Tip #1: Learn names. Jonathan Leonard (CDAE) makes the effort to learn every student’s name, even when he has hundreds of students! His strategy is to open the class roster page in Banner and display 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. His students are completely astonished when he greets them at the door 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 winnersof 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.
As we head down the last stretch of the semester, it’s a good time to recheck our Blackboard course grade centers and make sure everything’s working as it should be. Here are a couple of tips:
- First, make backups! This is always recommended but of special importance now when we may be making more changes to the grade center and there is potentially more data to lose. Instructions for backing up the grade center are here.
One of the trickiest aspects of the grade center is that the columns that the instructor sees (or does not see because they’re hidden) do NOT automatically correspond with what columns the students may see or not see. To hide a grade column from the students’ view, you need to click at the top of the column and select “Show/Hide to Users.” Once a column is hidden from them, a slash icon appears in the title bar of that column. However, if instead you simply chose “Hide Column,” then you’ve selected to hide the column from your Grade Center view. The column will still be seen by students unless you first choose “Show/Hide to Users.”
The tricky part is that you can only do that if you can see the column. Therefore, you must first restore the column to your instructor view, and then choose “Show/Hide to Users.” To restore a hidden column to your instructor’s view, click the “Manage” button (while in Full Grade Center view) and choose “Column Organization.” Select (with a checkmark) any columns that appear as hidden and click the Show/Hide button, below. Then click, Submit. Once you have restored a column to your view, you can then take the step described above to hide the column from students.
Or… come visit the Dr. Is In for help! See our hours at http://www.uvm.edu/ctl/doctor
We love Google books but, for research, often find its limitations frustrating. We love the many and varied digital collections that abound throughout the web but wish they could be used in a more seamlessly interconnected way. The vision of a national online library is as old (older?) than the web itself and in the last two years working towards that vision has been the goal of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), a group of people from libraries both public and academic, technology companies, government agencies, publishers and funding institutions.
Launching this week* the DPLA (http://dp.la) , according to well-known digital historian and current director Dan Cohen, plans to connect “the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums so that the public can access all of those collections in one place; providing a platform, with an API [application programming interface] for others to build creative and transformative applications upon; and advocating strongly for a public option for reading and research in the twenty-first century. The DPLA will in no way replace the thousands of public libraries that are at the heart of so many communities across this country, but instead will extend their commitment to the public sphere, and provide them with an extraordinary digital attic and the technical infrastructure and services to deliver local cultural heritage materials everywhere in the nation and the world.”
The DPLA is built on a growing number of service and content hubs, institutions that already have large collections of digitized materials. It seeks to go beyond becoming yet another digital repository however, by offering services to increase the size and uses of the collections. For example, it will provide transparent access to its code and metadata so that developers can create additional capabilities. Its hubs may also offer services to local heritage organizations to help them digitize and curate their collections. [See also Palfrey, John "What is the DPLA?"]
Given the experience and track record of its leaders, this project promises to be the kind of digital library we have been waiting for. Read more about the DPLA and it’s vision for the development of this ambitious and amazing resource at http://dp.la
*The public beta launch was scheduled for April 18, 2013 at the Boston Public Library. Given the tragic events in the area adjacent to the library, the launch has been postponed. Check the website for news of rescheduling.
We’ve recently had fun expanding our Media Resources page. There are new links to image collections, organized by Agriculture and Natural Resources, Art, History, Science, and General Collections. There are more video links, too. Read about copyright and fair use, and then go forth… as a kid in a candy store: www.uvm.edu/ctl/mediaresources.
The ALANA Coalition is proud to announce the UVM Multicultural Exposition on February 28th in Billings North Lounge from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM. The exposition will showcase faculty, staff, graduate students and our community members’ research, publications, art, and music. ALANA anticipates that a variety of UVM community members with different expertise will be on hand to share and facilitate rich discussions.
If you share you expertise and participate in the Exposition, please contact Alco at 656-5120 to register. Visitors are welcomed to stop by anytime between 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM without registering.
This event is sponsored by the ALANA Coalition, UVM Chief Diversity Office and the College of Education and Social Services.
We just read about this networking event for early career faculty next week, on Wednesday, Feb. 20th, and wanted to pass on the word.
Did you ever hear a student say, “I wish I understood what the professor wanted with this assignment?” Have your students ever asked how you came to a specific grade? Have you felt the need to create more clarity around an assignment, both for your students and/or your TAs who handle grading?
The solution may be to create a rubric for your students—or even with your students—for the assessment of the paper or project.
What is a rubric? A rubric is a tool for assessment that is created by the instructor to articulate clear expectations for an assignment and how it is to be graded. In some cases, it can even be helpful to elicit help from students in creating the rubric because, when students are involved in planning how they will be graded, they take ownership of the assignment and their understanding of what is expected is improved.
The Cornell University Center for Teaching Excellence states about rubrics:
Rubrics help instructors:
- Assess assignments consistently from student-to-student.
- Save time in grading, both short-term and long-term.
- Give timely, effective feedback and promote student learning in a sustainable way.
- Clarify expectations and components of an assignment for both students and course TAs.
- Refine teaching skills by evaluating rubric results.
Rubrics help students:
- Understand expectations and components of an assignment.
- Become more aware of their learning process and progress.
- Improve work through timely and detailed feedback.
So how do you go about making a rubric?
- You can attend the upcoming workshop, “Designing Rubrics” (February 21, 2013) offered at the CTL by the UVM Writing in the Disciplines Program.
- You can go through this helpful tutorial by University of Colorado – Denver.
- You could also email firstname.lastname@example.org to ask for an appointment with one of the Center for Teaching & Learning instructional design specialists who can meet with you individually to assist you in creating a rubric for your class.
If your list of courses is long and overwhelming, there are solutions! You can either:
- re-sort the list so that your current course spaces show at the top, or
- hide older courses from the list (and restore them again, if desired)
To learn how, see the CTL How-to page for course list management.
(Note that after a few semesters, courses are deleted from the system so they will no longer appear on your list, anyway.)