Classroom Discussions

I’m sharing this idea from Powerful Techniques for Teaching Adults, by Stephen Brookfield.

According to Brookfield, discussion as an activity in the adult classroom is often a blood sport” where “The usual extroverted suspects, who are often from the dominant culture and possess the cultural capital of an academic vocabulary, move front and center to shape the conversation while others lapse into a familiar silence.” (p.63)  As I reflect back to engaging in discussions in class I can definitely see how this can happen even when I’ve tried to make sure everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute to the discussion.  Brookfield confesses that instead of approaching discussions following lectures with an off-the-cuff attitude he has begun to “plan, prepare, and create conversational protocols.” (p.65)

One of those protocols he calls “Circle of Voices” and works like this:

  1. Form participants into groups of five
  2. Pose the question to be discussed and give everyone “three minutes of silent time to organize their thoughts and to come up with responses to the question.” (p.74)
  3. After the silent period, each person within the group has up to one minute of uninterrupted time to present their answer to the question.
  4. After the initial circle of responses, the discussion opens up with this caveat, “Participants are only allowed to talk about another person’s ideas that have already been shared in the opening circle of voices.” (p. 74)

Optionally, each group can present a summary of their discussion for the entire class.  This protocol allows everyone to share and participate and allows a synergy of ideas which can lead to better answers and more importantly better critical thought directed toward the question.

What do you think?  Have you ever thought about classroom discussions as a “blood sport” where those who “brought the appropriate cultural capital to the occasion – a wide-ranging vocabulary, a confident manner, an ease at speaking in public, and an expectation of being listened to and taken seriously.” (p.65) dominated the conversation?  What ideas or protocols have you put into place to address this concern?

10 Insights on Building, Motivating and Managing an Exceptional Team – re-post

I found this great article on LinkedIn and wanted to pass it along.  This is definitely worth the time and can be used in a variety of ways in the classroom or as a teaching resource on teams.

“When it comes to assembling, motivating and keeping a great team happy so that they can flourish in your business, the truth is that it’s a bit of both.

It cannot be understated how important a great team is to a business’ success. The quality of the work you do will never exceed the quality of the team behind it. To many entrepreneur’s and manager’s dismay, team building often seems as complicated as watchmaking—there are a lot of moving parts, and things have to be just right in order to create something magical.

Fortunately, academic research on team culture and group dynamics sheds some much needed light on creating and motivating the perfect team.”

READ MORE

Classroom Management Ideas

I want to be upfront and tell you that the ideas below are not original with me,  I’ve heard Kim Priesmeyer, RoseMary Foncree, and others share some of these ideas before in different presentations and have just run across some of them in the book some of you have joined us in reading over the summer:  How to Teach Adults by Dan Spalding.

I’m not including a long list so hopefully you won’t feel overwhelmed and will give some of these ideas a try in your class.  Reply to this post with your experiences in using one or more of these ideas.

  • Write your agenda on the whiteboard along one of the edges at the beginning of the class.  This is great for helping students sense the pace, gives them some feeling of control, and helps you stay on track.  Obviously, I’m not talking great detail, just the 4-6 main points and breaks.  e.g. Prayer, Discussion on Workplace Ethics, Group activity, break, homework debrief, student presentations, break, finish presentations.
  • Write any new or discipline-specific vocabulary words on the whiteboard – have someone pull up the definition on their smartphone, have two or three students, selected at random, use the word in a sentence, and then move on.  A lot of times words relative to a specific discipline are used and we ASS U ME students know what it means when they may not.  I’m convinced this one act will have profound impact upon students far greater than we can imagine
  • Always bring a dry-erase marker with you to class.  I have one in my bag which has a different color at each end so I only have to keep track of one marker.  Main points should be made in black or blue for ease of readability in the back of the class with other colors used for emphasis.
  • Start your class on time – even if all of your students aren’t there.  I have visited a lot of classrooms and this is one area where I think we fail our students and our mission.  By starting late we send a message that what we are doing isn’t that important and disrespects those who do show up on time.  Don’t chastise those who are late (although do keep track of those who are tardy as directed in the Faculty Handbook) but do something meaningful at the early part of the class so there is greater incentive to being there on time.  Of course, that means that you have to be there on time as well.
  • End your class on-time. NOT early and no more than a few minutes after 10:00.  The conversation may be VERY interesting but it places an undue burden on students who feel they have to stay when they have other commitments.
  • Don’t hesitate to make a biblical reference, ask the students to research a biblical example or discuss a biblical principle related to the subject under discussion.  That is our major distinctive and something we actually hope you are doing.
  • Make sure the latter part of the class contains more energizing activities and discussions than lectures.  Students will respond better and you will achieve greater learning if you keep this mind.
  • The more students you can get up working on the whiteboard together the greater the engagement of the entire class.

