Preparing Students to Learn
Wilbert McKeachie and Marilla Svinicki, authors of McKeatchie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers (Wadsworth, 2005) state in their introductory comments:
What is important is learning, not teaching. Teaching effectively depends not just on what the teacher does, but rather on what the student does (p. 6).
Students new to the experience of learning on a university level may need assistance in developing skills that will allow them to become more efficient and effective learners. Please use the resources below to find out more about what you can do to guide your students to acquire these important learning skills. The resources are categorized under three subheadings:
Bonus link: Carnegie Mellon’s Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence offers “Solve a Teaching Problem,” a site that “provides practical strategies to address teaching problems across the disciplines. These strategies are firmly grounded in educational research and learning principles.”
Step 1: Identify a PROBLEM you encounter in your teaching,
Step 2: Identify possible REASONS for the problem, and
Step 3: Explore STRATEGIES to address the problem.
This resource is well-designed and offers valuable teaching strategies. http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/solveproblem/index.html
Bonus link: Honolulu Community College has a massive collection of teaching tips, many of which will provide you with more information on students’ learning dispositions, under such categories as “How People Learn,” Motivating Students,” and “Human Development.” Click on the link below.
Develop your students’ learning dispositions
Students’ learning dispositions are a collection of skills and attitudes that can be influenced by educators and improved in a manner that will encourage students to become lifelong learners. You can help students learn to engage more thoroughly with their assigned reading through the use of critical reading skills, develop their information literacy abilities, and study more efficiently.
Explore these resources for multiple ideas on developing students’ learning dispositions:
• Bowling Green State University Learning Commons. http://www.bgsu.edu/offices/learningcommons/ According to its mission, the BGSU Learning Commons “provides students with academic resources that foster independent learning,” including assistance with writing and study skills.
• Burkhardt, Joanna M., et. al. Teaching Information Literacy: 50 Standards-based Exercises for College Students. Chicago, American Library Association, 2010. Updated from a 2003 edition to include the exponential growth of electronic resources, this is a comprehensive look at teaching information literacy that provides 50 separate lessons to teach a variety of skills. Intended for library instruction faculty but replete with information that can be used by anyone who needs to help students understand how to choose and evaluate resources.
• BGSU librarians have created a LibGuide for students on the subject of information literacy that is a self-paced, self-study instrument. When students complete their review of the information, there is a brief quiz they can take to measure their comprehension. LibGuide: http://libguides.bgsu.edu/bgsu1000informationliteracy
• Kurland, Dan. “How Language Really Works: The Fundamentals of Critical Reading and Effective Writing.” http://www.criticalreading.com/ This website contains a wealth of information about critical reading, one of the most important skills that helps to develop students’ learning dispositions, including subsections on the steps to critical reading, the principles of critical reading, and the relationship between critical reading and critical thinking.
T&L Guide: http://www.bgsu.edu/downloads/provost/file108263.pdf
• Pintrich, Paul. R. “Understanding Self-Regulated Learning.” New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 63 (1995). Pintrich outlines the characteristics of self-regulated learners: students who are able to set and achieve learning goals, control their emotions and environment, monitor their cognitive behavior, and ask for help when appropriate. Educators can help students become more self-regulated by modeling the behaviors and by developing classroom tasks that require self-regulation.
• Scholes, Robert. “The Transition to College Reading.” Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture. 2:2 (2002). In this article, literary critic and theorist Robert Scholes says that American colleges and universities have “a reading problem of massive dimensions” and proposes that educators teach critical reading through the use of texts that challenge students’ reading and thinking skills, as well as their unexamined assumptions.
• Vallée, Manuel. “Teaching Critical Reading: Reading in the Social Sciences.” http://gsi.berkeley.edu/teachingguide/reading/social-sciences.html. This teaching guide for graduate student instructors at University of California at Berkeley, while targeted specifically to the social sciences, provides a clear four-step model for teaching critical reading to students that is applicable across many disciplines.
Cultivate their understanding of academic integrity
Students may not understand precisely what plagiarism is and may need specific assistance to learn to avoid the many pitfalls that lay in wait for them, especially online. It is important that educators like you⎯and especially those who have first-year students⎯teach students both what plagiarism is and what the consequences of plagiarism are. It is also important to design assignments that make it difficult to plagiarize.
Explore these resources for ideas on helping students understand and avoid plagiarism:
• “Plagiarism: Defining, Detecting, Preventing.” Bowling Green State University Libraries. http://www.bgsu.edu/colleges/library/assistance/page41070.html
This is local resource with links to relevant BGSU documents, including the Code of Academic Conduct. This page also contains information about plagiarism detection software.
