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    Douglas Petrick
Douglas Petrick
Physics Teacher, Pittsburgh, PA

Following up on my most recent post, Professional Learning Communities: What’s In It for Me? I discuss how I work within a Professional Learning Community to develop best practices for coaching high school track and field. My goal is to provide concrete examples backing up the five tips listed in the article. Are you part of a PLC related to teaching or any other area in which you desire to grow your professional skills? I'd like to hear about how it has helped you learn and succeed in new ways.

 

 

Image Credit: pexels/startupstockphotos.com

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An End-of-Term Crossword Puzzle

Posted Dec 28, 2017
    Christopher Ruel
Christopher Ruel
Community and Social Marketing, Wiley

Congratulations on finishing the academic term! Hopefully you are enjoying a well-deserved break. Enjoy this end-of-term themed crossword puzzle as you relax and recharge for the year ahead. Good luck and happy New Year!

 

Our Top Ten Educate Posts of 2017

Posted Dec 20, 2017
    Christopher Ruel
Christopher Ruel
Community and Social Marketing, Wiley

The holidays will soon be here, and that means family, friends, and some well-deserved rest. But the weeks leading up to all the fun can be stressful as you wrap up your classes, grade finals, and prepare for next term. Here are five things you can do to ease your angst and stay happy and healthy for the holidays and beyond.

 

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Just Do It.

While it might be funny to twist the old saying about procrastination into: “Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow;” but delaying the inevitable can wreck your health. A recent article on theladders.com, states: “A study published earlier this year by Bishop’s University explored the link between chronic procrastination and stress-related health issues. The researchers found a strong link between procrastination and hypertension and heart disease, as procrastinators experienced greater amounts of stress and were more likely to delay healthy activities, such as proper diet and exercise.” That’s no joke. As much as the thought of grading another set of exams hurts your head, you can do it, but first, keep reading.

 

Get the Balance Right.

According to Business Insider, there are several ways to maintain a positive work/life balance during the holidays. However one suggestion stood out: “Be 100% present with your time [by] setting specific days or times in your schedule to commit yourself solely to work, and the rest of your time to your personal life. Whatever you do, don’t stray from that. If you find yourself trying to do a little work here and there over the holidays, you will find yourself distracted, inefficient, and unproductive.” Remember those final exams that need grading? Set apart a specific amount of time to work, and when that time is up, put the red pen down.

 

Keep Healthy.

The Philadelphia Tribune posted an article outlining five ways to remain healthy during the holidays. In short, the period between Halloween and New Years is a perfect storm of unhealthiness--if you’re not careful. The stress, the carbs, the parties, combined with the onset of cold and flu season can take the joy out of the holidays. However, by eating well, taking time to laugh (laughter is the best medicine for stress), remaining moderate in your food and alcohol intake, and finding time to exercise, you’ll take significant steps in avoiding a severe case of the sniffles.

 

Give Yourself a Present.

When you need a push in the right direction, use the proverbial carrot rather than the stick. When you get those exams graded, reward yourself for the positive accomplishment. Need ideas for motivators/rewards? You can find plenty online to suit your lifestyle, personality, and budget. Here are five simple reward/motivators to consider: 1) Read that book you’ve had your eye on; 2) Waste time online. Go ahead and take the quiz or watch the funny video; 3) Buy some fresh flowers to brighten your home or office; 4) Watch a movie; 5) Shut out the noise around you and meditate.

 

Stay Positive.

Keep your interior message positive when things might not be going as well as you would like. If a student or colleague told you they were having a tough time staying afloat during the hectic holiday season, you might offer words of encouragement. Remember to give yourself the same advice!

 

How do you stay centered as the end of the term approaches? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Image Credit: Hero Images / Getty Images

 

    Douglas Petrick
Douglas Petrick
Physics Teacher, Pittsburgh, PA

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What is a PLC?  Depending whom you ask, or what you read, you will get a few different interpretations. Regardless of the description, there is one common thread within the functioning mechanism for a Professional Learning Community—collaboration. Members of the PLC use experience and discussion to develop a more intelligent approach to teaching students.

