Part Time Faculty Frequently Asked Questions

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.

Where Can I Get Accurate Information about Teaching and Learning at Madison Area Technical College?

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.

Vist the CETL Site.

What steps should I take to organize my course?

  • Find out your specific teaching assignment from your associate dean, Be sure to note the course numbers, dates, times and location of the course.
  • The struggle for teachers is to decide what students really need to know. You may have the desire to teach them everything you know, which includes all of your experiences and education. Your task is to balance all you know with the knowledge attitude and skills your students will need on the job. You must provide enough information, yet not overwhelm them with details.
  • If the course you will be teaching is also taught by a full-time instructor, obtain the course outline from your associate dean or campus administrator. In some Learning Centers there may be a course portfolio with additional information available. The contractual agreement with full-time teachers spells out the expectation that a current outline of instruction is on file with the appropriate administrator at the beginning of the semester. This should be a most useful resource.
  • Check with your associate dean to:
    • See who else is teaching the same course this semester.
    • Get the name, phone number and e-mail address of the lead teacher for the area in which your course exists. This person may be a useful resource to you.
  • Begin to develop your syllabus. See CETL teaching resources on the web or on our CD for assistance.
  • What are the goals of the course? Each of your classroom sessions should have a minimum of three achievable goals or objectives.
  • How many tests will be given? When? What weight do they carry on the final grade?
  • How will you handle make up tests? How many make ups can one student take? How are you going to schedule all these so that you still have preparation time? One way to handle this messy issue is allowing students to drop the lowest test score or missing one test.
  • Is there any of the final grade weighted with participation or even attendance? As all students do – they will question whether you will make their attendance worth their time.
  • How can students contact you? Where? When? Are all hours of the day and night acceptable? Do you prefer calls at your work place or at home? Do you prefer to be contacted via e-mail?
  • How will you handle late assignments? Will they drop in value?
  • If students miss a class, how will they learn of procedural changes? (I suggest getting a list of students home and work phones at the first meeting and distributing copies at the next meeting in order that they can contact a buddy.)
  • If you are unable to attend a class, will the students be notified before they “show up.” Could you set up a telephone tree with the above list of names?
  • Are there scheduled breaks in your class? Would the students prefer to go straight through and leave early?

What if I have to cancel class due to weather?
Does Madison Area Technical College ever close campuses?

  • Pay attention to WISC-TV Channel 3 regarding campus closings. To access information on the closing of all Madison locations, you may contact the Madison College Weather Open/Close Hotline (608) 246-6606. the following radio stations also provide information regarding closings: WIBA 101.5FM, 1310AM; WWGM 1480AM or 98.1FM; WOLX 94.9FM; WTSO 1070AM; WZEE104.1FM.

How can I work to be a Learner Centered Teacher?

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

How do I Create a Quality Learning Environment?

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.

What do I need to do about textbooks for my course?

  • As soon as you are hired, obtain the teacher’s guide to your edition (or as a last resort, the previous edition) of the text that is assigned for your class from your associate dean or lead teacher.
  • If not available, call or write at once for it or beg your division’s administrative assistant to retrieve one from faculty on staff or the company and make a photocopy.
  • Once you have your hands on the Teacher’s Guide, read all activities related to each chapter. Circle the ones you feel have the most merit, then photocopy, cut them out, and have them readily available for your hectic preparation time. (Even if time does not permit you to utilize each one, you'll feel more comfortable knowing you have combined creativity and don’t have to think up all the activities.)
  • These books often have test banks which you may or may not wish to use.
  • ALSO – MAKE SURE THE TEXTBOOK FOR YOUR SECTION HAS BEEN ORDERED THROUGH THE MADISON AREA TECHNICAL COLLEGE BOOKSTORE ... IT IS AWFUL TO START A CLASS when your students DO NOT HAVE THE TEXT. Check with the Learning Center administrative assistant or the Bookstore at your assigned campus. The Truax Bookstore phone number is 246-6016. The Bookstore at the Downtown Education Center is 258-2417.

                      

What are the Students at Madison Area Technical College like?

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.

How are adult learners unique?

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.

