|Students Designing Four Session Plan, With Sticky Notes November 2017|
I should be using this blog more consistently. (Now that is an understatement!) Anyway, a full year has gone by, I did teach the University Teaching Course once again, and I have some reflections on the ideas of my last entry (Geez!) of what I thought I might do.
Here are the elements I mentioned along with an updating commentary.
Preface: Well, every group is different. And this year we used a new text, a book by Sarah Cavanaugh called The Spark of Learning: Energizing the College Classroom With the Science of Emotion. Pairs of students chose parts of successive chapter to present - their choice - and we critiqued the teaching using a new assessment form I created to more closely capture the "good teaching" concepts I planned into the course. The photo that follows captures a part of the assessment protocol.
|Portion of Teaching Asssessment Protocol|
1. Correcting crappy objectives.
I usually start my course in pretty traditional fashion, giving an overview to a big picture "model of teaching" that ties together in triangular array, instruction, learning, and content. I use Bloom to talk about learning and gradually over the next several sessions, teach the distinctions between goals, performances, objectives, and that specificity for the learners in terms of outcomes is both an equity issue as well as an instructional/learning necessity. I chose the new text because frankly, when it came to the emotional side of the learning process, physiologically speaking, all my students had to go on was my word plus some scans of brain activity that I love to use and I think prove the point of action-based teaching. Cavanaugh's book deals with emotion and feeling in spades, hence the adoption. Hence, too, the shift in not dealing with objectives and cognitive taxonomies up front in the course.
Unfortunately, objective writing only arrived on the doorstep of our work at our last class and frankly, that was not the best. I did see plenty of evidence of action based learning activities in our four session planning matrix assignment, but I also saw plenty of passive learning objectives as well.
So, we didn't do the "correcting crappy objectives" this time around, I still see the need for it, and in 2018 we will used work that I've prepared but not gotten to that I know works.
2. Communicating with cartoons.
We did more work with cartoons this time around. I was impressed with the challenge adding a paragraph or even a few sentences of substantive (research informed) explanation to the cartoons when first I used them in 2016. I modeled better and stretched cartooning into two adjacent classes. The students got what I was driving at better and we did the activity as a small group collaboration in poster creation so the assistance worked to enhance the final products. A portion of one poster follows.
3. Doing small groups with rules and norms, task and resource cards. Assessing the impact of norms and roles on group processing.
The poster creation project was a huge success. These PhD students were highly motivated by the option I'd given them and they worked seriously at trying to focus Cavanaugh's sometimes elaborate explanations. Plus, I used the opportunity of small group work to teach some small group work strategies, especially in structuring the work. I chose the format of activity cards, advocated in Elizabeth Cohen's form of small group collaborative practices called Complex Instruction. It did not go unnoticed that giving one activity card to a group of four, and specifically locating the responsibility to make sure all members understood the task with the facilitator, ensured everyone knew what they had to do before setting out to do it. What follows is the card.
4. Using the feedback sheets to assess their chapter presentations. Perhaps even having them design their own feedback sheet, all based on substantive research of course. We could start with critiquing mine.
This year I improved the feedback sheet making it more aligned with what we were actually studying in the course. See example in preface to this entry. That's the good news. The not so good news is that it is too long for serious analytical activity each time we do a presentation, and students are prone to give it a not so serious run through, egged on by the fact that we never had quite enough time in class to give it its due. I'm convinced it has to be filled out consequent to the presentations for freshness of recall. I'll continue to work on it. I like the format. I may make it more rubric-like in design. They like the teaching requirement. To be continued.
Incidentally, I did "stop and deliver" explanations about my own teaching strategies which helped the class begin to establish a kind of critique mentality for teaching. I liken this to what teachers of art do when they step back with a class, observed a piece of artwork, and do a structured description and critique. That's the model in my brain only for an episode of teaching and we'll get closer to it next year. I promise.
5. Critiquing my syllabus using the chapter on beginnings, and then redesigning the syllabus.
We did this by way of a discussion board entry followed by a class discussion. It was okay, not great. Lang actually has a good section in On Course on syllabus preparation and I will use it in some fashion next year. I like the idea of using my syllabus for critique as one of the first interactive activities in class. It does present me as "approachable" and it does give me the opportunity to explain why I wrote things the way I did and what I chose not to include and why. Kind of a window into this professor's reasoning process for how he conceived of a one credit, seven session course on University Teaching.
The Four Session Planning Matrix
In years past, one of the major course assignments has been to plan a fifteen session course. I'd jump start the process in class. They model we followed was to build a matrix on chart sized paper using sticky notes. Along the top of the matrix were the fifteen sessions; down the side were the elements of planning, suggested by me. Topics, Subtopics, Student Learning Outcomes, Teaching Activities, Universal Design for Learning Principles and Guidelines, Resources Needed, etc. The students needed to select at least five. So, this 5x15 matrix was a major assignment for sure.
This year in preparing for this year's version of the course, I decided this assignment was too big. They didn't need 15 sessions to have an applied experience in course (not lesson) preparation. And I didn't need them to do this much work to see whether or not they "got" essential content in the course.
So this year, we did a four session matrix and they constructed it in our last class as a kind of last hurrah to what we had learned over the seven sessions of the course. I worked really well. Everyone chose their own course or workshop experience, either one they will have to teach already on the books, or one that was in their head that they would like to teach. I was worried they wouldn't be able to pull it off in one two hour class session but everyone got a great start and one student actually finished the assignment. One photo I absolutely love is a picture of a student in the midst of planning with a pile of torn sticky notes next to her chart paper. Those torn sticky notes represented to me what I am so keen to make happen in this course: cognitive revision - better ideas coming out of the constant prainwork of planning across multiple sessions of teaching. In my mind this is not a linear process. As you think of something in the third session, for instance, you will revise the lead up activity for this "something" in sessions one and two, and so on. This student was revising like mad as she worked out the logic and reality of her four session learning experience and frankly, that was all I could ask for as her teacher. That she continually have the knowledge, inclination, and skills to improve her valued designs for learning while in the act of creation!