September 26, 2008

Reflections: TA Workshop #1

CTL would first like to say thank you for the participants who did come to the workshop. Your input, time and effort are more than appreciated. We're really looking forward to our next discussion and are planning on seeing all of you again.

Here are some of the reflections that we took from our discussion:
* Most of you appreciated that there is some kind of forum where you can talk about being a TA here at BGSU. And, you were all more than willing to share some of your experiences and insight that you have had here.

* Many of you would like to be able to hear more from other TAs. You would like to hear what other TAs are doing in their classes, how they deal with certain situations, integrating certain tools and methodologies into your classes, and some of you expressed that you would like to see about making your classes more interactive and lively.

* Some of you appreciated it when instructors are open to getting feedback from students, so some of you discussed how you do the same in your classes. In other words, you appreciate an instructor's willingness to improve and adjust, and many of you are willing to make the same effort.

* Finally, many of like any further input you can get about teaching from any reliable source.

We are adjusting our next workshop to address and capitalize on these promising topics. We are actually thinking about having you all share different unique practices that you implement in your classes, which could only help one another, as TAs. Our next two workshops are October 14th @ 1:30p-2:30p and October 15th @ 10:30a-11:30a. These workshops will be the same format and topics. We just have added another day and time in case more TAs come and having some flexibility to work with your schedules.

Please do not hesitate to register for the Teaching Assistants are Links workshop series by e-mailing or calling us. If these next two workshops go as well as the first one, we will have a wonderful time.

What are some suggestions for TAs? What are some topics we could discuss in our next workshop? We would love to hear from current or former teaching assistants!

September 25, 2008

Motivating "These Kids Today" (Discussion/Workshop Extension)

On Tuesday, Dr. Jodi Haney presented a discussion session at the CTL entitled Motivating "These Kids Today" and challenged participants to consider their role in creating an environment that will encourage and foster students' motivation to learn. The bottom line she stressed was that:
"faculty CANNOT motivate students, as motivation is a personal construct and can only come from within… we can only set the scene and create a motivating environment for learning."
Student Motivation is defined as a “student's willingness, need, desire and compulsion to participate in, and be successful in, the learning process" (Bomia et al., 1997, p. 1). This includes extrinsic motivation, where a student engages in learning "purely for the sake of attaining a reward or for avoiding some punishment and intrinsic motivation, when a student is motivated from within, actively engaging in learning out of curiosity, interest, or enjoyment, or in order to achieve their own intellectual and personal goals (Dev, 1997).

One analogy presented was:
To Catch a Cat…
A. Pull the cat out from under the couch
B. Entice the cat by dangling a string
(p.s. - our students are the cats!)

  • Capitalize on students' existing needs
  • Make students active participants in learning
  • Ask students to analyze what makes their classes more or less "motivating.”
  • Instructor's enthusiasm
  • Relevance of the material
  • Organization of the course
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material
  • Active involvement of students
  • Variety
  • Rapport between teacher and students
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples
Incorporating Faculty Behaviors:
  • Hold high but realistic expectations for your learners
  • Help learners set achievable goals for themselves
  • Tell learners what they need to do to succeed in your course
  • Strengthen learners’ sense of power (behavioral choices)
  • Avoid creating intense competition among learners
  • Be enthusiastic about your course
  • Take time to GET TO KNOW learners, talk to them, and express enjoyment in your interactions
  • Vary your teaching methods
Motivating Students to Do the Reading (some examples):
  • Assign the reading at least two sessions before it will be discussed
  • Assign study questions
  • If your class is small, have learners turn in brief notes on the day's reading that they can use during exam (Jodi’s “C option”)
  • Ask learners to write a one-word journal or one- sentence journal summarizing the reading
  • Ask non-threatening questions about the reading (fishbowl)
In summary... Create an environment that provides learners with a SENSE OF:
* POWER - I have control over my learning.
* CONNECTEDNESS - I am a valued member of a learning community.
* MODELS - I can do this because my peers can do it.
* UNIQUENESS - I am an original learner.
(Stevenson, 1992; modified by Haney, 2007)

Dr. Haney encourages all of us (including herself) to focus on incorporating just one or two of these strategies during a semester, reflect on the change throughout, and continue to analyze and build upon them in the future.

