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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. 

Whether you are a first-timer or a seasoned veteran, there are always ways in which you can improve your teaching assistant (TA) skills to help your students and you get the most out of your experience. Earlier in the semester I wrote a blog discussing how faculty can build mutually beneficial relationships with their TA(s). This post will focus on the topic from the TA perspective.

A TA experience can vary widely from discipline to discipline and person to person. Some do it out of necessity to fulfill a graduate requirement, while others do it for the love of teaching. No matter where you fall on that spectrum, the following considerations might prove useful for getting the most out of your experience:

Be Enthusiastic and Be Yourself

Do your best to show enthusiasm and grow in your teaching skills; however, always be yourself. Do not try techniques that make you extremely uncomfortable in front of your students.

Reach Out to Your Students

As approachable as you think you may be, the truth is that most students will not go out of their way to contact you with questions. Try to be present and reach out to your students as frequently as possible to indicate your approachability and genuine interest in their success. This might look like frequent visits to lecture/lab, email reminders of office hours or upcoming deadlines, group reviews/recitations, etc.

Work Closely with Your Instructor

Your instructor of record is your ally, not your enemy. Building a relationship with him/her will help you navigate difficulties you encounter throughout the semester and beyond. As with your students, do not expect him/her to take the first step. Be proactive about building this relationship and dialogue from the beginning of the semester. You might consider requesting to meet before the semester starts with a list of questions/comments ready. In addition, you might ask what their preferred method of communication is, or what their semester calendar looks like.

Highlight and Reiterate the Course Learning Goals/ Syllabus

When answering questions and dealing with push-back, lean heavily on the course-wide syllabus and/or learning goals provided by the instructor. These are the foundational building blocks for the course and will provide you with guidance when interacting with students.

Know/Use Your Resources. 

Notre Dame Learning | Kaneb Center offers a number of resources geared towards TAs. A four-week Foundations of Teaching workshop series is offered at the beginning of every fall and spring semester. This series is crafted specifically for first-time TAs. Throughout each semester a variety of additional workshops are conducted covering a wide range of teaching-related topics. The center also offers individual consultations and a new Graduate Pear Observation Program (G-POP).

Another great resource is your fellow TAs!

Seek Feedback

Asking for student feedback on your teaching performances can be one of easiest ways to grow as a TA, and teaching professional in general. In addition, doing this reiterates your genuine interest in your students’ success and helps build a mutual relationship of trust and respect. Beyond your students, ask for feedback from your instructor. This too helps you grow in your duties and builds up your relationship with him/her.

Treat This as Professional Development

Often times TA duties feel like a household chore; however, if you treat them seriously, they can become an important aspect of your professional development (especially if you are thinking about a career with a teaching component). Seek out more responsibilities such as becoming the lead TA for a larger cohort, volunteering to guest lecture, etc. These duties can lead to beneficial lines on your CV, and possibly a future career.

These few tips and resources should help you navigate your duties as a TA and beyond. In addition, they can help you have a positive outlook on your responsibilities. Happy TAing!  

Submitted by:

Carson Running

Ph.D. Candidate, Aerospace Engineering

University of Notre Dame

A major concern for many college instructors is how to grade fairly and efficiently. The simple answer is to employ rubrics. Usually rubrics are defined as a detailed breakdown of point distribution, with evaluative criteria that explains that distribution. More importantly, rubrics help us to clearly communicate focused, meaningful and consistent feedback. Rubrics can also reduce student anxiety by making the parameters of the assignment transparent, and allowing for better planning and execution of the assignment. To better align these advantages, students can even collaborate on rubric design. So what are the advantages of inviting students into that process? 

I began implementing student-generated rubrics in an effort to make my teaching, assignments, and assessments more equitable. Mary-Ann Winkelmes calls this Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TILT). I introduce the basic principles of assessment early in the semester by teaching students to deeply analyze assignments, reflect on their writing processes, and finally to evaluate their own work. Despite this preparation, when I introduce student-generated rubrics, I often hear variations of: “You’re letting us grade ourselves?!” While this may sound dangerously anti-rigorous, students actually have set very high standards for themselves. With my guidance, we usually find a healthy balance of high expectations and practical criteria. Importantly, I frame this exercise as an ongoing collaborative process. Though some classes respond more positively than others, I have found that the process better prepares students for the assignment and ultimately makes them more active participants in the course work. 

