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On Teaching Archive
Get your students to grade their own papers: Collaboratively-designed rubrics, Wednesday, February 8
Teaching with Performance Tasks, Thursday, March 1
Integrating Teaching, Research, and Service, Thursday, April 5
Writing Across Your Program's Curriculum: Building Up to the Capstone
Tuesday January 25
PAUL SUM (Political Science & Public Administration)
STEVEN LIGHT (Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education)
What kind of writing should you assign in your courses? What could your second-year students write this semester to help prepare them for what they will write as seniors? How can you get better results from your capstone students?
One approach to these questions begins by looking to your program’s capstone. Capstone courses give us an opportunity to think about writing across the curriculum because they often involve identifying, assessing, and refining writing-related learning outcomes. Faculty teaching at any level can use outcomes and assessment data from the program capstone when setting course outcomes and planning writing assignments. A department planning together can create an especially effective program by strategically placing writing throughout the curriculum to build up to capstone writing goals.
We’ll start this conversation at the end—at the capstone itself. Paul Sum and Steve Light will share the capstone model they developed for Political Science, offering tools that can be used by any department to design or revise a capstone. We hope you’ll join us to share your capstone insights as well.
Classroom Management in the Online Environment
Tuesday, February 15, 12:30 - 1:30
There can be just as many classroom management issues in an online environment as a traditional classroom. And they have the potential to be more treacherous and difficult to handle as the terrain is often less familiar to us as teachers, making problems harder to recognize early and address effectively. So how do we best anticipate some of those issues and organize our online courses in a way that minimizes them? And how do we deal with the problems that seem to inevitably come up, in even the most well thought out of classes?
In this On Teaching discussion we’ll talk about some of the common issues that arise in online classroom management and how they are similar to and different from those that occur in traditional classrooms. We’ll also explore strategies that faculty members have found useful in (ideally) circumventing problem areas and (at least) minimizing them.
If you teach classes online and have developed some particularly useful approaches, we invite you to join us and share your insights. And if you are thinking of developing an online course and would like the opportunity to gain foreknowledge, we’d like to have you, too. Together we will discuss ways to make online learning more effective, to make course management less frustrating, and to facilitate a greater connection with students across the electronic divide.
Geoffrey Rockwell, "Incorporating the Digital into your Humanities Class"
Tuesday, March 1
Geoffrey Rockwell is among the preeminent digital humanists in North America with extensive experience in designing digital research tools, conducting digital text analysis, and understanding the significance of digital humanities in the academy today. Professor Rockwell is the project leader for the Text Analysis Portal for Research (TAPOR) and a professor of Philosophy at the University of Alberta.
Over the last 15 years, he has also worked to develop specific classes in the field of digital humanities and advocated for an expanded role for digital humanities across the disciplines. To this end, he has published and presented extensively on instructional technology, the use of games, and multimedia in the classroom.
In this On Teaching lunch time presentation and discussion, Dr. Rockwell will talk about innovative ways to embrace the digital in our teaching and in enhancing student learning. And while his work is firmly grounded in the Humanities, the pedagogical approaches and techniques that he will discuss are applicable across a broad spectrum of disciplines and teaching environments.
ESL Students' Writing: An Open Conversation
Monday, March 7
The Nitty Gritty of Managing Students in their Co-ops/Clinicals/Experiential Learning/Field Work (or whatever you call it in your discipline)
Tuesday, April 12
Linda Holdman (Teaching & Learning)
Karen Peterson (Pathology)
Research has long established that giving students meaningful “real world” experiences is one of the best ways to enhance and deepen their learning. We have a number of programs on campus that do that regularly, sending students off campus for a day, a week , a semester or more and structuring that experience in a way that produces strong academic gains.
We have invited several of these experts who regularly manage large numbers of student experiences outside of academia to share with us their approaches and the insights they have gained in organizing this kind of student work. Linda Holdman, T&L’s Director of Field Placement, coordinates multiple student field experiences, as well as full semester internships across the US and abroad. Karen Peterson, the Education Coordinator for the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, oversees practicum at clinical sites nationally and manages the didactic and performance evaluations for those multiple credit experiences. Both have developed smart ways to organize and structure these programs while articulating clear expectations, accomplishing intended learning outcomes and meeting accreditation requirements.
