Print

Print


HI Annette: Let me throw my 2 cents in -- for what's its worth--since I'm not in
your situation. One the the best classes I ever had was Group Counseling. Here
is how the instructor managed it. The 1st day we broke into groups by counting
off. We then had a group bonding experience (that is a whole other story--very
wild activity). After the 1st day, we always had a combination lecture, break
out into groups, lecture, break out (always with the same group). The professor
would lecture on a topic, psycholanalysis or Glasser's reality therapy, then she
would assign us a group activity to use the concepts--they would vary but it was
always something we had to discuss and we always had to rotate leader of the
group. We didn't take tests as a group and we didn't have a formal group
presentation though we often reconvened as a class and she took comments about
what each group got out of the activity. Some points that come to mind that made
this work....groups were an expectation from day one, our grade was not based on
the group work (students hate that!), it was set up in such a manner that we
became very close to our fellow members so the people who "got it" were quite
willing to help their fellow members understand a concept. As I recall the prof
circulated during the group activities but the activities were not the type that
we needed a lot of help. Hope that helps. Barb

Annette Gourgey wrote:

> Unfortunately we do not have SI.  At my senior college we have a tutoring
> center but very few statistics tutors; the center is underfunded and has
> other priorities, I was told.  At my community college we have a drop-in
> math center but my students tell me that often there are not enough tutors,
> or that the peer tutors can explain formulas but not concepts.  It is also
> sometimes hard to get working community college students, who have many
> responsibilities, to go to the math lab.
>
> That puts most of the emphasis back on our class.  I tried writing up my
> notes as an instructor's course pack that would be easier to read than the
> text, so I could lecture less.  I have had partial success--more students
> will read it than the textbooks, and I keep updating and improving the
> material.  However, the concepts in statistics can be subtle and the
> students often don't get them from reading, so explanation is still needed.
>
> The idea of having students present topics, that Jenny suggested, might be
> the best way to help take the lecture responsibility off me.   In picturing
> that in a community college class, or a large (40+) senior college class, I
> have a few questions--perhaps those with experience in this area could make
> some additional suggestions:
>
> 1.  How to avoid the same people doing most of the talking--at the community
> college especially, the most math-anxious plead being totally lost and try
> to defer to the ones who need it less.
>
> 2.  How to get around to everybody in a large class without making the
> management itself take up a lot of time.  Even if I set up small groups, in
> a class of 40+ students that is easily 10 groups to get around to in a
> 75-minute period, and I sometimes feel rushed.
>
> Because of the conceptual nature of the material, it is not enough to give
> problems and have them check their numerical answers--they need to explain
> ideas and make interpretations of data patterns, which can go slowly and
> require lots of prompting.  It is a new experience for most of the students,
> who are used to math as computation of a numerical answer, without having to
> understand or explain what it means.  That gives us the basis for very
> interesting projects--but so little time to do them justice!  Sometimes I
> think the time frame we are given for our courses reflects a lack of
> understanding of what active learning involves.
>
> Annette Gourgey
> CUNY
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Barb Stout <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Monday, August 07, 2000 10:52 AM
> Subject: Re: A midsummer nights question
>
> > Annette: Just curious; do you have SI or a similar program. SI has been
> very
> > well received here at Pitt by the Stats department. In fact, the
> department head
> > asked for SI in all the statistics course; unfortunately we cannot
> accommodate
> > that. It would be a way to incorporate coop learning for students that
> want
> > extra learning time.Barb
> >
> > Annette Gourgey wrote:
> >
> > > 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.
> >
> > --
> > Barbara M. Stout
> > Supplemental Instructional Specialist
> > The Learning Center
> > The University of Pittsburgh
> > 311 Wm. Pitt Union
> > Pittsburgh, PA 15260
> > 412-648-7920
> > [log in to unmask]
> >
> > "You must do the things you think you cannot do."
> > Eleanor Roosevelt

--
Barbara M. Stout
Supplemental Instructional Specialist
The Learning Center
The University of Pittsburgh
311 Wm. Pitt Union
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
412-648-7920
[log in to unmask]

"You must do the things you think you cannot do."
Eleanor Roosevelt