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Applications are now being accepted for the UVM Hybrid Course Initiative program (phase 3). The deadline is Monday, November 3rd at 5pm! Read more about teaching hybrid courses, about the initiative, and the benefits in applying to teach one of these courses.
This fall, the CTL sponsored a book group exploring contemplative teaching/learning methods. The book, Contemplative Practices in Higher Education: Powerful Methods to Transform Teaching and Learning (Barbezat and Bush, 2013), describes a pedagogy that is based on long-established meditative practices and cites research indicating its effectiveness. The authors explore contemplative teaching practices’ potential to:
- Deepen student understanding of, and personal connection to, course content
- Develop student attention, inquiry, and problem-solving skills
- Support student sense of compassion for self and others
In addition to theoretical background, the book presents practical ideas for applying these practices across disciplines, including mindfulness, deep listening, contemplative reading, writing, and movement.
Led by Kit Anderson, senior lecturer in the Environmental Program, the book group’s ten enthusiastic members, representing a variety of disciplines, shared stories from their teaching experiences. Kit, who has attended seminars presented by the book’s authors and has been integrating these practices into her teaching for a while, was invaluable to the discussions.
We would to like grow this community of faculty who are curious about contemplative pedagogy and plan to offer this book group again early in the spring semester. If you would like to be sent a scheduling poll for this group, please send your contact information to email@example.com. Please include in the message that you are interested in participating in the contemplative practices book group. Specific times and dates will be chosen after the poll has been completed and will reflect the most common dates.
I wrote this post a couple of years ago and I want to share it again because the resources are so valuable.
Getting students in gear for learning is really about preparing students to become active agents in their own learning—both engaged in and accountable for the process.
As with creating courses, the course objectives are the first step. Before we go there, here are some guiding questions:
- How do you know if your students are understanding, comprehending, and learning their course reading material?
- How do you get your students to do the readings?
- How do you know your students are learning and absorbing content?
Guess what? They may not know either!
- How do I help students be accountable for their learning process? I propose that with consistent assessment and evaluation deeper learning can happen.
So how do we do this? Remember, as mentioned above:
Evaluation needs to connect to learning objectives.
As you start this process, ask yourself, why are you evaluating?
- To make sure that students prepare for classroom discussion? (formative)
- To prepare students to succeed on class exams? (summative)
Here are a few tools for evaluating student learning:
- Anonymous quizzes for "just in time teaching" (JiTT) – formative assessment
- Readiness assessment tests (RATs) or online mid-semester and end-of-year survey (ungraded) – formative assessment
- Pre- and Post- exams (graded) – formative and summative assessment
- Using iClickers in the classroom – formative assessment
Examples and resources for preparing students to succeed and help them get to know their learning process:
Developed by Tiffany F. Culver, PhD, this reading guide is a great tool that you can adapt and give to students as a road map to help them understand what they’re reading. It’s broken down into three parts: Planning (preparing students to focus), reading (how to read – techniques to help with retention), and evaluating (promoting critical thinking). This 1-page guide (2-sided) is helpful to all students and makes reading accessible and efficient. It also makes me wish I had something like this when I was in college!
In this blog post, MindTools authors provide helpful tips and resources for pulling out the important information when reading (including info on mind-mapping for active reading). What I like about this post is that it breaks down the process of "reading efficiently by reading intelligently" and looks at how reading techniques change based on the type of material that is being studied.
Using Reading Prompts to Encourage Critical Thinking
In this article on Faculty Focus, Maryellen Weimer, PhD reviews highlights from Terry Tomasek's book, The Teaching Professor and takes a look at using reading prompts to help students read and write more critically. The prompts in the book are organized into six categories: making connections, interpretation of evidence, challenging assumptions, making application, and mechanics.
Making the Review of Assigned Reading Meaningful
In this article, Sarah K Clark, PHD gives us four strategies to promote meaning-making when reviewing assigned readings. I really appreciate her candid writing about the importance of engaging students. Sarah shares techniques and ideas that have been helpful to her in her class: “the top ten,” secondary sources, journaling, and divide and conquer (for larger size classes)
Key Terms: Assessment
In this blog post from the Bok Center at Harvard University, assessment is highlighted and examined. This post offers some assessment-related tips. Here is another from the Bok blog that speaks directly to the question "How Do We Measure Learning?" http://blog.bokcenter.harvard.edu/2012/03/05/how-do-we-measure-learning/
A Primer_ Diagnostic, Formative, & Summative Assessment.pdf
Marilyn M. Lombardi talks about the important role of assessment in relation to successful teaching and learning in this Educause Learning Initiative paper – Making the Grade: The Role of Assessment in Authentic Learning.
