The Flourishing Academic

A blog for teacher-scholars published by the Duquesne University Center for Teaching Excellence


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Please… Step Away from the Podium

McFalls 2012Marsha McFalls, Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice and Director of Educational Technology, School of Pharmacy, Duquesne University

I recently read “Waking Up to Tired Teaching” by Maryellen Weimer (Faculty Focus, March 1, 2017). It was timely as I had recently celebrated 15 years of teaching at Duquesne University. As I reflect on those years, I am amazed at how my teaching has changed.

As a practicing pharmacist, I, like many other practitioners moving into higher education, was not trained to teach.  I had 3 weeks to prepare my first course, so I mirrored what my professors had done while I was a student. I prepared PowerPoint slides, note cards, and handouts. Each slide and handout was full of information. I stood behind the podium and tried not to “read” the slides to students. Students seemed to like my course. Teaching evaluations were always high. But as the years passed, I found myself faced with “tired teaching.” I wanted to engage students. I wanted them to getcartoon podium excited about their learning, interact with each other, and apply the material to something meaningful. I knew there had to be a better way.

In the Duquesne Master of Instructional Technology Program I learned about new teaching methods and innovative ways to interact with students. One thing I knew for sure—I had to get out from behind the podium. It no longer felt right to stand at the front of the room giving students facts and information while they fervently wrote every word that came out of my mouth. Real learning does not come until students do something with that information.

So I decided to incorporate two new methods of classroom experiences: flipped classroom and team-based learning.

Now, I record videos of slides with voice-over. Students don’t need to see me as they listen and view new content. Instead, they need me there for the more complex tasks of applying and creating with content. Following the flipped model, students are expected to view these videos prior to class. Then in the subsequent class, they engage in team-based learning to solve real-world problems. Of note, these classes have 140-160 students in large lecture halls with immovable stadium-style seating. Certainly not the ideal place for team learning, but it works!

2016_06_Flipped-classroom

Students take a quiz at the beginning of class using Nearpod, an interactive presentation and assessment tool. Through Nearpod I can create presentations using slides, video, audio, or websites, which the students view on their own devices. Viewing it on their own screen instead of the large projection screen makes it a more intimate experience. When I am among the students, it changes the entire dynamic of the classroom. I spend time with each group during the team-based learning sessions and participate in their discussions. I clarify concepts they might be struggling with and ask questions to stimulate further discussion.

During the times I am lecturing (or what I prefer to call presenting), I use Reflector software to “mirror” my iPad. I show slides and videos, annotate websites, and demonstrate various apps we use in the course.  All of this can be done without being tethered to the podium. I am excited again about teaching because I get to interact with students on a different level.

Every year I try something different.  It is important to continue to discover what you don’t know. I find inspiration by observing what K-12 teachers are doing. Yes, it is challenging to translate K-12 educational methods to higher education, but it can be done with slight modifications. If we continue with the “I speak, you write” way of thinking, I think we, as educators, will miss an exciting opportunity to engage with our students in a new way.


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Helping Students Reflect on Study Habits

In January 2017, CTE interviewed Pamela Spigelmyer, Faculty, School of Nursing about her use of exam wrappers to help students learn. thumbnail_pamela-spigelmyer_0003

What is an exam wrapper?

It’s a reflection by students on their exam performance. It stimulates them to think about the effort they put into studying for the exam, and the barriers to achieving their best score. I ask students to do the following:

  • tell how much time they studied and estimate the percentage of time they spent on various study methods
  • analyze the reason for the points they lost on the exam
  • state their study plans
  • suggest ways I can support them for the next exam. [see sample wrapper below]

Tell me how you have used exam wrappers.

I have used them on the midterm exam in three different courses. Students can use their reflection on the midterm to improve their learning in the second half of the semester.

In my freshmen class this fall it went really well. I was surprised at the list of things they said they were going to do to improve for the next exam. When I asked, “what can I do to help you,” there were only minor comments. This makes sense, because I was already administering frequent quizzes and giving them clicker questions in class. They were getting practice.

What have you learned in the process?

