Making Midterm Grades Meaningful

With the Faculty Assembly’s passage of the new midterm grade reporting policy last week, we’ve gotten some questions about what this means for course design as well as how we might ensure the grades we report are meaningful and accurate reflections of our students’ progress. This week’s post will try to answer those questions, as well as provide some food for thought as you think about your spring courses. Since a short post can’t cover everything in depth, we invite you to come by the CETL if you’d like to dive deeper into any of this. 

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Preparing to Teach Online

As we stumble move closer to the end of the semester, it’s already time to begin thinking about the Spring term. That might seem like overkill, considering it’s crunch time right now and difficult to think about the next semester while we’re still neck-deep in finishing the current one. That’s both the blessing and curse of teaching in higher education: we get a new start every semester–but we have to prepare for that start as well. This is particularly true for those of us scheduled to teach an online course this coming spring; not only is there the regular course prep work to do, but if it’s your first (or one of your first) go-around with online teaching, there’s an additional level of preparatory labor necessary to create the foundation for a successful online course. Continue reading “Preparing to Teach Online”

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!

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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”