Riggs, Mary. “Some Discussion Topics for Teaching Unprepared Students.”

Chapters 1-3

  1. What behaviors or attributes make the difference between student success and student failure?
  2. What role does a student’s “wishful thinking” play in academic failures?
  3. What are the educational gaps students are most likely to bring with them to [VU]?
  4. Why does Gabriel argue that the syllabus must be a key component of a strategic approach to promoting student success?
  5. Which of the five principles listed on page 13 seems particularly useful to each of us right now?
  6. How and when should instructor goals be communicated to students?

Chapters 4-6

  1. Does “consistent contact” mean that online courses are inappropriate for freshman students or students new to the University?
  2. Are “icebreakers” a useful part of our pedagogy?
  3. How do we use “participation points” in our classrooms—attendance–a student-generated question or comment, the one-minute paper, group work with observational protocol, etc.?
  4. How difficult is it to move away from the teacher-centered lecture to the type of student engagement Gabriel proposes in chapter 6?
  5. What does “thoughtful, intentional mixing of students” (p. 84) look like in the classroom? What sorts of grouping strategies can be helpful?
  6. How do we deal with RAD (Resistance, Avoidance, Denial) on the part of students when we aren’t aware what’s happening?
  7. What are some ways to assess prior knowledge without making it look like a test?
  8. How can a large lecture class become more student-centered?

Chapters 7-Epilogue

  1. Considering the concept of “deep vs. shallow learning,” what strategies does Gabriel suggest to encourage students to engage in more profound learning?
  2. How does an instructor justify the amount of time consumed in formative assessment activities as opposed to lecturing and summative assessment?
  3. Why does Gabriel suggest that norm-referenced assessment is less equitable than criterion-referenced assessment?
  4. As instructors, do we regularly give enough assignments to create a balanced picture of student achievement? What does Gabriel envision as “fair and relevant” testing?
  5. To what extent have the principles of Universal Design of Instruction influenced instructors as well as institutions such as [VU]?
  6. What role does vocabulary development play in our classrooms?
  7. Do instructors typically have sufficient knowledge of campus resources that can support students? How do we educate ourselves in this area so that we can provide information to our students?
  8. Does plagiarism/cheating rear its ugly head in our classrooms? What do we do to promote academic honesty?
  9. How do we use rubrics in our courses? What is their particular value for unprepared students?

–Mary Riggs, CSU Northridge, April 2009

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