 

PLC’s are more than an initiative du jour. They’re a powerful way for you to discuss best practices for teachers in the classroom. They needn’t be formal in nature. Envision three to five teachers meeting once a month for a ten-minute session discussing one specific aspect of their teaching. Here, the quality of the collaboration, not the quantity of the collaboration, is key. As you get more comfortable within your Professional Learning Community, then your group can modify the parameters of each session as needed. In the end, a PLC can be a valuable experience that enhances what you already do well for your chosen craft.

 

Working within a PLC provides different perspectives about why you do what you do. From a teaching viewpoint, a Professional Learning Community guides each member to think clearly and explain his or her point of view. Think about it like you are “vetting” decisions about teaching through the PLC collaborative process. As a coach of high school athletes, I’ve learned much from informal discussions with my coaching peers related to best practices. In essence, this group is a Coaching Professional Learning Community.

 

Utilize your Professional Learning Community and fuel your creative energies by following the five tips below. Whether you’re knee-deep in a Professional Learning Community or this is your first time around the block, these collaborative principles will help you navigate the road to enriching your own educational work.

 

  1. Create a Professional Learning Community with a slightly diverse cross section of members to benefit all stakeholders.
    Model diversity. Obviously each member of your PLC has a commonality, but each individual should bring a slightly different perspective to the table. Diversity in the PLC ensures each decision you make and discussion you have is seen through different lenses to benefit the entire collective.
  2. Plan with a specific end goal in mind and keep all the stakeholders focused on a common target throughout the process.
    Create a detailed goal and keep your Professional Learning Community on track. There’s nothing more discouraging than sitting in a meeting and thinking “what’s the point of this?” Focus on the specificity of the goal, and communicate more about the process to the PLC.  How many steps will it take to achieve the goal?  Is this goal for one subset of students?  How do you classify achievement of the goal?  It’s easier to identify the steps towards success when the focus of the goal is pinpointed. Here’s an example: One very general goal we have each year for the high school cross country team is to “get better.” A more specific objective is for our athletes to be able to run the last 1600-meter segment of the 5k cross-country high school distance, which is aerobic in nature, as the fastest portion of the race. Detail within that target then leads us to discussing building the aerobic engine, getting athletes used to running faster during the last third of a workout, improving general strength, and developing speed throughout the season. 
  3. Leave with actionable items between collaboration sessions to stress individual accountability.
    Formulate actionable items within your Professional Learning Committee and create a seamless flow in between cooperative gatherings. When each member of the team leaves a session with a few actionable items, it adds to personal accountability.  Simply put, this provides each member of the PLC to take an active role in the process and sets the table for the next step.

  4. Consider the opposing viewpoint and facilitate meaningful dialogue within your Professional Learning Community.
    Perspective is a powerful tool when thinking through a solution.  Consider the antithesis of the obvious answer when problem solving.  Look outside of the box, work through your view and the opposing view, and be receptive to arguments presented by members of your PLC. Listening and communicating in a respectful manner cuts through any personal agendas to formulate better solutions.

  5. Identify best practices for educational delivery within the Professional Learning Community to improve the culture in the classroom.
    Since teaching content in the classroom is just half the battle, focus on best practices for content delivery. Zooming in on instructional strategies within your Professional Learning Community identifies the most effective techniques.  No matter the subject area or class level you teach, proper delivery of material pulls students into a lesson to improve the culture of the classroom.

 

Are you a part of a formal or informal Professional Learning Community?  What tips do you have in regards to collaborating with your peers?  I’d love to hear about your interactions and tips for educator collaborations.  Post a comment in the space below, and I will be sure to connect with you.

 

Doug Petrick holds an Architectural Engineering degree from Pennsylvania State University and a Masters of Arts in Teaching from California University of Pennsylvania. He is currently a high school Physics teacher at Upper St. Clair High School in Pittsburgh. Doug will be regularly contributing to a series for educators on Wiley Network offering practical advice and instructional strategies.

Image Credit: pexels/startupstockphotos.com

 

    Clay Stobaugh
Clay Stobaugh
CMO and Executive Vice President, Wiley

A little over a week ago, I joined political and business leaders from 21 countries around the world in Danang, Vietnam for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit aka Asia Pacific’s version of Davos. The star-studded speaker list included the likes of China's President Xi Jinping, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and many others. In total, over 1,500 delegates congregated in this beachside town in central Vietnam to advance solutions to ensure more equitable growth across the region, in particular through collaboration in fair trade, education and skills development as well as public health and science.