Course Design for Critical and Creative Thinking in the Major
Wednesday, April 27
Joe Vacek (Aviation)
Often required courses in the major are driven by a need to cover a set content, leaving faculty feeling that their primary role is to provide coverage – and lots of it. However, research shows that helping students to connect deeply and significantly with material helps them to retain more. If students have classroom experiences that foster those meaningfully connections with the discipline, data shows that their learning is more significant (they learn more, retain it for longer and are more likely to have that material inform their actions and decisions). So is there a way to provide needed course content while allowing students to develop deep understanding, so that they can see the information as relevant, interesting – exciting, even?
In this On Teaching session we will take a look at how one faculty member, Joe Vacek in Aviation, successfully approached the redesign of a traditionally-structured, contentheavy, required course in the major. The goal? Shifting the focus to engaging and developing students’ critical and creative thinking skills, while not sacrificing the necessary coverage. The ultimate outcome? Inspiring students to “own” the material and to embrace challenging projects that allow them to demonstrate the knowledge and skills they will need in the field. After looking at this model, we will open the floor for conversation around how we can design courses that energize our classrooms, while still allowing our students to get the knowledge they need.
What I Wish I had Known Before Teaching My First Online CourseWednesday September 15
The reality: increasing demand for online courses and the fact that there is a lot that is different and challenging about online teaching. The good news? Others have gone first, and they are willing to share their (sometimes hard-won) insights! Many of the differences between face-to-face courses and online courses are obvious -- the disadvantages of no longer being in the same room at the same time counter-balances the advantages of greater flexibility, and a more accessible and diverse classroom. But a whole host of other issues begin to emerge as faculty teach their first online course and inevitably those teachers develop approaches that are more efficient and effective the second or third time around. So we’ve invited a few faculty who teach a heavy online component to share with us what they now know, but did not the first time around.
Using Proposals and Presentations to Guide Students Through the Research Writing ProcessTuesday, October 12
Scholars across the disciplines engage in similar tasks during the research writing process. Regardless of our academic field, we all propose research projects before we conduct them, and we all present our work orally to our colleagues. The work of writing proposals, planning presentations, and talking about our research helps us clarify what we want to study, how we will study it, and how we will interpret and communicate our findings. These activities, so useful to us, help students, too. Many faculty guide students through the writing process by including a sequence of steps in their writing assignments. The benefits of staged assignments are clear—they require students to get an early start and create opportunities to provide feedback before the final paper is due. But the stages of an assignment can take many forms. Rather than requiring outlines or rough drafts, for example, instructors might guide students through the common steps taken by researchers in their disciplines. Just as these steps help us clarify our thinking about our research, they can help students figure out what they want to write about and to communicate their conclusions more clearly. Graduate students and upper- and lower-level undergraduates can all benefit from trying out the everyday writing tasks of their professors.
Using Online Tools to Enhance and Assess Student LearningWednesday October 27
As faculty we care deeply about our students learning and often we get discouraged when our students’ performance doesn’t meet our expectations. In this session of On Teaching we will talk about steps you can take to lessen the frustration that situation generates both for us and for our students, and how online tools can be used to make the process more effective. Joan Hawthorne, who oversees assessment at UND, will share some thoughts on articulating clear and readily assessable learning outcomes for students, and ways you can help students make progress towards accomplishing those outcomes. Woei Hung, who teaches courses on nstructional Design, will speak to how those outcomes and assessments fit into overall course design. We will also share thoughts on which online tools are best adapted to certain types of learning.
