Here’s an archive where you can access all back issues of Teaching Tolerance Magazine. Additionally, educators can get a subscription to the magazine free.
CofC Weblog for EHHP Faculty
Here’s an archive where you can access all back issues of Teaching Tolerance Magazine. Additionally, educators can get a subscription to the magazine free.
Have your students requested that you provide them with your PPTs? Lecture outlines? Here’s a research-based must-read article from a couple of years ago by Maryellen Weimer from The Teaching Professor addressing the subject of providing notes for students in your classes.
Should Instructors Provide Students with Complete Notes? By Maryellen Weimer
Course management software programs make it especially easy for instructors to provide students with a set of complete lecture notes. It seems that more instructors are doing this, as witnessed in the regularity with which students ask that the instructor’s notes be posted. But is giving students a complete set of notes a good idea?
Previous findings (like those of Kenneth Kiewra, highlighted some years back in this newsletter) recommend against this practice. Kiewra’s research demonstrated both a process and a product benefit of note taking. The process benefit accrues when students make selections about what to note and when they use at least some of their own words to record that material. When students record lecture content using their words, it becomes easier for them to connect new material with things they already know. This process benefit is lost when students are provided with complete notes. Even so, students prefer teacher notes because they think that having the content in the instructor’s words will better prepare them for exam questions.
The product benefit of note taking obviously comes as a result of having a product, in this case a set of notes, that can be reviewed and studied subsequently. It is generally thought that instructor-provided notes enhance this benefit because students don’t have to worry about losing notes (they are always available online) and because the material in instructor-provided notes is sure to be accurate.
However, a recent study confirms Kiewra’s earlier findings—but with an interesting elaboration. In this study, psychology students received either a complete or a partial set of instructor notes. The partial notes included major headings and titles made up of definitions and concepts, but students needed to write in the additional information. In both cases, students were instructed to download the notes and bring them to class. About three-fourths of the students complied with this directive.
The researchers looked at the impact of the complete versus the partial notes on exam scores, final grades, and attendance. They found that those students who received partial notes performed better on the third and fourth exams and earned significantly higher course grades. They did not find “differential effects of note type on class attendance.” (p. 10)
There was one other “noteworthy” effect. On the final exam, the students who received partial notes performed better on conceptual questions, those questions that involved “application of a theoretical concept to an example that required additional mastery of the material beyond the definition.” (p. 8) Researchers speculate that the students with partial notes had encoded material throughout the semester, and when confronted with the large amount of material they needed to know for the final, they understood more and so had to rely less on memorization.
Based on their findings, these researchers recommend providing students with partial notes. Giving students some notes conveys the instructor’s sensitivity to their concerns about getting the material they need from a lecture. If those notes provide the outline or structure of the material, students can concentrate on understanding the information rather than on trying to figure out how to prioritize and organize the material. Partial notes also clarify what students need to be writing and still retain the process benefit of note taking by forcing students to encode some of the content. The researchers summarize their results this way: “Partial notes … may provide a nice balance in terms of providing students with some notes, which they report as helpful, and still requiring encoding and higher-level processing of information, which will ultimately improve learning and performance.” (p. 11)
Reference: Cornelius, T.L., and Owen-DeSchryver, J. (2008). Differential effects of full and partial notes on learning outcomes and attendance. Teaching of Psychology, 35 (1), 6-12.
Originally published in The Teaching Professor, June/July 2008
Can you believe we are looking toward midterms–where has time gone?
Have you ever felt that the first part of your course seems more exciting, easier to teach, and more motivational to your students than the second half? If so, Here are some great ideas to enliven the last part of your course so that the semester ends with meaning for both you and your students. This article was unearthed from the May 2008 issue of The Teaching Professor just for you.
End Notes: Distinctive Ways to Wrap-Up a College Course
By Margaret Walsh, Keene State College, New Hampshire
The ending of a course is worthy of greater attention than it typically receives. Endless time and energy are expended on crafting beautiful syllabi complete with assignment descriptions, an outline of topics and readings, and due dates. We have thoroughly ritualized the start of a new semester, but, typically somewhere between weeks 11 and 14, what seemed like reasonable plans are regretfully sidelined and we launch into catch-up overdrive. It is a time of high stress for teachers and students.
However, if you want students to remember your words, the influential ideas reflected in carefully selected readings, and the work they did to earn their grades, keep these tips in mind when considering the end of a course, whether you are creating a new course or revising an old one. They are ideas easily adapted to courses of different size and in different disciplines.
