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Pre-SoTL Institute

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Jeff Carmichael

University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND

Assignment #1: Introductions

1) Describe your teaching responsibilities and the type of student you
teach

This is Jeff Carmichael from the Univ. of North Dakota (UND).I have been teaching for about 12 years and spend most of my time with the introductory biology program.I teach most of the sections of our general bio classes and coordinate the labs.Each class typically enrolls 200 students (many of which are pre-meds).My background is in plant biology so I also teach an upper level course in plant form and function.I will also teach our senior-capstone course starting this fall.

2) Describe what you would like to take home as a result of attending
the institute

I am especially interested in learning about effective direct assessment strategies.I have been using team-based learning (TBL) in my classes and really love it as an instructional approach.I hope to refine my TBL approaches and develop effective assessment techniques.Part of my long term goal for the Bio Scholars Program would be to increase my skills in statistics.

3) Tell us about your interests outside of the classroom and a book that
you've read recently

Outside of work, I spend as much time with my wife and son (11 yrs old) as possible.We love the outdoors (camping, biking, kayaking, etc.).I'm currently reading "Closer to the Light"- a book about near death experiences in children.Favorite recent book- Three Cups of Tea.

Assignment #2: Reflections

1) How would you describe your “research problem(s)” to the Research Scholars group?

I have taken a team-based learning (TBL) approach in my large enrollment introductory biology classes this past year and have come to appreciate it as an effective way to promote student-student and student-professor interactions. I incorporate learning assignments for every chapter and in-class quizzes that students take individually and as teams (I use clickers to record individual quiz responses and IF-AT scratch-off forms for the team quizzes).My TBL classes are far more lively and engaging than my strictly lecture-based classes.Results from last year indicate that TBL increases student learning and performance when compared to lecture-based learning.My goal this year is to probe the effectiveness of TBL a bit deeper than I have in the past and refine my learning assignments and in-class quizzes.In particular, I’m interested in seeing what types of students benefit the most from TBL and if TBL promotes long-term understanding of fundamental concepts in biology.

2)What theme(s) based on your readings, resonate with your “problem” and/or your proposed approach to address your problem?

I found several noteworthy points in the assigned readings.Bass (on the first page) mentions the perspective of a problem in teaching as something that we try to avoid having.Nevertheless, I personally find that I always have “problems” in teaching and will continue to for the rest of my career.After all, we all have days that we feel a bit dissatisfied with our teaching effectiveness and are always looking for ways to improve.I also find Bass’ description of the inverted pyramid to be quite meaningful.I often reflect at the end of a semester and ask myself if I did indeed spend adequate time on the goals I value most.I’m not always satisfied with the answer I come up with.Benson addresses the historical background of the primary roles of educational institutions.I tend to think that we (as faculty members) are there primarily for the benefit of our students.That might mean teaching for some of us and research for others, but we should always keep the students best interest at the forefront of our efforts (that is to say, a top-notch researcher who can’t teach well and isn’t interested in involving students in research may not be well suited to a career as a professor).

3) Which of the 12 properties of SoTL in microbiology education proposed by S. Benson’s article are particularly relevant to your project at this stage?

Benson’s twelve properties are a constructive way to think about the SoTL in science education.Although they all ring true, I tend to identify primarily with goal number eight (SoTL is problem centric; it seeks to understand, solve, or advance knowledge about a problem).This property seems to encompass all the other properties listed.

4) Do you have any questions/concerns/comments that have evolved from your reading?

5) What do you see as tangible products to be developed as a result of your Scholars experience within the next 12 months?

I predict that many of my intangible products (e.g., becoming more familiar with the literature; thinking about SoTL in a more constructive way) will be just as valuable as any tangible products that will arise over the next twelve months. However, I will be teaching two classes this fall (one via TBL and the other via traditional lecture format) and hope to end up with an article that examines the effectiveness of TBL over lecture-based classes.This article will also probe student attitudes toward TBL and learning in general.

6) What do you see yourself presenting at the follow-up session at ASMCUE 2009?

These results will be presented at ASMCUE next summer (and possibly a workshop on TBL if the opportunity arises!).

7) What will you need to develop these products?

Assignment #3: Annotations

My overall interests this year will focus on the assessment of team-based learning (TBL) in large enrollment introductory biology.I will be teaching two sections of introductory biology this fall- one with the traditional lecture based format and one with TBL.I hope to probe the effectiveness (based on a variety of measurements) of TBL versus lecture.The articles mentioned below relate to collaborative learning in general or provide good examples of different ways to assess student learning or performance.

  1. Tessier, J.2007.Small-group peer teaching in an introductory biology classroom.Journal of College Science Teaching, 36 (4): 64-69.

The author of this study examined the effectiveness of different teaching approaches in a moderate sized (~70 students) Concepts of Biology class designed for students seeking certification as elementary school teachers (the students were not biology majors).The teaching approaches included: traditional lecture; self-taught (where students had to figure out answers on their own to questions provided by the instructor); and peer-taught (where students in small groups had to teach each other, again based on the answers they found to questions provided by the instructor).Students performed better on exam questions that focused on the self-taught and peer-taught topics than they did on lecture-based topics.The small group peer teaching also seemed to help students with lower overall final gradestheir performance on the self and peer-taught topics increased more throughout the semester than did their performance on lecture-based topics.I enjoyed this paper because it demonstrates an effective approach to direct assessment of small group learning.

  1. Cotner, S., Baepler, P., and Kellerman, A.2008.Scratch this!The IF-AT as a technique for stimulating group discussion and exposing misconceptions.Journal of College Science Teaching, 37 (4): 48-53.

I use the IF-AT forms in my classes (and love them!) and was happy to see this recent paper on their effectiveness (based on student perceptions).Although this article isn’t rich in data, it does serve as a good introduction to the IF-AT forms.I encourage you to check these out as a means of promoting group discussions.These forms are a useful component of TBL.The authors of this article found that students found the IF-AT forms more useful (i.e., they remembered them more) than all other learning activities used throughout the semester.

  1. Knight, J. and Wood, W.2005.Teaching more by lecturing less.Cell Biology Education, 4: 298-310.

Not only does this paper have a great title, it was written by one of the current bioscholars and represents a thorough examination of the effectiveness of interactive classroom techniques over the traditional lecture approach.The authors examined student performance over three semesters.The course was taught in traditional lecture format during the first semester.The subsequent two semesters incorporated more in class interactive approaches (e.g., student participation, quizzes, cooperative problem solving).The authors used pre- and posttests as part of their assessment and found that average scores in the interactive courses were significantly higher than in the lecture course.Normalized learning gains based on pre- and posttest scores (actual gain divided by possible gain expressed as a percentage) were also significantly higher in the interactive courses than in the lecture course.Clickers were used as an integral part of the interactive courses and the authors describe how student attitudes toward the use of clickers changed over the course of a semester (students tended to appreciate clickers more as the semester progressed).The authors also include a thorough discussion of some of the concerns that instructors should be aware of.Appendices include questions on the pre- and posttests as well as some of the clicker questions used in class (both of which are helpful).

  1. Lord, T.R.2001. 101 Reasons for Using Cooperative Learning in Biology Teaching.The American Biology Teacher 63 (1): 30-38.

The author was intrigued that numerous studies have either supported or refuted cooperative learning as an effective means of instruction in high school and college (all seemed to be based on good evidence).He then perused the literature as much as possible and ultimately read over 300 articles dealing with cooperative learning.He kept track of all the positive reasons for using cooperative learning and found hundreds of outcomes supportive of collaborative learning.He combines these outcomes into eleven categories (e.g., science thinking, attitudes, instruction, practical skills, reading and writing skills) and reviews studies that address each category.He tried collaborative learning in his courses and found that indeed, students started performing better on exams than they had previously.He has become a strong advocate of collaborative learning.

  1. Handelsman, J. et al., 2004.Scientific Teaching.Science, 304: 521-522.

This is a short policy forum published recently in Science- it is worth checking out if you haven’t seen it yet.It makes the case that college instructors should teach via approaches with proven track records of effectiveness (e.g., more interactive learning and less lecturing).The authors discuss the SCALE-UP program at NC State University where students sit at tables in groups of 5-7 and discuss issues pertinent to biology.Each group has a laptop and is able to project web sites of interest to the entire class (a standard class might hold 99 students).This format focuses on discussion and analysis and places far less emphasis on memorization.We hope to implement a similar program at my institution in the near future.This article discusses how universities might promote change in the way that instructors teach and it has been a cornerstone of my approach to thinking about how to better present my courses in the future.

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The strength of your project is that it has a good focus and a clear experimental design. The weakness, as we discussed in the group, is that you didn't use the quizzes in the lecture-only class. Attention to the types of questions your students are able to answer will really enhance your analysis.
Posted 06:36, 19 Jul 2008
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