Managing Teamwork with CATME

Many instructors recognize the value of having students work collaboratively on team-based assignments. Not only is it possible for students to experience a greater understanding of the subject material, but several life-long learning skills can be gained through active engagement with team members. Managing team-based assignments, however, is not something most instructors look forward to; the administrative tasks can be quite cumbersome, especially with large classes. Thankfully there is a tool to help with this process: CATME.

Logo for CATMECATME, which stands for ‘Comprehensive Assessment of Team Member Effectiveness,’ is a free set of tools designed to help instructors manage group work and team assignments more effectively. It was developed by a diverse group of professors with extensive teaching experience, as well as researchers and students. First released in 2005, CATME takes away much of the administrative burden that instructors face when trying to organize and manage teams, communicate with students, and facilitate effective peer evaluation.

‘Team Maker,’ one of two main parts of CATME, assists with the team creation process. First, it allows instructors to easily create and send a survey to students. The survey collects various demographic data, previously completed coursework, and student availability information. Instructors can also add their own questions to the survey if desired. Once the data are collected, instructors decide which criteria will be used to create the teams and then assign weights to each of the criterion. Team Maker then uses the weights in an algorithm to create the teams.  Instructors are free to adjust the teams, if necessary, to their satisfaction. Once the teams are finalized, the instructor releases the results to students, who are provided with their team members’ names, email addresses, and a schedule matrix showing member availability.

‘Peer Evaluation,’ the other core component of CATME, is used by students to evaluate their teammates’ performance as well as their own.  The web-based ratings page is presented on one screen, making it easy to fill out and submit results. Students select from a set of behaviors which most closely describes themselves and their peers. There is also a place where students can include confidential comments which are only seen by the instructor.  Once completed, instructors can decide when to release the evaluation results to students. Peer ratings appear anonymous to students but are identified for instructors.

Another tool included in CATEME is the ‘Rater Calibration’ tool, which helps train students in the peer evaluation process. Students are asked to rate a series of fictional team members and then receive feedback about their ratings. Other tools include the ‘Student Team Training’ tool, designed to help students recognize effective team behaviors, and the ‘Meeting Support’ tool, which provides templates that students can use to plan and organize meetings, such as writing a team charter, taking minutes, etc.

To view a video demo of CATME and learn more about the product, visit the CATME website. Instructors interested in using CATME can go to https://www.catme.org/login/request to register for an account.

Amy Brusini, Course Management Training Specialist Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: CATME logo from http://info.catme.org/

Creating Rubrics

Red sharpie-type marker reading "Rubrics Guiding Graders: Good Point" with an A+ marked below

Red Rubric Marker

Instructors have many tasks to perform during the semester. Among those is grading, which can be subjective and unstructured. Time spent constructing grading rubrics while developing assignments benefits all parties involved with the course: students, teaching assistants and instructors alike. Sometimes referred to as a grading schema or matrix, a rubric is a tool for assessing student knowledge and providing constructive feedback. Rubrics are comprised of a list of skills or qualities students must demonstrate in completing an assignment, each with a rating criterion for evaluating the student’s performance. Rubrics bring clarity and consistency to the grading process and make grading more efficient.

Rubrics can be established for a variety of assignments such as essays, papers, lab observations, science posters, presentations, etc. Regardless of the discipline, every assignment contains elements that address an important skill or quality. The rubric helps bring focus to those elements and serves as a guide for consistent grading that can be used from year to year.

Whether used in a large survey course or a small upper-level seminar, rubrics benefit both students and instructors. The most obvious benefit is the production of a structured, consistent guideline for assigning grades. With clearly established criteria, there is less concern about subjective evaluation. Once created, a rubric can be used every time to normalize grading across sections or semesters. When the rubric for an assignment is shared with teaching assistants, it provides guidance on how to translate the instructor’s expectations for evaluating student submissions consistently. The rubric makes it easier for teaching assistants to give constructive feedback to students. In addition, the instructor can supply pre-constructed comments for uniformity in grading.

Some instructors supply copies of the grading rubric to their students so they can use it as a guide for completing their assignments. This can also reduce grade disputes. When discussing grades with students, a rubric acts as a reminder of important aspects of the assignment and how each are evaluated.

Below are basic elements of rubrics, with two types to consider.

I. Anatomy of a rubric

All rubrics have three elements: the objective, its criteria, and the evaluation scores.

Learning Objective
Before creating a rubric, it is important to determine learning objectives for the assignment. What you expect your students to learn will be the foundation for the criteria you establish for assessing their performance. As you are considering the criteria or writing the assignment, you may revise the learning objectives or adjust the significance of the objective within the assignment. This iteration can help you hone in on what is the most important aspect of the assignment, choose the appropriate criteria, and determine how to weigh the scoring.

Criteria
When writing the criteria (i.e., evaluation descriptors), start by describing the highest exemplary result for the objective, the lowest that is still acceptable for credit, and what would be considered unacceptable. You can express variations between the highest and the lowest if desired. Be concise by using explicit verbs that relate directly to the quality or skill that demonstrates student competency. There are lists of verbs associated with cognitive categories found in Bloom’s taxonomy (Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Evaluation, Analysis, and Synthesis). These lists express the qualities and skills required to achieve knowledge, comprehension or critical thinking (Google “verbs for Bloom’s Taxonomy”).

Evaluation Score
The evaluation score for the criterion can use any schema as long as it is clear how it equates to a total grade. Keep in mind that the scores for objectives can be weighted differently so that you can emphasize the skills and qualities that have the most significance to the learning objectives.

II. Types of rubrics

There are two main types of rubrics: holistic (simplistic) and analytical (detailed).

Selecting your rubric type depends on how multi-faceted the tasks are and whether or not the skill requires a high degree of proficiency on the part of the student.

Holistic rubric
A holistic rubric contains broad objectives and lists evaluation scores, each with an overall criterion summary that encompasses multiple skills or qualities of the objective. This approach is more simplistic and relies on generalizations when writing the criteria.

The criterion descriptions can list the skills or qualities as separate bullets to make it easier for a grader to see what makes up an evaluation score. Below is an example of a holistic rubric for a simple writing assignment.

Table showing an example of a holistic rubric

Analytical rubric
An analytical rubric provides a list of detailed learning objectives, each with its own rating scheme that corresponds to a specific skill or quality to be evaluated using the criterion. Analytical rubrics provide scoring for individual aspects of a learning objective, but they usually require more time to create. When using analytical rubrics, it may be necessary to consider weighing the score using a different scoring scale or score multipliers for the learning objectives. Below is an example of an analytical rubric for a chemistry lab that uses multipliers.

Table showing an example of an analytical rubric

It is beneficial to view rubrics for similar courses to get an idea how others evaluate their course work. A keyword search for “grading rubrics” in a web search engine like Google will return many useful examples. Both Blackboard and Turnitin have tools for creating grading rubrics for a variety of course assignments.

Louise Pasternack
Teaching Professor, Chemistry, JHU

Louise Pasternack earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from Johns Hopkins. Prior to returning to JHU as a senior lecturer, Louise Pasternack was a research scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory. She has been teaching introductory chemistry laboratory at JHU since 2001 and has taught more than 7000 students with the help of more than 250 teaching assistants. She became a teaching professor at Hopkins in 2013.

Image sources: © 2014 Reid Sczerba

Writing to Learn

I’ve been touting the CIRTL (Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning) MOOC, An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching, for several weeks now. The course is coming to an end, but I am mining the materials for content to summarize here at The Innovative Instructor in case you missed it.

Students doing group workLast week the unit on Writing to Learn was particularly compelling. Janet L. Littrell, Ed.D, the Director of Distance Learning and Associate Director of the Engineering Education Research Center at the Swanson School of Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, taught the module. The material presented below is taken from the three videos Littrell produced.

The concept of writing to learn has been around since the 1970s, but has gained traction again more recently. The concept is to view writing as part of the learning process, not solely for the purpose of communicating information, but also as a reflective practice to increase student understanding, enhance learning, and provide instructors with feedback.

How does writing to learn differ from other writing students are asked to do as part of their coursework? Traditional writing assignments usually are done outside of class, are complete when turned in, are graded and returned to the students, and have the purpose of documenting students’ knowledge and comprehension.

Writing to learn assignments are often assigned and completed in class, are short, open-ended, may or may not be turned in, typically are not graded, and have the purpose of helping students think for themselves. Engagement is the goal, errors are ok. The idea is that students are encouraged to explore, question, develop their ideas, and/or reflect on their experiences. A writing to learn assignment is often a jumping-off point; it marks a beginning of a thought process rather than an end product. This type of writing is often referred to as low-stakes writing.

