Advocacy from Day 1 - Peter Rattigan, Health & Exercise Science
Exemplars - Peter Rattigan, Health & Exercise Science
Exit Slips - Robin Haskell McBee, Teacher Education
A Hammer and a Red Solo Cup
Gregory A. Caputo
Chemistry and Biochemistry
My favorite Tool is a Hammer. I smash students. This is only half joking. In my advanced biochemistry course for majors, I really go after them by setting the bar higher than they can see. We cover a tremendous amount of material from primary literature - technical journal articles. So first, I make them read lots of these articles, more than they’ve probably read in all their other courses combined. On the first day of class, I go through an article with them, talking about how to “attack” the article, interpreting figures, and really becoming a critical reader. A lot boils down to understanding the methods in the paper, i.e. what CAN this type of experiment tell me, what IS the presented data telling me, and HOW did the authors interpret/spin/analyze the data. How does figure 2 fit with figure 3, 4 etc?
From then on, it’s their turn. I assign an article and randomly choose students to present parts of it. I have a red solo cup with everyone’s name in it. Students have said it sounds like a rattlesnake in the back of the room as I’m shaking the cup before I pick a name. I like that. This forces them to always be at a level of preparation to give a presentation. After a few weeks of this we have an open-article exam on the articles we’ve covered.
"Teaching Concepts of Secondary Physical Education II", focuses on ways to teach team sports. Although team sports are the most popular activities for Physical Education instructors, they are often so by default, being the "easiest" to do with large groups. Many teachers might justify teaching team sports in terms of their fitness benefits, team building skills, development of self esteem, etc. However, team sports in and of themselves do not do this – in fact more often the opposite will happen. On day one, I assign students to pairs with even and odd numbered index cards. The odd number partner is given the following statement: "Team sports should NOT be taught in schools because…" The even numbered partner is given: "Team sports SHOULD be taught in schools because…" They are to provide at least three powerful points to argue their side of this debate. They are given a minute to argue each side and a minute to "rebut". Their goal is to WIN this debate – whether or not they believe the viewpoint they are given. Next, I ask for examples from either side, and we discuss them. I usually tell them both sides are valid, that team sports on their own do not produce any of the positive effects they argue for, but they CAN if they are taught well – this lesson is the springboard for the rest of the semester. It also gives them the experience of advocating for their program – if they can't justify it, they probably shouldn't be teaching it… At some point they may have to make similar justifications, to parents, administrators, maybe even legislators.
As part of my required project in Statistics (worth 15%) I give students the assignment to gather statistics concerning the career related to their major. I ask them to gather stats concerning projected job outlooks, median income ranges, advanced degree requirements, and other useful data that requires them to look at the current data in an objective way. I also ask them to write a brief summary identifying interests and concerns they have in seeking a career in their chosen field. This assignment is an opportunity to apply the Statistical tools we study to something that is relevant and important to their futures. In most cases it is an affirmation of the career path they have chosen. I do not evaluate their career choices, only their professional presentation of the data including tools, graphs, and the analysis of data. I have gotten good feedback on this assignment, mostly positive.
Martha Graham Viator
I make cards, each containing one term or vocabulary word, large enough to see at a distance. I put all the cards randomly on the board with magnets. I ask each student, one at a time, to come to the board and move one term. We usually go through the entire class at least twice before the class reaches a consensus, telling me that they are satisfied with the organization of the terms. This allows me to see whether the students understand the terms and how the students think each term relates to the others. Because I teach a pedagogy class, I point out that this is a good strategy to use with younger students, as it provides opportunities for young learners to get out of their seats. This is an adaptation of a T-Chart graphic organizer (though there can be more than 2 categories, depending on the class and on the topic). It is low tech, so it can be used anywhere, but it could easily be used with a SMARTBoard.