If you’re thinking about introducing a student-generated rubric, here are some things to consider:

Why use student-generated rubrics?
When we create assignments, we are usually communicating certain expectations, purposes, and ultimately goals for students to meet. When students receive that information the responses vary based on transparency, but they generally approach the topic differently than they would if they set their own goals. Inviting students to assist in developing their own evaluation structure can activate meta-cognition, motivation, interest, and performance. 

How do I introduce this?
The key to student-generated rubrics is an early expectation of self-assessment. If students are able to set goals, revise them, and reflect on their own performances, they are primed for the evaluation process. Of course, the success of this type of evaluation depends on the communication of learning goals both for the course and the assignment itself. Clearly communicating these goals and scaffolding assignments will help students to think about the criteria by which the assignment should be evaluated. 

What does this look like in the classroom?
The first step is to revisit your course objectives and the learning goals for the assignment. Make sure that you have clearly stated the purpose of the assignment, it’s learning goals, and the necessary criteria. From there, you can create a preliminary outline with suitable categories for students to fill in. Alternatively, this can be a multi-day process where students read and analyze the assignment itself, generating their own outlines and criteria. You can then review these and synthesize or amend where necessary before asking students to begin filling in detailed criteria. While technology (Google Sheets, Google docs, etc.) makes this collaborative process easier, it can also be done on paper and distributed to small groups. 

What are the outcomes?
If we invite students to the rubric as collaborators, they are empowered to use their own knowledge and experiences to become active stakeholders in their education. Bloom’s Taxonomy places evaluation and creation as the highest levels of knowledge. The experience that students gain from this exercise allows them to move through the hierarchy while simultaneously thinking about their work at various levels. As students gain the ability to judge their own work, they are also learning what it means to evaluate the work of others. Moving beyond the singular goal of an instructor-generated grade, student-generated rubrics show the value of collaboration, process, self-reflection, and yes, evaluation. 

Additional Resources:
Getting Learners Engaged with Student-Generated Rubrics
Berkley Center for Teaching and Learning: Rubrics
TILT Higher Ed

 

If you find your office overflowing with students or your time dominated by teaching responsibilities, Catherine Sims Kuiper wrote a great blog, Managing Office Hours, focused on setting boundaries, creating structure, and knowing your limits. But what if, like me, you are just struggling to get students to come? 

Here are some things to try:

Tell students what office hours are — not just when they are. Talk about what you hope to get from it, what they can hope to get from it, and why you have chosen to set aside this time specifically for them. 

Pick a convenient time and location. Poll your students to determine the best time for office hours. If your office is on the far side of campus, schedule office hours in the library or the student center (this has the added bonus of being less formal, too). 

Require a visit during the first few weeks. Get students through the door by assigning a small grade (or extra credit) for visiting your office hours. Make it a low-pressure, short conversation about their background, major, interests, etc. Be sure to share about yourself, too! If you make a personal connection first, you will seem more approachable about course content in the future. (Another bonus: getting to know your students makes it easier to learn their names.) 

Designate some “topical” office hours. If you know that students are struggling with a particular section or idea, dedicate an office hour specifically for that topic. For example, in my calculus class, I could title this Thursday’s office hours as “What ARE series, anyway?” This title is not intimidating, suggests that we will likely talk about the theory of convergent infinite series, and does not require the student to come with specific questions.

Remind students often. Continue to let them know that you are available and looking forward to meeting with them. 

Most importantly, be yourself and be welcoming! 

If you have other ideas for getting students to come to office hours, please comment below! I am always looking for more ways to reach students and encourage dialogue.

 

Additional Resources:

  1. Office Hours: 6 Realities
  2. Why Students Don’t Attend Office Hours

 

 

Tags:

Now that you’re getting to know your students, and their learning habits, on an individual level, it’s a good time to think about how you can foster equitable participation in your course. If you’ve noticed imbalances in your students’ participation levels, it’s best to address those imbalances now, before they become ingrained in your classroom culture. What follows are some tips on how to make sure every student is included in your class discussions and activities. 

Build relationships in the classroom: Students learn better and are more likely to participate if they have made personal connections with their instructor and classmates. Continue to prioritize activities that will build relationships among students, and try to connect with students on a personal level. Learn students’ names and use them in class discussion. (If you have a larger class, consider using name tents.) Take the time to individually congratulate a student who made a perceptive comment; to encourage a quiet student by validating their contributions; or to reach out to a student who seems to be struggling. 

