Managing Students’ Emotions while Facilitating Active, Peer-to-Peer and Experiential Learning in the Class

silhouette  of a human torso with heart and brain. How do you deal with disengaged students in your class? Those students can easily be discounted as people who “just don’t get it.” We can label them as “dysfunctional” and be comforted thinking that we can’t make every student happy in our classes. But what if your assumption is that your responsibility is to create a learning environment where transformations – from bored to engaged –can happen? What if the actual content you are teaching, and the learning you are hoping to achieve, has an emotional component?

Key questions comes to mind:

  1. Does learning involve both cognitive and affective/emotional work?
  2. How do we do this affective work and how do we balance the need for dealing with it in a way that doesn’t make the class a “shrink” session?
  3. If we agree that facilitating experiential learning is more effective than lecturing in the class, how do we develop acceptance in instructors and students of the feelings that arise during the learning process?
  4. What conditions can make the work of managing emotions in the class easier for facilitators and participants?

Does Learning involve both cognitive and emotional work?

Dualism, the idea that thinking and feeling are separated can be traced from Plato to Descartes, and from Kant to the Logical Positivists. Day-to-day life is permeated with expressions like “Don’t be so emotional!”, “Let’s leave emotions out of this discussion” or even using the word “passionate” to mean erratic and unpredictable, at least in Anglo Saxon cultures. The message is clear: emotions do not belong in a class.

Dualism has been proven to be false; cognition and emotion appear to be dynamic, interactive and interdependent. Research shows that emotion and cognition jointly contribute to the control of mental activities and behavior. Even in classes where a highly-technical subject matter is taught, the learning process is impaired when educators rely on a theory of learning that is exclusively “above the neck”. This makes emotions not-discussable, which in turn makes this decision itself not-discussable.  Thus the role of emotions during the learning process becomes a hidden process that plays a role never fully understood or leveraged for learning success. Learning does involve both the cognitive and the affective domains and educators can learn how to create the right mix.

As an adaptive leadership practitioner and experiential educator, I treasure the distinction between Ron Heifetz’s learning “above the neck” (the intellectual faculties, the home of logic and facts), and learning “below the neck” (the emotional faculties, the home of values, intuition and inner purpose). Heifetz’s great intuition is that leadership work – and that of educators – is about “managing the gradual process of easing people into an uncomfortable state of uncertainty, disorder, conflict, or chaos at a pace and level that does not overwhelm them yet takes them out of their comfort zones and mobilizes them to engage in addressing an adaptive challenge.”

How do we do this affective work and how do we balance the need for dealing with it in a way that doesn’t make the class a “shrink” session? Are emotions expressed in the class a sign of failure or success?

I see emotions as expressions of deeply held beliefs and our work of educators as getting in touch with this inner dimension in order to gain greater awareness. I can only do this work with emotions in class if I am able to explore and handle emotions myself. Exploring emotions during the adaptive change that deep learning is, I have found that the emotion of fear (e.g., fear of loss, fear of the unknown) has the greatest significance. Fear impairs our individual and collective capacity to learn by distracting us and diverting our energy into self-protection. We can deal with that fear head-on by encouraging our students and strengthening their motivational resilience. Dealing openly in the class to counter the idea that learning is only cognitive affair might be a start, as well as dealing with student’s expectations. Indeed students show up for a class with clear expectations:

They expect the work to be at a cognitive level as many individuals – emotionally intelligent in their personal lives – believe in the classroom they must be completely logical and remain emotionally unaffected by their experiences. This idea keeps students from discovering useful information and keeps them from crafting creative solutions.  They also expect the instructor will convey course content in a traditional way (often through a lecture consistent with their previous experiences).

As educators we can decide to keep the conversation at the “cognitive level”. But if we embrace learning as both cognitive and emotional we need to engage courageously with the following paradox:

  • If we meet learners’ expectations of a purely cognitive experience we do not serve them well especially in classes where the premise and purpose of the work is intentionally transformational and centered on personal growth.
  • If we disappoint learners’ expectations (and teach a kind of knowledge that is cognitive/emotional in nature and process) we may generate anxiety; and force our students to renegotiate the social contract with us as authority figures, a contract with which they are familiar and comfortable.

Expression of emotions are neither a sign of success nor a sign of failure, but I do know that classes where emotions are not expressed are more likely to be ineffective.

