Teaching with Primary Sources

Four examples of primary sources: letter, photograph, early bible, broadside.A couple of weeks ago I attended a workshop sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) titled Current Trends in Teaching with Primary Sources – A Hands-on Workshop. Not only did I learn a lot about the subject, but the workshop itself was a model for best pedagogical practices. Lecture format was kept to a minimum, formative assessment was used throughout, and the emphasis was on active learning in small groups. The workshop instructors, Matt Herbison (Archivist for Reference and Outreach, Legacy Center, Drexel University College of Medicine), Doris Malkmus (Instruction and Outreach Archivist, Pennsylvania State University), and Rachel Grove Rohrbaugh (Archivist and Public Services Librarian, Chatham University), were enthusiastic about both what they were teaching and how they were teaching.

The Innovative Instructor doesn’t sit on the other side of the podium (so to speak) very often, so it was exciting to experience the principles we preach in practice. The instructors condensed the lecture content to several short (ten minutes or less) segments and provided the participants with photocopies of the slides for reference. Each of the lecture sessions was followed by an exercise. We were organized into groups of three and four and given handouts – copies of newspaper clippings, letters, photographs, printed materials – accompanied by a set of key questions for the group to answer.  In this way we learned to identify and differentiate primary, secondary, and tertiary sources; how to evaluate these documents for audience and bias; and how to analyze documents using standard generalized and specific approaches. Since the goal of the workshop was to train the trainers, we were also given some background on teaching strategies, including the importance of developing learning objectives, knowing your audience, and assessment and rubrics. For our final exercise each group created a primary source activity for a specifically described undergraduate or high school class using a set of primary and secondary sources.

Why is it important for students to learn how to work with primary sources? A project called Students and Faculty in the Archives collected data between 2011 and 2013 on visits by faculty and undergraduate students to the Brooklyn Historical Society. “After visiting the archives, participating students were more engaged with and excited about their coursework, showed improvement in key academic skills, and achieved better course outcomes than their peers. Faculty participants learned newly-established best practices for archives-based teaching and became more thoughtful and effective instructors.” And from the Library of Congress web pages on teaching with primary sources we learn that “[p]rimary sources provide a window into the past—unfiltered access to the record of artistic, social, scientific and political thought and achievement during the specific period under study, produced by people who lived during that period. Bringing young people into close contact with these unique, often profoundly personal, documents and objects can give them a very real sense of what it was like to be alive during a long-past era.” Moreover working with primary sources engages students, helps them to develop critical thinking skills, and learn to construct knowledge.

If you are interested in integrating primary source research into your courses, it’s easy to get started. Here at Johns Hopkins we have librarians and archivists who provide instruction for students individually or to a class, either in the classroom or in the special collections areas. There are likely similar library, special collections, and archive resources on your campus. Don’t stop there. If you are in or near an urban area you and your students should consider the wealth of primary source material housed in public libraries, archives, historical societies, newspaper morgues, house museums, and other such institutions.

There are also a number of places online where you can find inspiration for learning activities to introduce or reacquaint your students to working with primary sources. The following resources were recommended by the MARAC workshop:

Brooklyn Historical Society, Teaching effectively with primary sources: http://www.teacharchives.org/

NYSED on Document Analysis: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/ciai/dbq/one.html

National History Day Resource Listing: http://www.nhd.org/ConductingResearch.htm

Key Concepts in Historical Thinking: http://canadianmysteries.ca/en/keyConcepts.php

DoHistory: http://dohistory.org

Library of Congress: Using Primary Sources http://www.loc.gov/teachers/usingprimarysources/

Document Analysis Worksheets: National Archives http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/

National History Education Clearinghouse: http://teachinghistory.org/

Historical Thinking Matters: http://historicalthinkingmatters.org

For further reading on the subject of teaching with primary sources, here are links to two bibliographies provided by the MARAC workshop:

