Teaching Reflections

By writing Teaching Reflections, members of the College community become the voice of the Center of Teaching and Learning. Our biweekly installments reflect on teaching philosophy, the scholarship of teaching and learning, pedagogical techniques, and helpful resources. We strive to engage and inform. Many thanks to all Albion College teachers who have shared their thinking and practice in a Teaching Reflection!

Establishing Powerful Learning Outcomes

Jocelyn McWhirter, Religious Studies

Teaching is all about student learning.  I used to think that it was all about me teaching. But about 10 years ago, I learned otherwise. Since then, I've been adjusting every syllabus so that "course objectives" are stated as learning outcomes.

Feedback

Jocelyn McWhirter, Religious Studies

The week after semester break is always a good time to assess how our courses are going so far. Many of us conduct midterm evaluations so that we can see what's working for our students and what might need a mid-semester tweak. Here's an easy-to-remember format: "stop; start; continue." What can students/instructors stop doing? What are we not doing that we can start doing? What are we doing that we'd like to continue doing?

Here's another useful format for surveying students: With regard to your learning, what's going well? What's going not-so-well? What can you do differently? What can I (the instructor) do differently? In 2011, Peter Frederick kindly shared this format with us. His "Mid-Course Feedback on Student Learning Form" is attached.

Both of these simple surveys can be given in class, using index cards. They take about 5 minutes to complete and usually solicit "actionable" information.

Here's a final thought: feedback now is better than feedback later. Student learning (and grades) might improve, and IDEA survey results might improve as well!

Planning (In)Effective Class Discussions

Jocelyn McWhirter, Religious Studies

I have been planning group discussions for 20 years. I’m familiar with various types of discussions and the kinds of prompts students need to get them thinking at various levels. The ACUE Course in Effective Teaching Practices calls these levels “fact, analysis, inductive, opinion.” I had never intentionally thought in terms of these labels, so I used them to guide discussion-planning for my first-year seminar on the Holocaust. Since most first-year students are very good at fact and opinion, I wanted to create some good prompts for easing my students into analysis and inductive thinking.

Improving Student Performance on Exams

Holly Hill, Kinesiology

I had just given the second exam of the spring semester. The average grade was better than that of the first, so I wanted students to reflect on why it was better and what they could do to keep improving. I decided to use an exam survey.

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