Providing students with meaningful feedback can greatly enhance learning and improve student achievement. In an Edutopia blog post, Marianne Stenger, provided five research-based tips for providing students with the kind of feedback that will increase their motivation, build on their existing knowledge, and help them reflect on what they've learned. Marianne’s tips are:
Be as specific as possible. Hearing that you did a great job is wonderful. However, the problem with “great job” or “this needs work” is that it is not specific. Provide students with information on what exactly they did well, and what may still need improvement.
The sooner the better. Feedback is most effective when it is given immediately, rather than a few days, weeks, or months down the line.
Address the learner's advancement toward a goal. When giving feedback, it should be clear to students how the information they are receiving will help them progress toward their final goal.
Present feedback carefully. The way feedback is presented can have an impact on how it is received, which means that sometimes even the most well-meaning feedback can come across the wrong way and reduce a student's motivation.
Involve learners in the process. When students have access to information about their performance, they develop an awareness of their learning, and are more easily able to recognize mistakes and eventually develop strategies for tackling weak points themselves.
We were honored and thrilled to read this account of our FaCTS summer seminar from Wiki Ed:
For the ninth year, faculty at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA) have come together to experiment with new pedagogy in their classrooms. Their group, the Faculty Community of Teaching Scholars (FaCTS), is funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation and provides a stipend for participants to explore that year’s theme. The theme for academic year 2017–18 is “Making knowledge public using educational technology.” Dr. Megan Osterbur, who participates in Wiki Ed’s Classroom Program, helped organize this year’s group of selected applicants and saw a clear alignment with Wikipedia assignments. After all, Wikipedia serves as educational technology for student editors and is as public as knowledge gets in 2017.
Michael Feldstein's recent blogpost on Carnegie Mellon's Simon Initiative caught my attention. He was a media fellow for this project and shared three short videos on Learning Science and its importance to educators. So I thought I'd share them here as well. Perhaps you have a few minutes in the summer to squeeze these in and hopefully they'll pique your interest enough to learn more.
"What is Learning Science from an Educator's Perspective?"
"How can Learning Science Improve Teaching?"
"What Learning Science Tells Us About How to Use Educational Technology"
Many students enroll in online courses because they can take online classes at times that are convenient for them and from the comfort of their home. Some students mistakenly think that taking an online class is easier than taking its face-to-face counterpart and they underestimate the amount of time they must invest in taking the online class. When in fact, taking an online class requires students to be self-directed learners.
It is important for the instructor to set the tone for the online course to help students succeed. In a Faculty Focus article, Amy Hankins provided five suggestions to help students succeed in an online course. Those suggestions are,
Provide detailed instructions and anticipate questions – Don’t assume students will be able to read between the lines.
Post Announcements – Show students you are present in the course by providing reminders, clarifications, and overviews to help engage and motive students.
Provide examples and rubrics – This will help to minimize questions and confusion.
Utilize differentiated instructions – Provide students multiple opportunities and formats for learning, including videos, audio lectures, and project choices that help engage and encourage learning for all students and preferences.
Encourage peer support and engagement – Allow students to get to know one another by using an introductory assignment and encourage students to connect throughout the course.
A backchannel communication, in an educational context, is a secondary electronic conversation that takes place at or near the same time as a lecture, instructor-led learning activity, or conference session.
Instructors are finding that using a backchannel can increase student engagement because backchannels allow students to engage in a digital conversation alongside the activity. This is beneficial because a backchannel can provide introverted students with a place to ask questions or make comments without speaking up. Additionally, instructors can share supporting resources such as videos, links to websites and photos through a backchannel. Instructors can ask questions and watch the response of students to determine if they really understand the concepts being discussed. Students can search the backchannel for notes and resources without having to scribble personal notes on paper.
Spoken language has been around longer than written language. Humans have been using our voices for so long we are naturally sophisticated vocal communicators. Yet when we go online, our voices tend to disappear. This is especially evident in feedback on student work that is provided in a digital format as well as in discussions that occur outside of the face-to-face classroom and in online classes. Discussions are generally conducted using text-based discussion forums.
