Archive for the ‘Classroom Challenges and Solutions’ Category

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How Well Do You Listen?

posted: 5.7.15 by Andrea Lunsford

Just a few weeks ago, Freddie Gray—a young African American man in Baltimore—died after being injured while in police custody, precipitating a rash of protests expressing anger, frustration, and rage. Then just a few days ago, the six officers involved were charged by State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby with crimes ranging from assault to second-degree murder. This series of events is the latest in a string of unnecessary deaths of black men at the hands of police, and it’s one that teachers everywhere need to think carefully about.

You have probably been following this case and reading a range of responses and analyses, as I have. But the account I have been most touched by is a Facebook post from Julia Blount, reprinted on April 29 on Salon. [read more]

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Categories: Andrea Lunsford, Classroom Challenges and Solutions, Teaching Advice
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Teaching Email Courtesies

posted: 3.31.15 by Traci Gardner

I receive a lot of email from students. Sometimes it’s messages that I have requested, like links to their work. Other times, students are asking questions about assignments or telling me why they will miss class.

More often than not, these messages are not students’ best writing. I don’t care that the messages are informal. That’s fine with me. At times, however, they wander into telling me far more than I need or want to know. Worse yet, the messages can leave out the crucial details or attachments that would have made the message successful. [read more]

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Categories: Activity Idea, Audience, Classroom Challenges and Solutions, Purpose, Teaching with Technology, Traci Gardner
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When Class Doesn’t Meet

posted: 3.17.15 by Traci Gardner

What do you do when a class you are teaching has to be cancelled at the last minute? Maybe you are sick or your car’s battery is dead. Perhaps you are dealing with a family emergency or a foot of snow. Even the best planners among us sometimes find at the last minute that we cannot (or should not) meet students in the classroom. So how do you let students know? [read more]

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Categories: Classroom Challenges and Solutions, Teaching Advice, Traci Gardner
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The Teachable TOACA

posted: 2.11.15 by Barclay Barrios

I’ve recently come to realize that I am now what I would consider a “TOACA,” a Teacher of a Certain Age.  Granted, that has more to do with chronobiological age than professional longevity.  And let me be clear that it’s not that I feel like things are “over” (thank goodness). Still, there is a certain sense that I am reaching the top of the hill, so to speak, no matter how long it may be on the other side.  This realization has prompted quite a bit of reflection about my life and career. One of the things I’ve decided is that it is time for me to be teachable again. [read more]

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Categories: Activity Idea, Barclay Barrios, Classroom Challenges and Solutions, Teaching Advice
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Claims and the Research Essay

posted: 10.31.14 by Donna Winchell

A significant part of many argumentation courses is the research essay. We teach our students how to find and evaluate sources and how to use them to support a claim. When a substantial amount of time is spent on the research unit, a sequence of assignments based on the same body of research provides a way to use course time more efficiently and reinforces the differences among the different types of claims taught when using the Toulmin Model. [read more]

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Classroom Challenges and Solutions, Donna Winchell
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What Do You Do When Students Aren’t In Class?

posted: 6.6.12 by Andrea Lunsford

It’s a truism to say that writing classes depend on students being there, especially since the best writing classes I know are full of writing activities, peer review workshops, group problem solving, and so on.  So it really puts a crimp in the sails of a class when students don’t show up.  I’m explicit about my expectations on my syllabus, which says that I am going to be at every class and expect everyone else to be there too.  I also say that work missed cannot be made up unless I have approved the absence in advance (I occasionally have a student athlete who must compete at something or other, and I try hard to accommodate those student schedules).

At one point in my career, I said something on my syllabus about so many missed classes being the equivalent of one drop in grade.  At another point, I gave points for participation, and absentees forfeited those points.  But these measures never felt very comfortable to me.  I wanted my students to get as much as possible out of my class, and I knew that wouldn’t happen if they didn’t participate.  In addition, since my classes met for an hour and fifty minutes, a lot went on in that chunk of time, and missing even one class could put a student way behind.  And in a ten-week quarter there are only twenty class meetings, so missing even two means the student has missed ten percent of the course! [read more]

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Categories: Classroom Challenges and Solutions
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How to Choose Sides

posted: 3.22.12 by archived

At mid-semester, in the latest incarnation of my freshman comp course, my students start a project to introduce the basics of the research process. It’s a group project in which, following a format from Harper’s Magazine, four or five students work from an image to brainstorm research questions, find sources, construct discrete paragraphs (one per student), and compile a joint bibliography. I’ve used the assignment for several years, but only recently in group-work mode.