1. Catching up, reflections, and new directions
Avoid the end of semester crunch problem by putting an “open” date on your course outline. Building in time for catching up about two-thirds of the way through a course takes the pressure off at the end. If it turns out that you do not need the time, enrich the content with a lively discussion, a guest speaker, an in-class reading and writing session, or a timely film clip. Set aside time in the final class or two to reflect and connect knowledge learned through the entire course.
2. Class presentations: puff or powerful?
I overheard a student talking on his cell, saying that his classes were “done” except for presentations. His comment got me thinking. Ten-minute presentations by everyone in class can be an exciting time for the student presenting, but they can be a bore fest for the rest of the class. What are students doing while they are not making their own presentations? Make sure they are engaged listeners, interacting, taking notes, and genuinely learning from the experience.
There is nothing worse than sitting through amateur PowerPoint presentations. Give the students guidelines and resources for making effective presentations, show them by example, and reward creativity as well as content. Also, consider spacing the presentations so they don’t happen all at once. This makes it easier to thoughtfully integrate them into the readings or class content.
3. Class “products” may be suitable for public viewing.
Consider the possibility of creating a larger audience for student work. If students are producing new knowledge, are there others who might benefit from what your students have learned? Your campus outreach office might have ideas about audiences interested in the knowledge produced in your course. Set up a blog, compile an electronic newsletter, design an informational pamphlet, or find another low-cost alternative for sharing key findings of course research. Consult the institutional review board at your institution for approval. Involve students in all aspects of this work and ensure that they earn credit as authors.
4. Motivate students to keep a portfolio.
Portfolios are commonly used in graphic design, film, writing, and education. Other fields can adapt this way of preserving progress and showcasing representative work. Lead your students (especially advisees) to think about their papers as having a life beyond their immediate purpose. Crisp position papers can be used as writing samples for graduate school admission. Long after graduation, they are evidence of a student’s best work and serve as welcome reminders to professors asked to write a letter of recommendation for a new job prospect.
5. Plan a celebratory event with a take-home message.
Successfully completing a challenging course is a terrific reason to celebrate. When I was an undergraduate, one of my chemistry lab professors invited her class (about 20 students) to her home for dinner. We were treated to a delicious formal dinner, complete with china plates and crystal water glasses. I remember the entire evening, now more than 15 years later. Over the years I have tried to follow this shining example (OK—minus the crystal) at least once a year. We have celebrations in and out of class, and the conversation is as important as the food.
6. Suggest readings and resources for the future.
On the last day of class, hand out a list of suggested readings from your own bookshelf, along with a brief commentary on why you’re recommending them. Keep the students’ background and abilities in mind when making these lists. Give students books you cherish but no longer use (feel-good recycling). Distribute a carefully compiled list of campus or community organizations that will support their desire to learn more or do more. Create a blog where students can share their own suggestions, and keep it open awhile after the semester ends, to see if there is sustained interest in continuing the discussion. Last semester my students took the initiative to begin a book club, and they are reading new nonfiction on social inequality—some of which I may include next time I teach the course.
In sum, when you plan your courses, think about the last days as much as you think about the first days. Work to create memorable experiences that will stay with the students and fuel their continued learning like a good source of protein.
Contact Margaret Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On another note, please don’t forget to provide midterm grades for your students.Accurate feedback is valuable to students: it lets them know how they are really doing as opposed to how they think they are doing. These grades assist students in refocusing their efforts while there is still time to become engaged in your class or to ask for assistance in areas of weakness.
Quite often, we leave class and wonder how effective our lecture was. Did I talk too fast? Did I stop for questioning? Were my students taking notes or texting their friends? How difficult/new was the material? Here are some questions to ponder when planning the next lecture.
Notetaking: How are your lectures structured? Do you begin with an outline? How do you signal to your students what is and is not critical information? How do students prepare for your class/lecture?
Notetaking is not a skill that comes naturally; neither is it one that we gain by doing it a lot–badly. Spending a few minutes at the beginning of a course to explain how you lecture goes a long way to making even the first lectures meaningful learning experiences for your students.
Students want to know: Is your material a review of their assigned reading? If so, is it organized in the same way? Is it new/complementary material to assigned reading? What should they do to prepare for the lecture? How will you let your students know the key points (e.g.,”let me repeat that again,”). Do you have any notetaking tips for your students? Do you allow taping of your lectures? Should students copy what is on your PPT?
