As part of our annual back-to-class support known as Digital Learning Days, we invited three well-regarded professors to speak and field questions. Angela van Doorn (Biology), Patrick Johnson (Physics), and Huaping Lu-Adler (Philosophy) joined us for an hour-long panel on “This Made My Life Easier”: Tools and Techniques to Sustain Good Teaching. We discussed the tools and techniques they rely on to prepare efficiently for the semester, run a smooth class session, and develop strong relationships with and among students.
And while sometimes technology can make our lives easier, often foregoing technology can be the right move. See below for an annotated list of the techniques our panelists recommend:
Angela Van Doorn, Biology
First, Angela shared practical suggestions as you design your course and envision the semester with your students.
- Be transparent about your pedagogy (Why are you doing what you are doing? Why are students doing a particular assignment?)
- Develop Learning Goals and use the Canvas discussion board to allow students to reflect on those learning goals.
- Foster in-person discussion by asking students to foreground their thinking through the use of the discussion board.
- Use the Rubric Tool in Canvas. Rubrics can help ensure fairness, as well as to remind you of your grading standards and how to apply them consistently. Making your rubrics available before the assignment is key so the students are clear on expectations. Using the rubrics feature in Canvas makes providing feedback seamless and easy.
- Give your exams on Canvas (via the Canvas Quizzes tool), even for in-person classes. Angela was struggling to read student handwriting, and she said administering the exams on Canvas made grading them about 40% quicker.
- Conduct a Mid-Semester Survey (again, via Canvas Quizzes). Angela uses three questions: what’s working for you in this class, what’s not working for you in this class, and what changes would students like to see for the rest of the semester?
Hua-ping Adler, Philosophy
Huaping Lu-Adler then challenged us with a philosophical consideration: What is good teaching? She examined her thought process on this question and shared where she landed as an answer that serves as a “north star” for her course design and teaching practice. According to Huaping, good teaching:
- Builds on students’ natures as deeply social beings
- Creates opportunities for students to learn from each other
- Cultivates belonging and allows voices to be heard
- Allows students to have a sense of control
Her syllabus and assignments then take shape with these principles. She elaborated on some of her techniques, which include:
- Course design should 1) allow student agency, voice, and creativity, 2) strike a balance between high standards and sustainable efforts, and 3) avoid busy work
- Provide consistent groups, 4 groups is the sweet spot, she says, and incorporate groups into students’ participation grade (Hua-ping’s is 15%)
- Ask students to lead discussions; they may organize themselves via the Collaborations tool in Canvas.
- Try simulations
- Incorporate reflection
An example of how these techniques might be applied in the classroom would be to divide students into small groups or cohorts (3-5 students) that remain consistent throughout the semester. These groups can take turns leading discussions. Allow room for those discussions to take a variety of forms: simulations, reflections, presentations, etc.
Patrick Johnson, Physics
Lastly, Patrick Johnson rounded out the panel with tool suggestions to incorporate into your teaching.
- Work with the library to enable Sharestream in your Canvas course to screen films and other media asynchronously.
- Manage questions in large classes with Piazza. Questions appear anonymously, and you only have to answer once but the whole class sees your answer.
- Plan class sessions and manage your content using Notion. Patrick created a column called “Notes to change in the future,” to track needed changes to course content, lectures, exams, etc. He also has other faculty review his videos for his flipped course and they leave their notes in Notion which he can then refer to when he re-records videos. He also uses that column to put notes from course evaluations.
As always, please reach out to email@example.com if you have any questions about these tools or techniques. To learn more about digital teaching and learning tools, inclusive pedagogy, or our services, please visit https://cndls.georgetown.edu.
Watch this faculty panel and other digital learning days sessions on the 2022 Digital Learning Days playlist.