End-of-term debriefing on big-picture learning

by Julie Dodd

students taking exam in auditorium

At the end of the term, teachers (and students) can get caught up in rush of final assessments and grades. That’s important for officially completing the course, however, we can end the term thinking of the details of the course rather than the big-picture learning experience of our course.

Taking time in one of the last classes of the term for a reflection activity can help both us as teachers and our students have more of a sense of closure and accomplishment.

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Designing effective in-class activities for college classes

by Julie Dodd

In-class activities can be a great learning strategy for the college classroom, but the effectiveness of the activity is based on a number of decisions that you, as the instructor, need to make.

partner activity in classroom

Students work in pairs to practice a skill and get feedback from classmates.

I thought about what makes a classroom activity work well or not work as well as it could when I observed teaching assistants nominated for the Graduate Student Teacher Awards Committee.

In a previous blog post, I’ve written about tips for having successful in-class activities  — “10 strategies for active learning in college classrooms.”

Let me comment on a few of those strategies in terms of classes I’ve observed.

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Tutoring helps college students & their instructors

by Julie Dodd

study group at UF Teaching Center

Study groups at the University of Florida Teaching Center provide students with the opportunity to work on questions they have about course material. Photos from the UF Teaching Center

Most of us who teach undergraduate classes realize at some point during the term that some of our students are not likely to complete the course successfully.

From the student perspective, not only does a low grade impact the student’s GPA but potentially the student’s scholarship, outlook on college, and choice of major.

As instructors, we also know that we don’t have enough time to provide the additional one-on-one assistance needed by those struggling students – helping some master the fundamentals of the course content and helping others be more effective in their approach in studying for exams.

Many colleges and universities offer free tutoring services, recognizing both the students’ needs and the limited time instructors have to provide additional support for every student.

The Teaching Center is the tutoring resource at the University of Florida, providing a range of free tutoring services.

I talked with Dr. Winifred Cooke, Teaching Center Director, about the Teaching Center’s services to help students.

“It is surprising. Good students are the ones who come in for tutoring, not the weak ones,” Dr. Cooke said. “The students who have a B+ but would like to earn an A or students who have a C or B- and want a B or B+ are the ones who seek extra help – not the students who are in danger of not passing the course.”

That’s where instructors can help, Dr. Cooke said, by identifying those students who are having difficulty in the course and encouraging them to seek additional help. Instructors can encourage students to come to office hours but also can direct the students to utilize the resources available through the Teaching Center.

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Adjusting your teaching outlook for classes during Thanksgiving week

by Julie Dodd

Jeanine Capo Crucet NYT commentaryIf you’re a college faculty member, adjunct faculty or teaching assistant, I’d encourage you to read Jennine Capó Crucet’s New York Times commentary about the challenges that Thanksgiving presents for First Generation college students  – How First-Generation College Students Do Thanksgiving Break

Her commentary made me think about adjustments I’d made in my syllabus and teaching outlook during the week of Thanksgiving.

Some students will be in class because they don’t have other options. These students can’t afford to travel home for Thanksgiving and, in some cases, need to stay in town to work. They often are annoyed when their classes are canceled during Thanksgiving week when the university still is open and classes are being held.

Other students, as Crucet noted in her commentary, can only afford to travel home if they book flights for several days before Thanksgiving. So those students will miss class during Thanksgiving week.

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Eliminate (or at least reduce the number of) discipline problems by realizing issue behind the behavior and empathizing

by Julie Dodd

NYT image by Aidan Koch“How do you deal with discipline problems?”

That was a question I was asked when I led a session at the University of Florida’s orientation for new teaching assistants.

That’s not a question that is limited to new instructors. Those of us who are experienced teachers deal with discipline problems, too.

One of the keys to dealing with discipline problems is trying to prevent those problems in the first place.

That’s what drew me to David Kirp’s New York Times article “Don’t Suspend Students. Empathize.” The article deals with student disclipline at the K-12 level, but the heart of the issue is relevant in higher ed, too. Continue reading

Orientation for new teaching assistants at UF – tips for success

UF Orientation for New Teaching Assistants

Here’s the view from the back of Carlton Auditorium during a panel presentation about how to deal with challenging student situations.

by Julie Dodd

Julie Dodd speaking at UF Orientation for New Teaching Assistants

I enjoy helping new teaching assistants be prepared for a good start of their teaching at UF. Photo by Michael Hanna

There’s lots to consider when you’re a new teaching assistant.

That was the take-away for the more than 350 teaching assistants who attended the day-long orientation for new teaching assistants at the University of Florida.

That was a take-away for me, too, as a presenter — as I planned what to share with the new TAs in my talk and also as I listened to the questions the TAs asked during my session and the other orientation sessions I attended.

I talked about developing a checklist of what needs to be accomplished before school starts next week, from meeting with their teaching supervisor to reviewing their online persona/avatar to the classroom where they will be teaching and try out the technology.

I also explained what I’ve coined as the COPE Strategies that can help teachers develop a more student-oriented approach to their teaching.

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Advice for new teaching assistants

by Julie Dodd

jou3109 teaching team

Rich Shumate (on far right) was my lecture assistant for Multimedia Writing. The photo is of the lab instructors for the course.

When Rich Shumate and I met for lunch to celebrate him joining the faculty at Western Kentucky University, one of our topics of conversation was teaching.

As my lecture assistant during his doctoral program, Rich and I had literally hundreds of conversations about teaching, as we planned classes, discussed individual student situations, developed assignments and exams for the 200+ students in Multimedia Writing, and worked with the lab instructors for the course.

Knowing that I was going to be speaking at the University of Florida’s Orientation for Teaching Assistants, I asked Rich what advice he would give new teaching assistants. Here’s the combination of Rich’s advice along with my comments.

Shumate: Always be prepared for class. Don’t just go in and wing it. Your teaching should be planned.

Dodd: Sometimes those who are new to teaching think about professors they had who seemed to spontaneous in their teaching and think that they can be spontaneous, too. But most of the discussions that seemed to be spur of the moment were created by the professor’s questions or objectives for that day’s class. Some really great teaching and learning can happen that isn’t planned in advance, but most good teaching – that leads to students accomplishing the goals of the course – is based on planning and preparation.

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