Monday, March 30, 2015

Dr. Angela Dalhoe on Name Tents

Nameless students often feel just that: nameless. As best demonstrated by the internet, anonymity often leads to inattentiveness, unaccountability, and an unhealthy amount of time spent viewing cat pictures. Dr. Angela Dalhoe, Department of Special Education, shares how she utilizes name tents to amp up participation and interact with her students more personally:

For all of my classes I have my students create name tents. I think these are particularly useful for large classes: when you have 50 students in a classroom, it’s really hard to keep track of who is participating and who is present. With the name tents, attendance becomes really easy: I keep them up front and let the students pick them up at the beginning of class. Any leftover names are obviously not present. This serves as a constant reminder that attendance is important and consistently monitored. Additionally, the name tents allow me to call on my students by name, which is really important for relationship-building and community-building.
Interviewed by: Jon Pumper

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Active Learning Activities - Jean Pratt, Information Systems

Setting: Diagramming activity utilizing pod groups (8 pods with 3-4 students per pod), whiteboards, and reporting out to the whole class

Setup for the activity: Students were instructed to work through some similar diagramming activities in a PowerPoint slide deck prior to coming to class. We had worked through a similar activity in class in the preceding class period. One purpose of this activity was to emphasize the value and efficiency of sketching out ideas on a whiteboard before trying to use a computer-aided design tool to create a diagram. A second purpose of this activity was to give students more practice in applying the concepts and skills.

How the activity unfolded in the classroom: Student groups gathered around each whiteboard (located at the pods) and discussed various options for diagramming a relational database. I moved from one pod to another using Socratic questioning and mini-lectures as the student groups worked through the diagramming activity. I used the doc cam to zoom in on students' work at the whiteboards to facilitate class discussion of concepts.

After the activity: At the end of the class period, students groups were directed to apply the same diagramming techniques to their 15-week client project. They were provided about 10 minutes to get started on this activity, which they would continue outside class.

Additional comments from instructor: "Student feedback indicated that students were at first a bit embarrassed about having their group work displayed and discussed but they were becoming more comfortable with it because a) they were learning from the whole-class discussion, b) they prefer to focus on the concepts before trying to implement the concepts using a computer tool, c) they prefer to be corrected in an ungraded venue rather than via graded homework, d) they value the individual group/pod attention before the class discussion, and e) they see other groups erasing and revising white-board content as we discuss errors as a full class (i.e., they realize that other groups are making the same errors)."

Monday, March 23, 2015

Dr. Mary Beth Leibham on Academic Motivation

Education can often be competitive: the grading scale determines winners and losers (albeit the students themselves are often the ones to determine ‘winning’ vs. ‘losing’ grades), and class averages are often used to help students determine whether or not they were successful on a given assignment. While comparative statistics can serve as motivation for students to perform better, Dr. Mary Beth Leibham, Department of Psychology, states how she prefers to motivate students in a different way:

One thing I do that I think stands in contrast to a lot of students’ experience is that I do not reveal any information on distribution of grades. Some of the first questions I get when I hand back an exam or assignment are ‘what was the class average?’ or ‘what was the high/low score?’ Because of my motivational perspective, I don’t give students this comparative information. Some of the research on academic motivation and goal-orientation has determined that one of the factors that leads students to be more performance-oriented is comparative data. I’m trying to get them to focus more on themselves, on their individual learning process, and less on how they are doing compared to others.

Interviewed by: Jon Pumper

Thursday, March 19, 2015

D2L Tip: Options for HTML pages in D2L

This video explores two different options for using HTML files in your D2L course. Instructional Designer April Pierson provides tips on how to lay out your D2L content in order to make it user friendly for both yourself and your students.

If you’re interested in taking advantage of these features, contact an instructional designer or CETL to set up an individual appointment.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Faculty Projects – Learning the Learning Outcome

Professor: Shannon Collins

Department: CSD

Name of Group: First Year Only Sections

Learning outcomes are everywhere nowadays. In fact, a quick google search of “learning outcomes” would provide the outcome that even learning outcomes now have learning outcomes, so that those who are learning to create learning outcomes can come out assured that their learning is the outcome of previously established learning outcomes (which undoubtedly also fulfilled learning outcomes).

