Category Archives: Pedagogy

“In her research, Fassinger (1997) found that the variable that best explained student participation was a student trait – confidence.”

Thirty years of research on classroom discussion has generated many theories on why some students participate in discussion and others do not. I’ve come to believe that while a combination of factors come into play, Fassinger’s findings are probably key. … Continue reading

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Best Books for College Teachers in 2017

Of the books published in 2017, here is my list of the five that have added the most to my understanding of our students, our challenges as instructors, and our need to reform our educational system. iGen by Jean Twenge: … Continue reading

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“Sadly, the reality is that more and more students entering the educational pipeline have had curdled childhoods.”

It is not poverty per se that distinguishes these students, Karen Gross writes, but it’s a childhood burdened by “hunger, exposure to or experience with drugs, alcohol, abandonment, frequent moves, abuse, self-harm or harm of others.” Do we know which … Continue reading

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“My students call this a ‘quarter-life crisis.’”

Cathy Davidson, author of The New Education, describes the twenty-fifth birthday parties that many of her college students throw “to commemorate their collective indecision and existential sense of uselessness.”  They have degrees, credentials, and honors, but few job prospects. Davidson … Continue reading

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“When he analyzed students’ responses through their handheld electronic clickers, only 10 percent would remember the material after twenty minutes of lecture.”

Was this professor inept?  Were his students slackers? Both are unlikely: Carl Wieman, the professor, is a Nobel Laureate, and he teaches at Sanford. Perhaps, as Norman Eng points out, those of us who stand in the front of the … Continue reading

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“When McGraw-Hill Education polled more than 600 college faculty in 2017, 70% said students were less willing to ask questions and participate in class than they were five years ago.”

I’m with the 70%. At some point in every class, I say, “What questions do you have about this?” Seldom do students respond. However, if that same question is included in a quiz, about a third ask for more information … Continue reading

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“Our challenge as culturally responsive teachers is knowing how to create an environment that the brain perceives as safe so it can . . . turn its attention to learning.”

Most often, “culturally responsive teaching” focuses on students of color and students who are linguistically diverse.  After reading iGen by Jean Twenge, however, I would argue that students born between 1995 and 2012 have unique cultural characteristics that we need … Continue reading

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“The surprising result of this research was that self-transcendent purpose produced the strongest driver for students to persist through challenging academic tasks.”

Jim Lang’s wonderful book Small Teaching was the first one I reached for after finishing the profoundly disturbing book iGen last week, which described in precise, scientific terms the characteristics of many of the students who are entering our classrooms … Continue reading

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“In 2016, for the first time, the majority of entering college students described their mental health as below average.”

If you teach college students, stop what you are doing and get your hands on this book. The data collected here will change how you see the people who sit in front of you. Twenge argues that the generation born … Continue reading

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“Students rated sociability (e.g., friendliness, warmth) as significantly more important than did faculty.”

A 2014 study by Megan Gerhardt evaluated how instructors and students ranked contributors to teaching credibility. While everyone agreed that competence in subject matter and character are most important, students noted a desire for sociability that “has important implications for … Continue reading

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“Of the students who report having disabilities, the largest and fastest-growing group is students who have ‘invisible disabilities.’”

One of my greatest challenges as an English instructor is to address the learning needs of students with invisible disabilities, such as anxiety disorders. This population is growing at an astonishing rate. Between 2008 and 2016, the number of college … Continue reading

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“Education, when rightly understood, will be found to lie in the art of asking apt and fit questions…”

Bronson Alcott continues, “…and in thus leading the mind by its own light to the perception of truth.”  Using discussion questions to develop ideas instead of using the rote learning method to reinforce “the” right ideas was considered outrageous in … Continue reading

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“More often than we think, our limits are self-imposed.”

I once asked the director of our program for non-traditional college students what the biggest challenge was for these students.  Was it ability?  “No,” she said. “It’s their perception of their abilities.  They don’t think they’re smart enough. Then they … Continue reading

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The students felt that a few could carry the discussion for the rest of the class . . .

. . . while the majority of students adhered to a ‘norm of silence’ – not perceiving themselves as obligated to participate in the conversation (50).  Jay R. Howard, a sociologist, calls this the norm of “the consolidation of responsibility,” … Continue reading

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“Researchers found that students who wrote prolifically before high-stakes performances, like examinations and final papers, significantly improved their performance on their final work” (69).

Interestingly, in this study by Ramirez and Beilock (2011), as summarized by Gary R. Hafer in Embracing Writing, it didn’t matter whether students wrote about the subject matter or about their emotions and anxiety – what mattered was how frequently … Continue reading

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