Reading

Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking (Crown Publishers, 2012).

Handout, “Raise Your Voice! How to Speak up in Class,” Grinnell College

The Chatty Professor, “Want to Find Your Voice in Class? Speak UP!”

 

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

Copyright © 2010 | Kaneb Center for Teaching & Learning | kaneb@nd.edu | 574-631-9146
Get Adobe Flash player