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End of the Year Round-up

Congratulations! You’ve (almost) made it to the end of what sometimes felt like an apocalyptic semester. Classes are over, and for many of us all that remains is a pile of papers or exams to grade. In the midst of all the end-of-semester chaos, take a moment to pat yourself on the back for all you’ve accomplished in the last few months. We’ve all moved mountains this semester, and it’s important to acknowledge our successes. 

As you wade through that pile of final assignments, you may be interested in our previous blog post on strategies for efficient evaluation. As you receive the results of your CIFs, you may be interested in this post on using course evaluations as a self-assessment exercise. But remember, this has been an extraordinary semester, and we should approach course evaluations with altered circumstances in mind. Your CIFs, like everything else, will be affected by the online transition, so remember to treat them with care and consider only the feedback that is constructive. 

We hope the summer will provide some time for you to catch your breath and also to hone your teaching skills. Consider taking advantage of Kaneb Center resources over the next few months. If you’d like guidance in interpreting your CIFs, designing a course for the fall, or just reflecting on your teaching practice, feel free to schedule an individual consultation. If you’d like to learn more about teaching remotely, consider signing up for our graduate summer course on How to Design Online Courses (GRED 64600). Keep an eye on the ND Learning Pedagogical Support website for our summer pedagogy workshop schedule, which will be announced in early May.

We’ll be back with more blog posts in the fall. Until then, we wish you a restful summer!

 

Take a minute to visualize your students studying. What do you expect them to be doing? If you were to make a study guide for your students, what would it look like? What skills or processes do you expect to be automatic? What concept is usually the hardest for students? How do you classify content and draw connections among ideas? 

 

In my mathematics courses, I receive many requests from students for “formula sheets” and “study guides”. This happens every semester, like clockwork, so last year I implemented a midterm exam wrapper to determine how my students prepare for exams. I was shocked to find out that some students study for math tests by just re-reading their notes. It was then that I realized the importance of modeling effective, discipline-specific study practices.

To be sure, there are scientifically proven good study habits (like minimizing distractions, getting enough sleep, testing yourself, teaching others the material, etc.) that we can all share with our students. But there are also practices that are especially effective for our disciplineand this is the subject of today’s blog post.

As an example, I’d like to share a few of the practices that I model and activities that I encourage students to do as they study for my calculus courses.

 

Revisit big ideas and classify course content. It’s easy for students to lose sight of the big picture and, as a result, students often struggle to see how topics are related. Before an exam, I dedicate 10-15 minutes of class time for reflection, recall, and the creation of a simple concept map.

Provide a fill-in the blank study guide. This is a great way to provide structure for student studying while still allowing for the benefits of note-taking. For each topic, I ask my students to fill in (i) the formula, (ii) the main idea, (iii) a connection to another concept, and (iv) an example problem.

Encourage repetition. For some computations and processes, practice makes perfect. I encourage my students to go back and work through old homeworks and quizzes with our concept map in mind and their study guide in hand. Not only does this promote proficiency and automaticity, but also metacognition.

Create a practice exam. This requires some extra work on my part, but is important for reducing test anxiety. Distributing a practice exam allows students to predict the structure, level of questions, and time constraints of the actual exam. And, of course, a practice exam is an opportunity for more practice.

 

As we approach finals week, I encourage you to think about what study practices are most effective for your discipline and to share them with your students.

 

The sudden shift to online learning can deepen existing inequalities.The digital divide (uneven distribution and access to technology) combined with the implications of a global pandemic for different socio-economic and racial groups means that many students will be disproportionately affected by the shift to remote work. For instructors, this means that we need to think about logistical and technological concerns as inseparable from pedagogical ones. Considering all of the factors that may be affecting student performance also means curating an inclusive pedagogy that prioritizes equitable access to the learning environment. 

Inclusive pedagogy asks us to consider how we can help all students succeed. Facilitating inclusion in the physical classroom often means creating spaces where students feel valued and included, setting clear expectations, and making learning and assessment accessible to all students. Though the online shift can complicate these strategies, the principles remain the same. Adapted to online teaching contexts, inclusive teaching and learning requires transparency, accessibility, and flexibility.

Transparency

Clearly communicating the rationale behind instructional choices can motivate students to learn and make them more successful. However, the additional challenges of remote learning make it even more important to be mindful of hidden curricula and expectations we may take for granted. As such, we must make sure that we are not making any unnecessary assumptions about what our students know and what they are able to do. Inclusive strategies center transparency through clear, shared expectations for students and instructors. 

