There have long been calls for using evidence-based teaching techniques and technologies in the classroom to improve student success. For example the 2012 “Engage to Excel” report by the Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) notes that “Classroom approaches that engage students in ‘active learning’ improve retention of information and critical thinking skills.”
Sometimes it may seem risky to try something new or nontraditional in your class, however, partly because of the uncertainty about how students may react. And even when you are not trying anything new at all, some students may passively or even actively show signs of resistance or dissatisfaction, for various reasons.
There are actually many potential barriers to the adoption of evidence-based teaching techniques and technologies, such as: lack of time, insufficient resources or support, and, the topic of this post, the possibility of student resistance, which in turn might negatively impact student satisfaction and ratings.
How can we design and facilitate our courses in order to anticipate and reduce the potential for student resistance? There are several techniques one may employ, many of which are backed by research. First, however, let’s look at the causes and types of student resistance, and then we’ll look at strategies for addressing it.
Several examples of student resistance are listed in the book. They divide the examples by the type of the resistance (passive or active) and the motivation for the resistance (asserting autonomy or self-preservation):
So it is not as bad a problem as we might think. However, there is still a likelihood of student resistance, especially when you first adopt a new technique. This may be why, for example, some instructors may abandon a new technique after the first semester of trying it.
What can we do to anticipate and address the potential for student resistance in our courses? Again, feel free to share your own thoughts and ideas below, and here is a list of some strategies that have been identified by others.
Providing students with a rationale for using active learning in the classroom by explaining how the activities relate to their learning, connecting the activities with course topics, discussing their relevance to industry
Communicating overall course expectations for student participation at the beginning of the semester
Providing explicit instructions about what students are expected to do for a specific active learning exercise
Establishing verbal or non-verbal cues such as setting a tone for risk taking, caring about students’ success, encouraging responses by using uncomfortable silences, etc.
Confronting students who are not participating in activities by physically approaching them, calling on them during more structured lecture, etc.
Using points or grades to encourage participation
Walking around the room during active learning instruction
Encouraging students to provide feedback about an in-class activity
Prompting students to ask questions about an activity during that activity
Establishing an “active learning” routine by having a standard type of “bell work,”
Creating student groups, reframing tasks, etc
Use incremental activities: giving hints, decomposing a problem into parts,…
Some more concrete details about strategies are listed below.
1. Framing: Explaining to Your Students
Here are some examples of instructors explaining to their students the rationale for using some new teaching technique or technology:
Instead of you trying to explain the rationale, have former students explain what it takes to succeed in your course.
This is a technique that may not only help reduce potential student anxiety and resistance, but it also has been shown in studies to improve students’ sense of belonging, which in turn reduces equity gaps, including for international students and minority students.
2a. Video Testimonials
You can create or have your students create video testimonials. Here is a “realistic job preview” video by and for students taking courses online:
“When I first started the course, I worried that I was different from the other students. Everyone else seemed so certain it was the right level for them and were so happy to take it. But I wasn’t sure I fit in – if I would make friends, if people would respect me. Several days after I started, I came to realize that almost everyone who takes the course feels uncertain at first about whether they fit in. It’s something everyone goes through. Now it seems ironic – everybody feels different at first, when really we’re all going through the same things.”
2c. Ask Students to Reflect on the Explanation/Testimonials – Not Just Watch or Read
If you just have students passively watch or read an explanation or testimonial, it may have no impact on improving their success in the course. Here is a sample writing activity students did after reading the aforementioned student testimonial:
Now consider the strategies and insights for how to learn best that you just read. What are your own strategies and insights about how to learn best? And, how are they similar or different to the ones that you just heard about from other students? Please write at least a paragraph. Focus on your thoughts and feelings, and don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or how well written it is.
