Being as Effective as a Fitness Band

Totidem Verbis

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men (Colossians 3:23, NKJV).

This past week, Faculty Focus reprinted an article entitled “What Fitness Bands Can Teach Us about Classroom Assessment” (Buchanan, 2015). It is a simple article about a cool technology that changed the life of one of the author’s colleagues. Several practical tips surface from this analogy, especially as each of us digs deeper into a personal grading philosophy, as we eliminate the possibility of grade inflation within AGS, and as evening instructors incorporate Blackboard (Bb) into their courses. Similar tips were emphasized in last month’s Connect:ED in Dr. Easley’s article; I am hoping through this lighter approach you will continue to evaluate how you grade and the feedback you provide.

Takeaways for Your Consideration:

Fitness bands are popular because they work. Imagine that! They are designed to accomplish specific tasks through their performance and through their connection with the user. Often I hear faculty say, “I love teaching” followed by “it’s a calling for me” or “it’s a chance for me to minister” – yes, I’d rather hear these words than, “I hate teaching. It is pure drudgery for me.” However, that work, hard work, persistent work, effective work fleshes out the “calling.” The passion one experiences in changing lives through teaching becomes effective when it is demonstrated through work. The Apostle Paul admonished believers “to walk worthy of the calling” (Ephesians 4:1, NKJV). In the context of education, course objectives determine our work, and our approach, availability, and attention to detail create the connection with our students.

Fitness bands are popular because they provide ongoing feedback (Buchanan, 2015). Let me focus first on the idea of “ongoing.” The online classroom continues throughout the week via the interaction in the discussion forums. Through the spiritual life discussion, for example, the devotion topic permeates the whole week. Until now, we have not had a means to replicate this opportunity for our evening courses. Evening adjuncts, interaction with your students can continue throughout the week through Bb. It does not need to be limited to 4 hours. WE have just increased our potential not only to break down concepts but also to hear from and connect with every student!

In regard to giving your students helpful feedback, here are a few suggestions:

  • Stay current in grading. How can students implement your suggestions if they are not given in a timely manner?
  • Be detailed in feedback. How can a student implement your suggestions if they are missing, minimal, or vague? Be specific and include examples.
  • As you provide feedback, each student’s grade will develop. You will not be able to simply put a letter grade on a paper based on unknown criteria. It will be clear to you and the student if it is an A paper.

Side note here: at times we are asked in our offices to hand back papers to a group of students and at times, when I look through the papers, I see a letter grade on the last page with no comments throughout, no rubric, no feedback. I am disappointed, and I know students are even more disappointed. In these cases, we have missed an opportunity for instruction.

Fitness bands are popular because they provide current data to the users (Buchanan, 2015). Final grades in a course should not be a surprise to students; current data are critical so that students see their grades building and can make adjustments along the way if needed or desired.

Fitness bands are popular because they provide users with personalized tips (Buchanan, 2015). This one is my favorite because this is our chance to make a difference. Personalized tips can not only help students academically and professionally, but also personally and spiritually. One personalized tip may be “a word spoken in due season” (Proverbs 15:23, NKJV). Sharing personalized tips is living out Isaiah 50:4, a life verse for me:

The Lord God has given Me
The tongue of the learned,
That I should know how to speak
A word in season to him who is weary.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear
To hear as the learned. (NKJV)

Providing personalized feedback is one of the most effective ways for us to reach our students. It may not make us be as popular as fitness bands. However, when we do our work “heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23, NKJV), we place ourselves in the position to change lives too!

For evening adjuncts:

It is critical to have students submit papers electronically by the start of class when due so that you can grade them and return them electronically. In this way, students do not have to wait until the next evening session to benefit from feedback. The best way for your students to submit their work electronically is through Blackboard (Bb). Written work can be submitted through Turnitin; tests and quizzes can be taken in Bb and set to grade immediately.

Using the gradebook in Bb will provide current data to your students as long as you keep your grading current. Students will know their standing in the course at a glance.

Through the announcement feature in Bb, faculty can share helpful tips and model papers to clarify expectations.

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