If we believe that experiential learning is more effective than lecturing because it mirrors more closely the real world, how do we develop acceptance of the feelings that arise during the learning process in both instructors and students?

While there may be no “right way” to manage this complex process as a facilitator, I have found from my personal experience that the following to be helpful:

  • Listening and speaking from the heart. Listening from the heart means understanding what others are feeling; speaking from the heart means expressing what I am feeling. This communicates the values at stake, the reasons that make it worthwhile for people to deal with their temporary discomfort and stay in the game. For example if I talk about something sad and feel the urge to cry, I do not end my class prematurely or walk out of the room: I allow myself to feel while also seeing my class through. By doing this, I let my students know that the situation is containable, that I can stay with the emotion and that they can, too.
  • Allowing for silence. Resisting the urge to fill the silence might be one of the most powerful ways to support students’ expression of their feelings. Marcia Reynolds, the author of “The Discomfort Zone” states “Silence is holding a space of care and trust as a person’s brain tries to make sense of what it is learning…You don’t want to interrupt when a person is processing a question you asked. Silence is more effective than trying to make someone feel better…If you quickly shift the person from feeling negative to positive, going away from the problem to what is possible…the person might feel ashamed for continuing to feel angry or frustrated during or after the conversation. His or her real needs remain unspoken.”
  • Asking myself “What person’s essential values/commitments has been so violated that it justifies these feelings?” I address this issue openly and encourage a sense of adventure and moderate risk-taking. I remind students that in their professional lives they will probably deal with issues that are confusing and unclear. I continue to issue several invitations that encourage the more controlled-minded individuals to “go with the flow, by “renting the ideas” rather than buying them to see where these ideas might lead them.
  • Being comfortable with conflict. I have no problem with a high range of emotions being expressed in the class. My belief is that the power of dialogue can get people far and that we are all better off when we learn with and from each other. Differences can become an exhilarating window into other worlds and ways of seeing the world.

In summary…

In summary, I hope you can see how the courage to be vulnerable and to embrace emotions in the class transforms the way we teach and the way we learn; and how important it is to model for our students the courage our cognitive as well as our emotional selves be seen. Vulnerability is the path if we want greater clarity in our purpose as leaders.

I have discovered that a learning process that allows for vulnerability both of instructor and students makes it easier to courageously seek our authentic purpose as teachers, learners and leaders.

We will do better in our work as educators when we decide that taking risks, braving uncertainty and opening ourselves up to emotional exposure are no longer weaknesses to be feared, rather crucial decisions that ultimately define the quality of our own learning journey, of our work and ultimately of who we are, for our students and especially for us.

For Further reading

  • Heifetz,R., Grashow,A., and Linsky,M., The Practice of Adaptive Leadership (HarvardBusinessPress,2009)
  • Nussbaum, M. “Upheaval of Emotions”
  • De Souza, Renner “Not Knowing”
  • Reynolds, M. “The Discomfort Zone”
  • Baldwin,C. ;Linnea,A. “The Circle Way. A leader in every chair”
  • De Mello, A. “Awareness”
  • Pianesi, A. “Journey to chaos and back: Unlearning in workplace training programs” The Systems Thinker
  • Web site: caseinpointmethod.com by Adriano Pianesi and Jill Hufnagel

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Adriano Pianesi is a leadership development consultant and principal of Leadersh1p.com. He teaches leadership experientially at the Carey Business School Johns Hopkins University, at the State Department, at the World Bank and at Microsoft. He has worked in the last 20 years in the private, nonprofit, government sector, and in international organizations. A passionate experiential educator, World Café host, and Adaptive Leadership enthusiast, Adriano can be reached at adriano@leadersh1p.com.

Image source: by Macie Hall remixed from “Man shadow – upper” by Mikael Häggström – File:Upper body front.png. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Man_shadow_-_upper.png#/media/File:Man_shadow_-_upper.png and Pixabay.com

Memrise: Making Memorization Fun

Memrise logoRote memorization as a learning strategy has fallen out of favor in recent years, for good reason. When students cram by memorizing facts for an exam, those memories are often fleeting. Long term memory is built differently. Yet a certain amount of memorization of facts is essential to the foundation of any discipline. There can be multiple layers to the need for these foundational facts in a course. In an introductory class, it is expected that students will learn these facts, but as an instructor you may not want to have them spend valuable class time to this end. At higher levels of course work, students may need to do remedial work to brush up on the facts or to learn from scratch on their own. How can you help students with learning the facts for your course?

