Tag Archives: higher education

Choosing and Using Group Activities in the College Classroom

By Claire Howell Major

Small group learning is learning expressly designed for and carried out in pairs or a small, interactive group. Why should we use small group learning in the college setting? Small group learning provides a practical rationale. Most of us have seen the surveys of employers who are looking for a specific set of skills in their new employees, among these are teamwork, emotional intelligence, global citizenship, communication, and leadership. These are the kind of skills that small group learning can give students practice with and help them develop in.

There’s also a very strong pedagogical rationale for using small group learning. My colleagues and I looked at these reasons in this body of research in the book that we wrote together. And it suggests that learning outcomes are improved in courses that use small group learning when compared to more traditional, stand and deliver courses.

The kinds of learning that increase are both content knowledge and the development of higher order skills, such as critical thinking and problem-solving. And students who participate in small group classes are more likely to improve these skills at a higher rate than the students in traditional counterpart session.

In their grand synthesis of their research on how college affects students, Pascarella and Terenzini have noted that retention and persistence are improved in courses that use collaborative learning and collaborative learning in other forms of small group learning. And the idea behind this is that students make social connections in academic courses that help them. And they want to stay in those classes because they have an obligation to come to class to see their fellow students.

Student satisfaction is improved in collaborative courses or small group learning courses over traditional ones. And that may be something of a surprise, because I don’t know about you, but sometimes my students groan when I say, “get in your group and work.” But the research is pretty clear that students who participate in small group activities value their learning in these courses more than they do in traditional courses.  They appreciate the opportunity to apply knowledge in new ways. There’s also increased comfort with diversity in courses where students participate in small group learning. And this makes sense, because they have the opportunity to work with people who are not exactly like them, too.

If you look in the literature, the terminology is really a confusing mess. Some people use the term “cooperative learning.” Some people use the term “collaborative learning.” Some people use “peer teaching.” Some use “peer learning” or “peer inquiry.” There is a range of terms to describe this thing that we call group work. And some people use the terms almost interchangeably or completely interchangeably.

Types of group learning

Some instructors insist there is a big distinction between the different approaches. And some people’s distinctions disagree with each other. So it can really be quite confusing when you look at the literature. So today we’re going to talk about three specific kinds—cooperative learning, collaborative learning, and peer teaching and learning. I tend to see these as different but related and overlapping approaches.

So these three types of group learning share some things in common with each other. For example, they all involve putting students in small working groups. But they have some distinct differences that make them different instructional methods. Let’s start with cooperative learning.

Cooperative learning is students working together in a group small enough that everyone can participate on a collective task that has been clearly assigned. So they are working together. That’s a key part of the definition. They’re supposed to do the same thing or the same task and it is a teacher-assigned task. The goals of cooperative learning are to accomplish the task together.

The work must be done together. They must all contribute to the overall project. And they all learn the appropriate content. And they do learn it together, and the goal is that they all learn it deeply and well and about the same degree of learning. For it to be cooperative learning as opposed to some of the other forms of group work, they must engage in positive interdependence.

And that’s the notion that the group must think or swim together. They will be successful or not based on the group’s work. And they’re tied to each other. But there’s also individual accountability. And in my work with students, that’s been the key thing, making sure that they all must demonstrate that they have done work independently to contribute to the group.

There has to be promotive interaction. So they have to help each other and they have to support each other. There has to be teamwork skills. And this is an area that not all students come to higher education with already. They have to learn those skills and develop them. And there has to be group processing. So they have to think through what they did well and what they could improve on for next time.

An example of a cooperative learning technique is the “think pair share.” Most people know this one, but it’s great. It’s a really good one. I’ve used it in almost every class I’ve ever taught. The first step is giving students a question and asking them to think for a minute about their responses individually. Then you ask students to turn to a neighbor and share their responses with each other. It could be to convince each other of their responses, or to come up with a collective response. But the idea is that they are talking about their responses to each other. And then the last step is sharing the information with either a slightly larger group than the pair– maybe two pairs pair up—or with the full class so that they all get the same kind of information from the activity.

Collaborative learning asks students and faculty to work together to create knowledge. It’s breaking down traditional structures of authority and control in the classroom. And the goal is to create knowledge. It involves people making meaning together in a process that is intended to enrich and enlarge them both.

