July 31, 2007

Setting Expectations for the Semester & Student Ownership of Learning

The beginning of the semester is an exciting and busy time for both faculty and students. The semester start is also the best time for you to take the opportunity to make students aware of your expectations for the entire semester.

Expectations help define a boundary for students in which they can focus on the required tasks, leading them to the desired learning outcomes, rather than being distracted by unclear or obscure objectives. Some areas you can define or clarify include:
  • workload per week (2-3x the credit hours out of class time, usually),
  • assignments (what will need to be accomplished - readings, papers, presentations, projects, research, etc.),
  • assessment/evaluation (how will they be graded/assessed - quizzes, exams, homework, rubrics, informal feedback, etc.), and
  • behaviors (also important to include in order to educate the "whole student" - participation, attendance, professional, during presentations and group work, etc.).

In concert with expections, here are some assignment ideas or discussion topics that allow students to claim ownership of their role in the learning process, :
  • Have students list their expectations for the course before seeing the syllabus or learning outcomes; near the end of the course, return this list and have them revise it, including a list of suggestions for next semester's students
  • On the first day, have them write a letter to you about why they deserve an A in your class; return it to them just before the final exam for them to revise and resubmit, including a section about how they have changed as a result of your class
  • After looking at the course outcomes in the syllabus, have students write their personal short and long term goals for the course

What are some other expectations, outcomes, or activities that help your students take ownership of their learning ? Click on the COMMENTS link below to get started!

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