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Most of us can identify with the chagrin students feel when they earn a grade that they’re not happy about. But, as with most of life’s stings, the disappointment comes with a learning opportunity. An exam wrapper (or assignment or project wrapper) can help students understand what happened and what they can do to improve their learning.
A wrapper is a tool, a series of questions on a form that students fill out after they get their exam grade. In short, they’re asked to identify and reflect upon their own actions and behaviors when studying. This process helps to develop metacognition or meta learning; students increase their understanding of themselves as learners and see the correlation between their successes or their less-than-ideal grades to their personal actions and behaviors.
Some faculty follow up with a class discussion or they request that students visit them individually during office hours to talk about what they wrote. Sometimes the wrappers are returned to students prior to the next exam, in time for them to reflect again and take steps to adjust their actions.
The following steps are from Duke University’s Center for Instructional Technology:
Guidelines for using exam wrappers
- Explain to the students why you are using exam wrappers.
- Give the students time to fill out the exam wrapper in class. Spending class time encourages the students to take exam wrappers seriously.
- Collect the exam wrappers.
- Review the exam wrappers for ideas for how you can help students succeed.
- Return the exam wrappers to your students before the next exam. You may give students a few minutes in class to read their exam wrappers and prepare a study plan.
A few of short readings about exam wrappers:
From Dede Delaughter, University of North Georgia, Using Exam Wrappers as a Learning Tool
From Carnegie Mellon’s Eberly Center, Exam Wrappers (Marsha Lovett and her colleagues at CMU are credited for developing the exam wrapper)
From Carleton College, Teaching Metacognition
The scales have been tipped a little here at the CTL Doctor Is In program. Typically, at the beginning of a semester, the majority of our visits from faculty are about some aspect of using Blackboard, but for the first time, Blackboard was beaten out by iClickers in frequency.
One reason for this uptick is the increasing awareness of iClickers as a means to engage students in class, to support classroom discussions, to give short quizzes, and to keep track of attendance. Another is that faculty like that they can now choose to allow students to use their mobile phones. (Optional!)
As with just about all software, alas, there are a few “gotchas”—that is, pesky problems whose solutions are usually simple but frustratingly elusive.
CTL staff member, Henrie Paz-Amor, has kindly put together this list of things to keep in mind while doing the following iClicker tasks:
Syncing the Course Roster in iClicker from Blackboard
- Before you can choose a Blackboard course from iClicker, it must be available to students or it won’t show on your list in iClicker. Here are instructions for making your course available.
- Choose the CORRECT course from the list. This image shows the anatomy of those critical numbers before your course name. Read more on this page.
Connecting to the Base Station
There are usually two choices for connecting to the iClicker base station in the classroom. If you are using the classroom computer at the podium, make sure that cable is plugged into the base station. However, if you’re using your laptop, double check that you’ve got the right cable plugged into it. It can be easy to miss. » See image
Powerpoint Slides are not Advancing
If you’ve clicked on the iClicker program to begin a poll, you have to click back on Powerpoint in order to make the next slide advance.
Another Powerpoint/iClicker Consideration
When you’re using both Powerpoint and iClicker you have to set your display to “Mirroring” [on a Mac] or “Duplicate Display” [on Windows].
Saving the Polling Data
When you’re done running a poll, you must make sure to close it properly or the data will not be collected. Click the red button to stop your poll BEFORE clicking the small “x” to close the polling window.
Using the iClicker Remote
Faculty iClickers (the blue ones) can act as a remote for advancing your slides, however the iClicker’s ID must be first be entered into the iClicker app.
- Click on iClicker settings and choose General. Enter the 8-digit code on the back of the iClicker into the Instructor Remote ID box.
The following blog post from the University of Michigan invites us to thoughtfully consider the teaching challenges and opportunities afforded by this often hostile election season. It asks that faculty from all disciplines encourage students to think critically and hold civil discourse about the many fraught topics in the campaigns both before and after the election this November.
