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Oct 01, 2014

Discouraging Disruptive Student Behaviors

Often, disruptions are the result of different expectations on the parts of faculty and students. What we as faculty members view as inappropriate behavior for the classroom, students may view as quite normal. For example, we might view texting during class as disrespectful. Students, by contrast, likely view this as a routine activity and quite normal.

In the spirit of “the best offense is a good defense,” I offer these ideas on ways to prevent disruption before it occurs.

Keep the lines of communication open

A comprehensive syllabus that details all of your policies and expectations makes it easier for students to understand what you want. For example, include policies about attendance, late arrivals, and early departures from class; your turnaround time on grading; your expectations for participation in class discussions; and whether you allow assignments to be turned in late for partial credit. Make sure that your office hours are clearly indicated. Use Blackboard to post announcements so students can find them easily, and set up a discussion forum where they can ask questions.

Make your students your partners in creating an environment conducive to learning

At the beginning of the semester, tell your students that their participation is critical in creating a good environment for learning. Be clear about your expectations, and how they can help create that environment. Collaboration is a powerful tool: students become accountable to one another for coming to class on time and prepared to work. If you don’t want to use teams in your class, punctuate your lectures with discussions and activities. Help students engage with and apply the content they are learning to real-life situations they will encounter in a professional setting.

Show the value of civil behavior

Relate students’ behavior in class to their professional behavior at work. Some departments at NYIT include professionalism as an explicit student learning outcome at the program level. Make it clear to your students that in addition to teaching them valuable content, you are teaching them valuable collaboration and ‘soft’ skills that they will need to succeed in today’s job market.

Create and enforce a code of conduct

If your students work in teams, have them create the code of conduct as a negotiated document. This serves a dual function of team-building and gaining student buy-in. Consider including in your syllabus a list of academic and behavioral expectations — both for you and for them. Some faculty have students sign the last page of the syllabus and return it to affirm that they have read and will abide by the policies stated in the syllabus, including the code of conduct.

Practice reflective teaching

Make sure your students realize that you are interested in their learning. Collect midterm feedback from your students on your teaching. Use classroom assessment techniques as quick ways for students to find out if they have grasped the important content and know how to apply it. Ask the Center for Teaching and Learning to come into your class and conduct a Quick Course Diagnosis with your students. Ask your colleagues to come into your classroom and observe you teach, and give you feedback. Exchange your course syllabi with your colleagues and compare policies.

Respond, don’t react

When confronted by a disruptive student in a classroom, model professional behavior. Whenever possible, do not have a confrontation in the middle of class, but instead ask the student to speak with you afterward. Think before responding to an angry email. Invite the student to come in to speak with you so there is less chance of misunderstanding each other.

Seek help when you need it

Talk to your department chair and more experienced colleagues about how they handle similar situations. Contact the campus dean, who can talk with the student if that’s appropriate. Ask the staff at the Center for Teaching and Learning to review your course syllabus, looking at how you design assignments as well as at your policies. And always keep thorough documentation of difficult encounters, and keep your department chair apprised of what’s happening.

Expert advice

We are fortunate to be hosting Dr. Thomas Grace at NYIT tomorrow, October 2, who will discuss “Disruptive Students: Legal, Educational, and Therapeutic Considerations for Faculty.” Students whose behavior disrupts the campus or classroom represent significant challenges in managing student conduct. Faculty and staff will learn what to do when the students actions compromise the college experience for others. Please join us on Thursday, October 2, during free hour (12:45–2:10 p.m.) at the NYIT Auditorium on Broadway and at Rockefeller auditorium in Old Westbury. RSVP to reserve a seat.

I hope to see you at the session! To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at fglazer@nyit.edu.

