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High-Involvement Teaching Needn’t Burn Out Teachers

By Kim Marshall, TIE columnist

The article: “Does ‘High-Impact’ Teaching Cause High-Impact Fatigue?” by Jane Halonen and Dana Dunn in The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 11, 2019 (Vol. LXV, #17, p. A34-35),; the authors can be reached at and
In this Chronicle of Higher Education article, Jane Halonen (University of West Florida) and Dana Dunn (Moravian College) say that high-involvement classroom strategies are beneficial for students, but they’re also labor-intensive and potentially exhausting for instructors. Some examples:
- Giving students multiple opportunities to revise their work (which means reviewing all those drafts);
- Giving students detailed feedback on their writing (which may be ignored by students interested only in their grade);
- Group projects (should “loafers” get the same grade as those who really did the work?);
- Internships where students lose interest and don’t put in the requisite effort (creating extra work for faculty advisers);
- Seminars for newbie students who need lots of acculturation (“Remembering what it is like to be a novice and what specific advice may be useful to new students adds a dimension of effort well beyond course content,” say the authors.)
But Halonen and Dunn believe such classroom strategies don’t have to result in burnout. Here’s how:
• Start small. It’s wise to try out feedback-intensive strategies in one course. “A simple cost-benefit analysis may be useful in trying to determine whether the high-impact practice path is worth undertaking in a given course,” say the authors.
• Advocate for additional grading support. Because giving feedback on student writing is so important – and so time-consuming – extra person-power should be provided.
• Be judicious giving detailed feedback. Students can get a lot from a course without getting copious comments on everything they do.
• Triage. Ascertain which students will really put detailed comments to work and spend time on their work; for those who signal that they just want a grade, minimize comments.
• Use rubrics. Creating clear grading criteria up front saves lots of time down the road, and giving the rubric to students clarifies expectations and improves the caliber of work (and, of course, higher-quality work is easier to grade).
• Use digital shortcuts. This might include pasting in stock comments on papers that contain similar shortcomings.
• Consider using audio feedback. This is efficient since most of us can speak faster than we can write.
• Stagger deadlines. “Nothing can gut your enthusiasm for teaching like facing a large stack of papers that must be read and evaluated at the end of the semester,” say Halonen and Dunn. “Encourage students to sign up for different submission times.”
• Poll groups on individual contributions. To discourage freeloaders, ask students to indicate anonymously how much each member contributed, and factor that into grades.
• Get students’ feedback on the course. “If the high-impact practices produce the transformative effects claimed by the experts,” say Halonen and Dunn, “then the positive reports you hear from students might make the long hours you’ve put in seem worthwhile.”
• Make sure you get credit. First-rate teaching practices, as compared to delivering the same lectures year after year, should be recognized in teacher evaluations and commendations.

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