 

Types of
Adult Learners

What This Type of Adult Learner
Expects in the Classroom

Want courses that help:

  • To improve work efficiency
  • To advance in work
  • In occupational training
  • Develop leisure time activities
  • Use questionnaires to determine why students are in class
  • Relate instruction to stated needs
  • Include real-life problems, sample materials to work on, actual experience or real objects
  • Want to be treated as adults
  • Let adults help plan instruction, content and methods
  • Treat them as equals with respect and a sense of humor
  • Call on adult experiences relating to lesson taught
  • Are rapid “no-nonsense” learners – do not comprise a captive audience
  • Avoid “busy work”
  • Teach practical, usable knowledge in a simple, direct manner
  • Include definite work for a definite purpose
  • Relate facts to each other and provide continuity from lesson to lesson
  • Use a variety of methods, audiovisual aids and a change of pace
  • Learn best in an informal environment
  • Treat student as friend
  • Allow interruptions and questions
  • Give breaks for standing, stretching, eating

What are the characteristics of adult learners?

Physical Characteristics of Adults

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.

Social Characteristics of Adults

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.

Other Factors

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.

What should the teacher do to Honor the Student?

  • Accept that the relationship of instruction to an individual’s background is important to learning rate.
  • Incorporate the student’s background in the learning process to gain increased interest.
  • Use students’ experiences to provide concreteness and relevance to the instruction.
  • ABILITY TO INSTANTLY ADAPT TO SITUATIONS and to be openly challenged without being intimidated are extremely desirable in the post-secondary teacher.

How can I Incorporate important Principles of Learning for Adults?

Some basic steps may help you consider the adult learner when you plan and deliver your instruction. These include:

  1. Make learners feel that they have a need for what you are presenting – that it is useful to them for immediate or almost immediate use.
  2. Present instruction in easily understandable terms.
  3. Connect or relate new instruction to what the learner already knows.
  4. Present instruction in a simple-to-complex sequence, making sure that students have the basics before going further into complex information.
  5. Show a definite relationship between each instructional activity and a specific outcome for learning.
  6. Give information and opinions in a positive, believable manner.
  7. Give learners a chance to practice and apply knowledge and skills in a comfortable setting.
  8. Give them time to think through problems, cases, etc., before requesting a response.
  9. Use a variety of presentation methods and materials.

How should I Assess Academic Skills and Intellectual Development?

Overview

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.

What is a good Assessment for Beginning of Class?

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.

What are the Madison Area Technical College Core Abilities and why are they important?

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.

What tools do we use to measure learning?

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.***

How do I Develop Effective Course Timelines?

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.

A. Assemble Documents

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:

  1. A timeline format that meets your needs. Some format samples are at the end of this module.
  2. College calendar.
  3. Course planning guide (syllabus).
  4. Sample course timeline, if available.
  5. Date of any other events and activities that will happen during the course.

B. Plot the Timeline

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:

  1. essentials
  2. important
  3. nice to know.

C. Reasons for Timelines

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:

  1. guest speaker is sick
  2. you are sick
  3. snow days
  4. students have a difficult time learning a concept and need more time
  5. unexpected interruptions
  6. etc.

How do I Create My Syllabus?

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.

What are some Guidelines for Making Effective Assignments?

Some basic guidelines for making assignments include:

  • Remember that the instructions you give put the student to work.
  • State in clear concise terms what your students are to do and what result/product/outcome you expect.
  • State the objective of the assignment.
  • Give examples, if necessary, to ensure that your students understand.
  • Specify deadlines and due dates.
  • If this is a procedural assignment, you may need to give the steps in the procedure.
  • Indicate the impact of the assignment on the student’s grade.
  • Indicate your timetable for feedback to your students.
  • Be concise, but complete.
  • Put it in writing!

How do I Format Effective Lesson Plans?

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:

  • Topics
  • Objectives
  • Time required
  • Teaching methods and procedures
  • Introduction of the lesson
  • Presentation
  • Student activities
  • Summary of the lesson
  • Resources
  • Summary and Evaluation

How should I Estimate Time Requirements?

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.

What are the most Effective ways of Asking Questions?

