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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

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MOOCing around: Week 1 Ending

In assessment of learning, Education, how people learn, innovation in teaching, teaching, teaching with technology, technology on September 10, 2012 at 9:32 am

Group of FishIt’s so interesting to take a class in a subject I haven’t taken in a looooooooong time (statistics).

I’m in a MOOC with 74,999 other students. I’ve used the Khan Academy videos on statistics to help me (and I’m just finishing week one!). I finished the video Koala Sleeping in Treelectures and the first quiz (no score yet) and I’m working on the first assignment due tomorrow (Tuesday, 9/11).  It’s taken me at least 4 hours so far.

Fun, yet daunting. I plan to finish, even if I have to pull a few all-nighters!

According to Kevin Carey, in the article Into the Future With MOOC’s in the Chronicle of Higher Education, MOOCs represent the future of education. He refers to his own experience in a mega-sized face to face economics course as evidence that mass-produced education is not new and that it can be more cost-efficient.

I agree, but only to a certain extent. MOOCs are useful, even for credit (although I’m not taking the stats course for credit). However, the structure of MOOCs must Teacher and classchange to incorporate critical thinking and higher order skills. I think MOOCs are great for those of us who want access to learning…period. I want MOOC creators to keep expanding their subjects and use. For those who need more hands on and for those subjects that require more analysis, MOOCs will not work. Not yet. Not without a mass infusion of ….. je ne sais quoiCalculator & Math Symbolss….a more in depth relationship among  learners, instructors and the critical thinking skills/content.

How will I know whether I’ve learned from this MOOC? There are tests, assignments and (my goal) my increased comfort with and ability to read articles that include statistical analyses. And isn’t that truly what learning is about?

You Work Only 12 Hours Per Week, Do Not Work in the Summer & Have a Sabbatical Every 7 Years?!

In course evaluations, Education, faculty responsibilities, institutional responsibilities, teaching, universal design for learning on June 11, 2012 at 10:58 am

Consumatory Scholarship!?! Sounds like someone eating books and articles!

In the Chronicle article Just Because We’re Not Publishing Doesn’t Mean We’re Not Working, Bruce Henderson argues that faculty Eatingwork is inadequately recognized by the public and by legislators who make demands for accountability. He also notes that “teaching” as an activity in higher education, is not respected. He notes, as an example, that those who do the most teaching (adjunct faculty) receive lower pay.

I agree.

We do not honor teaching as we should. Universities usually measure and reward teaching by counting publications (research), looking for a key number on student evaluations (e.g. 4.0 on a 5 point scale or meeting the department average) and relying on peer evaluations, Publications in one’s area of expertise do not necessarily translate to good teaching, student evaluations are notoriously unreliable (see my latest post on student evaluations) and peer evaluations are only an indicator of one (or two) colleagues’ attendance at one or two classes. Adjunct faculty’s jobs are at risk if they have low student evaluations, even though the link between student evaluations and teaching is tenuous. So, let’s begin measuring teaching effectively: let’s show students, faculty and legislators how and what students learn. Let’s do that using evidence-based teaching practices, explaining how innovations can help improve learning and reward faculty who do their part (and remind others how learners must do their part).

University administration should reward faculty for their teaching accomplishments. And that means ALL teaching faculty, not only tenure-track faculty. Then, the public can begin to see that not only do many teachers work hard, that they work more than 12 hours per week but that we provide a substantial benefit to society.

I sometimes wonder whether there’s an element of classism, anti-feminism and racism in the continual demands for accountability. The University faculty and administrators were overwhelmingly middle-class white males in the 60s. Now, it’s much more diverse. The increase in diversity parallels the increased demands for accountability. And while I know correlation doesn’t mean causality (and accountability demands have complicated causes), it is frustrating to know that for years, higher education faculty faced no obligation to justify existence. During those times, faculty presented material in a way that only certain types of learners (those you might call read-write learners) could succeed. Student studyingTenure was awarded based on a handshake (at least according to some of the faculty who retired just as I came on board) or solely based on the school from which the faculty member obtained his Ph.D.  And while I was successful in that environment, I recognize that my success shouldn’t be the only measure of whether anyone else can garner educational success. I have met students and others who were just as intelligent, but who learn in different ways. So, I recognize that this system of teaching is not the only means of communicating.

I also wonder whether the accountability demands reflect an attack on intellectualism; that the demands represent an attack on those who want to explore and learn. In his blog posts, The Real Ken Jones discusses this in more depth in his “Celebrating Stupidity” series. He focuses on some of the contradictions between science and what some what to believe. Whether the attack on education is related to an attack on intellectualism in general is subject to debate, but there does continue to be a significant attack on education: justified on some grounds but not on others.

So this discussion returns to the topic line: what should we as educators do to let the public and legislators know what we do in the classroom? Regardless of the cause of the controversy, we need to figure out how to address it–how to rebuff the attacks and to go on the offensive. We provide an invaluable service to the community, yet that gets lost in the rhetoric about accountability.  Is using the term “Consumatory Scholarship” and defining it a way to address it? I think not-the essence is in the details. But to the core question I do not yet have an answer.

Do you?

And You Thought I Was Just Goofing Around

In how people learn, innovation in teaching, teaching on May 17, 2012 at 12:10 am

sleeping puppy

I can’t count the number of times I have discovered a new way of teaching a concept or solved a problem while taking a walk, driving aimlessly or riding my bicycle. Those “aha” moments occur when I least expect them and when I’m not concentrating on the unsolved issue.

According to Jason Gots, who wrote Why Top Innovators Make Time to Waste Time, 3M, one of the most innovative companies in the U.S., has adopted “wasting time” as a core philosophy. According to Gots’ article, 3M has a 15% rule that encourages employees to spend 15% of their time “doing nothing.”  During this 15% time, employees are encouraged to do what helps them be creative: take a nap or play games. This was to encourage employees to solve problems in different ways and to think creatively.

And according to the article, science supports that philosophy. Quoting from the article:

Joydeep Bhattacharaya, a psychologist studying attention and creative problem-solving at Goldsmiths, University of London, has managed to pinpoint creative insight in the brain. Moments before subjects solve a tricky creative problem, a steady stream of alpha waves emanates from the right hemisphere of the brain – the half more closely associated with abstract thinking than with tightly focused logical reasoning.  What stimulates alpha waves? Laughter, a warm shower, a game of ping pong – activities that we find relaxing and pleasurable and that give the mind freedom to wander. Creative workers consistently report arriving at solutions to problems they’ve been struggling with for weeks while lying in bed on a lazy Sunday morning.

3M’s philosophy and the science of creativity are consistent with my own experience. I find that when I “work” or concentrate intensely for too long, I get work done, but I may feel incredibly rushed and unsettled. Occasionally I feel as though I’m missing something. During that time, I feel as though there’s another solution somewhere–a solution that’s elusive.

How can we use”time wasting” to promote learning? Should we provide “play” time during classes? I know that when I assign cases or scenarios for  small group discussions in class, some groups finish earlier than others. To keep those students busy, I plan an additional step for the students in that group. I might add a question or ask that group to complete an additional task. Cat looking into the camera

But maybe I should relax. Maybe I should permit the students who finish early to discuss other classes they’re taking and how well they’re completing work in another classes. Those off-task discussions seldom last more than 3-4 minutes during a 50 minute class [that’s only 8% of the time]. And maybe those discussions help students reflect on the information.

Are there other ways we can use this information to improve learning?

So, the next time you see me staring into space, don’t disturb me. I might just be creating new and innovative solutions.

Professor Rock Star

In innovation in teaching, teaching, teaching with technology on May 13, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Examples of a change in teaching: keeping students engaged, promoting learning, edutainment. Does it work to promote learning? Some of the students say “yes!”

Professor Rock Star.

Twearning + Motivation

In Education, faculty responsibilities, how people learn, institutional responsibilities, Motivation, teaching on April 17, 2012 at 12:53 pm

JumpingMotivation to learn, to explore, to engage, seems to be less prevalent in my classes. I seem to have more questions about whether something will be on the test, than curiosity about what a theory means and its implications for individual or business conduct.

Yet according the article Can Colleges Manufacture Motivation, by Dan Barrett, posted in the Chronicle of Higher Education, it seems that motivation is a key factor for student success. According to the article, as students continue with their college careers, motivation declines.  And it seems to be faculty rather than institution-inspired. According to one of the studies cited in the article, there were wider disparities in motivation generated within universities rather than between universities. Recommended ways to motivate included multiple opportunities to review assignments and re-submit, permitting students to choose topics and permitting students options on formats. Institutions can motivate students by determining which faculty motivate students most and assigning them to teach the introductory courses. At the same time, different people are motivated by different things and what inspires one can sound a death knell for another.

