Revising my Teaching Philosophy

Although I’ve polished/reconfigured my teaching philosophy a few times over the years, I’m feeling compelled to take it in a new direction. It’s not that my teaching has taken on an entirely new form… well, maybe in some ways it has. I’m feeling a greater sense of clarity these days, specifically around collaboration and community-building. Here is my latest draft of my single sentence nutshell version, followed by lengthier elaboration/musings.

The goal of my teaching practice is to help people develop ways of thinking and doing that are informed by the methods and evidence of quantitative psychology, and that will prepare them to engage in their social worlds throughout their lives.

I chose many of these words very carefully.

goal, my teaching practice: indicate my own process of ongoing development. For me, teaching is not a skill I can check off as “mastered” — which is actually one of the reasons I enjoy it so much. It’s a set of skills and attitudes I can get better at through reflective practice, but it’s never “done.” Also noteworthy at this point: although this statement is grounded in what (I think) I do, it is also somewhat aspirational and intended to help me make decisions about how to change my teaching in the future.

help, develop: In my most effective teaching moments, I am acting as a guide, not some sage trying to fill brains with what I know. I view myself in a supporting role, and that probably has something to do with the most impactful teachers in my life, who treated me as an individual person (see below) and pushed me to develop new skill sets, regardless of how scary or challenging that was (I’m thinking of you Clinton, Ross, Holmes, Biesanz, Vohs…). Because many of my core courses are foundational  (introductory psychology, research methods, statistics, teaching of psychology for graduate students), I sometimes get to see and support developmental change in my students across much of their degrees. When possible, I provide opportunities for students to practice and build on past work.

people: reminds me that my students are more than just students (just as I am more than their instructor). I put this into practice by saying this, right before every exam begins: “and remember, your value as a person has nothing to do with your performance on this or any other exam.” Year after year, students thank me for this tiny reminder that they are not the sum of their grades. Also, this word reminds me that some of my teaching activities reach beyond traditional classroom settings and involve people who aren’t necessarily “students” per se.

ways of thinking and doing: I am increasingly aware of the fact that when I use lecture, I am giving students ample opportunity to practice note-taking and listening… which are not entirely useless skills, but are maybe not the best use of our time together (see above). With each new course I develop and each course I revise, I strive further toward spending class periods giving students time to practice their thinking and doing (asking, answering, brainstorming, designing, summarizing, analyzing, performing, playing, creating). To support doing-driven assignments, I need to work on building space in my course for further skill development.

methods and evidence of quantitative psychology: By training, I am a quantitative social psychologist. I teach research methods and statistics, write a research methods textbook, and deliberately chose to use an introductory psychology textbook that emphasizes research methods and combating pseudoscience. I think the tools and content of psychology are useful for critically consuming information that is thrown at us, and for engaging productively in the world. In my classes, I create opportunities for students to apply concepts and methods (test questions, assignments).  Importantly, I use the methods and evidence of quantitative behavioural sciences to inform my teaching practice.

engage: Here’s a word that was core in my old teaching philosophy. The way I’m looking at it now is this: I structure my learning situations to require learners to participate and engage with the material and each other. I use various common techniques: vivid examples, videos, attention grabbing questions sprinkled throughout class (clickers), projects that mean something (e.g., identify a problem you’re having and find research to help), and some that are uncommon (2-stage exams). I engage students in the learning process by breaking down my 1st and 2nd year courses into four chunks (three midterms and a cumulative final) — and in my intro course I require students to begin studying at least 2 days before each midterm because a short low-stakes concept check paper is due. Another way I try to engage is by building community…

social: Now we get to the primary reason for this whole revision. Most of the changes I’ve made over the years to my courses have been to make them more social. Community-building and collaboration feature heavily in my courses, and I’m ready to commit to them as defining features of my teaching. The research literature supports this approach. “Active learning” techniques that involve some sort of peer-to-peer engagement seem to work best to help students learn. I also believe that in order to engage effectively in their personal lives and broader society, people need practice developing skills and attitudes needed to work with and learn from others. The social looks different in different courses (in part depending on class size and level), but includes two-stage/team tests, group projects, peer evaluation, reviewing peers’ written work and presentations, informal discussions prompted by clicker questions, team writing, occasional field trips, and invitational office hours. Also, the more students talk in class, the stronger sense of community they feel. Because my classes tend to be very large (88 is the smallest, excepting my grad class), and many students have traveled from around the world to be here at UBC, increasing the social in class may help struggling students feel more connected. Next year, my new course on the psychology of social media will explore the theme of technology-mediated connection and will require it!

