That frees students to ask questions and leaves them with complete examples in their notes, which can be crucial when they are trying to solve similar problems in their homework or when studying for exams. Imagine you were trying to bake a cake and you had never done it before. Suppose that the recipe skipped directly from beating the eggs to putting the finished batter in the oven, ignoring all the steps in between.
You would fail! The missing steps might be intellectually uninteresting to the master baker, but the novice baker has to learn them.
Just as we need to be guided through every detail when baking a cake for the first time, we also need thorough guidance when approaching a difficult calculus or physics problem for the first time. Alexis Argall B. Yet a professor in one of my classes used a strategy that others should try. That connection could come from another course or from our personal lives -- anything that made us stop and remember what we had learned that week. It forced me to think about the material outside of class and helped me find practical applications for what I was learning.
We were not graded rigidly on the content of our emails but rather just that we had made some sort of meaningful connection. Grading them on a submission basis rather than a content basis saved a lot of time for my professor, while still pressing us to process the information.
Hundreds of academics give advice to their younger selves
It gave her a more holistic view of us students, as well as forced us to actively process what we were learning. The requirement made us learn more, and the sense that the professor knew who we were made us want to learn more. Joe Venuta B. Specifically, I have come to realize the value in engaging with criticism and improving the work on which it is given. And I would not have discovered this without professors whose classes required me to do so. In many classes, faculty members give comments on assignments in writing along with the final grade. While that kind of feedback can be a tool for improvement, it is too easy for students to brush comments off and simply keep those things in mind for next time rather than consider how they might be addressed.
My professors have used two main strategies for inducing students to process negative feedback. One was to require the submission of a draft in advance. While successful students often work through multiple drafts anyway, submitting a draft for review forces them to consider major weaknesses in their assignment that they may otherwise overlook. In addition, submitting an improved final draft after responding to any criticism can help show students the value and achievability of addressing shortcomings.
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Another strategy is through in-person conferences. A back-and-forth discussion requires students to face specific criticisms head-on.
It also allows them to become more comfortable with defending their work while staying composed -- a valuable skill in any field. While in-person conferences do require more time from both the student and professor, a conversation lasting even 15 minutes can help. Personalized criticism from professors is a valuable resource, one that is too rarely used. Whether through multiple drafts or in-person discussions, engaging with negative feedback can benefit students in any area of study. Numerous factors come into play: material, class size, other students and so on.
However, I realized that one simple thing consistently makes classes better: when teachers make the students introduce themselves at the start of each class period in the first few weeks.
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Students introducing and saying a little bit about themselves like majors and hometowns really changes the dynamic. In those classes, I notice that instead of sitting silently staring at screens, students actually talk to one another before class starts. They talk during class: students are more willing to offer comments, ask questions and disagree with one another. And they talk to each other outside of class , often about the material -- which means there is more outside learning. Time is precious.
But in small classes, introductions take just three to five minutes. Large lectures are more difficult, but TAs can effectively administer that process in discussion sections. We need to be prepared to provide the public with real information about what we offer most of our students compared to cheaper alternatives. If six in 10 of our grads study abroad compared to two in 10 of theirs, we should highlight it.
If seven in 10 of our students graduate in four years compared to five or six in 10, we should make it known. If our average class size is 20 and theirs is 80, we should shout it out. And if three in 10 of our students are athletes compared to one in 10 at the larger institution, we should remind people.
Those of us at smaller colleges need to showcase what we do better. Emphasize placed-based teaching and scholarship. Many colleges across the country have used their location to develop a reputation for excellence. Land-grant institutions in the Midwest have strong programs in agriculture. Some small colleges in New England are known for their programs in sustainability and conservation. American and Georgetown Universities have a lock on politics and government, as does the University of Southern California on film.
Private colleges also need to grow where we are planted. We need to ask: What natural resources can we draw upon? What corporation, organization or industry is here to stay, and how can we study and teach about every conceivable aspect? How has our area changed, how will it change in the future and what areas of study are relevant today? Also, how do we incentivize scholarly activity around our location to bring greater attention to the college? How can we use what surrounds us to create a compelling reason for students to want to study here and for professors to choose this place to develop and share their expertise?
Private colleges need to think creatively about leveraging our location and what it offers in regard to teaching and learning.
My college has the Upper Mississippi Center, mobilizing faculty and students to carry out real-world projects that address social, economic and environmental challenges for local communities. Double down on your hometown. Private colleges should cultivate, nurture and steward their hometowns as though they are their biggest donors, because your hometown probably deeply appreciates the value and stability you bring to the region.
Engage them in conversations about how you can support each other and thrive. If they need college-educated workers, help steer your grads to local positions that honor their achievement and ambitions and that will fulfill the community's needs. In short, help the community where and how you can. The Village at Hendrix College offers a good example of a mixed-use architectural project that blends the campus into the northern edge of downtown Conway, Ark.
The next 10 years will be difficult for all higher-education institutions, the elite and the rest of us. We have to think differently if we are to thrive in an environment that depends more than ever on student enrollment, success and outcomes. Kent Barnds is executive vice president for external relations at Augustana College in Illinois. Be the first to know.
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Just like your teacher, front-load the work. Unfortunately, there are a lot of unanswered questions in online courses. When you are face-to-face and a question comes up you can blurt it out. Sometimes a classmate asks the question first. Either way, you get an answer before you leave. Without a classroom, however, it is up to you to ask questions—immediately.
Tips from students to help improve your teaching (opinion)
You cannot afford to wait until you are noticed in an online course. Spoiler alert: good professors post a syllabus that answers most questions. Also, even really good professors make mistakes. My suggestion is to read your syllabus very carefully.
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If you are unsure of anything, look back through emails or announcements. If you do not find an answer, ask! In cyberspace, there is no back of the room. Everyone is front row center.