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Higher Education Best Practices - Teaching & Learning

Getting Students to Do the Readings
Few things are more frustrating to a college teacher than to begin a discussion of the readings assigned during a previous class and discover that a significant number of students haven’t done the readings. This issue’s Thriving in Academe offers encouraging news: There are classroom strategies for ensuring that students keep up with class readings—and students actually welcome them.
Clickers and Classroom Dynamics
Clickers in the classroom? This issue’s Thriving in Academe provides a look at an innovative instructional tool that the author promises will liven up your classroom, promote student discussion, and aid in on-the-spot assessment of student learning. Sound interesting?
The Assumptions We Make About Diversity
Despite the occasional controversy around the concept of diversity on our campuses, most college instructors want our classrooms to be inclusive. Yet sometimes we don’t know where to start. The authors of this month’s Thriving in Academe suggest that we don’t let our assumptions about diversity get in the way. Instead, we should recognize the many and sometimes invisible ways that we and our students bring diversity into the classroom.
Helping Students Embrace Deep Learning
The concept that one size fits all doesn’t have much of a place in education since we’ve begun to understand better how brains work and people learn. This issue’s Thriving in Academe author suggests ways instructors can use the Kolb Learning Style Index to identify their own cognitive processing preferences and those of their students. From this knowledge they can develop more effective teaching strategies.
Understanding Universal Design in the Classroom
Today’s college students come in all shapes and sizes, spanning many cultures, speaking different languages, learning in different ways. Included in our classes also are students of varying abilities and disabilities, including physical impairments and learning disabilities. How in the world can we design courses that reach such a diversity of students? Universal Design will help, says the author of this issue’s Thriving in Academe.
Meet Your Students Where They Are: Social Media 
We're used to engaging students in the real world, now it's time to engage them in social online spaces like Facebook and Twitter. Online social networking has become an integral space for many of our students to live out their daily personal interactions. So what's an ethical instructor to do? Leverage this new media to meet your needs and those of your students.
Challenging and Supporting First-Year Students
The first year of college is a unique time in the lives of our students, whether they are fresh out of high school, returning to the classroom after many years away, or fall somewhere in between. Teaching these students is obviously a challenge because everything is so new to them. But it’s also a prime opportunity to introduce higher level thinking to students new to the challenge of college-level work.
Teaching Context--A Map for Course Design
The classes we teach don’t exist in a vacuum, argues the author of this issue’s Thriving in Academe, so it makes sense to pay attention to the world around you as you plan your semester’s work. You can create a better environment for learning when you consider institutional and departmental characteristics in making plans. Even more important is to share control of the course with your students.
The Multiple Roles of the College Professor
If you listen to the pundits and politicians criticizing higher education, you would think that instructors on our nation’s campuses do hardly any work and that the little they do accomplish is irrelevant. To change this perception, this issue’s Thriving in Academe authors argue, the faculty needs to do a better job demonstrating that our profession is highly specialized, requiring multiple sets of high-level skills.
Bringing the Inside Out and the Outside In
Service learning is an increasingly familiar practice at many of the nation’s colleges and universities. But there continues to be uncertainty about what service learning actually is—and more importantly, how it is done correctly. This month’s Thriving in Academe looks at balancing the educational needs of students with the practical needs of the community in creating service learning projects that work for everyone.
Abolishing "Effortless Perfection"
Recent studies show that women in the academy continue to feel that they must be "perfect" in order to succeed. To counter this destructive tendency, the author of this issue's Thriving in Academe points out that mentoring female students is an increasingly important responsibility of academic women and provides some advice on being supportive.
Rethinking Expectations About Assignments
It's frustrating for professors when students haven't done their out-of-class assignment. Too often, the students just don't take their homework seriously. But there's hope for frustrated professors, this issue's Thriving in Academe authors claim. Make sure your students know why the assignment is important and try to connect it to their lives.
Teaching Rigorous and Reflective Thinking
Providing our students with current information in a specific field of knowledge may not mean much if they don’t know how to think about what they’re learning. Critical thinking is a much-used but often imprecise term. Yet its importance cannot be denied. This issue’s Thriving in Academe provides some relatively painless approaches to encouraging critical thinking across the disciplines.
Redesigning Teaching to Meet All Students' Needs: Responsive and Productive Courses
Traditional college students—those in the 18 to 22 age range—have been joined by a new cohort of students of different ages and backgrounds, and with different goals for their education. How can professors organize their classes so that all students learn? This issue of Thriving in Academe advises instructors to consider integrating training methods into their traditional approaches.
The Necessity of Really Knowing Your Audience
Content knowledge is crucial to good college teaching. But knowledge about who our students are and how they learn is an equally essential component of expert teaching, say the authors of this issue's Thriving in Academe. Cognitive theory, the psychosocial development of students, and the impact of the political, the social, and the economic on the classroom are some of the topics they consider.
The Ideal Course and the Dream Team
Most college teachers like to work alone, following the century-old paradigm of teaching. But for those who like to challenge the "norm," team-taught, interdisciplinary courses can be the ideal way to develop rich content and reinvigorate higher education teaching and learning. This issue's Thriving in Academe offers tips for designing and improving the interdisciplinary, multi-educator course.
Mentoring: Functions, Roles, and Interactions
The world of academe can be a bewildering place for new faculty members. When it is, they often look to their senior colleagues for help. This time-honored practice—mentoring—has both formal and informal aspects, and, when done right, benefits both mentors and their protégés. This issue’s Thriving in Academe looks at the rewards and requirements for both parties.
Writing as Instructional Practice
In this issue’s Thriving in Academe, author Stephen Bernhardt of the University of Delaware challenges long-held faculty assumptions about whose business the teaching of writing really is, dispels myths about how writing instruction works, and provides tips on taking the drudgery out of writing instruction and making it a tool to promote learning.
Designing Instruction for Significant Learning
Most faculty care deeply that the students they teach learn. To most of us, this means that students grasp the content of our courses. Consequently, we design our courses around the topics we hope to cover. But if we truly want to help students learn, we might try designing our courses around what we want our students to learn and how they will best learn it.
Letting Students Take Control
Helping disadvantaged students overcome mental and societal barriers to become masters of their own destinies on their way to becoming teachers is a daunting task. Yet NEA member and 2002 Community College Teacher of the Year Clarence Romero has created a teacher preparation program at Riverside Community College in California—Latino Educators of Tomorrow—that has been doing just that.