And remember the Writing Center at UVM (http://www.uvm.edu/wid/writingcenter/), and the UVM Learning Co-op in Living/Learning (http://www.uvm.edu/learnco/). These are helpful resources on campus to share with your students to help enhance their writing skills and to get assistance with studying.
If you would like to sit with a member of the CTL to talk about ways to use these tools to assess your students, request an appointment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to contact me (Henrie Pazamor) directly, send me a note at email@example.com.
Read (or rather, view), on Slate.com, one faculty person’s evolving position about teaching with this tool and allowing students to present their work with it.
Tip #1: Learn names. Jonathan Leonard (CDAE) makes the effort to learn every student’s name, even when he has hundreds of students! His strategy is to open the class roster page in Banner and display the students’ photos and, while studying each face, he speaks their names aloud. Over and over. And over. Occasionally he shifts the page arrangement, by changing the row settings to, for instance, three across instead of five, and he keeps testing himself. He admits that it takes several practice sessions, but he claims the effort is well worth it. His students are completely astonished when he greets them at the door by first name. A large class it may be, but an indistinct mass of anonymous faces it is not. Individuals are being recognized and this, he says, changes the whole game.
(By the way, Jonathan isn’t the only one to stress the value of learning names. Every year when the CTL holds a panel discussion with the latest winnersof the Kroepsch-Maurice Excellence in Teaching Award, at least one of the panelists mentions that this practice is vital to their teaching style.)
Tip #2: Get students talking. Sheila Boland-Chira (English) recommends the turn and talk method in any class, but particularly on the first day when anxiety may be running a little high. She asks an evocative question related to the course topic and invites students to turn to their neighbors and talk about it. After a few minutes, she invites volunteers to share their thoughts with the whole group. Not only does the lively buzz change the atmosphere in the room, doing this on the first day lets students know that the class is participatory and that they are going to be challenged to think.
Tip #3 Make personal connections. Char Merhtens (Geology) asks students to come to her office and meet with her individually during the first week or two of the semester, just to say hi and chat for a few minutes. However, because there are 200+ students in one of her classes, visiting with everyone isn’t practicable, so she invites only the first-years and seniors, the two groups she feels would most benefit from this (although, for completely different reasons). Char says that this simple social gesture has paid off in countless ways and many students go out of their way to thank her.
Tip #4: It’s standard practice to review the syllabus on the first day of class, but a few faculty offered tips to make this ritual more meaningful:
- Before the first class meets, contemplate your schedule again and identify the overarching themes. When you review the syllabus on the first day, share this 10,000-foot view with your students and talk about how the key themes are woven throughout the schedule. This overview provides not only a conceptual map of the course, but a rationale for the work you are going to be asking them to do.
- Make the syllabus review more engaging by including interesting visual elements, e.g., drawings, concept maps, or a humorous cartoon. Consider playing music.
- Use Blackboard’s test tool to create a short quiz about the syllabus with multiple-choice type questions (so Blackboard will do the grading for you) and make it a mandatory assignment by the second day of class. Doing this gets them to delve deeper into the syllabus and you can review the stats in Blackboard before the next class, so you can touch upon any murky areas.
Tip #5: Finally, convey enthusiasm! J. Dickinson (Anthropology) offered what might be the most important tip for the first class and every class: that it’s crucial to communicate your excitement about what you teach. Even if you’re not teaching your dream course, you should be able to muster enthusiasm for it. Foundational or introductory-level courses are exciting when you consider the potential for learning and that you just may spark an interest that has a formative effect on someone’s life. Genuine enthusiasm can be infectious.
Did you ever hear a student say, “I wish I understood what the professor wanted with this assignment?” Have your students ever asked how you came to a specific grade? Have you felt the need to create more clarity around an assignment, both for your students and/or your TAs who handle grading?
