Category Archives: Teaching Tips & Strategies

Improving Student Participation

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the classroom, there are often a few students who readily and willingly raise their hands to answer questions and contribute to class discussions, while other students hold back and listen passively. Some of these students are shy and uncomfortable speaking in front of large groups of people. Others may be reflective learners who prefer to think about the material they have just learned before they volunteer to contribute their thoughts to the class. By contrast, more vocal students may be active learners who participate, in part, because they learn by thinking out loud.

Encouraging all of your students to participate in class engages students with the lessons more, gauges how well they really understand the material, and adds a greater variety of viewpoints to discussions. Here are several strategies for encouraging more class participation.

  • Most instructors state clearly in the syllabus that participation is expected and part of the student’s grade. However, it may be helpful to give specific criteria as to what you are evaluating in the student’s participation, such as the application of concepts to their answers, or evidence of critical thinking in the student’s comments and questions. Or, you could give bonus points for participation. For instance, you could give students one point for each time they ask a question about the material, answer a question, or contribute an idea to a discussion.
  • Arrive to class early and chat informally with the students. Getting to know your students in this manner may make them more comfortable with you, and therefore willing to speak up more in your class.
  • Give short, informal writing assignments that students have to complete before the next class, and come prepared to speak about it. This will allow reflective learners time to think about the discussion topic and formulate their thoughts and ideas. Shy students can prepare what they will say ahead of time to reduce anxiety about having to answer questions on the spot.
  • Pause frequently during lectures for questions and discussion. Students are often so busy taking notes that if you go too long before pausing for discussion, by the time you do pause, they may have forgotten what they were going to say. Also, present open-ended questions at the beginning of the lecture to give students a focus during the lecture around which to formulate their ideas. You may even have students write down their answers before answering aloud to give them time to clarify their ideas.
  • Provide encouraging feedback and follow-up questions. Positive encouragement increases students’ comfort level and will motivate them to participate more if they feel their contributions are valued. Follow-up questions will prompt students to clarify and support their answers, and sometimes reconsider the evidence behind their ideas.
  • Give students a preliminary participation grade and written evaluation halfway through the semester. Students can then see exactly how you are evaluating their participation and where they can improve, such as the frequency of participation, the clarity of their ideas, or courtesy toward their classmates’ contributions to discussions.

Labyrinth Learning’s full solutions provide a variety of resources to facilitate class discussions on the concepts taught in our textbooks. To learn more about our solutions for computer science and accounting courses, please contact us today.

 

Teaching According to Your Students’ Strengths

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Every person has aptitudes in different areas, and different ways in which they learn and absorb information best. Psychologist Howard Gardner proposed the theory that there are eight different types of intelligences which everyone possesses a blend of to varying degrees. They are linguistic, spatial, mathematical-logical, kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic. By incorporating a variety of teaching methods, tools, activities, and assignments into your classes, you can engage the greatest number of students in the material being taught, and ensure that they absorb and retain the lessons and skills they learn.

Here are some methods to teach according to each intelligence. The best part is that many of these methods are useful across multiple intelligences, making it even easier to reach as many students as possible with any one method.

Linguistic intelligence has to do with the ability to use written and verbal language to learn and express oneself.

  • Lecture and hold class discussions
  • Write out notes and lists during lectures or project them to the class on a computer
  • Distribute articles and assign internet research
  • Assign reading and writing assignments

Spatial intelligence involves the ability to think in pictures, images, and physical space.

  • Use PowerPoint presentations with labeled photos and screenshots of the subject at hands
  • Show videos and have students use simulation exercises
  • Create charts and tables to break down information

Kinesthetic intelligence deals with the awareness of the body, touch, and movement.

  • Assign hands-on activities
  • Use repetition of newly learned skills to memorize and improve those skills
  • Use simulation exercises and test questions

Mathematical-logical intelligence has to do with the ability to use reasoning skills and think conceptually and abstractly in order to solve complex problems.

  • Assign comprehensive projects that require students to use a variety of lessons and skills they’ve learned throughout the course
  • Assign critical thinking and analysis assignments

Interpersonal intelligence involves the ability to effectively interact with others.

