I. Definition of Training Piece
By the end of the module, you will be able to implement two techniques for student conferencing in large or small classes across the curriculum.
Conferencing is direct feedback to a student. It is a method of reducing student frustration and allowing students to improve their work before a final assessment for the course. According to Rai Peterson in The Writing Teacher's Companion, there are various types of conferences: Office hours, student-initiated conferences, spontaneous mini conferences (right after class, for example), and formal conferences.
According to McKeachie in Teaching Tips, Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers, there is little research on one-on-one teaching. According to McKeachie, students are helped by verbal cues and giving them freedom to work on a task with a small amount of guidance, an experience which can be achieved through conferencing. He suggests that feedback won't help if the learner does not know what to do to avoid the error; conferencing provides the learner an opportunity to learn how to avoid the error. He indicates that coaching is not simply one-way telling; thus conferencing allows the learner to ask questions and allows you to ask the learners their perceptions of what they are doing.
According to Rai Peterson, marking student work is a monologue, but the conference is a dialogue between the learner and the teacher. Conferencing improves class meetings; students become more interactive in class and see the teacher as an individual committed to his/her success.
Donald M. Murray in A Writer Teaches Writing says that conference teaching is the most effective way to teach composition. While he has not done research in other disciplines, he states that students, in conferences, learn how to improve their own learning; the conferences allow the instructor to encourage and monitor that learning.
Finally, there is research being done on conferencing through computers. Mary R. Lea, of Open University in UK, did ethnographic research and she indicates that there is not much known yet about computer conferencing, and that we need to explore further how academic knowledge is constructed through on-line learning communities.
Another benefit to you is that conferences no longer have to take place in the office. They can take place during class time or on e-mail or using on-line real time.
Students tend to become more comfortable after conferencing with their instructor. For example, if the student and teacher conference through letter writing, the student shares more and more metacognitive thought with the instructor; if a student is conferencing one-on-one, and the instructor encourages the student to ask questions, and responds to them, students begin to trust their teachers as helpers.
A. Exploration Exercises for InstructorYou need to develop a list of questions for your first conference, which are open-ended and allow the student to do the questioning once the conference begins. While you pose the first questions, you may ask students to add questions they may have about the subject you teach or ask them to give specific answers about why they are feeling uncomfortable with the course. For example, if you teach Chemistry, your first conference questions might be:
Gen Chem T131
At first, these may not seem like chemistry questions, but they open the avenue for students to express their frustration with the subject matter, or their excitement of the subject matter.
You can put together a beginning conference worksheet before you begin your first conference.
It is important to remember that conferencing takes many directions; but as the instructor, you must be prepared so that the time is used efficiently.
B. Student ExercisesWhatever course you teach, you can have students keep an error log; the purpose isn't to only point out negative aspects of the students' work, but to highlight topics which can be discussed during the conference. The student can list the questions he/she wishes to discuss when the conference takes place.
Here is an example of an error log for English:
|Type of Error||Assignment||Questions to be discussed|
|Punctuation/Semi-colon||Journal writing 3||I do not know when you use a semi-colon or a colon. How can I tell the difference?|
C. Skill Connections
V. Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How can I take time to conference with students when I have so much material to cover?
A: If you have a large class, conferencing while students are working in teams on some other project can reduce time taken away from class material. But remember conferencing with students is like priming before painting. The groundwork makes a difference in the future product.
Q: How do I assist students to see conferences as a valuable use of their time?
A: One method of conferencing to show students you are willing to listen and talk with them about their work is to circulate among early arriving students to ask if they have any questions, and then to use those questions to start the class. Students believe they are being taken seriously. Then you might set up regular conferences in your office.
Q: When I have large classes, how is it possible to conference?
A: A major problem of teaching large classes is that the students feel anonymous. Their anonymity results in damaging morale, and they take less personal responsibility. Finding time to either conference one-on-one with students, or sending around a sheet which they are required to sign indicating when they will meet with you to go over an exam or a paper or a project takes little class time and allows students in large classes to feel less anonymous.
VI. Helpful Resources
Research on conferencing on-line.
Suggestions for one-to-one conferences.
www.facultytraining.com to attend a workshop on this topic or bring one to your campus, visit this site or call Faculty Training at (800) 856-5727.