1) Society of American Archivists Reference, Access, and Outreach Section
http://www2.archivists.org/groups/reference-access-and-outreach-section/teaching-with-primary-sources-bibliography

2) Zotero Groups – Teaching with Primary Sources
https://www.zotero.org/groups/teaching_with_primary_sources/items/collectionKey/2BKBRTH8/

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources


Image Source: Individual images from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/

Resources for Peer Learning and Peer Assessment

Students doing group workSeveral weeks ago our colleagues in the Center for Teaching and Learning at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health presented the very informative half-day symposium Peer to Peer: Engaging Students in Learning and Assessment. Speakers presented on their real-life experiences implementing peer learning strategies in the classroom. There were hands-on activities demonstrating the efficacy of peer-to-peer learning. Two presentations focused on peer assessment highlighting the data on how peer assessment measures up to instructor assessment and giving examples of use of peer assessment.  If you missed it, the presentations were recorded and are now available.

A previous post highlighted Howard Rheingold’s presentation From Pedagogy to Peeragogy: Social Media as Scaffold for Co-learning. You will need to bring up the slides separately – there is a link for them on the CTL page.

For additional material on peer learning and assessment the JHSPH CTL resources page is loaded with information on the subject, outlining best practices and highlighting references and examples.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources


Image Source: Microsoft Clip Art

Two Keynotes – Part 2

In the last post, I wrote about a keynote presentation by Philip Yenawine, the co-founder of Visual Thinking Strategies. A second remarkable keynote address came during a half-day symposium, Peer to Peer: Engaging Students in Learning and Assessment, sponsored by colleagues in the Center for Teaching and Learning at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (JHSPH).

Screenshot taken from Howard Rheingold's websiteHoward Rheingold delivered his presentation From Pedagogy to Peeragogy: Social Media as Scaffold for Co-learning remotely as seems appropriate for the person Wikipedia  describes as “… a critic, writer, and teacher; his specialties are on the cultural, social and political implications of modern communication media such as the Internet, mobile telephony and virtual communities (a term he is credited with inventing).”

Rheingold is a visiting lecturer at Stanford University in the Department of Communication where he teaches two courses, Virtual Communities, and Social Media Literacies. He is also a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley in the School of Information where he teaches Virtual Communities and Social Media. He is the author of numerous books including Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, [2002, Perseus Books], and Net Smart: How to Thrive Online [2012, The MIT Press]. He has given a TED Talk titled The New Power of Collaboration.

On the bleeding edge in terms of technology and thinking about the power of the human mind, Rheingold has long been an advocate and advancer of the collaborative nature of networked communities and communication. Rheingold spoke to the audience at JHSPH on the evolution of learning from lecture-based to learning-centered, self-directed, social, peer-to-peer, inquiry-based, cooperative, and networked models.

He started in the mid-2000s with the Social Media Classroom, a wiki-based site that acted as a place for communication and served as an asynchronous element to a face-to-face class he was teaching. In the process students, working in teams, became co-teachers. He promoted the use of blogs, and mind maps that provided students with a non-linear way of looking at materials and making connections between things. In an effort to reach out to different learning styles, Rheingold presented the course syllabus as a concept map, a Prezi, and on the wiki.

Since then we have seen a proliferation of peer-to-peer learning platforms such as YouTube and Khan Academy, as well as self-directed, peer-supported courses such as ds[digital storytelling]106. Since January 2011 ds106 has been taught at University of Mary Washington (UMW) and other institutions as a course for credit but also has at the same time been open (non-credit) to participants from the web (learn more about ds106).

Howard Rheingold’s Rheingold U. is a natural extension of this phenomenon.  “Rheingold U. is a totally online learning community, offering courses that usually run for five weeks, with five live sessions and ongoing asynchronous discussions through forums, blogs, wikis, mindmaps, and social bookmarks. In my thirty years of experience online and my eight years teaching students face to face and online at University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University, I’ve learned that magic can happen when a skilled facilitator works collaboratively with a group of motivated students. Live sessions include streaming audio and video from me and from students, shared text chat and whiteboard, and my ability to push slides and lead tours of websites.”

