Category: Classroom Management

Grading Classroom Participation

Grading classroom participation, if you are like me, has always been somewhat subjective. I start out with the best intentions of keeping good track of participation, but get caught up in the teaching and quite often drop that ball.

I’ve just added a new section to the Faculty Development Canvas course which specifically addresses this area of instruction, titled “What is the Best Way to Grade Participation.” You can find it in the OnSite section of the Development Modules. I think there are some good ideas there that should help in this area.

There has also been some confusion regarding how participation grades are to be recorded in the on-ground courses for Adult Studies. After receiving some clarification, the process going forward is to consider each week to stand on its own and mark participation for that week. If you have any questions about that, please get with your Dean or contact me at rupchurch@belhaven.edu

Blessings,

Rick

Reflections from CAHEA – Teaching practices with Adult Students

by Dr. Larry Ruddell, Dean Belhaven-Houston

Dr. Joseph Flowers spoke on “Basic principles and practices for teachers of non-traditional adult students” at the annual Christian Adult Higher Education Association (CAHEA) conference. We have several good articles on instruction in this blog, but it always good to review and remind.

Dr. Flowers started by emphasizing that our roll in teaching is not necessarily to “teach” students but to “create an environment for learning.” Thus, people with different strengths and gifts can “help students learn.” A small few have the gift of teaching and can lecture effectively because of that gift. Others bore students after ten minutes of lecture but can help students learn through a number of other class activities.

Flowers reviewed the basics about andragogy but went further to introduce three “radio stations” (two of which are pertinent) that helped explain adult learners and their perspectives.  The first station is “WII-FM” which stands for “What’s in it for me?” It highlights the importance of relevance in instruction, answering questions like; “why do students need to know this information, how will it benefit them, how can they use it in practical ways, and do students know what to expect?”

In other words, students need to see value in what they are learning, so as instructors, we always need to be building bridges between the course material and how the knowledge can impact students. As Flowers points out, “adults feel the application of information is the primary motivation for undertaking the learning project.”

The more the instructor has experience in the topic covered and relate professional experiences and evaluate course content based on actual professional experiences, the better for students. So, we as instructors should bring this experience into the classroom each week.

The second channel covered by Flowers is “MMFG-AM” which stands for “Make me feel good about myself.” In other words, “instructors should value the learners’ life experiences.” So, as instructors, we must walk the line between covering the course material and valuing and encouraging the individual student. Respect is critical. We must always keep in mind that advanced degrees don’t make us better than anyone else. We must value the experiences of our students whether working in major corporations, small businesses, non-profits, churches or educational settings.

Part of making “students feel good” is mentoring them in personal responsibility and confidence in their ability to perform. A “well done” when a student knows a professor maintains high expectations for performance actually means something versus a platitude for “participating” by submitting an assignment. In fact, when I’m fishing for something positive to say about a lackluster paper, I’ll write at the end of the comments, “glad you were able to submit something.” It sounds trite but depending on the week, it may have been all the student could do to just submit their assignment so even that effort, even though not highly lauded, should be acknowledged.

You want students to complete assignments but hopefully can give them flexibility in how they handle assignments based on their own interests and goals for learning. As Fisher points out, “adults need to be independent and direct their own learning.”

Finally, make sure to chunk material together so it can be memorable. Do not rely too much on PowerPoints. Include three modes of learning; auditory, visual, and tactile. And “tell, show, and experience.”

So, we removed some basic principles of teaching adults from Dr. Joseph Flowers who presented at this year’s annual CAHEA conference. Hopefully some of these points are good reminders for continued success!

Academic Rigor

What is Academic Rigor? I suspect that the definition of that phrase is somewhat nebulous in most of our minds. When we do think about academic rigor, we tend to think in terms of extensive and/or weighty assignments that “really make the students work.”  Some will equate the phrase with a harsh grading of those “weighty assignments,” or any assignments for that matter. Others will  also include a classroom environment which is suitably “serious” and “no-nonsense.”

None of these, however, address the case for academic rigor. Without understanding the philosophy behind the call for academic rigor, it can quickly devolve to the concepts mentioned above. Foundational to academic rigor is the consideration of the spoken and unspoken objectives/outcomes for the course. The spoken (or listed) student outcomes for the course are included in the module.  These outcomes spell out what the student should know by the end of the course. They are course specific and the accomplishment of these outcomes is the understood reason for the course in the curriculum.

The unspoken objectives/outcomes for the course aren’t listed in the module, but are part of the overall objectives for those in the Adult Studies program, i.e. graduates should be able to:

  1. Apply learning experiences to professional and other situations
  2. Be able to articulate a Christian worldview and its implication for their home, work, and society.
  3. Demonstrate habits of clear, constructive, critical thought,
  4. Demonstrate a command of standard oral and written English.
  5. Evidence a lifestyle of moral and spiritual integrity
  6. Compete in the job market for positions in keeping with their major course of study
  7. Incorporate ongoing learning strategies toward the fulfillment of their life goals.

Achieving both sets of objectives, spoken (outcomes listed in the module) and unspoken (objectives for the Adult Studies Program) is the instructional goal. Appropriate academic rigor is that which will accomplish this goal.

This will include appropriate assignments that are focused toward the spoken objectives, but managed by faculty within the scope of the unspoken.  For instance, we fail when we grade a paper without also taking into account the writing quality (point 4 above) or whether or not it reflects “clear, constructive, critical thought” (point 3 above), etc. This applies not only to grading but to the conversations, lectures, and activities within the classroom.

Our role as teacher places us in a precarious position. In God’s eyes we carry extra responsibility for our students’ learning. For me, grading has always been the more challenging aspect of the instructional process. The temptation is to only give a cursory look at the papers to make sure the major content points have been hit. I confess to you, THAT IS WRONG AND LAZY THINKING. We owe our students and ourselves better than that. Each submission should be read and marked so that it contributes to learning as much as assessment. Each submission should be considered both for the spoken and unspoken objectives, and the grade given fairly reflects the work the student has done. Giving a good grade when the work is only average, or less, is an insult to the student and speaks poorly of our own integrity and the value we place on the role we have accepted.

I ask you to reflect on the phrase academic rigor. “Like” or make a comment in response to this post. More importantly, please consider these things when you are focusing upon academic rigor in your courses.

Webinars to Inform and Improve

Greetings,

We are working on a re-design for the Faculty Resources tab of our site and in the process the webinars, which have been listed there, have all been moved to YouTube for easier access.  As I was compiling these links I reviewed some of the webinars and was reminded of the wealth of information these contain.  I’m posting that information below and encourage you to look over the list and review a couple yourself – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Don’t forget to register for the upcoming Webinar of the Faculty’s Role in Student Retention – see the calendar link on this page to register.

APA and Grading Writing Across the Curriculum. Presenter: Dr. Everett Wade https://youtu.be/HFeLIpg2lUk

Bring Life to Your Classroom. Presenter: Dr. Ed Garrett https://youtu.be/urKi7DGVGQM

Christian Worldview: Practical Applications for the Classroom. Presenter: Dr. Paul Criss https://youtu.be/jFm9nNoFoXc

Effective Use of Library Resources. Presenter: Dr. Kim Priesmeyer https://youtu.be/CxpBGF8AHAs

Introducing Critical Thinking into the Classroom. Presenter: Rosemary Foncree https://youtu.be/HotogEC0PEc

Plagiarism: Helping Your Students Avoid It. Presenter: Dr. Kim Priesmeyer https://youtu.be/jFmhBggVdzw

Student Engagement Strategy: Experimentation. Presenter: Dr. Thomas Randolph https://youtu.be/vvOAQl2Q_48

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Foster Critical Thinking. Presenters: Dr. Jerald Meadows & Elizabeth Juneau https://youtu.be/Qdt7Mu5sGno

Using Canvas to Facilitate Team Projects. Presenter: Dr. Rick Upchurch https://youtu.be/RWuMnPtAvZA

Millennials in the Classroom. Presenter: Emma Morris https://youtu.be/0kgNsVN3SDs

Canvas Updates 2017. Presenter: Joe Villarreal https://youtu.be/0wWkVfKNNbA

Andragogy: Adult Learning Theory Applied. Presenter: Dr. Rick Upchurch https://youtu.be/KnDc3zfpvrs

Accessing Case Studies from Belhaven Library. Presenter: Charles Gaudin https://youtu.be/3k_X6RQ5jvM

Constitution Day – Sept. 17 – Celebrate Freedom

Please use the information below for a short presentation on the Constitution during one of your class sessions the week of September 17, 2017

Celebrate Freedom!
by Dr. Paul Criss

It is amazing to hear some of the current statistics of American Constitutional illiteracy. In 2014, the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania conducted a study that revealed that American citizens’ knowledge of the government is lacking:

