In the previous posting I discussed my experience at the first day’s sessions of the June 2006 Teaching Innovations Program in Economics Workshop. Here are my reflections from the second day.
Session 5: First Team Presentations
Session 6: Assessment Strategies for Interactive Learning
Regular formative assessment is critical (my view) to encourage students to decide for themselves how they are doing and not count on the instructor to provide a judgment for them. This may help downplay the importance of grades.
This session didn’t quite hit my target, since though it gave equal weight to formative assessment, the tone still seemed to be feedback for the instructor. Perhaps I’m being unfair here. Perhaps what I was looking for was ideas for teaching the students to self-assess.
Seminal source: Tom Angelo & Pat Cross, Classroom Assessment Techniques
Self-Assessment â€“ encourages thinking and reflection before the exam.
Peer-Assessment â€“ if taken seriously has strong credibility.
Feedback to the Instructor â€“ reflection of student learning
How do we create clear, precise directions for non-trivial collaborative activities?
How do we avoid negative interactions?
Inverted hand raise (Start by asking everyone to raise hands or stand up; then ask questions that allow them to sit down).
Gail on formative quizzes. â€œWeâ€™re going to have a quiz in 10 minutes (so pay attention)â€
Gail: Students love video! (She shows about 10 clips per semester.)
Let students practice â€œold exam questionsâ€ but donâ€™t give them â€œthe answer.â€
Mike: Iâ€™ll listen to your answer to see if youâ€™re on track; if you are not, Iâ€™ll give you a clue back to the track, but thatâ€™s all.
Group Activities require the right spatial layout to accomplishâ€”probably more space than for lecture. Space to reorganize. Space to work in private or so as not to disturb other groups.
Session 7: Interpretive Questions and Class Discussion
Hansen-Salemi Model: Formal, structured class discussion, not interactive lecture. I think Iâ€™m finally getting this, after what: ten years of reading about it.
Use discussion for ideas of primary importance; itâ€™s too resource-intensive for lesser concepts.
To be effective, the moderator should never be a participant; never provide answers, only questions.
Always, always, always start with an interpretive question (rather than summarize the reading). My thinking was that asking for a summary was a safe way to start a discussion. In practice, a summary is enabling for students,behavior since it sends the message that if you donâ€™t do the reading you can get by with the summary. Besides, summary is a lower order task that students can do that on their own outside of scarce class time.
Tip: Start the discussion with a low level quiz on a basic question on the text. Kick students out (“Do a KimMarie”) if they fail.
The discussion should revolve around interpretive questions. The purpose of factual questions is to provide evidence for an interpretation.
Martha: How do you build the trust between students and between the students and you in order to get them to buy in to discussion?
â€¢ Start with small group activities
â€¢ Never criticize a student or their answer (But do ask critical questions)
How should the moderator respond to an answer which is flat out wrong?
â€œIâ€™m hearing some dissonance here. Does anyone have a problem with what Fred said?â€
[Donâ€™t provide an explicit judgment or provide the right answerâ€”simply raise questions.]
Moderator as Reflector: While students talk, think about how you would summarize what theyâ€™re saying: Summarize a participantâ€™s point and ask: Is this what you mean, Fred?
Move around the classroom and student eyes will followâ€”you can add support to a shy person by moving to or near them in the classroom.
How much summary should one do at the end the discussion? â€œAre we ready to end the discussion? Does everyone have a good idea of what weâ€™ve come up with? Who wants to present a summary? Who wants to amend?
You donâ€™t need to grade individual contributions in the discussion if you put the content on a subsequent exam. Or give a grade for participating only.
Session 8: Creating and Teaching Context Rich Problems
Thereâ€™s a lot here. Iâ€™m doing some of this stuff, but I need to think a lot more about it. Again, like cooperative learning, Iâ€™m learning the theory of CRPs here, which should make for more effective exercises.
Place students in the context so that they have a vested interest in the problem.
The more you know about your students the easier it will be to create an appropriate context.
The case for context rich problems: economic literacy and improved transfer. This reminds me of intermittent conditioning, where you get a more consistent response than with regular conditioning: Learning in context is easier to apply in a new context than learning in the abstract.
Hearing your problem orally, rather than reading it, gives you a better sense of how students will perceive it.
Session 9: Making Large Lectures More Interactive
I donâ€™t teach classes larger than 40 students, so I had fairly low expectations for this session. My goal for the session: What can I take away from this? So this is less a summary of the session and more a summary of the pieces that seem relevant to my teaching situation.
Cool presentation! Gail had surveyed a group of â€œmastersâ€ of large lectures, including Jim Gwartney, Alan Sanderson, Ken Elzinga. Her presentation blended in quotes from the masters as illustrations of her major points.
Stay connected to your course/learning objectives. If your activity isnâ€™t connected itâ€™s not relevant to your class.
Use spontaneous quizzes to refocus attention in class.
If you move around the room, when you ask a cold question, almost always someone within 10 feet of you will answer.
(I wonder if movement changes your voice modulation which helps students stay focused.)
One way to deal with dominant students is to put physical distance between you and them. It tends to diffuse their power.
Gail: Learning should be able to be fun without becoming mere entertainment.
Class demonstrations (e.g. Dim MP) are incredibly engaging; students remember them better than most material. Is it just the novelty or does engagement promote deeper learning?
Example: Compare two studentâ€™s rankings for m&ms, skittles, chili-pops. Note the inability to make interpersonal comparisons.
Use alternative media to break-up class sessions: audio, video clips
Dirk Mateer, Penn State, Economics at the Movies is a good source.
AMENDMENT: My reflections for Day 3 of the Workshop are here.