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Tag: Student engagement

Eight Steps to Engage Learning

Peter Felten, author of several books on teaching and learning, recently shared his research on engaged learning on the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast. Felten is the Executive Director of the Center for Engaged Learning, and an Assistant Provost and Professor of History at Elon University.

Felton makes the point that learning results only from what students themselves do and think.  

In other words, we can’t climb inside their heads and pull those levers. All we can really do as instructors is influence them to learn. 

With that in mind, Felton outlines what students must do, think, and feel in order to be engaged, successful learners. 

Five Things Students Must Do

  1. Dedicate time to their studies. This is essential as real learning happens in stages and multiple exposures to a new topic allows the information to stick. 
  1. Dedicate effort to their studies. Students need to know that effort and struggle are a normal part of the learning process.  Effort is a measure of progress, not a sign of weakness.
  1. Get feedback on their work. To be useful, feedback has to be clear (understandable to the student), constructive, and actionable. A student is more likely to read comments on an essay, for instance, if she can revise that essay and improve her score. 
  1. Practice their skills — preferably by applying and using those skills in different contexts. 
  1. Reflect on their learning. In other words, they need to be metacognitive, to think about what they know and how they know it.

Three Things Students Must Think or Feel

  1. I belong here. Students need to believe that they belong in college, in the discipline, and in the classroom. Felton points out that “students who lack a sense of belonging are likely to interpret normal academic struggles as evidence that they can’t succeed,” and are more likely to give up as a result.
  1. I can do this. They need to adopt a growth mindset, to think to themselves, “I am a human who is capable of learning and growing and developing.”
  1. This is meaningful to me. Students are more motivated when they perceive that the work they are doing is relevant and when they can see the value in it. 

A Teacher’s Influence

What if you chose one thing from the list above, and made a small change in your teaching that would influence students to learn? Could you . . .

  • add a mock quiz to give students more opportunities to practice? 
  • allow rewrites of essays so students can use feedback to improve? 
  • teach students about growth mindset?
  • explain the purpose and value of an assignment (sell the benefits)?

You can listen to Peter Felton talk about the research on engaged learners, or read the transcript, on the Teaching In Higher Ed website.  Today’s post was written by guest contributor, Elisabeth Frederickson from Edmonds Community College.

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A Small Assortment of Ideas for the First Day of Class

Despite the dusting of snow on the ground in Everett this morning (and a few lingering flakes falling outside my window at this very moment), it’s officially the first day of the spring quarter here at EvCC. That means a new set of classes–and new opportunities to try out ways of engaging your students from the very first moment of class.

With that in mind, here’s a question for you to consider as you start each of your new classes this week: How do you engage students and welcome them into the intellectual and practical work of the next ten weeks?

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Why you should appear (at least sometimes) in your course videos

First, a shameless plug: EvCC instructor Joe Graber and I will be teaming up to offer a one-hour workshop on October 3 on using the EvCC lightboard, built by a team of engineering faculty, to create engaging and effective instructional videos. If you haven’t already done so, mark your calendar!

With videos on my mind recently, and with this being a time of the year when many faculty are creating new videos to share with their students, I thought it might be useful to address a couple of the myths, misperceptions, and generalizations about instructional videos that I encounter most frequently.

Students don’t need to see me in videos. All they need to see are my slides and the information I’m presenting. (Besides, I hate being on camera!)

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Why we should learn students’ names

Many of you know that one of my favorite bloggers is Maryellen Weimer, editor of The Teaching Professor newsletter. In a recent post in Faculty Focus, Weimer reminds us that learning students’ names is just good practice. However, the inability to remember the names of possibly 100 students each quarter, and remember them for long periods of times (till next quarter? next year? next decade?) plagues us all. She writes:  “Names … why do we have such trouble learning them? For those of us who struggle with names, it never gets easier, no matter how many tricks we try. It can be embarrassing—to ourselves and to others. I remember once visiting a mall while out of town and hearing someone calling my name. Soon, a vaguely familiar person was greeting me with enthusiasm. ‘I am so happy to see you! It’s been so long? How are you?’ ”

Over the next few weeks I will be writing posts about “The 4 Connections.” Here’s the back story: about 2 years ago I was at a party and saw my friend Elliot Stern. Elliot is the Vice President of Instruction (VPI) at Lake Washington Institute of Technology (LWTech). He told me that several people from LWTech had gone to an Achieving the Dream conference and one of them went to a workshop given by staff from Odessa College in Odessa, TX. Think oil wells and Friday Night Lights. By way of introduction, they shared that Odessa had a large percentage of students who were not only struggling in their classes, but were ultimately dropping out. There was also a high rate of failure and huge equity gaps. In fact, they had the highest drop rate in the country. After a lot of research and soul searching, they discovered that there were four things that all faculty who had low drop rates were doing. They presented their DRIP program (Drop Rate Improvement Plan) that ultimately not only improved persistence and retention, but closed most of the equity gaps. Today they are an Aspen Prize winning college.

My friend Sally Heilstedt, Associate Dean of Instruction at LWTech, ran with this idea, and summarized it as “The 4 Connections.” They are: Interact with Students by Name, Check-in Regularly, Schedule One-on-One meetings, and Practice Paradox.

Let’s get back to the first connection of   Interact with Students by Name. Yes, it’s difficult to learn (and remember) students’ names. I struggled with this for a long time. When I was teaching at Michigan Technological University, an engineering school in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I swear every math class was populated by young men who all looked alike – 18 or 19 years old, blond, wearing a cap and Carharts. Of course we have a much more diverse population at EvCC, but remembering names is still a challenge. To address not only learning but remembering names, try this simple approach: On the first day of class, have paper and markers at each table (or easily accessible if there are desks). I like to raid the recycling bin for paper that has been printed on one side only and then discarded.  Have students make a name plate with the name that they’d like you to use. They should display it every day (for this reason I collected them at the end of class and had them available at the beginning of the next class). An added benefit was that if a name plate wasn’t picked up at the beginning of class, I knew that student was absent. Ask students to be sure to make their name legible and large enough for you to read from the front of the class. And, encourage students to address each other by name. Weimer writes, “Challenge students to learn and use each other’s name – None of this, ‘I agree with him.’ Who is he? What’s his name? Someone, please, introduce him to the rest of us. When you give students an activity like think-pair-share, always remind them to first introduce themselves to their partner.”

Two table name tags, one with the name 'Jason' and one with the name 'Debby' written on them. In the foreground are several blank sheets of paper and five markers.

Think about how this might improve the community in your classroom. Raid the recycling bin today and get ready for the start of Fall Quarter. And stay tuned for the next post on The 4 Connections.




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