Taking Care of the Details without Breaking a Sweat!

by Dr. Larry Ruddell, Dean Belhaven-Houston

As organizations mature, changes take place to keep growth and momentum moving forward … and sometimes those changes inject complexity into operations in the short run with expectation of long-term gains in efficiency as insights are gained and applied from “Version 1.” So we need to “keep our eye on the ball” (i.e. keep a Mission focus) as the changes are taking place to make sure we “pay attention to detail” and keep pace with organizational movement.

This is not always easy since we get into rhythms of performance (which are actually good things) … only to have those rhythms “bumped” by change. The Scripture helps with understanding the priority of Mission in the midst of the details. Proverbs 25:11 reads, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (English Standard Version) The verse applies to our words and the way we say them (“settings of silver”) but could also apply to the details of business … the “apples of gold” means a focus on Mission … while the “settings of silver” could refer to the carrying out of the details associated with the Mission … that we also do those well.

In an interesting verse, Jesus warns us against legalism … while still supporting (indirectly) attention to details. Matthew 23:23 reads,

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

The scribes and Pharisees had forgotten the Mission (“justice and mercy and faithfulness”) and were merely focused on the process. In Jesus’ response, He chides them for their tainted “focus.” Yet, he still acknowledges that we should not be “neglecting the others” (i.e. how we handle our tithe).

Belhaven is the midst of change of our computer systems … so we really appreciate everyone tightening their seatbelts and rolling with the changes! … and we don’t want to lose sight of our Mission to bless students and deliver great instruction every night!! … but we also want to make sure we are taking care of our admin responsibilities in a timely way as 1 Timothy 6:1-2 enjoins … particularly entering attendance (as students’ financial aid is dependent on our accurate entry of attendance)!

So commit now to a couple small, but important TO DO items to make sure we are taking care of the details to make the operation work for you and your students:

  • DO ENTER attendance THE NIGHT OF CLASS. Do it during the 2nd break and you’re done with it … make sure to clearly click on Present or Absent and double check
  • CHECK Belhaven email EVERY DAY when you are teaching and at least once a week when you are not teaching. If there is an issue or problem with attendance or other Belhaven activity, we can hear from you.

These two small items will go a big way to helping us take care of the details without breaking a sweat. Thanks for your service and commitments to Belhaven!

Why It Works – Faculty

A student walks into the classroom after working all day, comes straight to class where she will be for the next four hours before getting home around 11:00, if she’s lucky.  Hopefully her children have had a smooth evening and are asleep, otherwise it will be a really late night.  Then back up to get everyone off to school and head back to work.  Week after week, month after month, usually for two, three or four straight years.  Why, because this her route to a better life for her and her family.  She doesn’t just want the degree, she needs the options it will bring for herself and her children.

Belhaven University provides the opportunity, the path toward that better life.  The focus on a Christian Worldview which permeates the curriculum gives her more than she bargained for and its value will multiply back to her over the years.

BU and the focus on a Christian Worldview will leave a mark, but it is the Faculty who make it work.  It is the Faculty who bring themselves to the intersection of these students striving to better themselves and the course content.  It is the Faculty whose passion, faith, compassion, and knowledge make it possible for the student to be willing to persevere.  It is the Faculty who perceive their role as mentors and guides whose comments and personal discussions inspire and encourage.  It is the Faculty who see more than a paycheck; who see mission and purpose in changing lives as a calling that pass along more than the curriculum contains.

You are why it works.  Thank you.

 

Student Created Rubrics?????

A rubric is simply a way to assess something by breaking it down into its component parts, and weighing them according to the importance of that part.  For instance, a rubric for evaluating a writing assignment could include a breakdown of items to be considered such as grammar, APA style, structure/layout, introduction, body, conclusion.  These would all be given different points possible relative to the overall importance of that item to the whole, e.g. grammar might only be 5% whereas the Body might be 25%.  In effect, a rubric is a way to evaluate something by looking at its component parts.

As you probably are aware there already exists an evaluation form to use for student presentations.  This is located in the Resources section of the Faculty Orientation Canvas Course and on Blazenet under Faculty Resources/Adult and Graduate/Documents.  The link above takes you to the Canvas course but you can find the evaluation at either location.

