Writing Observable and Measurable Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes help us identify and clarify the end point or destination of a learning experience.  If we don’t know where we are going, we can get lost or wander all over the place.  A course then becomes a bloated unorganized mess.

We use Fink’s Taxonomy for Significant Learning to create observable and measurable course learning outcomes.

This resource from the teaching center at the University of Buffalo provides a discussion of the taxonomy and how to use it to write your course outcomes.

https://www.buffalo.edu/catt/develop/design/learning-outcomes/finks.html 

Click on the image on the right to download a PDF version of the graphic

Small Teaching: Interleaving

3rd post of 9 in the Small Teaching Series

Small Teaching by J.M. Lang presents methods for making small changes in your teaching practices (hence the name) that can significantly improve your students’ learning. Each chapter provides the research-based evidence behind the practices Lang proposes so you can have confidence that Lang’s ideas work. The Coulter Faculty Commons will be boiling the Small Teaching chapters down into blog posts to provide instructors with concepts they can apply to a lesson, a class, or a course.

“A rose by any other name…” (from Romeo & Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2)



Interleaving

Lang had to call it something, so interleaving it is. I must admit that I was a bit disappointed that interleaving didn’t involve some sort of quantum-level warped space-time learning technique. The truth is a bit more mundane as Lang explained interleaving as, “… the practice of spending some time learning one thing and then pausing to concentrate on learning a second thing before having quite mastered that first thing, and then returning to the first thing, and then moving onto a third thing, and then returning to the second thing, and so forth. In short, it involves the process of both spacing and mixing learning activities— the spacing happening by virtue of the mixing” (Lang, 2016, p. 68). That’s not as cool as a tachyon generator powered by a bucket of dilithium, but infinitely more practical.

Lang noted the combination of interleaving and retrieval (covered in an earlier blog linked below) implies that all major exams should be cumulative (cue the student groans). This does not mean that the third major exam should be evenly divided between the material from the first two exams and the material from the third unit, but that each exam should harken back to what has previously been learned and assessed. The revisiting of material shouldn’t be limited to major exams either. Lang proposed three ways to work this concept into your classroom instruction:

  • Open each class session by posting a test question from a previous exam or a potential test question related to previous course content. Give students time to consider and discuss their answers.
  • Close class sessions by asking students to create a test question based on that day’s material and pose that question back to them in future class sessions.
  • Open or close class sessions by asking students to open their notebooks to a previous day’s class session and underline the three most important principles from that day; allow a few moments for a brief discussion of what they featured from their notes. (Lang, 2016, pp. 76–77)


In the section on Principles, Lang discusses last the value of explaining to your students the benefits of interleaving, how it is incorporated into the course assessments, and the nature of short- and long-term learning, but I think it is vital your students understand the reasoning behind your course design. If you don’t, interleaving may appear as a serious case of “this instructor doesn’t know what they are doing.”


To recap, here are the interleaving quick tips that Lang proposes:

  • Reserve a small part of your major exams (and even the minor ones, such as quizzes) for questions or problems that require students to draw on older course content.
  • Open or close each class session with small opportunities for students to retrieve older knowledge, to practice skills developed earlier in the course, or apply old knowledge or skills to new contexts
  • Create weekly mini-review session in which students spend the final 15 minutes of the last class session of the week applying that week’s content to some new question or problem.
  • Use quiz and exam questions that require students to connect new material to older material or to revise their understanding of previous content in light of newly learned material
  • In blended or online courses, stagger the deadlines and quiz dates to ensure that students benefit from the power of spaced learning.

    As always, if you’d like to discuss these or other ideas with the Coulter Faculty Commons you can schedule an appointment at https://affiliate.wcu.edu/cfc/consultations/
    Lang, J. M. (2016). Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/hunter-ebooks/detail.action?docID=4455000

Small Teaching Blog Series
1: Retrieving 2: Predicting

Small Teaching: Predicting

2nd post of 9 in the Small Teaching Series

Small Teaching by J.M. Lang presents methods for making small changes in your teaching practices (hence the name) that can significantly improve your students’ learning.  Each chapter provides the research-based evidence behind the practices Lang proposes so you can have confidence that Lang’s ideas work.  The Coulter Faculty Commons will be boiling the Small Teaching chapters down into blog posts to provide instructors with concepts they can apply to a lesson, a class, or a course.

“Once more unto the breach…” (from Henry V, spoken by King Henry)

Lang references “the connected nature of knowledge” (p. 48) to clarify how prediction aids learning.  The example he offers is that of a comparison between a history student and a history professor.  Given the date 1865, a history student would recall that it was the year that the American Civil War ended.  A professor of history would also recall the events leading up to the surrender of the Confederate Army at Appomattox, Chamberlain’s rendering honors to the defeated troops, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the ultimate failure of Reconstruction, and countless other bits of information that are connected to that date.  The fact that the Civil War ended in 1865 is relatively useless in itself, but knowledge is derived through the “web of connections” surrounding that date.   Lang posits (and the research supports this) that when confronted with the need to answer a question (predict a result) with insufficient information compels the brain to seek out any possible related information on the subject.  This process creates and reinforces the connections in the brain and begins building knowledge.

