Reflect on your teaching and your students' learning.
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Making Social Media Work: Tips and Tricks for Bringing Social Media into your Course
Kirsty Gaither A.T. Still University Many instructors are understandably wary of bringing social media into the classroom. Not only can social media distract students from the task at hand, but when working in a public, often anonymized forum, there is no way to control all interactions. Yet with the right approach, social media can offer a structured and engaging way for students to interact with course content. It provides the potential to teach students essential skills, including how to distribute information for different audiences. Using social media, students also learn how to engage with academic material outside of the classroom, thereby promoting lifelong learning. Here is my list of tips and tricks for bringing social media into your course: ● Go with what you know ● Apply the literature across platforms ● Explain the benefits ● Provide structured social time Go with what you know It is easier to regulate and troubleshoot social media that you are already familiar with, especially since there are so many social apps out there. Trying to keep up with the latest social media phase is exhausting and, frankly, unrealistic. While social media is prevalent in today's world, that doesn't mean that your students will understand how to use social media in the way you intend effectively. Take, for example, a faculty member I work with who has assigned Blogs as a critical component of her class for the last decade. In recent years she has had to teach students how to write a blog, for even though they are familiar with the online format, they have never formally written anything like it. Teaching students how to effectively use social media, however, has far-reaching implications. Working with them to apply critical thinking to capture the perfect tweet to sum up an issue has the potential to impact the way they use Twitter in the future for personal or professional activities. Apply the literature across platforms Although each platform is unique, social media, on the whole, share more commonalities than differences. While you can group social media into different categories (networking, media sharing, shopping, etc…), their social nature standardizes certain elements. Many offer some version of commenting, which can facilitate student discussions or content creation. All offer public interaction, by which students have the opportunity to interact with a broader audience. And most support a range of mixed media, which opens instructional possibilities to sharing images, video recaps, or linked resources. You can take an article like "A study of the use of Twitter by students for lecture engagement and discussion" and apply the methodologies to any platform that offers threaded public commenting (Tiernan 2014). Admittedly some methodologies may need to be adjusted. When implementing discussions, Twitter displays comments in real-time, whereas interactive commenting on Pinterest boards may be better suited for asynchronous discussions. Explain the benefits Ensuring students understand that their social media assignments teach them skills that extend beyond the classroom is a great way to promote lifelong learning. Using social media offers an additional opportunity to instruct students on the difference between public and private, information security, and internet best practices, as well as to introduce them to scholarly communities of practice. By participating in public discussions or forums, students have the opportunity to interact with colleagues and potential employers. On a less lofty note, the skills students acquire can serve them more immediately in their continued use of the platform and reinforce the value of their assignment. For example, Pinterest is an excellent tool for creating group or individual sets of flashcards. Since the captions and notes are not displayed on the board-view, students can quiz themselves and check their answers by clicking on the pinned image in question. These self or group created flashcards not only make for a useful class assignment, but students can continue to use this study tool in your course, or apply it to their other classes. Provide structured social time Setting your students up for success is an integral part of bringing social media into the classroom. Thankfully, regardless of whether you believe strongly on the topic of phones' place in the classroom, social media can be adjusted to either be a synchronous in-class activity or an asynchronous homework assignment. Regardless, making sure your students have clear instructions and demonstrating how to engage with an online audience and platform effectively helps to make this activity less distracting and less daunting. In lieu of overly-vague generalities, let me share two of my favorite examples of structured uses of social media that come from Twitter. @MedEdChat is a Twitter account that runs themed discussions every Thursday at 9 pm EST. They introduce the theme of the week ahead of time, and ensure that a moderator is available during the time of the live "chat." This structured format also allows MedEd Chat to create a formal transcript which they save and distribute. Having students enter into this kind of externally-moderated chat not only provides structure but impresses upon them the significance of acting professionally in a recorded and public forum. Another favorite of mine is the tweet version of a "one-minute paper. "In the traditional model, students are given approximately a minute to answer a question that emphasizes self-assessment, recall, and succinct self-expression on a half sheet of paper (Angelo and Cross 1993). Given the short character limit on Twitter, it lends itself perfectly to this technique. I recommend that students take about five minutes to develop the perfect tweet, however, due to the higher-stakes of posting their response on a publically accessible and non-anonymous forum. Rather than having their phones out during the entire process, students are kept on track by having a clearly defined brainstorming time, and then one minute with their phone to post their response. Final Considerations There are, of course, other considerations that go into choosing which platform is right for you. It is important to consider what your goals and objectives are for the planned activity. If participation is required, you may want to look into how difficult it will be to obtain a copy of the learning record, or any learning analytics you may need. Some apps like SnapChat do not archive or keep a record of posts, which makes it difficult to assess student learning or engagement. It is also essential to think about student access to technology. If your students are not required to have a tablet, and there is no iPad initiative, asking them to use their personal phones can result in embarrassment or inequity. I have heard students complain about having to download an app for class or remember yet another username and password. I have also seen students attempt to use phones with cracked or inoperable screens, struggling to complete even a basic web search. Ultimately the successful implementation of social media into your class will be influenced by your content, goals, personal experience, and broader objectives. Discussion Which social media options are you most comfortable using? How might that social media help to address one challenge in your course? Describe a twitter version of the "one-minute paper" that might be assigned in one of your courses. What advantages would this format have for you as compared to a paper and pencil one-minute paper? How might you explain the benefits to your students? References Angelo, Thomas and K. Patricia Cross. 1993 "Minute Paper" Classroom Assessment Techniques: a Handbook for College Teachers,2nd edition p.148-153 Delello Julie and Rochell McWhorter. 2014. "Creating virtual communities of practice with the visual social media platform Pinterest." International Journal of Social Media and Interactive Learning Environments. Kassens-Noor, Eva. 2012. "Twitter as a teaching practice to enhance active and informal learning in higher education: The case of sustainable tweets." Active Learning in Higher Education. Tiernan, Peter. 2014. "A study of the use of Twitter by students for lecture engagement and discussion." Education and Information Technologies.https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10639-012-9246-4 Veletsianos, G. 2011. "Higher education scholars' participation and practices on Twitter." Journal of Computer Assisted Learning.
Fostering Online Student Success in the Face of COVID-19
Rory O’Neill Schmitt University of Southern California How can I help my students be successful? Amidst the turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty and administrators remain dedicated to supporting students’ academic and professional goals. As we move from emergency remote teaching to more well-designed online learning experiences, we need to be agile. To create effective online learning experiences, it is important to develop growth-minded students. Why Growth Mindset? Why Now? How can we be successful teaching our classes online? One answer is to teach and demonstrate growth mindset as a means to ignite student achievement. Carol Dweck’s growth mindset theory is built on the principle that qualities and talents are not fixed; rather, these skills can grow through dedication and hard work. When students utilize a growth mindset, they apply more effort and time and therefore, they accomplish more. A few years ago, in a Scholarly Teacher blog, Gaier (2015) explained his research of students’ dispositions for learning that are associated with growth mindset. His team identified qualities of academically successful students, including “active engagement, curiosity, joy, intentional effort, learn from failure, persevere, and seek help.” Gaier encouraged instructors to incorporate these dispositions into their course design and content. More recently, in a Scholarly Teacher blog, Zakrajsek and Smith (2020) encouraged instructors to use growth mindset as a tool to reframe thoughts about mandates to complete face-to-face courses online. How Can We Teach Growth Mindset Online? For the past decade, as a faculty and an administrator, I’ve learned, witnessed, demonstrated, and have been inspired by growth mindset. In this blog, I’ll share three strategies for developing growth-minded students in online learning environments: Set the stage: Create psychological safety; Play the part: Demonstrate growth mindset through personal narratives on failure, success, and resilience; Inspire the players: Highlight student examples and offer opportunities for growth. Set the Stage: Create Psychological Safety Which classes still remain the most poignant and impactful in your mind? Characteristics of successful classes may include: respectful, courteous, and compassionate dialogue; a feeling of co-creative community; a commitment to learning and growth through authentic inquiry. In the time of uncertainty of COVID-19, students experience heightened anxiety and fears. How can we support them in remaining calm, staying safe, and continuing to focus on their academic goals? The first step is our active role in creating psychological safety. Some ways faculty can create psychological safety are: Hold weekly classes online through video conferencing (e.g. Zoom or WebEx). Encourage all students to turn on their cameras and audio so they can be seen and heard. The power of witnessing is truly transformative. Structure and routine can also plant feelings of normalcy and security. At the start of class, lead a brief check-in with students to see how they are doing. Encourage students to share their challenges, as well as their methods of coping. Students can learn growth mindset when they hear their classmates sharing how they persist in the face of struggle. Learning from their peers can inspire courage and build self-efficacy. Co-create ground rules with your students that are aligned with their values. Some classes may value confidentiality of their classroom discussions and advocate for The Vegas Rule (What’s done in Vegas stays in Vegas!). Lastly, invite all voices into the room. Articulate to students: “There is no right or wrong answer.” Everyone’s voice is valuable in our conversation. Listen carefully to what your students are sharing, validate their points, and when relevant, weave their examples into your lecture. “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players…” - Shakespeare, As You Like It Play the Part: Demonstrate Resilience Students look to their professors for leadership right now. Faculty can foster growth mindset in their students through narrative and inquiry. Some ways include: Use personal narratives: Admit mistakes, describe learnings, and demonstrate resilience. Use a conversational tone in your class when sharing a story. Allow yourself to be vulnerable when telling the class about your experience in order to build trust and deepen connections in an online learning setting. Based on your level of comfort, share how you developed a new skill or found a new hobby (My personal example is struggling to learn to play the cello). Inspire a love of learning and resilience, as these are essential characteristics for future success. Invite application and problem-solving skills: In the context of a story of struggle and challenge, ask students: “What would you do?” Invite them to think of ways they might problem-solve and persist. (In a synchronous format, engage a live class discussion; in an asynchronous format, create a dialogue in a discussion board.) Student discussions provide an opportunity to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Perhaps, while giving and receiving encouragement, students may even identify their strengths and discover some inspiration. Inspire the Players: Emphasize Effort and Provide Opportunities for Growth We’ve set the stage, and we’ve demonstrated examples. The next step is critical: Empower your students to demonstrate and develop a growth mindset: Remind students that talent alone doesn’t create success. Emphasize effort. Angela Duckworth shared that psychologists and educators have identified a major predicative factor in academic success is the concept of grit or persistence amidst struggle. To stay relevant, make connections to popular culture. Consider posting an announcement in Blackboard with a videos of celebrities discussing how they became successful, like this one of Will Smith or this one of John Legend. When students feel motivated and positive, they can become inspired and excited about learning. In a discussion board, ask students to share examples of when they witnessed their family or peers using growth mindset to accomplish a goal. Inquire how their familial examples inspired them to pursue their current academic dreams. Remind them that you will take this conversation into the synchronous session. Encourage self-reflection and discussion. Offer a 1-minute writing opportunity in the synchronous class. Invite students to write about how they accomplished an academic or professional goal. If possible, split students into small groups for discussion (Zoom offers the break out room feature). Final Thoughts The faculty-student relationship a key feature in helping students to become academically successful through sustained effort and supportive and compassionate dialogue. Through demonstrating growth mindset in an online learning experience, students can become willing to learn new material, sustain a focused effort, and gain deeper understandings of the topics at hand. Discussion Questions 1. Reflect on a time when you accomplished a personal, professional, or academic goal. In what ways did you use growth mindset to accomplish your objective? 2. How can you use your personal narrative to inspire growth-minded students? 3. What do you anticipate might be the most challenging in our current pandemic climate? How might you use a growth mindset to bravely overcome these challenges? References Dr. Dweck’s research into growth mindset changed education forever. Mindset Works. Duckworth, A. (2013). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. TED Talks Education. Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Ballantine Books. Gaier, S. (July 19, 2015). A Mindset for Learning: The Dispositions of Academically Successful Students. Scholarly Teacher, “John Legend: Success through Effort.” Khan Academy, “Will Smith Mindset” posted by BMBohrmann. Youtube, Zakrajsek, T. & Smith, K. (March 12, 2020). Completing a Face to Face Course Online Following a Campus Mandate. Scholarly Teacher, Join the community by subscribing below to leave a comment about this post.
Jessica Kruger University at Buffalo Teaching is part knowledge and part heart. I’ve always been told that sometimes I put a bit too much heart into it, which I don’t believe can ever be the case. Building connections with students is an essential part of teaching. These connections are often built upon a foundation of trust, the trust that you will guide students through academic challenges, or the trust they can tell you when things are challenging, knowing you will be flexible. As an educator, I take pride in the fact that students often turn to me when they are facing challenges or adversity. Sometimes it’s just listening, other times is providing resources, and encouraging them that “this too shall pass.” Throughout this dramatic shift, we are all facing, it can be easy to just keep pushing on, grading papers, creating modules, sending reminder emails, and just trying to stay afloat. But in times of crisis, sometimes these connections we have built and foster over the years are crucial to student success and health. In many best practices for distance learning, you will read about how students must be able to connect with you; personally, I created a Google voice phone number for students to call and a text messaging service through the Remind app. Over the past week, I’ve fielded questions about using discussion boards, how to format a reference, and questions about grades, the regular communication with students. Yet, there has been a shift in some of these questions from the typical content and course-related questions to the real-life challenge’s students are facing. From “Can I have extra time to turn in a paper?” to “I lost a family member, and it’s tough to mourn alone, do you have any resources to help me?” I’m thankful my students feel comfortable with me enough to share some of these challenges, and I typically feel well equipped to answer many of them by sending them university resources that have moved help online. I’ve heard of other faculty having students diagnosed with COVID-19. As a public health professor, I know the probability of this happening to one of my students. I’ve thought about how to respond to students' worries and even changed my signature line from the traditional “Best” to “Be well.” Today, I got the phone call from a student that shook me to my very core. A quite nervous voice came over the phone from an otherwise not quiet or timid student. I had known this student was having some health issues, as I had reached out to all my advisees about a week ago to just check-in. They said, “You have always given me good advice, what should I do…” This was not an ask for academic advice, career choices, or project assistance, but the choice of when to seek medical care. We talked and I followed to CDC and local guidelines on the next steps if someone believes they have COVID and are experiencing severe symptoms. But that moment when a student’s voice cracks and says, “I’m afraid to die” is something I could never prepare for. As tears flowed down my face, I tried to hold it together to reduce the student's worry. * The connections we build are more robust than the subject matter we teach or the flexibility we create in our courses. They are essential for students personal and professional growth and even more critical in these challenging times.Teaching is more than knowledge. Now more than ever it takes heart, bravery, and compassion. Make it a point to regularly, check-in with your students, check-in with your colleagues, and check-in with yourself. * As an update, at the time of this post the aforementioned student has made a full recovery. Discussion Questions How can you work to make connections with your students? In what ways can you check-in with students during this challenge? How have you practiced self-care during this time? For Further Reading CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019
US Department of Health and Human Services Henry, K. Supporting Students Experiencing Remote Teaching and Learning. Scholarly Teacher. April 9, 2020.