Yet, in spite of—or maybe because of—their rather ubiquitous nature, many students pay very little attention to learning outcomes. Professor Shannon Collins, department of CSD, speaks to this fact with her own classroom findings:

"At the beginning of the semester, I had students complete a document that had them list their courses and the learning outcomes for each class, and many asked the question, 'What is a learning outcome?' Sadly, not one student out of thirty-three could name at least one outcome for each class."

Collins sought to re-emphasize the importance of learning outcomes by establishing them as guideposts for evaluation:

"I realized that if I spent more time discussing [the learning outcomes] and connecting them to my lectures, PowerPoints, and the textbook, the students could use the outcomes to help study for exams. They created their own study guides using the learning outcomes for the unit. I also added learning outcomes for each unit to the content pages of D2L."

As an additional bonus, this aided her in answering the ever-persistent questions concerning exams:

"Every year it seems that students in my classes are always asking 'What do I need to know for the exam?' Though this isn’t a difficult question, I wanted them to find a way to start picking out what I felt were important concepts, ideas, vocabulary, and how to make connections across the content. I drew attention to the learning outcomes for the course and for each unit and talked explicitly how they were related to the content."  

By the end of the semester, Collins found that students were not only more privy to the learning outcomes in their individual courses, but they were also able to effectively use them as methods for guiding their learning:

"I completed the same activity at the end of the semester by having them identify the learning outcomes for their courses. It was rewarding to see the previously blank form now filled in. It was encouraging to see them highlight the outcomes and ask questions based on those. This made me realize they were trying to understand them and how important they are to the course and/or topic. I feel like by the end of the semester, the student had a better understanding of the types of tests I give and the content I cover in an exam. It helped me answer their questions about exams when I could refer back to the learning outcomes."

Write up by Jon Pumper

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Active Learning Activities - Don Gaber, Information Systems

Not being an Information Systems major myself, it is hard to imagine working on a database all by my lonesome: I would most certainly need a group of people by my side in order to work effectively with RAM instead of effectively RAMming my head against a wall.  Professor Don Gaber gives his students a chance to do just this (the group work, that is, not the self-inflicted head-wounding) in our latest installment of the “Active Learning Activities” series:

Setting: Problem-based activities involving students working in pod groups (8 pods with 2-5 students per pod) and Q&A with the whole class

Setup for the activity: Students initially learned various database concepts and techniques through self-learning (flipped course) by reading and completing hands-on exercises out of class.
Next, in class we held a Q&A session to help clarify the concepts or answer any questions.
The Q&A is followed by instructor-led hands-on activities to repeat some of the hands-on exercises to reinforce learning, along with alternative solutions and perspectives (different ways to complete similar processes, such as creating advanced database queries).

How the activity unfolded in the classroom: The active learning "problem-solving" activity is held during the next class session when the instructor has one student from each group logon to the pod PC and download a "startup" database file containing the basic criteria outlining the desired results they should obtain. Students must work together to "solve the problem" by collaborating and selecting and using several of the methods learned over the past week. The instructor circulates to check progress and answer questions. Finally, each group, one at a time, displays their pod PC screen to the all of the screens in the classroom and shares and demonstrates their solution to the class.

After the activity: The various methods, concepts, and techniques are discussed in another brief Q&A session, and then students apply and use them as appropriate on their individual student database development projects. The various concepts are also included on D2L-based unit exams with m/c, t/f, selection, and fill-in-the-blank questions. The majority of assessment comes from individual database development projects.

Additional comments from instructor: "Students have achieved higher scores on exams and their individual database development projects as a result of these hands-on ‘problem-solving’ activities."

