Thinking about critical reflection has been “front of mind” over the past few days, primarily because Natasha and I are presenting a workshop at this year’s Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) annual conference focused on just that. More specifically, the workshop focuses on a “disorienting dilemma” we’ve faced as course instructors for UNIV*6800, the graduate course at the University of Guelph that focuses on University Teaching.
1. Whatever approach you’re going to take in your classroom, model it.
If you plan to use discussions, case studies or experimental work, model some component of it on your first day. You want students to understand that these approaches are important to their success in the course while also letting them know that they’ll be expected to participate in this particular way.
2. Make a commitment to learn student names. State it in the first class. Hold yourself accountable.
Learning student names is a key (and simple) component to engaging students; research suggests the more positive a relationship a student has with an instructor, the higher the student’s final grade (Micari & Pazos, 2012).
3. Bring extras.
This can include: extra course syllabi; details of your office hours & contact information; extra chalk / white board markers; pencils; scrap paper; and lab instructions. Students are bound to forget any and all of these. Plus, looking prepared is a good way to set a tone of your own professionalism.
4. Write the course name, number and tutorial / lab section on the board.
Allows students to check right away if they’re in the correct room; saves the “walk of shame” when they realize they’re not.
5. Start creating a safe space for learning.
This means different things in different classrooms: in a chemistry lab, it might mean highlighting proper procedures; in a humanities seminar, it might mean talking about the kind of environments that encourage appropriate conversation.
Micari, M., & Pazos, P. (2012). Connecting to the Professor: Impact of the Student-Faculty Relationship in a Highly Challenging Course. College Teaching, 60(2), 41-47. doi: 10.1080/87567555.2011.627576
There are parts of Governors Island that make you think that its a bit of land that time forgot. The Coast Guard "left" the island in 1996 with all structures pretty much as-is.
That means this White Pine has had 16 years to grow as it pleases.
The juxtaposition between the apartment courtyard, the clipped grass and the White Pine looking like it could have been transplanted from a windswept Georgian Bay island struck a chord.Read More
With apologies to Dickens, in preparation for the upcoming Graduate Student University Teaching Conference, I’ve been editing the TA survival guide that we provide all conference participants. One specific section that I’ve updated is based on the most recent data collected from 2011 incoming undergraduate students.
While there is the usual demographic information, I was interested in drawing together a few of the results related to student achievement. Here they are:
84% of all incoming students had an high school average higher than 80%. 41% of incoming students had an average between 80-84. 28% had an average between 85-89.
When asked what grades they expected to achieve in the coming year, 35% of students expected an average between 80-84. Only 2% expected to achieve an average less than 70%.
48% self-assessed their academic ability as “above average”.
57% of students reported spending at least six hours a week studying during high school, with 71% spending less than 10 hours a week
It’s interesting to note that in their first year, student will likely enrol in a full course load which consists of 2.5 credits per semester. As the undergraduate calendar outlines: “A credit weight of [0.50] indicates 10-12 student effort hours, including class time, on academic tasks associated with the course.” So a full course load should equate to 50 hours of effort a week on the low end. Assuming a student in enrolled in five courses with three hours of lecture and two hours of lab per week, that leaves 25 hours for “academic tasks associated with the course” or, put another way, homework.
I guess what I see here is a bit of the disconnect between expectations, habits and past practice. Only 30% report spending more than 10 hours a week during high school to study or do homework. And, it would seem it was enough in high school, as 84% had an A average or better. 48% expected to achieve an A average or above during their first year of University. But 29% of the incoming class reported ever spending more than 10 hours a week on homework.
I’ve spoken to undergraduate students in first-year courses I’ve instructed about the amount of effort that I expect is required and I even include a break-down of how I might expect they spend their 10 hours a week in the syllabus. But I never saw a distribution of grades that matched half of the class with an A or better. And while there is a caution to all of this data (hours of effort for homework doesn’t necessarily equate quality of effort, for example) I do think its excellent evidence-based food-for-thought.
Some questions I would consider for reflection as I prepared to instruct a first year class this fall:
- How do I know students know what to do with their time outside of class?
- Is there value in knowing what students’ expectations of achievement are in this class?
- Would expectations change if students know the University’s grade standards (where anything evaluated as an A is considered “an outstanding performance”)?
- How do I make sure I don’t simply equate effort with achievement?
cc-licensed photo source
Twitter—more than just broadcasting—is about engagement.
