Welcome to a new semester full of opportunities for collaboration: among students, between professors and students, and among professors1.
I want to start by highlighting ASSETT services that can improve your teaching and provide evidence for achieving excellence in education, suitable for dossiers developed prior to personnel evaluations. One service, Visualization of Instructional Practices (VIP), uses validated observational protocols for obtaining data on what happens in the classroom. The observations enable data-driven revision of curriculum and teaching practices and provide evidence for making claims about your particular teaching style. Learn more about the VIP Service.
ASSETT also supports exceptional undergraduates—referred to as Student Fellows—who can work with you to help integrate educational technology into your arsenal of strategies for achieving expected learning gains. I have used Student Fellows for developing Open Educational Resources and making the artifacts of teaching public, but there are many other ways Student Fellows can enable better use of educational technology in your classroom. Learn more about how the Student Fellows can support you.
There are a series of short workshops planned for the fall, including a month-long Digital Distraction and Engagement Discussion Series beginning on October 2. Additional information about upcoming events, including links to RSVP, is available on the ASSETT website.
I want to promote a symposium hosted by CU that celebrates and promotes the scholarship of teaching and learning and provides an opportunity for productive collaboration with your peers. The Center for STEM Learning (CSL) Symposium will be September 26 from 3-6 PM in the Glenn Miller ballroom. While the Symposium is sponsored by the CSL, its mission is relevant across divergent disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences, and the natural sciences. The symposium will feature two poster sessions (consider submitting a poster). Many of past projects described in posters were supported, in part, by ASSETT. In addition to CU, a variety of other schools and programs will participate, providing an opportunity for expanding and reinforcing the developing synergistic network of Front Range educators. Additionally, the Symposium will feature a panel discussion by four innovative and engaging educators actively engaged in purposeful and positive transformative activities. The panel includes a high school English teacher (Sarah Zerwin, PhD) going gradeless, a professor from University of Denver (Bud Talbot, PhD) promoting change across different levels at the University, a teaching scholar from CU (Eric Stade, PhD) who played a role in putting strict limits on class sizes, and an educator and educational researcher from the School of Mines (Bethany Wilcox, PhD) who is exploring how innovation can create new and exciting challenges.
You can register for the symposium here.
Finally, I want to take a moment to highlight a best practice in teaching. There are three types of questioning strategies that can be used in very productive ways for promoting student learning. Elicit questions are designed to elicit student thinking about a topic. They can be used at the beginning of a lesson or topic, or any time when it is important to make student thinking apparent both for the student and the teacher. Example questions: Why is the sky blue? What is it about you that makes you unique? Is it possible for you to have a trait not present in either of your parents? Elicit questions often reveal a diversity of thinking. Probe questions are meant to dig deeper into student ideas and their predictions. They are meant to find the limits of what students know. There are a variety of probe question stems: Tell me more about that. What do mean when you say…? Why do you think that? Finally, challenge questions should be designed so students develop a deeper and more synthetic understanding of a topic. A key aspect of challenge questions is to ask students to add more to their thinking. For example, you can ask students to consider information about genetic mutations and to incorporate the information into their assessment of what is it about them that is unique. The point of asking questions—that elicit, probe, or challenge students—is student thinking becomes apparent, making it possible to build on what students know rather than assuming they know what you think they know. Plus, by asking questions, and listening to what students have to say, students become the center of the action: whoever is at the center is often the one who learns the most.
Have fun this semester and stay healthy.
1 I am including instructors when I refer to professors.