Good Principles for a Successful Semester
Thursday, August 23rd, 2012
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.