Schwartz., H. Authentic Teaching and Connected Learning in the Age of COVID-19. Scholarly Teacher. April 2, 2020.
Supporting Students Experiencing Remote Teaching and Learning
Kari D. Henry Hulett Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology We are in unprecedented times, as many universities around the world expeditiously moved traditional, face-to-face courses to remote delivery. Many wonder how to manage this switch. Some campus teaching centers are gearing up with well-intentioned workshops on how to use the tools of technology to teach online. The only problem is this: teaching remotely as a response to an emergency is not the same as teaching online. Students in face-to-face courses are often not prepared to learn remotely. Affected students may not have access to high-speed internet or a reliable computer. They may have never taken a course in the online modality and feel uncertain in this new environment. These students begin at a disadvantage in remote instruction. To successfully support all students, faculty must focus on the humans behind the computer screens to strengthen community within the online classroom. Three ways faculty can focus on the human side and support students are through: 1) clear communication, 2) tempered expectations, and 3) compassionate understanding. Clear Communication Can Ease Anxiety When courses move online, it is imperative that faculty communicate to students what they should expect. Students may be anxious about the new format; giving them a clear understanding of the new normal will help to ease their fears. To do this, faculty can send an email or post an announcement in which they clearly and concisely identify how the course will continue. In this announcement, address the questions that students are likely to have: Will we meet in real-time during our regular class period? If so, how will that work? Is it required? What do I do if I do not have access to the internet at that time? How will I turn in assignments? And what if I have a question? Addressing these and other pragmatic elements will provide students with a greater sense of comfort during the change. Tempered Expectations can Reduce Obstacles Because some students will not have reliable access, faculty may need to temper their expectations, to better support students and reduce the number of obstacles they face. Tempering expectations means considering which aspects of the course are requisite and which elements of the course can be more flexible. For example, if a professor schedules real-time class lectures via the internet, some students may not be able to log in. To support all students, the professor could make such sessions optional and provide an alternative way for the students to get the lecture information (such as a recording of the lecture or lecture notes posted in the online classroom). Similarly, some students with limited access to reliable computers may not be able to type all materials for submission. Consider allowing students to take a picture of their hand-written work to show progress and accept typed work at a later date. Tempering expectations and focusing on the important will go a long way in supporting students. Compassionate Understanding can Build Community The most essential strategy faculty can employ to support students during this uncertain time is to provide compassionate understanding. Our students represent a myriad of backgrounds. They and their families are being affected in many different ways by this pandemic. Providing an open channel of communication for students, demonstrating flexibility, and exhibiting compassionate understanding makes students feel both supported and important. In turn, this builds a stronger learning community. Creating this positive tone may be one of the hardest parts of teaching remotely. What if the students try to take advantage of the teacher? What if a student claims there was internet problems when there wasn't? How will I know? The truth is, you may not. A student might try to take advantage of the situation, but the vast majority of your students will just be trying to get through this. Your compassion and support will be a key factor in ensuring the best possible outcome for most students. Remote teaching that incorporates educational technology tools of the learning management system supports teaching and learning efforts. This movement to remote teaching is in response to a developing crisis rather than a planned, decisive action; as such, neither faculty nor students were adequately prepared for teaching and learning under duress. As such, neither faculty nor students were adequately prepared for teaching and learning under duress. Not everyone had the necessary skills and resources to transition from the face-to-face environment. This new condition is an opportunity for faculty to provide leadership to their learning communities, ensuring that all students feel supported and grounded in an uncertain time. Focusing on the human element is the first step to ensuring our learning communities remain whole during this challenging time. Discussion Questions: 1. Which elements of your face-to-face curriculum were directly transferred to the online environment? How will you enrich content that is less readily transferable to online teaching and learning? 2. For content being delivered synchronously, what alternatives formats might you offer for those students who are unable to meet in real-time? 3. Given students may experience limitations to reliable internet service and or access to computers/mobile devices, how might students demonstrate learning competencies using nontraditional methods? For Further Reading: Center for Research on Learning & Teaching. (March 12, 2020). “Getting Started with Teaching Remotely in an Emergency.” University of Michigan. Miller, Michelle D. (March 9, 2020). “Going Online in a Hurry: What to do and Where to Start.” Chronicle of Higher Education. Schultz, H. (April 2, 2020). “Authentic Teaching and Connected Learning in the Age of Covid-19.” The Scholarly Teacher. Samson, Perry. (March 3, 2020). “The Coronavirus and Class Broadcasts” Educause Review.
Authentic Teaching and Connected Learning in the Age of COVID-19
Harriet L. Schwartz Carlow University “How we are with our students throughout this pandemic will teach them at least as much as the content of our courses.” This is an updated version of a message I shared via social media soon after my university moved to remote teaching in response to COVID-19. The past few weeks of transitioning courses and advising has deepened my sense of responsibility and challenge we, as faculty, face during this time. We are always teaching on at least two levels. Clearly, we teach the essence of our disciplines, and at the same time, by virtue of our presence and approach, we model ways of being in the world. In this time of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear, we have the potential to model acceptance of imperfection in ourselves and our students and teaching as an act of care (hooks, 1994; Noddings, 2003). Each of us, as we teach remotely throughout this pandemic, has the opportunity to give our students much more than they expected at the start of the semester. Whether you are a seasoned online teacher or a novice, and whether the courses you are currently teaching were online from the start or abruptly transitioned, we are all positioned to create important moments and spaces for students who, like us, now live in a time of uncertainty and increased stress. I am mindful as I write this that some of our students already lived in chaos and instability and for them the severity of this moment is magnified. We must always remain cognizant of their daily struggles. The Power of Connection I believe interactions and relationships are always at the center of teaching, however, in typical times, these aspects of our work can go unnoticed as we rely on the routines and rhythms of higher education. Now, stripped of routine and rhythm, we find that communication and relationships are more vital than ever. Along with teaching the content of our courses, we as faculty can be a solid presence in our students' lives. We can offer continuity amid chaos, solid ground in the midst of disruption, care in a time of fear, and connection despite social distancing (which, as many others have suggested, is better named physical distancing). The suggestion that we can bring all of this to our students' lives may seem like a tall order, given that we are also dealing with an intense challenge. Teaching and learning are imperfect human endeavors. By modeling acceptance of ourselves when we falter, we can encourage students to be gentle with themselves. And by expressing care and support when students stumble, we teach compassion. The Power of This Moment I teach graduate students, and before the pandemic, most would have worked all day before arriving for class. I have always hoped that my classrooms are a place where students can leave the cares of their lives behind and focus on their growth and development. I've occasionally heard students say that they don't tell their spouses about breaks or when classes are canceled. Instead, they go to campus or a coffee shop and do their schoolwork or use the time simply to take a break. These stories reinforce the idea that students may find refuge in school, slices of time where they can step away from the demands and pressures of life, and do something for themselves. Likewise, at present, if school can be a momentary haven and we serve students well, and there is still the possibility of learning, even with the challenges of living through a pandemic. Continuity and a Solid Presence Life now is different for most of us than it was even one month ago. The routines that formed the texture of our days are changed or gone, and we may no longer engage with the people, jobs, and communities that gave our lives stability. Because many of us are teaching classes that were already in motion before the pandemic, we have the opportunity to offer students some sense of continuity. Logging on to do coursework and meeting with each other online re-establishes at least some connection with our lives before COVID-19 and may, for an instant, steady the whitewater in which we find ourselves. We now have an essential opportunity to be an authentic solid presence in the lives of others, a vital element of collegiality and leadership even in calm times. When we provide this steady presence, we show students how they might do the same for others. As we engage with students remotely, we construct learning spaces (synchronous and asynchronous), and then through each interaction, we create small moments of big possibility. Every communication has the potential to say: “I see you,” “I care,” and “you matter.” And we are connected, even from afar. Authenticity What is authenticity in teaching when we might feel as overwhelmed and concerned as our students? I propose that authenticity in teaching, even in the best of times, is about bringing our humanity to work while also retaining role clarity (Schwartz, 2019). For example, I routinely share stories of article revise-and-resubmits and rejections with students, so they will know that even full tenured professors deal with critical feedback and rejection. I don't share these stories if I am particularly upset. Still, when I can share a story such that students may find it affirming and not sense that I need them to take care of me, I am being authentic and concurrently enacting my role as a teacher in the lives of students. Many faculty members are overwhelmed and anxious, teaching in a changed and changing context. And some are also managing a house full of energetic children or caring for elders. Many face some combination of all of these challenges. To bring our best selves to our students, we must activate our go-to stress management strategies: exercise, time outdoors, meditation, music, conversation with colleagues. We must partake in whatever gives us space, even briefly, to deal with stress, so when we engage with students, we do so with a handle on our struggles and ideally the energy to be with them in theirs. When students ask how we are doing, we can share something about our own stress or concern (if we aren't feeling deeply vulnerable). Also, we can discuss how we are caring for ourselves and others, our efforts to stay connected amidst distancing, and where we see the light in the world. In this way, we affirm students' humanity and our own and, at the same time, convey strength and a path forward. Summary As noted, to the degree we can communicate to our students that they matter and we care, we are likely to receive the same messages in return. Compassion stirs compassion. Gratitude begets gratitude. When we connect with students’ basic humanity, we are likely to feel renewed in our own. Discussion Questions 1. How do you typically convey care to your students? What additional acts of care might you employ during this time? 2. What do you hope your students will learn from your approach to teaching during the pandemic? 3. What stress management practices are you engaging in (or will you begin) to help cope with the current demands of teaching? References hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York, NY: Routledge. Noddings, N. (2003). Caring: A feminine approach to ethics and moral education (2nd ed.). Berkeley: CA: University of California Press. Schwartz, H. L. (2019). Connected Teaching: Relationship, Power, and Mattering in Higher Education. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.
Kathryn Smith and Todd Zakrajsek, ITLC If adversity allows one to grow, then COVID-19 has presented one of the most significant growth opportunities ever seen in higher education. There is no doubt moving quickly to online teaching is challenging, but many of us saw our first face-to-face classrooms challenging as well, and we mostly figured that out. What is essential when one starts to teach in an unfamiliar arena is to keep an open mind, be open to change, and expect some mistakes. Now is the perfect time to embrace a growth mindset regarding teaching online. Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, states, "... growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments, everyone can change and grow through application and experience." Having this growth mindset allows for a different definition of success, and that definition can change daily. Right now, you are likely in a position that requires you to reassess your educational practices, your teaching, and your content delivery method. You are facing challenges in learning a new skill set and an opportunity to model for your students how to grow as well. The following are a few growth-minded approaches to address the challenges of your new reality as an online educator. View these challenges as opportunities. Growth mindedness sees challenges as opportunities to grow, learn, and move outside of what we currently know. Teaching online is not a skill that anyone was born with; it is an area in which we can always improve. Accept That You Are a Learner Fix minded individuals believe that you are either naturally good at something or are not, whereas those with a growth mindset approach situations as learning experiences. When faced with the difficult task of taking your course online, it is easy to be overwhelmed. You may be thinking, "I am terrible with technology," "I don't even know what asynchronous means," and "How can I possibly maintain a meaningful connection with my students when we are not together." Some individuals have prior knowledge when it comes to online teaching, but if not, acquiring the skills necessary to be an effective faculty member in a digital environment is something anyone can learn. The key is to shift from "I can't ____" to "I can't ____ yet." If you don't know the advantages and disadvantages of synchronous and asynchronous discussions, search the web for the difference. Some individuals will agonize for months about a concept that can be looked up in a matter of minutes. We are not minimizing the significant current educational challenge we all face. We are merely recognizing that an impossibly long journey may be approached with either a steady stream of concerns about the enormity of the task or by taking a planned initial step. To start this online teaching journey, first, let's accept and admit (to ourselves and our students) that we are not perfect. Advancing in areas in which we are weak allows us to grow. The good news is that many of the skills you learn in the coming weeks are things you will learn when you return to your face-to-face courses. You will gain more expertise with tools that allow you to hold remote review sessions for exams, engage with more web 2.0 tools to connect with your students and develop strategies for students to collaborate on group projects. Also, working with students to address many of the challenges faced in moving to online teaching formats models for them how to manage organizational change. Plan Your Growth Gaining expertise does not happen haphazardly. You did not stumble into becoming an expert in your content area. You may have become interested in your content area by happenstance. Still, your expertise is something you worked at systematically, first through undergraduate and graduate programs, and later through research and continued reading. Although during this COVID-19 crisis, time did not allow for an advanced degree in online teaching, you can strategically plan for growth. There are a plethora of resources, thanks to COVID-19. Many educators are tweeting, posting, and texting about all forms to help with online teaching strategies. Share with your students your process for growing into an online educator, which models for them how an individual develops expertise. Do what you need to do to teach your courses right now, but along the way, identify one or two concepts you can look into more specifically later. For example, you may wish to identify ways to ensure all students in your course feel they can contribute to a discussion. Ask colleagues who teach online what they do, search google for sites that list tips, and ask your students what other faculty members do that they feel works well. Get As Much Feedback as You Can Feedback can be viewed as helpful or threatening. Who wouldn't tense just a bit if a department chair leans into your office and says, "Hey, do you have a minute for some feedback." When you receive feedback, take a second to decide if your first reaction is to treat it as information to use to improve (growth minded feedback) or criticism regarding your actions (fix minded feedback). Too often, feedback is delivered to help but received as criticism. Get as much feedback from your students as possible so that you may grow and make learning experiences better. Let your students know that you are purposefully asking for feedback, and if they take the time to provide it in a prosocial way, you will take the time to give it careful consideration. Receiving feedback does not mean that you will do whatever they suggest, but you will give it thoughtful consideration. Feedback is incredibly useful as long as you do something constructive with it, and when you do, let the students know the changes were because of the input they provided. You also show them that growth requires feedback from others. Expect Setbacks and Use Information to Grow As you built your content expertise, and when you started to teach your first face-to-face course, there were undoubtedly challenges and setbacks. How did you respond to those setbacks? Those with fixed mindsets who face setbacks get discouraged and often blame others. However, those with a growth mindset see setbacks as a challenge. They look for a new start and a way to try to look at the ultimate goal from a different perspective. The same will be true as you pivot to online teaching. Do not let setbacks fill you with doubt and frustration. Pivoting to online teaching with essentially no notice is certainly an unfair challenge, but it is one we are doing. There will be setbacks, but with teaching, there always are. As educators, our students need to see that not everything comes easy to us, and we must work through the problems to become successful. Every time you do something well, it becomes easier, but it won't always be easy. With every accomplishment, make a new goal. With every setback, use that as an opportunity to work harder the next time. We have all faced setbacks in our careers. As is often said, it is not the setback that defines a person; it is the response to the setback. Summary Moving your face-to-face course online is a massive challenge, but then again, so was the first time you taught your first face-to-face course. This new forced teaching opportunity is a challenge to start thinking about how this experience will inform your teaching in the future. Taking a growth mindset won't make the overall task easy, but it will change your approach and might make it a bit more palatable. Take a breath, digest the new challenge, and attack it. You will achieve many goals, and you will fail at a few. And it's okay to fail from time to time. Our skills are not fixed, and neither are our possibilities. Discussion Questions: When a pandemic arrives, few people are asked how they would like to proceed. Online learning was a global health decision. When you first started to think about moving your courses online, did your first inclination feel more growth minded or fix minded? Explain. Do you struggle with feedback, or are you the type of person who craves feedback? Why do you feel you respond to feedback as you do? How might you help another faculty member to position feedback so that it feels more informative and less threatening? What challenges did you face when you first started teaching in higher education? What challenges did you face when you first started teaching in an online format? If you had started in an online environment and then moved to face-to-face teaching, how might these challenges differ? Additional Readings Dweck, C. (January 13, 2016). What Having a “Growth Mindset” Actually Means. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved March 24, 2020. Hochanadel, A., & Finamore, D. (2015). Fixed And Growth Mindset In Education And How Grit Helps Students Persist In The Face Of Adversity. Journal of International Education Research (JIER), 11(1), 47-50. Zimmerman, A. (October 16, 2016). Shift to a Growth Mindset With These 8 Powerful Strategies Inc. Retrieved March 24, 2020.
Strategies for Structuring Teaching from Home: Planning Your Way to an Effective Day
Todd Zakrajsek University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill In a blink of an eye, life changed from bustling campuses with long lunch lines to deserted schools, and social distancing. With very little notice, we were told to move from face-to-face formats to online teaching. Consequently, information flooded listservs, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, suggesting how best to pivot to online teaching. Few tips addressed the process of actually working from home. To successfully teach from home, we must give attention to creating a workspace and setting expectations that complement our home life. Below are suggestions outlining how to maximize the perks and minimize the pitfalls of teleworking. Designate A Work Area When you think about working from home during the coming weeks, identify what necessary items to bring from your campus office to your home office. What may make your workload more natural, familiar, and comfortable (e.g., favorite travel mug, a reference tool, or book that you reach for often, or even a favorite photo)? Bring with you copies of your texts, lesson plans, original copies of exams, ungraded student work, and your list of online accounts with passwords. At home, establish a clearly defined workspace. Not everyone has a home office, yet to promote productivity, it's imperative to have a designated workplace. This can be a makeshift desk using the dining room table, breakfast bar, a folding table, or even an ironing board! Once your workspace is defined, consider both the functionality and aesthetic of the space: Identify adequate electrical outlets with a power surge protector. Does the area require additional or softer lighting? Is there a window with a view and perhaps the ability to open for fresh air? Set up a focal item that provides encouragement, comfort, or perhaps inspiration. Consider the positive impact of including a plant, greenery, or bouquet of flowers. If your workspace is a shared community space accessible to others in the household, resolve where and how to store your ancillary materials when not in use, perhaps in an archive box, a tote, or backpack. Recognize that there may be limits to accessing a quiet private space. You may need to negotiate with those who cohabitate with you to achieve specified blocks of alone time. This may be particularly challenging. Establishing a schedule with timed periodic breaks is especially helpful in such situations. Develop a Schedule Teleworking is not to be confused with a stay-cation, but it does offer new choices and new freedoms. It takes a modest amount of self-discipline to avoid procrastination and limit distractions. Creating a daily plan provides the structure for your workload but also for intentionally incorporating self-care practices. Start with establishing and maintaining a routine that includes self-care practices. Don't underestimate the power of self-care and hygiene practices for stress reduction. It is fine to dress comfortably, but those who have long worked from home note the importance of “getting ready for work.” Aside from video conferencing, which requires a nice shirt, dressing for work each day will maintain your sense of self, your initiative, and self-esteem across time. The impact of social isolation, combined with diminished expectations, can lead to situational depression and a sense of loneliness. Organization Now more than ever, the importance of organization and time management cannot be overstated. If you have a physical calendar or organizer, put it to use. Electronic calendars are particularly useful, as they allow you to set reminders. One key to success is the practice of setting daily goals. Scheduling work responsibilities while balancing family needs in your living space require increased communication and negotiation. Have a look at our "Daily To-Do" list that includes both professional and personal goal setting. Clear communication about expectations and scheduling will help. Posting a sign that reads "Work Zone" or "Quiet Zone-Meeting Online" will indicate when you cannot be disturbed. It may be necessary to block-schedule work activities to maintain balance with others in the home. Staying open and flexible about workload, deadlines, and online meetings will assist in both planning and implementing a successful workday. Hidden Challenges Until you work from home, you may not appreciate some of the unknown challenges. Disruptions in sleep can become problematic. Sleep experts suggest not working in your bedroom, which can lead to insomnia. Promote sleep-rest balance by maintaining a regular schedule, avoiding daytime naps, and maintaining a bedtime routine. Likewise, nutrition practices can be negatively impacted, as well. Being home throughout the day cues some of us to snack more frequently. With the current climate of 'crisis mode,' typical response to stress or anxiety includes comforting eating, stress eating, or even loss of appetite. It is helpful to meal plan for schedule meal times. Working from home, shines a light on the mind-body connections quickly. Another strategy for success is finding a balance between our mental and physical health. Physical Well Being Rarely do we consider the importance of posture; yet, good posture contributes to our overall well-being. Pay attention to the chair at your new work station. Since you will be in this chair for blocks of time, be careful that it does not lead to aches and pains. Consider the effect of seat height: Are your feet grounded on the floor, or do you need a footstool? Do your wrists rest in a neutral position on your keyboard? Is your table to tall or too short? Can you modify your chair to find the best-seated position? Additionally, while you are seated at your workstation, make it a point to frequently check your posture. Posture acts as an indicator of stress. Set a timer and complete a self-check of your body position: Are your shoulders tense and drawn upwards towards your ears? Do you sense your neck craning forward to view the screen? Is your back hunched forward? Are your hips level and squared off to your computer? Remind yourself to stand, stretch, bend, twist, and move. Take a break from screen time to check your body's response to being sedentary. For ideas of the types of stretches that can be done seated at your desk, click here. If you want to explore restorative yoga in the comfort of your home, take a look at this option: yoga with Adrienne. Human Connections and Well Being Introverts may be enticed to think working from home is a dream come true, and extroverts may hope the coming days of quiet are going to be a welcomed break from the norm. The truth lies in between. Eventually, everyone begins to miss the socialization of water cooler talk and the interactions with colleagues. Make it a point to stay connected. Send a quick text, email, or phone call to check in on faculty, friends, family, and neighbors. Stay constructive. Setting a scheduled virtual meeting with your colleagues is a good way not only to maintain your own well-being but also that of your colleagues in the same isolated state. If you have children at home, consider doing the same for those with virtual playdates, so they still see their friends' face-to-face.' Plan creative endeavors that stimulate your imagination to fulfill a hobby or complete that project you started but never finished. In response to the pandemic, the decision to move from campus offices to working from home came swiftly. Although this may be a new experience for you, in recent years, many occupations and entrepreneurs have embraced teleworking. For those who self-select to work remotely, there is a high degree of satisfaction. Those new to the experience may feel unprepared emotionally and limited by physical options for workspace, privacy, and homelife obligations, including parents, partners, pets, and children. Creating structure, employing time-management, and promoting self-care helps. Being flexible, communicating expectations, and using positive coping skills (including a sense of humor!) contributes to your overall well-being. And, subsequently, the harmony of the household. Maintaining connections with others reduces the sense of isolation. We are in this together. This won't be easy, but if you think about it, teaching is never easy, and being a faculty member comes with a plethora of challenges. We will persevere and succeed. The stakes are too high for failure. Most importantly, you are part of an amazing community…offer to help when you can and reach out for help when you need it. Discussion Questions What is one challenge you have found concerning working from home, even if it is just grading a set of papers or developing a lesson plan? What strategy have you employed to address that challenge? Fill out the "Daily Planning" worksheet. Which area on the worksheet concerns you the most in terms of meeting your goal? Why? In filling out the "Daily Planning" worksheet, are there areas in your life that you feel might need adjusting, regardless of where your workspace is located? What interests you most about potential changes? Everyone works from home from time to time, and perhaps most of the time. What have you learned about working from home that you would offer to others as a tip for success? For Further Reading Cornwaite, D. (March 2020). 10 Things You Need to Do to Successfully Work From Home. Lifehack. Retrieved March 17, 2020 Devaney, E. (August 26, 2018). Hubspot. Retreived March 17, 2020 Larson, B., Vroman, S., and Maakarius (March 18, 2020). A Guide to Managing Your (newly) Remote Workers. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved March 18, 2020 Lufkin, B (March 12, 2020). Coronavirus: How to work from Home, the Right Way. BBC. Retrieved March 18, 2020 Scott, E. (March 20 2020). The Stress of Working from Home. Very Well Mind. , Retrieved March 18, 2020. Smith, J. (August 16, 2012). How to succeed at Working from Home. Forbes. Retrieved March 15, 2020. Staying Focused When You're Working From Home (July 2017). MindTools. Retrieved March 16, 2020.
Completing a Face-To-Face Course Online Following A Campus Mandate
Todd Zakrajsek, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Kathryn Smith, International Teaching Learning Cooperative Converting a course from face-to-face to an online format is a challenging process in the best of times, and we are certainly not in the best of times at this moment. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous universities have suspended face-to-face classes, imposed temporary closures of campuses, and asked faculty members to convert face-to-face courses to an online format, all with very little time to prepare. Making this significant switch midsemester is difficult. We offer a few considerations that may make the end result smoother for both faculty and students. Fixed Mindset Versus Growth Mindset Don't panic. Yes, this is a challenging process, but we are capable of conquering difficult tasks. Reframe your thinking using a growth-mindset from, "I have never done this," to "I have not done this yet." Consider your past successes as an educator. This is not to minimize the work before us, but rather to recognize that we have significant skills and talents. And one of our unspoken job expectations as educators, and learners, is to figure things out. Use positive self-talk, reassure yourself, and your students that you share the common goal moving forward, learning together. Maintain a Shared Community Teaching includes community. Community among faculty, community among students, and most certainly, community among faculty and students within a course. When transitioning to an online format, do not drop into isolation nor let your students become isolated. Maintain human connections and support one another, particularly in times of uncertainty. Create time to share with colleagues, not to commiserate but to share tips for success and offer support as the semester moves forward. Be Authentic Teaching classes online requires additional expertise and planning. Given the immediacy of the situation, the level of support available to assist in making this transition will most likely be minimal. Bring to this new challenge those same skills and qualities that make you unique and successful. Even online, those same qualities can shine through. Each of us will face struggles. For many people, it's a challenge of working with the technology to make classes happen, so be authentic and tell your students when you're struggling. If you let them know that you're experiencing difficulties, it will ease pressure on both sides of the screen. At the same time, create spaces for students to let you know when they are struggling. Please encourage them to work through the process and focus on outcomes, but also to recognize we all face similar challenges. Be transparent, flexible, gentle, and supportive. Maximize Instructional Time It will take a significant amount of time to learn how to do just the basics of teaching students in a digital format. Avoid spending too much time trying to get something to look perfect. Instead, focus on maximizing instructional time that approximates what students would have received in the face-to-face setting. Maintain Composure Practice patience with yourself and your students. No one anticipated nor desired to be in the situation we now face. This will be challenging for months to come. At times it will be frustrating for all involved. If we remain focused on the challenges and potential adverse outcomes, the mountain becomes harder to climb. Consider what can be controlled in each situation, weigh options, and move forward as best as possible. Celebrate the victories. Emphasize the successes, no matter how small. Positivity is contagious. Acknowledge all the achievements rather than focusing on the deficits. Avoid the blame game. Keep It Simple and Smart Choose technology that works for you and keep it as simple as possible. Work smarter, not harder. Avoid getting "stuck" in place. If you find you are struggling to make one aspect "work," pause, review options, change course, and find your traction to move forward. If you are going to hold synchronous classes during scheduled in-person class time, find a technology tool to achieve that goal. If your LMS does not allow you to broadcast yourself to your students, try hosting your classes via Zoom or any of the following alternatives that might be available at your institution: GoToMeeting Cisco Webex Meetings Google Hangouts Meet join.me BlueJeans Additionally, you might want to pre-record your lectures for asynchronous meetings for students. It takes a little bit of time to get used to hearing your recorded voice, but consider these options to deliver your content. ShowMe iPad App: Turn your iPad into your personal interactive whiteboard! ShowMe allows you to record voice-over whiteboard tutorials and share them online. Camtasia: All-in-one screen recorder and video editor. Record your screen, add video effects, transitions, and more. ScreenCast-o-Matic: Create screencast videos with our screen recorder. Free and easy to use. Capture your screen, add a webcam, and use narration to customize your video. Good ol' PowerPoint: Use PowerPoint to record your animations and slides with the audio or use PowerPoint to record your screen. Institutions often have resources that they use for Lecture Capture such as Echo360 or Panopto that can be used on an individual's computer that allows a presentation to be recorded, saved, and uploaded to your LMS. Once you have outlined your content, and selected the medium, determine where you are creating the recording and view it through the lens of the audience. Many can attest that even the most outstanding recorded piece misses the mark if the viewer is distracted by visual elements such as dirty dishes stacked on the kitchen counter as part of the background. After recording your lectures, make it a habit to view what you have recorded on the largest screen available before posting. Emphasize Clarity Make sure your expectations are exceptionally clear. What do students need to know, do, and complete to participate fully in your class in this new format? How can you make these expectations clear? It might be helpful to use other online tools such as VoiceThread to share your syllabus again to the class, so they know what is expected. Have students comment, text, and email asking clarifying questions. Demonstrate Compassion Recognize the challenges your students face. Many of our students struggle with housing and food security on a day-to-day basis. As campuses close and students are told to "go home" during this transition to online formats, our vulnerable students will face additional challenges. It is important to recognize some displaced students do not have a home to go to; students experience homelessness. Internet access may not be available for all students, or they may have limited data plans. It is helpful to survey students early in the process of moving to an online format to determine accessibility. The pandemic is disruptive. The goal now becomes to do the best we can in light of the challenges we face. In the process of doing your best to reconfigure and deliver an educational experience for your learners, practice self-care. Take care of yourself, be mindful of the struggles your students are facing, and recognize the extensive work administrators and administrative staff must do in these uncertain times. Recognize the efforts of one another as we adapt to online teaching and support each other as we learn and teach together. Discussion Questions Describe a teaching challenge you have faced at some point? If you were to encounter that challenge again and employ a growth-minded approach, what actions would you take and why? If you have previously taught in an online environment, what did you find most challenging and most exciting about teaching online? If you have never taught in an online environment, what would you anticipate to be the most challenging and most exciting about that format? If an entire campus were to shift to all online courses very quickly (and many did when the COVID-19 hit), what do you see as one significant challenge that administrators likely faced? What was one likely considerable challenge students faced? Further Readings Barnes, E., & LeDuc, E. (May 10, 2018) Food scarcity on campus affects learning in the classroom. Scholarly Teacher, Darby, F. (2020). How to be a better online teacher: Advice Guide. Chronicle of Higher Education: Smith, K.W. (August 12, 2019). How to integrate technology tools into a blended learning classroom for enhanced student learning. Scholarly Teacher, Wolfe, K.A., & Uribe, S.N. (2020) What We Wish We Would Have Known: Tips for Online Instructors, College Teaching, DOI: 10.1080/87567555.2020.1711701
Todd D. Zakrajsek University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill You have likely heard the adage, "we teach the way we were taught." It is a phrase often used to explain why so many people lecture. The rationale is that many of us lecture because that is what we experienced as students. Yes, the lecture remains the most frequently used teaching strategy in higher education, a position it has held for nearly 900 years, but there is more than one way to lecture. The term lecture encompasses a variety of delivery strategies, including expository lectures, discussion lectures, story-telling lectures, Socratic lectures, among others (Major, Harris, & Zakrajsek, 2015). Even taking into consideration the many types of lectures we may have experienced, the lecture is certainly not the only teaching strategy we saw as students. Nearly 50 years ago, Johnson and Johnson (1975) published a book on cooperative learning. Over 40 years ago, Larry Michaelson began using team-based learning at the University of Oklahoma (Michaelson, et al., 1982). Hands-on applied teaching strategies, such as service-learning, date back to the mid-1990s. As with faculty today, our courses were likely delivered frequently through lecture, but also included other teaching strategies as well. Reframing “We Teach the Way We Were Taught” As we each became faculty members, there was no mandate regarding how we should teach. We selected teaching strategies that helped us to learn, and that we assume will also work well for our students. Therefore, it stands to reason that perhaps we don't actually "teach the way we were taught," so much as "we teach the way we best learn." Consider the implications of the difference between teaching the way we were taught as compared to the idea that we teach the way we learn best. The latter notion implies we, as faculty, are not passive recipients who select a pedagogical strategy simply because it is all we have ever seen. It suggests we, likely unconsciously, chose a teaching strategy that worked for us as learners. This affinity to employ a particular teaching strategy is a function of personal preference and confidence in what we know worked for ourselves as learners. What we fail to see is that just because a particular strategy worked well for ourselves does not mean it will work well for everyone. We are not consciously deciding to ignore the needs of others; we simply selected a teaching strategy that makes the most sense, because it worked best when we were students. Also, in "teaching the way I was taught," responsibility is minimized. If I lecture all the time, I shouldn't be blamed, according to this logic, for I am just teaching the way I was taught. If students are failing, it is their fault, because I am teaching the way my faculty members taught me, and I learned quite well from them. This implicit bias may seem innocuous, but as with all implicit bias, it delivers unintended negative consequences. Not everyone sees the world as I do, and not everyone learns the way I do. Thinking of the implications of implicit bias is scary, but there is freedom in knowledge. Using evidence-based teaching allows faculty to overcome the adverse effects of teaching as we were taught. Unintended Negative Consequences We, as faculty members, are not passive recipients who choose a pedagogical strategy because we have no choice. We may select teaching approaches that work for ourselves as learners, not because we are consciously deciding to ignore the needs of others, but more so because we fail to understand effective alternatives exist. This need not be an admonishment on our professional responsibility to educate others. It is merely a recognition that when we look at the world, we tend to see it from our perspective, the one with which we are most familiar. It takes effort to consider other perspectives. When we sell a home, we are surprised to think buyers would repaint such beautiful colors. When we go to a restaurant, we order appetizers and suggest to others that they will love the grilled Brussel sprouts (they are delicious), because we fail to grasp others may have different tastes. We tend to see the world through the lens that makes the most sense to us, which is what we tend to like. There is certainly no harm in having a preference and then advocating for that preference whenever possible. The challenge is that teaching is not about our learning; it is about our learners. It is not the job of the server in a restaurant to offer only the food they most prefer, but instead to help you to navigate the menu to identify what works best for you, food allergies, preferences, and all. We should be doing the same as faculty members. If I learn best from an expository lecture, then some students, those most like me, will likely also do well if I use that teaching strategy all of the time. There are others, however, who learn better through different approaches such as team-based learning, or a jigsaw technique. The challenge of teaching becomes how best to help those who learn differently from you as the faculty member. When teaching, we must recognize and reach those who have different lived experiences, those with ethnicities different from your own, and those who grew up with a different value of education. Carefully observe your students. Who performs best in your course? Who has difficulty mastering the content? Compare the students who are succeeding with those who are underperforming. If you see yourself in those are doing well, it may well be that they also learn best the way you learn best, particularly if you primarily teach the way you learned best. Expanding Your Teaching Toolbox There is another common phrase that we must continually build our teaching toolbox. I think of my teaching toolbox as being similar to a standard toolbox with tools found at any hardware store. Your primary tool, the one you use most, might be a hammer, a screwdriver, or a pair of plyers. It is the tool that you keep closest to you and can adapt to so many uses. If that tool is a pair of plyers, and you need to hang a photo from a small nail, you might use the plyers to pound in the nail. It is not the best tool for the job, and likely results in poor outcomes at times. It is beneficial to learn to keep other tools at hand and to use them at appropriate times, just as it is with your preferred teaching strategy. If you teach like a hammer, classroom learning will always look like a nail. To build our teaching toolbox is to add additional tools, not giving up completely our favorite tool, but to add others. I should not always “teach the way I best learned.” To do so will disadvantage students who are least like me, and those students deserve an opportunity to be successful. If I primarily use the lecture method of teaching, I should add a "think-pair-share" at times. Perhaps even a jigsaw and problem-based learning sprinkled throughout the semester. If I get bold, I might also try a role-play in class. That is something I am very uncomfortable with and did not care for as a student, but then again, those who learn very different from myself might benefit from role plays through a reacting to the past role-play approach. It will take work on my part to learn to teach with a larger toolbox, but it is an effort well worth expending. Those who best learn differently than I did as a student deserve a legitimate chance to be educated as well. So, although it is comfortable and feels right to "teach the way I best learned," that is not an equitable way to teach. I now strive to use a variety of teaching strategies to increase the educational opportunities for as many students as possible, even if it is a bit uncomfortable from time to time. Discussion Questions: What was the teaching strategy that worked best for you when you were a student? What teaching strategy was the most challenging for you? Explain why for each. How varied is your current approach to teaching? List the different strategies you tend to use and the proportion of time you feel you use each strategy. Who was your favorite faculty member when you were a student? What approaches to teaching did that faculty member use, and what proportion of the time would you estimate that person spent on each strategy. References Cited Johnson, D. W. & Johnson, R. J. (1975). Learning together and alone. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Major, C. H., Harris, M.S., & Zakrajsek, T.D. (2016). Teaching for learning: 101 intentionally designed activities to put students on the path to success. New York, NY: Routledge. Michaelsen, L.K., Watson, W.E., Cragin, J.P., and Fink, L.D. (1982) Team-based learning: A potential solution to the problems of large classes. Exchange: The Organizational Behavior Teaching Journal 7(4): 18-33.
Earning a Distinguished Teaching Award: A Moment for Recognition and Reflection
Shawn Higgins Temple University When I arrived in the dusty town of Socorro, New Mexico, a recent graduate working at the local café told me that the students at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology would hate my classes. I was there to teach them English. All they wanted to do was science, all day, every day. Despite this barista's curse as she stirred the mocha in her cauldron, my students ended up loving the classes. In fact, I was honored with the Distinguished Teaching Professor award at the end of my very first year. This award came with a cash prize of $2500, the same amount given to the Distinguished Research Professor. Apparently, my attempt at being a relatable, reliable, and relevant professor warranted the same monetary recognition as someone curing cancer with her research. Since 1986, I was only the fourth professor in communication, liberal arts, and/or social sciences to have won the distinguished teaching award at my institution. Fourteen of the last thirty-two awards went to engineering professors, with another fourteen given to science professors. What made my teaching of English so distinguished that a bunch of mechatronics students voted for me? In pursuit of not just distinguished teaching but also teaching expertise, I would like to recognize here the ideas of scholars who influenced my approaches and reflect on the concept of teaching well. The institute that year labeled my teaching "distinguished." What does that mean? It sounds like my pedagogy has silver streaks in its hair and wears a hound's tooth jacket. If not that, then is "distinguished" a synonym for "excellent"? Let's consider what teaching excellence means. First, how does one teach excellently? I agree with Carolin Kreber that excellent teachers motivate students, clearly convey concepts and assignments, and assist students through their educational journeys (Kreber, 2002, p. 5). I first got ideas about how to do these things in the methodological courses of my TESOL certificate program. Conceptual courses in cross-cultural communication and cultural diversity, as well as pedagogical courses in teaching vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and writing, have proven foundational to my evolving teaching philosophy. Upon that foundation then are stacked my observations and experiences as a student, being one who sat and learned in community college, in large state universities, and the Ivy League, as well as my experiments and reflections as a teacher. My daily flailing and fumbling in front of classrooms is all part of my journey toward teaching excellence. Excellent professors should also seek innovation, provide meaningful activities, secure teacher-student honesty, situate their approaches, encourage critical thinking, anchor student retention, nurture feedback loops, and foster inclusivity (Shephard, Harland, Stein, & Tidswell, 2011, p. 50). However, I know many other professors with solid methodology and reflective pedagogy who haven't won a distinguished teaching award yet. So who ends up winning one? While I can't answer that definitively, I do want to extend and reflect on Alan Skelton's argument that we should acknowledge teaching excellence as a "contested concept which is historically and situationally contingent" (Skelton, 2004, p. 452). Historical changes, such as new classroom technologies, as well as the cultural and political zeitgeist, dictate what "broader discourses or ideologies of education," we deem excellent at a given time. What works for one professor in one historical and spatial setting with one swath of the student population might not work for another. There are also implicit biases in students that influence whose teaching excellence can be seen and acknowledged and whose is ignored or denied. Optimistically, I do believe that certain practices in higher education have a high probability of being effective in multiple classrooms. One review of solid teaching practices confirms that students appreciate when professors encourage them to actively participate in a challenging and thought-provoking learning environment (Revell & Wainwright, 2009, p. 212) The emphasis on encourage here is my own; encourage is not synonymous with expect, require, demand, or intimidate. For effective ways to encourage student participation, read and consider Todd Zakrajsek's article in The Scholarly Teacher from 28 September 2018. I best understand Revell and Wainwright's usage of the combination "challenging and thought-provoking" to mean complex. Complexity, not complicatedness, is a worthwhile pursuit for the sakes of instructors and students alike. When preparing and then seasoning an assignment prompt, imagine being on an episode of your favorite competitive cooking television program. Go for complexity – an assignment with less than a few parts that mingle, coalesce, and do such a beautiful tango together that the idea of separating them is unthinkable, an assignment that makes the judges/students go "It's brilliant how you blended these things together!" Avoid complicatedness – assignments where those same judges ask, "Why would you include this?" and remark that there are "just too many things going on here" as they push your carefully crafted molecular beet foam aside in confusion. Complicatedness engenders confusion, frustration, anger, self-doubt, resentment, and, ultimately, apathy. Complexity is different from complicatedness. Students appreciate complexity when it challenges them within reason and manageability. Solving something complex breeds satisfaction. Moreover, I would like to offer three axioms of my own in the spirit of pursuing teaching expertise: Never believe that your class should be your students' top priority; let them come to that realization. Always strive for equity by stretching and reshaping equality. Do what you can to give every student what they need. Set your ego aside about "fair practices" and "lessons to be learned." If you can extend an offer to a student, act on that capacity, even if it doesn't seem fair to the rest of the class or even if that student might miss out on a lesson from the school of hard knocks. That school is overrated in the rankings. Discussion Questions: 1. What are the specific social, economic, and political contexts in which your teaching and learning practices take place? After identifying these, how can you go about securing equity for your teaching practices within your institution, and how can you provide equity for your students in their learning practices? 2. Considering Raymond Williams' assertion that the content of education expresses certain essential elements of a culture and that these chosen elements are the sum of a system of emphases and omissions (2011, p. 153), what further or alternative emphases and/or omissions are you willing and able to make in consideration of your students' futures? 3. What do you think is the strongest contributor to student apathy at the institution where you work? What actions can be taken to weaken its effects? References Kreber, C. (2002). Teaching Excellence, Teaching Expertise, and the Scholarship of Teaching. Innovative Higher Education, 27(1), 5–23. Revell, A., & Wainwright, E. (2009). What Makes Lectures "Unmissable"? Insights into Teaching Excellence and Active Learning. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 33(2), 209–223. Shephard, K., Harland, T., Stein, S., & Tidswell, T. (2011). Preparing an Application for a Higher-Education Teaching-Excellence Award: Whose Foot Fits Cinderella's Shoe? Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 33(1), 47–56. Skelton, A. (2004). Understanding "Teaching Excellence" in Higher Education: A Critical Evaluation of the National Teaching Fellowships Scheme. Studies in Higher Education, 29(4), 451–468. Williams, R. (2011). The Long Revolution. Parthian.
Jennie Carr Bridgewater College I always love the beginning of a new semester. It's a fresh start with renewed enthusiasm, new faces, and new possibilities. But the excitement may not last through the work of setting up our courses, creating lesson plans, and thinking of ways to create the best class experience. How faculty approach a new semester ranges from meeting students with a fire and brimstone approach to getting to know you ice-breaker approach. I view the first week of classes as an opportunity to set the stage for the semester. As I reflect on my experiences with setting the scene, I find four strategies to be vital for creating a successful first week of the new semester. 1. Infographic Syllabus During the first week of classes, I want students to be excited about the course and content. Reading aloud a detailed syllabus – does not fit the bill. I found a better way to engage students. Of course, the syllabus is a requirement on every college campus. As faculty, we believe the syllabus contains the most crucial course information such as contact information, policies, assignments, supports, and more! During the first week, I find students prefer a preview of key course assignments but desire to know about them in detail only before the assignment is due. In 2014, I converted my 6-page syllabus to a front and back visually appealing infographic that resembles a wide bookmark. My students frequently complement the streamlined design but appreciate this syllabus at a glance. If you want to convert your syllabus to an infographic, there are several excellent and free platforms to consider, including Canva, Picktochart, Smore, or Adobe Spark. You can also download editable versions if you don't want to create your own template. Even though students receive the infographic syllabus, I still post my full syllabus with all the required institutional policies on our learning management system. I carefully explain to our students the infographic serves as a snapshot of the course assignments and expectations. 2. 1:1 Meetings Researchers have found strong positive correlations between building relationships and rapport with students and academic achievement, attendance, student interest, motivation, empowerment, self-efficacy student attention, classroom behaviors and interactions (Benson, Cohen, Buskist, 2005, Houser & Frymier, 2009, Kozanitis, Desbiens, Chouinard, 2007; Myers, Goldman, Atkinson, Ball, Carton, Tindage & Anderson, 2016). During the first week of classes, I invite each student to meet with me one-on-one in my office for a 10-minute meet and greet meeting. Meaningful interactions with students outside of classes is listed by the National survey of student engagement as a high-impact educational practice (NSSE, 2017). Approximately 95% of my students attend. During the 1:1 meet and greet meeting, my primary goal is to get to know the students on a personal level. I explain to them very simply, "I care about you first and foremost as a person – I want you to be successful in this class." The meeting encourages students to not only find my office but also helps reduce anxious feelings about meeting with faculty when they have a more serious concern. 3. Professional Learner Profiles We know education is not a one-size-fits-all experience and with the landscape of higher education changing significantly over the past decade, faculty need now more than ever to find ways to create personalized, student-centered learning experiences (Rear, 2019). If we believe teaching is truly about the student, then faculty need to find ways to get to know students on a deeper, more personal level. Creating a personalized experience means understanding more of the whole person. At the beginning of the semester, I ask my students to self-report strengths, needs, interests, and constraints using a professional learner profile. The learner profile assignment is more than a reflective experience for students. I intentionally use professional learner profiles as I design collaborative groups, assignments, lectures, and provide feedback. Professional learner profiles provide quick access to student's self- reported strengths at the start of the semester. Typically, it can take weeks for faculty to identify student strengths. Students record instructional and personal needs, which enables me to better differentiate and support learning preferences. Next, students share personal and professional interests. Using Tomlinson's differentiation framework, I integrate student's interest into my instructional lectures and interactive activities to motivate and engage them. Finally, students also report their constraints. This category allows students to share personal boundaries such as additional jobs or family life, that they may have otherwise never shared. It is essential to recognize professional learner profiles are not static (Wilkoff, 2015). Often students' lives change throughout the semester. To adapt, I ask students to review and update their professional learner profile at midterm, so if I need to make adjustments, I can. 4. Pre-Assessment Effective instruction starts with a clear understanding of what students are bringing to the learning experience. A pre-assessment is an evaluation instrument faculty use to collect baseline data on students’ conceptual understanding. Pre-assessing students’ knowledge can demonstrate clearer student learning data (Lazarowitz & Lieb, 2006). Guskey and McTighe (2016) recommend a pre-assessment include the purpose(s) for the pre-assessment, determining how the faculty will use the information, and using the pre-assessment judiciously and efficiently. I create my own open-ended pre-assessment based on my course objectives. Students are encouraged not to prepare or look up answers as I explain how I use the results of the assessment to tailor the content knowledge based on their strengths and gaps or misconceptions in understanding. I share the results with students as each topic on the pre-assessment is taught. As faculty researchers, we know one way to determine an impact is to evaluate using a pre-assessment/post assessment model. I've chosen to implement this same model with my teaching. Having a sense of the extent to which my students understand the material as they enter the course helps me to know more effectively and efficiently meet my students’ academic needs. For example, if all of my students have a full understanding of the content from chapter two, I know I don't need to spend an entire day on it. My pre-assessment is focused on broader concepts and is intentionally fill in the blank because I want students to pull from their understanding. Conclusion I have found an infographic syllabus, 1:1 meetings, professional learner profiles, and pre-assessments are four strategies that help me to set the stage for a successful semester. These areas have shown to be related to academic success and all areas in which my students have benefited. Discussion Questions What is one strategy you employ during the first week of school to get to know your students? How to you intentionally build community across the course? How can you make connections with students both inside and outside of the classroom? References Benson, T. A., Cohen, A. L., & Buskist, W. (2005). Rapport: Its relation to student attitude and behavior toward teachers and classes. Faculty Forum. Teaching of Psychology, 32(4), 237–270. Guskey, T. R. & McTighe, J., "Pre-assessment: Promises and cautions" (2016). Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology Faculty Publications. 17. Houser, M. L., & Frymier, A. B. (2009). The Role of Student Characteristics and Teacher Behaviors in Students' Learner Empowerment. Communication Education, 58(1), 35-53. doi:10.1080/03634520802237383 Kozanitis, A., Desbiens, J.F., & Chouinard, R. (2007). Perception of teacher support and reaction towards questioning: Its relation to instrumental help-seeking and motivation to learn. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 19, 238–250. Myers, S. A., Goldman, Z. W., Atkinson, J., Ball, H., Carton, S. T., Tindage, M. F., & Anderson, A. O. (2016). Student Civility in the College Classroom: Exploring Student Use and Effects of Classroom Citizenship Behavior. Communication Education, 65(1), 64-82. doi:10.1080/03634523.2015.1061197 National Survey of Student Engagement (2017). Experiences that matter: Enhancing student learning and success—Annual Report 2017. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research. Rear, D. (2019). One size fits all? The limitations of standarised assessment in critical thinking. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 44 (5) 664-675. Doi:10.1080/02602938.2018.1526255 Wilkoff, B. (2015). Building the basic of personalized professional learning (part 1). Edsurge. Retrieved on August 28, 2019 from:
Looking Back as We Look Forward: The Ten Most Frequently Read Scholarly Teacher Blogs
In higher education, it is easy to work so fast and furious with concerns about the future that we have little time to reflect on the wonderful things we have accomplished. For that reason, The Scholarly Teacher team would like to take a moment to reflect and thank the many individuals who have both contributed posts, and those who regularly read the written work of colleagues. The following are the top ten most frequently read posts over the past five years. If you missed these the first time around, take a minute to give them a quick read. If you have already read them, maybe do so again. We are each changing all the time, and with each reading, I know I pick up something I hadn’t noticed before. As always, the blogs are written so they can be read in just a few minutes, even though some of the content might have you thinking for days. On to the top 10. Enjoy! #10 - Analyzing Student End of Course Written Comments #9 - Connecting Assessment and Learning #8 - First Generation College Students: A Journey Without Maps #7 - 10 Easy Grouping Techniques for the College Classroom #6 - The First 4 Weeks of the Course: Extending Activities Long Enough to Establish Productive Habits #5 - Help Your Students Get More Sleep: Set TWO Due Dates for Assignments #4 - Student Preparedness Incorporated into the Course Design #3 - Creating Work-Life Balance: Using Personal Reflection to Guide Personal and Professional Growth #2 - How to Use Questions to Promote Student Learning #1 - Students Who Don’t Participate in Class Discussions: They Are Not All Introverts. Thanks to each and every one of you for reading, contributing, sharing and implementing what you read on The Scholarly Teacher.
Incorporating Pop Music into the Classroom for Deeper Learning
Marie Allsopp Purdue University The power of using music and emotions to engage students’ attention, stimulate learning, and increase retention is often overlooked. As a faculty member, I look for ways to make class enjoyable, pique student curiosity, and incorporate meaningful exercises to engage students with course content. The use of an attention-grabbing activity can increase student participation and improve short and long-term retention (Gruber, Gelman & Ranganath, 2014; Howell Major, Harris, & Zakrajsek 2015). In addition, novel information that stimulates emotions and curiosity also improves recall and retention (Fenker & Schutz, 2008). Introducing pop music into the classroom offers a creative strategy as a novel attention-grabber, a connection between self-text-world, and a method to activate emotions, to ready the class for learning. Given that humans tend to pay more attention to material that they “like” (Holli & Beto, 2014), it behooves us as educators to assist students in the learning process by delivering lectures that they actually enjoy. Oblinger (2003) argues that millennials get bored easily and expect variety, meaning the format of traditional lectures for an entire class period may not hold their attention (Roehling, Kooi, Dykema, Quisenberry & Vandlen, 2010). All of this, combined with the fact that smartphones and other devices vie for attention, means that classroom lectures will need to evolve to meet the needs of millennial learners. A presentation by Dr. Ron Berk at a Lilly Conference in November of 2015 introduced me to the concept of purposefully using popular music and songs to teach course content. The idea of applying music as a teaching strategy was unique to me and pushed me outside of my comfort zone in the classroom. In the remainder of this blog, I will describe how I subsequently adapted a Nutrition Education and Counseling Skills course to incorporate music as a pedagogical technique. Berk (2008) has identified potential learning outcomes of using music in the classroom, such as fostering creativity and increasing memory of content. There are many techniques for incorporating music into teaching (Berk, 2008); however, the technique that will be discussed further is the use of music as a “content grabber” (Berk, 2008). According to Berk (2008), three potential learning outcomes include: • Focus students’ concentration • Make learning fun • Establish a positive atmosphere/environment Initially, as I looked at course content, I had to intentionally decide what content students grapple with and what specific music choice would parallel the lesson content and be relevant to students. I planned to start with the basics, developing client interview skills for nutrition students. In the course, students are likely to approach role-playing activities with trepidation, especially at the beginning of the semester. Additionally, students tend to focus on the rote interview questions rather than the subtle nuances of creating a conversational tone and reading body language. It seemed fitting to use a short clip of “Something to Talk About” by Bonnie Raitt, a song that was used to focus student’s concentration on the content covered in chapter two (Communication) of the Nutrition Education and Counseling Skills textbook (Holli & Beto, 2014). The reading material emphasizes the importance of recognizing nonverbal cues when counseling patients and/or clients (Holli & Beto, 2014). During the class lecture, students listened to an excerpt from the song and were asked to list the nonverbal behaviors mentioned: “We laugh just a little too loud We stand just a little too close We stare just a little too long Maybe they're seeing something we don't, darlin' Let's give them something to talk about Let's give them something to talk about Let's give them something to talk about How about love?” (Eikhard, 1991). This exercise focused students’ attention on laughter, physical space, and eye contact, which are key aspects of nonverbal communication, discussed in the textbook (Holli & Beto, 2014) and also opened the door to beginning a discussion on how those nonverbal behaviors differ by ethnicity and culture. “We are Family” by Sister Sledge is a great song to help make learning fun. The following excerpt below is used as a “content grabber” during a lecture on material covered in chapter six (Counseling for Behavior Modification) highlighting the need to include the client’s or patient’s family and significant others when planning lifestyle and diet changes (Holli & Beto, 2014). “We are family, I got all my sisters with me We are family Get up everybody and sing We are family I got all my sisters with me We are family Get up everybody and sing” (Edwards & Rodgers, 1979). “Happy” by Pharrell Williams was a fantastic vehicle to development of a positive atmosphere/environment in the classroom because it is upbeat and emotionally uplifting. Therefore, this song was not only used as a powerful tool to create a festive atmosphere, but the lyrics complemented the material in chapter twelve (Implementing and Evaluating Learning) on the use of hedonistic scales to evaluate the degree to which many participants “liked” various aspects of a program (Holli & Beto, 2014). An excerpt from the lyrics to “Happy” is included below. “(Because I'm happy) Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof (Because I'm happy) Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth (Because I'm happy) Clap along if you know what happiness is to you (Because I'm happy) Clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do” (Williams, 2013). After the hedonistic scale was referred to in the lecture slide, during which the music clip played, students were asked to provide a synonym for hedonistic. The song created the perfect atmosphere for further discussion on the application of hedonistic scales or happiness indexes. Music is one way to capture students’ attention and present a novel learning opportunity and it is a powerful one. With the plethora of songs, it is possible to find music that corresponds to just about any course content. As with all published work, do be sure to read fair use guidelines so you are using music properly and giving artists credit for their work. Discussion Questions: • Of the material you teach, what is one area you feel would be particularly well adapted to a class session with the inclusion of music? • What are the advantages/disadvantages to having students identify potential music clips to be used to illustrate course content. • What would you see as the biggest challenge to you using this teaching methodology? References Berk, R. A. (2008). Music and Music Technology in College Teaching: Classical to Hip Hop across the Curriculum. International Journal of Technology in Teaching and Learning, 4(1), 45-67. Edwards, B., & Rodgers, N. (1979). We Are Family. [Recorded by Sister Sledge]. On We are Family. [7-inch single]. New York, New York: Cotillion. Eikhard, S. (1991). Something to Talk About [Recorded by Bonnie Raitt]. On Luck of the Draw. [CD]. Los Angeles, California: Capitol Records. Fenker, D., & Schutze, H. (2008, December 17). Learning by Surprise. Scientific American. Retrieved from Gruber, M. J., Gelman, B.D., & Ranganath, C. (2014). State of Curiosity Modulate Hippocampus-dependent Learning via the Dopaminergic Circuit. Neuron, 84, 486-496. Holli, B. B., & Beto, J. A. (2014). Nutrition Counseling and Education Skills for Dietetics Professionals, Sixth Edition. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Howell Major, C., Harris, M., & Zakrajsek, T. (2015). Teaching for Learning 101 Intentionally Designed Educational Activities to Put Students on the Path to Success. London, UK: Routledge. Oblinger, D. (2003). Boomers, Gen-xers, and Millennials: understanding the new students. EDUCAUSE Review, 38(4), 37-47. Williams, P. (2013). Happy [Recorded by Pharrell Williams]. On Despicable Me 2: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. On Girl. [CD]. Miami, Florida: Back Lot Music; i Am Other; Columbia Records. Roehling, P.V., Kooi, T.L.V., Dykema, S., Quisenberry, B., & Vandlen, C. (2010). Engaging the Millennial Generation in Class Discussions. College Teaching, 59(1), 1-6.
