Course Continuity Resources
Teaching Remotely during a College Closure
Bard has a number of online tools that you can leverage to stay connected with your students during a disruption to campus life. Establishing a communication plan and maintaining consistent contact with your students are key.
REMOTE TEACHING RESOURCES
Teaching and Advising Resources
Advising and Moderation
Historically, Bard has been characterized by a low student-to-faculty ratio, and by processes (including Moderation and Senior Project) that emphasize the faculty advisory role. The Center for Faculty and Curricular Development offers workshops in general and Senior Project advising, and on writing criteria (“crite”) sheets. Visit our Resources page for information on a range of practices involving faculty advising. A number of useful documents are also available on the website of the Dean of the College.
Assignment, Syllabus, and Course Design
We cover the best practices of assignment design during a fall Lightning Lunch session and in the summer workshops. You can also set up an appointment with us to look at a specific assignment or series of assignments. Far from being an isolated part of the course, each individual assignment ideally relates to what came before it, what comes next, and to the overall goals of the course. The short handout from our Lightning Lunch session includes tips and sample assignments. More sample assignments coming soon.
Further reading: Both Engaging Ideas (by John Bean) and The Elements of Teaching Writing (by Katherine Gottschalk and Keith Hjortshoj) devote entire chapters to assignment design. You can borrow a copy from CFCD.
Syllabus and Course Design
We hold a half-day session on syllabus design every year in August, and we offer a three-day workshop on course design every other year in early June. For our purposes, the syllabus is the document that lays out the content, logic, and ethos of the course for students, while course design refers to the behind-the-scenes work that we do to plan and organize the course around our goals for student learning. If we are honest, many of us will admit that we tend to teach the way we were taught and/or the way we have taught in the past. Recent research, however, challenges us to rethink how we do things, with an eye toward how students experience both the sequence and the type of activities. In our experience, a few small adjustments, in the planning phase and/or during the semester, can make a great deal of difference in how students learn in the course. The goal of the workshops is to support faculty in the project of designing (or redesigning) a course.
Further reading: In What the Best College Teachers Do, Ken Bain considers the syllabus in the broader context of faculty expectations. In chapter 4, Bain distinguishes usefully between assigning more work and provoking more learning, and he outlines what he calls a “promising syllabus.” In The Elements of Teaching Writing, Katherine Gottschalk and Keith Hjortshoj explain how a syllabus should be focused on student learning rather than on covering the material for the course. In chapter 1, they include some useful questions for professors to consider when designing a syllabus, and they explain why student writing should be integrated into the design of any course from the beginning. In chapter 3 of Mckeachie’s Teaching Tips, entitled “Countdown for Course Preparation,” McKeachie et al. offer a nuts-and-bolts approach that begins three months before the first meeting. All three books can be borrowed from CFCD.
Managing the Classroom
Making the classroom into a rich but challenging learning environment requires that we as faculty reflect continually on our pedagogy, and for that reason, many of the resources offered by CFCD focus on expanding our repertoire as teachers—whether by learning new practices (e.g., writing in the classroom, using peer review) or becoming more adept at well-known practices (e.g., leading class discussions, commenting on student papers).
But effective teaching also requires that we keep in mind the student experience of the classroom, especially when the conversation becomes heated or the topics become controversial. More broadly, while successful teaching involves challenging students and often requires getting everyone to move a little beyond their comfort zone, the classroom should always feel like a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment. As a colleague said at a recent lightning lunch, “If I prioritize everyone’s comfort, I might not be doing my best teaching, but I can’t afford to be blasé about my students’ comfort either.” As with pedagogy, the best resource we have in these necessarily tricky terrains is ongoing reflection and discussion. On our Resources page we offer some tools in support of these important conversations and some links to valuable websites that address these issues.
Rubrics in the Classroom
Properly used, rubrics are a rich teaching tool. By making explicit what we are looking for in an assignment, we set students up to succeed by teaching them where to focus and what to prioritize. Rubrics can thus reinforce what we teach in the classroom by emphasizing precisely those elements of the assignment that we want students to attend to. For example, if one of your goals is for students to master “the proper and effective uses of evidence,” highlighting this language in a rubric will support their learning. Similarly, when grading, a rubric helps focus our comments and reinforce our priorities. Rubrics are a valuable tool for teaching students when to worry about what.
