Take-Aways from Lilly Conference on Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning

By Melissa Wehler, PhD, Dean of Humanities and Sciences

On June 5, 2017, I had the pleasure of representing Central Penn College at the Lilly Conference on Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning in Bethesda, Maryland. My presentation, co-written and co-presented with Judith Dutill, Instructional Designer at Millersville University, was entitled “Pause Procedure and Reflecting Learning in the Online Classroom” and was presented to a crowd of more than thirty educators from institutions of higher education around the country.

The session reviewed methods and techniques that online teaching faculty can use to engage their online students. First, we discussed the challenges faced by online teaching faculty in designing effective instruction for the online modality and promoted the use of microlectures and pause procedure techniques. Next, we defined the elements of a microlecture and discussed the relevant research on the considerations faculty should make before endeavoring to develop their own microlecture. Finally, we discussed methods for incorporating pause procedure into video lectures and introduced some technical tools to assist with this implementation. Specifically, we reviewed some of the software techniques being used at Central Penn, including Play Posit, Voice Thread, and Office Mix.

In addition to my own session, I attended sessions on:

  • What Lies Beneath: Rethinking Major Issues in Teaching and Learning
  • Radically Inclusive Classrooms: Promoting and Protesting a Diverse Learning Environment
  • #InteractiveLearning: Technology Tools to Engage and Support All Learners
  • Advising Online: An Orientation Module to Support Faculty Student Interactions
  • Improving Academic Integrity: Evidenced-Based Strategies

 

While there were many take-aways from the conference, here are a few that resonated with me:

Teaching-oriented versus learning-oriented. During the opening session, Todd Zakrajsek made an excellent point about this issue by asking: “does your lesson change if there are no students in the room?”  The question addresses the fundamental difference between teaching and learning.  If you can deliver the same presentation, run through the same information, and provide the same talking points to a room of thirty as you can to an empty room, you are probably teaching-oriented.  If your lesson plan so thoroughly addresses, integrates, and engages students that you could not possibly proceed, then you are probably learning oriented.

Understand and respect cognitive load.  There comes a point where students (and frankly, us as well) reach a point where we cannot take in any more information.  Rather than continue past this point-of-no-return, find ways to break up the material.  Incorporate reflective breaks to give students a chance to work with the information.  Think about the ways to manage the class so that there is some thinking and some doing.  Understand that no matter how brilliant the lesson, students can only retain so much.

Ends over means.  The role of lecture in the classroom was a hot topic this year, but overall, the sessions I attended seemed to reiterate the same point: engaged students are better than disengaged students no matter the method.  Sometimes, lecturing is necessary; sometimes, it’s not.  The key is that you know your own strengths and weaknesses as an educator, play to those strengths, and engage your students.

About the Author

13240559_10101056173646389_348591978591550789_nDr. Melissa Wehler serves as the Dean of Humanities and Sciences and Professor of English at Central Penn College.  Her academic writing has been published in several essay collections where she discusses topics including the gothic, feminism, performance, and culture.  She enjoys teaching classes about writing, literature, culture, and film and has won two teaching awards for her student-centered approach.

Counseling Services and Student Referrals

By Megan Cline, Counselor at Central Penn College

Lunch & Learn on Classroom Management & Student Referrals
Image from the Winter Lunch & Learn
Presented by CPC’s counselors,
Candace Johnson & Megan Cline

After completing our first ever Lunch & Learn presentation, Candace and I would like to share a brief recap of important information from the faculty training session! First, let me start by introducing Candace and I, as well as inform you of what services are available through our counseling offices. Candace Johnson, MS, is our part-time counselor and her office hours are Wednesdays 5-8pm and Fridays 12:30-3:30pm. I, Megan Cline, LSW, am the full-time counselor, and my office hours can range from 9am-5pm or 10am-6pm, but both Candace and I are flexible with our appointment times. We are located upstairs in Bollinger Hall, rooms 52B and 52C, beside the Cultural Diversity Office.

As far as our services go, appointments with a counselor can be done in person, via phone, or virtually by email or webcam. The maximum number of sessions students can have is 11 per term (i.e. one session per week). If it is believed by the counselor that the student needs more intensive care, the counselor will make a referral for the student to another local outpatient office. Not only are counseling services free, but they are confidential as well; however, in the event that a student voices harm to self or others, confidentiality is broken and reported to the appropriate party. Further, as employees of the college, we are unable to provide similar services to faculty and staff. So while working at Central Penn, if you would like to access support services for yourself, those are available to you through Human Resources.

Finally, as a faculty member, you will come into contact with a variety of student personalities. One thing that we at the counseling office ask of you is to please report any concerning student behaviors that you might observe. Throughout the term weeks, you will get to know your students well and be able to identify if a student is displaying concerning or unusual behavior. If it is troubling to you, chances are it is something that should be investigated further. If you do not feel comfortable checking in with the student yourself, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the counseling staff or your supervisor to discuss the student further.

For more information about our services, please visit our web page at http://www.centralpenn.edu/college-services/counseling-services/

Email Megan Cline or Candace Johnson

Building an Inclusive Classroom: A Starting Place

By Dr. Melissa Wehler, Dean of Humanities and Sciences

In recent years, conversations about diversity in the college classroom have necessarily focused on the inclusive learning space.  For many in higher education, inclusivity is the natural progression for colleges who are working towards practical applications of diversity initiatives, some of which have come under criticism for being well-intentioned but not concrete.  The rise of campus ‘safe spaces’—itself not without critique— has extended into the classroom, prompting further discussions about the definition, role, and best practices of inclusivity in higher education.

Inclusivity, in its academic methodology, means building a classroom (and campus) environment wherein faculty members and students share in the creation of a learning space in a way that respects all of the constituents, their lived experiences, and learning needs.  The constituents of the classroom (and again, we can extend to this to the campus) are encouraged to engage in constructive, challenging dialogue and to support others who are sharing their lived experiences.

The role of the faculty in an inclusive classroom is to act as a model for the types of behavior, engagement, and collaboration required of the space.  Faculty members should be transparent about their processes and policies and establish guidelines for engagement.  The course content, moreover, should reflect a variety of experiences and perspectives and mirror those of the students in the course.  The challenge for the faculty member is not to shy away from academic rigor in such environments, but rather to communicate the parameters of that rigor.

Throughout this series, when talking about inclusivity in the classroom, I will use the word ‘build’ rather than ‘create.’ Inclusivity is a creative process, certainly, but to use the word ‘create’ elides the work—by students, faculty members, and the even the institution—it takes to establish an inclusive learning space.  It also suggests that such learning spaces are mysteriously self-generating and that some students, faculty, courses ‘have it’ and that others ‘don’t.’ The idea of ‘creating,’ moreover, implies that students and faculty members are somehow inherently inclusive, which ignores the realities of different lived experiences.

‘Building,’ on the other hand, accounts for the time and effort of students and faculty, connotes the necessary collaborative efforts, and forefronts the conversation of inclusivity as one that requires deep engagement.  Students and faculty members must confront privileges and assumptions, they must learn (but not co-opt) the lived experiences of others, and they must work collaboratively towards a shared, mutual goal.

Throughout this series, we will be working on ‘building’ a definition of the inclusive classroom, its elements, and its practices.  The other parts of the series will cover the following:

  • Reflecting on privileges.
  • Questioning your assumptions.
  • Knowing your students.
  • Challenging the status quo.
  • Collaborating in the classroom.

As we continue with this series, we hope that you will ‘build’ along with us in the comments.  Please share your thoughts, fears, and hopes about inclusivity in the classroom as well as your own experiences and best practices.

