Monthly Archives: October 2017

Designing Developmentally: Simple Strategies to Get Students Thinking

Margaret ImberAssociate Dean of the Faculty
Associate Professor of
Classical & Medieval Studies
Bates College
Lewiston, ME 04240
mimber

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless she persisted.”

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From: “Faculty Focus” <no-reply>
Date: October 11, 2017 at 9:14:48 AM EDT
To: mimber
Subject: Designing Developmentally: Simple Strategies to Get Students Thinking
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Designing Developmentally: Simple Strategies to Get Students Thinking Building connections within courses and across degree programs.

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Faculty Focus
October 11, 2017
Designing Developmentally: Simple Strategies to Get Students Thinking
By Maryellen Weimer, PhD

I continue to be concerned that we don’t design learning experiences as developmentally as we should. What happens to students across a course (and the collection of courses that make up a degree program) ought to advance their knowledge and skills. Generally, we do a good job on the knowledge part, but we mostly take skill development for granted. We assume it just happens, and it does, sort of, just not as efficiently and extensively as it could if we purposefully intervened.

Perhaps it would help if we had some concrete examples illustrating how assignments and activities can be designed so that skills are developed. Kathie L. Pelletier describes an interesting iteration of the now vintage two-minute paper strategy. Normally students write those papers during the final minutes of class and the papers usually focus on something students have learned and/or think they should have learned but don’t yet understand. Pelletier embeds these writing events within sessions of her upper-division organizational behavior course. On a number of unannounced days in the course, a question appears on the screen and students have two minutes to write an answer. She uses a rubric to quickly grade their responses. But here’s what makes the strategy intriguing: the questions are sequenced developmentally—they get more complex as the course progresses. In the beginning, the questions ask for definitions and descriptions of theories, and by the end of the course they’re challenging students to apply theories to specific organizations.

The approach has multiple benefits. For teachers, it’s do-able: one set of questions. I wouldn’t say that makes it easy, given that we don’t generally plan question sequences, but it’s manageable. If the goal is to develop thinking skills, then the questions have to be rolled out in a way that each question promotes more complicated kinds of thinking. Preparing that kind of question set takes mental energy, but it’s bound to clarify our thinking about the kinds of questions that promote increasingly complex thinking. That’s a plus for us and our students.

Another benefit to this approach is that the questions themselves can be used, not just to debrief good answers (or with certain content, correct answers) but to explore different kinds and levels of questions. Pelletier confesses she came up with the approach (which she combined with a set of announced quizzes) to solve a couple of more mundane problems: poor class attendance and study habits. The two strategies accomplished those goals, plus they resulted in higher mid-term and final exam scores when compared with scores in sections where the strategies were not used. A good instructional strategy often garners multiple benefits.

Julie Empric writes in the October issues of the Teaching Professor newsletter about a strategy she calls “afterthoughts.” She’s concerned about the space between class sessions, worried that the learning there occurs more by chance than design. An “afterthought” happens outside of class. The student may see a connection between something covered in class (the most recent class or a few sessions back) and something happening in the world outside of class. Or maybe upon reflection or after a conversation with a classmate, a new insight or deeper understanding emerges. Empric shares her “afterthoughts” and responds to those that students offer.

“Afterthoughts” struck me as a simple but effective strategy that gets across the idea that the content can (and should) be thought about after class, and that content is connected: to material presented earlier in the course, to content in other courses and to events elsewhere. By making them a routine part of the course, they gently guide some of the learning that occurs when students aren’t in class. And in terms of our focus here, they could be structured developmentally. The first request for an “afterthought could be invitingly open. It’s followed by requesting thoughts that connect content from a previous session, and that’s followed by requesting connections between course content and something happening on campus, followed by “afterthoughts” that connect three content ideas. You’d have to identify a sequence that works with your content, but Empric got students regularly sharing “afterthoughts” for nothing more than the promise that they counted as quality participation points.

We should be thinking developmentally about whole courses and degree programs, and simple strategies like these help illustrate how that works and why it’s important.

