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The Center for Transformative Teaching Posts

Timing announcements to coincide with periods of highest course activity

Black and white photograph of Two large megaphone or public announcement speakers
Megaphone by Bruno Buontempo licensed under Creative Commons.

There’s been solid evidence for decades that frequent faculty-student interactions can have a powerful, beneficial effect on student persistence. Studies have consistently found that the frequency and clarity of communication between students and faculty can predict student success better, in some cases, than characteristics like socioeconomic status or prior educational attainment. (If you’re looking for a good summary of some of this research, this paper by scholars at Indiana University’s Center for Postsecondary Research offers a nice overview in its introductory section.)

One small but important implication of these findings is that frequent communication–especially if it is topical and related in some way to the intellectual matters of a course–is an excellent way to promote student persistence. This follows common sense as well, since it’s not surprising that when students see their instructor takes the time to send messages, post announcements, or contribute to online course discussions they’re more likely to feel that instructor is invested in their success. Small actions can have a big impact. Something as simple as a weekly announcement previewing what’s coming in the week ahead or providing some context for a new topic or assignment may be all that’s needed.

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On failure and learning

Reacquainting myself recently with Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things, I came across this quote:

We need to remove the word failure from our vocabulary, replacing it instead with learning experience. To fail is to learn. We learn more from our failures than from our successes. With success, sure, we are pleased, but we often have no idea why we succeeded. With failure, it is often possible to figure out why, to ensure that it will never happen again.

Revised edition (2013), p. 64

As we embark on a new quarter, hopefully trying new things as we do, it’s worth keeping in mind that we often learn more from our failures than our successes. As Norman goes on to say, It is possible to avoid failure, to always be safe. But that is also the route to a dull, uninteresting life.

What new things are trying this quarter that have the potential to fail in interesting and productive ways?

[Edited 1/4/17: added link]

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The Center for Transformative Teaching starts a blog

The web site of the Center for Transformative Teaching has for some time featured a directory of our favorite blogs on topics related to teaching and learning. Now we can add our very own to the list!

Sustaining thoughtful conversations about teaching and learning is central to the Center’s purpose, a critical part of our commitment to facilitating professional growth and to fostering a supportive, collaborative campus climate. These conversations take many forms–informal chats over coffee and cookies, individual consultations, workshops and seminars, or even conferences–and bring together faculty and staff participants from across the college.

We all lead busy lives, though, and time often seems to be so limited a resource that attending every event we want to seems nearly impossible. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve heard some variation on the lament, “I’d love to attend a workshop, but I just don’t have the time!” By helping us share thoughts and spread ideas about innovative teaching practices, we hope the blog will allow us to extend conversation to all interested members of the EvCC community–and beyond–for those times when you can’t be there to participate in person.

In the weeks and months ahead we’ll be featuring a broad range of teaching and learning topics, from brief CTT updates to in-depth explorations of particular pedagogical methods to the innovative efforts of EvCC faculty. And if you have ideas for topics you’d like us to write about here, let us know.


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