Definitions

Recently, in discussion with some colleagues, confusion was expressed about the terms inquiry-based learning, problem-based learning, case-based learning, and experiential learning. How are these alike and how are they different? Are there overlaps? What distinguishes one from another? I thought providing some short definitions of these terms, along with a few resources, might be useful to others seeking clarity.

Group of students working togetherInquiry-based learning (IBL) is a term used broadly to include pedagogical approaches that put the students at the center of the learning process, allowing them to undertake investigations by asking questions to solve problems. The University of North Carolina has published an annotated bibliography of resources on IBL.

Problem-based learning (PBL) is described by the Institute for Transforming Undergraduate Education site, Problem-Based Learning at University of Delaware: “In a problem-based learning (PBL) model, students engage complex, challenging problems and collaboratively work toward their resolution. PBL is about students connecting disciplinary knowledge to real-world problems—the motivation to solve a problem becomes the motivation to learn.”

And in Why PBL?, “In a problem-based learning (PBL), students work together in small groups to solve real-world problems. PBL is an active and iterative process that engages students to identify what they know, and more importantly, what they don’t know. Their motivation to solve a problem becomes their motivation to find and apply knowledge. PBL can be combined with lecture to form a hybrid model of teaching, and it can be implemented in virtually all courses and subjects.”

A widely cited book by Maggi Savin-Baden, Problem-Based Learning in Higher Education: Untold Stories [McGraw-Hill International, 2000], provides an in-depth look at PBL. See an excerpt here.

The Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University has a teaching guide on team-based learning. “Team-based learning (TBL) is a structured form of small-group learning that emphasizes student preparation out of class and application of knowledge in class. Students are organized strategically into diverse teams of 5-7 students that work together throughout the class.  Before each unit or module of the course, students prepare by reading prior to class.” The guide provides information on theory and structure, as well as a section called Where can I learn more?, which references the Team-Based Learning Collaborative as well as books and articles.

Case-based learning employs the use of discipline-specific, situational narratives as a launch pad for student learning. A case-based learning wiki from the Department of Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology, University of Georgia tells us that “[c]ase-based learning can cover a wide variety of instructional strategies, including but not limited to, role plays, simulations, debates, analysis and reflection, group projects and problem-solving. It provides a great deal of flexibility at the practical level.” The wiki not only describes the characteristics of case-based learning, but also discusses how to implement it – defining both the instructor’s and the students’ roles, offers some information about developing cases and designing learning activities, gives an overview of assessment, and provides references. See also The Innovative Instructor post Quick Tips: Using Case Studies.

The Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Texas Austin defines experiential learning as “any learning that supports students in applying their knowledge and conceptual understanding to real-world problems or situations where the instructor directs and facilitates learning.” These experiences can take place in a number of settings including classrooms, labs, studios, or through internships, fieldwork, community service, clinical or research projects. The UT Austin webpage on experiential learning discusses the importance of this method, how it works, what it looks like in practice, and describes the forms it can take. A list of reference is provided. See also: Learning by Doing – Case-in-Point, an Innovative Instructor blog post by Adriano Pianesi.

As this compendium demonstrates, these terms are interconnected.  Inquiry-based learning is an umbrella for the pedagogies described. Case-based learning and team-based learning may be used as strategies in implementing IBL or problem-based learning. Experiential learning allows students to engage in authentic experiences with an instructor or facilitator acting as a guide.

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Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Pixabay

Making Infographics with Easel.ly

Back at the beginning of the year I wrote a post on Scalar (a multi-media authoring tool) that mentioned another application called Easel.ly. I’d first heard about Easel.ly from a colleague last fall and have been wanting to try it out ever since. This week, I got my chance and I am really excited about this application.

