Seven Principles, part six: Communicating High Expectations

This week’s stop on our tour of Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education is the penultimate item on their list: good practice in undergraduate education communicates high expectations. This seems like a no-brainer; after all, don’t we want to challenge our students to do their best? It turns out, though, that it’s often more complicated than that. Setting expectations can occur in many ways, including some things which we might not even be aware we’re doing. And given the importance of expectations for student success, we should be as mindful as we can about how we communicate to students our expectations of them. Continue reading “Seven Principles, part six: Communicating High Expectations”

Seven Principles, part five: Time on Task

This week, in our stroll through Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education, we arrive at principle #5: good practice “emphasizes time on task.” To be honest, the phrase “time on task” never sat quite right with me. I associate it with the parent-teacher conferences from my elementary school years, where teachers would tell my parents that I’d be doing better if I could only spend more “time on task.” In seventh grade, I was a regular in after-school detention, where my English teacher repeatedly admonished me about needing to spend the proper amount of “time on task.” I’ve always associated the phrase with the impulse to police student behavior, to set some sort of arbitrary bar about how much time a students should be working on something, and then treating that bar as more important than the results of the work itself. As it turns out, though, there is another way to look at the idea of “time on task.” Continue reading “Seven Principles, part five: Time on Task”

Seven Principles, part three-ish: Timely and Effective Feedback

This week, we’re using a bit of editorial discretion to shuffle Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles around a bit and look at the question of feedback. Chickering and Gamson declare that “prompt feedback” to students is one of the seven good practices of undergraduate education. Of course, there is an entire spectrum of methods we can use to give students feedback about their work–some of it informal, some of it formal. It’s often the formal part of that feedback that trips us up, though. The piles of papers to grade and journal entries to read, of drafts to provide comments on and exams to mark, can reach intimidating proportions faster than we realize. I’m convinced that exam blue books breed in my office overnight, since the pile on my desk always seems bigger no matter how many of them I’ve plowed through the day before. And that, in a nutshell, is what makes this principle the hardest one to consistently practice: it often seems like I can either give good feedback, or have it be prompt, but not both. Continue reading “Seven Principles, part three-ish: Timely and Effective Feedback”

Seven Principles, part two: Developing Reciprocity and Cooperation.

Group work gets a bad rap in college classrooms. Ask any student who’s done a group project in a course, for example, and they’re likely to give you a litany of reasons that they don’t like group work. The responsible and attentive students often feel like they’re carrying weight for the non-productive members, in addition to their own portions of the work. It’s hard to produce single product–a paper or a presentation, for example–with multiple people involved in the process (as any of us who’ve sat through a meeting where an entire committee tried to draft a policy statement can attest). There’s always the one person who never shows up to anything, then magically reappears at the final presentation, ready to shoehorn in on whatever grade the rest of the group earned. And, finally, the rule of committees often applies to group work, too: “All of us are dumber than one of us.” Continue reading “Seven Principles, part two: Developing Reciprocity and Cooperation.”

Seven Principles, part one: Fostering Student-Faculty Contact

Image: “Dark Contact” by Flickr user Neal Fowler

Beginning with this week’s post, the Teaching Tips posts on the CETL blog will take a new look at one of the most venerable pieces of the literature on teaching and learning in higher education: Arthur Chickering and Zelda Gamson’s 1987 article “Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.” For such a brief article, its impact has been enormous. Chickering and Gamson synthesized a significant amount of research into a succint, accessible list of areas that institutions could use as organizing principles to improve teaching and learning. As they put it: Continue reading “Seven Principles, part one: Fostering Student-Faculty Contact”