Strategies for Starting the Semester Well

traffic lightWhether you have been teaching for several years or are beginning to teach your very first semester, being prepared for the start of the semester will help make the transition successful for you and your students. The following is a list of strategies you can use the first day and into the first weeks of the semester that will help you create an engaging, motivating, and organized classroom environment.

The strategies below has been excerpted from the following resources (full citations are at the end of the post): 10 Ideas for Starting the Quarter, Center for Teaching Excellence, University of California, Santa Cruz and First Day of Class: What Can/Should we Do? Program for Instructional Innovation.

Make Positive First Impressions

Greet students as they arrive in the classroom on the first day. Be upbeat and have a positive attitude toward them and your course. This will show students that you are on time and interested in them. Post or project a message on the board as students walk in the classroom to get them thinking about the subject. For example, project a thought-provoking question related to the subject or reading assigned for the day or a thought-provoking image. Share something about yourself that will help students see you as a human being rather than an authority figure. For example, personal stories of your college years, content-related work, and travel experiences can help establish your credibility.

You can further establish your credibility by sharing your research and how it ties to course content; consider including your relevant published research articles and books as course resources. Students will appreciate knowing that you personally contribute to the knowledge base of your discipline.

Finally, dress appropriately. Younger new faculty might consider dressing in more formal attire that can help convey a sense of authority. Usually it’s easier to relax a more formal impression into a more relaxed one than the other way around. Keep in mind, though, that no matter how you dress, having a positive approach to teaching and your students can go a long way in making important and lasting first impressions.

A note of caution: What should you be careful not to say? Students don’t need to know everything about you. In particular, it is not helpful to say you’ve never taught the course before, or that it is your least favorite course to teach. Also, it is imperative that you never share irrelevant stories about your personal life or social media sites with your students. You don’t want your students to have any negative or questionable perceptions of you at any time in the semester.

Involve Students Quickly

Getting students engaged early on will help send the message that they should be prepared for class discussion, possible group work, and in-class activities. Here are a few examples that get students involved in course content the first week of the semester:

  • Ask students to introduce themselves, either in class or through an online discussion forum, where students respond to prompts such as, “What is your major?,” What are your career aspirations?,” and “What skills do you bring to this course that can help you or your classmates be successful?”
  • Have students think and write silently about why they have enrolled in the course; what skills and abilities they might be able to contribute to the course; and their expectations they have for the course.
  • Start an activity where students are the experts and cannot rely on you for information. For example, in a psychology course on myths about human behavior, begin by brainstorming myths about student behaviors in residence halls.
  • Give a low-stakes or zero points quiz on the course syllabus during which students can use their mobile devices to access a Blackboard quiz. Alternatively, begin an interactive poll that involves students using their classroom response device after which they can see their results. Follow the poll with a classroom discussion before having students retake the poll to improve on their initial answer.

Give Students a Reason to be in Your Course (identify the value and importance of what you plan to teach)

Not all students come to class with a clear idea of why this subject is important. You may need to help them understand the significance of the course. Do this early on so students will be ready to invest time and energy necessary for learning the subject matter. Here are two activities to stimulate students’ interest in the course:

  • Connect course content to current events. Have student bring in news items that relate to your course (using paper and e-newspapers and social media stories). Discuss selected stories and connect them to what you plan for that particular day. By connecting course content to current events, pop culture, or student interests, you demonstrate relevance, which can increase student motivation.
  • Common sense inventory. Nilson (2003) describes a “Common Sense Inventory” where students need to determine whether 15 statements related to the course content are true or false (e.g., in a social psychology course, “Suicide is more likely among women than men,” or “Over half of all marriages occur between persons who live within 20 blocks of each other”). After paired or small group discussions, you can reveal the right answer. This works particularly well in courses where students may have a number of misconceptions (e.g., Introductory Physics – “An object is hard to push because it is heavy”).

Clarify Learning Objectives and Course Expectations

Clearly state course learning objectives to help students understand what they are about to learn and what they will have to do to be successful in your class. For example, explain how course content aligns with course assessments and how these assessments will help students learn.

