James M. Lang offers advice on shifting students’ attention to course content in his Chronicle article “Small Changes in Teaching: The First 5 Minutes of Class.” He notes that writing in class is a particularly effective form of engaging students: “Frequent, low-stakes writing assignments constitute one of the best methods you can use to solicit engagement and thinking in class… Let a writing exercise help you bring focus and engagement to the opening of every class session. Build it into your routine. Class has begun: time to write, time to think.”
Help students learn to identify the qualities of strong writing by “increas[ing] the volume and speed of peer review in class.” See the short tutorial below on how to use this strategy to provide global feedback.
On Monday afternoon, Lee McGaan led a workshop titled “Reflection as Metacognition” that presented some of his sabbatical research on how we can help students learn to be better learners. We talked about both how we can prepare students to perform well (by being more explicit about our goals) and how we can help them learn from their mistakes (by using strategies such as exam wrappers). The materials from the workshop, including Lee’s slides, are linked below.
Thank you to everyone who attended events for Cheri Simonds’ recent visit! Thanks especially to Lori Walters-Kramer for help co-hosting Cheri while she was here.
At 11:00, Cheri presented on “Guiding Effective Classroom Discussions.” She encouraged us to use Bloom’s Taxonomy to design reading guide questions (“Preparing to Participate,” or P2Ps) that would balance low level/low stakes comprehension questions with higher order questions that involve application, evaluation, and reflection. These questions, she argued, prepare students to succeed in a discussion-based classroom. In designing these questions, we should ask ourselves “How do I want my students to be thinking about this material before they come to class?”
In addition to promoting the value of being explicit with our students about our expectations for class preparation and active learning, Cheri also encouraged us to use assessments to help students self-evaluate their participation. For participation assessments, students keep a pocket folder with a worksheet that asks them to score their participation for that day and provide a rationale, along with their homework, to be collected at the end of class each day. This becomes an exercise not only in self-assessment but also in argumentation, as students justify and provide evidence of the score they claim to deserve. For a participation log, students keep a daily record of what they prepared before class and what they contributed during class; this log is collected with homework assignments at the midterm and end of the semester along with a short one-page paper making a case for what participation grade they deserve, again requiring them to provide evidence and justification for that grade. Examples of these self-assessments, along with sample P2Ps and other materials from Cheri, are linked in linked in this handout.
She also gave another tip to encourage students to ask questions: rather than asking “Do you have any questions?” she suggests asking instead “What questions do you have?” Cheri also talked about how things like the seating arrangement can shape students’ perception of expertise: by seating students in a semi-circle, for instance, it signals to students that they should listen to each other and that knowledge is co-constructed via discussion.
At 2:00, Cheri led a workshop on “Enhancing Classroom Climate through Communication Practices.” She emphasized three communication practices–immediacy, clarity, and credibility–as essential for student motivation and learning. These variables are relational (they are about how we build relationships with students) and perceptual (students must perceive a teacher as such in order to be effective). Together, we brainstormed ways that we can model these qualities to our students, and the potential benefits of doing so. Some highlights include:
play a “name game” on the first day of class and quiz students on each others’ names at the end of the first class period; one idea is to ask each student to tell a story (real or fictional) of their name.
check in with students about how they feel about assignments and due dates
Are you interested in exploring digital storytelling? Try Story Maps. Their website notes: “Story Maps let you combine authoritative maps with narrative text, images, and multimedia content. They make it easy to harness the power of maps and geography to tell your story.”
While having a tutor visit your class during the first week to make a pitch for the Writing Center is valuable, new research suggests that it is more effective to have tutors lead an active learning session; read more here. Here at Monmouth, we offer strike force visits: tutors will visit your class to lead small group peer review sessions on paper drafts. These sessions help students to give and receive constructive feedback, and it increases the chances that they will visit the Writing Center for future drafts or papers. To schedule a strike force visit for your class, contact Bridget.
Subscribing to the motto of “Learning to Communicate and Communicating to Learn,” CAC promotes the integration of communication skills (including writing, speaking, and listening) across campus, in both major and general education classes. It values communication as a way to facilitate developmental learning, active learning, integrated learning, and collaborative learning at Monmouth College. Students incrementally develop a variety of oral and written communication skills to engage course content actively, make strong arguments, and communicate effectively with academic and professional audiences.
We interpret communication as encompassing multiple forms of media, from a written text to an oral presentation to a video, image, or digital space. We value communication as meaningful for a wider public and an instrument of change in our community. We promote communication as a foundational element of a liberal arts education.
Contact Bridget Draxler firstname.lastname@example.org or 309-457-2167.