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!

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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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Involving Students in Online Collaborative Learning

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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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SCALE-up with micro workshops and wrapper sessions

 

laurel-2013by Laurel Willingham-McLain, Director, Center for Teaching Excellence, Duquesne University

At the Duquesne University Center for Teaching Excellence we’re trying out some new programs in the SCALE initiative.  SCALE, which stands for Small Changes Advancing Learning, was inspired by James Lang’s, Small Changes in Teaching series, and his book, Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning (2016), as well small-teaching-imageas  AAC&U’s High-Impact Practices and the Transparency in Learning and Teaching Project.

Our initiative continues to explore the power harnessed by small changes in teaching and learning—methods that are

  • achievable by instructors in varied contexts,
  • based on principles of learning
  • known to benefit students equitably
  • open to creativity.

Lang, in Small Teaching, writes, “you can create powerful learning for your students through the small, everyday decisions you make in designing your courses, engaging in classroom practice, communicating with your students, and addressing any challenges that arise.”

twelve-twentyNew for Spring 2017, we are offering a series of 30-minute lunchtime workshops, 12:20-12:50 pm. Designed to accommodate busy schedules, these micro workshops highlight a teaching and learning topic and introduce simple, proven strategies that you can incorporate into your course right away.  Associate Director for Faculty Development, Steve Hansen, came up with the idea for these workshops as a way “to model to faculty how small teaching practices can have big connections to student learning.  We want faculty to experience how learning in a micro-context can have macro-learning implications that faculty can apply and scale up for their own teaching contexts.”

Spring topics include transparent assignment design, how emotions motivate learning, micro-aggressions, using nudges to deepen learning, and a student-learning graffiti wall.  The series will begin on January 23 and 24 and will continue through February.

Follow-up opportunities will be available through wrapper sessions and consultations with CTE staff.  Wrapper sessions provide faculty with an opportunity to reflect and learn from experience; they are based on the learning strategy called an Exam Wrapper, which guides students to review and analyze their performance (and their instructor’s feedback) on an exam, with an eye to improving their next attempt.

In December 2016, we tried out our first Course Wrapper where participants enjoyed time to reflect individually and with colleagues about a fall course, and then outlined steps for their spring courses based on their reflection and feedback. Participants repgift-with-boworted that “The reflection and discussion were a great way to put a bow on the semester” and the Wrapper session provided a “wonderful way to wind down the semester.”  The Wrapper
sessions encourage teachers to practice the systematic reflection they ask of students.  Participants are invited to consider successful aspects of a recent course and plan ways to model future teaching on what worked well.  We take a whole-person approach, encouraging faculty to plan ways to bring their very best selves to their teaching.  New spring Wrapper Sessions look at Students Evaluation Surveys and assignment design.

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Our semester culminates May 17-18 in the seventh annual Inspired Teaching Retreat at the Spiritan Retreat Center.


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Creating a Welcoming Classroom Community

by Deborah Scigliano, Ed.D., Department of Foundations and Leadership, School of Education, Duquesne Universityscigliano-headshot

Setting the tone for learning is important to creating the most effective learning environment possible. We are more motivated to learn when we feel connected to the instructor and class colleagues. This applies face-to-face as well as online. Indeed, online courses need special attention to make sure all students feel connected. Here are some ideas to spark your inner learning host.

Before students arrive, send them a welcome email. Let them know a bit about their upcoming course. More importantly, let them know how glad you are that you will be learning together.

Welcome messages are an engaging way to greet students before the class begins on the first day and before each subsequent class or unit. In face-to-face classes write a message either on the whiteboard or a slide to welcome students and set a focus for the class. In Duquesne’s Flex Tech classrooms, students can see the message at their own learning group table.

To welcome students in an online course, record an audio welcome message or post a visual welcome message on the course site. Be sure to emphasize the welcome and leave the “nuts and bolts” to another message.

Warm-ups are short ways to get to know one another. They provide a transition from where students were before class started to where they are now going to be in class. They serve as “head-clearers” as well as community builders.

Examples of warm-ups: tell 3 things about your day, what is your favorite _______? and the ever-popular M & M warm-up. The M & M warm-up involves passing around a bag of M & M’s and inviting each person to take as many as they want. To a hungry student, this sounds great! Those who are new to this warm-up often take a handful.  scigliano-mmNext, each person needs to say one positive thing about themselves for each M & M. That is when the whole-handful people tend to regret their decision because they find it difficult to identify that many positive attributes in themselves. However, it is a great way to learn about the people in the class, including the instructor. Also, it encourages people to think about the qualities that they have. This is not an easy reflection. We tend to see our flaws much more readily than our gifts.

The M & M warm-up can be adapted to online use.  One week, ask each student to pick a number from one to ten. The next week, ask each student to post as many positive qualities as the number they selected. To encourage online learners to read the qualities of their class colleagues, have a Treasure Hunt where students gather one treasure from each student and instructor to compile a list of the qualities participants bring to the group.

Whether you teach face-to-face or online, be sure your students know you are glad they are hescigliano-flextech-message-welcomere. Design opportunities to learn about each class member in order to build a welcoming classroom community.

Here’s wishing you a year full of learning that is welcoming and includes opportunities to learn more about your classroom community!

Bio: Dr. Scigliano teaches in the School of Education, Department of Foundations and Leadership. Her research interests include telementoring, online learning, self-efficacy, and peer coaching. Creating a classroom community, in face-to-face and online classes, is a priority in her teaching.


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SCALE: Small Changes Advancing LEarning

by Laurel Willingham-McLain, Director, Center for Teaching Excellence, Duquesne University laurel-2013

At a recent faculty reception, a colleague recounted how a simple change he had made in his teaching was making a big difference for both him and his students. He had been experimenting with ways for students to “internalize” the content by describing a related personal experience and noting personal lessons they had learned.  Students find it an engaging learning experience and seem to like relating and contributing to the course content, he told me.

Another faculty colleague and I have been chatting about how she has begun using exam wrappers to help students learn from the exam experience itself and take more responsibility for their learning.

These are just two examples of “small” approaches that are known to deepen student learning.

At CTE (Duquesne), we will be focusing on small teaching approaches through an initiative called SCALE: Small Changes Advancing LEarning.

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We are inspired by many colleagues, but in particular by James Lang’s Small Changes in Teaching series, and his book, Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning (2016). Using a “small ball” metaphor from baseball, Lang  writes, “I became convinced… that fundamental pedagogical improvement was possible through incremental change—in the same way that winning the World Series was possible through stealing bases and hitting sacrifice fly balls” (p. 5).  Lang offers well researched teaching approaches that require minimal preparation and grading and can be adapted by teachers in varied contexts.  They take three basic forms:

  • Brief (5-10 minute) classroom or online learning activities
  • One-time interventions in a course
  • Small modifications in course design or communication with students

Stay tuned for CTE Small Teaching book studies over the next few semesters.

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Another example of small teaching is the “transparent assignment design,” promoted by Mary-Ann Winkelmes and colleagues in the Transparency in Learning and Teaching Project.  Their research shows demonstrable gains in learning, especially among underserved student populations, when faculty simply revise course assignments to clearly articulate purpose, task, and criteria.  Dr. Winkelmes led Duquesne faculty in a hands-on workshop in April 2016, and the video and materials are available online (with a Duquesne multipass).  CTE offers an adapted version of this workshop again on September 28, 2016.

Finally, we are drawing on AAC&U research of ten high-impact practices and their common key elements.  On September 16, AAC&U Vice President, Terrel Rhodes, will present an open session for faculty and graduate students TAs titled, Better Together: Highly Effective Practices for Engaged Learning (Read more here).

Join us in discovering the power of small changes in teaching and learning that are:

  • Known to benefit students equitably
  • Achievable by instructors in varied contexts
  • Open to creativity
  • Based on principles of learning


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Exploring Race and Pedagogy: Powerful Student Perspectives

By Erin Rentschler, Program Manager at the Center for Teaching Excellence; English PhD Candidate, Duquesne University

On Tuesday, March 15, the Center for Teaching Excellence collaborated with the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) to present a student panel at the second annual Exploring Race and Pedagogy workshop. Given the power students’ voices have had on college campuses around the nation this academic year, it seemed time to hear the students’ perspectives here at Duquesne. This was especially true since the session was held in conjunction with the Duquesne Day for Learning and Speaking Out.

Six undergraduate students, Don Crawford (Sophomore, Political Science), Essence Criswell (Freshman, International Relations), Sharifa Garvey (Senior, Information Systems Management), Abdul Junaid (Freshman, Undeclared Arts), Shawn Ramsay (Junior, Psychology), Ariana Sampson (Senior, Psychology), shared their experiences with conversations about race and racism in the classroom and offered advice to faculty seeking to engage their classes in these conversations. The panel responded to faculty questions regarding

  • mistakes that well-meaning faculty make in discussing race,
  • the panelists’ personal decisions to attend a predominantly white institution,
  • the use of trigger warnings and whether they help or hinder sensitive conversations, and
  • strategies that we can adopt to bridge the gaps between minoritized student populations and white students and faculty.

Their responses crystallized for me what is powerful and difficult about flipping the script and giving students the floor.  The students’ honesty may have been hard for some of us to hear; certainly some of us have made the very mistakes that the students called out.  But these students were gracious and understanding. More importantly, they provided insight and incredibly useful feedback. I was moved by their contributions and impressed by their courage and poise.

I encourage you to listen to your students. As Jeff Mallory (Director, OMA) indicated in his introduction of the student panel, they are eager for our time and attention, they want to get to know the faculty, and they want to share stories.  In the coming weeks I hope to be able to post some of the panelists’ advice in their own words; their voices are far more powerful than mine could be. In the meantime, I offer here only the advice with which Dr. Darius Prier (Faculty, School of Education) began our session on Tuesday, “Let’s get comfortable being uncomfortable talking about race in the classroom.”