Monthly Archives: October 2015

But I’m no expert! Peer assessment by first-year psychology undergraduates

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Submitted by Dave S

Article Reference

Kingsley, B. (2010). But I’m no expert! Peer assessment by first-year psychology undergraduates. Psychology Learning and Teaching, 9, 7-15.

Article DOI

Summary of Article

Purpose

 

The purpose of the current study was to understand college students’ beliefs about and feelings towards peer assessment, and how scores given by peers differ from that of teachers. The authors hypothesized 1) that students would view peer assessment as a beneficial learning tool; however, 2) grades provided by students would differ from grades given by experienced tutors. Answering these two questions provides insight into the validity of peer assessment as a learning tool in undergraduate Psychology courses.

 

Methods

 

Phase I: Students provided open-ended responses to questions asking about their positive and negative feelings about peer assessment.

 

Phase II: Questionnaire data were analyzed using factor analysis to determine the main components of students’ beliefs about peer assessment.

 

Phase II: Students provided grades for poster presentations by their peers and scores were compared with scores given by the experienced tutors.

 

Results

 

Results from phase I revealed that students find peer assessment beneficial because it provides them the opportunity to view work in a different way, they better understand what they are being graded on, and they can reflect on their own work by seeing others’ work. Phase II results revealed that students’ beliefs about peer assessment are comprised of attitudes (e.g., peer assessment gives me insight into my own work) and perceived grading skill. Lastly, Phase III results revealed that nearly 60% of students gave different grades than that of the experienced tutors. Specifically, students that had more positive attitudes towards peer assessment tended to assign higher grades to their peers.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you think peer assessment is a useful tool in the classroom? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think that peer assessment is useful tool in Psychology, and in freshman year?
  3. What factors may play a role in peer assessment that may bias how a student grades his/her peer’s assignment?

Is active learning like broccoli? Student perceptions of active learning in large lecture classes

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Submitted by Jessie Greenlee

Article Reference

Smith, C. V., & Cardaciotto, L. (2011). Is active learning like broccoli? Student perceptions of active learning in large lecture classes. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 11(1), 53-61.

Article DOI

Summary of Article

Purpose: To determine whether students participating in active learning activities that compliment in-class lecturing (1) report better retention of course material, (2) more engagement with course content, and (3) have more positive attitudes about the class.

Method: Students in Introductory Psychology (N=1,091) were placed into either the active learning (AL) condition or a content review (CR condition. In groups of six, students completed nine group activities over the course of the semester. Activities in the content review condition were designed to be engaging but passive (e.g. crossword puzzles), whereas activities in the active learning condition were designed to have students “discover” and apply the information given.

Findings:

  • Students in the AL condition reported greater overall retention compared to the CR group
  • Students in the AL condition reported higher levels of engagement compared to the CR group
  • Students in the CR condition reported higher levels of enjoyment of the class compared to the AL condition. The CR group also had more positive overall evaluations of the course compared to the AL group.
  • Only engagement and activity type were significant predictors of class enjoyment and overall course evaluation.

Conclusions: This study shows that active learning exercises are feasible in large Introduction Psychology classrooms. AL promotes higher levels of engagement with and overall retention of course content but it is a bit like broccoli—it is good for students but they don’t like it. Students engaged in active learning activities enjoyed the course less and had more negative course evaluations. They learned more but they didn’t like the process.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are your experiences with active-learning activities in large lecture classes? Have you used them in the classroom and have they worked? Have you been in a class that used AL with particular effectiveness?
  2. What are some of the limitations of this style of student engagement? Is this feasible at a place like VCU? How do you think this compares to in class activities like small group discussions or more formal group projects?
  3. Do you think there is a way to make AL less like broccoli? Is there a compromise, or a way to make these types of activities more enjoyable for students while retaining the benefits?

Google Forms for Assessing Instructor Quality

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Submitted by Erin S

As I do not have a teaching assignment this year, I decided to seek out a guest lecture opportunity as one of my teaching activities. For my guest lecture, a PSYC 214 GTA let me take over her lab section to discuss independent samples t-tests with her students. To assess my strengths and weaknesses as an instructor, I created a short Google form with questions that are similar to those VCU uses to evaluate instructors. For example, I asked students about how well I explained the material, whether they would be open to taking a laboratory section with me in the future, etc. You may review my Google form here.

As the Google form was kept anonymous, it was my hope that students would be honest with their evaluations of my guest lecture. It is likely that if I stood in front of them and asked for their opinions on my effectiveness as an instructor, they might not feel comfortable answering. Because I am not regularly in front of students in a classroom setting, this feedback will be very useful to me as I consider my strengths and weaknesses as an instructor.

I found it helpful to get immediate feedback from students while the experience was still fresh in my mind. Although VCU’s end of semester evaluations are undoubtedly useful for instructors, gathering feedback on your teaching before the course ends may be helpful for instructors. This way, they may modify their teaching style to fit the needs of students, or identify areas they need to strengthen.