2d. Generating / Creating Student Testimonials
You’ll also have to think about how you will collect and present student testimonials. Will you ask former students to visit your class and speak with the current students? Or create a video or collect written testimonials? Here is how student testimonials were collected in the aforementioned article:
New students really appreciate hearing directly from students who already have some experience with learning in an online course. To give the new incoming learners a chance to hear directly from somewhat more experienced learners, we would like you to write a note to an incoming learner about your experience and what you’ve learned so far. Write about how they may feel unsure at first of their belonging in the online course but ultimately come to feel that they belong. We will give your note to a student who enrolls in the course for similar reasons as yourself, so you can imagine it is a student like you. We know it can be difficult to write that way, but we believe it will be particularly meaningful for new learners if they feel as though a more experienced learner is speaking directly to them.
The remaining strategies for addressing student resistance are related to soliciting feedback from your students about your teaching and the course. By getting their feedback early and throughout the semester, you can make adjustments that will help improve student satisfaction and learning and reduce student resistance, as opposed to waiting for the traditional end of course survey when it is too late to make changes for those students.
3. Midterm Student Feedback
Midterm Student Feedback (MSF) involves collecting feedback from students near the start or middle of a course in order to give the instructor an opportunity to make adjustments and improvements. Usually an outside consultant collects the feedback and provides guidance for the instructor on translating the feedback into positive changes in the course. The entire process is confidential to the instructor and anonymous for the students.
You can also collect feedback from students yourself by asking students to answer questions at the end of class (exit ticket) or the end of an assignment or module. Here are some examples of the types of questions you might be interested in asking.
What was the most important point of the class?
What question remains unanswered in your mind?
What question from this class might appear on the next quiz/test?
What was the muddiest point of the class?
What was the main concept illustrated by the in-class demonstration/experiment?
Here are some of the types of questions you might want to ask when your students turn in a paper assignment:
Paper 1: I’m most satisfied with . . . I’m least satisfied with . . . I’m having problems with . . .
Paper 2: In writing this essay, what did you learn that surprised you? When editing your paper, what were you unsure about?
Paper 3: Point out specific places in your argument at which you were aware of accommodating your audience (their knowledge or attitudes). Point out places in which you used sentences for rhetorical effect.
Paper 4: Why did you choose this particular arrangement?
What would you do differently if you had more time?
MHFA is an evidence-based training program designed to instill participants with the necessary skills to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. MHFA’s action plan, summarized by the acronym ALGEE, is simple and easy to remember.
Assess for risk of suicide or harm
Give reassurance and information
Encourage appropriate professional help
Encourage self-help and other support strategies
The primary focus of MHFA is not what the specific mental health issue is or naming the problem, but how to recognize when someone may be experiencing an issue and how provide assistance. MHFA is often compared to Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) since both programs focus on training individuals to become first aiders, not medical experts. Since the goal is to assess warning signs of mental health and substance abuse issues, and not become mental health experts, participants concern themselves with providing resources and encouraging professional-help and self-help. Remember, individuals trained in CPR don’t know if someone has had a heart attack, or some other medical issue, but they do know something is wrong. According to research studies, MHFA participants:
Understand the signs, symptoms, and risk factors of mental illnesses and addictions
Can identify multiple professional and self-help resources for individuals experiencing a mental health illness or addiction
Have increased confidence in assisting someone in distress
Demonstrate increased mental health wellness themselves
Dr. Raviv: From my perspective, the most important role a teacher plays is developing a strong relationship and intimate knowledge of his or her students: as learners, as individuals, and as members of their classroom community.
The first step of becoming trauma-informed is to understand the ways in which some of the behaviors that concern teachers–reactivity, social withdrawal, tardiness, and absenteeism—may be manifestations of traumatic exposure. Viewing student behaviors through a “trauma lens” rather than labeling students as defiant, disengaged, or unmotivated opens the door for considering alternative strategies to connect to and support students and respond to these behaviors.
