Monday, November 21, 2011
You have a great introductory class planned for your discussion section in which students will sit in a circle and toss a ball of yarn from one person to another to demonstrate both class diversity and similarities among the class. You are very excited about this year’s discussion section and plan on doing a lot of interactive group activities involving people moving around the classroom and conversing in a large circle to help the students feel more included. When you get to your classroom you find that the desks and chairs are fixed in place, facing forward toward the projector and board. You will not be able to move them into a circle and do not have the table space to do small group work. How do you modify your class and activities?
You are teaching a language class would like to hear the student’s pronunciation of the words. To do this you are having the students repeat sentences back to you as a group. You can detect discrepancies and easily practice more where students need practice. Suddenly jackhammering begins outside and you cannot hear your students unless you are standing 2 feet from them. How do you continue to improve their pronunciation (which will be important for their oral text the next day), while the noise is going on?
You are in the middle of a power point presentation watching media footage when the power in the building goes out and you loose the video and access to the rest of your power point. How can this become a teachable moment, and how can you continue your discussion?
Your class falls in the afternoon 3, a generally safe time, except that you have a bunch of baseball players who come in late from practice on a consistent basis and are constantly riled up and excited. They are a predictable and constant disruption to your beginning of class routine of journaling silently about a prompt.
You would like your students to be able to access websites discussing sex for their paper on human sexuality, but their internet searches are blocked from your classroom. How do you deal with the blocks on their potential research?
Your classroom is new and still smells of fresh paint and construction materials. During the first day of class 4 students complain of headaches due to the smells. You are doubtful that the smell will go away any time soon and you know that there are limited rooms available on campus. What do you do?
You are teaching at a school where many of your students come from low income families and have little money. During the first week of class you discover that very few of them have purchased the text because it is too expensive and there are arguments breaking out about the reserve copy at the library. How do you rectify the situation?
You are at UC Davis. You would like to take your students on a field trip to the Vernal pools to have them identify the native plants there, however there is not funding in the budget for this excursion. How can you still expose them to plant identification with those rare species (that you cannot collect from the wild) without physically taking them to the place?
Your bike has a flat tire and you are going to be 15 minutes late to the class you instruct. Luckily you have a few of your students phone numbers / emails so you can let them know. How do you prevent the class time from being wasted? You were planning on lecturing and then reviewing previous material for an upcoming quiz.
After giving this some thought, feel free to comment. We would like to continue this discussion on the blog.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
And we are deciding to take it on an adventure (which may involve some serious kinesthetic learning, not unlike a glee club). So next quarter we will be asking GTC participants to come to each session ready to learn a lesson and evaluate the style and functionality of the teaching presented. Those who volunteer to teach will get a chance to strut their stuff in front of a supportive audience with teaching experience, who can provide insightful feedback. Those who observe will be asked not only to evaluate the teaching experience, but also the style and modality in which they are asked to learn. We will ask you to come to a kinesthetic teaching workshop, a workshop in which you will be asked to learn with a temporarily imposed disability, and workshops in which you will be taught in sterotypical and a-typical environments. So, get ready GTC for a brand new quarter this winter with a new approach. Be prepared to teach and to see your teaching through your student’s eyes.
And for the next few weeks...
Come check out how situational factors that we cannot change influence our teaching and learn about how to encourage creativity in the classroom.
Friday, November 11, 2011
This article by Paul Tough in the New York Times gives a good overview of evidence and educator's experiences on this topic, right at the core of what education means.
"[...] the students who persisted in college were not necessarily the ones who had excelled academically at KIPP; they were the ones with exceptional character strengths, like optimism and persistence and social intelligence. They were the ones who were able to recover from a bad grade and resolve to do better next time; to bounce back from a fight with their parents; to resist the urge to go out to the movies and stay home and study instead; to persuade professors to give them extra help after class. "
You can also listen to an American RadioWorks podcast about this topic here.
As a grad student, I am sure you know very well what they are talking about. ...how does creativity enters the picture?
We discussed the idea that “If you[, the instructor,] are not talking, that does not mean that students are not learning.” and the pressures we face to keep talking to and at our students. To help instructors address their learning goals, which around 90% of faculty claim include critical thinking, John argued that writing is critical thinking, and that incorporating more writing is fostering those vital skills in students.
However there are many perceived impediments to using more writing in classrooms. A primary impediment is the difficulty of writing. Writing is primarily a generative task, and one that involves making frequent and repeated judgment calls, e.g. tense and voice, sentence structure, flow, who is the audience, etc. All these decisions can quickly lead to cognitive overload at which point the whole process shuts down and no writing occurs.
