Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL)
The University established a Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at AUAF in July 2016 to commence operations during the fall semester. Dr. Zaher Wahab, Director of the AUAF MA in Education program, who has decades of experience as a full professor at Lewis and Clark College, leads this initiative that reassesses instruction, faculty evaluation student assessment, and curriculum development, as well as workshops on pedagogy and new classroom technology.
The goals and objectives of this initiative are:
Goal 1: Improve instruction (teaching and learning) at AUAF that encompasses each area of the student experience by:
I. Engaging faculty regarding the latest research on best practices in college teaching
II. Convening regular workshops and seminars on college teaching
III. Promoting peer collaboration and classroom observations for professional development purposes
Goal 2: Enhance curriculum development (course and syllabi design and revisions).
Goal 3: Nurture a faculty culture that encourages research, writing, and collegiality.
Goal 4: Strengthen the cognitive and ethical development of AUAF students by:
I. Implementing new theories regarding college student cognitive, ethical and social development
II. Creating and sustaining a civic-minded campus-wide culture by Introducing a first-year civic education course within the general education requirements to be offered during the Fall 2017 Semester.
III. Expanding student internship opportunities and voluntary work within the community
Goal 5: Reassess and improve the existing evaluation processes (student evaluation for each course and semester as well as the comprehensive annual faculty evaluation), including student feedback survey.
Goal 6: Introduce new technologies in the classroom and develop blended learning opportunities.
Goal 7: Train faculty on the use of library resources.
Goal 8: Establish critical pedagogy that identifies internal weaknesses and develops plans to solve them. Works with Department Chairs to ensure that the project stays on task.
Schedule of Seminars
10/April - First meeting of CTL - Uniform academic standards
25/April - Strategies for Grade Inflation and Deflation
10/May - Writing Across the Curriculum with C Henderson, C Murray, and J Wall
Welcome Message for the 2017 Spring Semester (can be downloaded here).
I hope you are having a great start with your classes and life in general. If the CTL can do anything so you can achieve even greater academic success, please write, call or visit room 200A in the Women’s Center. I am there 9-12 am and 1-4 pm daily. Starting April 11, we will be launching bi- monthly faculty meetings 10-11:30 am on Tuesdays so we can collectively address the CTL goals and functions.
I strongly believe that effective teaching is the most important aspect of academe, and that ultimately you are the university. To that end, from time to time, I will be sending you suggestions, culled from various sources, on various aspects of teaching. I encourage and invite your feedback.
Tips on Classroom Pedagogy:
- Active a few minutes before class and talk to students informally.
- If/when using technology, make sure it is all set before class.
- Take attendance; some days check attendance at the end of the period too.
- Have students occupy the front seats first; prevent “gallery seating”.
- Try to learn students’ names as soon as possible.
- At times, start class by a short (4-5 minute) writing on a specific issue, question, or prompt from the previous or current lesson, or the reading.
- You may ask them to read a partner’s write-up.
- Or you can collect and glance at them later.
- This encourages reading, studying, focusing.
- And it gives you an idea how things are going.
- Tell class these writings will figure in their grades.
- This exercise helps reading, writing, engaging, thinking, and collaboration.
- Start class by posing a specific question or an issue, related to the day’s lesson.
- Avoid lecturing for the entire duration of the class.
- Combine some lecturing with Q and A, small group discussions, conversation among pairs, interactive student-centered pedagogy.
- Engineer student groups breaking up cliques, mixing the smarter and other students, men and women.
- Prevent domination of class discussion by a few; randomize student participation by calling on them and by directing class communication.
- Write what student groups should discuss, on the board; monitor the groups; do not let them rely on you for answers.
- Whenever possible, relate course material to students’ experiences, needs, and concerns.
- Give and announce class participation grade twice or thrice throughout the semester, not just at the end.
- Innovate and use diverse methods; students learn differently.
- Adopt students- centered pedagogy: have them explain, create, perform, present, and respond.
- Give students some sense of ownership and responsibility.
- Inspire students to learn not so they can become docile workers, but better people and citizens too.
A.W. Chickering and S.C. Eehrmann state that good teaching practices encourage:
- Faculty- student contact.
- Reciprocity and cooperation among students.
- Active learning.
- Prompt feedback to students.
- Emphasizes time on task.
- High but realistic expectations for the students.( The Pygmalion Effect)
- Considers / respects diverse talents and ways of learning.
- Maintains expert knowledge in the subject area.
- Understanding about how students learn.
- Knowledge about pedagogical theory and practice.
- Critical thinking.
Others have observed the importance of the following in teaching:
Less experienced and newer instructors will find Tom Drummond’s extensive “A brief summary of the best practices in the teaching” very helpful. PDF. Just Google him.
Meeting for Monday, 10/April/2017
Dear Colleagues, April 9, 2017
Our first CTL- sponsored faculty meeting will take place 12-1:20 in room 114 Women’s Center. Snacks and refreshments will be provided. Full and part time faculty is invited, requested (dare I say, expected) to attend.
The CTL is intended to work on the following:
- Improve teaching and learning at AUAF.
- Review and reform the curriculum.
- Promote research and scholarship among faculty.
- Work on professional development in general.
- Discuss, design, and plan a required common “civic education” course to start this fall.
- Foster a professional, collegial and academic culture at AUAF.
- Faculty and students assessment.
- Connect AUAF with other educational institution and Afghan society
Agenda for Tomorrow’s Meeting:
- Review the CTL goals and objectives in small groups. 40 minutes
- Reflections on your classes thus far: 20 minutes
- What is going well?
- What needs to work on?
- Mentor-mentee arrangements within the department. 10 minutes
- Classroom observations. 10 minutes
- Faculty presentations at our bi-monthly meetings. 5 minutes.
- Your suggestions?
See you then and there.
Zaher Wahab, Ph.D.
Lesson on Getting Students to Read!
Odds Against Reading: April 16, 2017
This is not a reading society. 85% of the women and 65% of the men are illiterate. There are very few libraries and access to them is limited. Even university libraries are small, obsolete and close at 4pm. Most schools have no library. Half have no buildings! Schooling is seen as training, not to get an education. Throughout the education system, instruction largely consists of dictation, memorization and regurgitation. Print media is limited and declining. Most people cannot afford newspapers. Mosques, which used to be centers of reading, have mostly lost that function. Television and radio are for the most part, trivialized, vulgarized, and commercialized. Students have a utilitarian approach to reading so they cram and read for recall and regurgitation, not comprehension, depth, critical analysis or wisdom. Other than occasional lip service to the printed word, public figures give no indication of reading or having respect for learnedness. It is abundantly clear that the way to achieve statues, wealth, power and privilege in this society, is NOT by straining the mind and reading. So why read?
Furthermore, our students have other things on their mind too such as family, money, health, security, as well as social and psychological issues to deal with. There are very few ideal students among them. Unless the students are convinced that not studying the required reading will have serious consequences, they won’t read. At the same time, assigned readings are the foundation most college courses. But it is hard to get students to study the reading in a timely manner and make good use of them. We need to understand our students’ lives and go from there, if we are to get them to study and produce autonomous, life-long learners, critical thinkers, and good citizens.
Tips on Getting Your Students to do the Required Reading:
- Make sure your required readings are current, interesting, engaging, accessible, relevant, and available in hard and soft forms to students.
- Make sure the required reading is actually required.
- Explore alternatives to the standard and at times, dense textbooks.
- Make sure that all your reading assignments are there for a good reason. Know what students really need to read and that they can read it in a reasonable amount of time.
- Show and convince them why it is important to read.
- Make use of the readings in your lectures, discussions, assignments, etc. Just refer to the readings, DO NOT repeat the reading in the lecture. If you do this, students will not read. At the end of the class, remind students what they should read for the next session.
- Tell them to underline the main points, ideas, or concepts and what they find surprising, confusing, unclear.
- You might pose questions in a handout, such as what is the main focus of the reading? What do you think? What question would you like answered in class?
- Make use of the reading in class without rehashing it. Don’t do all the work for students. Have them study the material actively before class, so to benefit from the class and get a good grade.
- Sell students on the reading.
- Make your expectations about reading explicit.
- Just make references to the readings in your presentations without details.
- Base the written assignments on the readings.
- Instead of quizzing students, ask them for written reading responses.
- Pose engaging questions whose answers can only be found in the reading.
- Call on students randomly to respond to required readings.
- Make explicit connections between the assigned reading, your lectures, discussions, tests, and written assignments.
- Teach them how to read a textbook:
With a purpose
Recognizing the main point?
- Hold students accountable for the readings.
- Make sure the reading really is essential.
- Make sure the reading really is aligned with course objectives.
- Make sure the reading really can be done in a reasonable amount of time.
- Keep reiterating that the reading is necessary.
- At the end of the class briefly preview the next reading.
- Use the reading as a foundation for lectures and discussions.
- Guide students to read for comprehension, not for memorization and regurgitation.
- Effective reading is an interactive and constructive process.
- Explain the relevance of reading to the lectures, discussions, assignments and tests.
- Have students turn in brief journals of thoughts, questions and observations about the readings.
- Divide the readings among students who will then report to/in class.
- Create/distribute a rubric for evaluating and analyzing the reading by students.
- Have students create lists of the most important concepts in the reading and rank order those concepts.
- Have student groups create cognitive maps based on key concepts and ideas they have identified individually.
Use activities that will motivate students to read:
- Provide guidance.
- Give study questions.
- Give short written assignments.
- Have students make a visual or graphic concept map.
- Ask students to read in pairs or groups and report to class.
- Provide optional readings.
- Remind students to always bring the readings to class.
- Allow a few minutes at the beginning of the class so students can scan the day’s reading.
- Make prior reading a requirement.
- Randomize calling on students, don’t rely on volunteers or the usual vocal students.
- Teach students reading strategies early in the semester. Show examples of what, to underline and how to identify key ideas and concepts.
- The readings have to be relevant to:
Achieving the learning goals/objectives
Completing course assignments and projects
Student’s careers, being a professional and a citizen
Student readiness and time. Are students prepared to read academic texts? Do they know the difference between skimming, scanning, directed and deep reading? Do they have the prior knowledge- the schema to process the current material? We should take the time telling them how to read.
- Select readings which are critical to the course instead of lots of readings.
- Br very clear about why you are asking students to read something. Keep reminding them why it is important to read.
- Engage students in activities that require them to apply the reading.
- Hold students accountable for the reading. Have them write one minute paper summarizing the reading or the most important point(s) in the reading.
- Have students write reading logs. You do not have to read all this.
- Assign readings that are appropriate to the ability, level, major, interests, etc of the students.
- Tie the readings closely to the course objectives. Is this material the best way to achieve the course goal?
- Don’t assign too much. Find out how many pages the students can read per hour and really grasp the main idea?
- Use peer instruction in the form of small groups or pairs in and out of class.
- Establish mutual trust among students so they can feel safe to engage and help each other deal with the readings.
- Make the reading mean something in all the course related activities; otherwise why read?
- Explain why you chose this particular reading material.
- In your tests and quizzes, include some specifics from the readings.
- Structure assignments that require integrating ideas from the readings into personal experiences, insights, or to other readings.
- Form structured reading groups where members have different roles regarding the reading.
- Tell students you will not tell/ lecture them about everything that is important in the course and that they must find somethings in the reading.
- Refer to the reading frequently without spoon-feeding students the content. Tell students to bring the readings (hard or soft) to class for in- class activities.
- Experiment with an open-book take-home test.
Good luck with getting students to do the required reading!
01/May Meeting: PDI instructor training. Second training session.
We are pleased to announce that Professors C.Henderson, C.Murry and J.Wall will lead a presentation on 'Writing Across the Curriculum' 12:20-1:30 pm Wednesday May 10th. You are invited/encouraged to attend. Pastries will be provided.
24/May Meeting: Re-Assessing the Evaluation Processes
The CTL convened its fourth faculty meeting on Wednesday, 24 May, 2017. The agenda was to discuss the following:
- Four revised faculty evaluation templates/instruments including: student evaluation of faculty; faculty evaluation of faculty;
- University guidelines for the annual faculty evaluation; and
- Computation of the various criteria.
Soft copies of these instruments were sent to the faculty in advance of the meeting, and hard copies were distributed in the meeting. The fifteen attendees discussed the templates in small groups and noted their comments in writing and submitted these to the CTL director at the end of the meeting.
13/June Meeting: The Importance of Accreditation
The Center for Teaching and Learning convened its sixth faculty development meeting 12;20-1:20 pm today Wednesday, June 13. The meeting was attended by 15 faculty members. Professor R. Monger and the Provost Office discussed the topic of 'Why Accreditation Matters." The Provost Office discussed the history of accreditation in Afghanistan as well as AUAF participation in the accreditation process. He reported on the preliminary results of the most recent visit by the MoHE accreditation team and what AUAF needs to do to keep improving. Professor Monger reported on his recent participation in an international conference in Bangkok. A good comprehensive discussion ensued as to the implication for AUAF planning, pedagogy, decision-making and related matters.
05/July Meeting: The Quality of Education at AUAF
The Center for Teaching and Learning convened the eighth faculty meeting this semester. The meeting was announced by the president on Tuesday and reminders were emailed by the CTL. The meeting lasted for 75 minutes. Dr. Saffary, the provost made a presentation about 'The quality of education at AUAF: challenges and possibilities'. An interesting and lively discussion ensued following Dr. Saffary's presentation.