Last summer, I reached the point of eligibility for early retirement. I thought about taking the leap but did not. I decided to keep teaching, asking myself, how hard could it be to teach for another few years? Harder than I imagined, as it turned out.
Running undergraduate tutorials and labs is a component of graduate students’ training at most departments in North American universities. The experience is meant to prepare graduate students for the transition into academia, if they wish (and are fortunate enough to land a position), and to help departments manage teaching loads. TAs typically deliver material provided by the course instructor, help students better understand course concepts, invigilate quizzes and exams, and grade exams and homework assignments. How big is the change when a TA transitions from providing support to teaching the course? Earlier this year, I found out firsthand.
Can students collaborate on the feedback they provide faculty? How would that kind of input be collected? Both are legitimate questions, and both were answered by a group of marketing faculty who developed, implemented, and assessed the approach.
Video material is now an important instructional component of face-to-face, blended, and online courses. Research supports its potential to promote learning, but those benefits aren’t automatic—it’s not just the video, but how that video material is designed and integrated into the course. Selecting the videos is important, but how they are used in large measure determines the extent to which they enhance learning.
A recent survey of 175 economics professors who teach basic principles of economics courses revealed a widely diverse set of grading practices for the course. These instructors taught at 118 different institutions, including doctoral degree-granting universities, two-year colleges, and everything in between. The findings are specific to the course and the field of economics. However, the questions raised by the analysis are relevant to grading across the board. The different grading policies and practices reported here are not uncommon, and one would suspect that findings like these are typical of any number of courses routinely offered by our institutions.
Interest in and use of peer assessment has grown in recent years. Teachers are using it for a variety of reasons. It’s an activity that can be designed so that it engages students, and if it’s well designed, it can also be an approach that encourages students to look at their own work more critically. On the research front, some studies of peer assessment have shown that it promotes critical thinking skills and increases motivation to learn. In addition, peer assessments are a part of many professional positions, which means they’re a skill that should be developed in college.
Some of the best-known theories about how adults learn have been put forward by Malcolm Knowles, but how might his theories apply to online courses? We’ve been considering this question in light of two of Knowles’s theories—the value of life experiences and the significance of self-directed learning.