The key goal is that they’re creating knowledge and they’re creating it together. But it’s not all the same knowledge and it doesn’t have to be equally distributed. For collaborative learning to be collaborative learning, there must be a shift in authority and control in the classroom. So couple of examples of collaborative learning techniques are the group co-authored paper and peer editing.

Peer teaching can be likened to a tutoring situation. The goal of peer teaching is to help students learn critical content. So in peer teaching, students must take on the teaching role themselves. A couple of examples of reciprocal peer teaching techniques—one of them tends more toward cooperative learning and the other leans little bit more, in my opinion, toward collaborative learning.

The first is a jigsaw, when students form base groups and they study some content very carefully in their base groups and they try to learn it well enough to teach it to the other students in the class who are not in the base group. Then students are redistributed into new groups, with one member coming from each of the first base groups. So you have four or five expert members in the new group who are teaching the rest of the students the original content. They are learning the same content, they’re learning it together, and they’re learning it in similar ways.

Another example is microteaching. And I use this a lot in my college teaching class, where students take turns actually teaching the class. So they will have maybe a 5 or 10 or 15 minute time span that they can elect to teach, in my case, a particular instructional method to the rest of the class.

Choosing a group teaching method

So how do you choose a specific form of group work or group activity? And I think this is a really—on the surface it’s kind of an easy question. Make sure your learning goals are this and that the method’s goals align with that so that you get where you think you’re going.

When we look at the different methods, knowing about them and then knowing what they are and how they play out, what they’re intended for, and where you’re going can be very helpful in that. But at the end of the day, there is a whole lot of inspiration involved in choosing the methods. We need to choose the method that’s going to accomplish the learning goals that we want, and we must be intentional about the group learning method that we choose and make sure that it’s accomplishing a goal. Group work for group work’s sake is never a good idea.


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Embracing Tension in the Classroom

By Geniece Crawford Mondé


As instructors, we strive to generate thoughtful and engaging classroom discussion while maintaining a collegial and inclusive environment. In doing so, we may be tempted to avoid topics that can ultimately add to students’ learning. Hot moments in the classroom refer to discussions that become contentious, acrimonious, or even disrespectful. None of us wants to promote a toxic classroom environment, and when such moments happen, we work diligently to diffuse them. However, when done strategically, creating what I call positive tension can help students better understand ideas central to a course while learning to engage in productive debate in the classroom and beyond.

Positive tension may sound like a milder degree of a hot moment. Although there are similarities, there are also important distinctions. Hot moments are often spontaneous and result from an incendiary statement (whether intentional or unintentional) made by either a student or the instructor. The classroom may become uncomfortably quiet as students feel the tension and hope for a quick resolution, or students might become argumentative as they compete to have their perspectives recognized. In a word, hot moments are deeply emotional, and learning related to classroom objectives can be difficult to achieve once they occur, according to L. Warren, who has written about hot moments (http://ift.tt/2dYmj8S).

In contrast, I use positive tension to accomplish some of the very goals that a hot moment may undermine. Like hot moments, positive tension typically results from focus on a controversial topic, often one where viewpoints may be rooted in personal beliefs and values. Unlike hot moments, instructor-directed positive tension is a guided exercise in which students address a controversial topic but do so following a set of “ground rules.” Much like an athletic competition that may evolve in exciting and unpredictable ways, the instructor allows students to share original and unique responses, while ground rules structure the exercise so that individual perspectives are respected, learning is advanced, and debate is fair (i.e., avoiding ad hominem attacks).

Positive tension should always have a broader pedagogical objective. The objective is not the debate itself. Rather, debate should be viewed as a way to accomplish broader learning goals. This is important to keep in mind because, when executed effectively, positive tension can generate rich classroom discussion that can consume class time. Guiding students to make relevant connections with course learning goals during energetic classroom discussion is a key component to successfully using positive tension.

Second, it is important for instructors to consider the degree to which positive tension might lay the foundation for a hot moment. It might be helpful to discuss the exercise with a colleague or even a student advisee who is not taking the class. By thoughtfully considering the possible outcomes of the exercise, the instructor can be prepared to address heated discussion, modify the exercise, or ultimately decide not to use that exercise. Finally, instructors should feel free to use exercises that extend beyond their particular field. Interdisciplinary strategies can be effective ways to create positive classroom tension, because students’ preexisting views or arguments on an issue may not translate as effectively in another field. They must then reevaluate and reframe their position in ways that challenge their views on an issue.

