Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bringing Life Into Your Classroom

~by Carmen Jones, Ed.D. c.
 IPSA Contributor

When I first started teaching college courses, I found myself facing the board the majority of the time. Writing, writing, and more writing was what I felt was best to get the information out to the students. What made it worse was that I am left-handed and it was difficult for students to take notes and watch what I would write next. Being a college professor for the first time, I wanted to make sure that students captured everything I said.

Everyday, when walking through the halls I would pass other classes. I caught glimpses of professors flipping through PowerPoint presentation as they spoke about accounting principles, cultural perspectives, or math equations. The lights were dim in these classes to allow for a clear view of the PowerPoint slides on the board. I would say to myself, how boring that must be sitting in a classroom, watching a screen, listening to the voice of the professor, and wanting to fall asleep because the feeling of the classroom resembles that of relaxing in you living room watching television in the evening.  

I never thought about the possibility of a disconnection between my students and the information I was sharing through my writing until a one of my students complained. The student expressed a concern for the board writing and the lack of connection with the material taught. Taking a proactive position, I requested to have a peer observe my class and review my teaching.  The school scheduled a visit with one of my peers so they could observe my class and uncover areas of opportunity with my teaching.

After the observation, my colleague congratulated me on how well I was able to demonstrate each topic and engage the students. He also commented about the constant writing on a board. He believed that since the majority of these students were adults who were coming to class after working an eight or nine-hour shift that they may become disengaged or sleepy watching me write on the board. He suggested that I think of way to keep them alert and ready to learn in an evening class after coming from possibly a boring job.

His comments helped me realize that even with the similarities and differences between the student’s perception of my teaching style and my actual teaching style, my style was good. In addition, I received information on books that covered practical ways to teach college courses. His useful feedback helped me realize that I need to bring life into my classroom and wake people up. I discovered that students could participate and have a good time doing it as long as you keep them engaged.

I found information in the books that helped me develop better teaching practices. The material focused on three strategies that professors can use in the classroom to keep students focused, engaged, and awake! These strategies included the following:

The board can be your friend.  Writing on the board does not have to take up the entire class. Use this space to post important points before using PowerPoint or as an area to post the objectives for the lesson. Another use is as the bridge to the next subject, if there is more than one topic discussed for the day. The board could be a compass that helps direct the class throughout the day in connecting topics.

PowerPoint makes a good point. This style is great for those students who have different learning styles. Note taking may not be their strength but they retain more information with their visual perception. PowerPoint can give you a break as well as a moment for the rest of the class to catch up in note taking. Another good point with PowerPoint is that if a student misses information you can always go back to capture it whereas in comparison to board writing, once the information is erased, it is gone. This medium can bring more attraction to the eyes of the students with the use of sound, pictures, and animation, which could make it even more interesting. PowerPoint also comes with a slideshow that has presenter’s view, which is great tool for timing your presentation and using note techniques that come with the program instead of using note cards.

Classroom activity puts your words into action. Engage your students with activities. One example is to include small class projects that justify the principles of the subjects taught. This technique allows students to stretch their minds and reinforces their learning through demonstration as well as allows professors to see their learning in action. Activities cause teamwork and the breaking down of walls that hinder communication. Professors gather a real-sense of the students and their individual learning. In addition, the students gain knowledge from the experience of working out real-life situations.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Ten Questions to Ask Yourself When Considering a Membership in a Professional Society

~by Audrey Donaldson, Ed.D. c.
IPSA Contributor

There are an number of professional societies, both national and international, in existence. Some are well known, but many others exist that may support your interests.  It is important to take time to investigate the professional society that your are considering joining so that you are satisfied with your decision. Below are 10 questions that you can ask yourself.

1. Is the purpose or mission statement aligned with your professional goals?
Do not be misled by the name of the organization, nor by its popularity. Locate the mission statement to identify the purpose of the professional society. Then do some research to see if the activities and accomplishments match-up to reflect the mission. These should be in alignment with your own goals.

2. Where do you fit in the organization, now and in the future?
No one knows you better than yourself, so perform a self-assessment to determine where you may fit into the organization. The organizational structure may help you to identify a path, especially if you are interested in filling a leadership position. You may be able to identify a specific role to serve to enhance the organization in the provision of services or to support its functions. Activities, events, and special projects may also highlight how you can be an asset to the society.

3. Are the meeting locations feasible for you to attend?
Although you may decide that a professional society is an ideal fit, the location for meetings may pose a great challenge. Make sure you are clear about the organizations meeting locations. Sometimes conference calls, Skype, and other options may afford opportunities for attendance, especially for committee meetings and during inclement weather.

4. Based on the frequency of meetings, will you be able to attend on a regular basis?
Meeting dates and requirements for attendance are also critical. This includes your availability for additional meetings when you serve on committees. E-meetings or other asynchronous formats may alleviate the pressure of real-time meetings. This is especially critical for those who may travel on a regular basis or when busy, irregular schedules limit the ability to commit to attending meetings.

5. Must a member of the organization recommend you for membership or can you join on your own?
Membership drives take place for some professional societies, but not all. When professional societies require that current members submit candidate names for membership consideration you may not feel that you have an opportunity to join. However, if you contact the organization identifying yourself with a statement about your interest in the organization, and the role you intend to fill, you may be contacted to join.

6. Which committees do you see yourself joining?
Review the list of committees operating within a professional society. You may identify one or more to join. Your service and contributions may support your ideas for new committees of interest as you prove your value and commitment over time. Finding the best fit cannot be over-emphasized so do not overlook committee work as a vital feature of membership.

7. Can you identify any significant contributions that you can make as a member of this organization?
Knowing what you do about your own talents and interests, seek to discover the possibilities for you as a member in a professional society. Based on the organization’s activities and goals, identify specific actions that may be perceived as valuable contributions. When you can clearly see that a professional society can benefit from your membership, you may want to add this one to the list of professional societies to consider.

8. How important is it to seek diversity?
In addition to the considerations for local, regional, national, and international memberships are options for gender-specific and/or cultural-specific organizations.  If there is a woman's society in your field, or one specific to ethnicity or culture, you may want to balance membership in this organization with one that is more inclusive. On the other hand, if you seek to establish a special branch, local chapter, or new society, membership in a similar organization may serve to prepare you and perhaps support you on this mission.

9. Which professional societies are most suitable?
Burnout can be avoided with careful selection. Know yourself and how to balance your schedule.  In some cases, one membership may serve your needs. Make sure that you benefit as well as the organization. However, multiple memberships may provide a good balance to support your interests.

10. How much should I expect to pay as a member of a professional society?
This is a good question. The best case scenario is to find out before you are considered as a candidate. If you are unable to discover the fees: membership fees, assessments, conference registration, special projects, etc. be concerned. This is an important question and your decision not to ask may result in a costly endeavor.

Here is a list of various professional societies within the field of Education.

Enjoy your search in discovering the many professional societies. Investigate thoroughly before investing your time, energy, and money. Best of luck in your search!