Creating an Easel.ly Infographic lists the three steps to creation 1) create an account. 2) select a vheme or blank canvas and drag and drop objects to it 3) share the completed infographic.Anita Say Chan and Harriett Green wrote about Easel.ly in an article published in the Educause Review, Practicing Collaborative Digital Pedagogy to Foster Digital Literacies in Humanities Classrooms (October 13, 2014). Their description captures the essence of the tool: 

Easel.ly is a free, easy-to-use web-hosted platform for creating infographics. Users can insert icons and shapes, change background and orientation, and rearrange the pre-inserted graphics in the pre-set template (called a “vheme”) to create their own vibrant infographics.

We chose this tool because its features let students rapidly build professional, visually captivating infographics in a user-friendly environment without requiring mastery of graphic imaging software (such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator).”

The term infographic has a broad meaning – a visual depiction of information – and the end results of an Easel.ly creation cover a wide range as can be seen from the hundreds of thousands of posted examples. Timelines, annotated maps, flowcharts, posters, public service announcements, instructional guides – if you are thinking in terms of a course assignment that will involve visualization or visual display of data/information – take a look at Easel.ly. Easel.ly also has a feature that allows you to create groups to work collaboratively. See creating groups: http://www.easel.ly/blog/easel-ly-groups-new-feature/. This would be a great way to allow students to work together on a course project.

It’s easy to create an account and start to work. The interface is simple and intuitive. You can start with a blank canvas, pick a template (vheme), or select from thousands of published examples to modify. From there it is a breeze to drag and drop from menus that include backgrounds, objects (images, icons, maps, flags), text boxes, shapes and arrows, and charts. All of these can be easily modified (size, orientation, font, color in some cases). You can also upload your own images, icons, maps, graphs, etc.

Once you have completed your work there are several ways to make it available to others. According to the Easel.ly blog post on sharing options:

Shareable Link: A shareable link allows a user to both See and Reuse your infographic – The only people that can see and reuse the infographic are people who you give the link to.

Embed Code: If you would rather embed your infographic within a blog post and not have to download and upload to your blog, then “Embed Code” is the way to go.

Group Share: Probably our coolest feature. This option allows you to share an infographic that you have created with everyone in your group (see here: Creating a Group) and allow them to reuse your infographic as a template for their work.

If you want more information on using Easel.ly, take a look at the blog. If you’d like more features, there is a paid version available for only $36.00 per year.

I opened a free account on Easel.ly and within an hour had tried out all of the features and created the infographic that accompanies this post. The About Us section of the Easel.ly website summed up my experience:

“…[I]n 2013 Easel.ly was honored to receive the Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Award from the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). The AASL commended Easel.ly for being user friendly, intuitive, and simple enough that even a child in the 6th grade could successfully navigate the site and design their infographic without adult assistance.”

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Infographic created by Macie Hall on Easel.ly

 

 

 

Bringing Digital Humanities into the Classroom

I recently attended a professional conference where Digital Humanities (DH) was the hot topic. For those of you in other disciplines, DH is a field of scholarship (and pedagogy) that is often described as being at the intersection of humanities and computing. The idea is that humanities scholars who have traditionally worked alone in the ivory tower, or more accurately, in archives, libraries, museums, and in the field, are now engaging in collaborative, cross-disciplinary research endeavors that involve large data sets, computational analysis, and new methods of visualizing information. Publication for DH scholars had moved from the monograph to open access, web-based, collaborative, and social media outlets. Twitter, in particular, is the social medium of choice for the DH field.  At the conference I attended, everyone seemed to be tweeting.

A wordle created from The Digital Humanities and Humanities Computing: An Introduction, Schreibman, S, Siemens, R, and Unsworth, J.If you’d like to learn more about DH, there is concise guide provided by the University of Richmond Boatwright Memorial Library that includes a few seminal texts as well as links to resources, tools, and examples of projects.  A comprehensive bibliography, which can be downloaded as a Word document, has been put together by some of my colleagues in the Visual Resources Association. Two DH organizations to look at are the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations and HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory). Beyond the research aspect of DH, I am interested in how one might take DH into the classroom.

