Student Caring - A Podcast for Professors
Join professors de Roulet and Pecoraro as they encourage professors to achieve success.

The Caring Professor: A Guide to Effective, Rewarding, and Rigorous Teaching 

 

Now available on:  Amazon.

In this podcast we discuss the book and the journey we have on while writing it over the past three years.

The first section of the book, Teaching 101, looks at student-professor interactions, discussing:

  • The changing landscape of higher education and why many students feel disconnected from their educational experiences.
  • A brief outline of the expectations of students today compared to the expectations of professor’s university experiences.
  • A look at the financial landscapes that confront students and interfere with learning.
  • Academic preparedness.
  • The difficulties of teaching in a culture in which negotiation sometimes replaces hard work.
  • The importance of establishing clear and wise boundaries with students.
  • Establishing and keeping connections with students in the classroom during the semester to improve student learning.

Teaching 102 discusses putting together and nurturing successful courses based on a foundation of care for your students’ academic growth and well-being. Subjects include:

  • Intentionally setting the tone and establishing rapport instead of letting the frenetic first days of the term set the tone of a course.
  • Reinforcing tone and cementing expectations during the first course meetings.
  • The art of effective record keeping to track student progress.
  • Learning-goal-oriented course design, organization, and reflection.
  • Recognizing symptoms and causes of a class “going bad.” The need to carefully diagnose symptoms, understand student perceptions, and reactions, and see how the symptoms can negatively affect a class.
  • Changing the trajectory of a class that has gone off track. Strategies include responding early, checking in with students, not allowing the class to drift from its goals, and building a community of colleagues who are willing to discuss course remedies in confidence.
  • Ending a class well. Ways in which students can be actively involved in the end-of-term assessments of their knowledge, understanding, and skills. Preparing for a final course meeting that leaves students both clear about how the course’s goals have been met and confident in seeing how the skills of a particular academic discipline may be applied to their education.

Teaching 103 presents advanced strategies and background for addressing trends and difficult situations in education today, and for helping students succeed:

  • Classes that encourage critical thinking and introduce students to the expectations of college academic life.
  • The stages of intellectual development most students will experience, and how to appropriately move them along that continuum in preparation for college work and life beyond college.
  • Caring for students in online settings, addressing online learning’s additional challenges in knowing one’s audience, fostering community, and keeping a course on track.
  • Strategies for addressing difficult student encounters.
  • “Career Directions and Your Students’ Daily Bread” introduces students to the idea of a vocation, and discusses practical aspects of entering the work force, internships and apprenticeships, and graduate work.

The Caring Professor from Student Caring

 

We recorded this podcast on Tuesday, November 26, 2013

 

Please share. 

We need your feedback so we may continue to fulfill our mission statement and help students, the world over.

Thank you!

Daniel & David

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Direct download: sc_61.mp3
Category:Higher Education -- posted at: 4:30am PST
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Symptoms of a Class Headed South

We wrote in an earlier chapter of Learning 102 about how poorly we often perceive our own work in classes—we and our students go through ups and downs, convinced one day that we are masters of the universe, and perfectly convinced on other days that, if we get out right now, there still may be something else in life for us to do.

What we would like to do is take you away from this mode of manic-depression, this catastrophic good and bad thinking, in which the world is either terrible or wonderful based essentially on feelings or on the success or lack thereof of a specific class meeting.  Instead, we want to help you to become good, rational diagnosticians of your own classrooms.  Below is a list of symptoms that need to be taken seriously.  Before you read this, don’t worry—remember that we believe that practically any class-gone-bad can be salvaged by both professors and students.  We’ll deal with solutions soon, but we first want you to get a sense of what to watch for.

Symptom 1:  Disengagement

The majority of the students are clearly not engaged in what is happening in the classroom.  A few students may be sleeping or on the verge.  The class lacks a spark, a sense among students and the professor that “that was a great class.”  The symptoms of a lack of engagement might be that you find yourself in significant competition with smart phones and computer screens.  A number of students in the class might be holding quiet (or not so quiet) conversations during your lectures or when others are speaking that demonstrate their interest is elsewhere.  Not more than a predictable core group of students are talking; as a rule of thumb, you would like to see about one half of the students in the class participating voluntarily on a regular basis.

Symptom 2:  Attrition

Students drop early or in a slow trickle during the semester. While the former can denote a basic misunderstanding of what the class was to be about, more commonly early drops are a judgment on the students’ desire to commit to a professor and a subject matter.  Significant attrition clearly should be seen as a problem symptom—it is something that David and I have looked for as program directors or as department chairs, and it usually is a call for intervention before things get ugly.  During tight enrollment times, attrition should be seen as an alarming sign.

Symptom 3:  Absences and Tardiness

Attendance problems and tardiness problems are often not only symptoms of a lack of student engagement with the subject matter, but can point to an atmosphere established in which students believe that absenteeism and tardiness are acceptable behaviors.  Of more concern is what we call a ballet of non-attendance—not difficulties with a few students, but different students not attending from class to class, almost as if students are choreographing tardiness and absences.  When this is happening, students may be sending the signal that either what is happening in class is not to be taken seriously, or that they have no hope of understanding the material.  A pattern of tardiness by many members of the class can attest to student schedules, but more likely this behavior is a sign of the lack of a respectful relationship between students and professor.

Symptom 4:  “Alone, Together”

The class has not established a sense of community.  Students clearly do not know each other and seem in no hurry to interact.  Students do not know even each other’s names, or the professor has not learned the students’ names.  Why is this a problem? Unless we are natural salespeople, name learning is a process that takes place through interaction and engagement.  If you do not know someone’s name, chances are you do not really want to know it.  (Of course, if you are Daniel’s brother-in-law who really does want to learn names but ends up calling everyone “buddy,” then we might have a different problem.)  A class that has built community shows enthusiasm when asked to engage in small group assignments or when it responds to student presentations.

Symptom 5:  “I Sense Tension”

One of our favorite memories from Star Trek, the Next Generation was the empathic Lt. Troy’s task of sitting on the bridge and uttering this remark whenever Romulans were blasting the ship to smithereens.  Students may not be doing well with the other students in the class.  There may be tension between students, or a history of inappropriate statements made.  This is a management issue for the professor, who is looked at by students as the person responsible for setting and maintaining a responsible tone in the classroom.  It may also indicate that students are reflecting a professor’s attitude that not all students in the class are worthy of respect.

Symptom 6:  Poor Grades

As a group, students are not performing well on assessments (tests, papers, and projects).  Contrary to some professors’ views, this is not necessarily a sign of rigor.  This can be a sign that the class is being pitched well above the level of the students’ capabilities, or that the assessments themselves are not clearly written and explained.

Symptom 7:  Lack of Respect

An open lack of respect towards the professor is a serious warning signal.  Even if the behavior is limited to one student who does not reflect the greater attitude of the class, this situation can become viral—it can hijack the tone for the class.  More than one student acting in this manner usually denotes a passive-aggressive attitude that is masking more serious problems of authority, credibility, and student frustration.

Symptom 8:  The “Temperature” of the Room

How do you feel when you walk into the room? A professor’s attitude towards his or her class may negatively change as the semester goes on.  Sometimes this is easier to hear in others than in yourself.  You may not have the enthusiasm for the class you hoped you would have; you may be looking forward to the class coming to an end.  Your stress may increase before the class is scheduled to meet.

Symptom 9:  Disruption

Students can become disruptive in class.  We usually think of this as unhappy or discourteous behavior, but disruptive students can be happy or angry.  Whichever is the case, students are no longer connecting to the class, and the behavior masks deeper problems about how worthwhile the students believe the class really is.

Symptom 10:  The Worst-Case Scenario

Students might actually tell the professor that the class is not working.  The instances of students getting up the nerve to do this are rare.  David tells a story of a professor who had taken over a class at mid-term and of a student sitting in the front row who, at the beginning of a class period, leaned forward and whispered, “Professor, you need to know that everyone in here hates you right now.”

 

[box] Copyright ©2013 The Student Caring Project. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials on these pages are copyrighted by Dr. Daniel de Roulet and Prof. David Pecoraro, C0-Founders of The Student Caring Project. All rights reserved. No part of these pages, either text or image may be used for any purpose other than personal use. Therefore, reproduction, modification, storage in a retrieval system or retransmission, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise, for reasons other than personal use, is strictly prohibited without prior written permission.[/box]

COMMENTARY

Daniel and David discuss this topic.

 

We recorded this podcast on Friday, November 1, 2013

 

Please share. 

We need your feedback so we may continue to fulfill our mission statement and help students, the world over.

Thank you!

Daniel & David

 

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Direct download: sc_60.mp3
Category:Higher Education -- posted at: 9:08am PST
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First Impressions

We have heard stories from students and from listeners to our podcasts about initial impressions of professors that turned out not to be correct, but that nevertheless persisted throughout the term, despite a professor’s best efforts or intentions. Simply knowing students by name and using their names early in class (a challenge for some of us) can send a message of professorial caring and commitment to a class.  Some of our listeners have commented on the demeanor or dress of a professor in the classroom and the misinterpretations this can cause.  Remember, however, that establishing the academic tone and your enthusiasm about the academic subject matter is critical.  On the first day of classes, avoid talking about the requirements of the course.  Instead, concentrate on establishing both a welcoming and a rigorous academic atmosphere.

Some of the following suggestions are counterintuitive, but have worked for us.  We suggest you at least try them out in a course or two.   

(1) Jump into the subject matter by choosing a particularly interesting topic, and show your enthusiasm for it.  Keep in mind your range of learners and learning styles as you do this and present the materials in ways that you expect the students to be able to receive them during the course of the semester.  For example, your presentation could present expertise and content through periods of the lecture in which students are expected to take notes and to begin to understand the themes of the course.  The “text” of the class—that which you and the students will examine together, be it a book, piece of art, building, formula, experiment, etc.—can be displayed and engaged during the class session.  You may want to work into the first day a meaningful exercise in which students interact with the course material and each other in order to begin to build community.

[box] THIS IS A SPECIAL PREVIEW OF OUR BOOK: The Caring Professor: A Guide to Effective, Rewarding, and Rigorous Teaching. Publishing Worldwide on November 26, 2013 via Amazon and the iBook store.[/box]

(2) Set aside some of the time to build a community atmosphere by allowing you and the students to get to know each other.  David does an exercise in which he (with student permission) asks them to form a line, and then shakes the hand of each, handing each of them a syllabus and taking their pictures with his smart phone so that he can more quickly learn their names.

(3) Set aside time at the end of the first class meeting to allow for student questions about the class and about the college or university generally.  You might want to invite students to walk with you to your office after class, or you might project (or distribute) a map on how to find your office.

(4) In the rush of the first few days, establish some down time outside of class to be aware of students who might need help.  Students whose first language is not English, students with disabilities, and students new to the idea of college or university have entered an environment that is set up for insiders.  A colleague of Daniel’s, despite the almost calamitous hurriedness of a recent semester’s first week, took the time to walk a particularly lost student to class.  Imagine the effect this action may have had on this student. This, thought the student, is the kind of college where professors care enough about my success to go out of their way for me on the first day of class and to even talk with me during the process.

(5) During the first days of class, do not be afraid to explain the obvious in the classroom.  Impress upon students the joys and responsibilities of being a college or university student; talk to them about the differences your class will have from their high school experiences, or from lower-level college courses in regards to subject matter and expected student skills and investment. (Daniel, for example, briefly describes the differences in expectations between a pre-college and college-level composition course as similar to advancing from Algebra 1 to Algebra 2:  students will need to use some of the skills learned in Algebra 1, but the mastery of those skills alone do not guarantee success in Algebra 2.)

(6) Remember that the first day of classes is your opportunity to gain an academic snapshot of your students.  Survey them.  Get a sense of their expectations, expertise, questions, past academic experiences in the subject matters, concerns, hopes, and fears.  The first day should be thought of as a high point in getting to know the audience that is in front of you.

 

[box] Copyright ©2013 The Student Caring Project. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials on these pages are copyrighted by Dr. Daniel de Roulet and Prof. David Pecoraro, C0-Founders of The Student Caring Project. All rights reserved. No part of these pages, either text or image may be used for any purpose other than personal use. Therefore, reproduction, modification, storage in a retrieval system or retransmission, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise, for reasons other than personal use, is strictly prohibited without prior written permission.[/box]

COMMENTARY

Daniel and David discuss this topic.

 

We recorded this podcast on Friday, November 1, 2013

 

Please share. 

We need your feedback so we may continue to fulfill our mission statement and help students, the world over.

Thank you!

Daniel & David

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Direct download: sc_59.mp3
Category:Higher Education -- posted at: 7:22am PST
Comments[0]

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