Accessibility

Students working from home may not have access to stable, high-speed internet service or top of the line software and hardware, and/or they may have to share bandwidth and devices with parents or siblings who are also required to work from home. Students who rely on mobile devices may have data plans that run low or run out before the end of the semester. Unfortunately community-based resources that we may want to direct students to, like libraries and coffee shops, are probably closed now due to state and local regulations. For students with disabilities, remote learning can be even more difficult. 

Flexibility

Equitable and inclusive teaching means working with the diversity of students across multiple dimensions. Right now, that means also considering the varied ways that their lives are disrupted. As we adjust to the new normal of remote teaching and learning, it is important to be as flexible as possible. We can accomplish this by adjusting our approaches to teaching: Consider balancing synchronous and asynchronous tools and course materials so that students have multiple points of access, re-center active learning strategies, provide multiple means of assessment and evaluation, and allow students–within reason–flexibility to meet deadlines. 

More tips for increasing equitable access: 

  • Survey students about their needs and wellbeing
    • Ask students about technology, availability, and anything else they would like you to take into consideration
    • If you have a student who anticipates or who has demonstrated accessibility concerns, ask them what they would need in order to participate more fully in the course or submit work
    • Use the results to inform your decisions about the course
  • Consider the Universal Design for Learning framework
    • Use the results from surveys to inform your decisions about the course: revisit your goals, materials, methods, and assessments, and make sure they are accessible to everyone
    • Create flexible paths of learning for each student to progress
  • Ensure lectures and synchronous sessions are accessible 
    • Record live sessions to be uploaded to Sakai or emailed 
    • Create captions on videos
  • Ensure asynchronous and other written materials are accessible
    • PDFs are generally more accessible for students with disabilities who may rely on screen-readers, and more accessible on mobile devices
    • Work with the library and bookstore to make texts accessible to students who may not be able to afford the necessary materials
  • Provide opportunities for low tech and alternate assignments 
    • Offer flexibility or alternatives to students when access is an issue 
    • Create a menu of options for students to choose from in order to meet assignment and course learning goals
  • Solicit feedback on online instruction
    • Ask students what is working for them and what isn’t
    • Students are well-placed to assess their abilities 

Inclusive environments value and include everyone. During this unpredictable time, everyone will experience high levels of stress and anxiety stemming from physical, emotional, cognitive, and financial challenges. Students and instructors alike will be significantly impacted by this disruption, which can have a negative impact on motivation and performance. Students will be affected in ways they may not even wish to share. So when possible, offer all students the benefit of compassion and understanding with deadlines, workloads and the necessary time to adapt to our ever-changing environment. 

Additional Resources: 

Maintaining Equity and Inclusion in Virtual Learning Environments
Inclusion, Equity, and Access While Teaching Remotely
Accessible Teaching In The Time Of Covid-19
An Equitable Transition to Online Learning: Flexibility, Low Bandwidth, Cell Phones, and More
You Have to Put Your Class Online: Simple Things to Think About
Reflections by Dr. Jason Petrulis 

This post was adapted from a Kaneb Center mini-workshop. For additional resources, suggested reading, and sample rubrics, check out the mini-workshop presentation slides, as well as this Kaneb Center presentation on creating and using class-based discussion boards

Now that classes have moved online for the remainder of the semester, many instructors have implemented online discussion boards as a course requirement. But it can be tricky to evaluate student participation on these boards, especially for instructors who have little experience with them. What follows are some tips about how to assess online discussions. 

Establish expectations and craft a rubric: Before you begin grading discussion boards, you’ll want to be clear, both to yourself and your students, about the purpose of the discussion board. How does the board fulfill your learning goals? What are the ideal learning outcomes for your students? Let these questions guide your evaluation criteria, and make sure those criteria are communicated to students as early as possible. Consider creating a rubric to share with students that clarifies both the quantitative and qualitative expectations for student participation in the discussion board or forum. 

Prioritize quality of engagement: While your rubric should include quantitative elements and objective measures—like post frequency, post length, and timeliness—make sure to emphasize qualitative ones as well. Discussions might be graded on elements like the demonstration of critical thinking; strength of argument, analysis, or interpretation; use of evidence; and application or synthesis of concepts. Likewise, though considerations like grammar and mechanics are important, the point of these boards is to help students exercise their skills in higher order thinking. Make sure your rubric prioritizes and rewards this kind of substantive student engagement. 

