Being admitted to graduate school can feel like a prize — until you actually get there and have to do the work. I’m a full professor now, yet I still vividly recall those daunting first months. And I’m reminded of them each academic year, as I watch so many excellent students make the same missteps.
That got me thinking about how graduate students can better set themselves up for success.
The result is this list of 10 tips.
My father used to tell a joke, over and over again. It was a classic outback Australian, Slim Dusty joke that – like the best dad jokes – I can’t remember. But I do recall the punchline. “Who called the cook a bastard?” To which the answer was, “Who called the bastard a cook?”
This riposte often comes to mind during discussions about doctoral supervision and candidature management. Discussions go on (and on and on) about quality, rigour, ethics and preparedness. Postgraduates are monitored, measured and ridiculed for their lack of readiness or their slow progress towards completion. But inconsistencies and problems with supervisors and supervision are marginalised. In response, I think of my father’s one-liner: Who called the supervisor a bastard? Who called the bastard a supervisor?
Getting students to take their reading assignments seriously is a constant battle. Even syllabus language just short of death threats, firmly stated admonitions regularly delivered in class, and the unannounced pop quiz slapped on desks when nobody answers questions about the reading don’t necessarily change student behaviors or attitudes. Despite the correlation between reading and course success, many students remain committed to trying to get by without doing the reading, or only doing it very superficially, or only doing it just prior to exam dates. In return, some exasperated instructors fall into the trap of using
valuable class time to summarize key points of the readings. It’s not a new problem, and clearly we can’t simply bemoan the fact that students don’t read. Furthermore, doing what we’ve been doing — the threats, the endless quizzes, the chapter summaries — has failed to solve the problem. The better solution involves designing courses so that students can’t do well without reading, and creating assignments that require students to do more than just passively read.
Featuring 11 articles from The Teaching Professor, this special report was created to give faculty new ways of attacking an age-old problem. Articles in the report include:
• Enhancing Students’ Readiness to Learn
• What Textbook Reading Teaches Students
• Helping Students Use Their Textbooks More Effectively
• Text Highlighting: Helping Students Understand What They Read
• When Students Don’t Do the Reading
• Pre-Reading Strategies: Connecting Expert Understanding and Novice Learning
Whether your students struggle with the material or simply lack the motivation to read what’s
assigned, this report will help ensure your students read and understand their assignments.
The Teaching Professor
Too many university supervisors and administrators criticize the absence of lesson closure, a dubious assessment practice likely caused by the improper use of Madeline Hunter’s lesson plan model (PDF) as a de facto checklist of eight mandatory teaching practices -- anticipatory set, objective and purpose, input, modeling, checking for understanding, guided practice, independent practice, and closure -- a custom that Hunter decried in 1985 (PDF). Although it offers multiple benefits, please don't view closure as a professional must-do.
To write well, college students need to read to deepen their understanding of language. And they need to write. The 24 essays in this collection will prompt teachers to help their students grasp changes in what is acceptable language, explore the mysteries
of word usage, and learn strategies to improve their writing. The essays are drawn from Lingua Franca, The Chronicle’s free blog about language in academe. Students can read these posts and new ones at chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca.
Without question, a major classroom challenge facing today’s educators is getting their students to put down their phones and pick up their level of engagement. While a generation ago educators might find their students getting sidetracked by an attractive classmate, an enchanting daydream or passing notes about an upcoming tailgate party, today’s smartphones present educators with a whole new array of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
According to the 2011 article “The Use and Abuse of Cell Phones and Text Messaging in the Classroom: A Survey of College Students,” published in College Teaching, after surveying “269 college students from 21 academic majors at a small Northeastern university,” authors Deborah R. Tindall and Robert W. Bohlander found that “95 percent of students bring their phones to class every day, 92 percent use their phones to text message during class time and 10 percent admit they have texted during an exam on at least one occasion.”
This challenging time provides an opportunity for students to work on real-world problems
they see every day.
Amid a pandemic, educators are trying to figure out how to make sure that kids are socially in tune, emotionally intact, and cognitively engaged. Moreover, we’re all attempting to figure out how to do this across a plethora of mediums, including computer screens, video cameras streaming into classrooms, and engaging students face-to-face albeit across shields, masks, and plexiglass.
Still, there is an opportunity here to give students a chance to discuss the challenges of their own environment, the barrage of news they face daily, and the core content they need for long-term success. One of the best options to meet these demands is for students to engage in rigorous problem- or project-based learning (PBL)—an approach that ensures students develop high rigor and experience high relevance by solving problems or
completing tasks in a remote or face-to-face environment.
As so many of us try to juggle teaching virtually or in a hybrid format this year, I’ve decided to focus my energy on technology that will help me no matter the setting. These three tech tools have had a huge impact on me, my staff, and my students.