Like many teachers and students, I have conflicted feelings about group work. I worry about whether the work will be divided fairly, whether everyone will learn something, and how I can best assess that learning as well as the product produced. Though I tell my students that they need to learn to work in groups because that’s the way most workplaces operate, from my own middle and high school days, I remember group work mostly as a muddled waste of time with the final product some sort of uneven hodgepodge. Oh, there was that one seventh-grade science project where we measured out a 6’ x 6’ plot of land and drew its topography, analyzed its soil, identified its wildlife, recorded its weather, but I’ll save for another post my meditations about what made that group project successful. For now, what I’ve been worrying about is something much simpler: So, how can I best set up these groups? [read more]

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Categories: Classroom Challenges and Solutions, Holly Pappas
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Encourage Students to Connect with Social Media

posted: 3.6.12 by Traci Gardner

4731898939_e972eb3594_mEngaging readers in a conversation online is hard, regardless of the audience and purpose. Look at a sample of company Twitter feeds and Facebook pages. Some do a great job connecting with readers, but most struggle and either give up or resign themselves to announcements rather than conversations.

If it’s a challenging issue for the business world, it’s even more demanding in educational circles. Finding the balance between a welcoming learning community and the creepy treehouse takes a lot of effort. A recent ebrary study of undergraduate and postgraduate students found that students are less likely to ask a teacher or librarian for help using social media than they are to ask their peers.

The question teachers have to ask in response is why that is the case. The ebrary study focused on students. The other side of the equation matters, too. Were they surveying students who had teachers who used social media and encouraged interaction? A parallel study asking 6,600 faculty members who teach undergraduates how/if they make themselves available on social media would be an informative complement to the ebrary study. [read more]

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Categories: Classroom Challenges and Solutions
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What If You Need a Sick Day?

posted: 2.22.12 by Traci Gardner

6794141739_dac60a3902_mI’m sick. I have a cold or an attack of allergies, and  my brain is far too fuzzy to do anything even mildly academic. However, I still have deadlines to meet.

Profhacker recently posted a collection of links for the cold and flu season with three sections: Staying Healthy, Avoid Getting Sick, and When You (or Your Family) Are Sick. Their ideas are useful, but they don’t help with my problem: what do you do when you’re already sick?

If I were a K-12 teacher, I’d arrange for a substitute and class would go on. If I were working in an office job, I’d call in sick and enter the proper information in my timesheet. The work would still be there when I returned, and someone else would cover if there were any emergencies.

In higher ed, the situation is more complicated. If you happen to be an adjunct, there’s more to consider than just covering or canceling the class. Will you look unreliable? Will students complain on your end-of-the-term evaluations? Will you annoy someone whose good will you’ll need later by asking them  to post a note on your office door? Are you giving students a free pass to take their own last-minute sick days? Would it be easier to just cough your way through the class? [read more]

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Final Assignment

posted: 12.20.11 by Steve Bernhardt

Has it occurred to you that we don’t get our best work from students in the rush at the end of term? When I work with writing in the disciplines, I always suggest that the due date for important projects be well before the last week of the term. In my own Intro to Comp class, I regularly use a final assignment that focuses attention on writing in other classes and brings our class to a close in a manageable fashion.

I ask students to come up with three questions for a final essay exam from one of their other courses. Regardless of whether they actually have a final essay exam scheduled, it is good practice for them to predict what will be on a final, review material, make some notes in preparation, and be prepared to do well. We discuss how to write well-formed questions that call for synthesis or analysis of complicated learning.

We look at the sections of Writer’s Help that discuss how to analyze writing assignments, what the important verbs are, and what kinds of questions are asked by various disciplines. Students submit their draft questions under Sakai Forum (our class management software), and we work in groups to analyze and improve the draft questions. Outside of class, I go through their questions and give them feedback. Students rewrite and repost to Sakai. [read more]

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Categories: Classroom Challenges and Solutions
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