A Google search on “digital humanities teaching” yields a lot of results. Two guides to check out are the University of Delaware Library’s Digital Humanities: Teaching Resources, and University of Kansas Libraries guide to Digital Humanities: TEACHING: digital humanities in the classroom. There is a book that includes some case studies, which range from a course at the doctoral level to a freshman writing course, published as open access–Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Practices, Principles and Politics (edited by Brett D. Hirsch). You can download it as a PDF. Perhaps most illuminating from my perspective was a blog post by Ryan Cordell, Assistant Professor of English at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts and a Mellon Fellow of Critical Bibliography at the Rare Book School in Charlottesville, Virginia. How Not to Teach Digital Humanities (February 1, 2015) chronicles Cordell’s evolution in thinking about and teaching what started out as an introduction to digital humanities course.

My own thinking, which is aligned with Cordell’s, is that in teaching undergraduate humanities courses we need to be most concerned with the essential practices and methods of DH work. I agree with Cordell that our students may be called digital natives, but many of them are not digitally (or visually) literate. They may not be fully comfortable with the intricacies of technology in spite of their abilities to text at astonishing speeds. The DH practices that point to skills that would be useful for students to develop have to do with working collaboratively, thinking critically, understanding the importance of narrative and visual communication, and communicating using new media. Arguably, these are abilities that will be useful to students pursuing any 21st century career path. Many DH practitioners would adding coding to the list. I agree that humanities students should be introduced to and encouraged to learn coding of some flavor. Cordell cites TEI (text encoding initiative) as a low-barrier example that allows students to see the power that coding might have in humanities research.

Cordell used non-traditional assignments to introduce students to new media: “Those assignments push them beyond their comfort zone—for English students, their comfort zone is writing a 7 page paper—asking them to consider the medium as well as the message of their own research and arguments.” The Center for Educational Resources, where I work, has been encouraging faculty to explore non-traditional assignments with output in video, blogs, wikis, electronic posters, timelines, visualizations, and applications such as Omeka, WordPress, and a mapping tool developed in house.

Whether or not DH is still a hot topic in the future, Cordell imagines a positive outcome if “…DH methodologies have become widely-accepted as possible ways (among many) to study literature, history, and other humanities subjects….” I see that exposing our students to these ways of thinking and communicating will also have a positive outcome.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer, Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Digital Humanities Wordle created from The Digital Humanities and Humanities Computing: An Introduction, Schreibman, S, Siemens, R, and Unsworth, J. [Anonymous] http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/5672950/Digital_Humanities

The Toolkit for Inclusive Learning Environments

The Innovative Instructor has featured several posts recently on inclusivity and diversity in the classroom. This is an important issue, and one that is very much on my radar screen as I have been involved in developing TILE–the Toolkit for Inclusive Learning Environments (see post here). On Wednesday, March 25th, we had our first session with interested faculty to explore best practices.

As part of the program, we introduced three examples of the types of course components we envision for the toolkit. These could be in-class activities, assignments, projects, case studies, role-playing, experiential learning, best practices or recommendations.

1. CRITICAL THINKING EXERCISE

Screen shot from Twitter Feed of the PR firm StrangeFruit showing the two women founders explaining that they thought the term strange fruit could mean something different than it did historically.

Twitter.com screen shot.

Pedagogical Approach: Critical Thinking Exercise 

Students can do this in class on their laptops, tablets, or smart phones.

In 2014 a food and entertainment PR firm was the subject of a media backlash because of their chosen company name. What is wrong with the name? What is the history of the name both past and more recently? How would you have advised the firm to remedy the situation? [By the way, you can find the full story here.]

 Potential Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will be able to discuss why basic research and information literacy skills are imperative to making business decisions.
  • Students will understand the negative consequences of 1) not doing basic research, and 2) not being culturally competent and/or sensitive.
  • Students will understand the importance of gaining cultural competence when it comes to issues or terms that they may not personally understand but may be a sensitive subject for others.
  • Students will have a broader knowledge of a tumultuous time in recent US history.
  • Students will be able to articulate the meaning and history of a song labeled “The Song of the Century” by Time magazine in 1999.
  • Students will be able to discuss the meaning of the term “strange fruit.”