Prioritize interaction and collaboration: Discussion boards work best when students substantively engage not only with the discussion prompt but also with their fellow classmates. Make sure your rubric evaluates students in part on the frequency and quality of their interactions with others. Productive interaction doesn’t always come naturally to students, so consider providing frameworks that help them learn to advance the conversation. For example, you might ask students to respond to each other using a 3CQ, in which each student’s reply must include a compliment, a comment, a connection (3C) and a question (Q).

Keep feedback and grading simple: If you have a large number of students posting to a discussion board every week, it can be difficult to provide frequent individualized feedback. Instead, you might try providing collective feedback for students. Have a class conversation early in the process about participation in the discussion boards: what’s working and what could use improvement? To give students some ideas about how to improve their participation, you might also consider allowing them to evaluate their own contributions according to a set of criteria you provide. When it comes to grading, keep your systems as simple as possible: consider credit/no credit grading; roll discussion boards into a holistic participation grade; or use a simple points scale. 

Discussion boards can be tricky to evaluate, but they’re great tools for developing higher order thinking skills and for building classroom community. With a little thought and planning, you can create a set of evaluation criteria that not only make grading easier but also help your students realize these goals.  

With the recent move to online teaching and news about student grades, the following article written by Judy Ableser might serve as a useful reminder of one of our foundational goals for teaching – Mastery Learning.

Mistakes are Opportunities to Learn: Mastery Learning

Rationale

Almost forty years ago when I began teaching special education students, we used a model called FIE (Feuerstein’s Instructional Enrichment) (1980; 2004) which focused on helping students see their learning mistakes and guiding them through prompts to relearn or correct the concepts and skills. Years later while observing a student teacher in a classroom, I saw the following poster repeated all along the wall of the classroom: “Mistakes are opportunities to learn”.

Our goal as professors is to ensure that our students master the content and skills (or learning outcomes). Why is it then that we focus more on the grade and not the mastery of the content? Mastery learning ensures that a student has “mastered” a certain level of success prior to moving on to a next level. Feedback, scaffolding and opportunities to relearn and revise are central to the process (Guskey, 2009).

If a student gets a low grade in an assignment or a test but then demonstrates that they have analyzed where went wrong, how to correct their mistake, relearn the material, revise their work, and master the concepts prior to the end of the semester, shouldn’t we acknowledge that with an improved grade? Intensive writing courses frequently use this approach as part of the writing process by having students submit drafts, receive feedback and then revise their work. Graduate students always get feedback on each chapter and revise their work before their dissertation is approved. How can we apply this into other disciplines including STEM courses? Not only will students feel successful because they will earn a higher grade, but we as instructors can feel successful, knowing that by the time the student has completed the course, they have mastered the concepts and skills necessary to move on to the next level.

Suggested Practice

  1. Create a culture and learning environment that values and rewards students for mastery learning and learning from their mistakes. Post signs such as “Mistakes are opportunities to learn”.
  2. Share personal experiences that highlight times that you as an instructor were not initially successful but that you persisted, analyzed what you did wrong and learned from your mistakes. Have students share similar experiences.
  3. Provide assignments and assessments that allow for feedback, analysis of mistakes and revision.
  4. If you give tests, take them up in class and review common patterns of mistakes that students tend to make. Discuss what the mistake was and how this can be corrected.
  5. In smaller classes, work individually with students to diagnose how and why mistakes were made and guide students on how to correct the problems.
  6. Give students an opportunity to retake a different test or assignment that covers the same concepts or skills.

References:

Feuerstein, R., Feuerstein, S., Falik, L & Rand, Y. (1979; 2002). Dynamic assessments of cognitive modifiability. ICELP Press, Jerusalem: Israel

Feuerstein, R. Rand, Y., Hoffman, M.B., & Miller, R. (1980; 2004). Instrumental enrichment: An intervention program for cognitive modifiability. Baltimore, MD. University Park Press. 48

Guskey, T.R.(2009). Mastery Learning in 21st Century education: A reference handbook, vol 1 ed. T.L. Good. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Developed and Written by:

Judy Ableser

Director, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

Oakland University

Submitted by:

Carson Running

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering

University of Notre Dame

As we continue adapting to remote learning for the second half of the semester, the Kaneb Center would like to help equip you to navigate this transition well. Hopefully, you are now feeling more comfortable with the various platforms, such as Sakai and Zoom, that you are using to teach your class. Now is an opportune time to pause to consider how you might use those platforms to communicate compassionate concern for your students as they navigate this transition as well. We recommend the following strategies not only because they are likely to improve your relationship with your students, but also because they are likely to make you a more effective online instructor and improve your students’ learning experience.