Lang suggests the following methods to give your students the opportunity to refine their powers of prediction:

  • At the beginning of the class, unit, or course, give students a brief pretest on the material. For example, give an opening-week pretest that is similar in format to the final exam.
  • Prior to first content exposure, ask students to write down what they already know about that subject matter or to speculate about what they will be learning.
  • When presenting cases, problems, examples, or histories, stop before the conclusion and ask students to predict the outcome.
  • When you are teaching a new cognitive skill (e.g., writing in a new genre), let students try their hand at it (and receive feedback) before they feel ready.
  • Close class by asking students to make predictions about material that will be covered in the next class session (p. 60)

Of course, predicting doesn’t always result in a correct answer.  Our theoretical history student might have thought that 1865 was the year the Civil War began.  Lang cautions that immediate feedback (or as immediate as practical) is important to keep inaccurate facts from getting entrenched.  It also has the benefit of helping students identify gaps in their knowledge or as Lang put it, vaccinate them against the illusion of fluency.  In the case of a pretest, it also lets your students know what kind of information they will be assessed on in the future, so they can adjust their study practices appropriately.

Small Teaching is available in the library as an ebook and is one of this summer’s Beach Reads! Email John Hawes (jhawes@wcu.edu)  if you are interested in joining a casual reading group this summer!Summer Beach Reads

As always, if you’d like to discuss these or other ideas with the Coulter Faculty Commons you can schedule an appointment at https://affiliate.wcu.edu/cfc/consultations/

Lang, J. M. (2016). Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/hunter-ebooks/detail.action?docID=4455000

Summer Institute for Teaching & Learning (SITL)

It’s BACK!!

The Summer Institute of Teaching & Learning is back after a two year COVID hiatus. We will gather together in person on May 10 & 11th in HHS 204 for sharing and conversation.

We are keeping it low key this year. Come to relax, learn something new, and enjoy good food and conversation with your peers.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Sudhir Kaul, Professor, School of Engineering and Technology, and the 2022 UNC Board of Governor’s Teaching Award winner from WCU.

Lunch is provided on both days – registration is required.

Agenda:

Tuesday May 10: 

9:00-9:15 am –  Welcome  

9:15-10:00  –  Student Engagement in the Times of a Pandemic  Keynote: Dr. Sudhir Kaul, Professor, School of Engineering and Technology, BOG Teaching Award Winner, 2022

10:15 am-Noon  –   Workshop 1 – How to Engage with Students in any Modality

Noon-1:00pm   –    Lunch 

1:00-3:00pm  –    Workshop 2 – The First Steps: Instructional Design or Redesign

 Do you want to design or redesign an assignment, assessment, content, part of a course, or an entire course?  This interactive session will get you started with brainstorming and an action plan to get you through the summer

3 – 3:15 –     Summer Beach Read

3:15 – 3:30 – Sharing and Next Steps

 

Dr. Sudhir Kaul

Wednesday May 11:

9:00-11:30am –  Workshop 3 – Student Engagement through Assessment and Grading in Canvas

11:30am-12:30pm  – Lunch

12:30-3:00 pm – Workshop 4 – Undergraduate Students as Research Partners

3:00 – 3:30 pm – Sharing, Next Steps, and Closing

Registration

Use the QR code to access the registration form or https://wcu.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_1FX4RGQqj1AjF54

 

Looking forward to seeing you!

SITL Registration

Summer Institute of Teaching & Learning

May 10 & 11, 2022

HHS 204

Use the QR code below or go to the Registration Form

QRQ code to register for SITL

CFC now accepting applications for 3 faculty fellowships for AY 22-23

CFC Faculty Fellows

We are excited to announce that the Coulter Faculty Commons is seeking applications and nominations for three Faculty Fellow positions for the 2022-23 Academic Year. We invite all full-time Tenure, Tenure-Track, and full-time Non-Tenure Track faculty members to join us in making an impact on teaching & learning at WCU.

For the upcoming year, the CFC is particularly interested in fellows who can develop and expand programming in the following areas:

DEI Inclusive Pedagogy

In support of the university’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, this fellow will work to develop a course design and teaching seminar in Canvas focusing on inclusive pedagogy and facilitate the seminar in the spring 2023 semester. The seminar will be in collaboration with the WCU DEI Community of Practice Training and Professional Development group.