 

Wiley was invited not just as a participant but as a convener of government, academia and industry and a leading voice on education and science in APEC over the past decade. I started the week with a prominent group of leaders at the inaugural APEC University Leaders’ Forum. Organized by the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) and co-sponsored by Wiley, this gathering of over a dozen top universities across the Asia Pacific featured a wide ranging discussion on how educational institutions and the private sector can work together to address the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

 

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Wiley chief marketing officer Clay Stobaugh sharing Wiley’s experience working in APEC (left to right: CEO and President of C&M International Ambassador Robert Holleyman; Clay Stobaugh; President of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Tony Chan; Founder & CEO of Malong Technologies Huang Dinglong; President of Korea University Jaeho Yeom; PwC China and Hong Kong China lead Frank Lyn)

 

Today, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing the way we live and work through digital technology— from big data and artificial intelligence to machine learning.  And while the Fourth Industrial Revolution offers huge potential benefits, it also poses challenges as companies, governments, educational institutions and society at large adapt to sometimes painful disruption.

 

I was able to share Wiley’s experience in addressing one of the challenges in the Fourth Industrial Revolution – the shortage of skilled employees, especially in the area of data science and analytics (DSA).  In recent years the world has seen an immense growth in demand for DSA-skilled workers. A 2015 survey of more than 400 companies in 10 countries revealed that approximately 43% of DSA vacancies remain unfilled. A study from Teradata this year shows that the shortage of data scientists amounts to around 1 million in the Asia-Pacific, which risks seriously constraining economic growth.

 

In particular, I shared our work and learnings over the past year in launching Project DARE (Data Analytics Raising Employment) in APEC with the U.S. Department of Labor and the Business-Higher EDUCATION Forum. The concept of DARE is simple: bring employers from the region together to directly meet with university leaders and policymakers who are trying to develop DSA curricula, programs, and degrees, and launch a dialogue on what competencies are most critical to industry’s current and future needs. Fifty experts from Google, PwC, IBM, leading universities and many other stakeholders met in Singapore in May to develop a set of ten “Recommended APEC Data Science and analytics Competencies” which today are being adopted and leveraged by educational institutions as they build their curricula and programs to equip students with some of the most sought-after skills in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

 

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APRU announcing commitments to partner with Project DARE and others

(left to right: APEC Education Network Coordinator Wang Yan; Wiley Chief Marketing Officer Clay Stobaugh; APRU Secretary General Chris Tremewan; Chairman of Elsevier Youngsuk 'YS' Chi)

 

Other speakers at the University Leaders’ Forum shared their experiences in addressing challenges and harnessing opportunities in this new age, from identifying ways to leverage artificial intelligence, to using big data to come up with medical diagnoses for patients.

 

As part of the program, Andrew Grant, a Wiley Network speaker and co-author of The Innovation Race: How to change a culture to change the game and international bestseller Who Killed Creativity?... And How Can We Get It Back? gave a keynote address on the different perspectives we can use to look at the “innovation race” and how that shapes our thinking and work culture.

 

apec 04.pngAndrew Grant, a Wiley Network speaker and co-author of The Innovation Race: How to change a culture to change the game along and international bestseller Who Killed Creativity?... And How Can We Get It Back? gives a keynote address on the different perspectives we can use to look at the “innovation race” and how that shapes our thinking and work culture.

 

The host of the forum, the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), a network of leading universities in the APEC economies, concluded the event by announcing a series of commitments, including partnering with APEC’s Project DARE to “bridge the looming skills gap in Data Science & Analytics (DSA).”Thanks to the enthusiasm generated in Danang, more activities can be expected in 2018 as universities and businesses seek to identify further ways to collaborate and ensure the Asia Pacific workforce is as prepared as ever to thrive in this new digital age.

 

Image Credit: Tracey Huang

 

    Laura Goldsberry
Laura Goldsberry
Marketing Manager, Wiley

Ensuring students are engaged and taking ownership of their learning can be a difficult task for any instructor—no matter the discipline. Employing any or all of these strategies—each submitted by an instructor in our WileyPLUS community—can help promote self-regulated learning in your classroom.

