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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

Nov 29, 2011

More on Student Collaboration and Google Apps

As you know, Google Apps were made available to NYIT faculty and students this past summer. Many schools in the US and around the world are using Google Apps for Education to support student learning and provide opportunities for student engagement and collaboration.

You might ask: “Whats in it for me?
 
A simple answer is:
1)    It will save you a lot of time
2)    It will make you a very interesting teacher who uses technology innovatively (students love Google Apps’ user-friendly interface!)
 
You might also ask: “Whats in it for my students?
 
A simple answer is:
1)    Easy collaboration: no more multiple copies of documents, each one slightly different
2)    Easy collaboration: easy scheduling!
3)    Skills that are transferable to the work world
 
You have probably read or heard the term "cloud computing" or "working in the cloud" or some such phrase with cloud in it.  For those unsure of this term, it is really just a metaphor for putting the stuff you create – documents, or spreadsheets, or calendars, or web sites – on a server somewhere in "Google land" so that you and others can access it whenever you are on the Internet. 
 
This is actually a fairly straightforward concept, but the implications are profound. We no longer need to remember a flash drive with the presentation we want to use, no longer need to lug the laptop to a classroom that already has a computer in it, and no longer need to worry about showing up to class on the other side of campus only to realize we forgot our notes for the class. 
 
I have been using Google Apps with my classes for about 3 years now. Initially, I used my personal Google account and now, supported by NYIT, I use Google Apps for Education. I find that I teach differently and my students are more engaged in the class.
 
 
Sharing class materials is easy
 
   Google Sites.  Faculty can create basic web sites for their classes to serve as "home base."  For many of my face-to-face classes, I set up a class site with one page for the syllabus, one for a list of blog sites the students have created, a third for class announcements, and a “file cabinet” page to house my video lectures and accompanying Power Point slides.  This allows students to access course material anytime they can get on the Internet.  I have also found it useful to use during class to refer back to the syllabus, or to bring up a document about which a student might have a question.
 
   Google Docs.  If you don’t want to set up a Google Site, you have another option that is just as easy. Google Docs allows you to create a ‘collection,’ and tag specific files as part of the collection. If you create a collection and share it with your class, then any document you subsequently add to the collection will be shared as well, automatically.
 
You can create ‘collections-within-collections,’ analogous to creating sub-folders, which gives you more flexibility. You could, for example, have a master “collection” for each class, with sub-collections for each major topic. To make things even easier, Google Docs will let you upload an entire folder at a time, and will automatically create collections for each sub-folder.
 
 
Students collaborate easily and are more accountable for their work
 
   Google Docs. Google documents allow multiple users to contribute to one document and collaborate interactively on a project.
 
For the Group Presentation project in my Speech 105 class, one student in the group creates the initial Google Presentation file and shares it with the others (and with me). Students can see what has already been done and can plan their contributions accordingly. Google Docs allows me to see which student created which portion of the presentation, making it easier to assign equitable grades.
 
   Google Calendar. Google calendar facilitates work progress and supports creation of timelines.
 
Students working in groups can create and share a project calendar. They can establish deadlines for stages of the project and schedule group meetings. If they find it helpful, individual students can configure their calendar to send them text message reminders in advance of important deadlines.
 
   Google Sites. Students can create sites to organize their work. The site can provide a structure that makes it easy to find their presentations and other documents, links to resources, and the group’s calendar.
 
These are just a few examples of the many things that both you and your students can do more effectively with Google Apps. There are many more possibilities, some of which we have yet to think of. The easiest way to get started, however, is to sign into the NYIT portal, click on one of the new Google App links on the left, and begin to experiment.
 
 
Contributor:
Dan Quigley
Associate Professor, English
New York Institute of Technology
dquigley@nyit.edu                 

Author: francine_glazer

Nov 16, 2011

Enhance Student Collaboration with Online Tools: Google Apps

NYIT faculty members care about effective teaching and student engagement. Sometimes in conversation, faculty members voice concerns about student collaboration. Let’s consider two of the most common:

  • Accountability: How do I hold all students in the team accountable for doing their share of the work? How do members of a team hold each other accountable?
  • Time constraints: How do I engage students in meaningful collaborative work when it takes so much class time?  
Some of the emerging educational technologies might be able to address these prevalent concerns in an easy and user-friendly manner. This summer NYIT has adopted Google Apps for Education. We now have access to a suite of tools that allow students to collaborate – from any location and at any time – and that keep track of individuals’ contributions to the work.
 