Create an inclusive climate: Students are more likely to participate well in an environment where they feel comfortable. Make sure students know not only that their contributions are valued, but also that variety in student perspectives is welcome and encouraged. Ensure that many different voices are being represented in class discussion, and be aware of how the racial and socioeconomic makeup of your course could affect the dynamics of participation. Take the time to learn about experiences like imposter syndrome and stereotype threat that may limit students’ participation. The more you know about these student struggles, the better you’ll be able to address them.

Democratize the discussion: Large-group discussion is a great way to learn, but it is not equally effective for every student–particularly those students who appreciate the time to formulate their ideas before sharing them. Try breaking up large discussions with think-pair-share activities, small-group work, and time for students to brainstorm or freewrite. If certain students consistently dominate the conversation, consider creating an ultra-structured class discussion that limits who can speak at what time

Ask students to assess participation: Consider soliciting anonymous feedback at midterm about the classroom climate and the extent to which students feel their contributions are welcome or valued. You might also ask students periodically to reflect on and assess their own participation, as a way of encouraging more intentional engagement in classroom activities. 

Helping students develop the habits of good participation is an important part of any successful course. Start your semester on the right foot by building an inclusive classroom that allows each student to participate fully in course discussions and activities. 

 

Additional Resources

Stephen D. Brookfield and Stephen Preskill, Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms

Center for Research on Teaching and Learning, the University of Michigan, “Creating Inclusive College Classrooms

Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning, Brown, “Fostering and assessing equitable classroom participation

Jay R. Howard, “How to Hold a Better Class Discussion

Jay R. Howard, Discussion in the College Classroom: Getting Your Students Engaged and Participating in Person and Online 

Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, Yale, “Inclusive Teaching Strategies

Kelly A. Roca, “Student Participation in the College Classroom: An Extended Multidisciplinary Literature Review

Viji Sathy and Kelly A. Hogan, “Want to Reach All of Your Students? Here’s How to Make Your Teaching More Inclusive

 Robert J. Sidelinger and Melanie Booth-Butterfield, “Co-constructing Student Involvement: An Examination of Teacher Confirmation and Student-to-Student Connectedness in the College Classroom

Kimberly D. Tanner, “Structure Matters: Twenty-One Teaching Strategies to Promote Student Engagement and Cultivate Classroom Equity

Thomas J. Tobin and Kirsten T. Behling, Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education

Ready or not, the beginning of a new semester is upon us! Have you ever noticed that most students settle into the pattern of returning to the same seats, classday after class day, throughout the semester, even though they chose them randomly on the first day of class? One of the reasons for this is that humans are creatures of habit who tend to gravitate toward the familiar. This underscores the importance of making sure the “familiar” is an environment that is conducive to learning. The beginning of the semester is an especially pivotal time for instructors and TAs to establish expectations for their interactions with their students. Doing so can help us to intentionally establish productive habits rather than falling into potentially detrimental ones. It can also preemptively clear up sources of miscommunication—and the mistrust that such can foment—between instructors and their students.

Establishing expectations need not be daunting. Often, it primarily requires taking the time to think through what your goals are for a course and then identifying the support structures that need to be in place to accomplish those goals. After doing so, it would be a good idea to clarify the following for your students:

  • What can your students expect from you? 
    • How promptly will you start class? 
    • What is the best way for them to communicate with you? How soon should they expect you to reply?
    • What types of assignments will you give? How will you evaluate those assignments?

 

  • What do you expect from your students? 
    • How do you expect them to behave in class?
    • What are your expectations for student participation? (And how will you evaluate their participation?)
    • How much time do you expect them to spend on homework each week? 
    • What should they do if they need help?

 

  • What are your policies regarding:
    • Attendance?
    • Tardiness?
    • Eating in class?
    • Using electronics in class?
    • Recording class?
    • Late work?
    • Missing assignments?
    • Missed exams?

 

In many cases, it will be ideal to clarify these expectations in writing in the course syllabus from the beginning of the semester. If you are TAing, consider developing a policy sheet with expectations that are specific to your section. In addition to this, it may also be helpful to facilitate a conversation about them on the first day of class. And even if the first day of class has already come and gone, it’s not too late! It would likely still be a good idea to distribute written expectations and dedicate some class time to facilitating a conversation about them. It may even be preferable to begin by facilitating a conversation about expectations, and draft the written list of expectations based on it. In either case, intentionally establishing expectations from the beginning of the semester is likely to yield benefits that make doing so well worth the effort.

 

 

Resource

Carnegie Mellon University. “Examples: Course Policies/Expectations.” Eberly Center. Accessed January 17, 2020. https://www.cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/design/syllabus/samples-policiesexpectations/

Preparing for a new semester can be daunting, but dedicating some time to our teaching assistants (TAs) can be one of the most effective ways to save time and headache throughout the entirety of a course. We often overlook this support staff in favor of our own, more direct, preparatory responsibilities; however, an effective TA can be one of our most valuable resources. Below are some thoughts to consider as you schedule your first meeting with your TA. For you TAs out there, stay tuned for a companion post from the TA perspective (to be published later this semester).

Clear and Specific Communication

Whatever you do, do NOT assume that your TA knows what he/she is doing, even if they never reach out to ask. Often times it is the TA who is waiting for you to reach out with a list of responsibilities and duties. Discuss topics such as: main responsibilities (i.e., grading, office hours, guest lectures, etc.), relevant course policies (i.e., attendance, late assignment, and re-grades), course learning goals, student resources, additional TA resources, etc. It is also a good idea to ask your TA what he/she expects from the experience. Is there something he/she would like to get out of the semester for his/her own benefit. For example, some TA’s would love the opportunity to guest lecture, lead a discussion section, or obtain CIF’s for their future CV. Meeting before the semester starts and being open to their own desires can help foster a relationship built on mutual trust and respect.

Interactions in the Class

Having your TA active throughout aspects of the course empowers them and helps foster an engaging environment. It shows your students that you trust the TA, and that you want him/her to be an integral component to the class. It also helps the TA and students to build relationships which can help student attendance at TA office hours, recitations, discussion sections, etc. Lastly, frequent TA interactions foster peer learning between the students and TA, especially when the TA is also an undergraduate.

Build on your TA’s Strengths

Asking your TA about his/her strengths, skills, and interests will enable you to build upon those talents, and make the most of them. Knowing this information can help you structure their involvement to everyone’s benefit. It is also worth noting that many TAs, especially graduate students, have very valuable transferable skills such as problem-solving and critical-thinking abilities.

Provide Feedback

Everyone benefits from feedback, especially regarding teaching. Provide your TA with details about things that are going well. Do your best to remain positive and give clear requests. Constructive feedback, which helps your TA see the bigger picture of what you are trying to achieve, is most beneficial. If you are able to do so, ask your TA for his/her own feedback of yourself. Again, this can empower them in their teaching and foster mutual respect/trust.

These are just a few tips to help you and your TA get off on the right foot towards a successful semester. Stay tuned for a similar blog focusing on this topic from the TA perspective (to be published later this semester).

References

[1] How to Work With Your Teaching Assistant: It’s a Double Act. https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2013/sep/03/how-to-work-with-teaching-assistant

[2] Webster R., Russell A., Blatchford P., (2012).  Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants: Guidance for school leaders and teachers

Submitted by:

Carson Running

Ph.D. Candidate, Aerospace Engineering

University of Notre Dame

This is the fourth and final installment in our series on teaching controversial topics. In the first, we considered two reasons to teach controversial topics and three frameworks with which to do so. The second addressed how to develop a conducive classroom environment by building relationships with students and preparing to draft ground rules for discussion. The third concerned why and how to involve students in the creation of ground rules, some suggested ground rules, and how to use ground rules. 

This month, we turn to some tips for facilitating discussion of controversial topics. Implementing the following strategies can foster discussions that are more productive and civil.

 

Provide a Common Basis for Understanding to help Focus the Discussion

To do this, you might:

  • Assign readings
  • Show a video clip
  • Have students review material immediately before the discussion
  • Create a list of things students would like the discussion to take into consideration

 

Begin the Discussion by Stating its Purpose

Stating the purpose provides a touchstone with which students can evaluate how to contribute to the discussion. It can also serve as a point for instructors to reference as they guide the discussion. Examples include:

  • Promote critical thinking by helping students understand the complexity of the issues
  • Increase awareness by providing information that is typically not addressed
  • Improve dialogue skills that students can use in other venues
  • Connect the topic with students’ roles and responsibilities outside the classroom

 

Structure the Discussion to Include Everyone

Strategies for doing this include:

  • The Round: Ask a guiding question and give every student an opportunity to respond without any interruptions or comments. Offer the option to pass. Discuss responses after the round.
  • Think-Pair-Share: Ask a question and give students a few minutes to respond individually in writing. Then assign partners and give explicit directions for discussion, such as “Tell each other why you wrote what you did.” After a specified amount of time, reconvene the class and debrief. 
  • Reflection Memos: Prior to class, have students write a reflection in response to some question(s) you pose. Ask them to read their memos in pairs, small groups, or to the entire class. 

