2013 GSI Symposium Breakout Session 4: Student Engagement in Curriculum Development

A Report from the Trenches

We’re continuing with our reports from the JHU Gateway Sciences Initiative (GSI) 2nd Annual Symposium on Excellence in Teaching and Learning in the Sciences.  Next up is “Student Engagement in Curriculum Development: School of Medicine Medical Education Concentration” presented by Sarah Clever, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and her students Mark Fisher JHSoM ’14, Sara Fuhrhop, JHSoM ’14, Nikhil Jiwrajka, JHSoM ’15, and Eric Sankey, JHSoM ’15.

Please note that links to examples and explanations in the text below were added by CER staff and were not included in the breakout session presentation.

Dr. Clever identified physicians as having distinct roles as teachers as they interact with their peers, trainees, and patients. As well, graduates from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (JHSoM) often pursue careers in academic medicine. Specific training in medical education significantly enhances physicians’ skills as educators.

Based on an online needs assessment survey she conducted of 306 JHSoM students in June 2011 (86 responded), Dr. Clever felt that there was substantial student interest in the implementation of a medical education track including didactic teaching in medical education, hands-on curriculum design with a faculty mentor and evaluation of that curriculum, as well as presentation at a national meeting and or scholarly publication.

Nationally, clinician-educator tracks for residents and faculty are growing in popularity, but Student-as-Teacher programs for medical students are less common. The schools that have such programs include the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (Distinction in Medical Education), University of Rochester (Medical Education Pathway), University of Chicago (Medical Education Track), University of Texas at San Antonio (MD with Distinction in Medical Education Program), and Stanford (Foundation in Medical Education). These institutions provided inspiration in developing the JHSoM program, and the discussions with medical students from these institutions about the strengths and weaknesses of their programs were particularly helpful.

The JHSoM Medical Education Concentration (MEC) started with a pilot in the fall of 2011 (for JHSoM Class of 2014 students) and opened formally for application to JHSoM class of 2015 students in May (at JHU, student self- select into this option). There are 20 participants in the first year. The Medical Education Concentration students apply in the 2nd half of the first year.  The second year is spent in a fall seminar series and on developing a curriculum module.  This is done individually in conjunction with a faculty member. Year three, they implement and obtain feedback. In year four the module is implemented a second time.  By the end of the program, students will create an original teaching module in the clinical or preclinical curriculum; collaborate with a faculty mentor using evidence-supported curriculum development methods; and implement and evaluate their module and teaching performance. The overarching goal of the JHSoM program is to teach students critical curriculum design and teaching skills.

The fall seminar series is taught by JHU faculty and includes topics such as: adult learning theory, conducting a needs assessment, writing quality goals and objectives, choosing educational methods, technology in education, constructing an effective PowerPoint presentation, small group facilitation, eliciting, giving, and receiving feedback, and learner and curriculum evaluation methods.

Some of the pilot cohort teaching modules were:

  • Conducting a follow up visit with chronic disease patients in the Longitudinal Clerkship
  • Conducting a well-child visit with pediatric patients in the Longitudinal Clerkship
  • Developing oral presentation skills in the Longitudinal Clerkship
  • Incorporating inter-professional education modules into the Pediatrics Clerkship
  • Surgical skills education for first year medical students.

Refinements to the Medical Education Concentration in the second year have included some changes to the seminar series, integration with other SoM education initiatives, and improving MEC infrastructure (i.e., Blackboard components used for the MEC).

In the future, Dr. Clever hopes to develop a system to track students’ project progress, create a handbook for MEC leadership, work on pre-assessment for prospective participants, and to collaborate with similar programs at other institutions.

Dr. Clever’s presentation ended with these questions for discussion among the breakout session participants:

  1. How can student involvement in curriculum development benefit the Gateway Sciences?
  2. What are the implications of undergraduate student involvement in teaching and/or curriculum development for courses that are already well established?
  3. How can we better involve students in the learning process?

The discussion centered on transferring this experience to the Gateway Sciences Initiative.  Although participants did not feel that freshman and sophomore students would be able to effectively have a role in curriculum design, peer-teaching or developing focused instructional modules could help an upperclassman to gain a greater understanding of a concept or to understand its application to higher level courses.

The consensus was that these SoM medical education concentration students could be role models for pre-med students.  They also could provide insight to faculty teaching undergraduates about the skills needed in medical school (at least the JHU model).  Everyone agreed this was a session that showed how cross- University collaboration could benefit all involved.

For more on the development and implementation of the MEC program see Dr. Sarah Clever’s presentation for the Johns Hopkins Medicine Institute for Excellence in Education Grand Rounds, March 14, 2012: Learners to Educators: Development  and Implementation of a Medical Education Curriculum [JHED ID required].

Many thanks to Melissa West for providing The Innovative Instructor with the notes she took during this session.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Dr. Sarah Clever


2013 GSI Symposium Breakout Session 3: Flipping the Classroom

A Report from the Trenches

We’re continuing with our reports from the JHU Gateway Sciences Initiative (GSI) 2nd Annual Symposium on Excellence in Teaching and Learning in the Sciences. Next up is “Flipping the Classroom: How to Do It Conceptually and Technologically” presented by Michael Falk, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Material Sciences and Engineering  and Brian Cole, Senior Information Technology Specialist, Center for Educational Resources.

Please note that links to examples and explanations in the text below were added by CER staff and were not included in the breakout session presentation.

Instructor with students at computers

For the past several years Professor Michael Falk has “flipped” his course EN.510.202 –Computation and Programming for Materials Scientists and Engineers.  [See the recent Innovative Instructor post on Flipping Your Class.] The purpose of Falk’s class is to teach algorithm development and programming in the context of materials science and engineering.  The class size ranges between 20 and 30 students, and Professor Falk has one Teaching Assistant for the class.

Professor Falk outlined the logistics for the students taking the course. They are required to watch a video of a lecture-style presentation he has posted on his Blackboard course site, and then take a quiz on the content presented in the podcast, before coming to class. The quizzes ensure that the students will watch the lecture and are held accountable for the information presented. Once in class, Falk has the students engage in an interactive experience, such as writing a mini-program, based on the material from the presentation. He noted that he has not found making the podcasts difficult, but creating in-class active learning experiences for his students has been more challenging. He spends a great deal of time developing in-class exercises that will build cumulatively. He also wants students to be able to get enough from the classroom activity to continue work on their own.

For assessment purposes he has students take a survey at the beginning of the semester and at the end of the semester to determine learning gains. Preliminary data indicate that the class increases the ability of students to program, that students showed increased perception in their abilities, as well as an increased intention to use programming in the future.

Brian Cole discussed and demonstrated the technology behind the flipped classroom.  Falk uses the software application ClassSpot, which allows students to share their work on the classroom’s main projection screen, to edit common code during class.  Cole described using Audacity, Adobe Connect, Adobe Presenter, and QuickTime on Macs to create the video recordings.  He mentioned that a faculty member could also use an appropriate pre-recorded lecture from a trusted source. Falk uses ScreenFlow to make his presentations; however, Johns Hopkins does not have a license for this software. Adobe Captivate is another possibility. It is very powerful but has a steeper learning curve.

The follow questions were raised and answered during the session:

Q – Could this method be used to flip a few modules as opposed to the entire course?
A – Undergrads don’t like change, so it would probably be better to do the whole course.

Q – Can students watch the podcasts over and over?
A – Yes.

Q – Where is the textbook in all of this? Could you replace your podcasts with readings from a textbook?
A – There are reading assignments in addition to the videos. In my experience, students prefer a human face, a talking head, over reading a textbook.

Q – How do students reach you if class time is dedicated to working on problems?
A – I encourage students to use the class Blackboard discussion board. [Note: The flipped class structure  doesn’t prevent students from talking to the faculty member, and Falk also has office hours.]

Q – Did you scale back student work [outside of class] since more time spent watching podcasts?
A – Yes – most of the traditional homework is done in class.

Q – Are there tests?
A – Yes.

Q- How important are quizzes to making the flipped course work?
A – Very important. Students are very grade oriented so having quizzes, tests, and exams matters. Quizzes are great motivators for getting students to watch the videos.

Amy Brusini, Course Management Training Specialist
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Microsoft Clip Art

2013 GSI Symposium Breakout Session 2: Formative Assessment

A Report from the Trenches

We’re continuing with our reports from the JHU Gateway Sciences Initiative (GSI) 2nd Annual Symposium on Excellence in Teaching and Learning in the Sciences. Next up is “Assessing Student Learning during a Course: Tools and Strategies for Formative Assessment” presented by Toni Ungaretti, Ph.D., School of Education and Mike Reese, M.Ed., Center for Educational Resources.

Please note that links to examples and explanations in the text below were added by CER staff and were not included in the breakout session presentation.

The objectives for this breakout session were to differentiate summative and formative assessment, review and demonstrate approaches to formative assessment, and describe how faculty use assessment techniques to engage in scholarly teaching.

Summarizing Dr. Ungaretti’s key points:

Assessment is a culture of continuous improvement that parallels the University’s focus on scholarship and research. It ensures learners’ performance, program effectiveness, and unit efficiency. It is an essential feature in the teaching and learning process. Learners place high value on marks or grades: “Assessment defines what [learners] regard as important.” [Brown, G., Bull, J., & Pendlebury, M. 1997. Assessing Student Learning in Higher Education. Routledge.]  Assessment ensures that what is important is learned.

Summative Assessment is often referred to as assessment of learning. This is regarded as high stakes assessment – typically a test, exam, presentation, or paper at the midterm and end of a course.

Formative Assessment focuses on learning instead of assigning grades. “Creating a climate that maximizes student accomplishment in any discipline focuses on student learning instead of assigning grades. This requires students to be involved as partners in the assessment of learning and to use assessment results to change their own learning tactics.” [Fluckiger, J., Tixier y Virgil, Y., Pasco, R., and Danielson, K. (2010). Formative Feedback: Involving Students as Partners in Assessment to Enhance Learning. College Teaching, 58, 136-140.]

Effective formative assessment involves feedback. That feedback has the greatest benefit when it addresses multiple aspects of learning. It includes feedback on the product (the completed task), feedback on progress (the extent to which the learner is improving over time), and feedback on the process (If the learner is involved, feedback can be given more frequently.)

Diagram showing the Three Ps of Formative Assessment

 From this point on in the session, the participants engaged in active learning exercises that demonstrated various examples of formative assessment including utilizing graphic organizers (Venn Diagrams, Mind Maps, KWL Charts, and Kaizen/T-Charts – practices that focus upon continuous improvement), classroom discussion with higher order questioning (based on Bloom’s Taxonomy),  minute papers, and admit/exit slips.

Classroom discussions can tell the instructor much about student mastery of basic concepts. The teacher can initiate the discussion by presenting students with an open-ended question.

A minute paper is a quick in-class writing exercise where students answer a question focused on material recently presented, such as: What was the most important thing that you learned? What important question remains? This allows the instructor to gauge the understanding of concepts just taught.

Admit/exit slips are collected at the beginning or end of a class. Students provide short answers to questions such as: What questions do I have? What did I learn today? What did I find interesting?

There are many ways in which faculty can determine learner mastery. These may include the use of journaling or learning/response logs to gauge growth over time, constructive quizzes, using modifications of games such as Jeopardy, or structures such as a guided action or Jigsaw. There are also ways to quickly check student understanding such as using thumbs-up–thumbs-down, or i>Clickers.

Assessment may also be achieved by using “learner-involved” formative assessment.  Some ways to achieve this are through the use of three-color group quizzes, mid-term student conferencing, assignment blogs, think-pair-share, and practice presentations.

When incorporated into classroom practice, the formative assessment process provides information needed to adjust teaching and learning while they are still happening. Finally, faculty should look on formative assessment as an opportunity. No matter which methods are used it is important that they allow students to be creative, have fun, learn, and make a difference.

Faculty may also use assessment methods as research. This allows them the opportunity to advance hypotheses-based teaching, gather data on instructional changes and student outcomes, and to prepare scholarly submissions to advance the knowledge on teaching in their discipline. Teaching as research is the deliberate, systematic, and reflective use of research methods to develop and implement teaching practices that advance the learning experiences and outcomes of students and teachers.

Cheryl Wagner, Program/Administrative Manager
Center for Educational Resources

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Macie Hall


2013 GSI Symposium Breakout Session 1: Practical Tips for Active Learning

A Report from the Trenches

The next several posts will be in the form of reports from the JHU Gateway Sciences Initiative (GSI) 2nd Annual Symposium on Excellence in Teaching and Learning in the Sciences. The symposium featured five breakout sessions and many of us attending wished we could clone ourselves and attend more than one, as the topics were so interesting. So to those who couldn’t bilocate, and to those who couldn’t attend the symposium, these posts are for you.

First up is “Moving from Lecture-based Teaching to Active Learning Instructional Approaches: Some Practical Tips” facilitated by Robin Wright, PhD, Associate Dean and Professor of Biology, University of Minnesota.

Robin Wright practiced what she preaches in this breakout session, quickly moving the participants into an active learning activity.

Engaging in active learning discussion.To begin she told faculty to “…start where you are, you don’t need to start over. Start with your current lecture notes and identify the key learning outcomes. What can you do instead of telling your students?” (Remember that the one who does the work does the learning. When you tell your students, you are doing the work.)

She asked participants to think about their favorite lecture, or their worst one. She then discussed the principle of backward design – an instructor looks at what s/he wants students to know and/or be able to do at the end of the course.  Dr. Wright noted that the advantage of backward design is by starting with defining the desired end result, instructors can create appropriate assessments and activities. As well, students can be told what they can expect to learn. Setting clear expectations helps students achieve the goals set for them.

She then asked everyone to define a learning outcome and design an assessment to determine how well students reached the outcome, directing three questions to the participants:

  1. What do you want students to know or be able to do [think in terms of the lecture you’ve selected – what do you want the students to learn from that lecture]?
  2. How will you assess their learning?
  3. What activities will you plan to help them reach your specific goals?

Dr. Wright walked the participants through an example from her own class, defined the outcome, described activities that moved students from a lower level  to a higher level (Bloom’s Taxonomy) with activities, and described how assessed.

Then the participants were set to work on writing one higher level learning outcome and an appropriate assessment and discussing these with the people sitting near them. Everyone appeared to be very enthusiastic about this exercise. In sharing after the small group exchanges we heard the following comments:

It was difficult for many to get started.
It was a powerful tool for determining what the class should focus on.
Participants refined their learning outcomes and assessments in discussion with others.

Dr. Wright then talked about the “tools in her toolkit” that she uses as activities and gave examples of some of these:

  1. Figures from the textbook projected and used as a basis for questions for small group discussion.
  2. Trick questions (questions which may seem to have an obvious answer, but the “obvious answer” is not the correct one).
  3. Videos used to challenge thinking and promote discussion, often used as a way to introduce broad subjects (e.g., evolution) to her classes.
  4. Case studies used to get students to think critically and to begin to learn on their own, outside of the classroom.

She introduced each “tool” with a specific example, and had participants briefly discuss possible answers to questions she would ask her students. Again, the participants gained an understanding of how to incorporate active learning into the classroom through an active learning process.

View the video of Robin Wright’s 2013 GSI Symposium keynote address “Teach What Really Matters; Use What Really Works.” 

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Microsoft clip art