Category: Classroom Management

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!

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.

 

Introducing Critical Thinking into the Classroom

by Rose Mary Foncree

(the below is an introduction to the webinar Rose Mary led on this subject which can be found HERE.   The webinar presents the argument for introducing critical thinking into the classroom and provides examples and ideas for doing so.)

For many of us who teach college students, we have likely found ourselves surprised at the lack of critical thinking among our students, especially as reflected in essays and classroom discussions.  When first considering the topic of critical thinking in the classroom, I began to reflect on my own college education and discovered that the courses I had taken for granted as basic requirements for the freshman and sophomore years had vanished from the required curriculum of most colleges and universities.  For example, I had not realized that an introduction to philosophy and a required course in logic had virtually disappeared as required courses.

At the high school level—where many of our interests and abilities are discovered, shaped, and formed—I learned that there is now a dearth of speaking and debate instruction—a consequence of budget-cutting as well as the desire to avoid introducing controversial political topics.  In my own case, I learned almost everything I know about thinking and argumentation from serving as a debater in high school and in college.

Here at Belhaven, we have a faculty mandate to integrate the Christian faith throughout the curriculum.  Foundational to this integration is the understanding that education (in its primary sense) is the acquisition of knowledge by which, secondarily, one becomes wise.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7, English Standard Version).  As John Patrick of St. Augustine College has written, a liberal education “is an apprenticeship  in wisdom.”

But how to introduce critical thinking into the classroom remains a challenge for everyone in higher education.  We can certainly teach our students how to identify and avoid logical fallacies.  We can introduce them to inductive and deductive reasoning.  But perhaps more importantly, students must be taught how to find evidence for their assertions and arguments.  We must teach them to take charge of their minds by basing their beliefs and ideas on facts, logic, and reason.

Exit Tickets – Are you doing this????

According to an article just published in Educational Technology and Mobile Learning, titled: 8 Great Exit Ticket Tools for Teachers:

Exit tickets or cards are informal assessment tools teachers can use to assess students understanding at the end of a class. They can also be used for formative assessment purposes to help teachers design better instructional content based on students feedback. Exit tickets can take the form of a prompt or a question related to what have been taught in the lesson. Here are some examples of questions and prompts to use in your exit cards as featured in Brown University:

 “Name one important thing you learned in class today.
What did you think was accomplished by the small group activity we did today?

READ MORE

I think this makes a lot of sense.  I think you could set this up as a discussion question in Canvas, or simply use paper and pencil at the end of the class session.  I definitely encourage you to check out the article for the other prompts that are being used at Brown University.  These prompts can mine for information about student learning and open up avenues for further discussion or instruction.

So, if you aren’t using Exit Tickets, why not give it a go???

Webinar: Best Practices to Inspire Student Engagement

by Dr. Warren Matthews, Mrs. Kim Priesmeyer, Dr. Ray Smith, & Dr. John Song

Four of Belhaven’s full-time faculty came together to share their ideas on how to increase student engagement in the classroom.  Their ideas are bulleted below but the real value will come when you take the time to watch this WEBINAR.  Each one brings new insights to the subject, applying their ideas both to online and on-site courses.  If you are like me you will be taking notes practically from the first word.  This was a great webinar with some take-away for everyone.  It will also be available in the Faculty Resources area of this Blog, under Webinars

John Song, Full-time Bible Faculty, Atlanta

“My personal contributions consisted of some basic but hopefully helpful principles. The three principles were: (1) relationships, (2) relevance, and (3) reflection.”

Kim Priesmeyer, Full-time English Faculty, Houston

  1. Send out a reminder announcement sent out each week through Canvas regarding what’s due next class meeting.
  2. Spend a few minutes each night with each student giving feedback on writing (require that students bring some writing to class to review before a paper is due)
  3. List nightly objectives/agenda on the whiteboard with approx time to spend (ex:  peer review with first draft, 30 mins)
  4. Show APA videos from Resources during class so we’re all on the same page about APA

Warren Matthews, Full-time Business Faculty, Houston

  1.  Effective feedback is very important, not only in grading but also in class discussion
  2. Socratic questioning is important to add value in the classroom.
  3. In an online class, be visible on a regular basis in the classroom
  4. Share our professional experience and insights.  Give examples from real world situations that are relevant to the course.
  5. Refer to current events as appropriate to apply the theory of the classroom to the real world.
  6. Inspire students by recognizing excellence in discussions and assignments.

Ray Smith, Full-time Business Faculty, Chattanooga

  1. Use of Wall Street Journal
  2. Current movie clips representing text topics
  3. CWV – use of entire books or topics that follow the full course
  4. Technology or mobile devices – turn them into assets rather than distractions
  5. Use small groups (2 or 3) to respond to questions instead of instructor merely quoting text or giving opinion

After the webinar was over, I received this addition from Nick Walters, Adjunct Instructor

Dr. Upchurch – Thank you for setting up these monthly webinars.  Even though many of us have the spiritual gift of teaching, it doesn’t mean we have cornered the market on how to do it.  These webinars have been very helpful.

Setting the Table . . . Insights on Andragogy from IWU

There are a lot of resources available for Instructors to draw from to improve their ability to achieve student learning both in and out of the classroom.  At this LINK you will find an excellent resource from Indiana Wesleyan University Faculty Development Blog.  This particular session deals with group work within the classroom and how to organize and manage group work effectively.

In this series on “Setting the Table” from Indiana Wesleyan you will find other presentations which will hopefully inspire you to try something new and see your role in a fresh light.

Related Webinars