A Memo to My Students Re: College and the Real World

What happens in college and what you’ll be doing in your career aren’t the same, but they aren’t as different as many of you seem to think.

Source: www.facultyfocus.com

How do we help students understand that what we are doing at the university is all about preparing them to be successful in their career?  Recently we heard from a graduate who was giving feedback on how their time at the university prepared them for their current job. There were a couple of comments this graduate made that struck a chord with me.  “Think of groups as ‘a way to prepare for groups in the real world’ instead of ‘group projects’ made me stop and think. So often we have assignments and activities in our courses because we know that they will help get students ready for their careers. We think students know why we are doing these things but in reality they may simply see it as busy work in order to get a grade.  Take time to explain why you chose to have the students complete the tasks that you do and how it can benefit them when they start their career.  This can go a long way to students being more receptive and hopefully they will give more effort.

A Learner-Centered Syllabus Helps Set the Tone for Learning

A learner-centered syllabus can take many forms, but often includes shared decision-making, a rationale for course objectives and tips for staying on track.

Source: www.facultyfocus.com

Your syllabus can help you set the stage for a successful class. It can help you take students on a journey through your class. Where does the journey end (outcomes) and how are you going to get there? This is also a great opportunity to discuss shared responsibilities. What do you expect of your students and what should they expect of you? Making it learner-centered can help students better understand how to be successful in your course.

Trying Something New? Seven Things that Boost Success Rates

Trying a new quizzing strategy, assignment, or group activity? There are things you can do to boost the chance of success when you roll out something new.

Source: www.facultyfocus.com

It’s always scary to contemplate trying something new. That’s why I always advocate to start small and get really good at the new thing before you try to implement anything else.  Here are seven simple steps that can help you as you start planning to implement new things in your courses.  It’s also important that you reach out for help as you start this process. Sometimes having someone to commiserate with makes all the difference. We are always here to help!

Teaching Quantitative Problem-Solving Skills

Teach problem-solving by guiding STEM students through complete or partially worked-out problems and derivations using the TAPPS active-learning structure.

Source: www.facultyfocus.com

We had the opportunity to read the book Teaching and Learning STEM: A Practical Guide this summer and learned a lot of things from Dr.s Brent and Felder. One important concept that came out was around problem solving. Students may be able to solve problems that they have for homework. They can do the exact process over and over to get an answer but they may not understand the process or how to apply those skills to other problem types. They may also not understand how to solve problems in your discipline. As you introduce problems it’s important to teach them about the process for solving that problem type. When you reach a different type of problem you need to start over and teach them about the process for solving that problem.  We assume our students know these things because they can complete the homework but they’ve never been taught the basics of how to truly solve a problem.  As the instructor you have to model the process and provide feedback as students practice.

The Last Class Session: How to Make It Count | Faculty Focus

First and last classes are the bookends that hold a semester together. How can we finish the semester with the same energy we had at the start? A few ideas:

Source: www.facultyfocus.com

At the beginning of the academic year we talked about how to make the first class have meaning. Here is an article  that focuses on how to make the last class focused and successful. It raises the question about how do you wrap everything up in your class. Do you just use the final and course evaluations to see how your course went for the semester? This article gives you a few quick strategies and activities that you can do on the last day of class as wrap up to the semester.

You’re Going to Want to Write This Down – Faculty Focus

Am I alone in this kind of mental ritual? Or do all of us regularly forget what we’ve heard, read, or learned … in this case, about teaching and learning?

Source: www.facultyfocus.com

I fall into the trap that Dr. Weimer mentions. I take notes at conference sessions, loving the ideas that I have heard. I know that I have heard similar things at other conferences or events but I don’t always do anything with that information.  Dr. Weimer makes a great suggestion to not just take notes but write down questions that you have, opportunities for research and how you might use this information as you are listening to the presentations.  


Dr. Weimer also gave a great tip about lecture notes. We always think we will have plenty of time for updating our notes before we teach that lesson again only to find that there is no time for that. Dr. Weimer’s suggestion is immediately following the lecture put a post-it note on the lecture notes with things you need to change or add to the lecture. You can identify questions that students had to help in preparation. Then if you only have a short amount of time before you give the lecture again, you know what you need to focus on.

Small Changes in Teaching: The First 5 Minutes of Class

Four quick ways to shift students’ attention from life’s distractions to your course content.

