Teaching and Learning Theories
How do students learn? What is involved in the learning process? How can we use what we know about learning to inform our teaching practices? Watch A Vision of Students Today and see the learning experience from the students’ perspective.
Constructivist Learning Theory is based on the premise that students construct their own understanding as they learn. Sometimes new information is easily incorporated into an existing schema (assimilation). Other times, that new information does not fit with what is already understood and the student’s original schema is reconstructed to fit both the old and new information (accommodation).
What is your philosophy of learning and how does it impact your teaching? How can you make your teaching more student centered?
Semester Behavior Analysis
A semester behavior analysis may help students evaluate their performance in their courses as well plan the rest of their semester. These analyses help students evaluate the studying strategies that they have utilized thus far as well as identify the areas that they need to improve upon. A variety of behavior analyses exist, but for the sake of simplicity, we have created one for you. You can take these questions and upload them to Qualtrics to create a survey for your students to take the assessment. Link: Student_Review_Strategies.pdf
Integrated Course Design = Learning Objectives + Teaching Methods + Assessments
The best courses have matching learning objectives, teaching methods, and assessments. What students are expected to gain in the course is facilitated by the learning experiences provided by the instructor and appropriately measured by the assessments. For more information see books and articles by L. Dee Fink on Integrated Course Design.
Learning Objectives – What do you expect your students to gain from their time with you this semester? Bloom’s Taxonomy can be a useful resource when considering the depth of understanding that you expect students to achieve. For more information, see the Mantle article Devising and Using Learning Objectives.
Teaching Methods – How will you facilitate student learning? Teaching is much more than a lecture. Consider active learning techniques such as small group discussions, case studies, team-based learning, problem-based learning, service-learning projects, debates, learning games such as Reacting to the Past, student projects and presentations, real-world problem-solving, think-pair-share, Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL), minute papers, etc.
You can even develop short podcasts or direct your students to online podcasts or tutorials (e.g., YouTube, Khan Academy, iTunesU) so that students can access lessons 24/7. Check out this fun RSA Animate The Secret Powers of Time that illustrates cultures’ shared time perspective and how technology is digitally rewiring students’ brains.
Assessments – How will you and your students know when they have achieved your learning objectives? Testing for the recall of factual information is easy to do with multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank tests. Rubrics can help with higher-ordered thinking skills.
Online Resources and Tutorials
There are several great sites that offer ideas for improving the learning experience for students. These include:
- Stimulating Classroom Discussion
- Teaching Large Classes
- Building a Supportive Classroom Environment: The First Day
- MERLOT: Making e-learning accessible video and web page
- Cool Techie Tools for School
- Teaching and Technology
- Learner-Centered Psychological Principles
- Connexions Open Education Resources (OER) for free textbooks and learning modules
- Emergency Information
Assessment of Teaching Behaviors
Dr. William Buskist of Auburn University was our guest at the August Faculty Development Luncheon, where he spoke on his work with the Teacher Behavior Checklist (TBC). Rather than ask students to judge nebulous instructor qualities, the TBC asks students to provide feedback on specific behaviors exhibited by instructors such as encouragement, enthusiasm, constructive feedback, and respect. The TBC has solid psychometric properties and has been found to be a useful means of formative assessment.
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A basic syllabus establishes expectations for the course. It should include the following information:
- Course number, name, meeting times and location
- Instructor’s contact information, office hours, phone, e-mail address, etc.
- Learning objectives
- Structure and sequence of class activities including due dates for major assignments, tests, and projects
- Text and other required reading material
- Grading procedures
- Course policies: attendance, late homework, make-up exams, penalties for academic misconduct, etc.
- Disability Access Statement: It is University policy to provide, on a flexible and individual basis, reasonable classroom accommodations to student who have verified disabilities that may affect their ability to participate in course activities or meet course requirements.
Different schools and departments may have additional requirements to be included in the syllabus. Please check with your department to see what, if any, are the requirements for your courses. Sample Syllabus.doc
Beyond the basics:
Since the syllabus is one of the first ways for an instructor to communicate with students, it is a good opportunity to engage students with the course before the first class meeting. Visuals, text, and tone are just a few ways to transform a syllabus from an information packet to a student engagement tool that promotes content, community, and accessibility in the course. Refer to the Accessible Syllabus for more information and suggestions.
For current discussions related to teaching and learning, check out the organizations below: