Unfortunately, various analyses of multiple-choice test questions have revealed that many of them do not test higher-order thinking abilities. Questions that test higher-order thinking abilities are difficult and time-consuming to write. But for many teachers, those teaching multiple courses and those teaching large sections, multiple-choice tests are really the only viable option, or at least thatís what most faculty think. Hereís an intriguing option that still retains the efficiency of machine-scoring but does involve more student thinking and cleverly motivates them to do this additional mental work.
In an instructional experiment, I split students into three groupsĖĖno quiz, announced quiz, and pop quiz. I used the same instructional style and teaching materials (including the same textbook and handouts) with each of these three groups. I also gave the same two midterms and final exam to each group. There were no mandatory attendance policies or bonuses for attendance. The announced-quiz group took 10 quizzes, each worth 2.5 percent of the course grade.
It is time to get beyond asking whether active learning works. We know it does, most of us have seen it firsthand, and those who havenít would be hard-pressed to argue against the still accumulating mountain of evidence. What we need now are answers to more focused questions, a more nuanced understanding of how and for whom particular strategies work.
Not if grades are involved, would be the likely answer of most faculty. The need for good grades does cloud student objectivity. But what that doesnít change is the fact that the ability to accurately assess your work contributes much to learning experiences in college and itís a virtual necessity in professional life. David Boud (and two coauthors) report that itís not a skill thatís taught explicitly in most curricular programs. Rather, itís something we assume students pick up on their own and without instruction.
When students have completed what they think is the final draft of an essay, I find it useful to do the following editing activity. I donít tell students what we are about to do. I want them to discover the process of omitting needless words. Here are the steps I use, which you are welcome to use or adapt.
Creating global learning environments has become an important goal for many institutions. Faculty are being encouraged to create environments conducive to learning for both native speakers and non-native speakers. They can cultivate those environments by designing course assignments and class activities that use the strengths of native and non-native speakers and that address their challenges.
A lot has been written about the syllabus, but as the authors of the article referenced below point out, almost all of it focuses on ďthe nuts and bolts of crafting a course syllabus.Ē Itís literature that helps ďthe instructor anticipate student information needed to begin the course.Ē (p. 703) Not receiving much focus in the literature are four larger frames Fornaciari and Lund Dean believe orient how faculty think about and use syllabi. Hereís a summary of what they write about each of these.
The ability to be creative is valuable in any profession. But is it something that can be taught? Are we doing anything to cultivate studentsí creativity? If so, what?
If you're looking for a way to improve your teaching, consider teaching squares. A teaching square consists of four faculty from different disciplines who visit each otherís classes within a two-to-three-week period. After the classroom visits, the four gather around coffee or a meal to discuss the teaching observed. The intention of the square is not to criticize each otherís teaching. Rather, itís to gather ideas on different teaching approaches that might be used in oneís own classes.