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Teaching Excellence Center

Circle Summaries October 1999

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Monday 4:00 Session

Teaching Circles Minutes

HPE Complex, Room 207 Oct. 11, 1999

ATTENDANCE: Lisa Mitchell, Sam Copeland, Donna Hunt, Sue Whatley, and DawnElla Rust

Reviewed Teaching Circle's Teaching Evaluation Meeting.

Today's discussion focused on test construction and assessment. Everyone shared ideas of developing tests.

Points discussed included:

* Develop different kind of tests for lower division and upper division classes

* Incorporate Bloom's Taxonomy if test construction

* When grading essay questions first divide into A stacks, B stacks, C stacks, etc.

* Use some form of bonus questions to make up for missed information or bad questions

* Multiple choice tests for large classes

* Using several test banks for test development. Many of the attendees did not use test banks because questions are not clear or are incorrect.

* Model test questions during the class. Use the format of questions on the test in reviewing the class daily or before the exam.

* Refer students to web sites that have test questions for review and actually take questions from the web site for your test.

* The question was posed, "how much do you test from the book or from class?" Variety of responses: one tests only from lecture; another used groups to develop questions; can't generate discussion if haven't read for class; motivate them with quizzes.

* 2nd question, "when do you give tests back (lst of class or last of class period?" Most give tests back at the end of class for obvious reasons; if have concerns about the scoring of a question must come by professors office before next class period for correction (but must have solid evidence to support their response); some go over every question in class while others summarize results; grade for content not grammar

* 3rd question, "do you review for exams?" Mixed results: refer them to web site; students develop questions; give students the specific number of content questions; play hangman using key concepts to generate discussion

* Incorporate some kind of application in every class meeting. Do better on test when have applied knowledge.

* Another question, "ok to move tests back?" Most agreed ok, but must look at whole schedule; sometime its justified; if don't, but still have material to cover provide them with an outline

* Mixed reviews for having someone proctor a test because gone for whatever reason. Suggested to have students write concern on back of test when turning it in to proctor.

* "Do you curve grades?" Responses included: fix it before it's broke, so no; what if have 4 really smart students and the rest are average?; have model answers before scoring test.

* On grading research paper develop boundaries before grading. Give the students the boundaries beforehand.

Next month will discuss facilitating group discussion in class. Bring ideas!!!!

Tuesday 9:00 Session

Teaching Circle Notes: M.E. Pierce, Sue Parsons, Rachel Galan, Amy Wilkerson, Karen Mayo

Oct.12, Javajacks

Topic: The Uncooperative Student

We brainstormed for some effective techniques for diffusing undesirable behavior in the classroom. We began to see that our actions could be proactive as opposed to reactive.

Sue related an incident where a teacher removed a student from class for sleeping. She reported that some chairmen will support our decision to take such drastic action. Sue said that in her own class she has had students who yawned loudly, made rude comments under their breath, and crossed in front of her when they walked in late. However, if she is confrontational, then a pall falls on the class atmosphere. Sue is considering a discussion about university classroom etiquette at the beginning of each semester.

Rachel suggested that the teacher could head-off disruptive behavior by making participation a part of the student's assessment. She remembered that in many of her college courses, participation counted as much as ten per cent of the course grade.

Karen remarked that talking privately to a student outside of class is an effective first step to solving the problem. She recommended that our comments be light, maybe even humorous, and she stressed the importance of "talking up" to the student. Karen also suggested that we let the students draft some ground rules at the beginning of the semester, thereby giving the students a sense of control and responsibility. This technique might be especially ideal for freshman who are bridging the gap between high school and college. Karen reminded us that often the student who is acting out in class is the student who is suffering from an inferiority complex. So perhaps we should temper our words to the student with an affirmation like "Your success matters to me."

Amy said that she has had students in her classes make irritating comments, sometimes for the sake of shock value. She suggested that we implement seating charts after the first couple of weeks, when we have identified some of the more talkative groups.

