Category: Student Engagement

Ignition Moments

by Dr. Paul T. Criss, Dean – Memphis/DeSoto

Students are coming to your classroom each night internally asking a lot of questions. Questions like: What is important for me? What are my immediate needs? What will be my future needs? Which call do I answer (passion)? How do I do good (purpose)? How do I engage in personal development? What is the right trajectory for me? What are my personal goals?

One of the ways we can begin to address their questions is to develop a strong culture on our campuses. A Harvard Study discovered that building a strong culture increases success by 765 percent over a ten year period. Daniel Coyle in The Culture Code stated, “Real power of the interaction is located in two-way emotional signaling. It creates an atmosphere of connections that surrounds the conversations.” Dr. Rick Upchurch sums this idea up in stating “all of life boils down to relationships.” To accomplish these connections and conversations, we have to be intentional. We have to allow students to become emotionally invested to spark a personal desire to change habits.

Dr. Mark Kay Park illustrated this with an account of what became the Community Led Total Sanitation Program in Bangladesh. The leaders had provided villages with new stainless latrines, but the inhabitants were not using them. CLTS realized that they need to spark a desire in the culture to change habits. The needed what they called an “ignition moment” to allow the community to take responsibility. To accomplish this they needed every member of the community to become emotionally invested in the goal. The send sent facilitators into each of the villages who had members of the community draw a map on the dirt ground. They then had them use yellow chalk dust to mark on the map the communal defecation area. They asked them where they defecated when it was inconvenient to go to the communal area, when they could not make it to the area, or when they were simply ill. Eventually the entire map was covered with yellow dust. They asked the villagers if they had ever seen flies in the communal area and if flies had ever landed on their food. They helped them to make the connection between flies spreading disease and members of the community contracting disease. The villagers emotional response to being the ones responsible for the spreading of disease in the community motivated them to follow sanitary procedures and utilized the latrines. It was their “ignition moment” to work for change. No new information was presented, yet it changed their behavior because it connected to their emotions.

The same idea can help our students persevere to the end. What will their “ignition moment” be? How will you introduce it to them? We need to think about problems that no one want to discuss and to help others see the truth. That “ignition moment” may not only the change the trajectory of their life and career, it may also change their family’s legacy. The most powerful change happens when our students discover the truth for themselves. Magical moments like these can change a student’s personal perspective.

To provide these “peak” – “ignition” – “magical moments,” we will need to cultivate a strong culture in our classrooms. Three basic actions that we can take to cultivate this kind of culture are to build safety, share vulnerability, and establish purpose. A safe community allows academic freedom to discuss these hard issues balanced by the Christian Worldview and this will generate bonds of belonging. Those who share vulnerability bump up performance by 24% and this explains how the habits of mutual risk together drive trusting cooperation. Finally, establishing purpose within the classroom drives everyone to go in the same direction together. This can be engendered in the classroom by encapsulating purpose into stories that drive shared values and shared goals. It is appropriate to be motivational in the classroom and to share inspirational stories. Be encouraging.

Dr. Park closed the 2018 CAHEA Conference with two insightful Illustrations. The first was about Dr. Alfred Tomatis who developed the Tomatis Method. He was an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor whose theory stated that many vocal problems were really hearing problems. An opera singer came to him who had lost their voice. He did not believe that it was a vocal cord issue. He performed a different kind of check-up and discovered that inside the opera singer’s skull, the ears were experiencing 140 decibel sound – louder than a military fighter jet – and that the singer was being deafened by his own voice. He theorized on the reason for selective deafness and selective muteness – the voice can only produce what the ear can hear.

The second illustration was about Krakatoa – a volcano that erupted in the Indonesian Island Arc. In 1883, rancher in Australia heard the boom some 2800 miles away. The volcanic island erupted at 310 decibels and caused 120 feet tall tidal waves. It was felt around the world, even in the opposite point of the world, Colombia, South America.

From these two illustrations, we can derive a few points of reflection for those of us teaching in the adult studies classroom. First, do we experience a spiritual Tomatis Effect – are we deafened by our own voice? Or is God’s voice the loudest in our life? Are we passing on what we hear from Him? I have always been fascinated by the account of Elijah after his personal “pity” party. The account states, The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” (1 Kings 12:11-12, New International Version) The ambient sound at your local Starbucks is 70 decibels (ambient sound makes your creative juices flow), but a whisper is 15 decibels. I think the reason God whispers is because it causes us to lean in and be close to Him. We need this proximity to hear and understand the word He would have us share with our students. The second from Krakatoa is to be sensitive to what God is igniting in the hearts of your students that may one day be felt around the world. What does God want to share through you that will spark that “ignition moment?”

