The goal of this FAQ is to support new part time faculty at Madison Area Technical College. There is an overwhelming amount of material to consider when you first begin and we understand TIME is the key issue! We have laid out the following questions, answers and tips with the panic of a new course experience in mind. We would appreciate any ideas you might add about omissions/oversights or neat ideas you think should be added. We will add to this FAQ each year revising and updating links involved.
Your answer is Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. Visit us in room 219 at the Truax campus or visit our Web Site for a rich array of resources.
Although you may have learned from teachers who primarily provided information, teaching and learning have changed. Today’s instructor acts as a coach or facilitator of learning.
This atmosphere encourages independence in learners. Independent learners take responsibility for their own learning, thus removing that burden from you. When you focus on the student, your job becomes one of providing learning activities, resources, and the environment for good learning to take place.
When you write objectives and plan instruction, you must make the needs of your students central to your plan. Ask yourself, What does the student need to know and be able to do? Then state your objectives in terms of what you want the students to achieve, not what you will teach.
The focus on students and what they will learn is a major shift from the past practice of teachers giving information. Students are not passive learners. When you focus on your students and what they will learn, the students take responsibility for their own learning. The goal is to create active, independent learners
Another resource that has been found to be extremely useful to a number of people has been offered in the Process Education Basic Teaching Institutes. The materials delineate a ten-step process for creating a quality learning environment. For each step, there are a number of teaching tips. These materials are found in their entirety on the CETL Web Site under “CETL Resources>Faculty Guidebook.”. It offers a great overview before beginning a course.
By now you are probably aware that approximately 50,000 residents of District 4 attend Madison Area Technical College annually. The number of students who enroll in credit/post-secondary courses is about 20,000. Of these students about 54% are women. The average age is 29.
Within the Madison Area Technical College Information Section of this booklet, see some of the detailed demographic information regarding our student population.
Many have been working since their teens and are first generation college attendees. I believe you’ll be impressed with their motivation, achievement and respect for your efforts in their learning endeavors.
Most adults will come to your class eager to learn. They have a reason for learning, which makes them very different from many of the recent high school graduates. Many adults don’t want this experience to be a repeat of high school or grade school which they may recall as being quite negative and humiliating.
A person’s feelings are important in the learning process and the adult learner must feel comfortable in school. Emotional comfort is feeling at ease with the people around you. For the adult learner, this means being at ease with the students in the course and being at ease with the instructor.
Most adults come into the instructional setting with apprehension. It is important that you accept this as a normal emotional state of the adult in a new setting. The adult does not like to look “bad” in front of strangers. Many adults are very concerned about their self-image. After all, they gained this image over many years, and it represents “who” they are.
What This Type of Adult Learner
Expects in the Classroom
Want courses that help:
Adults come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and physical abilities. Try to make your classroom as comfortable as possible. Some factors you may be unable to control, but others you can.
Many adults feel uncomfortable in a school setting because of previous experiences with school when they were younger. If high school was unpleasant, being back in class as an adult may trigger fearful emotions.
Be sensitive to perceptions, and be aware of past feelings about school that affect your students.
It can be rewarding working with the varying experiences of adults. Discover from them their different backgrounds. You may learn from them, and it may help you adjust to their concerns.
Some basic steps may help you consider the adult learner when you plan and deliver your instruction. These include:
All teachers are interested in what their students learn. Recent research emphasizes that teachers should be interested in how their students learn as well.
Traditional classroom tests are limited in what they can tell you. Frequently, they are used as “final” exams or other summative measures to grade students. They are not often used to provide feedback to both students and teachers on whether learning goals are being met.
Research also shows that students concentrate on learning whatever they think will be on the test; consequently, no matter how clearly you define your goals, students will not work toward those goals unless they feel tests accurately measure goal attainment. To offset this tendency, you must assess progress toward goal attainment at regular intervals. If the assessment is done often enough, both you and your students have time to make changes.
A good assessment that has been found to help students assess their own readiness to learn has been developed by Dr. Skip Downing and the On Course Workshop. A number of our more seasoned faculty members have found this to be a good tool for assessing skills at the beginning of a class to get a baseline of information for both you and the students. A link to On Course can be found at the CETL web page under “Publications and Links>Web Links.” This assessment can be taken on line and can provide you and your students a good base line assessment of their readiness to perform in your class.
Current research encourages teachers to develop students’ critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and independent thought – the capacity to analyze the ideas of others and to generate original ideas. These have been addressed by Madison Area Technical College through the development of our eight Core Abilities. Detailed information related to the Core Abilities can be found by going to the CETL Web Page homepage and selecting “Assessment,” then look for “Core Abilities.
Measuring these higher-order thinking skills, however, is much more difficult than measuring lower-level intellectual skills. You must understand how thinking skills are classified if you are to design assessment instruments that accurately measure your students’ thinking skills. The following is a commonly used hierarchy of thinking skills, known as Bloom’s Taxonomy.
KNOWLEDGE: which requires memory only.
COMPREHENSION: which calls for rephrasing, rewording, and comparing information.
APPLICATION: which requires the student to apply knowledge in order to determine a single correct answer.
ANALYSIS: which is the identification of causes, drawing of conclusions, or determination of evidence.
SYNTHESIS: which requires making predictions, producing original communications, and solving problems.
EVALUATION: which is the making of judgments and offering of opinions.
The levels are arranged from lowest levels of thinking to the highest. The aim of vocational/technical education is to help students achieve at the application level, as a minimum.***
A good timeline will show each meeting time and the learning activity you want to take place. You must plot all activities that will affect the time you have for your course. You must include all activities inside and outside of the classroom. Consider such items as course introduction, lab clean-up, tests, reviews, lectures, lab activities, conferences, field trips, major project due dates, homework, outside reading, and guest speakers.
So, you are ready to develop a timeline for one of your courses! First, you need some support documents before you can proceed. Gather the following:
Fill in the “givens” – starting and ending dates of your course, days off, conferences that prevent the class from meeting, holidays (remember what it was like before and after the holidays when you were in school), in-service dates, and any other activities that interfere with your course.
Divide your course into units of instruction and the units into lessons. You might also sort the course content into categories based on the importance to your students. These could be:
A timeline will help you keep your course on schedule. It will keep you from running out of time or having too much time left.
True, as you start the process, you will only be guessing as to how much time you need to each and evaluate a competency. However, only by “best guessing” will you become good at timeline development. Your timeline is a dynamic document and you must refine it and update it as you teach the course, and each time that you teach the course.
Another benefit is in the mind’s eye of the student. If you develop a timeline, your students can see what is coming up and when it must be done, and they can budget their valuable time wisely. They will also view you as being “organized” and “in charge.”
So you see, establishing and using a course timeline is very useful to you and your students.
A word of caution – no course should be so driven by the timeline that you become too rigid to change. Any number of events may cause you to change your timeline:
Within the RESOURCES FOR TEACHING section of this CD, you will find a sample syllabus. You can also go to the CETL Web page and select “Instructional Design” to find a wealth of templates and samples.
Some basic guidelines for making assignments include:
Textbooks show a lot of ways to write lesson plans. Use the format and style that works best for you. Some sample forms are included in this module to give you some ideas.
A lesson plan is your “script” for the class session. As a script, it gives you directions on the teaching process, and it should include both what you do in the classroom and what your students do.
At the very least, every plan should include the activities of both you and your students. The amount of detail you include in your plan depends on the information you need for your classroom activity and the notes you need as a record for reference the next time you teach the class.
Your lesson plan need not be long but it should be complete and practical. You may write in topics, phrases, or sentences. Most importantly, you should write in a form that you can follow during the class session. It’s best to keep the plans for an entire course together, so that you can refer to them, and update them later.
The main parts of a lesson plan include:
Estimate the time it will take you to cover each of the parts of your class activity, as well as the time for student activities.
Your lesson plan will be most helpful during the class session if you can include all of what you plan to do or say and all of what you plan to direct the student to do. The information includes roll call, announcements, questions about homework, etc.
After you have taught the lesson, make notes on the plan about the accuracy of the time estimate. Remember that your goal is the student’s accomplishments and that the timeline should be flexible.
Go to the CETL Web Page and explore the CETL Resources area and Curriculum Support Services. There are many good links to samples, resources, web sites, etc. Join CETL sponsored certification courses, professional development opportunities , etc.
Prior to your class starting you may be very, very nervous and fearful. This is normal for even seasoned teachers. Try to use the adrenalin but relax so that you can enjoy the students. Please remember that they are more apprehensive than you! Part of your goal should be to calm them into realizing that you are supportive of their efforts. (Sometimes new teachers will try to mask their fear by being pompous – it does not work at Madison Area Technical College.)
The instructor must be comfortable and productive on the first day of class, because it generally sets the tone for the whole semester.
Most students will be wondering how long the first class will last. Tell them up front so they will concentrate on your words.
Before each class it is helpful to arrive at the class before the class starts by about 15 minutes. More than anything else it allows students to interact on academic as well as non-academic matters. It helps you build rapport, and get to know them better. You’ll be amazed what you learn! It will also allow you to be calmer and a few extra minutes in case technology is not working properly or you leave something in the car.
Introduce yourself by establishing credibility. (Some, a few will need assurance that they are taking the course from the right place and person.) At the same time, you’re assuring them of your credentials, don’t flaunt your educational pursuits and intelligence. It’s a fine line...
Many teachers find it helpful to assure group dynamics (and add to the student’s comfort level and theirs’) to learn who they were. Ask them to put the following information on an index card. (This is for the shy one’s comfort level so they will be less flustered.)
Many students don’t do well when put on the spot with a direct question related to the material. (In other words, your discussions will not happen.) To avoid this, you may want to offer them time to record their answer. You’ll find people feel more comfortable responding this way. Also consider giving them the discussion questions ahead of time.
Especially for evening courses, I encourage my students to bring in food. They have been working for eight hours. This is their dinner time. Or course there is meticulous clean-up by the students so there will be no added burden to our custodial crews. If you find yourself over fatigued you’ll notice your class will reflect this – maybe you need sugar/coffee, too.
What is your goal?
Connect their assignment to this class (obviously so they will continue to do the assignment before class)
Evening Classes and The Break Issue
Some evening classes are listed in the timetable as 5:30-8:20; others, 5:30-8:00. Actually it seems to go by department. What to do?
5:30-8:00 - The school procedure is 50 minutes, then a 10 minute break. The courses listed as 5:30-8:00 already have eliminated the break BUT you may still need a restroom break...
5:30-8:20 - Other Options:
Late Start. Some students have to “break their necks” trying to get to the class on time. For them, a 5:40 start with the break at the beginning makes for a more benign beginning.
Earlier Finish. Many students prefer to return home as early as possible to their families after class so they are highly motivated to work through their breaks to do this.
What this means for you. Structure the class so that there’s participation time as well as lecture time. Many studies show that many students learn in a variety of ways – lecture is not always the best method. It will also make the time go faster since many of these students have already worked a full day. The variety will add stimulation on both sides.
It is important to differentiate Formative Assessment from Summative Assessment or evaluation. Dr. Dan Apple, an educational consultant who specializes in Process Education, has offered a number of institutes at Madison Area Technical College. In those institutes, he has helped faculty to distinguish between assessment, which is ideally routine, frequent, and offers feedback that the learner can use to grow and evaluation which is measurement again a predetermined standard.
In the CETL Web Site you will find Assessment as an area to explore. There is an Assessment Glossary that help one to understand these differences.
Grading policies are complex and vital to a student’s success. It is critical that your grading policy be clearly explained to all learners. It is just as important that you have clear grading standards, rubrics and adhere to them. Madison Area Technical College has guidelines for setting a grading policy. Visit our site for more information on the Madison Area Technical College Grading Policies.
What Steps should be taken in Test Construction?
Many texts have test banks which will save you a great deal of time. I would urge you to take the test yourself (without the answer key). You’ll get a flavor for some of the ambiguity that’s inherent in all tests.
If you choose to use multiple choice tests, using Scantron forms can be most useful. The Scantron answer sheets are ABCDE answers or 12345. Be sure your test matches that (one less irritating thing for students). You’ll need #2 pencils – have students bring, or bring extras yourself.
You’ll probably appreciate Scantrons quick grading right after the test.
Remember the first test is the toughest (usually) for the students. They have to learn your style (see if you do emphasize lecture over book, etc., etc.)
It’s usually a good idea to analyze questions that a third of the class missed or 50% missed (your choice).
When returning tests, don’t smile or laugh. It’s a rough time for people who have done poorly or think they have not done as well as they could.
Be careful. It seems that many students temporarily believe their test score is their IQ. Many are trying very hard and want to be acknowledged for that effort.
This is a good time to utilize an assessment process commonly used in Process Education classrooms. It is commonly referred to as “SII” (strengths, improvements and insights).
The process is as follows:
Then consider making these adjustments to your course. Creative ideas you have that you’d like to share – re: Extra Credit?
Don’t be surprised if student’s interest in the material drops after they see their grade. In 50 minute periods – many students skip the day that tests are returned. You may wish to let them know how much time you’ll be spending going over the tests. Your processing of the tests when they are returned is critical. This should be a “teachable moment.” Share your observations about student learning around the subject matter covered in the test. Any insights that you can share as you have completed an analysis of the test results?
Follow a well-designed grading policy and you are likely to avoid issues. CETL staff can consult with you to give you samples, ideas for improvement, etc. IF you do have a significant grade dispute then follow the policies of the college which you can find at our Student Rights & Responsibilities page.
Writing. Whenever you say “write” maybe you mean type or word process. Be careful if you say write, the students will give you hand-written copy instead of computer generated.
Make ups. Make ups can take all your free time – writing new tests, scheduling them, dealing with no-shows. Actually some students prefer to only take make ups. Save yourself for classroom preparation. Devise a policy to ease scheduling woes. Perhaps the make up is only offered after the final or you can drop your lowest score and no make ups – even an oral make up sometimes works. Other ideas?
Answers in notebook for questions. When you receive your teacher’s edition of the answers, it may be deceiving, but if necessary place the answers in a notebook rather than stand with the teacher’s edition.
Not talking. Try small group interaction with one spokesperson summarizing the information or summarizing their questions, other group answers, or disagreements.
Party tricks. Define this in a way someone who is not taking the course will understand.
Quiz/test/exam. What’s the difference for you? Is there a difference? Clarify this and the weight.
Set expectations for Respect and Excellence in your classroom and model them for your students. Don’t ever tell them “This is easy, “ “Don’t worry,” “Wrong,” or other disrespectful and degrading phrases. Don’t ever “Promise” if you are not 100% sure you can deliver.
You can do one of several things: