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Feb 01, 2012

Tips for Gathering and Responding to Student Feedback


“Students say that the experience of having their opinions, reactions, and feelings solicited regularly, and addressed publicly, is one crucial reason for their coming to trust a teacher.” – Stephen Brookfield, The Skillful Teacher, pg. 49.

One of the best ways to find out if students are learning is to ask them. Whether you use an in-class activity or an out-of-class assignment, there are several efficient and effective ways to gather student feedback in order to gauge their learning. Check out a few options below:

Option # 1: The Minute Paper
At the beginning or the end of class, ask students a question about their learning and have them write for one minute in response. Possible questions include: what is the most challenging concept we have covered thus far in the course? What questions do you still have about topic X? or What has been your favorite activity of the course thus far? Student responses to these questions can help you shape your use of content, help you gauge students’ understanding, and influence your choices for the next time you teach the course.

Option # 2: The Cover Letter
The next time your students hand in an assignment, ask them to provide a “cover letter” in which they talk about the process of the assignment. You might ask your students to discuss particular obstacles they encountered or “ah-ha” moments they experienced. This kind of feedback helps both your students and you focus on the process of learning in addition to the final product.

Option # 3: “One-Month-In” Feedback
About one-fourth of the way into the semester, ask students to respond anonymously to three questions: what is helping them learn? What is hindering their learning? And what about the course would they like to see change? Make sure to respond to this student feedback in the following class and talk about patterns that you noticed in what is working and what might need adjustment in the course.

For each of these options, one of the most important things that you can do is respond. Make sure to spend a few minutes at the beginning of the next class meeting summarizing what you learned and responding to concerns raised by the students. Whether or not you make changes, students like to know that they have been heard.

Resources:
  • Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Brookfield, S. D. (1990). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. Jossey-Bass Inc. Publishers, San Francisco, CA.


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 sponsored by Western Kentucky University.

Contributor:
Kathryn Linder, PhD
Assistant Director, Center for Teaching Excellence
Suffolk University

Author: francine_glazer

Jan 24, 2012

Use an Annotated Syllabus to Track Your Thinking about Course Design

Annotated syllabi are artifacts that begin with a simple course syllabus and then grow in scope and in depth as instructors add annotations and links to additional materials. How can they be useful to us? The annotated syllabus is an ideal format for prompting and tracking the reflection that is part of course design, and it can be used as well to make public the intellectual work that goes into teaching, just as a course portfolio does. But there are also more immediate and tangible benefits that come from keeping an annotated syllabus.

It is not uncommon during the middle of the semester to realize that there are small changes that we can make, or maybe altogether better ways to design an assignment or an in-class learning activity. It may be too late at those moments to implement the change during that same term, but we want to be sure to capture for the next time we teach the class not only what the precise change is, but also what our rationale for the change is. An annotated syllabus can be the living document that allows you to track your ideas, impressions, or observations about course design.

Annotated syllabi, likewise, can provide entry points in which to “dig down” and excavate your assumptions about course design, where you ask questions like “is this textbook really accomplishing what I want from it?” or “does my policy about class participation motivate students to give their best?” or “is my grading rubric as clear as it can be about different levels of performance?"

One of the great advantages of an annotated syllabus is that there are no prescriptive prompts—each annotated syllabus is unique in the direction it takes. You simply annotate where you have questions, where you are considering changes, where you want to explain the scholarly thinking that informed an aspect of your course design, or where you want to assess how well students are achieving a desired outcome.

To begin your annotated syllabus, you can save your syllabus in Word under a different file name and then use the “comments” feature under the “Review” tab to begin adding annotations. Or try Google Docs if you want to be able to access your annotated syllabus from any computer and perhaps eventually make it public.
 
Resources:

  • Ken Bain (2004) What the Best College Teachers Do. Harvard University Press.
  • Donald Finkel (2000) Teaching With Your Mouth Shut. Boynton/Cook.
  • Maryellen Weimer (2002) Learner-centered Teaching: 5 Key Changes to Practice. Jossey-Bass.
  • Maryellen Weimer (2010) Inspired College Teaching. Jossey-Bass.
  • Samples of annotated syllabi are available at http://metrofacultydevelopment.pbworks.com
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 sponsored by Western Kentucky University.
Contributor:
Mark Potter, Director
Center for Faculty Development
Metropolitan State College of Denver

Author: francine_glazer

Jan 17, 2012

Turnitin is now available within Blackboard


At the end of the Fall semester, SafeAssign had some technical issues that caused long delays in generating originality reports on student work. In order to enable faculty members to respond to student work in a timely manner, TurnItIn has also been integrated into Blackboard and assignments can be created and managed from within each course's Blackboard shell. 
 
