Tuesday, October 30, 2007
In any event, I note that Prasanta's and Kim's students received very little direction from their instructors on their projects, but Walt gave some rather concrete direction to his students on what they should write about in their blog. So I wonder how the rest of you think through that and, in particular, if Walt felt a need to give out some instructions because he himself was new to blogging.
Friday, October 26, 2007
For example, shortly after they arrived in Europe they were asked to address the following:
"Now that you have arrived at your destination, please address the following questions in your blog:
- What did you experience during your travel that you found especially interesting? Why was it interesting?
- What did you experience during your travel that you found especially negative? Why was it negative?
- What are your initial impressions of the country you are visiting, the town you are living in, your accommodations, the people you are interacting with, or any other initial impressions that you would like to share?
- What are you most excited about in looking forward to the next several weeks? Why are you excited about that?"
Later items for reflection included questions such as:
"Identify 3 problems that you have had since leaving home. For each, describe in detail how you went about solving those problems or coming to a personal accommodation about the problem (for example, how did you use communication, creativity, persistence, dialog, negotiation, etc to resolve the problem?). Also, how has solving each problem impacted you since that time?"
This blog can be found at http://ansc-usda2007.blogspot.com/
Please feel free to look through their responses. It makes interesting reading.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
The inquiry process offers an alternative means of thinking about assessment of student knowledge. How often do we assign the student a simple task such as to discuss things that they have learned from class?. This approach can be very humbling when we realize that the things they learned were not necessarily those things that we thought we were teaching.
Also, how often do we ask students to reflect on their learning, or ask them how they learned something or how that learning occurred? How often do we ask them to talk about or write about how they perceive the impact their learning has had on them, how they have changed because of their learning, or how their learning may impact them in the future? If we think about the inquiry process, reflection is a key component of success. However, it is rare to ask students to respond to reflective questions of this type, at least in science.
Over the last several years I have started having students in my courses maintain some sort of reflective portfolio. I ask them to address a series of questions periodically throughout the semester, including questions like the following (not necessarily using all of these in the same reflective assignment):
- Describe three (3) things about __[general topic]___ that you did not know at the start of this section of the course and that you know now. Write your description as if you were teaching a friend who knows nothing about this topic.
- How did you come to know these things or gain this new knowledge? Explain how your learning occurred.
- While you have learned a great deal about _______, hopefully you also appreciate that you have only scratched the surface of that subject. What aspect of ________ would you like to learn more about if you had the chance? What new questions do you have about the topic of ________? Explain why you find that especially interesting.
- What did you learn about yourself through participating in this _______ section of the course? How did you learn this about yourself?
- Learning is a very personal activity. As life-long learners, we should not take our personal learning skills for granted, but rather should be continually reassessing, refining and reflecting on those skills. From your involvement in the course to date, have you come to recognize learning skills that you feel you need to refine or improve? How might you go about making that change?
- What impact has your new knowledge had on how you think about or talk about _________ and related topics? Explain how this impact or change occurred.
Late in the semester, after having “trained” them that it is OK to respond honestly to the questions above, I ask them to complete a end-of-semester reflective assignment. Remember that this is a Lactation Biology course, and it involves a large proportion of group work and collaborative learning. In addition, we talk about concepts of learning styles, Bloom’s Taxonomy, and other aspects of learning.
Part A – what have you learned about lactation biology?:
1. What additional things have you learned during the semester about lactation biology that you did not previously realize when you started the semester?
2. Compared with your views at the beginning of the semester, describe your vision of the field of lactation biology now?
3. How have your experiences during this semester affected your view of lactation biology?
Part B – what have you learned about collaborative learning?:
4. Describe how participating in the various group activities (discussions, projects, etc) has affected the way in which you think or learn?
5. What value did you receive from partnering with other students in pursuing your learning in this course? Explain why this is of value to you.
6. How did partnering with other students affect your views on working collaboratively or in teams? Explain how this impact occurred.
Part C – what have you learned about yourself?:
7. What did you learn about yourself through participating in the various activities in this course during the semester? How did you learn this about yourself?
8. What impact has your new knowledge about yourself had on your views about learning and thinking? Explain how this impact or change occurred.
9. Earlier in the course you had identified one or more learning skills that you felt you needed to refine or improve. What have you done since that time to start the process of making that change and improving that skill(s), and have you made progress?
10. Considering your response to item #9, how will you keep up the effort to improve that skill(s) after this semester is over?
11. Would you consider a career that relates to lactation biology? In what type of such career(s) might you be interested? What type of preparation would you foresee as necessary for such a career(s)?
12. What have you learned about self-reflection as part of the learning process?
Responses to these types of reflective questions can make this whole exercise worthwhile. I learn a great deal about our students from these questions. Please use these ideas if you think they might be helpful in enhancing student learning in your courses.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Call for Proposals: Undergraduate Research and English Studies: Undergraduate research has been described as “the pedagogy for the 21st century.” While this phenomenon is pervasive in many fields in higher education, participation in English Studies is somewhat spotty. A paradigm shift is underway, however, with increasing attention to undergraduate research in the humanities, most notably, the creation of a new Division in the Council on Undergraduate Research (www.cur.org). <http://www.cur.org).%20/> The National Conference on Undergraduate Research (www.ncur.org<http://www.ncur.org/>) has long had a vibrant collection of presentations on literary studies but a paucity in writing studies. We invite proposals for essays for a collection on Undergraduate Research in English Studies that includes writing (e.g., composition, creative, professional, technical), rhetoric, literature, linguistics, folklore, and cultural studies. When we talk about undergraduate research, we mean primarily those students who are engaged in inquiry within their major or minor. Topics might include, but are not limited to the following: models of undergraduate research in English studies; best practices for faculty mentoring; studies of specific undergraduate research projects; community-based research and service learning; instruction in research methods, particularly in the context of the writing or English major; the role of IRB (human subjects) approval; faculty roles and rewards; diverse student populations; responsible conduct of research (ethics); issues of collaboration and authorship; impediments to undergraduate research in English Studies; venues for dissemination of research. Chapters will be in the range of 15-25 manuscript pages, including works-cited lists (and end notes, if there are any), though we are open to shorter or possibly slightly longer projects." We encourage proposals from undergraduate researchers. Proposals of 250-500 words should be submitted by
February 1, 2008to the editors, Laurie Grobman (firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com>) and Joyce Kinkead (firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com>).
About the editors: Laurie Grobman is co-founder and editor of Young Scholars in Writing, a journal devoted to publishing the work of undergraduate researchers (http://www.bk.psu.edu/Academics/Degrees/26830.htm?cn21); she is also the author of Multicultural Hybridity: Transforming American Literary Scholarship and Pedagogy and co-editor with the late Candace Spigelman of On Location: Theory and Practice in Classroom-Based Writing Tutoring. Joyce Kinkead is Associate Vice President for Research at
. Her publications include Valuing and Supporting Undergraduate Research and “How Writing Programs Support Undergraduate Research” in Developing & Sustaining a Research-Supportive Curriculum. Utah State University
Thank you for your consideration,
J. A. Kinkead
Associate Vice President for Research
Professor of English
1450 Old Main Hill
Old Main 162
Utah State University Logan, UT 84322-1450
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
There is a different project on Campus, Writing with Video, and perhaps it would be good to partner with them, encouraging their students to create such a video. A well done job might create quite a bit of visibility for Students Engaging in Inquiry.
Here is another video by Mike Wesch that you might like. It got a lot of attention in the eLearning world.
Students also tell us that they want to know how the things we teach are relevant. Here again, we often misinterpret their request in terms of how something is relevant to the rest of the discipline of study. We must keep in mind that our undergraduates are novices in our discipline. That is why they are in our classes in the first place. As novices, they do not have a sound basis to understand the broader organization and interrelationships among the many parts of our discipline. They do not have a sound basis to define the relative importance of specific content or linkages among components of the content.
Are students asking us how our content relates to them personally when they ask us how is it relevant? That is, “What’s this got to do with me?” Our discussions about the inquiry process, specifically the ASK phase, relate to this question. If the effectiveness of purposefully employing the inquiry process in student learning is in part based on ASK (arising from the student’s lived experience), then their learning something new is most effective when it has personal meaning related to and relevant to their lived experience. Relevance of what is being taught should be couched in terms of how does that content relate to the student’s lived experience. Often that is not easy to do. How can we pull that off? Our animal handling class is a one example where the students are gaining some rudimentary lived experiences under our guidance. Those experiences could be capitalized on in other courses, assuming we were organized enough to do that. That approach probably is not applicable to all disciplines.
One of our challenges in this Faculty Learning Community is to gain a deeper understanding of the concepts underlying the inquiry process so that we may develop other effective means of accounting for our students’ lived experiences, of adding to those lived experiences (hands-on courses, research projects, community-based projects, international experiences, etc), and of capitalizing on those experiences in our own courses or in other courses in our curricula.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Illinois team is a winner in EPA competition
Congratulations Prasanta and students.
Monday, October 8, 2007
Microeconomics is a metaphor. There is a methodology in applying the metaphor correctly. It is a methodology that can be applied to many open ended and ambiguous situations. There is not applying the methodology at all and claiming to do so (a lot of people talking about cost are under the mistaken impression they are talking economics, but they don't distinguish between outlays and opportunity costs), there is applying the methodology but doing so in a poor fashion (the economic analysis is done in a low quality way with some of the inferences clearly incorrect), and then there is a correct analysis done carefully. Even with the third, however, there may be ambiguity about whether the economic model fits the situation being analyzed. People can disagree about that even with a good analysis.
So, to address your question, I think we need to teach methodology and get students to understand what is good practice in analysis according to the discipline. They need to understand that applying a discipline gives some insight into the issues they want to work on, but it won't answer every question they might have. I do think there is right and wrong in applying a discipline and students should learn a sense of taste in terms of what a good analysis looks like. This doesn't preclude ambiguity. But it does get them past the point where everything is up for grabs and any approach to answering the question is as good as any other.
During college students are supposed to acquire knowledge that prepares them to be self-supporting and productive citizens, but there is no certainty that information learned today will translate into skills useful tomorrow. The ability to think, reflect and understand ourselves in relation to others and the world at large are more enduring proficiencies.
Living with ambiguity is uncomfortable. Humans tend to prefer constancy. It is reassuring to have the right answers, but living with contradiction is so much more interesting. Avid learners have an appetite for chaos. In the modern world isn’t it more useful to let students learn how to discover interesting questions rather than teach correct answers?
Sunday, October 7, 2007
College academic programs
College study abroad programs
College design council
Campus Environmental Council
Campus NSF-funded WaterCampws program
Regional Water Environment Associations
Federal grants - US-EPA, US-DOD, USDA
Water Environment Federation
I know finding dollars to engage undergraduares in research in some disciplines can be very challenging, however, sometimes approaching the unit heads or academic deans can help in getting those resources needed.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
- way of looking at the world
- intellectual development
- finding out for yourself
- making a pain of myself
- asking questions
- new knowledge
- what, why, how
- get information
- problem solving
[Thanks, Judy for sorting these into themes.]
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
The Reflective Practitioner by Donald Schon - The buzzwords are knowing in action and learning in action. There is emphasis on the indiosyncrasy in the situation to which learning is applied. Thus, even if one "knows the theory" there is still art to applying the theory to the particular situation. Knowledge a la Schon is represented as an unfolding - more and more is brought to bear to match what the practitioner knows about the particular situation. The Schon approach is associated with an apprenticeship model of teaching and learning and where rather than doing experiments students design things as the way to learn. But it has also been applied to fields like psychology, where what is designed is a diagnosis of a patient.
Effortful Study, Anders Ericcson - This is associated with performance as in playing a musical instrument or a game of chess. Effortful study emphasizes doing particular tasks that are not endpoints in themselves but that produce greater understanding and the sequencing of the tasks in a way that produces rapid learning. Effortful study is associated with precocious behavior in youth and approaches to instruction such as the Suzuki Method. There is the question of whether prodigious behavior in one domain can be transferred to other domains but, not doubt, effortful study is tied to what we mean by learning to learn skills.
Process Approach to Writing - The entire idea is to emphasize writing as a means for the writer to learn. This is very much tied up with producing narrative to tie ideas together and see if the narrative "makes sense." There is a discovery process in the writing, discovery in the sense of new realizations by the writer, and that writing is done to improve the writer's understanding.
With each of these the notion of *failure* needs to be understood as should ways in which we validate success or failure. So I hope during the course of our discussion we talk about validation. For now, I'd say that a failure is a complete dead end from which the learner needs to back track to make progress. Otherwise, what we have been referring to as failure may be a useful stepping stone, even if it is not the final product.