 

    Diane Rubino
Diane Rubino
Adjunct Instructor, New York University
Course Associate, Columbia University

My brain reached overload and stopped functioning during an exhausting all-day seminar. I snapped out of my stupor in an instant when I realized my fingers were texting, almost automatically. I’m no digital native and resisted smart phones for years. However, I learned in that moment that I was unwittingly captivated by the technology. Restlessness, boredom, or fatigue now signaled the need to exit the environment in pursuit of stimulation. Experiencing the cell’s powerful pull re-confirmed my thoughts about technology in the classroom: it should be a largely device-free zone*.

 

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No Cells Allowed

Before I started teaching, I read in a Princeton University tip sheet of the simple but somehow revolutionary idea that I could craft my own technology policy. So I announced in my first-ever class session that it would be an electronics-free zone. I literally heard a gasp.

 

Now my welcome-to-the-course email sent a week before school starts mentions my e-policy. A short break midway through the two-and-a-half-hour session allows everyone to catch up with the outside world. Technology’s tug, however, means phones surface on occasion during the semester. It’s rare, but at times I’ll see someone texting. Echoing my own experience of being hypnotized by the phone, these students describe themselves as prey.

 

“It’s my mom. She always forgets that I have class tonight,” one student told me. “My friends are always texting me,” another said. I ask them to put the phone away, mentioning my own experience and the need to keep cells out of sight.

 

I also added an e-policy review a few weeks into the term. I invite students to discuss the rule, asking them to think aloud about the rationale.

 

There’s no need for texting in my course, so there’s no need for cell phones.

 

Laptop Notetaking: Anecdote and Evidence

Though I avoid lengthy lectures, students regularly jot down ideas—on paper. I know other instructors endorse laptops for note taking. I do not.

 

Because of this discrepancy with my peers, I turned to the research conducted over the past five years to learn what the experts say. The peer-reviewed literature on electronics in the classroom is expansive. So, though by no means a proper review of the occasionally contradictory journal articles, here’s a short list of themes that caught my attention:

 

Nonacademic use is common

Though most studies rely on self-reports, researchers who measured classroom Internet use with a proxy server showed that goofing off was common, even when students know their use is monitored.

 

Average final exam scores of those assigned to classrooms allowing computers were lower than the scores of their e-free peers among randomly selected sections of a West Point introductory economics course.

 

“Even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing,” say researchers who conducted three studies.

 

I’m also in a group of key stakeholders that can be adversely impacted by classroom laptop use: instructors. I get clues about students when I can check their expressions for understanding, boredom, curiosity, or anything else I need to know. I also resist being tasked with policing computers. Monitoring screens—either actively or passively by accidentally noticing non-classroom use—and calling out the inevitable distracted user puts me in a taskmaster role instead of allowing me to focus on the subject.

 

My confidence in my evidence-based laptop policy was reinforced recently. I visited a class in which I was introduced by the professor as a proctor and grader. Though I was presented as an authority—and thus someone with control over part of their grade—a student in front of me browsed Home Depot in a dreamy state for most of the session.

 

Not Even A Blip On Student Radar

My students now take the e-free-zone in stride, even though I have to occasionally refresh their memory about the policy. Over the past four years, I received one compliment from a student who told me that nonacademic use of laptops in other courses was distracting. I also got one suggestion that laptops be permitted.

 

On my side of the desk, my rules have become less stringent. Although infrequent, I sometimes ask students to check the web for some factoid. At times they use laptops to take tests or do group exercises. Perhaps because I have a strict approach to technology, I’ve not yet seen anyone using their laptops for personal use.

 

Although I have a bias, the research I described and my own experience support a nearly e-free zone. My perspective also matters in this equation. If I believe computers negatively impact my ability to connect with students, it will. So, with a slight evolution in thinking about electronics over the past few years, I experience the e-free policy as a classic win-win: good for me, good for students.

 

* In the unlikely event of an emergency notification by text, my own discretely positioned phone is on. Further, school-sanctioned modifications for those with disabilities would supersede my policy, though I’ve never received a request for a student to use a laptop for note taking.

 

Image Credit: stock.tookapic.com

 

    Christopher Ruel
Christopher Ruel
Community and Social Marketing, Wiley

I recently spoke to Danielle Dillinger, a graduate assistant at the Richards College of Business at the University of West Georgia, and asked her to give us an inside look at the life of 21st –century graduate teaching assistant. Danielle delivers a few tips and encouragement for graduate students considering the role.

 

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Q. What is the most satisfying aspect of being a Graduate Teaching Assistant?

