Why It Works – Faculty

A student walks into the classroom after working all day, comes straight to class where she will be for the next four hours before getting home around 11:00, if she’s lucky.  Hopefully her children have had a smooth evening and are asleep, otherwise it will be a really late night.  Then back up to get everyone off to school and head back to work.  Week after week, month after month, usually for two, three or four straight years.  Why, because this her route to a better life for her and her family.  She doesn’t just want the degree, she needs the options it will bring for herself and her children.

Belhaven University provides the opportunity, the path toward that better life.  The focus on a Christian Worldview which permeates the curriculum gives her more than she bargained for and its value will multiply back to her over the years.

BU and the focus on a Christian Worldview will leave a mark, but it is the Faculty who make it work.  It is the Faculty who bring themselves to the intersection of these students striving to better themselves and the course content.  It is the Faculty whose passion, faith, compassion, and knowledge make it possible for the student to be willing to persevere.  It is the Faculty who perceive their role as mentors and guides whose comments and personal discussions inspire and encourage.  It is the Faculty who see more than a paycheck; who see mission and purpose in changing lives as a calling that pass along more than the curriculum contains.

You are why it works.  Thank you.

 

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.

END OF COURSE EVALUATIONS – SOMETIMES THEY STING

The post below was originally made in December 2014.  Since then we have fully moved back to paper evaluations and will continue with that model until we can find a way to achieve a similar response rate through electronic means.  When the evaluations come in from the classes, the quantitative data is processed through a scantron like process to yield the individual and summative scores.  The individual comments are all typed in manually for easier consumption.  Hopefully, you are looking at your scores in each area as well as reading through the comments.  We never pull any comments out, even those which seem unduly harsh, thus the title of this blog.  Since the recent TEBS data for Spring 2017 has or will be released soon, I thought this might be a good time to re-post this.

Rick

Dr. Chip Mason, Dean of Belhaven’s School of Business, sent me an article titled “Cruel Student Comments: Seven Ways to Soothe the Sting,” knowing we are moving back to paper evaluations for the Adult Studies courses.  I’m excited about this move because it means we will get a much better response rate, which will yield better information about the course and classroom instruction.  However, it also may yield more of those stinging comments which we all would rather not hear.  In this article by Isis Artze-Vega, she expands on the seven points below.  I encourage you to read the article.  This is always a touchy subject where it is easy to get defensive, but it is also can be one of the most useful tools available if approached from the right perspective, even if painful.

Seven Ways to Soothe the Sting:

1.  Analyze the Data

2. Resist the lure of the negative

3. Let your critics be your gurus

4.  Find counter-evidence

5.  Dwell on the positive ones.

6. Read them with a friend

7. Be proactive

Thanks, Chip, for sending this to my attention.

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.

Dry Bones and Dead Hearts

Ron Pirtle, Dean of Faculty – Chattanooga/Dalton

If you have ever wondered what impact you, an adjunct faculty member, might have on a student, let me share a story. A few months ago, I had a student in my office who had stopped by just to share what a blessing the class she had just completed was to her and others in the class. Knowing which faculty member was assigned to that class, it did not surprise me in the least. However, while I had expected to hear how effective the faculty had been in helping them learn the information, she surprised me by sharing how she felt the faculty member had been used by God to open her heart back up to Scripture and the Holy Spirit. What a testament to God and the faculty member’s willingness to listen to the Spirit and be used by Him! While that is just one short story related to the Chattanooga site, it is true for many of our faculty members, across all the instructional sites. I am confident the other deans would have similar stories. So, how can we, as faculty members, allow God to use us to open up a student’s mind or heart? Let’s take a trip to the Valley of Dry Bones!

Those familiar with the book of Ezekiel know that the “glory of the Lord” is fundamental to the book, as well as God’s kindness and restoration regardless of Israel’s continued disobedience. In Ezekiel 37, God gives Ezekiel a vision of a valley of dry bones and commands him to speak to the dry bones, exclaiming that God will put breath back into them, and tendons and flesh, and cause them to live again. Of course, this vision was God’s way of telling the Israelites that he would resurrect them as a nation, which is revealed in verses 11 – 13. It is through this resurrection that God will put His Spirit back into Israel and place them back in their own land. The message of this particular vision is as true today as it was in Ezekiel’s time; God can take dry bones and dead hearts and bring life back into them.

So, I ask again…how can we, as faculty members, allow God to use us to open up a student’s mind or heart? Listen for God’s direction and guidance when dealing with a student, opening ourselves up to allow His Spirit to move through us, and His word, to breathe life back into our students. The faculty member from the story allowed God to work through them and allowed the work of the Spirit to breathe new life into the students in the class. As a result, a new hunger for establishing how Scripture should be used in every area of our life to allow God to work through us was established, viewing life through the lens of Scripture! This is the very essence of the Christian worldview, which is central to our teaching. So, as we stand before our students each night, my prayer is that we will heed the Spirit’s leading and be the vessel God uses to breathe life back into those who He is restoring to Himself. I leave you with a link to a song by Lauren Daigle, “Dry Bones”…powerful rendition of Ezekiel 37! May it bless you as it has me! https://youtu.be/MqzrTpwXTr8

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