Author: francine_glazer

Sep 24, 2014

Building Global Competencies

This fall at Assessment Day, NYIT faculty members discussed techniques for building global competency by taking advantage of the diverse students we have in our classrooms. The Discovery Core includes the following description of global competency:

Students can identify interdependencies among cultures and are able to collaborate effectively, participating in social and business settings globally.
Upon graduation, students will be able to: 
  • Recognize the impact of the global interconnectedness of issues, processes, trends, and systems on their academic specializations and worldviews.
  • Practice well-researched oral, written, visual, and digital communication in its diverse cross-cultural forms.
  • Describe a complex global issue from multiple cultural perspectives and explain how those perspectives affect the treatment of the issue.
  • Employ effective and appropriate interaction and teamwork with people of different nationalities and cultures, demonstrating respect for social, cultural, and linguistic diversity.

NYIT faculty members described three challenges they frequently encounter and discussed strategies they have developed in response:

  1. Language issues: comprehension, communication (oral and written), cultural misunderstandings and values differences.
  2. Differences in learning styles and unfamiliarity with Western learning methods and norms.
  3. Students do not have a uniform set of prior learning experiences.

It can be challenging to learn everyone’s name, and some faculty members have developed strategies to do this. One faculty member asks students to write their names and seat locations on the white board in the classroom. Students then sit in the same seats for two or three weeks until everyone in class learns each others’ names.

In addition to learning each others’ names, students at NYIT learn about each others’ cultures. In some English classes, students are assigned stories or poems to read, for example, a story about Dublin in 1900. The students are then asked to rewrite the literature to reflect current times, issues and their culture in their respective countries. In media classes in Communication Arts, students bring in samples of media from their respective countries, such as newspaper articles, magazine stories, video, or social media. They introduce themselves and talk about their cultures and how the media operates in their country.

Our students have different levels of proficiency in English. A number of faculty make use of Zoom, VoiceThread, and the asynchronous discussion boards on Blackboard, so students have time to think and prepare what they want to say in advance - always helpful when communicating in a second language.

In the Senior Design course in the School of Engineering and Computing Sciences, students work in teams that are comprised of local and international students. The teams must stay together for one year; students do not have the option of picking team members. Students must speak English as a team although they may speak their first language when necessary to clarify concepts. Required weekly presentations aid students in practicing their oral presentation skills, and significant improvement is evident over the course of the year.

The ability to work as part of a team is essential in today’s world. Our faculty members build heterogeneous teams, so that students with different strengths can learn to work together effectively.

There’s an art to forming teams so that they work effectively. First, learn about the backgrounds of the individual students and assess their interest levels in different topics. Try to keep students with similar research interests together. At the same time, try to mix students with different skills so that they complement each other. Alternatively, if you want truly randomized groups, pick the teams by numbers.

Encourage groups to self-manage by establishing group rules. For example, allow students to determine what happens if someone doesn’t contribute, and to agree on an appropriate penalty if needed.

One way to add a global dimension is to assign projects that are set in context abroad. This strategy is especially effective when the setting is a region or culture in which no students belong, because all the students will then have to do research. You can also change the audience for presentations to one that is outside the students’ peer group. This encourages the students to think about what they know and how to present the material in a different market setting. At the end of a group project, some faculty require each student to make a self-assessments of his or her contributions.

Future Weekly Teaching Notes will share specific strategies for teamwork. If you have a strategy you’d like to share, or if you want to follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at fglazer@nyit.edu.

Author: francine_glazer

Sep 17, 2014

Assignment Planning Guide and Questions

Here are some things to consider and questions to ask yourself when planning an assignment.

Assignment description: A brief overview (one or two sentences) about the assignment.

  • Why are you giving the students this assignment?
  • Which learning outcome(s) is it designed to measure?
  • Who is the (perhaps hypothetical) audience for the assignment: academicians, people working in a particular setting, or the general public?
  • What assistance can you provide to students while they are working on the assignment? For example, are you willing to critique drafts?
  • How will you score or grade the assignment? The best way to communicate this is to give students a copy of the rubric that you will use to evaluate completed assignments.

Learning outcome(s): (that the assignment is designed to measure):

Before continuing to plan the assignment, carefully consider what the students need to do to show that they have achieved the learning outcomes, and whether the time that it will take for the students to complete the assignment successfully is reasonable considering the workload of the course (and of the other courses in the current semester).

Assignment title:

What is the title of the Assignment? Instead of using a title of ‘Research Essay’ or ‘Final Project,’ the title of the assignment should convey, in some way, the expectations of the assignment. Is this an argumentative essay, a research project on Social Media Trends, a feasibility analysis, or a Business Plan?)

Assignment audience:

Who is the audience for the assignment? Are the students preparing it for you and/or for a class presentation? Alternatively, consider having the students present their work to an external audience. Often, you will see a dramatic improvement in the quality of the work. One example: studio courses in the School of Architecture and Design have a final review at the end of each semester in which students present their work to the course instructors, the Dean, and members of the school’s Advisory Board.

Assignment goals:

What do you expect the students to learn by completing the assignment? Double check: do these goals relate clearly to one or more of the learning outcomes of the course?

Design decisions:

  • What should be included in the completed assignment?
  • What readings, reference materials, and technologies are they expected to use?
  • How much time do you expect students to spend on this assignment?
  • Can they collaborate with others? If so, to what extent?
  • How should they format the completed assignment?
  • How much will it count toward their final grade?

Skills required to successfully complete the assignment:

This is especially important if you are requiring that the student use a technology tool or media for the assignment. If you are planning an assignment that requires the students to use technologies that they may not be familiar with, how will you prepare for the extra work that entails both from the students’ perspectives and yours? How will you guide students through the process? What supports will you put in place to ensure that the students have the skills so that they are able to successfully complete the tasks?

Resources for the assignment:

  • Will you give the students a list of resources that they can use to complete the assignment?
  • If research is involved, what level of credibility or professional standards will you require?
  • Will you accept reference materials from the open web or only the library databases?
  • How many sources do they need?
  • How are you supporting student learning about ways to avoid plagiarism?

Grading criteria:

  • What are your grading criteria?
  • Have you created a checklist or rubric that indicates the expectations of the grading levels? Have you decided what an A, B, C, D, and F “looks like”?
  • Is there an exemplar that you can show the students?

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:
Valerie Lopes, PhD
Professor/Coordinator, Teaching and Learning
Seneca College, Toronto, Ontario
valerie.lopes@senecacollege.ca

Author: francine_glazer

Sep 10, 2014

Making the Most of “Reporting Out” After Group Work

Have you seen the following scenario take place? Students are engaged in some form of group work in class; think/pair/share, working through an assignment, or simply brainstorming ideas in small groups. The students may start out slowly, but soon they are actively engaged, everyone is sharing their ideas and the class is filled with energy.

Then, it’s time for “reporting out” the learning. Very quickly the energy is sucked from the room. Students don’t pay attention because they are busy thinking of what they will say, there is a lot of repetition, and some students simply tune out.

After observing this in several classes, including my own, I’ve come to realize that, as instructors, we often do not give much thought to the debriefing aspect of such activities. Yet this is where important aspects of the activity occur: students compare findings, learn additional insights, and recognize patterns in the concepts at hand. If we keep in mind the importance of reflection in actually learning from our experiences (Dewey, 1938), we recognize that the debriefing time of an active-learning group activity is where the class as a whole has a chance to reflect on their collective ideas and make meaning from the experience.

Here are a few suggestions about how to make debriefing time less about individual reports, and more about deepening the learning and making meaning from the activity.

  • Think through those 2–3 things you would really like students to get out of the activity and thus what is best suited for reporting out. The analytical or insightful aspects of an activity are better suited for sharing as a class than the repetitive or procedural aspects.
  • Don’t let the groups report out in a predictable order. As long as you’ve created a safe classroom environment, you can randomly choose groups to speak, and return back to previous groups, to keep them engaged in the discussion.
  • If the activity has multiple parts, discuss one aspect at a time. For example, “first let’s see what all the groups thought about the first question, then we’ll move on to the next one.”
  • Rather than asking each group to report in full, after the first group or two has a turn, ask the next groups to share only new ideas. Or have them compare and contrast their responses with previous groups.
  • To really get the reflection going, don’t have them report out at all. Perhaps as a group they fill out a concept map or matrix to turn in to you, and then the follow up discussion revolves around larger issues or application of the concepts. What insights did they gain from trying to create the concept map as a group? What disagreement occurred within their group? How would they apply their takeaways to a new scenario?
  • To deepen the learning even further, consider debriefing the process itself. Did they gain new insights by discussing this topic with others? Do they see the issue or concept differently now?

By viewing the reporting out aspect of a group activity as a distinct, yet vitally important, reflective component, we recognize it requires some thought and planning to fully maximize its benefits.

Resources:

  • John Dewey, Experience in Education (New York: Touchstone, 1938).

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:
Bridget Arend, PhD
Director of University Teaching
Office of Teaching and Learning
University of Denver
http://otl.du.edu

Author: francine_glazer

Sep 03, 2014

Design Motivating Courses by First Identifying Why Students are (and are not) Motivated

When we think about how to motivate students, we might assume our students will be motivated by the same goals and values that motivated us, but often that is not the case. If we try to motivate students with the wrong incentives, students disengage from classes and assigned learning activities, avoid doing more than the minimal work needed to get by, fail to use mentoring and tutoring opportunities we create, do not employ effective study strategies we suggest, or behave defensively, feigning understanding and avoiding tasks they believe might challenge their ability to perform. In the long run, all of these behaviors undermine students’ ability to learn.

Ambrose et al. (2010) discuss three factors that influence student motivation in a course. No one factor is definitive; the three work interactively to determine student motivation. If we want to structure our courses to motivate students, we must attend to all three factors:

  • The value a student places on the learning goals.
  • Whether the student expects he/she can achieve the learning goals.
  • Whether the student perceives support in the class – does the student believe course activities and supportive resources will help him/her achieve the learning goals?

Ambrose et al. (2010) describe strategies instructors can use to leverage each factor and improve student motivation.

Establish the value of your learning goals

  • Connect course content and skills to student interests.
  • Create problems and tasks that address real-world problems.
  • Connect content and skills in your course with other courses in the curriculum and describe the connections repeatedly in your course.
  • Explain how skills students acquire in your course (e.g., writing clearly) will contribute to their professional lives.

Help students develop expectations that they can achieve the learning goals

  • Determine the appropriate level of challenge for students in your course and design assignments at this level. Assignments that are too easy sap motivation as much as do assignments that set unrealistic demands.
  • Create assignments and assessments that align with learning goals. Describe the relationship between learning goals and assessments in a rubric in which you describe the learning outcomes for an assignment and articulate your expectations for performance.

Create a supportive structure and communicate the role of this structure to students

  • Create early, short, low-stakes assignments to give students an opportunity to practice skills and develop confidence in their ability before they tackle a larger, high-stakes assignment.
  • Provide constructive feedback and opportunities to use it. Feedback should identify strengths, weaknesses, and specific suggestions for actions students can take to improve the quality of their work.
  • Describe effective strategies for learning course material and explain why these strategies work.
  • Stereotypes about “talent” depict academic success as a manifestation of an unchangeable characteristic and undermine motivation when students encounter an early set-back. Students cannot alter their “talent” but they can alter their work habits. Emphasize the value of variables students can control: hard work, good time management, and practice guided by constructive feedback for success. Give explicit examples of these strategies in action.

Resources:

  • Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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:
Claudia J. Stanny, Ph.D.
Director, Center for University Teaching, Learning, and Assessment
University of West Florida
Pensacola, FL
(850) 857–6355 or 473–7435
uwf.edu/cutla/

Author: francine_glazer

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