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Table of Contents for "Seven
Principles Collection of TLT Ideas"
The sixth principle is
"communicates high expectations.' "High expectations are
important for everyone -- for the poorly prepared, for those
unwilling to exert themselves, and for the bright and well
motivated." Expectations are communicated not only by what
students hear you say but also by the nature of assignments.
In what ways has technology been used in your courses or at
your institution that, directly or indirectly, communicated
high expectations to all your students? If you have an
idea you don't see here, and would like to share, please
describe it in a few sentences and
email it to Steve Ehrmann; let us know if we can also
post your name and e-mail so readers can contact you.
In my beginning language courses which are
proficiency-based, the students are required to show
they can communicate in the language and not just be
able to conjugate verbs or memorize vocabulary for a
test. In place of a final exam, I have the students
created a website which serves as a kind of online
biography in which they incorporate audio, video, image
and text files to tell about themselves, their families,
their interests, etc. They also include links to
existing Spanish-language websites related to the themes
they are talking about. This forces them to draw upon
what they have learned throughout the course and to
communicate it in a way that a written exam cannot.
The weekly online discussion boards are
graded. I give feedback as to what is an outstanding
response, and what is not (such as "I agree with what
Joe said." I'm able to follow up with posts - even the
outstanding ones, with additional questions that other
students can respond to - it depends the level of
A scoring rubric for every assignment,
examined and discussed in class at the time the
assignment is given as well as posted online for
students to refer to anytime, is key to clear
Editor's note: Rubrics are
especially important for assignments without a single
"right answer" -- the kinds of projects that students
often do with technology. For more information on what
rubrics are, and how to use them,
Groups also have the opportunity to
complete or begin their group learning contracts which
are negotiated with the instructor for acceptable work
over the semester time. Student buy-in to objectives and
learning process, as well as the negotiation of the
learning contract ensures that the expectation is held
high. In fact, the learning products up to this point
have exhibited the fact that the expectations set by the
students themselves far exceed those that could be
established personally by the instructor.
Editor's Note: The purpose of such contracts is both
to make it more clear what the student is to do, and to
achieve, and to create more of a sense of commitment in
the course. Learning contracts take many forms.
Sometimes all students in a course are given the same
contract, while in other cases students (individually or
in groups) design their own. Contracts may focus on
outcomes, on the commitment to study, and/or on other
elements of learning. Use a search engine with search
terms such as "learning contract" and "example" to find
a variety of types.
Students are informed that their
completed projects will be posted on the Internet and
utilized by local schools. In short, they know that the
instructor will not tolerate shoddy work. They also want
to go above and beyond my own expectations because they
know that other people will see their web quests and
virtual field trips.
Based on the premise that everyone likes
to see their name in print, I use Web technologies and
the lure of publishing on the Web to stimulate students
to create authentic finished work.
The WebCT postings in particular have
been useful in helping students develop their own voice
as they post ideas for a group of peers but with the
sense that what they post is being "broadcast" to a very
We have implemented electronic Cisco
curriculum endorsed by industry leader Cisco, and use
official Microsoft curriculum in computer classes. Both
set levels of industry standards expected of the
We have a web page where we put academic
information for our students. Our Elementary Education
Degree has specific outcomes that are aligned with the
State Standards. This information is conveyed online.
Students keep electronic portfolios that align with the
Our chemistry courses use computer
calculators in labs. The chemistry instructor has
articulated all of our chemistry courses with the
universities and aligned the technology with their
requirements. This has meant an investment in new
equipment and software for our chemistry labs.
- In his online,
end-of-course survey, Prof. Tom Brinthaupt of Middle
Tennessee State University asks students to say one
positive thing and one negative thing about the course
and instructor, aimed at students who will be taking
this same course the next term. He posts their
responses online and discusses them with incoming
students on the first day of the new term; at the end of
the term they too can provide advice for the next set of
students considering taking this course. Tom calls this
approach "Realistic Course Preview" (RCP) and evaluation
shows that students find these comments from their
predecessors realistic and helpful. For more information
click here. Or you can e-mail Tom at
One way in which technology facilitates
this is that it is fairly simple to showcase what
previous students have done and what classmates are
currently working on by "publishing" their work on the
Web (since most schools have servers for this purpose).
In my online courses I often post
examples of previous students' work to give the current
class an idea about expectations and what is possible.
This seems to work much better than the usual classroom
task of trying to communicate what to anticipate on a
If the first person sets the stakes high
for the rest, the professor has some assurance, other
students will strive by sheer example and expectation
the higher achieving students sets - it raises the bar
for all. I find this often happens. I try to have
postings visible to all students at the beginning of the
course for this reason.
I've used the technology to allow
students to communicate high expectations of each other.
I'll post a query on the discussion site and I've
noticed that when students seem to fumble or try to
re-negotiate the materials, expectations, one student
will often 'step in' to communicate a sense of increased
Students are directed to websites where
someone else’s work is displayed, and they can get an
idea of the expectation for their work. In addition,
they might have access to other student papers on a
particular subject, where the criteria for the
project/paper is closely matched with the product.
I sometimes post sample paper and exam
essays and drafts of papers (and different quality exam
responses) to help students learn what makes for a good
paper or exam essay and what my expectations are.
I teach a lot of first-year students, and
I make sure that we spend a class period with a
reference librarian who demonstrates that Google
searches will not be sufficient for the research
expected in my class--or in their courses in general.
Assignments that clearly require the use of documents
and human sources (interviews, correspondence,
ethnography, etc.) help ween students away from the
convenience of the Web and show them that respected
sources are vetted by a scholarly community.
When [seniors] are assigned to write a
paper in a course such as a capstone course, a session
on bibliographic research is very helpful. Our reference
librarian helps the students learn how to search and
evaluate journals and other sources of information. This
session definitely communicates high expectations.
Using Feedback to Establish High Expectations
Each student has a portfolio in which his
or her goal and the progress are recorded. We have a
weekly progress report given to each student via e-mail.
When the goal is not met at a particular week, the
instructor makes sure that the student knows about it,
and the student and the instructor discuss the issue via
e-mail - oftentimes over the weekend.
The Internet has increased the
availability of research resources, so I would ask for
3-5 sources rather than 1-2 for a report. This makes
checking citations or lack of rather more difficult
Since they are doing more lab work
independently, I hope they develop greater motivation
for asking questions and seeking out answers.
I think the wonderful web sites I see
around campus are beneficial to show quality and high
standards. Many faculty include a resume on the site so
students can read about their professor's
I provide students with copies of the
lecture notes and course text (that I wrote) and .AVI
(video) files (that I developed and narrate) on CD and
over the web. I believe that by demonstrating my own
level of preparation in a highly visible way, I
communicate my expectation for equally high levels of
preparation and performance from my students
We can easily access supplemental
material to offer/entice students.
Technology allows me to bring into my
teaching more and richer material. This helps to raise
I believe our technology initiative
(digital portfolio for all students, laptops for all
students, Blackboard available for all courses) as well
as the support our institution gives to these
initiatives reflects the high expectations we have for
all of our students.
The syllabus outlines what is expected of
the learner for participation, online attendance, and
Require students to demonstrate command
of the technology through questions that are intricate
Professional-looking , teacher-generated
music worksheets models the standard of neat music
notation expected .
First and foremost, all written homework
assignments are expected to be typed. Students no longer
have the excuse of not having access to a computer to
word process. Beyond this expectation, again, often
students are required to access information from the
internet and be critical consumers of that information.
For my research group, they are expected be able to use
PowerPoint presentation for presentation of their
findings at research conventions.
We have several documents that the
students must download and print prior to coming to
class. If the student forgets, the students doesn't get
the assignment. If the student misses the online quiz at
the beginning of class, there are no make-ups available.
The student must come to class early enough to be booted
up, hooked to the network, and ready when the class
begins and must have all needed paperwork printed and
ready to go for the day.
High expectations and clearly expressed
expectations are important in online courses. Students
come to a mandatory initial meeting "orientation" where
the courseware package is explained, content is explored
and groups formed. Groups also have the opportunity to
complete or begin their group learning contracts which
are negotiated with the instructor for acceptable work
over the semester time. During this meeting a brochure,
titled "Tips to Online Success and Satisfaction" is
shared with students. A detailed syllabus also assists
in the expression of expectations. The objectives which
are attainable but often extensive and challenging also
maintain high expectations.
Please send your suggestions, especially your TLT ideas,
to Steve Ehrmann (ehrmann @ tltgroup.org).
Return to Table
of Contents for "Seven Principles Collection of TLT Ideas
for Improving Teaching and Learning"