VoiceThread is a web tool that allows you to humanize interactions in an online environment. VoiceThread transforms stale, text-based discussions and feedback by infusing your content and conversations with human presence, just as if the instructor and students were all sitting in the classroom together, but without scheduling a specific time to meet. VoiceThread adds a more personal element to the experience when utilizing the features of commenting via voice. By hearing and seeing the instructor and classmates during a VoiceThread, a familiarity develops that feeds deeper participation. Utilizing VoiceThreads can give you and your students a voice.
Blackboard is sponsoring a series of webinars around the world to mark the 6th annual recognition of Global Accessibility Awareness Day on May 18, 2017. Please follow this link to register for any of the 8 free sessions. Remember that accessibility features, especially in online and hybrid courses, help all students!
In an EdTech Magazine article, Meg Conlan reported that nowadays students are expecting to use technology in college. She referenced a McGraw-Hill Education Workforce Readiness Survey which shows that 52 percent of students surveyed believe that their use of technology during college classes and study sessions will help them secure a job.
As we approach the end of the semester there are a few things you can do in Blackboard to wrap up for the semester.
Download your gradebook
Student access to courses is removed two weeks after the end of a semester. During this process all grade book records are deleted. You should download your gradebook to your local computer after you submit your final grades.
Create a master copy of your course
Courses remain on the Blackboard system for three semesters before they are removed. You can request a Master Course Shell that you can use to develop and maintain your course materials. Master Course Shells will not be removed from the Blackboard system.
Hide old courses from view
When you login to Blackboard you will see your courses for previous semesters listed along with the courses you are currently teaching on the Xavier University and Courses tabs. If you do not want to see older courses in the list, you can hide them from view.
This spring, Dr. Paul Schafer, of Xavier's Philosophy Department, taught a fascinating service-learning course called Aristotle in New Orleans. Taking as his premise Aristotle's idea that we must not only theorize about the meaning of life, but that we must put our ideas into practice, Dr. Schafer led his students through a study of classical texts on rhetoric and ethics, then guided them through eight weeks of community engagement, coaching middle-school debate teams. The culminating event was a day-long debate tournament held on Tulane's campus on Saturday, April 8th, which Dr. Schafer described as a "grueling but fantastic experience," in which his students learned a great deal by seeing their middle-school pupils, from KIPP Believe and Esperanza Middle Schools, engage in formal tournament debate.
Texts for the 2000-level course included portions of Aristotle's The Art of Rhetoric and NicomacheanEthics, Quintilian's Education of an Orator, and Plato's Five Dialogues. The Quintilian text emphasizes the claim that the ideal orator must also be a good person, an idea that ran like a thread through the course. Other discussions included the nature of philosophical argument, the role of argument and virtue in the good life, and Aristotle's claim that happiness is acquired mainly by chance. These ideas were discussed and argued in class, then put to the middle-school debaters as well, thus simultaneously exposing both groups to crucial questions, while providing opportunity to consider their relevance in the context of modern society, all within a supporting framework of formal debate in a school environment.
Outcomes included understanding Aristotle's philosophical method, his concept of ethics, and his vision of the way moral and intellectual virtues are developed. Students also learned what arguments are and how they function to help us think about the deep truths of life and reality – including what it means to live a good life. Then, once in the community, Xavier students learned first-hand the educational challenges that face middle school students in New Orleans. Also, as a result of eight weeks of working in small groups, the New Orleans middle school students gained valuable, engaged educational experience of the kind that has been shown to improve self-esteem and overall academic performance, which in turn leads to greater high-school graduation rates, more chances for success beyond high-school, and far greater chances of staying out of the criminal justice system.
The students coaching at Esperanza collaborated with Tulane students enrolled in a similar class with the same title. For more on that class, check out this interview with its teacher, Dr. Ryan McBride. These types of collaborative efforts provide opportunities to Xavier and Tulane students that have been shown to enhance their educational experience, by teaching skills of teamwork, problem solving, civic engagement, and cultural knowledge--the very skills most needed to thrive in a globalized society. The community engagement with middle schoolers then provides the next generation the same opportunities. Thus, service-learning classes such as Dr. Schafer's help to fulfill the public purpose of universities.