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A Science faculty member asks about preparing students for new approaches [via Tom Carey, Nov 15 2007]

Posted by: tcarey
Date: 11/23/2007 12:33 pm
Views: 33837

A Science faculty member in one of our Transforming Course Design workshops raised this issue about preparing students for new approaches to teaching and learning (not unique to Transforming Course Design)

Implementation of new teaching methods that require active student participation and learning is quite different from the traditional passive learning that many of our students are used to in lectures. The active learning methods require student participation in the classroom and also preparation outside the classroom. This is something that most students are not familiar with.

Faculty members who implement more active learning approaches have encountered initial rejection / rebellion from students which in addition to being an obstacle to student learning might ultimately affect the instructor’s course evaluation. In order to ensure that faculty members are not discouraged from implementing this new technique, how can we help students develop their understanding? How can we help faculty member to gain understanding and support from their department, especially those that are responsible for reviewing their Retention, Tenure and Promotion file (RTP)?


Posted by: tcarey on 11/23/2007 12:37 pm

I recall hearing a similar story about student resistance from a colleague in Biology who had won several teaching awards and was highly respected on our campus for his teaching. He had invested a lot of personal time in developing some computer-based modules which prepared students for  lab sessions in their intro course, and rescheduled lab time to allow  students to work through the modules (with the consequent effect that the students spent less time in the traditional lab). While the results submitted by students from the labs improved and student grades on the standard department final went up – mostly in the middle third of the class - his teaching ratings went down.

 Armed with the data about improvements in student outcomes, my colleague changed the design of the first two weeks of class so that he could spend more time explaining how and why he wanted students to approach the new blended style of lab work. He discovered that initially some of the students felt that he was just saving time and cost by limiting their access to traditional labs. The student attitudes changed when they began to understand that more of his time was being invested in teaching them through the time he had spent on the computer-based lab software – an investment amortized over multiple offerings of the course so that there was a net gain in for him and for the department.

Posted by: Suzanne Aurilio on 11/26/2007 9:25 am
When this issue was raised in our workshop, here are some of the thoughts  shared by other faculty participants:
 §     You should consider how to provide students with a rationale for the new approach and some evidence about why you are convinced it is in their best interests. Of course, having a faculty member speak explicitly about the reasons for a course design may seem equally foreign to them...
 §     In a Transforming Course Design project, your chair and Dean have to sign letters of commitment to the project. Maybe we should be encouraging (requiring?) them to come to some initial class sessions to reinforce your explanation of the design rationale and to indicate that your initiative has widespread support and a scholarly underpinning.
Posted by: tcarey on 11/26/2007 9:49 am

In the ELIXR project we are recording digital stories from faculty about their exemplary teaching. One new story topic that has emerged recently is about Preparing Students for Blended and Online Learning. Based on your question, maybe we need to seek out stories about Preparing Students for Active Learning approaches? I will ask faculty development directors to comment about good practice in this area on other CSU campuses, and perhaps they will suggest some faculty who seem to do this particularly well so that we can capture their expertise in digital story form.

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