Compassion, at its core, is a social and relational emotion based on a sense of connectedness and concern with the prevention, alleviation or elimination of suffering in others. The following four guiding principles, and accompanying strategies, are ways to implement compassion in an online pedagogical context. 

Transparency

One vital way to exercise compassion is to be transparent about new expectations for your classes, labs, or discussions. Things to clarify include: 

  • Altered learning goals
  • Grading, evaluation, and assignments
  • Synchronous vs. asynchronous contact
  • Attendance and participation

Another way to be transparent is to communicate with students as early as possible to check in and find out what they need. You might ask questions such as: 

  • Are they in different time zones?
  • Do they have access to computers, webcams, and the Internet?
  • Are they missing materials or resources? 
  • Do they have any past experience with online learning?
  • What will they need from you to succeed in this class?
  • Do they have other extenuating circumstances they’d like to share with you?

Empathy

A helpful first step toward exercising empathy is to acknowledge the difficulty of the situation and share your own struggles (within reason). Assure your students you’re willing to work with them. Consider creating space for them to share struggles, strategies, and resources as they transition to online distance learning. You might also consider incorporating mindfulness practices into instruction. Finally, where appropriate, you might refer students to mental health service resources and accessibility services where appropriate. 

Flexibility

If you’re the instructor of record, be as flexible as possible with course requirements, activities, assessments, and deadlines. If possible, mix synchronous and asynchronous methods, to accommodate different students’ needs. Be willing to change your methods if something is not working and provide alternatives for students unable to fulfill the stated requirements. In general, it’s a good policy to give students the benefit of the doubt right now. Make materials, resources, activities, and assessments as accessible as possible. 

Accessibility

A helpful way to make your course as accessible as possible is to incorporate frequent comprehension checks and opportunities for students to ask questions. It’s also a good idea to request student feedback on online instruction and make yourself available via virtual office hours and email. Give your students frequent reminders that you’re here to help. You might also consult the following accessibility pages.

Exercising compassion in an online pedagogical context can be challenging, but by intentionally implementing some of these strategies, instructors have the ability to improve the educational experience for everyone. 

 

References

This blog post is adapted from the Notre Dame Learning Kaneb Center “Compassionate Communication in Times of Disruption” Zoom Workshop by Emily Pitts Donahoe and Dominique Vargas. As mentioned in that workshop, additional resources include the following. 

Resources

Sara Bea Accessibility Services: https://sarabea.nd.edu/faculty-information—resources-for-online-accessible-courses/

Zoom’s Accessibility page: https://zoom.us/accessibility/faq

University Counseling Center: https://ucc.nd.edu 

Notre Dame COVID-19 Response: https://coronavirus.nd.edu 

Notre Dame Instructional Continuity page: https://coronavirus.nd.edu/instructional-continuity/ 

Notre Dame Learning Pedagogical Support for Remote Teaching: https://sites.google.com/nd.edu/nd-learning/ 

Notre Dame Care Consultants: https://care.nd.edu/

 

Suggested Reading

Federico Perelmuter, A Brief Letter to an Institution that Believes Extensions are the Accommodations We Need Right Now

James Lang, Turn Your Classroom Irritation Into Compassion

Michelle D. Miller, Going Online in a Hurry 

Martha Caldwell, How to Listen with Compassion in the Classroom

Four Part Nonviolent Communication Process, NVC

Gozawa, Joanne. “Contemplative Pedagogy and Compassionate Presence.” In Contemplative Learning and Inquiry across Disciplines. Edited by Olen Gunnlaugson, 341-360. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2014. muse.jhu.edu/book/34066.

Smeets, Elke, Kristin Neff, Hugo Alberts, and Madelon Peters. “Meeting Suffering With Kindness: Effects of a Brief Self‐Compassion Intervention for Female College Students.” Journal of Clinical Psychology 70, no. 9 (2014): 794–807. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.22076.