Peak Moments

by Dr. Paul T. Criss, Dean – Memphis/DeSoto

Coming back from the Christian Adult Higher Education Association Conference 2018, I have been reflecting on several ideas that were presented that I would like to unpack over a couple articles.

The plenary speaker, Dr. Mary Kay Park, Executive Managing Director of the Far East Broadcasting Company – Korea in Los Angeles, presented several intriguing ideas. The one that greatly intrigued me personally was this statement: “Currently there is a ‘boundary-less-ness’ in careers. The shape of the career has changed – today’s young people will change employers twelve to fifteen times and careers nine to eleven times. We are not preparing students for a single job market, we are preparing them for twelve to fifteen employer scenarios and nine to eleven career scenarios.”

That provoked some reflection on how our classrooms will likely change. In addition to focusing on the content of the course, the faculty member must also focus on all of the intangibles that need to be brought to bear on student learning. Not only the typical hard and soft skill development, but also teaching and developing flexibility, resilience, and grit/perseverance. These essential skills are needed for the diverse future that may lie ahead.

Dr. Park continued to explain three areas that disrupt a student’s pathway to success. The first is situational barriers – things like time limit and cost. The second is institutional barriers – policies and procedures that may discourage or exclude students. The third area is dispositional barriers – personal perception, attitude, and support. As faculty, we may not be able to address the first and second barriers, but we certainly can address the third. But how? How do you help improve a student’s perception of themselves,  of Belhaven, and of the future that God has in store?

Disneyland and Disneyworld conducted a study by asking attendees to rate their experience throughout their day at their amusement park. On a scale of 1-10 how good is the experience at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., noon, and throughout the day. The average experience was 8.6. How would one look back at that a few months later? Would you remember? Everyone remembers the higher scores. WE only remember the peaks and then we average the peaks. What are students remembering from their experience in your classroom? What are they sharing at dinner parties? With current Belhaven Students? With potential Belhaven students? How is that an anchor point for them as they maneuver through their career journey?

Dr. Park suggested focusing on the “power of moments” – teachable moments – peak moments that will be remembered. How do you create more peak moments in your classroom? Perhaps find ways to embed God’s truth into practical life application. Share personal and professional experiences that have shaped you. Bring into the forefront those experiences that changed the trajectory of your career. Moments that made you more resilient, flexible, and gritty. Students in Tennessee attest that the number one reason they persisted in their studies is that they had a meaningful moment with a faculty member outside of the classroom. Be available in the hallway, prior to class, or at a student appreciation event. Be intentional about learning each of your students’ name. Find something about each student to which you can relate – it will help you remember them. Create those peak moments in your classroom and improve the trajectory of your students’ lives.

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

7 Laws of the Learner

7 Laws of the Learner is the title of a book by Bruce Wilkinson published in 1984.  The focus is on understanding how students learn and ways to enhance student learning. Because Dr. Wilkinson is a Christian, biblical principles are applied throughout the material.  He draws out the word for teach in Deut. 4:1 and learn in Deut 5:1 and shares that they have the same root.

According to Hebrew grammar, the fundamental idea … means to busy oneslef eagerly with student’s learning. Do you see how the Bible’s mindset is the opposite of the normal mindset? The Bible says that teaching means “causing learning.” This is the heart of the Law of the Learner. No longer can you or I consider teaching merely as something the teacher does in the front of the class.  Teaching is what the teacher does in the student.  How do you know if you are a great teacher? by what your students learn. p. 26-27

I know we have great teachers working at Belhaven. I know you are passionate about your students and their success. I know you go beyond expectations to do all you can to achieve student learning.  We are blessed by a faculty who recognize the biblical foundations of what they do and strive to do what they do “as unto the Lord.”

May God bless you for all you do and the lives you are impacting by your faithfulness.

Crossword Classroom Activity

This is a variation of a post initially made March 2015 titled Activity for the Last Hour: Scrabble.  In this version, it becomes a game which can be used to teach a new concept or review a concept already covered.  The model below is based on teaching a new concept.

Break your class into groups of 3 to 4 individuals.  Each group should name itself. Give an assigned passage from the textbook or an article which covers a key concept.  Each group is to compose 6-10 crossword questions and a one-word answer.  This portion should take approximately 20-40 minutes depending on the amount of reading assigned.