The goal of low stakes writing is to turn students into active learners, to help them find their own voices, and to focus on thoughts and ideas rather than on a formal writing structure. Have your students do smaller, more frequent writing assignments that are not graded. For example, have students keep a journal or learning log to document their ideas, thoughts, reactions, and to comment on class discussions, labs, readings and other assignments. At the beginning of class give students 5 minutes to free-write on a specified topic as a way of helping them gather their thoughts for a discussion. Take a minute or two at the end of class for students to write questions or comments they have on the day’s lecture or discussion. Or, if you sense that students may not be understanding what you are teaching, you can ask for mid-lecture feedback. Although writing to learn assignments are not usually graded, in these last two cases, where the responses provide formative assessment, the instructor should collect and read through them. In other cases, there might be a check plus/check minus system for completion of a writing assignment, with points that accumulate for credit over the course of the semester. You might also consider peer review for a writing to learn assignment.

Using low stakes writing or writing to learn assignments in your classes does not preclude having students write in more traditional ways. You should consider your learning objectives and assign writing accordingly. Consider, however, that the more students write, the better writers they will become. Low stakes writing helps them to understand that putting their thoughts on paper is part of a larger scholarly process involving inquiry, analysis, and critical thinking.

For more on writing to learn see these resources and examples:

You can also Google “writing to learn” for more on the subject.

Finally, hot off the press is a report on a multi-year research study of 2,101 writing assignments across 100 higher ed institutions undertaken by Dan Melzer, Associate Professor of English at California State University at Sacramento: Assignments across the Curriculum: A National Study of College Writing, University Press of Colorado, 2014. This is worth taking a look at as you think about what it means to write in specific disciplines and why you might want to integrate writing to learn into your courses.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Microsoft Clip Art

Good Reads (and Views)

I’ve been collecting articles that might be of interest to readers of The Innovative Instructor. Here are several to add to your weekend reading list.

Stack of books in a library.Too late for this semester, but Syllabus Design for Dummies, by Josh Bolt, Contributing Editor, for the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Vitae career hub (a good service to be aware of), will give you a head start on preparing syllabi for your spring courses. The introductory guide covers writing expectations and objectives, assignments and grading, which policies and procedures to include, and how best to present your course schedule.  Vitae has also announced that it is building a syllabi database.

Another post from Vitae, The Best Teaching Resources on the Web by David Gooblar, PedagogyUnbound.com (another good resource), annotates a number of great sites for instructors, including blogs, non-profit sites, teaching and learning centers, and a list of top pedagogy journals courtesy of the ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries).

And take a look at this piece from Inside Higher Ed on The Future of MOOCs by Steven Mintz, the Executive Director of the University of Texas System’s Institute for Transformational Learning and a Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin.  Mintz describes ten challenges facing the next generation of MOOCs and offers possible solutions: “For the most part, however, MOOCs today have not evolved significantly in approach beyond those available in 2012. If next generation MOOCs are to appear, they will need to draw upon the experience of online retailers, journalism, online dating services, and social networking sites.”

And, speaking of MOOCS, it’s not too late to sign on to the CIRTL MOOC An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching as long as you are in it for the information rather than a certification. Week 5 starts on Monday, November 3, but participants have access to the materials for the entire course. There have been some great videos on topics such as learning objectives, assessment, peer instruction, inquiry based labs, learning through writing, and problem based learning.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Microsoft Clip Art

The Power of Prezi

Are you looking to spice up your presentations? Do you find PowerPoint and Keynote limiting? Maybe you should take a look at Prezi.

Prezi logo.What is Prezi? It’s a free, cloud-based, presentation tool that allows users to place content on an open canvas. Prezi uses a Zooming User Interface (ZUI) to enable navigation and

display of content. ZUI is a term used in computing to describe a graphical environment wherein users can change the size of a viewing area by enlarging or reducing it, navigate by panning across a surface, and zoom in and out of content.

The Prezi website describes the application as “…a virtual whiteboard that transforms presentations from monologues into conversations: enabling people to see, understand, and remember ideas.”

The application offers a cloud-based environment with a limited number of templates or the choice of using a blank canvas supporting a number of themes. There is a basic, easy-to-use interface for creating content. The templates include two different types of world maps, which would be ideal for geographic content. Another template is a subway map type schema that might be useful for demonstrating workflows.

