Tag Archives: summer

Recovery & Resilience

The last time I posted I was in a dark space. It was January 2021, and there were months left of pandemic teaching ahead of me and so many others. I was clearly overwhelmed.

Today is a new day. There is reason to hope that, with the rollout of vaccines*, we can see an end to the pandemic that has kept us hidden away for so long. Difficult and important conversations related to equity, diversity, and inclusion are (still) happening among my friends and colleagues. Many are working toward un/learning and developing solutions. It is a long journey ahead, but there are more of us taking steps on it than ever before.

Personally, since submitting grades in early May, I recognize my immense privilege in being able to shift into a kind of recovery mode, giving my brain lots of time to rest and my body lots of time to move. For this I am so grateful. Even so, I’m still struggling to find focus for more than an hour or two on most days. My heart goes out to all those who have not been able to take a form of recovery break.

Some folks were ready in May to start thinking about post-pandemic teaching. I was not. It’s taken me a month to create space and perspective to just begin reflecting on my teaching over this past year, as I re-learned the core aspects of my job.

What have I learned teaching through a pandemic? Some very preliminary thoughts:

  • Students inspire me to work harder and to show up with the best self I can offer. I will drop pretty much anything else to do what I need to do for my students.
  • Time with students (e.g., in class, in office hours) is important for my own well-being and career satisfaction.
  • I can offer students an opportunity to somewhat customize their grade breakdown, while maintaining the department-required average, and it’s not too much extra work
  • I miss two-stage exams for the community and competence they build
  • Clicker-style questions on Canvas have some advantages
  • Discussion posts have potential to enhance learning, at least for some students. And once I got the hang of it, they weren’t too hard to mark (minimally) regularly. Bonus: Kept me aware of what my students were thinking and understanding (and, depending on the prompt, feeling).
  • Video recorded lessons help everyone (and are a little scary for me)
  • There are some advantages to online exams (e.g., question and answer randomization, auto-grading MC)
  • Now that my courses are set up in modules form, they just need updating to help keep me and students on track
  • I’d like to use verbal feedback/videos more, but I find it difficult to motivate myself to do so. Writing just comes fastest for me most of the time… but leads to a lot of words on a screen.
  • Being more flexible in deadlines is great for students and works for me… but is tough to program in Canvas and communicate
  • Group drop-in office hours on Zoom worked really well imo
  • Individual appointments, booked through Canvas and done on Zoom, worked pretty great
  • I really really really miss (and rely on) the visual feedback from my students’ faces and body language during class to know how things are going
  • Group annotation tools are fun and useful, so is a side chat panel
  • Self Determination Theory of motivation has real potential as a guide for my decision making and priorities. How can I use it more? What are the downsides?
  • [I might keep adding to this list as I think of things]

What’s coming next on the Blog

Over the coming weeks, I will be working on digesting the comments my students offered through the student experience of instruction mechanisms at my institution. I usually do this annually, and post my reflections as well as synthesized quantitative scores, but last summer I was in too much of a panic  and avalanche of work every single day to do so. So this summer, I intend to examine and compare feedback from 2019/2020 to 2020/2021. I taught the same three courses over those two periods, but under drastically different global and “classroom” circumstances. I look forward to learning from my students… even more than I did all year long.

 

*which need to spread world-wide urgently

Reflecting on the first Seminar in Applied Psychology of Teaching and Learning

In May-June 2019 (Summer Term 1) I taught a pilot course: Seminar in Applied Psychology of Teaching and Learning. Please see the first syllabus for details on this pilot offering: Syllabus.PSYC417.S2019.Rawn.SeminarApplPsychTeachLearn.V2

Course Overview

This course is designed as an intensive, active seminar to help you apply your understanding of psychological science to help other people learn, while developing professional skills relevant to teaching. You may begin to shift your identity from a student to a member of a teaching team.

If you enjoy this course, you might consider applying to become an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant in the Psychology Department or elsewhere. This course will help you strengthen that application. Yet this course is designed as a springboard for many future work or study endeavours (e.g., course/curriculum design, instructional design, management, teaching at any level, human resources/training, graduate school, group facilitation, academic

What did Students say?

All 10 students from the Pilot course in Summer 2019 provided rich feedback throughout the course as well as in the Student Evaluations of Teaching at the end of the term. Thank you!

Quantitative results are reported here. The qualitative comments, as usual, help to contextualize the numbers. Students reported feeling challenged, in a positive way. The highlights:

Dr. Rawn’s high expectations of us and bid to push us out of our comfort zones made certain parts challenging but it was welcome, given the standing of the course and the objectives it sets out towards. Really well designed for students who might be considering become TAs or instructors themselves in the future.”

I really loved the sand–box elements of the course in which we were given the opportunity to help build elements of the class and muddle through behind–the–scenes challenges.”

The discussions, peer reviews, hands-on activities and presentations (even though I dislike those) are the most effective parts of the course at promoting learning.”

Great course! One of my takeaways that was not an explicit part of the curriculum was actually the structure and planning of a graduate–type seminar (which i will need for my later teaching).”

Overall, this course was interesting and there isn’t anything like it at UBC right now so I think many students would like it and benefit from taking it.

In planning the next offering (coming Summer 2020 Term 2), I made two key changes in response to problems fairly identified by students (plus one more key change). First, I will not be counting marks for the first Reading Reflection (#0). A couple of students reasonably pointed out that it was difficult to know how to write that first Reading Reflection, especially without a rubric (which I hadn’t created yet). So although I’ll still expect a best effort and will “grade it” accordingly, I won’t count those points. This year, I’ll also be able to give more concrete tips in advance because the rubric exists already. These concrete tips will help address a request by a couple of other students for more clarity on assignments.

Second, I have moved the course material on peer review and using rubrics earlier in the term. A couple of students noted that their peer reviews were not as reliable or helpful as they’d hoped, especially early on in the term. Hopefully this earlier discussion will help improve the usefulness and reliability peer reviews. (Note that peer review scores ultimately contribute very little % to each grade, and they are all checked and adjusted if needed by our TA or by me.)

A third change came from my own reflections on the assignments and grading them, along with feedback from my TA Kyle Gooderham (thanks Kyle!). In hindsight, the major project was over-complicated. Asking students to invent a study strategy or learning resource, pilot it, and anchor it in the literature was just too much (especially in a 6 week course). Thus, I have revised the major project to clarify its purpose. In a nutshell, the task is to take an existing strategy or resource, ground it in research evidence, and use that evidence to convince others to use it (or not to use it, if the evidence is weak/contradictory).

In an unprecedented move for me, I actually have next summer’s syllabus prepared. Of course, it’s subject to change at this point. But I wanted to do it now while the course was reasonably fresh, and so I can bring it to the Psychology Department to propose its own course code. If you’re interested, here is next year’s draft: Syllabus.SeminarApplPsychTeachLearn.2020.V1.TOPOST.August.2019. Feedback is welcome!

Officially on Sabbatical!

As of 1 July 2016 I’m officially on Sabbatical! Instead of heading to the classroom this Fall, I’ll be on an extended summer until September 2017. Sabbatical is an amazing opportunity to spend a year working on big picture projects and deep thinking that don’t fit well in the hectic pace of the regular teaching terms. It’s also a chance to catch up on sleep, well-being, time with family and friends, and some travel.

Some projects I’ll be working on include a few papers to submit for publication to journals (3 of which already partially exist but need deep work), the International Program for the Scholarship of Educational Leadership: UBC Certificate on Curriculum and Pedagogy in Higher Education (http://international.educ.ubc.ca/soel/), overhauling my Psyc 101 and 102 courses, continuing to work on curriculum renewal for the BA Psychology degree, and a few other things here and there. I’m working on developing habits to keep me productive enough on these projects while also spending lots of time resting and re-energizing.

If you’re trying to reach me during this time, I’m generally going to be pretty terrible on email. I really hate email. It saps my life energy, which means it cannot be a priority for me during this sabbatical time. If you really need to reach me urgently, try a Tweet (@cdrawn) to grab my attention.

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