2. CASE STUDY

Male crash test dummy in driver's seat.

Brady Holt http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crashtest-Dummy#/media/File:IIHS_crash_test_dummy_in_Hyundai_Tucson.jpg

Pedagogical Approach: Case Study

Adapted from Stanford’s Gendered Innovations, Pregnant Crash Dummies Case Study. In 1949 the US military developed Sierra Sam, the first crash test dummy based on a 95th percentile male body. A female body type was introduced in the 1970s, children crash test dummies in the 80s, and babies in the 90s. There is one group/body type that is not required in vehicle crash tests and yet accounts for the number one fatality rate among a certain group. Any guesses?

“Conventional seatbelts do not fit pregnant women properly, and motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of fetal death related to maternal trauma (Weiss et al., 2001). Even a relatively minor crash at 56km/h (35 mph) can cause harm. With over 13 million women pregnant across the European Union and United States each year, the use of seatbelts during pregnancy is a major safety concern (Eurostat, 2011; Finer et al., 2011).”

What are the dangers to the fetus with the current seat belt system? Could you design something better? Given what you know, what requirements or federal policies or disclaimers would you require that are currently not in place? Do the standard seatbelt and seat requirements leave any other segments of the population at risk? If so, who?

Potential Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will understand the importance of a diverse team.
  • Students will be able to discuss the dangers in design when diversity is NOT considered.
  • Students will understand that a one-size-fits-all approach in design overlooks important segments of the population.
  • Students will understand the need for policies that require design for all segments of the population.
  • Students will create a solution that requires inclusive design considerations.

Citations

Eurostat. (2011). Fertility, Figure 1: Number of Live Births, EU-27, Legally Induced Abortions by Year, Country, and Mother’s Age, EU-27. http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do?dataset=demo_fabort&lang=en

Finer, L., & Kost, K. (2011). Unintended Pregnancy Rates at the State Level. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 43 (2), 78-87.

Weiss, H., Songer, T., & Fabio, A. (2001). Fetal Deaths Related to Maternal Injury. Journal of the American Medical Association, 286 (15), 1863-1868.

3. RECOMMENDATION FOR BEST PRACTICE—GUEST LECTURES OR PANEL OF EXPERTS

Image showing a number of faces of people, male and female, of different ages, races, ethnic, and cultural groups. The images are staggered and framed with brightly colored lines suggesting computer monitors.

Pixabay http://pixabay.com/en/system-network-news-personal-591225/

Pedagogical Approach: Guest Lecture or Panel of Experts

Identify minority experts in your field and bring them in as a guest lecturer or for a class discussion. They should spend most of the time on their scholarship and area(s) of expertise and only speak about their minority status in the field when and if they themselves choose.

Potential Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will see someone as a role model for both minorities and non-minorities based on that person’s accomplishments and expertise in their shared area of study.
  • If the expert is respected by the student’s professor, the students will also show/gain respect for the expert.
  • Due to professor’s modeled behavior, students could also potentially treat minority experts as equals when they encounter them in the field.
  • Students may evolve into professionals who support and understand some of the challenges that minorities face in their field.

We have asked those interested in contributing their own examples to submit a PowerPoint slide with the following format: on a single slide, start with an image that is relevant to the example. We ask that the images be rights-free or have a Creative Commons license with attribution in either case. In the Notes section below the slide, describe the pedagogical approach, give the information necessary to implement the example, and list potential learning outcomes.

You are invited, too. If you have an example you’d like to submit, please contact me via the comments with a brief message and an email address. We are looking forward to sharing your contributions.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer, Center for Educational Resources

 

An Annotated Bibliography on College Teaching

The Tomorrow’s Professor e-Newletter often has interesting and useful posts. 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 (see more in this Innovative Instructor post from last year). Recently Reis shared a bibliography compiled by L. Dee Fink, Ph.D., a national and international consultant in higher education, a former president of the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education, and a former director of the Instructional Development Program at the University of Oklahoma.

Stack of books in a library.The list is comprised of books that have introduced major ideas in college teaching from 1990 to 2013. Fink says, “The point of this list is to illustrate that the scholars of teaching and learning are continuing to generate powerful new ideas year after year, thereby creating the possibility of enhancing the capabilities of college teachers everywhere – IF faculty members can learn about these ideas and incorporate them into their teaching.”

The ideas are show in two ways. First is by theme and sub-theme. The four themes are: General Perspectives on Teaching & Learning, Basic Tasks of Teaching, Dealing with Specific Teaching/Learning Situations, and Getting Better at Teaching. Under each of the themes are sub-themes with links (within the document) to annotated source listings arranged chronologically, which make up the second way in which the ideas are displayed.

For example, in the category Getting Better At Teaching, you will find Learning About Teaching & Learning with a link to Learning Communities. Clicking on the link takes you to 1998: “Learning communities, whether of students or of faculty, can lead to powerful forms of dialogue and growth. Source: Shapiro, N. & Levine, J. Creating Learning Communities. Jossey-Bass.

Browsing the chronological listings will also be fruitful. And if your spring break is coming up, maybe you will actually have a little time to read.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer, Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Microsoft Clip Art

Case Studies for an Inclusive STEM Classroom

As part of our work on the TILE – Toolkit for Inclusive Learning Environments – project (see previous post) my colleagues and I have been uncovering some great resources for fostering diversity and inclusion in the classroom.  I am always on the lookout for sources for case studies (see Quick Tips: Using Case Studies) and the Gendered Innovations project covers both bases.

Screenshot of the Gendered Innovations science case studies web page.

Gendered Innovations is a peer-reviewed project developed by Londa Schiebinger at Stanford University.  “Londa Schiebinger is the John L. Hinds Professor of History of Science in the History Department at Stanford University and Director of the EU/US Gendered Innovations in Science, Health & Medicine, Engineering, and Environment Project. Over the past twenty years, Schiebinger’s work has been devoted to teasing apart three analytically distinct but interlocking pieces of the gender and science puzzle: the history of women’s participation in science; the structure of scientific institutions; and the gendering of human knowledge.” [http://web.stanford.edu/dept/HPS/schiebinger.html]

From the Gendered Innovations website we learn that research has shown that sex and gendered bias is counterproductive and costly.  It can result in human suffering and death in the case of drugs developed and released without proper testing on women, and leads to “missed market opportunities” when products don’t consider shorter people – women and men. For research, failing to recognize gender differences may yield faulty results. The goal of the Gendered Innovations project is to provide scientists and engineers with practical methods for sex and gender analysis.

As a means to that end, there are a number of case studies provided for science, health and medicine, engineering, and the environment. These include extensive bibliographies. There is also a wealth of information on the website that provides a framework for thinking and teaching differently in your classroom.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer, Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Screenshot of the Gendered  Innovations science case studies web page - http://genderedinnovations.stanford.edu/case-studies-science.html

Fostering an Inclusive Classroom

Logo for TILE - Toolkit for Inclusive Learning EnvironmentsI am excited to report on a project here at Johns Hopkins that will provide resources (available to all) for supporting inclusive practices in the classroom.  Sharing diverse perspectives and validating students’ and minorities’ varied experiences is a challenge for many faculty. Even those with the best intentions may unwittingly create classroom environments where students from minority communities feel uncomfortable or excluded. However, when executed effectively, an inclusive classroom becomes a layered and rich learning environment that not only engages students, but creates more culturally competent citizens. Enter TILE – Toolkit for Inclusive Learning Environments.

Funded by a Diversity Innovation Grant (DIG) of the Diversity Leadership Council (DLC), TILE will be a repository of examples and best practices that instructors use in order to spark conversations in the classroom that foster diversity and inclusion.

Funding would be used to begin a conversation with faculty who are currently implementing inclusive practices in the classroom. The conversations will result in a report-out session, scheduled for April 2015, when faculty will share ways in which they specifically support and foster an environment of inclusion that can then be replicated in other classrooms. These conversations will lead to the development of a toolkit that will include examples of best practices. The toolkit will offer inclusive instructional approaches from across the disciplines. For example, a biology professor might discuss intersex development as part of the curriculum, and an introductory engineering class might discuss Aprille Ericsson and some of her challenges at NASA.  When professors use these best practices in the classroom, they not only help students learn about some of the issues surrounding diverse populations, but also help give students the voice to be able to be more conversant about diverse issues. Most important is the engagement of students who otherwise may feel marginalized when their own unique experiences remain invisible.

Project collaborators are Demere Woolway, Director of LGBTQ Life; Shannon Simpson, Student Engagement and Information Fluency Librarian, and myself, with support from the Sheridan Libraries and Museums Diversity Committee. Most important will be the various lecturers and faculty from across the disciplines who will work with us on developing the toolkit.

More information on TILE can be found here. While TILE is in development, here are two resources for those interested in exploring ways to improve classroom climate.

The National Education Association (NEA) offers strategies for developing cultural competence for educators. “Cultural competence is the ability to successfully teach students who come from a culture or cultures other than our own. It entails developing certain personal and interpersonal awareness and sensitivities, understanding certain bodies of cultural knowledge, and mastering a set of skills that, taken together, underlie effective cross-cultural teaching and culturally responsive teaching.”

The Center for Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) has some excellent diversity resources on its website, including a literature review, case studies, and a resource book for new instructors.

 

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer, Center for Educational Resources
Shannon Simpson, Librarian for Student Engagement and Information Fluency, Sheridan Libraries and Museums

Image Source: TILE logo © 2015 Shannon Simpson

A Guide to Bloom’s Taxonomy

A few years ago at an instructional workshop for university professors the following question was posed to the attendees: “What do you know about Bloom’s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain?” Most of the respondents answered, “Whose taxonomy of what?”

That answer indicates a general lack of knowledge about one of the most basic pedagogical principles in education. Here are some straightforward guidelines on what Bloom’s taxonomy is and how you can use it in your class.

In 1956, Benjamin Bloom (an American educational psychologist),with collaborators Max Englehart, Edward Furst, Walter Hill, and David Krathwohl, published a framework for categorizing educational goals: Taxonomy of Educational Objectives familiarly known as Bloom’s Taxonomy. The framework consisted of six major categories: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. The categories after Knowledge were presented as “skills and abilities,” with the understanding that knowledge was the necessary precondition for putting these skills and abilities into practice.

The New Version of Bloom's TaxonomyIn 2001 Bloom’s taxonomy was revised by a group of cognitive psychologists, led by Lorin Anderson (a former student of Bloom). To update the taxonomy to reflect 21st century work the authors used verbs to re-label the six categories and included “action words” to describe the cognitive processes by which learners encounter and work with knowledge. The figures accompanying this article reflect that work. This revised Bloom’s taxonomy proves to be a very useful tool that can be used in all classrooms for several reasons listed below.

Bloom’s Levels of Understanding - ActionsAbout ninety percent of the questions students handle in any class are memory questions. The memory level is perfectly respectable and even essential in many learning situations. There are, however, disadvantages in using pure memory that an instructor should keep in mind. The memory level is a tool that promotes the use of short term memory, and the information may be forgotten if it is not used. Another problem with the memory level is that it does not guarantee understanding. We often assume that just because a student can cough up words, facts, and figures that s/he has “learned” and understands the material. That is simply not the case. By moving up the scale to teaching that involves students understanding, applying, and analyzing information, their learning outcomes will improve.

That is not likely to happen, though, without some thoughtful preparation. In instructional design, questioning strategies can be as simple as the intentional progression of questions leading to higher levels of thinking and involvement. Bloom’s revised taxonomy can provide a framework for constructing those questions.

Some examples of how to incorporate Bloom’s taxonomy into classes include the following:

1. Creating Course Learning Objectives 

In education, learning objectives are brief statements that describe what students will be expected to learn by the end of a course, unit, or class period. Instructors can benefit from using a framework to construct and organize learning objectives for themselves and for students. Having an organized set of learning objectives helps instructors plan and deliver appropriate instruction, design valid assessment tasks and strategies, and ensure that instruction and assessment are aligned with the objectives.

For example, learning objectives following Bloom’s revised taxonomy could be constructed as follows.
Students should be able to:

  1. Exhibit previously learned material by recalling facts, terms and basic concepts.
  2. Demonstrate understanding of facts and ideas by organizing, comparing, interpreting and giving descriptions and stating main ideas.
  3. Solve problems by applying acquired knowledge, facts, techniques and rules in a different way.
  4. Examine and break information into parts by identifying motives or causes; making inferences, and finding evidence to support generalizations.
  5. Compile information together in a different way by combining elements in a new pattern or proposing alternative solutions.
  6. Present and defend opinions by making judgments about information, validity of ideas or quality of work based on a set of criteria.

2. Asking Questions

In-class questioning can be varied from the most simple to those that require more thought. These questions can be categorized following Bloom’s hierarchy of cognitive skills. Here are some examples of questions asked about the story Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Do you remember the story line? The little girl Goldilocks visits the home of the papa, mamma, and baby bear where she sleeps in their beds, eats their food, and sits in their chairs.

Remembering: List the items used by Goldilocks while she was in the Bears’ house.
Understanding: Explain why Goldilocks liked Baby Bear’s chair the best?
Applying: Demonstrate what Goldilocks would use if she came to your house.
Analyzing: Compare this story to reality. What events could not really happen?
Evaluating: Propose how the story would be different if it was Goldilocks and the Three Fish.
Creating: Judge whether Goldilocks was good or bad. Defend your opinion.

3: Constructing Test or Exam Questions

This is a combination of the above two points. If the course is arranged around learning objectives, designed with Bloom’s taxonomy in mind, then those objectives can be used to construct test and exam questions. This process will ensure alignment between instruction and assessment and provide validity to your evaluation of students’ knowledge and skills.

Additional Resources

  1. Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. (Eds.). (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Longman.
  2. Bloom, B., Englehart, M. Furst, E., Hill, W., & Krathwohl, D. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York, Toronto: Longmans, Green.
  3. Davis, B.G (2009) Tools for Teaching, 2nd edition, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco
  4. Southey, R. (1837) The Three Bears. [Note this original version involves a nameless old woman instead of the little girl Goldilocks.]

Richard Shingles, Lecturer, Department of Biology
Director, TA Training Institute and The Summer Teaching Institute, Center for Educational Resources

Richard Shingles is a faculty member in the Biology department and also works with the Center for Educational Resources at Johns Hopkins University. He is the Director of the TA Training Institute and The Summer Teaching Institute on the Homewood campus of JHU. Dr. Shingles also provides pedagogical and technological support to instructional faculty, post-docs and graduate students

Image Source – CC Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy: Andrea Hernandez
Image Source – Bloom’s Levels of Understanding – Actions: Preparing Future Faculty Teaching Academy, Johns Hopkins University
http://www.cer.jhu.edu/graduatestudents/pffta.html

Should you ban laptops (and other devices) from your classroom?

Students using laptops in a lecture hall, view from the back looking at the students' screens.This question was cogently addressed in two recent articles. One by Tal Gross, an Assistant Professor at Columbia University, appeared December 30, 2014 in a Washington Post op-ed piece titled, This Year, I Resolve to Ban Laptops from my Classroom. Gross references the other article, by Clay Shirkey, professor at New York University, Why I Just Asked My Students To Put Their Laptops Away, which appeared September 8, 2014 on Medium. To be clear, neither is teaching in an active learning classroom where laptops might be considered a necessary piece of equipment for the pedagogical process.  Gross describes a lecture format with 85 students. Shirkey, who call himself “an advocate and activist for the free culture movement, [and] a pretty unlikely candidate for internet censor” asked the students in his “fall seminar to refrain from using laptops, tablets, and phones in class.”

Shirkey noticed a change over time as mobile devices grew to be both more technically robust and widely used. Rather than being a useful tool for note taking, these devices have become a distraction. There is also the issue of multitasking. Shirkey states, “We’ve known for some time that multi-tasking is bad for the quality of cognitive work, and is especially punishing of the kind of cognitive work we ask of college students.” Any number of studies have shown that multi-taskers are deluded in their belief that the practice enhances their work performance. The seductive immediacy of social media makes it even more difficult for students using laptops, tablets, and cellphones in the classroom to focus on the material being taught. But what tipped Shirkey over was the paper Laptop Multitasking Hinders Classroom Learning for Both Users and Nearby Peers, with results that “demonstrate that multitasking on a laptop poses a significant distraction to both users and fellow students and can be detrimental to comprehension of lecture content.” In justifying his decision to have students put away their laptops (and other devices), he says that he now sees teaching and learning as a collaborative effort with his students. “It’s not me demanding that they focus — its (sic) me and them working together to help defend their precious focus against outside distractions.”

Tal Gross focuses on another aspect of the issue—that of note taking. Typing on laptops can become “an exercise in dictation.” In a study undertaken by Pam A. Mueller (Princeton) and Daniel M. Oppenheimer (UCLA) titled The Pen Is Mightier Than the KeyboardAdvantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking, the results showed “…that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand.” [Psychological Science, April 23, 2014, doi: 10.1177/ 0956797614524581.]

Both articles provide food for thought. Anecdotal evidence from our faculty here at Johns Hopkins suggests that students are becoming less adept at taking notes by hand, and even writing by hand at all. Old-fashioned essay-style exams taken in blue books seem to provide a challenge to students who complain of hand cramps at the end of the test. Yet the learning gains may be significant. Maybe it’s time to revive an old, tried and true practice. For students (and instructors) who need some tutoring on how to take notes, here is a resource to check out: The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Note Taking, by Mike Rohde [Peachpit Press, November 30, 2012.]

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: CC MCGunner on Imgur at http://imgur.com/N2PYK8S?tags

A Manual for Flipping Your Classroom

The Innovative Instructor has featured several posts on flipping your classroom (see here, here, here, and here) a technique that has students learning content on their own time and using class time to work on problems, discuss materials, or engage in collaborative activities.

Text reading flipping the classroom with the classroom upside downJust in time for the upcoming semester, the Chronicle of Higher Education has published A Guide to the Flipped Classroom, available for free download. The manual, in PDF form, collects seven case studies and articles on the process of flipping the classroom that appeared in the CHE over the past three years. Faculty teaching evolutionary biology, chemistry, mathematics, and business topics weigh in on their experiences.

The experiences of Andrew Martin, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, are highlighted in the first article. The article notes that innovations in pedagogy, technology such as clickers, support and advocacy from those who want to improve higher education, and economic realities have helped to popularize this teaching technique.

The second article describes a student’s view of a flipped chemistry course at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. With the flipped classroom, learning takes center stage over teaching.

Stephen Neshyba describes his experience flipping his chemistry class at University of Puget Sound noting that moving to a flipped class may change “which kinds of students excel and which ones struggle.”

Two articles by Robert Talbert, a mathematician and educator at Grand Valley State University, look at the pedagogical reasons and advantages for flipping a class, and why students may push back when a course is flipped. There are suggestions on how to handle this. Talbert also blogs for the CHE at Casting Out Nines, where he has documented in detail his experiences with flipping his classes.

A study shows that physics faculty often try new methods and then abandon it in the face of student challenges. An article addresses what faculty who want to explore new teaching methods can learn from this research.

Finally there is a profile of Norman Nemrows, a professor of business at Brigham Young University. He began recording his lectures about 15 years ago. His experience raises the question “Are professors willing to become sidekicks to slick video productions?”

At the end of the manual there is a short list of resources to help you whether you are a novice or a seasoned flipper.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: © Macie Hall, 2013