A number of practical strategies can be used to create positive tension in the classroom. For example, if an instructor in a social science course wants students to discuss the gender pay gap, she might first have students read two short narrative accounts of pay inequality or poems about gender inequality that express competing viewpoints. Using this technique, a sociology or psychology student is now evaluating a social issue through the lens of literature and debating how the work should be interpreted. In this example, the instructor has placed students’ focus on a literary text while maintaining the core of the learning objective: gender inequality. As students debate the meaning of the text, the instructor helps them make broader connections by raising questions related to relevant course material.

Another strategy instructors may employ is the use of fictitious vignettes or narratives that contain the components of real-world controversy. Hot moments often occur because students have personal experience with the issue and have already formed strong views on it. Stripping an issue of its real-world status both limits the judgment students may feel from others and the judgment they may place on their classmates. It also allows students to ask questions of the scenario or identify the weaknesses of fictitious individuals, all while highlighting the complexity of the topic. The flexibility of such exercises allows tension to coexist with objectivity, something more difficult to achieve when the emotional stakes are high, as they are with real historical or current events.

Geniece Crawford Mondé, Wingate University, North Carolina. g.monde@wingate.edu

Reprinted from The Teaching Professor, 30.7 (2016): 1-2. © Magna Publications. All rights reserved.

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Historical Periodization and the Long Civil War

Periodization is both the most useful and most obfuscatory tool in the historian’s toolbox. In Western historical writing (and because of the West’s culturally-imperialist tendencies, in many other historiographies as well), we reckon time largely according to the conventions of the Gregorian Calendar: days, months, years on a cycle that mostly matches the Earth’s perambulation around the Sun. Conversely, “Big,” or “Deep” History challenges us to move beyond Puny Human Time and think in terms of (at minimum) geologic time. It’s enough of a struggle to finish our survey courses anywhere near where we’re “supposed” to; the very thought of beginning our studies with, say, the Pleistocene Era is enough to give an instructor palpitations. Within the generally-accepted chronology, then, we’ve carved out our scholarly spaces within a framework so well-established as to be internalized. I’m a nineteenth-century US historian. I do the Cold War. I’m a medievalist. We often interrogate these divisions—when does “modern” begin?—but when it comes to our scholarly autobiographies, we default to the divisions we once criticized. Undergirding this hegemony of the Established Historical Era is the way in which we teach our field. Chronological markers of varying specificity define our courses: Early Modern Europe; US History to 1877; The Vietnam War, 1954-1975. And, as these examples suggest, chronological boundaries are often accompanied by geographic designators. Thus, largely without meaning to, we enclose History into digestible packages. And that’s how we and our audiences—students, readers, each other—tend to consume it.

In doing so, however, we undersell the contingency, the possibility of differing interpretations, the sheer messiness of history. When students ask “is this on the test,” or are history-phobic because “it’s hard to memorize all those names and dates,” they’re speaking to this habit of consumption. Of course, we tell ourselves, history is more than that—it’s understanding things like contingency, difference, and messiness are at the root of historical processes rather than outside them. But I don’t think we connect these understandings—shaped in our deep and meaningful research and engagement with history—with our presentation nearly enough. As historians, we know that World War II didn’t start in 1941, but when we teach the US survey, or write the textbooks for that course, don’t we throw 1941-1945 out there as the most common chronological window? Maybe we use 1939, but doesn’t that center Europe over Asia? This might seem like pedantic quibbling, but I think our periodization says quite a bit about our perspective—and isn’t it our perspective through which historical research is filtered on its way to being consumed by a larger audience? So students who encounter World War II only through a US history course might think that conflict only lasted four years because the only significant part of the war is when the US was involved. Or they might see it as a primarily Western event, losing the essential global dimensions of the conflict, if they think it “began” in 1939. And if one wanted to open up a whole new can of worms, what about the wars of national liberation we associate with decolonization? Could they be interpreted as part of the “World War?” We know the “Cold War” became hot on occasion; why not see events like Korea as parts of the global conflict that didn’t end in 1945 so much as mutate into a more dispersed insurgency? Pinning 1945 as the “end” of World War II implicitly states that the war was over when the Western Great Powers—via nuclear weapons—said that it was. Is that true? Maybe. In any case, it’s certainly worth asking.

