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Tip #1: Learn names. Jonathan Leonard (CDAE) makes the effort to learn every student’s name, even in classes with over 150 students! What’s his strategy? On the class roster page he displays the students’ photos and, while studying each face, he speaks their names aloud. Over and over. And over. Occasionally he shifts the page arrangement—by changing the row settings to, for instance, three across instead of five—and he keeps testing himself. He admits that it takes several practice sessions, but he claims the effort is well worth it. Students are astonished when he greets them by first name! A large class it may be, but an indistinct mass of anonymous faces it is not. Individuals are being recognized and this, he says, changes the whole game.
(By the way, Jonathan isn’t the only one to stress the value of learning names. Every year when the CTL holds a panel discussion with the latest winners of the Kroepsch-Maurice Excellence in Teaching Award, at least one of the panelists mentions that this practice is vital to their teaching style.)
Tip #2: Get students talking. Sheila Boland-Chira (English) recommends the turn and talk method in any class, but particularly on the first day when anxiety may be running a little high. She asks an evocative question related to the course topic and invites students to turn to their neighbors and talk about it. After a few minutes, she invites volunteers to share their thoughts with the whole group. Not only does the lively buzz change the atmosphere in the room, doing this on the first day lets students know that the class is participatory and that they are going to be challenged to think.
Tip #3 Make personal connections. Char Merhtens (Geology) asks students to come to her office and meet with her individually during the first week or two of the semester, just to say hi and chat for a few minutes. However, because there are 200+ students in one of her classes, visiting with everyone isn’t practicable, so she invites only the first-years and seniors, the two groups she feels would most benefit from this (although, for completely different reasons). Char says that this simple social gesture has paid off in countless ways and many students go out of their way to thank her.
Tip #4: It’s standard practice to review the syllabus on the first day of class, but a few faculty offered tips to make this ritual more meaningful:
- Before the first class meets, contemplate your schedule again 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 are going to be asking them to do.
- Make the syllabus review more engaging by including interesting visual elements, e.g., drawings, concept maps, or a humorous cartoon. Consider playing music.
- Use Blackboard’s test tool to create a short quiz about the syllabus with multiple-choice type questions (so Blackboard will do the grading for you) and make it a mandatory assignment by the second day of class. Doing this gets them to delve deeper into the syllabus and you can review the stats in Blackboard before the next class, so you can touch upon any murky areas.
Tip #5: Finally, convey enthusiasm! J. Dickinson (Anthropology) offered what might be the most important tip for the first class and every class: that it’s crucial to communicate your excitement about what you teach. Even if you’re not teaching your dream course, you should be able to muster enthusiasm for it. Foundational or introductory-level courses are exciting when you consider the potential for learning and that you just may spark an interest that has a formative effect on someone’s life. Genuine enthusiasm can be infectious.
The CCP and CTL are pleased to bring Dr. Mary Meares, Assistant Professor, University of Alabama to UVM on April 1, 2010 for two workshops. Dr. Meares taught intercultural and organizational communication in the U.S. and Japan and has consulted for educational, corporate, and public service organizations in the areas of intercultural transitions, team building, and conflict. Her research focuses on intercultural groups, virtual teams, diversity in the workplace, and perceptions of voice.
Two workshops are offered:
- Culture, Communication, and Technology: Working with Culturally Diverse Students in the Online Environment, 2 – 4:30 pm on 4/1 (for faculty)
- Culture’s Role in Computer Mediated Communication: Checklist for
Culturally Competent Perspectives,
10 am – 12:00 pm (for information and technology staff)
For more information and to register please go to http://www.uvm.edu/ctl/events
Is there an added added academic value in incorporating multimedia scholarship into student projects? This is the question addressed by Mark E. Cann of USC in a recent article titled Multimedia in the Classroom at USC: A Ten Year Perspective. This past fall he recast a previous essay assignment into a group multimedia project in order to compare previous students’ written work to current students multimedia work. He graded them according to the same basic criteria (clarity, coherence and cogency) and wondered if they would ” produce more insightful analyses than conventional written essays.”
He found four ways in which the students’ multimedia projects differed positively from the written version. According to Cann, multimedia scholarship invited or encouraged students to:
- “prioritize and dramatize their main points by highlighting text, incorporating eye-catching images, or employing engaging video clips. This contrasted to conventional papers where students often buried their main point in the middle of a paragraph or expected it to emerge miraculously from the
- “assume multiple perspectives by using hyperlinks…While students might have done the same class analysis in a traditional essay, the fact is that they had not done so until their use of new media prompted them to experiment with multiple perspectives.”
- ” layer their analyses. Students were able to explore an issue in depth by employing hypertext links to break it down into major components, then analyze major components by using links to break them down into subcomponents, and so forth.”
