Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Group Work

There are many ways to include group work in a given course. Variations of projects can be done in order for students to collaborate and create what we hope to be a masterpiece that could not be achieved when only assigned individually. In the June/July 2013 issue of The Teaching Professor there is an article titled “Improving Group Projects." As the title states, this article has suggestions that will help improve the effectiveness of group projects.

The suggestions given are:

  • Emphasize the importance of team-work 
  • Teach teamwork skills
  • Use team-building exercises to build cohesive groups
  • Thoughtfully consider group formation
  • Make the workload reasonable and the goals clear
  • Consider roles for group members
  • Provide some class time for meetings
  • Request interim reports and group process feedback
  • Require individual members to keep track of their contributions
  • Include peer assessment in the evaluation process

When the items suggested are incorporated to the assignment for the students, the project becomes more valuable and important to them. They are able to more fully understand the importance of teamwork and the group project that has been given to them. This also teaches more responsibility as well as the practical application to how teams interact in the workforce. In the end, this kind of group work teaches the skills to succeed in further group work whether in another class or at a job. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Engagement Week

Engagement Week is an exciting addition to our SoTE Conference. This will be Monday through Wednesday of next week (March 25-27). We invite all faculty to participate in these events, particularly those where they can provide feedback to students (the presentations and posters). This also is an opportunity for faculty who are considering and thinking about sponsoring students for UCUR/NCUR as well to see what kinds of projects students are doing. Students are also welcome to attend and we encourage faculty to invite their students.

LC 243
9-10am: The Global/Intercultural (G/I) Initiative at UVU
10-11am: ELLA: Engaged Learning in the Liberal Arts
11-1pm: Hot Internships 101

LI 120
1-2:15pm ELLA: Engaged Learning in the Liberal Arts

LC 243
9-2:30: NCUR Oral Presentations

Wednesday through Friday:
Engaging Through Art: SoTE Art Show
Student artwork from "Never Before Seen" Art Exhibit will be displayed in the Sorensen Student Center across from the bookstore. Come VOTE on your favorite piece on Wednesday!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Curse of Knowledge

Every professors has faced this question; why do my students not understand such an obvious concept? Anton and Ursula presented an excellent workshop at Professional and Organizational Development Conference that can help faculty understand why. First, our students are not us. We have a special knowledge in our expertise in our field. Elizabeth Newton demonstrated the curse of knowledge in a 1990 study. Participants in her study formed dyads. One participant was a "tapper" and the other participant was a "listener". The tapper was to tap out the rhythm of a well known song and the listener was to guess what the song was. Before tapping out the songs, the tapper predicted how many songs the listener would correctly guess. The tappers predicted the listeners would get 50% of the songs correct; that is 1 in 2 songs. The participants grossly overestimated. The listeners got only 1 out 40 songs correct. The tappers had a natural reaction; How could the listeners not get such an easy song? It is a temptation to ask, as many of the tappers did, how could the listeners be so stupid. Everyone has heard Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. It is obvious what I am tapping.

This brings me to a second point. The question "how could the listeners be so stupid" leads to an error. In fact, psychologists call it the fundamental attribution error. Humans make attributions, or judgments, about why other people behavior certain ways. Humans can make an external attribution; something from the environment is responsible the person's behavior. For example, you  talk to your friend Sally in the hall; She is sad and distracted. She tells you she just learned her mother has cancer. Thus, the sadness is caused by an external factor - learning her mother has cancer. Or humans can make an internal attribution, an internal characteristic or trait about another person. You noticed Sally is sad; therefore, you could make an internal attribution and assume she has depression. Quite often the internal attribution is incorrect; thus, the term fundamental attribution error. For a professor, implication is important for understanding student behavior. Why did this student not read, or why did this student turn in subpar work? Professors might be tempted to think the student is lazy or too stupid for this class. This would be engaging in the fundamental error, much like the flabbergasted tappers in the experiment above. Faculty developers have noted the importance of considering situational variables students when designing a course. It might be wise to also consider situational factors when students perform poorly on exams or assignments; it might also help professors to think of  adaptive solution for helping students perform better in the classes rather than dismissing students as lazy or stupid.

For another example of the Curse of Knowledge, click on the clip below of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory.
Big Bang Video

Friday, May 25, 2012

Community Engagement

In 2008, UVU received the Carnegie Foundation classification as an engaged university. Part of our mission is help students understand how their classes are relevant to their lives and how the can use what they have learned to help improve their communities. A high school from Bronx New York did just that. The school found a way to apply multidisciplinary subjects to the community to inspire learning and see the relevance of learning in their lives. I'll give you two examples. First, Students canoed down the Bronx river to gather data for scientific analysis to study ecology. Second, students had to learn to how to deal with rising water levels due to climate change. The students developed potential solutions to those problems.  UVU has resources for professors to develop and fund engaged learning projects in GEL grants or maybe service learning. Another project that might interest professors is the university project. This is a campus wide, multidisciplinary effort to tackle community problems. This year the university project is focusing on increasing literacy and numeracy in our local community.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Growth Mindsets in Action

The Scientific American has a blog post that nicely illustrates the benefits of a growth mindset. The author of the post, Andrea Kuszewski, describes the differing views intelligence and how a growth mindset gave have a significant impact on people. She reported of a case she had with an autistic child with an IQ of 80. After three years of training and hard work, the child's IQ was retest at 100, which is considered a normal IQ. That is a significant jump in a IQ scores.
The blog illustrates the best way to live up to one's cognitive potential, especially as one ages. She resolves some common misconception about intelligence as one ages, such as, that the game Sudoku is good way ward off cognitive decline. Sudoku is not the reason, per se, for the cognitive benefit; it's the challenging activities that is the reason for the buffer against the cognitive decline. So, if once you become proficient at Sudoku, switch to another challenging activity like the New York Times Crossword puzzle.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

So You Think You Know How To Study?

I'll admit it. I have done this and I'm not proud of it. I think we all have committed this fatal sin while studying for school during our educational lifespan. It is an all to common study strategy that isn't very effective. What is this ineffective strategy I am talking about? It's rereading. According to cognitive psychologists Daniel Willingham on his blog title Students Should Be Taught How To Study, rereading the chapter and notes (and I would add powerpoints) from class are students number 1 study strategy. The problem is that this strategy is very effective. One of the most effective study techniques is self-testing as noted in this APA article title Study Smart. Testing (or any learning activity that promotes practice and repetition) itself is learning activity that can help promote retention and recall. The critical keys here are practice and repetition with the material. Unfortunately not all students are motivated to self-test. In fact, many students will resist this. But students who are willing to self-test will be doing themselves a huge favor.