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Teaching Principles
Enhancing Education http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/ Eberly: (412) 268-2896 | OTE: (412) 268-5503 | Blackboard: (412) 268-9090 Eberly Center for Teaching Exc

Teaching is a complex, multifaceted activity, often requiring us as instructors to juggle multiple tasks and goals simultaneously and flexibly. The following small but powerful set of principles can make teaching both more effective and more efficient, by helping us create the conditions that support student learning and minimize the need for revising materials, content, and policies. While implementing these principles requires a commitment in time and effort, it often saves time and energy later on.

1. Effective teaching involves acquiring relevant knowledge about students and using that knowledge to inform our course design and classroom teaching.
When we teach, we do not just teach the content, we teach students the content. A variety of student characteristics can affect learning. For example, students cultural and generational backgrounds influence how they see the world; disciplinary backgrounds lead students to approach problems in different ways; and students prior knowledge (both accurate and inaccurate aspects) shapes new learning. Although we cannot adequately measure all of these characteristics, gathering the most relevant information as early as possible in course planning and continuing to do so during the semester can (a) inform course design (e.g., decisions about objectives, pacing, examples, format), (b) help explain student difficulties (e.g., identification of common misconceptions), and (c) guide instructional adaptations (e.g., recognition of the need for additional practice).

2. Effective teaching involves aligning the three major components of instruction: learning objectives, assessments, and instructional activities.
Taking the time to do this upfront saves time in the end and leads to a better course. Teaching is more effective and student learning is enhanced when (a) we, as instructors, articulate a clear set of learning objectives (i.e., the knowledge and skills that we expect students to demonstrate by the end of a course); (b) the instructional activities (e.g., case studies,

labs, discussions, readings) support these learning objectives by providing goal-oriented practice; and (c) the assessments (e.g., tests, papers, problem sets, performances) provide opportunities for students to demonstrate and practice the knowledge and skills articulated in the objectives, and for instructors to offer targeted feedback that can guide further learning.

3. Effective teaching involves articulating explicit expectations regarding learning objectives and policies.
There is amazing variation in what is expected of students across American classrooms and even within a given discipline. For example, what constitutes evidence may differ greatly across courses; what is permissible collaboration in one course could be considered cheating in another. As a result, students expectations may not match ours. Thus, being clear about our expectations and communicating them explicitly helps students learn more and perform better. Articulating our learning objectives (i.e., the knowledge and skills that we expect students to demonstrate by the end of a course) gives students a clear target to aim for and enables them to monitor their progress along the way. Similarly, being explicit about course policies (e.g., on class participation, laptop use, and late assignment) in the syllabus and in class allows us to resolve differences early and tends to reduce conflicts and tensions that may arise. Altogether, being explicit leads to a more productive learning environment for all students. More information on how clear learning objectives supports students' learning. (pdf)

4. Effective teaching involves prioritizing the knowledge and skills we choose to focus on.
Coverage is the enemy: Dont try to do too much in a single course. Too many topics work against student learning, so it is necessary for us to make decisions sometimes difficult ones about what we will and will not include in a course. This involves (a) recognizing the parameters of the course (e.g., class size, students backgrounds and experiences, course position in the curriculum sequence, number of course units), (b) setting our priorities for student learning, and (c) determining a set of objectives that can be reasonably accomplished.

5. Effective teaching involves recognizing and overcoming our expert blind spots.
We are not our students! As experts, we tend to access and apply knowledge automatically and unconsciously (e.g., make connections, draw on relevant bodies of knowledge, and choose appropriate strategies) and so we often skip or combine critical steps when we teach. Students, on the other hand, dont yet have sufficient background and experience to make these leaps and can become confused, draw incorrect conclusions, or fail to develop important skills. They need instructors to break tasks into component steps, explain connections explicitly, and model processes in detail. Though it is difficult for experts to do this, we need to identify and explicitly communicate to

students the knowledge and skills we take for granted, so that students can see expert thinking in action and practice applying it themselves.

6. Effective teaching involves adopting appropriate teaching roles to support our learning goals.
Even though students are ultimately responsible for their own learning, the roles we assume as instructors are critical in guiding students thinking and behavior. We can take on a variety of roles in our teaching (e.g., synthesizer, moderator, challenger, commentator). These roles should be chosen in service of the learning objectives and in support of the instructional activities. For example, if the objective is for students to be able to analyze arguments from a case or written text, the most productive instructor role might be to frame, guide and moderate a discussion. If the objective is to help students learn to defend their positions or creative choices as they present their work, our role might be to challenge them to explain their decisions and consider alternative perspectives. Such roles may be constant or variable across the semester depending on the learning objectives.

7. Effective teaching involves progressively refining our courses based on reflection and feedback.
Teaching requires adapting. We need to continually reflect on our teaching and be ready to make changes when appropriate (e.g., something is not working, we want to try something new, the student population has changed, or there are emerging issues in our fields). Knowing what and how to change requires us to examine relevant information on our own teaching effectiveness. Much of this information already exists (e.g., student work, previous semesters course evaluations, dynamics of class participation), or we may need to seek additional feedback with help from the university teaching center (e.g., interpreting early course evaluations, conducting focus groups, designing pre- and posttests). Based on such data, we might modify the learning objectives, content, structure, or format of a course, or otherwise adjust our teaching. Small, purposeful changes driven by feedback and our priorities are most likely to be manageable and effective.

Theory and Research-based Principles of Learning


The following list presents the basic principles that underlie effective learning. These principles are distilled from research from a variety of disciplines.

1. Students prior knowledge can help or hinder learning.


Students come into our courses with knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes gained in other courses and through daily life. As students bring this knowledge to bear in our

classrooms, it influences how they filter and interpret what they are learning. If students prior knowledge is robust and accurate and activated at the appropriate time, it provides a strong foundation for building new knowledge. However, when knowledge is inert, insufficient for the task, activated inappropriately, or inaccurate, it can interfere with or impede new learning.

2. How students organize knowledge influences how they learn and apply what they know.
Students naturally make connections between pieces of knowledge. When those connections form knowledge structures that are accurately and meaningfully organized, students are better able to retrieve and apply their knowledge effectively and efficiently. In contrast, when knowledge is connected in inaccurate or random ways, students can fail to retrieve or apply it appropriately.

3. Students motivation determines, directs, and sustains what they do to learn.


As students enter college and gain greater autonomy over what, when, and how they study and learn, motivation plays a critical role in guiding the direction, intensity, persistence, and quality of the learning behaviors in which they engage. When students find positive value in a learning goal or activity, expect to successfully achieve a desired learning outcome, and perceive support from their environment, they are likely to be strongly motivated to learn.

4. To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply what they have learned.
Students must develop not only the component skills and knowledge necessary to perform complex tasks, they must also practice combining and integrating them to develop greater fluency and automaticity. Finally, students must learn when and how to apply the skills and knowledge they learn. As instructors, it is important that we develop conscious awareness of these elements of mastery so as to help our students learn more effectively.

5. Goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback enhances the quality of students learning.
Learning and performance are best fostered when students engage in practice that focuses on a specific goal or criterion, targets an appropriate level of challenge, and is of sufficient quantity and frequency to meet the performance criteria. Practice must be coupled with feedback that explicitly communicates about some aspect(s) of students performance relative to specific target criteria, provides information to help students progress in meeting those criteria, and is given at a time and frequency that allows it to be useful.

6. Students current level of development interacts with the social, emotional, and intellectual climate of the course to impact learning.
Students are not only intellectual but also social and emotional beings, and they are still developing the full range of intellectual, social, and emotional skills. While we cannot control the developmental process, we can shape the intellectual, social, emotional, and physical aspects of classroom climate in developmentally appropriate ways. In fact, many studies have shown that the climate we create has implications for our students. A negative climate may impede learning and performance, but a positive climate can energize students learning.

7. To become self-directed learners, students must learn to monitor and adjust their approaches to learning.
Learners may engage in a variety of metacognitive processes to monitor and control their learningassessing the task at hand, evaluating their own strengths and weaknesses, planning their approach, applying and monitoring various strategies, and reflecting on the degree to which their current approach is working. Unfortunately, students tend not to engage in these processes naturally. When students develop the skills to engage these processes, they gain intellectual habits that not only improve their performance but also their effectiveness as learners.

Bibliography
Anderson, J. R., Conrad, F. G., Corbett, A. T. (1989). Skill acquisition and the LISP tutor. Cognitive Science, 13(4), 467-505. Bandura, A. (1989). Self-regulation of motivation and action through internal standards and goal systems. In L. A. Pervin (Ed.), Goal concepts in personality and social psychology (pp. 1985). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Carver, C.S. & Scheier, M.F. (1998). On the self-regulation of behavior. New York: Cambridge University Press. Clement, J.J. (1982). Students preconceptions in introductory mechanics. American Journal of Physics, 50, 66-71. DiSessa, A. (1982). Unlearning Aristotelian physics: A study of knowledge-based learning. Cognitive Science, 6, 37-75. Dweck, C.S. (2002). Beliefs that make smart people dumb. In R.J. Sternberg (Ed.), Why smart people can be so stupid (pp. 24-41). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Ford, M.E. (1992). Motivating humans: Goals, emotions and personal agency beliefs. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. Healy, A. F., & Sinclair, G. P. (1996). The long-term retention of training and instruction (pp. 525564). In E. L. Bjork, & R. A. Bjork (Eds.) Memory. San Diego, CA: Academic Press. Hidi, S. & Renninger K.A. (2004). Interest, a motivational variable that combines affective and cognitive functioning. In D. Y. Dai & R. J. Sternberg (Eds.), Motivation, emotion, and cognition: Integrative perspectives on intellectual functioning and development (pp. 89-115). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Holyoak, K. J. (1984). Analogical thinking and human intelligence. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Advances in the Psychology of Human Intelligence, Vol. 2 (pp. 199-230). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Kuh, G.D., Kinzie, J., Schuh, J.H., Whitt, E.J. & Associates. (2005). Student Success in College: Creating Conditions That Matter. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Matlin, M. W. (1989). Cognition. NY, NY: Harcourt, Brace, Janovich. National Research Council (2001). Knowing What Students Know: The Science and Design of Educational Assessment. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. National Research Council (2000). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Nelson, T. A. (1992). Metacognition. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. Pascarella, E.T. & Terenzini, P. (2005). How College Affects Students. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. Schommer, M. (1994). An emerging conceptualization of epistemological beliefs and their role in learning. In R. Barner & P. Alexander (Eds.), Beliefs about text and instruction with text (pp. 25-40). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Singley, M. K., & Anderson, J. R. (1989). The Transfer of Cognitive Skill. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Steele, C.M. & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69 (5), 797-811. Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2007). A question of belonging: race, social fit, and achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92 (1), 82-96. Wiggins, G. (1998). Educative Assessment: Designing Assessments to Inform and Improve Student Performance, Jossey-Bass: San Francisco.

Practical strategies to address teaching problems across the disciplines.


Step 1: Identify a PROBLEM you encounter in your teaching. Step 2: Identify possible REASONS for the problem Step 3: Explore STRATEGIES to address the problem.

Select the problem that best matches your situation:

Attitudes & Motivation

Students come late to class. Students don't demonstrate critical thinking. Students lack interest or motivation. Students performed poorly on an exam. Students dont seek help when needed. Students behave rudely in class. Students dont participate in discussion. Students can't apply what theyve learned. Students don't come to lecture. Students dont keep up with the reading. Students respond to course content and classroom dynamics in emotional and unproductive ways. Students in studio-oriented programs arent motivated in non-studio courses.

Prerequisite Knowledge & Preparedness


Students background knowledge & skills vary widely. Students don't demonstrate critical thinking. Students lack interest or motivation. Students don't know how to do research. Group projects arent working. Students can't apply what theyve learned. Students can't write. Students dont keep up with reading.

Critical Thinking & Applying Knowledge


Students background knowledge & skills vary widely. Students don't demonstrate critical thinking. Students don't know how to do research. Students can't apply what theyve learned. Students can't write.

Group Skills & Dynamics


Group projects arent working.

Classroom Behavior & Etiquette


One student monopolizes class. Students come late to class. Students behave rudely in class. Group projects arent working.

A students behavior makes others uncomfortable. Students cheat on assignments and exams. Students respond to course content and classroom dynamics in emotional and unproductive ways.

Grading & Assessment


Students complain the exams are too hard. Students complain about grades. International students feel penalized for their poor language skills. Students performed poorly on an exam. Students cheat on assignments and exams.

Students come to class late.


When students come to class late, it can disrupt the flow of a lecture or discussion, distract other students, impede learning, and generally erode class morale. Moreover, if left unchecked, lateness can become chronic and spread throughout the class. Because there are a number of possible reasons students arrive to class late, considering which causes are at the root of the problem can help guide instructors to appropriate responses and strategies. Understanding the reasons, however, does not require tolerating the behavior.

Students dont take responsibility for themselves.


While the majority of students are responsible and mature, there are some who struggle with the independence college provides and who fail to do what they need to do (e.g., set an alarm clock, allow sufficient time to get ready in the morning, figure out the bus schedule) to get to class on time. They may also not recognize that it is their responsibility to communicate with instructors when they are unable to meet their obligations (e.g., because of physical or emotional problems

or conflicting obligations). Students of the Millennial generation, who are used to a high degree of parental involvement and oversight in their lives and schedules, may have particular difficulty adjusting to these responsibilities.

Strategies:
Make your expectations explicit.
Clearly and unequivocally articulate your policy about lateness in your syllabus and on the first day of class. You might want to explain your policy in relation to standards of professionalism that students will need to meet when they enter the work world.

Have consequences for lateness.


There are a number of ways to penalize lateness. Some instructors institute a lateness policy along with their attendance policy (e.g., two late arrivals counts as one absence). Some simply draw attention to the behavior or register disapproval when a student enters late (e.g., pausing, frowning and making a pointed comment, or posting a sign on the door such as Youre late; please be quiet when you enter). One instructor posts a note on his classroom door with a task generally something mildly embarrassing like singing a verse from a song that students must do to gain admittance if they arrive late. Another way to handle lateness is to give short quizzes at the beginning of class; students who come late will miss the quizzes and lose the points.

Encourage communication.
Make sure students know it is their responsibility to communicate with you if they are experiencing a legitimate problem that will cause them to be late or otherwise miss class time, but also advise them as to how you would like them to inform you (e.g., via e-mail the night before). You may also need to define for them what you do and do not consider a legitimate reason for a late arrival.

Students expectations are out of line with the instructors.


There is wide variation in the classroom styles of instructors. For example, some instructors are bothered if students arrive a few minutes late; others are not. There is also a wide variation in departmental cultures, some of which may tolerate lateness more than others. International students, moreover, may come from cultures with a less strict emphasis on timeliness. Because of this variability, students expectations regarding being on time may be substantially different from those of a particular instructor. Moreover, students may have an incorrect set of expectations regarding lateness in certain kinds of courses, such as courses that meet in the evening, are large, meet for 3 to 4 hours or more, or have relatively informal formats (e.g., studios, labs).

Strategies:

Make your expectations explicit.


It is important to be even more explicit about your expectations for student behavior than you may think is necessary. You should articulate your policy about lateness in your syllabus and on the first day of class. If students are not told explicitly what your expectations are, they may assume what is appropriate in other classes they have taken (whether in high school, other departments, or other countries) is appropriate in yours and they may be wrong.

Explain the social and professional value of being on time.


Explain to students that lateness has social and professional costs. Explain that it distracts (and often annoys) their classmates and instructor and reflects badly on them, signaling poor time management skills, inattention to detail, and lack of conscientiousness.

Explain the educational value of being on time.


The beginning of class is especially critical for students learning because that is when you make connections to previous materials and frame the days content in terms of key questions or points. In many ways, the beginning of class is analogous to the beginning of a film or the introduction to a book: by missing these parts students miss critical background and organizational information necessary for deeper understanding. Explain to students that by coming in late they not only miss important framing information but the distraction they create may cause their classmates to miss it too. To reinforce this point, be sure you do not waste the first few minutes of class. Instead, get started on time and begin with important, relevant material. Make sure there is an educational benefit to students who are on time.

Have consequences for lateness.


There are a number of ways to penalize lateness. Some instructors institute a tardiness policy along with their attendance policy (e.g., two times late counts as one absence). Some simply draw attention to the behavior or register disapproval when a student enters late (e.g., pausing, frowning and making a pointed comment or posting a sign on the door such as: Youre late; please be quiet when you enter.) One instructor posts a note on his classroom door with a task generally something mildly embarrassing like singing a verse from a song that students must do to gain admittance if they arrive late. Another way to handle lateness is to give short quizzes at the beginning of class; students who come late will miss the quizzes and lose the points.

Model desired behavior.


Be sure to arrive and get the class started on time. Dismiss the class on time, too. Students are more likely to respect your time if you respect theirs.

Students dont recognize how their lateness affects others.

Students may fail to realize the level of disruption that coming in late creates for their fellow classmates and for you.

Strategies:
Explain the educational and social impact of lateness.
Explain to students that coming late has both intellectual and social costs. Impress upon students that when they arrive late, they detract from their classmates learning and interrupt the instructors train of thought. Often this occurs at the beginning of class, when the instructor is making connections to previous materials and framing the days content in terms of key questions or points. When students come in late they not only miss that important framing information, but the distraction they create may cause their classmates to miss it too. Also, explain the social impact of lateness. Instructors, for example, may interpret lateness as disrespect. Fellow classmates may become annoyed. Informing (or reminding) students how their behavior affects others can sometimes be enough to correct the behavior.

Minimize the disruption.


If being late to class is unavoidable for some students, consider ways to minimize the disruption their late arrival could cause for others in the class. For example, some instructors reserve a set of seats at the back of the room for latecomers.

Students dont perceive the beginning of class as important.


The first minutes of class are often the most critical, since this is when instructors share important administrative information, present the days agenda, frame the content of the lecture or discussion, connect the current content to past content, and so forth. Yet students may not recognize this.

Strategies:
Explain why the beginning of class is important.
Like the beginning of a film or the introduction to a book, the beginning of class supplies students with critical background and organizational information necessary for deeper understanding. When students miss this framing information their learning suffers. By the same token, make sure that students know that coming on time also has social benefits in that it gives students time to chat with one another and the instructor before class begins, thus contributing to the morale of the class as a whole.

Make the beginning of class meaningful.

Make sure there is a clear benefit for students who are on time by getting started on time and beginning with important, relevant material. Dont waste the first few minutes of class; this only encourages lateness!

There is no consequence to being late.


The consequences associated with a behavior help determine whether or not that behavior will be repeated. If the consequences are negative, the behavior is less likely to reoccur. This applies to coming late to class. If instructors fail to respond to or penalize lateness, or do so inconsistently, the behavior is likely to continue.

Strategies:
Make your policy on lateness explicit.
Articulate your policy about lateness in your syllabus and on the first day of class. It will be easier to respond firmly and authoritatively to lateness if your policy is clear and in writing.

Have consequences for lateness.


There are a number of ways to penalize lateness. Some instructors institute a lateness policy along with their attendance policy (e.g., two late arrivals count as one absence). Some simply draw attention to the behavior or register disapproval when a student enters late (e.g., pausing, frowning and making a pointed comment or posting a sign on the door such as Youre late; please be quiet when you enter). One instructor posts a note on his classroom door with a task generally something mildly embarrassing like singing a verse from a song that students must do to gain admittance if they arrive late. Another way to handle lateness is to give short quizzes at the beginning of class; students who come late will miss the quizzes and lose the points.

Make the beginning of class meaningful.


Make sure there is a clear benefit for students who are on time by getting started on time and beginning with important, relevant material. Dont waste the first few minutes of class; this only encourages lateness!

Students are trying to challenge the instructors authority.


In some instances, students come to class late to test the instructor or challenge his or her authority. This can happen if, for any reason, the instructors authority is in question for example, if the instructor is timid or does not seem in command of the class or the material. Some students may also seek to challenge the authority of particular categories of instructors, such as instructors who are young, female, minority, or non-English speakers.

Strategies:

Make your policy on lateness explicit.


Articulate your policy about lateness in your syllabus and on the first day of class. It will be easier to respond firmly and authoritatively to lateness if your policy is clear and in writing.

Respond to lateness immediately.


Send a clear message that you will not tolerate lateness. Remind students of your lateness policy and enforce it. Also, respond immediately by registering disapproval when a student enters late (e.g., pausing, frowning and making a pointed comment or posting a sign on the door such as: Youre late; please be quiet when you enter.)

Consider the image you are projecting.


Claim students respect by presenting yourself with professionalism and authority. What constitutes appropriate dress and demeanor will depend both on the culture of your department (business schools, for example, tend to be more formal than art departments) and on your personal style. The key is to find a mode of self-presentation that works for you in the context of your own course.

Offer a well-designed course.


Far more important than how you present yourself physically is for the course itself to be welldesigned and meaningful. Students will be considerably less likely to challenge your authority if they see how the pieces of the course fit together and feel that the education they are receiving is valuable. Also, if the majority of students perceive the course as useful to them, they are more likely to exert pressure on their classmates to behave courteously.

Make the beginning of class meaningful.


Sometimes instructors respond to student lateness by simply waiting to begin the substantive part of class. This is a mistake that will only encourage students to come later. Instead, start on time and make the beginning of class meaningful, so that students who are on time will be rewarded and students who come late will pay a price. One way is simply to jump into important material; another is to give a short quiz at the beginning of class: students who come late will miss the quiz and sacrifice the points.

Model desired behavior.


Treat students with the same respect you want them to show towards you. Be sure to arrive and get the class started on time. Dismiss the class on time too. Students are more likely to respect your time if you respect theirs.

Students are experiencing emotional or psychological problems.

Several psychological and emotional conditions can undermine students motivation to get to class on time. Indeed, a hallmark symptom of conditions such as depression includes a decreased motivation to engage in normal daily activities. In addition, prescription medications can interfere with motivation and may disrupt sleep patterns, which may indirectly affect students ability to get to class in a timely manner.

Strategies:
Encourage communication.
Make sure students know it is their responsibility to communicate with you if they are experiencing a problem that will cause them to be late or otherwise miss class time, but also advise them as to how you would like them to inform you (e.g., via e-mail the night before). You may also need to define for them what you do and do not consider a legitimate reason for a late arrival.

Decide how students should make up the work.


If you decide a student has a legitimate reason to come late, you can choose to allow it. However, you should decide what the students responsibilities should be vis--vis material missed. For example, should the student get lecture notes from you or from a classmate? How will you handle quizzes and exams that start at the beginning of class? After deciding how to handle these issues, make your expectations clear to the student in question, or (better yet) articulate it in your syllabus for all students who come late.

Use campus resources.


If you have a student who seems to be experiencing emotional problems that are interfering with his or her ability to get to class on time (or otherwise function as you would expect), consult with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) or the Dean of Student Affairs for advice.

Students have physical or logistical reasons for coming late.


In some instances, a student may find it difficult to make it to class on time because of the physical distance between sequential classes. This may be particularly true of students with a class prior to yours that meets off-campus (e.g., Mellon Institute or the University of Pittsburgh). Students may also experience either chronic or temporary physical impairments that make getting from class to class challenging.

Strategies:
Encourage communication.
Make sure students know it is their responsibility to communicate with you if they are experiencing a legitimate problem that will cause them to be late or otherwise miss class time,

but also advise them as to how you would like them to inform you (e.g., via e-mail the night before). You may also need to define for them what you do and do not consider a legitimate reason for a late arrival.

Decide how students should make up the work.


If you decide a student has a legitimate reason to come late, you can choose to allow it. However, you should decide what the students responsibilities should be vis--vis material missed. For example, should the student get lecture notes from you or from a classmate? How will you handle quizzes and exams that start at the beginning of class? After deciding how to handle these issues, make your expectations clear to the student in question, or (better yet) articulate it in your syllabus for all students who come late.

Minimize the disruption.


If being late to class is unavoidable for some students, consider ways to minimize the disruption their late arrival could cause for others in the class. For example, some instructors reserve a set of seats at the back of the room for latecomers.

Students lack interest or motivation


Students see little value in the course or its content.
Regardless of the objective value of an activity or topic, if students do not recognize its value, they may not be motivated to expend effort. However, if students clearly see how coursework connects to their goals, interests, and concerns, they will be more likely to value it, and thus more motivated to invest time and effort.

Strategies:
Clearly articulate learning goals.
Students will be more motivated to work if they know what goals they are working towards. Thus, it is a good idea not only to articulate goals for the course, but also for specific lectures, discussions, and assignments. For example, before beginning a lecture, an instructor might write on the board the skills, knowledge, and perspectives students will gain that day (with appropriate effort), using concrete, student-centered languagefor example, When you leave today, you should be able to debate the pros and cons of a single-payer health plan; apply a particular economic framework to make predictions about interest rates; identify, illustrate and compare three theoretical approaches in child development. Articulating learning goals is important for a variety of reasons, but it plays a key role in motivation by showing students the specific value they will derive from a particular course, unit, or activity.

Show relevance to students academic lives.

Students will be more motivated to work hard if they see the value of what they are learning to their overall course of study. Consequently, it is important to explain to students how your course will help prepare them for subsequent courses (e.g., a mathematics professor might help to motivate psychology students by explaining how the math skills they learn will help them in quantitative courses for their major). This gives students a better appreciation of the combined value of the courses they take and lets them see how each contributes to their overall education. It is also helpful to point out when students are learning skills that will help them later in the same courseespecially when the material is difficult and potentially frustrating (e.g., an instructor might help encourage students who are struggling with a concept by saying, This is a difficult idea, but a crucial one, and youre going to be very glad you learned it when we begin analyzing negotiation cases in Unit 3). Seeing the value of the material within a broader academic framework can help students sustain motivation and persist through challenges and setbacks.

Demonstrate relevance to students professional lives.


Students are more likely to exert effort in a course if they anticipate an eventual payoff in terms of their future professional lives. Consequently, instructors can enhance motivation by linking their course content to students intended professions, pointing out how the skills and knowledge students are gaining in class will help them after they graduate. An information systems instructor, for example, can motivate students to learn information systems principles by pointing to real-life database failures that resulted when these principles were not applied. A theater instructor might motivate acting students to study dramaturgy by explaining how a rich understanding of a plays context will contribute to their understanding of character. It is especially important to highlight the professional relevance of higher-level skills such as quantitative reasoning, public speaking, persuasive writing, and teamwork, because students do not always recognize their importance in the work world.

Highlight real-world applications of knowledge and skills.


One effective way to harness student motivation is to have students apply what they are learning to real-world contexts. For example, a marketing professor might use a real-world industry case study to give students practice applying marketing principles to complex, contextualized problems. Similarly, in an information systems course, the instructor might assign a servicelearning project in which students must build a database for a non-profit community organization. This kind of task allows students to work within authentic constraints, interact with real clients, and explore possible professions. Such assignments may also create possibilities for future internships or jobs. All of these factors are likely to increase student motivation. Even in courses that are more theoretical than applied, instructors can convey the relevance of course content simply by pointing out its significance in the real world. For example, a mathematics professor teaching optimization might point out that financial institutions use optimization techniques to maximize trade efficiency.

Connect to students personal interests.

Motivation is often enhanced when instructors connect course material to students personal interests. For example, a chemistry professor might link a lesson on chemical transformations of carbohydrates to students interest in cooking. A history instructor might motivate interest in colonial history by showing how it helps to explain contemporary geopolitical conflicts or environmental problems. Similarly, well-constructed courses that tap into issues that are important to students (e.g., The History of Rock n Roll, Philosophy and the Matrix [a popular film], The Statistics of Sexual Orientation) can capitalize on students motivation without sacrificing intellectual or disciplinary rigor.

Allow students some degree of choice.


One possible way to enhance student motivation is to allow students to choose topics for papers and projects that connect the course content to their outside interests and passions. For example, a physics instructor might allow a student who plays different sports to do a project comparing the spin, rotation, and acceleration of differently shaped balls. A history instructor teaching about immigration might allow students to write about their own familys immigration experience in relation to the course content. However, while flexibility and choice can be motivating, it is also important to recognize that weighing and choosing among alternatives requires cognitive effort and can create an extra burden for students. Thus, instructors might want to provide a restricted set of options and sufficient time to choose among them. This can enhance motivation without overwhelming students with too many choices.

Show your own passion and enthusiasm.