Push the chairs/table to the side to create a large empty space. Half of the class gets into a circle facing outward. Each of the remaining students moves to stand facing one of the students in the circle, creating their own circle facing inward. The two students who are facing each other are partners. Ask a question; each pair discusses their answers to the question for a designated time (2-3 minutes). I use some ring-tone on my phone as a bell to designate when the time is up. Then have the students in the inside circle move one place to the right. Ask another question, and have the students discuss it with their new partners. Then the outside circle moves for the next question. Continue the process. I usually have about 5-7 questions. For the last question, ask each student to share with their new partner the most interesting thing they learned from one of their prior partners. During the exercise, I stand in the middle of the circle, so I can move around and listen to all of the conversations. Although I model this as something my (education major) students could do with their future students, they say they like it for themselves as a way for everyone to be able to participate and share their ideas in a non-threatening way.
Most of my classes are creative writing workshops with seminar-style discussions and some craft lectures mixed in. My classes, capped at 19, tend to be very diverse with regard to students’ skill levels and majors; race, class and cultural background. My first task as a teacher is to learn my students’ names, and to call them by their names throughout the semester. My immediate challenge is to create coherence and connection within these diverse groups. I do this via in class writing prompts in which students write something significant about themselves and then share it with the class. In the beginning we merely applaud and appreciate whatever the writer has shared. My abiding goal is to create intimate learning communities in each section; communities in which an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect prevails. I am asking students to become extremely vulnerable in their literary writing. To enable them to submit to this vulnerability, I have serious ground rules. We do not use any technology at all. And we all agree that, as in an AA meeting, what we ‘say here, stays here.’ No chatter allowed either before or after class about the student writing under discussion that day. Everything needing to be said must be said during workshop. Once the ground rules are understood, trust and sense of connection blossom. That's when students begin to write brave and wonderful poems, short stories and memoirs.
Crowdsourced Review Session
Geography & Environment
In this group-based activity, a series of subject prompts are offered to students with the goal of answering "what is important to know about this topic?" Groups of four work especially well. I organize and present critical themes on the board or slideshow, assigning one specific theme to each group. Students collectively decide on the points to remember about their group’s theme, organize these points, and assign one set to each student. Then, to conclude, I revisit the initial themes in sequence, and each student in the group presents, from her/his seat, the assigned takeaway point generated collectively, while the rest of the students take notes. If necessary, I further organize these statements on the whiteboard, filling in any gaps or correcting any errors that may be presented.
This exercise offers the benefits of:
1. presenting key themes of focus by the instructor
2. small group discussion and organization of material
3. 100% participation with individual student presentations
4. digestive organization and review by the instructor
This method works well to refresh accumulated material without necessitating a repeat performance of previous presentations
Quiz them Up the Wazoo and Bribe them to Work Together
While I have always told students that I encourage them to study with their peers, I used to require them to do homework without collaboration. I’ve changed my approach, and both the students and I prefer it. Here’s how it works:
Encourage students to work with their peers on their homework
· Reduce the percentage of their final grade that is derived from homework (or eliminate it entirely)
· Ask those who work collaboratively to submit one assignment as a group.
Frequent in-class quizzes:
· Give students a quiz at the beginning of every class that lasts 5 – 10 minutes.
Bribe students to form study groups:
· I give up to 3 points of extra credit per semester to students who document group study
· To get all 3 points, students must have at least 3 study group meetings during the first month of the semester, and must have a minimum of 5 study group meetings during the semester.
· Students must submit a form to report study group activity – when they met, who met, and what they studied
I find that in my online courses, students often do not fully understand exactly what is required in an assignment, even with a detailed description and an equally detailed rubric, by which they can see what they need to do to earn the highest possible score on the assignment/project (of course, it is always possible that some do not read the description fully, or study the rubric – and the teacher is not there to study the whites of their eyes to see if they understand). Thus, in my online Technology and Assessment class I created "exemplars" of all the formative assignments. It seemed to help them so much that I also provided these exemplars for the traditional version of the class. This traditional class scored on average higher than any other group I have taught in this course. Coincidence..? One key side effect of this is that it gave me an idea of how long the assignments would take to do and how difficult my students might find them to be. It helps me remember that just because I know exactly what I want my students to do, it does not mean I explained it sufficiently well to them!