If we want students to learn in a deep and meaningful way, we need to problematize the material. Students should be asked to confront what they thought was familiar in unfamiliar and problematic ways. In this creative dissonance, learning and critical understanding flourish. So even if we don’t want to adjust the end date of World War II, it’s an exercise that can pay significant dividends by challenging our students’ notions of the “historical fact.”



I’ve been thinking about periodization a lot lately, because I think we’re doing it wrong with what we typically call the Civil War and Reconstruction. In the typical survey course, textbook, or scholarly treatment of the conflict, we encounter the war from 1861 to 1865, and then Reconstruction from 1865 (unless it’s 1863) to 1877 (unless it’s 1871 or 1886 or 1890 or ongoing). As the ambiguity surrounding “when Reconstruction happened” suggests, perhaps it’s worth reconceptualizing how we define the “Civil War” as a process in historical time. I think it’s instructive to look at how we view wars in other historical eras—to put it simply, why do wars get shorter in the 20th century? World War I? 1914-1918. World War II? 1939(ish)-1945. The Gulf War? 1991. Modern technology has brought us shorter wars! Hooray!

I’m (sort of) joking here, but it’s interesting, isn’t it, that we put a narrower and narrower boundary around more recent conflicts? I think there’s a great case for looking at the “Gulf War” as beginning with the 1991 US invasion of Iraq and continuing through the present; the reality on the ground doesn’t lend itself to an argument that the war ever stopped, does it? Yet, look at earlier epochs: they knew how to have a long war! The Barbarian Invasions of Rome. The Hundred Years’ War. Hell, the Thirty Years’ War was a model of brevity compared to its forebears. Facetiousness aside, the periodization we use for those conflicts gets at the long-term nature of both their causes and consequences. Arguing for a conception of the French Revolution lasting from 1789-1815 speaks to this longer view, as does a more expansive consideration of the global conflict of which the American Revolution was a part. And some of the more innovative scholarship on recent conflicts takes a similar approach-studies that place the Vietnam War into the larger anticolonial struggle, for example, or sees the American Revolution as a longer-term struggle that was continental in scope.

In that spirit, I’d argue for looking at the mid- to late-nineteenth century in North America (primarily, but not exclusively, the United States) as the “Long Civil War” (I’m definitely open to suggestions on this one). If the Civil War was a contest over slavery and freedom as competing visions of an expanded American state, why not look at the US invasion of Mexico in 1846 as the first chapter of that struggle? It’s not like violence—nay, warfare—didn’t occur between then and 1861. Ask the Californios or indigenous peoples of the Pacific coast. Ask the Kansans and “Border Ruffians.” Hell, ask Charles Sumner and John Brown and the proto-army that took shape in the South after Brown’s raid. Seen in this light, the secession crisis of 1860-61 intensified warfare that was diffuse and regional into a truly continental affair by consolidating and expanding the political-military coalitions involved.

Moreover, there’s a compelling argument to ditching the notion that the Civil War ended in 1865. Gregory Downs, for example, argues precisely that in his masterful study of the Union’s military occupation of the erstwhile Confederate states from 1865-1871. Downs characterizes this period as an “insurgent phase” of the war, where each side used violent force to shape the outcome of the conflict. This interpretation has the singular advantage of allowing us to see clearly the scope and scale of violence in the South after 1865. You don’t need generals and armies to lay waste to populations and civil order. I’d take this even further, however, and look at the so-called “Indian Wars” of the 1870s and 1880s not as a separate conflict, but another chapter in this Long Civil War. The Civil War was a struggle for the shape of the American state to come. Would the expanded continental empire be organized and administered as a Free Labor society? Or would it be a slaveholder’s empire, pursuing the aims of a master class and the crucial chattel foundation of its wealth and herrenvolk identity? Even though the Union victory “ended” chattel slavery (terms and conditions apply), the profoundly racialized nature of free labor ideology meant that white supremacy would, in the main, steer the ship of state after Appomattox. “Reunion” in the 1870s was made possible not only because northern politicians and their public were willing to “forget about the Negro” (in the words on one northern editor), but because the remaking of the trans-Mississippi West united northern and southern whites in a free-labor, privatization crusade against the region’s Indian peoples. What we’ve traditionally seen as the entire Civil War, 1861-1865, might be more accurately conceived as a chapter within the larger war (hitherto analyzed as separate conflicts) that reshaped the North American continent from 1846 to 1886. The invasion of Mexico and the Dawes Severalty Act were the bookends of a settler colonial revolution, the result of which was contested in various turns by Mexicans, self-styled Confederate whites, and Native peoples.

