Friday, November 26, 2010

Facebook and Teaching

Should an instructor have his/her students on Facebook? I think probably he/she should have a separate, private account for student issues and a separate personal account for real friends and family. Not that students can't be friends, but it's not the same. And then set your privacy settings carefully.

That being said, on either one, a professional demeanor must be maintained. Too much nonsense on Facebook.

I have a few students on Facebook, mostly BCM students. I don't post there much, but really don't want the whole world in my business.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Teaching Tip #20

Keep in contact with students. Nowadays we have email to do so. Yes, they can ignore the email, and often do, but it helps you cover your trail, if nothing else.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Teaching Tip Number 19

I often hear "80% of life is showing up." I say 90% of success is organization.

If I have learned anything in 33 years of teaching, it's that students like structure. It even trumps a groovy personality. They like to know the teacher has a plan, works the plan, gets the papers graded, gets the grades up, doesn't lose papers, and doesn't forget what the assignments are or how they are set up. Students today have a very low tolerance for confusion. Since their own mental schema are so faulty, we can't afford to confuse them anymore.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Teaching Tip #18

I had a very wise professor in my first graduate program. "If you want people to learn something, tell them what you want them to learn," he said. Now, he wasn't himself the greatest teacher who ever lived, and to be honest (this was the 70s) he actually smoked in class! But his advice was sage..

I have never understood how professors say, "Read the five chapters and there will be a test on it in two weeks." How would anyone know how to study for that? How would anyone know what's important? Even if all the Cornell notetaking methods, etc, are used, it still doesn't tell the students what the teacher thinks is priority.

I am a firm believer in reading and study guides. I don't think they have to be considered spoon feeding. Nothing in a study guide says, "You don't have to think critically" or "you don't have to learn very much." Study guides do not have to be pablum. They can be rigorous, but clear.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Teaching Tip Number 17

Teaching is a full-time job. Don't try to mix it with a lot of other stuff.

I currently do a lot of non-teaching activities. It drains my energy from teaching. I like the non-teaching "stuff." In fact, I've applied for an administrative position. But I am ambivalent about leaving teaching--very ambivalent.

Maybe I am bored by teaching and that's why I do the other. Don't know. But I know it doesn't really help my teaching.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Teaching Tip #16

Give out snacks before doing SET (student evaluation of teaching).

Ha, I'm kidding.

Not really. The research shows those things are largely based on personality (friendly, helpful, etc.) rather than competency as a teacher or knowledge of subject matter.

Of course, it can be very well argued that teaching is an interpersonal activity more than an intellectual one. So personality-based factors in evaluation are not irrelevant. They can, however, carry too much weight. A "cool" professor will get a good evaluation even if the students learn less.

Teaching Tip #15

Ideally, you should lecture/instruct for 20-25 minutes and then have an activity, a break-out, video, pair and share, something like that. Hard to do, but almost necessary. I had to finish up lecture Thursday morning and I was pouring my heart out, had PowerPoint, asked questions, gave the students a handout to take notes on, but they were still nodding off. Of course, it's an 8:00 class and the room was too warm (they can't get the heat and air right in our building), but still, I could have done better. I did promise them this was the last day of lecture.