What if more students disagreed or strongly disagreed?
This would be an indication, particularly if it is a trend across courses and/or semesters, that this teaching practice could be improved with the introduction of new strategies.
Item: In this course, I was encouraged to participate through class activities, projects, and/or assignments.
Why it is important: Active engagement is based on active-learning strategies that encourage students to construct their own knowledge and understanding moving beyond superficial levels of learning and utilizing metacognitive strategies to assess their own learning. Compared with passive learning experiences, like most lectures, active learning focuses on the students doing the hard work of learning, and tends to create a more stimulating and interactive classroom environment. Interacting with peers and the instructor requires students to think more deeply about the subject matter enabling them to absorb, connect, and retain the information better than passive methods.
- Think-Pair-Share: Ask students a higher-order thinking question (i.e., application, analysis, or evaluation of a concept). Have them write their responses individually for a few minutes, then have them discuss and compare with a peer.
- Pause Procedure: Pause the lecture for a few minutes every 15 minutes or so. Encourage students to discuss the lecture segment in pairs or small groups. This allows for questions and clarifications.
- Jigsaw: For students, working in small groups, give each group a different reading, and have each group discuss. Then, have groups scramble to form new groups, where every group member has read a different reading, and ask them to share that information with their group. Groups can be given prompts to help integrate or analyze the material.
Builds upon students' prior knowledge and experience
Item: This course expanded my knowledge and skills in this subject matter.
Why it is important: Integrating new information with existing knowledge is how students expand their knowledge base, ideas, discriminate between ideas/concepts, and reorganize or repair the connections between different ideas/concepts. Finding activities where students share their thinking can help clarify difficult concepts, correct misunderstandings, and encourage students to reflect on their prior knowledge.
- Visible Thinking: Illustrate how information links/connects with foundational concepts using diagrams or graphic organizers such as concept maps or mind maps. Both the instructor and students should have the opportunity to reveal their thinking to others and to discuss as a group.
- Make it relevant: Use models/contexts that make sense to students, relating to experiences they are likely to have had in their own lives. This can help facilitate the connection between new and prior knowledge.
- Encourage reflection: Have students revisit their ideas, and ask them frequently how their understanding has changed. How do new concepts/processes relate to those presented earlier in the course?
Promotes and supports student diversity
Item: I was treated with respect in this course.
Why it is important: This relates to the classroom climate, which can play a crucial role in how students learn. A classroom climate that is positive and supportive can promote student learning, motivation, satisfaction, and achievement. Instructors can create a sense of community within their classrooms with mutual understanding and interactions built on respect and acceptance among students and instructors.
- Listen to students: Acknowledging student participation helps students feel a sense of belonging in the classroom.
- Encourage participation and questions: Create a safe space for students to share questions and feelings, allowing for mutual understanding and collaborative interactions.
- Establish a classroom code of conduct: Early in the course, ask students to suggest ways the class can support learning and encourage respectful interactions. Record their ideas and, when necessary, remind them that this code of behaviors was one they helped to develop and have a responsibility to support.
- Model respectful behavior: This helps to build rapport with students and provides a guide for how students should behave in the classroom.
Supports students' conceptual understanding
Item: I was encouraged to analyze and/or apply the concepts and skills taught in this course.
Why it is important: Giving students an opportunity to apply knowledge in new situations helps them retain and integrate the new information. The more students can transfer and use their new knowledge, the more they can see patterns and relationships between concepts. Applications questions can also provide instructors with a way to gauge how students are understanding the material.
- Argument talks: Present students with an argument. Have them create and present their own positions using quality evidence-based statements. Asynchronous online discussions can allow for more time to reflect on their arguments.
- Problem-solving activities: Provide students with opportunities to use their new knowledge to solve an issue related to the content.
- Reflection: After engaging in problem solving or argumentation, guide students to reflect upon their understanding to assess how well they understand the concept.
Makes learning outcomes explicit
Item: The learning goals for this course were clear to me.
Why it is important: Setting clear learning goals and explicitly letting students know what they are can help students form realistic expectations about the course, what is most important, and how they will be assessed.
- State on syllabus: Include the course learning outcomes on the syllabus and read them as a class.
- When you do an activity or assignment, relate it to the course learning outcome that assessment supports.
- Rubrics: For individual assignments, create rubrics with expected learning outcomes and requirements for the assignment as criteria. Provide the rubric to students before they begin working on it.