Enter Memrise, “…an online learning community where one can learn almost anything in the world, entirely for free! Through just the right mix of science, fun and community, learning on Memrise is speedy, enjoyable and lasts.” Moreover, the Memrise app makes it easy for your students to learn on the go using their smartphones. [See: Apple App StoreGoogle Play Store]

Memrise offers existing courses in languages (including vocabulary, grammar, and culture), arts, literature, math, science, the natural word, history, geography, computers, engineering, law, health and medicine, business and finance, prepping for specific standardized tests, and more. If you don’t find a course that meets your requirements, you can create your own.

Memrise “…help[s] you form vivid, sensory memories. We test you continuously, always making sure to give your brain just the right workout. We remind you of what you’ve learned at scientifically optimized times so your memories are always growing stronger, and never forgotten.” Combining this with a gamification element makes the process fun. Students can use Memrise on their own, or there is also a group function that allows students to learn together, which can be created by an instructor or by students. “The group function is beneficial, because the students/group members can compete against each other on the Leaderboards. Also the members can see their overall score all together. This way the group creator/teacher can keep track of the members’ progress and learning easily.”

As a personal endorsement, back in August I tested Memrise by using a course to learn the Greek alphabet. I took two days to go through the process, then put it aside. Three months later, my retention is 100%. Results may vary, but it’s an app worth looking into when you need your students to do some memorizing.

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Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image source: Memrise logo

Do Your Students Understand the Assignment?

An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education caught my attention this past week: The Unwritten Rules of College by Dan Berrett (September 21, 2015), profiled art history professor Mary-Ann Winkelmes and her quest to help students learn how to learn.

Black and white line drawing of the upper torso of a young male in a thinking pose. Two question marks are on either side of his head.Winkelmes, the former director of Harvard’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, has also trained faculty in teaching at the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and, currently, at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas where she is principal investigator of  Transparency in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. This project seeks “to improve higher education teaching and learning experiences for faculty and students through two main activities:

  • promoting students’ conscious understanding of how they learn, and
  • enabling faculty to gather, share and promptly benefit from current data about students’ learning by coordinating their efforts across disciplines, institutions and countries.

A primary focus for Winkelmes has been reaching out to students who are first generation college students or otherwise may not understand what she calls “the secret, unwritten rules of how to succeed in college.” [See: Winkelmes, Mary-Ann. “Equity of Access and Equity of Experience in Higher Education.” National Teaching and Learning Forum, 24, 2 (February 2015), 1-4.] “As an increasingly broad and diverse cross section of students enters higher education, knowing those rules matters more than ever. Without them, students stumble. They might miss the point of a paper, drift during discussions, or feel overwhelmed or aimless. But all students can thrive, Ms. Winkelmes says, if the tacit curriculum is made plain.”

Winkelmes’ findings from the Transparency in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education project point to giving assignments in a transparent manner as having a “significant effect on students.” Faculty involved in the project considered three questions when creating assignments: the task, the purpose, and the criteria.

Defining the task means that the students are told exactly they are to do. Students should also know the purpose of the assignment. Why are they being asked to do this and what is the instructor’s goal? What are the criteria that will be used to evaluate the work that the students submit?

The article provides details on how several faculty took assignments they had used in the past, reviewed them using the three questions, and then implemented improved versions of the assignments in their classes. While some faculty have pushed back on the process, others have found it to be valuable, saying that clarifying the assignment at the outset helps save time in the long run.

This relatively easy technique has proved to have a big impact. “In the classroom, knowing the task, purpose, and criteria can help motivate students and make their courses relevant. In other areas, the information can help them navigate an intimidating system. To Ms. Winkelmes, the protocol helps students meet higher expectations of rigor, which, in turn, can ensure equity in educational quality.”

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Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Pixabay.com

The CIRTL MOOC is Back!

Last fall I blogged several times about the CIRTL MOOC. CIRTL—the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning—is an NFS funded consortium of 21 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 promotes three core ideas: Teaching-as-Research, Learning Community, and Learning-through-Diversity.