  • Hold class discussions and debates
  • Assign group (or partnered) activities and projects
  • Assign presentations where students demonstrate or teach a lesson or skill

Intrapersonal intelligence is the awareness and understanding of one’s own thoughts, feelings, ideas, and goals.

  • Have students identify their goals for what they hope to accomplish in your course and their careers, and plan ways to achieve them
  • Connect the material being taught to students’ personal experiences
  • Allow students to choose their own topics for certain assignments and projects

Our full solutions contain many different resources to engage a multitude of strengths. To learn more about our full solutions for computer science or business and accounting courses, contact us at Labyrinth Learning today.

 

 

 

 

From School to Career: How to Prepare Students for the Workforce

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When it comes to new college graduates’ preparedness for their future careers, studies show a great divide between the perception students have of their skills, and what employers see from interviewing and working with recent grads. In areas such as organization, working in teams, and applying skills and knowledge in real-world settings, students were more than twice as likely to think they were being well-prepared for the workforce as employers were.

Colleges provide many resources for students to prepare for their chosen careers, but usually only students who are proactive about finding and utilizing those resources benefit from them. Following are some improvements colleges can make to better guide students to be prepared for the workforce once they graduate:

Hire more experienced career center staff – Better-qualified career center staff with hiring experience can give updated career and job-searching advice that reflect the realities of today’s job market, and will be better able to communicate to students what hiring managers are looking for. This will allow students time to improve their qualifications before they graduate.

Teach networking and interviewing skills – These are two very crucial skills one needs to get a job, but many students graduate from college not knowing how to network or what to expect in a job interview. Career centers could better promote the opportunities they provide to sign up for practice interviewing sessions, as well as add lessons and practice sessions on networking. Colleges can also hold more career-related events where students can learn about and practice these skills with career coaches or hiring managers, as well as incorporate lessons on networking and interviewing into many different courses.

Stress the importance of work experience outside of a degree – Jobs and internships while in school will give students a significant advantage when it comes to job-hunting, as they will be starting the job search with valuable experiences and skills on their résumés that their peers who only have classes and extracurricular activities lack. They also have the benefit of allowing students to explore a particular career path to decide if it is really right for them, and giving them the chance to change direction and explore other options before graduation if they discover it isn’t.

Improve soft skills by connecting activities in the classroom to necessary job skills – Many classroom activities that students may see as being an unnecessary nuisance are actually a taste of what is to come when they start their careers. Instructors should emphasize how class requirements and activities like group projects, class participation, analytical essays, and even interactions with their classmates and instructors are precursors to what their careers will require of them. Once students graduate and find work, they will likely find themselves having to collaborate with their coworkers to complete a project, participate in and contribute ideas in meetings, analyze problems, results, and customer feedback to improve a product or service, and communicate effectively and appropriately with coworkers, upper management, and customers. Raising awareness of the similarities between what goes on in the classroom and the workforce may motivate students to take their classroom experiences more seriously.

Our solutions use case studies to provide a real-world context for how the skills students are learning in class will be used in their careers. For more tips on how to prepare your students for their careers, contact Labyrinth Learning to learn more about our solutions for Business and Accounting, as well as our Mastery Series.

Combined Academic and Vocational Education Leads to Success

Image courtesy of t0zz at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of t0zz at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Nearly 60% of students entering community colleges aren’t prepared to take college-level vocational or educational classes and require non-credit remedial courses in math, reading, and writing before they can start on their vocational or academic degrees. Taking months, or even years, of high school-level courses in these subjects before being able to advance to credit courses and start working towards their credentials extends the time and money it takes for students to complete their degrees. The frustration and discouragement this often leads to is apparent in the completion rate: only about a quarter of students who start out taking remedial courses complete a degree in eight years.

Washington community colleges are combating this drop-out rate with their innovative program called I-BEST (Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training), which offers credit courses that teach basic math, reading, and writing skills alongside the technical skills students will need once they complete their credentials. Areas in which colleges offer I-BEST programs include accounting, business clerical skills, information technology, nursing, and academic transfer, among others. In I-BEST, students are taught basic academic skills that they will use in their chosen careers in the context of how they’ll be used on the job. There are two instructors in each I-BEST course: a basic-skills teacher and a subject expert. The basic-skills teacher lectures on the subject area for the first part of class, then the students immediately go to the lab portion of class where the subject expert teaches job procedures, applying what students have just learned in the lecture. The program has been replicated by colleges in 29 other states.

