A little bit about me. I worked as a CPA and in corporate accounting before beginning my
academic career over twenty years ago. I began by teaching part-time at a local
community college while completing an M.B.A. from Seton Hall University.
Subsequently I went back to school full time, earning a Ph.D. in business and economics
from Lehigh University.
How did my industry background shape my development as a teacher? The
accountant in me thrives on setting and tracking quantitative goals: points,
percentages, and grades. This fits nicely with a basic premise of economic theory:
people and firms respond to incentives. Accordingly, my early teaching strategies
relied heavily on “if you grade it, they will do it.”
However, I was troubled by students’ emphasis on points instead of learning. Eventually
I accepted that a points-based motivation might have serious unintended consequences.
See for example, Alfie Kohn’s Punished by Rewards or Diane Pike’s 2011 Presidential Address
to the Midwest Sociological Society, “The Tyranny of Dead Ideas in Teaching and Learning”
(The Sociological Quarterly, 52: 1-12).
Add to this a long running jealousy of my colleagues in the humanities where I imagine lively discussions occurring in classes dealing with art, poetry, history, and philosophy while I help students navigate debits and credits, marginal cost computations, graphical analysis and other technical content. (I realize my imagination may be vastly different than reality, but that’s a subject for another time.) I longed to incorporate meaningful discussion into my technical courses.
Thus, I began reading and researching questions related classroom and online interaction, learning-centered syllabi, motivation, and unproductive student behaviors. As I answer some questions for myself, new questions continually emerge:
What teacher strategies integrate and make explicit the connection between grades and learning?
How can teachers help students see the connections between the assignments/assessments and their learning?
What practices build a strong case for content relevance?
What strategies help students see their efforts as worthwhile?
What are the consequences of grading, or not grading, class participation?
Does “class participation” mean the same thing to students and faculty?
What kinds of policies and practices help students move from offering straightforward comments to substantive contributions?
What are the necessary and sufficient conditions to facilitate meaningful online discussion?
Does your syllabus indicate that all the decisions about the course have already been made?
Is it necessary for the teacher to make all the decisions about the course?
When the teacher decides everything, how does that affect the motivation to learn?
Does teacher decision-making help students develop as independent learners?
I hope you the information and resources helpful.
Feel free to email me at: or follow me on Twitter: @1313lolita.