What are strategies you use to create an environment where students are motivated to learn? Any other thoughts or comments on this issue?

September 19, 2008

28th International Lilly Conference on College Teaching

Now would be the time to start checking your calendars and seeing if you can attend the 28th International Lilly Conference. This is a big conference that will feature prominent speakers in higher education. Three of the featured Plenary speakers will be: Ken Bain, Dee Fink and Bill McKeachie. These three speakers alone make the conference worth visiting. This year's conference is titled, "Millennial Learning: Teaching in the 21st Century."

The conference has a website where dates, times and more details concerning the conference can be read. This conference is definitely worth the drive out to Miami University.

September 15, 2008

Social Responsibilities in the Classroom

Instructors have long talked about how classrooms should be havens for teaching and learning, not a forum preaching politics or "saving the world." In teaching a touchy and charged topic like the war in Iraq, Joseph J. Gonzalez reveals how it's the transformations for students that instructors aid in maturing, which is interesting and a sign of good teaching.

In a recent editorial, How Good Scholarship Makes Good Citizens, to The Chronicle of Higher Education Gonzalez describes how he enjoys seeing his students become good citizens, who are "people ready to inquire, to think, and to engage with the world as they find it." These good citizens, according to Gonzalez, are created by an instructor doing a job well done and good scholarship on the instructor's part.

The piece is worth reading and does beg the discussion over what are some of the signs of a quality higher education or what makes a good instructor. We'd love to hear what anyone might add to the article.

September 12, 2008

A Defense of In-Person Education

If you look through BGSU's schedule of classes you probably have seen the online classes being offered every semester. Online classes carry the "Distance Education" label. Students have been taking online classes for some time now, and many students enjoy the online course format of the classes.

It was not too long ago that the idea of online courses was being argued over. People thought it was absurd to allow students to earn credit hours for a college course by them participating in a class run over the Internet. The online class format, obviously, has prospered and there are students in colleges all over the country who are enrolled in them.

There are still people who disagree with online education and firmly believe that "in-person education" is so much better. In a recent editorial, Jane Arnold makes a worthy argument in revealing how online classes aren't all that their cracked up to be and have serious downsides to them.

We would enjoy hearing from anyone who has a reaction to Arnold's piece or want to make a comment concerning how they feel about online versus in-person education.

September 5, 2008

Back To School

Rodney Dangerfield enrolled himself as an undergraduate in the comedy Back to School. In 2006 Martin Sheen enrolled himself at National University Galway. Roger H. Martin is a former president and professor of history emeritus at Randolph-Macon College, who recently completed his freshman year at St. John's University for the second time in his life.

After years of being an instructor and leader in higher education, Martin went on sabbatical to become a student. His book, Racing Odyssesus: A College President Becomes A Freshman Again, is an account of his second term as a new university student.

Martin reveals interesting details about his unique experience. An excerpt from his experience can be read on The Chronicle of Higher Education's website.

September 3, 2008

Solitaire in the Classroom?

It is common in many classes for students to take notes straight onto their laptop while an instructor makes their presentation or lectures. Some students find it easier to type their notes rather than using a notebook and handwriting their notes.

While there are many students who are using their laptop to type their notes there are many students who are doing any number of other activities on their laptop. Some students are surfing the Internet, playing an online game, leaving a message on Facebook, and adjusting the lineup for their fantasy sports team.

Some instructors don't mind a student having a laptop in class. However, there are also instructors who treat laptops in their classes the way they treat a cellphone in class - they simply don't want to see it! Ian Ayres, a professor at Yale Law School, wrote an editorial for The New York Times about some of the frustration some instructors must deal with when students are using their laptops in class. He provides interesting thoughts about the University of Chicago Law School's announcement that there will be no more surfing in classrooms at the law school.

Ayres provides some thoughts on how effective wireless connections in classrooms can be, and how distracting wireless Internet can be for other students. He also presents a question that some students have argued - he has heard some students say that there's a "positive externality" to net surfing students, which is that instructors will be motivated to teach differently if they're forced to compete for the attention of students.

Read what Ayres had to say and what other people in higher education have been blogging.

Ayres editorial:

"Why Solitaire (Might) Make Professors Better" (from The Chronicle of Higher Education):

What do you think? Leave your comments below.