Screenshot of Coursera course description page for An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching.CIRTL offers a number of courses, some of which are open to participation to those who are not in CIRTL member institutions. Last fall (2014), An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching, developed by CIRTL member faculty at Vanderbilt University, Michigan State University, Boston University and University of Wisconsin-Madison, was launched. You can see this description on the CIRTL website:

  • Instructors: Faculty and staff from across the CIRTL Network.
  • Duration of course: September 28, 2015 – November 20, 2015
  • Format: MOOC on Coursera (https://www.coursera.org/)
  • Suggested Credits: Coursera version is noncredit; local MOOC-centered learning communities may offer credit locally.
  • Open to: Early or advanced graduate students, post docs, academic staff and faculty
  • Technology Requirements: internet access
  • Accessibility: We strive to be inclusive of anyone interested in participating in our activities, programs, and courses. If you have specific accessibility needs, please let us know in advance so that we may make the necessary accommodations.

The Coursera website description adds: “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.”

I took the course last fall and found it to have great videos on topics such as learning objectives, assessment, peer instruction, inquiry based labs, learning through writing, and problem based learning. My assessment is that it is not just appropriate for STEM instructors; anyone teaching at the higher education level could benefit from the course content.

Here are links to last year’s The Innovative Instructor blog posts inspired by the course content:

One thing that I really like about MOOCs is that if you are not taking one for credit or certification, you can go at your own pace, take what you need and skip over content that is not relevant. Moreover, in this case, you will continue to have access to course materials after the MOOC has finished. While you lose the benefit of participation in discussion threads and getting feedback on assignments, being able to view the videos and readings has value.

Whether you are STEM or STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics), just starting out in your teaching career or a seasoned professional looking for some new ideas, sign up for An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching.

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Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

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

Back to School

It’s freshman move-in day on our campus, signaling the end of summer and the start of classes. Today’s post offers some resources for instructors as the semester begins.

Empty lecture hall, tiered with wooden seats.The Chronicle of Higher Education’s ProfHacker Blog post from August 13, 2015 by Natalie Houston (associate professor of English, University of Houston), From the Archives: Getting Ready for the New Semester, offers tips on getting ready to teach. Whether you are new to the profession or a practiced professor, there are links to articles with suggestions on learning student names, being prepared for medical emergencies in class, and routines to help you get organized.

In the The First Day of Class: A Once-a-Semester Opportunity (Teaching Professor Blog August 19, 2015), Maryellen Weimer, (professor emerita, Penn State Berks) writes, “There’s only one first day of class. Here are some ideas for taking advantage of opportunities that are not available in the same way on any other day of the course.” She suggests using the opportunity to tell students why the course is important, why you are committed to teaching it, why they should be committed to learning the material. Take the time to learn about your students and begin building relationships with them. “[G]et students connected with each other and the course content.”

Students often complain of poor presentation methods in lectures where instructors use PowerPoint (or other presentation software applications). A common mistake is to attempt to make your slides serve two purposes by being both lecture notes and lecture slides. This leads to too much text on the slides and reading from the slide. Both practices lead to student inattention. Bryan Alexander, in Giving a great presentation: notes on using PowerPoint, (July 27, 2015) tell us, “Your argument…is the essential thing.  The slides enhance your essential argument.  They amplify it and render it easier to understand. Make and use slides accordingly.” While the focus of the article is on presentations in general, there are some good things to consider for your use of presentation software in teaching!

Thinking about flipping your course? Check out Robert Talbert’s post Four things I wish I’d known about the flipped classroom (June 5, 2014), from his blog Casting Out Nines.

Or, perhaps you are considering implementing active learning strategies in your classroom. A recent article in Nature, Why we are teaching science wrong, and how to make it right (July 15, 2015) by M. Mitchell Waldrop, examines the problem of persistence in undergraduate STEM education. “Active problem-solving confers a deeper understanding of science than does a standard lecture. But some university lecturers are reluctant to change tack.” Waldrop stresses the importance of active learning, while analyzing the factors and challenges that contribute to slow adoption. For specific active learning strategies, see Cornell’s Center for Teaching Excellence website page on Active Learning. If you are going to be using an active learning classroom, the University of Minnesota’s Center for Education Innovation offers advice.

New to teaching or looking to brush up on your pedagogical skills? The Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) is re-offering the 8 week-long MOOC: An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching, starting September 28 and running until November 19, 2015. Having taken the course last year, I highly recommend signing up. Here’s the description from Coursera:

“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.”

