Monthly Archives: November 2015

Google Site for 494

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Submitted by Rachel Boutte

My 494 class is a team of 7 undergraduate students learning a complex coding system that allows for a nuanced categorization of therapist and patient language during a session of Motivational Interviewing. Each week students practice different elements of the coding process including dividing up elements of speech (parsing), listening to interviews and rating an overall impression of the session (global coding) and rating individual elements of speech (behavior coding).

 

The Google site idea was birthed by my desire to have the students be engaged in an ongoing conversation about challenges that they encounter throughout the week. I wanted to use Google because all of their weekly work is saved in Google Drive and I wanted the site to be on the same interface as everything else. There are many convenient templates available to start a site on Google. One challenge was trying to figure out how to create a page on the site that would have the “blog” or discussion board format. It turn out you have to format the page as an “announcements” page in order to have the option for people to make comments on the page. The site also allows me to create assignments in a calendar which is linked to Google Calendar. Overall, this activity was pretty simple to do, but I think the payoff will be fantastic and the ease of use is an added bonus.

If you build it will they come? Exploring the student perspective of weekly student evaluations of teaching

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Submitted by Rachel Boutte

Article Reference

Reference

Winchester, M. K., & Winchester, T. M. (2012). If you build it will they come?; Exploring the student perspective of weekly student evaluations of teaching. Assessment & evaluation in higher education, 37, 671-682.

 

Article DOI

Summary of Article

Purpose

To assess the utility of weekly formative student evaluations of teaching from a student perspective. To measure the quality of the evaluation tool designed to be provided weekly in a digital format.

Method

Questions were developed based on previous research, previous student evaluations of teaching, and faculty input. Questions were piloted to ensure that they were within the scope of knowledge of students and would provide useful feedback to instructors. The survey was composed of close ended questions and 1 open ended question to allow students to provide any additional feedback that they wanted to. The responses for each question were on a 5 point likert scale ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”. Due to the exploratory nature of the research question, the authors chose to use a qualitative approach to data analysis. Of the 192 total students from whom survey data was collected, stratified purposeful sampling was used to ensure that a variety of participants were represented in the final seven chosen for analysis. Qualitative in depth interviews were used to assess students’ experiences doing weekly student evaluations of teaching.

Findings

  • Students reported mixed feelings on their perceptions of instructors’ use of evaluations
  • Students were worried that their comments would not be used quickly enough for them to benefit
  • Negative feedback much more common than positive feedback
  • Evaluations may not be valid when given in close proximity to exams because of student emotions
  • Student investment in completing the assessment was strongly linked to their beliefs about whether instructors would incorporate feedback
  • Questions should be changed weekly to avoid boredom or low response rate
  • Number of questions should be reduced to account for the weekly frequency of the evaluation

 

 

 

 

 

Discussion Questions

  1. Are student evaluations of teaching at the end of the course helpful? Why or why not?
  2. How could weekly evaluations influence teaching and learning? Have you ever had a course with evaluations throughout?
  3. Are there certain classroom contexts or student populations in which evaluations are a more or less useful tool? Why?

Microsoft Sway

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Submitted by Jesse Wingate

I had not heard of the new Microsoft application Sway until reading about it on a teaching technology blog. For some time I’ve been searching for alternatives to PowerPoint and Prezi. I use PowerPoint often when giving workshops or preparing for class presentations, and have always wished that I had more time to be creative. After reading a brief description, I figured that I’d give Sway a try.

Microsoft touts Sway as a “digital storytelling app,” and yet another addition to the Microsoft Office Package (for those Windows users out there). While Sway is an app that is included in newer Windows packages, it’s also a tool that can be used online (without a download). Many of the newer Microsoft Office applications are cloud-based services which makes life convenient for those of us that use anywhere from 3 to 27 different computers or gadgets in our day-to-day. One of the more appealing features for Windows users is that Sway provides seamless use among different apps. For example, if you write article summaries or lecture notes using the Microsoft OneNote feature, Sway provides an easy-to-use import feature that pops up on the left-hand side when creating presentations.

Another added feature of this app is that you can VERY quickly create an aesthetically pleasing storyline from an existing Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or .PDF document using the Sway Import feature. I logged in using an existing Microsoft email address and got started by taking an old PowerPoint presentation and importing it into the Sway app. My first go at creating/updating my existing slides was somewhat difficult. I found that some of my content had imported onto different slides and some content did not import at all. This was a bit frustrating.

After awhile, I decided to take an outline of an existing presentation without slides and try my hand at creating something new. This was a far better option and a strategy that I recommend to new users. The import feature is convenient, but it ends up being a bigger hassle than a benefit in my opinion.

What I thought was most appealing is that there is an image search feature (searching not only your files, but also images with Creative Commons licenses) built into the app. After copying and pasting the content from my outline into “cards” (which are like “slides” in PowerPoint) into Sway, I noticed that the app automatically offered search terms in the top left-hand corner. When selecting the search terms — the app conducts an internet image search for that term! If you’re like me and have ever spent 45-minutes searching for just the right image for your slides, then this feature alone provides reason to become excited.

While it took me about 30-45 minutes to finally get the hang of all the features, I have to say that I am quite impressed. I’ve decided to summarize some of the key benefits that might be appealing to folks reading this (see below).

Pros:

  • Built-in image search feature based on text within presentation
  • Built-in content search (with an easy “drag and drop” feature) using popular sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and Twitter
  • Seamless integration with other Microsoft Office products
  • Online or downloadable app with cloud-based auto save feature
  • Fairly user-friendly with only four tabs at the top providing you with several options for which direction your cards shift in your presentation (left and right versus up and down).
  • Quick and easy alternative to PowerPoint and Word
  • Tutorials are free and easy to access (top right-hand corner)
  • Aesthetically pleasing “storyline” options for varying types of presentations
  • Share feature for collaborative presentations (add authors/editors)

Cons:

  • Not as intuitive as other Microsoft products (takes getting used to)
  • Image search is great, but can be slow (not 56K dial-up modem slow, but slower than a Google image search)
  • Import feature from Microsoft PowerPoint doesn’t work well if you have images in your slides
  • The “remix” button is not for the faint of heart. If you spend a lot of time working out the formatting of your Sway, don’t select this button (as tempting as it may be). Jest aside, the remix button offers a randomized formatting every time you select this button. I really saw this as more of a con mostly because I didn’t see the benefit of such a feature.

Learning Styles and Learning Spaces: Enhancing Experiential Learning in Higher Education

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Submitted by Alexandra Martelli

Article Reference

Kolb, A. Y. and Kolb, D.A. (2005). Learning styles and learning spaces: Enhancing      experiential learning in higher education. Academy of Management Learning and   Education, 4, 193-212.

Article DOI

10.5465/AMLE.2005.17268566

Summary of Article

The purpose of this article was t  o illustrate the use of the learning space framework in three case studies and present principles for enhancement of experiential learning in higher education. Authors discuss the importance of having respect for the learner and their experience. Furthermore, by creating and holding hospitable spaces for learning can foster a greater level of comprehension and expertise.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you think learning style is a fixed trait or dynamic state? To what extent do you currently keep learning styles in mind when teaching or preparing for classes? How is experiential learning style different from typical learning styles (visual vs. verbal)?
  2. What do you think your experiential learning style is and how does it impact how you learn and retain information? How feasible is it to incorporate experiential learning theory into classes? What are the advantages and disadvantages? How might you already do this?
  3. What is your initial impression of learning spaces? Have you ever encountered this topic before or used learning spaces to optimize learning in your courses or had a professor use this technique?

Testing the ATI hypothesis: Should multimedia instruction accommodate verbalizer-visualizer cognitive style?

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Submitted by Tory Spindle

Article Reference

Massa, L. J., & Mayer, R. E. (2006). Testing the ATI hypothesis: Should multimedia instruction accommodate verbalizer-visualizer cognitive style? Learning and Individual Differences16, 321-335.

Article DOI

10.1016/j.lindif.2006.10.001

Summary of Article

Purpose:

  • To examine the extent to which individuals who are visual learners (e.g., score high on spatial ability or report having a preference for visual learning) retain information more effectively from visual learning materials and the extent to which those who are verbal learners (e.g., score high on verbal aptitude and identify as verbal learners) learn better from text-based materials.

Method: (Three Experiments)

  • Experiments 1 & 2 differed only by sample (i.e., experiment 1 used a sample of college students while experiment 2 used non-college educated adults).
  • Participants were first given several questionnaires measuring their cognitive style, spatial reasoning ability and learning preference to determine what type of learner they were (i.e., visual vs verbal). Participants’ general cognitive abilities or general achievements were also assessed.
  • Participants were randomly assigned to be given instructional materials that were geared towards either visual or verbal learners. For example, in the computer program when a user dragged their cursor over a word, either a definition or a picture of the concept would appear.
  • Next participants were tasked with completing a definition sheet and reasoning sheet to test whether they had retained the material.
  • Participants were provided the questionnaires assessing their learning styles after the procedures were completed.
  • In experiment 3, they used the same measures to assess verbal/visual learners but instead randomized them into one of two groups: 1.) receive both verbal and pictorial aids on the teaching task 2.) Receive no help on the task. They hypothesized that verbalizers would outperform visualizers in the no treatment condition since the lesson was largely verbal while in the both condition, visualizers would perform best because of the presence of the visual aids.

Results:

  • In experiment 1, all participants (whether they were visual or verbal learners) benefitted more from pictorial help than verbal help.
  • Neither experiments 2 or 3 found any effect of condition on test performance, meaning again that all types of learners performed similarly on the learning task.
  • Those who reported being visual learners tended to select the visual aids more frequently and also relied on pictorial help more often and the opposite held true for those who reported being verbal learners, suggesting self-reported measures of learning style were valid.

Discussion Questions

  1. 1.) What are your thoughts on different learning styles? From your personal experience, both teaching and as a student, do you feel that there is such a thing as different learning styles? If so, what are some examples you can remember of having to teach the same concept differently in order to accommodate a particular student or group of students? Similarly, do any of you remember an example of when you could only learn a particular concept if it was presented in a specific way?
  2. 2.) Assuming that catering to different learning styles is beneficial, what are some potential hindrances associated with providing differential methods of instruction according to learning style? Can any of you recall an occasion in which you tried to cater to different types of learners or in a class you took in which the instructor did so that hindered the overall class?
  3. 3.) In your opinion, should universities such as VCU make a concerted effort to cater to different learning styles? Would this be more feasible and useful at a smaller university or in smaller class sizes?

Presentation software in the college classroom: Don’t forget the instructor

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Submitted by Erin Hardin

Article Reference

Hardin, E. E. (2007). Presentation software in the college classroom: Don’t forget the instructor. Teaching of Psychology, 34, 53-57.

Article DOI

10.1080/00986280709336652

Summary of Article

Purpose:

To examine the effect of Presentation software (e.g., PowerPoint) on college students’ learning, satisfaction, and engagement in Introductory Psychology course taught by graduate student instructors.

 

Method:

A quasi-experimental pretest-pretest design is employed in this study. 263 undergraduate students at Texas Tech University was recruited in one of eight sections of introductory Psychology, which is taught by four instructors. Each instructor was assigned to two sections of Introductory Psychology, one was delivered by using PowerPoint and another section without using PowerPoint. Instructor effects were controlled by asking instructors to use the same textbook, deliver two sections in the same day, and receive the basic training in the use of PowerPoint. During the one of the first two classes sessions, instructors administered a 44-item questionnaire to all students for accessing their liking on the course (like), interest on learning (interest), likelihood to take additional Psychology course (future), and baseline knowledge of course content (perceived learning). In post-test, students completed measure above in additional to 35-item measure about their objective learning (objective learning).

 

Results:

  1. Several significant main effects of instructor were found on like, perceived learning and objecting learning among undergraduate students.
  2. PowerPoint had no significant effects on students’ outcome.
  3. The main effect of perceived learning was qualified by a significant instructor by PowerPoint interactions on one of instructors, showing that student believed they learned significantly less when the instructor used PowerPoint than when the instructor did not
  4. A significant instructor by PowerPoint interaction on students’ interest in Psychology was also found on one of instructors, showing that students were more interested in Psychology when the instructor used PowerPoint than when the instructor did not.

Discussion Questions

  1. How frequently do you use PowerPoint in class? How do you find PowerPoint is useful?
  2. Why is PowerPoint presentation beneficial to student learning? What kind of class is inappropriate for using PowerPoint?
  3. How to balance the effect of instructor and usage of PowerPoint? What kind of thing should we present through PowerPoint and what should not?

Blackboard: Creating Content

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Submitted by Ashley HIll

Currently, I am working as a GTA for a large lecture class. During a meeting with my supervising instructor, she suggested that I create a teaching assistant tab within Blackboard to increase communication between myself and students. She specially wanted me to create a discussion board where students could submit questions. At first, I was hesitant because Blackboard seemed  hard to navigate. With the help of the VCU IT site and online tutorials I was able to successfully create the Teaching Assistant Tab.

My first step toward figuring out Blackboard was visiting the VCU IT website to see if they had any free tutorials. The most helpful resources was their online training webinars.

  1. To access these, visit https://training.vcu.edu/, and search for “blackboard”. Then you will be directed to instructor led and self-paced online courses.
  2.  I chose the course “Blackboard : Presenting Dynamic Content”. Another good course would be “Blackboard: Getting Started”.
  3. Once you click on the URL of the selected course, your computer will automatically download the recording.
  4. Before you can access the recording of the webinar, you must download  the “Blackboard Collaborate Launcher”.
  5. Then you will be able to watch and listen to a webinar that guides you through creating content on Blackboard.

To create my Teaching Assistant Tab, I had to create a “Content Area”by click on the (+) icon in the top left hand corner. Then my content area which I labeled “Teaching Assistant”  appeared on the left hand column within Blackboard. Within my Content Area, I was able to build content such items. One item  included information such as tips on completing the homework. I even was able to attach document to my items.

Creating a discussion Board was a little harder. To do so,  I clicked on “Tools”, then “Create New Forum”. From there, I was able to create a discussion thread where students could post questions. Some interesting features of Blackboard are that you can hide information from students and set time frames for how long you want it be visible. Additionally, in announcements I’ve emailed to students, I was able to create links to information within my tab.

Overall, Blackboard became easier to use once I  understood its basic components and used it more frequently.

Twitter as a teaching practice to enhance active and informal learning in higher education: The case of sustainable tweets.

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Submitted by Ashley HIll

Article Reference

Kassens-Noor, E. (2012). Twitter as a teaching practice to enhance active and informal learning in higher education: The case of sustainable tweets. Active Learning in Higher Education, 13(1), 9–21.

Article DOI

doi:10.1177/1469787411429190

Summary of Article

Purpose:  To examine the effectiveness of Twitter as a learning tool that encourages peer discussion of course content outside of the classroom.  To illustrate the advantages and disadvantages of using Twitter as a learning strategy.

 

Method:

Researchers examined twitter use within a college course over the course of month. Students choose between three assignment options:

  1. a) “Twitter Group” – use Twitter as only form of communication
  2. b) Traditional group -daily individual journaling and an in class group discussion of journals

3) Essay on environmental sustainability. ( No one choose this)

Procedure :

  • Tweet Group:

    • Twitter group had to abide by Twitter rules surrounding tweet content and to print out tweets. They were required to tweet and respond to tweets daily surrounding environmental issues.

  • Traditional Group;

    • In class Conversation was taped and transcribed

  • Both group were quizzed on content and group interaction at the end of the study

Analysis:

  • Used qualitative analysis to score and code qualitative data: surveys, tweets, diaries and transcript
  • Looking at knowledge retention and knowledge creation

 

Results

  • Advantages of Twitter

    • Foster combined knowledge creation of group over individual diaries and discussion
    • Faster communication between classmates enhanced understanding of content

  • Disadvantages of Twitter

    • Restricted ability to self-reflect and thinking critically

Discussion Questions

  1. Have you taken a course that incorporated social media use? If so what was your reaction?
  2. What do you think are some possible issues that will arise with using social media sites like Twitter to foster peer interaction?
  3. Do you think that social media can be an effective learning tool in higher education? If so, would you incorporate it into a future course? How might you use it?

Characteristics and correlates of teaching anxiety among college psychology teachers

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Submitted by Ariella Tabaac

Article Reference

Gardner, L. E., and Leak, G. K. (1994). Characteristics and correlates of teaching anxiety among college psychology teachers. Teaching of Psychology, 21, 28-32.

 

Article DOI

Summary of Article

Purpose: To determine the characteristics and correlates of teaching anxiety among college psychology teachers.

Method: Questionnaires were mailed to 239 university affiliated psychologists who were randomly selected from the APA Membership Register, with a total of 102 psychologists completing the survey from areas ranging from clinical, developmental, and social psychology. The survey measured experiences of teaching anxiety, including intensity, frequency, stimuli triggers, and reactions to experiencing teaching anxiety, in addition to measures of communication apprehension and evaluation-related distress.

Findings:

  • 87% of respondents experienced teaching anxiety, and 65% reported the experience as severely/extremely unpleasant
  • 80% of respondents reported an incidence in the previous semester alone
  • Teaching anxiety was more likely to occur at the beginning of the term or before the first day of class
  • Most frequently reported triggers were standing in front of the class, course prep, hostile comments from students, and failing to answer students’ questions
  • Level of teaching anxiety was inversely related to number of courses previously taught

Conclusions: This study shows that teaching anxiety is a common experience and is likely to be associated with specific situations and is a state-like cognitive reaction to stress, and can thus be addressed through cognitive restructuring (i.e., through training of specific teaching skills). Communication among colleagues and adequate class preparation may be important coping devices.

 

Discussion Questions

  1. Looking at your current teaching style (or interaction style with students, advisees, or mentees), do you think you have any “crutches” (i.e., over-reliance on lecture materials or PowerPoint slides) or habits (e.g., staying at the front of the room, not giving students enough time to answer a question) that may be due to teaching anxiety?
  2. What do you feel an effective way of coping with teaching anxiety would be?
  3. Do you feel there is a good support structure in place for graduate students who are new to teaching? If not, what do you feel your institution could do to help with teaching anxiety for new instructors or GTAs? Are there particular resources that help (or could help)?