Hi Listers, I have a double message for you today. Consider this a two for the price of one sale in the e-world of education discussions. The first item is free. ITEM-1-- I have been gathering information about writing across the curriculum approaches for many years. I use a variety of writing assignments in my math classes in order to encourage students to move away from the rote approach to doing algebra, where they repeat a procedure 50 times without really thinking about what they are doing, to one where they think critically about math concepts, rules and procedures. Writing in most forms accomplishes this. To complete a short story I have compiled several lists of short descriptions of writing assignments, which may be adapted to all courses. I have included the original web site and authorship so you can access the site. I was accumulating this information to include in a WAC book I have written but no one seems interested in publishing such a tome so I am going to make it available to you rather than having this material sit in a file on my PC. The compilation can be found at my web site at: http://www.capecod.net/~tpanitz/tedspage/ewacbook/wacapproaches.htm (note: htm is correct, there is no l as in html, for reasons that escape me, but that is what my computer gave me when I saved the material as a web page. Usually it uses the html designation, go figure???) Item 2-- is a question I would like to pose to you. One of my students asked me why and how I started using cooperative learning in my math classes. That started me reflecting about what I do and why. The question also sparked the thought that it would be fascinating to hear why and how other people started using student centered approaches to learning/teaching. My reflections follow below. So that is my question to you: “Why did you start using student centered learning in your courses? Please note that I shifted from the word cooperative learning, which may be too limiting in definition (and considered a fad by some people) to student centered which includes many approaches, such as collaborative, cooperative, pbl etc., or any approach which focuses on the students more than the teacher (as information giver) and has students working together, in and out of class, to meet the goals of the course. Please consider sharing your “story” with the list or e-mail me. I will compile the responses and make them available on my web site. Thanks in advance for your participation in this discussion. Regards, Ted [log in to unmask] (please note this is a new e-mail address for me) http://www.capecod.net/~tpanitz/tedspage http://www.companyofexperts.com ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Why I switched from lecturing to student centered learning. I used to be a very good lecturer. Being an engineering and mathematics teacher I was well organized and without knowing it followed the Advanced Organizer model of teaching. I established the day’s class goals, provided an overview of the concept(s) under study and then lead the class through a series of problems and questions which demonstrated the concept or mathematical procedure under study. I was actually humorous in my lecturing, even in math and engineering classes, which helped lighten things up a bit. I developed concepts by starting with simpler questions and then proceeding to more complex structures. It made a lot of sense to everyone, during the lecture. I also used a lecture discussion format to try to engage students and asked students to work individually on problems and then present their solution on the board for additional class discussion. I tended to be very enthusiastic about my subject matter and teaching and I am sure this was somewhat contagious for my students. My approach garnered me a good reputation among students. My student evaluations were high, my courses filled up quickly and feedback I received from students was very positive. This approach seemed to work well until we got to the tests and students would not perform as well as I or they had expected. When we talked about this phenomenon, as a whole class discussion, students expressed the frustration that they felt they understood the material in class but when they went home and tried to work the homework problems on their own, the material looked like Greek. Looking back, based upon the research I have since read I am not surprised. I was doing all the critical thinking by writing and explaining the concepts, strengthening my own brain synapses, not the students. I used the lecture discussion method for about 8 years, at which time (1982) I started a doctoral program in education at Boston University in the Community College and Adult Education Department (no longer so named). The basis for this program was Humanistic Psychology. The professors generally practiced what they preached and demonstrated student centered techniques ranging from cooperative to collaborative approaches. As an example of collaborative learning, in one class on the philosophy of education the professor simply walked in, told us this was our class and that he would be the coach/facilitator and everything else was up to us. That was quite a shock for us graduate students who expected to be told all about the philosophy of education. After some consternation and attempts to dissuade the instructor from such an approach we got down to business and developed an excellent course. Among other benefits we discovered was that we had quite an ethnically diverse class. We decided it would be fascinating to try each other’s food and decided to hold classes in each of our homes where we would discuss the culture and educational approaches of our peers countries and also try some new cuisine. The responsibility for class materials and presentation was left up to us. We worked in teams to develop the course curriculum. I probably worked harder in that course than any other before it and learned more about the history and philosophies of American educational systems, since that was my team’s responsibility. Interestingly, I had completed a minor in business, as part of my Masters degree in Chemical Engineering at the Illinois Institute of technology, where we used group techniques in case studies and in group processing, trust building and group work, but because the focus was exclusively on building working groups in companies in never occurred to me to adapt these techniques to teaching. It wasn’t until I lived through the approaches and practiced them that I understood the implications for teaching. That helped convince me that hands on interactive learning is very important for the individual learner. This was quite an eye opener for me and started my turnaround in teaching philosophy from a teacher centered lecture approach to student centered cooperative approach. There is a lot of flexibility which I have learned to use rather than adopt one approach for every course. For example, I provide a lot of direction and materials for my math classes, such as work sheets and jig saws, in part because I teach developmental math courses where students are still learning how to study and learn math and how to learn together in groups. In my advanced engineering courses I used more of as collaborative approach because the students had been trained by me in earlier courses and were inclined to accept the responsibility for their learning. They designed a power plant virtually on their own. When I first started incorporating student centered techniques in my classes I started out slowly. I started using in class group work by having students work in pairs followed by whole class discussion. As I attended conferences I would seek out cooperative learning sessions and picked up new ideas each time. I also started introducing writing assignments into my classes. These can be found at my web site so I won’t describe them here: http://www.capecod.net/~tpanitz/tedspage/ewacbook/waccontents.html I would emphasize here that I added only one or two new coop activities each semester in response to my students performance on assessments or their expressed needs and interests, rather than launch into it totally. If students demonstrated that they were having particular difficulty with a concept I would devise an interactive group activity combined with writing to help them focus on the concept. I now have a substantial collection of materials to chose from and continue to build my coop files. I use cooperative learning virtually 100% of the time in all my classes. Again a complete description of my class procedures is on my web site. I do give whole class explanations (some may call these mini lectures but they are not). They are highly focused and generally very short, maximum five minutes, after which time students seem to lose interest. Does it work? You bet! We give pre and post tests in our math courses, using a computer placement system, and my students consistently show substantial improvement on the post test. The few who do not improve are not surprised by their results and neither am I. The cooperative learning approach enables me to identify problems students are having throughout the entire semester. Not every student responds to the help and encouragement they receive, but they never blame me because their responsibility in the process is clear. Many of these students take my class again, if they do not complete it the first time, which I consider to be quite a nice qualitative endorsement of cooperative learning. Finally, There are many positive intangibles for me personally, associated with student centered learning approaches. The classes thrill me every day. I enjoy every minute of teaching. Sound a little Polyanish? I guess it is, but that is what I feel. There are little victories by students who have breakthroughs in concept understanding or who successfully complete an assessment of their performance and are celebrated by their peers or who show their enjoyment of working with their peers, who often become their close friends. Watching students help each other by giving explanations, discussing each other’s approaches and even arguing about different approaches makes my day! My interactions with the students in class give me a feeling of real accomplishment and satisfaction as I observe their improvement, and make new friends myself every semester. I see the students more as peers than I do “my students” and my respect for them becomes mutual. I did not have these kinds of interactions with students and personal emotional responses to teaching when I lectured primarily.