John suggested several ways to address cognitive overload. These methods differ primarily on the scope of the writing with shorter assignments having different strategies than longer ones. For longer assignments the idea that writing is an iterative process is important not just stress but practice, model and incorporate into the class structure. In addition to the traditional method of requiring multiple drafts to be turned in over the course, an instruct0r could also model the process by showing the students a first draft and the further progress that comes with each successive draft of their, the instructor’s, own writing.
As for smaller assignments one of the easiest approaches to implement is a “Mad Lib” style prompt. Giving the students a more constrained problem domain relives some of the cognitive load and allows students to focus on the parts that you want them to. Another approach is more intermediate length writing samples, called micro-themes. Micro-themes are short, 2-5 minute writing exercises that are designed to engage students with the material and not be polished. By making clear that the micro-themes are not finished projects but times for students to get their ideas down on paper, again some of the cognitive load is dissipated. Additionally the repeated and regular use of writing in the classroom setting supports higher quality writing during assessment periods.
John also pointed towards and heavily recommended John Bean’s “Engaging Ideas” and Derek Bok’s
“Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More” as resources for how to incorporate writing into the classroom and a critique of higher education in terms of its lack of critical thinking respectivly.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
After the teaching demo we discussed how he engaged the class. A few things came up that were not intimately tied to the questioning, but were engaging techniques none-the-less. Eye contact. Walking around the room. Showing excitement. Then we got into the specifics.
Rick creates an expectation of participation in his classes. He asks a question and waits, patiently, for a response. If there is none, he asks a simpler question, then another, and another, until the class can answer. He asks questions of the entire class and waits for everyone (hand up / hands down). This creates a climate in which students feel they are expected to and supposed to participate. By continuing to ask questions even when no one responds, Rick lets his students in on the secret that they will need to respond in order for the class to progress. By waiting for all students to respond to a simple "How many people have thought about X?" He lets people know that he expects a response from EVERYONE! This breeds a climate ripe for participation. So, when hard questions come along, the class ready and willing to give it a go.
An important thing we noticed was that after a few minutes of his teaching it was actually more comfortable to participate than to sit stoically in silence. This is in part owing to the uncomfortable silence when we didn't respond, but also to the manner in which Rick asks questions. By asking questions of the whole class at once and asking simple yes/no questions much of the time, Rick does not pressure students to answer something they did not volunteer to answer. We didn't feel pressured to answer anything too complex, and we were not made to feel stupid even if we got an answer wrong.
What do you do with a wrong answer anyway? Say, "NO, thats wrong."? Rick adresses wrong answers by trying to understand the student's logic behind them, focusing on what was correct about their logic and then addressing the incorrect part with another question to the entire class. Diverting the attention away from the 'wrong' part of the answer makes the student comfortable and serves as a teaching opportunity.
How do you get started using this technique? Give it a try to review concepts. Graduate to using it for easy explanations for part of the class. If you have more questions or would like to talk to Rick please email him at
Thank you Rick for joining GTC this week! We enjoyed your 'lecture?'.
Monday, October 10, 2011
- Excitement, it's contagious! When your love of the material shows through it can't help but spill over to the students. A corollary to this to include your research as applicable, as it is something you are excited about.
- Know your audience. Make the content pertinent to the students. This can be a challenge for instructors to be "culturally aware." Polling students for their interests or assigning them a project that has personal or geographic significance, e.g. campus energy plan, can also be successful. Additionally a pre-test allows direct tailoring of your content to the places students need help the most. Following up with a post test enables assessment of your instructional efficacy.
- Destigmatize being wrong. Have students explain why a wrong answer is incorrect, or point out the instructors mistakes, intentional or not. Laud students' contributions, correct or not, for helping to move the class forward.
- Similarly show how science, or your field, really works. What were the events, and mistakes that lead to important discoveries? What were intermediate ideas the lead to the ground breaking ones?
- Have a variety of modes of interaction for students who are shy or intimidated. Discussing or presenting in small groups as apposed to large; using hands to show level of understanding, 1-5; voting on parts to present; and possibly asking students before hand which part(s) they would like to present.
- In general having a plethora of ways to engage with the students and material is beneficial. Mock debates, explaining fallacies, presentations, critiques of student work etc. can all work in some circumstances for some students.
- Model for them the behaviors you expect and desire. Show them how to ask good scientific questions. Demonstrate how to solve problems including how to monitor your own progress and assess the success of your current plan.
Friday, October 7, 2011
Monday, October 3, 2011
These were some great questions that came out of our technological took kit discussion:
1. Do we need to teach instructors how to use these tools, or should we just make them available and let each instructor find what is right for them? Teaching about the technology in classrooms may be valuable for instructors that have never used it before. Conversely, do we want to hamper personal style by telling instructors to use tools in a certain way?
2. What are we trying to 'build' in our classes a car or a house; which tools are appropriate? Do we really need all of the fancy tools? Would they add to the classroom experience or detract from the learning happening? Each class is different and has different goals. Use of technology should be evaluated in the context of the class to be sure it is appropriate.