Purposefully Incorporating Technology into the Classroom Using the SAMR Model
Kathryn W. Smith International Teaching Learning Network Educational technologies and the choice to incorporate technology into your class session is many things to many people. To the person who is on the fence, it may seem like a very daunting task. But, to the digital natives and technology enthusiasts, it is just another day and another class session. Deciding to incorporate any form of technology into your class session is complicated and should not only be done because everyone else is doing it. Adding technology to your class session needs to be purposeful. One reason, if you are considering to add technology to your class, is that blended learning has become more of the standard method of instruction delivery and preferred by students (Pomerantz & Brooks, 2017). Don’t get me wrong, I do love the catchy music of Kahoot or the instant instructor feedback of Plickers, but the class session needs to be enhanced by the technology, not driven by it. NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit venture-philanthropy firm, released a survey earlier this year that stated 65% of educators polled are using digital learning tools daily. However, many do not know which tools are the most effective to help students master content. The research by Kirkwood and Price (2014) worked to determine if Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) is useful and what tools best accomplish this task because we know not all devices work for every situation. One way to start to incorporate useful technology into your classroom is to look to the SAMR Model as a framework to begin. The model, created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, has four levels that can be useful yet a simple way to assess how you are using technology in your class. For those who are just getting their toes wet with incorporating technology into the classroom, the SAMR model is an excellent model to help you get started. Let’s take a look into the levels of the SAMR Model often visualized like a staircase, and then we can look at how to start using this to modify your current teaching practices. Substitution The first level or step to the model is substitution. There simply is no functional change but substitutes technology for a more traditional method of the lesson. For example, replacing taking notes with pen and paper and using a word processing device. Doable and straightforward, right? Most people are already substituting for this task. Another example would be providing access to information from a hardcopy textbook as a PDF. “If a teacher uses PowerPoint or a video-enhanced podcast to deliver a lecture, it does not make it anything other than a lecture. Technology might make the lecture accessible to learners ‘anytime, anywhere,’ but does not change it into something different” (Kirkwood & Price, 2013). Turning a lecture into a podcast is an excellent example of how you are not changing what you are teaching, just delivering it differently. Substitution is probably the easiest way to start to add technology to your class. Augmentation The second level is augmentation. Technology is still substituting, but there is a functional improvement to the student experience. An example, going back to note-taking, would be utilizing a note-taking app or software, such as Evernote or OneNote, to take, tag, organize notes for a given class. Many students already utilize apps such as these to take their notes. Rarely do you see a paper hit pen for note-taking unless laptops have been banned from the classroom. If you are interested in this medium, a good place to start might be asking your students what they use for digital note-taking. Then, using the most common option, add this suggestion to your class, so it makes it easier for students to share notes if they’re so inclined. Putting your preferred note-taking app in your syllabus would be helpful for your students as well. So far, so good, right? These first two levels of the SAMR Model aim to enhance the student experience. The next two levels aim to transform the student experience. I relate this thinking to the quote from Richard Riley, former US Secretary of Education “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist...using technologies that haven’t yet been invented...in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.” These next two levels make educators have to “think outside the box” and push student limits. Educators have to be comfortable with their lessons and course design to make this happen, but it’s doable. In this regard, many educators try to relate the SAMR Model and Bloom’s Taxonomy with the differentiation of the levels, but do note these two are created for different purposes. Bloom’s focuses on the thinking and learning level of the student, where the SAMR model focuses on the ways technology impacts the lesson design and technology in the classroom. Modification Modification is moving into the design change of the lesson and the learning outcomes for the students. Technology is helping to push students forward and deepen their learning with technology tools. Continuing with the note-taking example, students may use Padlet to organize thoughts and ideas with their classmates. As the educator, you can provide the medium to allow the students to share with each other. You then can moderate student responses and find where students have misconceptions then take steps to help clear up those misunderstandings and point students in the direction of success. Redefinition The last step is redefinition. Again changing the design of the lesson and learning outcomes that would not otherwise allow for the task to be completed without technology. Finishing up with the note-taking example, students could use Evernote, OneNote, or GoogleDocs to take notes, share their notebooks, and collaborate in real-time with other students on a topic. Without the technology of Evernote, students wouldn’t be able to share their notes in real-time. Better yet, as the instructor, you can share your notes with the students and let them collaborate to make your lessons better. As an educator promoting note sharing or creating a collaborative classroom community, a suggestion would be to use the forum function within your Learning Management System (LMS) to allow students to share their notes. Technology doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach. If you are intimidated to introduce or increase the technology used in your lessons, it’s nice to have a guide to get started on your journey. If you have already begun to add more technology to connect with your students, how can you move to the next level and push forward even more? Having the SAMR Model is a good framework to help you begin or continue on that journey. Another good tip is to know where your resources are if you need assistance along the way. You don’t have to go about it alone. No matter where you are in incorporating technology into your class, remember learning is the outcome, technology is just a tool to reach that finish line. Discussion Questions: What are your immediate thoughts about incorporating technology into your teaching? Do you have any reservations, or are you excited?Is there an upcoming lesson that you can incorporate technology? If you are incorporating technology into your lessons, where can you find support or assistance if you happen to need it? References: Kirkwood, A., & Price, L. (2013). Missing: evidence of a scholarly approach to teaching and learning with technology in higher education. Teaching in Higher Education, 18(3), 327–337. Kirkwood, A., and Price, L. (2014). Technology-enhanced learning and teaching in higher education: what is ‘enhanced,’ and how do we know? A critical literature review. Learning, Media and Technology, 39(1) pp. 6–36 Pomerantz, J., and Brooks, D.C. (2017). ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research, 2017. Further Reading: How The SAMR Model Can Be Used A Framework For Education 3.0 What Teachers Need to Know about the SAMR Model
Understanding Adoption of New Teaching Strategies through a Behavioral Change Model
Todd Zakrajsek University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill For over 25 years, leaders in higher education have been suggesting educators shift the classroom focus from teaching to learning (King, 1993; Barr & Tagg, 1995; Hake, 1998). Along the way, this movement has called for the end of the lecture (Bajak, 2014) and advocated for more active and engaging teaching strategies (Major, Harris, & Zakrajsek, 2015). What has all this accomplished? There have certainly been advances in engaging students in the learning process, but lecturing continues to be one of the most frequently used teaching strategies. Why is it that so many faculty are resistant to make the shift to a more learning-centered classroom? When faculty members resist employing, or adapting, learning strategies that engage students they are often considered "out of touch" or even accused of not caring about their students. The message to these experienced teachers is often that they need to abandon how they have been teaching and to engage in a pedagogical pursuit different from anything they have seen previously. It seems few realize the undertaking boils down to a simple request of changing their behaviors. Ok, it may seem simple, but one thing psychologists have long known is that creating a new habit (i.e., changing behavior) is extremely challenging. We can all agree that making New Year's resolutions are easy, but it is difficult to live up to proposed behavior changes of eating mindfully, exercising regularly, or becoming more organized. Likewise, at the start of each academic year, who does not vow to change at least one aspect of a course? How many times do we end up abandoning our proposed self-imposed teaching changes for familiar, comfortable day to day instructional routines? To change behavior requires mindfulness, an action plan, and practice to develop the habit. Perhaps that is the disconnect. To implement a social movement such as changing how we educate learners in the best possible way, each faculty member must exhibit the behaviors necessary to bring about that change. Have we erroneously omitted the steps necessary to sustain changed behavior to reach the goal of shifting from teaching to learning? We cannot successfully adopt learner-centered teaching without an action plan. A framework for understanding how to bring about behavioral change is required. So, for this blog, let us walk through The Transtheoretical Model, a behavioral change model developed by Prochaska and DiClimente (1983), a model that is still widely in use today. This model consists of Stages of Change that one progresses through in adopting a new behavior: Precontemplative, Contemplative, Preparation, Action, Maintenance, and Relapse. Precontemplative Stage The first stage of the model recognizes that individuals are not aware that a problem, or a desired behavior, even exists. One cannot change a behavior if one does not even know there is an issue. Much of our lives are lived automatically - in the absence of mindfulness. We do not think about how we walk, drive a car, or explain a concept. We repeatedly do the things that are the same things that we often do. This automaticity helps us to complete complex actions without expending much cognitive energy. To change those actions, or to do something differently, requires conscious thought. Faculty members in this precontemplative stage do not even think about learning or how students process information. They simply teach. These faculty also fail to recognize any adverse consequences of their actions. Examples of those who are in this stage might state that students flunk tests because they do not study, or students like lectures because they prefer to be spoon-fed information. In short, faculty members in this stage may well not be implementing more learning-centered teaching approaches because they do not know that change is needed or that another way to do things even exists. Contemplative Stage As the name suggests, individuals in this stage seek to change and start to see the advantages and disadvantages of behavioral change. This contemplation of costs and benefits occurs before any change occurs. The key feature of this stage is that there is an awareness of the behavior in question. A faculty member may come to realize students are struggling in a course, even though class attendance is high, and most students attend review sessions. He may wonder if there are ways to teach the course that will help the struggling students and speak to a colleague about her approaches. As a result, this faculty becomes aware of books and articles devoted to how people learn, and they may hear colleagues in the break room talking about engaged learning strategies that are associated with increased student learning. These individuals would like to teach differently but are not sure how to get started to make the necessary changes. As the name of this stage states, faculty at this point contemplate teaching differently. Preparation Stage This stage is represented by individuals who have decided to work on a behavioral change immediately, or at least within the next month. Concerning teaching, faculty members may have signed up for an active learning workshop, purchased a book about brain-based learning, read a blog about the challenges of changing behaviors, or registered for a conference on advancing teaching and learning. These individuals are ready to take action necessary to make a behavioral change and have begun to develop resources to make a sustained change in their life. Action Stage Here individuals have either just started a new behavior or been employing that new behavior through systematic processes for up to six months. The new practices are in place, and the targeted behavior is measurable. Examples for faculty members may be the use of classroom assessment techniques, teaching students metacognitive strategies, and presenting new teaching strategies at an interdisciplinary conference. These individuals have a plan in place and are seeing results. Maintenance Stage According to extensive research on this model of behavior change across a wide variety of behaviors, individuals are considered to be in the maintenance phase for six months to five years. A noted previously, behavior change is challenging, and behavioral patterns exhibited for several months are still very susceptible to relapse. Getting feedback from students regarding the effectiveness of teaching each week may slip after a few months. Completing quick classroom assessments at the end of each class might begin to be skipped from time to time. That said, once behaviors are in place for more than six months, these relapses are much less likely. Individuals who successfully change behavior and maintain that new action for several years do not desire to return to a previous state of teaching without taking an evidence-based approach. Faculty members in this stage may talk about how, long ago, they used to teach from a position they would never accept today. Relapse Everyone can, and does, slip from time to time. It is important to consider relapse to an earlier behavior as a part of the process. A relapse is not a failure, but something to work through. When a relapse occurs, identify what triggered the relapse or what was the motivation for the relapse. Learn from such experiences as well. It may be that years after setting always using the first day of class to build community among students a faculty member slips and talks for the entire first class period. By identifying triggers and motivators, one may work back through action to maintenance once again, and this time with less likelihood of relapse in the future. Conclusion Changing behavior is complex and challenging. It seems helpful to keep in mind that faculty members who struggle to move from outdated continues lectures will need assistance getting to the point of a solid combination of minilectures and facilitated engaged learning activities. We can be growth-minded towards behavior change of teaching with engaged learning strategies. We expect our students to be growth-minded and watch them struggle as they change their behaviors. We give them the benefit of the doubt when they express an opinion not based on evidence and strive to help them to see another point of view. We realize that on the first day of class, students have yet to learn about the course subject. We are patient while expecting their behavior to change. It seems we should think about teaching strategies and our colleagues in this same light. There are faculty in both the precontemplative and contemplative stages who need our understanding and support. There are emerging aspects of teaching, for which I am also in a precontemplative stage. That should not surprise anyone. None of us can know everything. For those individuals in a precontemplative stage with regard to any issue, we can help make them aware of possibilities. For those in the contemplative stages and beyond, they are starting a journey, albeit a difficult and deeply meaningful journey. To successfully incorporate new behaviors that move us towards learner-centered environments, faculty need to support each other through the process. Discussion questions: 1. Without using names or any identifiers, describe what it is like to be in a class of a faculty member you believe was in the precontemplative stage with respect to learning-centered approaches to teaching? 2. Identify one thing that you learned in the past year that surprised you about teaching and learning. Where did you come across this information and how has it impacted your teaching practice? 3. In the past two years what teaching strategy did you believe worked well, yet you stopped doing it? Why did you stop? Did you even realize you had stopped? Based on this reading how would you incorporate that behavior again in the future and what might you put into place to reduce the probability of relapse? References and Additional Readings BajakMay, A., FrederickNov, E., MoraOct, K., FrederickOct, E., FrederickOct, E., & FrederickOct, E. (2017, December 10). Lectures aren't just boring, they're Ineffective, too, study finds. Retrieved from Barr, R. B., & Tagg, J. (1995). From teaching to learning —A New Paradigm For Undergraduate Education. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 27(6), 12–26. doi: 10.1080/00091383.1995.10544672 Hake, R. R. (1998). Interactive-engagement versus traditional methods: A six-thousand-student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses. American Journal of Physics, 66(1), 64–74. doi: 10.1119/1.18809 Howell Major, C., Harris, M., Zakrajsek, T. (2016). Teaching for Learning: 101 Intentionally Designed Educational Activities to put your Students on the Path to Success. New York, NY: Routledge. King, A. (1993). From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side. College Teaching, 41(1), 30–35. doi: 10.1080/87567555.1993.9926781 Prochaska, J. O., & Diclemente, C. C. (1983). Stages and processes of self-change of smoking: Toward an integrative model of change. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51(3), 390–395. doi: 10.1037//0022-006x.51.3.390
