Archive for the ‘critical thinking’ Category

Blackboard Keynote Ito: Food for Thought and Change

In critical thinking, Education, how people learn, innovation in teaching, Motivation, teaching, teaching with technology, technology on July 15, 2014 at 8:56 pm

My interpretation of Blackboard World keynote speaker Ito’s key points were these:

  • Education and learning are 2 different things; Education is foisted upon one, learning is what one chooses.
  • Silos stand in the way of education; he believes in antidisciplinary (so do I!)
  • Open source/free resources can provide assistance in software AND hardware development

Oh, and he has a wicked sense of humor! figure jumping with excitement

Law By the People…. Really……

In critical thinking, open source on September 25, 2012 at 9:45 am

Clay Shirkey stimulates lots of ideas…I enjoy his talks!

So, is there a “law” open source equivalent? A law git-hub? Open Congress is one attempt. How well does it work?

Finance, Meet Pharma

In critical thinking, integrity on April 24, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Man and moneyFinance reform is long overdue. I see the similarities (and differences) between the two industries: pharmaceuticals and financial products. Both industries have a problem with too much inbreeding-the interrelationship between the regulators and the regulated creates the opportunity for collusion. Dr. Ariely says it clearly in this post. Finance, Meet Pharma.

Digital Information Everywhere: But it Doesn’t Change How We Educate Learners! Should it?!

In critical thinking, how people learn, information literacy, innovation in teaching on April 4, 2012 at 10:42 pm

directions_signInformation is everywhere and we should help students learn how to access and evaluate it. Education isn’t about going to school to get the information. Learning occurs with experiential activities, developing student activities and embracing failure as a way to learn.

I learned some concepts best when I answered them wrong on a test and got feedback quickly enough so that I could clearly follow where I went wrong. If we’re going to improve learning, as the video author states, we must refocus on how we encourage learning. Educators and institutions must re-evaluate the role of tests in promoting student learning and promoting cognition. Tests are not always the best way to foster improved learning. I believe tests are one tool, but there are many other tools to encourage authentic learning.

Because information is everywhere, we must also provide learners with the tools to evaluate information. The ALA defines information literacy as

“a set of abilities requiring individuals to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.”

So students must know more than the textbook or teacher as the source of information, but instead must be able to read any source and conduct an target_and_arrow_missedanalysis of the credibility of the content. Institutions must develop methods to encourage the pedagogy of authenticity and of failure in order to learn. I’ve discussed the benefits of failure to improve learning in this post. I’ve discussed the need to teach information literacy in this post.

I’d love to implement and assess some version of this. That’s my next project, possibly, after I finish the Twitter and ePortfolio activities.

Twearning-First Exam Results Updated

In assessment of learning, critical thinking, Education, how people learn, innovation in teaching, teaching, teaching with technology on March 21, 2012 at 12:14 pm

I’m using Twitter in my class this semester. This class is composed of 18 students taking a required course in the Ethical and Regulatory Environment of Sports Marketing. Students range from second semester juniors to graduating seniors. Students must use Twitter to post tweets during class, post two tweets about course content (textbook readings or current events) outside class and prepare group reports summarizing the weekly tweets and present those summaries in class. This means, that during the class, students have laptops, smart phones and other electronic devices open during class.

I haven’t analyzed the data on the number of tweets per week, but my estimate is an average of nearly 50 tweets total each week (some students forget). I’ve found that the weekly summaries are good reinforcements and these summarizes also give me the opportunity to correct any misconceptions that arise from the tweets.

In the earlier post, I briefly compared the exam results between the Spring 2011 and Spring 2012 courses.  I had only the results of the objective portion of the exam, so it was a preliminary comparison.

After completing the full exam, I’m now comparing the results this semester to the results last spring for this course. The following is the chart comparing the grade distribution.

Online Graphing

The results remain positive.

Grade distribution

There was a larger number of As and Bs in the Spring 2012 course (10/18 or 56%) compared to the Spring 2011 course (5/18 or 23%).  Interestingly, the number of Ds and Fs remained the same. The shift in grades was in the number of Cs: down from 33.3% in Spring 2011 to 16.5% in Spring 2012. There was a greater percentage of As in the Spring 2012 class (an increase of 400%).

Interpretation of results

These are small classes so although these results are promising, this doesn’t mean they can be translated to larger courses.

It appears that the use of Twitter in this way fostered student active engagement (I conducted a pre-survey and I’ll conduct a post-survey on engagement to determine whether that the students felt that Twitter use improved engagement with the course and the material.).  Twitter use apparently fostered  more focus on the course material-students were actually engaged in taking notes in class (at least to send the tweet during class and then the two tweets outside of class) and reviewing the material (at least when the groups submitted and presented the group summary). That fits with more traditional theories on learning that the more you engage with the material, the more you will remember.

