Category: Student Engagement

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

A Perspective on Student Engagement

by Dr. John Song, Full-time Bible Faculty, Atlanta

In our recent webinar, we had a panel of great instructors share some of their best teaching practices. The goal was to discuss how we can better engage our students. My personal contributions consisted of some basic but hopefully helpful principles. The three principles were: (1) relationships, (2) relevance, and (3) reflection.

First is relationship. While this seems obvious to many, it remains as a key component in increasing student engagement. Students tend to stay engaged in the classroom when they intuitively sense that their instructor cares about their success and overall well-being. This is a biblical form of shepherding. I suggested during the webinar that there were some key indicators that can help us gauge whether we have established sufficient rapport with the students. One of those indicators was whether the student felt comfortable asking the professor for prayer. As we all know, personal challenges can be serious obstructions to learning. Building trust and praying for our students, then, can make us better shepherds who can keep our students engaged. Trust can be built by sharing a moment of laughter and making conversation during breaks. These moments may hold more value than we surmise.

The second is relevance. During the webinar, I shared a brief anecdote about my personal experience in college. Before the dawn of the information revolution — the internet — I learned in my finance classes how to calculate loan payments. This required an expensive Hewlett-Packard finance calculator. To make a long story short, by applying what I learned I realized that I was being overcharged in my car loan. The moral of the story is that when instructors make the material practical students tend to become more engaged.

The third was reflection. Beyond the attempts at minor quips in the second principle, I tried using a more concrete example with this last point. I used the analogy of a “cup.” Our students, I argued, were like cups and over time these cups were filled with, to name a few examples, (1) elements of Christianity, (2) family and cultural values, (3) postmodern assumptions, (4) Nietzsche’s me-centered “will to power,” (5) hedonism, (6) nihilistic depression and so forth. What is interesting about this syncretistic mixture is not only the elements that have been inserted into this cup but the fact that after unconsciously swirling these worldviews together we label it “Christianity.” This again may seem obvious to those who study theology like myself but many don’t realize that from this we do what Ludwig Feuerbach has accused Christianity of doing all along — we take from this admixture (and because we have labeled it Christianity) we then project an image of “God.” In other words, our understanding of God is affected by what has been placed into this cup. This also, in turn, affects the way we live. Our job as faculty, then, is to help our students discover what is in this cup. By doing so, we keep our students engaged.

I personally enjoyed this webinar. I certainly learned a lot from my colleagues and I thank them for their valuable ministry at Belhaven.

If you would like to view the webinar it can be found at this LINK

 

 

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???