In order to use either tool—Turnitin or SafeAssign—faculty must first turn on that tool within the course's Blackboard shell. For a demonstration of how to do this, please see the short video at http://goo.gl/zcFgl   

To replace an existing Assignment or SafeAssignment with a Turnitin assignment: http://goo.gl/HRzO1 

  1. Create a Turnitin assignment. http://goo.gl/Sy8sE
  2. Find the original assignment/SafeAssignment that you want to replace, and copy the instructions to the clipboard.
  3. Go to the Turnitin assignment and select 'edit,' scroll to 'optional settings,' and paste the instructions into the appropriate space (you will need to click the + sign for 'optional settings' in order to do this).
  4. Delete the original assignment (you must do this immediately before deleting the column in the Grade Center)
  5. Go into the Grade Center and delete that assignment column. (Note: you must delete the Grade Center column immediately after deleting the assignment from the content area.)
  6. While in the Grade Center, click the Manage button and select manage columns. Move the new Turnitin assignment column to where you want it.

Additional help materials for faculty:

Finally, please share these links with your your students:

 
For assistance in designing assignments, please contact the Center for Teaching and Learning (ozhadko@nyit.edu or fglazer@nyit.edu).
 
For assistance in activating Turnitin or SafeAssign, setting options, and integrating with the Grade Center, please contact the HelpDesk at 800.462.9041.
 

Author: francine_glazer

Dec 14, 2011

Grading, Like It or Not!

Grading is generally the least favorite part of teaching for most faculty. A quick Google search turned up a site called “5 things I hate more than grading.” Some folks couldn’t come up with five things worse than grading; most mentioned life-threatening illnesses or surgery without anesthesia.  Why is it so awful? What can we do to make it better?


I think there are four main reasons why most of us hate grading:
1.    We don’t like to judge people. As instructors, we are both coaches and judges, and most of us got into teaching for the coaching part, not thejudging part. Assigning a grade doesn’t really seem to help anyone learn; it just rates the amount and quality of their learning. Plus, since learning is such a complex task, assigning a single number or letter that summarizes the total learning (or lack thereof) seems inadequate and not particularly helpful.

2.    Grading policies are hard to formulate, and we’re never sure we have it right. We struggle to balance our grading criteria between fairness and rigor. We don’t want to be too easy (grade inflation alerts go off) or too difficult (complaints to the chair). Do we factor in improvement? Effort? Achievement alone? What about second language learners? The dilemmas just keep coming.  

3.    Grading can make us question ourselves as teachers. Exams or papers that don’t meet our expectations are discouraging, even depressing. Sometimes we blame the students: Didn’t they study? How did they get admitted? Sometimes we blame ourselves. Perhaps all semester you thought you were doing a great job (or at least a competent one) and now you are wondering if you’re meant for this profession.

4.    Grading can feel like a fight.  Students complain, they challenge their grades directly, they attempt to cheat or plagiarize, they focus on the grades at the expense of the learning. It can feel like our job is to guard the tower of academe, defend ourselves and catch those miscreants.

How can we make it better?

  • Accept the role conflict inherent in grading, and make this explicit to yourself and your students. Separate out the coaching function from the evaluation function, and decide which one you are doing at a particular point in time. You might choose to only give comments without a grade or tell students “this is the grade you would get on this work right now” and then allow revision. You can give practice quiz or test questions with feedback before the real thing so thatstudents (and you) get a sense of how they are doing and what their likely grade will be if they don’t do more.   

  • Remember that grades are always subjective. You are an expert judge, but another expert judge in another context might have a different opinion. That’s OK. Establish your criteria and standards, communicate them to the students and use them to the best of your ability. Then move on.
  • Understand what grades mean to your students, and what an emotional issue they can be. Talk and listen! Get student input on your standards and criteria, let them makesuggestions and be very clear about what grades mean to you. Using rubrics or other grading schemes can help your students understand your grading decisions and lessen the complaining. You can even use rubrics for essays and share these with students. Obviously, you set the standards and criteria but you want your students to understand them fully and have some idea of WHY you are asking them to meet these criteria.
  • If your students are consistently failing to live up to your hopes for them, you will want to examine a couple of possibilities.