Training our analytical lens on the Long Civil War of 1846-1886 offers a number of interpretive advantages. It allows us to see the larger ways in which racial and racist ideologies shaped not only the pitched warfare of 1861-1865, but the violent struggle for mastery of much of North America in the surrounding decades. It prevents us from seeing “reconstruction” as a period where peace returned and the issues that divided the United States were magically resolved; instead, we see the ways in which continuing violence defined the reality of many groups of North Americans, even after representatives of the white elite signed a document at Appomattox Court House. And above all, we can take a more integrated approach to the ways in which white Americans expanded a specific form of racialized hegemony over much of the continent, a prelude of sorts to overseas imperialism at the end of the century. Conceiving of a Long Civil War prevents the myopia of overly-narrow periodization from placing analytical blinders upon us, and challenges us to make the type of connections that truly illuminate the larger historical processes at work. And that alone commends it to our historical imaginations.

Bibliographic note: On the post-Appomattox insurgency, see Gregory Downs, After Appomattox: Military Occupation and the Ends of War. For links between post-1865 efforts at reconstruction and the trans-Mississippi West, see Heather Cox Richardson’s excellent West from Appomattox: The Reconstruction of America after the Civil War. On settler colonialism and its analytical utility for this era, my thinking has been influenced by Lorenzo Veracini, Settler Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview and James Belich, Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Angloworld.

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Trump questions spending decisions of colleges with large endowments

Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, on Thursday outlined his first specific idea on how to make colleges more affordable. He said that he would work with Congress to pressure institutions with large endowments to spend more on students — or to face a loss of their tax-exempt status.

A detailed plan was not released, but Trump said in a speech in Pennsylvania that college debt is having a devastating impact on many students and graduates. And he criticized the spending decisions of colleges and universities with "multi-billion dollar endowments."

According to a Washington Post account of the speech, he said that endowment spending should focus on students. "Instead these universities use the money to pay their administrators, to put donors’ names on their buildings, or just store the money, keep it and invest it. In fact, many universities spend more on private-equity fund managers than on tuition programs…. But they should be using the money on students, for tuition, for student life and for student housing. That’s what it’s supposed to be for.”

On student loans, he said: “The students are choking on those loans. They can’t pay them back. Before they start, they’re in trouble. And it’s something I hear more and more and it’s one of the things I hear more than anything else,”

Trump has suggested for weeks that he would be making proposals on college affordability.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, has made college affordability a major part of her campaign and has been talking about it quite a bit on the campaign trail. Her proposal would make in-state public higher education free for students with family income of up to $125,000. She has also proposed a three-month moratorium for all federal student loan borrowers on repaying their debt, during which time borrowers would get help refinancing their loans or moving into income-driven repayment plans.

Trump’s proposal comes at a time that some Republicans in Congress and some experts who focus on low-income students have been suggesting that wealthy colleges should be spending more of their endowments on financial aid.

Regardless of what one thinks of those approaches, a key fact is that the overwhelming majority of college students enroll at institutions without large endowments. Further, some of the colleges and universities most generous with student aid — including those at which low-income students do not have to borrow at all — are among those with multi-billion endowments.

While endowment values fluctuate, about 50 colleges and universities are in the category of "multi-billion" cited by Trump. Close to another 50 may have endowments of $1 billion but less than $2 billion.

Large Endowments Reporting Losses

Trump’s proposal also comes as some of the largest endowments in higher education are reporting losses for the last fiscal year.

On Thursday, Harvard University’s endowment — the largest higher education endowment — reported that it lost 2 percent in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2016. A report released by the Harvard Management Company blamed a "low interest rate environment and market volatility," but also admitted that "execution was also a key factor in this year’s disappointing results."

The value of the endowment on June 30 was still enormous compared to the rest of higher education: $35.7 billion.

But an analysis by Bloomberg said that the most recent returns are part of "a decade of lackluster returns compared with the school’s elite rivals."

And Harvard is not the only university with a significant endowment reporting losses. Many large public universities — including the Universities of California, Colorado, North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Iowa, Washington and Virginia; and Ohio State University — are reporting losses in the last year.

Response From Pro-Clinton Group

Correct the Record, a pro-Clinton group, released a statement Thursday denouncing the Trump proposal:

“Trump introduced what appeared to be an attempt at a college affordability proposal, which is ironic coming from the man behind the student-swindling Trump University and Trump Institute. He has no credibility to speak about affordable and high-quality education when his own employees were told to target single parents desperate to feed their children and encourage students to drain their retirement accounts. Americans deserve better than Donald Trump.


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U of Tennessee investigating a professor and popular conservative blogger for tweeting that drivers should “run down” protesters in North Carolina

U of Tennessee investigating a professor and popular conservative blogger for tweeting that drivers should "run down" protesters in North Carolina

U of Tennessee investigating a professor and popular conservative blogger for tweeting that drivers should "run down" protesters in North Carolina



The University of Tennessee at Knoxville says it’s investigating a law professor’s tweet suggesting that motorists “run down” protesters blocking traffic following a fatal police shooting in Charlotte, N.C. The professor, a popular blogger with the Twitter handle @Instapundit, says he hasn’t been contacted by the university directly, and many free speech advocates say that his remark — however objectionable — should be protected.

“He apparently is unaware of how dangerous it is to the driver who runs over a human being, and he is apparently unaware that vehicular homicide is both illegal and evil,” said John K. Wilson, an independent scholar of academic freedom and co-editor of the American Association of University Professors’ “Academe” blog, referring to Glenn Reynolds, the professor in question.

Yet while Reynolds’s tweet “is unquestionably stupid and morally repugnant,” Wilson said, “it generally should not be subject to investigation or punishment.” He didn’t threaten a particular person harm, Wilson said, and it “seems his overwrought statement was meant to convey anger with the protesters, not a serious call for violence against them.”

Robert O’Neil, a former president and professor emeritus of law at the University of Virginia who studies the First Amendment, had a similar opinion, saying he’d treat the “arguably tongue-in-cheek tweet as though it had been uttered orally during a rally, or even in print.” That means pausing to recognize its “inherent ambiguity,” as well as Reynolds’s physical distance from the events in Charlotte.

While O’Neil hoped Tennessee wouldn’t sanction Reynolds, he did say that “collegial guidance would certainly be appropriate” — especially as Reynolds teaches law.

Reynolds, the Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law at Tennessee and moderator of the conservative blog Instapundit, was temporarily blocked from Twitter Wednesday evening after he responded to a tweet from a local news station notifying the public that protesters were stopping traffic and surrounding vehicles on Interstate 277, outside Charlotte. “Run them down,” Reynolds tweeted.

The post immediately caught attention on social media and from news outlets, with many accusing Reynolds of inciting violence toward those demonstrating against the Tuesday shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott by a police officer. Reports vary as to whether or not Scott was armed, and his family, who deny that he was, have linked his death with police shootings of a number of other unarmed black men in recent years.

Reynolds, whose account has since been reinstated, said Twitter asked him to delete the tweet to return to service. He posted the tweet elsewhere lest he be accused of “airbrushing.”

On his blog Thursday, after his tweet attracted attention, Reynolds said, “I’ve always been a supporter of free speech and peaceful protest. … But riots aren’t peaceful protest. And blocking interstates and trapping people in their cars is not peaceful protest — it’s threatening and dangerous, especially against the background of people rioting, cops being injured, civilian-on-civilian shootings and so on.”

Reynolds “wouldn’t actually aim for people blocking the road,” he wrote, “but I wouldn’t stop, because I’d fear for my safety, as I think any reasonable person would.” He later said that he agreed with a suggestion that “Keep driving” would have been more in line with what he was thinking, but that his tweets “can’t be all be perfect.”

On Thursday, Melanie D. Wilson, dean of Tennessee’s College of Law, posted a statement to the university website saying that she was “aware of the remarks” and of the “serious and legitimate concerns expressed by members of the [law college] family and the University of Tennessee community, as well as concerned citizens across the country.”

Wilson said Reynolds’s comments “do not reflect my views and opinions, nor do they reflect the values of the college and university,” and that she, administrators and faculty members are “investigating this matter.”

While the university is committed to academic freedom and diverse viewpoints, and Wilson and her colleagues support civil disobedience and free speech, she said, “we do not support violence or language that encourages violence. [Reynolds] has built a significant platform to discuss his viewpoints, but his remarks on Twitter are an irresponsible use of his platform.”

Seeming to invoke Reynolds’s status as a teacher, Wilson added that Tennessee law students are to become “not only responsible lawyers, but also responsible global citizens who are able to competently represent people of all backgrounds.”

Via email, Reynolds said he hadn’t been contacted by the university about any investigation, beyond Wilson’s statement. He referred additional questions to Robert Shibley, executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, who could not immediately be reached for comment.

A university spokesperson confirmed that Tennessee is investigating the case. “University administrators, as well as the College of Law dean and faculty, are discussing a number of issues related to the tweet,” she said via email.

On Thursday evening, Reynolds published an apology in USA Today, where is a contributor; the newspaper promptly said it was suspending his column. "Wednesday night one of my 580,000 tweets blew up," Reynolds wrote said. "I didn’t live up to my own standards, and I didn’t meet USA Today’s standards. For that I apologize, to USA Today readers and to my followers on social media."

Hans-Joerg Tiede, associate secretary for tenure, governance and academic freedom at AAUP, said what matters is that any question of whether Reynolds’s tweets merit discipline should be referred to a faculty committee.

AAUP’s statement on extramural utterances — those outside of teaching or research — says that the “controlling principle is that a faculty member’s expression of opinion as a citizen cannot constitute grounds for dismissal unless it clearly demonstrates the faculty member’s unfitness to serve. Extramural utterances rarely bear upon the faculty member’s fitness for continuing service. Moreover, a final decision should take into account the faculty member’s entire record as a teacher and scholar.”

Of course, referrals to a faculty committee don’t always happen. Steven Salaita was famously “unhired” by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2014 for his anti-Israel tweets — which some said incited violence — absent a faculty review. A key difference between that case and Reynolds is that Salaita hadn’t quite started his job, and Reynolds is a chaired professor. AAUP censured the university over the incident, and Illinois eventually settled a lawsuit alleging breach of contract and First Amendment violations with Salaita.

Reynolds’s case also recalls that of David Guth, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Kansas who was suspended from teaching prior to a faculty review for tweeting the following after the 2013 shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington: “The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters.”

Critics said Guth was advocating more violence. FIRE argued that his speech was protected, and Guth said at the time that he didn’t wish gun violence on anyone but that "if it does happen again — and it likely will — may it happen to those misguided miscreants who suggest that today’s death toll at the Navy Yard would have been lower if the employees there were allowed to pack heat." He was allowed to return to teaching, but the Kansas Board of Regents ultimately approved a new policy limiting what employees may say on social media. The move was panned by First Amendment advocates, but the regents argued the new policy would better facilitate free speech.

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The Flipped Classroom Unplugged: Three Tech-Free Strategies for Engaging Students

Throughout this summer article series, we’ve addressed some of the most frequently asked questions about the flipped classroom in higher education. We’ve shared ideas for student motivation, student engagement, time management, student resistance, and large classes. Since this is the final article in the series, I reviewed my notes and the findings from the Faculty Focus reader survey on flipped classroom trends (2015), and there’s one more topic we need to address:  creativity.

“I don’t know if I’m creative enough to flip my class. How do you keep coming up with new teaching strategies and tools to engage students during class time?”

In almost every workshop I teach, at least one participant asks me this question. And, the findings from the Faculty Focus reader survey highlight the scope of this concern among educators. Almost 79% of the survey respondents indicated that “being creative and developing new strategies and ideas” was sometimes, often, or always a challenge when implementing the flipped classroom model.

By design, the flipped classroom model challenges you to plan activities and learning experiences where students focus on applying, analyzing, and evaluating course content during class time. It does take a certain amount of creativity to flip your classroom, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating. You can flip your class using simple strategies that allow for students to interact with the material and engage with each other.

