Tag Archives: Intro

SMTs: Student Management Teams

This post is the latest in my annual series where I publically commit to share the evidence-based change I’m making to my teaching practice this year. (See last year’s post, where I shared rationale and resources on two-stage exams, which were awesome.)

What’s the idea?

A Student Management Team (SMT) is a small group of students (usually 3-5) that meets regularly throughout a course, and whose primary objective is to facilitate communication between the course instructor and the class. I first learned about SMTs at the Teaching Preconference at SPSP this past February, from a talk given by Jordan Troisi. He uses them to gather feedback on what’s working well and what isn’t, to gather ideas about potential changes, and sometimes to explain in detail why something can’t be changed. The SMT also creates, administers, and analyzes mid-course feedback, which springboards dialogue with the instructor. Overall, the SMT acts as a communication bridge between the rest of the class and the instructor.

Why am I interested?

Every major change I’ve made to my courses in the past 3-4 years has (a) increased the amount of peer-to-peer learning/interaction, and (b) implemented an evidence-based practice (see the impact of these on my teaching philosophy revision, here and here). Of all my courses, I think my introductory psychology courses (101 and 102) need the most attention. I see SMTs as an opportunity to work with motivated students to help me identify what changes are most needed and how we can implement them on a large scale.

Although most students rate these courses positively overall, I know that some of my 370 students (each term) feel overwhelmed, lost, stressed, and alone. To help somewhat, I have held a weekly Invitational Office Hour outside the classroom on Friday afternoons, and I have happily met many of my students face-to-face during that period. Some longstanding friendships among student attendees have even developed at those office hours! But I continue to struggle with the sheer size of my classes. How can I connect more students with each other more intentionally? How do I integrate more meaningful peer-to-peer interaction to help students learn while building community? I’m interested in hearing feedback from the SMT on these and other issues. I am also looking forward to building ongoing working relationships with a small cohort of students. My position is such that I don’t get many opportunities to mentor students (unlike, say, if I was running a research lab), so I’m excited by the idea of working closely with a few students to help me communicate with the many.

What evidence is there to support it?

Not as much as I’d ideally like to see, but as Jordan notes in his papers, it’s relatively new. I see no downsides to trying it at this point, and Jordan’s data suggest benefits not just to SMT members (Troisi, 2014), but also to the whole class (Troisi, 2015). I’m interested in adding a measure of relatedness, and seeing if his findings for autonomy hold with a class almost 15x larger (with, perhaps, 15x the need?).

Troisi, J. D. (2015). Student Management Teams increase college students’ feelings of autonomy in the classroom. College Teaching, 63, 83-89.

  • Shows that students enrolled in a course that had an SMT increased their sense of autonomy by the end of the course, but students in the same course (same instructor, same semester) without an SMT showed no change in their autonomy. In other words, students feel more in control of their outcomes if they have an SMT as a conduit (not just if they’re actually in the SMT). This paper uses the lens of Self Determination Theory (a major theory of motivation), and provides a nice introduction for non-psychologists who might be interested in using it to inform their teaching practice. (In a nutshell: highest motivation for tasks that meet competence, autonomy, and relatedness needs.)

Troisi, J. D. (2014). Making the grade and staying engaged: The influence of Student Management Teams on student classroom outcomes. Teaching of Psychology, 41, 99-103.

  • Shows benefits for the SMT members themselves. They perform better in the course than non-members (after controlling for incoming GPA), which seems partly due to increased engagement over the duration of the course.

Handelsman, M. M. (2012). Course evaluation for fun and profit: Student management teams. In J. Holmes, S. C. Baker, & J. R. Stowell (Eds.), Essays from e-xcellence in teaching, 11, 8–11. Retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology website: http://teachpsych.org/ebooks/eit2011/index.php

  • Anecdotal discussion of benefits, with description of how he has implemented it.
  • Free e-book!

Are you thinking of trying out SMTs? Let’s talk! Email me at cdrawn@psych.ubc.ca

2014/2015 Student Evaluations Response Part 2: Psyc 101

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.

 

After teaching students intro psych as a 6-credit full-year course for three years, in 2013/2014 I was required to transform it into 101 and 102. Broadly speaking, the Term1/Term2 division from the 6-credit course stays the same, but there are some key changes because students can take these courses in either order from any professor (who uses any textbook). These two courses really still form one unit in my mind so I structure the courses extremely similarly. I have summarized the quantitative student evaluations in tandem. Students rate my teaching in these courses very similarly. However, I will discuss them separately this year because of some process-based changes I made in 102 relative to 101.

IntroPsycHistoricUMIs.LastFiveYears

To understand the qualitative comments in Psyc 101, I sorted all 123 of them into broad categories of positive, negative, and suggestions, and three major themes emerged: enthusiasm/energy/engagement, tests/exams, and writing assignments. Many comments covered more than one theme, but I tried to pick out the major topic of the comment while sorting. Twenty-one comments (18%) focused on the positive energy and enthusiasm I brought to the classroom – enthusiasm for students, teaching, and the discipline (one other comment didn’t find this aspect of my teaching helpful). All nine comments about the examples I gave indicated they were helpful for learning.

Thirty-four comments focused largely on tests (28%). Last year I implemented the two-stage tests in most of my classes, and I expected to see this format discussed in these evaluations. All but one of the five comments about the two-stage tests were positive. Other positive comments mentioned that tests were fair and that having three midterms kept people on track. Yet, the major theme was difficulty. Of the 17 negative comments that focused largely on tests (representing 14% of total comments), the two biggest issues were difficultly and short length (which meant missing a few questions had a larger impact). The biggest theme of the suggestions (5 comments) requested practice questions for the exams. There is a study guide that students can use that accompanies the text. I wonder how many students make use of that resource? Do they know? Would that help students get a better sense of the exam difficulty? This is a major question I want to ask my upcoming Student Management Team (SMT) this year. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that these comments represented a minority in the context of all 123 that were given.

Twenty-five comments (20%) focused largely on the low-stakes writing-to-learn assessments. Five times throughout the term students write a couple of paragraphs explaining a concept and then applying it to understand something in their lives. They are each worth 2%. When I implemented this method two years ago I also added a peer assessment component, such that 1% has been completion, and 1% comes from the average of their peers’ ratings of their work. In year one I used Pearson’s peerScholar application, and in year two (2014/2015) I switched to the “Self and Peer Evaluation” feature in Connect (UBC’s name for Blackboard LMS)… which was disastrous from the data side of things (e.g., giving a zero instead of missing data… and then counting the zero when auto-calculating the student’s average peer rating!). As I expected, most of the comments about the assignments were about peer review failures: missing comments, missing data, distrust of peers as being able to rate each other, distrust at only receiving 3 ratings that can be wildly different sometimes, difficult to get a good mark, suspicion that peers weren’t taking it seriously. For 2015/2016, I have made three major changes to help improve this aspect of the course:

  1. Return to the peerScholar platform instead of Connect, which should fix part of the missing data problem (and it can now integrate with my class list better than it did before),
  2. Review 4 or maybe 5 peers rather than 3,
  3. Implement a training workshop! With the help of a TLEF, Peter Graf and I have been developing an online training module for our courses to help students learn to use our respective peer assessment rubrics and test out the rubric on some sample essays. Our main hypothesis is that students will be more effective peer reviewers—and will feel like peers are more effective reviewers—as a result of going through this process. More to come!

As can be seen in the graph above, quantitative ratings of this course haven’t changed too much over the past few years. The written comments are useful for highlighting some areas for further development. I look forward to recruiting a Student Management Team this year to make this course an even more effective learning experience for students!

Are you wondering about my 2014/2015 courses?

Update: yes, I meant 2015/2016 courses here! Apparently I was really not ready to let go of last year yet when I wrote this!

 

Thanks for your interest in my courses! Here is some information that might be helpful for you.

My past syllabi are available here http://blogs.ubc.ca/catherinerawn/teaching/courses/. I have not yet prepared the fresh ones for fall, but the most recent ones should give you a good sense.

If a course is full, please keep an eye out for a spot to open up later this summer or at the start of the term. Note that Psychology does not have waitlists. For Psyc 217 and 218, note that we *cannot* go above the course enrollment limits because of the way these courses are organized. Please find another section that still has space.

Psyc 101 and 102: If you’re taking one of these with me, I highly recommend you take both with me! J Not only do I want to get to know you better (which is easier over the full year), but you’ll also use the same textbook and other resources both semesters.

Psyc 325: (soon to be called “Social media psychology”). It’s a brand new course for me, and I’m working on a big development! I do not have any past syllabi, but I have posted my ideas so far in a Googledoc, which you are free to check out via the link posted here: http://blogs.ubc.ca/catherinerawn/2015/02/16/using-social-media-to-build-a-class-on-social-media/ Note: nothing is considered final on that website, but you can get an idea of what I’m thinking.

Instead of using ratemyprofessors, check out this website for official student evaluation of teaching datahttp://teacheval.ubc.ca/results/ (see also here for graphs of mine.).

Hope to see you in the fall!

On Using Clickers

I was asked this week to reflect on why I use clickers for use on the Faculty of Arts ISIT website. Here are my responses…

  1. Background information about your course
    • I use clickers in four of my courses: Introductory psychology (Psyc 101 and 102; 260-370 students), Research methods (Psyc 217; 90 students but as few as 30 years ago), Statistics (Psyc 218; 90 students).
  2. How did you use iClickers in your course and what made you decide to do this?
    • I use clickers every class period for numerous purposes. I ask multiple choice questions to test whether students understand a previous concept before moving on to something new, to spark discussion (especially when there is no one definitive right answer), to survey attitudes about the topic or course (like where to put the laptop-free zone), and as a timer for groupwork or peer-to-peer discussions so we all know how long they have been working. Plus the instructor clicker advances my slides and is easy to use.
  3. What has been the result?
    • When I’m using clickers most effectively, it means the students and I are in dialogue throughout the lesson. Students are constantly developing greater insight into whether they understand the concepts—and so am I (see also research on the testing effect, for evidence that testing rather than just reviewing contributes to longer lasting learning). It’s also engaging and motivating: Students want to know what the answer is, and will sometimes even cheer for correct responses. Questions give us a point of discussion that regularly takes us all deeper than just a surface understanding, as students may argue for one or another answer and we have to unpack why. Also, I have data showing that talking in class is related to feeling a sense of community. Clickers help me trigger and steer those conversations to build community.
    • Other benefits: I have become better at asking multiple choice questions, because I get immediate (and vocal!) feedback if an item is worded unclearly. Every student participates (not just the brave) – and if someone chooses E for a question that gives options A-D only, I get to smile and lightly invite that person (whoever it is) to make the choice to learn today.
  4. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced and is there anything about your approach you would improve or change?
    • When I started using clickers, the biggest challenge I faced was responding in the moment to whatever response pattern comes up. Over the years I’ve developed a toolkit of options to use, depending on the response pattern, but sometimes I’m still surprised by what comes up! For example, if it’s 50/50 between two options, I often invite a “turn to your neighbour, discuss, and revote” which usually clears up the problem. Other times I don’t reveal the answers immediately to the class (though I can see them on the receiver), but instead ask the whole class why someone might choose a particular response over another, and then reveal.
    • I’ve toyed with the idea of using a service with text-based responses (e.g., TopHat), rather than the i>clicker with just multiple choice options, but haven’t yet. For now, multiple choice questions meet my needs.
  5. Do you have any advice for instructors hoping to implement this in their courses?

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!