Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What students think makes for effective teaching

(From Delaney et al., Student Perceptions of Effective Teaching in Higher Education)

Comments invited. Are the students right? Are these the traits that make for effective teaching? Are any ranked too high? Too low? Any traits missing?
  1. Respectful
  2. Knowledgeable
  3. Approachable
  4. Engaging
  5. Communicative
  6. Organized
  7. Responsive
  8. Professional
  9. Humorous

Philosophy of Sexuality

I am supposed to develop a philosophy course on "sex, sexualities, masculinities and sexual expression." I teach at a historically black college for men, so most of the students are African-American males, and they would likely appreciate any materials especially relevant to their life experiences. Does anyone have an suggestions for what to do in such a course, including readings? Thanks!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A great resource on test composition and design

Texas Tech has a very helpful page outlining some principles concerning test composition and design. It offers a good overview of Bloom's taxonomy, as well as a basic description of test reliability and validity. There's also a chart comparing the merits of various test formats (multiple choice, essay, true-false, etc.). A good place to start when thinking about assessing students!

The perils of being maverick-y

While I don't consider my teaching style or methods particularly radical, some features of my teaching are a bit maverick-y. I don't grade all my students' work. I require them to review one another's work. I let them develop questions for the final exam. I let them choose (some) course content.

But one of the perennial challenges of teaching in a conscientious and open-minded way is that students come to us with very fixed expectations about what college (or high school) are about, what learning is, and what the roles of instructor and student are supposed to be. And these expectations can be very tough to dislodge.

I was reminded of this by Maryellen Weimer's post about a sociology instructor who tried some unorthodox methods that students resisted. The methods themselves are only a little outside the box, but certainly not unheard of. The general idea was to have the course be more student directed,“a classroom environment focused on knowledge creation rather than the transmission of information where students felt part of an intellectual community that balanced support and control."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

In praise of in-class writing

The last two quarters, I've been experimenting with in-class writing a fair bit — the sort of writing students don't turn in. For the most part, my approach has been simple: I've put a question on the board or on PowerPoint, usually a question designed to evoke a reaction to an assigned reading. I give the students 3-6 minutes to write a response in their notes (though if after the alloted time, I observe that students are still writing, I tend not to interrupt.) Sometimes I've kicked off the class meeting with this, but sometimes I've done it in the middle of a class session to add variety.

On the whole, I'm pleased with this strategy and wonder why I've not often observed in-class writing used in college or university classrooms. My guess is that it seems too baby-ish, a bit like high school math class with students sitting quietly solving equations. But I see a lot of advantages to in-class writing, and I'd be interested to know how others use in-class writing and why.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

10-minute puzzle podcasts

Federico Luzzi and Aidan McGlynn at the Northern Institute of Philosophy have created a series of 10-minute podcasts on basic philosophical issues. The orientation is contemporary and analytic. I listened to the podcast on the trolley problem and found it clear and compelling. This might be a nice supplementary resource for intro to philosophy courses. They might also help students who have trouble identifying term paper topics. Definitely worth checking out!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Liberal arts and the narrowness of 'business education'

I've always been skeptical about the notion of a business major: As I've joked with a colleague of mine, business programs could easily be renamed 'White Collar Studies'. It's long struck me as a generic major, what students choose when they want a college degree, but not in anything particular. As this NYT article puts it, it's now the default major for those who see their education in purely instrumental terms, as a long stint of internship or networking that positions them for their first post-college job. Nowadays 1 in 5 students is a business major, and another concern is just how seriously universities take business education. From the NYT article:
...with large student-faculty ratios and no lab equipment, business has historically been cheaper to operate than most departments. Cynics say many colleges are content.  “At the big public universities, the administrations need us to be credible, but I’m not sure that they need us to be very good,” says J. David Hunger, a scholar-in-residence in the management program at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, in Collegeville, Minn. “They need us to be cash cows.” 
And lastly, as our Academically Adrift series highlighted, academic rigor is a definite issue. This graphic says it all.

But thankfully, the trend in undergrad business education seems to be in the direction of integrating more liberal arts into the business curriculum. IHE reports today on a Carnegie study that concludes
that a more concerted focus on teaching students a set of modes of thinking commonly associated with a liberal arts education – analytical thinking, exploration of issues from different perspectives, reflective exploration of meaning, and practical reasoning -- can greatly improve business education.