The Writing Center will be closed during spring break. It will be closed during Thursday, March 3rd, until Sunday, March 13th. It will reopen Monday, March 14th at 3pm.
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.”
The Writing Center will reopen Sunday, January 17th at 7pm.
Check out this special issue of The Basic Writing eJournal on Basic Writing, Community Engagement, and Interdisciplinarity.
Is it worth printing your paper prompts in strange colors and fonts? Research is divided, but you can read this 2011 article “Fortune Favors the Bold” to learn more about the disfluency effect.
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.
Reflection as Metacognition [slideshow]
Other resources on metacognition:
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
- give students thorough and timely feedback
- make your office cozy and inviting
- see James McCrosky’s immediacy scales
- be prepared, organized, and on time
- be fair and trustworthy, and follow through on your commitments
- hold yourself to the same high standards (academic, ethical, etc) that you hold students accountable to
- admit your mistakes
- convey to students that you have their best interests in mind
- preview and summarize key ideas, and connect daily class activities to previous and upcoming lessons
- provide handouts that help students break down tasks like reading, writing, and studying into steps they can follow
- give students rubrics/criteria for evaluation and models of A and C quality work, and discuss both together when assignments are given
- tell students the goals of each assignment: how it fits the class, why it is worth doing, and how it applies to their life broadly