A Problem of Practice: Helping Learners Connect to Disciplinary Theory

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A few years back, educational researcher Dr. James Hiebert and colleagues articulated the need for a shared professional knowledge base for pedagogical practice that would integrate insights gained from both traditional research and teachers’ situated experiences. In doing so they acknowledged the difficulty of adapting research output for use in individual circumstances. They further distinguished the value of practitioners’ knowledge for this purpose. To make shared professional knowledge for teaching useful, they argued, it should be represented through theories with examples to lend contextual specificity, particularly those that address specific problems of practice.

Ironically, one enduring problem of practice for educators is how to best help our students use disciplinary theory/concepts to inform their view of select topics or events. For example, one of my colleagues recently observed that her students have had difficulty linking theories of race learned in the classroom to race-related controversies that arise in the news. Gaps in epistemic skills such as this are a concern given the importance we place on students’ critical reasoning and problem-solving abilities.

This past fall, Dr. Amy Stone and Dr. Sarah Beth Kaufman (Associate Professor and Assistant Professor in Sociology and Anthropology at Trinity, respectively) joined our faculty luncheon series to share how they help students connect topics of individual interest to broader sociological concepts in a course on Social Research Design that they co-designed. Their presentation served as an exemplar for sharing practitioner knowledge in that it elaborated on a common problem of practice in a concrete, contextually rich, manner. Continue reading A Problem of Practice: Helping Learners Connect to Disciplinary Theory

“A Lecture from the Lectured”: Reviewing a Student Response

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Recently, Chronicle Vitae — a higher ed career site and blogging platform linked to the Chronicle of Higher Education — published an op-ed written by fifteen students, titled “A Lecture from the Lectured,” in response to the fall essays published in the New York Times and Slate on the pros and cons of lecture. The students respond to a theme they see in the articles of the writers talking about students, but not to them. The New York Times essay by Molly Worthen (“Lecture Me, Really,” Oct. 2015) describes the complex thought and analysis Worthen expects her students to be doing during a lecture, and upholds the lecture as the premier model of teaching. Worthen says the format teaches students to focus, and explains why more student-centered models of teaching “do a disservice” to students. The Slate essay by Rebecca Schuman (“Professors Shouldn’t Teach to Younger Versions of Themselves,” Oct. 2015) responds to Worthen’s piece and explains that lecture may accomplish what Worthen hopes, but only for the “ideal” student that most professors were. Schuman paints her students as “the average, real, very-much-not-ideal” and goes on to explain why more involved teaching methods might be “giving students what they need.” What both essays are missing — and what the student op-ed response highlights — are student voices. Continue reading “A Lecture from the Lectured”: Reviewing a Student Response

Through the Looking Glass with Lightboards

Dr. David Ribble recorded this Lightboard video while visiting Furman University in October 2015.

The value of a new academic technology often derives from its ability to operationalize a simple idea for a variety of purposes. This is particularly true when that technology dovetails well with our existing workflows and professional interests. For these reasons, my colleague Dr. David Ribble and I began discussing options last spring for building a Lightboard in Trinity’s Center for the Sciences and Innovation.

Lightboards are a recent advent that enables video capture of presentations with higher fidelity to face-to-face interaction than other recording techniques. It consists of a transparent glass surface lit by a perimeter strip of LED lights. The presenter(s) stands behind the glass facing a video-camera on the other side and, fluorescent marker in hand, uses the glass as a writing surface. This configuration allows the presenter face-to-face contact with the “audience” and any writing or diagrams appear illuminated in front of her/him. A large Lightboard can also provide area for projection capture of slide images in this manner. While simple in concept, the result is impressive as are the range of potential applications.

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How to Get Students to Do the Reading?: We Asked Them

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Recently, the Collaborative hosted a workshop for faculty on “How to Get Students to Do the Reading.” We looked together at research on student reading completion, discussed faculty members’ own practices, then reviewed ideas about reading from Trinity students themselves. We wanted to know: When students complete the readings, what drives them to do so? Why might they choose not to do or finish a reading? When they engage with readings more deeply than simply completing them, what influences that decision?

Student Perspectives

Before the workshop, I talked with four Trinity students and our director, Sean Connin, sent out a voluntary survey to his Introductory Environmental Studies course. Altogether, we collected ten different student perspectives. Four major themes emerged about why students choose to engage with the readings they have been assigned: Continue reading How to Get Students to Do the Reading?: We Asked Them

Connection and Collaboration: An Introduction to Sophia Abbot

September 14th, 2015 http://www.brynmawr.edu/tli/perspectives.html
September 14th, 2015 http://www.brynmawr.edu/tli/perspectives.html

My name is Sophia and I am the newest staff member of the Collaborative for Learning and Teaching. I just arrived here from Bryn Mawr College, where I majored independently in “Educational Identities and Empowering Pedagogy.” Bryn Mawr doesn’t offer an education major, and in any case, my interests didn’t lie (yet) in preparing to be a k-12 classroom teacher, as many education programs center on. Instead, I developed my own course of study, pulling on coursework in Education, Sociology, English, and independent studies to shape my thinking on the intersections of identity and classroom practice. Continue reading Connection and Collaboration: An Introduction to Sophia Abbot

The Pedagogy of Digital Humanities in the Liberal Arts Classroom

About · Millican  Riot,  1868This spring, the Collaborative organized a pilot program called Invited Scholars, which brought faculty from Trinity together with scholars from other Texas institutions around different topics related to teaching and learning. To provide additional entry points into the new “Digital Literacy” capacity of our revised curriculum, this semester’s theme was “Digital Humanities in the Liberal Arts Classroom.” Under this umbrella, we had the good fortune of hosting Associate Professor of English Dr. Amy Earhart (Texas A&M University) and Associate Professor of Classics Dr. Adam Rabinowitz (UT-Austin). Continue reading The Pedagogy of Digital Humanities in the Liberal Arts Classroom

Note-Taking Matters: Exploring Our Options

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In an earlier post on student note-taking, I distinguished variations in the quality and quantity of these materials in relation to the note-takers gender, time of residence in the college or university, and the working memory skill and attentional capacity of individual students. Note-taking is a cognitively demanding practice that students perform under pressure. These latter points are critical to understanding students’ classroom behavior and exam performance, particularly for students with learning disabilities and/or those with a limited command of the spoken language.

Several important instructional questions come to mind when confronting these facts. First, how to best structure our class time and resources to offset the cognitive costs of note-taking and focus students on the subject matter? Second, how to help students navigate classroom discourse and distinguish key points and ideas from secondary information? Third, how to optimize students’ collection and use of class notes for acquiring disciplinary knowledge? I will add yet a fourth; how to leverage note-taking assignments and activities to mitigate last minute test preparation and other shallow approaches to learning? These queries merit response. Continue reading Note-Taking Matters: Exploring Our Options

Digital Humanities in the Lone Star State

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Several weeks ago, Sean and I joined a lively group of educators from other Texas universities in a virtual meeting of the Texas Digital Humanities Consortium (TXDHC). This newly formed group seeks to advance digital scholarship and teaching in the humanities and to facilitate research and collaboration within a community of practice for scholars in higher education. Particular highlights of our meeting included lightning talks on digital humanities projects involving student interns as well as emerging research in sonic (i.e., sound) analysis. With a variety of TXDHC events and workshops on the horizon, there are ample opportunities for faculty and staff to join the discussion, share resources and information, and develop new skills and lines of inquiry related to their academic interests.

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Between the Lines: Student Note-Taking

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Note-taking is the principal means by which students record, organize, and later retrieve information that they encounter in class or as part of a course assignment. In this respect, students use notes as both a cognitive aid for learning and as a facsimile of expert knowledge held by the instructor. A student’s note-taking practice also prefigures their performance on tests and related assessments. More often than not, however, we instructors overestimate our students’ preparedness as note-takers and overlook the intellectual demands that underlie this practice.

These points hit home for me in the wake of a mid-term exam I administered earlier this semester and my subsequent investigation into the literature on note-taking and learning. What I discovered has given me cause to reevaluate my instructional responsibilities and my understanding of inclusive teaching. Continue reading Between the Lines: Student Note-Taking

No Stable Meaning among Genres

Blog---No-Stable-Meaning-yelllow3In the recently published Assignments across the Curriculum (2014), Dan Melzer offers a large-scale survey of college writing assignments. He studied 2,101 writing assignments across 400 courses at 100 institutions. Among other important findings, his data make it clear: there is no stable meaning for academic genres, such as “research paper,” “journal,” or “lab report.” What one discipline, course, or even instructor means by these types of student work may differ dramatically from another. As such, Melzer claims that these assignments should not be classified as genres at all because they are simply “too diverse” (108). His data imply that, as instructors, we can no longer take these genres for granted when crafting assignments for, or communicating with, our students.

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