References

Bart, M. (2012). Strategies for creating a more inclusive classroom. Faculty focus. http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/strategies-for-creating-a-more-inclusive-classroom/ Retrieved: 2/10/17

Busteed, B. (2016). Inclusivity means opinions count. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2016/12/06/colleges-must-move-simply-asking-peoples-opinions-making-them-count-essay Retrieved: 2/10/17

Hammond, R. (2016). Setting the Tone for Inclusion on Campus Joanne Berger-Sweeney, president, Trinity College. The chronicle of higher education. http://www.chronicle.com/article/Video-Setting-the-Tone-for/238304 Retrieved: 2/1/17

Turner, S. (2016). Dear higher education – This is why your diversity initiatives are failing. Advancing diversity. http://www.advancingdiversity.com/dear-higher-education-this-is-why-your-diversity-initiatives-are-failing/ Retrieved: 2/10/17

Zhang, Y. and K. Mansouri. (2016). Point/Counterpoint: Do safe spaces belong on college campuses? USA Today College. http://college.usatoday.com/2016/11/22/viewpoint-point-counterpoint-do-safe-spaces-belong-on-college-campuses/ Retrieved: 2/1/17

Melissa Wehler, Ph.D. serves as the Dean of Humanities and Sciences and Professor of English at Central Penn College.  Her academic writing has been published in several essay collections including Demons of the Body and Mind,  Transnational Gothic,  and A Quest of Her Own: Essays on the Female Hero in Modern Fantasy where she discusses topics including the gothic, feminism, performance, and culture.  She enjoys teaching classes about writing, literature, culture, and film and has won two teaching awards for her student-centered approach.

Week One: Silence

By Judith Dutill, Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence

Excitement. Anticipation. Enthusiasm. These are all words I would use to describe how I feel in the weeks and days leading up to a new term. Yet, despite my eagerness, even my widest smile, best jokes, and most engaging team building icebreakers are sometimes met with silence so great, the only thing that can be heard is the sound of my proverbial bubble bursting.

I know that if I hunker down and weather the first few days or weeks of awkward silences, things might pick up once we all get to know one another. But what if it doesn’t? (And, sometimes it doesn’t.) I have found that it is better to work on getting my quiet classes talking earlier in the term than if I let the inactivity persist to the point that silence is what ultimately defines our time together.

Now that a new term is underway, if you feel like you are the only one in the classroom with something to say, try one (or several) of these techniques to get your quiet classes talking…

On-ground classes

  • Keep students moving; try setting up learning/activity stations around the classroom, have students work in small groups before reporting out to the larger class, let students share ideas by writing on the board or creating a post-it wall.
  • Ask students what they need to get more engaged in the class. Use an anonymous survey or poll at the end of class to capture feedback.
  • Use positive reinforcement; notice and acknowledge when class is going well, thank students for their participation and responses.
  • Begin class with a discussion icebreaker such as a current event or a provocative image or news story.
  • Assign student discussion leaders; allow students to create the prompts and facilitate the discussion.
  • Create homework assignments that will connect with the next class meeting’s discussions so students are more likely to arrive prepared to discuss the day’s topics.
  • Use classroom games such as Jeopardy, Bingo, or poling games such as Kahoot.

 

Online classes

Quiet classes can occur in any modality. If you have a quiet online class (which I currently do), you may need to think creatively to get them talking.

  • Reach out to students via email as a reminder that the discussion board needs attention from the class.
  • Ask students what they need to get more engaged in the class. Use an anonymous survey or poll at the end of class to capture feedback.
  • Model a post by creating a starter thread for student reply.
  • Post a mid-week discussion or deploy a mid-week poll (use a polling tool such as Poll Everywhere) on a current event/relevant controversy.
  • Assign student discussion leaders; allow students to create the prompts and facilitate the discussion.
  • Provide multiple discussion prompts so students can find their way to the discussion topics they are most interested in.
  • Use the Groups tool in Blackboard to create small group discussions. Students may be more willing to open up at the beginning of the term with a small group versus the larger group.
  • Encourage students to end their discussion post replies with a lingering question. This will provide other students with a springboard for their replies.
  • Encourage students to share relevant examples by posting multimedia in their discussion posts.
  • Engage students with activities other than discussion boards; try using a VoiceThread asynchronous video discussion, building a class Wiki, or deploying a PlayPosit interactive video (tip: students can also create PlayPosit videos for their peers).

