What do you do–what CAN you do–when a student stops showing up to class? the Teaching and Learning Collaborative hosted a brownbag conversation about that question and got concrete, specific insights from the Shepard Academic Resource Center, the Care Team and once another. Big takeaways: follow through on attendance policies in your syllabus (changing them out of sympathy does NO ONE any favors); let students know, in word or email, that you noticed they were gone and that you’d like to help them get back on track; don’t shy away from alerting the Care Team (via Early Alert) after a student misses a week of class without explanation. There were several other strategies and insights that are compiled in this 2-page document.
Do you have Moodle questions? Maybe you are new to UP and are coming from using a different LMS like Blackboard or Canvas. Perhaps you’ve been using Moodle for a while but want to leverage it more to create efficiencies or open up new opportunities. Or maybe you are brand new to the world of Moodle – in any case, Academic Technology Services & Innovation is here to help!
You can always reach us at email@example.com – you can get questions answered, or get connected to more resources if you need hands-on tech-training or instructional design consulting to enhance your use of digital resources in your teaching.
Are you more of a “show me the tutorials and let me have a go at it” type person? Check out our Moodle Guides site for quick tutorial articles and videos on common Moodle tasks. Here are some of my favorites to spark your interest:
- Moodle is a great way to post announcements or send students a quick email
- Share a video with your class by embedding a YouTube link in a course
- Do you use discussion forums in your course? They are much, much easier to grade using Forum Ratings.
Revisiting Bloom’s Taxonomy
In the 1950’s Benjamin Bloom and other researchers collaborated to create what is known as Bloom’s Taxonomy of cognitive processes. This has been revised over the years and includes today six cognitive dimensions:
- Remember: recall facts and basic concepts (e.g., define, list, state)
- Understand: explain ideas or concepts (e.g., describe, explain, summarize)
- Apply: use information in new situations (e.g., solve, complete, change)
- Analyze: draw connections among ideas (e.g., contrast, categorize, connect)
- Evaluate: justify a stand or decision (e.g., criticize, defend, prioritize)
- Create: produce new or original work (e.g., design, modify, write)
The accompanying verbs can be used to develop and organize learning goals and objectives for our curricula, courses, and daily lesson plans. Many UP faculty already use Bloom’s Taxonomy as a guide for planning, but we can enhance the use of Bloom’s Taxonomy by considering our objectives through the lens of knowledge dimensions that Anderson and Krathwohl added to the taxonomy in 2001. The four dimensions are:
- Factual knowledge (basic elements to learn in the discipline)
- Conceptual knowledge (interrelationships between basic elements within a larger context)
- Procedural knowledge (methods in the discipline)
- Metacognitive knowledge (awareness of how learning work in relation to one’s self)
Anderson and Krathwohl developed a matrix for combining cognitive processes and knowledge dimensions that can be adapted when planning courses and lessons. As faculty, we can adapt this matrix in our own lesson planning. Here’s an example from a 300-level applied linguistics course that I teach in the Department of International Languages and Cultures.
Basic concept: Individual differences in language learning
Knowledge Dimension: Factual knowledge
Bloom’s Taxonomy Cognitive Process: Remember (Related actions verbs: define, list, state, recall, identify)
Learning Goal: Students can accurately define individual differences and list examples.
Assessment: Students take a low-stakes quiz in which they define individual differences and provide examples they recall from the reading and group work activity.
- Students read section on individual differences in How Languages are Learned respond to reading prompts before class.
- In class, students work in groups to identify individual differences in written profiles of learners and present their findings.
Intersecting with multiple knowledge dimensions
As faculty, we can also run concepts and theories we teach through both multiple knowledge and cognitive process dimensions as we plan instruction. Let’s take, for example, the social cultural theoretical perspective of second language acquisition from the same applied linguistics course
Factual dimension / Remember
Instructor provides learning experiences so that students practice recalling definitions of terms and characteristics and elements of the theory.
Conceptual dimension / Understand
Students participate in learning experiences that guide them to start explaining principles and models of the social cultural perspective. It’s important to note that at this level, the students are not just restating an author’s or instructor’s explanation; that would be remembering. Rather, they are using concepts, terms, and paraphrasing to explain the concept or theory.
Procedural dimension / Analyze
Eventually, students point out passages in a research text that indicate the linguistics researcher is writing from the social cultural perspective of second language learning. They are using their knowledge of the theory as an analytical tool.
Metacognitive dimension / Apply
Finally, the instructor can work with students to develop and apply motivational and language learning strategies that are based on a social cultural perspective of second language learning.
The above processes can also be reorganized into a class lesson planning tool.
Application in your teaching
The combination of Bloom’s Taxonomy and knowledge dimensions create a powerful approach for your faculty toolbox in support of our efforts to provide the excellent undergraduate education opportunities to our students. For more about deploying Bloom’s Taxonomy and the four dimensions of knowledge, check out Laurie Richlin’s Blueprint for Learning: Construction College Courses to Facilitate, Assess, and Document Learning (2006), one of the sources of today’s TLC blog entry. If you would like to explore in more detail using dimensions and Bloom’s Taxonomy verbs in a lesson planning form, download this MS Word version.
Jeffrey White directs the Learning Commons in the Shepard Academic Resource Center in Buckley Center 163, where he trains tutors to reach Level 1 of the International Tutor Training Program Certification. He also teaches German, an applied linguistics course, and a preparation course for study abroad in the Department of International Languages and Cultures. Jeffrey is currently the president-elect of the Northwest College Reading and Learning Association. He is happy to meet over coffee or lunch to discuss course and lesson design, training, and teaching in higher education and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What if white professors like me spent less time denying our racism and more effort exploring its factuality?
One of the most vital books I have read in years builds a case for taking on this provocative challenge. White Fragility: Why it’s so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism (2018) by Robin DiAngelo draws upon a rich legacy of sociology to offer a lifetime of lessons few have had the chance to think through.
Carrying forward the subject of 2018’s Faculty Development Day on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the University, the College of Arts & Sciences chose White Fragility as this year’s title for its annual faculty reading group. Copies were given to CAS faculty, for participation in a discussion last Thursday, led by Drs. Lauren Alfrey and Lara Trout. (Past years’ selections in this series have included Make it Stick: the Science of Successful Learning, Academically Adrift, The Slow Professor, Learner-Centered Teaching, and My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student.)
While the book is not specifically about teaching, the fact that 90% of UP’s instructors are white – and the fact that so few of us are comfortable talking about race – make it deeply relevant to our campus. The department I chair (English) is entirely white. When students scroll through our Faculty Profiles page, what message does this racial homogeneity broadcast about our major, our discipline, and our university?
While over a third of our undergraduates are nonwhite, only a tenth of current UP faculty are (45 out of 445). This is even less diverse than the national average (84% of America’s college professors are white; for school teachers, the figure is 82%). The book’s lessons could have a significant impact on our university’s hiring practices, admission rates, classroom atmosphere, and the future citizens we graduate.
While it’s true that race is a scientific fiction, it is also a social reality. And while race is only one dimension of our complex identities, it is the one white Americans are least educated about. DiAngelo — who grew up white, urban, and poor in America – aims to raise the racial consciousness of white people, a group that usually feels exempt from the entire subject of race, and has historically refused to learn about its history and legacies of inequality.
And so the first goal she urges us toward is to see the racism around us. While most of us think of racism in terms of individual acts, DiAngelo insists that “racism is a structure, not an event” (28). She defines racism not as “conscious intolerance” but as the ambient system of inequality we live in, have inherited, and, for white people, profit from.
What holds this system in place, even in the post-civil-rights 21st century, are such things as implicit bias, white solidarity, de facto segregation, and living in a culture of implicit racial supremacy. As DiAngelo explains, white peoples’ blindness to racism also comes from a series of ideologies, such as those of individualism, meritocracy, and color blindness. These incomplete frameworks shield most white people from seeing our participation and complicity in a system of racism. And when confronted with contrary evidence, our reaction is predictably defensive and hostile (“we rely on such flimsy evidence to certify ourselves as racism-free” ). As an alternative to reactions of denial, DiAngelo suggests we “focus on how – rather than if – our racism is manifest. … stopping our racist patterns must be more important than working to convince others that we don’t have them” (129).
Insulated from the kind of race-based stress people of color are subject to daily, white peoples’ understanding of race goes unchallenged. The few times we are challenged, we react with predictable drama, which DiAngelo diagnoses as “white fragility,” a term she defines as “the sociology of dominance: an outcome of white people’s socialization into white supremacy and a means to protect, maintain, and reproduce white supremacy” (113). This fragility is a strategy for maintaining a racist status quo – for not engaging in further dialogue, and understanding.
Toward a solution, she calls for something academics should already be good at: education. Collectively, American whites need to become better informed about race and how racism works – to pay more attention to a subject we thought we were supposed to ignore: “consider racism a matter of life and death (as it is for people of color), and do your homework” (145).
This does not involve a moment of becoming “woke” but a lifelong process: “we must never consider ourselves finished with our learning” (153). Her book offers ways to take responsibility for structural racism by becoming more aware of our behavior, more reflective and open (rather than defensive), and more willing to change our behavior (113): “Interrupting racism takes courage and intentionality” (153).
UP can become a force of change within a culture of racism, but as DiAngelo shows, it will take significant works of honesty, openness, humility, and historical vision on the part of white people – or else we will continue to be complicit in a culture of silent racism.
If you are interested in a free copy of White Fragility, CAS still has a dozen left: until the copies are gone, you can get one from Zach Muñoz’s office in the Dean’s Suite Buckley Center 201.
We all want to be effective teachers, but how do we gauge whether our teaching has been effective? One simple way to gather informal, low-stakes feedback from students is through exit cards. In the last several minutes of class, the instructor can pose a question to the class, have students write their answer on a card, and collect the cards. Exit cards can be anonymous or graded; low-tech or electronic; and about pedagogy or about content. After reviewing the cards, the instructor can address student concerns either individually or with the whole class. Rather than relying on end-of-semester evaluations to evaluate how a class is going, exit cards can give on-going feedback to help instructors make decisions about instructional techniques, pacing, or classroom management. Exit cards provide an equitable way for all students to share their voice, and they can open up opportunities for further dialogue with students who may be hesitant to share concerns face-to-face.
Exit cards can be used to gauge specific, disciplinary content. For example, a Calculus II instructor might ask students: “What is the difference between the comparison test and the limit comparison test for series convergence.” Used as a formative assessment tool, exit cards can indicate whether more time is needed for particular content or if common misconceptions exist in the class. Exit cards can also be used to gauge pedagogical components of the course, such as course content and structure; participation, collaboration, and inclusion; use of technology; or groupwork. Consider this list of possible exit cards:
Course Content and Structure
- How is the pace of this class? (Too slow, About right, Too fast)
- Is there a topic from class this week that was particularly challenging? What is your strategy for learning this topic?
- What is one misconception you or another student had about the lesson today? How would you address that misconception?
- Do you feel this class challenges you in a productive way on most days? Please give examples of how.
- How challenging have you found the material in this class to be compared to other classes you have taken? Circle one: Low, Medium, High
- What were the main learning objectives from today’s lesson? Rank how well you currently understand them (0 = not so much, 5 = totally get it)
- Do you feel this class is organized around specific learning objectives that focus on building your knowledge? Please give one example of how.
- Do you believe that exam and test materials in this class are clearly defined based on specific learning objectives? Please give one example:
- Do you feel the material in this class is meaningful or has interesting applications?
Participation, Collaboration, and Inclusion
- How comfortable are you participating in this class? Give examples of types of participation that are comfortable for you and those that are less comfortable for you.
- In class today, did you get to hear different ideas from your classmates? What was one idea/question/solution from a classmate that helped you understand something?
- Did you have the chance to share your ideas during class today? Give an example of one idea you had and how you shared it.
- What is one thing you can do to help a classmate feel more comfortable sharing incomplete or incorrect ideas? What could the instructor do to make you feel more comfortable sharing ideas?
- Do you feel comfortable sharing incomplete or incorrect ideas with your small group? What could be done differently to help you feel more comfortable sharing ideas in your small group?
- How safe do you feel in this classroom? Please explain. How comfortable do you feel in this classroom? Please explain.
- Estimate how many different people you have worked with in this class this term.
- Estimate how many different people you feel you have gotten to know better in this class this term.
- Do you feel comfortable sharing your identity with them?
- How would you characterize the inclusivity of this classroom? (Low, Medium, High) What can you do to help make the class more inclusive?
Use of Technology
- Do you feel technology is used effectively in this class? Please give examples of how.
- Estimate how many different types of technology used in this class you found helpful this week? (examples include course website, discussion board, videos developed, etc)
- How would you characterize the use of technology in this class compared to other classes you have taken? Circle one: Needs Improvement, Good, Excellent. Explain your choice.
- Did you value the group activity today? Do you think the activity or task would have been better done alone?
- Did you find your group members to participate equally?
- Do you value the product of the group activity or task today?
- Do you feel your group members listened to your contributions in the group activity today?
- How did you make your group members feel welcome sharing ideas today?
For more information on the benefits and use of exit cards, consider