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Teaching Thursday: A Year in Review

Crossposted to Teaching Thursday

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Teaching Thursday, for a brief effort to summarize its first year in existence. Teaching Thursday emerged from a conversation between me and Anne Kelsch. The idea of Teaching Thursday began on my blog as an online extension of his regular teaching journal.  The idea was to take time each week to reflect on some issue either in the media or in practice that influences the way in which he taught. As with blogging in general, the reflective writing soon became addictive and this addiction (as they often do) led to changes in behavior.  I found that I became more aware (and, indeed, interested) in how changing approaches to my classroom practice produced different results, created different environments, and reflected changing attitudes toward teaching more broadly.  I thought it would be a great idea to supplement the regular discussions organized by the Office of Instructional Development with a weekly teaching blog where folks across campus (and perhaps even outside of campus) could reflect on the things that they do that influence how they teach.

SInce those first conversations, Teaching Thursday has seen 63 posts and 66 comments.  The most common categories (and we divided the post into many, probably too many categories) and those related to online teaching (5), technology (7), cheating (4), student expectations (6), graduate instruction (6), and the future of teaching (6), and summer teaching (4).  These posts were written by over 20 authors representing 15 departments or divisions on campus and several off-campus bloggers to add some diversity to our perspective here.  The posts featured the full range of faculty (both tenure track and non-tenure track, from full professors to assistant professors), staff, and administrators who are all committed to teaching in some way on the University of North Dakota campus.

Below is a list of the 25 most popular posts from the past year.  One of the great things about blogs is that you can track, to some extent, the number of times your pages were viewed.  Of course, any kind of web statistic must be taken with a grain of salt, but the ability to say something about what your audience found interesting, compelling, or timely.  The list below ranks the most popular posts based on the number of page views per day. The diversity among these popular posts is remarkable to me.  They range from very traditional blog posts which merely point toward an article of interest on the web, to inspirational essays, to thoughtful critiques and practice teaching advice. 

1. 2.4. Howard Zinn and Teaching, R. Kahn
2. 1.80. The Recruiting Paradox: Recruiting and Teaching a New Generation of Graduate Students, E. Nelson
3. 1.75. Online Teaching, the Panopticon, and the unequal gaze, M. Beltz
4. 1.59. On the habit of cheating, M. Beltz
5. 1.39. How to spot a bad professor, W. Caraher
6. 1.38. The Cost of Cheap Education, A. Kelsch
7. 1.28. The English Department and Beyond: the UND Writers Conference, C. Alberts
8. 0.95. Technology and Pedagogy. W. Caraher
9. 0.87. Teaching Thursday: Critiquing the Three Year Solution, J. Hawthorne
10. 0.70. The New Future of Teaching: Graduate Student Mentoring/Deconstructing Framework J. Benoit
11. 0.67. Teaching Thursdays: Boundaries and Manners, C. Prescott
12. 0.63. The New Future of Teaching: Social Networking, Changing Expectations, and the Perils of Access, W. Caraher. B. Weber
13. 0.57. Teaching Thursday: Some Thoughtful Tips , M. Beltz,W. Caraher, T. Prescott, B. Weber
14. 0.57. The Panopticon and Online Teaching, W. Caraher
15. 0.47. Mentoring Graduate Students, C. Prescott
16. 0.42. The Cost of Cheap Education: Another Perspective , M. Beltz
17. 0.41. Three Thursday Thoughts on Teaching: 1. Lexical Analysis , D. Perkins
18. 0.40. Reflecting on Teaching: An All-Campus Colloquium on Teaching and Learning, W. Caraher
19. 0.39. Call me Edupunk, C. Alberts
20. 0.38. Using Models to Teach, C. Barkdull, B. Weber
21. 0.37. Cheating, W. Caraher
22. 0.31. Reflecting on Teaching Colloquium: On Spurring Self-Reflection in Decision Making, D. Sauerwein
23. 0.30. Online Cheating, C. Prescott
24. 0.26. Another View on Teaching Graduate Students, A. Kitzes
25. 0.24. Making the Most of a Month in China: The Role of a Direct Journal, C. Berry

Over the first year, the blog has enjoyed over 7500 page vi
ews (and this does not count views via its RSS feed in Google Reader and the like).  The chart below shows that the trend over the past 12 months is clearly a positive one especially when you consider that December and January are typically slow blog months (both in terms of posts and visits) and March still has a week left and is showing exceptional traffic. In short, I am optimistic that the upward trend will continue.


While we do not collect a full set of analytics data, we can say a few things about how people got to our blog.  The biggest referrer is und.edu, followed by und.edu/dept/oid (the home page of the office of instructional development). My personal blog — The Archaeology of the Mediterranean World provided some traffic as did the Official Blog of the Graduate School , but more important perhaps are various social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter which drove a considerable quantity of traffic to the site.  Finally, several other sites picked up our blog and linked to it.  The most exciting link came from the the New York Times, but we also attracted links from India, South America, and several blogs in the US.  The most exciting thing is that every day, every week, and every month we see more and more traffic coming to Teaching Thursday to discover what our faculty and friend have to say about teaching.

Without sounding sappy, I’ve been very pleased to discover so many people on campus willing to write critical, reflective, and practical posts on aspects of their teaching.  As we look ahead to our 10,000 visit and 100th post, I am excited to continue to work to develop content and participation on the blog. In particular, I’d like to get more participation from across campus, and extend invitations to my colleagues in the College of Engineering, Nursing, the Law School, and Medical School (I’m already working on ways to draw in colleagues in Aerospace!) to contribute what you do that is inspirational, practical, and exciting to the conversation.  With the recent emphasis on the STEM disciplines, I think that this forum can become a useful place for teachers both within and outside of the STEM fields to  exchange ideas that will enrich all of our classroom experiences.

I’d like to thank all the contributors over the past year — especially those who wrote multiple posts or took the time to write about teaching during busiest parts of the semester — and thank Anne Kelsch’s for all her hard work to keep the blog in the campus eye.

Categories: Teaching, The New Media
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