Waddington, Kathryn. “Creating Conditions for Compassion.” In The Pedagogy of Compassion at the Heart of Higher Education. Edited by Paul Gibbs, 49–70. Springer International Publishing, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-57783-8_4.

Amid the intense cultural changes implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19, I, like many others who became full-time caregivers, teachers, coaches, counselors, and nurses for children, younger siblings, and even aging parents seemingly overnight, dreaded the eroding line between work and home. Even though I enjoyed occasionally working from my quiet, carefully curated home office, that space has been invaded. I cringed as I pictured my eight-year-old making his Zoom debut in the adorable but disruptive fashion of professor Robert Kelly’s children.

How can we care for others, meet essential learning goals, reassure students, and maintain personal wellbeing in times of disruption? While this will most assuredly be a difficult transition, there are a few small, adaptable interventions that can make it easier: 

Make a Schedule

Routines can help mitigate anxiety and ensure everything gets done. Make a daily schedule and stick to it as best you can. I suggest actually printing and posting a daily schedule. Google Calendar works well too, but I prefer to have the schedule on the refrigerator and at my workspace. When it is posted, older children, adolescents, or parents can also see what we are doing and when without interruption. 

Here’s the “aspirational” schedule that I use to organize school work for my third-grader: 

While he does self-directed creative time, chores, and reading, I take Zoom meetings, answer emails, research, and write lesson plans. We do outside time and exercise together, which helps us maintain physical and mental wellbeing. Full disclosure: we don’t always stick to the schedule! Things happen, and we have to be gentle with ourselves and make course corrections throughout the day. 

Routines are important for our students too. Even asynchronous learning can be roughly scheduled with deadlines for completing tasks and assignments. Consider implementing a newsletter or agenda for each week. This “one-stop shop” can help students keep track of the course topics, due dates, readings, and appointments. Whatever your strategy, it’s also important to be transparent about your availability and establish mutual expectations.

Create Boundaries 

While we can’t ask infants or toddlers to wait patiently while we finish a Zoom call, it is age appropriate for slightly older children to work independently in the next room. We can also compassionately communicate these expectations with adolescents and parents. This can range from closing the door during meetings with a sign that says what time you will be done to designating and practicing non-verbal cues for when you cannot be interrupted. 

Make liberal use of the mute button on conference calls and Zoom. You can also use earbuds and/or noise-blocking headphones when safe and appropriate. Be prepared for contingencies and make your students and colleagues aware of these. You will definitely be interrupted at some point.

Multi-task When Possible 

It will not be possible for most of us to do one thing at a time all day every day. Although typically multi-tasking is not an effective strategy for productivity, we’re now in a situation that demands we find reasonable ways to both work and manage households simultaneously. Keep your hands free when you can, so you can soothe babies, write notes, and correct assignments while talking on the phone, reading, or grading. You can also engage in quiet activities (like coloring, puzzles, blocks, etc.) with younger children while working. 

If you have an in-home partner or an older child who is able to help, coordinate schedules to facilitate care-sharing routines. I’m not advocating that we outsource responsibilities wholesale, but this is an opportunity for everyone to work together to keep the household running. Make sure that you take turns and divide responsibilities based on availability and type of work. This can also make it easier to work uninterrupted and get necessary rest. 

Take Advantage of Rest Time

At my house, every day at 1 p.m. is D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) time. I try not to schedule meetings or instruction during this hour, so that my third grader and I are doing the same thing at the same time. This quiet time is invaluable: we are able to reset and do something we both enjoy. If you have infants or toddlers, you are probably exhausted. Take their nap time or quiet time for your own rest and/or restoration. Chances are, you will work after their bedtime anyway, and a brief rest during the day will make this more tenable. 

This is also a good time to tap into mindfulness resources. If you don’t already have a mindfulness practice, start small. Journaling and focused breathing can help manage anxiety in moments of disruption. These are beneficial to us, our children (who are also experiencing anxiety and fear), and our students. These contemplative practices can help us achieve a deeper understanding and management of our emotions, but they can also focus our attention, and prepare us for learning. If you implement mindfulness into your courses, remember to communicate its pedagogical purpose and the way it fits in with learning goals. 

Connect with a Community 

Arrange virtual playdates for children and younger siblings. Their social time is good for them, but also frees up some time for you to work and rest. Building and accessing caregiver support groups and writing accountability groups online can also help us maintain connections with others in similar situations. If it feels safe, share your family situation with close colleagues and peers. You can even develop some strategies for another person to take over if you have to step away from a call or meeting. 

These principles also translate to pedagogical practices. Our students are facing similar social isolation and missing out on the community they love. Facilitate student-to-student communication as much as much as possible. Providing a collaborative framework through Sakai forums or small group zoom meetings, can help build virtual connections. 

Finally, take care of yourself. 

In moments of disruption, it is easy to fall into hopelessness and allow our inner critic free reign of our self esteem, but we can also use this time to inspire ourselves to overcome internal and external barriers. This is a difficult and disruptive time for everyone, and the best that we can do is to find a new normal. 

Adhering to a routine and making virtual connections are the best things each of us can do to enhance wellbeing. If you’re unsure of what you’re feeling or where to start, take some assessments and develop a self-care routine. It can sometimes take weeks to process our feelings about difficult experiences. Check in with yourself often and reach out when you need it. 

Additional Reading: 

ND Learning – Pedagogical Support for Remote Teaching
ND – Coronavirus Response
The Chronicle of Higher Education – How to be a Caregiver While Caring for Your Own Career
The Wall Street Journal – New Normal Amid Coronavirus: Working From Home While Schooling the Kids

 

As Notre Dame transitions to temporary online instruction, I want to share five concrete tips that I have learned from teaching online for the past two years.

 

1. Keep it simple.

Revisit your learning goals and determine the technology that is necessary/available. Use this information to construct a feasible plan. (See here for sample online teaching plans.)

 

2. Take advantage of Sakai.

Avoid sending your students thousands of emails. Sakai has many useful tools. To view the options, go to your course Sakai page and select Settings → Manage Tools. I highly recommend 

– Lessons for creating content modules and sequences,

– Resources for posting documents, URLs to other websites, etc., and

– Assignments for posting, submitting and grading assignments online.

There are many other useful tools (chat sessions, discussion boards, quizzes and exams), but remember–keep it simple.

 

3. Apps for uploading student work

This is a big one. The easiest way for students to submit handwritten assignments is to scan the pages and upload it as a PDF to Sakai. There are many free apps that do this, but I recommend Scannable

 

4. Zoom is easier than you think.

You already have an account, you just need to log in. Click here to get started. Click here for more information.

 

5. Be clear about expectations and deadlines.

Most of your students have never received online instruction. They are probably getting just as many emails as you are. The most important thing you can do as an instructor is to be explicit about your plan and what you expect from your students. I suggest uploading a short document as an amendment to your syllabus (in Sakai under Resources) or actively using the Calendar and/or Announcements feature.

 

For more detailed advice and resources, refer to the University’s Instructional Continuity website (prepared by the Faculty Task Force, Notre Dame Learning, and the OIT).

I highly recommend attending the Instructional Continuity workshops or office hours. I have included the workshop titles and descriptions below for your convenience.

 

 


Basics of Teaching in Disruption

Are you wondering where to start with moving your class online? Join us for a high-level overview of the process. In this hour, you will begin to reassess course goals, learn a basic vocabulary for remote teaching, and develop strategies for moving your class online.

Asynchronous Teaching Basics

What is asynchronous teaching and how can it work in my class?  Join us for a demonstration on how to post resources, interact with students, and provide feedback outside the constraints of time and place.

Synchronous Teaching Basics With Zoom

Join us for this live (and recorded for future viewing) webinar on how to record and teach in Zoom. This session has four goals: 1) Get basics in creating, joining, sharing, and recording a Zoom meeting with your students. 2) Get familiar with pedagogical principles for using Zoom. 3) Recording a lecture using Zoom 4) Giving faculty the experience as a participant in a synchronous Zoom meeting


 

 

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As we approach the midpoint of the semester, now is a great time to take stock of how your course is going. One of the best ways to do this is to check in with students. Gathering mid-semester student feedback may seem daunting at first, but there are several good reasons why you should consider it.

First, research indicates that getting feedback from colleagues and students is the best way to improve your teaching (National Research Council 2003). It can also help improve your CIFs: studies have shown that instructors who gather feedback and use it to adjust and improve their classroom practice see higher ratings on end-of-semester evaluations (Huston 2009). But gathering mid-semester feedback doesn’t just help you; it also helps your students. Asking students to weigh in on the class lets them know you are invested in their learning and can lead to higher levels of student motivation and achievement (Jacobs, D. et al 2008 and Feldman, K. 1996). When students have a voice in their own learning process, they are more likely to be invested in that process.

So, how do you gather student feedback? That will depend on your class size and dynamic. You could consider facilitating informal conversations with students individually, in small groups, or all together. But be aware that students may not feel as comfortable or be as honest when sharing comments face to face as they would be anonymously. Another approach might be inviting a trusted colleague into your classroom to facilitate a structured conversation with students about the course and then report back to you. This has the advantage of making students accountable for their comments (they won’t say anything they wouldn’t say in front of others) but still keeping the feedback anonymous—plus, your colleague could get a sense of which suggestions the group broadly supports and which are particular to individual students. Finally, you could design a student survey to be distributed either electronically or on paper. Consider creating a combination of directed and open-ended questions to make space both for your concerns and your students’. 

Once you’ve gathered all this feedback, think carefully about what changes you’d like to make going forward. Ignore outlier comments and concentrate on broad trends in the feedback. And don’t forget to share the results of the evaluation with your students. They’ll appreciate your willingness to make changes based on their input—and it can help hold you accountable for making those changes.

Gathering mid-semester feedback is an important way to help improve your teaching and create a positive learning environment for your students. We hope you’ll consider doing it! You can find some sample evaluations on this Kaneb Center handout and some ideas about gathering early-semester student feedback in a previous blog post. For more information, check out the additional resources below.  

 

Additional Resources

Angelo, Thomas A. & Cross, K. Patricia. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd edition). Jossey-Bass Publishers. 

Feldman, K. (1996). Identifying Exemplary Teaching: Using Data. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No. 65, Spring, 1996, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, Inc. 

Fox, M. and Hackerman, N., Eds. (2003). Evaluating and improving undergraduate teaching in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. (2003). National Research Council. 

Huston, Therese. (2009). Teaching what you don’t know. Harvard University Press.

Jacobs, D. et al. (2008.) Course Instructor Feedback (CIF) A Major Upgrade to the Teacher Course.

Lewis, K. G. (2001). Using Midsemester Student Feedback and Responding to It. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, (87).

Overall, Jesse and Marsh, Herbert W. (1979). Midterm Feedback from Students: Its Relationship to Instructional Improvement and Students’ Cognitive and Affective Outcomes. Journal of Educational Psychology 71: 856-865. 

Rando, W. C., & Lenze, Lisa Firing. (1994). Learning from students: early term student feedback in higher education. University Park, PA: National Center on Postsecondary Teaching, Learning and Assessment.

University of Illinois Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning. Teaching Evaluation: Informal Early Feedback.

Educational technologies can be a powerful tool for facilitating learning. However, selecting the right technology can be a difficult task. Options abound, and new resources continue to be developed. This blog post will survey and suggest possible uses for a few current educational technologies for enhancing the face-to-face classroom. 

Google Docs is a flexible platform that allows for real-time cloud-based collaboration. 

Possible uses: 

  • Collaborate on lecture notes
  • Submit discussion questions
  • Brainstorm or reconstruct arguments in-class

Slack streamlines communication with and among students via topic-based channels.

Possible uses:

  • Replace email reminders 
  • Facilitate communication among students for group projects
  • Send direct messages to compliment or check-in on students
  • Share Google Docs 

Twijector projects a real-time feed of Twitter and Instagram posts, filtered by a hashtag.

Possible uses: 

  • Get real-time student feedback
  • Gather reflections to prompt discussion
  • Monitor live-tweeted events in real-time

Zoom is a sleek interface for video webinars, online meetings, and conference calls.

Possible uses:

  • Telecommute guest speakers or traveling students to class
  • Host a review session remotely

Yellowdig is a user-friendly interactive social media discussion board designed to enhance student engagement. The following features distinguish it from LMS-hosted discussion boards:

  • Social media features (@mention other users, hyperlinks embed thumbnail images, share videos, like, love, bookmark, and #hashtag)
  • Gamification (point system)
  • Automatic grading when integrated with the LMS gradebook
  • Analytics dashboard
  • Automated nudging of inactive students
  • Optional anonymous posts
  • Organize content by topic

Given the plethora of educational technology options, it is important for instructors to keep in mind that more is not always better. Instead, begin with the end in mind: using your learning goals as a reference point, carefully consider which educational technologies might help your students learn what you want them to learn. With a small investment of time upfront, instructors can leverage classroom technology to greatly enhance their students’ learning experience. 

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