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Good Principles for a Successful Semester

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By in Classroom, General Education, Student Behavior on .

As we embark on another academic year, I think it’s important to consider how we can create the best environment for learning. In 1987, Chickering and Gamson put forth a brief article titled Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. This document has become a touchstone for educators and instructional designers over the past two and a half decades, and still remains very relevant today.

Chickering and Gamson (1987) pulled the seven principles together in an effort to better understand over 50 years of research on not only how students learn, but also how instructors teach. What resulted were a set of guidelines that, if implemented in part or in whole, has the potential to greatly impact student success in the classroom. As you reflect on your teaching for the semester, consider these principles – and how you might incorporate them – as you prepare future class sessions or courses.

1. Good practice encourages student-instructor contact.

Students interacting with their faculty members has been shown to increase student performance and overall retention to the university. This can be done through emails to students , in- or -out-of-class activities, or simply learning your students’ names.

2. Good practice encourages cooperation among students.

When students interact with others, particularly those with different backgrounds, ethnicities, experiences, or ideologies, they have an opportunity to learn more about the world around them and develop critical thinking and analysis skills. Group projects, study groups, or case/team/problem based learning are all great ways to have students cooperatively learn a concept.

3. Good practice encourages active learning.

The more active a student is in class, the more likely they are to learn the materials being presented. Encourage your students to ask questions and to answer other students’ questions. Further, consider employing one or more tools supported by ITaP designed to increase active and involved learning in your classroom.

4. Good practice involves prompt feedback.

The more students know how they’re doing and how they can improve their performance, the more likely it is that they’ll be successful in the course. Consider employing Course Signals or the Early Warning System (in Learn) as a means of providing feedback with tips for success on a regular basis. Early intervention is key – the earlier and more often you provide feedback, the better for the students.

5. Good practice encourages time on task.

The more good time a student spends on a task, the better they’ll understand the concept and be able to perform the same task the next time. “Good” time is purposeful time – not time spent multi-tasking or working on multiple things at once. It is time that is devoted to one thing with a strong concerted effort. Encouraging students to enhance their learning and studying skills is a great way to help them increase their overall effectiveness.

6. Good practices communicates high expectations.

Most students will work to reach the bar you set for them. If a high bar is set, they’ll work to reach it – provided if you also provide support for them at the same time. Telling students where the bar is set and how they can reach it with your support or the assistance of other offices on campus (resource rooms, help labs, etc.) will go a long way in helping your students succeed.

7. Good practice respects divers talents and ways of learning.

How you learn is not necessarily the same way your students learn, and that’s ok. Understanding where these differences lie, and using varying methods of assessment (oral projects, written papers, team work, multi-media, etc.) will allow for students with different styles and skill sets to flourish.  Purdue’s Center for Instructional Excellence has some information on learning styles, and can work with you to better understand how these can be incorporated into your classroom.


Reference: Chickering, A. W. & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, 39(7): 3-7.

To Flip or Not to Flip: Musings on Flipping the Classroom

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By in Classroom, Course Redesign, IMPACT, Musings on Technology on .

Recently, you might have seen this infographic on flipping the classroom. If not, read through it, then come back to this post. Go ahead. I’ll wait. This post won’t make much sense otherwise (unless you’re already familiar with the concept of flipping the classroom).

Purdue’s IMPACT project, in which I’m deeply involved, is helping some faculty essentially do this. Specifically, there are several faculty who now deliver lectures online and expect the student to have watched/listened to it as homework. They’re more the sage on the screen now, but in class, they are truly facilitating learning, rather than simply delivering knowledge, through activities and group work.  Further, when the “homework” lecture is combined with real-world application in an activity in class, it results in a more engaged classroom and a better understanding of the material for the students.

I’m not sure it’s the end-all, be-all for education though.

The infographic indicates that students are less frustrated because they can work on lessons, problems, activities, etc., in class, with the instructor present.  That assumes that they actually watched the video(s), and in doing so, that the videos provided

a) sufficient information to address/facilitate said lessons,activities, etc., and
b) that the videos themselves were not confusing.

The latter is important, because if the messages are confusing, the activity portion of the class gets derailed by questions and clarifications.

However, even given the possible shortcomings of this approach, the notion that one-size-fits-all does not work in education is extraordinarily true; the more options for learning we can provide students, the greater the opportunity to choose what’s right for them – provided that we can show the efficacy of each method as each relates to specific/desired/required learning outcomes for the course.

To me, however, the graphic represents a somewhat dichotomous nature of the professoriate when it comes to instruction.

On one hand, you have, in general, the traditional lecture/recitation that most of our classes use. The instructor is the purveyor of information, the students the recipients – what Paolo Freire would term banking education, wherein the instructor deposits information into the students. In some cases there is some collaborative learning, even some Freirian students-as-teachers/teachers-as-students activity or problem-posing education occurring, but generally not.

On the other hand, though, there exists scenarios where the instructor acts as a guide. A faculty member could adopt the use of technology, say, something like Course Signals.  Lecture is delivered, homework, quizzes and tests are graded, and a message regarding standing in the course is sent… and then the instructor becomes the guide, by helping students understand where they can go for additional assistance or how they might do better in the course.

In the end, regardless of the depth of a course redesign, we’re attempting to influence the learning environment, either through a direct alteration (via the redesign process), by pointing students to resources that they are able to use to improve their performance (via an early warning system intervention), or by implementing various technologies that can affect the manner in which faculty teach and students learn. The hope is for pedagogical change that incorporates multiple types of instruction, multiple types of interaction, and multiple types of outcomes measures that, when combined, result in increased success and understanding of materials.

