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Quick Tip #1

Quick Tip #1 Ask your students: Why are we doing this?

Over the next several weeks I’ll be adding short Quick Tip blog posts on a variety of topics. Here’s #1:

You’ve probably seen references to TILT (Transparency in Teaching and Learning), the process of making some small changes to an assignment to make it more transparent to students by adding the Purpose, the Task, and the Criteria. In the Teaching Newsletter (Feb 28, 2019) from the Chronicle of Higher Education, several faculty responded to the article How One Professor Made Her Assignments More Relevant. Here are their comments:


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At the start of the semester, Crystal Peirce, an instructor in the biology department at Harper College, polled her students in a course for non-majors, asking what career skills they expected to need, with options like “data interpretation” and “working as a team.” With that foundation in place, she writes, “I continue to remind students of these skills as we complete activities and assignments.”

Julia Kregenow, an associate teaching professor in astronomy and astrophysics at Pennsylvania State University, also takes a direct approach with the non-majors she teaches. “My trick,” she writes, “is to ask the students point blank: ‘Why are we doing this? When might you use this skill in everyday life?’ Having the students come up with the relevance themselves is particularly powerful; it can’t go in one ear and out the other if they have to come up with it themselves.”
Scott Cowley, an assistant professor of marketing in the business school at Western Michigan University, came at the issue a little differently. He teaches “Advanced Digital Marketing Strategies,” which he describes as “very applied, skill- and résumé-building course.” But when former students asked Cowley to review their résumés, he learned that they hadn’t included anything from the course. So he began showing, near the end of the term, a slide of what students could reasonably add to their résumés. And he thinks he got through to them. “Many pulled out their phones and began taking pictures” of the slide, he writes. That, he adds, had not happened before.

How are you making your course relevant for students? What life skills, things that they will need 5 years later, will they take away?


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