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Writing the teaching philosophy statement is often one of the most dreaded aspects of the academic job search.  However, with increased understanding of what makes a strong document, the writing process becomes much easier.  Below is an excerpt from an exemplary teaching philosophy statement, written by Dr. Joshua Enzer, a former graduate student in chemical engineering at the University of Notre Dame and a current Lecturer in Chemical, Biochemical & Environmental Engineering at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

College instructors are designers; they are engineers of education.

The model of instructor-as-information-transmitter is widespread, but research in teaching and learning indicates this mode is not the most effective. Many instructors do not believe that students are empty receptacles waiting to be filled with knowledge. These instructors are not speech-writers, they are not entertainers, and they are not self-important sages leading a flock of believers. These instructors are designers: designers of significant learning opportunities, designers of authentic, motivating, relevant problems and discussions, designers of effective methods for assessment and feedback.

Fortunately for me, my training is in chemical engineering, in which I have been tasked to design effective solutions to complicated problems. Designing effective courses and curricula is analogous to designing a chemical process, though if we view students as the raw feed and course content as unit operations, we are ignoring the important human element:  every student is a person with different experiences, motivations, experiences, and goals for the future. However, this doesn’t change the fact that my teaching philosophy is more of a design philosophy, and I will present my ideas in that way. I believe that effective course and curriculum design is absolutely essential to producing knowledgeable, responsible, and effective engineers.

A well-designed course breaks down into three major components, each equally important, and each absolutely interconnected to the others: (1) learning-related goals, (2) significant activities, and (3) meaningful feedback and assessment.

As you can see here, Dr. Enzer starts his teaching statement by orienting readers to his area of research: engineering.  Beyond making a great connection between his identity as an engineer and a teacher, his opening statement draws the reader in and leads well into a main component of his teaching philosophy; namely, that instructors are designers and that he has strong beliefs about course and curricula design.  Moreover, he then goes on to break these beliefs about course design into three major components, which are subsequently expanded upon in subsequent paragraphs (not included here).  It is obvious from reading even these first few paragraphs of Dr. Enzer’s teaching statement that he is thoughtful and reflective about his teaching and has developed a clear identity as an instructor.  Overall, the document is beautifully written, flows effortlessly, and presents numerous examples to support each claim.

For more tips on writing a teaching philosophy statement and other excellent examples, be sure to register for the Kaneb Center’s upcoming workshop as part of the Preparing for the Academic Job Market series.

Teaching Philosophy Statement Tip:

  • Keep a log of “good teaching moments” on your computer to help yourself later when putting together job materials.  Trying to produce these moments off the top of your head months (or even years!) after they happen is likely to leave you frustrated.  However, if you keep a running list, incorporating lots of examples into your teaching statement will be a breeze.
  • Additional tip: It’s also a good idea to do this to keep track of the Kaneb workshops you’ve attended, along with a few notes about what you took away from each workshop.  This way, when preparing to write your two-page essay for the Striving for Excellence in Teaching Certificate, you won’t struggle to remember which workshops you attended and when.

Did you know Notre Dame has numerous helpful teaching resources available to you?  Here are some worth exploring:


NspireD2:  This blog run by the Kaneb Center’s Assistant Director, Chris Clark, is here to help you explore new ways of incorporating technology into teaching and learning.  If you’d love for posts to come right to your news feed, you can also ‘like’ them on Facebook.

 

Remix and Remix-T:  Looking for ideas for how to cultivate media-rich learning experiences?  These websites are here to help you (and your students) use media effectively for exciting and innovative educational experiences.  For the student side, check out Remix and for the instructor side, take a look at Remix-T.

 

Kaneb Center Library:  The Kaneb Center has hundreds of books on teaching and learning available for you to check out.  Whether you’re looking for insight on “Teaching What You Don’t Know,” “How Learning Works,” or working up the “Courage to Teach,” we’ve got you covered.

 

Learning Technology Lab:  This division of the Kaneb Center will help you identify and integrate appropriate tools and strategies into your teaching.

 

Workshops:  Throughout the school year, the Kaneb Center offers a variety of workshops to help you hone your skills as an instructor.  If you haven’t already, take a look through the list and register for those which look interesting to you.  Please note: workshops fill up fast!  If a workshop is already full, we can put you on the wait-list.  If you register and find that you cannot attend, please let us know so that someone from the wait-list may attend.

Want to keep up with the Kaneb Center with social media?  Check us out on Twitter and Facebook!

