Take a MOOC in research-based teaching!

by Stephanie Chasteen on August 25, 2015

I had the good fortune to be involved in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) aimed at teaching graduate students and new faculty about evidence-based teaching strategies.  The MOOC is running again this year — check it out!

An Introduction to Evidence-Based STEM Teaching is run through the CIRTL network (great folks, good mission, great expertise).  It runs for 8 weeks through Coursera, starting September 28, and you can expect to do about 4 hours of work per week.  Some folks are forming small learning communities around the course (e.g., discussion groups, class meetings, etc.) — see the website for how to start one or find one.

Here is the short introduction video

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Drawing to Learn: Sketching and Peer Instruction

by Stephanie Chasteen on August 4, 2015

Many aspects of learning require the ability to visualize – the structure of the cell, the interconnected relationships of historical figures, the forces on a figure skater, the shape of a population distribution graph. But students rarely have the opportunity to create their own visualizations – a critical part of learning. This month’s article will discuss why it’s important for students to draw to learn, and how to use this in conjunction with clicker questions.

Students are usually called upon to interpret visualizations that are given to them –diagrams, photographs, videos, and graphs. We show these to students to help them develop an expert’s eye for the subject… or representational skills. However, interpretation of someone else’s representation is only half the battle. Students can learn through creating their own representations, by going through the tough mental work of coming up with a schematic to explain an idea, concept, or process.

I was recently reminded of the importance of drawing by an excellent article by Ainsworth, Prain and Tytler in Science – so good I’ve hung onto it for 4 years, meaning to write a blog post about it.

Here are five good reasons that they give for using drawing in science classes, but I believe the messages are relatively universal:

  1. Drawing is engaging. Drawing lets students explore and think about ideas in classes, a very clear break from the rote memorization and lecture which has been found to be minimally effective on its’ own.
  2. Drawing lets students to become visually literate. Each discipline has its’ core representations (graphs, diagrams, etc.), and through generating their own representations, students learn when different representations are important, and how to create a good representation. E.g., how does a line graph work, and when is it useful?
  3. Drawing helps students reason and make connections. Diagrams can provide insight into the thinking and reasoning of the discipline. For example, drawing diagrams of sound waves can help students better understand the relationship between pressure and sound. There are many studies showing that visualizations add a component of learning that’s just not there in strict verbal/textual representations.
  4. Drawing helps students learn. By drawing, students can become more expert in their thinking about a subject, because they need to make sense of and organize the material that has been presented. For example, students might be asked to make a drawing, or concept map, to explain what they’ve learned. And while students might not come up with the “right” or expert-like drawing, going through the process of trying to create their own representation prepares them for future learning.
  5. Drawing helps students communicate. Drawing lets students share ideas with one another, even before they have developed the vocabulary and expertise needed to explain themselves clearly in words. These drawings and sketches can be a great opener to peer sharing and discussion in the classroom, and give teachers insight into how their students are thinking.

Many drawing and sketching techniques can be done with students in small groups, preferably with small whiteboards that they can use to share their results with the whole class. An additional component can be added to this discussion by turning the open-ended sketch into a clicker question. To make a drawing-question into a clicker question, try:

  1. Pose the question as an open-ended question. Have students make sketches in their notebooks or small whiteboards. Some possible approaches include:
    1. Students make a concept map diagramming relationships
    2. Students predict the form that a graph will take (say, as a result of an experiment)
    3. Students diagram a structure or process (e.g., the steps of photosynthesis, the structure of the cell, how light travels from a light bulb)
  2. Have students share their sketches with one another. This is a critical opportunity for learning and sharing.
  3. Turn the question into a multiple choice clicker question – which of these most closely matches your sketch/graph? If you aren’t sure what choices to give, you can choose a few sketches or whiteboards from around the room to display at the front of the room as exemplars of a particular type of drawing, and have students choose among these.

Below is an example of such a question. Can anyone share additional examples?
Citation: Ainsworth, Prain and Tytler, “Drawing to Learn in Science,” Science, 333, August 2011.

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Everything you ever wanted to know about peer instruction: Part 2 (How to use it).

July 2, 2015

This is a continuation of last month’s post, summarizing the results of a recent literature review of Peer Instruction,  Research-Based Implementation of Peer Instruction: A literature Review. In this month’s post, I’ll review the results on how to use peer instruction effectively. Peer instruction is the recommended use of clickers, following the following cycle: Instructor lectures for a […]

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The history of Tutorials at CU Boulder

June 15, 2015

I’ve got a new short video to share, focusing on the history of Tutorials at CU, featuring our own Steven Pollock: This is part of some work I’ve been doing for PhysPort.org, which makes evidence-based resources available for physics instructors. All videos for the project, including our short introduction to Tutorials, can be found on the YouTube […]

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Everything you ever wanted to know about peer instruction: Part 1 (How PI Helps Students Learn)

June 2, 2015

Confused about what the literature recommends for best use of clickers? Want to have all the information summarized and synthesized for you in a nice, trustworthy reference? Well, I’ve certainly been hungry for such a reference, and now we have it: A team of scholars in chemistry education have just published a very comprehensive review across […]

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NSF 2015 Teaching and Learning video showcase – going on now!

May 11, 2015

This week there’s a great opportunity to learn more about lots and lots of NSF-funded STEM education projects.  Check out this showcase of more than 100 videos. The videos offer a 3-minute glance into the variety of innovative work being funded by the National Science Foundation in education. http://resourcecenters2015.videohall.com You can do stuff during this week: […]

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Free Webinar: ClickerStarter for College Faculty

April 28, 2015

I’m giving another free webinar for i>clicker next Tuesday, May 5th, at 3pm ET.  This is called “ClickerStarter for College Faculty” and is intended as a quick primer on the effective use of clickers for those who want an overview of the benefits and best uses of clickers. Have you heard about using clickers in class, […]

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Reacting to their votes: Instructor agility

April 10, 2015

You don’t know how your students will vote on a clicker question, but you can anticipate and prepare yourself for the likely outcomes. It’s really important to use a clicker system which lets you have a sneak-preview of student responses – as i>clicker does, shown below. This lets you “hold back” the histogram from students […]

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New meta-analysis: Active learning improves student performance

March 27, 2015

It’s not quite so new anymore, but still exciting! While we have more and more data that active learning techniques improve student learning, this field has been sorely needing a systematic review of the evidence on active learning. Recently, a crackerjack team of education researchers stepped up to the plate with just what I’ve been […]

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Tutorials in Introductory Physics at CU

March 24, 2015

I just finished a short video on the use of Tutorials in Introductory Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder, and wanted to share it with you all.  It gives a good overview of Tutorials and why you would want to use them. You can find out more about Tutorials here. Here is a link […]

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Using clickers in small classes

March 14, 2015

As more instructors are trying clickers and peer instruction in their courses, I get more questions about how to use them in small classes. I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned through talking with faculty who teach courses of various sizes. The first question I ask is, “what do you mean by small?” […]

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Student motivation to engage with clicker questions

February 27, 2015

I’ve been doing a lot of reading in the educational psychology literature lately, to better understand what the learning sciences has to tell us about student motivation – and how that might relate to what we should do as instructors to motivate students to engage in clicker questions. I wanted to share what I’ve found […]

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Learn the latest advances in physics education… from your living room

January 22, 2015

I’m excited to announce that the New Faculty Workshop videos are online! https://www.physport.org/nfw This is a project that I helped with, doing the filming and editing of the presentations.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, the Workshop for New Faculty in Physics and Astronomy is a 3-day workshop for new faculty in physics and […]

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Videos on scientific teaching

January 9, 2015

I wanted to make a pitch for a very nice set of videos on research-based teaching methods:  the  iBiology Scientific Teaching Series.  This is a series of videos about Active Learning in undergraduate biology education, but is applicable across STEM.  They are looking to publicize their videos, and get feedback! From the producers:   The videos include […]

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Feedback codes: Giving student feedback while maintaining sanity

January 5, 2015

One of the most important things in learning is timely, targeted feedback.  What exactly does that mean?  It means that in order to learn to do something well, we need someone to tell us… Specifically, what we can do to improve Soon after we’ve completed the task. Unfortunately, most feedback that students receive is too general […]

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Learning, and assessing, collaboratively: Group Exams

December 29, 2014

I am one of many who are convinced that people learn better in collaboration with others.  However, there’s always this somewhat disturbing schizophrenia when it comes to assessment — we spend all this time emphasizing group work and collaboration, but come exam time — it’s everyone for him or herself. So I was very excited […]

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Free webinar, December 11th: ClickerStarter

December 5, 2014

I’m giving another free webinar for i>clicker this coming Thursday, December 11th, at 10 am ET (7 am PT).  This is called “ClickerStarter for College Faculty” and is intended as a quick primer on the effective use of clickers for those who want an overview of the benefits and uses of clickers. Have you heard […]

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Clicker Q&A

December 4, 2014

As some teachers are just getting things rolling with clickers and peer instruction for the Spring, I thought I would share some questions that faculty have asked me about clickers and peer instruction. This is something I’ve added recently to my workshops, and am really liking it – I ask participants to share their questions in advance, […]

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Why NOT to grade clicker questions for correctness

November 15, 2014

One thing that faculty really struggle with is whether or not, and how much, to give students credit for their clicker question answers. You want to give students some incentive to participate, but grading opens a whole can of worms. One of my faculty workshop participants explained the dilemma very astutely: “If I do not […]

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Measuring and improving students’ engagement

November 2, 2014

I’ve been working over the last year or so to better understand how to promote student buy-in to interactive techniques such as clickers and group work.  That work resulted in a set of resources on how to “frame” students’ roles in the class, especially in the first week. Now I’ve been delving deeper into this […]

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