Category Archives: Scholarship of teaching and learning

Faculty Focus special report: Effective Strategies for Improving Teaching and Learning

Faculty Focus always has a wealth of information and suggestions for improving one’s teaching. This new special report includes several short articles that address constructing an environment in which you can teach most effectively and your students can learn most effectively. Check it out:

EffectiveStrategiesImproveTeachandLearn.pdf (application/pdf Object).

What strategies in this report will you consider as you plan your teaching for the fall semester? (Or is it too early even to think about that?)

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Coverage vs. uncoverage: A perspective from history

The CELT blog has addressed the challenges of “coverage” a few times this year, particularly in relation to active learning, making a case for thinking of courses in terms not of “coverage” but of “uncoverage,” training students in the thinking, researching, and communication skills they need to make their own discoveries about the course’s subject matter. Most basically, we can think of these two models as the “give someone a fish” vs. “teach someone to fish” schools of thought. (Whether the CELT director practiced, in his history of Christian thought survey, what he preached here in the blog is another matter entirely.)

Faculty Focus recently gave an award to an article that argued for the “uncoverage” model in that longstanding staple of “coverage”: the history survey. The authors, Joel M. Sipress and David J. Voelker of the University of Wisconsin system, make the case for survey courses to help students to “think like historians” rather than master a set of facts. According to the authors, it is the disciplinary thinking skills (and not, I’ll add, simply “critical thinking” skills) that will best serve students not only in college but as citizens.

Maryellen Weimer describes the article’s findings here. The article itself, “The end of the history survey course: The rise and fall of the coverage model,” can be accessed via Academic Search Premier, ERIC, and other databases.

As you plan your courses for next year (that is, when you’re not relaxing in a hammock), how are you thinking through the tricky problem of coverage? Do you think Sipress and Voelker have a useful approach?

Constructing learning

We can probably all agree that students learn best when they are thinking, whether that means that they are thinking along with a lecturer or are thinking aloud with their peers. But what is actually going on in the learner’s brain? On one influential account, students learn when they construct a new understanding of the material. This outlook on learning is the theory of constructivism.

CELT recently hosted the first in a planned series of brown-bag discussions of the literature on constructivism. Participants came to a few conclusions about constructivism’s prospects and limitations and evaluated some examples of how a constructivist theory of learning can inform concrete in-class pedagogy. Continue reading

Call for applications: AAC&U Institute on High-Impact Practices and Student Success

Are you interested in developing your ability to carry out such “high-impact practices” as learning communities, writing-intensive courses, and undergraduate research? If so, you might consider applying to participate in this seminar:

For more about AAC&U’s definition of “high-impact practices,” see here and here. If you’re interested, CELT can help you put together a good application. BTW, the institute is in Portland, Oregon, in late June. Not a bad place to be that time of year.

More striking data on traditional lecturing vs. active learning

Those who have participated in CELT’s series on active learning approaches this semester have seen some striking data that show big gains in learning when students are taught in ways fostering active learning, as compared with when they are taught through lectures. The director of the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College, Charles Blaich, has blogged about an article that appeared in Science over the summer, showing more remarkable results. Have a look: Lecture versus active teaching redux.

The study compared both student engagement and test performance among groups who were taught physics by a “master lecturer” and by a less-experienced postdoc who used in-class questions and feedback to teach the same material.

Once again, we see interesting research into active learning being done in the hard sciences.

Why are scientists so active in this research, and humanities professors not? Is it because the sciences are so hard, that active learning is more necessary there? Or is it simply because scientists are more comfortable with designing and carrying out this sort of study?