Rheingold asked, “What do self-learners need to know in order to effectively teach and learn from each other?” This question led him to the development of the concept of peeragogy (a collection of techniques for collaborative learning and collaborative work) and The Peeragogy Handbook: a peer-to-peer learning guide in the form of a wiki-based “textbook” created cooperatively. Of this Rheingold says, “I was invited to lecture at UC Berkeley in January, 2012, and to involve their faculty and their graduate students in some kind of seminar, so I told the story of how I’ve used social media in teaching and learning – and invited them to help me create a handbook for self-learners.”

Rheingold inspires us to rethink traditional teaching models, reminding us that not only do we learn best by doing, but also that teaching someone what we have learned reinforces our own knowledge.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources
Johns Hopkins University


Image Source: Screen shot from http://rheingold.com/

Two Keynotes – Part 1

In the past few weeks I’ve attended a couple of professional meetings, a three day Visual Resources Association (VRA) conference in Milwaukee, and a half-day symposium, Peer to Peer: Engaging Students in Learning and Assessment, sponsored by colleagues in the Center for Teaching and Learning at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (JHSPH). Both meetings packed a lot of valuable information into the sessions and had enlightening keynote speakers.

Screen shot from home page of the Visual Thinking Strategies websitePhilip Yenawine, Co-Founding Director, Visual Thinking Strategies, gave the keynote address at the VRA conference. He opened with an active learning exercise where he had the audience examine an image of John Singer Sargent’s Madame X and make statements about what we saw.  I should note that the Visual Resources Association is “a multi-disciplinary organization dedicated to furthering research and education in the field of image management within the educational, cultural heritage, and commercial environments” so many of the attendees examine art-related images on a daily basis, and were, perhaps, a bit better practiced at the exercise than average.

Yenawine states: “Of the vast array of images available to us, art tends to be the most complex and as such gleaning meaning from it – in its many manifestations – is a challenge. Frustrated when data revealed visitors learned little from the many educational interventions offered by [my] talented staff at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, [I] turned to Abigail Housen, a scholar who studied “aesthetic thought”– how people use what they know when looking at art – to try to determine and remedy the problem.” [http://www.vraweb.org/conferences/vra32/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/VRAProgram2014final.pdf]

Yenawine and  Housen created a method they called Visual Thinking Strategies, and began introducing VTS into schools seeking to improve aesthetic development. “In longitudinal research studies, it was shown that, in addition to developing visual thinking, VTS programs promote creative and critical thinking skills. [Housen’s] research also demonstrated that students’ application of these crucial 21st century skills transfer to other subject areas across the academic curriculum.” [http://vtshome.org/pages/research]

Yenawine reported in his presentation that VTS discussions of art can be used to teach language, thinking, and social skills, but equally important is the development of visual literacy – defined as the ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in the form of an image.

So why is this program, designed for implementation in the K-12 sector, important for those of us in the Higher Education realm? In October 2011, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) introduced the Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education stating “[t]he importance of images and visual media in contemporary culture is changing what it means to be literate in the 21st century. Today’s society is highly visual, and visual imagery is no longer supplemental to other forms of information. New digital technologies have made it possible for almost anyone to create and share visual media. Yet the pervasiveness of images and visual media does not necessarily mean that individuals are able to critically view, use, and produce visual content. Individuals must develop these essential skills in order to engage capably in a visually-oriented society. Visual literacy empowers individuals to participate fully in a visual culture.”

In other words, it is never too late to become visually literate, or to think about how improving your student’s visual literacy might have a positive effect on their learning more generally.

The next post will highlight the keynote speaker from the Peer to Peer symposium.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources
Johns Hopkins University


Image Source: Screen shot from http://vtshome.org/

Flipping Your Class Humanities Style?

