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 Janet Forbess,  instructor in the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation, led the Wally Cordes Chair Discussion on “Creating a Climate of Welcome, Community, and Accountability.” Forbess emphasized building a sense of community in the class to help increase engagement and accountability among the students.

Janet Forbess faculty picture 

Janet Forbess,  instructor in the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation, led the Wally Cordes Chair Discussion on “Creating a Climate of Welcome, Community, and Accountability.” Forbess emphasized building a sense of community in the class to help increase engagement and accountability among the students.

Suggestions for the first Day/Week of classes:

Forbess welcomes students to class, often using their names the first day, and thanks them for coming to class, this shows students that she cares. She also has table tents with student names on them that she places out on the tables for the first few weeks of class.  She puts them in different places throughout the weeks (but never in the back row!) and encourages students to get to know different people since they do not know who they will be sitting next to in the coming classes!

Forbess also utilizes group work to aid in the accountability and communitiy among students. She has a syllabus quiz the first day that students work on in groups that holds them accountable throughout the semester since they familiarized themselves with course poilcies during this activity. She establishes the ground rules for technology and participation as well as develops policiies with the students.

For example, she says “If you want me to post my PowerPoint files to Blackboard, then enough of you must come to class.  There are 60 of you. What is a fair number of students to require to be present before I post the PowerPoints?”  Generally the students come up with a high number, 50/60.  So if 50 students are in class, she will make her PowerPoints available.

Suggestions for assignments and activities to build a “Comminity of Learners”

  • Set expectations!
  • Have pop quizzes in class that cannot be made up if they miss class.
  • Create friendly competitions – if there is a creative assignment, have them vote on the best one and the winner gets a prize.
  • Do “brain breaks” to break up the class.  Have them do physical activities or silly activities to get their blood flowing and engcourage laughter!
  • Require that students take notes.  Have pencil and paper available if someone comes without them.
  • Follow the advice of Jack Kern – “be careful not to bog yourself down with too much unnecessary grading!”
  • Have fun “conversation starters” related to the course for students to discuss with partners.
  • Have a policy that requires students to email you when they miss class. This builds accountability and responsibility as well as lets you know they are not “dead in a ditch!”

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For more information on Janet Forbess’ teaching methods, the presentation can be downloaded and viewed as a PDF: Creating a Climate of Welcome, Community, and Accountability – Janet Forbess or you can email her at jforbess@uark.edu 

This content was developed from a presentation by Janet Forbess which was sponsored by the The Wally Cordes Teaching and Faculty Support Center (TFSC) at the University of Arkansas.