Throughout the week we’ve talked about various teaching strategies for C-I courses, but this morning I want to talk more generally about principles that are known to promote student engagement, increasing retention and graduation rates.
Research shows that engagement, the time and energy students devote to educationally purposeful activities, is the best single predictor of their learning and personal development. My suggestions for engaging students have been adapted and updates from three sources, various research reports from the American Association of Universities and Colleges., results from the National Student Survey of Engagement (NSSE) including the supplemental questions on writing, and key information from How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching.
Yesterday I asked you to complete a brief homework exercise to prepare you for this session. Take out your homework—your responses to the eight questions. They’re going to help shape our discussion.We’ll look at the questions and discuss their importance. Then I’ll ask you ways that you might implement the underlying practice in your teaching.
How many undergraduate students do you know well?Think of students with whom you have frequent student-faculty contact in and out of classes. The student(s) come to you for advice beyond your classroom. The student(s) would think of you immediately when needing a letter of recommendation.How many listed 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, more than 15?What activities or situation foster your interaction with students?What conditions limit your interaction with students?
Frequent student-faculty contact in and out of class is a most important factor in student motivation and involvement. Faculty concern helps students get through rough times and keep on working. Knowing a few faculty members well enhances students’ intellectual commitment and encourages them to think about their own values and plans. Yet LSU first-year students are less likely to interact with faculty in extracurricular activities or in course-related interactions. By the time they are seniors, their interactions are more in line with those of their peers at other schools.How might we increase student-faculty contact?What are some of the ways you encourage student-faculty contact?
Here are some popular suggestions:We may announce office hours at the beginning of the semester or offer to look at drafts. But many—most?—students “don’t do optional.” You may need to initiate and even require contact until students get in the habit of becoming more engaged. What reasons can you think of for not encouraging student/faculty contact?
List the ways that students in your classes work together or cooperate to learn, either on their own or with your facilitation. Circle the ones that you facilitate.What did you write down?
When students are encouraged to work as a team, more learning takes place. Characteristics of good learning are collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated. Working together improves thinking and understanding. NSSE results show that students at other schools are assigned group writing projects more often than students are at LSU by about 10 percentage points at the freshman level and 7 points at the senior level.
Developing interpersonal skills is important for schooling and for careers. Here are some ways to facilitate student interaction: What are the drawbacks of group projects? How can you encourage cooperation among students?Why do peers make good teachers and mentors?—Students feel comfortable with other students; talk the same language; not embarrassed that they have trouble with a subject.
From 1 to 10, how active are students in your class, with 1 being “it’s easy for students to nap in class,” and 10 being “they snooze they lose big time.” Passive classes may be identified with listening to lectures, completing textbook exercises, or answering mostly questions based on memory of material. Active classes encourage students to learn by doing– interacting with other students, conducting labs or other hands-on activities, or solving problems, for example .How many were on the more passive end of the scale—a 1-3, 4-6, 7-10? What factors effect where you rated your classes?Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves. NSSE scores on the benchmark called “Active and Collaborative Learning show our first year students are less likely to ask questions in class or to make a class presentation. Our seniors compare more favorable with other schools on this benchmark.But no doubt all of us have used an activity in class when we felt there wasn’t much learning going on. We assign a group activity, for example, only to circulate around the room and hear more discussion of last weekend’s football game than an analysis of the presidential debate as assigned.
Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves. NSSE scores on the benchmark called “Active and Collaborative Learning show our first year students are less likely to ask questions in class or to make a class presentation. Our seniors compare more favorable with other schools on this benchmark.But no doubt all of us have used an activity in class when we felt there wasn’t much learning going on. We assign a group activity, for example, only to circulate around the room and hear more discussion of last weekend’s football game than an analysis of the presidential debate as assigned.
There may be ways to use technology such as clickers to engage students in lectures, but often lectures are an invitation to tune out unless the professor works to engage students.But just having students do something may not always lead to learning.