 New Faculty Mentoring and Support

This faculty member will work with members of the Faculty Partners team in the CFC in mentoring/supporting new faculty during New Faculty Orientation and Faculty Forward, our yearlong symposium.  The Fellow will also be trained to facilitate the mid-semester Teaching Assessment Protocols as part of supporting new faculty. The fellow will also have input on content, resources, and opportunities for engaging new faculty, either new to teaching or new to WCU, and facilitate at least one of the monthly conversations.

Online Course Design and Pedagogy

Depending on the faculty member’s interest, this fellow will work on developing a mentoring program at WCU or take a lead in refining and co-facilitating the Online Course Design Institute and the Teaching Online with Impact Institute.  The mentoring program will start from the ground up and the Online Course Design and Pedagogy program will expand on the existing offerings the CFC has in place.

Details

The fellows will be working collaboratively with the Director, current members of the Coulter Faculty Commons, and various other constituents across campus. The fellow will have a dedicated working space in the CFC but can also work remotely, and will attend the Faculty Partners meetings each week. The estimated time commitment is 2-4 hours per week. The faculty selected for these positions will be provided with a $1000 stipend in each academic semester (Fall 2022 and Spring 2023) and a $500 stipend for one summer session.

 Apply

Applications for the 2022-2023 year will be accepted from all full-time Tenure, Tenure-Track, and full-time Non-Tenure Track faculty members. The application deadline is April 15, 2022.

purple button with apply now on it.

Completed applications should include a current vita, a brief letter of interest that clearly addresses the candidate’s qualifications and interest for the position, and a letter of support from the applicant’s chair or director. Applications should also clearly communicate the candidate’s intended area(s) of focus in at least one of the areas described above.

CFC Faculty Fellowships Applications are Open!

Completed applications should include a current vita, a brief letter of interest that clearly addresses the candidate’s qualifications and interest for the position, and a letter of support from the applicant’s chair or director. Applications should also clearly communicate the candidate’s intended area(s) of focus in at least one of the areas described above.

Applications are open through April 15, 2022

 Questions?

 Contact Dr. Eli Collins-Brown, Director, if you have any questions.  ecollins-brown@wcu.edu, or x7196.

Small Teaching: Retrieving

Small Teaching by J.M. Lang presents methods for making small changes in your teaching practices (hence the name) that can significantly improve your students’ learning. Each chapter provides the research-based evidence behind the practices Lang proposes so you can have confidence that Lang’s ideas work. The Coulter Faculty Commons will be boiling the Small Teaching chapters down into blog posts to provide instructors with concepts they can apply to a lesson, a class, or a course.

Let’s get started.

Image of a brain

Chapter 1: Retrieving
Every subject requires students to know some foundational knowledge to successfully engage in higher levels of learning. For example, they need to know what a line is before they can understand more complex geometric shapes or the history of the earliest immigrants to the North American continent before they can discuss the nuances of current immigration policy. For your students to be successful, they need to be able to retrieve knowledge so that they can apply what they know.

Students need to retrieve knowledge from memory, but as Lang points out, “if you want to retrieve knowledge from your memory, you have to practice retrieving knowledge from your memory” (Lang, 2016, p. 20). How do you get students to practice retrieving knowledge? To illustrate a simple practice Lang cites studies where students were divided into three groups: one was given additional study time before a test, one given a practice quiz before the test, and one group where no intervention was taken. In one of the studies students that were quizzed prior to the test scored two letter grades higher than those that weren’t. Perhaps equally significant, students that were given additional study time scored no better than those that received no intervention. Re-reading did not improve knowledge retrieval.

Rather than just think of quizzes as assessment activities, consider them a means for your students to practice knowledge retrieval. But quizzing can take many forms. Here are the Quick Tips Lang suggests in Chapter 1:

 

  • Give frequent, low-stakes quizzes (at least weekly) to help your students seal up foundational course content; favor short answers or problem-solving whenever possible so that students must process or use what they are retrieving.
  • Open class periods or online sessions by asking students to remind you of content covered in previous class sessions; allow students time to reflect for a few moments if you do so orally.
  • Close class by asking students to write down the most important concept from that day and one question or confusion that still remains in their minds (i.e., the minute paper).
  • Close class by having students take a short quiz or answer written questions about the day’s material or solve a problem connected to the day’s material.
  • Use your syllabus to redirect students to previous course content through quizzes or oral questions and discussion (Lang, 2016, p. 39).

Summer Beach Read

Small Teaching is one of SITL’s Beach Reads. Are you registered yet?

Summer Institute for Teaching and Learning Post Card

As always, if you’d like to discuss these or other ideas with the Coulter Faculty Commons you can schedule an appointment at https://affiliate.wcu.edu/cfc/consultations/

 

Source
Lang, J. M. (2016). Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/hunter-ebooks/detail.action?docID=445500