On 11/10/18 at 7:00pm, I attended the Great Teacher’s Conference presentation Skills, Skills, Skills Session at the Rizzo Center in Chapel Hill, NC presented by Wake Technical Community College
Skills Skills Skills
Study skills are an integral part of teaching and learning. In this session, we covered ways in which we could encourage students to work hard, study hard, and improve their study skills.
Birds of A Feather
Grouping people together allow study skills and results to move together. Students can teach one another, pointing out flaws in thinking and expanding knowledge with examples which make sense to other students. You will find that students almost always cluster together, but that can be hurtful.
Some people take the limelight or try to remove themselves from the group, or will work alone. Try to combat this by assigning groups or by building in a contract. Prior to assigning groups, have your students take a free DISC assessment or Myers-Briggs Personality Test. Use the scores from the test first to talk about what the students learned and how accurate it was, and last to use it to help put your groups together. Just like you wouldn’t want a group of all followers, you don’t want a group of all leaders either. You know your students, so split them into groups with at least one strong leader and don’t double up if you have students who drag behind. Use a contract to clearly point out who will be doing what jobs. There is not a question as to who is responsible for what items, and encourage your students to help one another or “vote a member off the island”. Make it known that a member voted off the island by their teammates can make a maximum of 70%. Many will step up their game.
Last Minute Mastery?
Cramming in some courses is a really big problem. If this continues to be an issue, consider watching the videos by Dr. Chew about using metacognition. Integrating these into your classes can be a one-shot assignment or it can be part of your course resources section and available to all students.
Guided questions are very helpful as a reflective assignment. Asking students what they’ve learned, and what was difficult is fairly boilerplate. That doesn’t leave you without other solid questions like: How will you adjust your plan to avoid this next time? How can you do better? What study methods will you use to do better next time?
Consider using scaffolding. Rather than a single paper worth 30% of their grade, break it into sections under review. Also revisiting the study habits about a week after the exam— what did you do to study for the exam, how long did you study, and based on your grade, did it help you? Mixing this with Metacognition will be a strong asset for you.
Quizzes are used to gauge student understanding. Consider a consistent delivery methods, such as having a quiz every Friday, and always over the same material— things covered in the class that week. With 10% of your final grade based on homework and another 10% set for quizzes, students are not engaged to push themselves. Failing these, a student can always get a B- or pass. Consider bumping up these items. Often, its great to point out that 3-4 hours of study time over the semester will save you 4 months of your time by not having to take the whole class again. Sometimes you can revisit the idea that low stakes doesn’t exactly mean “low stakes”. Every missed item is like a missing block in a jenga tower. (It could end up getting you right in the face, see below).
Many people in the business industries we serve feel that students are missing soft skills— the unspoken items and ideas which are part of every person’s working world. What do our students know? What don’t they know? What do they know they don’t quite know well enough? What do then not know that they don’t know? It is often the Unknown Unknowns that bite us the hardest, because we cannot conceive that we have a gap in our knowledge.
What do they need to know?
What’s the workplace-appropriate attire for the industry and for the workplace? Are they the same? What soft skills will be appropriate for students to have? Career Services are called in to assist students when writing cover letters, conducting mock interviews in later classes, working with us on online and hardcopy portfolios. What does a designer or worker do in the classroom, and how can we work in those preparations in our own classrooms?
What About in YOUR Classes?
For students in my classes personally, they are pushed very hard. Their work needs to include technical mastery as well as strong conceptual work, a high attention to detail, and an excellent understanding of how these things are done. Many students consider me to be an arch-nemesis in early classes, and when they notice their level of control and understanding in later classes, consider me to have been right on schedule. In my mind, if a student is pushed to the brink, but delivers… they’re exactly in the right spot. If the workplace is as bad as a “bad day in a Dockery Class”… for them its just another day on the job. On the other hand, when an employer expects some good work, but they consistently provide above-excellent level care and performance… you have an employee who’ll be moving up in the world.