Dealing with Student Resistance to Lessons about InequalityTuesday, November 9
Inequality is a complex, complicated, and essential topic, and teaching about it can present a tremendous pedagogical challenge. Strong student resistance to what research and study have established about inequality can make the subject frustrating for faculty, while students may feel guilt and anger at having to address an issue that they think is not relevant to them or that they believe society has already resolved. A recent article summarized this multifaceted and daunting reality with the title “Teaching about Inequality: Student Resistance, Paralysis and Rage.” Given that courses which focus or even touch on such charged subjects as power and privilege or advantage and disadvantage can be fraught with such potent reactions, what can we as teachers do? How should we think about the attitudes that our students bring to the classroom? And, perhaps equally important, how should we take into account our own responses and beliefs? While we can’t offer a universal solution or specific rules, we can offer an open forum for conversation, some useful information, and suggestions about good practice as well. If you teach about inequality, regardless of the disciplinary context, no doubt you have confronted some of these challenges. So we’d like to hear your experiences, insights gained, questions, and thoughts about how to better reach our students with the information that they need, and how to make it relevant and real.
Engaging Students in an Online EnvironmentWednesday, December 1
Some of the most rewarding moments we have as teachers are those moments when our students are fully engaged—when students work together to practice a skill or understand a concept, or when a classroom discussion takes off as students bring multiple perspectives to an issue. We know that magic that can happen in the classroom, but how do we facilitate such engagement online? How do we even know what engagement looks like in an online environment? Perhaps most importantly, how can we get students to see the course as relevant and valuable so they will want to be engaged? To begin to answer these questions, Richard Van Eck and Rebecca Leber-Gottberg will share strategies they have developed through their extensive online teaching experience. We will discuss ways to facilitate discussions and encourage collaboration online, matching the right online tool to the right activity to meet learning goals. We’ll also talk about the importance of thoughtfully designing a course to ensure that students are drawn in rather than shut out.
Writing Letters of Recommendation When You Really Believe in the Candidate (and when you don't)Wednesday, January 17
All of us have read (but hopefully not written) poorly constructed letters of recommendation and we know the negative impact they can have. Vague descriptors? We feel we’re reading a form letter. Too many superlatives? We lose faith. All strengths and no weaknesses? Clearly a mythical creature is being described. The truth is that while being asked to write a letter of support reflects being held in high esteem (your opinion counts!), it is a professional obligation that can be incredibly time consuming and surprisingly difficult. What makes a good letter? What does it take to make a student stand out? How can I write a strong letter for a student or a colleague that is appropriately detailed and supportive but honest and doesn’t take forever? In this session of On Teaching we will discuss helpful approaches to thinking about letters of recommendation, and how to write them efficiently and well. We’ve asked a few faculty members who both fulfill a strong and steady demand for letters and also spend significant time evaluating them to come and share their practical advice. We hope you will come and bring your questions and insights, too.
The Challenge of Good Student Library Research: What Instructors Can Do to HelpTuesday, February 16
In the digital age, when we are inundated with information – seemingly both ubiquitous and flawed -- we face particular challenges helping student think about sources, bibliographies and research. Most teachers fight the urge to roll their eyes at “googling” and the reflexive query to Wikipedia, but the reality of the situation is that many of our students need basic instruction as well as assistance and practice in conducting scholarly research and writing about it effectively. How do we best give them that help on top of teaching them all of the other information necessary to undertake our assignments? In this session of On Teaching we’ll talk about ways to help your students do sound library research, be it for a content paper (in the humanities, sciences, arts, engineering, or any other discipline), a literature review, or a capstone project. We’ve gathered a few colleagues from across campus who have thought about student research at length and are willing to share their experience with what works well and what doesn’t. If you have ever found yourself frustrated at the end of the semester, facing with a pile of student research papers that are not meeting your expectations, you will want to join us.
Thinking About Diversity in the ClassroomWednesday, March 10
Handling cultural issues -- such as race, gender, ethnicity or religion -- in our classrooms can present a tremendous challenge. The topic itself is complicated, dynamic, and often confusing, and for many fraught with uneasiness and discomfort. It requires us as teachers to be very aware of both our own cultural perspectives and assumptions, and those of our students. So how do we think about it and prepare ourselves for those challenges before wading into controversial territory? While we can’t offer a universal solution or specific rules, we can offer some information and good practices, as well as an open forum for conversation. Dr. Pinterits and Dr. Bailey, from the department of Counseling Psychology and Community Services, have been collecting data from UND students in Essential Studies courses. They will share with us the insights they have gained about student attitudes towards diversity, and some suggestions about how to meet students where they are. Both think about and deal with these matters every day as part of their work teaching students to understand and uphold professional standards regarding diversity.