throughout their lives: my greatest teaching efforts are lost if they do not contribute to some lasting change for some people some of the time. My hope is that some of the skills, tools, ways of thinking and doing and engaging will positively influence the people I teach. If ever-so-subtly.

 

Some other thoughts

Technology-enhanced experience. I use technological tools wherever it makes sense to facilitate my goals. Examples: clickers, Connect, self-and-peer evaluation (Connect, peerScholar), scratch cards and live test grading, turnitin, videos

Integrated Course Design model. With each new course I’m developing, I’m getting better at applying Fink’s model. Basically, strive for alignment among course goals, learning assessments, and in-class experiences.

Psyc 101 Section 005

Hello to all my new, eager students! I’m receiving emails daily from people wondering about book options. Normally these are the kinds of questions that would receive an answer along the lines of “please check your syllabus” — however, considering I haven’t quite finished it yet, I can’t exactly expect you to consult it.

If you’re in my Psyc 101 class, section 005, that meets MWF 12-1, we’re meeting in CIRS 1250 (the only giant classroom in that building).

You absolutely need three things:

  • REQUIRED TEXTBOOK   “Psychology: From inquiry to understanding” Second Canadian edition by Lilienfeld and other authors. It *must* be the second Canadian edition with a cover that looks like this or this.
    • EDITIONS: DSM5 update edition is also acceptable. The 1st Canadian edition is not recommended. No US editions or books by any other authors will work for this course.
    • *Note: If you are registered in my Psyc 102 Section 004 course to begin January 2015, you can use the same textbook! But you will not be able to use this book for any other section of 101 or 102.
    • PURCHASE OPTIONS: A new, hard copy of the text is available to buy from the UBC Bookstore or Discount Textbooks, and comes with a $10 i>clicker rebate coupon, access to MyPsychLab study guide, and the electronic version of the text. To save cash, you can buy access to the e-text and MyPsychLab (without a hard copy) from www.mypsychlab.com using our course code COMING SOON. Used hard copies of the 2nd Canadian edition should be available.
  • REQUIRED i>clicker   An i>clicker personal response system, available at the bookstore. Physical i>clickers can be purchased at the bookstore, used or new. You must REGISTER YOUR i>clicker on our Connect course website (on or after Sept 2) to receive the points you earn in class. Want to try using your web-enabled device instead? Sign up at www.iclickergo.com (find out more http://wiki.ubc.ca/Documentation:Clickers/GO).
  • REQUIRED CONNECT COURSE WEBSITE   Our course website is www.connect.ubc.ca. Log in using your CWL (on or after September 2). Register your i>clicker, download PowerPoint slides after each lesson, announcements, discuss course material with your Learning Group, check your grades, submit assignments, give peer feedback, and more! You are responsible for checking this site frequently.
  • RECOMMENDED MYPSYCHLAB TEXTBOOK COMPANION WEBSITE   Includes study tools such as an electronic version of the text, practice quizzes, flashcards, chapter reviews, relevant links, videos and more. Your text (electronic or hard copy) comes with an access code you can enter on www.mypsychlab.com. If you buy a used book and want access, visit their website for purchase options. Our course ID code is COMING SOON. You don’t have to have access to MyPsychLab It comes with the textbook bundle at the bookstore, or you can buy online access later. Note that representatives for the publishing company for your textbook have made this website, not me. I had nothing to do with it. Many students have found it helpful for studying, but it’s up to you if you want to use it.

There are a few more resources we’ll be using over the year, but I’ll explain those later. These are the resources I’ve been asked about. Note that if you are experiencing serious financial need, please come to me and I’ll work with you to find access to the resources you need. (And don’t feel embarrassed — I’ve been there myself.) For example, I have some i>clickers for loan. Please see me during my office hours in September.