 

Maintain the Focus and Flow of the Discussion

Begin with clear, open-ended yet bounded questions. Questions to avoid include: 

  • Double-Barreled: pose two questions simultaneously
  • Hide the Ball: search for a specific answer
  • Short Factual or Yes/No: can be addressed summarily

Prepare questions to break the silence:

  • “What makes this hard to discuss?”
  • “What needs to be clarified at this point?”

Maintain the focus

  • Ask probing questions to prompt students to provide more information, clarify, elaborate, or explain.
  • Remind the class of the readings or discussion objectives to redirect the discussion to its intended purpose
  • Validate important but extraneous input by redirecting the focus and mentioning them at the end of the discussion as points to consider

Be an active facilitator, but don’t take too much control. As necessary:

  • Reword questions
  • Correct misinformation
  • Reference relevant materials
  • Ask for clarification
  • Review main points

 

Facilitate a Wrap-up 

Students are more likely to feel that a discussion was worthwhile if the instructor facilitates—with class input—a synthesis of key issues addressed. It can be helpful to generate a public written list. 

In addition, to get student feedback and identify issues to address later, save the last five minutes of class for students to write a Minute Paper on questions such as the following. Be sure to review responses and debrief them  in the next class.

  • “What are the three most important points you learned today?”
  • “What important questions remain unanswered for you?”
  • “What did you learn specifically from what someone else said that you would not have thought of on your own?”

 

While discussing controversial topics will likely always be challenging, implementing the strategies outlined in this four-part series can help make doing so more pleasant and productive for everyone involved. 

References

“Guidelines for Discussing Difficult or Controversial Topics.” Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. University of Michigan. Accessed December 6, 2019. http://www.crlt.umich.edu/publinks/generalguidelines

In the flurry of final exams, papers, and projects, it’s easy to let plans for the last day of class slip through the cracks. But the final class day presents a perfect opportunity for both you and your students to reflect on what you learned, consider its future applications, and recognize your achievements over the course of the semester. Below are some suggestions for how to get the most out of your final class meeting. 

Look Back

It’s important for students to reflect on and articulate what they’ve learned in class not only because it provides good review for final exams, papers, and projects but also because synthesizing and consolidating learning can increase retention. On the last day of class, revisit your course goals with students and consider how they’ve been fulfilled over the past several months. Ask students, either in individual writing, small group discussion, or a class conversation, to identify their main takeaways from the course and articulate the significance of what they’ve learned. 

The end of class also provides a good opportunity for you and your students to think about what worked in the course and what didn’t. Ask students to reflect on their own learning process and to think about their best and worst moments in the course. What have they learned about their own learning? This is also a good time to reflect on and make some notes about your teaching: what worked and what didn’t? If you could redo the course, what would you change?

Look Forward

The final class day also provides an opportunity for you and your students to look forward. Use the last class day to think not only about ways to improve teaching and learning going forward but also about the ramifications of students’ learning for their future. You might ask students to brainstorm about how what they’ve learned this semester will play a part in their daily lives or consider how it will help them succeed in future classes or careers. What will students do with the knowledge they’ve gained in the course? You can also use the time to answer lingering questions that the class has raised for students or talk to them about future directions in the field they’ve been studying for the past several months. Revisit some of the big questions of the course and think with students about their significance going forward.

Celebrate

Finally, give yourself and your students permission to celebrate your achievements over the course of the semester. This doesn’t mean you should throw a party. But it can be good to take time to recognize in some way the mutual effort you’ve put into the course. The celebration doesn’t have to be a grand gesture: simply thanking your students for their participation in the class or taking a moment to mutually share positive thoughts about the experience can make a big impact.

It can be difficult to carve out time to wrap up your course properly. But taking an hour or so to look back, look forward, and celebrate the semester can help you and your students end the course, and the year, on a high note. 

 

Further Reading

Bleicher, Elizabeth. (2011). The last class: Critical thinking, reflection, course effectiveness, and student engagement. Honors in Practice, 7, 39-52. 

Boucquey, N. C. (2014). School’s out! Almost. Strategies for the last day of class. Stanford Teaching Commons.

Dietz-Uhler, B., & Lanter, J. R. (2009). Using the four-questions technique to enhance learning. Teaching of Psychology, 36(1), 38-41.

Last Day of Class,” Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning.

Maier, Mark H., & Panitz, Ted. (1996). “End on a High Note: Better Endings for Classes and Courses.” College Teaching, 44(4), 145-148.

