Saturday, October 01, 2011

WILT: Teaching and Scholarship

WILT (What I Learned Today)

McKinney (2004) writes about 3 related ideas: (1) Good Teaching, (2) Scholarly Teaching, (3) SOTL (Scholarship on Learning and Teaching)

Good Teaching:
promotes student learning, and other student learning outcomes

Scholarly Teaching:
teachers view teaching as a profession and see that knowing the literature based on teaching and learning is a second area to keep up (the first is their own area of interest)

Scholarly teachers use CATS (class room assessment techniques), reflect on their practice, try out new ideas, talk with their colleagues

it's the systematic study of teaching and learning, and involves the public sharing of the results of the systematic study. Public sharing means giving presentations, publishing articles or other performances. Public sharing allows other scholars to comment, reflect, apply and duplicate the study results.

It seems to me that these can be seen as a continuum. I'm definitely in the Scholarly Teaching camp, and am beginning plans to move into SOTL. How about you?

Monday, July 11, 2011

What I learned Today: Writing the Syllabus

Early on as an instructor, I had this fantasy that I would work hard to create a class syllabus, and then each year after I would just change the class session dates, update the text book editions, and perhaps noodle with the formatting a bit. If I knew then what I know now, perhaps I would have stayed in the florist/greenhouse business.

I think it takes me a minimum of 3 days to create a course syllabus, and that's for courses that I've taught before. I hadn't counted on, or I didn't realize how little I knew about teaching and course design when I started out. Each syllabus represents my latest thinking and learning on the course, the newest teaching and learning techniques I'm including and my reflection how the class "went" the last time I taught it. I'm also trying to close the latest loophole that clever students found the last class.

There are certain sections I've learned that are standard to every syllabus, and I can template: When to add/drop, the student handbook, my contact information, my anti-plagiarism section, the required textbook section.

I lack the discipline, most of the time, to focus on just one area, and will then start changing page numbers for readings, the points for assignments, twiddle with bullets and indents, instead of sticking to one topic area.

This year, for my class on critical thinking, I went analog first. I wrote out what I thought we could accomplish, what readings, and what exercises would be done, etc. on paper first, and then I typed it in. I'm more focused when I start with paper, I've learned. I'll be interested to see if I can remain focused when I take notes on my iPad.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

What I Learned Today: The Jigsaw Classroom Reading Technique

One of the aspects about my teaching I've been working on this past year is engaging students with assigned readings. I did a short literature review and found some articles about various ways for students to engage with the readings before they come to class (next post will be about one such approach I'll be using this Spring).

While at the Lilly Conference this past November, I had a conversation with Barbara Foster about the cooperative learning technique called the Jigsaw.

Basically this process divides readings into smaller amounts that groups of students are then responsible for reading and reporting back to their reading groups.

Lets say that each group has four members: member 1, member 2, member 3, member 4. During class, each member 1 from each learning group gets together to discuss their 4-10 pages, and to decide what are the most important points/info to know about that section. The same thing happens with all the member 2's, member 3's and member 4's.

Once that is finished, each reading group reforms and then member 1 teaches key info to the rest of the group members. Once she is finished, member 2 teaches their key info to the rest of the group.

The jigsaw gives learners multiple touch points with the reading, and learners also have to teach the material to their classmates.

My colleague and I have used it for one week. I'm interested in seeing what will happen this upcoming class.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What I Learned Today

Currently I'm attending the Lilly Conference on teaching at Miami University in Oxford, OH. This is my second time, and I find it to be filled with smart teachers who have great ideas on engaging students in the class room and ways to think about student learning outcomes. This is the first year Twitter is being used to contribute to the backchannel (search for #lilly10).

I attended a half day conference on various ways besides student ratings to evaluate teaching, conducted by Ron Berk. Here are his 4 take away points: 1. give explicit criteria to define what behaviors indicate effective teaching, 2. use multiple sources of evidence (peer evals, student evals, student interviews, video, etc.), 3. develop and or use best quality scales to provide the evidence, 4. create guidelines to interpret the data.

Also, linking student outcomes to teaching effectiveness is bad form. It's difficult to infer one thing (effective teaching) from another (student outcomes).

Monday, September 27, 2010

What I Learned Today: Study Habits

A 9/6/10 article in the NYT talked about new research on study habits and retention of material.  One is related to not using the same space to study.  By moving locations (we think) the brain creates associations between background information and the information studied, thereby making it easier to recall the information.

Anecdotally, I've known this to be true for me, as I am often more focused and retain more info when I am away from my offices (home and work), on a plane or in an out of town hotel.

The 2nd retention notion is to vary the material that is studied in one sitting.  If studying a foreign language, read, study vocabulary, practice speaking out loud.  Apparently musicians have known this for years.

I have a couple of students right now who show me the notes they've taken on the chapter, and then when it comes to taking the quiz, their minds go blank.  I may talk more with them about how they are studying the material.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What I Learned Today: Planet Narnia

Over the past few days I've been pondering the Chronicles of Narnia and the latest finding about them from Dr. Michael Ward.  He is a C.S. Lewis scholar and in his new book Planet Narnia, he "...argues that Lewis secretly constructed the Chronicles of Narnia out of the imagery associated with the seven heavens of the medieval cosmos." 

This is interesting enough to me, but what's really intriguing to me is that for years I recall reading that J.R.R. Tolkien, Lewis' good friend, didn't think much of the Narnia books.  He thought they were dashed off too quickly and not well written (probably from Humphrey Carpenter's The Inklings).  So, for all these years, I too thought similar things about the books.  

I'm not suggesting that I would have found the seven heavens motif if I had thought on my own, but I am saying that I allowed someone, other than the author, to influence my thinking in such a way that I never even remotely considered other possibilities.

Gulp: what other unknown unknowns am I unaware I should be aware of?

Monday, August 30, 2010

What I Learned Today: Thinking, Part Deux

More from William Deresiewicz's article on leadership and solitude, focusing again on thinking:

"I find for myself that my first thought is never my best thought. My first thought is always someone else’s; it’s always what I’ve already heard about the subject, always the conventional wisdom. It’s only by concentrating, sticking to the question, being patient, letting all the parts of my mind come into play, that I arrive at an original idea. 

By giving my brain a chance to make associations, draw connections, take me by surprise. And often even that idea doesn’t turn out to be very good. I need time to think about it, too, to make mistakes and recognize them, to make false starts and correct them, to outlast my impulses, to defeat my desire to declare the job done and move on to the next thing."

My favorite book on Critical Thinking is by Gerald Nosich: Learning to Think Things Through: A Guide to Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum, because it includes this simple definition of critical thinking, something like "Critical thinking is thinking about our thinking in order to improve it."  It has very clear and understandable chapters on the elements and standards of critical thinking, thinking like your discipline, and how to realize that what you learn in school is not just "school stuff."

What Deresiewicz is writing about, seems to me, are some of the things we must do in order to start the process of critical thinking.