Teaching and Learning Link-O-Rama

Over the duration of this fall semester, there have been a number of articles, essays, and blog posts that have come across my social media feeds, or that have been shared with me. They cover a broad array of subjects, and speak to a number of issues, ranging from general philosophical approaches to specific classroom strategies and techniques. This week’s post is given over to sharing a bunch of these various pieces, in the hopes that you’ll find one, some, or all of them useful, or that they will helpfully intersect with things you’re already thinking about. Enjoy!

Continue reading “Teaching and Learning Link-O-Rama”

Redefining Student Expectations to Foster Good Discussions

In the first part of this post, we looked at some of the findings in Jay Howard’s Discussion in the College Classroom that spoke to some of the barriers to meaningful student engagment in class discussions. In particular, what Howard calls “civil attention” plays a large role in students’ resistance to participation; so long as they are able to look like they’re paying attention without putting in more effort than that, students will likely take the opportunity to remain passive. As a result, if we try to start a discussion, we encounter long periods of silence, if not a sullen resistance to our efforts. “Civil attention,” according to Howard, is the product of how students see the class experience as a passive and “unfocused” environment, as opposed to a “focused” situation where contributions from everyone are the expected norm. The key question, then, is how we can get our students to treat class as a focused environment, and see engaged discussion as the norm, not some unpleasant exception. Continue reading “Redefining Student Expectations to Foster Good Discussions”

Iowa Nice, “Civil Attention,” and Student Engagement

Recently, I was talking with a colleague at another institution about the phenomenon known around here as “Iowa nice.” Neither of us is native to Iowa, so we were both told about the “Iowa nice” mindset when we began our positions in Iowa colleges. The phenomenon actually has its own Wikipedia page, where it’s defined as “a cultural label used to describe the stereotypical attitudes and behaviors of residents within the U.S. state of Iowa, particularly in terms of the friendly agreeableness and emotional trust shown by individuals who are otherwise strangers.” In general, Iowa Nice is a good thing. It’s nice to live in a place with the idea that one should observe basic niceties and be courteous with strangers, or the general expectation that one is expected to help one’s neighbors in need. Continue reading “Iowa Nice, “Civil Attention,” and Student Engagement”

Obstacles to Student Learning

I’ve always thought that the principal goal of teaching–successful student learning–is a deceptively simple one. When one gets into the research about such topics as motivation, attention, cognitive load, and the like, it becomes painfully clear that successful student learning is actually a process with a lot of moving parts. Quite honestly, I get sometimes get intimidated when I think of how many different things have to go right in order for a class to be successful.  Continue reading “Obstacles to Student Learning”

Resources from the CETL Teaching and Learning Library

This week’s post is the first in what will be a series of intermittent posts highlighting some of the new and interesting resources available in CETL’s Teaching and Learning Library. The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) is a remarkably diverse field, from qualitative studies of subjects like class climate and student motivation, to quantitative research informed by findings from cognitive psychology, and seemingly everything between. As our resources allow, we try to ensure that a good range of this scholarship, in all of its varieties, is available for you to consult and utilize. Continue reading “Resources from the CETL Teaching and Learning Library”