Course expectations include what you consider to be appropriate amounts of study time and homework for the class, the importance of turning assignments in on time, expectations about in-class behavior, how you want to relate to students, and how much you expect students to interact in class. The first day also offers an opportunity to find out what expectations the students have of you and the class. Begin a discussion by asking students to respond to questions such as

  • What have you heard about me as an instructor?
  • What have you heard about this course?
  • What do you expect to learn from this course?
  • What challenges do you anticipate to being successful in this course?

Establish Rapport

Almost any class will be more enjoyable for both you and your students if everyone knows something about each other. This exchange can be started with introductions and sharing some background information, which can be facilitated in class or through a Blackboard discussion forum. You can also use icebreakers that can raise students’ energy levels and help them to be more comfortable with the classroom environment. Read First Day of Class Activities that Create a Climate for Learning for some simple yet effective ways that emphasize learning and student responsibility for creating a meaningful classroom environment.

Good communication can have a positive effect on enjoyable teaching and learning experiences. Conveying a positive attitude right from the start and showing students that you care about them as individuals and their success can have a positive effect on your students. Being open, honest, and caring are easy ways to connect with your students.

Consider a “Homework 0” voluntary-mandatory office hour. Have students make an appointment with you at a convenient time, find your office, and visit you there early in the semester. This gets students to your office, breaks the ice with a short one-on-one interaction, and encourages students to come back for help when they need it.

Justice (2006) states that even the way you walk into the classroom the first day can make an impression on your students. Read the following “scenarios” and decide for yourself which instructor you would rather have for a course:

Scenario A. The instructor rushes into the room a few minutes late while fidgeting with the messy stack of papers he is carrying, some of them falling to the floor. He keeps looking at his watch and begins the class by saying “I think we should begin with chapter one.”

Scenario B. The instructor confidently walks into the room, makes eye contact with and smiles at the students, and says “Good morning/afternoon/evening.” She places her book bag on the table and, walking toward the students, asks, “How is everyone today?”

Scenario C. The instructor briskly walks into the room, carrying several large books which she neatly places on the corner of the desk, opens her PowerPoint presentation and, standing behind the podium, begins to read from the slides.

Create an Inclusive Classroom Environment

Create an inclusive classroom that values all students, their perspectives, and contributions to the community of learners. There are several ways to create inclusive classrooms including using icebreakers, incorporating meaningful and worthy classroom policies, helping students contribute to the learning process, and using teaching strategies that engage students and motivate them to learn. Calling students by name helps to engage with them and shows them that they are important to the class. Use name cards if you have difficulty remembering names.

Establish a culture of feedback where you encourage students to share their classroom experiences. Explain that the feedback you give to students is as meaningful as the feedback they share with you about the course and that you will listen and consider all suggestions.

Whatever classroom environment you prefer (formal and intense, informal and relaxed, or something in between), set the tone early in the semester to help students gauge the rest of the semester.

Help Students Understand the Learning Process

Share with your students what you know about learning and how you can help them develop good study skills, test taking strategies, and communication skills necessary for success in your course. This is especially important for beginning college students as well as those who are returning to the classroom after many years. Provide self-help resources in Blackboard that students can access when needed. For example, create a “Learning Resources” folder that includes tutorials, links to campus resources, websites, and articles relevant in helping students take an active part in their own learning.

Provide Course Logistics

Carefully review the course syllabus that provides details about the course including information such as:

  • Office hours and location
  • Materials students will need
  • Assignments, homework, and exams schedule
  • Grading schema and feedback on assessed work
  • Course policies regarding class participation, attendance, punctuality, late work, make-up exams

Introduce the Subject Matter

Begin what you plan to teach with an overview of the subject by asking yourself these questions:

  • What is it that you are going to teach?
  • What are the major concepts, important ideas, significant details you plan to teach? In other words, what do you want students to learn?
  • How is course content connected to other courses, topics within the discipline, research topics?