For example, lately, I’ve been exploring the idea of flipping moments in our classes without using technology. What would happen if we got back to the basics with some of our activities and used everyday tools to engage students in higher levels of thinking? Would this help some of us overcome some of these feelings of intimidation and inspire us to be more creative? To start the conversation and get the creative ideas flowing, here are three “unplugged” flipped strategies you can add to your class to engage students.

Flipped Strategy:  Adaptation of Muddiest Point
Tool:  Index Cards
“Muddiest Point” is a classroom assessment technique that allows students the opportunity to tell you what they are still confused or unclear about from the lesson (Angelo and Cross, 1993). Ask students to write their “muddiest point” on an index card. You may want to specifically focus their attention on the material from today’s lecture, yesterday’s lab, last night’s homework, or any other learning experience you want them to examine. After your students complete the task, divide them into groups and tell them to analyze the cards based on some set of criteria. Ask them to look for patterns, common themes, categories, or outliers. Note how this adaptation of the Muddiest Point activity challenges students to move beyond just explaining what they don’t understand and into the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. They are now summarizing, sorting, analyzing, and evaluating the cards while looking for connections and themes.

Bonus idea: After students sort the cards, challenge them to find the answers together. If you want to keep things “unplugged,” tell them they can only use their textbook, hand-written notes, or other printed materials.

Join Barbi Honeycutt on Oct. 18 for The Flipped Classroom: Strategies to Overcome Student Resistance and Increase Student Engagement. During the program, she’ll provide strategies you can use to create a successful flipped learning experience for you and your students. You will learn how to identify the reasons that some students resist the flipped classroom model and how you can address those challenges to increase the likelihood that they will come to class prepared. Learn More »

Flipped Strategy: Mind Mapping
Tools: Sticky Notes, Whiteboard, Markers
Give each pair or group of students a stack of sticky notes and ask them to go to the whiteboard or chalkboard. Assign a topic related to the course material and challenge students to create a mind map of the topic using only their sticky notes. Explain that they can only put one idea on each sticky note, but they can use as many sticky notes as they need. Encourage them to use markers or chalk to draw lines and make connections between the ideas/concepts so you can see how their mind map is organized. By using sticky notes, it’ll be easier for the students to change their maps based on new ways of thinking.

Bonus idea: If you assign all groups the same topic, then you can ask them to rotate around the room and compare and contrast the different mind maps. You could give each group a different colored sticky note so they can add to another group’s mind map, almost like a gallery walk but with sticky notes.

Flipped Strategy: Brainstorming Challenge
Tools:  Pair of Dice, Worksheet
Give students a case study, question, or problem that benefits from brainstorming. Then, divide students into groups and give each group a pair of six-sided dice. Tell students to roll the dice, and whatever number they roll represents the number of answers they need to generate. For example, if they roll a four and a five, they need to brainstorm nine possible solutions. If they roll a pair of sixes, they need to brainstorm 12 possible solutions. Give them a worksheet to record their ideas. Once groups have completed their challenge, ask them to switch their worksheets with another group and review their lists. This could be the beginning of a class discussion, or you could go another round and see how many more ideas students can add to another group’s list.

Bonus idea: At the end of this activity, ask students to review all of the ideas, select the top two best solutions, and justify their decision.

Hopefully these unplugged flipped strategies will inspire you to be creative in your own way. Your flipped classroom may not look like your colleague’s flipped classroom, and that’s okay. It’s not a “one-size-fits-all” approach. There isn’t one “right” way to flip your class. The most important takeaway is to use the tools and strategies that make the flipped model work for you and your students.

Thank you for following the series this summer. I hope I have addressed many of your questions about the flipped model, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Now it’s your turn! What “unplugged” flipped strategies have you used in your classes to enhance student engagement?

Angelo, T. & Cross, P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. 2nd edition. Jossey-Bass.

Honeycutt, B. (July 7, 2016). Three ways you can use index cards to FLIP your class: Another “unplugged” flipped strategy. Published on LinkedIn. Available online: http://ift.tt/2cHHnfj

Barbi Honeycutt is the owner of FLIP It Consulting in Raleigh, N.C. and an adjunct assistant professor at NC State University. Her new book 101 Unplugged Flipped Strategies to Engage Your Students. Connect on Twitter @BarbiHoneycutt and on her blog.

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