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Autobiography - Get to know your colleagues

In these "intellectual autobiography" interviews, a side project of Sam Mulberry to get to know his fellow colleagues, Sam asks how each person arrived in their field, how their education has shaped their teaching and scholarship, for books that describe them well, and what their ideal college or curriculum would be.

iStudio: Innovation Studio

Schedule Like Beethoven: Organize Your Work Day Like a Genius, from Innovation Studio workshop and panel with Susan Brooks, Sam Mulberry and Wayne Roosa.

Tomorrow's Professor Newsletter

Stanford University's newsletter Tomorrow's Professor provides many useful ideas and resources for professors. Subscribe to receive the newsletter

1 Minute Teaching Tips

#1 - “The 4 Minute Summary”

By: Sara Wyse (Biological Sciences)

Evidence shows that when students summarize content, they are more likely to recall it later. By including a quick 4-minute summary in your classes, students get practice communicating and recalling content in their own words and it is repeatedly a top student comment on IDEA as a strategy that helps students learn.

To implement, come up with 4 statements or questions for students. Each student in a team of four is given a number (1-4) and the statements are likewise numbered 1-4. Each person takes 1 minute to respond to the statement or question to their team. You can follow up on a specific question with the entire class after the discussion, if desired.

The 4-Minute Summary is versatile: use it at the beginning of class to recall what you talked about the day before, use it in the middle of class to break up a lecture at a natural transition point, use it at the end of class to summarize the take-home messages of the day. Getting students to summarize and recall aloud is powerful; be ready for more questions and clarifications following these 4 minutes!  

For more, see The 4-Minute Summary at CourseSource.

#2 - "Anticipation Guide"

By: Jay Rasmussen (Education)

Students, whether traditional age or adult, have historically struggled with determining importance as they spend time in our classrooms and encounter various content pieces we provide. This struggle is often based on a lack of broader knowledge of the discipline. Helping students determine importance is an area we can assist. In addition to sharing clear learning objectives (targets) and summarizing techniques such a “The 4 Minute Summary” (Teaching Tip #1), an “Anticipation Guide” is a wonderful tool to help students focus their attention on essential understandings.

Begin the process by writing a series of 3 to 10 statements or questions (T-F, short answer, essay) related to key content. Then, students individually or in small groups respond in writing to each item. Once the learning experience has been provided (e.g., lecture, readings, discussion, etc.) the students then return to the same "Anticipation Guide" items and confirm or change their responses. This activity serves as a wonderful introduction/closure for any class session (face-to-face or online) and it provides meaningful repetition of important content.

#3 - "Generative Conversations"

By: Sean Dikkers (Education)

For years in my own classroom I wanted conversations to be generative of new thought. Readings, lectures and solid questioning techniques were a foundation for this, but I wanted an environment where students became more collegial and felt the agency to comment, build on, or challenge ideas. Two techniques have help me move this ongoing goal along:

  • First, after students ask content questions about any content in class, try to pause and consider if you would expect anyone in the class to know the answer. If so, instead of simply answering, ask, "Does anyone in the class want to take a shot at answering that question?" This can encourage distributed expertise in the room and sends a clear message that the goal of the class is the ability to speak into the content. Not only can they be experts, but you are waiting for it. Where their answers may be incomplete, I can always had small nuances after 1-2 students have given it a try - or praise them when they give a great answer.
  • Second, a closely related strategy is useful when students finish sharing content or presenting in class. Prior to giving any feedback ask the rest of the class if they would have any points or thoughts they would add to the presentation (not critique, but construction) - or if they can think of any future reading/media that would be complimentary. In cases where the class is silent, I can model the kind of feedback that I am hoping for.

Both have served my class conversations well!

#4 - "ChecBric"

By: Jay Rasmussen (Education)

The "ChecBric" is a simple to use assessment tool that can be paired with any existing or newly created assignment. It combines components of a checklist and rubric and hence the name. The ChecBric should be introduced to students when an assignment is given, collected when the assignment is turned in by students, and ultimately completed and returned to the students by the instructor along with the assignment.

In addition to being a very usable tool for instructors and students, the ChecBric has multiple advantages: it requires students to attend to the assignment criteria, it helps develop self-assessment skills in students, and it allows an instructor to "weight" different criteria in an assignment as they wish.