Pre-class Warm-up

As you prepare for the beginning of the upcoming semester or any day of teaching or presenting, try some techniques which have been used by professionals in theatre, film, and television that may help improve your own teaching presentation. Try doing some vocal warm-ups such as yawning, humming and warming up the tongue and jaw through simple exercises by speaking to yourself, out loud that can help develop better voice intonation and performance in the classroom (Justice, 2006). Here are two simple techniques.

Out loud, pronounce the following words, emphasizing each vowel and consonant. Consider using your hands and arms for emphasis:    

hello, away, until
buhdah guhdah, puhtah cuhtah

Explicitly pronounce, out loud, this tongue twister:

A big black bug bit a big black bear, made a big black bear bleed blood

Summary

Careful course planning can help you prepare for the semester ahead. Whatever strategies you plan to use throughout the semester, include them during the first few weeks of the semester. If you want students to participate in whole-class discussions, work in small groups, write a reflection, or watch and evaluate a video, do these activities early on. Setting the tone at the beginning of the semester will help not only your students to do better but will help you as well!

References

Carnegie Mellon University Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation (2015). Make the Most of the First Day of Class. http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/teach/firstday.html

Justice, G. (2006). The art of teaching: Using performance techniques in the teaching/learning process. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Theatre Arts, Virginia Tech. This document is available in the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, Northern Illinois University.

Nilson, L. (2003). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (2nd ed.). Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing. [Available at NIU library, call number: LB2331 .N55 2003]

University of California, Santa Cruz, Center for Teaching Excellence (2005). Teaching tips from CTE: 10 ideas for starting the quarter. https://users.soe.ucsc.edu/~elkaim/Documents/FF_F05.pdf

Further Resources for Starting the Semester Well

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Office of Graduate Studies (2016). 101 things you can do in the first three weeks of class. http://www.unl.edu/gradstudies/current/teaching/first-3-weeks

Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching (2016). First day of class. https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/first-day-of-class/

Weimer, M. (2015). The first day of class: A once-a-semester opportunity. http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/the-first-day-of-class-a-once-a-semester-opportunity/

Weimer, M. (2013). First day of class activities that create a climate for learning. http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/first-day-of-class-activities-that-create-a-climate-for-learning/

Grading Rubrics

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sample levels for a rubric, excellent, very good, good, average, poorA rubric is a tool that lists evaluation criteria for an assignment. Rubrics can help students organize their efforts to meet the requirements of an assignment and faculty can use rubrics to explain their evaluations to students.

Rubrics are made up of rows and columns. The rows correspond to the various criteria of an assignment and the columns correspond to the level of achievement expressed for each criterion. A description and point value for each cell in the rubric defines the evaluation and score of an assignment.

 

Simple Grading Rubric for a History Research Paper

Excellent Good Poor
3 2 1
Number of sources 10 – 12 5 – 9 1 – 4
Historical accuracy No apparent inaccuracies Few inaccuracies Lots of historical inaccuracies
Organization Can easily tell from which sources information was drawn Can tell with difficulty from where information came Cannot tell from which source information came
Bibliography All relevant bibliographic information is included Bibliography contains most relevant information Bibliography contains very little information

 

Basic Steps in Creating a Rubric

  1. Select a Performance/Assignment to be Assessed.
    Performances and assignments which may be difficult to grade and where you want to reduce subjectivity are great candidates for incorporating rubrics. Is the performance/assignment an authentic task related to learning goals and/or objectives? Are students replicating meaningful tasks found in the real world? Are you encouraging students to problem solve and apply knowledge? Answer these questions as you begin to develop the criteria for your rubric.Performance example: Writing a Research Paper on a Topic Related to Local History
  2. Identify the Criteria.
    Create a list of all traits, features or dimensions that you want to measure, and include a definition and example to clarify the meaning of each trait being assessed. Each assignment or performance will have its own unique traits to be scored. Then reduce the list by chunking similar criteria and eliminating others until you produce a range of appropriate criteria. Keep the list manageable and reasonable.Criteria examples for a term paper:
    Introduction
    Thesis statement
    Arguments/analyses
    Grammar and punctuation
    Spelling
    Internal citations
    Conclusion
    Reference page
  3. Set the Point Value.
    Point values make up the system of numbers or values used to rate each criterion and often are combined with levels of performance. Make sure the values make sense in terms of the total points possible: Is there a difference between getting 10 points versus 100 points versus 1,000 points? The best and worst performances are placed at the ends of the continuum and the other scores are placed appropriately in between. It is best to start with fewer levels and to distinguish between work that doesn’t meet the criteria.Point value examples: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 2, 4, 6, 8
  4. Write the Descriptions.
    Descriptions spell out each level (gradation) of performance for each criterion and describe what performance at a particular level looks like. Descriptions describe how well student’s work is distinguished from the work of their peers and will help you to distinguish the differences between students’ work.Description examples in italics:

    Criterion

    Excellent
    5

    Good
    4

    Fair
    2

    Poor
    1

    Spelling No spelling errors. One or two spelling errors, but not of the type to make meaning obscure, and not of basic or common words A few minor spelling errors (more than two) but not enough to harm your ethos seriously or impede a reader’s comprehension. Many misspelled important or common words, or a number of minor errors that interfere with easy reading or comprehension.

     

  5. Determine Levels of Performance.
    Select words or phrases (often as adjectives) that will explain what performance looks like at each level, making sure they are discrete enough to show real differences. Levels of performance should match the related criterion.Levels of performance examples:
    Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor
    Master, Apprentice, Beginner
    Exemplary, Accomplished, Developing, Beginning, Undeveloped
    Complete, Incomplete
    Yes, No
  6. Evaluate the Rubric.
    Evaluate the rubric each time it’s used to ensure it matches instructional goals and objectives. Be sure students understand each criterion and how they can use the rubric to their advantage. Review the rubric with a colleague, pilot test new rubrics if possible, and solicit students’ feedback for further refinements.

Types of Rubrics

Determining which type of rubric to use depends on what and how you plan to evaluate. There are several types of rubrics including holistic, analytical, general, and task-specific.

Holistic — all criteria are assessed as a single score which can be used for evaluating overall performance on a task. Because only one score is given, holistic rubrics tend to be easier to score. However, holistic rubrics do not provide detailed information on student performance for each criterion; the levels of performance are treated as a whole.

Analytical — each criterion is assessed separately, using different descriptive ratings, and thus, receive a separate score. Analytical rubrics take more time to score but provide more detailed feedback.

General — these rubrics can be used for similar performances such as a rubric for all final presentations, a rubric for all dance performances, or a rubric for all research proposals. Criteria are assessed separately, as in an analytical rubric.

Task-specific — are designed to assess a specific task in which each criteria is assessed separately. It may not be possible, however, to account for each and every criteria involved in a particular task which could overlook a student’s unique solution (Arter & McTighe, 2001).

Using Rubrics in Blackboard

You can build interactive rubrics in Blackboard to simplify the process of grading student work and returning rubric results to students. Interactive rubrics can be used with nearly every assessment method in Blackboard, including Assignments (including with SafeAssign enabled), short answer Test questions, and any Blogs, Journals, Wikis, or Discussion Board threads and forums that have grading enabled. Visit the Teaching with Blackboard website for instructions on using Blackboard’s Interactive Rubrics as well as tutorials, archives of online rubric workshops, and Quick Guides on using Rubrics in your teaching: http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/assess/rubrics.shtml

Summary

Grading rubrics are effective and efficient tools which allow for objective and consistent assessment of a range of performances, assignments, and activities. Rubrics clarify your expectations and will show students how to meet them, making them accountable for their performance in an easy-to-follow format. The feedback that students receive through a grading rubric can help them improve their performance on revised or subsequent work. Rubrics can also help to rationalize grades when students ask about your method of assessment. Rubrics also allow for consistency in grading for instructors who team-teach the same course, for TAs assigned to the task of grading, and can serve as good documentation for accreditation purposes. Finally, rubrics can reduce grading time, increase objectivity and reduce subjectivity, convey timely feedback to students, and improve students’ ability to include required elements of an assignment.

Free Rubric Builders and Generators.

Consider using any of free existing rubrics available online. Many rubrics can be used “as is” or can be modified to meet your specific needs. Creating a rubric from scratch will take time but may be necessary for a particular assignment. The following are school-based but are highly applicable to higher education.

Build a Rubric by Annenberg Learner
http://www.learner.org/workshops/hswriting/interactives/rubric/index.html

General Rubric Generator by teAchnology
http://www.teach-nology.com/web_tools/rubrics/general/

Create a Rubric by RubiStar
http://rubistar.4teachers.org/index.php

References and Resources

Arter, J., & McTighe, J. (2001). Scoring rubrics in the classroom: Using performance criteria for assessing and improving student performance. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.

Fall 2016 Teaching Effectiveness Institute on Teaching Effectiveness and Using Performance Techniques in the Classroom

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greg justice
Greg Justice

The two-day Fall 2016 Teaching Effectiveness Institute was once again a success! Day one, Fundamental Principles of Effective Teaching, featured 10 presenters who represented a range of departments and offices across campus. Presenters included NIU faculty and staff who prepared informative and engaging sessions on topics including Energizing the Classroom Experience, Establishing and Maintaining Classroom Civility, Assessing Student Learning, Preparing Successful Writing Assignments, and Planning an Effective Course Syllabus.

Instead of printing all of the session documents that include PowerPoint presentations and handouts, this year we created one-page outlines for each of the ten presentations and placed a link on our website where participants can access session PowerPoint presentations and other related resources. Printing fewer paper handouts is one way Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center embraces NIU’s sustainability initiatives. The online resources will remain on our website for everyone to access.

The second day of the Institute, The Art of Teaching: Using Performance Techniques in the Teaching/Learning Process, featured Greg Justice from the School of Performing Arts at Virginia Tech. Greg explained connections between the performing arts and teaching while sharing techniques for preparing the mind, body and voice, three key tools required for success in the classroom. Participants were led through a series of active learning exercises to practice focusing the mind on the teaching goals, relaxing the body for peak performance, and strengthening the voice for effective communication. Those who attended the workshop were fully engaged and laughed while learning strategies to enhance their teaching skills. Participants enjoyed receiving a copy of a book referenced during the workshop by Kristin Linklater, Freeing the natural voice: Imagery and art in the practice of voice and language by Drama Publishers.

To share ideas for new Institute topics or if you would be interested in presenting at one of our Institutes, please contact Yvonne Johnson, Multimodal Teaching Coordinator at yjohnson@niu.edu, 815-753-2690 or Janet Giesen, Instructional Design Coordinator at giesen@niu.edu, 815-753-1085. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

Philosophical Perspectives and Being Green Inspire Online Spring 2016 Teaching Effectiveness Institute

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appleThe first Faculty Development program of the New Year focused on the fundamental philosophical principles of how and why we teach. On Thursday, January 7, 2016, nearly 70 individuals participated in both the morning and afternoon online sessions, saving over 180 gallons of gasoline if everyone would have traveled by car to campus that day. This equates to almost 3500 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions saved from entering the atmosphere by everyone who participated staying home! Other benefits of an online Institute are not commuting to campus, learning from the comfort of their home or offices, and coming and going as desired.

From a theoretical point of view, the morning session, Why We Teach: Our Impact as Educators, included four unique philosophical perspectives from NIU faculty members.

  • Kerry Burch from the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations presented the opening session On Formulating a Teaching Philosophy: Crucial Etymologies to Consider. Kerry’s session focused on the etymological significances related to teaching philosophies that faculty can consider for their own teaching philosophies.
  • Nick Pohlman from the Department of Mechanical Engineering presented Enabling Students to Illuminate the Path of Learning and shared valuable tips for working with students of different skill levels and insightful strategies for engaging all students in the educational process.
  • Ursula Sullivan from the Department of Marketing presented Preparing and Coaching Professional and identified ways to incorporate active learning, real world experiences, and hands on activities that can be used in a range of classroom situations.
  • Laura Vazquez from the Department of Communication presented Philosophies of Teaching: Fostering Collaboration and Creativity and included examples of strategies for connecting with students who bring a wide variety of perspectives to the 21st century higher education classroom.

Following the faculty presentations, Institute participants engaged in an interactive guided reflection activity during which they addressed a set of questions and prompts that encouraged them to reflect on the question, “Why do I teach?” Using Blackboard’s Collaborate Ultra, participants were able to write, draw, and reflect with one another about questions such as:

  • I believe students learn best by…
  • I want my students to learn…
  • My students benefit from taking my course or working with me because…

Participants ended the morning with virtual homework for which they were asked to draft a simple teaching philosophy statement based on their reflections of the morning session. This statement could then be included in their course syllabi that can convey to students the hows and whys of their teaching practices.

You can watch a recording of the morning session below.

The afternoon session, How We Teach: Connecting Philosophy with Practice, highlighted the four philosophical perspectives of Idealism, Realism, Pragmatism, and Existentialism. During this session, Faculty Development staff members provided ways faculty can align their teaching practices with each of the philosophical perspectives. Here are just a few of the teaching takeaways from the afternoon session that faculty can implement in their own teaching:

  1. Assigning persuasive essays, articles, and other readings that encourage students to evaluate various instructional materials (Idealism)
  2. Having students practice and refine newly learned information until they master the intended skill (Realism)
  3. Breaking students into groups to brainstorm issues and solutions for a current issue in your field and then bringing the class together to discuss the problem (Pragmatism)
  4. Incorporating cooperative learning activities in the classroom in which students become members of a learning community (Existentialism)

Your teaching philosophy can inform your teaching practice and have a profound impact on your students’ development and progress throughout their lives. In difficult times such as we face in higher education today, reflecting on your teaching philosophy can help remind you of why you teach and how your role as a teacher is so important.

You can watch a recording of the afternoon session below.

Finally, here are a few resources on how to write a personal teaching philosophy statement and ways to implement different philosophical approaches in your teaching:

Six Questions That Will Bring Your Teaching Philosophy into Focus

Writing a Teaching Philosophy Statement

Philosophical Perspectives in Education

 

 

Service Learning in Higher Education

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pre service reflection, reflection during service, post service reflectionService learning is an engaging teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful, real-world community service with instructional goals and objectives. The service experience involves students in essential reflection activities that enrich the mutually beneficial outcomes of students and the community.

Falling under the umbrella term Experiential Learning, service learning joins other student-centered learning strategies such as problem- and project-based learning, active learning, and place-based learning (Wurdinger & Carlson, 2010, p. 7). Service learning can be further subdivided into direct, indirect, research, and advocacy service learning, each of which involve students in a variety of engaging and meaningful learning experiences (excerpted from Colorado State University, 2015; GenerationOn, n.d.; University of Minnesota, 2011).

Types of Service Learning

Direct Service is volunteer-focused where students are placed in direct contact with people who benefit from a specific service such as:

  • Counseling incoming or new students
  • Reading to small children in intergenerational projects
  • Helping local citizens fill out their annual tax returns
  • Serving food at a local food pantry or soup kitchen

Indirect Service is program- or issue-focused in which students engage in a service by providing goods or a product to a needy cause such as:

  • Collecting and distributing food items or clothing
  • Engaging in neighborhood beautification projects or local conservation efforts
  • Planting a community garden
  • Building low-income housing

Advocacy/Civic Engagement is policy-focused during which students address the cause of and are often personally committed to a social issue such as:

  • Establishing a voter registration campaign among students and the community
  • Distributing literature about a neighborhood watch program throughout specifically affected neighborhoods
  • Speaking on behalf of underrepresented segments of the community
  • Lobbying for more trash cans to minimize littering on campus

Research Service involves students collecting and reporting information for public welfare or interest such as:

  • Working in a laboratory that meets a community need
  • Testing water or soil quality
  • Conducting research to protect local wetlands
  • Developing or re-purposing products from recycled materials

Characteristics of Service Learning

All of the types of service learning share some common characteristics:

  • The service must be connected with course learning goals and objectives
  • The service must meet a genuine community need
  • The service will establish a reciprocal relationship among all constituents
  • The service includes time for students to reflect throughout the experience
    (Bethel University, n.d.)

Reflecting on Service Learning

Reflection is a key component of service learning and gives students an informal structure to connect the experience to the learning goals and objectives. The figure at the beginning of this article illustrates how this reflection can lead to successful learning experiences through:

  • Pre-service reflection, where students examine what they know and think about issues raised by the project.
  • Reflection during service (this is the “What?” phase), in which students identify where they are in the process and share their concerns and feelings.
  • Post-service reflection (this is the “So what” phase), during which students consider the significance of the service (their experience in it, how they can integrate their new understanding in the situation and course work, and offer further action).
  • “Now what?” phase, when students ask what they should do next and whether it is time to decide how best to proceed – considering the future impact of the experience on the community and themselves.

Getting Started

Getting started with service learning involves a number of steps for it to be meaningful for students, community partners, and instructors. First, connect the service and course goals and objectives; second, explain the relevance of the service to both the students and service constituents; third, incorporate the principles of service learning in your teaching through meaningful engagement, reflection, reciprocity (where everyone is a colleague); four, allow for public dissemination of the experience; and finally, each student, community partner, and instructor must have the opportunity to provide their assessment of the experience. Analyzing and assessing the service learning experience will help all constituents realize the effects of the experience and pinpoint areas of the course to make improvements for future experiences.

Service Learning in Action

Service-learning is often combined with interdisciplinary learning, where different colleges, departments, and curricula share service learning objectives (National Service Learning Clearinghouse, 2011). These cross-disciplinary opportunities are ripe for learning how to collaborate, problem solve, and reflect with peers, faculty, and the community. Where students, faculty, and community members often function in separate domains, service-learning experience brings all stakeholders together to share goals and decisions which benefit both the campus and community.

Service Learning in Online Courses

Service learning opportunities need not be restricted to face-to-face courses. Strait and Sauer (2004) highlight an “e-service” model at Bemidji State University that engages teacher education students in service opportunities that take place in their local communities. They also report on the lessons learned, challenges, and suggestions for those who are interested in incorporating e-service in their courses. Visit the Center for Digital Civic Engagement for articles and resources about ways to integrate online teaching and service learning opportunities.

Service Learning at Northern Illinois University

Visit the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning for more information on service learning opportunities at NIU and how to get started implementing service learning in your own courses. The Office of Student Involvement & Leadership Development is a great resource for identifying service learning opportunities for students. Also, both the College of Business and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offer unique experiential learning programs for their students.

Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning

Office of Student Involvement & Leadership Development

College of Business

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Service Learning Resources

The National Service Learning Clearinghouse

Campus Compact

Summary

Service learning can have a profound impact on students, faculty, and the community. Students are able to combine classroom knowledge with real-world issues as they work with community members to bring about realistic and effective solutions and faculty from different disciplines learn from one another and gain valuable insight for future collaboration. The partnership that emerges from service learning activities helps the community to see solutions and ways that can further their cause.

References

Bethel University Off-Campus Programs: Service Learning (n.d.). What is service learning? Retrieved from http://cas.bethel.edu/off-campus-programs/service-learning/

Colorado State University (2015). Types of service learning activities. Retrieved from http://tilt.colostate.edu/service/about/typesOfSL.cfm

GenerationOn (n.d.). Taking action: Four types of service. Retrieved from http://www.generationon.org//files/flat-page/files/taking_action_-_four_types_of_service_0.pdf

Strait, J., & Sauer, T. (2004). Constructing experiential learning for online courses: The birth of e-service. Retrieved from http://er.educause.edu/articles/2004/1/constructing-experiential-learning-for-online-courses-the-birth-of-eservice

University of Minnesota Center for Community-Engaged Learning (2011). Direct, indirect, research, and advocacy engagement. Retrieved from http://www.servicelearning.umn.edu/cesp/programdetails/engagement_types.html

Wurdinger, D. D., & Carlson, J. A. (2010). Teaching for experiential learning: Five approaches that work. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education. [Available at Founders Memorial Library]

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