Ideally, a rubric emerges from our own teaching. The key words we use in your classroom and on your syllabus—for example, evidence, data, support, thesis, analysis—should be repeated in the rubric. At the same time, there is no reason to start from scratch. A few sample rubrics are included on our Resources page. (Wherever possible, these are offered as .doc files, so that you can adapt them to your own needs.) Note that the first rubric is not for writing but for class discussion. Again, if we think of rubrics as a teaching tool, it should be clear how, for a student, receiving this rubric early in the semester would outline a way of approaching conversations during the semester and beyond. As with most resources we take the trouble to create, it is important to make time to talk about the rubric as a class, usually early in the semester or whenever students first encounter it.
Using Rubrics in Peer Review
When used to frame faculty feedback to students, rubrics benefit both students (by teaching what to focus on in the writing and revision process) and faculty (by helping us to focus our feedback and respond more efficiently). But students also benefit enormously by applying the criteria themselves, whether to their own work or to a peer’s. For the former, see the section titled “Self-Editing” in “Bringing Writing Into the Classroom.” For the latter, see the section on Using Small Groups and Peer Review below.
Senior Project Advising
Many Bard students consider the Senior Project to be the most fulfilling aspect of their Bard career. While Senior Project advising varies a bit from discipline to discipline, all advisers play an important role in shaping projects in the early stages and guiding projects through to completion. At the same time that advisers supervise students through the process, it’s important to know when to step back and allow students to work independently.
Resource for New Faculty
One especially useful resource for seniors working on Senior Projects (and for juniors as they are getting started) is The Craft of Research, by Wayne C. Booth et al., 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008). Chapters 3 and 4 walk students through the steps of developing good, focused research questions. Chapter 16 includes a way of developing and introductions that ensure that students have framed a solid research question. You can borrow a copy of the book from CFCD or from the library.
Teaching Close Reading
Each year, one of our most popular Lightning Lunches is on the topic of teaching close reading. Reading, after all, is at the heart of a liberal arts education. Teaching students to read carefully and critically—to discern arguments, analyze literature, assess evidence, and generally to make meaning of the text before you—is necessarily a part of what many of us will do in the classroom. Properly understood, teaching close reading is intricately connected to the ways we use writing and discussion in the classroom.
Generally, one of the most effective ways of teaching close, careful, and/or deep reading is to assign questions or topics for students to keep in mind when reading. The sooner students get in the habit of reading with questions—reading with an agenda, so to speak—the better. Especially with first-year students and sophomores, we encourage faculty to explicitly teach the practice of writing while (or immediately after) reading. Reading notebooks, reader responses, and in-class writing in conversation with a text read outside of class are effective ways to model this habit. Setting up reading groups to meet outside of class (perhaps with questions to ponder together) is a way to encourage students to simply spend time with the texts.
For first-year students, or for anyone struggling with the reading process, Mortimer Adler’s “How to Mark a Book” is a valuable resource. This short essay, combined with some in-class writing in which students reflect on their reading practices, can inspire a rich conversation about the nuts and bolts of how we read and take notes.
Our Resources page offers a series of documents shared by faculty during a recent lunch discussion and follow-up workshops. (If you have any handouts you would be willing to share, please send them along.)
Using Small Groups and Peer Review
Small groups can be used to achieve a variety of results. Some professors use small groups to allow students to hash out a particular issue prior to opening it up to large-group conversation—this works especially well if they have composed a free write in class or a short assignment outside of class. The group time allows students a chance to share ideas and identify areas of agreement, disagreement, and confusion.
But small groups can also be formed without prior preparation: simply give each group a question, a piece of text, a data set, or a challenge of any kind, and ask them to tackle it as a group and then report back to the larger group. Some professors use small groups strategically to breathe some life into a lackluster discussion (again, with a question, or perhaps with the task of identifying some key questions). Others use them to get students thinking about a central question or problem prior to a lecture. The key in all cases seems to be (1) giving each group a specific task, such as a question or data set or text to wrestle with, and (2) making it clear that the group will be responsible for a short but direct report back to the group.
