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