Student course evaluations (SCEs) are now a standard feature in higher education. However, despite the effort and credence given to SCEs, in many cases students don’t seem to take them all that seriously. They have a general impression of the course and the instructor, and use that to gauge their answers to all the questions on the rating form.
The Teaching Professor March 2016
A number of faculty are now using Twitter in their classrooms, with positive effects. Here are two examples using different approaches.
Policies governing deadlines, missed assignments, makeup quizzes or exams, use of electronic devices, extra credit, and grade calculation are part and parcel of college courses today. Most appear in the syllabus and are discussed when the course begins. Even though a policy may clearly state that assignments cannot be turned in late or that missed quizzes cannot be made up, chances are good at least one student will request an exception. The teacher then faces a decision: enforce the policy or agree to an exception.
The ongoing lecture-active learning debate has generated considerable response in public venues, on social media, and in faculty conversations. These exchanges need to include accurate information as to the instructional methods actually being used in courses. Is lecture as dominant as it once was? How often are active learning activities part of classroom experiences?
Teachers everywhere recognize the need to be clear. It’s one of those parts of effective instruction whose importance almost goes without saying. An unclear explanation causes confusion and prevents learning. By the 1970s, there were already more than 50 studies that explored and documented the connection between teacher clarity and student learning. And research interest in clarity continues. Two recent meta-analyses (reference below), using different analytical approaches, integrated results from 144 and 46 studies respectively.
Some instructional practices rarely change. Even though the teacher using them may have concerns about the approach, it may feel as though there isn’t any other way. Multiple-choice exams are a good example. Too often they encourage superficial learning, with students memorizing and then forgetting answers. They don’t challenge students to think deeply. Missed answers are missed opportunities for learning. But can the format be changed? If you don’t think so, consider these alternatives.
With most instructional practices, it’s all about how they’re implemented. That’s what determines whether they’re right or wrong. Professor Tropman teaches introductory and upper division philosophy courses. She acknowledges that there are arguments against using reading quizzes, but writes, “I have had success using quizzes in my classes.” (p. 145) “For me, quizzes help set the atmosphere that I seek: one with the expectation that everyone comes to class prepared to engage with the material at hand.” (p. 143)
As the name implies, self-regulated learning is “self-determined and active efforts to initiate activities targeted towards learning goals, to perform them effectively, to monitor progress and to adapt them if necessary.” (p. 455) Said a bit more simply, it’s learners taking charge of their learning—recognizing that it’s their responsibility, deciding on a plan, implementing that plan and then assessing both the outcomes and the process. Self-regulated learners are independent, autonomous and self-directed.