  1. Don’t answer student questions yourself, if possible. Ask the class if anyone can come up with an answer. Ask for additional suggestions on handling the problem.
  2. If students have questions or topics different from the ones you prepared, use theirs. Yours are just a knock-off point to get them going.
  3. Don’t let any one person talk too often or too long. Simply say, “Let’s hear from someone else now,” or “I’m sorry to interrupt but we must let others in on the discussion.”
  4. If some people do not talk (there are silent or shy ones in every group), throw them a question they can readily answer – “How would you handle a problem like this?”
  5. When one topic seems exhausted or the time is about up, summarize what has been said and add your own thoughts or ideas – then go on to another topic. Don’t devote too much time to any one topic, and avoid the trap of letting the focus of the discussion drift from the purpose of the question.
  6. Involve the students in your summary. Ask them, “What is one important thing you have picked up from this discussion?” If no one responds, you say, “Well, I’ve learned ... Who else has something he or she will remember from our discussion?”

How can I Explore more about Learning and Instruction?

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.

How do I create a strong First Day/First Impression?

Fear

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.

Arrive Early

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.)

Ask your students what you need to know, e.g., meteorology course:

  • Your name
  • What are your goals for the class
  • What you do in the daytime
  • Something that distinguishes you that will make it easier to remember your name

After you go through the class (attendance) with them answering one of the questions, collect the cards. They will help you:

  • achieve the students’ goals
  • appreciate the distance between you and your students
  • encourage the students to interact and work together (which, by the way, helps retention)

Go through the following:

  • Books
  • Assignments
  • Your Policies – (VERY IMPORTANT. PUT THEM IN PRINT)
  • Pet Peeves, e.g., lateness, late night calls at home
  • Course Outline/Syllabus
  • Their Questions/Their Pet Peeves
  • Grading for the course
  • Establish ground rules for the class. A quick way to do this is have the class brainstorm the answers to these two questions:
    • What can I do as a teacher to cause this course to be awful?
    • What can you do to make this course a disaster for you?

WOW THEM

  • Dynamic overview of the course
  • Your favorite stuff you’ve learned from all your years of study
  • How this information will enrich their lives
  • Why you went into this field

At the end of first class session, be thinking about next class:

  • What is your goal? Get them excited and looking forward to the course.
  • Have them write any questions about assignments on a card and submit it.
  • Have them identify the “muddiest points” from the first class. This quick write from them will help you to understand where you have not been clear with them or where they have gotten lost.

Participation

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.

Sugar and Coffee

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.

How can I keep building a sense of community in the Second Class?

What is your goal?

Connect their assignment to this class (obviously so they will continue to do the assignment before class)

  • Many people will come in late.
  • Start with brief review.
  • Discussion of ideas gleaned from their muddiest points.
  • What didn’t you understand?
  • What was the most fascinating piece of information?

Should I Give Student a Break?

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.

How can I Learn more about Assessment and Evaluation?

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.

What is the Madison Area Technical College Grading Policy?

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?

