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Category Archives: Effective teaching

How to Build Learning Community in Blended, Online, and Face- to-Face Classes?

Today is the Faculty Learning Day at UniSIM…..

And the theme is about student engagement.

The first speaker is Prof John Boyer, speaking on Building Community in blended, online, and face- to-face teaching.

Here is my take-aways…

1) Engaging students is not getting students to react…..if you ask question and demand an answer, it is getting students to react….you want the students to be willingly engaged….

2) We need to make students think about the class before, during and long after….engagement is beyond the lecture time.

3) Student engagement is building community ….that is being together…helping and looking out for each other.

4) Student engagement is about collaborative work….real-world works in collaboration.

What we shoud/can do…is not force…
But we need to make the environment suitable, speak the  same language as the students….facilitate the communication ….and we can use the web 2.0/social media  tools to promote student engagement.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2012 in Effective teaching

 

Using itools in your classroom – voicethread

I have been missing in action for a while .. been busy… but I have been wanting to get back to my blog.

Have been learning new and interesting stuff. Here is a cool link that I want to share with you – check out this weblink – http://voicethread.com/- You will love it – if you can use multimedia in your classroom.

Voice thread allows you to make a presentation as well as collaborate. I have not used all the functions. I just tried out the presentation part- and here is a sample I made.

http://voicethread.com/?#u2260112.b2431680.i12869693

I am just so excited- btw, this was a make-believe class and make-believe lesson.

Why leaf structure- my late father used to keep talking about leaf structures- he had studied BSc Agriculture before venturing in to his MBA and moving to Banking a few decades ago.. and before he passed away of course. And that was still in my mind.

If you are wondering  where I got the pictures from, these are actually from the media library in voicethread.

Do feel free to leave your comments in the voicethread.

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2011 in Effective teaching

 

Providing Feedback to Students on Formative Assessments

WHAT TO FEEDBACK ON AND HOW MUCH TO FEEDBACK

The fundamental question we have to ask in providing feedback is “what are my learner’s needs?” If you are marking a formative assessment/assignment and you know who has submitted the assignment, a good starting point is to recap your students’ learning needs. For instance, some students need help in articulating their ideas- even if they know the concepts.  So observe your students, be familiar with them and their learning process and know what their needs are. Only then can you tailor meaningful feedback to your students. I know of colleagues who had a profile of each student – what sort of help the students needed, what their marks were in each assignment etc- all compiled in one excel sheet. Keeping track helps.

Once you know students’ learning needs and know what to look out for, you can tailor the message you want to deliver to the students. As you read through the students’ assignment, you will start formulating that one thing that you want your students to work on- It could be about improving spelling, it could be about learning how to organize the ideas, it could be about just handing in the work on time- You will have that one message to bring across to each student. And you know what- that is probably what is needed for a start. Then, you can also see if the student has managed to overcome an earlier challenge or if he/she needs a different kind of support. So in this case, the feedback could be seen as continuation of the previous feedback.

Now, some students could be way ahead, and you may realize that giving them detailed or extensive feedback is useful. In that case, go ahead and give them a detailed feedback. On the other hand, you may have a student who seems clueless. It may actually be better to meet up with the student in person and discover his/her needs and help him/her in their learning journey.

WHEN TO PROVIDE THE FEEDBACK

Timely feedback is important if we want the feedback to be meaningful. I have discussed this in one my comments earlier.

Giving back a feedback 2 weeks after assignment could mean that the students have forgotten about the assignment.  The longer we take to hand back the feedback, the likely chance that students could be more distant to the assignment. Hence the feedback may not be helpful when it is after an extended period of time. If there is an opportunity to discuss the feedback with the students, it would be even better. We could start with those who really need the help or who seem to be proactive in reaching out and seeking help.

Another aspect of promptness could be in the way we give/write down the feedback. We don’t need to wait till the end of the assignment to give a feedback summary. We could give the feedback in the margins as we mark. This immediacy in feedback will help students to learn as they scroll through the marked assignment.

HOW TO PROVIDE THE FEEDBACK?

One last question we will discuss today is how to provide the feedback- should we be honest? And tell the student that the work was bad? Well, we should be honest- but we do not have to be brutal. Telling the student that the work was bad does not help the student- It does not motivate the student. And it does not bring the student to the next level. If the student had known how to work on what he had to, he/she would have most likely done that already! If  we as teachers think that the issue is that of attitude, then that is what we should be working on (and not the assignment).