Amy also graciously offered to recap the Teaching Circle Workshop last week. At the workshop, Amy presented a program for mid-term evaluations conducted by a consultant who gleans comments about the course from student focus groups. The members of the group felt that the scantron evaluation often confuses students unlike Karen's "Three Pluses and One Wish" method of course evaluation.

With more ideas for how to better confront the uncooperative student, we are ensured more favorable student comments no matter what method we use for student evaluations.

Tuesday 3:15 Session

The Tuesday afternoon Teaching Circle met on Tuesday, October 12, from 3:15-4:15 p.m. in Room 162 of the McGee Business Building. The topic for the circle was Teaching and Tenure. Two of the circle members had attended the October 7 workshop Beyond the Standard Form: A Workshop to Discuss Student Evaluations of Teaching. We exchanged ideas including the fact that different departments/colleges use different techniques and instruments for students to evaluate teaching.

In discussing Teaching and Tenure several ideas were proposed. Carefully documenting what is related to teaching such as innovative ideas, attendance at conferences, participation in workshops, and revision of courses would be valuable. One suggestion was to develop an additional evaluation form that might give you specific feedback to improve your teaching. One circle member indicated that she was going to try a midterm feedback method to try to gain input from students. Another suggested that someone applying for tenure might want to evaluate every course taught rather than only the required number. More feedback indicative of the total teaching effort would be achieved this way.

As the tenure process looks at the individual's teaching over a period of time, the idea of continuous improvement was also discussed. For example, what should the teacher do with poor student evaluations? What changes did the teacher make to try to improve problem areas in teaching? Documenting all of those steps would be helpful in the tenure process. Developing a teaching philosophy or portfolio of some type would also be useful in the tenure process.

NEXT MEETING. Our next meeting is scheduled for November 16. Since the time we scheduled our meeting, a Teaching Circles forum "A Forum to Learn about the New Faculty Development Center in the Boynton Building" was also moved to November 16 at 3:30 p.m. Other meeting dates in November to reschedule our circle were not convenient. The circle decided to meet at 3:00 instead of 3:15 in Room 162 of the McGee Business Building and discuss our topic for next month which is "Grades and Their Impact on Teaching." At about 3:30 we will walk together over to the UC Regent's Suite B for the Forum.

Wednesday 3:00 Session

On Wednesday, the teaching circle met to discuss maintaining classroom decorum. Below are some of the ideas that we came up with.

Doyle suggested that the best way to handle problems with disruptive or distacting behavior is to address those behaviors (reading newspapers or other materials during class, rumaging in backpacks, walking in and out of the room during class time) on the first day of the semester. Students, especially those who are new to a university setting, may not know what behavior is expected of them in the classroom and often don't realize that their behavior may be distracting the teacher or other students. So it's best to make the rules of classroom decorum explicit from the beginning.

We also talked about the problem of students who monopolize classroom discussion. One idea that was proposed was to invite such students to one's office for discussion; by giving such student the chance to say what's on their mind outside of class, the teacher can often create an environment more amenable to discussion in the classroom.

Our next meeting will be on Wednesday, November 10 at 3:00. We plan to invite Karen Wieckorski to talk to the group about library resources. If Karen is not available for that meeting, we will talk about how to deal with individual students during office hours, including how to get them to come to office hours.

Thursday 3:15 Session

Our group discussed teaching and learning styles, and how they can influence a class atmosphere for better or worse. Unfortunately, the instructor - student interactions can become a vicious cycle in that if an instructor doesn't like the class atmosphere, he or she may go in with an attitude which will perhaps be less enthusiastic and thus perpetuate the problem. There is a book which we plan to further investigate: Teaching with Style, by Anthony Grasha. It discusses both teaching and learning styles and how they interact. It also contains questionairres which will determine what learning styles a student possesses.

We also discussed factors which will increase or decrease the success of seminar classes. We decided that a successful seminar is one in which all individuals take a meaningful part -- possibly by leading a seminar session, but most importantly, the "leader" must encourage meaningful discussion. It helps to discuss topics about which most individuals will have an interest and topics which are not too difficult to understand (or the meeting may digress into a lecture rather than a discussion).

Friday 12:00 Session (no summary)



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