Ultimately, I guess my question is this: How do we get the current users to understand the pedagogy behind, or inherent in, the technologies they choose to adopt – or even just the ones available to them? Further, is it possible for us to view various technologies as pedagogy in and of themselves, rather than a means to alter or  influence pedagogy?

Do we need to get there? If so, how do we get there? And what happens when we arrive?

I don’t have the answers here… but if you have some thoughts, please share them below.

Student Redesign: Resources to help Students be Successful

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By in Classroom, Course Redesign, General Education, Student Behavior on .

In my previous post, I discussed how there exists a shared responsibility between the University and its students with regard to their success.  In this post, I’d like to share a list of resources to which students can be referred.

Academic Advisors

A student’s academic advisor can often provide the best information with regard to how a student’s performance is going to affect their overall academic career. Each college, school, or department has its own advisors, and most students should know where their advisor’s office is located.

Academic Success Center

Purdue’s Academic Success Center provides 8- and 16-week classes focused on study skills and reading skills. In addition, they offer free workshops throughout the semester, as well as walk-in consultations to help students be more successful in their studies.

Division of Financial Aid

Often times, students struggle academically because of financial issues. Counselors in the Financial Aid office can work with students to find additional financial aid resources for them, or help them better understand the aid they’re receiving.

Office of the Dean of Students

Purdue’s Office of the Dean of Students offers a range of programs designed to assist students with their personal and academic needs. Personal counseling is available, as are tutors and academic assistance.  Specific resources are offered for adult students through the Span Plan.


An illness – whether physical or psychological – can impact how a student performs in the classroom. Referring a student to the resources available through PUSH, including Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), can help a student identify what’s wrong and aid in their recovery.

Science and Technology Resource Rooms

The Colleges of Science and Technology offer assistance via help and resource rooms, including biology, chemistry, electrical engineering technology, and math.

Supplemental Instruction

Coordinated by Student Access, Transition and Success Programs, Supplemental Instruction (SI) helps students succeed in historically difficult courses.  Students who received an A in the class are trained as peer instructors and are placed back in the classroom to observe the lecture again. Then, they offer out-of-class sessions designed to reinforce and supplement the faculty members’ lectures. Research has indicated that SI participants earn between one-half to one-full letter grade higher than their non-participating peers. A list of courses involved with SI can be found at https://www.purdue.edu/sats/SI/index.html.

University Residences

The professional and student staff in the residence halls exist to assist students in becoming integrated to Purdue. Residential Life Managers, Staff Residents, and Resident Assistants can be excellent resources for students who seem to be struggling in your classes.

Writing Lab

Purdue’s Writing Lab, and the Online Writing Lab (OWL), are excellent resources to assist students with their writing skills. The physical lab is on the second floor of Heavilon Hall.

This is just a smattering of the resources available to students across campus. Please feel free to post additional resources in the comments.

Course redesign? Yes. Student redesign? Definitely.

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By in Classroom, Course Redesign, Student Behavior on .

Lecture Hall at Purdue University

Lecture Hall at Purdue University

I have the privilege of working with the Instruction Matters: Purdue Academic Course Transformation (IMPACT) project, and as part of that responsibility I have been observing classes that have been redesigned as part of the assessment process.

Recently I observed a course and came to the realization that while it is imperative that we work with faculty to create a more engaging and interactive classroom setting, as well as ensure that clear learning goals are set and articulated to students, there’s another piece to the puzzle: the students.  I was observing a larger class, and noticed the following student behaviors:

  • Many students had nothing on their desks – no computer, no paper, no pen/pencil.
  • Some students who were taking notes were writing what was on the PowerPoint slides – slides that were available for students to download (I only know this because some students had laptops with the slides right there).
  • When asked to talk to their neighbor about a concept or question, most did not talk to anyone.
  • At least 15 students arrived after the lecture had already started, and at least as many left before class was dismissed.

The behavior that got me the most, however, was when the professor walked the students through one of the homework problems and gave them the answers to two others (so that they could ensure they were doing the work correctly at home) and a large number of students didn’t even write that information down.

We can redesign courses and work with faculty to alter pedagogy, but if we fail to teach students how to best succeed in our courses, our redesign efforts may be for naught.

Literature indicates that many students coming to college acquired few, if any, study skills that were readily transferable to a university environment. Many times, students indicate that they did not have to study much in high school to earn a good grade. Further, they find college courses to be far more demanding and requiring a far greater amount of time outside of class than they’d experienced.

There exists a shared responsibility between the university and the student when it comes to success – a student must be willing to work for a satisfactory grade, but the university must also be willing to support that student in that endeavor.  Students need to be taught the techniques that will help them succeed – from note taking to test taking to using the libraries on campus. One cannot assume that first, or even second, year students have skills adequate enough to succeed without being shown how to do so.

If you’re redesigning a course, or even just making small changes, think of how that will impact the students in it – in particular, how they prepare for, participate in, and engage with your class. What tips or suggestions can you show students to help them best prepare for and participate in your class?  If you can illustrate what you expect them to do, and what will help them succeed, your course will be that much more successful.

This is part one of a two-part post. Part two will provide information on campus resources, handouts, and information that can be used to help students learn as much as they can.