EDvice Exchange

EDvice Exchange is the Center for the Advancement of Teaching‘s blog. It serves instructors in the Temple community and other institutions of higher education. This resource provides effective, research-based teaching practices for your consideration and the comments forum will enable you to engage with CAT staff and other participants.
Inclusive Teaching, Faculty Conference

The 16th Annual Faculty Conference on Teaching Excellence was held January 10th at Temple University, and Dr. Freeman Hrabowski delivered an energetic and inspiring keynote address combining passion and personal memoir with larger lessons about higher education and inclusive excellence.  
 

I have a confession to make: I used to think nothing of substance could be accomplished on the first day of class. Instead, every semester I engaged in a first-day ritual that included taking attendance, reading the syllabus, and facilitating an icebreaker to help me learn students’ names. But over the years, I’ve come to realize that the first day of class can be an essential part of setting up a successful semester. Implementing an icebreaker on the first day of class is a step in the right direction, but research suggests additional ways to use that time to engage and motivate students through activities and strategies designed to accomplish more than basic introductions. On your next first day of class, consider using these strategies to take advantage of the first-day energy and get your course and semester off to a great start!

New websites or applications often become successful in part because their user interfaces need no explanation: A user can visit the website and use it for its intended purpose without needing much assistance. However, if that experience is difficult, it can lead to a lot of frustration, and the user might give up on what they were trying to do in the first place.


It is easy to forget that setting up a course on a learning management system (LMS) is essentially creating a website for students, and that is an important component of creating a student-centered learning experience. Research shows that student-centered teaching, in which an instructor seeks to understand the students and shape the learning experience based on their needs, leads to higher student performance. To that end, a well-structured LMS course designed with students in mind can help students stay on track of their tasks, engage with the course material, communicate with other students and the instructor, and receive timely, helpful feedback. However, an LMS course has just as much potential to hurt student performance as it does to help it. For example, if students need to spend more time trying to figure out where materials are located in the course or what their required tasks are for the week, it wastes precious time that they could otherwise be dedicating to learning. Additionally, instructors may need to devote a significant amount of time responding to frantic emails from students who do not know what to do.

 

I am rather inclined to silence – Abraham Lincoln

 

We take it for granted that our students can speak. They have successfully enrolled in an institution of higher learning and presumably have talked to a few people along the way. Some speak more and some less; some dazzle with their rhetoric; others lull you into a soporific daze as you wait for the pause and some need to be cajoled into a one-word answer as reluctant to speak as if they had been asked to turn over a treasure map or their puppy. But regardless of their proclivity, all speak. And so, we, as educators, ask them to speak and answer and we may include oral communication as a goal in our syllabus, or we might expect that students can articulate course concepts - but do we do anything to make that speaking productive? Are we the quintessential diplomat, knowing when to speak, when to listen, how to advance our goals – or are we mere messengers, transmitting, and hoping for reception?

 

As a language teacher, I am always maneuvering, steering and compelling speech. We know that there is difference between receptive proficiency (reading and listening) and productive proficiency (speaking and writing). I also know that when I speak, my students do not.  And thus, I can’t gauge their understanding, so I’m rather inclined to silence.

So, why try silence?  

If you teach at one of the many universities that are switching from one Learning Management System (LMS) to another or are simply pushing faculty to explore more fully what they can do with their LMS, you may be saying, “Why all the fuss?” Instructors do not need an LMS to be effective, so why bother with all of the work needed to get a good course site on the LMS up and running? Perhaps you see its usefulness as a repository of documents, but all of those other LMS features seem to be more trouble than they’re worth. Or, you see the necessity of an LMS for online courses, but you teach in a bricks-and-mortar environment, so the LMS is not crucial to the work you do with students. I get it. I’ve been teaching since the dawn of time (well, not exactly, but close) and I think I was a pretty great teacher without an LMS at my disposal. I led class discussions without a discussion board, assigned papers without a plagiarism detection tool, gave paper and pencil quizzes, and assigned group projects to students, fully expecting them to figure out how to collaborate outside of class on the project’s completion.

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