Communicating Course Expectations to Students

In the past week, two articles on classroom expectations have caught my attention. Both describe the importance of helping students understand your expectations of them in the course, and how they can meet those expectations. This got me thinking, that as a ‘seasoned’ faculty member, many of my expectations are engrained in my mind, but I don’t always explicitly articulate them to my students.
The article by Weimer describes a short survey that was created to get a sense on what students’ expectations are and include questions on: what learning activities they’re anticipating; what they think they’ll be graded on; their expectations regarding faculty-student interactions; and how quickly they expect faculty to answer emails, post grades, and/or return assignments. Here is a link to the full survey:  Responses to these questions provide a great starting point for a classroom discussion about how student expectations align, or don’t align, with yours.

The second article in The Chronicle of Higher Education by Dan Berrett talks about ‘transparent teaching’ and work being done by Mary-Ann Winkelmes at UNLV. Winkelmes’ premise is that when faculty employ a transparent teaching approach students are more confident academically and feel as if they belong in college, which in turn helps them succeed and stay enrolled. One example of transparent teaching that has proven to be particularly successful is related to assignments. The concept entails professors considering three questions when creating assignments: what, exactly, they’re asking students to do (the “task”); why students have to do it (the “purpose”); and how the work will be evaluated (the “criteria”). The professor then explains those reasons to students when they are given the assignment, and the results have been very positive. Winkelmes has distilled the concepts into a straightforward transparent teaching protocol outlined on the website Transparency in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.

The Unwritten Rules of College.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2015.
Expectations, Underestimations, and Realities.” Faculty Focus. N.p., 23 Sept. 2015. Web. 25 Sept. 2015.

Two New(ish) Campus Resources to Support Teaching

With the semester well underway we know a number of faculty take advantage of the speakers the University Lectures Program brings to campus. For faculty who require students to attend these lectures for credit, there is now a quick and easy to use system in place that allows students to “sign in” by swiping their ISU card at a workstation after the event. The card reader is linked to the registrar’s database so information accessed is specific to the instructor and the class/section being assigned. For more information visit the Lectures Program website.

The University Museums is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Have you ever considered how you might leverage pieces from their extensive collection in your course? A few years ago I worked with the museum staff to help my senior design students understand the design process from a different point of view. It turned out to be a great exercise and every student commented on the new appreciation they had for the art of campus. This fall, the Museums have launched the new eMuseum site which allows anyone to search the entire University Museum permanent collection. The new eMuseumsite can also be accessed on the museums homepage or under the collections tab. I encourage you to take a little time and browse the collection. You might be surprised by what you find and how you could use it in your course.