Spring 2014 Teaching Effectiveness Institute Focused on Creating Excitement in the Classroom

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Todd ZakrajsekThe first day of the Spring 2014 Teaching Effectiveness Institute brought together over 60 NIU faculty, instructors, and teaching staff in two workshops presented by Todd Zakrajsek, Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill.

Zakrajsek led two engaging half-day sessions: Critical Challenges in Teaching and Learning and How to Best Address those Challenges and Creating Excitement in the Classroom: Teaching for More Engaged Learning. In the morning, Zakrajsek discussed how to set a positive tone in the classroom and how to respond when problems arise. In the afternoon, he focused on how students learn and strategies faculty can use to increase student motivation and engagement to further student learning.

Participants practiced with Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) that are proven to facilitate meaningful teaching and learning. For example, faculty can ask students to write a one-minute paper at the end of the class period to further engage with content and check their understanding of material covered. Zakrajsek also stressed that expecting students to memorize content is not a particularly effective technique for moving content into long-term memory. Instead, he recommends helping students become more engaged with content through authentic and engaged learning activities. Examples of what he calls “significant learning” activities include students caring about and connecting with their feelings, interests, and values (as well as those of others); becoming self-directed learners (students taking responsibility of their own learning); and becoming life-long learners (where students develop an extrinsic sense of learning).

Zakrajsek further recommends building students’ self-esteem through real (substantive) feedback beyond using simple comments such as “good work” or “nice job.” In real life, he says, “everyone doesn’t get a trophy.” Real feedback should get students’ attention by offering them ways to improve and move forward. This type of feedback can help students realize that they shouldn’t focus on having lost but that they just haven’t won yet!

Many institute participants commented that the first-hand anecdotes and stories will help them implement more engaging and exciting classroom experiences, and they would have liked to have even more time at the institute in order to learn more strategies for creating an exciting classroom.

Dr. Todd Zakrajsek is an Associate Professor in the School of Medicine and the Department of Family Medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill. He has published and presented widely on the topic of student learning, including workshops and conference keynote addresses in 42 states and 6 countries.

For further information on these topics and other teaching-related issues, contact Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at facdev@niu.edu or 815.753.0595.


First Online Teaching Effectiveness Institute a Success

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Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center staff recently developed and offered for the very first time a teaching effectiveness institute for NIU faculty that took place completely online.

Teaching in the Digital ClassroomThe 2012 Teaching Effectiveness Institute, “Teaching in the Digital Classroom: Tools, Tips, and Strategies” was offered Friday, January 11, 2013. 57 faculty from across 26 academic departments participated in the 1-day online institute where they learned how to actively engage students in the learning process through the use of best practices and readily-available technologies. NIU Faculty Development staff led the live online sessions using Blackboard Collaborate and developed an online community in Blackboard where they facilitated conversations, providing an opportunity for faculty participants to network and share ideas before, during, and after the institute.

Faculty were encouraged to participate from the comfort and convenience of their own home, office, or other location. The community in Blackboard Learn was developed following best practices for accessibility and mobile participation via Blackboard Mobile and faculty with iOS mobile devices were encouraged to install the Blackboard Mobile Learn and Blackboard Collaborate apps. Some faculty chose to participate exclusively during the institute from their iPhone or iPad and several commented after the fact at how excited they were to model their own cross-platform strategy for teaching and learning in the future after their experience in the institute.

mobile participation options using Blackboard Mobile Learn and Blackboard Collaborate mobile

Comments from Participants

From feedback received, faculty unanimously found this online institute effective in meeting their desired goals as well as was an effective model for how they in turn can incorporate online technologies in their teaching. Here is just a sampling of a few of the comments faculty shared in the institute evaluation:

The online delivery of this subject matter was critical to my understanding of how it feels to be the learner as well as the design required from a faculty perspective.

It was really convenient to have this (institute) online, and I think it showed what Blackboard Collaborate can do. I learned a lot and have new ideas for the upcoming semester.

This was wonderful! The flow was easy to handle and I stayed engaged throughout the day. I LOVED being able to attend from home.

Fast Facts

From just this first online institute, significant fiscal savings were made possible. A total of 2,598 miles driven, 109 gallons of gasoline (cost savings of $360), and 2,120 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions were potentially saved by faculty participating online from home instead of driving to campus for this 1-day online institute.

97% of the faculty participants indicated that they would attend another online institute in the future. Watch for more online institute opportunities to be offered in the future!

Upcoming Teaching Effectiveness Institute

Teaching Effectiveness Institute

Teaching Effectiveness Institute: Fundamental Principles of Effective Instruction will be offered on Thursday, August 13, 2009 from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Day one of the institute is geared toward an audience who is new to teaching and to those wanting to refresh their knowledge about teaching fundamentals.

Teaching Effectiveness Institute: “Raising the Bar: Lower Expectations and Higher Learning,” by Connie Staley, Ph.D. (University of Colorado, Colorado Springs) will be offered on Friday, August 14, 2009 from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. The workshop is open for faculty and staff, and will explore complex issues, such as what can those of us who value higher learning do to help students with lower expectations dig in and grapple with the challenge, and how we can raise the bar, This workshop will also generate innovative teaching strategies to counteract the issues. For more details and to register online, visit http://www.facdev.niu.edu or email facdev@niu.edu.

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