How Can We Be More Helpful?
Sometimes failure is the best thing that we can do for our students—we need to value these items more in the classroom. Business Administration has a course called “People Skills”. (in discussing this with Mark Monsky later, that program had already been discontinued). English 114 has a business writing class which can be used to enrich our students’ business vocabulary. Culinary has an etiquette class that outlines how to talk to others and clients, etc. Consider mock interviews with clients, and how do you phrase questions and things to help clients be clearer without overdoing it and upsetting people. Communicating clearly in collegiate environment is key. Speaking to them about emails titled “Question, Um…” are not appropriately, and materials need to be easy to read and very easy to communicate the materials. If you’re squinting at your own notes, you have some serious problems. We can stress the importance of writing and readable notes. One teacher noted that in low-stakes assignment she clearly says that “any pieces not using common writing conventions will lose AT LEAST half credit. Its a good wake up call in a low-stakes environment.
Rapid Fire Session
At this point, we had to break through with a rapid-fire session. The rapid-fire session went over some of the minor points while empowering teachers. I was talking and listening, and failed to take accurate notes, but we touched on:
- success skills
- student respect issues
- instructor boredom
- death by powerpoint
Can you hear me now?
- lack of community
Techie-tech at Wake TEch
- teaching with video
- tech tricks
Walk the line
How can you manage the amount of work coming home? Use the leeway the school has given you to ensure the amount of work you do.
You Lost Me
This was very vague. One of these items: Use the leeway the school gives us really seems to have missed the mark. Many of us teach 5+ classes in a semester, and have contracts with high numbers. Mine has 52 contact hours on the schedule and I’m not the only one maxed out in our department. We are paid for 5 office hours, but required to have many more which are unpaid. We attend some school events as a courtesy and others as a volunteer and are required to attend other events annually (such as recruiting efforts, open houses, booths, and industry events). We undertake involved benchmarking projects, go to several conventions each year, and take well over 100 hours of professional development hours. Our classes take time, prepping old classes to reflect new software and new trends in the industry takes time, committee work takes time, answering email takes time, and we’re forced to work nights and weekends.
When I see that the school is giving us leeway, but I see that the school is really trying to have us seated 30 hours a week in our office, taking away our vacation and break days, it seems like you’re talking about something which isn’t accurate. This might be like saying “Eat all the cake your students bring you.” If there is no cake coming in, it doesn’t make much sense…
Back On Target
Use the time you need. Email is a rabbit hole, but it can easily be a problem. If you schedule the grading and email to certain times of the day, you may find you have more time than you thought. Consider not even looking at email until 3pm (cannot happen as I know it). Consider turning things off as soon as you walk out the door.
One Person noted (name redacted): Its in the policy that you do not have to contact with students on the weekend.
Multiple People responded: Evenings and weekends are par for the course in online classes. Weekend and night emails or often appeals and questions. If those go unanswered, its a complaint to the dean, and so should be answered. Online students with problems and blackboard issues are not easy to answer. Ensure students that you will address the issue after you have talked with IT or BB and give us the trouble ticket and response.
Another responder: If students cannot go on board with solving the problem themselves, why should we look into these issues.
Should we have 2 due dates per week or 1 due date per week? There is no standard. Many people find that emailing at a certain time is healthy and sets a good balance. Students must have concise efforts. Anything which is too drastic gets pushed off too late, and has a chance of failing.
Be Open and Honest About Responsivitiy— Especially with yourself.
Perhaps taking a 10 minute walk every 50 minutes can reset your productivity. Don’t be afraid to tell students that you will not be responding. Share and be open. Students will be available and open to give you some space. After all, that’s what they want too!
This entry was posted in Professional Development and tagged blackboard, business writing, career services, chew, cramming, DISC assessment, great teachers conference, group work, job skills, Mark, mark monsky, metacognition, monsky, Myers-Briggs, Myers-Briggs Personality Test, Personality Test, scaffolding, soft skills, stephen, stephen chew, study skills.