Teaching college-age students brings with it a host of logistical issues, not the least of which is deciding what to do about attendance.  With their burgeoning independence, many students desire the ability to come and go as they please.  However, as instructors, we want students in the classroom for the classes we spent so much time to prepare.  To help you decide what’s best for your classroom (because there’s no one “right” attendance policy), let’s explore some of the benefits and drawbacks of attendance policies for both instructors and students.

FOR STUDENTS:

Drawbacks:

  • Students desire the freedom to decide their schedules and may feel that inflexible attendance policies hinder their independence.
  • Students who don’t want to be in class but feel like they have to may distract other students.

Benefits:

  • Attendance policies teach responsibility and discipline.  Most jobs have attendance policies, so having one in college may serve as practice for the “real world.”
  • Students who come to class have been shown to perform better on exams (Marburger, 2004).

FOR INSTRUCTORS:

Drawbacks:

  • Have to spend time keeping track of students.  With a strict attendance policy, you will need to take attendance every class.  For large class sizes, this is incredibly time consuming.  Moreover, with students who arrive at class late or those who need to leave early for some reason, juggling an attendance sheet while teaching requires considerable time and effort.
  • Students, concerned about their grades, will contact you frequently about getting absences excused.  Managing emails from students asking for an absence to be excused takes considerable time and effort on the part of the instructor.

Benefits:

  • More students come to class if they know it impacts their grades (Golding, 2011).
  • Having an attendance policy doesn’t necessarily negatively impact teaching evaluations compared to when no attendance policy is utilized (Golding, 2011).
  • Student feedback is imperative to modifying and improving teaching (Sleigh & Ritzer, 2001).

WHAT TO DO:

  • Whatever you decide is right for your classroom, set clear guidelines.  Make it clear in your syllabus what is expected of students with regards to attendance.  Will attendance be taken at every class?  Or will pop quizzes be given a few times throughout the semester and those who are absent will miss points on those?  What’s your policy regarding handing in assignments if class is missed?
  • To encourage students to come to class, regardless or whether you have a strict attendance policy or not, do not post full PowerPoint slides online.  By leaving out some slides on purpose (and telling students you do so), students understand that by missing class, they’re likely missing a significant portion of class material that they can’t simply extrapolate from the textbook or the posted slides.

OTHER RESOURCES:

Benefits of Attendance Policies | Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Attendance Policies | Texas Tech University Teaching, Learning, & Professional Development Center

Encouraging Student Attendance | Association for Psychological Science Teaching Tips

 

RockTheFirstDay

Welcome back! As the new school year begins (and with it, your new courses), it’s a good idea to consider how you’re going to rock the first day. Here are some tips to start the semester off right:

  1. Although many students view the first week of classes as “Syllabus Week,” consider sending out your syllabus early and asking students to read it over before the first class. If students read it over before class and bring with them any questions they may have, you will have more time on the first day for actual course content. Then, on the first day, spend time reviewing just the main points and move into course content.
  2. Wait until after the first class to go over the syllabus in depth.  You could even ask students read the syllabus outside of class and then take an online quiz on its content.
  3. Arrive to class early to get set up and settled, so that you don’t start off by rushing. This will also give you some time in case any minor issues arise before the lecture stares.
  4. Introduce yourself to the students, and if the class isn’t too large, let the students introduce themselves as well. This will help to create a welcoming environment.  Conducting an ice-breaker on the first day helps students become comfortable with each other and should facilitate discussion.
  5. Set Expectations. Let the students know what you expect of them. How much time will they put into this course? What are the major assignments? etc.
  6. Consider giving the students a Background Questionnaire.  You can gage the student’s prior knowledge with the course content by asking them to rate their familiarity with different terminology or concepts that will be addressed in the course. These can be multiple choice questions with answers ranging from “I’ve never heard of that” to “I consider myself an expert”.
  7. Students should be active on the first day. Plan activities that will give them a sense of what a typical class will be like.

How are you going to rock the first day?

 

Are you interested in learning more about discipline-specific teaching and learning in the university setting? The university offers short credit-bearing summer graduate courses on university teaching and learning in various fields!  Consider taking one of this year’s courses:

GRED 60501: Teaching Engineering Tutorials and Laboratories

GRED 60601: Preparing for an Academic Career in Physics, Math, and Engineering

GRED 60610: How to Teach Effectively and Prepare for an Academic Career in the Humanities and Social Sciences

GRED 60612: Effective and Exciting Teaching in Social Sciences and Humanities

GRED 60640: Designing and Teaching Your First Biology or Chemistry Course

GRED 64600: Teaching and Learning Online

For more information visit: http://kaneb.nd.edu/programs/gred/  and see the 2014 brochure at http://kaneb.nd.edu/assets/127381/2014_gred_brochure.pdf

Forty-four Notre Dame Graduate Student Teaching Assistants (TAs) have been named as the recipients of the 2014 Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award.

Created to recognize graduate student instructors and TAs who demonstrate commitment to exceptional teaching in lectures, seminars, labs, and across the academic profession, the Graduate School and the Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning present the award annually to TAs that are nominated by their departments.  Departments may only nominate up to 5% of their TAs for the honor.

An awards dinner honoring the recipients took place Wednesday, April 16, in the McKenna Hall Conference Center.  Laura Carlson, dean of the Graduate School, and Kevin Barry, director of the Kaneb Center, presented recipients with their awards following a keynote address by Philippe Collon, associate professor of physics.

LC
Laura Carlson, Dean of the Graduate School

KBarry
Kevin Barry, Director of the Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning

PCollon
Philippe Collon, Associate Professor of Physics

A full listing of the award recipients follows:

COLLEGE OF ARTS & LETTERS

Art, Art History, & Design
Katelyn Seprish

Classics
Clare Brogan

Creative Writing Program
Jayme Russell

Economics
Robert Lester

History
Rachel Banke
Benjamin Wetzel

International Peace Studies
Kyle Lambelet

Literature
Alexander Erik Larsen

Medieval Literature
Christopher Scheirer

Philosophy
Jeffrey Tolly

Political Science
Michael Hartney
Soul Park

Psychology
Xin Tong

Romance Languages & Literature
James Cotton

Sociology
Ana Velitchkova

Theology
Stephen Gaetano
Justus Gnormley
Brian Hamilton

University Writing Center
Kara Donnelly

University Writing Program
Damian Zurro

COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING

Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering
Tyler Kreipke
Melinda Lake
Gaojin Li
Matthew Meagher
Arman Mirhashemi
Matthew Mosby

Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
Fernando Garcia
Raymond Seekell

Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences
Ryan Alberdi
Tori Tomiczek

Computer Science & Engineering
Paige Rodeghero

Electrical Engineering
Kaijun Feng

COLLEGE OF SCIENCE

Applied & Computational Mathematics & Statistics
Wenzhao Sun

Biological Sciences
Erin Franks
Shayna Sura
Lindsey Turnbull

Chemistry and Biochemistry
Eric Hansen
Jared Lamp
Joseph Michalka
Brandon Tutkowski

Mathematics
Victor Ocasio Gonzalez
Ryan Thompson

Physics
Allison Showalter

 

Metaphorically, if each student has a bucket that he or she progressively fills with knowledge throughout the semester while learning in your course, is it not important for that student to keep the contents of that bucket even after the course is over?  Undoubtedly, most instructors would shudder at the idea of students walking out of the final exam, tipping over their buckets, and pouring its contents onto the sidewalk, never to be used again.  Therefore, we should aim for student learning to have a lasting impact and for those buckets to stay filled for as long as possible.

 

After sharing a semester together, undoubtedly both you and your students have learned a great deal from one another.  Although the last day of class is often filled with student presentations, final exam review, or maybe even some last minute housekeeping details, you may wish to incorporate some end-of-semester activities, which will allow you to assess (1) to what degree students have filled their metaphorical buckets, (2) with what, and (3) how long they think they will maintain its contents.

 

According to Fink (2003), “For learning to occur, there has to be some kind of change in the learner.  No change, no learning.  And significant learning requires that there be some kind of lasting change that is important in terms of the learner’s life” (p. 34).  Teaching What You Don’t Know” (Huston, 2009) and Teaching With Your Mouth Shut” (Finkel, 2000) suggest that one last day of class activity to consider is asking students what they will remember from your class in five years.  Interestingly, students and instructors may not see eye-to-eye on what were the primary take-away messages for the course.  Thus, this is another way to gauge whether your learning goals for students were achieved and whether students perceived them as having a lasting impact.

 

There are other interesting questions you could ask students on the last day to facilitate discussion and to assess student learning, such as:

  • Have you changed your opinions or views as a result of this course?  Why or why not?
  • Complete the following sentences: One thing I was surprised to learn in this course is __________________.  I was surprised to learn this because __________________.
  • If you could share one idea from this course with others, what would it be, and why?

 

And finally, some additional resources worth checking out:

In her recent two-part workshop series, Amy Buchmann–a Graduate Associate of the Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning–discussed some of the fundamentals of course design.  An integrated course design (Fink, 2003) has three primary elements: (1) learning goals, (2) feedback and assessment, and (3) teaching and learning activities.

Integrated Course Design

Figure 1. Integrated course design model. Fink, L. D. (2003). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

The first installment of the workshop focused on crafting learning goals and effective feedback and assessment strategies.  Using a technique described by Bain (2004) as planning backwards, there are a series of activities which can incorporate these primary elements into a cohesive course design.  First, drafting “big questions” (Bain, 2004; Huston, 2012) about what you want students to gain by the end of the course, such as what questions would students be able to answer, or what skills, abilities, or qualities would they develop throughout the course.

Using those “big questions,” it becomes possible to construct a list of learning goals for students (e.g., students will be able to X by the end of this course), which can subsequently be revised to include specific language.  For example, rather than saying “students will understand X,” more active and specific language may include words like, “students will predict X” or “students will differentiate X and Y” or “students will be able to generate X” (more helpful examples on how to do this available on p. 7 of this handout).  Once these learning goals are revised, each learning goal can be transformed into a graded assessment or a chance to provide students with feedback.  Angelo and Cross (1993) provided a list of course assessment techniques or (CATs) which serve as a guide.  Using your learning goals to create course assessments ensures that what you hope students will take away from your class is what students actually are doing in the course.

The second installment of this workshop focused on crafting a learner-centered syllabus, which includes formulating teaching and learning activities.  For many instructors, the easiest way to develop a course is to first decide what texts or topics to cover in lectures, then to arrange exams and assignments around these.  However, these “text/lecture-focused courses” often fail to incorporate learning goals.  Therefore, designing your course with an “assignment focus” may allow for a more integrated course design.  Using those learning goals that you previously established and revised, you can build your course one learner-centered assignment at a time.  While doing so, there are three questions to keep in mind: (1) “Are the assignments likely to result in the learning you want?”, (2) “Is the assignment aligned with the learning goals?”, and (3) “Is the workload appropriate?”  Once you have figured out which assessments to include, it becomes easier to craft your syllabus.

The syllabus is where all three primary elements of the integrated course design come together.  In general, the syllabus serves a variety of functions, not the least of which is that it acts as a “contract” between the instructor and the student (Slattery and Carlson, 2005).  As instructors, the syllabus serves as a planning tool for the semester (and helps us to meet course goals in a timely manner) and helps to set the class tone.  For students, the syllabus helps to structure their workload and inform them about course policies.  Thus, the best syllabi will communicate your expectations, emphasize student responsibility, and answer student questions before they ask.

In order to accomplish these tasks, well-designed syllabi often include some common elements.  Though not an exhaustive list, common elements include: contact information, course description/goals, student learning goals, materials, schedule or calendar, requirements/responsibilities, policies, and grading info.  It may also be a good idea build flexibility into the schedule, but Huston (2012) has some suggestions for how to do so.  For instance, using a phrase like “The instructor reserves the right to change the syllabus at any time” may appear disorganized or suggest to students that you may not honor the “contract” between the two of you.  Instead, diplomatic wording might include “your learning is my principal concern, so I may modify the schedule if it will facilitate your learning” or “we may discover that we want to spend more time on certain topics and less time on others.  I’ll consider changing the schedule if such a change would benefit most students’ learning in this course.”  These phrasings inform students that any changes are for their benefit and that the instructor truly cares about student learning.

Taking all of these fundamentals of course design into account, you can construct an organized, assessment-focused course with student learning in mind.  To learn about this and other Kaneb Center events visit our workshop series page.

The following entry from the 2013-2014 Teaching Issues Writing Consortium: Teaching Tips was contributed by Freya Kinner, Instructional Developer, Western Carolina University

————————————————————————————————————–

You turn a test back to your students. They look at their papers, and you span the room. Your students’ visages are telling – some look shocked, others proud, and still others are hurt or even bored. Perhaps one or two students ask to meet with you after class to “talk about their grade” or ask for the dreaded extra credit assignment. But, how often do they ask themselves how their studying approach (other than perhaps amount of time spent studying) affected their performance? Do they analyze their feedback to see if there were particular content areas they struggled with? Particular test item types?

In other words, do your students ever stop and take stock, whether of a test, an in-class activity, an assignment, or a conversation?