  1. Examine the unit objectives.
    Instruction should be based on performance objectives which state the intended outcomes in terms of specific knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Testing is a way for you to measure student progress toward accomplishing these performance objectives. Therefore, the first step when you prepare a test is to examine the objectives that the test will cover. They explain exactly what students should have learned during the unit of instruction.
  2. Construct several test items for each objective.
    You should develop several test items for each performance objective to ensure that the completed tests will be comprehensive and measure an appropriate sample of behavior. It may be helpful to write each test item on a separate card to facilitate test assembly.
  3. Review test items.
    • A. Is the item format appropriate for the behavioral objective being measured?
    • B. Does the knowledge, understanding, or skill called for by the item match the specific objective being measured? Is language consistent with instruction and objectives?
    • C. Is the point of the item clear?
    • D. Is the item free from excessive verbiage?
    • E. Is the item of appropriate difficulty?
    • F. Does the item have an answer that would be agreed upon by experts?
    • G. Is the item free from technical errors and irrelevant clues?
    • H. Is the item free from racial, ethnic, or sexual bias?
  4. Compile all test items into a draft of the completed test.
    If your test contains more than one kind of item, you should keep all the items of one kind together. This keeps to a minimum the number of times students have to get the right mind set for that type of item. They don’t have to switch back and forth from true-false items to a multiple choice item to a completion item and back to another multiple choice item.
  5. Do not use too many different kinds of items.
    Authorities generally agree that you should use no more than three different kinds of items. Provide for early success in the test. Put easier questions at the beginning of the test. Success in responding to these items can help your students “warm up” for longer and more difficult items and gain confidence in their ability to perform well on the test.
  6. Write instructions for each group of test items.
    Your test directions should first explain administrative details pertaining to the whole test. You should tell students how much time is allowed for the test; approximately how much time they should spend on the various parts; and the point value of the test, the parts, and individual items in the parts. One good way to ensure that your test directions are clear, full, and simple is to include a sample item with your test directions. The sample should have the correct answer appropriately marked. You should give separate directions for each different kind of test item that you use. True-false questions require a different type of response from matching questions. Do not presume that students automatically know how to respond to test questions. Clear, concise instructions that include a sample response are an important part of any test.
  7. Ask another person to examine the completed test.
    A second opinion is always a good idea. Another instructor can usually identify flaws that you might overlook because of familiarity with the subject matter, intent of the instructions, or other aspects of the test.
  8. Make any necessary revisions and then prepare the final copy.
  9. Make a test key.
    The final step, and one which must not be overlooked, is to make a test key. The key is a copy of the test with the correct answers written in. It will allow you to score the test quickly and with ease. This is important if students are to receive immediate feedback as to the results.

The First Test

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.

  • Time – Decide if you’re testing for learning or for speed of recall. Your students will have enough test anxiety without being overly rushed.
  • Quiet – Some students will finish in 15 minutes, some in 45. It’s imperative that the room be kept quiet for concentration.
  • Test Security – Should the test be returned or do you want it floating around next year? It all depends on you.

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.

After the First Test

You’ll probably appreciate Scantrons quick grading right after the test.

  • Determine mean and average

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).

  • Is it poorly worded, confusing
  • Maybe it should be dropped

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:

  • What are two strengths of the class thus far (tell why)?
  • What are two areas of improvement (and what could make it better)?
  • What insights or “aha’s” have you identified about the class or your learning?

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?

How will you handle disputes when going over a test?

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.

Some things to consider as you build your policy?

  • Should I curve test grades?
    • Why?
    • Why not?
    • We usually don’t at Madison Area Technical College.
  • Tell them you’re pleased, proud of their hard work (if you are).
  • Tell them tests will be similar to the first one (if they will).
    • Most people do better on the second test.
  • Don’t assign letter grade – use numbers until the end of the semester.
  • Be sure to teach them the math computations you used for arriving at their numerical grade.
    • Have them check your computations.

What are some common issues in grading policies, assessments and testing?

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.

What If You’re Assessed/Evaluated?

  • Ask the students for their cooperation.
    • Prepare them for the experience. Include them if you can.
    • They are the learners and they know best what is working well in your classroom.
  • Introduce the evaluator/assessor.
  • Recognize the group dynamics are going to be completely thrown off, so relax and be charming.

What are some Things Never to Say – Ever?

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.

How can I make more effective use of Videos in my course?

  • Schedule the necessary equipment with the Help Desk staff at least 1 week prior to your viewing.
  • Preview the entire video to be certain that it works and the content is correct.
  • Always cue the tape or DVD up and practice with the machine in your classroom.
  • Think about a concurrent assignment to keep your class focused on your reason for showing the video i.e. Have a set of questions ready for them to answer as they watch the video. It will keep them focused and will enhance the quality of the discussion that follows.
  • Follow up: What IF people miss the video? Schedule another viewing? Where? When? What do I do if I have a question not printed here?

You can do one of several things:

  • Check the Index of this Resource CD
  • Check the CETL Web Site
  • Check the Madison Area Technical College Web Page, using the “A-Z” Index
  • Use “?Ask ” (askMadisonCollege) found on the Madison Area Technical College Home Page
  • Ask your Associate Dean
  • Call CETL at 246-6646