Exit slips are a means of learning how students feel about their class meeting learning experience. They are a very powerful tool for getting feedback, meeting student needs, and modifying my methods to be responsive to the group. They can also be useful for gathering some very fundamental information on content that students gained or that stood out for the students (not always what the professor expects). Exit slips are a routine in my class meetings now; students pick them up at the beginning of the class, complete them anonymously, and hand them in at the end of class. The slips can be set up any way you want: Likert-type questions, fill in the blank, or open-ended questions. My exit slips for each class meeting are four open-ended questions: Something I learned that I valued today; something about which I have a concern or question; I like the way the class does...; it would help me if.... Since I started using exit slips and modifying my subsequent classes to respond to needs and concerns, my students have told me how much they appreciate my openness to their ideas.
Whether I am teaching a language course like “Advanced Spanish Conversation” or one that deals with language-related concepts like “Introduction to Anthropological Linguistics”, I have found games and friendly competition to be a highly motivational learning tool. In general, I divide my class into two equal teams and then have students take turns, one at a time, as representatives for their team. I keep track of the “points” that students earn for their team on the board with a simple tally. Depending on the main goal and content for the game, I may call on the student representative who raises their hand first, thereby allowing them the first opportunity to win a point for their team. Another option is simply to have each team alternate – team A may go first this time and then team B goes first next time. I am always amazed at the way in which a simple game can revitalize a class and motivate students to become active learners. The winners receive a “smiley face”, hand-drawn by me on the board above their score tally. Surprisingly, this “prize” is a satisfying reward for my students.
Basic Immunology and Virology is a nine-day course for first year medical students. It consisted on live lectures and one Team-based learning (TBL) session. I redesigned the course by choosing a variety of teaching and learning activities that promote active and self-directed learning. Students watch an online lecture and answer self-assessment questions before class. The in-class activities are strictly problem-solving and consist of a clinical case or an experiment followed by multiple choice questions. Students answer individually first and then in a group until they negotiate an answer. Then, the groups discuss their choices followed by a wrap-up by the instructor. The final exam consists of the same 76 questions used in the previous year's exam. Students’ exam performance showed an increase of 7.75 points (p< 0.004). The data suggest that implementation of new active learning strategies resulted in improved student performance on the exam. Possible reasons for the higher exam scores are that students: a) come to class prepared; b) apply knowledge every day of the course, from the very first day, c) have several chances to practice and receive immediate feedback and are able to make any necessary adjustments to their studies early in the course.
In education courses, we often model what our students will be able to use with their future students, but this could have value for others, as well. In this case, the focus is on knowing your learners. I put up a list of 10 cities in the state of NJ. Students have 30 seconds to study the list, at which point I take it down, and they must write as many of the ten as they can recall. We then discuss the various strategies they used to remember, the process of metacognition (thinking about your thinking) and how much was accomplished in 30 seconds, and the value of having children share their problem-solving strategies with each other to enhance their repertoire. We do the process a second time to see if they improve their scores with new strategies to try. Only this time, I put up ten cities from Illinois, where I am from originally. Naturally, instead of doing better, their scores are usually lower, since they can’t rely on geography, or personal connection to cities, or remembering only the first letter of each city. I then ask them the reason that they didn’t improve with these additional strategies to try, with an obvious answer. It is not that they were smarter ten minutes earlier! We then discuss that all learners (children and college students) have prior knowledge, but it is up to us as teachers to tap into students’ experiences.
Here is a technique I use to train students on how to use the table saw.
It uses a simple website with a slide show and a “certification” sheet.
Here are the steps I tell my students:
- Go the Stagecraft Website and download a copy of the “Certification Sheet”
- Go to the online tutorial and find the answers to all of questions on the sheet
- When you are ready come find me for the practical portion of the Certification
- Cross cut a piece of wood without losing your fingers and you are certified!
This is a neat way to get the students to learn basic terms and functions of the tool without wasting class time. I use this method for Stagecraft I and II so it covers all of the power tools.