We’ve had several posts on flipping your class at The Innovative Instructor. From the plethora of articles appearing recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed, it’s clear that flipping is now the big thing in pedagogical approaches. Our experience has been that the faculty practicing flipping here at Johns Hopkins have been in the STEM disciplines. But what about the humanities?

Text reading flipping the classroom with the classroom upside downHumanities courses are often taught using a model of assigning readings outside of class and engaging students in discussions in class. Larger, lecture-style courses at the introductory level may have students met in smaller sections for the discussion component. Discussion of the readings is generally a key component to the learning experience in humanities courses. Does it make sense to have students view the lecture materials outside of class as they do for STEM courses? Would they do this in addition to the reading? Or would they read in class? What would be the benefit? Then what happens to the discussion? Rebecca Schuman, an adjunct professor at the University of Missouri St. Louis and columnist for education at Slate and The Chronicle of Higher Education, examines these questions, and provides an account of her personal experience in partially flipping an introductory-level literature class in a post titled The Flipped Classroom.

Schuman sites a couple of examples (here and here) of flipping humanities classes. She speaks honestly about her reservations on flipping her class, but after hitting a point mid-term where her students didn’t seem to be doing the readings and in-class discussion were flagging, she made a flip. In class, students did close reading and worked in small groups on worksheets (like “problem sets” in STEM classes) she’d created. The results were mixed. Schuman writes:

Yes, the students did a more thorough job reading Shakespeare than they had with Dante. But we never had a chance to have the kind of discussion for which college was invented: the kind that happens when careful reading gets done at home, so there is time in class for everyone’s ideas to be challenged, everyone’s theories to be pushed and tested. Yes, they read carefully—but the reading itself took up so much of class that I felt their “end point” was still, in some ways, more cursory than a traditional class would have been.

Schuman concludes that her experiment was an incentive for students to improve their reading habits outside of class for the subsequent book studied – they didn’t like the flipped class experience. Flipping a class makes a lot of sense for some courses, but it is not a one-size fits all. The pedagogical method should match the course objectives rather than be adapted because it is the latest trend.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources
Johns Hopkins University


Image Source: © Macie Hall, 2013

Multimedia Assignments

In the previous post, we looked at a debate on the value of a certain type of student writing assignments. The upshot was that it might be in the best interests of students for instructors to model real-life research experiences and allow for presentation of research results in the range of media possibilities available to working professionals. Creating multimedia assignments for your students may have appeal, but for instructors taking the plunge for the first time, such assignments may seem daunting. You may be equating multimedia with video, and video with movie production, and imagining that students will somehow need to become budding Quentin Tarantinos in addition to learning all the course materials. And where is that video equipment going to come from?

Image showing icon-style examples of text, audio, still images, animation, video and interactivity.In truth, multimedia creation can output to a wide range of formats, including digital posters, audio-casts, timelines, visualizations, digital/online exhibitions, websites, blogs, presentation software productions, and video. Video can be produced using easy to learn and readily available applications. PowerPoint and Keynote offer low-tech solutions as there are options to save presentations as video files. Student don’t need a video camera for these – still images combined with timed transitions, animations, and music or voice-over recordings can make for very effective end products. For true video, many students have smartphones that are capable of shooting video clips for editing in iMovie, or Windows Movie Maker, or even on the phone itself.

Unless your goal is for students to learn advanced digital video skills, the slickness of the end product should not be the sole determinant of the grade. Rather, just as you would grade a text assignment, your assessment rubric should focus on the strength of the argument and supporting evidence. But, your first question should be whether a multimedia assignment is in alignment with your teaching objectives.

Mike Heller, Departmental Teaching Fellow (Music) at Harvard’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, has created a two minute video on the five key considerations for designing multimedia assignments. These are:

1. Why create a multimedia assignment? What is the value added?

2. Be aware of the myth of the digital native. Not all students are technical wizards. Their experience and expertise will vary. It’s a good idea to start with lower stakes assignments to get students familiar with multimedia technologies before introducing a major project.

3. Don’t just teach the tools, teach the critical thinking. Try folding a traditional assignment into the multimedia project, perhaps by having students write an essay before adapting it into a video presentation.

4. Set clear goals by creating a concrete rubric. Without this you may find it difficult to assign grades once you receive the work.  Having a clear vision of your primary learning objectives will make it much easier when it comes to grading and providing feedback.

5. Communicate your teaching goals to your students. Distributing your rubric when you make the assignment is a good way to achieve this. By offering specific guidelines about the skills you want them to learn you insure that students are clear about the assignment.

In regards to the third point on teaching critical thinking as well as the tools, you may not have the expertise to teach some of the multimedia tools and that may determine the path you take in deciding how to frame the assignment. Look for resources on your campus.

Here at Johns Hopkins Homewood campus, we have the Digital Media Center  providing student support. See the end of the post for suggestions and links to specific free online platforms to support multimedia assignments.

Another tip sheet for creating multimedia assignments can be found at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst Office of Instructional Technology – 10 Tips for Successful Multimedia Assignments.

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Technology to Enhance Learning Experience module – Five Steps to Creating Successful Multimedia Assignments – suggests that instructors “…[c]omplete the technology-based assignment yourself before assigning it to students. This will give you the most accurate idea of the amount of time and training involved, and the challenges that students may encounter. This will also enable you to develop a rubric for grading and communicating your expectations to students”

If the final products are going to be shared on public websites or otherwise publicly accessible, you will want to think about copyright issues. This can be a good opportunity to teach your students about copyright and fair use. Depending on your institution, there may be library staff able to provide assistance or other resources available, perhaps through the college or university office of legal counsel. We have a great LibGuide entitled Copyright and Fair Use: Trends and Resources for 21st Century Scholars here at JHU to get you started. 

Suggested Resources

Blogs – Blogger, Tumblr, WordPress
Timelines – Timeline JS, SIMILE  Timeline
Digital/Online Exhibitions – Padlet, Omeka, Google Sites, WordPress, Tumblr
Websites – Google Sites, WordPress

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources


Image Source: CC Kevin Jarret – http://www.flickr.com/photos/kjarrett/2856162498/in/photostream/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multimedia

Rethinking Student Writing Assignments

On December 13, 2013, Rebecca Schuman, an adjunct professor at the University of Missouri St. Louis and columnist for education at Slate and The Chronicle of Higher Education, wrote a blog post at Slate entitled The End of the College Essay that created a firestorm of controversy in the humanities community. Schuman, who confesses to writing with “gallows humor” was clearly venting her frustrations in trying to teach a specific form of literary research-based writing to students with little motivation or reason to learn it.  Schuman was surprised by the virulent reactions to her rant, and maintains that the level of debate the post provoked is indicative of the need to reassess writing assignments.

Metal box containing pencils and pencil sharpener.Recently, Marc Bousquet, associate professor of English at Emory University and frequent contributor to the Chronicle of Higher Education presented a more nuanced version of Schuman’s argument in a post entitled Keep the ‘Research,’ Ditch the ‘Paper’.  “To cultivate undergraduate research, we may have to prune back the surrounding kudzu called the research paper. Often wretched, usually pointless, tens of millions of these artifacts heap themselves on faculty desks and inboxes every year. But to what end? Does assigning this form of “researched writing” teach students much about either research or writing? In most cases, clearly not.”

Instead, Bousquet suggests that instructors create assignments that provide opportunities for students to engage in real research, as opposed to Googling for quotes, and for the publication or sharing of that research to reflect the range of options available to professionals inside and outside of the academy.  “Millions of pieces of research writing that aren’t essays usefully circulate in the profession through any number of sharing technologies, including presentations and posters; grant and experiment proposals; curated, arranged, translated, or visualized data; knowledgeable dialogue in online media with working professionals; independent journalism, arts reviews, and Wikipedia entries; documentary pitches, scripts and storyboards; and informative websites.”

By giving assignments that develop skills for 21st century careers instructors provide authentic experiences that are more likely to engage students. Ultimately, the work you assign to students will depend on your learning objectives for the course. If the goal is to teach students how to write an essay, then you will have essay writing assignments. Otherwise, in aligning student work outside the classroom with your course objectives, you have a chance to be imaginative when you give your students an assessable assignment.  As an example, see the January post Creative Student Assignments: Poster Projects, and stay tuned for an upcoming post on best practices for multimedia assignments.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources


Image Source: Microsoft Clip Art

The Characteristics of High-Quality Formative Assessments

As we explore different theories of learning, two points seem salient: that students’ understanding of intelligence affects their self-perception, their determination, their motivation, and their achievement (Dweck, 2002); and that a students’ ability to self-regulate learning, to be metacognitive, ensures more successful learning and achievement (Ormrod, 2012, p.352-3).  As instructors plan curriculum and assessments, they ought to consider how to use these points as guides to ensure student learning and success.

Word cloud created from the text of the blog post.Formative assessment, understood as both a tool for instructors to gauge student learning and a teaching method, works iteratively with student understanding of intelligence and learner-regulation.  That is, formative assessment is based on the idea that learners should learn to take control of their learning, and that intelligence is a malleable quality.  In turn, formative assessment improves self-reflection in students and reinforces the idea that intelligence can be increased as opposed to it being a fixed entity, reflecting Carol S. Dweck’s important work on growth mind set, discussed in a recent the Innovative Instructor post.

An understanding of just what formative assessment entails highlights the recursive relationships of formative assessment, self-reflection, and a malleable view of intelligence.  Lorrie Shephard describes formative assessment as a process through which an instructor and a student come to better understand both the learning goals and the student’s work towards those goals in order to “alter the course of instruction and thus support the development of greater competence” (2005, p. 67).  This definition identifies formative assessment as a process of feedback that improves student learning.

Using formative feedback as a teaching method means that a classroom becomes the locus of ongoing dialogue that helps students measure and improve as they work to meet goals, expectations, and objectives.  The instructor takes in information about student progress and understanding, which creates the opportunity for a feedback loop that the instructor can use to shape teaching.  It is the moment when student progress shapes instruction that formative feedback becomes formative assessment.

When practiced effectively, this iterative relationship between instruction, feedback, student adjustment, and instructional adjustment maps onto self-reflection and a view of malleable intelligence.  As instructors provide formative feedback to students, they give students the tools to assess their own progress toward learning goals. Over time, students learn self-reflecting strategies (Shepard, 2005, p. 69; Wiggins, 2004, pp. 2-3, 6), allowing for moments such as Black and Wiliam noted when “one class, subsequently taught by a teacher not emphasizing assessment for learning, surprised that teacher by complaining, ‘Look, we’ve told you we don’t understand this. Why are you going on to the next topic?” (2004, p. 36).  As students reveal their learning progress, either directly (as in the example above) or indirectly through tasks that foster formative feedback, instructors have the opportunity to adapt their instruction. As teaching becomes more closely aligned with student progress, students are given increasingly refined opportunities for comprehension or alignment with expectations. As students chart their own progress, they implicitly buy in to the idea that they can improve their performance by making changes in their approach (Black & Wiliam, 2004, p. 30; Shepard, 2000, p. 43; Wiggins, 2004, p. 5). They come to understand, either overtly or tacitly, that their achievement is based on effort, not an unchanging quantity of intelligence (Shepard, 2005, 68; Lipnevich & Smith, 2009b, 364). When formative assessment works, students become self-regulating learners who practice self-reflection and learn a malleable view of intelligence—and are more motivated and more likely to achieve (Dweck, 2002).

Given the value of formative assessment, how can instructors use the characteristics of exemplary formative assessment as they plan their courses?  As opposed to inserting a few well-crafted formative assessments into the curriculum, instructors should understand that the adoption of formative assessment is the implementation of a course-long instructional approach.  Specifically, instructors can use formative feedback in every class through effective questioning strategies that elicit information about student understanding and help students monitor and adjust their learning (Black & Wiliam, 2004, pp. 25-7).  Instructors can assess students’ prior knowledge and use “knowledge-activation routines” such as the K-W-L strategy, to “develop students’ metacognitive abilities while providing relevant knowledge connections for specific units of study”(Shepard, 2005, p. 68). Comments on work, marking of papers (Black & Wiliam, 2004, pp. 27-31; Lipnevich, 2009a; Lipnevich, 2009b), peer-assessment, self-critique exercises (Black & Wiliam, 2004, pp 31-3), one-on-one tutorials, small group remediation, instructor and student modeling, analysis of exemplars (Wiggins, 2004), and revision exercises can be used throughout.

Although methods may be similar across disciplines, the precise use of formative feedback will naturally vary between disciplines (Black & Wiliam, 2004, pp. 36-37; Shepard, 2000, 36). Nonetheless, Black & Wiliam and Shephard (2005) stress that adopting formative assessment as an instructional approach requires a cultural change within a learning community. Because students activate and practice self-reflective strategies in an effective formative feedback loop, they ought to be given a chance to develop and hone these skills in every classroom.  Since formative assessment relies on students understanding clearly what the expected outcomes of their learning and work are, they need exemplars. If instructors within a department, discipline or, ideally, school can agree upon the characteristics of exemplary work and learning, student self-regulation is more natural and more likely to be accurate.

References

Black, P. & Wiliam, D. (2004). The Formative Purpose: Assessment Must First Promote Learning. Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education103 (2), 20-50.

Dweck, C. (2002). Messages That Motivate: How Praise Molds Students’ Beliefs, Motivation, and Performance (in Surprising Ways). In J. Aronson (Ed.), Improving Academic Acheivement: Impacts of Psychological Factors on Education (pp. 37-60). San Diego: Academic Press.

Lipnevich, A. & Smith, J. (2009a). “I Really Need Feedback to Learn:” Students’ Perspectives on the Effectiveness of the Differential Feedback MessagesEducational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability , 21 (4), 347-67.

Lipnevich, A. &. (2009b). Effects of Differential Feedback on Students’ Examination Performance. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied , 15 (4), 319-33.

Ormrod, J. (2012). Human Learning (6th Edition ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Shepard, L. (2000). The Role of Classroom Assessment in Teaching and Learning. CSE Technical Report, University of California, Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, Los Angeles.

Shepard, L. (2005). Linking Formative Assessment to Scaffolding. Educational Leadership, 63, 66-70.

Shute, V. (2008). Focus on Formative Feedback. Review of Educational Research , 78, 153-89.

Wiggins, G. (2004). Assessment as Feedback. New Horizons for Learning Online Journal, 1-8.

Sarah Wilson is the co-director of the Upper School at Laurel School in Shaker Heights, Ohio. She has a B.A. (English) from Kenyon College, and an M.A. from Teachers College, Columbia University. She has taught middle and high school English for 13 years.


Image Source: Formative Assessment Wordle created by Macie Hall

A Tip of the Hat to Tomorrow’s Professor

For writing The Innovative Instructor blog posts I read a lot of books and articles related to teaching and follow various educational blogs.  One resource that I’d like to pass along is the Tomorrow’s Professor e-Newletter. Sponsored by the Stanford University Center for Teaching and Learning, Tomorrow’s Professor is edited by Richard M. Reis, Ph.D., a consulting professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford.

Screen shot of Tomorrow's Professor website logo.Twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays) during the academic year Reis passes along articles from journals or excerpts from books on a wide range of topics in the following categories:

  • Tomorrow’s Teaching and Learning
  • Tomorrow’s Academy
  • Tomorrow’s Graduate Students and Postdocs
  • Tomorrow’s Academic Careers
  • Tomorrow’s Research

“Tomorrows Professor seeks to foster a diverse, world-wide teaching and learning ecology among its over 49,000 subscribers at over 800 institutions and organizations in over 100 countries around the world.”

