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Excellence Everywhere - National University of Ireland, Galway

Excellence Everywhere - National University of Ireland, Galway

Here are some ways you

Here are some ways you can help them learnwithout delivering the material yourself:n Encourage the group to recognize and formulateproblems by asking students to brainstorm andmake a list of possible causes of the problembeing discussed.n Give group members opportunities to demonstratetheir outside reading by asking them to describe newinformation they might consider from other sources.n Ensure that all group members have a chanceto contribute by preventing the “talkers” fromanswering too quickly, while encouraging quieterstudents to participate.n Encourage the groups to critically evaluate ideasby asking probing questions and suggesting otheravenues to explore.n Provide timely, constructive feedback to help thegroups analyze what went well and what wentastray in their discussions, and to make sure thatat the end the groups have not come to illogical orincorrect conclusions.n Model respectful and professional behavior byshowing respect and support to all students whilemaking the rules of small-group discussion very clear.(Adapted from Guide to Small Group CBL Exercises, BMS6204: MedicalBiochemistry and Genetics, Florida State University College of Medicine.)DevelopingExamination QuestionsRemember that writing exam questions takestime; do not try to “throw it together” at the lastminute. Before you start, make sure you ask ifyour institution has any established formats towhich your exam questions must conform. If youhave students or other trainees helping you teachthe class, involve them in writing the exam orin reviewing a draft of it to make sure that yourinstructions are clear and that the test can becompleted in the time allowed.Your school will have its own customs and requirementsfor testing students’ knowledge. In someplaces oral exams are common; in others writtenones are used nearly exclusively. Regardless ofthe type of exam, you should use a variety ofquestions to evaluate what the students havelearned.True/False Questions. These questions lendthemselves to written exams. They present astatement and ask the student to decide whetherthe statement is true or false. While the testsare among the easiest to write and score, theyare limited in the kinds of student mastery theyassess and have a relatively high probability ofstudents guessing the right answer. “True ormake true” questions, which ask the student torecognize and correct false statements, can alsobe useful.Short Answer Questions. These are “constructedresponse” or open-ended questions that askstudents to create a short answer (one sentenceor several sentences). In a written exam, studentsfill in a blank or complete a sentence. Althoughthe questions are relatively easy to write, theyare harder to score because students are free toanswer the question in any way they choose.Multiple Choice Questions. These questions areused primarily in written exams. These present aquestion and ask students to choose from a listof answers. Questions can be simple statementsor complex cases or scenarios that require carefulconsideration on the part of students. The questionscan be more challenging to answer (if theyrequire both one correct answer and several falseanswers that distract the student by being nearlytrue or by playing on a common misunderstandingof the concept), but are easy to score.Essay Questions. These questions can beused both in written and oral exams. They allowstudents to focus on broad issues, generalconcepts, and interrelationships, rather than onspecific facts or details. The advantage is that thetests allow you to see the quality and depth ofeach student’s thinking. However, they can bedifficult and very time-consuming to score,because the answers vary in length and variety,and you might tend to give students a bettergrade if they have strong writing skills.114 excellence everywhere

COURSE DESIGNYou may be asked to design a new course fromscratch, or you may want to redesign an existingcourse to better suit your teaching style andknowledge or advances in your field. Coursedesign is a complex and time-consuming undertaking,so before starting down this path, giveconsiderable thought to how you will find the timeto build the new course, how many times (if any)you will be able to substantially re-teach the samecourse, and whether your new course—especiallyif it is a significant departure from a well-lovedpredecessor’s course—will generate potentiallydamaging turbulence for you from your teachingand research colleagues.n Clarify your department’s expectations for thiscourse. If you are teaching a course for only oneyear and must hand it back to your colleague whenhe returns from a sabbatical, you might want toinvest minimal time and effort. If you can get acommitment to teach the course for several years,revising it will make more sense.n Review and evaluate the course syllabus, lecturenotes, textbooks and other assigned readings,assessment questions, and other materials thefaculty member who previously taught the coursewill make available to you.n Review students’ final exams to learn wherethe course was strong or weak in teaching keyconcepts. If they are available, skim a few years’worth of students’ course evaluations.n If possible, ask the faculty member who has beenteaching the course to describe his or her impressionsof what worked and what did not, or observethis person teaching a class and jot down yourthoughts about what you would keep or change.Determine what Changes to Make. If you dodecide to make changes to the course, figure outwhat and how much you want to change. Are yourpredecessor’s lecture notes written in a style thatis similar to your own way of presenting material?If not, spend some time editing the lectures tomake them your own. Is course content basicallygood, but is it presented primarily in lecture formwith few activities that press the students to think?If the content of the course seems satisfactoryoverall, you can focus more on your presentation.But if you think it is necessary to introduce asubstantial amount of new content or make majorstructural changes, then it may be useful to startfrom the beginning and design a completely newcourse.Designing a New CourseCreating a new course is more difficult andtime-consuming than revising an existing one.Before starting, ask yourself why you want todesign a new course. Has your department orschool requested that you fill a gap in the existingcurriculum? Will you earn good will and be viewedas a team player if you take it on? Do you havea special research interest that is not currentlyrepresented in the curriculum?You will face three critical decisions—what toteach, how to teach it, and how to ensure thatstudents are learning what is being taught. Ideally,you should begin planning your course severalmonths ahead of the term to give yourself timeto order textbooks and request other resourcesand to prepare your course handouts. But evenif you are asked to develop a new course at thelast minute, you can still use many of the planningguidelines described below.Decide what to Teach. Determine how thecourse relates to other courses in the department’scurriculum by asking these questions:n Will the course be required before students canregister for higher-level courses? If so, talk to theinstructors of the advanced courses to see whatkinds of knowledge and skills they expect fromstudents who will have taken your course, andmake sure you are covering that material well.n Is it an advanced course? If so, talk to the instructorswho are teaching the basic courses thatstudents will have taken before yours so that youcan better understand what skills and knowledgestudents will have when entering your course.teaching and course design115

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