Friday, May 23, 2014

Kentucky Pedagogicon 2014 Conference Notes: Afternoon Sessions

 This is the second part of my two-post series with my notes on the KY Pedagogicon Conference held on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University on May 16, 2014. My notes are for the sessions I attended out of the many choices (and they did have some good choices). As usual, comments in addition to notes are in parenthesis.

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Session 4: "Team-Based Learning: Applying Collaboration and Problem-Solving Skills"

This was mainly an overview of the TBL concept, but it did some good insights for professors in terms of how to set up your classes for TBL and problem-solving. For faculty wanting to try out this technique, this would have been a good presentation to attend.

  • On the need for active learning, the days of the "sage on the stage" are over (reinforcing theme from the opening remarks I see). 
  • Also, the instructor does need to keep the teaching interesting for himself. 
  • TBL= small groups of students interact as teams to apply content to simple and complex problems with instructor feedback. This is problem-based learning. Students receive frequent and immediate feedback from the teacher. 
  • The basis of the concept goes back to management literature from the 1970s. Over time, adopted in education settings. See the work of Larry Michaelsen and his book Team-Based Learning (Michaelsen has made a cottage industry of TBL, see his other books on TBL by topics such as TBL for health professions and for the social sciences and humanities. When I was in graduate school, we called that "salami slicing.")
  • One way to make it work, divide your class into sections/teams. Design your curriculum around major instructional units (MIU), and run an MIU every two weeks or so. 
    • A reflection element at the end of an MIU is very important. He requires a 4-pages reflection on the unit and 2 more pages reflecting on how the team itself worked. 
  • Do not try this teaching technique if you are threatened by frequent student challenges. Definitely do not do it if challenges from students in groups threaten you. 
  • Keep in mind that TBL does take time to plan and implement. 
  • A good class size for TBL is 5 to 6 teams at most with 5 to 7 members per team. Mix them up. The speaker has his students fill out profiles to aid in group selection (yes, the students are assigned teams. They do not self-select). 
  • Begin classes at a slow pace. Give the teams a "basic" team assignment initially; this is to get them to learn to work as a team. After that, you can then move on to content. 
  • Advantages of TBL for students: 
    • Develop interpersonal skills. 
    • Active participation. 
    • Motivation to attend class. 
    • Accountability for content. 
    • Application of knowledge. 
  • Advantages for faculty: 
    • Better attendance rates.
    • Better student evaluations. 
  •   Way to alternate leadership in group presentations: all members must be ready to present. You then select a random member of the group to be the presenter. No one presents twice (ideally). 

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Session 5: "A scaffolded, collaborative approach to teaching research proposal writing."

(Actually, the title on this one was a bit misleading. While it dealt with the topic of scaffolding in teaching, there really was not much of anything about "research proposals," but we did get some material on literature reviews and annotated bibliographies. I did find the literature matrix handout the provided to be valuable, and may integrate an adaptation to our classes here.)

  • On scaffolding, may want to review your Vygostky (if it has been a while). His ideas were then expanded on by Arthur Applebee and Judith Langer. (For examples of convenience, see this guide on scaffolding and this article from NCTE's Language Arts journal. The journal links to J-STOR, so your access may vary. Consult your local librarian if you need access).
  • The speakers, who work at EKU, highlighted the collaborations taking place in their Noel Studio. (Note for myself to continue working on expanding possible campus collaborations here between the library and Peer Educators as well as our TLC).
  • On teaching about writing the literature review, lead with examples. 
  • Librarians can take some "burden" from professors in terms of teaching how research works, plus professors can also use the services of writing center tutors and other services to help address writing basics like a literature review. This thus can allow the professor to concentrate on content. (This does raise an interesting question: how much do we do as librarians versus assuming the professor will do it, whatever "it" is in terms of basic research and writing skills. We understand how research works, and many of us at least have done research, or in my case, are outright qualified to teach writing if need be. No, I don't mean literally going back to teaching full composition for a librarian, but we can certainly prepare materials and resources in collaboration with other campus units for things like how to write a literature review). Collaborations with faculty identify points of need to make lessons relevant. 
  • The literature matrix can help students see how their research works and will shape their writing.  Libraries can put forms like the literature matrix online so they can be easily accessed by students. (We already do some of this in our LibGuides where we have forms to help with narrowing a topic and evaluating websites.)

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Session 6: "Reflective blogging."

(Being a blogger, and one who has used, or rather attempted to use, a blog to help with library instruction, I was naturally interested in this session. As for my little experiment, never really got around to writing it up. Anyhow, I've learned more about blogging and pedagogy since then, and this session did give me some additional ideas.)

  •  Yes, you can do this in classes like accounting (our speaker is an accounting professor). 
  • The speaker uses BlackBoard for her classroom management system (CMS) and the Blogger platform for the blogging. (For us, this could work with Moodle, if we chose to try it out.)
  • For tutorials on things like making a blog, YouTube can be your friend. Why reinvent the wheel? Others have already done a lot of work and shared it on YouTube. 
  • Give students precise instructions on content and additions (say you want them to do a video embed, photos, length of a post, so on). 
  • You can do this with classes of up to 15 students at most. More than that can get unwieldy. 
  • DO create a rubric to grade the blogs (which she did). Put the rubric on your CMS for students to know what the rubric is and how they will be graded. 
  • Depending on the class, the instructor does need to teach a bit to students about what blogging is and how to do it (this may vary depending on the levels of your class when it comes to tech ability. Be prepared to offer as much help and teaching as possible).
  • She had them write stories that illustrated accounting concepts, 200-300 words, to help them explain and define a concept. 
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From the closing session (which was really a plenary wrap-up)

Some open questions and comments:

  • Make students aware of their information architecture. Metacognition. 
  • You can find our combined document of "what we learned" at this link:
As a final note, I did do some live tweeting. You can find my tweets as well as the tweets from other fine folks on Twitter under the hashtag #kyp14.

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