Many faculty consider the syllabus a contract for learning that they set up for students. However, there continues to be suggestions in the literature and among pedagogical experts that this is a troublesome perspective. The language used in syllabi modeled like contracts sets a tone that is often defensive. In strongly worded statements, students are told what to do without having been consulted or being given any choice.
Here’s a sampling of details from a recent survey that asked students and faculty a variety of questions about their use of cell phones (including smart phones), their perceptions of the effects of doing so and their estimation of the effectiveness of faculty phone policies.
Being flexible is one of those ongoing challenges for teachers. There’s the desire to be responsive to student needs—life does happen—but then students have been known to take advantage of teachers and granting the request of one student opens the door and makes it difficult to close when another asks. There’s a need for balance—that difficult place between treating all students equitably and fairly, and being sensitive to the needs of individual students, especially if being flexible successfully supports their efforts to learn.
If students are struggling to understand the assigned reading, teachers can opt for something easier to comprehend or they might consider this strategy developed and used by theology professor Ruth Anne Reese. She purposefully assigns students reading materials written at a level most of her beginning seminary students find challenging.
It’s a 400-level Development of Sociological Theory course for majors and instructor Julie Pelton aspires not only to teach the content but to introduce students to either different styles of learning or self-regulatory and metacognitive strategies. She writes that most of the students have some familiarity with learning styles.
As a tenured full professor, I’m mostly scheduled for upper division and graduate courses. However, last year I taught two classes of traditional aged, first-year students. It was a good learning experience and provided me with new insights about beginning college students.
“Aquick search of video sharing sites, as well as the web pages of prominent universities, reveals a treasure-trove of content available to students and interested lay-people,” observe political science faculty members Daniel Mallinson and Zachary Baumann. A variety of software products make lecture capture (the recording of classroom lectures) comparatively easy and much less costly than it used to be
Jay Howard’s new book, Discussion in the College Classroom (a book that is well worth your time), lays out the research showing that cold calling on students is one of the best ways to get past their “civil attention.” It’s clear to me that once cold calling becomes the norm in a course, using that technique can increase the quality of in-class discussions.