References: Pelletier, K. L. (2017). Keeping students “on their toes and on their game”: Serendipitous findings in students’ assessment and reactions. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 28 (2), 167-192.

Empric, J. (2017). Afterthoughts. The Teaching Professor, October.

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Student Entitlement: Key Questions and Short Answers

Margaret ImberAssociate Dean of the Faculty
Associate Professor of
Classical & Medieval Studies
Bates College
Lewiston, ME 04240
mimber

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless she persisted.”

Begin forwarded message:

From: “Faculty Focus” <no-reply>
Date: October 4, 2017 at 9:05:25 AM EDT
To: mimber
Subject: Student Entitlement: Key Questions and Short Answers
Reply-To: no-reply

Student Entitlement: Key Questions and Short Answers Are today’s students more entitled? Maryellen Weimer provides some insight.

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Faculty Focus
October 4, 2017
Student Entitlement: Key Questions and Short Answers
By Maryellen Weimer, PhD

What is student entitlement? Ask a group of teachers to define student entitlement and their answers will strike similar themes. A definition often used by researchers categorizes student entitlement as a “tendency to possess an expectation of academic success without taking personal responsibility for achieving that success.”

How widespread is it? Very, if you talk with faculty. They’ve seen it, experienced it, can tell stories about it, and know colleagues who’ve had to deal with it. The research (and there’s not a lot) reports finding less student entitlement than faculty do. In one study, 370 business students had a “low sense” of entitlement on a research-developed instrument (a 2.82 mean on a 7-point scale, Elias, 2017). In another, a 2.63 mean on the slightly disagree side of a 6-point scale represented the views of a 466, cross-disciplinary student cohort (Greenberger, et. al., 2008).

What does it look like? Despite agreement on the definition, there’s not much consensus on the beliefs and behaviors that illustrate entitlement. Those commonly proposed include the belief that effort should count (“If I’m trying, the professor should consider that”), that grades should be adjusted in favor of the student (“If my grade is close to the cutoff, the professor ought to bump it up”), that professors are responsible for student learning (“If the prof can’t explain it clearly, I shouldn’t have to learn it”), that professors owe students certain things (“If I need help, the professor should come to me”), that students have the right to behave as they see fit (“The professor shouldn’t care if I come late or leave early”), and that exams and courses are better if they’re not terribly taxing (“I like courses where I don’t have work too hard”).

Can a student be entitled without being rude and disruptive? Yes. Students can have beliefs like those mentioned above and only discuss them with other students or not discuss them at all. Part of what makes entitlement challenging for teachers are those students who do verbally express the attitudes, often aggressively. What the research hasn’t yet sorted out is the percentage of students who do and don’t express these attitudes to their teachers and whether those unexpressed attitudes affect learning outcomes.

Are millennial students more entitled than previous generations? That’s another widely held assumption in the academic community, but support from research is indirect and inconsistent. Research does show an association between narcissism and entitlement but there’s disagreement as to whether college students today are more narcissistic than they were previously. There is evidence that millennials do believe more strongly in their capabilities at the same time they report weaker work ethics. And the research is uncovering some interesting blips. The entitlement attitude found in some studies isn’t related to one’s age or year in school.

Is entitlement something that only happens in the academic environment? No, it has been studied, written about, and observed in other contexts (like work environments), but some of its features are unique to the academic environment—such as, the idea that grades are deserved, not necessarily earned.

What’s causing it? There’s a plethora of reasons that have been proposed. Some research has tied entitlement to personality characteristics; other researchers have looked at parenting and parental expectations. A number think it’s the result of previous educational experiences and/or grade inflation. Some blame technology that gives students greater access to teachers and the expectation of immediate responses. Fairly regularly, student evaluations are blamed for the anonymous power and control they give students. And finally, there’s the rise in consumerism that’s now associated with education. Students (and their parents) pay (usually a lot) for college and the sense that those tuition dollars entitle them to certain things, is generally not what teachers think education entitles learners to receive. At this point it’s probably safe to say that entitlement is not being caused by one thing but by a collection of them, and the causes vary depending on the student.

How should teachers respond? This is probably the most important question and the one not being addressed in the research or talked about much by teachers. Perhaps that’s because the entitlement discussion isn’t an easy one to have with students. If students endorse an entitled attitude (“I’m paying for the class and that entitles me to use my phone if I want to”), telling them that’s wrong isn’t likely to change the attitude. It helps if teachers clarify their expectations with constructive positive language and even more importantly with discussions of the rationales on which those expectations rest. Teacher authority gets most students to follow the rules, but force doesn’t generally change attitudes and those are what need to be fixed in this case.

This an important and complex issue, difficult to explore deeply in a single post. I invite you to join me on October 18 for Student Entitlement: Truth, Fiction, or Some of Both and stay tuned for more in-depth information and resources that we’ll make available in Faculty Focus Premium in subsequent weeks.

References: Elias, R. Z. (2017). Academic entitlement and its relationship to cheating ethics. Journal of Education for Business, 92 (4), 194-199.

Greenberger, E., et. al. (2008). Self-entitled college students: Contributions of personality, parenting and motivational factors. Journal of Youth Adolescence, 37, 1193-1204.

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Student Entitlement: Truth, Fiction, or Some of Both?
Date: Wednesday, October 18
Presenter:
Maryellen Weimer, PhD
Cost:
$247 (through 10/6/17, $297 thereafter)

Most college instructors could (and do) argue that they’ve noticed a growing number of students who have a sense of academic entitlement.

Let’s face it—you’ve probably run into situations where a student expects a better grade than they deserve or demands unnecessary special accommodations.

So, where does this sense of entitlement come from? And what can you do to show students that an entitled attitude is counterproductive?

Join Maryellen Weimer as she breaks it all down in Student Entitlement: Truth, Fiction, or Some of Both? During the 60-minute program, you’ll learn about the roots of entitlement, as well as strategies for not only decreasing, but also preventing the potency of entitled students.

Upon completion of this seminar, you’ll be able to:

  • Implement teaching methods that will increase students’ personal responsibility
  • Identify ways to decrease inappropriate attitudes and expectations
  • Learn how to address educational consumerism while maintaining your standards
  • Create classrooms that are just and fair spaces for all
  • Structure a classroom environment that will lead to greater student success
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Take advantage of the early-bird discount. Enroll by Friday, October 6 and pay only $247 (a $50 savings).

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Three Ways to Create Opportunities for Sustained Learning

Margaret ImberAssociate Dean of the Faculty
Associate Professor of
Classical & Medieval Studies
Bates College
Lewiston, ME 04240
mimber

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless she persisted.”

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From: “Faculty Focus” <no-reply>
Date: October 2, 2017 at 9:18:02 AM EDT
To: mimber
Subject: Three Ways to Create Opportunities for Sustained Learning
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Three Ways to Create Opportunities for Sustained Learning Incorporating the cognitive learning principles of distribution, retrieval practice, and explanatory questioning.

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Faculty Focus
October 2, 2017
Incorporating Principles in Cognitive Psychology to Improve Student Learning
By Christopher Grabau, PhD

At the 2017 STEM FIT Symposium at Washington University in St. Louis, Mark McDaniel, PhD, Professor, Psychological & Brain Sciences, co-director of CIRCLE, and co-author of Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (2014), presented a plenary address on how research in cognitive psychology can support effective teaching practices and improve learning. Supported by laboratory and field experiments, many of the techniques McDaniel presented from the book can be applied to most academic subjects in order to promote student learning.

Henry L. Roediger, McDaniel’s co-author, previously grouped many of these same techniques into three general principles to enhance educational practice (Roediger & Pyc, 2012). Each principle offers an opportunity to consider how to incorporate research-supported practices for sustained learning. Brief summaries of the three general principles are listed below. I have also included a few examples found within the literature of how you may incorporate these principles into your teaching:

1. Distribution: How information is distributed can determine the level of sustained learning. Two effective strategies to distribute information: repetition and interleaved practice, offer ways to improve memory and retention. Repeating and revisiting key concepts and topics throughout the duration of a course can aid in long term memory and recall. Furthermore, mixing (or interleaving) new information with previously covered material can support more durable learning and benefit retention of information.

Consider reviewingtopics covered in previous lectures at the beginning and ending of each class or including information from previous sections in homework assignments. Mix questions and topics throughout the course instead of teaching in a blocked or linear fashion. Mix problem sets instead of grouping into clusters in order to provide between-concept comparisons, improve proficiency, and promote retention for sustained learning. (Rohrer, Dedrick & Stershic, 2015; Sana, Kim, & Yan, 2017)

2. Retrieval practice: Creating sustained and effortful learning practices can help support retention of information. Instead of using repetition as a way to remember information, develop a sustained process of instruction where information recall is spaced over a longer period of time.

Offer low-stakes quizzes throughout the semester to help students reconstruct learning of course information. Also, encourage students to self-test by creating flash cards. Help students learn how to self-quiz using flash cards. Have students frequently shuffle cards they answered correctly into the deck until all questions are mastered. (Roediger & Pyc, 2012)

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3. Explanatory questioning: Providing spaces where students can question course information can be a powerful opportunity for sustained learning. Two techniques to provide explanatory questioning are elaborative interrogation and self-explanation. Elaborative interrogation opportunities allow students to explore why certain information is true. When asking “why” questions, students are forced to incorporate existing information into their understanding of new concepts and topics. Elaborative interrogation also prompts students to think of similarities and differences between related topics. Similarly, self-exploration offers students a space to integrate new information with existing prior knowledge. Broadly speaking, self-exploration invokes metacognitive questioning in order to help students make personal connections to learning. (Dunlosky, Rawson, Marsh, Nathan & Willingham, 2013)

Incorporate active learning exercises like the “one-minute paper exercise” at the end of class. Ask students to write about why the topic may be relevant to their learning. Also, when introducing new material, ask students to self-explain, “What parts are new to me? What does the statement mean? Is there anything I still don’t understand?”

Consider incorporating each of these three principles into your teaching. What techniques will you use to effectively distribute information? How will you help students practice learning and re-learning course material? What teaching strategies will you use to help students retain course information? How will you make these techniques visible in your course design?

References

Brown, P., Roediger, H., & McDaniel, M. (2014). Make it Stick. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K., Marsh, E., Nathan, M., & Willingham, D. (2013). Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14(1), 4-58.

Roediger, H., & Pyc, M. (2012). Inexpensive techniques to improve education: Applying cognitive psychology to enhance educational practice. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 1(4), 242-248.

Rohrer, D., Dedrick, R., & Stershic, S. (2015). Interleaved practice improves mathematics learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 107(3), 900-908.

Sana, F., Yan, V., & Kim, J. (2017). Study sequence matters for the inductive learning of cognitive concepts. Journal of Educational Psychology, 109(1), 84-98.

Christopher Grabau is an Instructional Developer at the Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning at Saint Louis University.

This article originally appeared in The Notebook, the blog for the Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning at Saint Louis University. Reprinted with permission.

Call for Proposals
2018 Teaching Professor Conference
The Teaching Professor invites proposals for concurrent sessions and poster presentations for the 2018 Teaching Professor Conference, June 1-3, 2018 in Atlanta.

Now in its 15th year, The Teaching Professor Conference provides a thought-provoking and stimulating forum for educators of all disciplines and experience levels to share practical ideas and best practices that advance college teaching and learning.

Whether you are a new or returning presenter, we encourage you to seriously consider this opportunity to share your expertise at a conference of your peers.

Your submission should align with one of these nine topical areas:

  • Learner-Centered Course Design
  • Student Engagement
  • Teaching Specific Types of Students
  • Instructional Vitality: Ways to Keep Teaching Fresh and Invigorated
  • New Faculty
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  • Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)
  • Faculty Development

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Deadline for submissions is October 31, 2017.

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