Some of the comments I got back really opened my eyes to what students thought was effective study. For example, some students created 50-60 page study guides by cutting and pasting from the book. They explained that this guide was all they used for studying and claimed that it should have been enough. But they didn’t do well, and I was able to provide that as evidence back to them.

I put student grades into two ranges and made a chart of the study methods students in each range said they used. Then I presented it saying, “if you want to achieve a higher grade, here’s an idea of what some of your classmates did.” chart-low-high-performance

Once I had a student who honestly reported on the exam wrapper that she had studied zero time. She had not looked at any material in preparing for the midterm exam. She apparently didn’t implement the study methods we talked about after the midterm, and performed poorly on the final exam. Then, at the end of the course, she challenged the grade. The exam wrapper served as evidence that she hadn’t put in the effort needed to achieve a better grade.

Do you have a way for students to refer back to their reflection? How do you administer the exam wrapper?

They always have the wrapper available on Blackboard. Right after the midterm exam closes, the exam wrapper assignment opens up. I tell them it is not graded, but it is required. Most students complete the 10-15 minute reflection within the 24-hour window.

Here’s the sequence: students take the online exam, receive the score immediately and then are asked to reflect on the exam and their studyingexam-wrapper-assignment-sp2017

I tell students that I use exam wrappers to identify areas where I can help them improve, and that they should use it for looking at their learning and areas for growth.

How have you used exam wrappers to help students?

Several students have mentioned stress anxiety. This gives me an opportunity to guide students to the Counseling and Wellness Center. In the past, they could have struggled without me knowing, but now I can pick that up at midterm.

Here’stwo-answers-multiple-choice another example. I can see from exam statistics where students get it down to two answers and can’t pick the right one; this is very typical for nursing exams. That tells me that I need to be more explicit in helping them choose between the two. There’s always something in one that makes it better than the other, and they’re just overlooking it. So we do practice questions that are specifically close in two answers.

Sometimes they say, “I just didn’t know the content,” which suggests that they didn’t prepare enough and I outline the way high achieving students study.

Before the exam, I also provide a study template. It just lists the course objectives and tells how many exam questions will be related to each objective. It shows the importance of sections. When there is a lot of material, it’s only fair for students to know how to prioritize their studying.

I like that way of tying it to the course learning objectives.

I also do frequent quizzing – which helps them gauge their learning. I don’t give them answers for items they miss, but just indicate the reading chapter it came from. That forces them to go back and find it.

Do you have any suggestions for your colleagues? Is anyone else doing it that you know of?

Several faculty colleagues have asked me for this assignment, and they have started to implement it. Others use a similar kind of method that they have created.

Do you tie this assignment in with a nursing competency?

I haven’t, but that would be a good idea. I never thought of that. It would fit under “professionalism and growth.”

Related posts: Helping Students Learn from Returned Tests   The Finals Lap: Tips and Ideas for Final Exam Review

SAMPLE EXAM WRAPPER

  1. Approximately how much time did you spend preparing for this exam?
  2. What percentage of your test-preparation time was spent in each of these activities?
Activity Percentage of Time
Reading textbook section(s) for the first time
Rereading textbook section(s)
Reviewing homework-quiz question/concepts
Reviewing in class practice questions
Solving case study questions from textbook
Reviewing your own notes
Reviewing additional materials/websites posted in class weekly folders
Other: (please specify)

3. Now that you have looked over your graded exam, estimate the percentage of points you lost due to each of the following (make sure the percentage add up to 100):

Reason for lost exam points Percentage
Did not know/remember the content on the exam
Did not understand the question
Did not read the question/item carefully
Missed key words in the question
Did not read all distractor /potential answers carefully
Had difficulty choosing between 2 answers
Read/inferred more into the question than what was stated
Careless mistake (selected the wrong response accidentally)
Changed the answer
Experienced test anxiety/ inability to focus
Other: (please specify)

4. Based on your responses to the questions above, name at least three things you plan to do differently in preparing for the next exam. For instance, will you just spend more time studying,  change a specific study habit or try a new one (if so, name it), solve more case studies, practice more questions, or something else?

5. What can I do to help support your learning and your preparation for the next exam?

 

 


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Involving Students in Online Collaborative Learning

emtinan-alqurashi-headshot

by Emtinan Alqurashi, a doctoral candidate in Instructional Technology and Leadership at Duquesne University. Her research interests include online teaching and learning, student learning experience, and instructional technology.

Working collaboratively in a group is an important skill to learn. Nowadays, many college students participate in online collaborative learning, especially if they are taking online courses. This type of learning teaches them how to become responsible for their learning as well as their peers’ learning. While collaborative learning is appealing, there are some issues that need to be addressed. Some common issues that appear in empirical studies (see references below) regarding collaborative learning in online learning environments are as follows:

  1. Students don’t know how to work collaboratively online.
  2. Students don’t have the understanding of how to construct knowledge together within an online environment.
  3. Grading and assessing individuals in an online collaborative work.collaborative-wok

These problems of online collaborative learning are interrelated. For example, when students don’t know how to work collaboratively online, they won’t be able to construct knowledge together, and this in turn may cause problems for the assessment of individuals within the groups. These problems occur because students don’t seem to have the knowledge and the skills needed to work in an online group. This post discusses the three common problems with online collaborative work with ways to overcome them.

Simply putting students together in groups and asking them to work together online doesn’t necessarily result in having collaborative work. For example, I had an online class where the instructor asked students to work collaboratively on a topic related to ethics in education. We divided the work so everyone had a piece to work on; however, we ended up working more cooperatively than collaboratively (click here to read more about the difference). It seemed easier to discuss ideas, suggest change in content, edit peers’ work in face-to-face than in an online environment. Students avoided editing or commenting on their peers’ posts and writings to avoid hard feelings.The absence of face-to-face communication and interaction, facial expression and body language are only some of the limitations of collaborative work in online learning settings. However, if students master those skills and have the required knowledge, group work can allow students to play an active role in the learning process.

One way for instructors to encourage and support collaborative is to provide a rubric to help student understand what is required from them. This can allow students to provide constructive feedback to their peers without worrying about criticizing their work because simply they are following the rubric. Another way is to ask each group to write their own goals of their projects, each member of the group be responsible for one goal to work on, but they also provide feedback to at least one or two other group members about their work to meet their goals.

The foundation of group work (collaborative and cooperative) is to learn to construct knowledge, and students need to understand this learning process. Constructing knowledge can happen by “activating already existent cognitive structures or by constructing new cognitive structures that accommodate new input” (Dooly, 2008, p. 22). In this process, students become independent learners and responsible for their own learning as well as their peers’; and as a result, knowledge will be constructed, and transformed, by students themselves. Technological tools can be a good way for students to exchange information online whether synchronously or asynchronously. However, it is important for instructor to understand that there is no best method for doing this; it depends on many factors as identified by Dooly, which include: group personality, local constraints, age of students, objectives of the overall project and many other contextual factors.

Finally, grading and assessing individuals in collaborative work is another critical issue associated with group work. The purpose of the assessment is to evaluate group productivity and to determine how well students worked together as effective members of a group. Therefore, assessing individual’s contribution to the group is as important as the final production of the group. The idea of evaluating students in a group work can seem challenging simply because individuals are not working individually but they are working with others.

To ensure fairness in grading individuals in online collaborative work and to ensure participation by all group members, the instructor can use (1) individual assessment, (2) assess individual contribution, and (3) use self, peer, and group assessment techniques.

Individual assessment. While learning and skills are built by group work, it is appropriate to assess students individually through tests or assignments throughout the semester. The downside of this is that student’s work within an online group is not directly assessed. However, the instructor could assess students on the learning that has occurred within the group setting.

Assessing individual contribution can be done in both face-to-face and online learning environments. In online environments, however, the instructor and students can keep track of all their assigned work. Students are able to record video or audio conferences, and store online chats or writings, providing greater opportunity to reflect on their individual contribution within the group work and submitted at the end of the group project.

