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

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