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Subject:

Re: A midsummer nights question

From:

Annette Gourgey <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 4 Aug 2000 23:05:26 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (160 lines)

Hi Ted and others,

Ted and I have discussed this off-list.  There is only one problem I have
had, and continue to have, in implementing techniques such as collaborative
learning.  I have still never found a solution, so would welcome comments
and suggestions.

I get no opposition from other faculty or from students.  The problem is
time.  I teach a statistics course with a long syllabus in a 2.5-hour/week
format.  The time frame and syllabus are clearly designed for fast lecture.
The course has a reputation for going too fast and students dread taking it.

I have tried CL and feel some laboratory format is necessary to learn this
material well, but it necessarily takes more time for students to wrestle
with the problems this way.  I have already cut several topics to allow room
for this, but there is a limit to how much I can cut without doing violence
to the course and what it is a prerequisite for.

The result is that I do some cooperative problem solving but not nearly as
much as I would like for students' active learning.  On the positive side,
my course is extremely well received even with the limited amount of CL,
students say it allays their anxieties, and their exam performance is
generally good.  That tells me I'm on the right track, but I sure wish I
could squeeze in more lab for deeper understanding.

Sorry I don't have any solutions, only a question.  Has anyone else
struggled with this, and how have you tried to deal with it?
----- Original Message -----
From: ted panitz <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, August 04, 2000 10:12 PM
Subject: A midsummer nights question


> Hi Listers,
>
>      Have you had to overcome obstacles to implementing student centered
> learning techniques?
>
>      I thought it would be interesting to hear from people who have had
> to overcome problems when you initially implemented student centered
> learning approaches such as cooperative or collaborative learning,
> problem or project based learning, inquiry based learning, etc. Have you
> had problems with students, administrators, other teachers, evaluations,
> etc?????? We have discussed reasons why cooperative learning is resisted
> by administrators, students, other teachers, and parents (K-12). What
> have you done to address some of the resistance factors and how have you
> persisted in the face of difficulties or challenges.
>
>     Please leave no stone unturned. Even little problems you have dealt
> with would be helpful to hear about for teachers starting out with
> student centered learning and/or for those who are experienced but have
> not yet encountered your particular problem.
>
>     Please respond to the list to generate additional discussion on this
> topic or e-mail me directly. I will archive the responses on my web
> site. Thanks in advance for your collaboration.
>
> Regards,
> Ted
> [log in to unmask]
>
> http://_tedscooppage.homestead.com/index.html
>
> MY less than cooperative encounter with Attilla the department chair
>
>      For the first 6 years of my tenure and Cape Cod Community College
> and prior to that I developed an interactive lecture format for
> teaching. Lots of lecturing with questions for individual students
> interspersed during the lecture. After starting a doctoral program
> (1982) where I had the opportunity to use cooperative and collaborative
> learning techniques I began introducing these approaches into my
> engineering and mathematics courses. This is where my story begins and
> my evaluations from my department chair changed.
>
>      I encountered problems mainly from my department chair, who was
> supported by the academic dean, when I initially switched from an
> interactive lecture format to a cooperative learning approach. The
> transition did not take place overnight but evolved over several years.
> However, when I first started to make the transition I received
> criticisms from my department chairman after a few class observations.
> He felt that the classes were noisy, students were not always focussed
> on the material (mathematics), and I did not lecture enough. These
> observations were made despite the fact that I had met with the chair
> prior to the class evaluation to make sure he was aware of the changes I
> had made in my class procedures. We met after the class and I explained
> the reasons for his observations and how they fit into the overall
> cooperative learning strategy. He gave me a very poor evaluation with
> many references for the need to change what I was doing. I followed up
> by providing him with many published studies on cooperative learning, to
> no avail. It turns out that he had been a biology professor at a 4 year
> college and essentially "retired" to my community college. His teaching
> method was straight lecture and his demeanor made it clear that he
> didn't encourage student questions or any other class participation. He
> also seemed to revel in the "power" of the department chair.
>
>     A second approach I used, and still do, annoyed him to no end. I
> encourage my students to use first names including mine. He considered
> this to be totally unprofessional. His only rationale was that students
> would not respect me if was on a familiar name basis with them. My
> explanation fell on deaf ears, that my use of first names sends the
> message to the students that I do not consider myself above them, but I
> see students as peers. I just happen to have studied more mathematics
> and teaching techniques than they have. I base this approach on my own
> experiences in collaborative graduate education classes where the
> professor encouraged us to use his first name. I felt quite
> uncomfortable at first because this approach was a deviation from the
> norm, which most other professors had established. Cooperative learning
> allows and encourages students to experiment in a safe environment.
> After a while I came to appreciate the use of first names in classes.
> When I finished a course I felt that I was indeed approaching peer
> status with the teacher. Think of how subservient you feel when you
> enter a doctor's office and must address the person as Dr X. I went to a
> holistic doctor and the first thing he did to put me at ease was to
> suggest I call him by his first name. Quite a difference! My chairman
> was very strict about the use of names and insisted upon being called
> professor. I my classes I encourage all students to use my first name
> but I do not insist upon it. I want them to figure out what they feel
> comfortable with. For younger students and recent high school graduates
> whom we expect to act like adults need to be treated as adults. I do not
> use titles when I speak to my colleagues because we treat each other
> with respect (most of the time) as we should our students. As an aside,
> one of the things that most disturbed my son as a senior honor student
> in high school was that he had to ask for a hall pass to go to the
> bathroom or see his advisor. He clearly articulated the contradiction of
> setting high expectations for students yet controlling their every
> movement.
>
>    To make a long story longer, I appealed the chair's poor evaluation
> to the president of the college and invited him to visit my classes to
> make his own evaluation. After completing three visits the president
> wrote a very strong recommendation which highlighted the value he
> observed in the student conversations and interactions. He removed the
> chairman's critical evaluation from my personnel file. He also made it
> clear that he thought the chairman should consider changing his teaching
> approach and maybe I could assist him in that effort. That took care of
> the problem and I have not had any problems since.
>
>     The chairman has long since retired and I now have a very supportive
> Associate Dean who evaluates my teaching. Perhaps it was my bad luck to
> have started using cooperative learning techniques during this persons
> stint as chairman, but in the end his challenge strengthened my resolve,
> caused me to reflect critically on my philosophy of teaching and
> learning, and defend my methodology, which I observed was having a very
> positive effect upon the students.
>
>     The whole evaluation resolution took about 6 months to resolve,
> during which time there was a high degree of tension between myself and
> the department chair. Looking back I can see that my resolve was not
> only strengthened by my concern for doing what was best for my students
> but also by the fact that I had received tenure the year before and
> could not be fired capriciously because of one person's recommendation
> plus our union contract has a strong academic freedom clause which
> allows us to chose what ever teaching technique we wish.
>
>     Over the years I have increased my use of cooperative learning in
> all my classes to the point where I use this approach virtually 100% of
> the time. This works well for me. Each individual must decide to what
> extent they wish to involve their students in their classes and then
> take what ever actions are necessary to support their approach.

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