3. Can technology help students with different learning styles? Does making multiple resourse increase the different ways a student can learn the material? Is it good to offer so many different ways of learning?
4. Can it increase or decrease a student's comfort with the class? Students come from different backgrounds. Some are more comfortable participating in public forums than interacting with the professor; thus, having chats or blogs increases participation. Others haven't had as much access to technology and may not be comfortable with its use. How do we work with both student types?
4. Does increasing technology potentially overburden our students? Is it possible to provide too many resources outside of class? Does having blogs, online videos, pod-casts, reading, etc. overwhelm our students and detract from their focus?
It was great to generate all of these questions. If you were not able to make the meeting, please comment and add to the discussion!
- How technology is utilized depends on the subject matter to be conveyed. How might various
disciplines differ in their use of technology? Are some tools inappropriate for some subject matter straight up?
- The role of technology in the classroom may become part of or reflect a teaching philosophy.
What are the pros and cons to using new forms of media/technology (i.e., social networking tools, videos, online resources) in the teaching process? How would they affect how educators see time in the physical classroom?
- Not all uses of technology are created equal. Technology is not going to be all good or all bad.
While Teaching Naked discussed the ways in which technology, specifically PowerPoint, can
be stifling and dry, PowerPoints can also be engaging, as seen in this video of Hans Rosling
(http://youtube/jbkSRLYSojo). Should educators be encouraged to learn about and incorporate
technology (creating videos, animations, discussion forums, classroom blogs, etc), or should the
focus be on maximizing educator effectiveness, regardless of the tools used in lecture? While
PPT is a familiar model, we do not want to limit our discussion to its use.
- Sometimes, technology is seen as a better, but direct, replacement of previous methods or tools
(ie using powerpoints to replace transparencies). Are there uses for technology beyond that
replacement model? How can one use technology in an innovative way?
- Even with all of the resources on campus, would some students be put at a disadvantage with the heavy use of technology in the classroom? The groups that first come to mind are some students with disabilities, as well as students that come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Don’t Lecture Me: Rethinking the Way College Students Learn tells the unexpected story of how a group of physicists became concerned about what their students were learning, what they did about it, and how their work is influencing a new generation trying to reinvent college so that students really learn.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
7/11: social & goals
7/18: Model-based education (Julia Svoboda)
8/1: Writing prompts - guiding students from short writes to complete papers (Alex)
8/15: Should traditional lectures be replaced by on-line lectures? (Lisa)
8/29: Using games in class (Betta)
Locations vary, stay tuned!
(sign up for GTC news here)
Monday, May 23, 2011
Bruce Alberts, current editor-in-chief of "Science" and past president of the National Academy of Sciences, is coming to UC Davis tomorrow. I have the pleasure of having lunch with him, and while doing a little homework, I came across this gem.
A Wakeup Call for Science Faculty: A Commentary in Cell 123, 2005
Friday, May 13, 2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Wednesdays, April 13, 20, 27, 2011
Various Rooms (See Below)
Teaching statements are often included as part of academic job applications. At the end of this three-part workshop you will have a fully drafted and peer-reviewed statement of teaching philosophy. In preparation for writing your essay, the first two parts of this workshop series will help you reflect on what is important to you as a teacher and learn the fundamental components of a statement of teaching philosophy. You will leave with ideas and tools to draft your own teaching statement. Having reflected on what is important to you as a teacher, and learned the fundamental components of a statement of teaching philosophy, you will participate in a guided peer-review. Please bring a complete draft and four copies of your teaching statement to Part 3 of the workshop.
April 13, Garrison Room, Memorial Union (2nd floor)
April 20, Fielder Room, Memorial Union (2nd floor)
April 27, Garrison Room, Memorial Union (2nd floor)
Instructor: Sharada Balachandran Orihuela, PhD Candidate, English. For questions or to RSVP please email email@example.com
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Click here to take survey
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Our discussion then dug into what factors and conditions affect memorization and retention of information, including:
- Learning styles (e.g. taking in content visually, auditorily, kinesthetically…keeping in mind that we can think of learning styles either as “genetic” or learned, depending on where you stand in the learning style debate)
- Space and surroundings (e.g. there is some evidence that changing the place where you study helps memorizing)
- Emotional state (what level of tress makes you more alert? Do scary tests help you memorize and recall better? Is fear of grades a good motivator? Or shall we use different “brain activation” strategies, such as the wider contribution you get from writing a public wiki, or getting challenged by peer critique)
- Timing (e.g. studying in short bursts vs. long sessions, cramming in one week vs. spreading the learning process over several months…short bursts seem more useful for long-term retention than cramming, who would have known)
We also briefly talked about the importance of developing an appropriate vocabulary for a discipline, which is often done through a lot of memorization, not necessarily linked to the actual topic you aim to understand. For example, often math classes are meant to provide the language you need to understand physics, and ballet dancers repeat lots of pliés. How would your understanding of physics be different without that formal vocabulary? (and is that language sometimes in the way of understanding concepts?)