Uses links between disciplinary and/or inter-disciplinary theory and practice
Item: This course helped me to connect the concepts and skills we learned to the world around me.
Why it is important: Using real-world examples and situations makes the content more relatable and provides a context for students to build their knowledge. These strategies can also help students transfer and integrate the new information at a deeper level.
- Problem-based learning: Using a real-world problem, students can apply their new knowledge to develop possible solutions.
- How you'd use it: After completing instruction on a topic, ask students to discuss in groups several ways that topic or information would be used in different contexts.
- Analogies: Ask students to devise analogies that help to explain how a particular topic, process, or concept relates to a real-world situation.
Uses learning environments, resources, techniques effectively
Item: I feel I learned the subject matter well enough to help another student in this course.
Why it is important: In order to participate and engage in the course, students need to be able to easily find and use course resources, like articles, lecture materials, and assignments. How these resources are used in class can help students engage with the content. In addition, students need to build a sense of how well they understand the content, which can be accomplished through frequent formative assessment, reflection, and other metacognitive strategies. Students who feel they have effectively learned course material are more likely to imagine that they might be able to help other learners.
Item: The course materials (D2L site, assigned readings, presentations, activities, etc.) helped me learn in this course.
Why it is important: Course materials are integral in helping students build their content knowledge. With effective materials, students will be able to direct their own learning while using these materials, build shared understanding as a class, and reflect upon their learning during the course.
- Reflective practices: Periodically, ask students to what extent a particular reading, assignment, or activity helped them to learn about the topic, concept, or skill. Use their feedback to emphasize pathways to learning using course materials.
- My solution path: Periodically, ask students to record what resources they used to solve a particularly difficult concepts, or learn a difficult skill. Share some of the student examples in class or on your D2L page.
Presents material in an appropriately structured manner
Item: The course materials, procedures, and deadlines were clearly organized.
Why it is important: Clear organization of course materials, assigments due dates, and course resources can help students keep track of what they have to do, what is expected of them, and when. Course materials that are clearly organized are generally easily accessible.
- Syllabus: Including learning outcomes, course deadlines and expectations can help students follow the direction of the course.
- "Three before me": Emphasize to students that they have at least three different strategies to find information BEFORE they contact you to ask a question. For example, upcoming deadlines can be found in the D2L calendar, in each content module, and in the course syllabus.
Seeks feedback on students’ understanding and responds appropriately
Item: I regularly/frequently had the opportunity to ask questions about concepts and skills in this course.
Why it is important: Student questions can serve as a way to gauge how well students understand the material. Asking students to articulate or draw their questions provides a way to correct misconceptions or review difficult concepts and helps the students to learn where they are in their learning.
- What is your question: After presenting new information, pause and ask students to write down at least three questions they have about the new concept/process/skill. Assuming they do have questions, not asking "who has questions", normalizes the act of being metacognitive and the fact that different people learn in different ways and at different paces.
Provides timely feedback on student work/progress
Item: I received feedback on my course work/assignments throughout the semester.
Why it is important: Feedback provides students with information on how well they are progressing and learning. Providing feedback in a timely way allows students to determine the progress of their learning and to make changes as necessary. When feedback is delayed for weeks or until the end of the semester, it is much less useful in helping students.
Item: I received feedback on course work/assignments that helped me learn.
Why it is important: Feedback that is provided in a formative fashion helps students to understand where they are measuring up to expectations, and where they may need to do more work or change strategies. Feedback need not be associated with a grade, although it can be. Building a culture of feedback in your class (telling students where to find their electronic feedback; asking them to view and respond to feedback with ideas for improvement) can help students develop their skills as learners.
- Formal/Informal feedback: Formal feedback can take the form of a rubric with detailed comments. Informal feedback can occur in the context of a discussion or quick conversation giving guidance on content.
- Peer feedback: Peers can often help students learn to evaluate arguments and ways of thinking about the content. They can give quality feedback.
These questions are open for students to comment about the course. Patterns in the responses are important, in giving feedback about potential areas for improvement in the course; for example if 1/4 of all comments mention that exams are unreasonable, that might be something to focus on changing. Rare critical statements could give insight into the experiences of just one or a few students, which might also be important to address, but chances are good that focusing on more-common comments will do more to improve the course for all students.