Content: How much of the lecture content is new material? What is the level of complexity? What have students learned earlier that relate to the new material? With what vocabulary must the students be familiar? Do you use a PPT or other presentation software?
Is your content complex? If so, how about relating it to prior learning, providing concrete examples, or asking the class to contribute an example to check for understanding? Are you planning appropriate pauses to ask for questions? Have you thought about pausing at critical points in your lecture and asking students to write for one minute about their understanding of what you just said, or write a question about what they just heard? How much material do you put on a presentation slide? The JOY OF SIX relates to good PPT use: no more than 6 lines per slide, no more than 6 words per line, and only key ideas and high points. Use the presentation software to include key points and visual examples to add to the understanding of your lecture. What about putting the key points of the presentation on VoiceThread and requiring students to provide audio, video, or written commentary and questions to help you gauge understanding.
These ideas are only the tip of the iceberg when considering good lectures. Stay tuned.
No, even with our best efforts at measuring our students’ learning precisely, we can’t be entirely accurate in assessment for a number of reasons. We can, however, alleviate measurement error. First, here are some ways we can lessen the “human error” in test takers. Next are some ideas for actively engaging in “good” assessment practices.
Directly from Free Technology for Teachers blog by Richard Byrne is an idea for locating music for student videos. Check out his blog for some fabulous tech for the classroom ideas.
“I always encourage people to use their own music creations in the videos they produce, but I recognize that that is not always possible or practical. My next recommendation then is to use Creative Commons licensed music (here are seven good sources). This morning through Pitchanan Gaysornmas I learned about another good place to search for and find Creative Commons music, the Vimeo Music Store.
“The Vimeo Music Store offers more than 45,000 music tracks. Not all of the tracks are free or Creative Commons licensed, but roughly one-third or more of them are. In the Vimeo Music Store you can search for music by genre, license type, price, and length.
“Applications for Education
The next time your students are developing multimedia projects for your class, have them take a look through the Vimeo Music Store to see if they can find a tune to enhance the message of their productions.”
Defining Active Learning
By Maryellen Weimer, PhD In Faculty Focus Online
There’s a definitional “looseness” about many of the terms commonly used in higher education. I know, I’ve written about this in previous blogs, but when terms are bandied about assuming everybody defines them similarly, that’s a recipe for misunderstanding. Equally important, we can be using terms without having done the intellectual homework necessary to precisely understand their referents.
Case in point: active learning. Not so long ago in a workshop discussion, I asked for definitions. I gave participants a couple of minutes to think or jot notes. Here’s some of what I got, “students doing” “activities that engage students” “passive learning is an oxymoron” “teaching that gets student involved with the content” “when students participate or do group work.” Although similar, I would say that all those descriptors are different. None of them are bad or wrong; most of them are pretty superficial when compared to a definition like the one for active learning that appears in The Greenwood Dictionary of Education.
Greenwood defines active learning as “The process of having students engage in some activity that forces them to reflect upon ideas and how they are using those ideas. Requiring students to regularly assess their own degree of understanding and skill at handling concepts or problems in a particular discipline. The attainment of knowledge by participating or contributing. The process of keeping students mentally, and often physically, active in their learning through activities that involve them in gathering information, thinking and problem solving.”
I’m not proposing this as the “right” “best” or “only” definition for active learning, but I am proposing that it’s a good deal more specific than most of us would offer. Now, if we sat down and thought about active learning, if we talked about it with colleagues, I’m pretty sure that the definitions we’d develop would rival this one. But my point is we can regularly use terms like this without having done that careful thinking.Carefully crafted learning experiences There are some things about this definition that I do like. Sometimes we think active learning is “activity for the sake of activity” without being mindful that it’s equally about what students are doing. According to this definition they are engaged in activities designed to encourage reflection, designed to confront them with their knowledge and skill levels and designed to get them interacting with information. That’s not just any old activity—that’s a carefully crafted learning experience.
Most faculty know that active learning is important even though many still lecture pretty much exclusively. Most will even go so far as to admit that students learn better when they are active, not passive. And almost all faculty report that they use active learning. But I’m hoping this discussion is making clear that there is active learning and then there is active learning.