Janina Tosic HS Ruhr West After nine years as an academic developer, I went back to teaching last fall. A bit naïvely, I viewed this career change as an exciting challenge to finally apply everything I had learned about teaching and learning to a difficult teaching context, a large required Chemistry and Physics 101 module for engineering majors. I wanted to show everybody "how it is done." I used Dee Fink’s approach (2013) to define a vision for my module, formulate learning outcomes on various levels, design teaching, and learning activities as well as formative and summative assessments. I had it all planned out and “just” needed to put this plan into action each week. Three weeks into the semester, I started to struggle. As a chemist, I had neither a recollection nor a deep understanding of the physics I was required to teach. I had to learn and relearn in order to prepare my lectures through our 15-week semester. I ended up working about 10 hours daily, with only four days off during the Christmas break. I was ashamed about missing subject expertise and consequently did not ask my mentor or my colleagues for help. Of course, my 200 students noticed my mistakes, incompetence to answer questions, and inappropriate reactions when I was stressed and tired. They voiced their disappointment in a mid-semester teaching analysis poll as I did not meet their expectations of what a good teacher was. Again, I kept silent and did not seek support out of shame. For the first time since I started teaching in 2006, I did not enjoy it but dreaded it. How could I confess to anybody that I was not good enough, that I was struggling, that I was, in fact, a failure? Objectively assessing the semester after it was over, students’ learning outcomes and exam results were comparable with previous semesters. However, the semester scarred me. It became apparent that despite all the work and effort I put in, the connection with my students was completely missing. Something, which always came naturally and easily, was not there anymore. Even if the evaluation results were only .5 on a scale of 5 below the university average, the comments labeled me as inauthentic, unreliable, and even rude. This feedback was debilitating. I never felt this ashamed of myself (Brown, 2010). My professional identity was that of a learning facilitator; somebody who connects well with her students understands their perspectives and is trusted. My first semester as a full-time teacher dismembered my self-perception. How did I move forward? I took a much-needed vacation. During this time, I realized that the lost connection with my students was at the heart of the problem. Focusing on this, I developed the following strategies using various sources, the most important one being “Connected Teaching” by Harriet Schwartz (2019). 1. Open up and be vulnerable I do not armor up anymore before I go to class. Instead, I try to show my true self. Students want to be with us as teachers, not a role we play. They need the human connection that is only truly there when we dare to be vulnerable and put aside our shame. To achieve this, I talk about my struggles concerning the content, which I am still not proficient with, challenges of being a teacher, and challenging experiences I dealt with as a student. I want to normalize doubt and failure to reduce shame (Brown 2012). I also encourage students to talk about their challenges in class and office hours, acknowledging their feelings. 2. Put students first When we go to the doctor, we want their full professional and empathetic attention, no matter how they are or how their day went. Before my lectures or office hours, I tell myself that my purpose is to be there for my students. I calm myself down and focus. My office door is open one full day a week for students to come in and get support. I take their questions, struggles, needs, and emotions seriously. During each 90-minute-lecture, students get ten minutes to share something important to them, be it the start of Ramadan and what this means to them, or why there are not enough parking spaces. 3. Care about students I care about my students deeply. I listen with my whole heart and answer honestly. I have laughed with students, and I have cried with them. As fellow humans, they deserve my care. 4. Treat students as responsible adults Treating students as responsible adults means that I do everything I can to facilitate learning within my 40 hour-week, and I expect students to do the same. They have to put in the necessary time and effort. It is their responsibility to seek my help if they do not understand. However, I always treat students respectfully and kindly. Teachers tend to complain about student behavior that we exhibit ourselves. If you have never asked for an extension to a call for papers, great. However, most of us have. Multiple times. Remember the relief you felt when the editor granted it? Therefore, I give my students some slack or even break the rules sometimes. Life is complicated enough, and being a pedant would make it unnecessarily hard. 5. Be transparent I am honest with my students concerning my teaching strengths and weaknesses. I tell them, I am not a physicist and that there may be questions I cannot answer during lectures but will upload to our LMS afterward. I believe in a participatory approach to teaching and explain my teaching strategy as well as its benefits and challenges. I discuss decisions with students and take on their suggestions and ideas. 6. Be kinder with myself This is work in progress, and I admit that I cannot get over the experience of my first semester as a university teacher without help. I am in therapy due to depression, and the feeling of not being good enough or worthy of connection is still there sometimes. I am in the middle of letting go of whom I thought I had to be as a teacher. It was not other people who criticized and doubted my teaching capabilities. It was me. However, I have started to see my rising skills and realize that I have different teaching qualities than most of my colleagues. Overall, focusing on connecting with my students worked well, not only for me but for our whole learning community. I received emails from students thanking me for understanding them and their situations and giving students a sense of belonging. My evaluation results improved as I was now rated about .5 higher than the University’s average. Better relationships also led to better learning outcomes. The module failure rate dropped from an average of 50% to only 9%. If you open yourself up like this and thereby become vulnerable, there is always the possibility to get hurt. Fortunately, it did not happen to me; but it is a risk. My experience is that students do not misuse my trust, but repay it. Discussion questions: 1. How do you feel about yourself as a teacher? 2. What role does connecting with your students play for your teaching? 3. How do you feel about your students? Suggested Reading: Brown, B. (2010). The power of vulnerability. TEDxHouston: Brown, B (2012). Listening to shame. TED2012: Fink, L.D. (2013). Creating Significant Learning Experiences. An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Schwartz, H. (2019). Connected Teaching. Relationship, Power, and Mattering in Higher Education. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing
Cognitive Load: A Fundamental Key to Student Learning
Todd Zakrajsek University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Sweller (1988) introduced the concept of cognitive load approximately 30 years ago, and it continues to be researched and expanded on today. Cognitive load is significant in understanding the limitations of human learning. A solid understanding of this concept will help you to know how best to present information to students, what types of roadblocks students face with respect to learning, and even as a guide to knowing when to lecture compared to when to have students work in small groups. Overall, cognitive load is one of the foundational concepts in understanding all of human learning. Yet, the term is relatively unknown to most higher education faculty members. Cognitive load is the amount of information being processed at any given moment. The cognitive psychology work in the area of human learning related to cognitive load can be traced to George Miller’s (1950) research on the limitations of short-term memory. Miller noted that humans can hold only a small amount of information in their short-term memory at any given time. Once we exceed that capacity, either new information cannot be learned, or upon learning something new, another bit of information in short-term memory is immediately lost. With respect to instructional strategies, cognitive load is important as it can be used to explain when students are able to process new information and when they are not. It also helps us to better understand why concepts seem too obvious and easy to an expert while at the same time, too challenging to a student. Understanding cognitive load is helpful for many common frustrations we have all faced as faculty members, such as when you ask students in class a question that you feel is very easy and they all stare at you as if you are speaking a foreign language. To better understand the challenges of learning, let’s begin with a basic foundation of cognitive load. Cognitive load theory includes three types of load: intrinsic, extraneous, and germane (Sweller, Van Merrienboer, & Paas, 1998). Intrinsic cognitive load is the challenge that naturally occurs whenever you are learning a new task. Reading a physics textbook with a great deal of new terminology takes much more cognitive effort than reading a novel written at a level intended for children. Learning in a language that is not a native language is simply more complicated than reading in a native language. This explains why learning challenging material is physically exhausting. Students will talk at times about a “good run” or an “intense workout at the gym,” but rarely say, “I just put in a solid workout at the library and my brain is tired.” Overall, there is not really anything to be done about intrinsic load aside from acknowledging that learning new and challenging information is more effortful than learning information at a lower cognitive level. We can, however, directly impact both of the other two types of cognitive load: extraneous and germane. Extraneous cognitive load pertains to the difficulty of processing information due to factors that are extraneous to the target learning. Another way to think of extraneous load is a distraction from intended learning. A few examples of extraneous load include people carrying on a conversation while you are reading, working in a room that is uncomfortably hot or cold, and listening to disorganized material that contains irrelevant information. Of course, texting a friend while in class is a common type of extraneous load. As faculty members, we often inadvertently create extraneous load. If I include an image of a beautiful relaxing beach scene, in a presentation slide about learning as a means of emphasizing individuals learn better when relaxed rather than in a state of stress, I have also created extraneous load in terms of thoughts of the last time the student was at a beach, or an upcoming spring break trip. Extraneous load may also creep into the class when, as the instructor, I go on a tangent, or explain some ancillary aspect of the material that I find interesting. For example, while describing classical conditioning in an introductory psychology class the instructor may add a bit of additional interesting information, such as the first time the concept was introduced it was presented at an international conference just before lunch. As the meeting was running, only a few people paid attention to the concept being presented. In this example, the additional information within the story, unless it directly assisted in the learning process, is extraneous cognitive load. Images, stories, and information meant to solidify learning are best used when that which is presented is closely related to the material to be learned. When it is not, it becomes extraneous load and subsequently makes learning more difficult for the student. The final type of load is germane cognitive load. Germane load refers to the energy devoted to the specific process of learning new information. The two most important aspects of this type of load are automaticity and schema activation. Automaticity is the extent to which something is “automatic,” or done with little cognitive effort. When you complete either a behavioral task or a mental task repeatedly, those neuron pathways allow for the information to be processed more and more easily. It is a way for our brains to be extremely efficient. Initally, the act of driving is extremely complicated but becomes much easier after driving for a while. Across time you might not even think about driving; it becomes almost automatic. Recalling information such as “who was the first president of…,” can bring up information before the question is even completed. An extremely important aspect of becoming a professional is to increase the automaticity of the foundational aspects of that profession. Learners can reduce this type of cognitive load through practice. The other aspect of germane load is activation of schemas. Schemas are like scripts for a complex set of behaviors or concepts. You have schemas for almost every aspect of your life, and it helps you to process a lot of information, including new information, quickly. For example, you have a schema for fast food restaurants. If I mention that I am going to a fast-food restaurant for lunch and ask if you want anything, you immediately have a sense for the general type of food available and the approximate costs. In returning from the fast-food entity, if I say I got a T-bone steak and garlic mashed potatoes, you would become confused, as that does not fit the schema for fast food. Faculty attempt to activate a relevant schema to make the new information easy to process for the learner. For example, we often say, “this new information is kind of like….” This is done to activate a scheme and reduce germane load. It is important to note that germane load and extraneous load are individual-specific, yet we do see some commonalities. Most individuals find others talking in the library very distracting (increased extraneous load), although some can tune them out the conversation (no increased extraneous load). When you use an example in class that resonates with some learners (decreased germane load), keep in mind it might make little or no sense to others (increased extraneous load). For example, if I say apply pressure with your foot that is the same as you might push on a gas pedal when merging into traffic, those who have never driven a car will be more confused than if you had not used that example. This quick introduction to cognitive load is meant simply to introduce the term to those who are not familiar with the concept. It is a deep and meaningful concept that will require a bit of additional reading. A quick search for “cognitive load” will provide many options to come to understand the foundational concepts. Overall, cognitive load has broad and significant implications for learning in higher education. The more you read about cognitive load, the easier it will be to see how it impacts almost every aspect of your teaching. Questions: What are ways that you could talk to students about intrinsic load to help them better understand that deep learning can be exhausting? List three ways that you have likely contributed extraneous load for students in your courses. How changes might you make to reduce extraneous cognitive load? How might you help students to understand the germane aspects of learning better? What are the implications of having students in your course with vastly different lived experiences? References and Additional Readings: Paas, F., et al, (2003) Cognitive Load Measurement as a Means to Advance Cognitive Load Theory, Educational Psychologist, 38:1, 63-71. Schmeck, A., et al. (2015). Instructional Science 43: 93-114. Sweller, J. (June 1988). Cognitive load during problem solving: Effects on learning. Cognitive Science. 12 (2): 257–285. Sweller, J.; Van Merriënboer, J. & Paas, F. (1998). Cognitive architecture and instructional design. Educational Psychology Review. 10 (3): 251–296. Young, J.Q., Van Merrienboer, J., Durning, S. & Ten Cate, O. (2014). Cognitive Load Theory: Implications for medical education: AMEE Guide No. 86, Medical Teacher, 36:5, 371-384.