As always, there is so much more to this than a 1-hour discussion, so if you are interested in digging deeper, pick a topic and lead a session in spring!
(image is from here)
Friday, February 11, 2011
Nominations are invited for the 2011 Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award (OGTA). The award is offered to recognize the contributions of graduate students to teaching and learning on the UC Davis campus. We would appreciate your help in posting the attached flyer and forwarding this email to the faculty and students of your program.
Nominations are due by Friday, February 18, 2011 to Puriie Conley and Deanna Ljohki, 250 Mrak Hall. The Call for Nominations and Nomination Packet are available on the Graduate Studies website at http://www.gradstudies.ucdavis.edu/gradcouncil/ogta.html
If you have any questions regarding OGTA please contact Puriie A. Conley (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Office of Graduate Studies W= (530) 752-8761 Fax=(530) 752-6222
UC Davis gradstudies.ucdavis.edu
One Shields Ave.
Davis CA 95616
Friday, February 4, 2011
an account by Cathy Davidson on her experimental classes, and the exploratory aspects of learning we often forget.
"...the real goal, as with all profound journeys, is not the destination (the content or the correct calculation) but the confidence they gain by going. It is not a trivial lesson, in fact it is one that most of us, in our busy lives, tend to forget. When was the last time you explored?"
Monday, January 31, 2011
GTC supplied video clips illustrating good and bad teaching styles with UCD Grad Students acting in the roles of the TA which were a great teaching aid.
Through brain storming and small group discussion, participants recalled characteristics of their most respected past teachers to determine the styles of presentation, movement and speech that most successfully motivated learning. Ideas generated included keeping the audience interested by offering casual ice breaking situations to facilitate class discussion, presenting an appropriately encouraging personal style and validating student participation in discussions. An effective example was given of validating a wrong answer as a way of illustrating a common misunderstanding that can lead to the correct answer.
McKeachie, W., TEACHING TIPS, A Guidebook for the Beginning College Teacher, supplied the quote: “Effective lecturers combine the talents of scholar, writer, producer, comedian, showman, and teacher in ways that contribute to student learning.” (p 69)
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
"When we use our memories by retrieving things, we change our access” to that information, Dr. Bjork (one of the study authors) said. “What we recall becomes more recallable in the future. In a sense you are practicing what you are going to need to do later”.
“More testing isn’t necessarily better,” said Dr. Linn, who said her work with California school districts had found that asking students to explain what they did in a science experiment rather than having them simply conduct the hands-on experiment — a version of retrieval practice testing — was beneficial. “Some tests are just not learning opportunities. We need a different kind of testing than we currently have.”
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
January 24: delivery of information happens. what makes it clear and effective? (Nan + Betta)
January 31: Podcasts for your class (Caitlin)
February 7: lesson plans, keeping in mind how the brain works (Michael+ Erin)
February 14: learning while taking tests (all)
February 21: holiday, no meeting
February 28: peer instruction (Jeff)
March 7: making lecture content understandable to a wide audience, e.g. ESL students and minorities (Kate)
March 14: storytelling makes you learn better (Alex)
Monday, January 10, 2011
Student Engagement: Mission Possible
Winter Workshop Series for Graduate Students
Thursdays, January 20 - February 24, 2010
Room 1310 Surge III
This workshop series focuses on helping instructors engage and empower their students. Participants will explore different methods for creating positive, inclusive learning environments. You will be encouraged to step outside your teaching ‘comfort zone’ and experiment with different methods for improving student learning. The objective is to provide participants with new tools and strategies to implement in their classrooms. Individuals from all disciplines and backgrounds are encouraged to attend these workshops, and those who attend five of the six sessions will be awarded a certificate from the UC Davis Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL).
Register your interest and view descriptions for individual workshops at:
All graduate students are welcome.
Student Engagement: Mission Possible
January 20, 2011, 3:00-5:00 p.m.
Beyond 'Do You All Understand?': Language, Difference, and Learning in a Heterogeneous Classroom
January 27, 2011, 3:00-5:00 p.m.
Pump Up the Volume, Turn Up Their Minds! Improving Student Discussions
February 3, 2011, 3:00-5:00 p.m.
‘Everyone’s Here’ is Only the Beginning: Engaging Your Students Through Problem-based Learning
February 10, 2011, 3:00-5:00 p.m.
Tech Savvy Teaching: Using Technology to Achieve Teaching and Learning Goals
February 17, 2011, 3:00-5:00 p.m.
To Test or Not To Test? Strategies for Evaluating Student Learning
February 24, 2011, 3:00-5:00 p.m.