Tuesday (Non)Teaching Question

Tuesday (Non)Teaching Question is an irregular feature that attempts to get a conversation going about (non)teaching.  Typically, the questions attempt to be very impractical and begin with an excessively short preamble.  T(n)TQ is brought to you by CAST.  If you have a question that you’re dying to have featured in an upcoming T(n)TQ, don’t e-mail me at hwc_cast@ccc.edu since this is a one shot deal.

So we survived the semester and final grades are (almost) in…

Those of you teaching summer have a few weeks off; the rest of us have a significantly longer amount of time.

What are you planning to read/watch/see during your time off?

It would be kind of fun if we had a faculty book club of sort (similar to the once existent Pedagogy reading group).  Maybe from these responses we could find a book we could all read and discuss in the fall.

Reading Aloud

One of the most effective new things I did in the last few years was the decision to have students listen to a reading of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays in class, while reading along with it. Later in the year, I read those same classes most of Plato’s Apology, allowing students to hear it as a speech, read fluently and with vocal emphasis. The effects on student’s comprehension of those texts (as well as the subsequent texts by the same author) were pretty stunning.

The readings made the key ideas more readily accessible and decoded the author’s stylistic tendencies and patterns. Students weren’t fighting to read the words AND the sentences AND track the arguments. The first two were done for them, which allowed them to do the third, and that experience (I was told by many students in their exit interviews) opened up that text and the others. They found that the author/piece had value, and so they were more interested (and willing) to do the work on their own in the next one because A) they had a clue about the voice of the author; B) they had an expectation that they’d find ideas of interest in it; and C) they knew they could do it because they just had. It was really great, all around, and I’ll definitely do it again, maybe earlier, and possibly more often in future classes.

I say all of that not to break my arm patting my self on the back, but to share something that worked AND because, apparently, the idea (or an iteration of it) is something of a meme going around. I read it on Inside Higher Ed, so it must be true:

While the oral reading is as old as literature itself, it is not the norm on campuses. But faculty members and students who have participated in such readings say the events help convey messages, engage students, and foster community on their campuses in ways that reading alone cannot do. “Until you hear another student read it in his or her own voice, you don’t really understand the vast possibilities for interpretation,” said Dillon Jackson, one of Thickstun’s students.

So, if I threw a read aloud, would you come?

Tuesday Teaching Question

Tuesday Teaching Question is a regular feature that attempts to get a conversation going about teaching.  Typically, the questions attempt to be very practical and begin with an excessively long preamble.  TTQ is brought to you by CAST.  If you have a question that you’re dying to have featured in an upcoming TTQ, e-mail me at hwc_cast@ccc.edu.

Here’s last week’s, back by unpopular demand. 🙂

Yesterday (now one week ago) seemed to be a day full of waiting…waiting for the Red Line to get to work, waiting for various websites to load at HWC, waiting on line (yeah, I said “on line” instead of “in line”; I’m from NY) to submit my midterm grades (they’re due today BTW), waiting for students to stop in during office hours, etc.  If you’re like me, when you’re waiting, your mind starts to wander.  Today’s TTQ is inspired by the time I spent waiting.

I was thinking about our new president’s letter and his blog (and now his 2nd entry about academic “coaching”).  I jokingly asked the class I was teaching yesterday if the building felt any different.  They asked me why I’d asked this.  I went on to tell them that we had a new president.  They asked me if this was a good thing.  I said, “so far, so good.”  I remain optimistic.  Anyway, here’s the ending of President Laackman’s letter.  Maybe we can jump start the “getting to know you” process.

Our mission is central to who we are. All of us bring that mission to life. I am trying to learn how you do that and what you need to do an even better job for our students. I look forward to working with you to support our students and prepare them to realize their dreams.

What do you need to do an even better job for our students?

What do you do currently that you think others should know about?

Tuesday Teaching Question

Tuesday Teaching Question is a regular feature that attempts to get a conversation going about teaching.  Typically, the questions attempt to be very practical.  TTQ is brought to you by CAST.  If you have a question that you’re dying to have featured in an upcoming TTQ, e-mail me at hwc_cast@ccc.edu.

The mayoral race has been heating up and the primaries are a few weeks away (2 weeks from today to be exact).  I’m attempting to get the preservice teachers in my Math for Elementary teachers classes thinking about the impact that the new mayor would have on their future livelihood by asking them to read the candidates education platforms and discuss them.  (Phew, that was a long sentence!)  Anyway…

Are you incorporating the mayoral race into your classes?  If so, how?

The last Tuesday Teaching Question(s) of 2010 (I think.)

OOPS, this should have gone up at 11:59 last night.  I had it scheduled for 11:59 tonight, giving people only one minute on Tuesday for the Tuesday teaching question.  Sorry for the delay.

The end is here.  The multicolored pen business is booming as we in the education business (ha, according to who?) do our business so we can enjoy a much earned vacation (if such a thing is truly possible).  I figured I’d keep it incredibly practical and low level this week in order to respect the cognitive demands of grading.  Here goes.  The even-numbered questions are slightly meatier than the odd-numbered ones.  In fact, the one that is divisible by 3 and even (i.e. divisible by 6) is likely the meatiest of them all (and my original TTQ idea).

1. Are you procrastinating from grading right now?

11. Do you have a red pen to lend me?

24. Since it’s likely that many students won’t come back to collect their final work from you (assuming it hasn’t happened already)…

a) What do you do with you students’ work?

b) Are you as careful “marking their work up” knowing that they will likely never see it?

40. Do you use a percent based grade weighting scale or points?  Why?

115. Would you be more likely to grade in room 1046 if there was music playing?

Let’s see if we can get more than 2 responses this week.  Thanks for reading.  Good luck in this final week.

In what ways can a teacher get in the way of a students’ growth?

In what ways can we teachers actually impede the growth of a student, despite our best intentions? It is a fundamental element of my teaching philosophy that it is my job to stimulate a student’s curiosity and enable them to learn and process new information on their own, and that I must avoid the model in which I give them the information that I expect them to absorb. Despite this being my goal, I probably get in the way of that goal, every time I get frustrated by something a student says or writes, and every time I try to give them my “wise advice” about learning and life.

I was meeting with some students today, and one of them related a conversation had with a professor. The student’s account was of expressing about two hours worth of thoughts to the professor, and that the professor merely listened with enthusiasm and interest. The student’s reaction was absolutely warm and positive. I realize that if I had been in the student’s position, I would probably have felt the same way, and thankful that someone’s character and intellect I respected would let me elaborate my thoughts. I also realized that I have never been that professor: that when a student comes to visit me, I perhaps deliver “sage advice” all too often. If I was a student visiting myself as a professor, I wonder if I would become frustrated? I wonder if I would have “learned” that my thoughts were not good enough? My teaching habits may be at odds with my teaching philosophy goals.

PhiloDave related a story a while back about dealing with “silent students” that is of a similar vein: the desire to get students talking can be distracting and counter-productive for those students, of whom I was a member, who are generally quiet and reflective, and more comfortable thinking through the ideas slowly.

Have you had a similar epiphany? In what ways have you gotten in the way of a student’s learning?

Tuesday Teaching Question

So the mid-term is nearly upon us, as we work our way through week 7 of the semester, and I’m thinking about putting out a survey for the students or gathering anonymous feedback or opening some other channel of communication, just like all the student-centered instructional advice says I ought to do, but, like always, I hesitate. Not out of fear or anything else, but because I have a pretty good idea of what I’ll get if I ask: they’d like their papers back faster, I’m sure; also, less reading; also more reading; also, no pop quizzes (they always seem to come on the one day the student has not read); also, more pop quizzes (to force more people to read); more time with each text; move faster through the material; and so on and so on.

The point is that I don’t seem to get helpful information back, when I give it, and most of the suggestions end up being canceled out (which I guess is potentially informative for the students (i.e., not everyone feels the same way about the class), but I also don’t see how finding such information out would be helpful and it comes at the cost of time when I’m already behind.

So, I guess today’s question is twofold: #1) do you seek feedback from your students mid-semester (or along the way) and if so, what questions do you find provide you with helpful information?

‘Trying to Teach’ Tuesday

This may not appear to be relevant but I’ve been thinking about school uniform requirements and if it would be a good idea to have a dress code at the college level. There is a precedent that leads me to raise the issue: male students are asked to remove their head gear when entering HWC.

I suppose we (an institution of higher learning) are trying to mold our students to be good citizens, right? Maybe we believe this requirement is in keeping with our college mission, right? If this is the case, why not institute a policy requiring students to meet certain dress standards from head to toe. The argument could be made that they are individuals and what they do is their business, not the business of the college or the district; but, isn’t it our business to make sure that our students are prepared to meet the challenges of academic and professional life?