Spencer Benson Educational Innovations International Consulting, LLC One of the most common questions encountered in faculty development workshops is, "How can I motivate my students to learn?" In order to answer that question, we must first examine why students disengage within the course and course material. Students who lack motivation may simply be bored in class. Student report finding classes boring for a variety of reasons including: The course is required rather than one of their choosing; The course was selected because the timing of the course "fits best" within their schedule, but they have no interest in the topic; The course is appealing because the pedagogy is primarily didact content presentation where students know they can be passive observers and coast through the course; The course material is too challenging and subsequently, they become lost and give up; The course material is too basic, and as a result, the student feels unchallenged Rather than asking how instructors might motivate students to learn, the broader question becomes, "How can I impact student motivation, as a prerequisite for enduring learning?" Motivation Defined Motivation is a psychological state that serves to activate and sustain behaviors that lead to a goal (NAP, 2018). Learning goals can be mastery or performance-based or a combination. In a mastery-based goal, the student's primary concern is understanding the material for reasons including enjoyment, self-gratification, and progressing toward a future goal. Often mastery goal setting is associated with a growth mindset. Performance-based goals focus on how well an individual does when compared with peers, where performance ranking is considered a reflection of or measure of self-worth. These individuals may have a fixed mindset and see learning as a competition rather than a means for personal growth. Both growth mindsets and fixed mindsets are malleable states and are context-dependent. Motivation is different from engagement, interest, goal setting, tenacity, and self-efficacy, all of which influence learning and motivation may involve one or more of these attributes. Motivation may be intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is the desire to engage in an activity for rewards, including enjoyment, interest, benefits in obtaining a chosen goal, etc. Examples might include moving to the next level in a video game, successfully mastering a sport, accomplishing a challenging task, or reaching the top of a mountain. Extrinsic motivation comes from external rewards or incentives, e.g., being the best in the class, recognition by superiors or peers, winning, or avoiding punishment. Achievement of the goal is externally rather than internally driven. Often grades are a primary extrinsic motivator for student performance (learning), and this can result in the learning being shallow and non-enduring. How Content is Delivered Matters How can we increase student motivation to learn beyond the fact that they will receive a grade? One means is through the intentional selection and presentation of course content. Content that promotes interest can serve to increase motivation; for example, content that students deem significant and relevant increases their internal motivation to learn. We, as faculty, can present content that piques student interest. Help students make text to self and text to world connections. Deliver the content in ways that utilize real-world examples. It is helpful to present course content in ways that make direct connections between students' prior knowledge or experiences and the new material. Conversely, content that is abstract or deemed unconnected to real-world situations can reduce interest and motivation. Consider presenting the content in a way that that is unexpected, contains vivid imagery, or engaging graphics or video as a means to promote student attention and curiosity. Additionally, review content and present it in a way that the material neither too difficult nor too simplistic, perhaps by using polls or quick warm-up activities at the start of class. Routinely perform classroom assessment techniques to check student learning throughout blocks of material. A second means to increase motivation is through a pedagogy that enhances situational interest. Learning activities that empower students can increase motivation to learn. For example, when offering students choices regarding course materials or learning activities, interest increases, and motivation to learn increases. Scaffolding as a teaching technique can increase interest and motivation by helping students set a series of obtainable goals. These goals will help students manage large projects or tackle complex concepts, rather than feeling lost. Classroom Environment Impacts Motivation Student interest and motivation may be influenced by other factors, including the learning space and the social environment of the classroom (Gratz, 2006, Kemper et al. 2010). Learning environments that are uncomfortable due to temperature, noise issues, inadequate lighting, workspace limited or crowding have adverse effects on interests and motivation. Studio type classrooms where students sit in groups around a table have a positive influence on student motivation which may stem from increased interactivity between students and the teacher. The teacher-student relationship can affect both performance and motivation. When students perceive that the teacher is available, caring, willing to help and recognized them as a person, both learning and motivation increase. Creating a classroom culture that welcomes questions, promotes curiosity, and allows for low-stake mistakes increases student motivation. Contrariwise, poor teacher-student (real or perceived) relationships are detrimental. When students perceive the learning environment as safe, engagement increases; if the environment feels threatening, student interest, performance, and motivation will likely be negatively affected. When students feel alienated, their interest and motivation to learn will likely be adversely affected. Conversely, a sense of belonging increases motivation to learn. In short, answering the title question "Can We Motivate Students to Learn" can be summarized in the following ways: By paying attention to the details of what we teach (content), how we teach (pedagogy and assessment), and where we teach (physically and social environments), we can foster motivation in positive ways and avoid pitfalls and environments that quell motivation. Ultimately, motivation is the responsibility of the individual student and the role of the teacher to provide a learning environment and opportunities for learning and motivation that meet the need of all students. Discussion Questions 1. Is it the responsibility of the teacher to motivate students; after all, they chose to be in the course? 2. What are some other means to motivate students? 3. In addition to the strategies noted in this blog, what are ways you might adapt (or replace) traditional summative assessments to increase student learning? Citations Graetz, K, 2006, The Psychology of Learning Environments, Chapter 6. Learning Spaces, Diana G. Oblinger, Editor EDUCAUSE ISBN 0-9672853-8-0 D., Ho, A., and Hong, C. 2010, Characterizing a teaching and learning environment capable of motivating student learning. Learning Environments Research. Vol. 13 pp 43–57| National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. How People Learn II: Learners, Contexts, and Cultures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
Reflections on Forming a Virtually Feminist Pedagogy
Niya Bond The University of Maine It seems like all of my internet clicking these days leads me to discussions about ongoing efforts to increase the effectiveness of online educational experiences. It is terrific to see online teaching and learning at the forefront of conversations about positive change and transformation in higher education. I can't shake enduring dismay about the issue underpinning these calls to action—notably, a recognition that a diverse range of virtual educational environments are still ineffective. I believe a large part of what is lacking in online spaces is rooted in uncertainty about how to consciously rework, revamp, or revolutionize pedagogy to mind the online enervation-empowerment gap. Too often, pedagogy can become exclusively philosophical, a beautiful manifesto to be appreciated during a hypothetical ponder, but never to be translated into a practical how-to. For me, feminist pedagogy provides a productive series of steps towards bridging this divide. This is because feminist pedagogy is a pedagogy that is at-once reflective and realistic in its relationship to empowerment. It provides a concrete pathway for educators by enabling them with the tools necessary to virtually practice what they preach. In this way, feminist pedagogy is doubly intentional—it is purposefully practical. Feminist educators have advocated for enacting this pedagogy in online spaces, emphasizing how feminist pedagogy can become a digital catalyst for positive classroom change (Chick & Hassel, 2012), enable educators to develop transformative tenets for social justice and self-advocacy (Turpin, 2016), and productively integrate an intentional and empowering element into digitized learning encounters (Blackburn, 2012). These scholars have inspired me to make intentionality the cornerstone of my own virtual teaching pedagogy and praxis. This intention helps me to maintain mindfulness about my responsibility for increasing empowerment in virtual teaching/learning encounters. I share two tenets from my own always-evolving feminist pedagogy that opens pathways for the positive potential of online educational spaces while recognizing the need for concerted efforts towards their transformation. Tenet 1: Promote Pathways To the Personal Too often, in my own teaching experience, I have entered an online classroom full of enthusiasm, but ill-prepared for the actual task of virtual engagement. This may speak to a secondary need for more effective online faculty development (another passion of mine). I believe that in a hurry to obtain legitimization for online education, we may have forgotten that all educational encounters start with an opportunity for intentional connection. As a passionate advocate for online teaching/learning, I have certainly felt this immediacy. Strangers are grouped into a classroom, virtual or otherwise, and tasked with creating a community, from scratch. As such, and in similarity to brick-and-mortar experiences, virtual communities must be mindfully constructed around social experiences that prioritize the personal. Here are several simple ways that I infuse personal connection into my online classrooms, as well as one way that I aspire to do so: Already In-Practice: ● I blur the boundaries between asynchronous and synchronous approaches, calling each student the first week to clarify the course expectations and to emphasize my investment in their learning journey. ● I am purposefully present when I enter the virtual classroom, asking community-building questions, creating connections through videos and hyperlinks, and consciously modeling my engagement and enthusiasm. ● I reward vulnerability, thanking my students by their preferred name, every time they submit an assignment. Aspirational: ● I continue to emphasize my experiences as a mother, wife, student, and employee, in addition to my role as an educator. I encourage students to bring their diverse lived experiences into the classroom as well. As a feminist teacher, I am mindful of the ways in which boundary blurring can be a break-through technique for encouraging virtual empowerment. I play productively with the assumed divides between f2f and online learning, creating a synthesis of connection that fosters success for both teaching and learning. In addition, I emphasize the personal and social underpinnings of virtual learning to facilitate community-building in shared online learning spaces better. Tenet 2: Shaking up Tradition and Shifting Agency to Students Even though I purposefully blur virtual boundaries to increase educational empowerment, I still maintain a bit of postmodern pessimism. I do not believe it is entirely possible to dismantle the power dynamics inherent to binary teacher/student dynamics. However, I do believe there are effective ways to mitigate them. To do so, I prioritize learner-centered approaches via two specific strategies: whenever possible, I shake up tradition, and I shift agency to students. These strategies allow me to remain intentional in my efforts to promote student agency in virtual learning environments. Here are several small-scale steps I take to shake up tradition and shift agency to students, as well as one way that I aspire to do so: Already In-Practice: ● I encourage video submissions for reflective or forecasting assignments, and I employ them myself for similar exercises. ● I create opportunities for collaboration each week—with students engaged in multiple discussion communities, peer-review processes, and sharing exercises. ● I ask students to create annotated bibliographies and outlines in PowerPoint, instead of Word, to provide new opportunities for form and function (and thus thinking and writing). Aspirational: ● Recently, I have adjusted my composition syllabus to leave one discussion open for debate. I hope that my future students and I can scale and scope the assignment together, maximizing its usefulness to our community, and each individual writer. As a feminist educator, teamwork really is my dream work. I know my online classes are enhanced because of their strong focus on community and collaboration, in addition to their innovative promotion of individual empowerment. Much of my strategy for increasing empowerment rests on shaking up the traditional submission standard, as well as building classroom spaces where students can be creators of curriculum and content. Final Thoughts To encourage effective and engaging online environments, we must develop more purposeful pedagogies and practices—those that prioritize empowerment as an essential element of successful online teaching and learning. I have integrated a virtually intentional feminist pedagogy that helps me promote the personal, provide students with a stake in course design, and shake up the form and function of assignments. While these smaller-scale and straightforward steps may not be radical, they have been revolutionary for my praxis. As such, I encourage all online educators to consider how to shift the paradigm of virtual teaching and learning success by infusing intentionality into their pedagogical efforts. It is only through careful and calculated change that we can bridge the empowerment-enervation gap in online educational environments. Discussion Questions: 1. What specific tenets are important to thread into a virtual pedagogy—feminist or not—and why? 2. What are some other benefits and drawbacks to blurring virtual boundaries in online educational spaces? 3. What are other productive and practical ways to give students a stake in the course design and shake up assignments? References Blackburn, J. (2012). Feminist composition pedagogy and the hypermediated fractures in the contact zone. Composition Forum, 25, 1-19. Chick, N. & Hassel, H. (2009). 'Don't hate me because I'm virtual': Feminist pedagogy in the online classroom. Feminist Teacher, 19(3), 195-215. Turpin, C. (2007). Feminist praxis, online teaching, and the urban campus. Feminist Teacher, 18(1), 9-27.
Strategies to Reinforce Fundamental Attributes of Learning
Todd Zakrajsek University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Throughout a teaching career, and perhaps even within a given semester, faculty make many decisions about which teaching strategies to use. Choices include very structured approaches, such as team-based learning, service-learning, or problem-based learning. Teaching strategies which require moderate structure include options such as a flipped classroom, jigsaw, or hybrid course design. Examples of more impromptu approaches, with easy implementation for those who teach more on the fly, include the likes of think-pair-share, muddiest point, or buzz groups. Of course, along with any engaged learning strategies, there is always room for a well-designed dynamic lecture (Harrington & Zakrajsek, 2017). It is important to note that a teaching strategy in and of itself is neither effective nor ineffective. Effectiveness is more a function of whether or not the fundamentals necessary for learning are present. A few of the most pervasive components necessary for learning are attention, understanding, value, repetition, and elaboration. Anticipating and promoting these attributes will help create dynamic lesson plans that result in better student learning outcomes across the course. Attention. Are your students paying attention? Think strategically about ways to gain and then maintain attention. Start class with a story, newspaper article, YouTube clip, or research finding that has a direct impact on your community. Once you have their attention, you must work to maintain it. The issue at hand is not to turn your course into a show or feel like you have to perform, but rather make a concerted effort to create a learning environment where students are interested in that which you are teaching. At times it works well for students to be responsible for finding and bringing elements that are of interest to the class. Keep in mind that students are novices, whereas you are an expert in the field. Novices find it more challenging to see the interesting details of a topic about which they know very little. As a result, they may struggle to find something interesting. They may get there, but it will take time and learning on their part. Finally, think about ways to identify what interests your students. Consider creating a student survey to assess student interest; explain to students that you will use the responses to work at building course material that touches on their interests. Understanding. Do your students understand the material you are teaching them? We have all been confused by something at some time. Remember, when confusion sets in attention shifts away from trying to understand the concept to an increased focus on the frustration of lack of understanding. As you present course material, monitor the audience for feedback – read the body language and tone in the room. As a group, does it appear that the audience is digesting the information at the same pace you are providing it? Novice learners are not able to easily differentiate the important from the less important or identify the connections between concepts (Hrepic, Zollman, & Rebello, 2003). Beginners benefit from the direct instruction provided by the professor. Checking for understanding is important in all classes. Comprehension may be checked using simple strategies such as the following: Stop class and ask some fundamental questions Give a one-item quiz question Ask students to take 2-minutes to explain the concept to their neighbors When small groups are set up, walk around the room to determine if students understand what they are to be doing. If multiple groups are confused, regain the attention of the entire class, clarify the muddiest point, and then restate the expectations for the group work. As students gain understanding, they will be able to build upon this knowledge for greater comprehension and deeper learning. Value. Do your students see value in what they are being taught? Does the course content have relevance to them? Will students be able to make use of that which you are teaching them? Much like a parent who says, "because I said so," the temptation to tell students something is important because it will "be on the test" is not a good idea. Such verbiage sends the message that you are as frustrated as the students, and more importantly, it sends a message that the information is not valuable in and of itself. As you teach, look for ways to help students appreciate knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Reveal to students what you find exciting about the course or subject matter and how it relates to the foundation of other professions. Whenever teaching a complex concept, explain and encourage the class to stick with it. Reassure them that although it is a complex concept, it can also be manageable. Be sure to recognize and celebrate student achievement when they have conquered a problematic block of information. It may help to make text-to-self, text-to-world connections. Using small group discussions is beneficial in making such connections as well as having students share reflections about the value of the information. When lecturing, point out the value in such a way that a novice can see the importance of the information. Repetition. Do your students have an opportunity to practice recalling information? Repeating information is essential to learning. When a neuron path "fires" repeatedly it becomes more and more automatic, making it easier to recall information needed quickly. Being able to recall foundational material with ease is extremely important in freeing up cognitive room for more complex thinking. One cannot think deeply about complicated concepts if one cannot easily process the more fundamental aspects of that concept. For all the good that can come from a lecture, it is relatively difficult to give students space to practice recalling information. Two strategies which allow for and encourages recall are: Asking rhetorical questions, and Giving students opportunities to ask questions Small group discussions, team-based learning, service-learning, think-pair-share, and other strategies that allow students to speak, provides students with an opportunity to practice recall. As you teach content, intentionally create opportunities for students to practice recall, if it does not exist, learning will be limited (Agarwal, et al., 2012). Elaboration. Do you help your students to draw connections between new information and previously learned information? Connections are essential in establishing memories. Whenever you think of something, your brain becomes primed to more easily recall related elements and rich details. The same is true for learning new information. Psychologists have long known that relating new information to something previously learned, particularly about oneself, is powerful. During the lecture, you may help students understand how the new information relates to and builds upon previously learned material. You may also show how it relates to their own lives. This is one reason service learning is so powerful because it allows students to easily see how course content relates to the lives of others. Increase student awareness through a simple writing exercise whereby students explain how course material applies to themselves and/or their families. Using small group discussions can enhance students understanding and enrich student recall of material because they generate a wider variety of examples that emerge from small group discussions. As you proceed through the semester, monitor student response, and evaluate the foundational elements of learning and memory. You will be able to tweak your course periodically as needed and enhance learning using any teaching strategy. Most importantly, when a colleague suggests an interesting new teaching approach that is generating a lot of excitement, you can use these same dimensions to evaluate the potential effectiveness of the approach before implementing it in your own course. Always consider the extent to which a teaching strategy enhances attention, understanding, value, repetition, and elaboration. These are the elements you will almost universally see in everyday life whenever you learn something new. The more you watch for these elements, the more you will see them, and the more you see them, the easier they will be to monitor. It is a fantastic learning spiral. Discussion questions: 1. Describe briefly something you have learned recently, whether in a class or outside of the college/university setting. To what extent is this concept for which you had some understanding of foundational elements, could see value in what you learned and attended to the information when it was presented? That is, describe these elements and the extent to which they were present when you learned the new concept. 2. Do you consider yourself good at remembering the names of people you meet? If the answer is yes, what process do you use to facilitate remembering their name? If you feel you are terrible at remembering names, try to include some of the elements presented in this blog to see if you become better at remembering names. 3. There are many people who claim to have bad memories or state that they never seem to remember new concepts. To what extent might the elements noted in this blog come into play for those individuals? References Agarwal, P. K.; Bain, P. M.; Chamberlain, R. W. (2012). "The value of applied research: Retrieval practice improves classroom learning and recommendations from a teacher, a principal, and a scientist" (PDF). Educational Psychology Review. 24 (3): 437–448. Harrington, C. and Zakrajsek, T. (2017). Dynamic Lecturing: Research Based Strategies to Enhance Lecture Effectiveness. Virginia: Stylus Publishing. Hrepic, Z., Zollman, D., & Rebello, S. (2004). Students' understanding and perceptions of the content of a lecture. AIP Conference Proceedings, 720(1), 189-192. doi:10.1063/1.1807286 Mayer, R. E. (2009). Multi-media learning (2nd edition). New York: Cambridge University Press. Small, A. (2014). In defense of the lecture. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from: