Saturday, October 8, 2016

Lincoln Excellence Returns

A while back I posed the question “What is Lincoln Excellence?” and encouraged you, dear readers, to chime in by taking a survey that asked “How do you practice excellence in your classroom? Give an example of a practice or teaching technique that you feel promotes excellence in teaching and learning.  I promised to share the answers, so here I go:
Seven people answered the question and there were a few common themes:
  •  Emphasize problem solving and teach students how to think, not what to think
  •  Combine some lecture or theory with group work that allows student to solve problems and discuss issues in groups
  • Know the students and respect their opinions – teach students how to respect each other’s opinions
  • Draw on same reading material and sources that are used at other reputable universities.
  • Focus on learning and application rather than route memorization
  • Push students to develop and grow by continually questioning everything
  • Begin on time, use lessons plans to follow a well-developed syllabus, return assignments promptly 
According to the above list, we are absolutely amazing! I would send my child to a school that advertised the above as their goals for teaching and learning.
In the above list, there is one point that jumps out at me the most: Focus on learning and application rather than route memorization. This intrigues me, not only because I think it is extremely important – and probably the underlying reason why I use a lot of problem solving and discussion in all my classes, but because I think it is the most difficult to do well. It is so easy to ask students to memorize facts and then quiz them on those facts. It is much more difficult to come up with good assignments that includes the memorization, but then goes a step further and helps students find meaning in the memorized facts through real world application that helps them expand their learning and hopefully encourages them to become life-long learners. I would love to hear if anybody out there has figured out how to do this well! 
What is your greatest challenge in achieving teaching and learning excellence?
If you intended to reply to the survey three weeks ago, but let it slip too far down into the abyss of your inbox or to-do list, here is another opportunity:
If you prefer to share directly in this blog, please go ahead and add your thoughts on Lincoln Excellence below.


  1. Interesting list! I agree with you about the challenges about "Focus on learning and application rather than route memorization." To the question "What is your greatest challenge in achieving teaching and learning excellence?," my answer is student motivation or willingness to learn.

    Safro Kwame

  2. "Excellence in the classroom". I would like to share a few of my methods aimed at achieving excellence.

    There are challenges to achieving excellence.
    Attendance in the classroom is problematic. Each student has some other issue that is more important than coming to class. Attendance is casual rather than formal.

    A second problem is not having a textbook 'to be on the same page' at the same time.

    The class syllabus is a good coordinating tool to be used in requiring students to do the work expected, whether or not there are brains to be transformed in the classroom. This could be facilitated by further resources and handouts on Moodle and in print.

    The course requirements should be adhered to--reading and comprehension, problem solving from classroom to homework and in-class testing. Students are discouraged from creating a flyer from the Author's answer keys or asking Mr.Google for the answer in both homework and during in-class exam. I have found learning from other authors' textbook a very good way to transfer knowledge in any field. The textbook can be supplemented with videos that may be available.

    The exam rubric, rather than the overall course rubric could be used to monitor the course requirements in the direction of excellence.

    These practices I am using, hoping to achieve excellence through my dedicated students.

    In addition, I ask students to spend most of their time on the things that they value the most (an optimizing principle in resource allocation, economics principle). The second advice I give students is to develop personal learning methods and apply them to their individual learning styles. I have always benefited from a harvest of new knowledge using my methods-- taking notes, summarizing, asking questions, and discovering answers.

    Ganga Ramdas