A science education project at Vanderbilt University . . . Researchers created a 6th grade science curriculum called Mission to Mars in which students grappled with authentic problems about space travel to and from Mars. At the end of the unit students did a culminating project in which they built and launched model rockets, a highly engaging, hands-on activity. As expected they were excited about the project, and successfully built and launched their rockets. But as a learning experience the task was a flop. Students were unable to answer questions about how a rocket works or what accounts for an effective design. When asked about the purpose of the activity, students said things like, “You know, to build them and see how high they will go.” Asked about measuring how high things go, a common response was, “You know, look at it go up and see how high it goes.” Students had participated in an engaging, hands-on activity in which they learned almost nothing about science. Disappointed with the results, the researchers redesigned the task with two goals in mind—to preserve students’ enthusiasm for the subject and to promote their understanding of scientific knowledge of rocketry. They came up with an elegant solution; students were given the job of developing design plans for a NASA rocket kit that would be used by children across the country. The assignment, called Request for Design Plans, asked students to examine various features of model rockets and then determine what materials should be included in the rocket kits. Below is an excerpt of the assignment. We are especially interested in three questions. First, will our rockets go higher if we sand and paint them or leave them unfinished? While it would be much cheaper to leave them unfinished, we want to maximize the height our rockets reach; second, will the number of fins have any effect on the height of the rockets; primarily 3 vs. 4 fins? Again there are economic considerations involved; third, does the type of nose cone have an effect on the height of the model rocket? We have rounded and pointed cones. How did the design-a-rocket-kit project work out? By all accounts the new assignment produced a much richer learning experience. Students were excited about creating rocket kits for other children, and worked on the project in earnest. They also developed deeper understanding of the science of rocketry including· how to do controlled experiments to test the quality of their designs· how to measure the height of a rocket launch· recording results from each launch· noting sources of variance in their measurements (e.g., a windy day)· debating what features should be experimentally manipulated in each subsequent rocket trial. Teachers indicated that students asked better and more informed questions about rockets in class. And, the students spontaneously offered assistance to students from classes that did the traditional build-a-rocket assignment.
A good lecture can teach students material if they are intellectually engaged. When I’ve observed beginning teachers, especially inexperienced TAs, I’ve noticed they often have a activity for students, but sometimes it’s not clear to me why they had student do what they did. I ask them to consider giving an “exit” survey with three questions. What did we do in class today? Why? What did you learn? Thinking trumps physical activity.
You may have seen this “Cone of Learning.” But the research behind it is suspect. Any one of these ways of learning could be active or passive. What matters is not what students do physically but what they do mentally while learning. This is where flipping the lecture comes in really handy - using class time for activities and feedback (engaging) and leaving the prof to deliver lectures and content out-of-class time (one-way comm).
Here are some active learning strategies that are more likely to require active, critical thinking.Have students present materials to the classAsk students to provide examples of outside events or personal experiences that support subject and materials learned in classUse role playing, problem solvingArrange field trips, internships, service-learning experiencesFollow up activities with reflections on learning (metacognition)
Professor Efficiency is thinking about cutting students’ (and her) workload by eliminating routine homework exercises, daily quizzes, and four exams and replacing them with a midterm and a final, and she wants to know what you think. Advise her. What did you say?
If Professor Efficiency looked at education research, she see it’s important to give prompt and frequent feedback. By knowing what you know and do not know gives a focus to learning. In order for students to benefit from courses, they need appropriate feedback on their performance. When starting out, students need help in evaluating their current knowledge and capabilities. Within the classroom, students need frequent opportunities to perform and receive suggestions for improvement. Throughout their time in college and especially at the end of their college career, students need chances to reflect on what they have learned, what they still need to know, and how to assess themselves. That can be a value of capstone courses.Students tend to learn and remember material best when they study the material and then take a test on it .What are some ways besides quizzes and test that you can offer prompt and frequent feedback?
Here’s another place that collaborative work in the form of peer responses could be useful. Yet the NSEE data shows that teachers asked LSU students to give feedback on another student’s draft only about 70% of the time whereas in other consortium schools, peers review each other’s work about 87% of the time. Peer review is used even less at the senior level where we might expect peer expertise to be greater.. Follow presentations with 5 minutes for students to write down what they have learned and what they don’t understand Assess learning problems; suggest ways to improve. Offer on-line quizzes and web-based programs that provide instantaneous feedback out –of-class. Replace an office hour with a question and answer session. Use audio and/or video recordings to assess performances. Return graded assignments, projects, and tests within one week.
Explain why you agree or disagree with this premise: College students work an average of 30 hours per week, according to the 2008 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study from the National Center for Educational Statistics. The old rule of spending three hours outside of class for every hour spent in class no longer holds. Time on task matters less now that students can use technology to work smarter not harder.
Amazing how many students use procrastination as a strategy and actually believe they do their best work by waiting to the last minute.
