Saturday, September 24, 2016

A minute of feedback to feed forward

Guest Blogger: Bill Donohue

“One thing I learned today was identifying the main idea, supporting details, and topics of a passage.” 
“Don’t enjoy Pump Handle too much because you can get suspended and miss class… Also watch after everyone.”
The two quotes come from the “minute papers” that I have asked my ENG 099 students to write at the end of a class. According to Angelo and Cross, “this versatile technique—also known as the One-Minute Paper and the Half-Sheet Response—provides a quick and extremely simple way to collect written feedback about student learning” (p. 148). I use the formative, classroom assessment technique to gauge the student learning and provide direction for what I need to adjust as we strive to meet our student learning outcomes. I usually ask student about the most important thing they learned in class and/or any questions they have.
This year, the majority of the students have been able to provide an answer that matched my main goal for that lesson. Some students have focused on aspects of the current class that reviewed the main goal from a prior lesson—a message to me to make sure I keep reviewing prior information in class as we build on those concepts and learn new ones. I can address questions during the next class period, email students directly if they provided their name, and provide supplemental information on Moodle that addresses questions and further illuminates course content.
And occasionally, I am reminded of the greater impact we have on our student’s lives. In one class period, as we discussed assignment due dates that coincided with Pump Handle, I slipped into “Dad” mode, laid out scenarios that have affected previous students, and pleaded with students to be both respectful to each other and have each other’s back. More than one student let me know that message was the most important from that day’s class.
Have you used minute papers or similar classroom assessments? How have they been useful for you or how do you think they may be useful for your courses?

Saturday, September 17, 2016

What is Lincoln Excellence in Teaching and Learning?

I find myself throwing around terms like “advancing the legacy” and “Lincoln Excellence” every now and then, especially when I’m trying to convince funding agencies that we are deserving of their attention. The word excellence is even part of the title of the office that I serve; The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

I feel like I have a good grasp on what legacy means; it is the mark that Lincoln has made on the country and world through all its graduates. If we aim to advance the legacy, we simply (or not so simply) keep graduating students that succeed in their disciplines and intentionally work for positive change in their communities and in the world. This can be quantified and measured by the success of our alumni.

Lincoln excellence on the other hand – what is it? Excellence is “the quality of being outstanding or very good” according to Merriam Webster. Are we outstanding in our teaching practices? How do we know? What do we do to be outstanding? Part of me is convinced that we practice excellence in many things that we do in the classroom and beyond. The indirect measure of our excellence is the success of our students past Lincoln. But how can we measure excellence directly? What does excellence in the classroom look like? Is it our ability to engage students and help them learn? How do we know that what we individually consider excellence translates into learning that makes a difference for our students? Does your excellence look similar to my excellence? Are we aiming to educate students that show performance excellence or mastery excellence - the former being the ability to perform well on exams, while the latter includes the ability to use learned material to succeed in life.  Is excellence in a Visual Arts class the same as excellence in a Health Science or Math class? I am intrigued by Lincoln Excellence because I know that we produce outstanding graduates who go on to successfully pursue careers in government, the arts, music, accounting, law, science, medicine etcetera, but if somebody asked me for the recipe for how exactly we do this – and do it well – I would not be able to tell them. Can you?
I would love to read your thoughts on Lincoln Excellence in the classroom and beyond.

How do you practice excellence in your classroom?
Share your thoughts here or in this quick survey:

I will share any survey results in a future blog.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Creating Classroom Community

If your teaching experience is anything like mine, you may have some classrooms where everybody seems to work together and others where it feels like pulling teeth to get a discussion or a group project started. Some classes just seem to click, while others are as much a struggle at the end of the semester as they were in the beginning. Multiple surveys and educational research results that span K through Higher Education indicate that an engaging and welcoming classroom atmosphere, where students know and support each other, promotes learning (references listed below). It makes sense: wouldn’t you rather attend a class when you feel welcome, the professor and students know you, and you feel like you belong?

So what can we do to create a classroom community? Well, there are the obvious little things; learning the students’ names, asking them how they are doing, inquiring about their dorms and the cafeteria, celebrating athletic wins and commiserating over defeats. (If you watched the football game against Cheney last Thursday you may already have practiced commiseration this semester!) Those are all things that may help the students warm up to you, but how do you get them to know and trust each other? Creating a true classroom community takes intention and time on part of the instructor, but it is a time-investment that may be well worth it if you plan to use active learning techniques and group work in your class. In her article titled Love the One Your With: Creating Classroom Community, Cynde Geroge shares a radical approach that worked for her:

Are you intentional about creating classroom communities in your classes? If you are, what do you do? Please share so that we can learn from each other.

If you are interested in testing out a community-creating activity, join us on Thursday 9/15/16  (LHML 309 at 11:15 am). We will discuss what works and what doesn’t and you will be invited to share some techniques that work for you. If time allows, we will also scratch the surface of differences among creating school communities, classroom communities and learner communities.

Selected references on correlation between classroom community and academic achievement:
Holland, T., & Pithers, R. (2012). Enhancing Classroom Communities and Course Engagement. Learning, 28(27.1), 28-36. Retrieved from
Reyes, M. R., Brackett, M. A., Rivers, S. E., White, M., & Salovey, P. (2012). Classroom Emotional Climate, Student Engagement, and Academic Achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104(3), 700-712. Retrieved from
Wighting, M., Nisbet, D., & Spaulding, L. S. (2009). Relationships between Sense of Community and Academic Achievement: A Comparison among High School Students. The International Journal of the Humanities, 7(3), 63-72. Retrieved from​