Grade inflation: An Open ConversationTuesday, April 6
Grade inflation can be defined as an upward shift in the grade point average (GPA) of students over an extended period of time without a corresponding increase in student achievement, and it has been a hot button issue in higher education for at least the last twenty years. Recently it has become even more contentious as some prominent institutions have tried to address the student learning problems they associate with rising grades overall. A recent study claims that the average GPA at private colleges rose from 3.09 to 3.3 between 1991 and 2007, and that public colleges and universities saw an increase from 2.85 to 3.01 in the same period. The apparent degree of grade inflation at some institutions seems incredible: last year at Brown University, the majority of undergraduate grades were A’s, up from 42.5% a decade earlier. While there is a general consensus that historic and recent grading patterns have trended upwards at American four-year colleges and universities, there is little agreement on why that might be, what it means, if it should be “fixed” and, if repair is needed, how to accomplish it. Are students earning better grades because they are better prepared or are they receiving more A’s because institutions are responding to retention pressure? Do elevated grades reflect the changing mission of many institutions as a greater focus on research allows less time for grading and evaluation? Are higher grades being used by faculty to “buy” better student evaluations? Or are contemporary students, stereotyped as litigious and entitled, demanding and getting more than they earn? A real issue or a tempest in a teapot -- what do you think? We’ll bring along some of the recent research to ground our conversation, as we explore the potential causes and consequences of higher grades.
Innovative Approaches to the Graduate CurriculumWednesday, April 28
Patti Alleva (School of Law) Rebecca Romsdahl (Department of Earth System Science & Policy) Reflecting on your career as a faculty member or practicing professional (in the midst of grading, writing up committee meeting notes, seeing clients, or redrafting an article), have you ever had the thought that your graduate education did not fully prepare you for the scope of your work? If this thought has crossed your mind, you are not alone. A number of graduate programs have confront ed the fact that there is often a notable gap between the curriculum and the practical realities that confront graduates when they enter the world of work, be it in academia or a profession. A sampling of recent article titles from journals of higher education -- "The Disconnect between Graduate Education and the Realities of Faculty Work, " "Professional Education and Private Practice: Is There a Disconnect?," "Underpreparing the Future Professoriate," and "Closing the Gap between Professional Teaching and Practice" -- reflects the growing realization that this gap exists and needs to be addressed. How can we help our graduate students -- our future colleagues -- be better prepared for work in our discipline or field once they leave our programs? We've invited some professors who have taken a very thoughtful approach to this issue to share their insights about how to teach, not only knowledge and theory, but also the balance of practical skills and professional judgment that students need to succeed in their working life. And we know many of you have thought deeply about this matter, too. So we hope you'll come join the conversation as we think about bridging the gap.
Reaching Beyond My Classroom: the Shift to a Learner Centered InstitutionWednesday, September 30
Although the question, “What is college for?” seems to have an obvious answer to us as teachers, it often feels like student learning is not an institutional priority. Do you ever wish you felt a stronger sense that a university is a place where learning matters most? By typical standards successful colleges are ones that fill classes, and increase enrollments. But what if we evaluated our success as a university in terms of learning outcomes, rather than quantity of instruction? In today’s world of research driven rankings, is it even feasible to place learning at the center of the academic enterprise? John Tagg, featured keynote speaker for the OCTOBER 16 REFLECTING ON TEACHING COLLOQUIUM and author of an article we will be looking at in this session,argues it is not only feasible, but necessary. Tagg introduced the concept of the “learning paradigm college” in 2003. He defined such institutions as “producing learning” rather than “providing instruction,” and argued that “this shift changes everything.” Anne Kelsch (OID) and Joan Hawthorne (Assistant Provost) will start off this conversation with a look at what learning paradigm colleges look like, how well they accomplish their goals, and what challenges they face. After that, we will open the discussion to consider how changing the focus from instruction to learning might change both our classrooms and our university. We hope you’ll join the conversation as we think about our collective efforts to educate.
