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Teaching Excellence Center

Circle Summaries January 2000

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Monday 4:00 Session

ATTENDANCE: Felicia Ward, Linda White, Pat Sherblom, Sue Whately, Sharon Templeman, Donna Hunt, and DawnElla Rust

I. Article in The Daily Sentinal titled "Boredom, bills concern college-bound students" was used as a spring board for discussion. Article reported 40% of first-time, full-time college students were "frequently bored" in high school classes.

Question posed was, "What do we do with them now?" Article reported how it was difficult to engage them because they were so "fast-paced". Refered to article "Student ratings soar when professor uses enthusiasm." The article discussed a study were a professor taught two sections of a course. The only difference between the courses was he used a more enthusiastic tone of voice in one. It worked, his student evaluation were higher.

2. Discussed article "Among the Inept, Researchers Discover, Ignorance is Bliss." Bottom line students think they are smarter than they are in reality. Implications for us: determine the manipulators from poor performers; have students develop criteria standards (this is what A work looks like); must understand most students don't know right from wrong.

3. Discussed mentoring. Used the article "Choosing and Working with a Mentor: Workshop Highlighting Underlying Themes that Students (and mentors) Often Don't Think About?"

IV. Discussed proposed format of Teaching Circle Workshop: collaboration for teaching and research. Attendees like the idea.

V. Meeting dates for the semester are Feb. 28, March 27, and April 24. Next meeting attendees will bring articles for discussion. Other possible topics include: tenure and merit; gender issues (we were all females)

Tuesday 9:00 Session (no summary)

Tuesday 3:15 Session

All 7 of the members of the Tuesday 3:15 Teaching Circle were present at the first meeting on Tuesday, January 25, in the McGee Business Building! Circle leader Marsha Bayless had the members introduce themselves. The next order of business was to determine dates for future circle meetings. The group decided on February 22 and March 28 with a potential meeting in April 25.

The topic for the first meeting was "Ideas for Improvement." Each circle member was asked to share ideas they had for improving their courses from last semester. Three circle members indicated that they had really revamped their courses in attempts to better meet the needs of the students. One goal of these efforts was to provide an opportunity for more involvement by students and less of the traditional lecture format. In other words, get the students to talk more and the teacher to talk less!

One circle member shared the previous syllabus and the new syllabus and showed how the changes would affect the course. One thing that was included was the teacher's expectations for the course so that students would have a clear idea of what the course was about.

Other circle members proposed smaller adjustments such as trying additional group projects, requiring attendance to increase student success, and adding activities to break up longer classes.

Another very interesting idea was that a teacher pick one or two courses that they aren't especially pleased with and maintain a journal about the course. After each class session, the instructor would assess what worked and what didn't work using a journal format. The instructor proposing this idea said that too often it seems like we spend most of our time in planning and presenting our classes and less time in analyzing how it went.

He said that the journals were very helpful in making future changes in the course. He also suggested that it is not too late to do a journal on a course for this semester.

The group decided that the topic for next time would be "Working Individually with Students Outside of Class." One question that will be posed is how can you help students effectively during office hours.

Friday 12:00 Session

As the first order of business, we introduced ourselves and selected dates for our next meetings: February 25th, March 24th, April 28th.

We began with a discussion of the article "Among the Inept, Researchers Discover, Ignorance is Bliss". None of us were very surprised by the findings that many students in the bottom quartile believe that they are doing much better on exams etc. than they really are. It was pointed out that, often, such students don't come see the professor until it is too late (e.g. the last week of classes). Many don't regularly come to class at all. These patterns often make it hard to help such students, especially when we have large classes.

One suggestion is to strongly enforce prerequisites (this is done in the computer science department). Further, Liz says that she explicitly states the correlation between grades in certain prerequisite courses, or on the SAT, and the typical resultant grade in her class. She says that it helps students make wise choices about whether or not they are prepared for the class. If you are interested in the correlation between SAT scores and the grades in your course from a previous semester, contact OIT.

Another idea was to have students share study skills suggestions. Possibly track/examine how different approaches relate to course grade. Lauren pointed out that the study of memory in Psychology had helped her immensely in understanding how the brain learns, retains, and recalls information; in turn that has helped her help students. Anyone who is interested in more info can email her.

Ray mentioned that it would be nice to have some university-wide plan/structure to incorporate different skills at different levels. Possibly having short courses on how to develop study skills through the AARC would help. Several group members mentioned that at other universities there were such classes available through counseling or other venues. The CLUE program was also briefly discussed.

A good analogy about attending class was given: Athletes don't just show up on game day -- students who are learning skills (what ever they may be) should not expect to be able to just show up on exam day and do well. They need to practice the relevant skills over and over (e.g. redoing a math problem from the start etc.).

Another point of discussion was the admissions standards and retention issue. There were sentiments expressed that they both need to be addressed, but taking a strong stand on retention without doing more about admission standards will not help in the long run.

We also briefly discussed the use of mid-semester evaluations. Liz is working on a short evaluation that students can anonymously complete over the Internet (webpage based).

At our next meeting we will start with discussion based on some work with CLUE that Ray has shared. He can mail you a copy of his graduate syllabus if you are interested.

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