Student engagement exists along a continuum. I think the Greenwood definition is active learning at a highly engaged and highly effective level. The nice thing about a continuum is that things can be moved along it. So, if you don’t have time at the moment to create one of those carefully crafted learning experiences, you can take an active learning strategy you currently use, say participation, and make it more active. You can do that by asking a good, thought provoking question, following it with 30 seconds of silence and follow that with two minutes during which students share their thoughts with each other before discussing the answer with the whole class.
Or, you could pause after presenting a chunk of content and tell students you don’t intend to proceed until they’ve asked at least two questions about the material. You might jot those questions on the board, type them into the computer and then let the class take a crack at answering. Write down the essence of their answers and then discuss the merits of their various replies.
FERPA and Social Media
By John Orlando, PhD
In Faculty Focus online
FERPA is one of the most misunderstood regulations in education. It is commonly assumed that FERPA requires all student coursework to be kept private at all times, and thus prevents the use of social media in the classroom, but this is wrong. FERPA does not prevent instructors from assigning students to create public content as part of their course requirements. If it did, then video documentaries produced in a communications class and shown on TV or the Web, or public art shows of student work from an art class, would be illegal. As one higher education lawyer put it:
“FERPA cannot be interpreted as building a total and complete wall between the school and the community. We would have really bad schools if that happened and very disengaged students. This is a good example of where the lawyers can’t get in the way of the learning. Podcasting is a fabulous learning tool. Digital storytelling, amazing. I love Voicethread, as do thousands of educators around the country. Sharing is an important part of learning and the ability to share has increased exponentially in the past couple decades. Some students right here in Kentucky are sharing with students in Brazil every day, for instance. FERPA cannot be extended to prohibit all of this sharing.” (Bathon, 2009)
FERPA was never intended to place students into the box of a physical or online classroom to prevent them from learning from the public. Rather, FERPA requires schools to maintain control over certain student records (Fryer, 2009). These records include medical information, social security numbers, and grades.
Some people think that students cannot release any personally identifiable student information, but this is also not true. There is a large category of personally identifiable student information that can be released as “directory information.” Moreover, colleges routinely post photos of sporting events, club activities, or lectures that contain personally identifiable images of students.
FERPA and Social Media FERPA applies only to information in the possession of the institution. This is an important point if instructors require students to post to a blog, social networking site, or any other site not affiliated with the institution. In this case, “the activity may not be FERPA-protected because it has not been received and therefore is not in the custody of the university, at least until the student submission is copied or possibly just reviewed by the faculty member.” (NC State FERPA Guidelines)
Policy Suggestions While it’s important to check with your own institution regarding FERPA policy guidelines, here are some policy suggestions culled from a variety of university sites for instructors who want to incorporate social media into their classrooms:
• When students are assigned to post information to public social media platforms outside of the university LMS, they should be informed that their material may be viewed by others.
• Students should not be required to release personal information on a public site.
• Instructor comments or grades on student material should not be made public. (Interestingly, grades given by other students on “peer-graded” work can be made public under FERPA). (ACE, 2008)
• While not clearly required by law, students under the age of 18 should get their parent’s consent to post public work.
FERPA does not forbid instructors from using social media in the classroom, but common sense guidelines should be used to ensure the protection of students.
American Council on Education, Letter on FERPA, May 8, 2008.
Justin Bathon, Controversial New FERPA Rules take Effect Next Week, EdJurist, December 30, 2008, (edjurist.com/blog/controversial-new-ferpa-rules-take-effect-next-week.html)
Justin Bathon, Keeping the Definition of Biometric Records Under Control, EdJurist, October 8, 2009, (edjurist.com/blog/keeping-the-definition-of-biometric-records-under-control.html)
Fryer, Unmasking the Digital Divide, (unmaskdigitaltruth.pbworks.com/w/page/7254094/ferpa)
NC State University FERPA Guidelines, (delta.ncsu.edu/teach/ferpa)
Norwich University FERPA Guidelines, (norwich.edu/academics/pdf/registrar/ferpa-compliance.pdf)
The Giving Tree
Through Open Culture The Giving Tree is available; the same film is available on YouTube. The video below is the animated short film narrated by Shel Silverstein. Share it with your students or yourself!
There are plenty of good places to find free ebooks online. Forgotten Books republishes thousands of classic works that are in the public domain. Forgotten Books offers all of their titles as free PDF downloads. If you desire a higher quality resolution for your PDFs, Forgotten Books offers those to their paying members. You can also order printed copies from Forgotten Books.
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