Tag Archives: Education

Writing Woes and Maintaining Perspective

Write about what you know. . .

Good advice. Right now, I feel the familiar tug of despair, but I have hope! Working with first-year university students in our transition program has its joys and challenges.  At the moment, I’m reviewing their writing (challenge) and I’m planning the editing sessions for January (oh, the joy).

First steps? We’ll be tearing through the writing methodically: identifying claims, evidence, analysis and transitions. Rip it up and then glue it back together. We use the acronym PERT to identify points, evidence, relevance (how the evidence supports the point) and transitions (words and phrases that make connections). The Where’s Waldo of academic research writing. The answers to “what is the point?” and “how do you know?” and “how do these ideas relate?” that are often missing in student writing.

The approach may be mechanical, but I find that it increases students’ awareness of their role in the academic writing process. It’s not about sounding smart and throwing some fancy terms and long sentences together. It’s about communicating their thinking clearly, synthesizing existing research, presenting well-researched arguments, creating meaning from existing research and questioning current understanding.

In our Essay-Zone module, we’ve placed an emphasis on analysis so that students can analyze their own writing–to see what they’re doing well and what they can do better. It’s about empowerment.

(Writing this post inspired me.  I needed a little inspiration!)

Margaret

Image meLead Designer, Academic-Zone and Coordinator Skills Instruction, A-Z Learning Services, Brock University

Tips to Increase Your Final Exam Performance

The end to another academic term is quickly approaching… along with the stress of writing final exams. If you have to write exams and are feeling nervous, overwhelmed, and exhausted from studying, these are some useful tips from examtime to perform at your best on exam day.

The Night Before
You want to have your exam day planned out beforehand so you can focus on remembering the important information you studied.

  • Check the time and location of your exam
  • Set an alarm to wake up early
  • Collect materials you will need to bring to your exam tomorrow
  • Get a full nights rest (8 hours is recommended)

Exam Day
Make sure you start your day off right. If you’re feeling confident and refreshed before you write your exam, chances are you’ll perform better.

  • Wake up early and prepare for your day (taking a shower can help your body wake up)
  • Have a balanced breakfast (try to eat some fruit, for example, a banana)
  • Grab your exam materials (remember to bring your ID, translators, etc. if required/permitted)
  • Leave early (unexpected events happen all the time; you don’t want to be late)

Starting Your Exam
You have prepared for this moment. Focus your mind and get yourself prepared to ace this exam.

  • Write your name on the exam paper and make sure you have all pages of the exam
  • Read through the exam to get an idea of the content and length of each section
  • Plan your time and focus the majority of your time on the heaviest weighted questions
  • Start answering questions you feel most confident about (leave the challenging questions for last)

Finishing Your Exam
You’re almost done! Just a few more questions and you can leave feeling great.

  • Ask for clarification or assistance if you don’t understand a section/question
  • Pay attention to the time and pace yourself
  • Review your work to ensure you answered all questions correctly
  • Stay to the end of your exam period (review your work multiple times to catch silly mistakes)
  • Hand in your exam feeling confident that you did your best work

Congratulations!
You just finished your exam and can now move on with your day and enjoy the rest of the spring/summer!

I hope these tips were helpful and reduced your fear of writing exams. If you still have any concerns, feel free to post them in the comments or contact your institution’s help centre. Best of luck with your exams and the end of your semester!

Spending more on Prisoners than on Students

Spending more on Prisoners than on Students

I wanted to share an alarming report from California’s Department of Finance that suggests “over the past two decades spending per prisoner in California has increased nearly three times faster than spending per K-12 student.”

The first question that comes to mind after reading this report is “Why are we prioritizing the care of law-breakers over the education of our youth?” If more K-12 students received high-quality education one could assume they would be less likely to commit crime, and more likely to propose crime preventative measures later in their life.

After reading 6 Reasons America Spends More on Prisons Than on Higher Education it has become apparent politics plays an important role in this budget decision. It is easier to get elected, from a politician’s perspective, if you persuade society with crime-related initiatives. In addition, politicians can move more of the cost of higher education on students while the same cannot be said for prisons and prisoners.

3 Realistic Requirements for Effective Online Learning

A recent post from Designer Librarian outlines 3 crucial elements to sustain a successful online learning environment. The author, Amanda Hovious, is an experienced librarian currently completing her master’s degree in Instructional Design and Technology (IDT). Amanda, who attended her IDT program entirely online, describes the 3 most important components of online learning to achieve success and student engagement: Synchronous Learning, Sense of Community, and Active Discussions.

From a student’s perspective, I often find it difficult to become motivated and engaged in online learning. This issue typically originates from the common structure of online classes; pre-recorded lessons and instructions that are not in real time. There is often a lack of “community” and active discussions compared to a physical classroom. All of these factors combined make it difficult to stay organized, involved, and informed in an online course.

What do you think?

  • Is an active community of learners important when taking a new course?
  • Are discussions more useful when lead by a select few, rather than a collective group?
  • Is it easier to stay engaged and organized in an online environment vs. a physical environment?

I look forward to your opinion and thank you for reading!
Feel free to post your opinion or comments below!

How To Get Your Students Excited

How To Get Your Students Excited(Source)

I came across an inspiring post, from Terri Eichholz on her education blog, which has encouraged me to share my thoughts and first-hand student experience with you. Terri, a K-5 teacher with decades of experience, brings up a very important topic: challenging students to think. Terri believes that a requirement of being an effective teacher is connecting with your students, occasionally provoking them to think for themselves, and leaving a lasting impression with them after class time.

Memorable Teachers
Speaking from my own personal experiences, all of the memorable teachers and professors I’ve had share this quality and ideology. They present debatable material that challenges my perception of the world, especially if it is current material. For example, ethical discussions, current news stories, or even personal opinions on a topic often provoke me to engage and participate. Surprisingly, this tends to work even in courses that don’t particularly interest me.

The Ultimate Goal
At the end of the day, what are teachers really trying to accomplish? Of course, they want their students to understand the material and succeed, but perhaps more importantly, they want students to GET EXCITED about the subject.

In my opinion, once a student becomes excited and self-motivated to learn a topic, the educator’s main objective has been achieved. Even if students are struggling with their current understanding and expertise of the topic, the “ground work,” so to speak, has been established.

I’ve been told and truly believe that to be successful and happy with your life, you have to honestly love what you do and get excited to go to “work” every day. It’s always remarkable watching self-motivated people who excel in their respected skill.

The Flipped Classroom

(Source)

A popular concept in education, which is reviewed on Inside Higher ED’s website, is the idea of a “flipped classroom.” The basic definition of a “flipped classroom,” which varies depending on your source, is that the typical lecture and homework elements of a classroom are reversed. This means students would listen to a pre-recorded lecture at home and do homework in the classroom. Several different business models and organizations already promote this idea, like the well-known Khan Academy non-profit model, but is this model optimal?

Benefits
Don’t get me wrong; the “flipped” model has its benefits. (1) Students can go through the material at their own pace in a comfortable environment. This approach allows students who blaze through the material to be more efficient with their time and less confident students to spend as much time as they need to understand the content. (2) Students who are struggling with a problem or concept in class can ask an instructor for assistance who will guide them to the answer. Speaking from a student perspective, it is much easier (and memorable) to have an instructor work with you to solve a problem than it is consulting a textbook or searching for the answer online. (3) Plenty of opportunity to discuss and compare approaches with other students while in class. Students often solve problems and run into the same issues while working through problems. It can be very helpful and time efficient to collaborate with other students to achieve I higher degree of understanding. These benefits all contributes to a greater understanding of the content and a stronger awareness of troublesome areas that require greater attention.

Weaknesses
So why hasn’t everyone adopted this model? Simply put, it’s in our human nature to resist change. The traditional method of suggesting material to read over before class, lecturing during class, and assigning homework after class has been in place for centuries. This traditional “teacher experience,” arguably, can never be replaced. As a student, one fatal flaw I’ve experienced in the current system occurs at home. I often find it difficult to concentrate and motivate myself to read from a textbook or learn a new topic that doesn’t particularly interest me, especially if the content isn’t specifically brought up in class. I relate this experience to a chore I never liked doing, but is required for a greater cause, like my parent’s satisfaction (or graduation). Of course, it isn’t a perfect system, but we implement support initiatives to redeem its shortcomings. Many of these initiatives mirror the benefits of the “flipped classroom,” for example Academic-Zone’s personalized online approach. Lecturing for more than 50 minutes may not maintain student attention and be effected by diminishing marginal returns. However, the lecture still plays an important role in highlighting the key information in a mountain of text. Instructors also make themselves available after class to clarify information.

Final Thoughts
Similar to the article written by Pamela E. Barnett, a potential solution would be an integration of both systems. Taking the best of both models with the help of modern technology can improve the effectiveness of teaching. For example, having a short lecture, in-class exercises, and relevant online material/assessment could be a possible layout for the lectures of tomorrow. With this model, we have the opportunity to try a new approach and personalize learning for students of the 21st century.

What are you thoughts?
–     Do you think this “flipped classroom” model could work?
–     Would it be easier for students to learn information using this model?
–     How about instructors to teach?

I look forward to your opinion!

A Simple Recipe for Effective Teaching

Educational institutions are constantly looking for initiatives to improve the quality of education provided to their students. Traditionally, an educational lesson has been taught in a physical classroom where the student’s perception and understanding of the material highly depends on the educator’s presentation and explanation of the material. The current trend of an “online classroom,” provides students with access to infinite amounts of information, at any time, any place, and with additional features to enhance their academic learning.

What does it take to become a good teacher?

An interesting article on the Rule Number One blog outlines a simple recipe for being a good teacher. In the article the author, Kevin Michael Klipfel, includes a quote from an educational psychologist, Daniel Willingham, who quotes his book: “Why Don’t Students Like School,” which depicts this recipe perfectly.

Image

“Effective teachers… are able to connect personally with students, and they organize material in a way that makes it interesting and easy to understand…”

Can this approach still work online? We think it can. Innovative online resources, similar to Academic-Zone, promote an engaging, interactive, and more effective learning environment.

What makes the “online classroom” different?

  • Students have the opportunity to pause, rewind, and play information which is unique to the online learning environment.
  • Facilitators can measure, respond, provide and record feedback much easier and quicker than in a traditional sense.
  • The online platform can be tailored to each student’s unique learning style. Not every student’s learning styles are satisfied in a one-size-fits-all lecture room.

I encourage you to visit our online demonstration so you can decide for yourself if the online approach to learning can be effective.

Thanks for reading!

Why College Grads Can’t Get a Job

A new study from Bentley University suggests a possible reason recent college grads can’t secure a job after graduation. In their study, hiring managers, business people, corporate recruiters, and other individuals agreed on one thing; college grads are not prepared for their first job. This may result from a lack of communication skills, interpersonal skills, office etiquette, work ethic, or several other potential traits.

Image

A common defensive argument that is mentioned (and referenced in the comments by “Tonisha Adamson”) is that the problem resides within the educational system, and not the students. Students are expected to immediately becoming professional employees straight out of school, with no previous work experience. To add to the dilemma, some employers also shy away from recruiting first-time employees for entry level positions.

Speaking from experience, I feel attending an institution that has a strong co-op department, whose goal is to get students involved in local businesses and companies, helps student stand out from the crowd. Co-op programs give students the opportunity to learn those skills employers often find graduates lack. Being an exceptional student may not always translate into skills required to be a great employee. Real-world experience is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to apply what you learn in the classroom and get a sense of how to apply it to the business world.

What do you think?

  • Do you think educational systems today do not prepare students for the real world? Or is the purpose of school to simply show prospective employers your initiative and motivating to learn new things?
  • Do you think employers expect too much from college students/grads that do not have any previous work experience?
  • Do you think graduates are just lazy and act too entitled to believe they deserve a job because they earned a degree?

Let me know in the comments below!
More information about this article can be found here

Have a great day!

5 Tips to Improve Your Writing

Academic writing is a challenge for most students entering post-secondary education. In response, most institutions developed their own resources to assist students struggling with academic writing. Still, some students prefer the convenience of online resources. For example, a short 12-minute YouTube video with over 500,000 views, posted by the YouTube account “Learn English with Emma [engVid]”, recommends 5 simple tips to improve academic writing skills.

Emma, an English teacher who primarily works with ESL students, outlines 5 ways to improve academic writing with the use of simple sentences, stronger words, and active voice. Emma’s energetic voice, a white board, and several great examples make this video enjoyable and educational.

After investigating “engVid,” I realized Emma is only one of 8 teachers who have posted a collective 550+ lessons online. I would recommend exploring some of their videos if you are an international student, learning the English language, or would like some comedic relief (I would recommend Ronnie’s videos). Similar to “Khan Academy,” in my post a couple weeks ago, Emma and her colleagues have adapted to the fast-growing technology age.

Be sure to like/comment this post if you enjoyed reading!
Let me know if you have topics you would like to discuss in future blog posts in the comments below.
I would love to hear from you!

Have a great day!

Video

The Importance of Education

Pearson Education’s twitter account tweeted an interesting and insightful article last week about the “expectations of continuous improvement” (http://goo.gl/GlntMy). Pearson’s current CEO, John Fallon, stresses the importance of equality and quality of education globally. The short 2-minute video below summarizes many of the topics discussed in the article. Pearson published this video during its “Always learning: the Pearson brand” campaign.

Both of these resources tell a story about global education and the importance of customization for each student. Every student doesn’t have the same opportunity to earn an education. Also, students learn by their own style and pace. This is why technology has become such an important factor in the continuous improvement of education.

We share the same values here at Academic-Zone. We believe that resources should be available 24/7/365 to students, tailored to each individual learning style, and include constant assessment to determine students’ problem areas. Our intent is similar to the intent of every teacher, professor, and tutor in our education system—to do everything in our power to ensure students understand the material and succeed.

If I’ve caught your attention or you would like to learn more about us, please check out the “About Us” tab at the top of the page. We would love to enhance academic support initiatives at your institution and give you the chance to explore our online modules through our free webinars.

Have a great day!