Here are the links:
From the very first week of class in TV History & Appreciation I, I promise they'll see many things they've never seen before, including something called "Rancid the Devil Horse." All term long, I tease about Rancid -- and when he finally shows up, it's as part of a nine-second visual joke on an episode of Ernie Kovacs' bizarro comedy series. I freeze the image, and the students soak in Rancid the Devil Horse: mustache, evil horse grin, tied-on six-shooter and all. Some students adore it, after the long buildup. Many hate it. But no one ever forgets it, or the strangeness of Kovacs and his comedy -- which is the entire point.
In my Physics II course - Noncalculus-based topics in Electricity and Magnetism taught to undergraduate Biology majors, I typically open each new topic using non-technical discussions and demonstration kits. The non-technical discussion allows students to tie new content into everyday experiences and prior knowledge. These discussions take fewer than 10 minutes—and often result in a list of “characteristics” of the physical phenomena written on the board. This step in learning physics is critical because, as the 19th century philosopher Khalil Gibran wrote: “No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge”. Physics (and physical science) is somewhat intuitive. —After all, students have lived in the physical world for at least 18 years before encountering my introductory physics courses and have formed conceptual ideas about both the physical world around them (i.e., “what goes up must come down”—or gravity) and the physics course (i.e., “physics is hard!”). Demonstration kits and non-technical discussions can “break the ice” between the student and the subject matter so that they do not begin from the standpoint that “this topic is hard!”—but from a standpoint of “I’ve seen this before”. This activity used with pre-lecture questions on Blackboard (Bb9.0).
Polling the Class
Keeping students actively involved during the class is one of the challenges teachers frequently face while lecturing. I found the following approach to work quite well. When I ask a question that nobody in the class wants to answer, perhaps because nobody knows the answer, I create a poll. First, I create a list of possible answers by either asking the students or by creating it myself. Once the list is completed (2-5 entries), I ask the students to vote for the correct answer. Then I tally the votes and, depending on the outcome, I may announce, “Luckily this is not a democracy” if the majority of the class picked the incorrect answer. I say, “Democracy works!” if a majority of the class picked the correct answer. Usually everyone laughs and then I explain which answer on the list is correct and why. Also, if not everyone “voted” then I admonish those who did not vote and ask them to give me their opinion. This works because even shy students, those who are reluctant to participate in class discussions, are more likely to raise their hand with the rest of the students, voting for one of the possible outcomes and participating in the class discussion.
Health and Exercise Science
My “go to” teaching practice is the use of the “app” pollrunner. This app allows me to ask questions to students and they can log on to a website and post their answer. I can either make the question in multiple choice format or in short answer. I utilize this method to ascertain if the students understand concepts that were previously taught. In addition I have them give short answers to questions. I often will have the students work in small groups on an issue and then use pollrunner for them to access the website and give their groups insight to the issue we are discussing. This also allows the student the opportunity to search the internet for answers or other opinions to the area we are discussing. I have found this method to engage students and make lessons more interactive.
I make it a point to tell my students that I come from a foreign country. They always look perplexed because I look and speak like a quintessential American. I explain that I come from the 60s. In that decade, which really went from 1965 to 1975, we had a mantra, “question authority.” It worked pretty well for us – we stopped a war, ended the draft, started the environmental movement, and hounded a president from office. Now, I continue, I am authority and find the concept even more important: I can’t know if what I say is being understood if students do not question/challenge me. I have good reasons that have been well researched, tested, and tried for everything I say, but if a student disagrees or does not fully understand then the result is flawed. (I am also sometimes wrong.) Teaching an applied musical instrument requires an open dialogue and understanding that is impossible to achieve without what I call fearless-feedback. This “license to question” is imperative to how I teach.
The student is told …"For next week your assigned exercise will be performed in 'Real Life' method. This means absolutely perfect, no flubs, no wrong notes or wrong rhythms. If the piece is 300 measures long and you flub the last beat of the 299th measure it's back to the top to do over again. If you happen to have it together you'll do this one time only and it will take 4 minutes, if you don't we'll spend the whole hour lesson on it. If you can't do it within the hour lesson time we will do it the next week and the week after that until you get it. Your forward motion is halted until you can complete this. It isn't punishment, it's how great performers practice. I've had students perform successfully the first time and others who took 3 weeks to do it. Though some students have complained and cried playing 'Real Life’ I’m sure you'll be fine." Without the student knowing, they learn focus and tenacity when practicing this way. They don't know they are actually learning how to learn.
One of the secrets of teaching is not letting anyone see you do it.
In this lesson students rehearse important aspects of a writing tutorial by using their cell phones to create 60 second videos. Because a typical tutoring session can seem more like “managed chaos” than a planned lesson, writing tutors depend on the predictable parts to ensure quality and keep writers at ease. After a class discussion on what makes for a great start to a tutoring session, students form collaborative groups of 4-5. Together they write the script, chose the director, camera person, and 2 actors. A read-through helps tighten the script and ensures the 60 second limit. In 20-30 minutes the groups are back to present and critique the films. This is a good time to identify tutoring principles discussed earlier. Once this basic format is established, students can later be challenged with more difficult topics to capture in video; for example, how to write effective titles; change passive voice to active voice; and even create Socratic dialogue to explore a writing topic. One more thing – you don’t have to worry about providing the equipment. In each group someone invariably has a smart phone and knows how to load the video onto Facebook or YouTube.
Many writing students have used the prewriting strategy of mapping, webbing, or clustering (it has lots of names) where you start with a general or abstract idea in the middle of the page and then write more specific or concrete words or perhaps associated ideas and details, branching out to the margins. My method, which I call reverse mapping, is similar but opposite: In the margins of the page record concrete instances, details, images, and facts, and then branch toward the middle noting patterns, connections, and relationships. Where traditional mapping is deductive, reverse mapping is inductive. For example, to explore a short story, first record seemingly random details from the story around the circumference and then note patterns, motifs, metaphoric connections, as well as more logical groupings as you work toward the middle. This can be used to illustrate how creative writers select detail with an overall design in mind. Same as with traditional mapping, students can use reverse mapping for brainstorming and invention. Or they can map out the details of their own rough draft and begin to develop motifs, themes, or other patterns that they discover with the purpose of layering significant details into the revision.
My go-to activity is based on Google’s model of allowing one day per week for project managers to explore an independent, work-related topic. My Self Exploration Project allows students to explore uncommon knowledge on any course-related topic or a topic they choose to revisit from another course. Students can work individually or in small teams of two or three. Four weeks prior to the presentation due date, students submit a one-page proposal describing their project and answering the question: What is the unique value of the information and how can their peers apply it? Three annotated sources are also required with the proposal. Class presentations (no written reports are required) are limited to four minutes of visual and voice recorded content. Using PowerPoint, video, or a similar presentation tool, students show 16 highly visual images with exactly 15 seconds of recorded explanation for each visual. The timeframe allows two major points per image. No text is permitted, which demands students translate ideas with visuals. Google’s self-exploration time resulted in innovations such as Gmail, Google Talk, and Google News. My “go to” Self Exploration Projects result in engaging student presentations. Students perform best with topics they are invested in.
I sometimes ask students to take complete control of the class discussion. Rather than asking questions and asking students to respond, I say nothing or very little for periods of time, as I listen and take notes. Students must set the agenda, develop and ask questions, respond directly to each other, etc. Ideally, every student should participate in the discussion at least once, and I tell them this. I begin this exercise by giving the students a couple of minutes to brainstorm questions and comments. Once the discussion begins, I intervene only if absolutely necessary—to address confusion, to remind the students of our focus, etc. After twenty minutes or so, I stop the discussion. Using my notes, I identify common patterns and themes, asking the students to revisit certain important issues. At this juncture, I also raise a few additional questions of my own to ensure that everyone fully understands the main ideas. When using this technique, I am consistently impressed by students’ insights and their ability to raise most of the issues that I had planned to address. This method demands active learning and truly allows students to take ownership over the class and their learning experience.
Years ago I began a practice that has been helpful in getting and keeping everyone (including me!) on task. At the very beginning of class, I take a few minutes to express "here's what we're focusing on today," and that may include referring back to concerns, important points, or ending spots from the previous class. At the very end of the class, I take a few minutes to wrap up, assuring that everyone is clear about the expectations for the next meeting and perhaps stating some concerns and giving some pats on the back for what just happened during the current session. This approach has been valuable in creating clarity and in establishing a sense of "we're all in this together." It has almost completely eliminated issues of students coming in unprepared because of confusion and the little bit of time that is 'lost' from each meeting is definitely repaid through a smoother progression through the majority of the class or studio time.
One of the classes I routinely teach is Social Statistics, a required course for all Sociology majors, but it is also an unpopular course among most Sociology majors. In order to achieve teaching effectiveness, I emphasize two things in teaching this course: (1) understanding of statistical concepts and (2) application of statistical concepts and techniques to problems and situations that students can relate to. For example, most of the exercises that I go over in class are based on students’ everyday life situations or other matters that students can relate to. Examples include the distance of a student’s commute to campus, number of miles students drive per week, number of hours students spend on academic work outside classrooms and so on. I collect data from students on these variables and use them to practice statistical concepts such as means, standard deviation, outlier cases, parameter estimation, chi square crosstabs, correlation, etc. I find that this approach helps ease the anxiety many students have in regard to statistical concepts and materials.
The course “Forensic Anthropology” was created with a main focus on identification, recovery and documentation of human skeletal remains for forensic purposes. As such, osteology and forensic archaeology are major components- a fruitful interaction in a hands-on experience through the excavation at a “scene of a crime” at Rowan University. Throughout the semester, students learn the latest techniques in identification while applying these to natural skeletons. They learn identification of sex, age, stature, and race, hence “the body never lies”. For the identification and recovery of a crime site, the students, in a complete team effort, conduct an actual excavation/exhumation of a “cadaver”- the “victim” of a homicide. The “cadaver” (plastic skeleton shot by the Hammonton Barracks detectives execution style) is buried on Rowan grounds. The evidence for the crime is interred earlier and upon recovery the students conduct an extensive forensic analysis that is interpreted and produced in a “legal” report. This Tried and True Teaching activity is a team learning effort, brings the students together as a learning community (everyone is accountable for mastering/sharing at least one aspect of the analysis); and stimulates creativity ( the Old Man’s Regret film, produced solely by students). See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVBkEQM6y0s
As a piano professor whose course load is primarily one-on-one instruction, I know there is a very fine line between teaching and mentoring. Many students come to music as a profession without knowing how difficult it is to actually sit at the piano for 4 hours a day, every day. It is a process that usually is developed throughout childhood, and some of our students have not had the benefit of these years. I find that relating their work habits with financial realities is very useful. I explain that these are the best, and perhaps only years when the student can develop into a professional musician, because they have time, and they have youth. Once they have left the university, life’s exigencies will intrude and pianistic development will take a back seat. I explain that every lesson with me costs them money; I let them know that every extra year they stay in school not only costs them extra tuition, it is another year out of the job market. And I let them know that they are hearing this lecture because I genuinely care that they develop as artists, and complete their program with distinction.
I use Turn and Talk to generate student ideas and responses for whole class discussion. This is particularly helpful when my open-ended question gets a sea of blank stares or when I really want to give everyone a chance to contribute, but I do not have enough time to get each student's response. I ask the students to think of one idea (or two or three) and turn to the person next them and share their idea/s. If I want to generate extended class discussion, I will ask the pairs to decide on one to share out with the whole class. If my time is very limited, I might ask the pairs to "pair share square," which is when two pairs (four people) share the ideas from their turn and talk. Then everyone has engaged in discussion of the ideas on a fairly extensive basis by having processed them twice, and I have fewer groups (uses less time) to share out to the whole class.