HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
Researchers Daniel Smith and Thomas Valentine begin by making an important point. At two-year colleges “the classroom serves as the epicenter of involvement.” (p. 134) The same could be said for commuter campuses as well. Students who attend two-year colleges often do so part-time and regularly do so combining school with work, family, and a host of other responsibilities. The same can increasingly be said of many students who commute to campus to take classes. At many institutions students now spend considerably less time on campus, and so if they are to be engaged with academic life, that involvement pretty much begins and ends in the classroom. So, are faculty using instructional techniques that do involve students in the classroom?
“Inquiry-based learning is an umbrella term, encompassing a range of teaching approaches which involve stimulating learning with a question or issue and thereby engaging learners in constructing new knowledge and understandings.” (p. 57) Teachers who use these approaches act as facilitators of learning. Students start becoming more self-directed learners. A hodgepodge of approaches gets put under this umbrella, including case-based learning; problem-based learning; and discovery-oriented learning, which involves undertaking original research.
As educators, we share the challenge of how to teach an overwhelming amount of content in a short period of time to a sometimes motivated but often bored and listless student population. I do believe that most students enter higher education with a true desire to master their subject area. Some are even interested in learning for the sake of learning. But lectures overloaded with PowerPoint slides quickly change the motivation to extrinsic. This is especially true in fields where high-stakes testing determines future career options.
I dread the moments when I look out into a classroom and see a collection of blank stares or thumbs clicking on tiny keypads: a pool of disengaged students, despite what I thought was a student-centered activity. Recently, I have been considering how teachers (me specifically) undermine our own efforts to engage students.
My recent foray into using MP3s to teach college level English classes came out of my need to reach more of my non-traditional students. I saw a trend developing where more adults than ever were seeking a college education or even returning to college to change careers, and it only followed that I had a responsibility as an instructor to try and reach these students. It also became apparent in my classroom that I wanted to not only reach, but to retain these non-traditional students who seemed to become easily frustrated with the more traditional lecture and textbook methods.
It will probably not shock any instructor to learn that students cram for exams. What may be a bit surprising is the percentage of students who do: somewhere between 25 percent and 50 percent, depending on the study. In the research reported in the article referenced below, approximately 45 percent of students admitted to cramming.
In their new book, Designing Effective Assessment: Principles and Profiles of Good Practice, Trudy Banta, Elizabeth Jones, and Karen Black provide assessment profiles from a wide variety of institutions and units. In advance of her online seminar titled Principles and Profiles of Good Practice in Assessment. Dr. Banta answered questions about the book and some of the topics she will discuss next week’s seminar.
Thanks to new technologies of brain imaging and major breakthroughs in cognitive research, neuroscientists now know more about the functioning of the human brain than ever. This new knowledge should help us revolutionize our teaching methods, but what about those of us who can’t tell a hippocampus from a hippopotamus? As an English professor whose gray matter has frequently proved more or less impervious to scientific discourse, I decided to tackle this challenge head-on, so to speak. Here are some of my findings, along with their implications for teaching and learning…