What I have found to be extremely useful as an activity a week or two before the presentations are to be made is to distribute the evaluation form to the class and engage them in a discussion about the weight of each of the items, whether there should be more or less items, and how the evaluation form might be modified for their upcoming presentation.  The Instructor, of course, needs to protect the points awarded in the content area, but this activity has tremendous power to increase student buy-in and awareness of how the evaluation will be assessed. Typically you can conduct this activity in about 30 minutes and it also gives the opportunity to discuss the assignment itself and answer questions.

Going a step further, on the day of presentations, have students evaluate each other using the rubric they created, and use those evaluations when considering the final score.  By doing this you not only emphasize the importance of the subject, but the importance of the presentation itself, which is also a learning objective of the program, if not the course.

Having students create their own rubrics teaches critical thinking skills and make them part of the learning process.  Give it a try and let me know your thoughts.

END OF COURSE EVALUATIONS – SOMETIMES THEY STING

The post below was originally made in December 2014.  Since then we have fully moved back to paper evaluations and will continue with that model until we can find a way to achieve a similar response rate through electronic means.  When the evaluations come in from the classes, the quantitative data is processed through a scantron like process to yield the individual and summative scores.  The individual comments are all typed in manually for easier consumption.  Hopefully, you are looking at your scores in each area as well as reading through the comments.  We never pull any comments out, even those which seem unduly harsh, thus the title of this blog.  Since the recent TEBS data for Spring 2017 has or will be released soon, I thought this might be a good time to re-post this.

Rick

Dr. Chip Mason, Dean of Belhaven’s School of Business, sent me an article titled “Cruel Student Comments: Seven Ways to Soothe the Sting,” knowing we are moving back to paper evaluations for the Adult Studies courses.  I’m excited about this move because it means we will get a much better response rate, which will yield better information about the course and classroom instruction.  However, it also may yield more of those stinging comments which we all would rather not hear.  In this article by Isis Artze-Vega, she expands on the seven points below.  I encourage you to read the article.  This is always a touchy subject where it is easy to get defensive, but it is also can be one of the most useful tools available if approached from the right perspective, even if painful.

Seven Ways to Soothe the Sting:

1.  Analyze the Data

2. Resist the lure of the negative

3. Let your critics be your gurus

4.  Find counter-evidence

5.  Dwell on the positive ones.

6. Read them with a friend

7. Be proactive

Thanks, Chip, for sending this to my attention.

The Intersection of Irreducible Minimum and Collaborative Learning Strategy

Irreducible Minimum – the absolute minimum that must be learned regarding a specific area to achieve the learning objective.

Collaborative Learning Strategy – the design of the learning experience so that learning is achieved and the learning objectives are met.

When these two concepts intersect, powerful learning can occur.  However, for there to even be an intersection, the Instructor must accept a few basic premises:

  1. That student learning is different than teaching.  I have heard it said that “teaching is an art.”  I can believe that, but what makes it an art is whether or not learning occurs.  Teaching experiences designed without consideration of how or even if it impacts student learning are empty experiences, which can be equally frustrating for Instructor and student.
  2. That adults learn differently than traditional age college students.  Because of their life experiences the studies show they are better at synthesizing material, particularly if it is presented in a way that allows them to grasp relevance.
  3. That there is more than one way to “skin a cat” as my Mom used to say, i.e. there are other ways to teach besides lecture.
  4. Finally, that there are some things about any subject which are more important than others and which are crucial to mastery of the whole (this is the irreducible minimum c.f. The Seven Laws of the Learner by Bruce Wilkinson).

When these premises are accepted, the Instructor can look at the material to be covered for the class session and, because of experience and education, determine which topics are crucial.  With that knowledge, it is easy to arrange the class session to focus on the crucial topics first, before moving on to the other topics, which are still important but don’t qualify as crucial.

Once the irreducible minimum has been identified, now comes the choice of how to present the material, i.e. what learning strategies will you employ to insure these crucial topics are not just taught but learned.  While those activities include lecture, it is probably the most over used  and least effective technique employed by Instructors.  There are other articles in this blog which talk about collaborative learning activities and any search engine will turn up hundreds if not thousands of ideas, so I won’t include those in this blog post.    Suffice it to say, to contemplate what it will take to achieve student learning will require more time and energy as well as some creativity.  It will mean becoming comfortable with a certain amount of creative chaos in the classroom, something may Instructors find uncomfortable.  On the plus side, this intersection of Irreducible Minimum and Collaborative Learning Strategy will dramatically improve the learning of the students in your class and may have an unexpected consequence of re-invigorating you love for the “art” of teaching.

The GOAL is to design the learning experience so that at least the irreducible minimum learning is achieved, NOT that the content is covered.

This is a re-post from November 2014.

Bring life to your class: More than a case study

By Ed Garrett, PsyD, CC-AASP
Assistant Professor, Belhaven University

Are your student’s still breathing? Have you checked their pulse? If you are like most adult learner professors, teaching at that bewitching hour of 6pm to 10pm, then you have seen the blank stares late into the class. The average professor accepts this as just par for the course, but for those professors that want to take their learning to the next level they must find ways to bring life to their class.

Recently, I presented a follow-up webinar (WATCH HERE) to my campus presentation on how to engage our students through applied learning. The presentation was not groundbreaking, but began a dialog as to how one brings learning to life. It’s one thing to read the book, it’s another thing to make the learning pop off the page. Through some simple ideas I wanted those in attendance to take a few nuggets of knowledge away from the presentation that could change the learning experience for their students. There were three keys ideas presented, so I welcome you to take away from this article what you feel might bring life to your class.

We all learn differently: Howard Gardner identified seven distinct intelligences. This theory has emerged from recent cognitive research and “documents the extent to which students possess different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways,” according to Gardner (1991).

Gardner (1991) says that these differences “challenge an educational system that assumes that everyone can learn the same materials in the same way and that a uniform, universal measure suffices to test student learning” (p.2).

This being the case a professor needs to understand each learning style and how to apply as much as you can help your students learn. Here are the different learning styles discussed by Gardner (1991):

 

Running without thinking about running: When you were young and in class you went to recess because you wanted to play. Little time was spent by you realizing that you might be exercising. The same concept can be applied to your teaching. How can you engage your students in learning without them knowing they are learning?

One example of this would be playing Jeopardy as a pre-final check for understanding activity. In my class I put students in groups and have them spend time research and review past definitions. Once time is up I explain that we are going to play Jeopardy for a small amount of bonus points. The students have a blast and spend little time thinking about learning due to the rush of competition. By the end of the review, the students have displayed a vast amount of knowledge that simply looking through a book might not have brought. On top of that, the students have been active and had fun.

I encourage you to look up https://jeopardylabs.com for a great, inexpensive way to bring Jeopardy into your classroom. This small investment will bring big returns with your students.

Walk-Throughs: As a former adult learner of night courses I give credit to my past professors for this idea. When integrating presentations or selecting topics for teams, utilize a pre-activity to help them move. I simply use 3M sticky-backed poster sheets. I have several topics that the teams must explore. I write each term on a separate sheet and post them individually all around the room. I then have each student, collectively, walk around the room and answer a question related to the topic. I may ask students to provide their definition of each word posted. I then can assign each team to a poster and have them present, as the leading expert, on that topic related to classwork. The students are up, active, and engaging – everything we want in learning when we reach the late hours.

Honorable Mentions:

  • I’ll use a deck of playing cards to organize groups/teams by suite.
  • Incorporate as many team building or leadership building activities. This can get the students up and moving and bring life to learning.

I know sometimes those hours can be long, but with a little effort and creativity, things can change. There are so many incredible things that can be done to bring life to your classroom. It may take a little money to bring some of these ideas to life, but it’s a small investment to help produce a large change. As someone who incorporates all of these on a regular basis, the joy comes when I hear my students say, “Thanks for making learning real.” I double-dog dare you…bring life to your teaching and see what fruit grows. You’re students will thank you.

Reference:

Gardner, H. (1991) The unschooled mind: how children think and how schools should teach. New York: Basic Books Inc.

 

After 9:00 Activity – Kahoot!

I know you are always on the lookout for an activity to use after 9:00 that will actively engage students and make that last hour meaningful.

Here is one activity that will do that. Kahoot.  Kahoot is a classroom engagement software that is free to instructors and provides an interesting way to engage students in content.  I’ve included some links to a couple of tutorials about how to use Kahoot below.

It will involve you setting up the activity in advance but on the plus side it can be used over and over again as you teach the class.  This would make a great test-review session and could spark some interesting discussion as well.  Don’t be put off that the tutorials are based on secondary education models – this will work just as well for adults in that last hour of class.  I’ve been in a session when this was used and I can personally vouch for how effective it is.

Please post a reply to this if you use it and let me know how it went.

Kahoot! Demo for Teachers

5 Minute Guide to Kahoot!

How to Use Kahoot! in the Classroom

You can search for more tutorials on YouTube if needed.