Adult and young adult (traditional college) learners can be the most rewarding and engaging students we work with. They can also be the most challenging, with deep preconceived ideas about the roles of faculty and learner, the nature of knowledge and learning, and the function of the classroom. Moreover, new trends in higher education in the United States are resulting in increased diversity of backgrounds and abilities in our classrooms. If we are to break out of our habits of stand-and-deliver content-driven courses that work with only a narrow group of students, we need to do something that until now has been rare in higher education.
We need to learn to teach the students we actually have in the room.
Having traveled this path myself, from over-confident sage behind the lectern to collaborating fellow-traveler in the classroom, I am prepared to help fellow faculty map their own paths through the forest of possible content. I have workshops that range from helping faculty developing learning goals, through making design decisions including activities mapping and assessments, and finally reflective techniques for monitoring their own behaviors impact on achieving those goals for the majority of the students. What I will not do is tell faculty what, or exactly how, to teach in their discipline; the goal is to help develop collaborative relationships among participants so that we become learners and researchers not just in our discipline but also in the pedagogy of our discipline.
Here are some workshops I have developed; I will collaborate with you to be certain that the workshop(s) offered meet the particular needs of your institution, your faculty, and your students. I welcome opportunities to work with you and your colleagues; please contact me to discuss your professional development needs.
Cognitive growth in the college years: implications for course development. The more we understand about young adult and adult cognitive development and learning, the more effective our pedagogy will be. I start with a discussion of emergent models of cognitive development and the intersection of cognitive development with the Bandura / Dweck concept of growth mind-set (self-efficacy) and Kolb’s / Zull’s learning cycle, accompanied by graphic handouts and activities to help us learn to recognize students with different needs. We then use in-class collaboration to brainstorm appropriate learning activities to help students grow and develop in the discipline and across their college years.
Designing and monitoring discussion prompts. Different kinds of questions are appropriate for different pedagogical goals (confirming content knowledge; evaluating pre-conceptions and where students “are” in understanding; using open-ended questions to guide practice of critical thinking and use of evidence). In this workshop, I will briefly present data describing the importance of allowing students to express diverse opinions, and how to listen and provide process-focused feedback. Afterwards, participants will work together to design developmentally targeted prompts for their classes. Participants will leave the workshop with discussion questions of diverse types and a sample rubric to evaluate critical thinking processes in their discipline. Possible additional topics that can be covered in this workshop include designing and monitoring settings for small-group work in large classes, and training undergraduate TAs to guide student discussions.
Designing open-inquiry laboratory exercises: Avoiding chaos. The transformational efforts embodied in Next Generation Science Standards and Change and Vision require that we engage learners with authentic scientific and engineering practices. Key are opportunities for open-inquiry laboratory exercises for all students, majors and non-majors alike. These labs must allow students to exercise their growing knowledge and skills in science to address issues of personal interest, with no single “right” answer. However, many faculty and departments avoid student-driven open-ended laboratory activities in introductory courses for fear of chaos or added expenses. In this workshop, I describe an approach to laboratory design that allows open-inquiry pathways that can be created by reworking your existing laboratory exercises, without greatly increasing expense or chaos. Most of the session will be spent developing model laboratory exercises for participants’ classes.
On-line quizzes for practice, content review, and reinforcement. This workshop focuses on creating alignment between the types of questions we develop for multiple choice assessment and the type of learning we hope our students will achieve. During this workshop, we will blend theory and practice, revising some of our existing multiple choice test questions to address different levels on Bloom’s taxonomy. In addition, we will discuss how using certain features of your on-line pedagogical Quiz Tool can support student learning by providing opportunities for practice in lower-stakes testing environments.
Using on-line rubrics to streamline grading. A workshop including a brief presentation on the benefits of regular writing exercises for student growth and development, a hand-out with different styles of rubrics (i.e. “outline” form, proficiency-based, others), discussion of options for set-up in Blackboard, then hands-on workshop to design rubrics for particular assessments and disciplines. Can be done in collaboration with staff or faculty in your student-support office or writing assistance office.