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Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Pixabay.com

The Value of Gaming in Higher Education

A recent article in the Educause Review might be of interest to readers thinking about the value of gaming in the curriculum. [See also The Innovative Instructor May 13, 2014 post What is Gamification and Why Use It in Teaching?] Taking Serious Games Seriously in Education by Kristen Dicerbo, July 20, 2015, examines the value that games provide: “Games can serve as a means of not just developing domain-specific knowledge and skills but also identity and values key to professional functioning. The data from games enable understanding how students approach and solve problems, as well as estimating their progress on a learning trajectory.”

Video game controller on a table, back-lit.DiCerbo, Principal Research Scientist at Pearson’s Center for Learning Science & Technology, notes that while educational gamification first focused on engaging students in the curriculum, it was “…found that games align themselves well with theories of learning in many other ways.” The use of games in the classroom can provide “…tighter ties to research-based learning progressions, better links to elements of professionalization, and better design for assessment.”

The article highlights two games, Mars Generation One: Argubot Academy (designed for middle and high school students) and Nephrotex (17-19 year olds). Argubot Academy intends “to teach and assess skills of argumentation, including identifying evidence of different types, matching claims to evidence to form arguments, and evaluating claim and evidence links in others’ arguments.” Nephrotex provides “a semester-long experience in which players assume roles as interns in a fictitious bioengineering firm.” The games archive data while being used so that faculty and students can receive relevant progress reports.

The two games exemplify two approaches. The first is gamification that helps students develop and hone basic skills needed for a course or discipline (the art of developing an argument in the case of Argubot Academy). The second is a simulation situation that enables students to gain a broader understanding of a particular domain. DiCerbo discusses these two approaches in the sections Games and Learning Progressions and Games and Professionalization. The latter can be particularly useful for freshmen new to a discipline who are lost in the weeds of foundation courses that may not appear have any direct application to the major they have chosen. DiCerbo cites evidence that situational games can provide students with a view of what work in the profession might entail and the impetus to persist through the introductory phase of core courses.

“Apart from learning skills and knowledge of a domain, becoming a professional in a given area involves developing an identity, for example as an engineer, a psychologist, or a biologist. Novices must come to understand the beliefs that people in a given profession hold and assimilate those into their own belief structures. Commercial games have long employed the concepts of identity, allowing players to build avatars, join guilds, and form teams, all around specific combinations of knowledge and skill. Instead of building identities as wizards, can we use games to build identities more applicable to the real world?”

The article also covers the assessment opportunities that games can offer. The possibility of “invisible assessment” that comes from analysis of student interaction with the game, and that doesn’t interrupt the learning is intriguing.

DiCerbo concludes with three questions instructors should ask about games:

  • What is the model of learning embodied in the game? What skills are needed for success in the game, and how are they sequenced in the game? Does that match known, research-based learning trajectories?
  • Can you clearly identify cognitive and non-cognitive skills and attributes targeted in the game?
  • Do reporting functions in the game link player actions to estimates of knowledge, skill, or ability?

Gaming has gained a lot of traction in the past few years. This article provides both evidence and incentive for you to think about how you might bring this pedagogical method “into play” in your classroom.

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Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Pixabay.com

Quick Tips: Guidelines for Inquiry-Based Project Work

Following last week’s post on definitions of inquiry-based learning, problem-based learning, case-based learning, and experiential learning, a colleague pointed me to a post from the Tomorrow’s Professor Mailing List that provides a rubric for team-based, inquiry-based work. The guidelines are taken from the book Teaching in Blended Learning Environments: Creating and Sustaining Communities of Inquiry by Norman D. Vaughan, Martha Cleveland-Innes, and D. Randy Garrison. [2013, Athabasca University Press]. A free PDF of the book is available.

Three students engaging in field work, taking soil measurements in agricultural setting.The display of the table with the rubric on the Tomorrow’s Professor site is difficult to read; a better version can be found here at the University of Regina’s Teaching Resources website.

The rubric covers eight dimensions to consider in inquiry-based project work: authenticity, academic rigor, assessment, beyond the school, use of digital technologies, connecting with experts, and elaborated communication. It provides a sound starting place for guiding your implementation of inquiry-based learning.

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Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Pixabay

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

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 add 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