Tomorrow’s Teaching and Learning

A recent newsletter [fixed link (Peter)] I got from the “Tomorrow’s Professor” mailing list had some great set of techniques to enhance student’s self-regulated learning during lectures. A lot of them are related to what we learnt during Peter’s lectures. Attached below are the notes from the link above:

Self-Regulated Learning from Live Lectures

Over the past couple of decades, lectures have received a bad rap as an ineffective, student-passive teaching method. But lecturing is still popular and does have its purposes. It can even hold student attention when delivered dynamically, organized logically, and broken up intermittently by brief activities during which the students apply, analyse, or otherwise work with the new content they just received (Nilson, 2010). Perhaps the reason that lectures have fallen into disrepute is the poor quality of the self-regulation skills of so many of our students.

Listening to a lecture is much like reading a chapter. Learning from either one requires keen mental focus, persistence, and reflective, inquiring interaction with the material. In addition, having a purpose – such as points to look for or questions to answer – helps listeners and readers concentrate. Let’s look at some in-class activities designed to enhance students’ self-regulated learning skills during a lecture.

Prelecture Activity: Active Knowledge Sharing

Active knowledge sharing resembles a knowledge survey but occurs at the beginning of a class session. You provide students with a list of questions related to the subject matter of the day’s class. These questions may present concepts to define, people or relationships to identify, statements to assess as valid or not, causes or effects of phenomena to explain, or data to interpret. Students then pair up to answer the questions as best they can, after which they converse with another pair to try to answer the questions that stumped them. Finally, you call on samples of pairs or pair groupings to explain their answers. This exercise activates students’ prior knowledge, tells you where to start on the topic, and reveals your students’ misconceptions so that you can address them explicitly (Cuseo, 2002). As a means to enhance self-regulated learning, active knowledge sharing makes students aware of what they know and don’t know about the subject matter and cues them on what to listen for in class.

During-the-Lecture Activities

Some of these activities are classic student-active lecture breaks that are designed to restore students’ ability to focus on the lecture or to reinforce their understanding of the material on a conceptual or applied level. The following activities also build self-regulated learning skills.

Clicker Questions (ConcepTests)

Clicker questions, also known as ConcepTests, represent a technique developed by Mazur (1997) years before personal response systems (clickers) found their way into the classroom. At the end of a 15- to 25-minute minilecture, you display on a slide a multiple-choice item – preferably one that tests students’ conceptual understanding of your minilecture content – with four or five response options. Then you survey your students’ selections; you may also want to survey their level of confidence in their choice, as Mazur did. Electronic technology is not necessary. According to Lasry (2008), using clickers or different color cards for each response option makes no difference in the learning gains. Next, you give students a minute to discuss their selections, then you resurvey their answers and their confidence level. At this point, you can share with your class the distribution of the responses as well as the correct answer. Not only do students have the chance to review the material with their peers, but they also find out quickly how well they understand the topic from the interaction. You also learn about their understanding and any misconceptions that may be getting in their way. Stanford University psychology professor Stephen Chew uses clicker questions to develop his students’ metacognitive skills (quoted in Lang, 2012). The whole procedure takes about three minutes, possibly one or two more to answer questions.

As a technology, clickers have encountered some competition from mobile devices and LectureTools software, which works in classes with laptops. Samson (2008), cocreator of the software, uses it to pose multiple-choice questions and to survey his students every several minutes on how well they understand what he is explaining in the lecture. The software displays these data in a graph that only he can see. LectureTools also allows students to send him questions confidentially at any time, so that he knows what points to review and clarify during the next class. Samson says his students heartily approve of this software. You can download LectureTools for free and start using it the way he does with his class. However, your students must pay a modest per-term or per-year fee.

Student Questions Identified by Level

In addition to allowing students to raise questions confidentially during class, LectureTools permits the standard practice of pre- and post-metacognitive questions to complement class discussion (Samson et al., 2008). For instance, students can identify the level of the questions they are submitting according to Bloom’s taxonomy. After you answer the questions during a lecture break, students can reidentify the level of the questions and discuss the rationales behind their classifications. According to Samson et al. (2008), this exercise makes students aware of their levels of questioning and learning.

Pair and Small-Group Activities

All five of the following exercises make students review and mentally process your lecture material. As lecture breaks, they also help students regain their ability to focus in class. As self-regulation activities, the first and fourth activities offer occasions for students to evaluate their lecture notes and possibly improve them, while the second and third activities provide opportunities for self-testing and retrieval practice.

Testing oneself on recall also provides feedback about one’s focus during class. To hold students accountable for doing these activities, you should call on a few pairs or small groups to report on their work. The final exercise teaches students how to evaluate their own work, as well as the work of others, using your criteria. It helps them better understand your grading standards and how you apply them on actual models. Regard the following activities as examples that you can adapt, modify, or draw on to inspire your own innovations.

Cooperative note-taking pairs. You pause your minilecture for students to pair up and share the notes they have been taking. Ideally, they should exchange valuable material. They can ask one another to clarify a difficult part of the lecture, identify what they thought were the most important points, and answer questions they may have (D.W. Johnson, Johnson, & Smith, 1991).

Scripted cooperation. You pause your minilecture for students to pair up at some key juncture. One student summarizes the lecture material without looking at her notes, while the other furnishes feedback about the accuracy and completeness of the summary (Cuseo, 2002). At this point you might give some guidance on what they should do next. Depending on the material, they might briefly discuss how the material is relevant to their lives, relates to their prior learning, or can be remembered. The next time, the students switch roles.

Periodic free recall with pair and compare, version 1. In one version of this technique, students listen to your minilecture without taking notes until you pause for them to write down all the important points that they can recall, along with questions they may have. Tell students to leave considerable space between the points they record because they will then pair up and compare their free-recall notes, filling in whatever they left out and answering one another’s questions (Bonwell & Eison, 1991).

Periodic free recall with pair and compare, version 2. A second version differs from the first in that students have been taking lecture notes until you pause. You then tell them to close their notebooks and write down the most important one, two, or three points of your minilecture and any questions they may have. This exercise can be done individually, but students working in pairs or small groups can help each other identify the most important points more accurately and answer each other’s questions.

Pair/group mock testing and grading. Before you give an exam with one or more essay questions, you help students prepare by giving them the same type of question to answer in class. Along with the practice question, you provide a grading rubric. Students work in pairs or small groups to draft or outline an answer. You randomly select a few pairs or groups to present their answer to the class. Then both you and the rest of class use your rubric to mock-grade the answers.

“Quick-thinks”

Johnston and Cooper (1997) coined the term Quick-thinks for several cross-disciplinary lecture-break activities that individuals, pairs, or small groups can do quickly. All the activities help students monitor their understanding while still allowing them to ask questions, correct their thinking, and learn from each other. Each assignment takes just a couple of minutes, plus a few more to survey student responses. After the activities, you should randomly call on individuals or groups to ensure their participation.

Correct the error. You display a statement, short argument, prediction, implication, equation, or visual that contains a logical, factual, procedural, computational, orrelational error, and students identify it as quickly as they can. They must also correct the error, drawing on content from your lecture or related readings.

Complete a sentence starter. You display the first part of a sentence, such as a definition, an example, a counterexample, a cause-and-effect relationship, an implication, a category, or a rationale, and students try to complete it accurately. Finishing the sentence starter should require higher-order thinking or reflection, not just rote knowledge.

Compare and contrast. You ask students to identify similarities and differences between parallel elements in your last minilecture, such as events, historical periods, models, theories, methods, artistic or literary works, problems or solutions. These comparisons and contrasts should present students with new challenges and not repeat what they have already read or heard.

Reorder the steps. You present an incorrectly ordered process, method, procedure, plan, series of events, or set of steps, and students work to sequence the items correctly.

Reach a conclusion. You present data, facts, or events, and students draw one or more logical conclusions from them. Their inferences can be probable results or outcomes.

Paraphrase the idea. You present a definition, theory, explanation, procedure, process, or description and ask students to write their own rephrasing of it. To allow them to improve or correct their version you can put them in pairs or small groups to get peer feedback or have a few individuals read their version aloud to the class to receive feedback from their peers and you.

Support a statement. You present a conclusion, point of view, or inference, and students gather support for it from your lecture, the readings, or other sources they can quickly access in class. Of course, you can flip this exercise around to “counter a statement.”

References

Angelo, T.A., & Cross, P.K. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Bloom, B., & Associates. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: David McKay.

Bonwell, C. C., & Eison, J.A. (1991). Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom. (ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 1). Washington, DC: George Washington University, School of Education and Human Development.

Cuseo, J.B. (2002). Igniting student involvement, peer interaction, and teamwork. Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press.

Gronlund, N.E., & Waugh, C.K. (2009). Assessment of student achievement (9th ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon. Jacobs, L.C., & Chase, C.I. (1992). Developing and using tests effectively: A guide for faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R.T., & Smith, K.A. (1991). Active learning: Cooperation in the college classroom. Edina, MN: Interaction Books.

Johnston, S., & Cooper, J. (1997). Quick-thinks: The interactive lecture. Cooperative Learning and College Teaching, 8(1), 1-8.

Lang, J.M. (2012, January 17). Metacognition and student learning. Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved January 18,2 012, from http://chronicle.com/article/MetacognitionStudent/130327/?sid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en.

Lasry, N. (2008). Clickers or flashcards: Is there really a difference? Physics Teacher, 46, 242-244.

Mazur, E. (1997). Peer instruction: A user’s manual. Upper Saddle Creek, NJ: Prentice Hall.

McGuire, S., Gosselin, D., Mamo, M., Holmes, M.A., Husman, J., & Rutherford, S. (2008, November). Metacognitive learning strategies in all classes. Session presented at the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) Workshops: The Role of Metacognition in Teaching Geoscience, Carleton College, Northfield, MN. Retrieved January 15, 2012, from http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/metacognition/tactics/28931.html.

Mezeske, B. (2009). The Graduate revisited: Not “plastics” but “metacognition.” The Teaching Professor, 23(9), 1.

Nilson, L.B. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Ory, J.C., & Ryan, K.E. (1993). Survival skills for college, Vol. 4: Tips for improving testing and grading. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Samson, P., Sibley, D., Briles, C., McGraw, J., Jones F., & Brassell, S. (2008, November). A tactic to actively promote metacognitive skills as learning strategies in classroom activities using LectureTools. Session presented at the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) Workshops: The Role of Metacognition in Teaching Geoscience, Carleton College, Northfield, MN. Retrieved January 16, 2012, from http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/metacognition/tactics/28934.html.

Suskie, L. (2004). Assessing student learning: A common sense guide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Wirth, K.R., & Perkins, D. (2008a, November). Knowledge surveys. Session presented at the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) Workshops: The Role of Metacognition in Teaching Geoscience, Carleton College, Northfield, MN. Retrieved March, 2010, from http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/assess/knowledgesurvey/.

Wirth, K.R., & Perkins, D. (2008b). Learning to learn. Retrieved May 12, 2012, from http://www.malcalester.edu/geology/wirth/learning.pdf.

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One Response to Tomorrow’s Teaching and Learning

  1. Peter Newbury says:

    Thanks, Dr. 00, for adding this to the blog. Tomorrow’s Professor is a great listserv to be on. Sometimes it’s a bit hard to find archived posts but you always find them mirrored on my friend Derek’s blog at

    Tomorrow’s Professor Blog

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