A. The most satisfying part of being a GTA, for me, is the ability to use my passions to help other students. My undergraduate degree is a B.B.A. in Management Information Systems. I love technology—all aspects of it. I have many students coming to me that struggle to grasp the topics in Computer Information Systems Management courses. I find a lot of joy in being able to help students see why I am so passionate about information systems and help them gain a deeper understanding of the topics.

 

Q. How did it feel to take on the responsibilities of GTA?

A. From the time I was 15, I continuously held a job, so taking on different responsibilities does not overwhelm me. Instead, I gain pride in knowing that I am fulfilling my given role while furthering my knowledge through new experiences.

 

Q. What are the challenges?

A. Sometimes students think that because I am also a student, I will let them get away with things a professor would not allow. For example, during tests, I have found students attempting to use their phones more often when it’s just me in the room versus when a professor is also present.

 

Q. What strategies/tactics do you use to overcome or mitigate the challenges?

A. I have found that explaining and setting down the ground rules before the beginning of a test or assignment helps lower the number of incidents involving inappropriate behavior. I have learned to start tests by letting students know that using phones and looking at other papers are cheating and forms of academic dishonesty. The students in the class know that if I catch them cheating, I will inform the professor. Since it is the professor’s classroom and not mine, the dishonest student’s fate will be determined by my supervisor—and that’s very serious.

 

Q. What did you learn between when you started as a GTA and now?

A. I have learned to say “yes” more. As a GTA, I have been given several opportunities to volunteer or work different events on campus. In the beginning, I didn’t always jump at the idea due to my hectic schedule. Each time I said “yes,” I gained valuable knowledge and the opportunity to network, both of which were invaluable experiences for me.

 

Q. How do you balance your own priorities as a graduate student with GTA responsibilities?

A. I learned at an early age to make every second count. My supervisor allows me to work on homework whenever I have downtime, which helps since I have a hectic schedule. In addition to working as a teaching assistant, I have a second job in IT at a local company. I schedule out everything I need to do each week, including study and homework time. Scheduling has taught me discipline, a vital skill I need for current and future success.

 

Q. What tips would you give to new GTA’s?

A. Utilize your time properly; if you are not busy, or have a break between tasks, ask your supervisor if it would be okay to work on your homework. In my experience, most have not minded. Using my “down time” productively has enabled me to get a jump-start on projects. Spare time is precious when you have a busy schedule.

 

Q. Do you have any final thoughts that you want others to know?

A. If you are considering a GTA position, I highly encourage you to go for it. Working as a graduate teaching assistant empowered me to grow, learn, and so much more. Being a GTA is far more than a job, it is an entire experience that I would have regretted missing!

 

Danielle is pursuing an MBA in Business Intelligence and Cyber Security and currently works as an intern with the EDI group at Southwire Company, in Carrollton, GA.

 

How to Help Struggling Students

Posted Oct 25, 2017
    Christopher Ruel
Christopher Ruel
Community and Social Marketing, Wiley

We’ve all encountered hardworking students who, for whatever reason, are not grasping the material. What strategies do you use to identify these students early on, to keep them from falling further behind?

 

Lena Brigance, WileyPLUS Implementation Specialist, shares an experience of turning a negative outcome around.

 

Take a Deep Dive into a Challenging Topic

A few years ago, I was teaching an Income Tax Preparation class and I had a student who maintained a B average or better in the class. That was until we got to the chapter on depreciation. This student asked to talk with me after class one night and she indicated she was going to drop out of the class because she felt like the topic was too difficult for her. She was a pretty strong student and I felt that with some extra effort she would be able to grasp the material. We discussed her concerns and we decided to schedule a meeting outside of class to review the material further. We sat down for about two hours on a Sunday afternoon and worked through some exercises and reviewed the depreciation tables from the Internal Revenue Service in a little more detail. After our meeting, she decided to remain in the class.

 

While it was a little extra time on my part, it was worth it for the student as she passed the course with flying colors. I see her occasionally and she still thanks me for helping her get through that class.

 

More Tips from Educators

 

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Communication

Talk to your students. What are they struggling with outside of the classroom? Are they overwhelmed by work or family commitments? Perhaps they could use some coaching around time management. Or, a more difficult question involves asking for an honest answer about how much effort they are putting into studying. Feel free to ask these questions to get an understanding of how you may be able to help.

