Forming “Teams” or “Discussion Groups” to Facilitate Learning

March 17, 2014

I often hear that faculty say that students don’t like group work. This is probably true. How many of us – as faculty – really relish writing by committee (whether for a grant or a departmental report) or producing work that is dependent on other contributions? Yet we all need to do that. And thus, working in groups and teams is a skill that students need to have. This post offers some ideas on how to structure group dynamics in class. Check it out. [from Professor eNewsletter]


Our Roles as Teachers – More Important Than Ever

March 9, 2014

I ran across this blog post on NPR’s newsfeed today. I can’t agree more. I’ve been thinking along these lines more or less for the past five years or so. Students can find information. It’s everywhere for them. I still remember conducting a research project in a little strip-mall store front library with a card catalog when I was a kid in junior high. Now, I check everything on the web! 

This blogger – read the post here – is saying that we are wasting precious class time when we lecture. There is so much information that we could assign students. The whole “but they don’t read” is a long-heard phrase. But maybe they don’t read because they know that they will just be told the same information by us when they come to class? Then, why bother? 

But what if we had them engage in the liberal arts, in the ideas presented in really interactive ways. Then the classroom would be a really lively place. We would be giving them an experience that no one else could and a way to interact with the material that they can’t get from the Internet. 

This makes teaching more challenging. And why I am glad to be teaching in this new Information Age! I am free!

This quotation from the article really grabbed me

“In an economy of such abundant information, the teacher who still insists upon distributing information via lecture is competing with primary sources and documents that would allow students to actively participate in ways far deeper than simply listening. If a student can download a PowerPoint, or take pictures of notes on the board, is it the most efficient use of class time to have them copy content line by line? The speed with which information can be accessed and shared seems to invalidate the pace of the everyday lecture.

But far from devaluing the role of the modern teacher, the new economy of information has freed teachers from their role as “font of knowledge” and allowed them to become chief analyzer, validity coach, research assistant, master differentiator, and creator of a shared learning experience.”

I believe college professors are more important than ever. Yet we need to adapt to the context of where our students are. There maybe some topics that only WE can adequately explain. But I’m willing to bet there is something out there – a link, a video, a blogpost, an article, a chapter – that sums it up just as well. 

For me, I’ll assign that. And then have them engage it in class. That’s my challenge. How about you?