This week, we’ll look at how to access the tools and a brief description of the ways you might use some of them. The next few Weekly Teaching Notes will highlight some of the ways you can use Google Apps to support make student collaboration, making it even more effective. In the spring semester, join your colleagues for some workshops at the Center for Teaching and Learning, in which faculty members will demonstrate the ways they have put Google Apps to use.
 
First, how do you access Google Apps? Log into the portal at http://my.nyit.edu, and look at the menu on the left side of the screen. At the bottom of the list, you will find links to “NYIT Apps Calendar,” “NYIT Apps Docs,” and “NYIT Apps Sites.” Each of these tools can be used publicly, so the world can see them, or privately, with access restricted to whomever you designate. You can give people view-only access, or you can grant them editing privileges. For a brief screencast, created and shared by Dan Quigley (Associate Dean, Arts and Sciences), that demonstrates how to access the tools, please follow this link: screencast.com/t/bIWzGXMrcVH.
   
Google Calendar
 
Google Calendar lets you create multiple calendars. You can create one for each course you teach, and put class meetings, readings, and assignment due dates on it. Students can subscribe to the calendars for each of their courses—when you make a change to the course calendar, it will automatically appear in the students’ accounts. Since student email at NYIT is hosted by Gmail, students can access the Google Apps calendar whenever they check their email.
 
Google Docs
 
Google Docs actually includes several different tools: a word processor, a spreadsheet, presentation software, a forms/survey generator that deposits data directly into a spreadsheet, and a drawing tool. You can create a “collection” of various documents and share the collection with a class. Any document added to that collection is also shared, automatically. Google docs have some special Web 2.0 features students already might be using outside school: students working on a document or a presentation can edit simultaneously and can use a chat window on one side of the screen to talk about what they’re doing. If they need to work asynchronously, they can leave comments for one another in a Facebook-style threaded display. 
 
Google Sites
 
Google Sites provides a simple interface to build a web site, and has a large number of templates to get you and your students started. Sites can be used to organize information for a course, a project, or anything in between. They can be used as repositories for documents, links to resources, or as a collaborative creative space in which students build a project. As with Google Docs, you can track changes to the site, and hold students accountable for their individual contributions.
 
Help!
 
All Google Apps include comprehensive help pages. At the top right corner of the window, click the gear-shaped icon. The menu will allow you to change your settings (preferences), and will also direct you to the help pages, which are both indexed and searchable. For additional technical support, please contact Service Central at servicecentral@nyit.edu.
 
Resources:
 
In the coming weeks, we will go into more detail about how you can use each of these tools to enhance student engagement and learning in your courses. To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at fglazer@nyit.edu.

Author: francine_glazer

Nov 09, 2011

Guide Your Students Toward More Effective Study Habits

Research on learning suggests that students who think about the process of learning are likely to learn more deeply andretain information longer, but students with poor study habits are less likely to reflect on and change their study habits (Fu and Gray, 2004; National Research Council, 2001, p.78). Since your students may not necessarily havegood study habits, it helps to make them aware of what works and what doesn’t. Here’s one easy way to do just that.

When you return exams, give each student an index card. Ask them to write, anonymously, the grade they received on the exam along with the ways they prepared for it, and return the card to you as they leave class that day. Specifically, what techniques did they use: re-reading their notes, reviewing flash cards, drawing diagrams, solving problem sets? Did they spread their studying out over several days, or cram it all in the daybefore the test? Did they study alone or in groups?

Sort the index cards into piles by grades. Then type up the study strategies. At the next class, give your students the list, so they can see what the “A” students did, the “B” students, and so on. Grouping study habits by ‘grade earned on the exam’ will help students realize which study habits are more effective, and which are less so.

Resources:
  • Ambrose, S.A., Bridges, M.W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M.C., and Norman, M.K. (2010). How Learning Works: 7 research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Fu, W.T., and Gray, W.D. (2004). Resolving the paradox of the active user: Stable suboptimal performance in interactive tasks. Cognitive Science, 28(6), 901-935.
  • National Research Council. (2001). Knowing what students know: The science and design of educational assessment. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.


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:
Molly Baker
Director, Teaching and Learning Center
Black Hawk College

Author: francine_glazer

Page 19 of 27 « First  <  17 18 19 20 21 >  Last »
Profiles
Wei (Peter) Huang Wei (Peter) Huang
Campus: Nanjing
Major: Electrical and Computer Engineering
Class Of: 2017
Dave Voci Dave Voci (B.F.A. '07)
Adjunct Instructor
Department: Fine Arts
Campus: Old Westbury
Bayou Bennett Bayou Bennett
Adjunct Assistant Professor
Department: Fine Arts
Campus: Manhattan