Prezi takes a different approach to presentations. Instead of slides that advance in linear order, the Prezi canvas allows multiple approaches. Users can create a path to allow for a planned progression of the content or can zoom in to specific concepts as desired without a pre-programmed order. One of the great things about Prezi is the ability to zoom out to see the big picture–the layout of the entire canvas. This kind of visualization can be very powerful.

Images can be embedded and YouTubes videos can be inserted as well.  You can insert the following video file formats–FLV, MOV, WMV, F4V, MPG, MPEG, MP4, M4V, and 3GP. Other videos found online can be linked from the presentation. Sound can be an important component and Prezi supports voice-over narrations and music as a background track or applied to specific path steps. Supported audio files include: MP3, M4A, FLAC, WMA, WAV, OGG, AAC, MP4, and 3GP.

Some viewers find the ZUI to be distracting, even motion-sickness inducing. Careful use of the ZUI by the creator can minimize this consequence and turn it into an effective tool. Prezi presentations are inherently dynamic and this feature can be used with great advantage to keep audiences awake and engaged.

At the free end, all content that is created is public and users are given 100 MB of storage. For a small monthly fee, users have the option to keep presentations private and receive 500 MB of space. There is also a desktop version of the program available for an annual fee. This comes with additional editing features and unlimited storage space.

To get a better sense of what Prezi is and can do, take a look at some of the examples provided on the Prezi website.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Prezi Logo from http://prezi.com/

 

 

Resources for Multimedia Creation

I’ve been compiling a list of resources for creating multimedia for faculty to use either for teaching or in thinking about tools students could use for course assignments or projects. Many of these have how-to videos on the application websites making getting started an easy task. Most have a free-to-use option, although premium features may be fee-based. You might want to check a previous Innovative Instructor post on Multimedia Assignments. If you have a favorite application for multimedia making, please share with us in the comments.

Image showing icon-style examples of text, audio, still images, animation, video and interactivity.Animations

Powtoon: Free software for creating animated videos and presentations. [http://www.powtoon.com/]

Pixton: Online comic creator. [http://www.pixton.com/]

Audio

Audacity: Audacity is a free, open source, cross-platform software for recording and editing sounds. Audacity is available for Windows, Mac, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems. [http://audacity.sourceforge.net/]

Blogs, Websites, Wikis

Blogger: Google’s blogging application. Users can select templates and customize them, or create their own templates using CSS. [https://www.blogger.com]

Google Sites: Sites is Google’s wiki- and website-creation tool. Facilitates collaboration and team-based site creation. [https://sites.google.com/]

Tumblr: Tumblr is both a blogging and a social media application. A dashboard interface makes creating multimedia-rich blog posts easy. [https://www.tumblr.com/]

WordPress: WordPress is a free and open source blogging and website creation application. You can host your own WordPress instance or use their free hosting service.  Upgrades are available. Easy to use with hundreds of themes to choose from. [https://wordpress.com/]

Collections/Exhibitions

Omeka: Omeka is a free, flexible, and open source web-publishing platform for the display of library, museum, archives, and scholarly collections and exhibitions. [http://omeka.org/ to download for self-hosting and http://www.omeka.net/ for online hosting options]

Padlet: A web-based application that gives you a “wall” (think of it as a multimedia bulletin board) that you can drag and drop content onto in service of any number of pedagogical objectives including exhibits, timelines, and posters. [http://padlet.com/]

Pinterest: This social media tool can be used for pedagogical good. Think of it as a series of bulletin boards on which you or your students can assemble and share ideas for projects or create virtual collections and exhibits. [http://www.pinterest.com/]

Mapping

Google Maps: With Google Maps Application Programming Interface (API) users can expand, customize, and embed maps and mapping tools into their websites. This includes combining Flickr (the photo sharing website) content with maps. These work well with Google Sites and Google Docs. [https://developers.google.com/maps/]

Online Posters

Glogster: Originally a social network for teenagers that allowed users to create (for free) interactive posters called glogs, Glogster has now expanded to a full online learning platform providing educational content and tools for creation at different price points. There is still a free version for educators that allows for adding up to 10 students. You can mix text, audio, video, images, graphics and more to create professional-looking posters. [http://edu.glogster.com/]

Padlet: A web-based application that gives you a “wall” (think of it as a multimedia bulletin board) that you can drag and drop content onto in service of any number of pedagogical objectives including exhibits, timelines, and posters. [http://padlet.com/]

Presentations

Prezi: Prezi is a cloud-based presentation software tool. A zooming interface allows users to move in and out from one concept to another. Good for both linear and non-linear presentations. [http://prezi.com/]