I’ll post the syllabus when it’s ready, later this week. Looking forward to meeting you next week!

Two-Stage Exam: Introduction and Resources

Time to dive in! After thinking about them for a long time, this term I’m converting my exams into two-stage exams.

  • Step 1. I shorten the exam so it’s doable in about 2/3 of the testing time slot.
  • Step 2. Students write the exam individually.
  • Step 3. Students immediately — during the same class period — write the same exam again in groups of 4.
  • Step 4. Grade the exams as usual, but 90% of the score comes from individual, and 10% from team, with a guarantee that if you do better than the team score you get 100% weight for the individual (which very rarely happens, so I’m told).

Why am I making this change?

Four key reasons:

  1. Data. A growing pool of evidence is showing that team tests help students learn. See references below.
  2. Feedback. My classes are very large, so I struggle to give any personalized feedback at all, especially timely feedback. By re-doing the test immediately with peers, they get to immediately discuss the questions and come to the right answer (according to data).
  3. Exam improvement. Based on my evaluations, a small but consistent group of students find my exams very difficult and/or too long. Because I still only have 50 minute classes to work with, this change will force me to shorten my exams, culling and distilling to just the most effective questions that measure deep learning.
  4. Community. I value collaboration and building a supportive community. Research papers and instructors who have used this method report extra benefits beyond learning: students have more rapport with each other and are more willing to participate with their peers in class throughout the term. Also, Gillian Sandstrom and I have a research paper in press showing the more students talk in class, the more they feel like part of a community and interested in the class. So… back to data.

Interested? Here are some quick and effective resources for implementation:

  1. Videos by the CWSEI team depicting Two-Stage Exams in action.
  2. Jones, F., Gilley, B., Harris, S. (2013). Tips for successful two stage exams. The EOS-SEI Times, 6(9). Retrieved http://www.cwsei.ubc.ca/Files/EOS/EOS-SEITimes_4.1_GroupExams.pdf
  3. Jones, F., Gilley, B., Lane, E., Caulkins, J., & Harris, S. (2011). Using group exams in your classes. The EOS-SEI Times, 4(1). Retrieved http://www.cwsei.ubc.ca/Files/EOS/EOS-SEITimes_4.1_GroupExams.pdf
  4. PHAS-CWSEI Team. (2012). Two-stage (group) exams. CWSEI–PHYS & ASTRO Newsletter. Retrieved http://www.cwsei.ubc.ca/Files/PHAS/PHAS-CWSEI_Newsletter_Summer-2012.pdf
  5. Brett Gilley, aka @ModernHydra

Data

Dahlstrom, O. (2012). Learning during a collaborative final exam. Educational Research and Evaluation: An International Journal on Theory and Practice, 18, 321-332.

Eaton, T. T. (2009). Engaging students and evaluating learning progress using collaborative exams in introductory classes. Journal of Geoscience Education, 57, 113-120.

Gilley, B. H., & Clarkston, B. (2014). Collaborative testing: Evidence of learning in a controlled in-class study of undergraduate students. Journal of College Science Teaching, 43, 83-91.

  • A particularly well-designed example.

Leight, H., Saunders, C., Calkins, R., & Withers, M. (2012). Collaborative testing improves performance but not content retention in a large-enrollment introductory biology class. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 11, 392-401.

  • The title might be alarming here… they showed no effect of the 2-stage exam on final exam performance (compared with material that had been previously tested only with individual tests). I’m ok with this. Not every study is going to find the same effect (particularly ones with some execution oddities like this one), yet this is still a “no-change” effect with no evidence that student learning decreases. Moreover, students still enjoyed the process and found it less stressful than the individual-only tests. No harm done, potential benefits.

Rieger, G. W., & Heiner, C. E. (2014). Examinations that support collaborative learning: The students’ perspective. Journal of College Science Teaching, 43, 41-47.

Roediger, III, H. L., & Marsh, E. J. (2005). The positive and negative consequences of multiple-choice testing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 31, 1155-1159.

  • Two-stage tests might help to fight the negative consequences of MC tests: you remember what you answered (and thought was right), not what actually was right.

