Faculty Matter Teaching tip #17: The Last Five Minutes of Class

Faculty Matter Teaching Tip #17: The Last Five Minutes of Class

A significant literature on college student success points to the importance of helping students develop the skills and dispositions needed to monitor and guide their own learning. (See, for example, Major, Harris & Zakrajsek, 2016 Teaching for Learning: 101 Intentionally Designed Educational Activities to Put Students on the Path to Success.) While some recommendations entail relatively complex and protracted “interventions”, others are much easier to implement. For example, the last five minutes of class time represent a critical opportunity, often squandered, to help students assume more intentional control of their own learning, by reflecting on the material they have just covered, by identifying points that were unclear, by noting connections to topics or ideas covered earlier or elsewhere, and by positioning themselves for what will come next in the course. Today’s Faculty Matter Teaching Tip consists of suggestions of things you might do with the last five minutes of your classes.

Make sure that students have the chance to engage in some kind of reflection or synthesis, as this kind of active manipulation of course materials can enhance their active engagement with their learning – or in other words, it can help them take responsibility for their own academic success.

  • Some of us have very well-honed time management skills and can anticipate with great precision how much time each element of our “lesson plan” will require. To the degree that this is the case, we can plan and execute fairly elaborate “wrap-up exercises” for the day. 
  • Others of us have some difficulty predicting how far we will get in any given day, or we opt, quite intentionally, to depart from our plan as student interest and other considerations warrant. This may mean that we need to be rather nimble in deciding on a good “stopping point” for the day, and we may also need to plan to be flexible about how we will reach closure in a way that allows students to tie things together in a meaningful way.

Close with a recap of the day – Reserve a few minutes at the end of class (or as the final step on an on-line module) to summarize key points. But rather than you providing the summary, have students state what they think were the main ideas.

  • Have students “turn-and-talk” with seat-mates, to compare notes. (This can be adapted to for implementation in on-line courses by using LMS discussion features.)
  • As ideas are proffered, acknowledge them, expand on them, invite brief discussion of them as you see fit.  Be sure to correct inaccuracies as warranted.
  • Consider having them do this without consulting their notes or other materials.  Such “retrieval practice”, as it is termed in research in the learning sciences, will give them a chance to “practice remembering,” a strategy which has been shown to promote learning.
  • If you began the class by posing a “question of the day”, consider soliciting “answers’, in light of the day’s activities.

Close with a few minutes for students to reflect in writing on the day’s class, and to identify any points of confusion or lack of clarity.

  • Allocate one or two minutes for students to write about the day’s class (“one-minute paper”). You may want to provide a more specific prompt, to focus them on something you want to be sure they consider. You may want to leave this assignment fairly open-ended, to see what meaning they are making of the material you are covering (e.g., “Today I learned…”  or “The most surprising thing about today’s class was…”).
  • Allocate a few minutes for students to identify areas where they would like more information or clarification (“muddiest point” questions, such as “I am still confused about…” or “I would like more information about…”).  Gather these writings and begin the next class with a guided discussion to address common themes or critical misconceptions.

For additional suggestions, see  http://www.chronicle.com/article/Small-Changes-in-Teaching-The/235583 .

Please add your own strategies using the comment link below.

Faculty Matter Teaching Tip #16: The First Five Minutes

Faculty Matter Teaching Tip #16: The First Five Minutes

In his book Small Teaching:  Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning and in numerous articles and postings[1], James Lang, professor and director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College, has summarized a great deal of current research about college student learning.  He also provides many excellent easy-to-implement ideas for nurturing student engagement.

One of his key themes is that the first five minutes of class time represent a critical opportunity, often squandered, to engage students, to help focus their attention, and to help them deepen their mastery of the course material at hand. Today’s Faculty Matter Teaching Tip consists of suggestions of things you might do with the first five minutes of your classes.

Open with a “question-of-the-day” or a “warm-up problem” – As students arrive and settle in to their seats, have them spend a few minutes on a question or a problem to solve. This can have many benefits (or “feed many birds with one piece of bread,” as former College of Education dean, Susan Meyers was wont to say):

  • It should help them make the transition from whatever they were doing or thinking about prior to your class to what you want them to focus on in your class.
  • It will provide a relatively low-stakes opportunity to assess their progress mastering the course material. You may opt to collect their work or not, and grade it or not, but there should be some mechanism by which they receive feedback on their answer, as appropriate to the type of question of problem.
  • If you have them collaborate with classmates, it also provides an opportunity for them to practice articulating their reasoning, defending their approaches and listening to and learning from each other.

You can segue into the rest of the day’s activities with a brief full-class discussion, and if appropriate, return to the question and the end of the class period to consider how students might approach it again, in light of the content of the day’s class.

Open with a summary of “where we left off” or “what we covered last time” – Spend the first few minutes of class recapping. But rather than you providing the summary, have students state what they think were the main ideas.

  • As ideas are proffered, acknowledge them, expand on them, invite discussion of them as you see fit.  Be sure to correct inaccuracies as warranted.
  • Consider having them do this without consulting their notes or other materials.  Such “retrieval practice”, as it is termed in research in the learning sciences, will give them a chance to “practice remembering,” a strategy which has been shown to promote learning.

[1] See, for example Small Changes in Teachinghttp://www.chronicle.com/article/Small-Changes-in-Teaching-The/234869/

Please add your own strategies using the comment link below.

December 2016 Newsletter: Video – Students Share How the SJSU Fund Helps Them Succeed

San Jose State University students thank donors for supporting the SJSU Fund, which provides ongoing support for innovative student programs, services and enrichment opportunities and help provide essential resources for colleges, schools and departments.

December 2016 Newsletter: Spartans Supporting Spartans Campaign Funds Student Scholarships and More

Photo: Christina Olivas San Jose State University staff and faculty gave more than $80,000 in donations to the Spartan Supporting Spartans Campaign in 2016. The 2017 campaign will launch in March.

Photo: Christina Olivas
San Jose State University staff and faculty gave more than $80,000 in donations to the Spartan Supporting Spartans Campaign in 2016. The 2017 campaign will launch in March.

In 2016, the Spartans Supporting Spartans Annual Giving Campaign raised $81,700 in gifts and pledges from 287 faculty and staff at SJSU. The annual fundraising campaign raises money that directly supports students through scholarships, the student emergency fund, and expanding research, scholarship and creative activity opportunities for them to engage with faculty.

The Spartans Supporting Spartans Campaign Committee has already started preparations for the spring 2017 donation drive that is anticipated to kick off onMarch 2. The committee is again planning to bring mobile coffee carts to more than half a dozen locations on campus in March and April, with hot beverages, treats and donation forms in hand. The co-chairs this year include Michael Kimbarow, the chair of the Academic Senate and a professor of Communicative Disorders and Sciences, and Elisabeth Thomas, an outreach librarian.

“I received my bachelor’s and master’s degrees,” she said, “And have made a career here at SJSU. I continue to make great memories full of wonderful people, places and events.”

Thomas joined the committee in spring 2013 and became co-chair in spring 2015. She gives back as part of the Spartans Supporting Spartans campaign because it feels good to give back “to a place that has given me so much.”

“These donations will help give current and future SJSU students the resources they need for academic success so that they too will one day look on the good memories they made at SJSU,” she said.

Kimbarow is serving for the third year as co-chair and he donates because he believes every dollar raised to support students and the mission is a dollar well spent. He donates to his department to support its mission of providing speech and language assessment and treatment to individuals with communicative disorders.

“It’s my way of showing potential donors that I’m not asking them to do anything that I’m not willing to do myself to support SJSU,” he said. “In my opinion, the best reason for faculty and staff to give to the campaign is that it feels good to know that in some small way we are making a positive impact and statement to the campus about our students and programs.”

Faculty and staff may designate their donation to any fund on campus, including one within their own department, college or division. Popular funds in recent years have included SJSU’s General Scholarship Fund, the Support Our Staff Scholarship Fund (a scholarship for SJSU employees who are completing a degree), and the Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity fund.

Faculty Invited to Apply for Active Learning Certificate Program

Beginning Spring 2017, eCampus and the Center for Faculty Development are pleased to offer an Active Learning Certificate Program. Participants will explore teaching strategies and activities designed to enhance their students’ academic success by increasing their engagement with their courses. The program builds upon the principles articulated in SJSU’s Four Pillars of Student Success planning document. We invite all faculty (full, associate, assistant and adjunct professors) to submit a proposal for the program. The goal of the certificate program is to create learning environments that are more welcoming, inclusive and supportive while still being academically rigorous; and to help students become more aware of how their own learning works and recognize study practices that will best enable them to master their course material.

Those who are accepted into the program will attend a kick-off session in February, attend three additional workshops on active learning topics during the spring semester, complete activities within Canvas, meet with an instructional designer, record and reflect on a class session that implements active learning strategies. Upon successful completion of all components, participants will receive a certificate, a badge, and $500 professional development funds.

Review the entire program description for complete program requirements and additional details. Proposals are due via online submission by Jan. 29, 2017.