Here is how it works for any given assignment:

  1. Determine what the criteria for success will be by writing a 1-2 sentence criteria statement in each row of the tool. The statement should make it clear what the student must accomplish and how well it should be accomplished. For example, "The central thesis of the paper was supported by multiple forms forms of evidence." The "how" part of the criteria statement is the quality indicator and stems such as the following can be used: The _______ were supported by. The ______included _______. The _______demonstrated _______. Include as many criteria statements as necessary for any given assignment.
  2. Determine the weighting you wish to assign each criteria by assigning point values. In the model below and Word.doc template you can simply change the point values as needed. You may wish to eliminate point values for each individual criteria and use a single holistic score.
  3. When students have completed an assignment require them to self-assess on each criteria by adding their point values and add their own reflective comments about their performance the assignment. They then turn in the ChecBric along with the assigment. The tool can be modified to include a comment section after each criteria statement if you wish.
  4. When you receive an assignment, complete with the student completed ChecBric, you assign points for each criteria statement and then complete the instructor comment section. This is a time to identify what the student did especially well and to provide and explanation about why any points were deducted for each of the criteria.

Students have responded well to this assessment tool and appreciate receiving a consistent form of specific feedback. I suggest that you try this tool with one assignment, tweak the model based on your experience, and make the instrument your own!

#5 - "Mindtool Database"

By: Jay Rasmussen (Education)

A "Mindtool Database" is an assignment model to consider that allows students to rehearse/consolidate learning and determine importance in new material they encounter. Additionally, the model provides the instructor with valuable information about student learning retention. The actual database is a single document that students create and submit approximately three times during a given course.

Consider the following steps when creating a Mindtool Database assignment:

  • determine 3-5 ways that students typically learn in your course (e.g., readings, lectures, assignments/homework, discussions, group work, lab work, simulations, case studies, videos, service learning, presentations, etc.). Each of these learning experiences can be referred to as a field.
  • craft a simple assignment that reads something like this...."The purpose of this assignment is to help you identify and retain for your own records the most critical course content. This is an ongoing assignment that you will turn in on (Date, Date, Date). The following fields are required for each Database submission: (list fields here). The Database should be developed using concise language to reduce size. Use bullet points and include at least three or four entries for each field. Create one document for the entire assignment and use different colored fonts when submitting work for each of the three due dates. See completed student sample with three entries.
  • require students to turn in (hard copy or electronic) their Database on each due date. Respond to each student in writing by adding comments in dialogue style (e.g., "I love your insight about _________. Have you thought about _______?" As you provide these comments imagine you are having a face-to-face conversation with each student.
  • consider what learning is really "sticking" with your students as your review each of the three submissions. Are you seeing many comments about important course content? If so, pat yourself on the back because the learning experience associated with this content is effective. Are you seeing few Database entries about important course content? If so, consider how you might make the learning experience associated with this content more powerful.

I've used this assignment model many times. Students respond well to it and it provides me with invaluable formative assessment information as a course unfolds. As mentioned in previous One Minute Teaching Tips, start small with this idea in one course and modify the approach to make it your own.

#6 - "Mastery Concept"

By: Jim Hurd (Anthropology, Sociology, and Reconciliation Studies)

I quiz over student readings before discussing the material. I tell the students that the Moodle quiz will have two grades: zero and mastery. Mastery is defined as 8 out of 10 correct. I will ask mostly for word answers, rather than multiple-choice (this will enhance learning and aid retrieval practice). One of the questions will be a review question. Immediate feedback provided. They will have two chances to take the same quiz, but the questions will be randomized. This is open-book, but time is limited. I recommend that the two attempts be spaced (Moodle can do this), for better learning and retention. A little forgetting is valuable when one is practicing retrieval of information.

Grading: Grade for these quizzes will be the percent of quizzes mastered during the semester (e.g., 7 out of 10 quizzes mastered = 70%).

Then I ask for five-minute in-class essays on a 3x5 card, also graded zero or mastery, after we've discussed the material. One re-do allowed. I print the format for this on the card, with the grading rubric on the back. Both the quizzes and the in-class essays are low-point activities, so I can emphasize that their main purpose is retrieval practice and testing memory.

Rationale for these two mastery activities:

  1. Frequent (self-) assessment and feedback.
  2. Sends a signal that one needs to aim for mastery, deepen learning.
  3. Freedom to fail at the first attempt.
  4. Reality check of student knowledge.
  5. Retrieval practice for long-term retention.
  6. Better reading and better discussions.

I have received almost no blowback using this method. Student comment: "You really have to read!"