• BGSU Librarians have created a guide on Academic Integrity designed to get students thinking about all the issues involved in this complicated concept. The guide includes a tab for instructors to help them think about how the information can be integrated into classroom instruction. LibGuide: http://libguides.bgsu.edu/bgsu1000academicintegrity
• Taleb, Rosemary. “A Student Online Plagiarism Guide: Detection And Prevention Resources.” TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 48:6 (2004). This article may become your best friend because it provides so much good information about detecting online plagiarism. It details sites where students can purchase term papers and discusses plagiarism detection programs, copyright issues, and ways to use search engines to detect plagiarism. It also includes prevention tips and a list of resources.
• “Teaching Academic Honesty in the Classroom.” Academic Impressions. http://www.academicimpressions.com/news/teaching-academic-honesty-classroom This site focuses on three key steps to help students “internalize academic integrity.” They are: (1) creating clear instructions regarding what is acceptable and what is not; (2) using first offenses as “teachable moments”; and (3) teaching academic honesty during the first weeks of first-year courses.
Prepare them for group membership
The benefits of group work for college students are clear and well documented. However, many educators insufficiently prepare students for group work, assuming that this is something they already know how to do. They do not. It is important that you take the time to teach the skills students need to be effective group members; otherwise they will not reap the many benefits of working on group projects.
Explore these for ideas on helping students understand how to work effectively on group projects
• “Cooperative Learning: Students Working in Small Groups.” Speaking of Teaching: Stanford University Newsletter on Teaching. 10:2, 1999. This article provides an introduction to collaborative work and includes a preparatory checklist for collaborative tasks. It also contains a useful bibliography.
• Davis, Barbara Gross.Tools for Teaching. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass, 1993. This book provides a compendium of teaching tools (49 in all). Of especial interest are the sections on collaborative and experiential strategies, enhancing students’ learning and motivation, and preventing academic dishonesty.
T&L Guide: “Working in Groups.” http://www.bgsu.edu/downloads/provost/file92509.pdf
• Michaelsen, Larry K., et. al. “Designing Effective Group Activities: Lessons for Classroom Teaching and Faculty Development.” http://speech.ipfw.edu/PeerReview/TLassignments.pdf This article offers assistance to the practitioner who wants to design effective group activities. The authors identify four key variables that have to be managed if the group is to be truly participative and effective.
• “Teamwork Skills: Being an Effective Group Member.” Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo. http://cte.uwaterloo.ca/teaching_resources/tips/teamwork_skills.html While much information on working in groups focuses on group tasks, this site emphasizes the importance of group processes to successful task completion and provides educators with methods for encouraging self-awareness and reflection among group members.
• “Group Work.” http://www.ryerson.ca/lt/resources/subjectindex.html#G This site hosted by Ryerson University in Toronto has links to many excellent sources on various aspects of group work, including designing activities, strategies to better prepare students for group work, and group decision making.
Here are three comprehensive resources:
• LaSere, Bette Ericson, Calvin B. Peters, and Diane Weltner Strommer. Teaching First-Year College Students. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass, 2006. While this book includes a good deal of standard material about current learning theories, it is exceptional in terms of the extent of practical advice it provides. For anyone who wants to meet students where they are “academically, intellectually, and emotionally,” this book provides a wealth of ideas. The new edition incorporates information about demographic changes that have occurred in student populations since the original publication in 1991.
• Baxter Magolda, M.B. Creating Contexts for Learning and Self-Authorship: Constructive-Development Pedagogy. Nashville, TN, Vanderbilt University Press, 2000. For many years, the focus of Baxter Magolda’s research has been the concept of self-authorship, which is the ability of students to develop a unique, personal perspective, which, in turn, leads to their ability to make sense of experience⎯to learn. In Creating Contexts, Baxter Magolda provides practical tips to help educators understand how students regard knowledge, and she outlines what she calls “constructive developmental pedagogy," a method of teaching that helps students move toward self-authorship.
• Perry, William G. Forms of Ethical and Intellectual Development in the College Years: A Scheme. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass, 1998. This landmark work on how students’ views of knowledge change over their college years from simplistic, dualistic schemas to complex epistemological strategies for understanding the world around them was first published in 1970. The strength of Perry’s model is underscored by the fact that his ideas still form the basis of research into how students learn and develop as learners over their university years.