What techniques do you use to get students talking? Tell us about it in the comments section!

Ending the Term on a High Note: Punctuate, Synthesize, and Reflect

By Judith Dutill, Instructional Design Technologist

Joshua Eyler, Director of Rice University’s Center for Teaching Excellence, recently shared his blog post, The Final Class of Semester, emphasizing the importance of meaningfully punctuating the time we have spent with our students.

This made me think about my own classroom tradition of ending the term by asking students to write and share haiku style poems that encapsulate their biggest takeaways; I typically use this activity in introductory-level courses. Many students bring humor to the table and it is a great reminder, before we part ways, that we enjoyed the time we spent learning together.

My favorite haiku from ENG 110:

Public speaking is

Not as scary as it seems

If you breathe and smile

Memorable to me not just for its optimism, but also the affectionate debate over the number of syllables in the word smile that ensued.

Share your favorite end of term traditions in the comments section!

Get connected with the CTE @ CPC:

Teaching with Current Events

By Judith Dutill, Instructional Design Technologist

On September 11, 2001 I was a junior in college studying communication and working as the program director for our campus FM radio station. It was a frantic and confusing day on campus and I spent most of the day working at the radio station, making sure we stayed on the air. September 12, 2001 was just as frantic and confusing; I remember feeling especially homesick and scared. I wanted to be with people (and going home was not an option for me), so I made sure I went to class, Survey of Mass Media.

My professor walked into the room waving a copy of The Wall Street Journal. The headline read: “Terrorists Destroy World Trade Center, Hit Pentagon in Raid with Hijacked Jets.” My strongest and most vivid memory of this time is from that day when the professor shared with us that this was the first six-column headline The Wall Street Journal had run since Pearl Harbor. The professor explained why this was significant and for the remainder of the class we engaged in dialogue about the events of 9/11, all framed around the role of media during times of national crisis and tragedy. It was not lost on me that we were living history (and my professor emphasized this), but more importantly there was comfort for me in this dialogue. The conversation the professor facilitated brought order to chaos; everyone in the classroom that day shared the same fear and confusion but theory and knowledge became our flashlight to see through the darkness.

The events of the past month remind me of this time. There is confusion and fear, misinformation and disinformation – but we can bring order to the chaos and comfort to our students by inviting current events into the classroom and structuring our discourse, to the extent that it is possible, around the unprecedented events of the day.

Noliwe M. Rooks wrote an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education entitled Knowing When to Teach Current Events which offers faculty five questions to ask ourselves when determining whether or not a current event should be brought into the classroom:

  1. Does including the topic allow me to teach students something that, within the context of the overall aims of the course, I think is important for them to learn?
  2. Am I familiar with enough scholarly sources to contextualize the moment or event beyond what is readily available in newspapers and social media?
  3. Is more gained by my teaching this topic than by my leading a town-hall meeting, urging students to organize a panel, or allowing them to discuss the issue during the first few minutes of class?
  4. Is this my “lane”?
  5. If I introduce a new topic into the course, am I prepared to teach students what they don’t know but may need to know in order to fully understand it?

Current events can bring life to your classroom discussions and may even light a spark that creates moments of learning so significant that fifteen years later (or more) your students will still remember them. What more could an educator ask for?

Do you bring current events into the classroom? Tell us about it in the comments section!

 

We are having a paper fight! Ready. Set. Go!

By Benjamin Lipschutz, Business and Accounting Instructor

How do your students learn? How is it that they take their prior knowledge and experiences, combine that with what they are currently being asked to intake, and create real and meaningful knowledge? Experiential learning theory explores this process by breaking into steps how individuals learn. According to researcher David Kolb, experiential learning starts with learners having a concrete experience. They do, see, feel, read, or hear something that passes all their filters and actually leaves an impression. They then require a reflective observation period to mull over what has just occurred. When they have internalized what has happened, they can go through abstract conceptualization and truly learn from the experience. Finally, through active experimentation, they can test what they have learned. This cycle repeats, leading to growth.

A question remains: What does this really mean, and how can/do we apply this in our classrooms?

Let’s start at the beginning. We often ask our students to read text, watch a video, or review presentations to gain a scaffolding of understanding, and then we fill the spaces through our instruction. However, Kolb theorizes that “learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience” (Kolb, 1984), and that the acquisition of abstract concepts that can be applied flexibly in a range of situations is most readily imparted through new experiences.

One classroom activity that truly encapsulates this learning model is the “paper fight.”  I ask for eight volunteers from my class of 30 students. I split them in groups of 4, place them on opposite sides of the room and give each a small stack of paper. I then declare that we are having a paper fight. Go!

What happens? Usually, the students hesitate, but then organize themselves and start throwing paper at one another. Some crumple and launch the paper, others throw the entire stack, some throw at their own group, and others throw at the opposite group. In general – it’s chaos. However, it is a CONCRETE experience. I capitalize on this experience the students just had and lead an in-depth discussion about what just transpired. Too often, this time for reflection, understanding, and convergence of ideas is cut short, and students are left floundering with partially formed ideas that fall by the wayside. There must be facilitation to point out and smooth over any inconsistencies between the experience and their understanding and we have to provide adequate time to allow this to happen.

Some probing questions I use to help students come to a conclusion about the previous fight are: Who won? Why did they win? What was the goal? What was the purpose? What were the objectives? The abstract conceptualization comes into play by allowing them time to reflect on the experience and then come up with a novel idea or concept — in this case, a new mission, vision, strategy, or objective.

I then allow for a round of active experimentation. I run a second round with another 8 students, but allow them 30 seconds to strategize. The process begins again. This activity continues with me slowly incorporating more information and details and highlighting the various aspects of management I am teaching in the unit’s lesson.

Key Takeaways 

  1. Experiences are the basis for learning
  2. Allow enough time for true reflection and understanding before moving on
  3. Encourage and give theopportunity to create their own opinions
  4. Create an activity where they can test out their idea.

References:

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (Vol. 1). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Benjamin Lipschutz is an instructor in the School of Business at Central Penn College. He holds degrees in Accounting, Business, Business Education, and Special Education with PA State certifications in Business Education and Special Education Pre K-8 and 7-12. His focus is in student centered learning and engagement and he enjoys teaching at all levels, from students here at Central Penn College to kindergartners with Junior Achievement.

Lunch & Learn Highlights: Classroom Management Techniques

By Judith Dutill, Instructional Design Technologist

Classroom management is a part of teaching that challenges new and seasoned educators alike. On Friday October 21, 2016, a group of 20 faculty members gathered for a roundtable discussion on classroom management techniques.

Lunch & Learn on Classroom Management TEchniques

Topics included handling classroom disruptions, handling classroom conflict, and maintaining student engagement. Here are some of the techniques, thoughts, and resources that were shared:

  • Don’t be static, move around the classroom
  • Let students know when behavior is factored into grading
  • Don’t let students dominate the conversation
  • Be prepared to help students understand the value in what they’re learning
  • Be proactive in managing behaviors that can incite conflict
  • Ask students what they’re interested in
  • Design engaging activities
  • Bring current events and other relevant information
  • Offer students choices
  • Share your personal experience with students

Additional Resources:

Central Penn College’s Lunch & Learn program is an opportunity for faculty to spend time together, share their experiences, and learn from one another. Watch your CPC email for future Lunch & Learn opportunities, we’d love to see you there!

In the meantime, join the conversation by sharing in the comments section; what are your favorite classroom management techniques?

Are You a Networked Educator?