Tip provided by Don Gaber
Write-up by Jon Pumper

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Teaching Tip: Dr. Sherrie Serros on Snowball Activities

These last few gorgeous days have tempted even the most cynical Wisconsinites to believe that winter is finally over (for those that remember last year, however, cynicism might still be fully present). But if you don’t want to embrace the warmth like the myriad of college students in shorts now (it’s still only 40 degrees, people) try introducing one or both of these “snowball” activities that Dr. Sherrie Serros, Department of Mathematics, provides below:

Snowball fight:  This activity enables students to anonymously participate in a process-oriented problem and ensures 100% participation. I put a couple of different solutions on the board that provide the same answers, but structurally are very different. Students have to decide which one demonstrates valid mathematics. If I were to just openly ask the class, I wouldn’t necessarily get a lot of eager responses: student are often afraid to raise their hand and assertively declare which one is right and which one is wrong.  So instead, I have each of them take a slice of paper on which they have to write out what solution they think is correct and their reasoning behind it. Nobody else knows what they’ve written; I instruct them not to write their names on the piece of paper. Then, they crumple up the piece of paper into a little ball and throw it across the room. Students then pick up whatever “snowball” is nearest to them and they read what it says. In this way, I get to hear everyone’s thinking process and I can focus on the misconceptions present in the classroom without ever putting a single student on the spot. Additionally, when we do focus on the misconceptions, people can hear that others had the same thoughts and feel that they were not alone. Students really like this activity (who doesn’t like throwing snowballs?) and I benefit by hearing everyone’s thought-process in the classroom.

Rolling Snowball: This activity is useful when you want to generate a big idea based on a small core. My example for this comes from my education classes when I want the students to work on lesson design. I separate them into groups and start by providing them with the content of the lesson, and then have each group add an additional facet to the lesson (i.e. the diversity of learning styles, or the diversity of learning abilities, or assessment). By the time we go around the room and gather everyone’s contributions we have a big unit formed that addresses many crucial facets of lesson design. The metaphor I use for this is that of a snowball rolling down the hill because as each layer is added our lesson design becomes bigger, more fleshed-out, and more involved. 

Interview by: Jon Pumper

Monday, March 9, 2015

D2L Tip: Quiz Preview

Any time you create a quiz in D2L, use the Preview function to review the quiz before making it available to students. Previewing allows you to view and take the quiz from the student perspective, giving you the opportunity to re-examine the accuracy of your questions, answers, and images.

This upfront investment of time will benefit you in the form of reduced emails and phone calls from concerned students and time saved by not having to resolve grading issues after the quiz is taken.

How to find the quiz preview function:
  •      Access the Quizzes link on the navigation bar in your D2L course.
  •      Click on the arrow to the right of any quiz name in the Quizzes list.
  •      Choose Preview from the dropdown menu.

  •      The quiz instruction page appears showing:
    1. The quiz details including the quiz period, time allowed and number of attempts allowed and taken,
    2. The standard instructions built into all D2L quizzes.
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page and press the button in the lower left. 

  • Confirm by pressing OK in the dialog box that appears on the screen.
  • Quiz questions then display to you—read the questions, select your answers, and press the SAVE button after each question—just as students are reminded to do.
  • Watch for errors such as typos, formatting, wording clarity, and presence and clarity of images in questions referring to diagrams, tables, or photos.
  • Make note of any errors you locate and correct them when you exit Preview mode.
  •  Submit your quiz; the quiz grade will display to you by default:
    1. Questions and answers will display only if you set up the default Submission View to allow students to immediately see questions and answers
    2. Make note of any problems or errors with the Submission Views (answer views) information so you may correct any errors
    3. Preview attempts are not saved so you won’t see this attempt in the list of student attempts; your score won’t appear in the D2L gradebook.

After you correct errors found during quiz previews, it’s important to preview again to verify that your corrections appear as you intend.

See the Faculty D2L Help Quizzes documentation for additional information about editing quizzes, modifying submission views, and more.

Tip provided by Roxie Muldoon

Friday, March 6, 2015

Active Learning Activities - Teresa Sanislo, History

The "Active Learning Activities" series will focus on what its name suggests: activities provided by our very own professors to be utilized in active learning classrooms. This post presents Dr. Teresa Sanislo’s undertaking of a semester-long collaborative writing project she assigned in her history class.

Setting: Paper/project utilizing pod groups (10 pods with 5-7 students per pod)

Setup for the activity: Students work in groups in my class online and in class. They write a group paper together analyzing what is the most important factor bringing Hitler into power. This is a theme that the class prepares for throughout the first half of the class. Students have the paper topic and 7 possible factors to work on at the beginning of the semester. Throughout the semester, we work on the question of how Hitler became chancellor of Germany and focus on the 7 different factors that students could write on. We have an in-class debate on this topic right before the midterm. Student groups decide which factor they will focus on for their paper. Students then write individual drafts of the paper and submit them to the D2L dropbox and a D2L discussion forum. They discuss their drafts both online and in-person (in class) and weave the strong elements of their individual drafts into a group paper. The group produces 3 drafts of the group paper and discusses the drafts before submitting the paper to a D2L dropbox.

