Semester Conversion: The Practical
Lessons Learned from Other Institutions
All in All
- Less time to teach: partly owing to more content coverage, especially in sequenced or truncated courses, and partly owing to larger student enrollments.
- Maintaining student engagement requires a bit more imagination and planning (i.e. number of assignments, timeliness of student feedback and finding alternatives to lecturing).
- By spring, the change to semesters will have been positive.
- Be careful to make meaningful, well-considered changes, taking into account proper assessment, and how to go about addressing change.
- Consider getting early semester feedback to assess your students' learning.
Faculty Semester Conversion Workshops
- Developing a Semester Teaching Syllabus
- Course Design Institutes
The Practical 1: The Teaching Syllabus
The Practical 2: Pacing in Semesters
- 10 Key Points for Rethinking Your Semester Course
- Assessment shows that most students need feedback within the first three weeks of a course
- Rethink numbers of exams, assignments, etc. Traditional midterm and final may not be the best for student learning (Students would have to retain 8 weeks rather than 5 weeks of material for midterm and final)
The Practical 3: Early Semester Student Feedback
- Quick Guide to Collecting & Using Early Term Feedback
- Strategize course improvements (and save time, ultimately with improved student performance)
- Promotes student engagement
- Addresses students questions and concerns
- Leaves time to make adjustments/revisions for next term
The Practical 4: Student Engagement, Rethinking Lecture & Class Time
- Don't throw the baby out: lecturing can be effective
- Consider retooling lectures for the new pace of semesters
- Work to identify circumstances under which lecturing stops being effective
- Find and develop alternative strategies that make use of content you've already developed
- Consider your uses, and types, of student assessment such as Classroom Assessment Techniques (an intro to CATs via the Schreyer Institute). Are there more informal, low stakes opportunities for you to assess and improve your students' learning (see here)?
The Practical 5: Alternative Teaching Strategies
The Practical 6: Articles on Teaching Worth Your Time
- Dee Fink's A Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning: A step-by-step guide to integrated course design, which will help you create effective and achievable learning experiences for your students.
- Metacognition and Student Learning: This Chronicle of Higher Education article illustrates the importance of early and on-going formative assessments feedback for students and how it helps students improve their understanding and perform better on exams and other high-stakes assignments.
- Standing Up for Teaching: Read how faculty in the STEM disciplines at Johns Hopkins are integrating active-learning approaches in their courses to improve (already terrific) retention and graduate rates.