A guiding hand in the classroom

John Kaag’s opinion items in Times Higher Education are all worth the read; his “Parental guidance required” is a short meditation on the complex, competing priorities of academic life.  His conclusion reminds us that the classroom is a place to listen, encourage and connect:

“My daughter has taught me several things that I didn’t learn, or just forgot, in graduate school: that the simplest things are often the most profound, that many kids who have trouble speaking want desperately to communicate, that my writing must matter to a wider public and that I don’t have to be imperially alone in my ivory tower.”

For the full article, visit http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/comment/opinion/parental-guidance-required/2004709.article.

Paula Haines, Coordinator of the First Year Writing Program

Concept maps for assessing learning

I use concept mapping frequently in my teaching as a tool to assess students’ learning. The key is to start small with no more than 10 concepts for students to map. In class, I put students into groups of 3 (any larger and not all members always participate) and give them 10 concept names. They write each concept on a separate post-it note. It is then their job to arrange these post-it notes on poster paper so that they create a hierarchical and branching arrangement of the concepts. The most “inclusive” concept is at the top of the map and the least toward the bottom. The students are able to move the post-its until they are satisfied that their arrangement really reflects how they view the relationships between the concepts. Now comes the most important part; drawing arrows between the concepts and writing a succinct linking phrase which connects one concept to the next. These linking phrases really show you, the instructor, how your students understand the inter-relationships between the terms they are mapping. Some students have not thought about how the concepts they are learning are linked until they are asked to map them. There are many great articles on how to teach students to create concept maps. I would be happy to share them.

Anita Greenwood, Dean
Graduate School of Education