Blogging can be a tool that aids learning. “Blogs provide students with an opportunity to ‘learn by doing’ to make meaning through interaction with the online environment.” (p. 398) They provide learning experiences described as “discursive,” meaning students learn by discussing, which makes blogs a vehicle for knowledge construction. They exemplify active learning and can promote higher-order thinking. Potential outcomes like these give teachers strong incentives to explore their use.
Clickers have made their way into many classrooms, and unlike any number of other instructional innovations, they have already generated a plethora of research findings, almost all of them indicating the positive benefits of the use of these response systems. The study highlighted here illustrates just how effective they are at engaging students and promoting comprehension of the content.
Endorsed but not used: that’s a nutshell summary of a study that looked at faculty use of active learning in a professional-level physiology program. The conclusion was supported by faculty and student perceptions of active learning use.
“The idea behind feedback is that it should make the revision process more strategic and ultimately improve the final paper.” (p. 64) However, as many faculty who have provided feedback on students’ written work have discovered, that objective isn’t accomplished as often as it should be. The authors of the article referenced below wondered whether the failure to act on feedback in subsequent drafts or writing assignments might be that “students ... lack an organizational system that allows them to process and reflect on the feedback provided.” (p. 65)
There’s a big cohort of students who want learning to be fun and easy. A lot of learning isn’t either. Most faculty get worried if the word fun is attached to a course they teach. It can mean they’re entertaining more than educating. What happens in the classroom is serious business; students are being prepared for careers, in most cases at no small cost to them or their families. But then there’s a body of research that makes a convincing case for humor in the classes. It doesn’t cause learning, but it seems to create conditions conducive to it.
It’s hardly a new subject. Every teacher knows it’s essential, and every teacher tries to motivate students. But it’s just as true that all teachers have experienced those days when they don’t feel particularly motivated, when the content seems old and tired, and when students (sometimes the whole class) are clearly anything but motivated by what’s happening in class. What to do then? If only there were a list of surefire strategies, those tricks that always get students and teachers fired up and moving forward. But motivation doesn’t lend itself to easy answers or surefire solutions. Clearly there are things that teachers can do that work with some reliability, but why and how they motivate are vexingly complex. There is much to be learned about motivation.
This semester I stumbled on a creative teaching tool that surprised both me and my students. It turned out to be effective and enjoyable, and it was a quiz. I used the tool in a survey of church history course. Like most history courses, this one has lots of content and has tended to be lecture-heavy. I decided to set myself the goal of using as many different creative methods as I could and using at least one in each class. I was continually asking myself, “How can I teach this in a way other than lecturing?”
What kind of homework assignments promote learning? We don’t need research to confirm that doing homework benefits most (maybe it’s all) college students. But there are some vexing issues. If the homework is graded and if those grades count, students will do the homework. But then all that homework must be graded. That can involve a huge time investment for the teacher. So, faculty respond by designing homework assignments that can be graded quickly or aren’t graded at all, with students getting credit for completing them, provided the work shows they’ve made a reasonable effort. Both of those options tend to compromise the amount of learning that results from doing the homework assignment.
Educational research is full of studies that show today’s students learn more in an active-learning environment than in a traditional lecture. And as more teachers move toward introductory classes that feature active-learning environments, test performance is improving, as is interest in these classes. The challenge for teachers is finding and developing those effective active-learning strategies. Here’s a take-home quiz activity that I’ve adapted and am using to get students interested in my course content.