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A key factor in student success is the attitude of the instructor. An instructor’s enthusiasm can motivate students. An instructor’s facial expressions, energy, and intonation are as important as what the instructor says. When instructors take time to reflect on the passions they feel for their discipline or profession and they communicate this to others, explicitly and implicitly, they can dramatically improve their teaching effectiveness.
The use of well-designed rubrics can improve the facilitation of learning by providing both students and instructors with clarity and commonality of purpose of an assignment. Students can better validate their own progress, and instructors can fairly and consistently document the student’s skills. Consider having students self-assess their assignments using the rubric the instructor will use when grading the assignment.
Frequent testing yields benefits for both you and your students. Early testing furnishes students with feedback they can use to optimize their course performance. Frequent testing gives students more opportunities for success, reducing the penalty for any single poor performance. By providing more testing opportunities the effects of random errors, such as student misinterpretation and distractions, tend to weaken.
Compose test questions immediately after you address the material in class. The material and cognitive levels at which you taught are fresh in your mind and should match the session’s learning objectives. This strategy ensures a supply of questions to use when you develop a quiz or exam. Alternatively, you can have your students develop these questions at the end of class or as homework and modify them as appropriate.
All too often when students receive a graded exam, they focus on a single feature–the score they earned! Although the focus on the grade is understandable, it can lead students to miss out on several learning opportunities that such an assessment can provide: identifying their own areas of strength and weakness to guide further study, reflecting on the adequacy of their preparation and study strategies, and understanding the nature of their errors.
Students are often unaware of the progress they are making, so communicating to them the areas where they are doing well or have improved is just as important as communicating to them the areas where they lack understanding or need further improvement. The positive feedback indicates which aspects of their knowledge should be maintained and built upon, where the negative feedback indicates which aspects should be adjusted.
Sharing examples of past student work can assist students to see how your performance criteria can be put into practice in an actual assignment. Such examples are even more powerful when you highlight particular features that were excellent. In addition to sharing exemplars, it can be helpful to contrast those examples with what you don’t want.
Articulate the course goals clearly to students so that they know what the desired outcomes are. Make it clear to students what you expect them to do in order to reach those goals. Clear expectations help make the connection between a course of action and a desired outcome more concrete and tangible. At the same time, let students know what support they can expect from you in pursuit of those goals.
It is important to give students the opportunity to reflect on assignments. Facilitating reflection with specific questions can help structure the process. For example, ask students, “When did this experience become difficult for you?” or “What did you learn from this assignment?” or “What was the most valuable feature of this project?” Such questions help students identify the value of their work.
Students often focus on specific course content without recognizing how the skills and abilities they develop across courses will benefit them in their professional lives. Instructors can motivate students by explaining how various skills will serve them more broadly in their professional lives.