I-BEST has proven to be highly beneficial in the following ways:

Accelerated the speed at which subjects are taught: Many students don’t need an entire semester or year of remedial coursework, only strengthening in certain areas. I-BEST fills the gaps in students’ skills by concentrating on what they need to know for their career paths. In addition, the direct connection between academic work and job skills improves retention of learned basic skills knowledge.

Increased likelihood of earning a vocational or academic degree: Taking non-credit remedial courses can cause a financial strain, as many students may run out of money for credit courses before completing their credentials or even taking a single credit course. I-BEST offers basic skills intermingled with career courses for credit, allowing students to take the courses they want from the beginning. It also lays out a clearer pathway for what courses to take in order to complete a credential or work toward a degree. As a result, over 80% of I-BEST students have completed their credentials or returned for another quarter.

Produces long-term economic benefits: Students who have completed at least a year of college-level classes and earned a credential obtained better jobs and saw a significant increase in earnings.

Labyrinth Learning’s Payroll Accounting, 2nd Edition combines case studies, concepts, and hands-on exercises, both in text and in our new Homework Grader feature in eLab, to teach students the theories and practical skills of payroll accounting. Contact us to learn more about how this and our other Business and Accounting solutions can help your students to succeed in their careers.

 

Things You Should Know about Teaching Millennial Students

Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Millennial students have been described in many ways. In one text, “Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation,” the authors describes millennial students with the words “team-oriented, pressured, confident and achieving.” When teaching millennial students, taking these descriptive adjectives into account can help you devise strategies to specifically target their minds and enhance their learning.

Some examples of strategies often found effective when teaching millennial students include:

Encouraging plenty of student-faculty contact
Many millennials grew up with involved, interested parents. They tend to learn best from instructors with whom they feel a connection. Including personal experiences in your lectures will make you, and your lessons, more relatable.

Include plenty of teamwork
Millennials grew up working in groups, and they are adapted to learning in this manner. Allow them to collaborate from time to time. You’ll be amazed at the ideas they can generate when allowed to discuss and interact with one another.

Offer detailed feedback
Millennial students are driven and goal-oriented, but in order to keep your students motivated to continue achieving, you’ll need to provide them with adequate feedback. There’s no need to stroke their egos, but do tell them where they have succeeded, and what they can do to improve.

We offer efficient software to make multimedia learning more approachable for both students and instructors. Contact us at Labyrinth Learning to learn more about our materials, which will greatly help you teach your millennial students more effectively.

How Teachers can Improve Student Digital Literacy in Changing Demographics

digital literacy testing for students
Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

These days, many students are connected to the Internet and to technology nearly 24 hours per day through their smartphones. The use of this technology is changing the way students learn and the way instructors need to think of digital literacy testing for students.

It’s common for instructors to assume that because many of today’s students have grown up with technology, they are naturally digitally literate. However, this is not always the case. Just because students are immersed in technology doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to use it effectively. In order to enhance education, instructors should identify skills to enhance students’ use of their devices. They should also focus on teaching the benefits, dangers, and opportunities that come with today’s technology.

Digital literacy testing for students often indicates that they need help learning to use their devices to enhance learning. To raise digital literacy, instructors could teach:

  • How to use their devices to take notes and keep them organized
  • How to distinguish between reliable and non-reliable sources online
  • How to more effectively use search engines to find information
  • Strategies for protecting their privacy when using their devices

Teaching technology has moved away from teaching students how to turn on and navigate their devices and on to more detailed, specific topics that allow students to make the most of technology and use it responsibly.

We are committed to helping students learn and instructors teach. Our team invites you to contact us at Labyrinth Learning to learn more about our software.

Effective Ways to Assess Student Learning

assessing student learning
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When most instructors think about assessing student learning, what often comes to mind are tests, quizzes, and assignments. While these are certainly useful tools for motivating students to learn the material and for assessing student learning, there is another method to consider integrating into your approach.

Students generally begin a course with very little knowledge of a topic. They’re aware of the fact that they know very little. When the course has finished, they’re much more knowledgeable, but it’s hard to determine exactly how much they have learned — or which topics they learned well, and which are still unclear.

One way of assessing student learning is to ask a series of questions early in the course, and then repeat that same series of questions at the end of the course. By comparing the before-class and after-class answers, you can determine exactly which topics students learned well and which are still foggy.

To implement this method, you’ll need to start by outlining the key concepts of your course. Ask several big-picture questions about each topic that you feel will effectively evaluate whether a student understands that topic. Administer this assessment at one of the first classes, and again at one of the last. You could also choose to use this approach on a topic-by-topic basis. Ask a series of questions before each unit and again after each unit.

For more information regarding our student learning solutions, we invite you to contact us at Labyrinth Learning today.

How You can Help Your Students Learn to be Professional

helping students learn to be professional
Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The transition from student to professional life is one that many young adults find difficult. By helping students learn to be professional, you as an instructor can help ease this transition. If your students at least know how to act and work in a professional setting, adapting to the other changes that come with the transition from college to working life will be easier.

Many instructors assume they are helping students learn to be professional by setting deadlines for assignments, setting attendance policies and including group projects in the curriculum. However, there seems to be a disconnect. Students do not always realize that these policies are in place in order to prepare them for working in professional settings. They assume that the challenge of working with non-contributing individuals on a group projects is unique to school, when it will really prepare them for when the same situation arises at work.

The secret to helping students learn to be professional is sharing your reasons behind your policies:

  • Tell them that the reason they’re not allowed to skip class is that they won’t be able to do so when they get jobs.
  • Let them know that the struggles of group work will not disappear after graduation, and the projects they’re completing will teach them how to handle it.

We offer software solutions to prepare your students for the workforce. Contact us at Labyrinth Learning to learn more about our products and how they can help simplify the experiences of teaching and learning.

Important Misconceptions Students have about Learning

misconceptions that students have about learning
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In order to get the most out of their education, students need to be able to learn efficiently and in a way that encourages them to retain the material, rather than simply forget it once the test is over. Understanding some common misconceptions that students have about learning will assist you in designing a curriculum and teaching style that fights these misconceptions and results in well-educated, prepared students.

Misconception #1: Knowledge is just a slew of facts.

A common student misconception about learning is that building knowledge is about learning more facts. In reality, knowledge is being able to tie these facts together, see how they relate, and understand their deeper meanings. Making sure you explain how individual concepts are related to one another will help break through this misconception.

Misconception #2: Natural talent, not hard work, makes someone good at a subject.

Provide your students with feedback throughout the semester, letting them know that their work is paying off and that they’re improving. They’re not just naturally talented; they’ve been putting forth effort to succeed.

Misconception #3: You can learn effectively while multitasking.

This common student misconception about learning is quite detrimental. Student think they learn well while also doing other things. Set policies, such as no texting during class, to encourage them to focus on the singular task of learning. They’ll find they have an easier time absorbing the material.

We invite you to contact us at Labyrinth Learning to learn about our accounting software for college students.

Helpful Strategies for Improving Student Attendance

improving student attendance
Source: Wikimedia Commons

As an instructor, you know better than anyone that good class attendance is essential for students’ success. Convincing students to attend class, however, is not always easy. Here are a few strategies for improving student attendance:

Giving Unannounced Quizzes

Administer a few (3 – 5) unannounced quizzes throughout the semester and make them worth a potion of your students’ overall grade. This will prevent students from missing class — they won’t want to miss out on the quiz grade. Make it clear that these quizzes cannot be made up if a student is absent.

Contact Students Who are Absent

If you have students who are missing class more than once in a while, send them an email. Express concern about their poor attendance, and encourage them to attend more often in order to improve their performance. Knowing that you’re aware of their absence is often enough to drive them back to class.

Don’t Post Handouts Online

Pass out handouts that explain helpful concepts, but don’t post them online. This way, students must attend class in order to obtain this vital information.

Keep Class Interesting and Morale High

If students like attending class, they’ll keep coming. Almost any topic can be made more interesting by including discussions in classes and making an effort to relate the concepts to daily life and real world situations.

Contact us at Labyrinth Learning to learn about our teaching software that’s useful for improving student attendance while making the learning process easier.