Which of these Top 10 Books on Teaching would you most like to read?


Thank you, James M. Lang, for a convenient Top 10 list posted in this week’s Chronicle.  Hard to disagree with this statement:

I firmly believe that if every teaching faculty member could carve out the time to read one or two great books on teaching and learning every year, we would collectively serve our students much better than we do already.

Many of us read Ken Bain’s book (#1) as part of Faculty Center reading groups a few years ago, and How Learning Works (#3) was the text for a Faculty Center reading group this spring. What looks good to you for some fall reading group selections?


Developing creativity in our students and in ourselves

From a recent piece by Alison James and Stephen D. Brookfield in Tomorrow’s Professor eNewsletter, here’s a list of four things creative teachers ask themselves as they face the task of course planning:

Creative teachers are open to using many pedagogic models, including problem based or inquiry based learning, dependent on the context for learning.  They ask themselves what different kinds of students they are dealing with, what they wish the students to be able to know or do, how best to use the time and other resources available to them, and what successful colleagues have done that they can steal.

That certainly helps to explains why prepping for classes can take much, much longer than we think (hope/expect) it will. I appreciate seeing this often internalized process articulated!

The authors of Engaging Imagination: Helping Students Become Creative and Reflective Thinkers (Jossey-Bass, 2014) discuss the importance of emotional intelligence and suggest that “anyone working in fluid situations involving colleagues and clients relies far more on the limbic system [the part that controls emotions],” so it’s worthwhile to consider ways to develop creativity and emotional intelligence in our students and in ourselves. The good news is, teaching offers us lots of opportunities for creative growth:

Unless you choose to sleepwalk your way through your teaching days and ignore how students are responding to learning, no matter what the discipline you teach, your work as a teacher is inherently creative.

Walking for enhanced creativity

Another reason to take a break from your office — or offer your students an opportunity to do some productive thinking outside of the classroom!

At last fall’s Faculty Forum on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Professor Hannah Israel shared her own experiences with using walking as a tool for students’ learning (“The Art of Walking”). Here’s a new study that offers scientific evidence for walking as a tool to enhance anyone’s ability to think creatively:

For almost every student, creativity increased substantially when they walked. Most were able to generate about 60 percent more uses for an object, and the ideas were both “novel and appropriate,” Dr. Oppezzo writes in her study, which waspublished this month in The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.

But the practical import of that finding would seem to be negligible, if creativity were to increase only while someone was walking. Most of us cannot conduct brainstorming sessions on treadmills. So Dr. Oppezzo next tested whether the effects lingered after a walk had ended. She had another group of students sit for two consecutive sessions of test-taking and subsequently walk for about eight minutes while tossing out ideas for object re-use, then sit and repeat the test.

Again, walking markedly improved people’s ability to generate creative ideas, even when they sat down after the walk. In that case, the volunteers who had walked produced significantly more and subjectively better ideas than in their pre-exercise testing period.

Teaching and Emotions

Here’s a post from Faculty Focus that just touches the tip of the iceberg, The Emotions That Fuel Our Teaching. Maryellen Weimer asks a great question, “How do our feelings about the content, students, and our department affect our instructional decision-making?”

One study she cites concludes that instructors who are more focused on “transmitting knowledge” experience more anxiety and nervousness, while those who are more focused on “what the student is doing and experiencing” report feelings of pride and motivation. That makes sense.

But there’s so much more complexity to be explored. What patterns can we identify in our own emotional experiences and teaching (dis)satisfactions from year to year? What might be productive about uncomfortable feelings in the classroom — for us or for our students? What can we learn from apparent disconnects, like the class that seemed disgruntled but gave good evaluations, or the class that seemed satisfied but complained on evaluations?

Wouldn’t this make an interesting Faculty Center Fellowship or SoTL project for an upcoming year? (hint, hint)



Fresh ideas for annual review/PDP goals

As we head into Annual Review writing season, how about some ideas for setting new teaching goals? I’m going to start a list, and I hope others will add to it in Comments:

  • Partner with a colleague to create a new First Year or International Learning Community
  • Conduct a new textbook search, including open-access materials, for a frequently taught class
  • Invite a colleague to conduct a mid-term instructional diagnosis (evaluation) with one of my classes
  • Study my student evaluations over a multi-year period and make an action plan to respond to suggestions
  • Plan to attend five faculty development events (workshops, forums, webinars) on topics of special interest
  • Apply for a Faculty Writing Fellowship
  • Apply for an Interdisciplinary Initiatives Grant
  • Apply for a Faculty Center Fellowship
  • Reflect on my toughest teaching challenge and conceive a SoTL research project/experiment to address it
  • Implement Team Based Learning
  • Restructure an existing traditional or fully online class as a hybrid
  • Apply for a summer study abroad program, either through CSU or USG programs
  • “Flip” just one assignment/section of the course
  • Consider how I might allow students to exercise some choice/control in their learning experience

Proving that cell phones and attentive listening don’t mix

Happy New Year from the Faculty Center!

Here’s a great piece to kick off the spring semester: The Age of Distraction: getting students to put away their phones and focus on learning

Faculty Focus blogger Maryellen Weimer proposes the following experiment for an early class:

I’m wondering if you could give a presentation in class and five minutes before the class ends distribute or post a list of the five or six essential points made. Students could check their notes, or you could have students trade notes so that someone else is doing the checking, and see how many of those points they had. Now some students may miss a few of the points because they aren’t all that good at taking notes, but were some of the students who missed most (all) of the points also texting or surfing during class? Encourage them to ask themselves the question and to look honestly at the evidence revealed by their notes.