Like many professors, I use group projects in my classes. When my students work together on a project, I’m hoping they’ll be able to accomplish complex instructional tasks and support each other’s learning on the project and in the course. In my experience, I’ve found that many student groups function positively and productively, but there are always some groups that do not. In those groups infighting occurs, which negatively affects the students’ work in addition to their learning, their connection to course content, and their overall impression of the class.
The Teaching Professor Current Issue: August/September, 2017
Cheating continues and is now regularly described by words and phrases like “rampant,” “epidemic proportions,” “out of control,” and “seriously alarming.” Especially troubling are findings that document a steady decline in the number of students who consider cheating unethical
If it’s a teacher’s advice on how to succeed, consider not giving it. Instead, challenge students to discover what it will take for them to do well.
Interest in those teacher characteristics that make instruction effective is long-standing. Since the 1930s, we’ve been asking students, faculty, alums, and administrators to identify the ingredients or components of effective instruction, and the same or similar characteristics are named with some regularity. The assumption has been that good teaching promotes learning, and there’s research that justifies that conclusion. However, for the last several decades attention has shifted from teaching to learning, a long-overdue shift in focus. Nonetheless, the important role played by good teaching should not be forgotten. In addition to what we teach and the strategies we use when we teach, the delivery of the instruction makes a difference. A couple of recent studies call us back to those ingredients of instruction that students repeatedly report help them learn but with some interesting updates.
It’s the beginning of another academic year, and that means lots and lots of last-minute course preparation. Perhaps it’s not the best time to propose course redesign projects, but how many course assignments, problem sets, exam formats, or paper topics haven’t been changed for some time? The last time the syllabus was significantly revised was . . . when, exactly?
Does active learning work to promote learning? That’s the question we’ve been asking, and it’s one we can stop asking. It’s been answered—at least that’s the consensus within the research community. The results are consistent and, according to Streveler and Menekse (2017), “allow us to be confident that, on average, engaging students through active strategies enhances learning.”
The imperative “Help Students Get the Dictionary Habit” is one of the headings in the 2001 edition of John C. Bean’s book Engaging Ideas, specifically in a chapter called “Helping Students Read Difficult Texts.” Bean goes on to describe the importance of annotating unfamiliar words. Students, he says, should keep a dictionary nearby as they read. Today, of course, students have ready access to dictionaries through their electronic devices. My own institution (and many others, I imagine) offers students and faculty free access to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Access to a first-class dictionary, in short, is not a problem for today’s budding critical readers.
The idea of “flipping” what happens inside and outside of the classroom has gained popularity quickly and is already an approach known to most faculty and used by many. Claims for its effectiveness were touted initially without much research, but studies on the approach are catching up and providing evidence that supports some of the claims.