One of the biggest problems that teachers face is providing prompt and useful feedback to students. When 200 students all hand in a piece of work at the same time, it can take over a week of solid marking time (9-5 for 5 days) to adequately assess all of those assignments. Meanwhile the students would like to know what they have done wrong and how they can improve, and in an era of immediate communication over a week can feel like a long time! What I will advocate here is a style of feedback that does not replace that in-depth marking, but can be a useful, complementary tool. I suggest that teachers try to use audio or video recording as a way to provide general feedback immediately following an assessment. This doesn’t have to be based on an overview of all the work that has been handed in, but can be indicative of some of the patterns that emerge as teacher works through the assignments.Read More »
At a time when student : staff ratios are relatively high, it can be difficult to provide the one-to-one attention that students might need in order to get the most out of their time at university, school or college. Office hours are one way in which we as teachers can set aside some of our time to deal with pressing issues. However, the regular format of these office hours tends to be a long queue of students in the hall outside a teacher’s office, and limited contact with individual students who might all have the same question. There are a number of ways in which this process can be improved, and I’ll discuss two of those here.
Scientists have always been very good at jargon-filled articles, to the point that the academic literature itself can be almost completely inaccessible to non-specialists. In more recent times, there has been a big push for scientists to complement those articles with simpler pieces that communicate that research to the general public. In a similar way, we make a point of encouraging science students to adopt the more formal, technical aspect of science writing, but we tend not to focus on providing the skills that the students need to communicate science outside of academia. Web logs (better known as “blogs”) can be a useful medium through which to develop these skills.
I was looking around for an alternative to “clickers” (Who-Wants-to-be-a-Millionaire-style audience response technology) for use in a classroom. These tools really do help with classroom engagement, and the students seem to appreciate the opportunity to interact with the material while the teacher is present (rather than having to wait until the exam!). This also allows anonymous recording of results, banishing the fear that many students have of putting their hand up in the middle of a crowded lecture theatre. There are a few options, such as www.polleverywhere.com, www.qidiq.com, and www.soapbox.com. All of these sites use a web-based approach through an app or website to feed student responses back into a webpage or Powerpoint slide. They work reasonably well, but are limited by either (i) not being free (a problem in this time of university cost-cutting), or (ii) being a tiny bit complicated to use at first (a major issue that reduces the adoption of new technology in teaching). I went looking for an alternative and found Google Forms to be quite a useful little tool.Read More »