Circle Summaries February 2000
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Monday, February 28, 2000 at 4 pm in HPE, Room 207
ATTENDANCE: Donna Hunt and DawnElla Rust
- Discussed the article "Strategies for Reporting Small-Group Discussions to the Class" by Brookfield and Preskill in College Teaching 1999 ,vol. 47, i4, pages 140-1. Both Rust and Hunt struggled with getting the groups to really participate. Decided that the strategies in the article would work best for mature groups and/or graduate students. Also should have a time limit on discussions.
- Rust discussed another article in which the author had "walk and talk" office hours. Student and teacher would walk across campus and discuss issues relevant to class, thus getting their exercise and solving any class related issues. Rust decided that would be a great way to see campus (admitted that there were buildings at SFA she had never been inside).
- On the other end of the spectrum was an article about a teacher who "required students not to phone or visit the office." All correspondence with the teacher took place through email. The article stated that at the end of the semester "students perception of teacher availability" improved. In addition the author felt writing skills improved using this format. Members of the Teaching Circle felt this took using technology in the classroom too far - students need contact and professors need it also.
- Discussed the saying "Teaching is more than performing, its group work." To be successful you must get them involved (if anyone is reading this please let us know how!!)
- Rust shared her icebreaker of Health Bingo and Hunt shared how she uses similarities to break the ice.
The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 27 at 4 pm in HPE Room 207. Dr. Ashley is scheduled to talk with us.
The topic for discussion was "Working Individually with Students Outside of Class." We particularly wanted to address how you can help students effectively during office hours.
One of the reasons that students might come to your office during office hours would be for help in preparing for the class or for exams. Circle leader Marsha Bayless found a site provided by the SFASU Library which details a list of Study Skills Self-Help Information prepared by Virginia Tech and might be helpful to students with difficulty in preparing for class. The web site is http://www.ucc.vt.edu/stdysk/stdyhlp.html
Several circle members indicated that students frequently came for help after an exam rather than before the exam when help might be more beneficial. Ideas were shared on how to help students be better prepared for an exam including the following:
1. Prepare a study guide with questions or key concepts that will be discussed in the exam.
2. Hold a special study session at a time other than class time where students from more than one section could meet with the instructor and discuss informally ideas and questions about exam.
Some discussion was held on effective ways to return tests. One circle member indicated that before she returned an exam, she asked for feedback about the test. She asked about the length of the test, was it too easy or too hard, what concepts weren't covered that students thought would be on the test, what concepts were unexpected. The teacher then used this information to help in preparing tests that better fit the students as the semester progressed. The instructor also said that when she returned the tests, she asked students to write their reasons for marking a specific answer on any question that they felt was unclear. She would then read these comments after class to determine if any adjustments should be made. She felt this kept students from arguing with the instructor in class and also prevented students with similar answers but not similar rationale from expecting an automatic adjustment.
Circle members indicated that students who did poorly on exams did not always make the effort to come visit with the instructor after the exam. One instructor said that he frequently wrote on returned exams "come see me" but students didn't always follow up. He decided to pass around a sheet for those students to sign up for an appointment time and found that he had much better luck with students coming to his office when they had made a commitment to a specific time.
We discussed the environment of the office. Several members said they wanted the environment to be non-threatening to students. One circle member suggested rearranging furniture to make the office more effective. Circle members felt that having the teacher on one side of a desk and the student on the other set up a barrier that might result in less effectivecommunication than in an arrangement where the desk was not a barrier.
The next teaching circle meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 28. The rather broad topic for discussion is "General Topics in Teaching."
After some friendly exchange to "catch up" with each other, the teaching circle discussion started based on issues that came from Ray Horn's SED 550 syllabus (a very nice, thorough syllabus!). First we discussed the 12 Competencies that students preparing to be educators will be tested upon by ExCET. These include things such as:
- "The teacher understands how learning occurs and can apply this understanding to design and implement effective instruction."
- "The teacher uses a variety of instructional strategies and roles to facilitate learning and to help students become independent thinkers and problem solvers who use higher-order thinking in the classroom and the real world."
The question was posed, "How are these tested using a multiple-choice test, and it that really realistic?" It seems the ExCET uses scenario questions, but all of us seemed to agree that this type of testing wasn't very realistic. Plus, it may not at all reflect what a teacher actually does (or is required to do) once actually in a classroom. Ray informed us that in the near future, first-year teachers will be evaluated in the classroom, and the university will be held responsible, even though those teachers are no longer students at the university. There was further discussion of the realities several areas face with such types of post-graduate testing (human services have already been dealing with such issues for many years).
Ray will provide each of the circle members with a copy of the article by D. Miller, "The black hole of education research: Why do academic studies play such a minimal role in efforts to improve the schools?" It was pointed out that this issue is not limited to education research; most areas show a gap between the acquisition of knowledge and its practical application. Many examples were traded.
Liz Hutchinson brought hard copies of an Internet mid-semester evaluation that she has created. Students can anonymously complete it and she is emailed the responses. This allows more rapid integration of good suggestions, and gives an instructor an opportunity to discuss issues that the students may have. Having at least a brief class discussion regarding the evaluation is seen to be crucial to the success of mid-semester evaluations.
We also briefly discussed testing: how many "scenario" questions do we include on a test? These will test a student's understanding more so than definition questions, etc. We also discussed other testing issues such as students needing extra time, the practice of having tests given outside of classtime, and realities when students have disabilities.
At our next meeting (March 24th) we will share study strategies and talk a bit about how humans learn information.
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