Archive for the ‘Effective Classroom Management’ Category

Can We Teach Students How to Pay Attention?

Friday, June 19th, 2015

students paying attention

Ineed to start out by saying that the article I’m writing about here isn’t for everyone. It’s not like any pedagogical piece I have ever read, and I’ve read quite a few. My colleague Linda Shadiow put me onto it, and although the article may not have universal appeal, the topic it addresses concerns faculty pretty much everywhere. How do we get students to pay attention? Their attention spans are short and move quickly between unrelated topics. Can we teach them how to pay attention? Is there value in trying to do so?

Author Anne McCray Sullivan, who was teaching in Florida when the article was published, writes, “My autobiography is largely an autobiography of attention—learning it, teaching it, discovering its role in research. It’s a story that began when I was very young.” (p. 212) Sullivan’s mother was a marine biologist who regularly took her daughter on outings to collect and study specimens. Sullivan did not follow in her mother’s footsteps. She’s a writer and a poet. The article includes nine of her poems, most of them describing her mother at work. The poems and article explore what Sullivan learned about attention, mostly from her mother.

We pay attention at different levels—from sort of focusing on something to giving it full, undivided attention, an intensely focused concentration that obliterates all but the relevant details. I am a knitter, and I always try to have on my needles at least one complicated knitting project. Right now that happens to be a Cookie A sock pattern, done in the round on four very small needles. I tackle these projects first thing in the morning, when the coffee and I are fresh. I count stitches, inspect what I’ve done, move the markers, find mistakes, fix them, finish a round, and start the next one. It requires serious mental effort—the kind I hope will prevent Alzheimer’s. Suddenly my husband shows up. It’s time for breakfast, and my coffee is cold.

by .

Read more @

Getting the Most out of Guest Experts Who Speak to Your Class

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

guest speaker in clasroom

Inviting guest speakers into your classroom is a classic teaching strategy. Welcoming other voices into the classroom provides students with access to other perspectives, adds variety to the classroom routine, and demonstrates that learning is a collaborative enterprise. At the same time, however, presentations by guest experts are often plagued by a variety of design flaws that hinder their educational effectiveness. Guest experts, being unfamiliar with the mastery level of the students in the class, may speak over the heads of the students, or they may present their material at a level that is inappropriately introductory. Because they are generally unfamiliar with the class curriculum, they may repeat information that the students have already learned, or their comments may not connect in any clear way with what the students already know and what they are currently learning.

Miscommunication between the guest expert and the host professor, furthermore, may result in the guest’s presentation running either too short or, more commonly, too long. Despite these hurdles, the increasingly collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of higher education makes the kind of partnerships represented by guest-expert arrangements more important than ever. With a little extra preparation, professors can increase the likelihood of a productive guest expert experience.

Typically, professors may invest weeks of effort into scheduling a guest speaker, but less effort into arranging their classroom activities so that the speaker’s appearance will further the curricular objectives of the course. When professors invite guest experts into their classrooms, they tend to conceptualize the arrangement as a compartmentalized event that stands outside of the regular current of class activity. The block of time scheduled for the guest tends to represent a break from the class schedule, rather than an essential part of the course material. As a result, the guest’s contributions are not as impactful as they might be if steps were taken to ensure that some degree of alignment were achieved between the curriculum and the speaker. The following strategies may help professors optimize the value of guest experts whom they invite to address their students.

by .

Read more @

Strategies for Addressing Student Fear in the Classroom

Monday, May 4th, 2015

shy student150407

Upon setting foot in the classroom at the beginning of the semester, many students experience varying degrees of anxiety or fearfulness. As educators, we often sense nervousness among our pupils as we introduce ourselves and hand out copies of the course syllabus to review. Most students settle in shortly, but some may remain consistently fearful. Is it possible that their high levels of fear negatively affect their ability to learn in the classroom from week to week? In this article, we discuss the role of debilitating fear in some students’ lives and identify ways that educators can help them attain success despite their anxiety.

Humans normally experience fear starting at an early age, and as we grow older, we develop resources to manage and overcome this feeling. Those who believe they are physically inadequate, for example, may work hard to excel in sports and other socially-sanctioned activities. After many years of schooling, however, some develop ongoing or chronic feelings of worry and apprehension, and this constant fear can hinder learners’ attempts to understand the information that is required for academic success. Here are some examples of ways in which students experience fear in the classroom:

  • They are overly fearful of their performance due to the perceived threat of failure. Even temporary successes are overshadowed by the apprehension of washing out on the next assignment or test.

by : .

Read more @

Maximize In-Class Time by Moving Student Presentations Online.