We work in a world of quick transitions and immediate gratification, and we seldom take the time to stop, look inward, and take stock. If we do, we often don’t use that “stock” to make changes or plans for the future. This is where metacognition plays a key role. Simply put, metacognition is thinking about thinking. It includes:

  • becoming aware of how we learn (cognitive awareness),
  • monitoring our learning strategies and evaluating how well those learning strategies work (self-regulation), and
  • adapting our learning strategies when and if needed (Flavell, 1979).

In general, students who use metacognitive strategies (i.e., plans or techniques used to help students become more aware of what and how they know) tend to have higher performance than students who do not use metacognitive strategies (e.g., Ertmer & Newby, 1996; Lovett, 2008; Nett, Goetz, Hall, & Frenzel, 2012). One way to help students take stock and learn about metacognitive strategies is through a variation on the gallery walk, wherein you ask students to reflect on both their academic successes and failures.

First, introduce the concept of metacognition (including awareness, monitoring, and adaptation), and ask students to think about their academic successes and failures. Ask students to write responses to the following prompts on sticky notes:

Think about a time when…

  • you learned a lot. What did you do?
  • a writing assignment was particularly successful. What did you do to make it successful?
  • you performed particularly well on a test. How did you prepare?
  • you just didn’t “get it.” What were you doing at that moment?
  • a writing assignment failed. How did you work through the assignment?
  • you failed a test. How did you prepare?

Students place their responses to each prompt on separate charts (one chart per prompt) placed around the room. You (the instructor) facilitate a whole group conversation, walking from chart to chart (in essence, you’re taking a “gallery walk” with each chart a work of art). What are common characteristics across students’ successes? Their failures? What were the students doing in each of those situations? How are the characteristics related to awareness, monitoring, and adaptation? Through this process, students see a pattern in their collective academic successes and struggles.

Then, ask students, “Based on the gallery walk and what we’ve learned about metacognition, how will you plan differently for your next assignment/project/exam?” This final question could be addressed through a minute paper, a take-home assignment, or another chart in the gallery walk.

Resources:

Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J., (1996). The expert learner: Strategic, self-regulated, and reflective. Instructional Science, 24, 1–24.

Flavell, J. H. (1979). Metacognition and cognitive monitoring: A new area of cognitive-developmental inquiry. American Psychologist, 34, 906-911.

Lovett, M. C. (2008). Teaching metacognition. Paper presented at the annual EDUCAUSE meeting, Orlando, FL.

Nett, U. E., Goetz, T., Hall, N. C., & Frenzel, A. C. (2012). Metacognition and test performance: An experience sampling analysis of students’ learning behavior. Education Research International, 1-16.

 

Submitted by:
Freya Kinner, Instructional Developer
Coulter Faculty Commons
Western Carolina University
www.wcu.edu/academics/faculty/coulter-faculty-commons/index.asp

The following entry from the 2013-2014 Teaching Issues Writing Consortium: Teaching Tips was contributed by Emma Bourassa, Experiential Learning and Field Test Instructor
Vancouver Community College

————————————————————————————————————–

Here are a few ideas for encouraging critical thinking and self-reflection on learning that can be used during the semester as feedback on learning for the instructor.

At the beginning of the semester,

  1. Do a silent discussion.
  • Prepare single pieces of paper with a provocative statement or question about the content/concepts/focus of the course- one per student plus 5 extra.
  • Students take one paper, and write a response- agree, disagree, add to the idea or ask a question
  • Students return their paper to the pile, pick up a different one, read and respond. Allow for 4-5 rounds.

Then ask: “Why did I ask you to do that?” The purpose could be to have students start considering the course, modeling giving each student time to process and consider answers (especially if there is group discussions or assignments), and that you want to know where they are at so you can plan for their learning.

  1. During or after a concept introduction use images to probe students’ articulation of understanding

e.g. 1. Using Escher’s two head mobius, ask how does this relate to….(e.g. intercultural communication)?

e.g. 2. Using a variety of abstract images, ask students to: choose one or two images and relate them to … (e.g. theme of the story, group theory, complexity theory etc.)

Midterm, pre-final review

e.g. 1. Have students write possible questions for the quiz based on Bloom’s analysis, synthesis and evaluation (may need to be pre-taught). I have done this and it has provided immediate feedback as to student’s level of knowledge. I can then review what’s necessary or reteach if it wasn’t the outcome I wanted.

e.g. 2. Have students draw a picture of their learning and then explain in writing or orally depending on preference.

The biggest challenge with this kind of student activity is waiting as they need to have process time!

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