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Jan 28, 2015

Teaching International Students: Tips for Success

At NYIT we have a large number of international students, with differing levels of proficiency in English. In addition, they may not be familiar with aspects of US pop culture, and may have difficulty with idiomatic expressions. Here are some ways you can help them succeed in their courses.

Lectures and material presented orally in class

Especially when they first arrive, international students may have difficulties segmenting the stream of sound from the mouths of native speakers into recognizable words. Thus, you can help by doing the following:

  • Enunciate carefully so that words are not run together.

  • Speak loudly enough for everyone to hear you easily.

  • When explaining a concept or assignment that students must understand:
    – repeat it.
    – slow down when saying the key words.
    – write it on the board or provide a handout with the information in written form.

  • If you are using PowerPoint slides, give the slides to students as a handout. When a professor is lecturing from PowerPoint, the information goes by much more quickly than in the chalk-n-talk mode, and international students may have a difficult time processing information and getting it down in notes.

  • If you make reference to something from US pop culture (e.g., products, ads and slogans, TV shows, slang) to explain a concept the class should know, explain the concept in another way as well.

  • Give students an idea of what is to be covered in the next class so that students can be prepared for what they will hear.

Reading assignments

Even the best international students may have an English vocabulary half that of an average native speaker of English. Thus, reading assignments take a good bit longer.

  • International students may find it easier to cope with shorter readings assigned more frequently (e.g. 10 pages over two days x 3 class meetings) as opposed to longer readings in larger chunks (e.g. 30 pages over a week).

  • If you are using a textbook, highlight for students the features that are particularly student-friendly (e.g. the glossary, chapter overview and review, headings, etc.).

Class participation and group work

  • When calling upon an international student, allow enough wait time for the student to collect his or her thoughts, formulate an answer in English, and summon the courage to respond.

  • Think creatively about ways of drawing upon international students’ special knowledge of their own culture and country, and elicit information from them that will be interesting and useful for the whole class. By valuing international students’ input, you are modeling important behavior for the American students.

  • Depending on their culture and level of English, international students may not be as vocal as some US students. For example, asking questions in class or volunteering comments may be viewed in their home culture as rude and disrespectful to the teacher. For these students, you may just have to accept that their level of participation will not be the same as that of US students.

  • International students will often be more comfortable participating in small group work than in front of the whole class. Some suggestions:
    – Review with the whole class ways to make group work productive, such as including everyone in discussions, checking for understanding within the group, eliciting the opinions of those who have not spoken up, etc.
    – Consider assigning roles to group members. Designate someone to record the main points of the conversation, and someone else to ensure that everyone in the group has a chance to speak.
    – Make heterogeneous groups. If all international students are put in one group, they may feel marginalized and alienated from their American classmates.

Testing

When creating an exam, keep the following points in mind:

  • Simpler vocabulary is preferable whenever it will not compromise academic content. For example, movement is a more common word than locomotion.
  • Wherever possible, use simpler sentence structure in place of more complex structure.
  • In directions and elsewhere, telegraphic writing is hard for nonnative speakers to understand. For example, items on right used only once could leave the nonnative speaker wondering, “What did the items on the right use only once???”
  • Typographical errors or misspellings cause undue trouble for nonnative speakers. They will assume that the typo or misspelled word is a legitimate English word and will spend inordinate time trying to figure it out.

International students will probably read more slowly and write more slowly than US students because they are processing the information in a second language. Depending on the subject matter that you are testing and your own beliefs about fair testing, you may wish to:

  • Allow extra time for reading the test questions and/or writing the answers.
  • Allow international students to ask you the meanings of words that are not explicitly being tested.
  • Some professors allow international students to use dictionaries or electronic translators during exams, but whether this is appropriate for your exam will depend on the nature of the exam.
  • If spelling and vocabulary are not being explicitly tested, allow international students to use dictionaries.
  • Most international students have electronic translators. Some are reasonable dictionary substitutes, while others are not terribly useful. Be aware, though, that electronic translators can be programmed with other information. If you have dictionaries available, you might prefer to provide them yourself.

Cheating and plagiarism

Different cultures have very different ideas about appropriate citation and documentation of source material. In many cultures, helping a friend may be of higher value than avoiding cheating. Thus, what we would call cheating and plagiarism may occur when the international student has no real intention of being dishonest.

