ASM events
This conference is managed by the American Society for Microbiology

Learning Theories

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Knight, J. and Wood, W. (2005). Teaching more by lecturing less.  Cell Biol. Educ. 4, 298-310.

One of my goals for this experience is to move my classroom away from a "sage on the stage" approach to a more student-centered active learning environment.  In many ways I feel I am already doing this, however what is missing is a systematic way to examine the impact of these changes.  Identifying how this has been done in the past seems like one of the best ways to move in that direction, thus I was attracted to Knight and Wood's article which examined the effect of "student participation and cooperative problem solving during class time" vs. a "traditional lecture format" on student learning gains.  The in class questions (ICQs) and group work described by the authors are approaches that are similar to some I already use, and this article gave me a specific method I can use to assess the effects of these changes on my student's: calculation of their normalized learning gains. 

Cakir, M.  (2008).  Constructivist approaches to learning in science and their implications for science pedagogy: a literature review.  International Journal of Environmental & Science Education.  3:4, 193-206.

One pedagogical method I have used since I began teaching the University of Portland 7 years ago is the use of workshops.  These are weekly meetings led by peers that facilitate deeper interaction with materials covered during recent class periods with the professor, and are based on the Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) model.  This approach is structured around one of the ideas proposed by Vygotsky termed the "zone of proximal development" which asserts that learners build upon what they already know, and that the asistance of a peer (or teacher) who has successfully incorporated this knowledge will aid that student in deepening their undestanding.  According to PLTL, this approach will work best with someone who has more recently incorporated this knowledge because they will use language that is more easily understood by a novice than someone who has greater expertise.  I believe this works, and much data has been presented in the educational literature that supports the use of these methods for chemistry and physics, however, I don't have tangible data I can share to support my belief that the use of workshops with my students deepens their understanding of biology.  By reading this particular review, I was trying to strengthen my understanding of the theory underlying constructivism, and to begin to flesh out what sort of questions I need to ask on order to truly assess the effectiveness of this instructional approach.  Ultimately, I want to gather data to to support (or refute) the continued use of workshops to support student learning.

Tanner, K. (2013).  Structure matters: twenty-one teaching strategies to promote student engagement and cultivate classroom equity.  CBE-Life Sciences Education. 12, 322-331.

I was attracted to this article based on it's practicality.  I read this article half-way through my spring semester last year and immediately tried some of the suggested strategies including wait time, multiple hands, multiple voices; and cardstock name tents.  these "low hanging fruit" ideas were very simple to implement, and I immediately noticed a shift toward greater participation in the classroom.  I have read several of Dr. Tanner's articles, and attended a workshop led by her and her post-doc last Spring where she again provided lots of practical ideas about how to shift toward a more learner-centered classroom.  Now I want to find a way to incorporate her last suggestion: collect assessment evidence from every student every class, and am hoping our time together in June will assist me with formulating a plan to do just that!

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