Using Small Groups for Peer Review
A specific and highly effective use of small groups is to engage students in reviewing each other’s written work. This can be done at any stage of the writing process: sharing free writes to generate ideas, sharing ideas for essays, sharing thesis statements, sharing introductions or other individual paragraphs, or sharing entire drafts. The tricks to making it work well are few, but they truly do matter.
One key to making peer review work is giving students clear guidelines, typically with a rubric of some kind, to shape and focus the feedback they give one another. We offer some examples below, but ideally, the criteria you use in your class will emerge from your own classroom, from the language you use when discussing writing with your students and when crafting assignments. (You can even develop the criteria with students in a brainstorming session, which creates a shared sense of ownership.) Providing useful, thoughtful feedback to a peer is a learned skill, and as such we shouldn’t be surprised that it sometimes takes a few tries to become adept at it. This is a good reason to include it more than once in a given semester (and for sticking with it if the first attempt yields mixed results). While we hope and expect students to benefit from the feedback they receive, it’s also worth keeping in mind that students learn a great deal in the process of giving feedback: the act of analyzing a piece of writing and articulating a response is a rich learning experience. Peer groups can be set up in different ways, can happen in class or outside of class, and can be anonymous or signed—feel free to consult with us if you are planning to incorporate it into your class for the first time.
When using peer review, we recommend doing the first round in class. In our workshops and lunch discussions, we emphasize (1) the importance of giving students a good set of criteria with which to assess the work of their peers, (2) the importance of debriefing after the first session, so that students can reflect on the process and you can weigh in with suggestions and corrections, and (3) the importance of doing it several times in the semester, so that students get good enough at it to realize how valuable the practice is. Learning to give and receive thoughtful feedback is essential for student writers, and peer review gives them that experience without requiring that faculty provide all of the comments.
Further reading (all books are available from CFCD):
- Engaging Ideas by John Bean has an entire chapter devoted to small groups.
- Wilbert McKeachie et al. cover peer and collaborative learning in chapter 13 of McKeachie’s Teaching Tips.
- Our handout “Bringing Writing Into the Classroom” includes a brief section on the mechanics of peer review.
- Fiona Patton's “Approaches to Productive Peer Review,” in Strategies for Teaching First-Year Composition, ed. Duane Roen et al. (NCTE, 2002), 290–300, offers a good overview of the practice and logistics of using peer review in class.
Working with Student Writers
We encourage faculty from all programs to incorporate the teaching of writing into their courses, while at the same time using writing to deepen the learning experience of students. In our August workshop on Teaching Writing-rich Courses (see CFCD Summer Workshops), we work closely with John Bean’s Engaging Ideas (2nd ed.; Jossey Bass, 2011), which covers many of the following topics. Participants in the workshop receive a copy, or you can borrow one from CFCD.
Bringing Writing Into the Classroom
For an overview of some proven ways to work with Bard students on their writing, see “Bringing Writing Into the Classroom” and “Nine Ways to Spend a Class on Writing.” These include concrete suggestions for devoting class time to writing, with the aim of both teaching about writing (improving students’ abilities to generate, develop, and revise an essay) and teaching through writing (using writing to improve student mastery of the course content). When working with upper-level students who are grappling with how to work their way into the discourse of their chosen major without losing their argument or voice, Mark Gaipa's essay “Breaking Into the Conversation” has proven very effective.
Commenting on Student Writing
In CFCD workshops, we focus on developing an approach to student work that is (to borrow a metaphor from John Bean) more akin to the coach than the referee. At their best, our comments enable a students to discover for themselves the promise in their current draft and the possibilities for their next draft (or, if they won’t be revising, their next assignment). Our goal should be to provide meaningful pointers to the way forward while not needlessly burdening ourselves with endless hours of grading. For a brief overview of things to keep in mind when commenting on student writing, you can read the handout from our Lightning Lunch session. Some notes toward effective draft comments were presented at a CFCD workshop a few years ago by Alfie Guy of Yale University and the Institute for Writing and Thinking. In “Responding to Student Writing,” Nancy Sommers argues that our comments should force students “back into the chaos” of their thinking. Her revision-based approach to the teaching of writing is one we emphasize in our work with faculty and students.
Bean’s Engaging Ideas is by far the best resource available. See especially chapters 15 and 16 on “Coaching the Writing Process and Handling Paper Load” and “Writing Comments on Student Papers,” respectively.