Screen Capture Recording

Screencast-o-matic: Free one-click screen capture recording on Windows or Mac computers with no installation. http://www.screencast-o-matic.com/

Timelines

Padlet: A web-based application that gives you a “wall” (think of it as a multimedia bulletin board) that you can drag and drop content onto in service of any number of pedagogical objectives including exhibits, timelines, and posters. [http://padlet.com/]

Timeline JS: TimelineJS is an open-source tool that enables you to build visually-rich interactive timelines. [http://timeline.knightlab.com/]

Video

Freemake Video Converter: Free application that converts video to AVI, MP4, WMV, MKV, FLV, 3GP, MPEG, DVD, Blu-ray, MP3, iPod, iPhone, iPad, PSP, Android, Nokia, Samsung, BlackBerry. [http://www.freemake.com/]

Freemake Video Downloader: Download video free from YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, 10,000+ video sites. [http://www.freemake.com/]

iMovie: iMovie is a proprietary video editing software application sold by Apple Inc. for the Mac and iOS devices. Users can create movies by editing photos and video clips, adding titles, music, and effects, including basic color correction and video enhancement tools and transitions such as fades and slides. [https://www.apple.com/mac/imovie/]

PowerPoint: PowerPoint features such as timed animations and transitions, voice-over recording, audio and video insertion, and the ability to save a presentation in a video file format make it a platform for easy video creation. Check YouTube for how-to videos.

WeVideo: WeVideo is an online video creation platform for video editing, collaboration, and sharing across any device. It is easy to use, cross-platform, cloud hosted, with sophisticated editing and enhancement tools. There is a free version and upgrades are inexpensive. [https://www.wevideo.com/]

Windows Movie Maker: A free video editing application from Microsoft, Windows Movie Maker offers the ability to create, edit and publish videos. Users can combine still images and video clips, sound tracks and voice recordings with themes and special effects to create movies. [http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-live/movie-maker]

Video Annotation

Zaption: Students, teachers, and trainers use Zaption to create high-quality, engaging video lessons. Add images, text, and questions to any online video, creating interactive lessons that meet your students’ needs. [https://www.zaption.com/]

Visualizations

Silk: Silk is an online data visualization application. Each Silk contains data on a specific topic. The visualizations are interactive. You can upload a spreadsheet or create one on the site. A number of options, including charts, graphs, maps, and other data displays are available. [https://www.silk.co]

 

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

Preparing Future Faculty: Writing a Philosophy of Teaching Statement

Painting of hand on green background. Hand has words painted in black on it: share, create, explore, assist...If you are a graduate student intending to enter the professoriate, it is quite likely that you will be asked to submit a Philosophy of Teaching Statement as part of your application materials for any academic position that includes instruction. In the current arid environment of available jobs in the higher education academic market, the teaching statement has taken on increased scrutiny, as hundreds of applicants vie for each offered position. Although some may decry the increasing number of application requirements, you should be prepared to produce a statement that will make you a competitive candidate. Fortunately, there are a number of resources and examples to help you with this task.

First, what exactly is a Philosophy of Teaching Statement? The University Center for the Advancement of Teaching at Ohio State University describes the teaching statement as “a narrative that includes your conception of teaching and learning, description of how you teach, and justification for why you teach that way. This comprehensive how-to guide suggests a length of 1-2 pages written in the present tense that avoids technical terms and expresses your own philosophy. Examples from a range of disciplines are included, as well as an the in-depth Guidance on Writing a Philosophy of Teaching Statement. There are links to other Teaching and Learning Center sites with their recommendations, and a list of useful references.

One of the OSU UCAT links goes to the Iowa State University Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. This site offers a video interview with Susan Yager, Associate Professor in English and Faculty Director of the Iowa State University Honors Program and frequent lecturer in the Preparing Future Faculty program.  She discusses why the teaching philosophy statement is important, what the important components are, and offers strategies for getting started. Elsewhere on the ISU CELT site, a guide covers four primary questions to be answered: To what end? By what means? To what degree? And, Why?

Another perspective on the exercise comes from Philosophy of Teaching Statements: Examples and Tips on How to Write a Teaching Philosophy Statement, a Faculty Focus Special Report, Magna Publications, May, 2009. This publication “is designed to take the mystery out of writing teaching philosophy statements, and includes both examples and how-to articles written by educators from various disciplines and at various stages of their professional careers. Some of the articles you will find in the report include: • How to Write a Philosophy of Teaching and Learning Statement • A Teaching Philosophy Built on Knowledge, Critical Thinking and Curiosity • My Teaching Philosophy: A Dynamic Interaction Between Pedagogy and Personality • Writing the “Syllabus Version” of Your Philosophy of Teaching • My Philosophy of Teaching: Make Learning Fun.”

Writing a Philosophy of Teaching Statement might not be high on your list of exciting activities, but with these resources you’ll be able to meet the challenge well armed.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image source: Share and Explore by Denise Carbonell https://www.flickr.com/photos/denisecarbonell/4464982807/in/set-72157623709556546

Preparing Future Faculty: TA Training

Our last post announced a Coursera MOOC starting on October 6th: An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching, offered by the CIRTL Network. This post will look at an earlier moment in graduate student preparation for the professoriate – teaching assistantships.

Here at Johns Hopkins, the Center for Educational Resources offers a number of opportunities for graduate students to get the basics for fulfilling their teaching roles under a TA training program called the Teaching Assistant Training Institute.  “The Teaching Assistant Training Institute provides formal training for graduate students to assist them in preparing for their teaching assignments both here at Johns Hopkins and for their future academic careers. The program consists of a half-day orientation session for new TAs as well as workshops throughout the year for all graduate students. There is also a formal course to prepare graduate students for academic teaching.”

Although the face-to-face training is open only to our JHU graduate students, several of the resources are available to the public, including our Teaching Assistant Training Manual. While some of the content is Hopkins specific, there is quite a bit of material that will be useful to anyone in a TA role. There are also videos (scroll to the bottom of the page) that deal with topics such as preparing for the first day, leading labs and evaluating writing assignments. Other videos look at TA – student interactions and suggest ways of dealing with common issues such as grade complaints.

If you are a graduate student or faculty member with graduate students at another institution, there is a good chance that there is some preparation for TAs or future faculty available. A quick way to find out is to Google “teaching assistant @your institution’s abbreviation.edu” (e.g., @jhu.edu). If your teaching assistants go by another term, substitute that term in the search.

Book Jacket First Day to Final Grade: A Graduate Student’s Guide to TeachingFor all graduate student teaching assistants and teachers, there is a terrific resource I want to recommend. Anne Curzan and Lisa Damour, who were, once upon a time, graduate students at the University of Michigan, have written a comprehensive guide for graduate student teachers – First Day to Final Grade: A Graduate Student’s Guide to Teaching [University of Michigan Press, 2009]. From the book jacket: “First Day to Final Grade: A Graduate Student’s Guide to Teaching is designed to help new graduate student teaching assistants navigate the challenges of teaching undergraduates. Both a quick reference tool and a fluid read, the book focuses on the “how tos,” such as setting up a lesson plan, running a discussion, and grading, as well as issues specific to the teaching assistant’s unique role as both student and teacher.”  Although there are many excellent guides to teaching at the university level, a number of which are cited in this book’s comprehensive bibliographies found at the end of each chapter, the focus on the role of the graduate student teacher is what makes this unique.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image source: Book Jacket First Day to Final Grade: A Graduate Student’s Guide to Teaching
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41JdGDjDuEL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

 

 

 

Preparing Future Faculty: An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching

Our next couple of posts will address the preparation of graduate students who plan to enter the professoriate. Many universities offer training and other resources to prepare future faculty, and we’ll cover some publicly available options for those who are looking for additional opportunities for themselves for their students.

Screenshot of Coursera course description page for An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching.First up: a seven-week long MOOC, starting on October 6th: An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching. This course is offered by the CIRTL Network. Funded by the National Foundation for Science, the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning is a consortium of 22 research universities whose mission “is to enhance excellence in undergraduate education through the development of a national faculty committed to implementing and advancing effective teaching practices for diverse learners as part of successful and varied professional careers.”

CIRTL embraces three core concepts, which it calls Pillars: Teaching-as-research, Learning Communities, and Learning-through-Diversity. Johns Hopkins is a CIRTL member, but even if your institution is not part of the consortium, there are resources on the CIRTL website that are available to all. The MOOC is open to everyone. Further, although CIRTL is specifically “committed to advancing the teaching of STEM disciplines in higher education,” much of the information it makes available is applicable to teaching in any field. Likewise, the MOOC, offered through Coursera, will “start by exploring a few key learning principles that apply in all teaching contexts.”  The syllabus notes topics such as Principles of Learning, Learning Objectives, Assessment of Learning, Lesson Planning, Inclusive Teaching, and Writing to Learn that provide foundations to good teaching for any subject.

The course description provides more detail:

This course will provide graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) who are planning college and university faculty careers with an introduction to evidence-based teaching practices. Participants will learn about effective teaching strategies and the research that supports them, and they will apply what they learn to the design of lessons and assignments they can use in future teaching opportunities. Those who complete the course will be more informed and confident teachers, equipped for greater success in the undergraduate classroom.

You can watch the intro video as well.  Then, sign up and start preparing yourself for your first teaching assignment.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image source: Screen shot https://www.coursera.org/course/stemteaching

 

 

 

A 100-year-old Lesson in New Media: The Challenges and Opportunities of Teaching in the New Technology Language

Engagement and interactivity are teaching buzzwords, but they are not new concepts. Technological engagement and interactivity is how our students relate to the world, but how do we bring this to our classrooms? In her classic 1912 study, Romiett Stevens found that 80% of class time was spent on teacher questions and student responses. Perhaps part of the future of instruction can be rooted in the past.

YouTube logoThe truth about Romiett Stevens is that most of those early teachers’ questions focused on recall of facts versus questions that prompted thought. Does recall still have a place in education? Of course. Every discipline has its base principles and concepts, yet we must also teach critical thought and empower our students to learn by doing.

We need to involve students not only for their own deeper learning, but also for their knowledge and understanding of new technology. They’re living it. Many of us may still be reading about it, but true understanding only comes from use. I saw a response on Yahoo! Answers by a retired math teacher who said, “Asking a question is a sign of intelligence not stupidity.” So let us ask ourselves some questions about how we are instructing our students and preparing them for the 21st century.

We now have computers, projectors and Internet access in the classroom, but are we using them and how? When I first taught a Law & Ethics class I received a student comment that said, “Use more YouTube.” It would have been easy to dismiss that comment with rationalizations about the way I had to learn or that I didn’t have time to find relevant examples or dedicate classroom time to funny cat videos. Yet today I use YouTube a lot. YouTube, Facebook and Twitter and are no longer the future. They are how our students communicate.

How did I start using YouTube? One example is a video of Phil Donahue interviewing Ayn Rand to kick off an activity where students are assigned a viewpoint and have to make arguments for or against her ethical perspective. What better way to learn about a moral philosophy than to hear it directly from the philosopher’s mouth?

I also used to spend most of my time lecturing. I delivered a lot of information followed up by, “Does anyone have any questions?” Now I try to involve the student’s perspective and practice as much as possible. But engagement and interactivity takes time. I had to give up content and the false expectation that I can and should cover everything. My PowerPoints today have roughly 30% fewer slides than when I first started teaching. And those remaining slides contain less content, more examples (case studies) and more questions (application exercises).

What does this look like? A Federal Trade Commission law or regulation I’ve introduced comes to life with a local news report video about the corporate sponsorship of new fitness equipment in a public park. Are the signs on the equipment considered advertising? Do they go against the city ordinance that forbids it? I divide students and ask them to argue for their assigned point of view: the corporation, the city, the protesting citizen group. I intervene to bring the discussion back to the law. Forced perspectives helps them learn how to see all sides of an issue and make a better argument.

I also try to listen more. Are you okay with silence? Ask a question and wait. Wait longer. In some courses, I assign topics related to what we will be discussing in class and let student groups present the concept and provide an example for the first 5 to 10 minutes of class. I and the other students ask questions and they have to defend what they’ve presented. We get new student relevant examples every class and the students feel empowered to learn on their own.

Not all interaction has to take place in person. In my Social Media Marketing course (scroll to 660.453 for description), I have students continue our in class discussion virtually throughout the week via a course hashtag on Twitter. How? By asking them to respond to questions related to a core principle. They learn by doing and bring more new, relevant information to the course. Plus, each student participates equally – something we don’t always have time for in class.

Technology is changing so quickly it can be overwhelming. The good news is that the way to keep up is to go back to something teachers were doing over a hundred years ago: ask more questions. What are ways you are bringing engagement and new technology into your courses?

Keith A Quesenberry, Lecturer
Center for Leadership Education
Johns Hopkins University

Image source: YouTube logo by HernandoJoseAJ via Wikimedia Commons
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/93/Solid_color_You_Tube_logo.png