Telling the student to change the attitude is probably not going to be as effective as understanding the reasons for the attitude. I can hear some saying that “But, it is too time consuming.”  Yes, I agree with you. Hence it is important to identify the real problem/issue in providing feedback. Otherwise it becomes a case of giving the right medicine for the wrong sickness. Also, we need to ask if symptomatic treatment is sufficient or the diagnosis and treatment of root cause is needed. In this process, we may realize that we may not be able to treat the situation at our end!

Now, is it possible to provide a honest feedback that is motivating? My answer will be “yes, if the feedback is objective and in positive tone using encouraging words.” In providing constructive feedback, we can outline what was good, why it was good, what could be improved and how it could be improved, instead of just focusing on what needs to be improved. And remember to focus on the assignment – the feeback is on the assignment – not the student.

One way of packaging the comments is using the sandwich priciple of starting with what was good in the assignment and why, followed by what needs to be improved and how to improved, finishing off with the overall comments in encouraging words.

And yes, even if students had done well, it will be helpful to let the student know why the work was excellent.

So here is a quick summry of the various points discussed in providing feedback.

Before you start

  • Know your students’ learning needs
  • Know what is expected in the assignment – assigment rubrics/ learning outcomes (not mentioned but assumed this to be true)
  • Ensure feedback is timely

As you mark and write your feedback

  • Address student’s learning needs
  • Addess the real issue
  • Focus on the assignment (not the student)
  • Start with one key aspect that needs improvent
  • Provide feedback in context
  • Provide honest feedback
  • Provide objective feedback (outline the strength and the weakness)
  • Explain
  • Show students how to improve
  • Be positive
  • Use Sanwich principle

If you have any other suggestions, do share with us 🙂

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2011 in Effective teaching, Providing Feedback

 

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The Poison in One Line Comments/Feedback

As a student, how many of us have gotten back compositions or assignments with red underlines and just the marks, with minimal comments such as “Needs improvement” or “Could have done better” or “Great job”.

I am sure that many of us would have received such comments. And what do we normally do? Take a look at the marks and comments, purse our lips and file the paper. And the same routine will be repeated for the next assignment.

But wait! What is the purpose of the red underlines? What is the purpose of the grades? Why are we going through this routine?

Students need to ask themselves why they are getting what they are getting and most importantly, teachers would have to ask the same too- but slightly rephrased. What is the purpose of drawing the red underlines? What is the purpose of giving some grades? The answer is that “we want our students to learn.” Fair enough.

But  it is not enough to just say, “Needs improvement” or  “Could have done better” or “Great job”. We need to actually help the student realize what he/she needs to improve and how to improve. If we as teachers are not able to articulate what is needed to be improved in our students’ work, how can we expect our students to know it on their own?

It is imperative that we not only help our students identify what is wrong with their work , but that we also help them understand how they could improve their work. On the other hand, it is also essential to help our students understand what they had done well and why.

Next post, we will see some strategies to provide useful feedback.

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2011 in Effective teaching, Providing Feedback

 

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Feedback and Evaluation: Are they the same?

Feedback is known to be important for learning. It is generally agreed that giving effective feedback is an essential teaching skill for all teachers. However, teachers  tend to evaluate than provide feedback. Here is a very informative video from You Tube which details how feedback compares with evaluation.

 
 

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Questioning Skills to Engage Students

Here is something on Questioning Skills.

It was published in Faulty Focus

http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/questioning-skills-to-engage-students/

Questioning skills are essential to good teaching. Teachers often use questions to ensure that students are attentive and engaged, and to assess students’ understanding. What is important to note is that in addition to the intent of the question, the question itself matters. For instance, to ensure that students are attentive, a teacher could ask the students “Are you listening?” To assess if the students have understood, the teacher could ask “Do you follow me?”

However, students may say “Yes, I am listening” or “Yes, I have understood” simply to avoid embarrassment. Compare these simple questions with those that ask students to summarize what was discussed or ask the students for their opinions on what was said. The difference is that although the intent of the questions remains the same as before, the indirect, open-ended questions allow for divergent thinking. Such questions enable the teacher to more accurately evaluate if the students truly were attentive and if they have understood the material. In addition, open-ended questions motivate students to share their ideas, thereby allowing active, collaborative learning to take place. This illustrates the need to be able to ask the right sort of questions to engage students.