  • To avoid the heartbreak and hassle of dealing with cheating on an exam:
    – Do not ask questions that can be answered with memorized chunks from the textbook.
    – Do not seat international students who are good friends together during an exam.
    – Do not put international students together in a separate room unsupervised for an exam.

  • Because of the importance of helping one’s friends in some cultures, many international students study together and may share homework. Be very explicit about how much help they are allowed to give each other and what is acceptable and unacceptable.

  • In some cultures, the good student is expected to cull “beautiful sentences” from the work of others and incorporate them without quotation or citation. To help students understand what is appropriate and inappropriate in US academic culture:
    – Give explicit instruction and modeling of what is acceptable and unacceptable.
    – Explain explicitly how bad “unacceptable” is, and make sure that students know where to go for help if they are not sure whether to document or cite.

If you suspect cheating or plagiarism from an international student—especially a new student—do not automatically assume an intent to be dishonest. Often, if you call the student (or students) into your office and ask about the process they went through in completing an assignment or doing an exam, they will honestly tell you (e.g. they collaborated or went online and found some “beautiful sentences”). That creates a teachable moment when you can explain that the practice is unacceptable in this culture. It is then up to you what penalties to impose, but a first offense committed out of ignorance of cultural conventions might be treated somewhat more leniently than cheating or plagiarism with dishonest intent. Remember to adhere to NYIT’s Academic Integrity Policy, which includes filing an Academic Dishonesty and Resolution Report. If you are not sure how to proceed, your campus dean is available to offer advice.

Campus resources

This weekly teaching note is adapted from a Teaching Tip written by Dr. J Rees-Miller, and is used with permission.

Author:
Janie Rees-Miller, PhD
Professor, Modern Languages and Director, ESL
Marietta College
janie.rees.miller@marietta.edu

Author: francine_glazer

Jan 21, 2015

Make Courses More Engaging - and More Manageable - with Technology

A Learning Management System (Blackboard; Bb) can be a powerful tool when it comes to organizing your course content and communicating with your students. It can also make your work simpler, with less time spent preparing handouts and collecting papers, and more time spent teaching and interacting with students. Here are some ways you can leverage Bb to take advantage of its features.

Better Organization

  1. Make your course available to your students in Blackboard. Note: course shells are created automatically, and students are enrolled into these courses upon registration. The courses are not made available to students automatically. You need to do so manually (takes about 30 seconds or so) for students to have access to the materials you post in Blackboard.

  2. Upload your syllabus to the course shell in Bb. If you make any changes to the syllabus during the semester you can easily repost your updated syllabus to the course shell and students will have immediate access to it.

  3. Create a “Schedule of Dates.” List important dates, course topics, study materials and assignments, and post it as a separate document. Students can refer to this document quickly for the most relevant information in order to be prepared for class.

  4. Post your course materials to Blackboard. Save all that time you spend at the photocopier by posting handouts, related course readings, references, and assignments in your course. If everything’s available to the students on Bb, you won’t need to worry about misplaced materials. Simply create Weekly Folders and post materials relevant for each week to help your students stay on track.

Better Communication

  1. Create a welcome announcement for your students and send it as an email. Welcome your students to your course virtually even before they come to class. You can send a welcome email either through Bb’s Announcements feature, or by going to the course roster in NYITConnect, and sending the email from there. Include a link to the syllabus and ask the students to review it prior to the first class meeting. Then, on the first day of class highlight only the most important elements of the syllabus and start with your first unit. You can ask students to read the syllabus and take a Syllabus Quiz, which can be automatically graded in Bb.

  2. Create a “Virtual Office.” Set up a separate forum on the discussion board called “Instructor’s Office.” Use this forum as a location for students to post questions related to the course content or to an assignment. All students can see the responses, so you answer each question only once, and all students receive the same information. As with the course Announcements, students who miss a class will still be able to access the information.

  3. Use Blackboard’s Announcements tool to send reminders, notifications, and updates. This is probably one of the easiest ways to communicate with your students, and it has the added benefit that all messages are posted in the course shell on the Announcements page. You can easily see what you have shared with your class earlier in the semester. Students who don’t check their email, or who delete their email, can still find the information.

  4. Create a Discussion Board on a specific topic. It can take as little as 5 minutes to set it up and can really help your students learn and achieve learning goals by engaging them with course materials and each other. You can simply ask students to respond to a question on the discussion board related to course readings, share their experiences, come up with examples, and share resources. You can also assign students to lead a weekly discussion.