In our work with teachers and schools, we emphasize three key components that form the foundation for a trauma-sensitive classroom:
Tips & Tools for Family-Safe Usage of Devices A copy of this document is online at: bit.ly/ortonasafe General Tips Talk to your kids about their use of devices: time limits, rules, online dangers Read the description, content rating, and user reviews of apps & games Try them for yourself & play…
I updated an old handout I made for parents at the elementary school where my wife used to work: Tips & Tools for Family-Safe Usage of Devices.
It has suggestions for parents to help monitor and support their children’s use of devices such as smart phones, tablets, and laptops. If you have any additional suggestions, please let me know.
Thanks for sharing information about #IndieWeb & #WordPress, Greg McVerry. Still just gradually trying out things here. This is a first stab at trying a webmention. The IndieWeb site and Chris Aldrich’s site have been very helpful in getting started, too.
If you have an engineering program in which a high percentage of students are underprepared or failing calculus & physics, see the Wright State Model for Engineering Mathematics Education. 89% of students who took their engineering math course went on to pass Calculus, vs. only 60% of students who did not. There are other examples out there of teaching math in context (biology, business, etc.) to improve student success.
Adopting open (free) textbooks can improve student success in math and other disciplines, perhaps partly because a significant percentage of students don’t even buy the textbook. See for example the free math books offered by OpenStax and Active Calculus. See also my previous post on The Case for Open Textbooks.
Below are some arguments for open textbooks explained in more detail and updated with more recent research and data. But the gist is – open textbooks not only save students money, they can help improve student success, as well.
Background – The High Cost of Textbooks
How many students do you think have avoided purchasing a required textbook for a course?
Textbook prices have increased 88% in the past decade, compared with a 63% increase in tuition. 37% of community college courses require students to purchase an access code (Student PIRGS, 2016). Faculty report the average prices of their textbook is $97, and only 9% of faculty report adopting an open textbook (Seaman & Seaman, 2017). Students spend an average of over $1200 a year on textbooks (College Board, 2017).
Individual faculty, colleges, and states adopting open textbooks are saving students millions of dollars every year, with the total approaching $1 billion in savings worldwide. See this list of the amount of money saved at some institutions:
Four states (California, Oregon, Texas and Washington) recently passed legislation requiring the labeling of courses that use open textbooks and open educational resources (OERs), and colleges like Tidewater Community College are creating entire degree programs that utilize free resources. Students in these open textbook courses persisted at a 6% higher rate and take more credits each semester than students in traditional courses (InsideHigherEd, 2017).
2. Increasing Student Success
But saving money for students isn’t the only benefit of open textbooks – student grades and course passing rates may increase, as well.
A 2015 study of over 15,000 students in 15 courses found that in 4 of the courses students had better grades with open textbooks and 9 showed no significant difference. Students in courses using open textbooks also enrolled in a higher number of credits in the following semester (Fischer et al., 2015). What about that one course where students had better grades with the commercial textbook (Business 110)? It turns out that “21% of students in the commercial textbook condition withdrew from the course while only 6% of students in the OER condition withdrew from the course” (p. 165, ibid).
A 2018 study of over 10,000 students found that ”students using the print format of the open textbook perceive its quality to be superior to the commercial textbook. Moreover, students assigned an open textbook in either format [paper or online] perform either no differently from or better than those assigned a commercial textbook” (Jhangiani et al., 2018).
In 2016, John Hilton III reviewed 16 studies on open textbooks and found that “students generally achieve the same learning outcomes when OER are utilized and simultaneously save significant amounts of money. Studies across a variety of settings indicate that both students and faculty are generally positive regarding OER” (Hilton, 2016).
Search through the largest list of existing open textbooks at the Open Textbook Library. Browse through the subject-based directory of thousands of open textbooks at College Open Textbooks. See if there are textbooks related to your courses!
Check out the Rebus Community to connect with other folks interested in creating or editing open textbooks.
I’m starting to lose track of all the different rubrics and checklists related to course design that I’ve come across, and some new ones have come out very recently, so I’d thought I’d list them here. If you know of others, please comment below. Thank you