The more than 1250 posts to date have been archived so you can search for past posts as well as subscribe to receive new postings via email.

As an introduction, I found a recent post on The Three Most Time-Efficient Teaching Practices [#1218] to reflect some of the pedagogical best practices that The Innovative Instructor tries to promote.  The author, Linda C. Hodges, Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs and Director of the Faculty Development Center,University of Maryland, Baltimore County, states:

What constitutes productivity in teaching is a point of debate, of course, but many of us agree that we want to facilitate student learning. When faculty are challenged to change traditional teaching practices to promote better student success, all we may see looming before us is additional class preparation time. The best kept secret, however, is how much more time-efficient some of these touted teaching practices are.

The three practices she describes are 1) beginning planning with the end in mind by using backward course design, 2) generating criteria or rubrics to describe disciplinary work for students, and 3) embedding “assessment” into assessments.

Hodges asserts that spending time in the planning and development of your courses using proven pedagogical methods will save you time in your teaching in the long run. Taking a few minutes each week to peruse Tomorrow’s Professor could help you in all aspects of your academic life.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources


Image Source: Screenshot of Tomorrow’s Professor logo
http://cgi.stanford.edu/~dept-ctl/cgi-bin/tomprof/postings.php

Creative Student Assignments: Poster Projects

Looking for a final course project for your students that might give them an authentic learning experience – building skills they can use in their post-college careers? Think about a poster assignment.

For STEM career-path students, poster sessions are certain to be a part of their futures. Increasingly, those in Humanities and Social Sciences are finding that poster sessions are being seen in their professional/academic conferences. Posters and similar presentation approaches are becoming part of business (including non-profit) practice as well.

Student presenting at a poster session.

Credit: NASA/GSFC/Becky Strauss

Poster projects can be designed to foster student research, writing, and presentation skills as well as pushing them to think visually. If having students print out their final product for presentation is too costly and/or space for a poster session is limited, students can present electronically. In fact, the easiest way to create a poster is to use a size-customized (e.g., 48”x36”) PowerPoint or Keynote slide, so presenting on a large screen to a class is feasible and cost effective.

You will want to provide students with specific objectives as well as concrete instructions, and, preferably, a few checkpoint deadlines along the way. Fortunately there are many online resources and guides for poster creators.  Here are three (if you have other sources, please share in the comments section):

SUNY at Buffalo Libraries – Designing Effective Posters
A collaborative effort hosted at NCSU: Creating Effective Poster Presentations
This one combines short videos and text in an introduction to Poster Design, especially good for layout and design elements.

There are many more, as well as YouTube and Vimeo video tutorials.

First time poster creators tend to err on the side of having too much text, so you should give your students some specific guidelines.  These, for example, can be adapted according to your pedagogical goals and academic discipline:

Title = 1-2 short lines
Abstract (if required) = ~50 words
Introduction = ~200 words
Materials/methods = ~200 words
Results = ~200 words
Conclusion = ~100 words
Other sections (footnotes, acknowledgements, sponsors) = ~50 words
TOTAL < 800 words

A total word count of 800 is may be difficult to achieve, but getting as close to that as possible will keep the content concise and focused. It will also leave more room for images and diagrams, the elements that will be most attractive to viewers in a crowded poster session.

You will want your students to think about using consistent design elements (layout, font, color, images, and data display) so that their visual language is both unique and subject-appropriate. This attention to consistent design will also set them apart from other displays. Looking at examples of posters in class and having your students discuss what is effective and what is not can be a good way to get students thinking visually. Use Google Images  to search for “examples of scientific posters” or “examples of humanities posters” or examples in your specific discipline to start the conversation.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Reid Sczerba, Multimedia Developer
Center for Educational Resources


Image Source: Credit: NASA/GSFC/Becky Strauss
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasa_goddard/7651333914/in/set-72157630763357278