Sandstrom, G. M., & Rawn, C. D. (in press/2014). Embrace chattering students: They may be building community and interest in your class. Teaching of Psychology.

Zipp, J. F. (2007). Learning by exams: The impact of two-stage cooperative tests. Teaching Sociology, 35, 62-76. doi: 10.1177/0092055X0703500105

 

 

 

An Excellent TA…

For the past six years, I have asked Psychology’s Teaching Assistants to complete the sentence, “An excellent TA…” both before and after TA Development Day. While completing the program evaluation report for our 2013/2014 TA/TF programming, I pasted the data from almost 200 TAs into Wordle to produce these word clouds. The larger the word, the more frequently it was mentioned. I’m delighted to see student(s) are at the heart of what TAs consider to be excellence!*

Pretests

The words students/student, course, material, learning, and available jump out to me.

An excellent TA Pretests 2008.2013

 

Post-tests

The words students, professional, organized, knowledgeable, approachable, learning, course, enthusiastic, and responsible jump out to me. Professional is a quality we try to emphasize very much on TA Day, and it seems like TAs are picking up on that theme.

An excellent TA Posttests 2008.2013

*I’m not trained to interpret qualitative data without converting it to actual numbers. If you are, and see more meaningful themes in here, please feel free to comment below or email me. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

2013/2014 Student Evaluations Response Part 4: Psyc 218

Thank you to each of my students who took the time to complete a student evaluation of teaching this year. I value hearing from each of you, and every year your feedback helps me to become a better teacher. As I explained here, I’m writing reflections on the qualitative and quantitative feedback I received from each of my courses.

This is my second time teaching Psyc 218: Analysis of Behavioural Data, and I must say, I truly love teaching students this course. I didn’t make many changes from the last time, with two exceptions: (1) I attempted to even out the midterm difficulty in response to feedback and self-analysis from last time, (2) I integrated a new reading and treatment of the “New Statistics” debate/movement going on in our discipline right now. I didn’t change the textbook, overall teaching methods (largely lecture punctuated frequently by clicker questions where students practice calculations and interpretation), or the assignments (which we all have to do across sections).

Psyc218historicUMIs.2012.2014

Like last time, quantitative feedback was quite positive, and even a bit higher than last time (e.g., 4.7/5 on average for the “overall efficacy” item, up from 4.4; see the graph above). Qualitative feedback helps me to figure out specifics of what’s going well and what isn’t. Overwhelmingly, the most common comments noted the energy and enthusiasm I bring to class – which was awesome. I really had fun every day, so I’m glad I can help students build positive vibes toward statistics. Quite a few students commented on the high expectations I have for them: indeed, this course is challenging. Some students felt they were appropriately supported to rise to the challenge, whereas others felt pushed a bit too far. Given the differences there, I think the course is probably pitched at an appropriate level, at least when coupled with the way I handled it. Quite a few students asked for more problems to practice with. There are about 30 in the book at the end of each chapter, and every day in class there are clicker questions. However, I know that very few of these problems are at the high level of difficulty I ask for on exams. I wonder if I could offer students a model of how to take a research paper (of which there are a gazillion they could find on their own) and turn it into a problem set. Is there a common set of questions students could ask to help them link the course material to a research article? Hmm. Think more about how to help students learn how to make their own problems/examples. That will be more useful in the long run for the students than me trying to come up with a whole pile of artificial ones.

I was delighted with the number of students who mentioned that incorporating the New Statistics (vs. NHST) framework was motivating and engaging. In the context of discussing these current issues, one student wrote,

“I think that’s really important in terms of training us to be strong, statistically sound researchers. As well, it made me feel like I’m truly part of this field, instead of just being a student taking a course. Overall I would give Dr. Rawn an A+ because she has truly changed the way I think about statistics and about the field in general.”

The identity shift that this student in particular expresses is profoundly important to me. This and similar comments like it bolster my belief that incorporating current issues in statistics and research methods is crucial when training the next generation of psychological scientists. Overall, I’m quite pleased with how this course went, and overall the students seem to be as well.

Next Page »

Spam prevention powered by Akismet

This work by Catherine Rawn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada.