647330231Lisa Rombes, Department Chair at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Michigan shares advice with our M.A.T.H. Tips team.  Thank you Lisa, and we look forward to additional posts and tips from others. As a department chair and online advisory committee member with a lot of plates spinning in the air, I am always looking for “sure things” to help faculty stay on top of engaging their students. Here are some tips that I would share with any math instructor to keep the fire alive in the online (and traditional) classroom.

  • Think about ways to have students engage in the material before they begin a section/assignment (for online students) or before they come to class so that everyone is ready to learn. Smartbook readings provide this learning opportunity in many of our classes.
  • Watch for “reverse engineering” as a default strategy for students. Are they just following the procedures in online homework with different numbers each time? Look for ways to disrupt this: pool questions, randomize, rearrange them, etc.
  • Look for opportunities for students to explain their results and explain their thinking. Remember Bloom’s taxonomy? Aim for the higher level each class day or online module.
  • Opportunity for ungraded practice will make your students more confident. It is a challenge especially in the online classroom: students tend to do only what is required. So, maybe 5 points for practice as compared to 40 for homework?
  • Reacquaint yourself with formative assessment, your best (old) friend. Make a point to find out, as you are teaching, if students are really getting the concepts.  Entrance slips (to test an out-of-class prep assignment, video, reading, etc.) and Exit Slips (with one or two essential questions from that day) can provide a wealth of opportunity to plug holes in learning.
  • Make short videos in online classes based on most-missed practice questions. This will show you care enough to dig into their understanding, and you may just be surprised class to class what they are struggling with.
  • Think about metacognition: ask “What was difficult in this unit” or “How well prepared are you for this test”. Put the learning responsibility on the student.
  • Ask your publisher what tools THEY can provide to help you make the above happen in your classroom, online and face to face. New tools are coming out every year that can make this job easier.