The solution may be to create a rubric for your students—or even with your students—for the assessment of the paper or project.
What is a rubric? A rubric is a tool for assessment that is created by the instructor to articulate clear expectations for an assignment and how it is to be graded. In some cases, it can even be helpful to elicit help from students in creating the rubric because, when students are involved in planning how they will be graded, they take ownership of the assignment and their understanding of what is expected is improved.
The Cornell University Center for Teaching Excellence states about rubrics:
Rubrics help instructors:
- Assess assignments consistently from student-to-student.
- Save time in grading, both short-term and long-term.
- Give timely, effective feedback and promote student learning in a sustainable way.
- Clarify expectations and components of an assignment for both students and course TAs.
- Refine teaching skills by evaluating rubric results.
Rubrics help students:
- Understand expectations and components of an assignment.
- Become more aware of their learning process and progress.
- Improve work through timely and detailed feedback.
So how do you go about making a rubric?
- You can attend the upcoming workshop, “Designing Rubrics” (February 21, 2013) offered at the CTL by the UVM Writing in the Disciplines Program.
- You can go through this helpful tutorial by University of Colorado – Denver.
- You could also email firstname.lastname@example.org to ask for an appointment with one of the Center for Teaching & Learning instructional design specialists who can meet with you individually to assist you in creating a rubric for your class.
The recency and primacy effects—long documented phenomena related to the importance of sequence on information recall—evidence that, in short, “Following a single exposure to learning, recall is better for items at the beginning (primacy) and end (recency) […] than for middle items.” 
This is relevant to teaching and learning because it’s in that middle period, when many faculty have come to the heart of their lesson, that students may be least likely to be actively learning.
In the book, Student Engagement Techniques,  Elizabeth F. Barkley poses the suggestion that lectures could be shaped around this retention curve by segmenting a class into three parts:
1) Begin the class by diving directly into teaching important content.
2) After 20 minutes or so, have students take a brief break, stand up and stretch, and then conduct the administrative business, i.e., attendance, collection of homework, distribution of graded homework, etc.
3) Finally, transition back into important content for the last part of class. Consider incorporating a “JiTT” activity (Just in Time Teaching Techniques, October 10, 2012) and close the class with a recap of the most important points.
- Primacy Versus Recency in a Quantitative Model: Activity Is the Critical Distinction Anthony J. Greene, Colin Prepscius, and William B. Levy
- A CTL favorite book: Student Engagement Techniques (p.103)
MOOCs are courses that are:
- Massive: designed for large-scale participation by dozens or even thousands of
- Open: freely available with free access to all course materials.
- Online: available through any web browser on any mobile device or computer.
As the MOOC model has gained acceptance it continues to be redefined and changed to suit the needs of learners, teachers, and institutions.
Currently, MOOCs combine the practice of online education with the ideals of open education and open courseware initiatives. They have gathered increasing attention in the past year as the model has been adopted by such well-known universities as MIT, Stanford, Harvard, and Berkeley . They have even been blamed for the recent controversy surrounding the departure and subsequent return of the President of the University of Virginia. 
Where did MOOCs Come From?
The advent of the web provided new opportunities for proponents of distance education. In addition to the ability to provide course materials and communication opportunities online, the web has allowed for experimentation with new pedagogical approaches. In 1999 the University of Tübingen in Germany made videos of its lectures freely available online. MIT followed suit in 2002 with its publication of course materials through its OpenCourseware initiative . Alongside these initiatives, discussions about Personal Learning Environments, or the more colorfully named Edupunk, combined a reaction against the commercialization of learning with a focus on individually crafting one’s own learning and curriculum. 
Giving away course materials for self-learners was one thing. Giving away access to actual taught courses was another, yet that is exactly what David Wiley of Utah State University did in 2007 when he opened his graduate course on, appropriately enough, open education, to anyone who wished to participate. The term MOOC itself, however, came as a result of a course taught by longtime open education advocates George Siemens , of the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute at Athabasca University and Stephen Downes , Senior Researcher at The National Research Council (Canada). The course was titled “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” and was offered both to the students at the University of Manitoba who took it for credit and to the over 2,000 students who participated for free. The course content and discussion were made available through a variety of tools such as blogs, threaded discussions using Moodle, virtual encounters in Second Life, and synchronous online meetings. As a result of that course, and with a nod to an older interactive and collaborative technology, the MOO, Dave Cormier, Manager of Web Communication and Innovations at the University of Prince Edward Island, coined the term MOOC in 2008 and created the video that defined it.
Cormier, Downes, and Siemans have continued their experiments with MOOCs, offering a number of courses. In 2011 they brought together over 30 facilitators to offer a 35 week MOOC focused on innovations and directions in online education.  As of the writing of this post they are offering a MOOC titled Current/Future State of Higher Education (#CFHE12) to explore the impact of the MOOC model. 
Who is teaching them? Where are they taught?
There are multiple online courses calling themselves MOOCs. These are currently taking one of two forms, recently labelled by Downes as cMOOCs and xMOOCs. The original MOOC concept envisioned that an instructor would provide information and encourage participants to share their knowledge and experience, connecting with each other in groups and sub-groups based on their particular interests and expertise. They would take the opportunity to peer instruct and even expand upon areas where the instructor may not have extensive knowledge. In other words, much if not most of the learning experience is derived through meaningful interaction with others in the course. This connectivist approach, or cMOOC, makes use of many of the social networking tools now available: blogs, Twitter, Facebook, discussion boards, etc.
xMOOCs, or those served by new start-ups such as EdX, Coursera, Udacity and Udemy  are an effort to formalize the MOOC model. Their service provides the managerial functions necessary for institutions offering MOOCs: account administration, server infrastructure, marketing, etc.
What are the potential benefits of the MOOC model?
- can encourage communication among participants who bring a variety of viewpoints, knowledge, and skills to the course. This serves to create communities of interest along with broadening the scope of the MOOC.
- could inspire people to “try on” subjects that they wouldn’t otherwise pursue or even try on education itself.
- can provide multiple ways to engage with course material, encouraging multimodal learning that can address the needs of learners with a variety of learning styles (i.e. Universal Design for Learning or UDL).
- by developing for multimodal learners, could inspire better teaching and use of technologies in general for face to face courses.
Yet MOOCs are viewed with trepidation and skepticism by some who see them as reinforcing the worst aspects of teaching. Those that are designed to simply provide droning lectures followed by auto-graded multiple choice tests are, in the words of Said Vaidhyanathan “taking the worst aspects of college learning as the favored methods of college learning.”
And then there are the financial questions. While MOOCs have been and might continue to be used for marketing purposes or to claim cultural capital for those institutions that are the early adopters, there is no doubt they can be expensive to run. They are not yet direct revenue generators. Among many educators that lack of commercial viability is seen as a positive trait, especially for public institutions that, ideally, promote the extension of knowledge as a core value. Those who see commercialism as corrupter are understandably leery of institutions that view MOOCs solely in terms of revenue generation through commercial transactions with students.
Administering several large MOOCs simultaneously has infrastructure implications. Alternatively, outsourcing MOOC administration to any of the several MOOC providers that have sprung up must take into account FERPA policies and the privacy of students.
Among the many questions revolving around the formalization of MOOCs are how faculty will be compensated for teaching them and how universities will credential students taking them. Currently, xMOOCs generally make a point of offering some form of assessment but we are a long way for any kind of standardization that would allow for MOOC credit to travel easily from institution to institution. Then again, “long” is a relative term. When speaking of the evolution of MOOCs that day may come much sooner than expected. Indeed, in the past few weeks the University of Texas has negotiated with Coursera to offer courses that may carry college credit. Meanwhile the State of Minnesota Office of Higher Education has declared that Coursera cannot offer any courses to citizens of Minnesota without that government’s consent, an odd proposition given that the courses are free and offer no credit. 
How can you learn more about them?
A quick look through the notes below, or a search through The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wikipedia, or even generally via Google or YouTube will net you more than a little information on MOOCs. A more experiential way to learn about MOOCs is to take one. Visit the xMOOC providers or follow Siemans’ or Downes’ offerings.
1. The Chronicle of Higher Education has compiled a timeline of their articles related to MOOCs at “What You Need to Know About MOOCs.”
2. In the May 2012 article “Harvard and M.I.T. Team Up to Offer Free Online Courses” the New York Times reported that several other universities had jumped on the MOOC bandwagon.
