teaching is difficult, involving a complex set of decisions May 22, 2019

On Diets, Politics, and Faculty Development

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In the world of diets, movements are the thing that sells…Vegan, Paleo, Whole 30, Keto, and, now, Carnivore (…seriously, it’s a thing). Yet, upon closer inspection, many of these diets perform similarly in the long run, which is to say they perform underwhelmingly. When a dieter fails to get the pseudoscientific benefits promised, they are likely to blame themselves. They relapsed, cheated, or otherwise failed to follow instructions (succumbing to the fate of being an imperfect human being). It is less likely that we question the diet. Instagram before and after posts abound. Diets can put people in a bind: why won’t this work for me? Given the gap between basic principles (eat your vegetables, less processed foods) and the dos and don’ts of diets, it’s worth asking what value diets add to our lives.


engage students with cue-do-review April 8, 2019

Recipe for Teaching: Cue-Do-Review

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When a family gathers around the table to share a meal, the one who prepared and served the fare most likely spent time pondering the recipes, considering the meal’s consumers, and selecting the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables. As in the kitchen, so it is in the classroom. Faculty also ponder content, consider the lesson’s recipients, and select the right balance of lecture, group processing, and independent demonstration of competence. We decide upon our objectives for the lesson and we build our processes around the objectives, seeking to ensure that we reach everyone in our classrooms, online or face to face.


Blooms Lifelong learning February 20, 2019

From Summiting Bloom’s to Promoting Lifelong Learning

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Bloom’s Taxonomy has long been regarded as the holy grail in leading students through a process of content mastery. The traditional journey begins with imparting information to learners and finds its apex in enabling learners to evaluate and assess knowledge claims. In theory, each step of the journey to mastery builds on prior steps.



December 5, 2018

Backward Design, Forward Progress

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Readers of Faculty Focus are probably already familiar with backward design. Most readily connected with such researchers as Grant Wiggins, Jay McTighe, and Dee Fink, this approach to course construction asks faculty to initially ignore the specific content of a class. Rather, the designer begins the process by identifying desired learning goals, and then devising optimal instruments to measure and assess them. Only thereafter does course-specific content come into play—and even then, it is brought in not for the sake of “covering” it, but as a means to achieve the previously identified learning objectives. Courses designed this way put learning first, often transcend the traditional skillset boundaries of their discipline, and usually aim to achieve more ambitious cognitive development than do classes that begin—and often end —with content mastery as the primary focus. Although the advantages of backward design are manifest, it’s probably still the exception to, rather than the rule of, course planning.


faculty development July 23, 2018

Flexible Faculty Development Opportunities

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One of the most persistent challenges for instructional designers is finding a convenient time to schedule faculty development training sessions. If scheduled during the summer, the workshop is subject to poor attendance because faculty are preparing for the fall. If it is scheduled in the fall, teaching responsibilities and committee work can impede professional development attendance. The same holds true for the spring semester.


learning objectives May 2, 2018

Learning Objectives: Where We Start and Where We End

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On the surface, learning objectives don’t seem all that complicated. You begin with an objective or you can work backwards from the desired outcome. Then you select an activity or assignment that accomplishes the objective or outcome. After completion of the activity or assignment, you assess to discover if students did in fact learn what was proposed. All that’s very appropriate. Teachers should be clear about what students need to know and be able to do when a course ends. But too often that’s where it stops. We don’t go any further in our thinking about our learning objectives. There’s another, more challenging, set of questions that also merit our attention.