Each of these items can be implemented quickly and easily, and together they can have a significant impact on your course! For assistance, visit the staff of the Center for Teaching and Learning and Technology-Based Learning Systems. We will be happy to work with you!

Author: francine_glazer

Dec 17, 2014

Three Key Principles for Designing Effective Blended Courses

“Over the past 10 years, blended learning has matured, evolved, and become more widely adopted by institutions of all types. This evolution of the instructional model…have opened new possibilities for curriculum design, especially the ability to design a course that uniquely blends face-to-face (F2F) and online interaction, allowing institutions to address learners’ specific needs and customize the learning environment rather than rely on a one-size-fits-all approach.” — 2010 EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) Report

While definitions may vary, blended courses are typically characterized by a 30%–70% reduction in class time, with instructional activities being shifted online and in either asynchronous or synchronous formats. (This is different from “flipped classrooms,” which shift lectures/instruction to an online environment without any reduction in classroom time.)

Instructors interested in redesigning their traditional face-to-face (F2F) classes for blended delivery may find the process overwhelming. Where do you start? What activities happen when? Will students learn what they need to learn? Below are three guiding principles for getting started with designing effective blended courses.

  1. Set the Rhythm of the Course: Effectively designed blended courses go beyond the superficial add-on of non-F2F components into the traditional F2F course structure. There should be a natural rhythm between in-class and out-of-class components, each complementary and synced with one another. For example, a Tuesday/Thursday course that keeps only the Tuesday session in-class should be redesigned so that activities for the Thursday online session will build on what happened the previous Tuesday and previews what is to come the following Tuesday.

  2. Differentiate Content from Mode: When designing blended courses, it is critical to differentiate content (i.e., instructional materials such as readings, lectures, assignments, etc.) from mode (i.e., the method through which content is delivered, such as textbooks, videos, discussion boards, etc.). Doing so will allow instructors to determine what is the optimal mode to deliver specific types of content. For example, while lecture content can be delivered either in-class and/or online, a faculty wanting rich interaction might opt for in-class lecture, incorporating student engagement activities such as clickers or peer-instruction.

  3. Define When Learning Happens: Since blended courses reduce in-class time, it is important to plan what learning happens when. Typically, any learning that benefits from the immediate feedback of the faculty and that requires social/emotional connections among learners is better done synchronously in-class or through web-conferencing. All other learning (e.g., homework exercises, reading, discussion forum, etc.) can be delivered asynchronously online.

Designing an effective blended course can take up to six months of planning and preparation, so give yourself some time and be patient. As with any new approach to teaching, the key is to gather feedback, make adjustments, and redeploy. An easy way to do this is to ask your students to provide feedback at key intervals during the course, and use the feedback to make adjustments for the next round.

Resources:

  • Diaz, V. and Brown, M. (2010 November 15). “Blended Learning: A Report on the ELI Focus Session.” EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI). Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/library/resources/blended-learning-report-eli-focus-session on May 26, 2014.
  • Glazer, F. S., Ed. (2012). Blended Learning: Across the Disciplines, Across the Academy. Herndon, VA: Stylus Publishing.
  • Stein, J. and Graham, C. (2014). Essentials for Blended Learning: A Standards-Based Guide. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • University of Central Florida (UCF) and American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). “BlendKit Course. Blended Learning Toolkit.” Retrieved from http://blended.online.ucf.edu/blendkit-course/ on May 26, 2014.

To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at fglazer@nyit.edu. This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium hosted at Western Kentucky University and organized by Seneca College and New York Institute of Technology.

Contributor:
Mike Truong, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Office of Innovative Teaching and Technology
Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment
Azusa Pacific University
mtruong@apu.edu
http://www.apu.edu/itt

Author: francine_glazer

Dec 10, 2014

Building Professor-Student Relationships in an Age of Social Networking

The influence of teacher-student relationships on the quality of teaching and learning is well-documented (Klem & Connell, 2004; National Survey of Student Engagement [NSSE], 2012; Rigsbee, 2010). Especially at the college level, rapport between professors and students is likely to increase student learning because students feel valued, more comfortable expressing their feelings, and more willing to be intellectually challenged (Cornell University Center for Teaching Excellence, 2012).

But college students are changing. Research shows that Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1999, prefer a variety of active learning activities, seek relevance so they can apply what they are learning, want to know the rationale behind course requirements, and desire a “laid back” learning environment in which they can informally interact with the professor and each other (Bart, 2011). Most significantly, “Millennials…are more willing to pursue learning outcomes when instructors connect with them on a personal level” (para. 5).

Use of technology, especially social networking, has been shown to influence professor-student relationships. Today’s college students use social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.) most often to connect with friends and family (89%) and to a lesser degree for educational purposes such as planning study sessions (28%), completing assignments and projects (33%), and communicating with faculty or advisors (15%) (NSSE, 2012). It appears that many of today’s professors are responding in kind: “More than half of the students who interacted with faculty or advisors through social media had two-way communications with them” (p. 18).

While some believe that virtual interactions between students and their professors nurtures the professor-student relationship, one recent study reports that 40% of college students and 30% of faculty believe it is inappropriate for professors to interact with students on social networking sites (Malesky & Peters, 2012). Wilkinson and Milbourne (in press) explain that college students’ prolific social networking habits lead to perceived intimacy in which they experience false feelings of closeness with others and expect everyone – including their professors – to be accessible and responsive 24/7. Such misguided feelings and expectations can eradicate professional boundaries and “demote” professors from their status as authority figures to the perceived status of peer or even service worker (Gangnon & Milbourne, 2014).

So how can college professors establish an effective balance between authority and a relationship with their students? Stewart (2009) suggests that professors first maintain academic standards “even if it means [students] must sometimes move outside their comfort zones and we must move outside ours” (p. 117). Following are a few suggestions for establishing authority and professional boundaries while still maintaining professor-student relationships characterized by warmth and friendliness:

  1. Model professionalism in your face-to-face interactions with students. If your students perceive you as an authority figure, they will treat you with respect. Dress professionally, expect your students to address you formally (e.g., Dr. Smith, Mrs. Jones), and use professional language. With that said, you don’t have to be stuffy. A sense of humor and “being yourself” can go a long way with college students!
  2. Be prepared and well-organized. Your students will feel reassured knowing they can trust you to lead them through the semester without vague information or last minute changes. To prevent misunderstandings, alleviate student stress, and avoid conflict, post everything students will need to be successful in your course (e.g., course policies, weekly schedule, PowerPoints, handouts, assignment directions, etc.) in a timely manner, if not by the first day of class.
  3. Provide a rationale and maintain some degree of flexibility. We all appreciate understanding why things are the way they are. Clearly explain the reasoning behind your course policies, objectives guiding class assignments and activities, etc. On those occasions when students question, resist, or respond unenthusiastically, either review your rationale or consider making revisions. Even minor revisions based on student responses are likely to build professor-student rapport.
  4. Establish clear expectations for outside of class communication. As the old saying goes, prevention is the best medicine. Let your students know how you prefer to be contacted (e.g., phone, e-mail, etc.), specify when you will hold office hours and respond to e-mail, and clearly state “off limits” modes of contact (e.g., no texting). If a student contacts you via text message when you’ve asked your class not to, maintain your boundary by not responding.
  5. Model professionalism through your virtual interactions with students. Your written word is an extension of your actual self. In addition to using professional written language, share information appropriately (i.e., nothing too personal) and never use virtual communication to chastise or discipline. Begin each message with a greeting and end with a closing to maintain some level of formality. Always check for grammar and spelling and always proofread your entire message for tone before hitting the send button!
  6. Get to know your students, but maintain professional distance. Once you know your students’ names – and pronounce their names correctly – you can begin getting to know them as people. But don’t get to know them too personally. Converse with them about their families, their jobs, their thinking and experiences related to your course/discipline, and their future plans, but leave the rest of their lives to them. There is no need to know about their love relationships, drinking habits, or personal problems. They do not need to know these details about your life either. Avoid friending your students on Facebook until they’ve graduated, and never, ever read Rate My Professor.com!

Resources:

To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at fglazer@nyit.edu. This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium hosted at Western Kentucky University and organized by Seneca College and New York Institute of Technology.

Contributor:
Jana Hunzicker, Ed.D.
Executive Director, Center for Teaching Excellence and Learning
Bradley University, Peoria, IL
jhunzicker@fsmail.bradley.edu

Author: francine_glazer

Dec 09, 2014

Building Professor-Student Relationships in an Age of Social Networking

The influence of teacher-student relationships on the quality of teaching and learning is well-documented (Klem & Connell, 2004; National Survey of Student Engagement [NSSE], 2012; Rigsbee, 2010). Especially at the college level, rapport between professors and students is likely to increase student learning because students feel valued, more comfortable expressing their feelings, and more willing to be intellectually challenged (Cornell University Center for Teaching Excellence, 2012).