a.    Are your expectations unrealistic? Do students have the background and preparation to achieve at the level you are expecting, or do they need additional support? You may need to change assignments, provide additional support or look at course pre-requisites. I am not advocating “dumbing down” a course here – but often we do not realize how difficult a task really is – especially when it comes to reading college level material and applying it.  

b.    Are your evaluation tools addressing your desired outcomes? Look at your assignment or your test questions, and get some input from a colleague and from some students too. Is it clear what you want them to do? Vague questions or assignments frequently lead to confusion and difficulty grading the resulting products.
c.     Are you requiring students to USE information before you assess them? If you lecture for several weeks and then give an exam, you have no idea if the students really understood anything you said until you start grading. And then it’s too late to do much about it. Ask students to demonstrate their understanding during class so you can check in on their learning. That way, you can catch errors and omissions while there is still a chance to make a difference. This doesn’t need to take a lot of time. Asking students to regularly write down questions they have at the end of class, using a brief exercise, or asking a few clicker questions lets you spot check understanding. Once you have taught a course once, you will be able to identify the concepts students struggle with the most – why not create an extra exercise to reinforce those problem areas? (And warn the students about those stickyspots, so they can spend extra time where it’s needed.) 

I don’t think there’s any way to make grading easy, but I do think we can take a bit of the sting out. After all, nothing makes you feel prouder than reading a really good run of student exams or papers and knowing that they got it. If we can increase the percentage of good work that’s being done, we’ll be doing the students and ourselves a great service. 

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 sponsored by Western Kentucky University.
Contributor:
Carolyn Oxenford
Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence
Marymount University

Author: francine_glazer

Dec 07, 2011

What’s the Right Tool for the Job?

 
 “Great strategy!  Do you have a "how to" packet on Google Apps? How and where does use of Blackboard fit in?”
 
“Isn’t Blackboard a comparable resource or perhaps it doesn't have the large variety of capabilities?”
 
“Do we do this in addition to the Blackboard site for each live class?”

Great questions! A number of you have written to me in response to the Weekly Teaching Notes on Google Apps, asking about the advantages of Blackboard as compared to Google Apps, how to decide which one to use, and requesting more information. In this week’s note, I’ll try to answer your questions, giving you some rules of thumb about when it’s appropriate to introduce a new technology into your teaching and highlighting some of the differences between Blackboard and Google Apps.  


Questions to Consider

When I am deciding whether to introduce a new technology into a course, I want to know that the time and effort I expend will be well spent. Time is one of our most precious commodities—not only do I want to use it wisely, I want a good return on my investment. I find that I consistently come back to these four questions:
  • Does it measurably improve teaching and learning?
  • Will it help my students become more engaged with the course material?
  • Does it make my work or that of my students easier and more efficient?
  • Is it “better enough” than what I’m currently using to justify the time and effort required to learn it?

 

Which Tool Best Suits My Needs?

Your choice will depend on what you want to do (and what you want your students to do), who you want to be able to access the content, and how much time you have. The two suites of tools are quite different. I’ve created a table comparing their features in—what else?—a Google Doc that you can access at http://goo.gl/oFmoG and download (go to the “File” menu and select “Download as…”) for reference. You are also welcome to comment on the document (select some text and use the “Insert” menu to select “Insert Comment) or to add more information to it.

 
How Can I Learn More?

“I would like to learn in more detail how I can use each of these tools to enhance student engagement and learning in my courses.”
 
“It might be useful if you held a brief training/overview session, in a face-to-face group setting, or webinar, to better grasp all that's available with Google docs/apps/sites.  What better way to spend a cold January intersession day?”

Next semester, we’ll have two workshops—February 14 and 28 during free hour—on Google Apps so you can see how your colleagues are using it with their students. On February 14, Cecilia Dong, SoECS, and some of her students will share how they’ve been using Google Sites to organize a project-based class. On February 28, Dan Quigley, CAS, will share some of the ways he’s used Google Apps (including Google Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentation, and Forms) in his courses. You can register for one or both of these workshops at http://goo.gl/zVjTB. Please plan on joining us!

Author: francine_glazer

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Profiles
Fred Harris (B.S. ’08, M.B.A. ’10) Fred Harris
Class of 2008, 2010
Profession: Senior manager at professional services firm Deloitte in Long Island, N.Y.
Nicholas Swanson Nicholas Swanson
Campus: Old Westbury
Major: Business Management, B.S.
Class Of: 2017
Brian Beatty Brian Beatty
Assistant Professor
Department: Anatomy
Campus: Old Westbury