If you agree with this premise, then take a moment to visit the University of Guelph’s Twitter account. Notice anything? A stream of tweets linking to the University’s communications and public affairs news releases and At Guelph articles. No conversations, no re-tweets. How many people are following @UofG? A little over 8700 (as of July 2012). How many accounts does the University follow back? 35.
How about a quick visit to the Library’s main account? Looks to be a feed of truncated re-posts from the Library’s news service. A lone-wolf, it follows no one.
Now have a look at the University’s Guelph Gryphons account. Admirably, there is the odd re-tweet, but again we see that the majority of time, it’s a tweet with a link to a news release on the Gryphon’s site. Not a single conversation in sight.
Perhaps it’s okay to be a nameless, faceless institutional account and go on sending out 140-character links to press releases, but what about the public faces of the University?
None would be more visible than President Alastair Summerlee. Dr. Summerlee’s tweeting tempo has improved recently and though abrupt, I don’t mind his staccato style but there isn’t a re-tweet or conversation in sight. The Associate VP Student Affairs is on Twitter too. But the trend continues, and Brenda Whiteside‘s stream is infrequently updated and (broken record time, sorry) without any evidence of conversations.
But why should @UofG, @LibraryUofG, @Guelph_Gryphons, @UoG_President or @WhitesideBrenda care about my observations here? Because people who are active users of Twitter are expecting engagement. And the best brands know this and already are engaging with their broad community of followers. And while brand could mean American Airlines, I actually mean fellow institutions of higher education here in Ontario. For examples of how other Universities are “getting” how to use Twitter, see the University of Waterloo‘s institutional account or Queen’s University Principal Dr. Daniel Woolf’s account: conversations, information, re-tweets. They’re all there. And personally as an alumni, staff member and active Twitter user on-campus, I can’t help but want better for our image, perception and institution.
It’s not all dire on-campus. The University’s Alumni account is exact antithesis of my criticisms above. But it does leave me with more questions about Twitter and Higher Ed: What are institutional accounts for? Is lower activity and no engagement better than no account at all? And can we improve how we “do” Twitter here @UofG?
Edit (4:31 pm, July 24): Ensuing conversation on Twitter that suggests other U of G accounts that are engaging, enjoyable and, in one case, a cannon:
— McLaughlin Library (@UoG_ATS) July 24, 2012
Edit (8:25 pm, July 24): Another suggestion:
@gavatron also @sustainableuog are engaging too :)
— Dr. Julie Gill (@DrJulieGill) July 24, 2012
May 30, 2012
Lonán, you and I have been together almost every day for the past five months. As you probably know, Mum went back to her graduate work and I took parental leave to be with you from eight months to just past your first birthday.
Today you’re just two days past that first birthday and I’m getting ready to go back to work. I wanted to write this note to you to share with you some of my reflections about our time together.Read More
I’m a little hot under the collar this morning. The University of Guelph Professional Staff Association (PSA) has just negotiated a new compact with the University. We’ve been without an agreement since May 1, 2010. A meeting, to share and then ratify the agreement, is scheduled for January 17th at 11am. I am, however, on parental leave. And, from an email I received earlier today, there are no accommodations for those PSA members who can’t, for whatever reason, make the meeting:
You will need to attend the meeting to hear the major points of the new Compact and to vote. Unfortunately there will be no proxy voting.
So now, to have the opportunity to hear about the new compact and vote on it, I’ll first have to decide that I want to take the time to come to the University while the primary care-giver to my son. I’m not the only other PSA member on parental leave and, if true, this is a somewhat surprising lack of accommodation for those PSA members who are off on leave.
That being said, the PSA constitution and by-laws does list (Article IV, rule #6) that “there shall be no voting by proxy at either General or Annual Meetings of the PSA”. Since this is the case, I’m left wondering how the PSA will support me being able to come to the meeting to vote. Given the by-law on meetings, I would expect that there are plans and support in place to allow as many members to take part in the ratification vote as possible.
We shall see.Read More
Setting my 91-year-old grandfather up on his new iPad.Read More
The gallivanting hay-eater’s Houdini attempt apparently paid off. City officials said the animal – who they named Molly – will be headed for greener pastures.
“We will find it a home,” said Richard Gentles of the city Animal Care and Control. “We’re starting to reach out to farm sanctuaries.”
Not saying anything that hasn’t been said before, but it is interesting to note that when livestock escapes from abattoirs, something about it qualities change: rather than a member of the herd, it becomes an individual. In that moment, we seem compelled to treat it morally as a different object.Read More