With experts projection that five million K-12 students will enroll in online course by 2016, thee is no doubt that blended learning asking the key question: "Does blended learning give better outcomes than traditional classes?"
In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and crew are so intimidated by the Wizard's enigmatic personality that they struggle to talk with him on equal footing. Fear and frustration overwhelm them as they blindly accept a suicide mission to slay the Witch of the West. In return, they each receive a treasured prize: a heart, a brain, courage, and a way home. Ironically, they already have these gifts -- which they only discover after unveiling the man behind the curtain posing as the grumpy wizard.
Differentiated instruction (DI) casts a spell on educators as to how it meets all students' needs. The skillset required to differentiate seems mystical to some and incomprehensible to others in this environment of state standards and high-stakes tests. Where does one find the time? The reality is that every teacher already has the tools to differentiate in powerful ways for all learners. I address some of these elements, such as assessment fog, in other Edutopia posts.
Where I teach — a small, primarily residential liberal-arts college — there was a time when professors would have avoided online teaching like the plague. Five years ago I wasn’t teaching any online courses. This semester, my entire course load is online. And so is next semester’s.
What’s interesting is how many of us who work at "traditional" colleges — where dorms and dining halls occupy equal pride of place with classrooms and laboratories — are now trying to figure out how to create an online version of a face-to-face course we’ve been teaching for years.
In October of 1979, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Barbara Tuchman delivered al ecture at West Point in which she decried the “persistence of unwisdom” among politicians across the ages. Reflecting on how American presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon had embroiled the United States more deeply in the Vietnam War, Tuchman bemoaned a perennial “wooden-headedness” -- a tendency for politicians to act wishfully, while not allowing themselves to be “confused by facts.”
My first year teaching, a literacy coach came to observe my classroom. After the students left, she commented on how I asked the whole class a question, would wait just a few seconds, and then answer it myself. "It's cute," she added. Um, I don't think she thought it was so cute. I think she was treading lightly on the ever-so shaky ego of a brand-new teacher while still giving me some very necessary feedback.
So that day, I learned about wait/think time. And also, over the years, I learned to ask better and better questions.
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Many would agree that for inquiry to be alive and well in a classroom that, amongst other things, the teacher needs to be expert at asking strategic questions, and not only asking well-designed ones, but ones that will also lead students to questions of their own.
I was one of 17 students who started the University of Toronto’s Ph.D. program in English in the fall of 2010. The nominal schedule for earning the degree is five years, and all 17 of us received guaranteed financial support for that period. Six years later, with our funding exhausted, only three of us had finished our degrees — a completion rate of 18 percent — and none of us had finished within five years. Another three had left the program entirely — an 18 percent attrition rate — while the remaining 11 were still at it.
Hindered by video screens, fluctuating schedules, and health regulations, teachers are up
against the odds this school year when it comes to getting to know their students.
The cost of learning materials has risen drastically—82 percent over the past 10 years. How can institutions address this burden on students?
One way is through carefully enacted inclusive access: Affordable eTextbooks are delivered to all students by the institution’s LMS on or before the first day of classes. This ensures all students, including those who would have delayed or forgone purchasing their course materials on their own due to high costs, have access to the required materials necessary to succeed in their classes.
We are a group of undergraduate and graduate students from York University connected with each other through sociology professor Cary Wu’s research methods courses. Led by Dr. Wu, we recently came together as a virtual group to discuss what makes in-person classes unique and different from online-learning. Through this productive discussion, we were able to determine what it is about in-person classes that we long for. Here, we share with you seven main themes that emerged in our conversations.
As the administrators in charge of orientation for new students in our graduate school, we were naturally apprehensive about welcoming them to a virtual campus this fall. Several months into the pandemic, everyone is suffering from “Zoom fatigue.” Glitches, awkwardness, boring content — by now, we’ve all experienced the bad side of videoconferencing. But with our campus staying virtual, our new-student orientation had to be online, too.
In order to close the growing achievement gap, higher education institutions need to focus on innovation, scale and
diffusion, according to Bridget Burns, executive director for the University Innovation Alliance, a coalition of 11 public research universities committed to improving graduation rates and sharing best practices. And most important, institutions need to communicate about what works and what doesn't. "Otherwise we are sentencing other universities to repeat our mistakes and our failures — and students deserve better," she exhorted.
How can you make sure your online students take tests without cheating? It’s one of the most-frequent questions asked by new online instructors and even some experienced ones. The short answer: You can’t.
You might be tempted to join the “arms race” in cheating-prevention tools, or to adopt punitive approaches such as proctored online exams and time limits for online tests. But the reality is, students will always find new and creative ways to get around your policing
efforts. So what to do?