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

As a faculty member, I am always challenged with finding pedagogical techniques that allow my students to connect with course content, each other, and myself in new and interesting ways. Student presentations can help achieve this goal, but they require a wealth of time for each student to present and get immediate feedback from peers and the instructor. Some classes are so large that in-class presentations may not be feasible at all. Or, if you are a faculty member who is not on a block schedule, you would have to use several of your 50-minute class sessions to allow each student a chance to present his or her work. What’s more, some students have a difficult time listening to dozens of peer presentations in one sittings and may tune out after the first few presentations.

After facing all of these issues, I sought out other options that would allow for quality student presentations, but did not take up too much valuable in-class time. The answer for me is virtual student presentations, which allow students to research scholarly literature related to course content, present their findings, and receive peer feedback; all outside of class time. With virtual presentations, students can not only connect with content, the instructor, and each other; but they can also build their capacity to leverage technology to impact their learning.

Here are the four steps to implementing virtual presentations:

Step 1: Work with students on a presentation topic. Typically, I have students research a specific course-related topic already covered in class with the intention that they will develop a deeper level of expertise. Students also can use these presentations to flesh out content that is mentioned in the course textbook, but is not written about in detail. Either way, the topic should connect to course objectives and content in an intentional way, as well as provide students the opportunity to choose a topic that interests them. Once a topic has been determined, you must choose a distinct purpose for the presentation. I have had students synthesize and explain the findings of several research articles, as well as discuss how they plan to use the information in future practice

by Stephanie Smith Budhai, PhD.

Read more @

Advice for Teachers: Dare to Be Strict

Monday, August 4th, 2014

In “Good Teaching as Vulnerable Teaching” (The Teaching Professor, December 2012), Rob Dornsife of Creighton University invites us to embrace the uncertainties teachers encounter. The article prompted me to invite colleagues also to embrace being strict when the conditions warrant it.

For two decades I have taught 150- to 200-student sections of introductory financial management to majors in all business programs, plus business minors from diverse fields. Although the course has its fans—some even change their majors to finance each semester—many students find the material daunting, become distracted, and behave in ways that impede the learning of others along with their own. Distractions always have lurked in college classrooms; texters and Web surfers are merely the note passers and campus newspaper readers of the digital age.

My syllabus, therefore, stresses the expectation that those enrolled will attend class regularly, remain attentive, and refrain from conversing, napping, or doing things unrelated to what we are discussing. I am convinced that most students support these policies based on the many who have thanked me over the years for making classroom order a priority. They report that some instructors do not admonish disruptors, leaving frustrated victims to bear that awkward task themselves or suffer silently. It makes sense that serious students would endorse these guidelines. What might be surprising are examples of reactions from some of the offenders that I’ve confronted.

by Joseph W. Trefzger, PhD

Advice for the First Day of Class: Today We Will

Friday, August 16th, 2013

The first day of class is critical. What happens on the first day, even in the first moments, sets the tone for the entire course. The impression you make will last the entire semester, and today’s students are not shy about sharing their opinions. Most students will make up their minds about the course and the instructor during that first class period.

That is why you must use the first day, the first moments of class, to inspire confidence in your abilities and create a classroom atmosphere where the rules are clear; expectations are high; and yet students feel welcome, comfortable, and engaged.

Remember that your classroom will develop its own distinct environment and culture. If you don’t make a concerted effort to set the tone, the students will. Most everyone has been in or in front of a class with an adversarial dynamic, yet no one wants to feel at odds with students. A tense, disorganized, or, worse, hostile atmosphere interferes with your pedagogy and impedes student learning. It wastes time and disengages students. It leads to poor evaluations. Moreover, it is unnecessary and easily avoidable.


Read more @

10 Teaching Practices every 21st Century Teacher should do.

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

Teaching is not only a job but is a way of life.It is a sublime task one can ever be entrusted with. Teachers educate generations of learners and in their hands lays  the faith of any nation. A well developed country is a country whose citizens are well educated and this is done only by effective teaching strategies.

Teachers have also their peaks and valleys, happy moments and sad times. A small conjugal problem can severely affect how a teacher perform in the classroom. Teaching is such a sensitive job that embodies the entire societal, intellectual, and cultural values and being an effective teacher is a challenge that every single player in this field recognizes as the most daunting task.

Leading a successful teaching job requires a high sense of adaptability, for what used to be a successful teacher in the 20th century is now an outdated teacher in the 21st century. Most of us, who are still practising,  have  started with a certain teaching strategy only to end up with a complete different one. Teaching is a job that is extremely prone to every bit of change in society and unless we equip ourselves and our students with the right swimming suit we will definitely be swept away by the power of torrents.

One of the pivotal  facts we should keep in mind is that we teach in a different milieu, a digitally focused environment where technology has the lion’s share. This means that we need the relevant digital  skills  that can help us seamlessly blend in  and leverage the power of technology to improve both teaching and learning. This list of 21st century digital skills every educator should have will empower you with the right tools to start with.

Read more @

Tough Questions on Texting in the Classroom

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

It’s time we started exploring some of the tough questions on texting. The May issue of The Teaching Professor newsletter contains highlights from a survey of almost 300 marketing majors about their texting in class. The results confirm what I’m guessing many of us already suspect. A whopping 98% of the students reported that they had texted some time during the term in which the data was collected. They did so for an unimpressive set of reasons, the most popular being “I just wanted to communicate.” Fifty-six percent of the cohort said they were currently taking a class in which the teacher banned texting. Forty-nine percent said they texted anyway.

As I note in The Teaching Professor, this article is a great resource. It contains references to other studies documenting the use of texting and cell phones in college classes, and it features an excellent discussion of the physiological reasons why the human brain is not good at multitasking, despite the fact 47% of the students in this survey believe they can text and follow a lecture at the same time.

However, the real value of this research is that the findings and the authors raise tough questions about texting. Does it make sense to ban texting if students ignore the ban and teachers back away from enforcing it? Can a ban be enforced? How about in a large course, can it be enforced then? Should it be enforced? The researchers note that at one time most faculty objected when students brought food and drink into class and now that’s accepted in many classrooms. What are the costs of enforcing a “no texting” policy? Public altercations with students that erode the climate for learning in the classroom? But texting itself erodes the learning atmosphere of classroom, doesn’t it?


Read more @

Exploring the Impact of Institutional Policies on Teaching

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Here are three questions of interest to those of us concerned with institutional support of teaching:

  1. Is the strength of an institution’s “culture of teaching” or policy support for teaching and learning reflected in faculty members’ pedagogical practices?
  2. Are “cultures of teaching” more prevalent at institutions with “learner centered” policies?
  3. Do the relationships between institutional policies, faculty cultures, and teaching practices differ across institutional types?

Those questions were addressed in a recent study. Definitions of key terms help in understanding the findings. A “teaching culture” involves a “shared commitment to teaching excellence and meaningful assessment of teaching.” (p. 809) The larger goal of this inquiry was to determine whether institutional policies can be used to create cultures for teaching on a campus and then whether those cultures might encourage faculty to use effective pedagogical practices. To that end, they considered 18 different policies supportive of teaching and learning experiences for first-year students. For example, are senior faculty (associate and full professors) required to teach first-year seminars? Do senior faculty teach other first-year courses? Beyond student ratings, does the institution assess the effectiveness of first-year courses? Are learning community opportunities offered to first-year students?

As for effective pedagogical practices, researchers considered two in the study: whether teachers provided first-year students with opportunities to learn about people with different background characteristics or different attitudes and values, and the extent of informal interaction faculty had with students outside of class. Study results are based on data collected from 5,612 faculty members (at all ranks) at 45 different institutions.


Read more @

Facilitating Effective Classroom Discussion, the Devil is in the Details

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

I have been known to berate the quality of classroom discussions—student-teacher exchanges that occur in the presence of mostly uninvolved others. Perhaps instead of berating I ought to be trying to help faculty improve how they lead discussions, and that has gotten me thinking about all the details discussion leaders must keep track of and make decisions about — all on the fly. Leading discussions effectively is not an easy task for any of us. Even those who make it look easy have actually worked very hard to hone this important skill.

Consider what needs to be decided after each student comment:

  • Is the point being made clear and coherent? If not, what follow-up question needs to be asked?
  • Is the answer or comment relevant? Does it answer the question? Is it on the topic currently under discussion? What needs to be done, if it’s not?
  • Should you respond? Invite someone else to respond? Not respond and solicit more comments? If you respond, what and how much should you say?
  • Can the student’s comment be linked to what another student said, to something you’ve said, to something in the text? Who should make that link?
  • Would a follow-up question deepen the answer, sharpen its focus, encourage others to comment? If so, what is that question?

As the discussion unfolds, here’s some of what needs to be monitored and kept in mind:

  • Who’s speaking and how often?
  • Who gets called on when there are a lot of volunteers? What about when there aren’t any volunteers?
  • What’s the level of attentiveness within the class collectively and individually? Who’s clearly not paying attention? What are they doing and does that need to be addressed?
  • Is the discussion losing steam? If so, how might it be re-energized?
  • Is the exchange becoming heated? Are emotions running too high? Does the atmosphere feel tense and threatening? If so, what should be done about it?
  • Is it time for a summary? Do the main points need to be sorted out of the morass?
  • Where did the discussion start, where is it now and where does it still need to go?
  • Has there been enough discussion of this particular point or on this topic in general?


Read more @