Questions that tap higher level thinking
One of the commonly used questioning techniques is to employ the 5W and 1H questions: Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. While this questioning technique is useful to some extent, most of the 5W questions tend to be close ended and elicit factual responses. Although factual responses are necessary, as good teachers we need to promote higher level thinking skills as well. One way to address this would be to use Bloom’s taxonomy of thinking skills as a guideline to ask questions. The following table gives some examples. For instance, to test if a student is able to evaluate what has been learned, the teacher could ask the student to critique a hypothetical problematic situation.

Skill Sample Prompts Purpose Level
Creating design, construct, plan, produce combine elements into a new pattern or product Higher
Evaluating check, critique, judge, hypothesize, conclude, explain judge or decide according to a set of criteria Higher
Analyzing compare, organize, cite differences, deconstruct break down or examine information Higher
Applying implement, carry out, use, apply, show, solve apply knowledge to new situations Lower
Understanding describe, explain, estimate, predict understand and interpret meaning Lower
Remembering recognize, list, describe, identify, retrieve, name memorize and recall facts Lower

 

One of the goals of teaching is not only to evaluate learning outcomes but also to guide students on their learning process. Hence it is important that as teachers we question students’ thinking and learning process. To this end, we could ask students to explain how they arrived at their conclusion answer and in doing so, what sort of resources they had used and whether the resources had provided sufficient evidence etc.

Going one step further it would be really engaging and motivating for the students (as well as the teacher) to have the whole class participate in a discussion, which would allow cross fertilization of ideas. This is in contrast to having a one-to-one, teacher to student question-answer session in the class. To initiate a class discussion, a good starting point would be to pose a question or make a statement that would elicit divergent responses, which could then be used to build further lines of discussions. In this case, planning the type of questions ahead of class would help to ensure that discussion is managed well within the allotted time.

To plan the questions, it is not just the type of questions that is important, but also the timing, sequence and clarity of questions. Answering takes time to think and it is therefore necessary to give students sufficient waiting time before going on to modify the question or asking other students to respond. If a student is not able to answer, then it is necessary to understand if the issue is with the clarity of the question. In that case, one could rephrase the question or try to understand which aspect of the question is difficult for the student and why. If the question is too difficult for the student due to lack of prior knowledge, it may be useful to ask a more factual question to bridge the gap and help lead the student toward the solution.

Overall, as teachers, we  need to not only have a clear intent for questioning, but we need to also learn to ask the right questions. To guide students on the learning process, it is essential to question on learning outcome (content) as well as students’ thinking and learning processes.

References
Table adapted from the Ohio Department of Education, Instructional Management System.

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2011 in Effective teaching

 

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Seven Principles of Good Practices in Teaching and Learning

As part of the teaching and learning community, you might have pondered about what may be considered as good practices of teaching and learning in higher education. Here is what Chickering and Gamson (1991) have distilled from the past 50 year of literature on teaching and learning. The seven principles of good practice in teaching and learning are

“1. Encourages Contact Between Students and Faculty (constructive and collaborative)Frequent student-faculty contact in and out of classes is the most important factor in student motivation and involvement. Faculty concern helps students get through rough times and keep on working. Knowing a few faculty members well enhances students’ intellectual commitment and encourages them to think about their own values and future plans.2. Develops Reciprocity and Cooperation Among Students (constructive and collaborative)Learning is enhanced when it is more like a team effort that a solo race. Good learning, like good work, is collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated. Working with others often increases involvement in learning. Sharing one’s own ideas and responding to others’ reactions sharpens thinking and deepens understanding.

3. Encourages Active Learning (engaged/active learning)

Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves.

4. Gives Prompt Feedback (reflective)

Knowing what you know and don’t know focuses learning. Students need appropriate feedback on performance to benefit from courses. When getting started, students need help in assessing existing knowledge and competence. In classes, students need frequent opportunities to perform and receive suggestions for improvement. At various points during college, and at the end, students need chances to reflect on what they have learned, what they still need to know, and how to assess themselves.

5. Emphasizes Time on Task (self-directed)

Time plus energy equals learning. There is no substitute for time on task. Learning to use one’s time well is critical for students and professionals alike. Students need help in learning effective time management. Allocating realistic amounts of time means effective learning for students and effective teaching for faculty. How an institution defines time expectations for students, faculty, administrators, and other professional staff can establish the basis of high performance for all.

6. Communicates High Expectations (self-directed)

Expect more and you will get more. High expectations are important for everyone — for the poorly prepared, for those unwilling to exert themselves, and for the bright and well motivated. Expecting students to perform well becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when teachers and institutions hold high expectations for themselves and make extra efforts.

7. Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning (reflective)

There are many roads to learning. People bring different talents and styles of learning to college. Brilliant students in the seminar room may be all thumbs in the lab or art studio. Students rich in hands-on experience may not do so well with theory. Students need the opportunity to show their talents and learn in ways that work for them. Then they can be pushed to learn in new ways that do not come so easily.”

From http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/7princip.htm

Reference: Chickering, A.W., and Gamson, Z.F. (1991). Applying the Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. New Directions for Teaching and Learning. Number 47, Fall 1991. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc.

The basis of these 7 principles is that learning is constructive, collaborative, self-directed, active/engaged and reflective.

Ok, so we know that these are the good practices. As faculty, how do we incorporate these good practices in our teaching? Joseph R. Codde, Ph.D., Professor and Director – Educational Technology Certificate Program of Michigan State University provides exemplars of strategies he uses in his teaching. Read through for some ideas that you can incorporate as well.

1.    GOOD PRACTICE ENCOURAGES STUDENT — FACULTY CONTACT

  • I know my students by name.
  • I make a point to talk with my students on a personal level and learn about their educational and career goals.
  • I seek out my students who seem to be having problems with the course or miss class frequently.
  • I advise my students about career opportunities in their major field.
  • I share my past experiences, attitudes, and values with students.
  • I serve as a mentor and informal advisor to students. 

2.     GOOD PRACTICE ENCOURAGES COOPERATION AMONG STUDENTS

  • Beginning with the first class, I have students participate in activities that encourage them to get to know each other.
  • I use collaborative teaching and learning techniques.
  • I encourage students to participate in groups when preparing for exams and working on assignments.
  • I create “learning communities,” study groups, and project teams within my courses.
  • I serve as a mentor and informal advisor to students. 

 3.     GOOD PRACTICE COMMUNICATES HIGH EXPECTATIONS

  • I encourage students to excel at the work they do.
  • I give students positive reinforcement for doing exemplary work.
  • I encourage students to work hard in class.
  • I tell students that everyone works at different levels and they should strive to put forth their best effort, regardless of what level that is.
  • I help students set challenging goals for their own learning.
  • I publicly call attention to excellent performance by students.
  • I revise my courses to challenge students and encourage high performance.
  • I work individually with students who are poor performers to encourage higher levels of performance.
  • I encourage students not to focus on grades, but rather on putting for their best effort. 

4.   GOOD PRACTICE EMPHASIZES TIME ON TASK

  • I expect my students to complete their assignments promptly.
  • I clearly communicate to my students the minimum amount of time they should spend preparing for class and working on assignments.
  • I help students set challenging goals for their own learning.
  • I encourage students to prepare in advance for oral presentations.
  • I meet with students who fall behind to discuss their study habits, schedules, and other commitments.
  • If students miss my class, I require them to make up lost work. 

 5.     GOOD PRACTICE ENCOURAGES ACTIVE LEARNING

  • I ask students to present their work to the class.
  • I ask my students to relate outside events or activities to the subjects covered in my courses.
  • I encourage students to challenge my ideas, the ideas of other students, or those presented in readings or other course materials.
  • I give my students concrete, real-life situations to analyze.
  • I encourage students to suggest new readings, projects, or course activities. 

 6.     GOOD PRACTICE ENCOURAGES ACTIVE LEARNING

  • I give students immediate feedback on class activities.
  • I return exams and papers within one week/given time period for marking.
  • I give students evaluations of their work throughout the semester.
  • I give my students written comments on their strengths and weaknesses on class assignments.
  • I discuss the results of class assignments and exams with students and the class. 

 7.     GOOD PRACTICE RESPECTS DIVERSE TALENTS AND WAYS OF LEARNING

  • I encourage students to speak up when they do not understand.
  • I use diverse teaching activities and techniques to address a broad range of students.
  • I select readings and design activities related to the background of my students.
  • I provide extra material or activities for students who lack essential background knowledge or skills.
  • I integrate new knowledge about women, minorities, and other under-represented populations into my courses.
  • I have developed and use learning contracts and other activities to provide students with learning alternatives for my courses.
  • I encourage students from different races and cultures to share their viewpoints on topics discussed in class.
  • I use collaborative teaching and learning techniques and pair students with lesser abilities with students with greater abilities. 

 Reference: Joseph R. Codde, Michigan State University. https://www.msu.edu/user/coddejos/seven.htm

I had first published  this article as on an e-Post at SIM univeristy.

 

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