Exciting News from Magna

As we shared with you last month, there are some exciting changes coming to your Teaching Professor subscription. Beginning in August, The Teaching Professor will move to an online-only format and provide you with more content. This new online version will include everything you love about The Teaching Professor —great articles and practical, evidence-based insights—but also feature many new enhancements that will make it an even more indispensable resource. Here’s a quick summary…

Unpacking the Critical Thinking Conundrum

When I was an undergraduate, I distinctly remember my political science professor informing the class, “If you take one thing away from your education, learn how to think critically by the time you leave here.” At that point in my life, his sage wisdom went in one ear and out the other—much like the admonitions to not start the paper the night before and to ensure my thesis statement was “argumentative.” The phrase “critical thinking” continued to appear in various essay assignments, its persistence indicating an implicit assumption that its meaning was self-explanatory. To be perfectly honest, I had not the slightest idea of what it meant at the time, and I’m not sure many of my peers did either. As I remember, I was well into my master’s program before the light bulb went off.

Using Wikipedia Productively

In most courses with some sort of research writing assignment, there’s a strongly worded prohibition against using Wikipedia. IT’S NOT A RELIABLE SOURCE! And measured by academic standards, it’s not. But faculty members Frances Di Lauro and Rebecca Johinke at the University of Sydney see these prohibitions as a wasted learning opportunity. “In bringing Wikipedia into the classroom, discussing its strengths and weaknesses, and subsequently what constitutes research and peer review, we engage students in a dialogue about academic writing as a process and a product, while at the same time involving them in collaborative and participatory writing groups” (p. 478).

Helping College Students Have a Healthier Way of Thinking About Grades

For the last seven years, I have had the absolute honor of working with college students who have committed academic misconduct. Every student at my university who is found in violation of academic misconduct is automatically sanctioned to the office of Integrity and Ethical Development, where we attempt to move students forward from this experience in a dignified, gracious, and positive manner.

Lessons from Expertise, Decoding, and a Quest for the Five-Minute Mile

A recent issue of Outside magazine recounts Charles Bethea’s attempt to run a sub-five-minute mile. At age 35 and fit, though not an elite athlete, Bethea’s goal is far short of the world record of 3:43. And although many runners break the five-minute barrier, it’s still a feat well beyond the vast majority of adults. After a respectable benchmark mile of 6:19, Bethea flounders aimlessly. A former college runner advises him to aim for quarter-mile splits of 74 seconds, which Bethea learns he can do, one at a time and with rest in between. But he can’t figure out how to string the four fast intervals together. It’s not until he gets coaching from a world-class miler that Bethea realistically approaches his goal. He quickly learns two things: first, he needs to ramp up his weekly mileage dramatically, and second, he must vary his training to include a prescribed mix of slow runs, hill intervals, and sprints. The road ahead isn’t going to be easy.

An Assignment of Note: Taking Notes on the Reading

This month we’re unveiling a new feature called Assignments of Note. We’re kicking off this feature with an assignment that gets students doing the reading and coming to class ready to discuss. You’ll find four additional Assignments of Note in the new online version of The Teaching Professor , plus more to follow on a semi-regular basis in the months ahead.