Time plus energy equals learning. Learning to use one’s time well is critical for students and professionals alike. Allocating realistic amounts of time means effective learning for students and effective teaching for faculty.One place where time on task is most obvious is in class attendance. I suspect that most faculty believe that attending class is required for success. Many students see attendance as optional, especially if they can get the powerpoints or notes from a friend. However, our new attendance policy won’t solve everything. The onus is on the professor to improve their teaching and engage students so not only do they "want" to attend class, but that they are engaged while there and successfully reach the learning outcomes.Well designed, meaningful application of content has students thinking about course material all week long, beyond the class time (aka, continuously engaging in content thought, seeing applications in places that surprise them.What are some of the ways you extend the class, keeping student thinking about what you’re teaching, what they should belearning?
Set progressive deadlines for projects and assignments (scaffolding). Expect students to meet them. Communicate the minimum amount of time students should spend preparing for class and doing assignments.Be sure time on task is real learning, not busy work. Encourage students to prepare and practice oral presentations in advance. Require attendance; explain consequences of absences. Discuss with students who fall behind their study habits, schedules, and time management or refer them to a counselor in the Center for Academic SuccessEncourage learning to continue after class through blogs and discussion boards.
Circle the statement that more often describes your teaching experience:How many of you Set the bar high and Students will do as little asstudents will clear it. possible to get by. Expect more and you will get it. The poorly prepared, those unwilling to exert themselves, and the bright and motivated all need high expectations. Expecting students to perform well becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when teachers and institutions hold high standards and make extra efforts. Yet NSSE results for LSU show that our first-year students don’t find the level of academic challenge to be as great here when compared to how freshmen at our peer institutions or at the consortium schools view the academic challenge at their schools. and other schools in the consortium show that students say about ¼ of their teachers don’t explain grading criteria in advance, missing an opportunity to let students know how they are expected to perform.Students want and expect to be challenged.
Expect more and you will get it. The poorly prepared, those unwilling to exert themselves, and the bright and motivated all need high expectations. Expecting students to perform well becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when teachers and institutions hold high standards and make extra efforts. Let students know you think they can succeed. Yet NSSE results for LSU show that our first-year students don’t find the level of academic challenge to be as great here when compared to how freshmen at our peer institutions or at the consortium schools view the academic challenge at their schools. and other schools in the consortium show that students say about ¼ of their teachers don’t explain grading criteria in advance, missing an opportunity to let students know how they are expected to perform.Students want and expect to be challenged.How can you challenge without discouraging?How to you deliver negative feedback without discouraging the student?
If students value a goal and believe they can attain it, they are more likely to be motivated to focus their behavior in ways that will lead to learning and performance that achieves the goal.
provide early success opportunitiesuse rubricsencourage students to excel at their work praise students individually and publicly for doing outstanding work. help students set challenging goals work individually with struggling studentsshow models of good workshow students models of A and B work. NSSE results show that only about 1/3 of first-year students are given models or sample assignments to demonstrate the level of work expected. Seniors are provided with sample assignments about 25 % of the time. But if we’re expected our seniors to produce complex projects, wouldn’t it be helpful to show them superior work from other semester?use CxC Studios
Suppose someone took an exit poll after your classes, asking students, “What did your teacher have you do this assignment?” Would your students be able to explain why you teach certain materials and skills, how they are connected to learning outcomes? List below ways you help students ”connect the dots” among course goals, lessons, projects and activities, and assessment. What reflective activities have you built into your course?
Disconnect between teacher perception and student perception.
Deep engagement means that students think about the meaning of the material whether it is written text, a graphical display, a formula, oral statements, etc. Being mindful of ones learning (metacognition) means students keep track of their own learning, recognizing what they know and don’t know, and then adjust their strategies to work through the gaps in their learning.
The term metacognition—the process of thinking about one’s thinking helps students become self-directed learners.“Students must learn to asses the demands of the task, evaluate their knowledge and skills accordingly, plan their approach, monitor their progress, and adjust their learning if necessary.”
encourage deep learning through scaffoldingexplain clearly what you want students to do and why; help with transferask students to explain how they solved a problem and arrived at conclusionAs time allows, look at the model assignments for today—how do they follow the principles we’ve discussed?
Students wrap up learning after the examReview and analyze exam performance Speculate about why a grade was earnedMisunderstood concepts or contentPoor study habitsTeacher reviews for patterns of problemsStudents unwrap instructions before the next exam and implement advice
Take 5 minutes to send an email to yourself with the answer.REFERENCES:Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate EducationApplications of 7 PrinciplesNational Survey of Student EngagementEngaging Ideas, John Bean, chapters 7-8 and 10-11Exploring How Students Learn—applications and discussion of research findings in educationHow learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching