Category: Classroom Management

Rubric for Writing Assignments & Final Papers

Grading is one of the most challenging parts of teaching. This is even more complicated when you want to be fair and objective, but the quality of the work submitted is so uneven. The best way to solve that is to use a standard rubric for assessing writing assignments/final papers. According to Wikipedia: “In education terminology, rubric means “a scoring guide used to evaluate the quality of students’ constructed responses”.[1] Rubrics usually contain evaluative criteria, quality definitions for those criteria at particular levels of achievement, and a scoring strategy.”

There are several ways to construct a rubric, but doing so can seem overwhelming and time-consuming. So, I’ve built you a rubric that is extremely easy to use.  You can find it at this LINK.

The Directions for using the Rubric are on one of the tabs of the file you will find on blazenet.  If you are inquiring from outside of Belhaven’s system, send me a request at rupchurch@belhaven.edu.  Keep in mind that the criteria language on the rubric are not original, nor do I have any idea where it originated.

Here are the Directions:

1 Review rubric and tweak as necessary, including adding course name and number along with the points for the assignment.
2 Save the blank rubric as a .pdf and attach to an announcement to students indicating that the rubric will be used to grade the assignment.
3 When grading the assignment, open the rubric in Excel and enter the appropriate number in the Faculty Score column. If you have entered the total points for the assignment, the spreadsheet will calculate the final points.
4 Save the completed rubric as a pdf for each student
5 Upload to the assignment under Speedgrader (at the bottom of the right column) – under comments. Add a comment letting the student know there is a grading rubric attached along with any other comments desired.
6 Repeat for each student

I want to encourage you to give this a try. Once your students get over the shock, they will perform better and you will have a better ability to communicate more objectively and evenly.

Irreducible Minimum meets Collaborative Learning Strategy

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.

Originally posted November, 2014

Creating a Team Project Covenant

This is a repost with updated links

Many of the courses in the Adult Studies Programs for Belhaven University include a Team Project.  The inclusion of the Team Project is valuable on many fronts:  It provides the opportunity to learn to work together, maximizes group resources, allows for synergistic achievement, just to mention a few.  It is also one of the most frustrating experiences for many students who complain about “freeloaders” who don’t do the work and either drag everyone’s grade down or force others to carry the extra load, often without the Instructor noticing or seeming to care.

The best solution to this and one which falls in line with our goals and mission is the Team Project Charter.  Unfortunately, it is often ignored because it takes time to work out and many Instructors and even team members fail to see the value, wanting to jump straight into the project.  This is almost always a mistake leading inevitably to the complaints mentioned above.

The Team Project Covenant is important because it outlines the basic expectations and is signed by each member of the team.  The basic parts include:

  • Group goals and/or purpose.
  • Planned meeting time, place, and agenda.
  • Clearly understood attendance requirements and penalties for absences.
  • Discussion of responsibilities of members within teams.
  • Discussion plan for meetings.
  • Conflict management and resolution, penalties for constitutional covenant breaches, and plan for constitutional covenant changes.

When these items are spelled out it is much easier to pull the document back out at the beginning of a Team meeting and address any problems and the potential penalties for covenant breaches.  It empowers teams to function smoothly and to stay focused, while avoiding freeloading.

There is an example of the Team Project Covenant on Blazenet under Student Live/Services – you can find it HERE  (you must have a Belhaven login to access this document).

If you haven’t wanted to take time for this in the past, I strongly encourage you to make time going forward.  It will provide a better experience for the students, less frustration and grousing for you to deal with, and, more importantly, allows students to see how to deal with situations if a positive format that they can use in the future.

Here is another article which also describes the importance of the Team Project Charter:  Creating an Effective Team Charter

Team Projects – Student Actions

I posted the material below to the Adult Learner Blog but I thought you would like to see it as well. If you use this process you can hopefully cut down on the problems which arise from team projects.  Note the italicized comments which were not included in the post the Adult Learner Blog. 

Team Projects are often the most dreaded part of a course. While not all our courses include a Team Project, there are still several which do. So, the question is, “What can I do, personally, to make the team experience a positive one (and also get a good grade)?”  I’m glad you asked. Here are several ideas for improving the outcome of your team project:

  1. Make sure you complete the Team Covenant the first meeting of your team. This can be found on Blazenet under StudentLife/Services in the Documents. While completing this may take a few minutes, the value comes in having everyone on the same page – especially when it seems like some in the group are dropping the ball. Calling out those who aren’t complying with the Covenant expectations may be necessary, but it is much easier if the Covenant exists. If you make time for this in the first or second class session it can help the whole group succeed.
  2. Make sure everyone has a copy of the Team Evaluation rubric. This can be found in the same place on Blazenet. The important thing here is to make clear to everyone up front that you are going to be brutally honest in completing this form at the end of the project. Help the students understand that you are going to pay attention to these evaluations.
  3. Do your best to stay engaged in the Project, completing the expectations assigned to you. Don’t hesitate to check in with other team members on their progress.
  4. I HIGHLY recommend you use either a Google Doc and/or Google Slides for your project and include the Instructor.  Both of these are free, and it can easily be determined who contributed and how much they contributed.  The team leader should start the Document/Slides and then share it with the rest of the team members.  That way you can all work from different locations at the same time on the same presentation or document. Both also have chat capabilities built in so you can “talk” in real time about the project.
  5. You may not have tried it before, but Canvas has a Zoom link on the left panel which can be used for video conferencing and screen sharing. This means you don’t have to set up another time to get together, you can video conference. This is a simple product and it works great – you can also record the session to further prove who participated and who didn’t. Just identify who will be setting up the meetings.

Team projects, when done effectively, can enhance your knowledge and skills. If you incorporate group software like I describe above it can also make you more valuable at work.

Poll Everywhere – What, Why, How

WHAT?

Poll Everywhere is a web-based tool which easily builds into powerpoint presentations to allow students to respond from their mobile devices. It presents the results in real time, allowing for evaluation of knowledge, or as a prompt for discussion.

Here is a short video which demonstrates it’s use.

WHY?

Using Polleverywhere is relatively simple and can definitely liven up a presentation.  It also allows individuals who rarely speak in class to contribute in a low threat environment. Using this type of tool makes the discussion more relevant and students experience a greater sense of understanding the material

HOW?

The video above describes the process pretty clearly, but here is an article which also goes into detail about how to use Poll Everywhere:

Great ways to use Poll Everywhere in the classroom

Test Review???

I posted this initially in April of 2017 but I thought I’d share it again since I believe it can be an exceptionally good way to review for tests, not to mention reinforcing information in a way that engages the students and creates a little fun along the way:

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

How to Use Kahoot! in the Classroom

Grading in Speed Grader and Feedback Studio

This was a webinar which was just presented by Dr. Kim Priesmeyer, Dean of the Center for Teaching and Learning.  The webinar was recorded and can be viewed at this LINK.

This was one of our best attended webinars and a LOT of great information was shared about using Speed Grader and Feedback Studio.  The conversation evolved into best practices related to grading overall and I know you will find something useful in this presentation.  I hope you will take the time to watch/listen to the presentation.

Dr. Priesmeyer, in her new role as Dean of the Center for Teaching and Learning, is also interested in hearing from you about other webinars or faculty development experiences. You can contact her at: kpriesmeyer@belhaven.edu.

 

4 Square Instructor

At each of the faculty workshops I visited, or sent video to, for the Fall 2018 rotation for Belhaven University, I challenged the faculty to become a “4 Square Instructor.” When this idea first came my way from an article by Neil Haave, titled “Teaching Squares Bring Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives” I thought there might be something there which could be used to help overcome the chronic problem every teacher faces: becoming trapped in their own pedagogical ruts. After discussing this with the Deans at Belhaven’s Regional Campuses in our Summit in August, we decided on a model that provides an interesting option for improving or refreshing their practice of teaching.  The 4 Square Instructor model below is the result.

Instructors who have been through the approval process for Belhaven can become 4 Square Instructors by:

  1. Visit 3 other classes outside your normal course assignments or discipline for a couple of hours to find new teaching ideas (this is not for critique, but to find new ways to make the subject material come alive).
  2. Implement at least one new idea into a class you are teaching.
  3. Write up summary, at least 2 pages, including which classes you visited, what you learned, what you tried and how it worked. Don’t be afraid to describe failures as they can be an excellent source of learning.
  4. Present at an upcoming faculty workshop as called upon by the Dean at that Regional site.
  5. Receive a 4 Square Instructor Polo shirt for that year
  6. Repeat every year.

Not everyone will do this, or even be able to, but I see the possibility of some interesting cross-pollination of ideas which will definitely benefit our students.  Note, there may be some variation from one site to another so check with your Dean for specifics.

Give it some thought. If you want suggestions on which classes to visit, contact the Dean at your campus.