Source: chronicle.com

One of the more challenging aspects to teaching is to start each class in the right way. This means getting students to put aside the conversations that they might be having with friends in the class, or through texting, getting them to focus on what you want and not the homework or test that is due for another class, or even sleep.  How do you get them engaged in your class from the beginning? This article gives some tips that you can use to help you make the first five minutes of class work for you to engage students.  Not only can these tips help them focus on what you want to discuss, it can also help them with putting topics together from one class session to another.  

A Lecture From the Lectured

We’re tired of sitting silently in the dark, listening to you read the PowerPoint aloud.

Source: chroniclevitae.com

Note: This essay was written by a group of students taught by Catherine Prendergast, a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Too often we speak of what we think students want. This article reminds us that it’s okay to ask students for their feedback outside of end of course evaluations. They can give us great feedback on what they value in teaching and learning. And even though it has been much maligned, the lecture can be a great tool in teaching and learning.  It’s how the lecture is delivered that is important.

What is Authentic Assessment? (Authentic Assessment Toolbox)

Let me clarify the attributes by elaborating on each in the context of traditional and authentic assessments: Selecting a Response to Performing a Task: On traditional assessments, students are typically given several choices (e.g., a,b,c or d;…

Source: jfmueller.faculty.noctrl.edu

With the start of a new semester, it seems like we really focus on how are we assessing student learning.  Authentic Assessment seems to be a buzz word that everyone likes to claim that they are involved in but do we really know what it means.  The author of this website explains what it is and how it might compare to other forms of assessment that we are used to using.

Using Someone Else’s Ideas and Thoughts Without Citation…Isn’t Right

Currently, one of the hot topics on our campus is Academic Integrity.  If you look at the Office of Undergraduate Studies website you will find many resources telling students what constitutes Academic Integrity, and what the consequences are when students cross the line.  51% of the issues reported last year appear to be about a specific form of academic dishonestly known as plagiarism.

On our campus, plagiarism is defined by the UM Collected Rules and Regulations (200.010 – http://www.umsystem.edu/ums/rules/collected_rules/programs/ch200/200.010_standard_of_conduct) as “The term plagiarism includes, but is not limited to: (i) use by paraphrase or direct quotation of the published or unpublished work of another person without fully and properly crediting the author with footnotes, citations or bibliographical reference; (ii) unacknowledged use of materials prepared by another person or agency engaged in the selling of term papers or other academic materials; or (iii) unacknowledged use of original work/material that has been produced through collaboration with others without release in writing from collaborators.”

Missouri S&T is very strict with our students, and the university has set up sanctions for these actions depending on their severity. But what about when plagiarism happens in “real life?” Are there consequences? In short, yes—and they’re often far more serious and long-lasting than a simple failing grade. In “real life”, plagiarism can result in a loss of trust and professional status, which can have a very real impact on one’s livelihood. Even in cases of unintentional plagiarism the process to correct a non-citation can be long and painful. I recently talked with an instructor on our campus who had just gone through an experience where her work had been co-opted by another author.

Dr. Kate Sheppard is an instructor on our campus for the History and Political Science department.  She works hard as an instructor and a researcher.  She is always working to know about her area of specialization and interest so that she can continue to publish papers, give talks and write her next book.  She was excited when she found what she thought was a new article on Margaret Murray.  She was shocked when she realized that there was nothing new in this article but that the author had taken Dr. Sheppard’s own book and other papers and put them in a condensed form in this article.  It’s not word- for-word copying but if you look at our definition of plagiarism, isn’t that what this author did?

Technology makes our lives easier every day and it is incredibly easy to find the authors of papers and books today, many of whom are very happy to collaborate with you and help further the academic pursuit of a topic that they may be very passionate about.  Instead, Dr. Sheppard spent many hours trying to clear this issue up.  All she wanted was credit for her thoughts and ideas.  Here is a link to her original blog post about what happened to her. https://doctorkate.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/the-forgotten-citations-and-the-third-wave-feminist-and-scholar-who-really-wrote-them/

Dr. Sheppard was able to work with the publisher to get the issue resolved. The publisher edited the online article to give credit to Dr. Sheppard where it was due. That’s what Dr. Sheppard had asked for along.  Here is Dr. Sheppard’s update on this issue. https://doctorkate.wordpress.com/2015/11/04/the-forgotten-citations-a-resolution-from-broadlyvice/

When we are working with students and colleagues we need to let them know that plagiarism—even unintentional plagiarism—is wrong. Unless otherwise stated, thoughts, ideas, conclusions based on research belong to the person who did the work and we should honor that with the correct citations.  Give credit where it is due.

Written in collaboration with Raz Kerwin.