Tag Archives: teaching tips for college instructors

Let Your Students Have a Do-Over

By Alec Fehl, author of Labyrinth Learning’s Microsoft® PowerPoint® 2016 Essentials and Your Digital Foundation

Learning to Walk

Do you remember learning to walk? Neither do I. Perhaps it went something like this:

Tried to stand up. Fell down. Tried to stand up. Fell down again. Did this for several days. Was finally able to stand. Tried to take a step. Fell down. Tried another step. Fell down. Bumped my head. Cried a little. Tried another step. Woo-hoo! Did it! Tried a second step. Fell down. Repeated process until I walked.

That may not be the exact sequence, but I bet it’s close. I learned by getting a lot of do-overs, and I know this didn’t happen:

Tried to stand up. Fell down and said, “Oh well…I’ll just try to move on to running.”

Why a Do-Over?

Do your students get one chance at an assignment, receive a grade, and then move on to the next assignment? Most of my students worked that way. Get a C and never look back. My students would fail to master concepts if their end goal was simply a grade.

How do educators address this?

With the current education system, we must find a way to balance facilitating learning with the administrative requirement of assessing, tracking, and rating progress.

I’ve had success in my classes by offering “virtually unlimited do-overs.”

How to Do a Do-Over

To begin, I give assignments with an initial due date. I assess these initial submissions and give detailed feedback, commenting on what’s good and what needs improvement or completion. Here’s the kicker: If I leave feedback, the initial grade is zero. Rather than give a letter grade or percentage, I label the assignment “complete” or “not complete.” My feedback indicates exactly what’s needed for me to consider the work complete.

And my feedback comes with a 48-hour deadline extension. They resubmit within the timeframe and the process repeats: They get more feedback, a “not complete” rating, and another 48 hours to work. This continues until the student either completes the assignment (100%) or misses a deadline and the incomplete rating (0%) sticks.

Benefits of Giving Do-Overs

  • I focus less on determining a grade and more on giving relevant feedback.
  • Students learn revision skills, how to accept critique, and other soft skills.
  • Students work, to some degree, at their own pace.
  • Students are motivated to improve from their mistakes, creating a mindset of lifelong learning.
  • Students benefit from formative assessment as they work through mistakes and are more likely to achieve concept/skill mastery.

While this may not be the perfect system for every discipline, I have used a more detailed version with great success in my classes for almost 30 years.

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.

 

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.

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.

Preparing for the Future of Higher Education

Source: morgueFile
Source: morgueFile

Whenever there is an innovation disrupting the world of higher education, it’s easy to try and ignore it and label it as just that – a brief disruption. However, the future of higher education is based off of innovation, which means that keeping up with new innovations is a smart thing to do. The following innovations could mean big things for the future of higher education:

  • Analytics – Analytics tools will allow you to predict the success of students, improve student support services, measure the achievement of learning outcomes and much more.
  • Competency-based education – Competency-based education is based on the idea of awarding credits for mastery instead of traditional credit hours. This gives students a chance to accelerate their time to degree due to the ability to acquire knowledge and skills outside of the classroom through life experience.
  • Personalized learning – Personalization has become a focal point for marketing and retail, and it makes sense that it could be implemented into education. By providing students with individualized learning pathways, you can tailor activities and readings to the needs and interests of students.
  • Open educational resources – Higher education is expensive as it is when not accounting for the need to purchase textbooks every year. Open educational resources on the web make it easier for students to do research and save money, as well.

These are some of the innovations that could change the higher education for the better. Contact us at Labyrinth Learning for additional teaching resources.

Effective Group Work Strategies for Your College Students

effective group work strategies
Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Group work is an excellent teaching method to employ as it results in students learning how to work with others and often requires the use of problem solving skills as well. However, one of the issues with group work is that some students will let the others in their group do all the work. The following are a few effective group work strategies to avoid this issue:

  • Work in phases – Split a project into phases. For example, the project idea phase, the project development phase and the preliminary project outcome phase. Require your students to check in after every phase so that you ensure the work is done in a timely manner.
  • Allow choices – Give your students some flexibility when it comes to the topic they choose as long as its relevant to what you are covering. This will create a sense of ownership amongst the group and will make your students more engaged.
  • Require individual work – To ensure every student is working within the group, assign individual work relating to the overall group work. For example, you can require that everyone submits a paper reflecting on the work he or she did within the group.
  • Allow time for getting to know one another – Allow some time for letting your groups get to know each other. Everyone has different styles of communication and work approaches.

Use these effective group strategies when assigning group work and contact us at Labyrinth Learning for additional teaching tips.