 

Reassurance

How many of your students are first generation college attendees? Sometimes these students become very concerned when they don’t get the material right away. Reassuring them that learning takes place over a period of time aids their ability in setting realistic expectations.

 

The Tutoring Center

Directing students to the campus tutoring center is not an abnegation of your responsibilities as an educator, nor does it mean you are bad at communicating the material. Different people explain concepts in different ways and if a tutor puts a unique spin on a topic, and the student “gets it,” then that’s a win for everybody.

 

What’s the Motivation?

Students usually have a motivation for taking a course. It may be as simple as “I have to” in the case of required courses. Others may have a deep desire to learn and have chosen your class as an elective. Then there are the students who are highly motivated by grades because they realize their next step depends on a certain level of achievement. If you see a student struggling, ask him/her what it is they want to get out of the course. From there you can work on a success plan.

 

Step into My Office … Or Perhaps, Let’s Get Some Coffee

Knocking on your office door and saying “I’m having a difficult time understanding the material” can be daunting for some students. Encourage them to visit you in a way that communicates your willingness to help. Maybe the first time they’ll do a “drive by” and notice that there are a few other students hanging about and waiting their turn. They will see they’re not alone. If you notice a student doing multiple “drive bys,” maybe the office setting is intimidating. Suggest a neutral place on campus such as a café or the library, where you can meet.

 

Studying is a Skill

Many students don’t know how to study effectively. Highlighters, Post-it notes, color-coded tabs within binders, etc., may not be part of a student’s study toolbox because they weren’t taught to use such items. A little advice on how to get themselves organized and incorporate best practices can go a long way.

 

Some Food for Thought

1. What do you do when you see a student struggling?

2. What resources do you make available or offer students when they ask for additional help?

 

Share your own strategies or struggles in the comments below.

 

Image Credit: Hero Images

 

What Is HyFlex Course Design?

Posted Oct 19, 2017
    Amanda Rosenzweig
Amanda Rosenzweig
Instructor, Delgado Community College

I’ve recently taught a course that utilizes HyFlex Course Design and see some advantages to this model. In the HyFlex course design, students can choose to attend face-to-face synchronous class sessions or complete course learning activities online without physically attending class. Hyflex can provide student engagement at the time they see/hear the material. Since HyFlex is online and F2F, there are comprehension checks towards objectives from learning activities that are integrated between online and F2F. The same objective is being measured with similar difficulty regardless of delivery mode.

 

Practicing HyFlex Design

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While there are different practicing definitions of HyFlex, I worked on a grant that focused on flexible attendance with due dates. Students can choose to attend face-to-face meetings and earn weekly participation points or complete equivalent work online and earn participation points. There are due dates for the online set of materials to ensure students stay on task.

 

To prepare students for the face-to-face meeting or online activities, they have Before Class Work (BC), which closes on a specific date. The next set of activities is In Class Work or In Lieu of in class (online work). Once In Class or In Lieu of In Class is complete, they have After Class Assignments to bring the weeks objectives together (AC).

 

Both sets of activities (in class or in lieu of class) will cover the same objectives, but the format is different and the activities will reflect the difference in format – online versus face-to-face.

 

HyFlex Design in Laboratory Settings

I have been on teams that focus on laboratory skills and experiments. I believe this format can be an excellent alternative to your traditional labs. The students will have modules created that address BC (preparation) work, IC hands on laboratory skills and AC work to bring it all together. Once the BC work for the assignment is completed, the students will have access to the IC laboratory experiment. The AC work will open up once the IC work (lab report, results, troubles and successes) is submitted on the LMS. For this to be successful, laboratories must be accessible to students and ideally there would be a lab manager on duty to help facilitate and answer student questions.

 

Feedback Is Important

Regardless of class type (lecture or laboratory), each module should have a formative assessment that allows students to discuss the pros and cons of the HyFlex format as well as feedback about the content.

 

Questions to ponder:

  1. Would this format be something you would consider using?
  2. How can this format support student's needs and wants in and out of the classroom?
  3. What are the implications for teaching and learning built on the HyFlex model?

 

Have you used Hyflex Course Design? Would you consider using it? Share you thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

 

Image Credit: SuperStock

 

    Diane Rubino
Diane Rubino
Adjunct Instructor, New York University
Course Associate, Columbia University

diego cervo istockphoto_105937122_Rubino_Reading.jpg“I didn’t do the reading,” said Taylor (a pseudonym) with a nervous laugh. Our casual chat in a student lounge undoubtedly contributed to her openness. Most students are not as forthcoming despite their obvious lack of preparation.