By Judith Dutill, Instructional Design Technologist

I recently heard an interview with Dr. Bonnie Stewart and I became interested in her work on networked identity. Her words made me think deeply about the value of my personal and professional networks and the richness they bring to my world and to my teaching. My strength as an educator and the value that I have to offer my students is thanks in large part to my past experiences and the people that I know and learn from every day. It’s my responsibility as an educator to remember and reflect upon past learning experiences, to cultivate and maintain relationships, and to seek new opportunities for continued growth. I do this for myself, because I care about my relationships and I care about my career; I do this for my students because they are depending on me and I do not want to let them down.

If you are looking for ideas on how to be a more networked educator – start here:

Know who your mentor is…mentorship is for all stages of our careers and throughout our careers we may experience many mentors. If you do not currently have a trusted mentor, it’s time to find one. Mentorship begins with a relationship. Identify people who have achieved the success that you’d like to achieve and network with them, build a relationship, and learn.

Be active in your professional organizations…my favorite professional organization is having its annual conference in Philadelphia this year. When I went to register for the event, I learned that my membership had lapsed. How could this happen? Well, I moved last year! I forgot to change my address with the organization and I missed my renewal notice. If you haven’t interacted with or heard from your professional organization lately, check your membership. If you’re not a member, join. Our participation in these organizations keeps us up to date on the latest research and trends in our academic disciplines. Commit yourself to joining and getting involved with at least one professional organization in your discipline this year.

Join the conversation…Twitter is an excellent forum for networking with the most active professionals in your field. If you are unfamiliar with Twitter, start by following your professional organization. Go to their website and find out what hashtags they use, follow their discussion and, when you’re ready, jump into the conversation.

Engage in peer review…a great way to develop as a teacher is to watch other people teach. Network with a colleague in your discipline and ask if they are open to having you visit their classroom or, better yet, invite yourself into a classroom outside of your academic discipline to expand your perspective.

Record your reflections…commit to a system for keeping track of the people you meet and reflecting on the new things you learn (I use Microsoft OneNote). Build a filing system in Outlook for archiving emailed newsletters and information from your professional organizations and subscriptions. Block a little time on your calendar every week to read articles and catch up on professional development activities.

Share your knowledge…respond to your professional organization’s call for papers and presentations to share your scholarship. Invite your peers to learn from your experiences in the classroom – the CTE is always looking for guest presenters and guest bloggers. Let us know if you are interested!

What do you do to be a networked educator? Share with us in the comments section!

Don’t Forget the Grade Center!

By Judith Dutill, Instructional Design Technologist

There are so many things to keep track of at the start of a new term it can be difficult to know where to begin. Recent research shows us that there is one thing that we definitely do not want to overlook: setting up the Blackboard Grade Center! At Central Penn College we use the Grade Center to maintain a record of student grades. Not only do we associate the College’s grading schema with the Grade Center, we also associate assignments, discussion boards, tests, quizzes and other activities with the Grade Center too. This allows us to use the inline grading features within Blackboard to provide detailed feedback and grades to students.

In a recent Campus Technology article I learned of an analysis conducted by Blackboard to determine the biggest LMS predictor of student achievement. From the Campus Technology article, the analysis shows that the “most successful students” are those who access the gradebook function in Blackboard “most frequently” (para 3).

These results are yet another great reason to take the time to make sure that your Grade Center is set up correctly, now. Students rely on having access to an accurate grade record throughout the term, not just to keep track of their progress, but also as a motivator to achieve academic success.

What can you do today? Check your Grade Center and make sure that you…

Throughout the term you should…

  • Let students know when graded feedback on assignments can be expected and follow-through on these promises.
  • Keep Grade Center records up to date throughout the term.
  • Remind students to check their Grade Centers frequently and to ask questions for clarification right away, especially when new grades are posted.
  • Remind students how to read your detailed feedback and what their grades mean (especially when weighted grades are used).

If you need more information about how your Grade Center should be set up, contact your Program Chair or the LMS Administrator (kimbateman@centralpenn.edu). Have a great term!

1 2