Your own enthusiasm about the course content can be powerful and contagious. Even if students are not initially attracted to or interested in the material, by clearly demonstrating your own enthusiasm, you can often raise students curiosity and motivate them to find out what excites you about the subject. This can lead them to engage more deeply than they had initially planned and to discover value they had overlooked.

Students do not believe that their efforts will improve their performance.
If students do not believe that their efforts are likely to improve their performance, they will not be motivated to work hard. Motivation can be affected, for instance, if a course that has a reputation for being inordinately difficult. Students may also have had discouraging experiences in similar courses or on early assignments in a course that convince them they cannot do the work. Additionally, students have beliefs about intelligence and learning that can affect their motivation. If they believe learning is generally fast and easy (and should not be slow or arduous), they may lose motivation when they encounter challenges. Similarly, if they believe intelligence is a fixed quantity (something you do or do not have, but not something you acquire over time), they may not see the point of extra effort. Finally, if students attribute their success to their innate talents rather than effort, they may not be motivated to work. This can happen whether they believe they possess the necessary abilities (Im a good writer; I dont need to start my paper early) or lack them (Im just no good at math. Whats the point of trying?)

Strategies:
Identify an appropriate level of challenge.
To motivate students, we need to set standards that are challenging but attainable with reasonable effort. To identify an appropriate level of difficulty, it is important to know what prior knowledge and experiences your students bring to the course so you know where to begin and how fast to proceed. Administering diagnostic or early assessments can help you to determine the right level of challenge for your students. It can also be helpful to talk to instructors who have taught your course successfully in the past and to look at their syllabi for clues about the appropriate level of difficulty.

Create multiple opportunities for practice and feedback.


Students motivation will increase if they see that their efforts are helping them make progress towards a goal. Hence, it is important to provide opportunities for students to (1) practice using skills and knowledge in a low-stakes environment, (2) receive timely, constructive feedback, and (3) incorporate that feedback into subsequent work. The opportunity to receive feedback and use it to improve subsequent performance can build students confidence and work against unproductive beliefs about learning and intelligence for example, if a student believes he is not good at math but then finds himself improving with practice, he may rethink his beliefs about his own capabilities and even the nature of learning. It is important to note that offering more opportunities for students to practice does not have to create an undue grading burden for faculty, especially if the performance criteria are clearly spelled out and the feedback is very targeted.

Teach effective study strategies.


If students work hard with little result, it can quickly undermine their motivation. Instructors should consider giving students tips on how to study and work effectively, for example how to read articles (e.g., skim headings, review sources and tables, identify the authors argument) and solve problems in their discipline (e.g., formulate the problem, identify constraints, generate possible solutions). Advice about studying is particularly helpful for first-year students who may lack study skills and strategies appropriate for college-level work. But it is also helpful for students who are new to a discipline and may not employ approaches to reading, writing, and solving problems that are disciplinarily appropriate. By explicitly teaching productive study habits, instructors can help students achieve a greater payoff for their efforts, which enhances motivation as well as learning.

Give students opportunities to reflect on their study strategies.


One way to enhance motivation is to ask students to reflect on how their study strategies impacted their performance on previous tasks. For example, an instructor might ask students to complete a wrapper following an exam, with questions such as What did you do to prepare for this exam or assignment? What skills do you need to work on? How would you prepare differently if you were doing it again? Similarly, an instructor may ask students to reflect on how they approached a writing assignment (e.g., How long in advance did you begin? How

many times did you revise before submitting the final version?). Questions such as these cue students to strategies they may not have thought to employ. It can also help students see the value of effort, while increasing their sense of control over outcomes. Finally, the opportunity to reflect can help students identify specific strategies that leverage their strengths and overcome their weaknesses.

Help students set realistic expectations.


If students have unrealistic expectations of the time it will take them to perform a task or master a skill, they may get discouraged when it takes longer or requires more effort. Consequently, it is helpful to address nave beliefs directly and help students set more realistic expectations. For instance, you might want to disabuse students of the notion that good papers are written in one sitting and discuss the need to start writing early and leave time for planning and revision. You might also divide an assignment into stages (e.g., planning, research, writing, revision) and give students an estimate of the time they should plan to spend on each stage. Alternately, you might tell students about your own frustrations as a student or researcher and describe how you overcame various obstacles. Seeing that intelligent, accomplished people sometimes struggle to gain masteryand that learning does not happen without effortcan prompt students to revise their own expectations about learning and to persevere when they encounter difficulty.

Students are demotivated by the structure and allocation of rewards.


The structure and allocation of rewards in a course can encourage or discourage effort in several important ways. First, students may lose motivation to work on particular tasks if they do not feel that there will be a payoff for their time and effort. For example, students may not keep up with the readings for a class if that knowledge is not needed to complete exams and assignments. Second, students may not do an assignment well if the time and effort required is incommensurate with the points they would earn. Third, students may lose motivation to work on specific elements of an assignment if their efforts in those areas are not rewarded (for example, if an instructor urges students to write original arguments, but bases grades primarily on organization and mechanics). In addition to the structure of rewards, the allocation of rewards can influence motivation. Indeed, students may not be motivated to strive for excellence if the instructor does not draw a sufficient distinction between excellent and poor performance. Furthermore, students motivation will likely suffer if they believe the grading criteria are unclear or inconsistently applied.

Strategies:
Strengthen and highlight connections between ungraded and graded tasks.
Not surprisingly, students will be more motivated to pay attention in lecture if they understand how it will help them on exams, to keep up with the readings if they know it will help them on papers, and to do optional problem sets if they know it will help them on a final project. Thus, it is critically important to ensure that the parts of your course are properly aligned so that the skills and knowledge students gain from low-stakes tasks (e.g., attending lectures, doing readings, or

completing homework problems) are utilized and assessed elsewhere in the course, especially on high-stakes exams and assignments. Also, because students may not see alignment even where it exists, it is also important to show them how their work in one area of the course will help them in anotherfor example, how their final projects will require them to synthesize the perspectives in the course readings or how their exams will require a fluency with problem-solving that they will only get from doing their homework.

Weight assignment grades so they are commensurate with the work involved.
If the time and effort required for an assignment is incommensurate with its point value, students may not be motivated to expend the effort required. It is important to consider whether your grading structure rewards the work you want students to put into various assignments. This does not mean that all assignments must carry high point values to ensure that students work hard. For example, frequent low-stakes assignments, such as in-class quizzes or reflective writing assignments, can be very effective for motivating students to keep up with the readings and prepare for discussion. The goal is for the grading structure to reinforce a connection between effort and reward in order to motivate, rather than demotivate, student effort.

Reward the characteristics of student work you want to see.


Sometimes instructors think they are motivating one kind of performance while actually rewarding another. For instance, if instructors urge students to be risk-takers, but penalize failure excessively, students will be more motivated to play it safe than to take risks. Similarly, if instructors claim to value teamwork and collaboration but do not assess these skills (instead grading only the groups final project, which may have involved little teamwork), students may not be motivated to practice these skills. With this in mind, it is important to consider whether your grading system directs students efforts appropriately. For instance, if you want students to take risks, you may want to focus your grading less on the quality of the final product and more on the number and originality of ideas students generate. If it is important to you that students develop teamwork skills, you might want to assign a grade not only for the work students submit, but also for the groups interactive process (e.g., the teams ability to work collaboratively, communicate effectively, and address conflicts productively).

Define and reward excellence.


If all student work, regardless of quality, receives the same reward, there will be little incentive for students to excel. Imagine, for example, if an instructor responds just as positively to illinformed answers as to informed answers. Over time, this failure to differentiate levels of performance may demotivate high performers (who do not feel that their extra effort is acknowledged) as well as low performers (who have little incentive to step up their game). Consequently, one important way to motivate students is to clearly articulate qualities of excellent performance, assess students performance according to these qualities, and provide feedback that will help students improve. Performance rubrics provide one tool for doing so. For example, a rubric for class participation might articulate the characteristics of meaningful and productive class participation (e.g., thoughtful, informed contributions that build on what others have said) so that the difference between high-quality and low-quality participation is clear. By

articulating these distinctions and providing feedback to help students improve, instructors can enhance motivation as well as learning.

Strive for fairness, transparency, and consistency in grading.


If students do not understand the instructors grading criteria or feedback or if they believe it is applied unfairly, inconsistently, or arbitrarily, it can severely impact motivation by reducing students sense of control over outcomes. This is especially true for negative feedback and bad grades, but it can also occur when students get good grades if they do not understand why their performance merited the grade received. Consequently, it is important for instructors to clearly explain their grading criteria so that students can see the difference between levels of performance, assess their strengths and weaknesses in relation to those criteria, target specific areas for improvement, and trace a clear path from effort to valued outcomes. Rubrics can be an especially helpful tool for communicating your grading criteria to students. They also help to ensure consistency across multiple graders, which contributes to the perception of fairness and thus enhances motivation.

Students do not perceive the classroom climate as supportive.


Students motivation to exert effort in a course or persist in a major is affected by classroom climate: the combined intellectual, social, emotional, and physical environments in which students learn. If students perceive the environment as supportive and feel included and heard, their motivation will likely be enhanced. On the other hand, if students perceive the environment as unsupportive or feel marginalized by the classroom climate or the course content, it may erode their motivation to engage with the material or even continue in the field. Although we as instructors cannot control all the factors that contribute to classroom climate, we do have a significant influence on how classroom dynamics develop, especially early in the course, and can use that opportunity to enhance and sustain motivation.

Strategies:
Use the syllabus and first day of class to foster a supportive climate.
Your students will form impressions from the syllabus and first day of class that can influence their motivation for the entire semester. Consider, for example, the motivational difference between a scolding syllabus focused on warnings and potential penalties and a syllabus that challenges students to excel, while also employing a friendly tone, suggesting study strategies, and offering help. Do not miss the opportunity created by the first day and your syllabus to create the kind of classroom climate that motivates effort and engagement. Try to employ language on your syllabus that conveys both high performance expectations and appropriate support, and plan first-day activities that help establish rapport and a sense of common purpose among students.

Convey respect for students as individuals.

If students feel recognized and acknowledged as individuals, it is likely to increase their motivation to attend class, prepare, participate, and ask for help from you or one anotherrather than withdraw or give upwhen they encounter setbacks. There are many ways to convey respect for students as individuals, including learning their names and providing opportunities for them to learn each others names. You can ask about their academic and other interests. You can invite them to chat with you during office hours. If possible, you can occasionally attend student events outside of class time (e.g., theatrical or musical productions, sports competitions). While learning names and establishing a connection with students is more difficult in large classes than in small classes, it is not impossible. To this end, some instructors have their students put name tents on their desks, arrange to meet informally with groups of students outside of class time, or collect information on students backgrounds and interests.

Strive to make course content inclusive.


The degree to which students feel welcome and respected in a course or in a field influences their motivation. Consequently, we might want to consider whether our course content (e.g., the topics we address and the readings, activities, examples, and analogies we use) is sufficiently inclusive. For example, an instructor teaching immigration history might choose readings that represent a diversity of political opinions, so that students with different political leanings feel that there is a place for them in the discussion. Similarly, a statistics professor might want to avoid heavy use of illustrations and analogies that presume cultural knowledge (e.g., about football or baseball) that not all students share. While it is possible to go overboard worrying about inclusiveness, it is nevertheless useful to review your course content and make sure it does not convey any unintentionally demotivating messages about who does and does not belong in the course or in the field.

Examine your own potentially demotivating assumptions about students.


Our assumptions about students influence the way we interact with them, and which can affect their motivation and, in turn, their learning. Its It is important, therefore, to hold consider those these assumptions up to scrutiny carefully. This is true whether the assumptions have are negative or positive valences. For example, if we assume that students of one group will struggle with writing, and convey that through subtle messages, it is potentially discouraging and demotivating to those students. Assuming that students of another demographic naturally excel at math can be demotivating as well, especially for members of that group who may need, but not feel comfortable asking for, help.

Establish and reinforce ground rules for classroom interaction.


Tension, conflict, and incivility in the classroom are potentially demotivating. Students can alienate others with their choice of words (e.g., What an idiotic question!), their tone (e.g., cynical or belittling), and their body language (e.g., raised eyebrows or smirks). Thus, it can be helpful to establish ground rules for interaction, particularly in discussion, lab, or studio courses where there is considerable student-student interaction. Ground rules (pdf) lay out your expectations for a civil and productive exchange of ideas. They may recommend, for example, that students build on each others ideas; listen attentively; refrain from interrupting; refer to one

another by name; and criticize ideas, not people. To encourage student investment in ground rules, some faculty members involve students in the process of creating them. Bear in mind that simply establishing ground rules may not be sufficient; you may need to occasionally remind students about the rules and address behavior that violates them.

Get student feedback on climate.


If students feel that they have no control over the classroom climate or if they sense that the instructor does not care about their experience in the course, it can decrease their motivation. This may be particularly true in courses that deal with controversial topics, where conflicts and tensions in the classroom can erode motivation if not addressed productively. Hence, it can be useful to set up processes that allow students to reflect on and share with you what they are thinking and feeling. There are a number of ways to do this. One is to administer an early course evaluation that specifically asks about climate issues. Another is to appoint a student representative who can share (anonymous) feedback from the class. Asking for students opinions, and taking them into account as you shape the course and address issues in the classroom, increases students investment in the course and consequently their motivation.

Students have other priorities that compete for their time and attention.
When a number of different goals are at work simultaneously, an individuals motivation to pursue some goals may affect both their motivation and ability to pursue others. This is certainly true for college students who often (and not always successfully) struggle to balance different goals, which may be academic (e.g., succeeding in their classes, completing double and triple majors), pre-professional (e.g., attending conferences or job fairs), social (e.g., making friends, finding a romantic partner, having fun), and physical (e.g., getting adequate sleep, exercising). Consequently, it is important for instructors to think about how to structure their courses so that students maintain motivation, even when other goals impinge on their time, energy, and attention.

Strategies:
Assign a reasonable amount of work.
While we can reasonably expect students to work hard and prioritize academic work, we also need to recognize that students have other legitimate commitments and needs. As instructors, we should think about how much work is reasonable to assign, first by ensuring that the workload is commensurate with the unit level of the course. For example, the units assigned to a course at Carnegie Mellon correspond to the number of hours a student should work for the course. So, for example, in a 9-unit course that meets for 3 hours a week, students should work for 6 hours outside of class; for a 12-unit class that meets 4 hours a week, students should work an additional 8 hours To calculate how long it will take students to read an article or complete an assignment, you can estimate that your students will take three to four times longer to read than it takes you. Another way to calculate out-of-class workload is to ask students how long it took them to do various assignments, and use this information in future course planning. If the workload we

assign is reasonable and achievable, it increases the possibility that students can maintain motivation while balancing multiple goals.

Hold students accountable.


Students are no different from the rest of us in that they will prioritize the work they must do (in order to get a desired outcome, such as a grade) over the work they do not necessarily need to do. Consequently, a good way to motivate students to prioritize work for your course is to link it to an outcome they value, the most obvious being grades. To motivate students to read, for example, some instructors assign a short, low-stakes reflective writing assignment or administer a brief quiz on a reading at the beginning of class. Associating work with grades is not the only way to hold students accountable, however. Social motivations can be powerful, too. For example, if students know they might be called on in front of classmates whose opinions they value, they are more likely to come prepared. They may also put more work into their writing (for example, in discussion board posts on a course website) if they know their classmates will read it. Ideally, whether the stakes for each assignment are socially or grade-based, they should be low enough that students are not penalized excessively for an occasional slip-up, but high enough that students are motivated to keep up with the work.

Highlight your courses value so students prioritize it.


As students struggle to balance competing goals, they have to prioritize. To motivate students to prioritize the work for your class, it is helpful to clearly demonstrate its value and relevance to their current and future academic goals, their intended professions, and their personal interests. Pointing out these links can be particularly important in courses that are not in the students majors. For example, an instructor teaching a basic composition course might specifically discuss the ways in which learning to make a reasoned argument can help students in a wide range of majors and professions. An anthropology instructor might highlight and give examples of ways in which cross-cultural understandings can facilitate better design, engineering, and business solutions. Explicitly pointing out the links between your course material and students academic, professional, and personal goals can motivate them to prioritize your course despite competing demands on their time and attention.

Give students adequate notice for assignments.


For students to successfully meet a number of different goals, they need to be able to plan the time they will spend achieving them. Thus, it has become the norm for instructors to provide often as part of the syllabusa detailed course outline with the due dates for assignments and exam dates. This helps students more effectively schedule and manage competing goals. Because students expect to be able to plan their semesters according to these deadlines, instructors should be aware that if they assign new tasks or change deadlines, students might not be able to give them their full attention. Thus, whenever possible, you should decide on due dates and let students know in advance when projects, homework, and readings will be due. If you do not know all your assignments in advance, you should at least identify for students the kind of work they should expect at different times in the semester. Moreover, if you find that you have to make changes during the semester, you should try to give students adequate advance notice so

that they can revise their plans accordingly or only make changes that benefit the students for example, setting later, not sooner, deadlines.

Individual students may suffer from physical, mental, or other personal problems that affect motivation.
Mental or physical health problems, substance abuse, and other personal problems can interfere with individual students motivation to exert effort in a course. Depression, for example, may decrease energy levels, whereas bipolar disorder may increase the initiation, but interfere with the completion, of goal-directed activities. Behavioral indicators of these problems may include missing class, arriving late, sleeping in class, missing assignments, not responding to e-mail, and a change in appearance or demeanor. These problems not only affect the individual who is struggling, but also the other students whose own motivation may be affected by their classmates behaviorconsider, for example, the effect of a student who sleeps through class every day. This is especially true for small classes or group projects involving the student in question.

Strategies:
Use campus resources.
Missing class, sleeping in class, and missing assignments can sometimes indicate larger and more serious problems for the student. If a students behavior is worrying you, you might want to seek advice from campus resources before, after, or instead of talking to the student privately. Consider contacting the Dean of Student Affairs (412)-268-2075 to see if the student in question is exhibiting similar patterns in other classes and to report the behaviors you have noticed so that others can help the student. You might also want to seek advice from and/or refer the student to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at (412)-268-2922 for psychological concerns, Student Health at (412)-268-2157 for substance abuse concerns, and Academic Development (412)-268-6878 for students who have fallen behind in their work.

Talk to the student.


Keeping in mind that you are not a counselor, it may be helpful to take the student aside for a private conversation to communicate your concern and collect more information. Drawing on campus resources and your understanding of the students situation, you can make a judgment about whether the student might benefit from your help (e.g., one-on-one academic help during office hours, an extension on an assignment) or the help of professional services on campus (e.g., Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) (412)-268-2922, Academic Development (412)268-6878, or Student Health (412)-268-2157.

Mitigate the troubled students effects on others.


If an individual students behavior is causing problems and the student is unlikely to leave the class or change behavior in the short term, consider how you can reduce the demotivating effect

on others in the class. For example, you might ask students who arrive late to class to sit in the back of the classroom so as not to disrupt others. On group projects, if one student in a group is disengaged to the point where it is distressing and disadvantaging other members of the team, you might let the group know that you are aware of the problem and will take it into account when assessing their performance. You might also help to motivate affected teams by advising them on how to deal with the situation productively and by highlighting that their doing so will help them develop skills that are useful in both the classroom and workplace. In extreme cases, you might want to remove a problematic student from the group and allow him or her to work independently.

Students performed poorly on an exam.


Exam was not aligned with instructional activities.
If students practice has all been of one kind or has focused on one set of knowledge and skills and then the instructor gives an exam that goes well beyond the scope of what students have practiced, students will have difficulty and will likely perform poorly. This is because what people learn (e.g., any new knowledge and skills) is directly related to (and rarely goes much beyond) the knowledge and skills they get to practice. This aspect of learning is often surprising to instructors because, for them, the different pieces of knowledge and the various skills associated with a given topic seem so interconnected that knowing one piece is practically the same as knowing another piece. This is not the case, however, for students who are still novices in the domain and lack experts interconnected knowledge structures.

Strategies:
Analyze the alignment between instructional activities and assessments.
The most important feature of an effective course is how well its key components learning objectives, instructional activities, and assessments are aligned with each other. For example, instructional activities and learning objectives are well aligned when students have the chance to learn and practice what you want them to be able to do by the end of the course; learning objectives and assessments are well aligned when the course assessments actually test students on what you want them to learn. So, when you think an exam was not well aligned with the preceding instructional activities, the first step is to analyze what knowledge components students likely used as they went through the instructional activities (e.g., what facts or concepts were discussed during a lecture, what skills did students practice while completing a homework assignment) and then similarly analyze what knowledge components would be required to perform well on the exam. In most cases, we find that there are mismatches between the knowledge students practiced and the knowledge they needed to perform well on an exam. This is particularly true when one is

careful to consider as practiced only the knowledge that the students themselves actually used (e.g., by applying a concept to a new example, comparing one fact to another, or using a skill to solve a problem) rather than the broader set of information they might have passively heard during a lecture or read from the textbook. Then, after identifying the areas of mismatch, the next step is to reflect on the severity and nature of the mismatch in order to decide what action to take. Sometimes the degree of mismatch is rather small, so there is no urgent need to take action at all. Other times, the degree of mismatch is rather large (e.g., the instructor did not realize that an untaught concept or skill was required for the exam). But, most often it is the case that students learned and practiced knowledge that overlaps with but does not completely cover the knowledge required on the exam. Here, the challenge is to reflect on the nature of the gap:
Did students need to use knowledge in a new way for the exam? Did the students need to integrate multiple pieces of knowledge that they had only used separately before? Did the students need to apply the knowledge to a to novel context? Depending on the situation, different instructional adaptations may be warranted (see the next strategy).

NOTE: it is often difficult for experts to analyze all the pieces of knowledge a student would need to perform well on an exam because experts knowledge has been built into larger and more automatically applied chunks.

Address important gaps in alignment.


As discussed in the above strategy, we can analyze our instructional activities and assessments in order to identify areas of mismatch between the knowledge students have likely learned (because they used and practiced it) and the knowledge they need in order to perform well on an exam. There are several ways to address such areas of mismatch. When the mismatch is large (e.g., a new concept, it is worthwhile adding instructional activities that give students a chance to use the knowledge they will need. Then, when students engage in these new instructional activities, the practice will target the knowledge they need to learn. When the mismatch is moderate, it may be the case that existing instructional activities are helpful but simply not sufficient. In this case, it is worth considering the nature of the mismatch:
If students needed to integrate multiple pieces of knowledge for the exam, then additional practice that requires increasing levels of integration or synthesis will help them build this skill. If students need to apply the knowledge to a novel context, then making sure the instructional activities include applying that knowledge in multiple, different contexts can help students learn to apply the knowledge more broadly.

In short, make sure students get to practice what you want to them to be able to do.

Communicate to students.
Even if the instructional activities you use to teach students are well aligned with the assessments you use to evaluate students progress, it is important to be explicit about how the instructional activities of the course will prepare students to be able to perform well by the end of the course. In particular, clearly stating how students will need to demonstrate what they have learned and how you will be evaluating their performance also helps students understand your expectations and hence make better choices for their own learning. One way to accomplish this is by giving students practice assignments (e.g., before an exam) where your expectations are laid out in the questions and your feedback gives them information about where/how they did and did not meet those expectations. Another approach is to give students your performance rubric in advance of the exam. This will allow students to see how you will evaluate their performance and help them adjust their own learning and study strategies accordingly.

Exam questions or instructions are ambiguous or confusing.


Our knowledge and understanding is different from our students and questions that seem clear to us can seem vague, ambiguous or misleading to students. Words or phrases that have very particular meanings and usages in our fields may have different connotations for students from different majors or for students who have different levels of familiarity with the concepts and terms used in the field. Questions may also be confusing because they are culturally-biased, containing phrases, concepts or examples that are unfamiliar to particular groups of students due to their ethnicity, religion, gender, etc. When students have difficulty interpreting the questions or instructions due to ambiguity or bias, it can result in our assessing students abilities to decode our questions or examples or guess our intentions, instead of our assessing their knowledge and skills regarding the course material.

Strategies:
Get another set of eyes to read the exam.
Ask your TA to sit down and read through the exam to identify potential points of ambiguity or lack of clarity. Have them tell you what they think the questions are asking, or if they are unsure. You can also have your TA take the test and then you can examine their answers to see if they interpreted the questions differently from how you intended or if their answers were missing components that you expected. Use the TAs feedback to help you rewrite your questions so that what you want students to do is explicit and clearly articulated.

Allow questions during the exam.

During the exam, allow students to ask questions for clarification and if the questions suggest ambiguity or bias, share your answers with the class. It is likely that if one student is confused by a question, other students are too, although they may not realize it. If you reuse questions across semesters, keep track of the ones that students found ambiguous or confusing so that you can revise them.

Allow students to identify ambiguous questions and explain their answer.


Tell students that if they are not clear about what a question is asking, they can rephrase the question or explain what they are answering (e.g., I think this question is asking for ) On multiple choice questions, allow students to explain why they are selecting a given response, or if they think multiple answers are correct, to explain why. Examining how students interpreted these questions can help you determine if the question was ambiguous or confusing, and if so, can provide insights into how to revise the question for the future.

Analyze error patterns.


After the exam, review the exam performance and re-examine questions on which many students performed poorly. If their answers are similar but wrong, see if you can determine if the errors were due to misinterpreting the question or not recognizing the requirements. If your best performing students performed poorly on certain questions, review their answers to help you determine if most of them had the same misinterpretation or wrong answer. This might be an indication of a particularly difficult item or it might be the result of a poorly constructed item. If the latter, you can remove these items from the total score so that you get a more accurate assessment of knowledge.

Review exam questions for contexts or examples that may be unfamiliar to particular groups.
Read over your exam while keeping an eye out for questions that contain examples, scenarios, idioms, etc. that may be unfamiliar to particular groups of students. For example, contextualizing questions using American sports, public figures or idioms can confuse students from other cultures, generations, genders, etc. and make it difficult for them to reason and apply their knowledge effectively. (Cultural Variations pdf)

Students dont have enough time to thoughtfully complete the exam.


Students are not as familiar or facile with the material as we are, and need more time than we do to carefully read and think about the question and construct an answer or solution strategy. Whereas we can quickly identify and classify questions, access the relevant knowledge and skills, and then accurately apply them to construct a solution, students may need more time to do each of these steps.

Strategies:

Ask your TAs or a grad student to time themselves as they take the exam.
A good heuristic is to at least double the time it takes you or a grad student to complete the exam and use that as an estimate for how long it will take students. This estimate will vary depending on the year of the students, with freshmen taking as much as 3 or 4 times longer than you would to complete the exam. Also, if the exam contains a lot of textual material, remember that nonnative English speakers will take longer to process the questions, as well as to formulate a written response.

Ask students to track how long homework takes them.


Collecting data on how long it takes students to complete homework problems or questions that are similar to those that will appear on the exam will help you determine appropriate exam length. If a learning goal is for students to be able to solve these problems quickly, then design homework that requires them to practice until they can solve the problems within time limits. Alternatively, provide students with time guidelines for completing assignments and tell them to talk to you if they are taking considerably longer so that you can help them develop effective strategies for learning and engaging with the material.

Students lack effective exam-taking strategies.


Many students approach exam taking like reading a novel. They start at the beginning and answer questions in the order without first previewing the exam. As a result, they often dont distribute their time effectively, and end up rushing through questions or not answering them at all.

Strategies:
Provide students with test-taking strategies.
Encourage students to look over the entire exam first and develop a general plan for how much time to spend on each question or exam section. Encourage them to focus on easy questions first as a way to build confidence and ease their way into the exam. Alternatively, they may want to start with questions with a high point value, to make sure they have sufficient time to answer them. For essay questions or questions that require students to synthesize across topics, suggest that they take the time to outline the structure of their answer first, making note of what information or processes they will use to construct their answer.

Have students simulate the exam experience.


Encourage students to try a sample exam in a timed format, as similar as possible to the real exam. Have them analyze their performance what problems took the most time, were the instructions difficult to understand, were there questions or problems that they werent prepared

for or that took a lot of time? Students can use this feedback to adjust their study strategies or seek additional help.

Give students opportunity to reflect on their exam performance.


After exams are returned, encourage students to reflect on their own exam strategies and performance to identify areas of weakness and strength and to develop strategies that will better prepare them for taking exams in the future.

Provide time guidelines for different sections of your exam.


If your exam has different sections (e.g., short answer, essay, problems), provide rough guidelines of how much time students should allow for each section. These guidelines can be included on the exam itself or provided verbally during the exam (e.g., you have an hour remaining, you should be working on the essay by now).

Students suffer from some form of anxiety or stereotype.


In some cases, students perform poorly on an exam because the testing situation makes them so anxious they cannot show what they know. In addition, students may under-perform on an exam because they have fallen prey to some form of stereotype that presumes they do not have the capacity to do well on the topic being tested. This latter issue is often exacerbated when a faculty member inadvertently triggers the stereotype by mentioning that certain types of students tend to do well in their area.

Strategies:
Make sure exam stakes are not too high. Help students get the practice they need to feel well prepared. Communicate to students that anyone who practices and/or studies effectively can perform well in your course.

Make sure exam stakes are not too high.


When a single assessment is very strongly weighted in the final course grade it can lead to increasing levels of stress that can interfere with students performance. So, it is helpful to make sure that exam stakes are not unreasonably high to engender these kinds of effects. When the stakes are very high on the first formal assessment in a course, these problems are especially great because the students not only feel the pressure to perform but also have a reduced sense of control over the situation. Alternatives to a high-stakes exam involve reducing the weighting of any particular exam, including more exams (each worth smaller amounts individually),

increasing the weight of informal or less formal kinds of assessments (e.g., homework, in-class quizzes, and so forth) or providing more exams than needed and allowing students to drop the lowest exam score.

Help students get the practice they need to feel well prepared.
When students feel more prepared for an exam and in control of the situation, it can help inoculate them from the effects of anxiety and stress. So, give students multiple opportunities to practice and get feedback in advance of important exams.

Communicate to students that anyone who practices and/or studies effectively can perform well in your course.
Just by explicitly telling students that they have the potential to perform well if they practice and study effectively can help to deactivate any stereotypes that compromise s tudents confidence or performance.

Format of exam was unfamiliar.


In some cases, students poor performance on an exam stems from their lack of familiarity with the exams format. They may lack the skills for completing a particular type of exam and this may interfere with their ability to apply their knowledge. For example, if students took mostly multiple choice exams in high school and then had to complete essay exams in college, their performance may be an underestimate of their knowledge simply because they lacked the relevant writing skills to communicate what they had learned. Or, an unfamiliar exam format may weaken students confidence and hence lower their performance indirectly. That is, even if students had learned the new material and had sufficient essay-writing skills in some abstract sense, they still might be inexperienced enough that they are unable to apply the necessary knowledge and skills under exam conditions (e.g., with time pressure and limited resources). To determine the degree to which students are familiar or unfamiliar with various exam formats, it is helpful to know your students. Considering your students year in college and their disciplinary backgrounds can offer some clues. For example, if your students are first year students, a reasonable assumption is that their most recent test taking experiences, i.e., from high school, mainly involved multiple-choice tests. Or, if your students are from other disciplines, they may be accustomed to tests of a different sort than what you plan on giving. Generally speaking, to verify the kinds of exams with which students have previous experience, you can simply ask them (e.g., verbally in lecture or via a brief survey) or ask the instructor of prior courses about the kinds of exams given.

Strategies:
Provide sample questions that represent the exam format.

To help students prepare for an unfamiliar exam format, provide them with examples of the kinds of exam questions you will ask in, and do so in advance of the exam. These examples may be drawn from copies of past exams, sample exams, or even homework problems that you have identified as similar to the kinds of questions you will be asking on the exam. Indeed, the most effective strategy for helping students prepare for an unfamiliar exam format is to provide them with opportunities to practice what you want to them to learn. This learning by doing is most effective when instructors provide timely feedback on how students are doing so that students can adjust their approach as needed.

Model effective approaches for students.


Another way to help students prepare for an unfamiliar exam format is to show them (e.g., during class time or recitation) effective ways to approach the kind of exam they will face. This may be accomplished by presenting sample exam-type questions and then solving them step by step, giving explanations for each step along the way.

Students didnt prepare appropriately.


Sometimes students spend time studying for an exam possibly considerable time and yet have spent their time ineffectively and inefficiently. This may be because students focused on aspects of the material that were not really important, because they prepared for a different kind of testing format than what was given, or because they simply do not have appropriate study skills for the material at hand. One particular example of students inappropriate preparation occurs when a test is being administered open book or open notes. In this situation, some students believe that all they need to do to prepare for the open book exam is to bring the relevant materials to the exam room. Then, when they begin the exam, they find themselves taking a lot of time searching through pages of text to find relevant information or, even worse, reading/re-reading the text and attempting to synthesize information on the fly. Another example of students inappropriate exam preparation occurs when students study by memorizing detailed facts and figures rather than practicing how to apply key ideas or reflecting on conceptual relationships.

Strategies:
Give performance rubrics in advance.
A performance rubric or grading rubric is a guide for evaluating students work along multiple dimensions. Each of the dimensions is explicitly listed and accompanied by descriptions and/or examples of varying levels of quality for that dimension. Rubrics not only help faculty assess students work fairly and efficiently, it is a useful study guide for students because it (a) communicates to students what you value in the assignment i.e., what aspects of the assignment you will be evaluating and (b) defines the different levels of quality of student work for each aspect of the assignment being evaluated. This way, students get a clearer idea of what aspects of the assignment to focus on and have a standard of comparison to know what constitutes good performance in this course.

Encourage students to self-assess effectively.


When you give students sample exam questions, it is important to encourage them to try to answer these questions in a realistic, test-like situation (e.g., working independently without notes if the exam is closed to notes, and potentially with a time limitation if time may be a factor in the exam). This way, they can self-assess their progress in a manner that gives them a more accurate preview of their likely performance. In contrast, if students glance at the sample questions or simply skim the questions solutions, they can easily be lulled into a false overconfidence in their abilities.

Give students direct guidance for studying.


When students dont know how to prepare for an exam, especially for more open -ended question formats, it can help to give them explicit guidance regarding where they should be spending their study time and what they should be emphasizing in their preparation. Along the same lines, if students are allowed to bring a page of notes to the exam, you can give them tips on effective strategies for what to include or even offer to check students notes a bit in advance of the exam. (In some cases, similar to the open book test situation described earlier, students will spend all their exam-preparation time copying notes into their crib sheet, rather than working to learn the material. Then when the exam comes, they have information on the page but do not know how to use it.)

Help students overcome common obstacles.


When students consistently make a common strategic error in their exam preparation, you can explicitly teach them test-taking strategies to help them overcome common obstacles. Examples include: reminding students to read the question carefully before jumping to an answer; helping students to keep track of their time use during an exam by marking various time points in the exam period; and even encouraging students to ask questions of clarification when something in the exams wording is confusing them.

Refer students to other support services.


If you have a particular student or group of students who consistently have trouble preparing adequately for exams, you can refer them to Academic Development for support in study skills and general academic counseling.

Students lack pre-requisite knowledge and skills.


Even when students have effectively learned the new material being tested on an exam, they may perform poorly if relevant, pre-requisite knowledge is weak or lacking. For example, on a physics exam, students may have difficulty solving a problem mainly because they lack sufficient calculus skills. Indeed, even when students have pre-requisite skills accurately learned, their exam performance may still suffer if those pre-requisite skills are applied so laboriously that they take up too much time or cognitive resources to allow successful exam completion.

Strategies:
Assess and address students relevant pre-requisite knowledge.
To determine if your students poor performance can be attributed to weak or missing prerequisite knowledge, it is first necessary to identify what pre-requisite skills were necessary for completing the exam. That is, try to approach the exam as a student would and analyze what pieces of knowledge or particular skills are necessary to solve the problems. Then, you can create and administer a prior knowledge assessment that tests this pre-requisite knowledge. (Because this step is often difficult for faculty who are experts in their area, we encourage you to consult with an Eberly Center colleague for assistance.) The results of the assessment may lead to different courses of action: you may identify common gaps in students knowledge that you choose to review with the whole class, or the results may help students identify their own gaps for self-remediation. In the latter case, an instructors role might include articulating the strategies students could take to address those gaps, including seeking help from Academic Development, attending supplemental instruction (SI) sessions when available, taking or retaking a pre-requisite course, or even dropping your course until they are better prepared.

Give students practice that hones the necessary prerequisite skills.


Sometimes students are able to apply pre-requisite skills in isolation, but they are not proficient enough with those skills to apply them effectively in combination with the other knowledge they are learning in your course. In this case, students may need to strengthen the necessary prerequisite skills. Assigning exercises that target not only accuracy but also speed and facility with the pre-requisite skills can help. In addition, it may be useful to assign more complex problems (specifically, problems that gradually increase in complexity) so students get practice applying their pre-requisite skills in combination.

Students dont seek help when they need it.


Students overestimate their understanding and ability.
Knowing involves diverse cognitive processes ranging from remembering and comprehending to applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating/synthesizing. Unfortunately, students often believe they "know" something simply because they have "heard" or "seen" it . Moreover, they dont recognize that being able to define a concept or theory is different from knowing when and how to use it. For example, students may read through a worked-out problem without actively solving it themselves and believe they understand. However, they may not have the level of understanding necessary to actually solve the problem, which can lead to disappointing performance. This overconfidence has been documented in a variety of different fields.

Strategies
Use diagnostic assessments.

These ungraded assessments are often easy to create and provide information to both instructors and students about students perception of their own level of understanding (.doc). For example, diagnostic questions for a knowledge probe can allow students to indicate whether they (a) recognize a concept, (b) can define it, or (c) can actually use it in the appropriate context. Having to choose among these options can help students to realistically estimate their level of understanding and ability, while educating them about the diverse cognitive processes involved in learning.

Embed frequent practice into your course.


Frequent quizzes, assignments, small writing assignments, etc. provide opportunities for both the student and the instructor to determine the students level of understanding, which can be a reality check for students who overestimate their understanding and ability.

Provide opportunities for reflection on performance.


Students often dont take the time to analyze why they did poorly on an assignment or exam. Some faculty members have created "exam wrapper" assignments that they given students when graded exams are returned. These assignments ask students to describe their study practices (e.g., when they started, the nature of the study activity, how long they spent studying), analyze the nature of the errors on the exam, and then articulate what they will do differently in the future. Discussion with students about their responses on the exam wrappers can provide an opportunity for you to refer them accordingly, to the ICC, Academic Development, to EOS, the office that addresses learning disabilities, or other support entities on campus.

Explicitly discuss with students different levels of knowledge.


There are natural ways to have this conversation, e.g., both learning objectives and rubrics can indicate the level of performance we expect from our students so that they can monitor and assess their progress.

Students do not recognize early enough that they need help.


Many of our students excelled in high school, and poor performance is a new experience they face. Their initial response to difficulty is to either look for external attributions (such as blaming their performance on an unfair test or unreasonable professor) or continue to apply the same strategies (e.g., reread the textbook, rewrite their notes, rehearse content, review problem sets) instead of employing more effective ones. For example, if students need an alternative explanation, rereading the textbook will not increase their understanding. Similarly, if they need more practice solving problems, simply reviewing their problem sets wont provide that practice. Unfortunately, it often takes a series of poor performances until students recognize the need to do something different. Furthermore, because students often overestimate their understanding and ability, they also underestimate the actual amount of time they need to master the material. This, in turn, means that they dont know they need help until an hour before an assignment, paper, project, etc. is due. These default responses are natural for students, which means we need to

help them develop the metacognitive skills to monitor, evaluate and adjust their learning strategies and their strategies for dealing with difficulty.

Strategies
Embed frequent practice into your course.
Frequent quizzes, assignments, small writing assignments, etc. provide opportunities for both the student and the instructor to determine the students level of understanding. Doing this provides students with much-needed practice and gives you the opportunity to identify students who are struggling in the course.

Provide new strategies or model your own.


Probe students about their current strategies (that arent working), suggest more effective strategies, and perhaps even model your own. For example, students who have learned history through reading textbooks have often not developed the skills they need to read monographs or journal articles. Probing their reading strategies often reveals that they dont read the preface of a book, notice chapter titles or read footnotes. Your description of how you read can model for them a successful strategy. If you teach a large class and dont have time to go through this process, you can always send them to Academic Development, where tutors will go through the same process of probing students current strategies and suggesting new ones.

Approach students who are struggling.


A simple gesture of e-mailing a student (or writing on a quiz) a specific request such as "it looks like you still confuse mean and median; please come and talk to me about this" yields a high likelihood that students will actually come to office hours.

Provide opportunities for reflection on performance.


Students often dont take the time to analyze why they did poorly on an assignment or exam. Some faculty members have created "exam wrapper" assignments that they given students when graded exams are returned. These assignments ask students to describe their study practices (e.g., when they started, the nature of the study activity, how long they spent studying), analyze the nature of the errors on the exam, and then articulate what they will do differently in the future. Discussion with students about their responses on the exam wrappers can provide an opportunity for you to refer them accordingly, to the ICC, Academic Development, to EOS, the office that addresses learning disabilities, or other support entities on campus.

Students may perceive you as unapproachable.


There are a variety of reasons why students may perceive you as unapproachable. While you may not see yourself as an intimidating person, your status as a professor might intimidate students, especially first years. Behaviors that you deem formal and professional in the

classroom could be interpreted by your students as cold and aloof. Likewise, your own shyness or introversion might be perceived in a negative way. Consequently, it is important to break down the barriers in order to reframe students perceptions.

Strategies
Arrive early and chat with students.
This is an opportunity for you to get to know more about your students; for example, some faculty members ask questions that range from "how was your weekend" or "have you seen any interesting movies lately" to "how difficult was the last homework assignment" or "how long did the last lab take you to complete." These quick and simple gestures will help students to build a sense of connection to you.

Attempt to learn students names.


While some people are much better at remembering names, students appreciate the attempt despite whether you are successful or not. Ask students their name when they pose a question or answer one of yours, and use the name in responding to them. Download a copy of the photo roster from ACIS and bring it to class with you. Note that you can obtain a photo roster until the last day to add a course.

Invite students to interact with you outside of class (e.g., office hours, lunch/coffee).
The formal nature of many classrooms can hinder students views of professors as people. An invitation for one-on-one or small group interaction with students can break down the barrier. Some faculty members teaching large classes prompt students, in groups of three or four, to invite them for coffee or lunch as a way to connect with students. Other faculty members, in smaller classes, require students to meet individually with them during the first two weeks of class.

Use material that connects with students.


Embed examples, applications and topics within lectures that either connect to students fields of study and/or resonate with the culture and interests of this generation of students. This gesture not only makes the material more relevant to students, but it also helps them to view you as someone who understands their interests, needs, etc. and thus is approachable.

Acknowledge your demeanor and personality.


Tell students, for example, that you are shy or introverted, that you simply dont smile frequently, that you often dont recognizes faces outside the classroom or that you have difficulty memorizing names, and ask them to approach you anyway. This simple gesture allows students to reformulate their view of you and potentially seek you out when necessary. In cases of

extreme shyness, well-known faculty members have admitted to taking on another "persona" (as we do everyday in a variety of different settings) as a way to address their shyness.

Set the appropriate tone for the course through the syllabus.
A syllabus that falls into the lister (i.e., articulates a laundry list of topics for the course and not much else) or scolder (i.e., indicates penalties in all caps and bold face for late work, missed classes, etc. and not much else) category can set a negative or uncaring tone for the course. Conversely, a syllabus that clearly articulates your objectives/expectations, the students' role in the course, the amount of work and level of feedback and support they can expect, etc., creates the perception that you care about their learning experience. As a result, students may be much more willing to approach you. How you introduce yourself, the course, your expectations, etc. in the syllabus will send a message about the level of interaction you want with students.

Set the appropriate tone for the course on the first day of class.
What you do on the first day of class sets the tone for the entire course. How you introduce yourself, the course, your expectations, etc., as well as what you actually do, will send a message about the level of interaction you want with the students.

Students dont know that resources are available.


There are multiple reasons why students dont fully understand what resources are available to them. As first year undergraduates, students sometimes dont understand the purpose of office hours or the role of the TA. Furthermore, because students are inundated with information, they sometimes dont know about the existence of Academic Development (i.e., our academic support center).

Strategies
Clearly articulate the purpose of office hours.
You can do this in the syllabus and perhaps reinforce it before major assignments or exams, particularly in first year undergraduate courses.

Explain the roles of TAs in the course.


Again, this is especially important for first year students who never had TAs in high school. This is also important because the role of TAs varies across courses, and even within departments, e.g., some TAs only grade, some run recitations, some do review sessions, some hold office hours.

Explain the role of Academic Development.

Academic Development offers a variety of different support programs for students, e.g., individual weekly tutoring, walk-in tutoring in the dorms, study groups, supplemental instruction, study skills workshops.

Students are seeking help that is not working.


Recent data indicate that many Carnegie Mellon students turn to their peers for academic assistance rather than approaching the faculty member, TA or Academic Development. Sometimes this approach is successful in addressing the gaps in understanding and performance. Other times it is not, but given that many students (particularly early in their academic careers) are not good at monitoring and adapting their strategies, they continue in this vein.

Strategies
Explicitly discuss with students different levels of understanding.
Knowing involves diverse cognitive processes ranging from remembering and comprehending to applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating/synthesizing. Hence, ask students to think about the nature of the help they are receiving does their peer simply explain a concept and ask the student to reiterate it (i.e., remember) or does the peer ask the student to apply the concept (i.e., application) or decide when its use is appropriate (i.e., evaluation)?

Teach metacognitive skills.


Help the students learn to evaluate the effectiveness of the help they have received, e.g., did my peer give me the answer, explain the process or make me practice. By monitoring their understanding (i.e., performance) they monitor the effectiveness of the help, thereby enabling them to adjust their help-seeking behavior (e.g., go to the TA, tutoring, supplemental instruction, the faculty member).

Provide opportunities for reflection on effort or study practices.


Students often don't take the time to analyze why they continue to do poorly, thereby fostering a vicious cycle where they simply do more of the same thing (i.e., seek help from peers). Some faculty members have created "exam wrapper" assignments that they give students when graded exams, projects, papers, etc, are returned. These wrappers, for example, can ask students to describe their study practices (e.g., who helped them and how, when they started, the nature of the study activity, how long they spent studying), analyze the nature of the practice, and then articulate what they will do differently in the future. These wrapper examples could be adapted to also facilitate identification of the type of errors the student made (e.g., mathematical, conceptual). Discussion with students about their responses on the exam wrappers can provide an opportunity for you to refer them accordingly, to the ICC, Academic Development, to EOS, the office that addresses learning disabilities, or other support entities on campus.

Students personalities may inhibit them from seeking help.

There are a variety of reasons why students may not approach you when they are performing poorly, which have nothing to do with you. In other words, students who are shy or introverted, self-conscious, embarrassed by their performance, fearful of looking stupid, etc., may not seek help from you or others on campus.

Strategies
Arrive early and chat with students.
This is an opportunity for you to get to know more about your students; for example, some faculty members ask questions that range from "how was your weekend" or "have you seen any interesting movies lately" to "how difficult was the last homework assignment" or "how long did the last lab take you to complete." These quick and simple gestures will help students to build a sense of connection to you.

Attempt to learn students names.


While some people are much better at remembering names, students appreciate the attempt despite whether you are successful or not. Ask students their names when they pose a question or answer one of yours, and use the name in responding to them. Download a copy of the photo roster from ACIS and bring it to class with you. Note that you can obtain a photo roster until the last day to add a course.

Invite students to interact with you outside of class (e.g., office hours, lunch/coffee).
The formal nature of many classrooms can hinder students views of professors as people. An invitation for one-on-one or small group interaction with students can break down the barrier. Some faculty members teaching large classes prompt students, in groups of three or four, to invite them for coffee or lunch as a way to connect with students. Other faculty members, in smaller classes, require students to meet individually with them during the first two weeks of class.

Acknowledge your demeanor and personality.


Tell students, for example, that you are shy or introverted, that you simply dont smile frequently, that you often dont recognizes faces outside the classroom or that you have difficulty memorizing names, and ask them to approach you anyway. This simple gesture allows students to reformulate their view of you and potentially seek you out when necessary. In cases of extreme shyness, well-known faculty members have admitted to taking on another persona (as we do everyday in a variety of different settings) as a way to address their shyness.

Remind students of the multiple resources available for help.

Some students may be more comfortable talking with TAs, peers, Academic Development tutors, etc., although they dont necessarily know who can provide the kind of help they need. Hence some faculty members indicate on their syllabi the various kinds of help that each of these individuals can provide.

Students cultures shape their help-seeking behavior.


Students from different cultures may not approach you or university support offices when experiencing difficulty for a variety of reasons. Some may fear losing face with the professor or being shamed in front of other students, some may associate asking for help with weakness, and yet others from gender segregated cultures may be uncomfortable interacting with persons of the opposite sex. Because of these cultural variations, conventional responses may not work; for example, sending an e-mail to request a meeting or writing see me on a returned assignment might not be enough to get students into your office. Culture-specific strategies for getting students to seek help do exist, although you need to first determine that culture really is playing a role.

Strategies
Educate yourself by reading Cultural Variations.
Cultural Variations (pdf) may help you to determine if culture is playing a role. It was created by the Eberly Center and the Intercultural Communication Center to raise awareness about the types of challenges international students face; provide examples of the kinds of issues that may affect students in your courses; and offer suggestions based on strategies members of our own faculty have successfully employed.

Seek help from the Eberly Center.

the

Intercultural

Communication

Center

or

If you have a group of students or an individual student who is underperforming, not attending class, etc., and not seeking help as far as you know, you may want to consult with the Eberly Center or the Intercultural Communication Center to determine if culture is playing a role. If it is, they can help you to customize a solution.

Students are unable to seek help for psychological or medical reasons.


Increasing numbers of students are entering college with a history of mental health issues, (e.g,. depression, eating disorders) as well as learning disabilities. While advances in the medical field have made it possible for these students to enter higher education, the increased stress of being away from home, negotiating new environments, and adapting to the nature of academic work sometimes impacts their behavior, including help-seeking behavior. Because students develop holistically (i.e., intellectual, social, psychological and emotional development cannot be separated), we as instructors need to be mindful of this.

Strategies
Urge students to use support services.
If you suspect that students are not seeking help for these reasons, you may want to suggest that they talk with their advisor, the Counseling Center, Student Affairs, Equal Opportunity Services, and/or Student Health Services. If you have questions about how best to refer students to these services, contact the respective professionals for advice.

Consult with Student Affairs.


If you are uncomfortable approaching a student about these issues or unsure about the best course of action to take, call Student Affairs at x82064; they will transfer you to the appropriate college liaison, a person who has knowledge about and connections within the students college and across the university, as well as experience dealing with students having difficulty. They can help you determine whether and how to deal with the student. They are trained and deal with these issues on a daily basis, and they have the bigger picture (e.g., they know if the student is having difficulty in other classes, is on medication, is already receiving help from the Counseling Center), and they are happy to intervene if you both agree that is the best option.

Students have made a strategic decision about their performance.


There maybe two reasons why students make a decision to put in less effort and accept the consequences. Some students may have decided that they are "just not good" at your/the subject and decided to focus their energies where they see the best pay-off. Other students might consciously deemphasize courses outside their major or have already accepted a job offer and may simply decide to put less effort into their final semester. Understanding which of these reasons drives the decision will dictate your response.

Strategies
Discuss with students their beliefs about learning.
Students who believe that they dont have the gift of writing, math, science, etc., dont expect much out of their effort and thus dont exert it, resulting in poor performance. The first step in helping these students is to reframe their belief so that they understand that learning is not innate but instead results from effort.

Accept it.
Some students who are capable put less time and effort into the course for pragmatic reasons (e.g., not their major, already have a job offer) and are content with their grade. While it may be difficult for us as faculty to resonate with this decision, it is their prerogative.

Students behave rudely in class.


Students and instructors have different expectations about classroom etiquette. (prior experiences, culture, disciplinary culture)
While some behaviors would be considered rude and offensive in any context, others are a matter of individual interpretation. For example, some instructors are bothered if students wear hats, eat in class, slouch, etc. while others are not. Moreover, what is considered appropriate (or rude) classroom behavior can vary strikingly from one culture (pdf) to another. For example, members of one culture might be comfortable addressing professors by first name, while members of another find this disrespectful. Finally, standards of courtesy vary from discipline to discipline and department to department. In some professional and graduate programs, for example, students insistence that courses have immediate practical value can come across to instructors as demanding and unduly aggressive. In all these situations, students sense of appropriate classroom behavior might not square with the instructors. To complicate matters further, even in the context of a single class the boundary between appropriate and inappropriate behavior can be subtle and difficult to navigate. For example, in a literature class that employs readings with vulgar or colloquial language, students may have trouble knowing when it is and is not acceptable to use such language in class. By the same token, in classes where students need a laptop for some activities (e.g., viewing a spreadsheet) they may not recognize the inappropriateness of using their laptop for another purpose (e.g., sending e-mail.)

Strategies:
Make your expectations explicit.
Because there is wide variation in the expectations of different instructors regarding appropriate classroom behavior, it is important to be very explicit about your expectations for student behavior. Otherwise, students may assume that the behaviors that were appropriate in other classes they have taken (whether in high school, other departments, or other countries) are appropriate in yours and they may be wrong. You should articulate your course policies in your syllabus and again on the first day of class. This can be done in a good-humored way, without a punitive or harsh tone, but it is important to follow through on the policies you institute. The issues you choose to address with your students are up to you, but many instructors focus on lateness, talking in class, cell phone and laptop use, eating, terms of address, etc.

Model desired behavior.

Model the kind of behavior you would like to see from your students. Obviously, if you do not want students coming late or drinking coffee in class, you should not do so yourself. If you do not want students to be aggressive and argumentative, do not model these behaviors yourself. In addition to avoiding behaviors you do not want students to emulate, model the behaviors you do want to see, for example, by arriving to class on time, challenging students respectfully, respecting their time, etc.

Respond immediately.
If instructors fail to respond to rude behavior, or do so inconsistently, the behavior is likely to continue. Thus, it is important to respond immediately. How you choose to address the problem will depend on the nature of the behavior as well as your individual style. Upon encountering rude behavior, you might choose to address the class as a whole, delineating what is and is not acceptable for your class (e.g., My T.A. has drawn m y attention to some inappropriate laptop use in class. Here is my policy concerning laptops). If the problem stems from one or two individuals, you might respond in a number of ways, beginning with a gentle admonition (e.g., Manish, would you mind putting away your drink until after class?) and then, if the behavior continues, addressing the problem more forcefully. Some instructors might choose to take the problem student(s) aside after class to discuss the issue. Others might opt to address the behavior publicly by stopping what theyre doing and directing a hard look or pointed comment at the problematic student (e.g., Wendy, Id appreciate it if you confined your comments to the material being discussed). While it is important to respond immediately and consistently, how you handle the matter will depend very much on the nature of the problem, the student(s) in question, and what feels most comfortable to you.

The anonymity of the class reduces civility.


In large classes, where students feel relatively anonymous, they may behave in ways they would not in smaller classes. This may be exacerbated in required classes, where they feel not only anonymous but also (perhaps) resentful at having to take a class they did not choose.

Strategies:
Reduce anonymity.
There are a number of things you can do to reduce the anonymity and impersonality of large classes. For example, you can arrive early and chat with students. This helps students build a sense of connection and responsibility to you, and can help to reduce incivilities. Other ways to reduce the distance between you and your students in large classes include trying (however imperfectly) to learn students names (for example, asking them to identify themselves when they make a comment or question) and inviting groups of students to interact with you outside of class. For example, some faculty members teaching large classes ask groups of students to meet them for coffee and conversation outside of class time. You can also help build a sense of communal responsibility and accountability by fostering bonds among students, e.g, through small group and pair work.

Let your personality and interests show.


While it is important to maintain professionalism and appropriate boundaries in class, it can also help to personalize large lectures by giving your students opportunities to see you as a whole person, with interests, emotions, and connections that extend beyond the classroom. Davis cites a science faculty member with a passion for music, who plays pieces by different composers and musicians as students enter the classroom (1993, p.125). One psychology instructor posts a trivia question, unrelated to the course material, that students can see and consider as they enter the classroom and get situated. This helps students loosen up and engage in casual give-and-take with the professor and among themselves before class begins, thus reducing the impersonality of the large class.

Respond immediately.
If instructors in large classes ignore rude behavior it only reinforces students sense of anonymity and invisibility. Thus, it is particularly important to respond before a pattern is established. How you choose to address the problem will depend on the nature of the behavior as well as your individual style. Upon encountering rude behavior, you might choose to address the class as a whole, delineating what is and is not acceptable for your class (e.g., My T.A. has drawn my attention to some inappropriate laptop use in class. Here is my policy concerning laptops). If the problem stems from one or two individuals, you might respond in a number of ways, beginning with a gentle admonition (e.g., Manish, would you mind putting away your drink until after class?) and then, if the behavior continues, addressing the problem more forcefully. Some instructors might choose to take the problem student(s) aside after class to discuss the issue. Others might opt to address the behavior publicly by stopping what theyre doing and directing a hard look or pointed comment at the problematic student (e.g., Wendy, Id appreciate it if you confined your comments to the material being discussed). While it is important to respond immediately and consistently, how you handle the matter will depend very much on the nature of the problem, the student(s) in question, and what feels most comfortable to you.

Students are confused, bored, or frustrated with the course.


Sometimes students engage in rude behaviors because they have become disengaged from the class. This can happen if they are bored, confused or frustrated. It can also happen if the material is sufficiently controversial or sensitive that students become anxious, uncomfortable, or angry. Sometimes students act rudely as a way of registering their disapproval with the course as a whole. This may be particularly true in required courses, but may also occur if students view the class as unfair, irrelevant, or disorganized.

Strategies:
Pay attention to what the behavior is communicating.

If students are behaving rudely, pay attention to additional cues (e.g., body language, facial expressions) to determine the cause. If students look confused, you may have to slow down; if they look bored, you may want to pick up the pace. If they look disgruntled or angry, you may need to ask questions to diagnose areas of misunderstanding or discomfort. You may also want to collect information more formally (see next strategy).

Collect additional data if necessary.


If you cannot diagnose the problem on the basis of in-class observation, consider collecting more data on student understanding and/or student perceptions. Student performance on quizzes, assignments or exams, as well as on classroom assessment techniques (CATS) can give you a sense of whether the material is pitched at the right level for the majority of students. Information about student perceptions of the course (or specific content areas) can be gleaned via informal conversations with students in or outside class, by using an early course evaluation, by asking a T.A. to serve as a liaison with students, or by appointing a student ombudsman to relay student feedback to you. The Eberly Center can help collect additional information, for example by conducting focus groups with students.

Address the problem.


If students seem disengaged or disgruntled, address the problem immediately. How you do this will depend on the nature of the problem and the objectives of the course. If the problem is situational and short-term (for example, during a unit focused on material that is particularly sensitive or emotionally provocative) it might be enough to simply prepare students better for their own and their classmates reactions, to provide them with venues (e.g., journals, blogs) to air their opinions and perspectives, and provide ground rules to ensure that discussions are respectful and productive. If the problem is one of slow pacing, you might want to pick up the pace for the class as a whole, or to encourage students who are bored to tackle more sophisticated variations on the assigned work. By the same token, if you find you are moving too fast (leaving a number of your students behind) you may want to slow down or offer extra review sessions outside of class time. Sometimes the problems involve the design of the course as a whole, or teaching problems that are more extensive. The Eberly Center can help you assess the situation and work with you to find appropriate solutions.

There is no penalty or consequence for rude behavior.


The consequences associated with a behavior help determine whether or not that behavior will be repeated. If instructors fail to curtail rudeness, or do so inconsistently, those behaviors are likely to continue.

Strategies:
Respond immediately.

If instructors fail to respond to rude behavior, or do so inconsistently, the behavior is likely to continue and may, in fact, spread to other students. Thus, it is important to respond immediately. How you choose to address the problem will depend on the nature of the behavior as well as your individual style. Upon encountering rude behavior, you might choose to address the class as a whole, delineating what is and is not acceptable for your class (e.g., My T.A. has drawn my attention to some inappropriate laptop use in class. Here is my policy concerning laptops). If the problem stems from one or two individuals, you might respond in a number of ways, beginning with a gentle admonition (e.g., Manish, would you mind putting away your drink until after class?) and then, if the behavior continues, addressing the problem more forcefully. Some instructors might choose to take the problem student(s) aside after class to discuss the issue. Others might opt to address the behavior publicly b y stopping what theyre doing and directing a hard look or pointed comment at the problematic student (e.g., Wendy, Id appreciate it if you confined your comments to the material being discussed). While it is important to respond immediately and consistently, how you handle the matter will depend very much on the nature of the problem, the student(s) in question, and what feels most comfortable to you.

Students are intentionally challenging the instructors authority.


In some instances, students act rudely to test the instructor, to flex their own intellectual muscle, or to show off to classmates. This is most likely to happen if the instructors authority is in question, for example, if s/he is timid or does not seem in command. It may also happen in contexts where the student body is particularly aggressive or demanding, for example in some professional programs where students have considerable work-world experience and insist that courses have immediate practical utility. Some students may also seek to challenge the authority of (or outright bully) particular categories of instructors, for example young, female, foreign, or minority faculty. This problem can be especially pronounced in some professional and graduate programs where the students may be older than the professor and have considerable experience and expertise themselves.

Strategies:
Consider the image you are projecting.
Think about how you can dress, move, and speak so as to present yourself with professionalism and authority. The best way to dress and behave will depend on the culture of your department (business schools, for example, tend to be more formal than art departments) and on your personal style. The key is to find a mode of self-presentation that works for you in the context of your own course.

Offer a well-designed course.


Far more important than how you present yourself physically is for the course itself to be well designed and meaningful. Students will be considerably less likely to challenge your authority if they see how the pieces of the course fit together and feel that the education they are receiving is valuable. Also, if the majority of students perceive the course as useful to them, they are more

likely to exert pressure on rude classmates to stop engaging in distracting, disruptive, or discourteous behavior.

Model desired behavior.


If you do not want students to be aggressive and argumentative, be sure not to model these behaviors yourself. In addition to avoiding behaviors you do not want students to emulate, model the behaviors you do want to see, for example, by voicing disagreement respectfully.

Set expectations realistically.


In your syllabus and again on the first day of class, clearly outline the scope and objectives of the course, so that students approach it with realistic expectations. Students will be less likely to challenge you about what the course does or does not include if they are given fair warning. Additionally, make it clear where your expertise lies and invite students to share their own expertise if it falls outside your area of specialization. (For example: My expertise is in cultural anthropology, so I can speak to how cultural anthropologists would analyze this question, but not to all the intricacies of physical anthropology. If any of you come from a biology background, please feel free to bring your own knowledge to bear on these issues.)

Dont expect to be perfect.


To be an effective instructor, you need to have a solid grasp of the subject matter, but you need not be perfect. There may be times when a student knows more about a particular subject area than you do and challenges your expertise. If so, rather than get flustered, admit the limitations of your knowledge, or cheerfully tell the class that you will look into the issue further and get back to them (This is an interesting issue and you raise some excellent questions. Let me do a little research and let you know what I find out). Its important for students to know that instructors, like their students, are learners.

Dont react defensively.


It can be disconcerting to have a student challenge your authority in class, but try not to overreact. Hear the student out; be respectful of her opinion and acknowledge good points, but also ask her to explain her rationale and provide evidence to support her views. If you approach the interaction as a teaching opportunity, rather than react defensively, you may be able to both defuse the particular situation and strengthen your credibility with the class as a whole. For example, if a student challenges you publicly, it can sometimes be helpful to ask the rest of the class: How do the rest of you feel about this? Often, aggressive or posturing students will back down if they know they do not have the support of their classmates.

Respond immediately.
While it is important not to react defensively to rude student behavior (if at all possible), it is important to respond immediately. Letting unacceptable behavior slide will only erode your authority in the classroom more. How you choose to address the problem will depend on the

nature of the behavior as well as your individual style. Upon encountering rude behavior, you might choose to address the class as a whole, delineating what is and is not acceptable for your class (e.g., My T.A. has drawn my attention to some inappropriate laptop use in class. Here is my policy concerning laptops). If the problem stems from one or two individuals, you might respond in a number of ways, beginning with a gentle admonition (e.g., Manish, would you mind putting away your drink until after class?) and then, if the behavior continues, addressing the problem more forcefully. Some instructors might choose to take the problem student(s) aside after class to discuss the issue. Others might opt to address the behavior publicly by stopping what theyre doing and directing a hard look or pointed comment at the problematic student (e.g., Wendy, Id appreciate it if you confined your comments to the material being discussed). While it is important to respond immediately and consistently, how you handle the matter will depend very much on the nature of the problem, the student(s) in question, and what feels most comfortable to you.

Seek help.
If you have a student or group of students who is belligerent or chronically disruptive, and other strategies do not work, consult your department head or Student Affairs for advice.

Individual students have emotional/psychological problems.


Students with psychological problems, drug-related problems, or poor impulse control may act inappropriately in class. Generally, the instructor can tell if there is something going on with a particular student, even if she is unable to diagnose the problem specifically.

Strategies:
Use campus resources.
Inappropriate behavior in class can sometimes indicate larger and more serious problems for the student. Before talking to the student one on one, you might want to seek advice from Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) about the best way to proceed. You may also want to contact the Dean of Student Affairs to see if the student in question is exhibiting similar patterns in his/her other classes.

Talk to the student outside of class.


If, after seeking advice from campus resources, you decide the problem is one you can work out yourself, you might want to quietly pull the student in question aside after class to remind him about your course policies, review the ground rules for discussion, and/or explain how his behavior affects you and the other students. The student may or may not be aware that the behavior is inappropriate, so simply bringing it to his attention may be enough to solve the problem.

If you have any suspicion that the student could be dangerous to him/herself or to you, however, go directly to campus resources and do not try to handle the problem on your own.

Students dont participate in discussion.


Students did not complete the assignment.
Students didnt complete the reading in advance of class, and hence they cannot effectiv ely participate in the discussion because they cant provide factual information, analysis, or evaluation of the argument, or an alternative perspective. While reading is necessary but not sufficient to assure participation in discussions, students who do not read cannot provide meaningful contributions to the discussion. For a more complete discussion of why students dont keep up with the readings and strategies to address this problem, see the lament My students dont keep up with the reading.

Students did not focus on the relevant aspects of reading.


Despite having done the reading, students are still unable to participate because they have not focused on the relevant aspects of the reading. Because every discipline has its own conventions (e.g., historians want students to be able to identify an authors argument and psychologists want students to understand the implication of study size), students may inappropriately focus, for example, at too abstract or too detailed a level.

Strategies:
Help students establish realistic expectations.
Give students a sense of how much time it should take them to get through a particular kind of reading (bearing in mind that it is normal for students to take 3-4 times longer than you do to read a text). Tell them that if it is taking them significantly longer than this (6 hours for a 15page article, for example), they should come talk with you or (depending on the problem) advise them to seek help from the Intercultural Communication Center, Academic Development, or Equal Opportunity Services.

Provide strategies for reading.


Give students tips for reading efficiently and effectively. While all college students have experience reading, they may not have experience reading the types of material you assign, e.g., a journal article, a monograph, a case study. For example, you might encourage students to read the abstract and quickly scan an article before beginning to read, and for monographs to use the table of contents, chapter titles, subheadings, etc., to determine the organizational structure of the book.

Direct students reading.


Give students a set of questions to direct their attention while reading. This is particularly important for the first several reading assignments if your students are new to your discipline (e.g., freshmen, sophomores, or non-majors). This will help them learn, for example, to identify the authors argument and distinguish ideas from minutia in order to cultivate the kind of metacognitive behavior you want them to have. As a result, they will develop the skills to become more effective and critical readers in your discipline and hence be able to more meaningfully participate in class discussion. Make sure to integrate the questions as part of the discussion.

Operationalize performance criteria.


Make explicit to students what you expect them to be able to do after completing a reading. For example, you might inform them that they should be able to tell you the name of the author, the date of publication, the central question posed, the argument made, and three pieces of evidence enlisted to support it. Or you might ask students to come to class with a one-sentence summary of the readings main point, a question it raised for them, or a critique. You could ask students to submit this information in writing, quiz them on it informally in class, or simply pose it as a set of expectations.

Create scaffolded reading assignments.


Begin the course with simpler readings and work up to increasingly complex, theoretically challenging or sophisticated readings. This allows students time to build the skills necessary to read effectively.

Model your reading strategy.


Model for students how you (an expert) approach different kinds of texts in your disciplines. Talk students through how you yourself read: What parts of a book or article do you look at first, and why (date of publication, authors name, table of contents, preface)? What questions do you have in mind when you begin to read? What parts do you take time with? Skim through? Come back to? How do you approach a book differently than a journal article or a primary document? Perhaps show them how you annotate articles or books to indicate key arguments, ideas, or concepts.

Students individual styles or personalities may inhibit their participation.


Students demonstrate different levels of comfort and facility with class participation. This may be a consequence of their individual personality or style. Those who fail to participate may be shy, introverted, anxious, lack confidence to speak during a class discussion, or be less comfortable in spontaneous or fast-paced situations.

Strategies:

Help students to prepare in advance.


If verbal participation is an explicit and important goal of your course, suggest that students prepare by writing comments or discussion points ahead of time. Invite them to share those comments with you so that you can provide feedback to lessen their anxiety and to boost their confidence, which may result in more participation from those students. For students who are shy or introverted, you can use their written comments to provide a more comfortable entry point into the discussion. For example, you can say something like Joe had an insightful revelation in his summary of todays reading. Joe, could you share your ideas with the class? Or, you can provide students with the specific questions that you will ask them during class (this is different from the strategy above in which students generate their own comments). This allows students to prepare in advance and may reduce the anxiety associated with speaking extemporaneously or the pressure of a quick-paced discussion.

Involve all students.


Require all students, at some point during the class, to make a contribution. This could be as easy as going around the room to brainstorm a list or as complicated as giving each student a specific number of chips (e.g., three to five per week) that they deposit each time they make a contribution.

Use groups.
Allow students time to work in pairs or groups with the requirement that they rotate the responsibility of reporting back to the class. This strategy gives everyone in the class an opportunity to speak and supports those students who are more confident and less anxious speaking for a group rather than just for themselves.

Reward student participation.


Use a tone of voice and non-verbal cues that reward student participation, e.g., nod, establish eye contact, smile, walk toward the speaker. Recognize the inherent ambiguity of certain facial expressions; for example, a furrowed brow can be misinterpreted as disappointment rather than concentration.

Students cultural values and norms may inhibit their participation.


Cultural values or norms (based on nationality, gender, region of the country, etc.) may dictate the level and style of participation. For example, students may feel uncomfortable disagreeing with other students or challenging the professor, be concerned about showing off what they know, be intimidated by peers who define discussion as confrontation, etc.

Strategies:
Define your expectations.

Clearly specify your expectations regarding what constitutes meaningful participation. For example, tell students that asking thoughtful questions, making connections to theory, building on previous comments, and identifying real world examples or applications make valuable contributions toward collective learning. The reason this is beneficial is because it allows student to engage in learning behaviors that align with the goals of the course and to monitor their progress toward those goals.

Articulate ground rules.


Lay ground rules for participation (pdf) that clearly defines acceptable and unacceptable behavior (e.g., turn-taking, language). For example, it is not acceptable to use pejoratives, labels, or sarcasm; it is inappropriate to verbally attack a person rather than their idea; it is important to allow others to speak rather than interrupt or usurp the floor. The need for ground rules is even more important if you are dealing with a controversial issue where students in the minority perspective could potentially feel inhibited to participate. You may even involve students in this process to insure greater student buy-in.

Model appropriate behavior.


As you participate and lead the discussion, demonstrate for students meaningful interaction. For example, show students how to respectfully disagree with an idea or perspective rather than attack a peer.

Diplomatically deal with violators.


Tactfully indicate to students who violate ground rules that their behavior is detrimental to the discussion. This can include the use of humor (e.g., Folks, this isnt the British parliament or a rugby game) or depersonalization (e.g., Without realizing it, some of you use a tone that can be perceived as confrontational).

Confront repeated violators.


If your tactful in-class response to the violator has not been successful, you need to approach the student outside of class and explicitly describe the impact of his/her behavior on others during the discussion.

Seek advice.
If you are concerned about international students lack of participation, you may want to contact the Intercultural Communications Center for advice.

Students may not have experience participating in discussions.


Discussions call for a set of skills that are uniquely applied in this context. These skills include things like identifying the speakers main point, building on or expanding an already articulated

idea, making connections among ideas, respectfully disagreeing with an idea or claim, providing an alternative perspective, asking follow-up questions to flesh out a speakers idea, connecting ideas to course concepts or theories, using evidence to support ones position, idea, or claim. While students may have developed or honed some of these individual skills in other contexts (e.g., identifying an authors main point in a reading), discussions happen quickly and require that students draw on these skills simultaneously.

Strategies:
Outline your goals.
Clearly articulate the goals for the discussion so that students understand what the desired outcome is, and use these goals as mileposts to help them recognize and monitor the development of their own understanding and the progress of the discussion.

Define your expectations.


Clearly specify your expectations regarding what constitutes meaningful participation. For example, tell students that asking thoughtful questions, making connections to theory, building on previous comments, and identifying real world examples or applications make valuable contributions toward collective learning. The reason this is beneficial is because it allows student to engage in learning behaviors that align with the goals of the course and to monitor their progress toward those goals.

Articulate ground rules.


Lay ground rules for participation (pdf) that clearly defines acceptable and unacceptable behavior (e.g., turn-taking, language). For example, it is not acceptable to use pejoratives, labels, or sarcasm; it is inappropriate to verbally attack a person rather than their idea; it is important to allow others to speak rather than interrupt or usurp the floor. The need for ground rules is even more important if you are dealing with a controversial issue where students in the minority perspective could potentially feel inhibited to participate. You may even involve students in this process to insure greater student buy-in.

Model appropriate behavior.


As you participate and lead the discussion, demonstrate for students meaningful interaction. For example, show students how to respectfully disagree with an idea or perspective rather than attack a peer.

Allow students time to think.


To reduce self-consciousness or anxiety associated with either not having experience participating in discussions or the fast-paced nature of discussions, give students time,

individually or in small groups, to actively engage with the material by discussing an issue or question before they are asked to share a perspective or response with the class.

Students may not have the general background knowledge to participate.


Background knowledge may be culture-based or discipline-based. For example, in the United States, there is often an implicit understanding of the relationship between education and income that is not necessarily true in other countries. Similarly, methodology or language that is necessary to frame, contextualize, or evaluate a question, issue, situation, case, etc., under discussion often varies by discipline (e.g., significance has a different meaning in history or philosophy relative to psychology or statistics).

Strategies:
Specify prior knowledge.
Identify and articulate for students the minimal level of discipline-specific prior knowledge and skills necessary for your discussion-based course if it requires prerequisite knowledge or skills. Include this information in your course description so that students can make an informed decision or, if it is a required course, find a way to acquire the needed knowledge and skills before the course begins. Without this knowledge their contributions to discussion will be limited. Also include this information in your syllabus.

Assess prior knowledge.


Determine students level of prior knowledge by administering an assessment on the first day of class (or in advance of the first day, if possible). This assessment should indicate to you and to the students their level of understanding of the content that you expect them to already have. Again, lack of content will impact their participation in the discussion.

Address lack of prior knowledge.


Your strategy for dealing with students lack of prerequisite knowledge that will negatively impact their participation in discussion depends on how many students fall into that category. If, based on the assessment, the majority of students lack sufficient understanding of a topic/concept/theory that you expect them to be conversant with, you will need to provide remediation (e.g., spending class time on the topic, having your TA do a special session on the topic outside of class time, suggesting reading material). There is no use moving ahead if the material you want students to learn is contingent upon something they should already know but do not. If, based on the assessment, only a few students lack sufficient understanding, you can suggest they find a tutor, postpone taking the course until they acquire the prerequisite knowledge, or drop the course.

Use multiple representations.

Generate multiple examples, analogies, metaphors, etc., that cut across boundaries (e.g., nationality, race, gender, socioeconomic class, regional) because if you use white male middleclass culturally-based examples, etc., students from other groups are disadvantaged and often become silent during the discussion. For example, using sports analogies and/or language can alienate students who are not sports fans because they dont understand the reference.

Direct students reading.


Give students a set of questions to direct their attention while reading. This is particularly important for the first several reading assignments if your students are new to your discipline (e.g., freshmen, sophomores, or non-majors). This will help them learn, for example, to identify the authors argument and distinguish ideas from minutia, in order to cultivate the kind of metacognitive behavior you want them to have. As a result, they will develop the skills to become more effective and critical readers in your discipline, and hence be able to more meaningfully participate in class discussion. Make sure to integrate the questions as part of the discussion.

Students come to class late.


Students who come to class late have missed your articulation of the main goals of the discussion and/or the questions and issues under consideration. They may also have missed previous comments made by you and their peers. Consequently, they may be reticent to jump into the conversation given that they cannot build on previous comments or respond to others ideas and perspectives, for fear of taking the discussion off track or repeating something that has already been said, etc.

Strategies:
Identify the value of being in class on time.
Explicitly articulate the value of coming to class on time and the negative consequences for both the individual student and the entire class. Explain to students that you set the context, goals, and agenda for the class during the first few minutes. Without this context, it is more difficult to enter into the discussion with meaningful contributions. Moreover, coming in late can both break others concentration and interrupt the flow of conversation.

Specify your policy regarding attendance.


For examples, some faculty consider lateness equivalent to an absence in terms of the participation grade; others ask students to enter quietly and sit in the back if they must come late.

Establish a consequence associated with attendance.


Administer a quiz at the beginning of class to encourage students to come on time. Anyone who enters after you distribute the quiz is ineligible to participate.

Create a roadmap.
Display the goals, questions or issues for discussion and use them as mileposts to help all students seen where you have been and where you are going in the discussion. This roadmap can help to orient not only students who come late but also students who are distracted at some point in the discussion so that they can then be engaged or reengaged.

The instructor did not clearly articulate the goals of the discussion, define the structure, and/or effectively manage the process within the defined structure.
Students learn more when they know what it is they are expected to learn, hence outlining the goals of the discussion allow students to monitor their understanding as the discussion ensues. Clearly articulated goals also help the faculty member to structure the discussion so that is productive. For example, if your goal for the class is to evaluate an authors argument, the implicit structure is to identify and discuss the hypothesis, the methodology, the results, and the implications. If your goal is for students to debate a controversial issue, the implicit structure is presentation of both sides of the argument and ensuing debate. If your goal is to analyze a case, the implicit structure is to agree on the facts of the case, the key players and their agendas, potential solutions and their implications and, eventually, the best resolution. Implicit in each of these scenarios is a definition of what a valuable contribution and appropriate behavior are that will structure how students interact with you and each other. Finally, identifying methods and strategies to effectively manage the discussion (e.g., ground rules, appropriate questions) can help you deal with the complex and fast-paced nature of the classroom conversation.

Strategies:
Outline your goals.
Clearly articulate the goals for the discussion so that students understand what the desired outcome is, and use these goals as mileposts to help them recognize and monitor the development of their own understanding and the progress of the discussion.

Define your expectations.


Clearly specify your expectations regarding what constitutes both meaningful participation and productive discussion. For example, tell students that asking thoughtful questions, making connections to theory, building on previous comments, and identifying real world examples or applications make valuable contributions toward collective learning. The reason this is beneficial is because it allows student to engage in learning behaviors that align with the goals of the course and to monitor their progress toward those goals.

Articulate ground rules.

Lay ground rules for participation (pdf) that clearly define acceptable and unacceptable behavior, e.g., turn-taking, language. For example, it is not acceptable to use pejoratives, labels, or sarcasm; it is inappropriate to verbally attack a person rather than their idea; it is important to allow others to speak rather than interrupt or usurp the floor. The need for ground rules is even more important if you are dealing with a controversial issue where students in the minority perspective could potentially feel inhibited to participate. You may even involve students in this process to insure greater student buy-in.

Model appropriate behavior.


As you participate and lead the discussion, demonstrate for students meaningful interaction. For example, show students how to respectfully disagree with an idea or perspective rather than attack a peer.

Prepare your questions in advance.


Effective questions can engage students with the material and enhance discussion, so planning questions in advance that align with your goals is important, because different questions serve different purposes.
Vary the type of question you ask (e.g., exploratory, relational, diagnostic, cause-and-effect, summary) to regulate the direction and intensity of the discussion. Vary the cognitive skill your questions demand (e.g., knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation) to appropriately sequence the intellectual path of the discussion. Develop questions that require more than a yes or no response (i.e., open-ended). Ask probing questions (e.g., Can you tell me more about that? or What assumptions are you making?) when students reply to a question with a superficial, incomplete or overly complex response.

Identify why your questions are not effective.


Diagnose why students are not responding to the questions you are asking and modify them accordingly.
If the question has multiple embedded questions under the guise of one question, rephrase. If the question was too complex, either break it into component parts or allow students time to think about the question and their response. If you tend to answer your own question to avoid awkward silence in the classroom, explicitly tell students that silence is okay and you want them to take a minute or two to think before they respond. If students worry that you expect the perfect/right answer, give them permission to venture a hypothesis, brainstorm a potential solution, as students to identify an aspect of the reading that stood out to them. If several students are dominating the discussion, show your appreciation for their enthusiasm but tell them you want to hear from others in the class.

Build on previous discussion.


Expand on, compare, contrast or apply students previous questions or responses, and encourage them to do the same, to maintain coherence and momentum during the discussion.

Assure participation.
Keep track of who wants to enter the discussion by explicitly identifying the order in which you would like students to speak (e.g., make a list, tell students the order in which they will speak).

Allow students time to think.


Pose a question and give students a minute or two to think about and write down some ideas in response to the question. This is particularly useful in managing a heated discussion or a controversial issue.

Summarize the discussion.


Schedule time at the end of the class to recap the discussion, which can be done by either students or the instructor. Refer back to the goals or themes you articulated at the beginning of class. Also contextualize the days discussion as it relates to both past and future discussions.

The intellectual environment is not conducive to participation.


In order for students to talk in front of peers and the professor, they need to believe that their contributions will be valued and respected (even if in opposition to others perspectives). Both you and the students are responsible for creating a civil environment that encourages the free flow of thoughts and ideas.

Strategies:
Tactfully correct inaccurate information.
Diplomatically address incorrect information provided by students so that no one is embarrassed or uncomfortable. By doing this, you indicate to students that it is safe to venture a guess or take an intellectual risk. For example, you might say something like, You have just identified a common misperception, and I appreciate the opportunity to address the issue.

Validate meaningful contributions.


Publicly acknowledge the merit of students comments and/or participation so they feel valued and heard. For example, a quick brilliant or right on target takes very little time and has a large payoff.

Invite contradictory views.

Explicitly encourage students to voice alternative perspectives and respectfully explore conflicting views. Model this behavior by inviting and validating points of view that differ from your own. By doing this, students will feel safe discussing unpopular views or disagreeing with you and /or the rest of the class. This enables student to think more deeply about the topic, particularly if it is complex or controversial.

Reward student participation.


Use a tone of voice and non-verbal cues that reward student participation, e.g., nod, establish eye contact, smile, walk toward the speaker. Recognize the inherent ambiguity of certain facial expressions; for example, a furrowed brow can be misinterpreted as disappointment rather than concentration.

Use students names.


Call students by name and encourage them to address their peers by name during discussions. If you have a difficult time learning students names, refer to these suggestions. Some faculty use name tents or name tags the first few weeks of class to help students learn each others names. These strategies help to create a sense of community within the class, cultivate respect and civility, and foster a comfort level among the group that allows students to take intellectual risks, think out loud and participate more freely.

Articulate ground rules.


Lay ground rules for participation (pdf) that clearly define acceptable and unacceptable behavior, e.g., turn-taking, language. For example, it is not acceptable to use pejoratives, labels, or sarcasm; it is inappropriate to verbally attack a person rather than their idea; it is important to allow others to speak rather than interrupt or usurp the floor. The need for ground rules is even more important if you are dealing with a controversial issue where students in the minority perspective could potentially feel inhibited to participate. You may even involve students in this process to insure greater student buy-in.

The physical environment is not conducive to discussion.


Features or characteristics that may impact learning include, for example, seating arrangement, noise level, lighting, temperature, and technology.

Strategies:
Visit the classroom.
Prior to the course starting, visit the classroom to make sure that the physical environment supports the discussion.
Is it large enough?

Is it equipped with the appropriate technologies (e.g., black/white boards, internet connection, audio/video)? Are the desks moveable to allow a circular or semi-circular arrangement that facilitates student interaction, if this is what you want?

If you believe the classroom is not appropriate for a discussion class, contact your departmental administrator immediately.

Arrive early.
Go to the classroom a couple of minutes before each class to assure that the room is ready. For example, do you need to adjust the temperature or the configuration of the desks, close or open windows, or locate chalk/markers? Is the equipment you need functional and/or does it need to be turned on a few minutes before actual use?

Articulate ground rules.


Define your policy in your syllabus for a distraction-free environment. Each faculty member is free to define his/her own policies given that there are no university policies concerning this issue. For example,
Tell students if and when they can use laptops. Direct students to turn their cell phones off and take off their earphones. Inform students about what happens when they come to class late or leave early (e.g., sit in the last row which is for latecomers; lateness is counted as an absence). More on Ground Rules (PDF)

Students cant apply what they've learned.


Students struggle in individual activities because they did not gain deep understanding during previous group work.
It is a natural phenomenon that some members of a group are more or less engaged in performing the task at hand (i.e., they were watching or listening without doing). For example, it is not unusual in labs for one member to watch and record as the other makes decisions and takes action. Similarly, in a collaborative design project, despite contributions of ideas from all members of the group, there is typically one person who integrates these ideas and executes the plan. In these cases, the student who is making the decisions and actually completing the task at hand is the one learning the corresponding skills. Hence, this student will be more prepared to apply these skills in other, individually based contexts. The less actively involved students, however, will have missed this practice opportunity and may be less prepared to perform in individually

based contexts. Furthermore, because the less actively involved students were part of the conversation and observed the actions being taken by their team leader, they often have a false sense of their proficiency for performing the task on their own. So, it is particularly important to teach students to monitor their own understanding as accurately as possible. To quote Herb Simon, Learning results from what the student does and thinks and only from what the student does and thinks. The teacher can advance learning only by influencing what the student does to learn. Thus, even in the midst of group work, it is important to make sure that each student is getting sufficient individual practice and feedback.

Strategies:
Articulate your expectations.
Communicate explicitly to students that they will be individually responsible for demonstrating proficiency. Remind students that they need to be monitoring their own individual understanding, particularly in the context of group work (e.g., Be careful not to coast in a group because you will eventually be asked to perform these tasks individually).

Teach students to monitor their own understanding.


Ask students to assess their own proficiency with targeted, action-oriented questions at the end of a group exercise. For example, give students a concept and ask them to define whether they are familiar with it, could define it, could apply it on their own, etc. See resources for sample self-assessment probes. This should help your students begin to monitor their level of understanding. However, because students self-assessments may tend to be inflated, it helps to use direct assessment as well. (See next strategy.)

Assess individuals, even in group contexts.


Find ways to assess individual understanding within collaborative learning contexts. For example, ask each student in a lab pair to answer a question individually at the end of the lab session. More generally in group-work situations, assign specific, clearly articulated roles to individuals in the group and rotate these roles across multiple assignments so students eventually get practice at all elements of task completion. This works best when groups are stable across the semester. Ideas and group-work strategies.

Students often focus on superficial features instead of the underlying principles, concepts, or theories.
Students often focus on superficial features of the initial learning situations they encounter (e.g., examples, cases, and problems) without understanding or recognizing the general principle involved. So, when a new situation arises, they either lack the general concept you expected they had learned or lack the skill of identifying key ideas.

This often occurs because novices often mentally organize knowledge inappropriately, with missing or inaccurate links among ideas or by representing their knowledge as a disconnected set of facts. For example, when physics instructors introduce Newtons Second Law in the context of a problem that shows a block on an inclined plane, students learn from this how to solve inclined plane problems. While they do well on homework problems that look the same (i.e., that involve blocks on inclined planes), they fail to solve problems that look different even though the principle at work is still Newtons Second Law. In general, students often encode and organize new information in terms of its superficial aspectsthe details of the context, story, or situation (e.g., the inclined planes in the physics problems)such that what students learn is tied to the irrelevant features. Hence, in a new situation where they need to access this information, they do not have the appropriate cues linking to the relevant knowledge.

Strategies:
Assess students knowledge organization.
Give students a sorting task to help determine whether they are focusing on superficial features. Present students with several problems that have some superficial features in common and also some deep features in common. Then ask students to categorize these problems according to what they see as similar. If your students tend to group the problems that are superficially similar, this indicates that they lack an understanding of how to approach problems and recognize the deep structure in problems.

Model the expert approach.


Model the steps of planning an approach and identifying deep features of a situation in class as you solve a problem so that students can see how an expert sees problems. Involve students in this process by asking them questions throughout (e.g., How would you begin? What step would you take next? What features are important?). Also, be sure to provide students with opportunities to practice the skills of identifying important features and planning their approach because learning only occurs for the processes that students are exercising.

Explicitly teach recognition of deep features.


Provide several examples that differ superficially and explain how all of them share the same underlying principle, explicitly teaching students that they need to seek the underlying principle. Then you could provide another set of examples and ask students to discuss why the examples are all instances of the same principle.

Break problem solving into its component parts.

Include some problems on homework assignments and quizzes where students are only asked to identify the appropriate approach. This highlights that planning is a critical skill and gives students opportunities to practice it in isolation. Then, when students are ready, ask them to identify the principle that underlies the problem as part of their solution.

Identify students misconceptions.


Work to identify students misconceptions so that you know whether focusing on superficial features is, in fact, a problem for them. For example, when students visit your office hours with a question, ask them to talk aloud when working through a problem, issue, or concept because this is often when they share their thought processes with you.

Related Readings:
National Research Council. (2000). Chapter 2: How experts differ from novices. How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. 19-38. http://newton.nap.edu/html/ howpeople1/ch2.html National Research Council. (2000). Chapter 3: Learning and transfer. How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. 39-66. http://newton.nap.edu/html/ howpeople1/ch3.html Chi, M. T. H., Feltovich, P., & Glaser, R. (1981). Categorization and representation of physics problems by experts and novices. Cognitive Science, 6, 121-152. Chi1981.pdf Glaser, Robert, & Chi, Michelene T. H. (1988). Overview. The nature of expertise. Eds. M. T. H. Chi, R. Glaser, & M. J. Farr. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc. xv-xxviii. GlaserChi1988.pdf Reif, F. (1995). Millikan lecture 1994: Understanding and teaching important scientific thought processes. American Journal of Physics, 63(1), 17-32. Reif1995.pdf

Students have learned the individual skill or piece of knowledge but cant apply it in complex contexts because they havent practiced the skills of integration and synthesis.
Even though students can demonstrate proficiency in simplified contexts (e.g., articulating a single argument or executing a single technique), they have difficulty applying the same knowledge and skills in situations that impose added demands (e.g., when integrating ideas from different sources, applying multiple techniques to solve a larger problem, or under time pressure such as during an exam).

For example, early on in a history course students are able to identify and critique a particular argument from an individual reading. However, when they are asked to integrate multiple arguments into a persuasive thesis of their own, they have difficulty reconciling different points of view and pulling out pieces of the argument that can be used to shape the students unique perspective. Similarly, in a lighting design course, students learn which kinds of lighting create different moods and can easily apply this knowledge in a simple, specific situation. However, they have difficulty drawing on several different principles to create an appropriate lighting scheme when the scene requires complex contrasts (e.g., a joyful wedding in stoic Victorian England).

Strategies:
Provide practice on basic skills.
Give students more practice at developing fluency of basic skills (e.g., at the beginning of the course, have students identify the argument of each author; for each production that students see, have them analyze the lighting features and their corresponding mood-setting).

Share expert methods and strategies.


Explicitly teach students skills to manage the extra demands. For example, students can get by without taking notes on an individual argument from a single reading, but can benefit from tools or information-organizing strategies that experts in the area use when dealing with multiple arguments from multiple sources. See GlaserChi1988.pdf.

Provide stepping stones toward complexity.


Move incrementally from simple tasks to those with extra demands. For example, ask students to compare and contrast two authors arguments before going to a more broad or complex set of perspectives; assign group work in class so that individual students dont have to bear the full responsibility of the more complex situation before they have to do it on their own; assign intermediate level problems to bridge the gap between simple and complex (e.g., ask acting students to rehearse a 10- to 20-minute scene, moving to a 20- to 40-minute scene so that they can build up to a full-scale two-hour theatrical production).

Provide practice in synthesizing information.


Give students practice at integrating ideas because the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and they need to practice synthesizing information before they can adequately apply it in complex situations. For example, ask students to write in a way that makes connections among papers they have read or between their reading and the discussion/lecture. This builds the expectation that making connections is an important and exercised skill.

Teach students about learning.

Help students learn the different types of knowledge and sources of difficulty so that they can decompose the learning task (i.e., help students be more reflective and metacognitive). Just because students can recognize a theory doesnt mean that they can apply it, and just because they can recognize a term doesnt mean that they can define it in their own words.

Students have learned to rely on cues (from the teacher, textbook, or other parts of instruction) rather than learning themselves how to identify the appropriate approach.
Students often get practice in situations where they are directed (explicitly or implicitly) as to the appropriate procedure, approach, or perspective to apply (e.g., problems at the end of a chapter, questions at the end of a reading, or application of a procedure they just learned). This may lead instructors to falsely assume that students have also gained the metacognitive skill of identifying the appropriate procedure, approach, or perspective on their own. However, this is only one part of the larger problem-solving process that is often overlooked, and yet it requires modeling and practice.

Strategies:
Provide practice in the skill of selection.
Give students practice at the skill of choosing an appropriate approach after they have learned several different concepts, theories, etc. For example, in a statistics class, students learning to analyze data need to learn not only how to apply the various statistical techniques but also how to decide which technique is appropriate when and why. Giving students an assignment where, for each situation, they need to identify the appropriate statistical procedure and explain why that procedure is appropriate has several benefits. It gives students practice at this important skill of selection, offers an opportunity for them to get feedback on their selections, and allows them to focus not on problem solution but on problem planning (i.e., identifying the best approach).

Model and discuss your expert approach.


Explain directly to students the different kinds of knowledge that one uses in solving problems, writing papers, designing a product, and performing. This can be accomplished by modeling the knowledge you use in approaching these tasks (e.g., talking aloud as you complete a task in front of students or annotating examples with the planning steps and strategies you would use). These explicit explanations help students become more aware of the different types of knowledge they need to acquire and use, i.e., knowing the fact, concept, or theory at issue, knowing how to apply it, knowing when to apply it, and knowing why it is appropriate in the particular situation. Be sure to involve students in this process by asking them questions throughout (e.g., How would you begin? What step would you take next? What features are important?). Also, be sure to provide students with opportunities to practice the skills of identifying important features and planning their approach because learning only occurs for the processes that students are exercising. (See GlaserChi1988.pdf.)

Students compartmentalize knowledge and skills and hence cant draw on them.
Students often dont see the relevance of prior material because they compartmentalize knowledge by course, semester, professor, or discipline and so they dont even think to bring that knowledge to bear. This compartmentalization leads students to organize knowledge in a way that is very different from yours and can impede its use. For example, students learning about the concept of volatility in a finance course often dont recognize the relevance of the statistical concept of variability because they do not naturally bring to bear knowledge from other courses and because they may not see the common idea given the difference in terminology.

Strategies:
Provide prompts to relevant knowledge.
Explicitly cue students to their relevant knowledge by identifying the common idea referred to by different labels. When students have a cue into the relevant prior knowledge, it is easier for them to bring to mind what they already know. Then, as the semester progresses, students will view identifying relevant knowledge as part of the natural problem-solving process and hence you can reduce or eliminate your help in cueing them.

Work with your colleagues to identify areas of match and mismatch.


Speak to instructors of relevant courses regarding use of terminology, notation, approach, and the importance of different features. In some cases, you may see areas of mismatch that can be easily made more consistent, for example, with terminology or notation changes. In other cases, there may be differences that are not just conventions but rather reveal different emphases across subdisciplines. In these cases, being aware of differences will enable you to indicate them to students so they can more easily see and use relevant prior knowledge.

Other knowledge from prior or current courses or from everyday life can interfere with students ability to perform well in your course.
Students come into your course with a vast array of knowledge that they have learned in other courses and through daily life. Thus, they are not coming to you as a blank slate and will bring this prior knowledge to bear on new information. If this prior knowledge is inaccurate, incomplete, or simply inappropriate for your current course, it can interfere with students learning in your course. For example, students in an American History course often come in with the belief that slavery was the cause of the civil war rather than the Souths attempt to secede from the Union. So, in teaching students about causal explanations, they refuse to accept the accurate and more complex explanation, reverting to their simplistic and long-held view. Similarly, many students come to college having learned to write the standard 5-paragraph essay

and will try to apply this template to all of their writing tasks, even when it is inappropriate (e.g., lab reports, persuasive memo, case analysis). A more complex example involves the complications that anthropology students face in learning the concept of cultural relativism, in which one tries to understand a communitys practices within the context of its culture rather than judge those practices based on the students own cultural beliefs and knowledge. First, it is very difficult for students to suspend their long-held beliefs about what is right and wrongfor example, when trying to understand the practice of infanticide in another culture. Second, when students are asked to write an anthropological argument on the practice of infanticide, they may revert to a different style of argument (e.g., persuasive argument) and write a paper that evaluates the practice rather than applying the concept of cultural relativism.

Strategies:
Assess students prior knowledge.
Administer to students a prior knowledge assessment that taps into how students perceive or misperceive common terms, methods, concepts, or technical language in your discipline. You can then use the results to identify areas of mismatch between students prior knowledge and what you aim to teach and address those areas before moving on. For example, concept inventories are assessments designed to gauge students self-reported level of understanding (e.g., familiarity, ability to use when cued, ability to apply appropriately, ability to explain to a peer). Such concept inventories can be adapted to test for students possible misconceptions.

Talk to colleagues.
Find out what is being taught in courses related to yours (including high school) so you are better informed regarding what knowledge students bring to your course. Speak to instructors of relevant courses to identify areas of match and mismatch in the use of terminology, notation, approach, and importance of different features (e.g., in physics emphasizing the direction of a force versus in statics the location of a force). In some cases, you may see areas of mismatch that can be easily made more consistentfor example, with terminology or notation changes. In other cases, there may be differences that are not just conventions but rather reveal different emphases across subdisciplines. In these cases, being aware of differences will enable you to indicate them to students so they can more easily see and use their relevant prior knowledge.

Provide prompts to relevant knowledge.


At the beginning of the course, explicitly cue students to relevant knowledge from other courses. As the semester progresses, students will view identifying relevant knowledge as part of the natural problem-solving process and hence you can reduce or eliminate your help in cueing them.

Explain disciplinary norms.

Dont make assumptions about students knowledge of disciplinary norms (e.g., what an argument is in anthropology or what makes an effective lab report). For example, just because students have been reading papers in a given genre throughout the semester does not mean that students have inferred the unique features or structure of the genre, particularly to the level required to write such papers on their own.

Students dont view knowledge as cumulative and useful across courses and hence dont draw on relevant prior knowledge from other courses.
Even though students can demonstrate proficiency gained in other courses in simplified contexts (e.g., articulating a single argument, executing a technique), they have difficulty applying the same knowledge and skills in new courses under different demands (e.g., when integrating ideas from different sources, applying what they have learned in a new context). This is a common problem in capstone courses, where the goal is to help students integrate and apply knowledge they have learned across multiple courses in the preceding several years. These intellectual tasks are challenging for students because they require students to identify which knowledge is relevant from a vast array of things they have previously learned, simultaneously consider the implications of multiple pieces of information, and then integrate this disparate knowledge as they apply it in the current context. For example, students asked to design a bridge in a senior civil engineering capstone course need to draw on concepts from courses such as physics, calculus, structural engineering, and materials science and integrate this knowledge as they create a new design. Similarly, students asked to design and market a product in a capstone course need to draw on concepts from courses as diverse as engineering, design, and marketing.

Strategies:
Model the expert approach.
Model for students the processes of identifying relevant knowledge, simultaneously considering implication of multiple pieces of information, and integrating and applying disparate knowledge. For example, set up a mock design situation where you talk aloud as you plan your approach. After demonstrating these skills in one situation, involve students in the process by asking them questions as you pose another (e.g., How would you begin? What relevant knowledge should you apply? How will you handle the complexity of the situation?). Also, after modeling your approach and giving students a chance to apply it with your guidance, be sure to provide students with opportunities to practice the skills of identifying important features and planning their approach because learning only occurs for the processes that students are exercising. (See GlaserChi1988.pdf.)

Provide practice of basic skills.


Give students more practice at developing fluency in applying basic skills. For example, at the beginning of the course, have students identify the argument of each author. Similarly, for each production that students see, have them analyze the lighting features and their corresponding

mood-setting. In this way, students will be that much more proficient at their basic skills, making it easier for them to apply them in more complex contexts.

Share expert methods and strategies.


Explicitly teach students skills to manage the extra demands of more complex situations. For example, students can get by without taking notes on individual arguments from single readings, but can benefit from tools or information-organizing strategies that experts use when managing multiple arguments from multiple authors. (See GlaserChi1988.pdf.)

Provide stepping stones as complexity increases.


Move more incrementally from simple tasks to those with extra demands (e.g., ask students to compare and contrast two authors arguments before going to a more broad or complex set of perspectives; assign group work in class so individual students dont have to bear the full responsibility of the more complex situation before they have to do it on their own; assign intermediate level problems to bridge the gap between simple and complex (e.g., ask acting students to rehearse a 10- to 20-minute scene, moving to a 20- to 40-minute scene, etc., so that they can build up to a full-scale two-hour theatrical production).

Provide practice in synthesizing information.


Give students practice at integrating ideas because the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and they need to practice synthesizing information before they can adequately apply it in complex situations. For example, ask students to write in a way that makes connections among papers they have read or between their reading and the discussion/lecture. This builds the expectation that making connections is an important and exercised skill.

Teach students about learning.


Help students learn the different types of knowledge and sources of difficulty so they can decompose the learning task (i.e., help students to practice and see the benefits of reflecting on their own thought processes). Just because students can recognize a theory doesnt mean that they can apply it, and just because they can recognize a term doesnt mean that they can define it in their own words.

Students dont come to lecture.


Students feel anonymous given the size of the class and do not believe that their presence matters.
This feeling of anonymity is prevalent in large classes, but not necessarily confined to them. Students feel anonymous when they dont have a relationship with the instructor, TAs, or other students. Overcoming these feelings of anonymity can help to create a sense of community

among students and/or a connection to the instructor. Either of these can help to foster a sense of responsibility to the class.

Strategies:
Arrive early and chat with students.
This is an opportunity for you to get to know more about your students; for example, you can ask questions that range from How was your weekend? or Have you seen any interesting movies lately? to How difficult was the last homework assignment? or How long did the last lab take you to complete? These quick and simple gestures will help students to build a sense of connection to you.

Actively engage students.


Find meaningful ways to actively engage students in the material, perhaps by posing intellectually interesting questions and allowing students to talk with each other during class, so that they feel part of an intellectual community. You can use the student response systems in many of the classrooms to have students vote on responses.

Attempt to learn students names.


While some people are much better at remembering names, students appreciate the attempt despite whether you are successful or not. Ask students their name when they pose a question or answer one of yours, and use the name in responding to them. Download a copy of the photo roster from ACIS and bring it to class with you.

Encourage students to get to know one another.


Building community helps foster a sense of responsibility to the class. For example, on the first day of lecture, ask students to introduce themselves to the four people surrounding them. If you assign group work, insist that groups change over the course of the semester. If you have students work in pairs during class, periodically ask students to sit in different places to broaden their interaction with peers.

The time of day is not appealing to students (e.g., early morning, late afternoon).

Strategies:
Create an incentive to attend.
Take advantage of students obsession with grades by linking attendance to grades. For example, you can make attendance a part of the grade or you can administer a very short quiz at the

beginning of class, e.g., student response systems (now present in many CM classrooms) allow you to administer and grade these quizzes easily.

You put your PowerPoint slides on Blackboard, and so students assume that those notes are enough information for them to master the subject/topic.

Strategies:
Design your slides to encourage attendance.
Explicitly inform students that your PowerPoint slides are incomplete, and they need to annotate those notes during the lecture. For example, the posted slides can provide the skeletal structure for the lecture, with fuller explanations and examples missing.

Students assume they can copy notes from a peer and master the subject.

Strategies:
Discourage reliance on peers notes.
Explicitly tell students that they need to attend class, and caution them that other students notes can never fully capture what happens in lecture or may be of poor quality.

Students are bored because they are not innately interested in the content and they dont see the relevance to their academic and/or professional goals.

Strategies:
Use material that connects with students.
Embed examples, applications, and topics within lectures that either connect to students fields of study and/or resonate with the culture and interests of this generation of students.

Students are bored because they are not actively engaged in the lecture, which requires fifty minutes of focused attention.

Strategies:
Refocus their attention.

The typical attention span for most students is between ten and twenty minutes. This argues for planning your lecture in chunks of fifteen to twenty minutes, using varied activities to re-engage students attention, e.g., pose a question, use visuals, conduct a demonstration, break into groups, show a portion of a video, use the classroom response system.

Pique students interest.


Begin the lecture by posing a challenging question or providing an intriguing anecdote, etc., that will pique students interest and motivate their attention for the next fifty minutes.

Convey your enthusiasm.


Dont underestimate the impact of your own enthusiasm and excitement for the subject. Demonstrate your passion, for example, by sharing stories from your own experience, because in this venue peoples voice and body language naturally convey their excitement for their discipline.

The lecture reiterates what is in the textbook, and since many students learn more effectively from reading than listening because they can read at their own pace, re-read if confused, etc., they opt to do that rather than attend lecture.

Strategies:
Use class time to complement the reading.
For example, during lecture you can expand on the reading, provide alternative examples or perspectives, or have students engage in some way with the material (e.g., generate their own example of a concept they read about; solve a more complex problem using the strategies introduced in the reading; identify a real world application of a theory).

Expose students to experience(s) they would not typically have access to.
For example, bring in a guest lecturer, conduct a demonstration, or share recent innovations, discoveries, or breakthroughs that are just emerging in the field.

Students have difficulty discerning the goals and/or organization of the lecture.

Strategies:
State your goals.
Clearly articulate the goals of the lecture so that students understand what the desired outcomes are, and use these goals as mileposts to help them recognize the progress of the lecture.

Explicitly share the organization of the lecture.


Dont assume your students, who are novices in the discipline, will easily make connections among concepts and ideas, or see the logical organization of the material. Because organization is important in helping students to retrieve and use information both now and in the future, providing an outline, agenda or visual representation of the lecture greatly aids students learning.

Students are feeling overwhelmed by other academic and/or non-academic demands.

Strategies:
Encourage students to use support services.
If you identify students who are not attending lecture because they are overwhelmed, refer them to Academic Development, their advisor, the Counseling Center, Student Affairs, and/or Student Health). If you have questions about how best to refer students to these services, contact the respective professionals for advice.

Students whose first language is not English (who are not just international students) are having difficulty following the lecture.

Strategies:
Encourage students to use support services.
If you suspect that a lack of language proficiency is a problem for students, refer them to the Intercultural Communication Center. If you have questions about how best to refer students to the ICC, you can contact them for advice.

Students dont keep up with the reading.


Students may lack either the general or the discipline-specific skills necessary to focus on the relevant aspects of the reading.
While reading might seem to be a straightforward task, in fact it involves complex processes the experienced reader has questions in mind as she approaches a reading and is able to recognize key features, prioritize certain kinds of information, etc. Many of the reading strategies we employ as experts in our fields have become automatic and unconscious to us. We forget that, at some point, we learned them and that our students might need to learn them, too.

Even students who have good general reading skills may lack discipline-specific skills and require help learning how to approach readings in your discipline. They may not recognize the organizational structure of a text and may lack the skills necessary to discern the important ideas, distinguish argument from evidence, or recognize an authors intended audience, assumptions, or goals. They may read every word of a chapter or article but not know what they are supposed to do with it. When students lack the skills to identify the relevant aspects of a reading they may accord every sentence equal weight and thus:
take too long with each reading and fall behind fail to comprehend the reading properly or process it inadequately, thus appearing not to have done it

The issues above can be exacerbated for students from other cultural backgrounds, who may be used to different conventions in writing and argumentation and thus have difficulty recognizing the organizational structure of assigned readings. Second-language issues may also slow them down, making it more difficult to keep up with the reading.

Strategies:
Provide parameters for how long reading should take.
Give students a sense of how much time it should take them to get through a particular kind of reading (bearing in mind that it is normal for students to take 3-4 times longer than you do to read a text). Advise them to come talk with you if it is taking them significantly longer than this (6 hours for a 15-page article, for example) and refer them to Academic Development for help developing more effective textbook reading strategies. If you think the problem is cultural/linguistic, refer students to the Intercultural Communication Center.

Scaffold reading assignments.


Begin the course with simpler readings and work up to increasingly complex, theoretically challenging or sophisticated readings. This allows students time to build the skills necessary to read effectively.

Operationalize performance criteria.


Make explicit to students what you expect them to be able to do after completing a reading. For example, you might inform them that for each reading they should be able to tell you the central question posed, the argument made, and three pieces of evidence enlisted to support it. Or you might ask students to come to class with a one-sentence summary of the readings main point, a question it raised for them, or a critique. Hold students responsible for this information by

requiring them to submit it in writing or by asking them for their summaries, questions, or critiques as a preamble to discussion.

Model your own reading strategies.


As an experienced reader in your discipline, you never just read; you approach readings with a set of questions and strategies designed to pull relevant information out quickly. You also know how to vary your questions and strategies depending on the genre. Help students see how experts in your discipline approach reading by talking students through how you yourself approach different kinds of texts in your discipline: What parts of a book or article do you look at first (date of publication? authors name? table of contents? preface?) and why? What questions do you have in mind when you begin to read? What do you take time with? Skim through? Come back to? How do you approach a book differently than a journal article or a primary document? One instructor, for example, illustrates to students how he prioritizes information as he reads by showing students a passage of text, with the main ideas or arguments in large font, the supporting points and evidence in medium-sized font, and the incidental information in small font. He then has students practice doing the same thing themselves with other passages of text. Other instructors show students their margin notes and annotations to show how they identify key ideas and flag problematic assertions. Modeling your own approach to reading helps students to recognize that reading is a conversation between a reader and the text, and conditions them to approach the task of reading actively and inquisitively, rather than passively. Because these are skills that students need to practice as well as understand, ask them questions (in discussion or on assignments) that support the goals you are pursuing.

Give questions to guide reading.


Help students learn to recognize the organizational structure of readings and distinguish key ideas by giving them questions (in class or as homework) that require them to discern arguments and positions, identify assumptions, delineate and evaluate evidence, etc. This is especially important for the first several reading assignments if students are new to your discipline. Instructors can require students to submit their answers or simply use them as the basis for discussion. Also, ask questions that support the reading strategies that you want students to develop. For example, if you think its important for students to read the preface of a book, ask questions that require students to have done so, for example including questions that ask about the authors motivation or the genesis of the book. By repeatedly asking certain kinds of questions, instructors reinforce the meta-cognitive skills they want students to develop as readers.

Students may lack the background knowledge to fully comprehend readings.


If students lack background knowledge necessary to understand a reading or subtleties within it they may appear not to have read carefully or at all. For example, a student who does not know something about the colonial history of Africa might fail to comprehend significant parts of an authors argument about present-day Nigeria. Students may also get confused and give up on a reading that presumes background information they do not have. Students from different cultural backgrounds (within the United States as well as internationally) may misapprehend readings because they misinterpret idiomatic phrases or do not understand key cultural references.

Strategies:
Clearly spell out prerequisite knowledge for the course.
Explain to students (in broad strokes) what you expect them to know going into your course. State your expectations or requirements in your syllabus and reiterate them at the beginning of the semester. For example, an instructor in a course on U.S. labor history might tell students that (a) she expects them to know basic U.S. history and (b) they will be responsible for doing factfinding on their own if they encounter references to historical events with which they are unfamiliar. The instructor in an Environmental Science course might tell students that they are responsible for knowing certain concepts from biology and should consider dropping the course if they do not.

Give pre-assessments to gauge background knowledge.


Administer a short pre-test to assess the extent of students background knowledge in certain areas. Depending on what you discoveras well as the goals of your course and its place within the broader departmental curriculumyou can consider providing more (or less) background information in your lectures, directing students to materials they should read or practice on their own, or discouraging students from taking the course altogether.

Frame the readings.


Where possible, give students important background information about the readings in advance. If one reading, for example, centers on 21st-century reinterpretations of a 6th-century Middle Eastern war, you may need to fill students in about the war itself. Similarly, if a reading is a response to a classic piece of philosophy, students may need some background information about the work that inspired it. It may not always be possibleor even desirableto contextualize readings (you may, for example, want the students to guess the context themselves); however, if students are consistently misunderstanding a reading, consider providing more background.

It also isnt always necessary for students to understand all aspects of a reading in order for the reading to accomplish your learning objectives. To prevent consternation and confusion among students when they encounter unfamiliar vocabulary or concepts, consider telling them what they are not expected to know. For example, in a course on cross-cultural psychology, you might inform students that while they are expected to know the psychological principles and theories featured in readings, they do not have to know the anthropological terms and references. In a course on environmental statistics, you could tell students they will need only a rough grasp of the biological principles and should focus their attention on issues of statistical validity.

Ask students to note areas of confusion.


It is not always possible to anticipate where students lack critical background knowledge. To stay abreast of where these gaps in knowledge are, and to help your students develop metacognitive skills, ask them to note unfamiliar vocabulary or confusing references. Depending on the nature of the missing knowledge, you could instruct students to seek the answers on their own, to bring their questions to class or submit them in writing, or to consult you or a TA for explanations.

Students might not perceive a sufficient payoff for keeping up with the reading.
Carnegie Mellon students consistently report that they are less motivated to do readings if little or no proportion of their grade depends on doing them. Students also are more likely to do readings that do not duplicate material they can learn in other ways, such as by attending lectures. While we would all prefer that students did their assigned reading for the pure love of knowledge (as opposed to grades), research indicates that extrinsic rewards for certain kinds of tasks can eventually lead students to value those tasks for intrinsic reasons. In other words, even if students initially do the readings to get the grade, simply doing the reading can lead them to a deeper appreciation of its intrinsic value.

Strategies:
Increase the payoff for students who do the reading.
Structure your assessments and grading criteria such that skipping the reading or reading carelessly will have consequences for a students performance and thus grade. You might, for example, include essay questions on exams about assigned books or require students to submit written answers to questions about assigned articles. You might require students to incorporate assigned reading into semester-long projects or research papers. You might consider requiring students to keep reading journals that you collect regularly or without warning. Capitalize on the social dynamics in the classroom by either asking questions about readings that require students to articulate their understandings publicly or assigning individual students or groups of students the responsibility for leading a discussion of particular readings.

Such strategies are not just clever motivational levers. They also help ensure that there is alignment in your course among learning objectives, assessments, and instructional activities. In other words, you should assign readings that help students meet the learning objectives and use assessments that determine whether these learning objectives have been met.

Avoid redundancy.
Select your readings carefully so that they complement other course materials without duplicating them. Readings should reinforce, illustrate, add greater depth to, or provide new perspectives on the material covered in lectures, such that students perceive a benefit to keeping up with the reading.

Students might not see the relevance of readings to other course material or to their own lives.
Motivational theories predict, and research confirms, that students allocate their time and efforts to those tasks that maximize the expected value of the task. One of the factors that increases the perceived value is relevance. If students can clearly see the benefit of the material to their future careers, or if the material connects to material from other courses they are interested in, it will be more relevant to them and they will put more effort into it. This will also be true if reading material connects to students lives and interests. Conversely, students may avoid readings if they dont perceive a connection to their own lives, for example, if they do not perceive that the readings fairly represent the contributions of people from their race, ethnicity, or gender. In extreme cases, students may be actively put off by the readings, and may stop reading if they find the material painful or uncomfortable (for example, readings on rape or incest) or if they find the readings objectionable (for example, because they represent racist or homophobic attitudes or political or religious positions that they strenuously disagree with.) What is important here is both the relevance of reading material and student perceptions of its relevance. Sometimes the connections that are clear to us (for example, why we chose a particular reading to illustrate a concept) are not clear to students, possibly because of how students are organizing knowledge in their own minds.

Strategies:
Ensure relevance.
Review the readings every year to see if they still meet the objectives of the course. Are they relevant and interesting? Do they reflect emerging issues in the discipline? Are they timely or dated? Do they marginalize or tokenize certain groups? After reviewing your readings, you might choose to add or subtract readings to increase their salience to students and to reflect the frontier of the field.

Point out the relevance of the readings.

Make sure students understand why the readings have been selected by highlighting their relevance to the course, the discipline, the students future professional life, current events, or issues that the students care about. You might even ask the students to draw these connections themselves in short assignments or discussions. If you anticipate the readings will prompt emotional reactions, explain their value to student learning and acknowledge possible reactions.

The amount of assigned reading may be unrealistic.


Sometimes professors underestimate how much time it will take the students to do the readings and simply assign too much. Instructors also sometimes consider the length of reading assignments without taking into account the type of reading it is. For example, it might take students considerably longer to read 50 pages of political philosophy than it would take them to read 50 pages from a novel.

Strategies:
Carefully structure the workload.
Make sure your course requirements, including readings and other assignments, are consistent with the university time-unit guidelines (a unit represents one hour of work per week, on the average). When you are allocating time for readings, remember it might take 3-4 times longer for them than it takes for you, depending on the students level and on the kind of reading assigned (e.g., theoretical treatises vs. items from the popular press).

Students think they can read the material just before an exam and get the same (or perhaps even greater) benefit.
Students need time to assimilate reading material and integrate it with their prior knowledge and the knowledge and skills they are building concurrently. However, students who lack certain meta-cognitive strategies may not understand the importance of appropriately spaced practice and thus may attempt to do all their reading in one sitting. If their scholastic experience has prepared them only for exams that require simple regurgitation of knowledge, they might have even found it beneficial to do all the readings just before the exam. While this may work in high school classes (and perhaps some poorly designed college courses), its unlikely to be an effective strategy overall.

Strategies:
Emphasize the benefits of appropriately spaced reading.
Discuss with students what the benefits are to them of allowing time to process the material.

Hold students immediately responsible for readings.

Create assignment and discussion criteria that make it impossible to leave all the reading until the end. It is particularly important to do this early in the course, to help students learn effective meta-cognitive strategies. You can remove this scaffolding by reducing such assignments as the students learn to take more ownership of the process and begin to recognize for themselves the value of keeping up with the readings.

Students are responding to course content and/or classroom dynamics in emotional and unproductive ways.
The course content inadvertently alienates or threatens students.
While some level of emotional engagement fosters student motivation, it is possible that significantly heightened emotions will interfere with students learning. For example, students may become upset and stop listening, withdraw from participation, or in extreme cases storm out of the classroom or drop the course. In addition to the climate that we establish in our classes, we should consider how the course content itself might prompt emotional reactions. Course content includes not only the readings and topics we select for a course, but also the examples and metaphors we use in class and the project topics we allow our students to choose. Controversial or provocative topics can elicit strong emotional responses and make students feel threatened or alienated, but so can the types of materials we choose to include or not include in the course. For example, a biology class that only mentions male biologists or a contemporary literature class that only includes literature by Caucasian writers can be interpreted as a statement about who belongs and does not belong in the field. For students developing their sense of identity, purpose, and competence, these subtle (and generally unintended) messages can influence their motivation to engage with the material or continue in the field.

Strategies:
Consider whether course content inadvertently marginalizes students.
Think about whether certain perspectives are systematically unrepresented in your course materials and, if so, what message that may send. For example, a course on family that focuses only on traditional families may communicate an unintended value judgment about students families that do not fit this mold. By the same token, a course on public policy that ignores rural populations might convey disregard for some students experiences that makes them feeling alienated. When making decisions about course content, it makes sense to consider how the choices you make about content can influence students emotionally and consequently affect their investment in the course. If there is a valid reason that the course content is not inclusive or that you are discouraging a student from pursuing a particular research topic, you should share it so that students understand the rationale behind your choices.

Practice and model inclusiveness.


Instructors may make assumptions about their students backgrounds and characteristics that are not accurate. When instructors act on those assumptions, such as making statements that presume a shared political perspective or class background, students who do not share those characteristics may feel excluded, self-conscious, or defensive. Likewise, instructors who try to connect with their students by using pop cultural references or extremely idiomatic English might exclude international students or older students from the discussion. While it is difficult not to make some assumptions about students frames of reference, in the interests of creating a healthy course climate, instructors should consider whether their assumptions about students are accurate and try to make the metaphors, examples, and language that they use accessible to everyone. Instructors can also model inclusiveness by taking the time to explain idioms and cultural references for the benefit of non-native English speakers (or asking students to) and, when possible, using examples that are accessible regardless of sex, culture, socioeconomic status, age. Modeling inclusiveness can be a powerful learning experience for all students and increase the level of investment that students have in the course content.

Anticipate and prepare for potentially sensitive issues.


If you know that certain topics in your course tend to elicit strong feelings--for example, abortion or capital punishment--talk with your students ahead of time about the emotional aspect of these topics. You can do this in a way that helps galvanize positive emotionssuch as excitement and motivationwhile making students aware of the need to monitor and reflect on their own emotional reactions. For example, you might say, The next unit of this course on immigration invariably elicits strong opinions because it involves socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and other very personal aspects of identity. If you find yourself becoming upset or angry during discussions, Id like you to reflect on what you are feeling and why so that we can consider these critical issues in a thoughtful, measured way. You can also remind students that differences of opinion are healthy, give them language for expressing disagreement respectfully, encourage them to reason from evidence rather than emotion, and provide opportunities for them to write and reflect. Anticipating hot moments and preparing students for them can help students channel their emotional reactions in intellectually productive ways.

Students do not yet possess the maturity to contribute productively.


College students are still in the process of developing the intellectual and social maturity to deal with complex issues, so they may not be as prepared to deal with challenging topics as we would hope. Indeed, research on intellectual development shows that students thinking early in their college careers may be highly dualistic; in other words, they tend to view complex issues in terms of right and wrong. As students learn more about the world in general and their disciplines in particular, they tend to move into a stage of multiplicity, where they recognize a diversity of perspectives but come to think of all opinions as ultimately subjective. Over time, students move into the next stage in which they consider diverse perspectives on the same issue, weigh evidence, and formulate their own positions. Your students level of intellectual development influences how they react emotionally to course content and climate and consequently affects their engagement and learning. Students are also still developing in terms of social and emotional

maturity, so they may not be fully aware of their own emotions or be able to express them appropriately or productively.

Strategies:
Have realistic expectations.
Education should challenge students beliefs and assumptions and push them out of their comfort zone. However, it is important for instructors to be aware of students current levels of intellectual and social development and set their expectations accordingly. For instance, instructors should not be surprised if students at the dualistic stage of intellectual development find ambiguity uncomfortable and frustrating or if students at the multiplicity stage view all perspectives as equally valid and take offense if asked to justify their opinions with evidence. Instructors should also not expect students to already have the language and social skills appropriate for debating contentious issues civilly and constructively. Recognizing that intellectual and social development are processes can help instructors develop learning opportunities that help students progress towards greater maturity and sophistication.

Support students at early stages of intellectual development.


Instructors may need to provide support for students as they develop the intellectual and social maturity to deal with challenging issues productively. There are several ways to do this. One approach is to explain to students that the point of classroom discussions is not to determine a single right answer, but rather to explore different possibilities and sharpen their abilities to listen, reason, and articulate ideas. It is also helpful to explain that critical thinking involves embracing complexity rather than oversimplifying matters and then reinforce the point by showing students how issues they think they understand are more complex and multifaceted. Other approaches include considering different viewpoints (including unpopular ones), giving assignments that allow for multiple correct solutions, asking students to generate alternative approaches to problem-solving, and requiring students to debate from a devils advocate position. It can also be helpful to give students appropriate language for expressing disagreement civilly and constructively. For example, it can help students to know that they can ask for more time to think when they are flustered. It is also helpful to provide discussion ground rules (pdf) to ensure a civil exchange of ideas.

Students are experiencing personal problems that are outside your control.
Individual students may exhibit inappropriate behaviors or emotional reactions in class for reasons that have little or nothing to do with you or your course. They may be under stress from personal or family crises, for example, or struggling with drugs or alcohol. Moreover, some students may have mental health conditions that make them especially sensitive or insensitive to social cues; this is especially true these days as more students are able, through the use of medication, to come to college with cognitive and psychological conditions that might have kept them out of college a generation ago.

Strategies:
Talk to the student outside of class.
If a student seems particularly emotional, you might want to pull him or her aside after class to ask about the situation. It is possible that you have through no fault of your own touched on a topic in class that is an emotional trigger for that student. Simply taking the student aside, expressing concern, and explaining what your intentions were and were not can help to defuse the situation and can also help the student differentiate personal reactions from intellectual analysis.

Use campus resources.


Inappropriate or bizarre behavior in class, including excessive emotions, can sometimes indicate larger and more serious problems for the student. If a students behavior is worrying you, you might want to seek advice from campus resources before talking to the student one on one. For example, you might want to seek advice from Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) or contact the Dean of Student Affairs or the students adviser to see if the student in question is exhibiting similar patterns in other classes.

Prerequisite Knowledge & Preparedness


Students background knowledge and skills vary widely.
Many courses, especially survey-level courses, enroll students with a broad range of backgrounds, previous educational experiences, majors, interests, motivations as well as levels of important prior knowledge and skills. In many instances, this diversity is manageable and if handled skillfully can provide substantial benefits to the educational context of the classroom. However, when the distribution of the class is such that there are two distinct groups of students with radically disparate levels of knowledge and skills (a bi-modal distribution), there is a limited range of solutions that instructors may use to manage this difficult situation.

The course has no specific prerequisites.


Generally, a range of background knowledge and skills among students is expected and even productive. However, when there is a significant group of students who lack the critical prior knowledge necessary to succeed in the course, you need to make a decision regarding how much responsibility you are willing to assume for tutoring or remediation.

Strategies:
Set appropriate prerequisites if you have the ability to do so.
Even in courses that do not traditionally have prerequisites, instructors often have leeway in setting the standards and requirements for their courses. Check with your department, college or other appropriate unit to determine if you can institute or adjust prerequisites for your course.

Empower students to make the appropriate decision about what to do next (e.g., work extra hard, delay taking the course, etc).
Explain to the students how their lack of background knowledge or skills may influence their ability to successfully master the material in the course and achieve a passing grade. Empower students to make the appropriate decision about what to do next. Options include working extra hard, seeking help from a tutor, and postponing the course until they have acquired the necessary background.

Identify and clarify expectations up-front.


Use the syllabus, the first day of class, and your course management system to state very explicit expectations for the students. Clarify your learning objectives, your expectations in terms of high school courses as well as relevant bodies of knowledge and skills. In addition, state clearly the options students have for catching up if they do not meet the appropriate expectations (e.g., will you do extra review sessions or will students be expected to catch up on their own?).

Revisit course objectives.


If you have limited control over which students enroll in your course and a significant number of them are missing crucial background knowledge or skills, you may need to revisit your course objectives. This means you may need to scale back on the scope of the course and include the material or skills your students are lacking. For example, if your students lack important writing ability, you may need to address the specific writing skills they need to succeed in your course in parallel with your course content.

Split sections.
Some courses have experimented with separate sections for specific majors (e.g., a linear algebra section for computer scientists, physics for engineers) or for students based on scores to a diagnostic test. If this is a feasible option for you, you can tailor the course to the students prior knowledge, ability and/or motivation. You can fine-tune the learning objectives, and introduce examples and applications that are relevant to the major or appropriate to the students ability. Check with your department if splitting classes into such sections is an option for your course.

Direct students to Academic development and support services.

Some of the services that Academic Development offers include supplemental instruction, individual and group tutoring, and study skills workshops. In addition they facilitate the formation of study groups within courses.

Facilitate the formation background and skills.

of

study

groups

based

on

Advise students to form study groups within the course if they are having trouble staying up-todate. Some instructors leave space in the syllabus for the contact information of two students, then ask everybody on the first day to turn to their left and to their right and ask the students next to them for their contact information. This way, the students start connecting on the first day of class, and will be more likely to follow up if they need help.

Have your TA offer extra non-required remedial instruction.


If your pre-assessments identify a well-defined, self-contained area where students are generally lacking (e.g, basic combinatorics) you can ask your TA to conduct an optional review session on that topic.

Point students to extra resources (texts, handouts).


If you dont want to spend extra class time on specific topics, consider prov iding students with handouts, textbook chapters they can review, online tutorials or other complementary materials. These materials can be viewed outside of class, when students have more time to work through them. If possible, include self-scoring exercises so that students can monitor their own learning.

The course draws students across majors.


Some courses are required across a variety of majors (e.g., Introduction to Statistical Reasoning) and thus draw students from very different backgrounds, facilities and motivations. In this case, students bring very different ways of thinking to the classroom as well as important differences in background knowledge and skills. Often, the consequence is a significant group of students for whom there are significant gaps in important knowledge and skills.

Strategies:
Identify and clarify expectations up-front.
Use the syllabus, the first day of class, and your course management system to state very explicit expectations for the students. Clarify your learning objectives, the necessary prerequisites, both in terms of previous courses as well as relevant bodies of knowledge and skills. In addition, state clearly the options students have for catching up if they do not meet the appropriate expectations (e.g., will you do extra review sessions or will students be expected to catch up on their own?).

Empower students to make the appropriate decision about what to do next (e.g., work extra hard, delay taking the course, etc).
Explain to the students how their lack of background knowledge or skills may influence their ability to successfully master the material in the course and achieve a passing grade. Empower students to make the appropriate decision about what to do next. Options include working extra hard, seeking help from a tutor, and postponing the course until they have acquired the necessary background.

Split sections
Some courses have experimented with separate sections for specific majors (e.g., a linear algebra section for computer scientists, physics for engineers) or for students based on scores to a diagnostic test. If this is a feasible option for you, you can tailor the course to the students prior knowledge, ability and/or motivation. You can fine-tune the learning objectives, and introduce examples and applications that are relevant to the major or appropriate to the students ability. Check with your department if splitting classes into such sections is an option for your course.

Direct students to Academic Development and support services.


Some of the services that Academic Development offers include supplemental instruction, individual and group tutoring, and study skills workshops. In addition they facilitate the formation of study groups within courses.

Facilitate the formation background and skills.

of

study

groups

based

on

Advise students to form study groups within the course if they are having trouble staying up-todate. Some instructors leave space in the syllabus for the contact information of two students, then ask everybody on the first day to turn to their left and to their right and ask the students next to them for their contact information. This way, the students start connecting on the first day of class, and will be more likely to follow up if they need help.

Have your TA offer extra non-required remedial instruction.


If your pre-assessments identify a well-defined, self-contained area where students are generally lacking (e.g, basic combinatorics) you can ask your TA to conduct an optional review session on that topic.

Point students to extra resources (texts, handouts).


If you dont want to spend extra class time on specific topics, consider providing students with handouts, textbook chapters they can review, online tutorials or other complementary materials. These materials can be viewed outside of class, when students have more time to work through them. If possible, include self-scoring exercises so that students can monitor their own learning.

Students have different high school experiences.


There is substantial variation in the content, emphasis, style and rigor in the high school educational experiences of our students. Therefore, even among students with the same major, equal degrees of motivation and interest, and similar levels of intelligence there may be significantly varied levels of important background knowledge and skills.

Strategies:
Identify and clarify expectations up-front.
Use the syllabus, the first day of class, and your course management system to state very explicit expectations for the students. Clarify your learning objectives, the necessary prerequisites, both in terms of previous courses as well as relevant bodies of knowledge and skills. In addition, state clearly the options students have for catching up if they do not meet the appropriate expectations (e.g., will you do extra review sessions or will students be expected to catch up on their own?).

Empower students to make the appropriate decision about what to do next (e.g., work extra hard, delay taking the course, etc).
Explain to the students how their lack of background knowledge or skills may influence their ability to successfully master the material in the course and achieve a passing grade. Empower students to make the appropriate decision about what to do next. Options include working extra hard, seeking help from a tutor, and postponing the course until they have acquired the necessary background.

Give diagnostic tests and split into sections based on scores when appropriate/feasible.
Another option is to administer appropriate pre-assessments and split the class into sections (again, when feasible and appropriate). Then you can provide more scaffolding and support for the students who dont have a solid background, while at the same time you can challenge students who are already well-positioned.

Direct students to Academic Development and support services.


Some of the services that Academic Development offers include Supplemental Instruction, individual and group tutoring, and study skills workshops. In addition they facilitate the formation of study groups within courses.

Facilitate the formation background and skills.

of

study

groups

based

on

Advise students to form study groups within the course if they are having trouble staying up-todate. Some instructors leave space in the syllabus for the contact information of two students,

then ask everybody on the first day to turn to their left and to their right and ask the students next to them for their contact information. This way, the students start connecting on the first day of class, and will be more likely to follow up if they need help.

Have your TA give extra non-required remedial instruction.


If your pre-assessments identify a well-defined, self-contained area where students are generally lacking (e.g, basic combinatorics) you can ask your TA to conduct an optional review session on that topic.

Point students to extra resources (texts, handouts).


If you dont want to spend extra class time on specific topics, consider providing students with handouts, textbook chapters they can review, online tutorials or other complementary materials. These materials can be viewed outside of class, when students have more time to work through them. If possible, include self-scoring exercises so that students can monitor their own learning.

Students have varying motivations for taking a course.


The range of motivators that influence our students to take a course are nearly as numerous as the number of students who enroll. For some, enrollment reflects an intrinsic interest in the topic. For others, it is a require course. For still others it is the only class option that fits their schedule. Some think it will be an easy A. And for some students, they enroll because other friends are also taking the course and it offers an opportunity to see each other and interact. The factors motivating our students have a powerful influence on the type, intensity and quality of work they demonstrate in our courses. Understanding these factors can help us better support our students learning.

Strategies:
Assess and identify the motivations that students bring to the course.
Remember, not all students have the same interest and motivation as you. Indeed, you probably represent the extreme in terms of interest and motivation in your field. Knowing why students enroll in your course can help you choose examples, readings, demonstrations and applications that cover the range of motivators influencing your students. Assessing not only prior knowledge but students attitudes about your topic and their motivation for being in your class, can provide valuable information.

Include examples from multiple disciplines.


If students see how concepts and ideas apply in their own domains, they are more likely to realize the relevance of the material. Relevance is a key determinant of motivation.

Allow some freedom/control in topics.

Choice allows students to direct their attention and focus their efforts toward specific areas of interest. You can introduce choice at the individual- or the class-level provided that it supports the learning objectives of your course. For instance, you can allow students to choose topics for papers or projects. Alternatively, some instructors leave some days in the syllabus as TBA (to be announced) and allow students to choose the topic(s) for discussion.

Allow some freedom/control in the grading scheme.


If appropriate, give students an opportunity to differentially weigh various aspects of the course. For instance, certain students may decide to weigh class participation more heavily than others. Alternatively, others may weigh exam scores more heavily that homework assignments. This choice allows students to concentrate their efforts in aspects of the course that they find most interesting. While this strategy can and has indeed been used successfully on campus, several factors determine its success. The variation in weight is usually restricted (e.g., participation might count from 5% to 15% of the total grade). This is because all the possible individualized schemes must be able to assess the common learning objectives for the course. Also, students should identify their weighting distribution at the beginning of the semester and not post-hoc. Finally, the students must have adequate intellectual maturity (i.e., graduate or at least upperdivision) to use this strategy productively.

Group projects arent working.


The structure of the assignment does not promote teamwork.
Instructors can be very creative at designing group work assignments that challenge students intellectually, call for innovative methods and solutions, demand synthesis across knowledge and skills bases, etc. However, they often do not give sufficient thought to how well the structure of the assignment lends itself to meaningful teamwork. Lack of attention to the structure of the assignment can result in unintended negative consequences, e.g., group members who do not pull their weight (free-riders), one person who ends up doing all the work, a division of labor in which group members work parallel to one another rather than together.

Strategies:
Consider your objectives.
Before structuring your assignment, think hard about what skills you want students to develop and what level of collaboration you want them to engage in. Is it sufficient for student groups to employ a divide-and-conquer approach, with each member independently contributing a piece to a final product (i.e., cooperative learning)? Or is it important for students to work closely together, generating, debating, applying and reconsidering ideas and approaches collectively (i.e., collaborative learning)? Your goals must be reflected in and supported by the structure of the assignment. Read on to learn more about how to do this.

Build interdependence into the assignment.


If a high degree of collaboration is a goal of your course, structure assignments so that group members are dependent on one another to succeed. One way to achieve this is to create assignments that are sufficiently complex that students cannot work effectively alone, but must draw on one anothers knowledge, skills and perspectives. Other ways to build interdependence into assignments include incorporating: Shared goals that can only be met through collaboration with the entire team, Joint rewards, usually in the form of a shared grade that depends on the performance of everyone in the team, Limited resources, requiring students to share information and materials, and/or Complimentary roles, where each member assumes a role that is indispensable to the success of the project and has a distinct contribution (Johnson, Johnson and Smith, 1991).

Hold individuals accountable.


To motivate individual students and discourage the free-rider phenomenon, it is important to build a component of individual accountability into your assignment. In other words, in addition to evaluating the work of the group as a whole, require individual students to demonstrate their learning via quizzes, independent write-ups, weekly journal entries, etc. Students are considerably less likely to slack off in groups and leave all the work to more responsible classmates -- if they know their individual performance will factor into their grade. You can assess not only what individual students have learned but also what they have contributed to the group (e.g., effort, participation, cooperativeness, accessibility, communication skills) by asking team members to evaluate one another and/or themselves. While this is not a fool-proof strategy (students may feel social pressure to cover for one another and individuals are not always honest in assessing their own performance), combined with other factors promoting individual accountability, it can provide you with important clues about the dynamics within groups and the contributions of individual members.

Students do not understand your expectations.


Students come into your course with a set of expectations that are the product of previous classroom experiences, both in high school and college, cultural background and disciplinary training. Their previous experiences will shape students expectations regarding such things as the role of teacher and student, discussion etiquette, writing conventions, etc. For example, students from one discipline may come with ideas about what constitutes a strong argument or legitimate evidence, while students from other disciplines might bring a different set of preconceptions. Neither might be appropriate for your discipline or particular course. If students expectations are misaligned with your own, it can create confusion, resentment, and poor performance. Consequently, it is important to articulate your own expectations as explicitly as possible, so that students can bring their own expectations in line with yours. This is particularly true when you have international students whose educational experiences might lead

them to a very different set of expectations about proper conduct in and outside of group work contexts.

Strategies:
Define the task.
Clearly explain -- even more than you think is necessary -- all the parameters of the assignment. For example, on a group writing assignment or presentation, specify what kind of audience the group should address their writing or presentation to, so that the information is pitched at the proper level (e.g., should the groups final product be tailored for an audience of experts, novices, or something in between? In other words, is there background knowledge they can assume their audience possesses, or should they provide all the background themselves?) Also, clarify the ultimate purpose of the project: to suggest and justify a set of recommendations? to develop a working prototype? to apply a particular theory to a data set? to design and implement a research project? If the project requires research, specify what kinds of sources are and are not legitimate for the purposes of the assignment. For example, if you want students to use only academic journals and books and no Internet sources, make it clear from the beginning. If the task you have assigned is deliberately ill-defined, as it often is in upper-level courses, explain to students that the lack of structure is intentional, and tell them what skills they gain from having to structure an unstructured problem, identify their own research question, etc. Being clear and explicit does not constitute spoon-feeding or hand-holding. Because disciplinary conventions and individual instructors goals differ so radically across courses, students need to know what you are looking for on a given assignment -- just as faculty need to know about a granting agencys scope and priorities to write a successful grant proposal. The clearer students understanding of the task itself, the higher the quality of the work you can expect to receive. Make sure the difficulty of the assignment is in completing it, not in understanding it!

Clarify your expectations about process.


Explain explicitly how you do (and do not) want students to work. For example, is it acceptable for groups to divide the task and each complete a piece (i.e., the divide-and-conquer strategy), or is a higher degree of collaboration required? Are all forms of collaboration acceptable, or would you consider some a violation of academic integrity? Can groups communicate exclusively online, or do you want them to meet face to face? Think about these sorts of questions before students embark on the project and articulate your expectations clearly.

Clearly articulate your grading criteria.


Performance rubrics distributed in advance can be a useful guide for students working on a group project. A good rubric defines the key aspects of the assignment, and distinguishes the characteristics of excellent work from good, mediocre, or poor work. If creativity and risk-taking are essential elements of excellent work in your course, be sure to build these attributes into the rubric. For example, it can be helpful for student groups to know in advance that doing

everything right will earn them a B, whereas an A will require producing something particularly original, insightful, or bold. If developing teamwork skills is an explicit objective of your course, be sure to include process as well as product in your rubric, using students assessments of one another and themselves to inform your marks on the collaboration or teamwork sections of your rubric.

Provide models.
Show your students examples of excellent student work from previous semesters. Just as seeing successful grant proposals can help professionals pitch their own writing appropriately, seeing how others have successfully addressed the assignment can illustrate your expectations, inspire your students, and help them work more efficiently. Bear in mind that it is important not only to provide the model but also to annotate it or explain to your class what makes it good; otherwise students can focus on the wrong features of the work (e.g., the bells and whistles of a presentation rather than the substance.) Try to provide models representing a range of ways student groups have approached the assignment: this encourages students to think broadly and to consider a range of alternative approaches. If you believe providing models of prior student work will over-determine what your students think to produce, thus limiting their creativity, use student work from similar but not identical assignments.

Set interim deadlines.


Require progress reports and set interim deadlines so that you can check student work and provide feedback early. This will allow you to address misaligned expectations and get students on track before it is too late.

Students lack the necessary teamwork skills.


Group projects require that students not only have the same skills and knowledge they would need for individual projects, but also an entirely different set of process-related skills: the ability to work with others to assess the nature of the task, break it down into steps or stages, plan a strategy, share responsibilities, manage time, set and meet deadlines, communicate effectively, and resolve disagreements or conflicts if they arise. When students lack teamwork skills, group projects can quickly break down, resulting in dissatisfaction as well as poor performance. The extent to which students possess teamwork skills will depend on a number of issues, including cultural background. (For example, group problem-solving is emphasized far more in some cultures than in the U.S., where the focus is commonly on individual achievement. On the other hand, second language issues and differences in conversational styles can cause problems within groups.) Teamwork skills will also depend on individual students previous experiences with group work, both in and out of the educational context.

Strategies:
Emphasize process, not just product.
The focus in most classes is on the mastery of domain-specific knowledge and skills and the products students produce (e.g., papers, designs, mechanical models) to demonstrate that mastery. The focus is rarely on the process by which these products are created. On the basis of these experiences, students are very focused on product, much less so on process. Consequently, it is critical when assigning group work to clearly emphasize the importance of domain-general process skills, such as clear communication and conflict management. To motivate students to think about and work on these skills, explain their practical benefit in the workplace, for example, how teams of engineers function in industrial or research contexts and the planning, communication, and time management skills they need in order to work effectively in groups. Real-world anecdotes about what can go wrong when teamwork skills are weak can further reinforce the message that these skills are as central to professional success as domain-specific skills. Barkely, Cross, and Major (2005) suggest setting the stage for group projects by asking students to generate a list of skills they believe a future employer would look for. Because this exercise tends to generate answers such as problem-solving ability, clear communication skills, and the ability to work with others it can be the basis of a good discussion about the process goals for the course.

Provide direction.
Dont assume students already know how to work successfully in groups. In all likelihood, they will require help. The following constitute some of the things students working in groups will need to do. If your students are already experienced with group work, you may simply need to remind them about these issues; if they are inexperienced, you should provide more structure (for example, by requiring students to submit a project proposal defining the task, a plan of action, and/or a tentative schedule of meetings and due-dates) and feedback, or by doing some of these tasks (for example, assigning roles or setting interim deadlines) yourself.
Define the task: Students must be able to clearly identify and articulate the problem(s) to be solved or the question(s) to be answered, particularly if the assignment involves unstructured problems or a broad set of possible topics. Determine the steps necessary to accomplish the goal: Students must be able to identify the component parts of the project and their logical sequence. For example, one project might require students to search for appropriate library sources, then meet to discuss the resources collected, then each write an individual assessment of one of the sourcesand so on. Assign roles (link to Barkely, Cross & Major, p.52): Students must determine who should be responsible for particular tasks. For example, individual group members might be responsible for: initiating and sustaining communication with the rest of the group, coordinating schedules and organizing meetings; recording ideas generated and decisions made at meetings; keeping the group on task and cracking the whip when deadlines are approaching, etc. Co-ordinate communication: Students must exchange contact information and decide how the group will communicate (via e-mail? discussion board? on-line collaboration tool? face-to-face?) and how often.

Set interim deadlines: Students must determine roughly how long it will take to do various parts of the project and set reasonable deadlines for completing them.

If students are lacking skills you consider critical for successful collaborative work, set aside class time to introduce, reinforce, and/or practice those skills. For example, you might want to designate some class time to role-playing group dynamics in order to discuss potential problems and brainstorm effective solutions.

Establish ground rules.


Define ground rules or -- better yet -- have students develop their own ground rules for group behavior. You might, for example, ask student groups to generate answers to the question: What behavior by group members do you think will/wont help the group function effectively? Then have students create a list of ground rules based on their answers: e.g., return e-mails from group members within 24 hours; come to meetings on time and prepared; meet deadlines; listen to what your teammates have to say; respond to one anothers comments politely but honestly; be constructive; criticize ideas, not people. Finally, ask students to agree to the ground rules, perhaps by signing a group learning contract (Barkley, Cross & Major, 2005).

Build conflict-resolution skills and strategies.


Let students know that disagreements among group member are not only par for the course, they also provide valuable opportunities to debate a wider range of ideas and to develop important skills, such as listening, mediation, and compromise. If handled successfully, conflicts within groups can lead to better teamwork skills and better end products. To help students develop conflict-resolution skills before group projects begin, consider giving students the opportunity to role-play how they might respond to problems within the group, for example, domineering personalities, slackers, cultural differences, etc. Role-playing presents students with a realistic situation (in this case, a conflict) and then asks them to work toward a resolution, improvising dialogue and actions. This strategy can help students identify and name problems, learn how to approach or frame a problem, gain strategies for getting others to listen, etc.

Alert students to common pitfalls.


Provide students with a beware of list to alert them to common pitfalls, either of group work in general or issues specific to your assignment. For example, students involved in group projects invariably underestimate the amount of time required for planning and coordinating among themselves. They also frequently let key logistical issues go until the last minute and then run into problems. If possible, give students a sense of how long various steps of the project will take them so they allocate their time wisely. Also, warn them about things they will need to do earlier than they might expect, for example, coordinating lab, computer cluster, or studio access with other groups, scheduling group meetings well in advance to avoid time conflicts, or requesting research materials from Interlibrary loan.

Foster metacognitive skills.


Encourage students to assess their own strengths and weaknesses (e.g., the tendency to procrastinate, openness to criticism, strong oral communication skills) and consider how these traits could potentially affect group dynamics. One way to do this is by having students complete a questionnaire or take a personality test, compare results, then engage in a group discussion centered on the question: What mechanisms could you put in place to capitalize on the strengths and compensate for the weaknesses of your group? Answers might include setting clear, irrevocable interim deadlines (if a number of group members are procrastinators), developing a system of turn-taking to make sure that everyone has the chance to speak (if there are shy group members), using flow charts to represent the task (for group members with a visual orientation or weak language skills), etc.

Monitor group progress.


Over the course of the project, keep tabs on how each group is working. It is a good idea to require regular (weekly or bi-weekly) progress reports. This can be done during class time to provide the opportunity for students to hear and solicit advice from other groups, as well as to share resources. If your students are communicating via a discussion board on your course management system (e.g., Blackboard) you might also check their exchanges occasionally -with their knowledge, of course -- to see how they are working. When student groups are meeting during class time, circulate and listen. While it is important to give student groups independence (letting them solve their own inter-personal conflicts and recognize for themselves when they are getting side-tracked, for example), it is also important to know what is going on so you can redirect, give advice, or intervene if necessary.

Students have very different background knowledge and skills.


You may have students in your class with very different background knowledge, skills, and motivations. Differences within your student population can spark rich learning opportunities when group members bring their various perspectives and skills to bear on the project and teach one another. However, without proper planning, differences in skill-level and abilities can also create problems. One of these problems is known as Common Information Sampling (CIS). This is the process by which individuals within groups dumb down their own expertise in order to find a common ground with students lacking that expertise. When CIS occurs, groups become less, rather than more, than a sum of their parts.

Strategies:
Identify prerequisite courses and skills.
If there are skills (for example, facility with a particular software, experience with a specific research methodology, mastery of a technical vocabulary) that your students simply must have to succeed in assigned projects, make this clear in the course description and again on the first day

of class. Students without the designated skills then know they must either make up the missing skills and knowledge on their own time or not take the course.

Assess students prior knowledge.


Consider administering a diagnostic pre-test in the first week of class to assess students relevant prior knowledge. If a small number of students lacks critical background knowledge, you might consider advising those students to (a) fill the gaps in their knowledge by doing remedial work on their own or (b) drop the class. If a larger group lacks the necessary knowledge, you might designate a class period or special tutorial (led, perhaps, by a TA) to cover the critical material. If the majority of your students lacks essential background knowledge, you should plan on teaching it yourself. While this might mean that you have to scale back your expectations for the course as a whole, that is preferable to pushing ahead before students have the proper foundational skills.

Compose groups to distribute skills.


One possible strategy to compensate for uneven skills among your students is to compose groups with an eye towards balancing knowledge and skills. For example, if you know a subset of students in your course is particularly weak (or particularly strong) in a specific area, you might put these students into different groups to prevent any one group from suffering or benefiting unduly. This also provides opportunities for stronger members of each group to help bring weaker members up to speed. Whether this is a good solution in the context of your particular course will depend on the nature and extent of skill disparities among students. If the disparities are such that members of the group can reasonably teach one another, balancing knowledge and skills can be a good idea. If the disparities are truly significant, it might make better sense to group students according to ability. For example, in a class with graduate and undergraduate students, creating skill-based groups might make better sense than distributing skills across groups.

Capitalize on diverse experiences.


Uneven skill sets can be an asset when group members bring different experiences and knowledge to bear on a task. Highlight to students what skills each of them brings to the group, perhaps by having them collectively complete a group resume (Barkley, Cross & Major, p.39). Some instructors involved in service learning or project courses use these group resumes as a way for student groups to present themselves to outside clients. After identifying the range of skills students possess, structure the assignment to make it advantageous for the group to draw on these skills. Take, for example, a computer-aided design course, in which there are both computer science majors (with strong technical skills) and design majors (with strong aesthetic/design skills.) If the course assignments include projects in which these skills must be combined, and each group includes both computer science and design majors, students find themselves in a situation where they must (a) exercise their particular talents to accomplish the task and (b) communicate what they are doing to peers outside their discipline. Depending on your goals for the assignment, it might be sufficient for each group

member to contribute expertise from his own discipline. If the goal is for students to learn to apply a set of skills outside their disciplinary expertise, however, then the assignment must be designed so that students cannot confine their contributions to those areas where they are already comfortable, but must develop their skills in new areas. To facilitate this, you might require students to switch roles at certain points in the semester, so that the computer scientists must make or justify design decisions and the designers must apply programming skills. You might also require a paper from individual students explaining what they learned from doing the assignment, so that you can assess the extent to which they have developed skills they did not originally have.

Group composition is problematic.


Some questions faculty members grapple with as they plan projects include: Should I assign groups or let students choose their own groups? Should I assure diversity within groups? If I split up categories of people (e.g., by gender, race, ethnicity) what will that mean for individuals who find themselves the lone representative of that category within the group? How should I deal with mixed abilities, skills, backgrounds, etc.? There is no easy answer for these questions; different group compositions will have different advantages and disadvantages. Your best bet is to weigh the pros and cons of different compositional arrangements and pick the best solution for your course, your students, and the goals of the particular assignment.

Strategies:
Create groups based on your goals.
Allowing for the practical constraints of your course (e.g., class size, student composition) your goals for the assignment should drive your decisions about group composition. For example, if the project requires a multidisciplinary solution or if you want group work to mimic a particular workplace configuration, you might compose groups so that they include students of different disciplines (e.g., one engineer, one designer, one computer scientist). If you want to showcase how various disciplines approach problems differently, you might want to create disciplinespecific groups. If you want group members to represent a number of cultural perspectives, you might mix groups according to cultural background. Decisions about group composition can also be pragmatic. In some cases, creating groups randomly might be the easiest reasonable solution. If a project requires a lot of out-of-class meeting time, you might opt to create groups based on common schedules. If you have a number of students from one language group in your class, you might choose under certain circumstances to group them together so they can focus on the content material without the additional cognitive burden of functioning in English. However, pragmatism must work in concert with the goals of the course and assignment. The previous example would not make sense if one of the goals of the assignment were for students to develop facility with a particular content vocabulary or to give a group presentation in English.

Consider potential implications.

Think about the advantages and disadvantages of different group compositions before creating groups. For example, you may have a limited number of one type of student (e.g., students with a strong background in the subject area; students of a particular gender, race, or ethnicity) who you would like to disperse among groups to create diversity. While there are advantages to this decision (e.g., a wider range of perspectives and experiences to draw on) there are also potential disadvantages: the lone person of a given type may feel isolated or resentful that they are expected to speak for or represent their sex, race, ethnicity, discipline, etc. Homogeneous groups also have both pros and cons. Groups possessing similar skills or experiences can work faster because they do not have to spend time explaining to the out -of-group members; however, their perspectives and approaches may end up being more limited because they lack diversity.

Discuss group composition with students.


Talk to students about the advantages and disadvantages of particular group compositions, as well as your reasons for creating groups as you have. If students know, for example, that you have created groups to reflect a variety of experiences and knowledge, they will be more likely to draw on that knowledge. If students know that homogeneous groups have potential limitations to watch out for, they may employ different strategies to compensate for these limitations, for example, by actively seeking input from more heterogeneous outside sources. By the same token, awareness of the issues that can arise with heterogeneous groups can help students address them proactively (e.g., by assigning and periodically switching roles or creating turn-taking strategies to ensure that everyones perspective is heard).

Individual members of the group are problematic.


One common set of complaints from students about teamwork concerns the ways in which the behavior of single individuals can negatively affect the entire group. Complaints often focus on free riders who do not pull their weight, over-bearing personalities who take over or micromanage the project, and members who are habitually late, do not return e-mails, or fail to meet deadlines. Students often do not know how to deal with these kinds of friction within the group, yet problems in the group can potentially threaten everyones learning.

Strategies:
Hold individuals accountable.
To discourage the free-rider syndrome, structure individual accountability into your assignment. In other words, in addition to evaluating the work of the group as a whole, require individual students to demonstrate their learning via quizzes, independent write-ups, weekly journal entries, etc. Students are considerably less likely to slack off in groups and leave all the work to more responsible classmates -- if they know their individual performance will affect their grade.

Establish ground rules.

Define ground rules, or -- better yet -- have students develop their own ground rules for group behavior. You might, for example, ask student groups to generate answers to the question: What behavior by group members do you think will/wont help the group function effectively? Then have students create a list of ground rules based on their answers: e.g., return e-mails from group members within 24 hours; come to meetings on time and prepared; meet deadlines; listen to what your teammates have to say; respond to one anothers comments politely but honestly; be constructive; criticize ideas, not people. Finally, ask students to agree to the ground rules, perhaps by signing a group learning contract (Barkley, Cross & Major, 2005). Establishing ground rules can help prevent undesirable behaviors and also give the group a basis for evaluating the behavior of individuals within it.

Build conflict-resolution skills and strategies.


To help students develop conflict-resolution skills before group projects begin, consider giving students the opportunity to role-play how they might respond to problems within the group. Role-playing presents students with a realistic situation (in this case, a conflict) and then asks them to work toward a resolution, improvising dialogue and actions. This strategy can help students identify and name problems, learn how to approach or frame a problem, gain strategies for getting others to listen, etc.

Encourage students to assess one anothers contributions.


Ask team members to evaluate one anothers contributions to the group, or to evaluate their own contributions, using a clear set of criteria that are articulated in advance. Criteria might include such things as attending every meeting, participating actively, meeting deadlines, listening respectfully to different viewpoints, etc. This strategy holds group members accountable for their behavior within the group and helps to prevent problems.

Require process checks.


Require teams to regularly reflect on team dynamics, with an eye towards improving collaborative processes and correcting problems before they become intractable.

Create mechanisms to hear from students.


Establish channels of communication so that students who encounter problems within their group can seek advice. Office hours with you or a T.A. can help facilitate this communication. Sometimes all a student needs is reassurance that respectfully confronting a problem is okay. Other times students need help with appropriate language to assure that the message gets across. In either case you cant provide assistance and use this as a learning opportunity unless you know about it.

Create mechanisms to address severe problems.


Think about what you will do if, despite the best efforts of team members, an individual continues to cause serious problems for the group. Will you intervene at a certain point? Can you

ask someone else (a T.A, for instance) to mediate the problem? Will you allow teams to fire problematic group members, and if so, what options do fired individuals have? Its important to anticipate worst-case scenarios, so you will not be blindsided if they occur.

Students cant write.


Students lack critical background skills.
Writing is a complex task involving many component skills, some of which students may lack completely, some of which they may have only partially mastered. These skills involve, among other things:
Reading comprehension Analytical skills Writing skills, including: o writing mechanics: grammar, sentence structure, spelling, etc. o planning a writing strategy o communicating ideas clearly and concisely o constructing a reasoned, demonstrable argument o effectively marshaling evidence and using sources appropriately o organizing ideas effectively

When students lack skills in these areas, their writing may be unsatisfactory in multiple ways from poor grammar and syntax to unclear organization to weak reasoning and arguments. Complicating matters is that students often lack the meta-cognitive skills to recognize the areas in which their prior knowledge and skills are insufficientand thus which skills they need to work to improve. Moreover, students may have learned bad habits in high school that they need to un-learn. For example, some students were taught in high school to avoid the first person in formal writing, and thus may use awkward grammatical constructions to avoid it.

Strategies:
A key challenge in helping students learn basic writing skills is doing so without overwhelming the students or overburdening yourself. Effective strategies thus involve (a) prioritizing which skills you value, (b) communicating those priorities (and your specific expectations) to students, and (c) giving students opportunities to practice and receive feedback.

Use performance rubrics to break down the skills involved in writing.

Writing isnt a single task; rather it involves many component skills (e.g. synthesizing information, articulating arguments, crafting sentences, engaging an audience). Furthermore, the nature of writing depends heavily on both the specific assignment (i.e., the purpose of the writing) and the conventions of particular disciplines. Developing clear grading criteria can help students learn to recognize the component tasks involved in particular kinds of writing and identify what they need to work on. Performance rubrics help to demystify the component tasks of writing. Developing good performance rubrics is not easy. It requires the instructor to be extremely clear in articulating the objectives of the assignment as well as his/her own values vis--vis writing. While creating a high-quality rubric can involve an initial investment of time, instructors who have developed good rubrics generally find that they expedite the grading process and provide students with feedback that translates into better performance.

Use a diagnostic pre-assessment to identify common writing problems.


Give your class an un-graded writing assignment early in the semester and use it to diagnose areas of weakness in student writing. A quick read-through of student writing should illuminate common writing problems (e.g., weak arguments, poor use of evidence, missing topic sentences, etc.). If the problems cluster in a few clearly defined areas, you might choose to address them in class. If the problems are not ones you can or wish to address in class, you can point them out to students and/or direct students to appropriate resources, for example, Academic Development, the Intercultural Communication Center, or an on-line writing tutor.

Scaffold writing assignments.


Use assignments that break reading, analysis, and writing into component parts and give students practice developing mastery in each area, building gradually towards more complex, comprehensive writing tasks. For example, you might first ask students to summarize, in writing, the central argument of a reading and three pieces of evidence the author used to support it. At a second stage, you might ask students to write a critique of the argument in light of that evidence and alternative evidence. At a third stage, you might ask students to write an essay comparing two readings in terms of how compellingly the authors made their cases.

Create multiple practice opportunities.


Learning to write well requires considerable practice. However, many faculty members are understandablyreluctant to assign a lot of writing because of the grading burden it imposes. Yet giving students more writing opportunities need not always entail more work for you. Here are some options to consider:
Have students read one anothers work and provide feedback to their peers in the form of reader responses. This not only relieves you of some of the grading burden, it provides students with the opportunity to develop editing and evaluation skills that they can apply to

improve their own writing. Peer feedback is most effective when you give students specific instructions about what to look for and comment on. You can ask students to use the same performance rubric you use, or give them a set of questions to address, such as: Was the writing style engaging? Is there a clearly articulated argument? Is there good correspondence between argument and evidence? Are the ideas expressed clearly and unambiguously? What you ask students to focus on in a peer review, of course, depends on your discipline and your goals for the particular assignment. Use minimal grading, or extremely targeted feedback for some assignments. For example, you might make it clear to students that on one assignment they will only receive feedback on the strength of their argument and evidence but not grammar and spelling. Alternatively, you might choose to focus on clarity, underlining clear or effective passages in blue and unclear or problematic passages in green, and limiting your feedback to that single dimension of writing. This not only makes the job of grading easier, it helps students focus on one aspect of their writing at a time. Once again, what you choose to emphasize in grading will depend on your learning objectives for particular assignments. Assign more writing tasks of shorter length or smaller scope rather than fewer tasks of great length or large scope. This way, students get more opportunity to practice basic skills and can refine their approach from assignment to assignment based on feedback they receive.

Students lack discipline-specific writing skills.


Good writing in one discipline is not necessarily good writing in another. Indeed, effective writing for one task (e.g., a grant proposal) is not necessarily effective for another task (e.g., a journal article or article in the popular press) even within the same discipline. Students may have reasonably good writing skills yet not be conversant with the writing conventions in your discipline. Moreover, even though students may have read papers or books exemplifying the writing style of your discipline, this does not guarantee that they can reproduce it in their own writing. Research has shown this phenomenon holds fairly generally: it is easier to comprehend new information or a new style of presentation than it is to generate it. Students may bring with them habits from other disciplines that are not appropriate in yours. For example, students familiar with expressive styles of writing (from English or creative writing) may bring these habits into scientific or engineering contexts where writing concisely is more appropriate. A subtler example arises in a discipline such as anthropology where many pieces of writing do not follow the argument/evidence format used in history writing or the persuasive style of a political piece of writing, but rather a description/interpretation framework.

Strategies:
Identify the key features of writing in your discipline.
Point out to students the characteristic features of writing in your discipline. For example, in an introductory anthropology class, you might point out that authors often identify a cultural assumption that they then challenge using cross-cultural evidence. Having identified this trope, you might ask students questions (in homework or in discussion) that require students to identify

these characteristics in their readings (e.g., What assumption was the author challenging? What cross-cultural evidence did she employ to do it?). Also point out variations in writing conventions within your discipline, and give students practice recognizing the features of different kinds of writing. For example, in a dramaturgy class, you might ask students to analyze the characteristics of an effective drama review vs. a persuasive academic article. This kind of exercise makes students more conscious of different conventions within the same discipline and better able to apply them in their own writing.

Make your expectations explicit.


There is tremendous variation among disciplines in writing styles, citation conventions, etc. Thus, it is only fair to clarify to students what styles and conventions are appropriate for your discipline and course. For example, you might specify that you want students to use MLA style for citations and direct them to appropriate examples or references. In an engineering class, you might choose to emphasize clarity and parsimony by explaining their value in engineering writing, giving examples of clear, concise writing, and designing your grading criteria to give weight to this expectation. Performance rubrics can help to make explicit what aspects of writing are particularly valued in your discipline.

Model how you approach writing tasks.


Help students see how experts in your discipline approach writing by modeling how you do it:
What questions do you ask yourself before you begin? (You might, for example, ask: Who is my audience? What am I trying to convince them of? What do I want to say, and what evidence can I use to back it up?) How do you go about writing? (Do you sketch out ideas on scrap paper? write an outline? hold off on writing your introductory paragraph until you have written the body of the paper?) How do you go about diagnosing problems and making revisions in your writing? (Do you ask a friend to read and comment on your work? Do you step away from the paper for a day and return to it with fresh eyes?)

This is not always easy: the instructor must become aware of and then make explicit the processes she engages in unconsciously and automatically. However, it is a useful exercise, illuminating to both you and your students the complex steps involved in writing and revising.

Students may be intimidated by writing and lack confidence in their abilities.


Students who have not taken writing-intensive courses in high school or college may find writing assignments unfamiliar and intimidating. Other students, who have received harsh criticism, unhelpful feedback, and/or grades that seemed arbitrary may also be gun-shy about writing assignments; they may believe theyre just not good at writing or that the grading is all subjective anyway and thus approach writing assignments with the expectation of failure. These students anxiety or sense of fatalism about writing may impede their ability to perform effectively.

Strategies:
Assign low-stakes writing assignments.
Give students the opportunity to practice writing in situations where the grading stakes are low. Structure into your course short assignments that are un-graded (but required) or assignments that have a pass/fail grade or a low overall point value. Low-stakes assignments give students the opportunity to practice writing skills without the stress of high-stakes assignments. Use lowstakes writing assignments to build the skills and confidence students will need for more heavily weighted assignments, like formal papers, research projects, etc. Emphasize to students that lowstakes assignments provide them with the practice and feedback they will need to perform well on higher-stakes assignments.

Capitalize on informal writing assignments.


When students try to conform to formal writing conventions, they often write in an awkward, convoluted manner. Instructors sometimes find that when students write informally, they relax and are clearer and more persuasive than on formal assignments. Even if your ultimate goal is for students to employ the formal writing conventions of your discipline, consider assigning some informal writing early in the semester (for example, you could ask students to write a letter attempting to persuade a friend about an issue relevant to your course, or ask them to reflect informally on a readings significance to their own lives). Informal writing assignments can reduce the tension students associate with writing, help them get their ideas down on paper clearly, increase their confidence, and eventually pave the way for more formal writing assignments. It may even convince reluctant writers that they like writing after all.

Create scaffolded writing assignments.


Break long writing assignments down into shorter, scaffolded assignments. For a research paper, for example, you might ask first for a proposal or statement of intention in which the student must articulate the purpose of the paper (who will you try to convince of what?). At a slightly later stage, you might ask for a list of relevant bibliographic resources, then for an argument, clearly stated in 1-2 sentences. Breaking the assignment down into smaller pieces can help demystify it for students. It can also give them a clearer point of entry for beginning the assignment and thus help to overcome anxiety and writers block.

Use minimal grading.


Students sometimes feel overwhelmed by instructor feedback and dont know where to begin to improve their performance. Consider providing targeted but not extensive feedback. For example, you might make it clear to students that on Assignment X they will only receive feedback on the strength of their argument and evidence but not on any other aspects of their writing. Or, alternatively, you might focus on clarity, underlining clear or effective passages in blue and unclear or problematic passages in green, and limiting your feedback to that single dimension of writing. This helps students focus on one aspect of their writing at a time. This is most effective if you make it clear to students that each assignments feedback is meant to help

them with a particular aspect of writing, but that on formal assignments they will be assessed along multiple dimensions, which you spell out clearly.

Give global as opposed to local feedback.


Many instructors write extensive margin comments and some even edit student papers for grammar, sentence structure, and spelling. However, research indicates that detailed margin comments are not always effective for improving student performance. First, a heavily marked up paper can overwhelm a student who lacks confidence about writing. Second, students can come to believe that revision is simply a matter of incorporating the instructors edits, rather than thinking about the papers strengths and weaknesses and making their own editorial decisions. Instead of making extensive margin comments, focus on end comments that address substantive issues of meaning and organization and which students what they have done effectively in addition to what they need to work on. End comments focus students on the core issues in writing while making it clear that their work is their own: you will not change it or edit it for them. Focusing on central issues does not mean that you have to accept poor grammar, sentence structure, etc.; you can simply point these out to students and give them the responsibility for finding and correcting problems. If students need help with mechanics, direct them to Academic Development and/or the Intercultural Communication Center.

Students are unclear about certain parameters of the assignment or do not know how to meet them.
Without a clear description of the purpose of the writing assignment (e.g., whom they are trying to convince of what, what style or tone is appropriate to the given audience), students may be writing for a vague or inappropriate goal. They may not know, for example, what audience they should be writing for and thus may be unclear about how much background information to include or how to pitch their argument. Although these aspects of writing (and planning) may seem trivial to instructors, students often have trouble gauging how much information to include when they write. For example, a natural assumption students often make is that you the instructor are their sole reader. Because they know you already know the material, they underestimate the degree to which they need to define terms and explain complex concepts and ideas. To further complicate matters, many students do not even consider asking themselves questions such as who is the intended audience or what tone or style is appropriate for this piece when planning a piece of writing. So, they do not ask their instructors for extra details about these aspects of the writing assignment even when doing so could greatly help them. Finally, students may struggle with the length requirements of an assignment because they have not yet learned how much depth or breadth is reasonable in the number of pages you expect them to write.

Strategies:
Explicitly communicate to students the parameters of the assignment.

Explain to students what kind of reader they are writing for. For example, if you want your students to include explanations and descriptions of the texts, works of art, or principles about which they are writing, they need to be told not to assume the reader is familiar with this material. In terms of tone or style, be clear about the purpose of the writing assignment by indicating, for example, what kind of reader they are trying to persuade about what. It is particularly helpful to specify the intended audience for an assignment in concrete terms, as in, For this paper, imagine that you are writing to convince a friend (who has not taken this course) of X or For this paper, you are writing a news article for young adults interested in learnin g about Y. By varying the audience and tone you specify for different writing assignmentseven those dealing with the same or similar topicsyou highlight to students how much these parameters can and should influence the style of writing they produce.

Share good examples.


Give students examples of good student responses for a particular assignment. This provides students with a better sense of how much depth or breadth is reasonable for an assignment of a particular length. It can also serve as a springboard for discussing how the (student) author was able to convey the desired style or tone through writing. As beginning writers, students do not necessarily see the choices that authors must make in conveying information, and they will benefit from hearing your analysis of how a piece of writing effectively deals with issues of audience, tone, and style. This is especially useful if you will be using similar criteria when grading their papers.

Classroom Behavior & Etiquette One student monopolizes class


Student may not know what kind of participation is appropriate.

The student in question may come from an educational background (defined by culture, discipline, or both) in which classroom discussions were not the norm or where a different set of conversational conventions applied. If so, the student may have trouble navigating the subtle, unwritten rules of turn taking in your class. For example, some students may have learned a participation style in high school that is not appropriate in a college environment (e.g., offering opinions and personal anecdotes rather than well-formulated arguments and evidence). Others come from cultures in which an assertive speaking style is valued and interruptions are considered normal and inoffensive. In these situations, the student simply does not know what is expected of him; thus the strategies focus on teaching students how to participate appropriately for the context.

Strategies:

Clarify your expectations.


Explain to students at the beginning of the semester (in class and on your syllabus) how you expect them to participate: Should they raise their hands or just speak up? What should they think through (e.g., evidence, implications) before contributing? Clarify the kinds of turn-taking youd like to see, e.g., "If youve already spoken, wait just a minute to give someone else a turn." When cultural differences in conversational style are clearly at work, acknowledge these differences non-judgmentally, while clearly articulating your expectations for your classroom. Establishing discussion ground rules (pdf) and/or using a simple participation rubric can help make your expectations explicit.

Model meaningful participation.


Students may have had little exposure to the type of discussion you expect in your course. In addition to stating your expectations, model the behavior you want students to engage in, e.g., building on the contributions of others ("let me add to something John just said...") and modeling respectful disagreement ("Id like to offer an alternative explanation..."). Point out what youre doing, and maybe even provide students with language they can use to build on one anothers comments, express disagreement, etc. You might also invite a colleague or graduate student to class to model a challenging and vigorous, yet also civil and productive, exchange of ideas. Focus your students attention on the rhetorical strategies you are modeling by giving them questions to consider while watching the exchange, e.g., What are some ways that we express disagreement? How do we reference one anothers perspectives while articulating and refining our own? Modeling can provide students who are unused to academic discussions with an opportunity to think about and adjust to your expectations.

Provide sufficient time for thoughtful participation.


If students feel rushed, they may say the first thing that comes to mind, rather than taking the time to reflect on the material and formulate reasoned perspectives. Thus, slowing down and avoiding the temptation to race through too much material can help create a more productive atmosphere for high-quality participation. One particularly good way to encourage meaningful participation is to pose a meaty question, give students a minute or two to think and write, then cold call. This allows students to organize their thoughts and craft a response. It also creates space for quieter students to contribute, while providing you with an opportunity to see what the more talkative students can do with time to think through their comments!

Draw attention to the kinds of participation you value.


Point out particularly meaningful or productive contributions to class discussion when you see them, e.g., "Do you see how Omar built on Monicas comment, but presented his own interpretation? Thats the kind of participation that shows me that youre listening to one another but thinking for yourself." You can also provide a summative comment at the end of a session. e.g.: "Todays discussion was excellent because you disagreed passionately, yet challenged one another respectfully, enlisting evidence, not just emotion." Pointing out, in real time, what you

value in class discussion helps students see the difference between talking for its own sake and thoughtful, analytical participation.

Insist on the kind of participation you value.


When a student offers a comment or question that is poorly reasoned or badly articulated, politely ask him to clarify, provide evidence, or explain the relevance of the comment in relation to the larger discussion, for example: "Terrence, Im not sure I understand how that relates to this topic. Can you clarify?" or "Victoria, thats a strong opinion. What evidence can you find in the readings to back it up?" Insisting that students communicate clearly, think about relevance, and provide evidence to support their opinions helps them develop critical thinking and oral communication skills and also to understand better what meaningful participation entails.

Reward the kind of participation you value.


If you grade students on class participation, make sure to distinguish high-quality participation from high-quantity participation. To do so, its useful to use a simple class participation rubric that clearly describes the features of high-quality participation, as you see them. Then give students a mid-semester participation score using the rubric. This kind of feedback can help them evaluate their own contributions to discussion in time to adjust their approach if necessary.

Use turn-taking techniques.


Some instructors use physical objects to guide conversational turn taking and discourage any one person from dominating the discussion. One technique is to give students a small pile of poker chips. Every time a student speaks, he has to throw in a chip, with the understanding that when his chips are gone, hes done talking for the session. This encourages students to think before they speak and use their turns judiciously. Other instructors use an object such as a stick or a ball, which a student must be holding in order to speak. Still others use a timer to limit the amount of time any one student can hold the floor. These sorts of techniques are generally only appropriate if over-participation is a significant problem.

Talk to the student outside of class


If, after some explanation, gentle redirection, and modeling, the student continues to monopolize discussion, pull him aside after class to talk. Thank him for contributing to discussion so regularly, while firmly asking him to make room for others to contribute. Provide some questions the student can ask himself before speaking up, e.g., What evidence do I have for this opinion? How can I best articulate it? What is the single most important point I want to make? T his process of self-inquiry can slow the student down (thus opening the floor for others) while also signaling him to think more deeply before speaking.
Student is especially enthusiastic or knowledgeable about the subject.

Sometimes a student monopolizes discussion because her interest in or knowledge of the subject exceeds that of her classmates. For example, a graduate student in a class with undergraduates or

a major in a class with non-majors may pose sophisticated questions that limit less advanced students ability to participate. In such cases, its important to recognize and reward the individual students intellectual curiosity while also firmly steering the conversation back to where the rest of the class can engage and benefit.

Strategies:
Talk to student outside of class.
Warmly commend the student for her interest, preparation, knowledge, etc., while reinforcing the importance of making room for others to contribute. Offer to meet with the student one-on-one to discuss questions or issues that interest her but which are not appropriate to pursue in class.

Assign student a listening, synthesizing or questioning role.


A clearly defined and specific role can prevent a particularly talkative student from monopolizing or sidetracking discussion, while also channeling her intellectual energy in a productive direction. For example, you might give the student the job of taking notes and synthesizing key issues or identifying divergent perspectives at the end of the discussion. Alternatively, you could ask an advanced student to generate thought-provoking questions about readings. These strategies may work best when the student in question belongs to a recognizably different category than her classmates (e.g., a grad student among undergraduates), so theres a clear reason for differential treatment.

Pose a question and give students time to write.


If a particularly advanced student answers virtually every question you pose, other students may become passive and disengaged or just plain irritated. One way to disrupt this pattern is to give the rest of your students more time to collect their thoughts and muster their courage. You can do this simply by waiting a few beats before calling on anyone. Or you can pose a question, give students a minute to write down their thoughts, and then ask for volunteers (there are likely to be more of them once theyve had the opportunity to prepare and answer) or call on students you dont generally hear from. This approach conveys that you expect and want to hear from everyone, not just the most sophisticated or assertive students.
Student is showing off for classmates.

Sometimes a student shows off (or ostentatiously downplays) her knowledge to impress classmates, or clowns around to get laughs. While the intent may not be to challenge the instructors authority or disrupt the class, it may have that effect.

Strategies:
Respond immediately.

If a student behaves inappropriately in class, other students can quickly become irritated and disengage, or else follow suit. Thus, it's important to address the behavior immediately before a pattern is established. Ideally, a response should be calm but firm. Depending on the attitude of the student, sometimes a good-humored yet pointed comment is enough to steer the conversation back on course and send a clear message (e.g., "Well that was an interesting digression, but lets get back to the subject at hand.") Sometimes just asking the student for evidence, clarification, etc., can discourage frivolous contributions and convey an intellectually serious tone. And sometimes its appropriate to (politely) interrupt a grandstander and redirect the conversation: "Im going to cut you off there, Alice; I really want to hear from other people."

Talk to the student outside of class.


If your in-class response doesn't work, pull the problematic student aside to speak privately. Give the student the benefit of the doubt, and dont presume to know her intent, while also clearly describing the impact of her behavior and telling her specifically what you need her to do differently (e.g., "I know you probably didn't mean to be disruptive, but your jokes are creating a distraction and getting us off topic. I welcome humor in class, but I'd like you to think your comments through more carefully and link what you say directly to the rest of the discussion.") If you think of your role as mentoring a student who is still developing socially and emotionally, theres no reason this kind of conversation cant be friendly and supportive rather than uncomfortable. The Eberly Center would be happy to help you think through appropriate responses. Student's behavior is symptomatic of a larger problem in the class. When a student monopolizes discussion or derails a lecture with tangential questions or excessive commentary, he may be subtly (or not so subtly) challenging the instructor's authority. While sometimes just a matter of individual personality, this sort of behavior can also be symptomatic of larger problems, such as low morale or lack of respect for the instructor. Thus, it's important to address the immediate behavior while also considering issues that may underlie it.

Strategies:
Respond to the immediate situation.
When a student begins to dominate discussion (especially if he is rude or inappropriate), dont ignore it. The problem can easily spread as other students become irritated, disengage, or start to follow suit. Any number of responses might be appropriate, depending on the attitude of the student and the severity of the problem. Sometimes a pointed look or comment in class can deter a student who is testing limits; sometimes youll need to talk to the student outside of class. Be aware, though, that problems with individual students can be symptomatic of larger problems in the course (e.g., frustration with your grading policies, resentment of perceived unfairness), so consider the larger context as well. The Eberly Center can help you brainstorm effective ways to

respond to the immediate situation and to determine whether there are larger issues that require attention.

Conduct an early course evaluation.


Find out if there are broader problems of morale or motivation in your course by conducting an early course evaluation. Early course evaluations give you a chance to collect feedback from students while there is still an opportunity to make changes. Here are sample evaluations and guidance on how to use them. An Eberly Center consultant would be happy to help you review feedback from these evaluations and plan an appropriate response.

Identify and address structural problems in the course.


If you determine that there are morale problems in your course that go beyond an individual student, consider coming to the Eberly Center for a consultation. We can work with you to identify the source(s) of the problem and brainstorm solutions that would be appropriate for your teaching context.
Student has emotional, psychological, or substance-related issues.

If the student seems manic, inappropriate, or unable to control her behavior in class, its possible that emotional, psychological or substance-related issues may be involved. Warning signs can include lack of awareness of or inability to control the behavior in question, sudden changes in academic performance, etc. Generally, you can tell whether something unusual is going on, even if you are not sure what it is.

Strategies:
Remain calm.
While sudden outbursts or disruptive behavior can be emotionally challenging for even the most experienced instructors, it is important to maintain a professional demeanor with the student. Try to maintain a calm demeanor, and remember that your role is not to solve the problem yourself, but rather to contact the appropriate campus authorities.

Use campus resources.


If you suspect an emotional, psychological, or substance-related problem, dont try to diagnose or address it yourself. Rather, call your Associate Dean, your colleges Student Affairs liaison, or Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) to discuss your situation. Any one of these contacts can direct you to appropriate resources and help you decide how to proceed.

Grading & Assessment

Students complain the exams are too hard.


Exam had unclear or ambiguous questions or instructions.
Even though the exam questions and instructions seemed very clear to you when you wrote the exam, they might not be as clear to your students. For example, as an expert in your field, you make many assumptions and use many conventions that help you interpret discipline-specific text automatically, without even being aware of the tacit knowledge you are drawing on. Moreover, it is generally difficult for authors to edit their own writing for clarity because they can mentally supply any information that does not appear on the page. Language difficulties can make an exam even harder to interpret for students who are non-native English speakers. For all of these reasons, students poor exam performance might not reflect a lack of understanding but rather a misinterpretation of the questions or instructions. As a result, students may be frustrated because they feel they did not have the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding.

Strategies Ask someone else to read through your exam.


It is often helpful to ask someone else to read your exam with the specific goal of identifying unclear or ambiguous questions or instructions. Your TAs, if you have them, are ideal for this task because they are familiar with the course content and your students, but still have a fresh eye for your exam. If you do not have TAs, you can ask a colleague and offer to reciprocate.

Check the level of specificity of the instructions.


Sometimes students are unsure of how much is required for them to demonstrate their knowledge. They might underestimate what constitutes a sufficient answer (and thus lose points), so it can help to be explicit about your expectations. For instance, if your idea of a complete definition of a term includes a one-sentence description plus an example, say so in your instructions. On the other hand, such specificity would not be required (or even desirable) if your exam is aimed at assessing how well students can discern what makes an appropriate response.

Avoid problematic sentence constructions and idioms.


Particular sentence constructions can be especially difficult to process. Such examples include the double negative and long, complex sentences in general, so it is best to avoid them. Also, in multiple choice questions, use absolutes such as never or always judiciously because these terms can lead students astray. Finally, avoid idiomatic expressions because non-native English speakers may not understand them.

Exam required knowledge and skills that students did not have sufficient opportunity to practice.

Weve all heard the student complaint: "The exam didnt have anything to do with what we did in class or on the homework!" While this is rarely true, it might be the case that some topics were covered in class but not adequately practiced so that students did not master them and hence are caught by surprise when they show up on the exam. Time spent in class and the number of homework problems on a given topic are the main indicators of importance for students and will guide their efforts as they review for the exam. In addition, some questions might look simple if using the right trick (e.g., a particular transformation to solve an integral), but can be very challenging or nearly impossible to solve without it.

Strategies Address discrepancies between instructional activities and assessment.


Analyze your exam to make sure there is a clear correspondence with the topics covered in class and on the homework and the questions on the test. If you do find a mismatch, you need to address it. In future iterations of the course, you could emphasize the topic more throughout the course or remove the item from the exam (or at the very least deemphasize its weight). In the current iteration of the course, your choices are more limited, and you might want to simply deemphasize the topic or type of problem.

Give students more opportunities for appropriate practice.


Sometimes you did cover the topic in class, but the students didnt practice it adequately. For instance, students may be able to define and explain a method, but not execute it. Similarly, students might be proficient in specific procedures, but not in the skill of selecting the procedure appropriate for a particular situation (or the trick to use on a problem), or they might have all the pieces but have not practiced synthesizing them. In these situations, you might want to provide stepping stones toward the level of complexity you expect by having students practice the components of a process or the integration of these components.

Exam was too long.


When an exam is too long, even if each individual question is appropriate or fair, the exam as a whole may not measure mastery of the material. Anxiety may occur for students who try to complete the questions quickly, leading them to make mistakes due to time constraints. This means that the exam measures the students ability to work under pressure rather than their knowledge and skills. Because anxiety has a complex effect on performance, the completed proportion of the exam is usually an underestimate of how much students know. In extreme situations, students might panic and leave the whole exam (or large portions of it) blank. Unless being able to complete an exam under time constraints is a learning outcome for the course, exams that are too long will not provide good information about student skills.

Strategies:
Look at past exams to see what is feasible for students to complete.

Ask previous course instructors to share past exams. They will help you calibrate length and even level of complexity.

Factor in the hidden cognitive demands of certain tasks.


A common essay exam question is to choose one among three prompts to write about. This is sometimes used in problem-solving exams when students are asked to solve problems from a menu. Instructors who use this approach generally think they are being easy on the students by giving them choices and allowing them to demonstrate their particular strengths. But choosing is a task that requires students to mentally review all prompts or problems, estimate the kind of knowledge needed to address each one and the knowledge they possess, use those two estimates to predict how well they will do in each instance, rank them all, and pick the most favorable ones. This decision-making process will take time, in addition to the time needed to solve the individual problems.

Factor in five to ten minutes of administrative time.


Realize that you will need to allow time to let students to settle in, move students around to leave an empty chair or an empty row in between them, hand out the exam, ask students to move their backpacks away from their seats, or whatever other procedures you use to prevent cheating, make necessary announcements, and so on. This can easily take five to ten minutes depending on the size of the class. Calibrate the length of the exam accordingly.

Take the exam yourself and triple the time.


Sit down at your desk and take the exam as if you were a student. Do the math on the calculator, write down each step, or do any other task they would have to do. Complete the exam in one sitting and triple the time it takes you. This is a rough estimate of the time it will take the average student.

Have your TAs take the exam and double their time.
Similarly, have your TAs take the test as if they were students, replicating the conditions of the exam (e.g., no books). They are not as close to the material as you would be, so it will take them longer. Double their time to estimate the average students time.

Exam drew on knowledge outside of prerequisites.


Sometimes exam questions can be difficult because they require students to draw on knowledge from courses they have not taken or everyday experiences they have not had. For example, a statistics instructor may assume that all students in his or her course have a working knowledge of calculus even though it is not officially a prerequisite. In this case, an exam question that requires calculus would be difficult and arguably, unfair for students without the corresponding calculus skills. Similarly, suppose an instructor writes a contextualized exam question that deals with bowling scores, briefly reviewing the scoring rules of the game. Although some students may be familiar with bowling, others may not be, making this question

rather impenetrable. These examples show how easy it is for instructors to inadvertently overestimate what students know either explicitly or implicitly and create an exam question that is overly difficult.

Strategies:
Analyze exam items to identify the knowledge and skills they require.
To avoid creating questions that draw on knowledge that students lack, the first step is to be more aware of the knowledge your exam questions require. This is especially difficult for instructors who, as experts in their area, do not necessarily recognize all the knowledge and skills they automatically draw upon. To counter this, try solving your exam questions step by step (perhaps even writing out how and why each step was taken), and then identify the knowledge and skills that pertain to each step along with its reasons.

Ask your TA(s) to complete the test in advance.


Because it is often difficult for experts to unpack their thinking and identify what pieces of knowledge and skills they are drawing on to solve a given problem, ask your TA(s) to work through sample exam questions and analyze what knowledge they used in order to perform well.

Test your assumptions about what is common knowledge for students.


In many courses, students come from a variety of majors and hence have diverse preparation from their previous courses. Moreover, students come from diverse backgrounds and have varied life experiences. Thus, prior knowledge not only is different among students in a class, but also is likely to be different from yours, leading you to make inaccurate assumptions about what your students know. To test these assumptions, conduct a prior knowledge assessment. See more information on creating, conducting, and interpreting the results of prior knowledge assessments.

Students prepared ineffectively.


In some cases, students feel an exam was too hard because they expected (and studied for) a different kind of exam. Students also may not know and use effective study strategies and habits. This second problem is fairly common among first-year students, who are less familiar with how they need to study for college-level exams. Although the responsibility to prepare appropriately for an exam rests with students, instructors can support students by giving sufficient information and guidance about how to prepare. Such information and guidance can be given early in a course (or program) and then slowly removed so that students ultimately have to manage their exam preparation independently.

Strategies:

Give students more direct guidance for studying.


Students may be applying poor study strategies simply because they do not know more effective ones. Thus, it helps when instructors share strategies known to be helpful (e.g., solving sample problems rather than just skimming solution sets or studying in the library rather than in the lounge). Students can also be a source of effective strategies for each other. For example, some faculty find it useful use some class time before the second or third exam so that students can discuss what they have found to be more and less helpful strategies on previous exams. Alternately, to help your students reflect more deeply on what they did to study and whether it worked, you can give them an exam wrapper. Exam wrappers are short handouts that direct students to analyze their exam performance relative to their study strategies with the goal of adapting strategies for better future learning.

Provide sample questions that represent the exam format and content.
Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, often a sample test or even some sample questions can be worth much more than any verbal description you give about your exam. Giving students concrete examples of the kinds of question you will ask will help them better understand what they need to be able to answer (as opposed to simply giving them a list of topics to review). Moreover, sample exam questions give students a performance-based means of assessing their own readiness for the exam. If you give a full sample exam, consider encouraging students to take it during the same time frame as the actual exam. This will help them evaluate not only their ability to answer the questions, but also whether they can do so with the fluency needed for a timed exam. Keep in mind that you need not create an entire sample exam or write up a thorough solution set for the sample exam you provide. Rather, you can offer students a representative set of questions or perhaps an old exam from a past year of the course.

Encourage students to self-assess their abilities effectively.


A common problem that students indeed, all people have is assessing their own abilities accurately. Generally, people overestimate how well they will perform. This tendency is moderated, however, when people assess themselves based on an actual performance, such as how well they can solve a sample problem or complete a sample exam. Unfortunately, many students do not realize this and can misrepresent their readiness by simply skimming their notes and becoming overconfident of what they know and can do. Telling your students about this phenomenon and then encouraging them to self-assess in a way that is similar to the exam situation can help them gain a more accurate picture of their own progress. Providing sample exams or exam questions, as mentioned in the preceding strategy, and encouraging students to take them in an exam-like setting helps to promote effective self-assessment.

Refer students to Academic Development.


Academic Development is Carnegie Mellons support unit for students in academic distress. In addition to providing peer-to-peer tutoring for students in need, Academic Development helps students develop effective study skills and metacognitive skills through seminars focusing on

time management, note-taking, reviewing for exams, and academic reading. Help on these topics is also available as paper brochures or online.

Students spent time poorly during the exam.


Even if the exam was calibrated at the right length, some students might have misused their time. Maybe they did not recognize the relative importance of different questions and spent too much time on questions that appeared early on the exam or were not worth many points. This is simply another manifestation of some students general difficulty with planning an effective approach to a specific task. Unless learning to recognize the more involved questions is a learning objective for your course, the assessment of students performance will not be accurate in this situation.

Strategies:
Give students information on the exam format ahead of time.
Let students know whether the exam will be true/false questions, multiple choice, short essays, or whatever other format or combination of formats. Some instructors also use the front page of the exam as a table of contents, letting students know how many questions of each kind appear on the exam. Another way to familiarize the students with the format of the exam is to provide a sample exam ahead of time.

Give points or percentage weights to each question on the exam.


This will communicate the relative importance and difficulty of each question and will help students allocate effort. Some instructors even give separate points for different parts of individual questions.

Help students budget their time during the exam.


Some professors give students a time check at the halfway point or assign a TA to keep track of time on the board in increments of five or ten minutes. This strategy is helpful unless part of your approach is to make students responsible for budgeting their own time, in which case you might simply warn them in advance to come to the exam with a strategy that will allow them to be time efficient, such as checking their progress at regular intervals during the exam and comparing against the time they have left.

Refer students to Academic Development.


Academic Development regularly holds workshops on test-taking skills, which include tips on budgeting time. They also work with students individually to help them develop this skill.

Students lacked prerequisite knowledge and skills.

An exam can be particularly difficult for students if it requires them to draw on prior knowledge and skills from prerequisite courses. Even when students have completed these courses, there is no guarantee that they will have the knowledge and skills you expect or that they will be able to use the knowledge and skills in a different context. This reflects the different ways a prerequisite course can be taught over various semesters as well as how students come out of a given course with different levels of knowledge and skills.

Strategies:
Administer a prior knowledge assessment.
Determine students level of prior knowledge and skills by administering a prior knowledge assessment early on in the course. This assessment can help you diagnose students understanding of and proficiency with the material you expect them to have, so that you can design your subsequent instruction and exams accordingly.

Adjust your instruction when insufficient prior knowledge affects many students.
When the majority of your students lack sufficient understanding of a prerequisite topic, it is best to provide targeted remediation (e.g., spending class time on the topic, having your TA do a special session on the topic outside of class time, or suggesting reading material). Of course, the way you approach this remediation will depend on the resources you have available.

Advise individual students when insufficient prior knowledge affects few students.
If only a few students lack sufficient prior knowledge, you can counsel them individually according to the nature of the gaps in their knowledge and skills. For example, if a student needs help in only a few areas, you can suggest tutoring help from Academic Development. If a student has deeper or broader gaps in knowledge and skills, you can mention the options of dropping or postponing your course (if possible), so that the student can do what it takes to fill those gaps.

Students failed to apply their knowledge and skills.


As novices, students naturally compartmentalize what they learn according to the specific context in which that learning occurred. This makes it difficult for students who havent mastered the material to (1) recognize when they have applicable knowledge that they could use in the current situation and then (2) recall and apply that knowledge accurately and appropriately. A further complication occurs when students simply assume that what they have learned in one context can be forgotten after the current test or semester. See also "Students can't apply what they've learned."

Strategies:

Highlight the application of knowledge and skills in new contexts.


To help students appreciate that their knowledge and skills can be effectively applied in multiple contexts, point this out to students when it occurs. For example, when you or your students are tackling a new problem that draws on knowledge and skills they learned previously, identify the general knowledge or skill and explicitly discuss why it applies to the current situation. In addition, you can create multiple situations or problems that are very different on the surface but that all draw on the same knowledge; then you can ask your students to work through these situations, analyzing their similarities. If students have practiced applying their knowledge and skills in different contexts, then they will be more likely to do so on an exam.

Provide students with prompts to activate relevant knowledge.


When students have the relevant knowledge or skill but do not recognize the opportunity to apply it, giving them a prompt to do so can be very helpful. While you may not feel that such prompts are appropriate for tests, providing them on homework assignments can help students practice making connections so they are more prepared to do so on a test.

Assess students knowledge organization to address problems.


To help students apply their knowledge and skills more broadly and appropriately, an effective first step is to find out what conceptual relationships they lack or to identify where their knowledge and skills are overly specific. This can be accomplished by conducting a pretest that exposes how students have organized their knowledge. For example, you can ask students to construct a concept map in which they first identify all the concepts they associate with a given topic and then draw links between the concepts they consider to be related. Concept maps can reveal when students have divided what you consider a single, unified concept into separate unrelated pieces or when they have failed to associate what you consider highly related concepts. Then you can adjust your instruction accordingly so that students can better access the information they need during an exam.

Students blame the instructor rather than themselves for their poor performance.
When people are trying to make sense of a negative outcome, such as an exam not going as well as they had hoped, they must identify the cause. Unfortunately, motivational theories predict that many people gravitate toward attributions that are external rather than internal, uncontrollable rather than controllable, and permanent rather than temporary. The excuse of the professor being too hard is a typical case. While external attributions protect students self -esteem, they also rob them of opportunities to take responsibility for their own education, to figure out how they need to modify their approach to learning the material, and to feel the satisfaction of having overcome a challenging situation.

Strategies:

Emphasize the ways in which students have control over their performance.
Talk to students about how they prepared for the exam, how many hours they put in, and under what conditions they prepared. Were they multitasking? Did they study in a quiet or noisy place? Did they procrastinate until the last minute? Did they seek help when they were confused? You can also reinforce this message with the language you use, such as talking about the grade students earned rather than the grade you gave them.

Discuss class performance with students.


Some students might assume everybody else shares their experience, but this is not often the case. You can dispel these perceptions by providing data. For instance, you can share the distribution of test scores to show students that the exam was fair because many students performed well. Likewise, you can shareif appropriatesome model tests from the best students to demonstrate that good performance is indeed achievable.

Debrief the exam.


Use the class after the test as a learning opportunity. Go over the most challenging questions, explaining what specific knowledge and skills they required. You can also have the students discuss their performance in groups, comparing their own approach with those of other students. Used in this way, the testeven one that went poorlybecomes a learning opportunity for the next one. You can even ask students to reflect on how they will prepare differently for the next exam. More information on exam wrappers.

Refer students to Academic Development.


Academic Development works with students, individually or in workshops, to help them develop their study skills and test-taking skills and to implicitly reinforce the idea that they are in charge of their academic performance.