Effective Writing Assignments: Save Time, Increase Student Engagement and Learning, and Put Some Fun Back into TeachingTuesday, October 20
Many teachers ask their students to write in the courses they teach, and they do this for many good reasons. However, most writing assignments have at least three major challenges. First, it is difficult for a teacher to create writing assignments that are both engaging for the student and closely connected to the desired learning outcomes of the course. Second, reading and responding to student writing can be quite time consuming. Third, because it can take so much time to respond to student writing, teachers sometimes lose their enthusiasm for assigning writing. We will attempt to provide solutions to these difficult problems; we believe that our proposed solutions have the potential to save time, increase student engagement, and add a much needed human element to teaching. We will do two things in this seminar. First, we will each talk about a writing assignment that we have given and discuss what we think worked, as well as what we think did not work. Diane Darland (Biology) will present a writing assignment used in a science class and Scott J. Baxter (University Writing Program) will present an assignment used in a humanities/social science course. After that, we will offer several suggestions for crafting effective assignments. All faculty who attend will leave with a handout or two with practical guidelines for assigning writing in their classes as well as examples of well written assignment sheets. While we are happy to share our experiences and advice with the seminar participants, we certainly do not know what would work well in every possible teaching situation. For this reason, at least half of the seminar time will be devoted to questions and discussion. We invite you to share your experiences, questions, and concerns with the seminar participants.
How am I Doing? Rating Yourself as a TeacherWednesday, November 18
Each semester faculty members in higher education take on teaching duties. For most, this is a recurring task. For the majority, it is the central task of a life-long career. Assuming that no one is perfect and therefore everyone has room for improvement, evaluation is the means by which we try to identify which aspects of our teaching are good –which are working in terms of student learning-- and which need to be changed. As well, evaluating our teaching allows us to document it for others. And many argue that there is also a very human and personal need to evaluate. It is one thing to think or feel that a class went well; it is quite another (and a far more enjoyable experience) to have solid information that tells us that we have taught well and students have learned well, or to have concrete evidence about how to improve our work. That insight is possible only if we do a thorough evaluation. End of the semester USAT forms don’t really provide the kind of information we often want, and they provide it too late in the game to benefit the semester in progress. Doing good evaluation is like doing good research. In both cases, you are posing questions that you continually re-examine with data. The key to doing both activities well is identifying the right questions to ask and figuring out how best to answer them. In this session we will discuss why it is important to ask questions of you own teaching, what questions are valuable to ask, and how to gather information that helps provide sound answers to those questions.
Poetry as a Tool for Teaching across the DisciplinesThursday, December 3
When faculty think of asking their students to write in their classes, it is fair to say that poetry is probably not the first thing they think of. Given the challenges of assigning and responding to writing, shouldn't faculty ask students to write academic prose, or, at the very least, expository writing, not poetry? Poetry offers at least three advantages over other types of academic writing. First, the act of writing poetry encourages students to develop a personal and emotional connection to the subject that they are studying. All too often, when writing, students go into auto-pilot and think that their only job is to figure out what the teacher wants and give it to them. But, when writing poetry, students are forced to shut off the automatic pilot. In addition, when students are asked to write poetry in their classes they learn to find fresh insights into their learning as well as imaginative and innovative ways to communicate that learning with others. Second, most poems are short; and, because of this brevity, it is easy to find a way to integrate them into class activities. It takes only seconds to read a student written poem out loud, yet the poem might bring up important issues about the course content. Finally, because of this brevity, poetry requires the writer to pay close attention to physical, textual, or other details. This attention to detail is an important skill throughout the academy. And the ability to write a poem about one of these details that, for instance, compares electron transport to riding in a cab, as one student did in a biology class, demonstrates the ability to exercise the important skills of both creative and critical thinking in one very short piece of writing. In this seminar, participants will learn about haiku – a short and simple form of imagistic poetry with three lines of just seventeen syllables – as an example of poetry that has been used as a tool for learning in a variety of disciplines. Haiku is easy to learn and easy to teach; if a person can count to seventeen, they can write a haiku. Yet, the brevity of haiku is only one of its virtues. A wide variety of poets, from Matsuo Basho to Richard Wright have written haiku simply to improve their own powers of observation. Perhaps the act of writing poetry might also help our students improve their powers of observation as well.