But college students are changing. Research shows that Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1999, prefer a variety of active learning activities, seek relevance so they can apply what they are learning, want to know the rationale behind course requirements, and desire a “laid back” learning environment in which they can informally interact with the professor and each other (Bart, 2011). Most significantly, “Millennials…are more willing to pursue learning outcomes when instructors connect with them on a personal level” (para. 5).

Use of technology, especially social networking, has been shown to influence professor-student relationships. Today’s college students use social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.) most often to connect with friends and family (89%) and to a lesser degree for educational purposes such as planning study sessions (28%), completing assignments and projects (33%), and communicating with faculty or advisors (15%) (NSSE, 2012). It appears that many of today’s professors are responding in kind: “More than half of the students who interacted with faculty or advisors through social media had two-way communications with them” (p. 18).

While some believe that virtual interactions between students and their professors nurtures the professor-student relationship, one recent study reports that 40% of college students and 30% of faculty believe it is inappropriate for professors to interact with students on social networking sites (Malesky & Peters, 2012). Wilkinson and Milbourne (in press) explain that college students’ prolific social networking habits lead to perceived intimacy in which they experience false feelings of closeness with others and expect everyone – including their professors – to be accessible and responsive 24/7. Such misguided feelings and expectations can eradicate professional boundaries and “demote” professors from their status as authority figures to the perceived status of peer or even service worker (Gangnon & Milbourne, 2014).

So how can college professors establish an effective balance between authority and a relationship with their students? Stewart (2009) suggests that professors first maintain academic standards “even if it means [students] must sometimes move outside their comfort zones and we must move outside ours” (p. 117). Following are a few suggestions for establishing authority and professional boundaries while still maintaining professor-student relationships characterized by warmth and friendliness:

  1. Model professionalism in your face-to-face interactions with students. If your students perceive you as an authority figure, they will treat you with respect. Dress professionally, expect your students to address you formally (e.g., Dr. Smith, Mrs. Jones), and use professional language. With that said, you don’t have to be stuffy. A sense of humor and “being yourself” can go a long way with college students!
  2. Be prepared and well-organized. Your students will feel reassured knowing they can trust you to lead them through the semester without vague information or last minute changes. To prevent misunderstandings, alleviate student stress, and avoid conflict, post everything students will need to be successful in your course (e.g., course policies, weekly schedule, PowerPoints, handouts, assignment directions, etc.) in a timely manner, if not by the first day of class.
  3. Provide a rationale and maintain some degree of flexibility. We all appreciate understanding why things are the way they are. Clearly explain the reasoning behind your course policies, objectives guiding class assignments and activities, etc. On those occasions when students question, resist, or respond unenthusiastically, either review your rationale or consider making revisions. Even minor revisions based on student responses are likely to build professor-student rapport.
  4. Establish clear expectations for outside of class communication. As the old saying goes, prevention is the best medicine. Let your students know how you prefer to be contacted (e.g., phone, e-mail, etc.), specify when you will hold office hours and respond to e-mail, and clearly state “off limits” modes of contact (e.g., no texting). If a student contacts you via text message when you’ve asked your class not to, maintain your boundary by not responding.
  5. Model professionalism through your virtual interactions with students. Your written word is an extension of your actual self. In addition to using professional written language, share information appropriately (i.e., nothing too personal) and never use virtual communication to chastise or discipline. Begin each message with a greeting and end with a closing to maintain some level of formality. Always check for grammar and spelling and always proofread your entire message for tone before hitting the send button!
  6. Get to know your students, but maintain professional distance. Once you know your students’ names – and pronounce their names correctly – you can begin getting to know them as people. But don’t get to know them too personally. Converse with them about their families, their jobs, their thinking and experiences related to your course/discipline, and their future plans, but leave the rest of their lives to them. There is no need to know about their love relationships, drinking habits, or personal problems. They do not need to know these details about your life either. Avoid friending your students on Facebook until they’ve graduated, and never, ever read Rate My Professor.com!

Resources:

To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at fglazer@nyit.edu. This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium hosted at Western Kentucky University and organized by Seneca College and New York Institute of Technology.

Contributor:
Jana Hunzicker, Ed.D.
Executive Director, Center for Teaching Excellence and Learning
Bradley University, Peoria, IL
jhunzicker@fsmail.bradley.edu

Author: francine_glazer

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