3. While the ouster of President Sullivan was more complex than a simple argument over the adoption of MOOCs, it is interesting to note that almost immediately upon her return to that Office the university signed a deal with Coursera to begin developing MOOCs.
4. Since that time the MIT OpenCourseWare site has continued to be enlarged, reporting 100 million visits by 2010.
5. Educators also see a role for EduPunk and Open Education practices as a counter to the more restrictive and, some would argue, limiting environment of Learning Management Systems like Blackboard, Moodle, etc.
6. This video continues to be the definition of MOOCs as originally conceived, though the term itself is applied to two diverging definitions. In an all too common instance of web irony, and as an example of how quickly the MOOC concept is evolving, this video has been accused of being “inaccurate” by a commenter who apparently did not know Cormier’s role in creating the term.
7. While more formal talks by both George Siemens and David Cormier have been recorded, for a more casual discussion about MOOCs by these founders, see the interview with Martin Weller of the UK’s Open University at http://youtu.be/l1G4SUblnbo.
8. Stephen Downes has been writing and speaking about issues in education for many years. For example, in this 2009 video he describes Open Education. You can also see his brief introduction to the 2011 “Change 2011 MOOC” which provides his take on how that MOOC will work.
11. In an interview with Downes for her July 2012 article (“Massively Open Online Courses Are ‘Here to Stay’“), Tanya Roscorla picked up on his use of the terms xMOOC and cMOOC, so they have now entered the MOOC lexicon. See also the report by Sir John Daniels “Making Sense of MOOCs.”
12. EdX is a joint venture created by MIT and Harvard. Coursera was founded by Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng of Stanford. Three roboticists, Sebastian Thrun, Mike Sokolsky and David Stavens founded Udacity. Udemy was founded by Gagan Biyani, Eren Bali and Oktay Caglar.
14. As reported in the Washington Post on October 19, 2012 (“Is Minnesota Cracking Down on MOOCs?”). For a recent recap of other general issues surrounding MOOCs, see Katherine Mangan’s “MOOC Mania” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct. 1, 2012. In addition, feel free to visit my growing collection of MOOC references at http://delicious.com/hopegreenberg/mooc+MOOC?link_view=expanded
What is JiTT?
Just in Time Teaching, or JiTT, is a model first proposed by Novak, Patterson, Gavrin and Christian (1999) that combines web-based resources that help students prepare outside of class with active learning techniques in the classroom. JiTT has recently drawn attention as a part of a “flipped classroom” strategy, in which students do much of the work of absorbing new information outside of the classroom so that faculty can focus their time in the classroom on those content areas and concepts that students need more help understanding. Flipped classroom strategies also use principles of active learning, asking students to apply knowledge or work problems during class time with the professor and with other students.
JiTT Exercises: Student Prep Helps Faculty Prep Too
JiTT exercises are one way to help students prepare appropriately for these in-class activities. Most JiTT exercises are short, web-based assignments students turn in before class that require them to complete the assigned reading or other coursework. While preparing for class, the instructor quickly reviews the student responses to the JiTT exercise and tailors the class to correct misconceptions, practice applying concepts or explore in areas where student work fell short. At least part of class time is spent reviewing a sampling of student JiTT exercises and/or going over pre-class quiz results. When student responses are on target, in-class exercises can offer students opportunities to further demonstrate and deepen their understanding through exercises that link course materials to real world applications or to other material within the course.
Is JiTT really new?
JiTT has been around since the late 1990’s, and a number of studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of this approach. My reaction, on first hearing about JiTT, is that the idea itself is quite a bit older than the web-based medium on which it relies. Faculty in many disciplines have used techniques ranging from reading questions to reaction papers or submission of discussion questions to accomplish the same outcomes: encourage and support students’ preparation for in-class activities, and provide information about their level of preparation and understanding to the instructor prior to the start of class. While JiTT may not be, in fact, “something completely different,” what is different is that JiTT initiatives, particularly in the STEM disciplines, have focused on larger, content-heavy introductory courses which have traditionally emphasized lecture as the main in-class activity. In addition, the submission of the JiTT exercises through a Learning Management System like Blackboard allows students more flexibility in when they prepare and turn in the JiTT exercises, and faculty more flexibility in how they organize and view the responses. For example, faculty at UVM can use the Test, Assignment or even the Survey tool to collect JiTT responses before class.