Students sign up for specific tasks to help produce the group paper. Weavers examine the individual papers, discuss their strengths and weaknesses with the whole group and then create the 1st draft of the group paper. Supporters check the first draft for strength of argument, logic, and evidence and submit a second draft. Finally, editors go over the 2nd draft for grammar and style issues. The editors submit the final copy of the paper to the D2L drop box.

How the activity unfolded in the classroom: This semester, I used pod group work days to enable students to discuss their drafts and work on improving them together. The work days were in the syllabus and we talked about them in class before they took place. I devoted 2.5 days this semester to group paper work days. Students posted individual papers to the discussion forum and were supposed to discuss their individual drafts in a D2L discussion forum before coming to class for the first day. We devoted one-half of the class period to talking about the paper and having students discuss the preparation of their 1st draft. The groups used the 2nd and 3rd work days to work on various drafts of the paper.

During the work days, students were able to pull up copies of their drafts on the pod computers and work on the paper together in class. During class, I was able to go around to each group to read sections of their papers, make suggestions for improvements, and answer questions. Most students seemed to enjoy working together on their papers in class. A few really seemed to demonstrate a sense of pride in their work and a sense of competition with other groups.

After the activity: Students submitted their final drafts of their paper to D2L following the group work days. The group paper was worth 25% of their grade.

Additional comments from instructor: "I consider group paper work days to be a successful part of the semester. I assigned the group paper the semester before and students seemed quite frustrated about the difficulties of schedule group meetings to work on the paper. This semester, student seemed to appreciate very much the time devoted their projects in class and the help that I was able to give them. Students demonstrated a pride in their work. No one complained about the group paper project in course evaluations, in fact a few stated that they found it to be a really valuable part of the class. The technology really enabled my students to work together and for me to give on-the-spot feedback that they put to use. There are a few changes that I made to this part of the course.

1. I did not require students to see the first draft of the group paper before coming to class to discuss it. So they used much of that day to read the drafts and had less time to work on it. This fall, I made sure that students had to read the first draft and comment on it in a D2L dropbox before coming to class for the work day on the first draft.

2. I expanded the number of work days so we now have 3 full work days for the paper this fall.

3. I made it a requirement that students participate in all online discussions of the paper and attend all group paper work days in order to earn a grade on the group paper. So a few students (only a handful) didn't show up to class on group paper work days and their group was frustrated with them. They were also clearly not fulfilling their rules assigned to them on the task sheet. I had no way of penalizing the students for doing this.

The group paper work days take up three class periods and these are days that I would have devoted to other topics/content. So I was forced to give up covering important themes related to the subject but I feel like it was a good trade off. The group paper and the work days are an important part of the course and I am willing to sacrifice content to make them work."

For additional examples of active learning from UW Eau Claire instructors, follow this link to our website or click on the "Active Learning" tag located on the right side of the blog.

Tip provided by Teresa Sanislo

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Active Learning Activities - Erin Devlin, History

The "Active Learning Activities" series will focus on what its name suggests: activities provided by our very own professors to be utilized in active learning classrooms. This post presents Dr. Erin Devlin’s use of “Card Sort” – a collaborative activity involving the collection of various pieces of evidence—to involve her class in an interactive, historical case study.

Setting: Activity utilizing pod groups (10 pods with 6 students per pod), groups reporting out, and a discussion involving the whole class

Setup for the activity: This activity was associated with a textbook chapter read in advance of class. However, students did not do any specific preparation in advance—it was introduced in class. For the first 20 minutes of class we discussed the history of British settlement in the Chesapeake, the cultivation of tobacco as a cash crop, and systems of indentured servitude that existed in the colony. This active learning activity was designed to help students understand the differences between indentured servitude and the system of race-based slavery that developed in Virginia over the course of the 1600s.

How the activity unfolded in the classroom: This activity was designed to familiarize students with the codification of slavery in the United States, and to allow them to practice developing an argument supported by historical evidence. Students examined the status of people of African descent in the colony of Virginia from 1619-1710. Each pod was provided with a set of 38 cards to examine and sort. These cards contained historical evidence—court cases, legal statutes, statistics, historic images, etc.--related to this period of study.

On a worksheet, each pod was prompted to answer the following questions:

1. Write a thesis. Were Africans initially seen as slaves serving for life or indentured servants who served for a period of years?
2. Consider the evidence. What evidence supports your claim?
3. Consider change over time. At what point in the 1600s, do we find incontrovertible evidence that Africans were slaves serving for life?

After the activity: After completing their worksheets in their pods, a student from each group was asked to bring a card from their set that they believed provided incontrovertible evidence that Africans were slaves serving for life. Students identified different pieces of evidence. The representatives of the pods were arranged in a chronological timeline with their cards. They were called on to explain their reasoning in chronological order. This large group conversation enabled students to understand the codification of race-based slavery and its development over the time period studied.

Additional comments from instructor: "Students were later tested on this content and their answers demonstrated a depth of understanding and comprehension that students in the traditional lecture course had not. Required a lot of preparation."

For additional examples of active learning from UW Eau Claire instructors, follow this link to our website or click on the "Active Learning" tag located on the right side of the blog.

Tip provided by Erin Devlin

Monday, March 2, 2015

Faculty Projects - Clear Rationale

Professor:  Kaishan Kong

Department:  Languages

Name of Group: Successful Teaching Practice

Life is simply more enjoyable when you understand why you are doing the things you do. For instance, a person might demand that you swallow a stalk of celery whole, a rather unpleasant if low-calorie experience, and you would be utterly miserable if you were not aware that it was to compete in the local celery consumption contest and now you had a chance to go home with brand new, celery-themed cook book. Assignments are much the same way: homework that may otherwise be deemed as “busy work” is more likely to be enjoyable when the purpose behind it is well contrived and clearly articulated to the students. Dr. Kaishan Kong, department of Languages, speaks to this technique (among others) in her project associated with CETL’s group “Successful Teaching Practice:”

"The project was to create a collaborative video for the final summative assessment in the Beginning Chinese course. The purpose was to engage students to use Chinese language in a context, encourage negotiation strategies and enhance their collaborative skills. The techniques I applied from the CETL Successful Teaching Practice workshops included:

-Giving clear rubrics and peer review.
-Grouping students with a purpose.
-Clear delivery of the group project purpose, rationale, process and expectations.
-Role play in class to prepare for the final project.
-Develop a process for the overall project: prepare, introduce, monitor and end."

Refocusing on purposeful learning, Kong cites that the students were much more receptive to the assignment when they knew the reason for it:

"I shared my rationale for the group work and clear expectations. Students understood that this project was an opportunity for them to apply what they have learned in a comprehensive way and to enhance their communicative skills, so they were very willing to do it."

She notes that it’s simply a matter of voicing what you are already doing:

"I always have students’ best interest in mind when preparing for my lessons, but making it explicit to the students was helpful to connect me with students. By sharing the rationale of this project, I made students understand the benefit of this activity and my intention. They trusted me more and were devoted to achieve learning."

In addition to this change, Kong also altered her project design in relation to group composition, classroom work time, and project segmentation:
  • Grouping Students: "I grouped students based on their proficiency level and the dynamic that I have observed in class." 
  • Work Time: "I designated some time in class for them to prepare for the project.  I observed group interactions and gave feedback. Students approached me with their questions and inquiries for confirmation and clarification. I also alerted students to the common pitfalls, from sentence patterns to uneven workload distribution."
  • Segmentation: "I broke the project into several segments and was transparent with the points to each segment. I also gave each student a peer-review form to grade on their colleagues’ contribution to the team project."

She ends by referencing the significance CETL’s best practices had in her alterations she enacted not only to her project, but also for her course:

"It was an experiment of backward design for my course. When I had a list of expected outcomes for the final project, I moved backward to consider how I would design my teaching so students would be able to achieve these skills in order to demonstrate these skills in the project. In this way, instruction and assessment became more relevant to the final objectives."

Write up by Jon Pumper