Archive for the 'Course' Category

Passion: Use it in Your in Teaching

I knew that I had to revise a course (Critical Thinking) that I was teaching. The course bored me. I realized that I was not excited about the content of the course in the form I had it last year and the students were not excited either. The course did not seem to fit together. I realized that I had nothing to “hang” the course around. So I’ve decided to “hang” it around passages from Don Quixote, my favorite novel. As I look at the novel more, I realize that I can cover all the course standards by using the book. Furthermore, the students will learn more since the ideas are in a context and the book uses humor to teach value thinking skills. Yes, I will still use the textbook but the text will be the jumping off point for reading the ideas in Don Quixote.

I was delighted to find that in Wiske’s Teaching for Understanding with Technology, she has as one aspect of a generative topic that the topic has to be “fascinating and compelling” for the teacher. She gives the example of an elementary teacher who uses bird names for the different parts of the writing process since she enjoys watching birds. Another instructor uses his passion for bridges as the overarching theme for his course.

What is your passion? How do you connect that passion with the course standards? How does your passion make the course more meaningful for the students and allow them to better learn the standards?

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Students Create Own Class Final Based on Portfolio

In my speech class, I have given my students a choice of which of the nine speeches that they have already done that they wanted  on their final. I told them that the final had to consist of  three of the speeches that they had given;during the final they would drastically improve on the already given speeches.

I listened as they talked about which speeches they thought would most benefit them. They talked about the portfolio that they have to create as a requirement of the college.  They thought of which speeches would most impress a future employer. They all agreed that the “Tell Me About Yourself” interview question speech was absolutely critical.  They next agreed on the Persuasion speech since it shows how they can convince others of their ideas. Finally, they decided that they would do an Information speech since often in work, they give information to others.  Most of them had already done these speeches on areas in their future career.

Their discussion revealed much about their understanding of their future careers,  their showcasing themselves during an interview, and their analyzing the various speeches we had done.

Do you have your students have input into their final? What criteria is used to select material for the final?  Does it serve a “greater purpose”?

Finals Do Not Reflect Standards

How well does your final match up with your standards and particularly those standards which you identified as being critical for the course?

A colleague shared with me  a  course final which focuses on a topic not mentioned in the course proficiencies (standards).   Since it was her first time in teaching the course, she had not studied the final.  When she did, she wondered where it came from.  She went back through the course proficiencies again and still could not find the topic.  Then she went to the textbook and searched it for the topic; it was not there. Someone had decided that the final had to be a certain topic which was neither in the standards nor the textbook.

How well does your final match up with the specified standards and the high level of thinking in those standards?  Does your final measure all the standards and all of their parts?  Does it measure some of the standards and even just some of those learning goals?

Course Evaluation and Formative Assessment Course Changes

At the end of the semester, students get to evaluate the course I teach. My students completed their evaluations last night. I had already begun to make changes to the course for the next semester so I was very interested to see if their suggestions coincided with mine. Many mentioned how much writing they did and that the pace (an essay) a week was too much. I had already eliminated one essay. Maybe I need to eliminate another one. Numerous students stated that they wanted more time at the beginning of the course to get the basics down. Although I had built more into the beginning of the course, I will relook at it even more. I will delay the first essay until I know they understand the format and specificity that I want. This semester the course started with an essay the first week and I spent much time in correcting basic learning gaps. A student complained that I talked too fast; I thought I had slowed down.

Although no one mentioned doing more in-class mini-writing, I will have them do more write your thesis, identify your major topics and evidence through a graphic organizer. I will model each writing through a think-aloud so that they know the degree of thinking required. I will post an exemplar for them to study. I will build in more time for small groups so that I can work in direct instruction with small groups or individuals during class. I want to build in more stepping stones to success this coming semester. I want them to climb higher than this semester’s students and to have less frustration in doing it.

What changes will you make for the next time you teach your course to help the future students better achieve the standards?

Pool Curriculum Resources for Students’ Success

I have been asked to do three courses next semester, two of which are new to me. I was given a one page syllabus listing 7 outcomes and the name of the textbook. This course has been taught for over 16 years and surprisingly, that is all the resources I’m given. Why do school districts or universities not have a pooling of resources so that any new teacher can not only start off running but can start off at a high level of running? If schools and universities want their students to be successful, then each course should be built on the students’ successes from when the course was taught in the past. What helped the students to advance in the standard? Which learning experience were not helpful in moving the students forward? Where did students encounter learning problems in the course? Of course, each class is different but if teachers had all that previous information at their fingertips, they could have their students soar in their learning.

Does your district, school, or team pool resources so that each teacher is curriculum rich in practical strategies to help students be successful?

Online Course Material: Helpful or Confusing?

Online

A friend shared with me the experience he is having with an online course he is taking. During the first week he downloaded a 34 page welcome and instruction booklet. He was shocked when he noticed that each section was in a different font, font size, and style. There were no divisions between the sections just a change in formatting. It seemed that different people wrote each section and these sections were just put together. There was no table of contents so that he could not find anything easily. He could not determine any logical flow to the materials. When he went to read one set of instructions for an assignment, he found that all the text was centered and bolded. In that section he could not determine what were the critical parts nor what he was to do. He was new to the online program but there were no screenshots showing him what was where. There were no visual illustrations or concept maps showing how various things went together. Only one of the initial practice activities was critical to the topic of the online course. He said he would give it one more week before he gave up.

How do your online course materials support your students’ success in your course? Do your materials gently guide the student through the necessary background/skill set so that they can handle the mechanics of the course and focus on the content? Do your online materials help the students to grow in the content in an in-depth manner?

Giving Students a Scaffold for the Course

Scaffold steps

Often we may go through a course, teaching topic after topic. The students do not see the connection between the topics. However, if we could give them an over arching scaffold, then they could fit things into it. For example, an English teacher may teacher a standard format for writing within the writing process (introduction; body with paragraphs to supply the examples; and conclusion). Students can use this format whenever they have to write in class. They learn that they only have to slightly vary the body organization and content to achieve the specific purpose of any writing. Therefore, each writing task does not seem like a completely different type of writing. One teacher had the full writing steps printed out on business cards so the students could always have the scaffold with them.

What do you have in your course that provides an over arching scaffold to the students? What serves as “the great connector” for all the learning in your course?

Embedding Assessments In Each Class

As I plan out my course, I  embed assessments into each class. I have to understand what the standard/proficiency is and what part of the standard/proficiency I am trying to have the students achieve each class. In addition, I have to figure out which activity I can use that demonstrates the standard at its highest level.

I try to have a short assessment that students do not see as anything other than a regular activity. After they do the assessment, I often ask them what the activity/assessment measured.   I evaluate the assessment according to the rubric which I have given the students.  I usually give them their score on each part of the rubric and a few specific suggestions for improvement or I just give them the suggestions for improvement.

By embedding assessments frequently into the course, I can see if the students are progressing or if they need more structured support.

Student Created Course WikiBook (Dr. Allan)

Wiki chapter to wiki class book

Dr. D. Allen of Old Dominion spoke at SITE about Student Developed WikiTextbook for a college course. Basically each student writes a 1,000 word article with five multiple choice questions at the application level and with five sources. The topics are arranged so that three students write about the same topic. Students rate each other’s articles according to three criteria and those with the highest votes are included in the course wikibook. Half of the students’ grades are based on reading the wikibook articles and taking quizzes made up of the students’ questions. In the second semester, they read the best articles from the previous semester and rewrite weak ones.

He raises the question of what is credibility in terms of sources (students did 2 academic sources, 2 popular ones and one of their choice). Also, he raises the issue of student empowerment in a course. Since students have to synthesize the information that is available and since they know the information is for a wider audience (the class), they probably tend to write with a greater focus on applying the information.

The idea of a constantly improving Wikibook for a course intrigues me. I would make some suggestions to his process. Each semester I would like students to improve on the previous semester’s articles. I would have the students evaluate student produced articles against formal text books about the same topics. I would like outside experts such as other professors to evaluate the student’s chapters to insure a high level. Imagine students being mentored by an “outside” expert as they write the chapter.

Could you apply a similar process in your course so that your student create a meaningful textbook (wikibook)? By your creating a structure for this process, students become more engaged in the material, work in a collegial manner, are held to a high standard of learning, and focus on the specific standard areas that you have determined are important. In addition, they like to see their high quality work “published” on the web. If you have created a class wikibook, please share information about it.

 

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007

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