In 2011, a survey by Newsweek revealed that 70% of Americans did not know that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Fifty percent of college students think that Thomas Jefferson was the Father of the Constitution [the correct answer is James Madison] even though he was overseas during the signing of Constitution (www.issuelab.org/resource/what_do_college_graduates_know_american_history_literacy_survey). Studies have also revealed that 70 percent of Americans cannot name one of the freedoms protected by the First Amendment and 90 percent cannot name all five protected by the same Amendment. The Intercollegiate Institute of American Civic Literacy found in 2008 that 70% failed a basic test on the knowledge required for an informed and responsible citizenship (www.americancivicliteracy.org/2008/report_card.html).  If we do not know what is in the Constitution how will we know our rights or how will “We the People” hold our leaders accountable?

On September 17, 2017 we will celebrate the 230th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution on September 17, 1787. Federal law requires that all institutions receiving federal funds must observe Constitution Day, however, studies show that 90 percent of schools ignore this law. We would encourage you to celebrate freedom the entire week that September 17th falls upon. Some suggestions on how to do this follow:

A fun way might be to do a quick quiz on the Constitution like this one that is provided by Wallbuilders (www.wallbuilders.com):

  1. Of the 39 signers of the Constitution, how many had previously signed the Declaration of Independence?
    (http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/declaration/bio.htm) (link no longer available)
  2. The Constitution was signed in 1787, but was not binding until it was ratified.  When did that happen?
    (http://www.heritage.org/initiatives/first-principles/primary-sources/the-constitution-of-the-us)
  3. Which state was the first to ratify the new constitution?
    (http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/constitution-day/ratification.html)
  4. Which state was the last to ratify the Constitution?
    (http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/constitution-day/ratification.html)
  5. How many articles does the Constitution contain?
    (http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesarticles.asp?id=36438)
  6. Which article is the longest, and why?
    (http://www.visitthecapitol.gov/about-congress#.U_dlFmNi-ik)
  7. The Constitution Convention met in Philadelphia for the purpose of creating a document that would establish a new government for the States. True or False?
    (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/continental/constit.html)

Instructors might also consider incorporating the Constitution as a collaborative discussion in the discipline being taught. For example, in English, the instructor may want to discuss the differences in word meanings between 1787 and the present for words such as “general welfare” or “misdemeanor.” In a science or business class, one might discuss why the Constitution enables Congress to make laws protecting patents and intellectual property. Another business question might be on how the Constitution supports free enterprise. In a Bible class, a discussion might be led on the importance of religious freedom. Of course, the history class correlations are obvious.

How did you do on the quiz above? Check yourself:

  1. Six: Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Morris, George Clymer, George Read, and James Wilson
  2. It was ratified on June 21, 1788, when New Hampshire became the 9th state to ratify the Constitution, as specified in Article 7 of the Constitution. The new government under the Constitution came into effect on March 4, 1789.
  3. Delaware, on December 7, 1787
  4. Rhode island, on May 29, 1790
  5. Seven
  6. Article I is the longest.  It organizes and governs the legislative branch, which was the branch closest to the people and the most important of the three branches. It was therefore given the most, and the most powerful responsibilities.
  7. False.  The purpose was to address and solve the weaknesses that had become apparent under the Articles of Confederation, the document under which the country had been governed during the American Revolution.

Here are some resources that you might find helpful:

By the way, we do not have a godless Constitution as some have suggested. In fact, many of the clauses incorporate biblical principles such as representative government (Exodus 18:21, even Acts 6:3), distrust of power due to the human heart (Jeremiah 17:9), and a separation of powers in three branches (Isaiah 33:22). The Founders who were instrumental in writing and ratifying the Constitution specifically acknowledged God in its creation:

  • James Madison said, “It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty Hand which has been so frequently extended to our relief in the critical stages of the Revolution.”
  • Benjamin Franklin stated, “I beg I may not be understood to infer that our general Convention was Divinely inspired [as in the Inspiration of the Bible] when it formed the new federal Constitution…yet I must own [admit] I have so much faith in the general government of the world by Providence that I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance…should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler in Whom all inferior spirits ‘live and move and have their being’”[Acts 17:28].
  • Benjamin Rush shared, “I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration [as in the Inspiration of the Bible], but I am as perfectly satisfied that the Union of the States in its form and adoption is as much the work of a Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament.”
  • Alexander Hamilton believed, “For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system which without the finger of God could never have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests.”

Our very first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay, encouraged all of us by instructing: “Every member of the State ought diligently to read and study the constitution of his country and teach the rising generation to be free. By knowing their rights, they will sooner perceive when they are violated, and be the better prepared to defend and assert them.” Read, study, teach, know, defend, and assert – take some time this September to help your students reflect upon how the Constitution has shaped American culture and thinking. In all of this remember to Celebrate Freedom!

TAMING THE TEN O’ CLOCK TITAN – repost

by Dr. Larry Ruddell,
Dean, Belhaven Houston

This is a repost from January 2015 but definitely worth reading!!! (RLU)

You have had a very long day. You are tired and want to hit the road. … not to mention the fact that you feel sympathy for students and all they’re going through because you care for them. You have pretty much “covered the material.” You give students the opportunity to “work in groups” or “work on material” or “ask questions” but students start shuffling for the door thanking you profusely for “the break”! … saying “we’ll do it at home” or “we’ll meet during the week.” So at 9 or 9:15 pm, everyone is ready to leave, or perhaps much earlier on the last class.

Belhaven requires staying to 10 pm … but how do you make it happen? … sounds daunting doesn’t it? How can we be so demanding to hard-working students? It’s a “titanic” issue in adult education. But for Belhaven, it doesn’t have to be. It simply boils down to motivation. How do you motivate yourself to bring great teaching for the full class time each week? How do you motivate students to not only learn for the full four hours, but expect it?

Let’s start with you. Never underestimate the value you bring to students; intellectually and personally. Luke 6:40 suggests “… but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (ESV) Students learn from not only what you present but HOW you go about doing it. We call this at Belhaven – Houston “professionalism.” So you are setting a professional example for students. So to motivate yourself, keep in mind:

– You are selected to teach because you are great at what you know/do so afford the students of that knowledge/expertise for the full time period!
– Keep in mind that you are doing all things “for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31) so are teaching for Him
– If you are excited about your topic, the students will be too!
– Prepare additional activities to use if you have time; videos, cases, extra exercises, “lab time”

So you are fired up!! … but what about getting the students on board? 2 Timothy 4:2 instructs: “… preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” So use different techniques to motivate depending on the student and be “patient” (also can imply “persistent”). Try:

– Humor … i.e. saying “we’re continuing on because I want to make sure you get your money’s worth!”
– Inspiration … i.e. “we want you to be great so I want to make sure you receive as much information about the topic as possible!” … “in Houston we strive for professional excellence so this is who we are.”
– Rebuke/instruction … i.e. we have a legal requirement to meet for the required time.”
– Exhortation … i.e. “I know you have a lot going on, so better to work on those problems right now in the time remaining while I am here to help you immediately if you have any questions/problems.” … “There is no need for your group (Graduate students only) to meet outside of class. Use the time now to knock out your work!”

Think of your own motivation. But, whatever it takes, let’s bring great instruction for the full four hours every week!

Team Projects – I Love it When a Plan Comes Together

Many of our courses still include a team project and final presentation as part of the course requirements.  The inclusion of this assignment is not always well received, with the reasons given including uneven workloads and team members who won’t or can’t pull their weight.  I’ve written before about the team charter and if you click on the Team Projects under the Categories in the right navigation bar you’ll find other resources which can improve your team project experiences for your students.

What I want to describe in this post is a strategic perspective related to Team Projects which up to now I’ve assumed.  That is to say, because of my experiences, I have assumed that any team approaching a project assignment would employ the strategy I will share below.  After reflection, I believe that is probably a false assumption.  Perhaps you too have made the same assumption and so I encourage you to work through the steps below with your project teams on the night you make the assignment after the team charter is completed.

  1. Clearly articulate what the finished project will look like.  That is, will there be a powerpoint? what about an oral presentation?  Length? amount of research? etc.
  2. Break the “finished” project down into steps working backward to the point you are at now.  Include a step for final practice, if there is to be a class presentation, and a full-review by all team members of any written material which has to be submitted.
  3. Make sure everyone on the team understands how much time is available to accomplish the required steps getting the job done.
  4. Assign the steps to individuals or sub-groups along a time-line leading to the finished project.  Make sure everyone is clear on their assignments and the time-lines for submission of their assignment(s).
  5. Follow the team charter for any individuals who don’t or won’t participate.

This may seem basic and for those who have been in the program for a while, this might be basic, but I think there are a large number of our entering students who would appreciate a little guidance up-front as they begin to tackle these projects.

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?

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!