A portion of the exam was answers to essay questions. I graded those answers anonymously, but I could have been biased toward students doing well.

One interesting conclusion from this small amount of data was that use of laptops & cell phones in class didn’t decrease performance. Even if Twitter use wasn’t the cause of the increase in As and Bs, it doesn’t appear that it had a negative impact on performance. Because this was a small class, and because I typically walk around when I teach, it may be that students were more careful about using the laptops and phones appropriately than in another, larger class.

There are undoubtedly other, better measures to assess impact-I’m using a a simple one. Behavior analysis through using observers who rate behavior, would probably be more accurate in addition to the exam results, but this is the beginning of this journey, not the end, so stay tuned!

In critical thinking, how people learn on March 6, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Failure can be as important as success.

I also want my (grand)daughter to fail. At 18 months, her attitude, as she works on my iPad, is not that she’s failed, but that she’s working, having fun and learning. She’s engaging in critical thinking as she ponders which button to push next and she’ll push the same button again and again without ceasing.  It’s that attitude I want to promote in all of us, including me.

Rochester SAGE - Supporting Advanced & Gifted Education

Heinlein Quote

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed. – Michael Jordan

The pupil who is never required to do what he cannot do, never does what he can do. – John Stuart Mill

I want my kids to fail.  That probably isn’t at the top of your list for your kids, but it should be.  Failure is one of the most important experiences they will ever have.  The road to success is paved with failure because failure teaches us how to succeed.

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Ditch the Technology-Just Teach!

In assessment of learning, critical thinking, faculty responsibilities, how people learn, innovation in teaching, teaching, teaching with technology on February 21, 2012 at 6:02 pm

I love new technology tools. I’m waiting for the first truly functional house-cleaning, grocery-story-shopping, laundry-washing and folding, meal-preparing robot á la the Jetsons’ Rosie, the robot maid. I prefer playing around with my computer, my iPad, my tablet and my iPhone instead of….working. And lucky for me, my day job permits me to play around with technology and work at the same time.

I was also moved by the video produced by Michael Wesch’s anthropology class that focused on students’ lack of engagement with teaching, with learning, and with the material. The video highlighted issues that many of us (faculty) had ignored about students’ world. And I agreed with Wesch’s focus on creating technology-based and enhanced real-life projects to reach and engage students.

Now Wesch is re-thinking his focus. In Jeffrey Young’s recent interview of Wesch, summarized in the Chronicle Article article, “A Tech-Happy Professor Reboots After Hearing His Teaching Advice Isn’t Working,” Wesch noted that other professors had tried his suggestions on technology use and had informed him that the technology did not work. In the article, Young describes Wesch’s encounters with faculty who lecture and who make a connection with students in the lecture (and who therefore believe learning has occurred). Those faculty connect with students despite the decision to forgo technology. According to  Young, Wesch’s key point was that with all technology-enhanced teaching techniques, the technique’s success ultimately depended on the intangible “bond between professor and student.” Wesch’s point was that although technology can engage students, the students’ connection with the faculty helped determine student success.

I agree, with reservations.

The article does not refer to the research that supports the position that if the students “connect” through lecture that the expected learning occurs. My own research (of one, as a student in college, 30 + years ago!) supports the idea, in part, that a dynamic lecturer can connect with students and encourage them to want to learn. My own research (same standard as before!) also supports that there were some “dynamic” lecturers who neither engaged me nor fostered my desire to learn. My desire to learn in those situations was internal: I wanted to maintain my high grades so I could know enough to get into the courses I really wanted! And frankly, if dynamic lectures are truly the only significant ways to impart knowledge, I have a heretical suggestion: hire actors/actresses, train them well to express enthusiasm and “connection” and let them teach the courses! If research supported that lectures are the best/only way to promote learning, then students would succeed at much higher rates than they do now. Learning is more complicated than listening to a lecture. And there are multiple ways for faculty to connect with students.

There are intangibles that promote a connection between faculty and students so that students learn. Some exist with lectures. Some exist in online classes when TN_crca_dogs_friendsstudents, when prompted appropriately, engage in thought provoking discussions. Some exist in face-to-face small group discussions where faculty and students examine topics. Some exist when students meet with faculty outside of the classroom. Some exist when students participate in out of the classroom service-learning projects. Some exist when students are immersed in the topic through technology or through, for example, performance. The point is that as faculty we can choose, adapt test and research teaching methods to determine which works well for students and for the faculty. And if it promotes critical thinking, deeper inquiry or other noteworthy educational goals, then learning has occurred regardless of the technology.

That’s the real message!

So yes, Rosie would be a wonderful addition to my household! But if I had a house filled with young children (as opposed to my current household that includes one grandchild to whom I’ve introduced technology and who embraces it just as her grandmother does!) I would be sure to let those children know that Rosie’s there to Jetsons_TVfamilymake one aspect of life easier, but that Rosie is not there to substitute for every aspect of life. Rosie may clean, for example, but I would want my young children to know what it means to make things dirty, what dirt is, and why it could be harmful (or useful, depending on the discussion). In other words, the technology is a tool that can be used to broaden students learning and to appeal to, or reach students. It is not a substitute for the hard work of learning (and teaching).

Still Adrift in Education

In assessment of learning, course evaluations, critical thinking, faculty responsibilities, institutional responsibilities, teaching on February 15, 2012 at 1:19 pm

In his essay,’ Academically Adrift’: the News Gets Worse and Worse, Kevin Carey, explains that there is more information that not only do college students fail to learn in college, but also that students who perform lower on the CLA (Collegiate Learning Assessment) also fail to find financial security after graduation.

In an earlier post, I discussed some of the conclusions I reached from the sections of the book which I had read. Those conclusions were:

  • There is an inverse relationship between the number of faculty publications and a faculty orientation toward students.
  • The higher students’ grades in the course, the more positive the student evaluations.
  • Grade inflation probably exists.

In a later post, I discussed critical thinking as a concern: that students don’t “enjoy” the challenge of traditional problem solving the way I (and other faculty) do and that has an impact on whether students learn. If students do not see tackling and solving problems as a challenge (and we as educators should do as much as we can to make problem-solving interesting), then there will be a significant impact on student learning.

A Not So Radical Transformation in a Core Business Course

In the introductory business law course that is required for all business majors, all the faculty teaching the course agreed to make substantial changes in the way the course was taught in order to acknowledge and address perceived efficiencies: students lack of college-level ability to read, college-level ability to write and need to improve critical thinking. Students complained a great deal about the additional work.

Assessing and Working to Improve Reading Skills

Although my own experience with students confirms that it would help for them to have more practice reading and writing, the students did not agree. When asked whether My Reading Lab (a publisher-created product) helped them, students said no:


Note that this response is only the student’s perceptions. We have not yet completed an analysis to determine whether those who performed better on My Reading Lab performed better on the tests or in the course. We will work on analyzing that data later. This also does not included longitudinal data, i.e. would students, upon reflection, decide that they had learned more than they thought by the additional practice reading. However, what this data does show is that students did not embrace the additional reading practice and testing requirement.

Reading the Textbook

Student preparation for class is a concern. Many students do not read before attending class; they attended class then read after class.  In addition, students did not study. As part of the course redesign, we required quizzes prior to students attending class. Students (74.2%) agreed that the quizzes helped them keep up with the reading.  Even though the students said the quizzes helped them keep up with the reading, many still didn’t read everything. The following graph lists the students responses about whether they had read the textbook (this is at the end of the semester):


Note that 40/202 or 19.8% read 90% or more of the readings and 80/202 or 39.6% read 80-89% of the readings. That means that nearly 60% of the class read 80% or more of the readings. These are the results obtained after faculty required that students read and take a quiz on the material before attending class. Thus, students were more motivated to keep up with the reading. How would these results differ if the students had not been required to take a quiz before attending class?


Student preparation and studying. The following graph includes information on the hours that students studied.


According to these self-reports, 21.2% of students studied between 1 and 3 hours per week, 27.7% of students studied between 3 and 5 hours per week, and 21.7% of students studied between 5 and 7 hours per week.  Students should have studied nearly 8 hours per week (2 hours per week outside class for each hour of class-this was a 4 unit course). In Chapter 4 of Academically Adrift, the authors note that students report spending 12 hours per week on their courses outside of class.  According to figure 4.2 of the book, in a 7 day week, students spent approximately 7% of their time studying.

Conclusions so far

The educational process requires that the faculty and the student participate, and if the students have not completed their share, then education and learning wouldn’t necessarily take place. I don’t know how this data compares to other studies on student reading, but it is challenging to help learning if both parties are not fully invested. Students have a variety of reasons for that lack of involvement, but if the investment in education is relatively small, then improvement in learning will be small.

In addition, this past semester, my student course evaluations were much lower (this was also partly due to a change in the institution’s survey evaluation instrument). Because I am tenured, I do not face losing my job over the changes in my student evaluations (although adjunct faculty face a different reality when it comes to being rehired). However, adjunct faculty depend on good student evaluations in order to keep their jobs. If that is the case, adding rigor to a class could cost that faculty member his or her job.

Copyright Law + Education = Strange Bedfellows

In critical thinking, faculty responsibilities, how people learn, information literacy, innovation in teaching, integrity, teaching on February 10, 2012 at 12:54 pm

In the article, Do Students Have Copyright to their Own Notes, Erica Perez summarizes the arguments pro and con for students owning their class notes. The specific concern was that students were uploading the notes onto websites and, in some cases, purporting to sell them.

First, should students have a copyright in their own notes?  Absolutely!

Students’ notes are copyrighted by the students and students should be able to do anything they want with them, including sell them (although California law makes that illegal) or post them on a website. After all, when students take notes, they’re adding their interpretations of what their instructors present in classes. This is true whether the students copy from a faculty-member provided outline or whether students create and outline the notes solely from lectures or other presentations. And notes memorialize what students heard, so they can use them to study, to study with others in the class and to help students who did not attend class.

So, why the fuss? Faculty believe that the notes students take during class are based on instructors’ intellectual property. That intellectual property is the faculty members’ in-class presentation of research (sometimes) or other information  that the faculty members have developed over time and often at great effort and expense. But let’s examine that point more closely.  Most faculty giants feetdid not create this knowledge independently–they created it by “standing on the shoulders of giants” in their fields and building on those giants’ research and knowledge. Although the instructors present their “take” on the knowledge and the faculty’s presentation is thus copyrightable/copyrighted and valuable, that doesn’t mean that the students cannot copyright their “take” on the information. Each individual’s interpretation of the information has value-and copyright law permits that value to be protected.

This raises a larger issue, though, the issue of “knowledge” in general and the copyright law in particular. In education, we remain wedded to the notion that knowledge resides solely within the purview of the instructor. Think about it, though. According to Google, there are nearly 130 million books (and it plans to digitize all of them). As of August 2010, Google has digitized approximately 12 million.  That does not include other works, such as peer-reviewed articles available in paper and electronic format. It’s impossible for any one faculty member to have mastery over any significant part of that. In fact, that’s the reason that teaching information and digital literacy is so important-it’s not only having some knowledge that’s important, it’s equally important to be able to find and critically evaluation the information that’s available everywhere.

Most of us in higher education teach behind closed doors. We enter the classroom and the teaching and leaRuins of Lamanai-doorrning that occurs behind that door is a secret between the teacher and the students in that course. When students finish that course, they are to emerge with greater knowledge than when they entered. And I hope that’s true. Appropriate assessment can help faculty determine whether that has occurred.

Yet access to information has changed and so, too, must faculty’s role. The recitation and Socratic method of questioning so popular during Socrates’ time was based on the idea that Socrates had “read all the books” and as he presented his oratory he questioned his students to ensure that they were “getting it,” partly because the students hadn’t “read all the books.” Now, students have access to the books and access to a wide variety of digital resources-credible and non-credible. As technology continues to improve, students will be able to use their cell phones to access far more resources than the faculty. Faculty’s role must change to one of assisting students evaluate and manage that information, in addition to passing on the key concepts of a discipline. This evolution involves disruptive, transformational change in the way faculty promote and assess learning.

And copyright law has its own problems in that it, as Lessig would say, stifles creativity. I agree. If we continue to restrict access to information, that will, of necessity encourage underground versions of information or stifle creative versions of information.

So, should students own the copyright to their notes? Absolutely! Does that have an impact on education? Yes, as long as we continue to teach from behind closed doors.  Should it have that significant an impact? Absolutely not! Let’s move past this discussion to work on institutional change in the way we teach.

Critical Thinking in the Legal Profession

In critical thinking on February 3, 2012 at 7:41 am

In the article 12 More Law Schools Face Lawsuits Over Job Placement Claims, the article’s author, Katherine Mangan, reports on the increasing number of law schools that have been sued for overstating the job prospects of their graduates. The articles lists the law schools that are the defendants in this latest round of lawsuits. The law school defendants include for profit and other law schools, including, for example, DePaul University College of Law and Hofstra Law School.

Where does critical thinking fit into the law school graduates’ plans? The lawsuits are disturbing because critical thinking seems to be in short Bloom's Taxonomysupply. No job placement statistics are guarantees. Job placement statistics provide information on the employment of past graduates-not guarantees that current graduates will find jobs. Critical thinking requires, among other things, that people analyze and evaluate information (see the revised Bloom’s taxonomy as pictured in this post) based on reflection, observation, evidence and reasoning. These are, I would hope, hallmarks of legal analysis and are reasonable expectations for those who have up to 7 years of post-secondary education. It’s disheartening to think that law school graduates have not developed those skills as well as I’d like to think.

Or maybe this is evidence that law schools will do anything, even attempt to mislead, in order to make money through recruiting graduates (and future donors).