Uhl, C. (2005). The last class. College Teaching, 53(4), 165-166.

End of semester, summative course evaluations are a commonly expected event that provide students the opportunity to rate an instructor’s teaching effectiveness as well as the course’s impact on their own learning and success. At Notre Dame these are called Course Instructor Feedback (CIF) forms. Typically, these evaluations are used as part of formal promotion and tenure reviews by departments, or as job application documents, rather than as tools for self-improvement. Even though there may be occasional, unanticipated lower scores on some survey items, or even some negative comments to balance the positive remarks, this anonymous student feedback instrument can be an equally effective tool for teaching self-reflection, self-assessment and course improvement. Additionally, for those interested in using their survey scores more formally in the pursuit of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) involvement, MacMillan, et al (2011) suggests that teaching evaluations could even be a source of useful data for the SoTL cycle of inquiry. No matter the scores received, or even their intended use, analyzing some or all survey items for specific course or teaching improvement can be valuable. This targeted self-reflection may uncover opportunities revealed by more than the mean scores alone.

Most instructors likely already do some formative or summative self-reflection or self-assessment. And in general, this can identify areas for improving one’s teaching – especially in areas less visible to students but still essential to the course. Perhaps consider self-administering a general teaching inventory to assess the methods you use and get new ideas for future classes. Instructors could also periodically choose to reflect on their course(s) through the lens of the CIF, providing a parallel view of your course from the instructor perspective. Below are a few CIF-based items for instructor self-assessment, with accompanying self-reflection questions to assist in thinking more deeply about a just completed course.

Examples of CIF-Based, Instructor Self-Feedback Items

  • Overall I organized the course to meet the needs of my students. (CIF item: Overall organization of the course)
    • What data or feedback did you receive this semester to indicate that their needs were/were not met? Did you get an inordinate number of questions about a particular topic that you thought you had appropriately prepared for?
  • I was available and provided appropriate help or learning resources outside of class. (CIF item: Availability of appropriate help or learning resources outside class)
    • Did you schedule office hours for students to meet their schedules or yours? Were you hours well attended? Did you use the library reserve service for additional materials? Did you have additional, explanatory materials in Sakai? 
  • I required assignments (readings, projects, etc.) that were helpful in facilitating student  learning. (CIF item: Helpfulness of required assignments (readings, projects, etc.) in facilitating my learning). 
    • What indicators were you looking for to indicate this helpfulness? What parameters did you use to select these? What other materials did students use to supplement yours? What individual requirements could be improved upon?
  • I provided useful feedback to my students concerning their work in the course. (CIF item: Usefulness of the feedback I received concerning my work in the course)
    • What confirmed feedback was useful? Were student products reflective of feedback following directions from you (either written or verbal)? Did you ask students anonymously where your feedback could be improved?
  • I communicated clearly to students in class and in my materials. (CIF item: Instructor’s clarity of communication)
    • Did you note when students indicated they were unsure about something you communicated? Were students confused by assignment directions? Did students want to discuss their grade on a more subjective assignment or assessment?
  • I was fair and impartial in conducting my class. (CIF item: Instructor’s fairness and impartiality in conducting the class)
    • Were all students treated and graded without bias? Did your learning preference impact or influence the learning environment or engagement of your students? Did you gravitate toward students who appear to mirror your, personality, learning style or disciplinary focus? 
  • I equally helped all students develop mastery of the course material. (CIF item: Instructor’s effort to help students develop mastery of the course material)
    • Were you equally available to all students to help them? Did your office hours work for everyone? Was your learning environment inclusive for all students? 

While this is just a sampling of CIF-based survey items that are instructor facing, these example items provide ideas on how reflecting on the CIF can help you improve your teaching, perhaps leading to both greater student success and higher CIF scores in the future.  

______________________________________________

MacMillan, M.,  Manarin, K., and Mitchell, M. (November 2011). In Transformative Dialogues: Teaching & Learning Journal Volume 5 Issue 2. Retrieved from: https://www.kpu.ca/sites/default/files/Teaching%20and%20Learning/TD.5.2.1.Macmillan_etal_Teaching_Evaluastions.pdf

Prosser, M. and Trigwell, K. Educational Psychology Review, Vol. 16, No. 4, Measuring Studying and Learning in Higher Education—Conceptual and Methodological Issues (2004), pp. 409-424. Retrieved from: https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/23363879.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3A78a48cb24fd3aa456064946de44b833f

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