Are we sending mixed signals to our students when we require them to write proper sentences and neglect to require proper attire even though both will compliment their future professional endeavors?

‘Trying to Teach’ Tuesday

I’ve been told that reading a book and “listening to a book on tape” are not the same. In other words, if I read a book from cover to cover, I would understand and absorb the material better than if I were to listen to the same words being read to me by another person. Is this true?

Do you or would you allow your students the option of listening to a book instead of reading a book? What’s the difference? If listening to the spoken word is not valid, then why do we sometimes read passages out of books during class and ask our students to listen?

BTW, ALL faculty may comment; including our retired faculty members.

Tuesday Teaching Question

I’ve been thinking a lot this past weekend, as the semester heads into the final stretch, about the changes I made and experiments I undertook this semester and their consequences. For example, for the first time in a couple of years I made some big revisions to the rubric that I use for short, formative papers, hoping to improve my turn around time on them by forcing myself to use less in-paper commentary and give more feedback via the rubric.

Total disaster.

A couple of other experiments didn’t work out so well either, but that was, easily, the worst of the lot. So, in that confessional spirit, my Tuesday teaching question is a sort of “Worst of” as in, what was the worst thing you did this semester for your classes? What did you try this semester that absolutely didn’t work?

(And if you didn’t try anything new this semester–that was your biggest failure!)

Tuesday Teaching Question

Today’s question is a timely topic, given that we’ve just returned from a break, and it’s a two-fer, to make up for the Tuesday we weren’t here–namely, what is your position regarding work over breaks (and/or weekends) for students?

When there is a long holiday, do you assign extra work? Or are you of the position that students, too, have earned a little time away from their schooling tasks, a little time to get back to their families and their laundry and their social lives?

And what about regular weekends? Do you consider the difference in time when you give assignments? Do you give more work/longer readings/etc., on Wednesdays or Thursdays than you do on Mondays and Tuesdays? Should you? Why? Why not?

Justify yourself. Personally, I go back and forth on the issue, but I never feel right on those times when students have to take an exam or turn in a paper the week after Thanksgiving or whatever. I know that some of them appreciate having the time available to dedicate to the task (time that would “normally” be taken up by classes and work and the rest), but I’m sure that some of them–especially our students with families to take care of–need a little space to recharge amid the 16 week marathon. And so, I turn to you, my trusted peers…convince me so that I might be better henceforth!

Tuesday Teaching Question

So we’re in Week 9, and mid-term grades are due next Monday. I’ve had a few students ask, “How am I doing so far?” this week, and I tell them. I announce to the class when their mid-term grades are turned in and that they can find them on my.ccc.edu by the end of the week that they’re turned in.

Last semester I even (finally) figured out how to post them on Blackboard in the gradebook.

Every year I think about doing more, though. I’d like to hand each student a card with their attendance, their other numbers and some sort of affective feedback (smiley face, frowny face, etc.), but it’s usually about all I can do to get the grading done. I’d really like to have some sort of giant data set (something that says the average attendance for students getting an A at the mid-term was XX% & students getting an A were a jillion times more likely to visit during office hours, etc.), but that isn’t going to happen until I get a lot more organized.

In the spirit of brainstorming and goal setting, though, I’m wondering what y’all do with your mid-term grades. How do students get them? What other information do you give? What do you do and why? And what would you do if time (and load) were not an issue?

Think, Know, Prove

Think, Know, Prove is (going to be) a regular Saturday feature, where a topic with both mystery and importance is posted for community discussion. The title is a shortened version of the Investigative Mantra: What do we think, what do we know, what can we prove? and everything from wild speculation to resource referencing fact is welcome here.

UPDATE: 2/23/10–Bumped back up to the top to try to get more votes

Today’s Topic: Electronic Grade Submission

Why don’t we have it? Rumors have abounded for years–it’s a union thing, it’s a money thing, it’s a Luddite thing, it’s an evil plot, etc. But seriously, why don’t we have the capability, if not the requirement, to submit our grades electronically, like the rest of the schools in the world? I’m not even going to bring up the Day One, and Ten Day lists…(oops; did I just bring those up?)

What do you think, what do you know, what can you prove?

UPDATE: Just to be clear–though you are invited to answer all three questions (rock on, Realist!), doing so is not a requirement…