Tips for promoting effective discussions in your college classroom

by Summer Best
MAMC student, University of Florida

Using discussion as a teaching tool has been shown to be a popular and effective way to reach students academically on many learning levels. The technique allows teachers to pose problems, listen, and challenge, while promoting learning by doing and practice in thinking through problems.

Benefits of Using Discussion

In McKeachie’s Teaching Tips, authors Wilbert J. McKeachie and Marilla Svinicki note several of the following benefits discussion can provide:

  • It helps participants evaluate the logic and evidence of several viewpoints on a topic.
  • It offers opportunities to formulate applications of principles.
  • It develops motivation for future and collaborative learning; provides a catalyst for continued discussion.
  • It allows students to participate in the conversation – as opposed to sitting and listening to lecture.
  • It helps us offer opportunities to make informed, reasoned next actions in a new context.
  • It offers an opportunity to break apart an idea or an ideal and put the concept back together with thoughtfulness and respect for each contributor in the discussion.

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Strategies for improving student learning by promoting intrinsic motivation

by Steve Waters
MAMC student, University of Florida

For my presentation, I discussed motivation types among students and some best practices for encouraging intrinsic motivation in the classroom.

One popular theory when thinking of motivation is the attribution theory, which basically states that when a student seeks explanation for unexpected outcomes, they make attributions about probable causes. You can find a well-written overview from Purdue on attribution theory here:

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How to Write a Multiple Choice Test: Dos and Don’ts

by Holly Cowart
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

The advantages of multiple choice testing include ease of grading and student familiarity with the format. The disadvantages include the fact that students can guess the correct answers and often aren’t tested on higher-order thinking. The time required to develop a good multiple choice test may not be justified in a small course.

DO’s for creating multiple choice exams

  • Randomize correct answers
  • Use parallel construction (in stem and choices)
  • Adapt, not adopt questions
  • Use application
  • Put most of the words in the stem, not the answer
  • Make the stem clear
  • Provide plausible answer choices
  • Write concise answer options (or at least similar in length)
  • Put your answers in logical order
  • Pretest your questions – Wilbert McKeachie recommends having a skilled test-taker who doesn’t know the material take your test

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Strategies for creating university course syllabi

by Julie Dodd

An important part of successful teaching is being able to design an effective course. The foundation of course design is the course syllabus.

In Mass Communication Teaching (MMC 6930), each class member determines an undergraduate communications course to create a syllabus for. Decisions for developing the syllabus include:

understandingbydesignWhat are the Student Learning Outcomes (SLO). Curriculum design and learning theory support determining the big-picture outcomes for the course and letting those guide the course structure and week-by-week instruction and assignments. A very helpful book for this big-picture to small-picture planning is Understanding by Design (Wiggins and McTighe).

How will student learning be assessed. “McKeachie’s Teaching Tips” recommends using several assessment strategies to enable students who have a variety of learning styles to demonstrate what they have learned. Assessment can include quizzes and exams, major papers or projects, team projects, and class participation.

How will the class be structured. A typical course at the University of Florida is three credits and meets three hours each week. The decision is whether the class will meet three times a week for an hour each time, once a week for three hours, or twice a week, meeting for one hour one day and two hours on the other day.

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Student evaluations play major role in assessment of teachers in higher education

by Julie Dodd

Evaluation is part of the education process for both students and instructors.

Student evaluations are a major part of evaluating teaching at most colleges and universities.

At UF, students complete Faculty Course Evaluations every semester. The evaluations are to be completed during the last two weeks of the semester. Instructors have access to their evaluations after UF releases student grades after the semester has ended.

The students are asked 15 questions and rate the instructor on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score. (See questions in sidebar.)

Faculty Course Evaluation questions University of FloridaIn addition, students can provide responses to these open-ended questions:

  • Qualities of instructor which contributed to success of the course.
  • Qualities of instructor which hindered success of the course.
  • Opinions of course, including printed materials.
  • Additional comments to improve overall quality of the course.
  • Any other comments.

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