What do JiTT exercises look like?
JiTT exercises vary depending on the course level, structure, and staffing. Some JiTT techniques require students to produce lengthy responses on which they receive feedback before or after class. These are appropriate for small to medium-sized classes or classes where the instructor has grading assistance. Other techniques require little or no grading on the part of the instructor, such as automatically graded tests, or a brief sentence or two submitted by each student indicating which parts of the material they would like to review further.
This Carleton College website offers a comprehensive explanation of JiTT methods and has a library of exercises developed for the geosciences.
www.jitt.org is run by Gavrin and Novak, two of the original authors of the JiTT model. It has more information on JiTT as well as guidelines for crafting JiTT exercises.
JiTT across Disciplines
While JiTT is widely associated with STEM disciplines, some recent studies have highlighted its value for social science and humanities courses. For example, Pace and Middendorf (2010) discuss the use of JiTT techniques to develop critical thinking and writing skills in an introductory history course. They found that JiTT exercises promoted a feedback loop that improved student writing for the course, and also felt that it improved the quality of class discussion, as students had an opportunity to develop arguments and opinions in the JiTT exercise, and came to class prepared to debate and discuss the points raised in their classmates’ assignments.
Simkins and Maier (2004) tested a JiTT model in an introductory Economics course. While their results show some difference in exam performance between JiTT and non-JiTT courses, they, like many faculty who have tested JiTT techniques, emphasize that students in JiTT courses came to class better prepared and took on more responsibility for their own learning. These factors, as well as the value to faculty of having a better sense of students’ understanding of the material and tailoring their teaching accordingly, are difficult to measure. Ideally, they contribute to long term retention of and engagement with course ideas and materials, and in the near term, can also increase faculty satisfaction with their teaching experience.
JiTT: Key Lessons
For some of you, the strict definition of JiTT sets parameters that are too constraining. Perhaps you do not want to use web-based exercises, or you would like to incorporate the exercises into the face to face class time. Maybe you have considered using a student response system like iClickers in your classroom and expect to use responses to iClicker questions to guide how much time you spend reviewing different parts of the material. These activities may not fit exactly with the JiTT models that have been so rigorously tested, but they do retain the “spirit” of JiTT, which is designed to:
- motivate students to prepare material before class so that they can benefit more from active learning techniques
- gather information on their understanding of the material
- utilize that information to improve student understanding, and where possible, apply that knowledge during face to face class time
If these goals coincide with where you would like to head with your teaching, JiTT exercises may give you a jumping off point for redesigning your course to focus less on lecture, and more on active learning experiences for students.
Want to know more?
CTL is offering a three-part workshop on October 16th from 2:30-5:15. You can sign up for one, two or three of the parts.
All of the events are in 303 Bailey-Howe, starting at 2:30:
- A workshop with Laura Bermingham, a Plant Biology faculty member at UVM, highlighting flipped classroom techniques she uses, including Just in Time Teaching and the Peer Instruction model (2:30-3:30)
- A 1/2 hour video featuring Eric Mazur, a Harvard physicist who is a leader in the flipped classroom movement (3:35-4:15)
- A one-hour workshop with CTL’s Hope Greenberg on using different technologies to enhance flipped classroom design or to just bring in some techniques without flipping your classroom completely. (4:20-5:15)
Faculty are welcome to sign up for one, two or all three of these workshops to find out more about what “flipped classroom” “peer instruction” and “just in time teaching” can do for them. These workshops will be of particular interest to faculty teaching large classes or introductory classes that they would like to redesign to have less lecture, and more active learning by students.
Pace, D. and Middendorf, J. (2010) “Using Just in Time Teaching in History.” In Simkins and Maier, eds Just in Time Teaching: Across the Disciplines, and Across the Academy. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing. Pp. 153-162
Novak, G., Patterson, E., Gavrin, A., & Christian,W. (1999). Just-in-time teaching: Blending active learning with web technology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Simkins, S. and Maier, M. (2004) Using Just-in-Time Teaching Techniques in the Principles of Economics Course , Social Science Computer Review, 22 (4). Pp. 444-456.