A major selling point for me was that Google forms are extremely easy to use, and only take a few minutes to set up. As others have previously discussed on this blog, there are numerous ways to use Google forms in the classroom. Other than assessing teaching effectiveness, instructors may use Google forms to send out a short assessment of students’ understanding of concepts presented in class, take attendance, or create quizzes for the course.

An outliner for online teaching resources using Diigo

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Submitted by Jessie Greenlee

Diigo, a tool for managing online resources, is a more organized version of your browser’s bookmarks. I have never really used the bookmark feature because I can’t access the saved resources anywhere but my personal computer. Diggo allows you to organize resources in on outline format and you can annotate, highlight, etc. as you go along, a feature that is really helpful when you stumble across something that could be useful in the future.

For this assignment I wanted to give Diigo a try with a specific goal in mind– to start an outline that focuses on teaching/pedagogical resources specifically designed for psychology instructors. The outline is currently centered around three topics: general resources, the Society for the Teaching of Psychology, and resources from colleges or universities. Everything in this outline is free. You can find the in progress outline here: https://www.diigo.com/outliner/7e35pp/Online-Teaching-Resources?key=g67lq4pxq6

(1) General Resources
The resources here highlight general topics in teaching. For example, you’ll find a link to teaching resources the American Psychological Society finds useful. There is also a link to the Online Psychology Lab (OPL) that provides access to a number helpful resources, including data sets for students, teaching aids, and online demonstrations.

(2) Society for the Teaching of Psychology
The Society for the Teaching of Psychology is a division of the APA and their purpose is to promote evidence based practices in the teaching of psychology. I’ve posted several individual pages from their extensive website and highly recommend checking it out. For anyone teaching a class for the first time, Project Syllabus has example syllabi from all sorts of courses and topics that have been “peer reviewed” to ensure at least a baseline level of quality. They also have a blog that’s open to the public that hosts a number of discussions relevant to psychology instruction.

(3) Resource from colleges/universities
Many universities have some sort of center for teaching excellence with links to a number of resources for faculty and graduate students. Some of the information is a bit repetitive but there is something unique in each of them. For example, Vanderbilt provides a set of 68 guides on topics ranging form cheating and plagiarism to writing good multiple choice tests. Missouri State provides a lengthy list of links to all sorts of psychology teaching resources and seems like a good place to go for things like demonstrations, etc.

All in all, I found Diigo outliner to be a useful organizational tool that can save time and energy when collecting resources.

Implementation and evaluation of a student-centered learning unit: A case study

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Submitted by Ashlee Sawyer

Article Reference

Brush, T., Saye, J. (2000). Implementation and evaluation of a student-centered learning unit: A case study. Educational Technology Research and Development, 48(3), 79-100.

Article DOI

Summary of Article

Purpose: The purpose of the study was to evaluate the difficulties experienced by both a teacher and the students throughout the implementation of a technology-enhanced student-centered project.

 

Method: One southeastern 11th grade US history class was used for the study, with one teacher and 21 students participating. Students were given a historical situation and problem, and were asked to come up with innovative solutions to the problem.

  1. Students were first divided into information gathering groups and were instructed to research three different strategies used at that time in history (3 days).
  2. Then, they were arranged into different, decision-making groups. These groups reviewed the research that had been gathered, and were asked to brainstorm alternative methods from those used during that time period and develop a solution to the problem (2 days).
  3. Finally, students created a presentation that detailed their solution, the potential consequences, and why it was a viable solution (Final day).

Methods of evaluation included: daily classroom observations, student and teacher interviews a week after the project, daily teacher debriefings, and analysis of student products.

 

Findings:

Student issues:

  • Difficulty dealing with the lack of structure/ guidance
  • Difficulty dealing with an overwhelming amount of information
  • Lack of metacognitive skills – difficulty managing time efficiently, monitoring their progress, and identifying areas where they needed assistance

Teacher issues:

  • Difficulty understanding the role as facilitator – the teacher started out as more of an observer than a resource; she did not know how much guidance was necessary
  • Difficulty managing groups – the teacher had trouble establishing roles and responsibilities
  • Difficulty with student accountability and feedback – the teacher struggled with evaluating the groups and getting students to think critically and creatively when coming up with their solutions

Takeaways:

  • If student-centered teaching is to be implemented, then teachers need supports
  • Although the solutions lacked depth, the post-project interviews show that these activities may promote a deeper engagement and enhanced understanding of content

Discussion Questions

  1. What should the goals of student-centered learning be?
  2. How can we increase the quality of student-centered assignments and projects?
  3. Are there certain courses that would or would not lend themselves well to student-centered approaches? Should there be differences in the way that things are implemented? Should there be differences in the types of projects used?