Self, peer, and group assessment techniques are very beneficial in online collaborative learning for both instructors and students. Generally, students who work and learn in groups are very aware of their own and peers’ contributions to the collaborative work. This awareness of knowledge can be used during the assessment. There are different techniques used to assess oneself and group members. Students can provide anonymous assessment of self and other group members such as creating a pie chart to show how much each member contributed in the group. If the majority of the group members reported someone as a not working member, that person’s grades can be affected. The instructor should provide guidelines to students for self and peer evaluation. Some examples of guidelines for the assessment report: participation (i.e. quality and quantity), preparation, punctuality, respect, contribution of ideas, creativity, and commitment. Ultimately, the instructor remains responsible for students’ final grades, but he/she could utilize the student’s recommendations when deciding how to reward individual contributions.

Resources/References

Carnegie Mellon University – Teaching with Technology – Collaboration Tools. https://www.cmu.edu/teaching/technology/whitepapers/CollaborationTools_Jan09.pdf

Dooly, M. (2008) Constructing Knowledge Together. In Dooly, M. (ed.) Telecollaborative Language Learning: A guidebook to moderating intercultural collaboration online, pp. 21-44. Bern: Peter Lang.

Figueira, A., & Leal, H. (2013). An online tool to manage and assess collaborative group work. Paper presented at the 112-XIII. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1467835970?accountid=10610

Morgan, K., Williams, K. C., Cameron, B. A., & Wade, C. E. (2014). FACULTY PERCEPTIONS OF ONLINE GROUP WORK. Quarterly Review Of Distance Education, 15(4), 37-42. https://www.uwyo.edu/fcs/_files/documents/faculty%20documents/morgan,%20williams,%20cameron,%20wade%202014.pdf

Stanford University – Yes Virginia, There Is A Big Difference Between Cooperative And Collaborative Learning Paradigms. https://tomprof.stanford.edu/posting/237


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This online course got my attention! Student and teacher views

by James Daher, President, Student Government Association and student, Economics major, French minor.

james-daher-blog-postLast summer I took Intro to Marketing with Dr. Dorene Ciletti, and she used a range of different methods for getting the students to work with the material. This included readings, video lectures, discussion boards, warm-up exercises, quizzes, simulations, exams and an extensive marketing plan.

Whereas some online courses I have experienced focused student work mostly on the discussion board, Dr. Ciletti’s class was a much more holistic approach to an online course. Not only did this range of teaching methods account for different learning styles, it also gave students more contact with the material. The same themes and key words would be in each assignment during any given week. The course required significant directed attention in order to complete the exams and marketing plan. But that effort and attention were focused directly on course content, rather than long readings and discussion board posts.

One of the more common methods in online education is the discussion board. While I believe that the discussion board is a useful piece of online education, it should not be the sole focus of the class. In my experience, it is far too easy and lacks engagement for many students.

Another hit to student engagement is that the online learning experience sacrifices the pre-established times students have with the material in the classroom. To make up for this, the online coursework should take up at least as much time as the student would spend in an actual classroom. However, if the class is all reading and discussion board based, many students lose focus and cut studying time short.

In sum, I personally prefer the physical classroom, but the potential of online courses is vast. If the course requires enough time and attention through varied teaching methods, I believe that this potential can be unlocked. Dr. Ciletti’s course engaged and challenged me.

by Dorecilettine Ciletti, PhD, faculty, Marketing, School of Business

I enjoy teaching Introduction to Marketing, creating a context in which students build a foundation in marketing and use the concepts and theories to support integrated bottom-line success in an organization. The offer to develop an online course a few years ago intrigued me. Online education is growing, and while there are some common components, approaches to online classes vary, and I had some initial concerns. How would I engage the students? How could I deliver material so that students would learn effectively? How could I assure that course objectives would be met?

Rather than simply transferring the in-class experience to the online space, I made substantial changes. Working with the end in mind, I organized material into content modules, and organized the course such that we would complete one or two modules each week, with each module supporting clearly stated learning objectives.

Students need a structure that’s easy to access and navigate, and the lesson plan and learning module features in Blackboard allowed me to build modules that incorporated various content types and skill-building activities. Discussion boards can be used to share information, promote discussion, and provide evidence of learning, but used as the only activity option, it can become a chore. So, our weekly modules included links to instructor-developed brief lectures, publisher-based content, outside video content including TED Talks, some discussion board activities, and yes, even tests.

Using a variety of activities within a consistent course structure, I believe, provided a richer learning experience for the students. They knew basically what to expect for each module so they could prepare and allocate time accordingly, but I kept the course lively with various types of assignments.

Building critical thinking is important, and, borrowing from Bloom’s Taxonomy, I wanted students to move from remembering to creating. Each module promoted interaction with content in several different ways, so students had the opportunity to understand, apply, analyze, and evaluate. The final project was designed for students to create a marketing plan utilizing concepts and skills from the entire course.

Student feedback is valuable, and I so appreciate that James Daher took the time to share his perception of this online Intro to Marketing course.  What better encouragement could a faculty member receive?


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Reflections on Teaching in Duquesne’s New FlexTech Classroom

By Dr. James P. Purdy, Associate Professor of English and University Writing Center Director, Duquesne University

As someone with a scholarly interest in the design of pedagogical spaces for writing instruction (e.g., see http://www.digitalwriting.org/ms/index.html for a link to Making Space: Writing Instruction, Infrastructure, and Multiliteracies, my in-press co-edited digital book with the University of Michigan Press on this topic), I was very excited to be scheduled to teach Writing for Digital Media in one of Duquesne’s new FlexTech classrooms in Spring 2015. This semester I also used another FlexTech classroom for a University Writing Center event.

FlexTech 551

The FlexTech classroom in College Hall 551. Image courtesy of Dr. James Purdy.

Duquesne’s FlexTech classrooms have seating organized in pods with chairs around glass-top tables and wall-mounted computers, wall glassboards, instructor stations with larger touchscreen monitors (and cool, fresh color schemes!). The room where I taught my course, 551 College Hall, has four pods and accommodates 20 students. The other room I used, 442 Fisher Hall, is larger, seating 40 students around five pods and one conference table. More information on the classrooms is available on Duquesne’s Media Services website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5R7G1knN48.

I have learned much from teaching in the FlexTech classrooms and share here some of my reflections. While I’m drawing from my particular experiences, these reflections are intended to be relevant to teachers using other similar spaces. Your mileage may vary, of course—local context is crucial—but I hope these thoughts and ideas will be applicable and helpful.

FlexTech 551 pod setup

The pod setup in 551 College Hall, showing the writable tables and wall-mounted computers. Image courtesy of Dr. James Purdy.

 

The most exciting aspect of the space was the collaboration it afforded.

The up-to-date computer technology was super, but more exciting was that the seating arrangement encouraged more collaboration. Through its physical design the FlexTech classroom space helped to enact this approach by compelling students to look at, talk to, and write for one another (rather than only me).

Students appreciated opportunities to use their own computer technology.

Because digital writing and research spaces are now so personalized, students welcomed chances to work with their own tools in class.

With more and multiple spaces for writing, participation spread more fully across students.

As a teacher of writing-intensive courses, I frequently ask students to write in class. In the FlexTech spaces, students wrote more in class.

My class planning changed—and didn’t.

As the semester progressed, I intentionally designed activities to exploit the room’s technological, spatial, and material affordances (e.g., asking students to post group writing on the pod wall-mounted computers, to share question responses on the wall glassboards; to use the glass tabletops to write to generate ideas for discussion; to give presentations on digital writing and research tools using the large, front wall-mounted computer). However, I was careful not to ask students to use the room’s technologies or features for their own sake. Writing for Digital Media lent itself very well topically to use and critical exploration of the room, so most days included engagement with the computers and tables. But not all did. And I quickly learned that was okay.

Digital technology wasn’t always better.

Initially I was excited about the whiteboard app on the instructor machine that allowed for writing on the large wall-mounted monitor with a stylus or my finger. The digital technology was super for projecting texts, showing videos, and sharing directions, especially as each pod computer could show the content of my instructor computer, which made for easier reading for students. Writing “on the board,” however, didn’t require it, so I went back to the whiteboard. I found that writing with a marker on the glassboards ultimately worked better.

These spaces made writing fun.

Something about writing on tables with colored markers made writing enjoyable for everyone. Perhaps it was the novelty of the space and its setup. But capitalizing on such newness helped bring life and excitement to writing activities.

 

Bio

James P. Purdy teaches in the English Department and directs the University Writing Center at Duquesne. With Randall McClure, he edited two collections: The New Digital Scholar: Exploring and Enriching the Research and Writing Practices of NextGen Students, which was awarded the Silver Medal for Education in the Commentary/Theory Category for the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Awards, and The Next Digital Scholar: A Fresh Approach to the Common Core State Standards in Research and Writing, which was a finalist in the Educational/Academic Category at the 2014 USA Best Books Awards. With co-author Joyce R. Walker, he won the 2011 Ellen Nold Award for the Best Article in Computers and Composition Studies and the 2008 Kairos Best Webtext Award.


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Social Media and Student Engagement: An Experiment

By Dr. Jeryl Benson, Assistant Professor, Duquesne University Occupational Therapy Dept.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net.

When I first began my academic teaching career, social media was not a part of American culture and was certainly not a part of my classroom. But as times change, so must our ways of reaching our students. Social media usage has increased dramatically over the years with 89% of young adults between the ages of 18-29 reporting social network use (Pew Research Center, 2014).  As educators, how can we use the phenomenon of social media to engage students in learning?

Academic curriculum is rigorous with large amounts of information to convey in 15 weeks. As an instructor in a professional program, I am responsible for delivering specific material that is tied into both the students training as well as accreditation standards that must be met. It takes all of the 15 weeks to ensure the students leave my classroom with the required skill set. But it leaves less time than I would like for those rich discussions that plant the seed of curiosity in our students. I often find myself desiring  more time to discuss those topics in greater detail or to have the opportunity to share information about a topic that is not included in the course learning objectives but would augment the students’ knowledge.

During one particular semester, I found myself coming across newspaper, magazine and research articles and even news media videos that were related to our class topic and/or discussions. I wanted to share them with the students, so I started posting the links to my Blackboard  course site (www.duq.edu/blackboard). The response was positive as the students would come to class and share their thoughts and opinions. The conversations were fun and thought provoking. As we began to discuss current events related to class topics the students started finding various media items and started sending me links to post for the class. The students were engaged and it was a fun way to approach society’s perspectives related to disability, acceptance, and trends.

Although I found this teaching method to be effective it was somewhat labor intensive. I would occasionally come across something and would tell myself that it would be a great topic to post for the students, but I would either forget or at a later time I would be unable to relocate the link or item.  Then one day I found an item I wanted to post and when I hit the “share” feature on the webpage to email the link to myself I realized that the choices for how to share the information grew! There were multiple icons….I could share to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, and many others. Really? It is that easy?

My personal opinion of social media is, overall, not positive. I am still trying to figure out why sharing every detail of one’s day and life is a good thing. But… I decided that maybe the ability to instantly share information and resources with my students was a positive side of social media. Maybe it was time to enter the “world” of my students to better understand them as individual learners. So I signed up for a Twitter account  (that would be used for professional purposes only) and I invited my students to “follow” me. Now, instead of using the Blackboard course site, when I come across a resource, an opinion or a tip that is either related to our class discussions or my profession…I Tweet it, hashtag  and all! Examples of recent hashtags include #tummytime, #AutismAwareness, #Nobullying, #WorldOTDay. It has been a learning curve for me but I am finding that it is also fun and efficient. With just a few clicks I can disseminate information and start the conversation which ultimately increases student engagement and learning  using a format that is central to their lives. In fact, students have started sharing media stories and sending them to me to tweet, which is both increasing engagement and making it easy for me!

#engagingstudents #duqedtech #edtech

Now It’s Your Turn: in the comments below, please share your experiences/ideas about using social media as an instructional tool.

References

http://www.pewresearch.org/data-trend/media-and-technology/social-networking-use/

Dr. Benson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy at Duquesne University. She teaches both undergraduate and graduate coursework in the areas of foundations and concepts in OT, lifespan occupational performance, neurological and sensorimotor function, and occupation based theory.