Now, print one term in the middle of the whiteboard that defines the key concept.  On a rotating basis, each team adds a series of boxes across the word you entered, or one of the words another team entered, to make a crossword option.  One of the team members asks the question relative to the term and the first team to respond is awarded points.  Each team gets 10 points for adding relevant terms to the growing crossword, as well as 15 points for correctly answering the questions.  Keep score on the whiteboard so everyone can see the running totals.  As Instructor you are the judge on relevancy of terms and any team which proposes a term which you deem non-relevant misses their turn. The game ends when no team can add other relevant terms.  Total the points and announce the winning team.

At the end of the time, have everyone take a picture of the board (you too).  Assign a student at the beginning to create a Google Doc to record the questions and answers and share it with the entire class.  Alternately, have each team create a Google Doc for their team and share it with you so you can compile the information later.

This type of activity is great for learning new concepts because it not only covers the data, which you could probably do quicker in a lecture, but it also helps the student to better integrate the data into their memory.  Alternately, this activity can also be used for mid-term or final review.

Integrating Critical Thinking in Classroom Discussions

By Dr. Everett Wade,
English Faculty, Belhaven-Memphis

Class discussions do not always come easily, especially when they focus on readings from course material. Stimulating conversation is often difficult, and students are often reluctant to engage. At other times, students are so eager to speak that the conversation is shallow and drifts off topic. Even lively discussions may lack the underlying critical thinking that is necessary for a profitable evaluation of the reading. In order to motivate discussion while avoiding these pitfalls, I use a three-step procedure of summary, analysis, and assessment. This process helps students to discuss texts in a manner that encourages critical thinking.

Critical thinking is generally defined as “objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.” Too often, however, class discussions reverse this process, as teachers begin by asking students what they think of the reading (their judgment) and then try to work back to objective analysis and evaluation. During my time teaching, I have certainly been tempted to begin class discussions with questions that require a student to make an overall judgment on the text. The problem with this approach is that students generally haven’t had time to digest the reading material for that day. To give the proper structure to the discussion, I begin by writing three column headings on the board: summary, analysis, and assessment.

Summary

We begin with summary. How well we are able to summarize is a good barometer for how well we have comprehended a text in the first place. Furthermore, the mere act of restating the main ideas of the text often results in insights and discovery. As we summarize the reading, I let the students do the talking while I take notes on the board. It can be helpful to ask the students to provide citations for key points in the summary, e.g., “Where did the author claim that—can you give me the page number?” or “Can you read me the sentence where the author makes that claim?”

Analysis

After summary, we move on to analysis—the detailed examination of the elements and structure of the text. Although the attribution is dubious, Aristotle is often quoted as having said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Regardless of this statement’s source, its sentiment is valuable. I stress to students that when we analyze, we are holding the text and its ideas at arm’s length: we table our emotions, responses, and judgments. We ask questions regarding the reading’s context—to whom was it written, and during what time period? We also discuss the nature of the work: is it merely informative, or is it persuasive? If it is argumentative, can we find a thesis statement? How well do the author’s reasons support his or her claim? And what kind of evidence does the author provide? The answers to such questions provide a basis for the next step in our discussion: assessment.

Assessment

Having grounded our discussion in summary and analysis, we then move on to assessment—making a final judgment about the text. At this point, students may express their views more freely. What is their emotional reaction to the reading? Do they agree or disagree with the author? Discussing such observations is more profitable at this point for several reasons. For one, we have already grounded the main points of the reading, thus reducing the risk of mischaracterizing the author’s ideas. Furthermore, because we have analyzed the article, students can frame their emotional responses more critically. The process of summary and analysis enables the students not only to evaluate the reading itself, but also their reactions to it. We can judge whether certain gut reactions were warranted, or whether they break down under closer observation. Finally, students can use the summary and analysis during the first parts of the session to develop an overall judgment of the reading, thus developing their own thesis that could be used for writing a response or as a springboard for a longer research essay.

Although this three-step procedure may need to be adjusted for each course’s unique context, it provides a basic structure that ensures more substance and depth for classroom discussions. By engaging in this process, students can avoid a shallow exchange of ill-informed opinions, and instead think critically, engaging in objective analysis and evaluation of an issue before forming a judgment.

Video Clips

I just ran across an amazing website that has a variety of video clips which can be used for educational purposes without fear of violating copyright, and which are broken down into easy searchable categories.  The site is called ClassHook. The video clips can be used for free.  The clips are classroom appropriate (which you can’t always say about youtube or vimeo, and teacher reviewed.  Check it out here:  https://www.classhook.com/

Here are a couple of reviews of ClassHook:

https://edshelf.com/tool/classhook/

http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2017/05/02/classhook-for-finding-that-perfect-clip-in-record-time/

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.