Can motivation also explain the success of the Twearning exercises where I’ve combined Twitter with Learning? I’m going to add a few questions about motivation to the post-survey about Twitter use; I wish I’d thought to add them to the pre-survey. Perhaps motivation is part of the explanation for the success of Twearning to date. So far, no students have dropped the class, altho there have been varying degrees of participation. If all stay until the end of the course, that itself will be a first during the five years I’ve taught this particular course.

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!

Lecture Fail? Long Live the Lecture!

In how people learn, teaching, teaching with technology, using videos in teaching on March 9, 2012 at 9:57 am

I love a good lecture!

Lecturers can be humorous, thought-provoking, information-filled, interesting and inspirational ways to stimulate the mind. 

Haven’t you attended a lecture and left laughing? Or thinking that you’d love to learn more about that topic? Or been impressed with the presentation style of the lecturer? I have, many times.

Lectures have served valuable purposes in higher education. It’s how I learned much of what I now know. I still listen to lectures available on Ted Talks to gain different perspectives and to find presentations that I use to stimulate students’ reflection on and critical evaluation of a myriad of topics. Lectures can make you say “I knew that!” and thus confirm what you know or “I had no idea!” to wake you up to a different viewpoint.

[I also love reading good books. StudyI now read most of them electronically. I can become immersed in a good book. I find it quite exciting to purchase a book about which I’ve heard interesting things, or to purchase a book by my favorite author, then set aside time to read and think about the book. Some of the books are for work, some are for pure pleasure but either way, it’s an exciting journey to select and read a new book. My excitement is palpable…but I digress.]

So before we declare the death of the lecture, we should consider how it can be used:

  • To convey information (now available through Wikipedia or a Google search?)
  • To model a way of thinking (which now can be recorded for students to review; which may now be available through video resources created by others)
  • To integrate diverse perspectives and views into a relatively short presentation (Now available through mashups that can integrate vocal, photography, video, text and other delivery methods)
  • Others?

Although there are other ways to present information, lectures can and continue to be one valuable tool in the in an educator’s toolbox.

I have also attended boring, uninspired, lectures presented by some who seem to drone on forever, either making the same point in exactly the same way multiple times, who read from lecture notes only, who are not engaged with the audience [or even, it seems, aware of the audience!]. So students have a valuable point when they talk about boring lectures.

I’ve explained how I can enjoy (and learn from) a good lecture. I’ve also explained how some lectures can be boring.  But not everyone learns in exactly the same way. And I must admit, I learn better, sometimes, when I work with something. Haven’t you been working on a lesson and realized that you learned it much better now that you’re teaching it?

And I frequently learn better when I have to manipulate, say, objects on a map, or draw a diagram. So, although I enjoy (and I hope sometimes deliver) good lectures, I know that listening to lectures is not the only way to learn. It may not even be the best way to learn. And it is not the only way to teach. Look at my initial success using Twitter.

There has been a great deal of research on learning since educators first began using lectures extensively. I will refer to that research in this blog-I referred to some of that research in another post. That research should help drive instruction in higher education.

Teaching (and learning) are great challenges!

Twearning-Twitter + Learning: First Exam Results

In assessment of learning, how people learn, innovation in teaching, teaching, teaching with technology on March 3, 2012 at 12:29 pm

I am very excited! The results for the multiple choice-true false section of the first test were great! In Jumping in excitementthis class, I am testing the use of Twitter as a social media supplement to the class. I explain how I’m using Twitter in this post. In sum, students must post tweets 4 times per week (once during each of two classes per week and two outside of class).

Why am I excited? There were more “Bs” and less “Ds” this semester than with the first exam for last spring’s course. I haven’t made a complete analysis yet-I’m waiting to finish grading the essay portion of the exam, but compared to last year, the numbers are up. Last spring, on the first exam, the grades ranged from 12-27/30; the median was 73.3 percent; and the average was 72.6 percent. This semester, on the objective portion of the test, the range was 11-18/20; the median was 80%; and the average was 77.5 percent. Look at this comparison of the grade distribution for spring 2012 and spring 2011:

Graph of First Exam Grade Distribution

Graph of First Exam Grade Distribution

These are promising initial results, although I need to do more research and analysis to determine the cause of this good result and whether it can be sustained.