From the University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Teaching & Learning:
» Teaching and Learning in a Tense Election Season
Even if you have extensive teaching experience, the first day of class can create some nervous jitters. So, we’ve collected a few suggestions, tips, and resources here that will help your class get off to a good start.
- One of the most frequent recommendations we hear from faculty is to arrive at the room both early and well-prepared. If you’re using classroom technology, have it connected before the students arrive. (If possible, visit the classroom the day before, to make sure you know how to do that.)
- Susanmarie Harrington (UVM, English) says that conveying your own excitement about the topic of the course can make all the difference. “You only have one chance to make a good first impression, and the best way to help your students feel excited about your class is by being enthusiastic about it yourself.” While it’s common to spend time on preliminaries like going over the syllabus, try to leave time to dive into teaching. This lets your students know that you intend to make every class worthwhile and they leave feeling that they’ve already begun learning.
- As mentioned above, if you like to review the syllabus here are a couple of ideas to make this more meaningful.
- Before the first class meeting, revisit and contemplate your learning objectives and your schedule and identify the overarching themes. When you review the syllabus on the first day, share this 10,000-foot view with your students and talk about how the key themes are woven throughout the schedule. This overview provides not only a conceptual map of the course, but a rationale for the work you will be asking them to do.
- Make the syllabus review more engaging by including interesting visual elements, e.g., drawings, concept maps, or funny cartoons. Consider playing music. Helpful links: The CTL syllabus resources developed by the UVM Faculty Senate. Tulane University’s resources for designing an accessible syllabus.
Icebreakers: If you don’t have much time, simply ask students to turn to their neighbors and introduce themselves, but if more involved icebreakers appeal to you, here are 37 Icebreaker Activities from the Center for Teaching & Learning, Lansing Community College.
The following activity can help students understand how their own behaviors contribute to a meaningful class experience. From The Teaching Professor Blog by Maryellen Weimer, PhD:
Best and Worst Classes – I love this quick and easy activity. On one section of the blackboard I write: “The best class I’ve ever had” and underneath it “What the teacher did” and below that “What the students did.” On another section I write “The worst class I’ve ever had” (well, actually I write, “The class from hell”) and then the same two items beneath. I ask students to share their experiences, without naming the course, department or teacher, and I begin filling in the grid based on what they call out. If there’s a lull or not many comments about what the students did in these classes, I add some descriptors based on my experience with some of my best and worst classes. In 10 minutes or less, two very different class portraits emerge. I move to the best class section of the board and tell students that this is the class I want to teach, but I can’t do it alone. Together we have the power to make this one of those “best class” experiences.
If group work is emphasized in your course, an icebreaker similar to the one above may be valuable for preventing some of the common problems that students have when working in groups. Ask students to form casual groups of 4–6 with one person designated as the recorder. Give each group a sheet with 2 columns titled:
“Group behaviors that are helpful”
“Group behaviors that are not helpful”
Have them spend 10 minutes discussing this and listing their ideas in each column. Spend another 15 minutes or so sharing these lists with the whole class.
From: Barkley, E. F. (2010). Tips and Strategies for Promoting Active Learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
Here are some links to other Universities’ pages on the topic of the first day of class:
- Off to a Great Start: Stanford Teachers Share Tips for a Successful First Day of Class Stanford University Teaching Commons
- First Day of Class, Cornell University Center for Teaching Excellence
- 101 Things You Can Do in the First Three Weeks of Class, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Office of Graduate Studies
This post is contributed by Dr. Ellen McShane, Director of Academic Success Programs at UVM
On December 11, 2015, I posted a discussion of peer-to-peer collaborative learning experiences implemented through Academic Success Programs (ASP) at UVM. I promised to share the outcomes of our work, which are below:
The College of Nursing and Health Sciences (CNHS) provided ASP with the impact on Grade Point Averages (GPA) for first-year CNHS students in 2015 who were offered peer-tutor-led study groups. Table One below shows that the peer-tutor-led study group project impacted the number of students who earned a 3.5 GPA or higher.
Outcomes of CNHS Peer-Tutor-Led Study Group Project
|% of FTFY with
3.5 GPA or Higher
In addition, we discovered that our 4-year graduation rate for UVM’s Class of 2015 who received tutoring in their first year at UVM graduated at higher rate than the rest of the class as illustrated in Table Two.
Comparison of 4-Yr Grad Rates for Students Tutored in
the First Year & all FTFY
|Entered 2011||Numbers||4-Year Grad Rate|
For the returning sophomores in 2015 who had tutoring in their first year, we are pleased to add Table Three to demonstrate the power of peer-to peer collaborative learning.
Comparison of 2nd Yr Retention Rates for Students Tutored in the First Year & all FTFY
|Entered 2014||Numbers||2nd Yr Retention Rate|
According to Dr. Michael Wesch, his new website, myteachingnotebook.com, focuses on “the pursuit of joy in teaching and learning.” I first saw it in August and made a note to myself to share it here in mid-semester, when the geese are flying south and we aren’t sure if it’s getting colder and darker or just cold. And dark. Dr. Wesch’s work has been inspiring us for years now, so take a look his teaching notebook and, for even more of his work—videos, publications, presentations, and blog posts—see his Kansas State University website: Digital Ethnography (formerly “Mediated Cultures”).
Conducting research can be a transformative experience for undergraduate students, especially when their research supervisor serves as an effective mentor.
We invite you to join us for a 10-hr faculty seminar, beginning in late August, that examines how faculty can enhance their mentoring skills regardless of career stage. The seminar will use case studies, extensive discussions, reflection, and action plans to help faculty mentor more efficiently, communicate and establish expectations with students, address diversity issues in mentoring, assess student understanding and foster student independence.
For details, see: www.uvm.edu/ctl/stem_mentoring This seminar is sponsored by the Rubenstein School, CTL, and the Provost’s Office EPI grant program.
There’s a complaint that we hear frequently this time of the semester:
The weighted column doesn’t come out right.
It’s a common problem caused by that tiny Devil who resides in the details. Very often, the cause is this: a discrepancy between a column’s possible points and those actually entered. In other words, when you first set up grading on a tool (or on a manually-made column), you might have assigned the highest possible points as something different than what you actually graded for. An example would be, I have entered 30 as possible points on a final paper, but forgetting this weeks later, I used a base of 100 when grading.
This is easy to check by hovering over the top of the column and checking the information that appears just at the top of the grade center area. See figure here:
To fix it, hover and click the small arrow at the top of the erroneous column, choose “Edit Column Information” and change the points possible to 100 (or whatever scale you used for grading).
WORD OF CAUTION: It’s a good idea to download a backup of your grade center before you begin changing things. See how to do that here.
When all else fails, we’re always glad to see you at the Dr Is In!
Imagine this… a website where thousands of films are hosted and can be watched for free… where, if you can’t find a film, you can request that it be added with a good chance that you’ll get your wish… where you can choose to embed an entire work in Blackboard (or select clips to embed!)… and where you can make and share playlists…
Well, I have good news: it exists and it’s called Kanopy. The UVM Libraries has a contract with them, so it’s accessible to any affiliate of the university. There are a few things to be aware of:
- You can watch movies without logging in, but you have to be either on campus – or – off campus while connected to the virtual network (VPN). This is easy: see instructions here or for iPad users, here.
- You’ll need to create a free account and sign in to save playlists or make clips.
- If you want to request a film, write to Lori Holiff in the library’s Media Resources department at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is the liaison with Kanopy and may be able to assist you in finding the film elsewhere, if needed.
» Kanopy’s website: uvm.kanopystreaming.com/
» This link to Kanopy also lives on the CTL site uvm.edu/ctl (choose Teaching Resources > Image and Video Repositories).
» Visit the CTL Dr Is In to learn how to embed video in Bb.
This is an interesting read by Clay Shirky, a professor at New York University. “Why I just asked my students to put their laptops away.” Shirky holds a joint appointment as an Associate Arts Professor at the Interactive Telecommunications Program as well as an Associate Professor in the Journalism Department, and he’s a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.