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Teaching Excellence Center

Circle Summaries March 2000

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Monday 4:00 Session

Monday, March 27, 2000 at 4 pm in HPE Complex, Room 207

Attendance: Linda White, Pat Sherblom, Donna Hunt, Lauren Scharff, Sharon Templeman, Sue Whately, DawnElla Rust, and Janelle Ashley

Dr. Janelle Ashley discussed issues of promotion and tenure at SFA with the Teaching Circle. Dr. Ashley first addressed the issue of tenure. The following points were made:

The following points were made regarding promotion:

Additional comments:

Tuesday 9:00 Session (no summary)

Tuesday 3:15 Session

The Tuesday afternoon teaching circle met on March 28, 2000, in Room 181 ofthe McGee Business Building with a good representation of the circle members. The main topic of the meeting was "Motivating Students and Faculty at the End of the Semester."

Marsha distributed a handout she had developed relating to ideas for the end of the semester. One idea was to notify students of their progress in the course before the end of the semester. A number of other ideas were given to motivate students as follows:

1. If the class seems very lethargic, stop your discussion and give them a 5 minute break. Tell them to leave the room, get a drink of water, or something and come back ready to focus. This might be especially helpful in longer classes.

2. Provide opportunities for students to make some decisions about what will take place in class. One member indicated that the class would be discussing two of the six stories in a readings book. The teacher knew one of the stories that would be included but wasn't sure about the other one. He assigned the remaining stories to several students and asked each to give a general overview and opinion about the stories in the book to the rest of the class. Then the class voted on which story they wanted to read and study. The opportunity to choose seemed to motivate the students. Another instructor suggested options concerning tests ranging from when the test might be to what content might be included in the test.

3. Quizzes were discussed as motivating factors. A quiz given at the very beginning of class might motivate students who normally come in late to class. Part of the motivation for quizzes might be that students who attend class feel that they gain something that those who do not attend class do not have.

4. All agreed that motivating faculty might be more difficult! In classes with heavy grading loads, instructors were encouraged to find ways to streamline some of the grading. By the same token, quizzes or assignments designed simply to motivate students might have a demotivating effect of faculty who would end up with more to grade and/or evaluate.

5. One circle member gave an example. She assigned an essay to the class for bonus points on the Thursday before spring break asking students to read a chapter not yet discussed in class and apply it to their own lives. She collected the essays on the Tuesday after spring break. Those students who did not attend class on the Thursday before spring break did not have the opportunity to do the assignment. In a class of 58 students, she was motivated that 27 actually wrote the essays and completed the assignment. The down side of the project was that she added the grading of an additional 27 essays to her load--a different kind of motivation!

After some discussion, the circle members decided that they would like to have a guest speaker from Counseling & Career Services come to our next meeting on April 25 to discuss various issues related to students.

Friday 12:00 Session

The major topics of our meeting were memory processes and how to help students study / learn the material. Lauren started off with a brief summary of human memory: a simple model of memory and different types of memory distinguished by memory researchers. The necessity to PROCESS information that is being learned (i.e. make links to tie it to already known information or a framework of concepts, etc.) was stressed. (Click here for the information given on a handout.)

This information was then tied to ways it could be applied to help students study and learn information. For example, a technique that has been successfully adaopted by several of Lauren's students is to study with another person; have them quiz each other from the text or classnotes; KEY is that if one person does not know the answer, the other gives them hints rather than simply stating the answer. This way both individuals are forced to make "links" to the information being learned, which will aid retrieval of that information later (one has to think of relevant/useful hints and the other has to use them to figure out what the answer is).

Several of us then reflected that in many classes there is an accretion of knowledge thoughout a semester so it is important that students apply themselves from the beginning. The usefulness and importance of linking information was also discussed as something we as professors can also do during lectures.

Other ideas to help students acquire information were also discussed. Elizabeth has had student come up with exam questions, and then actually uses a couple for bonus questions. Some of us have used daily quizzes or assignments to keep the students up-to-date. Melane does this and, in order to keep sane with all the potential extra work, does not grade all of the daily assignments (sometimes simply records whether or not they were turned in).

Another practice which has received favorable feedback from students is to give immediate feedback regarding daily/weekly quizzes -- i.e. after the quiz read the questions out loud and quickly give the answers. Then you don't need to take class time to return the quizzes -- interested students can come get them during office hours, but most will know how they did due to the immediate feedback.

Ken pointed out that often we stress critical thinking and links during lecture, but by using multiple choice tests in our large classes, we are not testing the higher levels of understanding. It was discussed that it was important to use conceptual / analytical questions as well as simple factual questions on such exams. Brenda suggested making one or two conceptual / analytical questions each week to build up a personal test bank.

At that point we were over time, so we called it a day.

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