This is what Lolu, one of the students said about the way Twitter was used in this class:

Lecturers are People….and….Faculty, Too

In faculty responsibilities, integrity, teaching on February 25, 2012 at 11:08 am

One of the great inequities at the University where I teach is the failure of our administration to formally acknowledge the hard work done by our lecturers (a/k/a adjunct faculty). These are the faculty who teach many of our General Education (GE) courses. They teach up to 5 courses per lifting_weightwithsticksemester and earn  less than tenured/tenure-track faculty. They are usually the first faculty our first time students meet. They often have other full-time jobs to supplement the income they receive from teaching. Yet they are the unsung workers who help trigger and encourage student learning.

Apparently, our University is not alone in its unfair treatment of adjunct faculty. In the Chronicle of Higher Education, writer Michael Stratford, in a piece titled: Accidental Activist Collects Data on Adjuncts,  discusses the research and conclusions of  Joshua A. Boldt, an adjunct faculty member at the University of Georgia. Boldt’s conclusions (based on information you can view from this publicly editable spreadsheet): many adjuncts are treated poorly: lower pay, higher teaching loads and general disrespect from tenured/tenure track faculty and administration. So our University is not alone in failing to acknowledge lecturers’ contributions.

There is one way to acknowledge the work done by lecturers: visible awards.

Why Not an Award for Lecturers (Adjunct Faculty)?

My institution is a unionized campus. During most years, union contracts, negotiated between the teachers’ union and central administration, define our responsibilities and compensation. (Right now, teachers are working without a contract. Apparently two sets of teachereducated minds cannot agree on what is the best pay/performance contract in tight budget times.)

Part of the Issue: Our Institution Has No Money, So No Rewards

Not all rewards need to be  paychecks. The Provost award, given annually, is a prestigious award for faculty. The Provost actually has created and gives several types of awards. These awards are for outstanding teaching, research, service, assessment (new this year), and promising new (tenured/tenure track) faculty. The glaring omission in the list of Provost’s awards is an award for adjunct faculty (we call them lecturers).

Why Don’t Lecturers Just Apply for Awards?

You may say the list’s omission of lecturers is an oversight. After all, at our institution, as of 2011, 55% of the teaching faculty were lecturers. Note that at some institutions, more than 70% of the courses are taught by part-time or adjunct faculty.  So you might think the 55% would be eligible for any one of the Provost’s awards.

You’d be wrong. They are not. They were neither welcomed nor permitted to apply.

How do You Know Lecturers are Not Eligible for Awards?

A colleague and I tested that once, approximately 4 years ago. We applied for a Provost award for service. She and I (a tenured full professor) had built and delivered plagiarism workshops to assist students (and faculty) on campus. We’d delivered the workshops to more than 2,000 students at that point. So, we applied for the award. We didn’t get it, even though we had support for other faculty. But that’s the nature of award applications–applicants are competing with other worthy applicants. Or at least that’s what we thought.

So what was unusual? Well, to apply for the award,  I had to draw in a check-box that said person writing“lecturer” for my colleague because there was no option on the form to check that status. That should have been our first clue that lecturers were excluded from consideration. That clue was confirmed when we learned from an inside source that the reason we weren’t eligible was not merit, but instead concern that “faculty” might be upset if a lecturer won an award [even apparently as a co-recipient with a tenured full professor].

To add insult to injury, the next year, the award form was amended to specifically exclude lecturers from consideration for any awards.

I understand some of the issues. Most tenure track and tenured faculty have advanced degrees beyond a masters’ degree and thus have a more in depth knowledge of an aspect of their disciplines. Arguably, those same faculty members have demonstrated a greater commitment to education. Tenured and tenure-track faculty are willing to disseminate  information through research presentations and publications and thus further knowledge in the discipline. These faculty also have additional commitments to service to the University, discipline and community.

But does that cancel out contributions by lecturers? Does this difference require that lecturers’ contributions be ignored? As director of our faculty development center,I have met lecturers (and other faculty) who care about learning and teaching. Lecturers are welcome to and do attend workshops, training on our learning management system and lead faculty learning communities. But that’s not acknowledged as an award by administration.

Let’s Create a Lecturers’ Award

Acknowledging good teaching is not a zero sum game, however, especially if the acknowledgement is through an award from the Provost. A simple solution on our campus Woman receiving awardwould be to create an award specifically for lecturers–call it the Outstanding Lecturers’ Award. Ask Deans or other colleagues to nominate (and allow self nomination as with the other awards). Show appreciation to the 55% of faculty who teach-and who teach the GE courses that students take when they first enter the University.

Lecturers (adjuncts), not corporations, are truly people…and faculty, too.