 

I discovered this is often the end of the discussion for my peers when I solicited advice about improving reading adherence. “They’re graduate students,” they’d say. “They read the material or they don’t.” Despite the laissez faire coating, most conversations with instructors are incomplete until someone complains that the students aren’t keeping up with assignments.

 

At first I didn’t give much attention to whether my class did the homework either. I put my mind to finding good resources, assuming students would do the work. But they didn’t. Clearly that put a damper on learning. It also made classes more wooden. I had to rely on lecture rather than in-class engagement and exercises—both of which are predicated on completed assignments. I decided that if it was worth worrying about the lack of adherence—or even assigning texts at all—I should revisit my hands-off approach to reading.

 

Thought Evolution

Learning individual names early by requesting a profile and selfie was instrumental in drawing them out. When a question fell flat or someone wasn’t participating I called on them by name. If students knew they were going to be asked about the homework, they were more likely to do it.

 

In larger classes, I asked students to keep track of the number of comments made by their classmates to ensure I knew who was participating. Because this task was rotated, it also gave students the chance to know their peers better and be more focused on discussions.

 

Still, I suspected compliance was irregular. (Though, truthfully, I’d never actually asked who did the work.) I wanted another method to motivate the students to read the material. This decision was influenced by contemporary textbooks, which are very different than what I was used to as a student. An introductory writing text I just considered is about 475 pages. When I went to school, a book that size was primarily found in law or medical schools. That thick text is intimidating even for me—and I know the subject.

 

Prelude to a Change

In deciding what to do next, I had a few frank “the-semester’s-over-and-the-grades-are-submitted” conversations in which I asked students what was happening. There wasn’t soul-searching, just a neutral expression that their classmates didn’t do the work. Although not what I wanted to hear, I had to admit that my own compliance was spotty when I was their age.

 

So I checked in with friends, especially teachers who went back to graduate school as adults. Their advice was particularly important because they were recently in school and had current, relevant experience. The consensus was that a moderate amount of material and an activist approach to reading adherence helped them learn.

 

Reimagining Support

Like Goldilocks in a classroom, I went through many permutations to find the right level of support. For example, I gave easy, short, weekly quizzes. If you’ve done the homework, I reasoned, you’ll know the answers. A mature student dissuaded me from that position. She pointed out that asking specific questions tended to test memory rather than understanding.

 

Given that fair critique, I switched to mimicking an exceptional colleague versed in teaching critical thought. I asked for 5-minute in-class papers articulating students’ opinions of the key takeaways of the readings. This swung the pendulum back toward loose. I got answers that were true but superficial, ideas that seemed to be based on a quick skim. The next semester I returned to quizzes that asked specific questions, but allowed students to use their notes.

 

All of these ideas worked to some degree and, I believe, are worth trying. But none felt exactly right for my classes.

 

So I went to my convenience sample of Facebook friends with the question: What are your tips, ideas*, etc. for getting graduate students to do course reading? Many posted ideas about what helped them as students, which seems especially credible.

 

In addition to a graduate student’s reminder for instructors to stay on top of their own reading(!), here are some other thoughts:

 

  • Have each student take notes on the readings as part of their homework and share these thoughts with a small group during an in-class discussion.
  • Ask for a written reflection/journal on the material. Have students publish their reactions on the course site and comment on a set number of other posts.
  • Require a short summary of the homework, spot-checked for accuracy, be sent to the instructor before the class.
  • Task students with running a discussion of the readings.
  • Distribute questions about the readings the week before—and then use them to generate conversation.

 

Helping Students Succeed

Many of the instructors I’ve spoken with are understandably uninterested in a hands-on approach. For myself, I think I’m especially motivated by my own foibles. My fundamental belief is that students want to do the work, just like I did. Most sign up with the intention of staying on top of the assignments and learning as much as possible. Then L-I-F-E gets in the way. Offering support is a call to their original, better angels. They, like me, need some extra help now and then to stay on the right path.

 

* I’m grateful for smart ideas from Monica Grant, Lauren Jessell, Heidi Jones, Maya Mesola, and Laura Spess.

 

Image Credit: Diego Cervo / iStockPhoto

 

    Douglas Petrick
Douglas Petrick
Physics Teacher, Pittsburgh, PA

In this week’s podcast, I offer more advice on increasing class participation and facilitating student dialogue. Listen and share how you encourage participation in the comments below.

 

 

Read my post E Pluribus Unum: What Social Studies Taught Me About Teaching.

GettyImages-519588486.jpg

    Douglas Petrick
Douglas Petrick
Physics Teacher, Pittsburgh, PA

In this week’s podcast, I delve into five tips to increase class participation and facilitate student dialogue by taking cues from social studies class. Whether you are a secondary education teacher or a college-level instructor, these tips are time-tested and suitable for many classroom settings.

 

 

Feel free to share your tips for increasing classroom participation in the comments below.GettyImages-519588486.jpg

One Educator's Letter to Students

Posted Sep 22, 2017
    Amanda Rosenzweig
Amanda Rosenzweig
Instructor, Delgado Community College

At the beginning of the semester, I find it useful to write my students a letter. Not only does this help students get to know me better personally, it helps me to set expectations and the overall tone for the course.

 

Below is an example of one of my letters to students. Feel free to share your own letters or messages to students in the comments below.

 

Hi Class,

 

RosenzweigLetter_Eugenio Marongiu_shutterstock_147979856.jpgMy name is Amanda Rosenzweig and I will be your instructor for your lecture course this semester. Most students call me “Dr. R”.

 

Many times students enter classrooms with the fear their teacher may not be approachable. I want to minimize these worries so you can have a successful semester both academically and internally. To do this, I want you to know about me as a person

 

I received my B.S. in Biology, with an art minor, from William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri; my M.S. in Biology with an emphasis on herpetology (amphibians and reptiles) from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, in Monroe, Louisiana; and I have my Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of New Orleans.

 

My interests include the teacher’s influence on students, and specifically the difference in student attrition and grade distributions between online and face-to-face biology courses.

 

I am currently a Full Professor in Biology at Delgado Community College in New Orleans where I teach a variety of biological courses. I also serve as the Canvas Administrator for the College.

 

I love exploring different educational theories that may help me improve the retention in my classroom and help my students develop better learning styles. I have an academic crush on John Dewey and Howard Gardner. If you are ever interested in either theorist-GOOGLE.

 

So, that’s enough about my academic interests, let’s get to the interesting stuff. I am the “crazy dog” lady. I am so passionate about animals that until recently five animals lived with me. In May and in September, two of my fur-babies passed away. I still have three lovable babies, though: Phareaux (a Miniature Pinscher), Osiris (a Doberman), and Squeaks (a Chihuahua). I love fostering Dobermans until they can find a forever home. I also lease a horse that I ride and jump with almost every day. His name is Dandy and he is a beautiful Appaloosa Gelding.

 

I am very active. I love to hike, kayak, and play most sports. I never miss a Saints game. Since art was my minor in college, I paint when I have time and have even sold a few. I am a devout believer in giving back to others. I participate in many charitable functions, from cancer walks to pet adoptions.

 

I am a firm believer in work hard/play hard; however, to reward yourself you have to dedicate yourself to your studies. I am available to help you every day during my office hours or by appointment. If you are having difficulties, do not wait until the end of the semester. Grab the bull by the horns early on and we can start addressing your concerns as soon as you have them. I can only open the door, but it is up to you to enter the room. Since we are all different, I attempt to present the material in a variety of ways. Hopefully this mosaic approach will help you grasp the concepts and even promote critical and application thinking.

 

Never assume I know if you think something is wrong, and never be afraid to ask if you have a question. Since I am human, I do make mistakes and I do not know everything. But, I do know how to help you find the answers.

 

Any course that is computer-based (hybrid or online) is time consuming and you MUST commit time daily to be successful. This is not a course that you can cram for or be successful in without trying. Biology is a notoriously difficult course and you are choosing to take an online version, which makes it even more challenging. Please set yourself up for success and be realistic on your time management and the personal commitment needed. Never forget, I am here to help you if you need help.

 

I hope this letter helps ease your concerns about myself and the course. I wish you luck, but luck is only part of the equation--tenacity and dedication are more valuable. Secrets to success do not work unless you do!

 

Image Credit: Eugenio Marongiu/Shutterstock

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