Belonging and Bandwidth

One of the most significant factors behind the academic struggles of students from marginalized groups or who are economically insecure is a phenomenon researchers call “belonging uncertainty.” If scarcity is something that prevents students from drawing upon their full cognitive bandwidth for academic tasks, Cia Verschelden writes, then we ought to view “a lack of belonging” as “another kind of scarcity,” in the same category as factors like financial precarity.1

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Tools for Teaching: Social Annotation

[This year, the CETL blog will feature occasional “Tools for Teaching” posts, where we’ll look at a particular digital teaching and learning tool.]

This week’s Tools for Teaching entry is actually about several different tools, but one particular technique they can be used for: social annotation. Social annotation takes the usually-solitary act of reading and allows students to do it in community with one another.  By using digital tools to highlight, comment, or otherwise annotate a text, students “do the reading,” but do so in conversation with their peers. The results can be powerful: studies have found social annotation practices increased reading comprehension and motivation to do reading assignments, for example. More recent research, which has been written up preliminarily, has also found social annotation tools and practices help build not only better learning, but an increased sense of belonging and community as well. Continue reading “Tools for Teaching: Social Annotation”

Making the First Day Count

As another academic year begins, we’ll all be in situations over the next few days that prove the truth of the old adage, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” As Sarah Rose Cavanagh points out, our students will quickly form impressions of both us and our courses—as unfair as that might sound—and those impressions can prove remarkably durable, perhaps even overshadowing much of what we do throughout the rest of the semester. Even if we aren’t teaching in a traditional classroom or course environment, even if our interactions with students involve office visits or the like, those first impressions are crucial. How can we best let students know they belong here, and that we are here to help them become successful? Continue reading “Making the First Day Count”

Avoiding End-of-Semester Bitterness through Trust and Flexibility

Midterms have come and gone, along with March, and now we’re staring down the last four weeks or so of the semester. One of the perks of working at Grand View is that the end of the semester falls in the last week of April, earlier than any other institution at which I’ve taught, by far. But that early endpoint is a bit of a double-edged sword, as I feel like I’ve just finished midterm grades and all of a sudden it’s a sprint to the end of the semester. Both faculty and students feel the end-of-term crunch as projects come due and graduation deadlines loom, while it seems like we’ve been at this for years, instead of since last August. As we prepare for this hectic final stretch, it’s worth remembering that stress and burnout aren’t just things our students experience; they can shape our response to the end of the term as well. Continue reading “Avoiding End-of-Semester Bitterness through Trust and Flexibility”

Summer Teaching and Learning Institute, 2019

This year’s Summer Teaching and Learning Institute will be a bit different from previous years’ iterations, in both format and content. With the sponsorship of both CETL and grant funds from NETVUE, we’ll be offering a range of opportunities for faculty and staff to consider how we might more effectively promote success across all of our increasingly diversifying student body. To better match both speaker schedules and our own workflow needs, this year’s Summer Institute will be held earlier than what’s usually been our practice. Here is this year’s schedule of events: Continue reading “Summer Teaching and Learning Institute, 2019”

Improving Student Learning–and Confidence!–with Retrieval Practice

As we move past the middle of the semester, exams and other big-ticket assessment items are likely on the radar screen for our students. This means, of course, that test anxiety and other underminers are also on students’ mental radar screens, and they can cause unintended difficulties as the higher-stakes, more summative assignments begin to intensify. How many of our students, after doing poorly on an exam, have said something like “I thought I was ready for the test, but once you passed it out, I just got so nervous I couldn’t remember what I studied?” This type of anxiety, where nervousness interferes with cognition, is a real and constant problem for some of our students. For others, it is a more sporadic, but just as difficult, phenomenon. Either way, though, it’s worth thinking about ways in which we might be able to help students mitigate this anxiety and allow for their work to accurately show us what they’ve really learned.
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