- experiment with interactive analysis. Students were able to use new media to demonstrate how making one choice likely results in one set of outcomes and subsequent options whereas making a different choice likely results in a different set of outcomes and subsequent
He goes on to describe how a grant had allowed a group of faculty from the university to develop and discuss similar projects between 1998 and 2003. Some of the challenges the group found were “that teaching and doing multimedia scholarship was extremely time-consuming for faculty, TAs, and students” and that there was a “tension between devoting class time to course content and devoting class time to training students in basic computer skills.” They concluded that “the time and tensions were tolerable because multimedia scholarship did in fact add academic value to our classrooms. However, we learned from our discussions that multimedia scholarship added academic value to our classrooms in very different ways. We also learned that we all had trouble explaining to each other exactly how multimedia scholarship added academic value to our classrooms.”
That experience led to the development of a university-wide Honors Program in Multimedia Scholarship. Developing that program, and undergoing the review process, forced the participants to articulate how multimedia can add academic value to student scholarship.
Implementing the program has confirmed the belief that multimedia “requires students to become adept in the use of new media tools” but that it can “develop students’ capacity for active learning and creative scholarship.” Faculty also “emphasized the importance of multimedia scholarship for enhancing
students’ analytical skills. Several faculty members emphasized the utility of new media for investigating multiple perspectives on issues, facilitating interactive understanding, and addressing issues involving contingency and ephemera.” Some felt that “employing new media promises to develop students’ capacity for active learning and creative scholarship. Multimedia authorship demands that students not simply receive meanings but also participate in the construction of meanings.” Others agreed that “multimedia scholarship promises to strengthen students’ ability to communicate their research and findings to other people.”
Cann concludes the article with a discussion of the recommendations the USC program has made for the program. These can be useful “best practices” for anyone contemplating the addition of multimedia projects into their course. Full article at:
The Center for Cultural Pluralism will celebrate its 10 year anniversary on January 29, 2009. The Center has announced their spring programming, which includes guest speakers Dr. Lee Kneflekamp speaking on “MicroAgressions in the Classroom” (Jan. 30) and Dr. Scott Page, “The Science of Complex Systems and Systems Scholarship” (Feb 2009). For a full list of films, workshops and events visit their web site.
This fellowship program is designed as a seminar to help faculty develop a strong background in service-learning pedagogy. By developing a service-learning course, participants will strengthen service-learning knowledge and skills. Fellows will meet every other week during the Spring 2009 semester for 2 hours and commit to offering a service-learning course within a year of completing the program.
To learn more about the program, visit the CUPS web site
Applications for the Fellowship program are due November 7,2008.
The Economist (Economist.Com) is sponsoring a series of debates on the future of education. Each debate topic considers the educational impacts of technology, globalization, and changing nature of social relationships. The third (and final) debate, which runs from from January 15th through January 25th, focuses on “social networking,” specifically on the proposition :
The debate is based on an online variant of the Oxford Debate rules – each speaker has three chances to advance his view – an opening statement, a rebuttal, and a final summary. Observers (who must register) may participate, mainly though a discussion with the moderator who will raise relevant points to the debaters. In addition, Observers may also vote for the side of the proposition they most agree with.
The University of Vermont is now a member of Educause’s Learning Initiative (ElI).
ELI explores the interaction among learners, learning principles and practices, and learning technologies. Membership benefits include reduced rates on ELI events and access to all resources on their web site, including archived web seminars and podcasts.
There are three upcoming events that may interest you:
January 14: Teaching and Learning with Web 2.0 (online event)
January 28 – 30: ELI 2008 Annual Meeting – Connecting and Reflecting: Preparing Learners for Life 2.0 (San Antonio, TX)
March 18 – 19: Real World and Technology-Rich: Learning by Doing, Learning in Context (Raleigh, NC)
To access ELI resources and register for events, you will need to set up a member profile that connects you as an UVM affiliate. Go to the the Educause home page and follow the directions in the “Manage your personal profile” (under the “What would you like to do?” section).
We hope that you will explore the resources on the ELI site. If you find these resources valuable and/or are interested in attending an event, please let us know.
The Faculty Fellows for Service-Learning Program recruits faculty members from across UVM to participate in a seminar each Spring on how to build service-learning pedagogy into courses. Faculty members must apply and be accepted into the Program, are given a small professional development fund ($750), and are expected to inject service-learning into at least one of their courses after finishing the program. Faculty participants cite the opportunity to interact with colleagues with similar interests as a highlight of this program.
For more information, and an application form, visit:
Application Deadline: November 9, 2007
Seminar Dates: January 8-10, 2008
The Center for Cultural Pluralism is sponsoring an even that promises to be interesting and important:
“Moving Beyond the Basics: Shifts of Consciousness and Practice for Transformative Multicultural Teaching and Learning”
(snippet of the description on the CCP website)
September 28, 2007.8:30-4:00p.m. Location TBD
To register, call 656-9511 (CCP)
For more info., visit the CCP website.
In a new case study, “Hybrid Learning: Maximizing Student Engagement,” Ruth Reynard explores hybrid or “blended” courses (a face-to-face course that contains online elements). She concludes that these courses “provide more flexibility for on ground students and increase the overall marketability of programs of study to potential students.”
She also provides a thoughtful analysis of how such courses can be structured to maximise “opportunities for the learning process to become much more engaging for students and for students to drive the learning process more directly. It is also an effective way to increase students’ learning autonomy.”
Full article at: