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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Reflecting on Teaching Presence

Signifying Presence
Today I finished reading through all of the IDEA ratings for CMC's online faculty this past spring.  IDEA is the student evaluation method used by CMC.  (More information here:  The survey was developed for F2F teaching, so could stand to be adapted for online, but it's still useful.  

At the same time I made it all the way to chapter 2 of "Inspired College Teaching" by Maryellen Weimer.  That's the chapter where she discusses the importance of reflection, of thinking about what you do in the classroom and then moving beyond that to why you do it?  A straightforward place to start is on policies.  Do you have an attendance policy?  Why?  What is the goal/objective of your policy on attendance?  Is it meeting that goal? We too often don't take the time to think about the ramifications of each policy or teaching behavior, especially when it is to be transported to the online world.

The class evaluation forms ought to be a good moment to stop and do some reflection about your teaching and the IDEA format does facilitate this.   What did students say about your course?  Do they like the organization? Do the assessments you've chosen help students meet the learning outcomes?  Are students able to negotiate the content easily? Do they feel that you, the instructor, are present in the course? 

Clearly the top faculty were very present in their courses.  They provided prompt, extensive, and useful feedback on assessments.  They responded to student questions quickly via email and discussion post.  They developed a class atmosphere which encouraged students to talk with each other and work with each other.  

The content was important also -- in courses taught be exceptional faculty students were stimulated to look beyond the material in the textbook and the course shell.  They learned how to apply the material to their lives and concerns, not just for exams and assessments.  They were enthusiastic about continuing studies in that content area.  It was exciting to read the student comments in those courses.

The surveys emphasized the continuing importance of faculty presence.  Be there (promptly and frequently) for your students in email, in discussion, in grading.  Ensure they know they have a guide through the content.  They will reward you with enthusiasm and excitement about your field.


(Photo credit:  Timothy Greig, Signifying Presence,

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