Realistic Student Expectations

Research suggests college students rarely complete learning tasks such as applying, evaluating, or synthesizing knowledge and instead complete tasks that require remembering and understanding information. Our expectations for students tend to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we communicate high, but attainable expectations for our students, they will make significant learning gains.

Image Attribution: Matt Barton

When designing a course, the tasks included should be just beyond students’ current achievement level, but still within their grasp. This is referred to as the zone of proximal development. If a task is too difficult it can create anxiety in the student. If it is too easy, students do not see a point in the task and it results in boredom. Therefore, you should strive to create balance in setting high expectations and providing a supportive environment to facilitate learning so that students can meet those expectations.

Once you have determined your performance expectations, it is imperative to communicate those to students. Scager and colleagues suggest 5 characteristics of the instructor that help to communicate high expectations to students.

  1. The instructor’s reputation for holding high expectations,
  2. Announcing challenging expectations explicitly and in course materials,
  3. Creating a learner-centered environment with the instructor’s role as a co-learner rather than sole authority,
  4. Creating a need for active participation in learning by the students, and
  5. Holding students accountable for preparing for class.

The graphic below provides some specific tips to communicate high expectations in your courses this semester.

Image Attribution: Kelly Scholl

Communicating high expectations is the 6th of 7 principles for effective undergraduate teaching we have reviewed this year.  Subscribe to the blog to be sure you don’t miss the final principle, as well as other great topics we will continue to discuss over the summer. If you would like to discuss any of these tips in more detail, please contact the CITL for an individual consultation.

Additional Readings:

Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education | Chickering & Gamson
How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching | Ambrose et. al
How to persuade honors students to go the extra mile: Creating a challenging learning environment | Scager et. al

Engaging Students in Learning Using Immersive Technologies

Think back to the time when you were learning to ride a bike. Did you learn from reading a book? Did watching someone ride a bike provide you with enough knowledge allow you to hop on and ride seamlessly into the sunset? Probably not. Chances are you sat on the seat, put your feet on the pedals, and fell over a time or two before mastering the art of bicycle riding. No matter how many times you watched your brother ride his bike, you didn’t grasp the skill until you tried it yourself. Similar arguments are being made within the realm of education. Videos and other media present visual or auditory stimuli to enhance teaching, but it misses a critical component—students aren’t actively engaging with the content.

Olga Scrivner explains to class how to access locations.
Image Attribution: Olga Scrivner

Olga Scrivner and Julie Madewell from the Spanish and Portuguese Department at Indiana University have teamed up with Nitocris Perez from University Information Technology Services in order to transform language education by introducing Virtual Reality (VR) immersive technologies in the classroom, thanks to a grant from The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. The plan is for language instructors to film cultural videos during their travels and record various language conversations using 360-degree cameras. Students will engage in Virtual Reality using Google Cardboard viewers, which Scrivner states, “allows for incorporation of cultural and communicative aspects of language learning.”

Students tour Spain
Image Attribution: Olga Scrivner

As this technology is growing at Indiana University, Scrivner and Madewell hope to address these questions in their research: Does this emerging technology positively affect students’ motivation and performance? How do students and instructors respond to VR interaction? How does VR change the language classroom dynamic?

Sharing VR via Twitter
Image Attribution: Olga Scrivner

Have you thought about incorporating virtual or augmented reality in your classroom, but don’t know where to start? Consider making an appointment with the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning to talk to a consultant about ways to create an engaging classroom dynamic with active learning—whether it’s with virtual reality, incorporating other technologies into your teaching, or providing space and opportunities for students to become active participants.

Resources to Help Minimize Plagiarism in Your Course

This blog series discusses ways to prevent plagiarism and what to do when faced with a possible case of plagiarism. We complete this series by reviewing resources available to help prevent plagiarism in your course.

One simple prevention tool is, a text matching service that can be used in the Canvas Assignments tool. When students submit their assignments, the text in their papers is compared to: student papers previously submitted to the Turnitin database; books; journals; newspapers; and other sources. Turnitin generates a percentage report showing the match between the student’s text and these sources. You can allow students access to these reports, but we recommend guidance on interpreting the results. A CITL consultant can help you with these recommendations, as they should be specific to each course and assignment. Learn more about Turnitin here and how to use it with a Canvas assignment.

Writing Tutorial Services (WTS) provides free help with any aspect of the writing process. Should a WTS tutor suspect that a student has plagiarized, the tutor will try to help the writer diagnose the problem. For example, the tutor might say that she notices more than one voice in the piece. Or, the tutor might have the student explain a certain section of writing. Alternatively, tutors might ask if some material needs to be quoted, or if borrowed material has been cited correctly. However, it is ultimately the student’s responsibility to avoid plagiarism. Because tutors may not have read the course material and may not know what counts as common knowledge in a particular course, they cannot always identify a case of plagiarism when they see it.

Lastly, these tutorials help students recognize plagiarism. They can even obtain a certificate as proof of completion. Contact CITL for help with assignment design and to develop strategies for preventing plagiarism in your courses.

Plagiarism Blog Series:

  1. Designing Assignments to Promote Academic Honesty
  2. Collaborate with Librarians to Help Your Students Develop Their Research Workflow
  3. What is Plagiarism and How Do I Talk with Students about It?
  4. Truth, Then Consequences: When Plagiarism Is Reported at IU
  5. Resources to Help Minimize Plagiarism in Your Course

Scheduling Appointments in Canvas (and without email!)

Did you know that the Canvas you use for your classes every day also allows you to schedule appointments with your students? Perhaps you hold scheduled help sessions, or have groups of students meet with you regarding a collaborative project. Whatever the case, Canvas actually allows you to add appointment times to the Canvas calendar, associate them with a class, and have students sign up for these times. No more emails back and forth trying to coordinate schedules, and students no longer have to guess at times are still available.

To get started simply log in to Canvas and select Calendar from the left navigation bar. You will notice there are some different viewing options in the upper right corner, including Scheduler. By choosing scheduler, you will see all the options of appointment groups you either own or can sign up to attend. Select the Create an Appointment Group button on the far right to start a new category. From here you can name the appointment (consider adding the course number, section number if applicable, and a short description of the meeting type) and select appointment date(s) and times. However, there are a few other options that make scheduling easy.

The Divide into equal slots of ___ minutes actually allows you to set a block of time that you are available and have the scheduler break that up into several back-to-back appointment options. i.e. If I were available for 2 hours of time one afternoon, and I wanted each meeting to last 15-20 minutes, I would add the time block from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm and divide this appointment into slots of 20 minutes each. That automatically creates 6 appointment times for students to choose. Another nice feature is to limit those who can sign up to only 1 student per session or multiple students per session, depending on the type of appointment you are holding.

To learn more about scheduling appointments in Canvas, review the Canvas Guide, or contact CITL for an individual consultation. Have another Canvas feature you’d like to learn more about or have other Canvas questions related to your teaching and learning? We would be happy to schedule consultations, departmental workshops, or get you the documentation you are seeking. Subscribe to our blog to continue to get other great teaching tips and join the conversation.

Truth, Then Consequences: When Plagiarism Is Reported at IU

This blog post follows a conversation about IU policy and procedure for reporting plagiarism with Larry Serfozo, Office of Student Ethics (OSE) Coordinator for Student Conduct.

Why is it important to report plagiarism at IU?

IUB recorded about 250 cases of plagiarism for academic years 2014/15 and 2015/16. Properly handling academic misconduct is critical to

  • ensure the intellectual and ethical growth of the student
  • uphold students’ rights
  • help assure the quality of scholarship and research at Indiana University
  • uphold the credibility of a degree from IU.

When the instructor determines plagiarism, what procedures follow?

If, after meeting with and hearing the student’s perspective, the instructor still believes that plagiarism occurred, a specific process follows, including filing the report online. The academic unit handles appeals, and OSE supports and enforces that decision. Instructors should review the academic unit’s procedure for reporting misconduct. 

What happens to the student?

When the misconduct decision is upheld, the student meets with an OSE staff member, who builds on the faculty conversation with a twofold goal:

  • individual student development, to better align their actions and values and build skills to avoid future misconduct
  • promoting and ensuring the academic integrity of Indiana University.

OSE wants students to gain a better understanding of IU’s policies and how their individual actions impact the IU academic community. To this end, the action plan for each incidence of plagiarism includes an academic integrity seminar.

Image Attribution: Indiana University Office of Student Ethics

How does plagiarism affect a student’s status?

Academic misconduct stays on a student’s disciplinary record, and may be retained for five years after separation from IU. IU policy on disciplinary records states those records are confidential and can be released only under certain conditions and in compliance with federal law. If, as a direct result of misconduct, a student receives an “F” for the course, that is noted on the transcript.

Dealing with academic misconduct can help the student move forward with the understanding and skills necessary to meet IU’s expectations. Through this process, students can become more prepared to succeed in research, in their careers, and as community members.

Would you like to find out more about plagiarism? This post is fourth in a series that addresses plagiarism and how to prevent it. Previous posts are listed below. The fifth and last post will cover additional resources to share with your students. Interested in talking with someone about plagiarism-related topics? Contact for a consultation.

Plagiarism Blog Series:

  1. Designing Assignments to Promote Academic Honesty
  2. Collaborate with Librarians to Help Your Students Develop Their Research Workflow
  3. What is Plagiarism and How Do I Talk with Students about It?
  4. Truth, Then Consequences: When Plagiarism Is Reported at IU
  5. Resources to Help Minimize Plagiarism in Your Course

Teams Without Tears: Setting Up Students for Successful Teamwork

Assigning students to work in teams on a project can have a lot of benefits for your students’ learning, but those benefits depend on creating successful student teams. Such teams have positive interdependence among members, individual accountability, face-to-face interaction, interpersonal skills, and periodic reflection on the team’s performance. How can you design an assignment so that student teams have these characteristics? Here are 4 issues to consider in designing an effective team assignment.

  1. Design good team assignments. A good team assignment requires students to work together to accomplish the task, and defines how both individual students and the team will be held accountable.

    Image Attribution: University of Michigan CRLT
  2. Construct teams carefully. Instructor-created teams of 3 to 5 students that are heterogeneous demographically as well as in background knowledge and skills can lead to more effective teamwork. You may want to take students’ schedules into account in forming teams, so that each team can find time to meet outside of class.
  3. Teach teamwork skills. Help students develop guidelines or contracts that outline their expectations for their team members’ behaviors and that define each member’s role. As the instructor, you should also make opportunities to monitor and support the teams as they work (perhaps using in-class time) and help address any issues that may arise.
  4. Assess student teams. In addition to your own evaluation of the teams, give students opportunities to reflect on their team members’ behaviors using peer evaluations while the teams are working as well as after the project is completed.

Want to learn more about designing effective teamwork? The CITL’s Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL) program is sponsoring a talk by Matt Ohland (Purdue University) entitled “Creating and Managing Effective Student Teams.” The talk will be held on April 21 at 1:00 pm in the IMU State Room East. To learn more and register, click here. Or contact CITL to meet with a consultant.