Small Teachingby 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested in joining a casual reading group this summer!
Whether you call it inverted instruction, classroom flipping, or some other term, the concept behind this kind of instruction is basic. Students get the foundational knowledge they need outside the classroom and class time is spent on higher-level learning. Properly executed, this instructional methodology changes the instructor’s role from one of a “sage on the stage” to a “guide on the side.” (Bergmann & Sams, 2007)
How do the students get that foundational knowledge?
If you record your own videos:
Keep them short (7 minutes max)
Provide captions and transcript
If you don’t want to make your own, there are plenty of sources:
Khan Academy, YouTube, Ted Talks
Assign specific time ranges as appropriate
A history, account, narrative, or case study
From the course texts, assign specific pages if the students don’t need the whole chapter – they are more likely to do the reading
Consider developing a reading guide to target their attention on particular concepts or ideas
Again, assign specific pages or parts of the website as appropriate
Give your students a list of questions and let them find answers
How can I know they have attained the foundational knowledge?
Barkley and Major, in their text Learning Assessment Techniques, offer concrete ways to assess students’ foundational knowledge, and they fit the “blending” teaching paradigm:
If asking them to recognize – consider an online quiz that focuses on verification, matching, or forced choice, to be taken prior to coming to class.
If asking them to recall – consider online quiz questions that focus on low cues or high cues.
If asking them to interpret or exemplify – consider an online quiz that focuses on constructed responses or selected responses.
If asking them to infer – consider questions that focus on verification, matching, or forced choice.
If asking them to explain – consider questions where students must reason, troubleshoot, redesign, or predict.
What are some effective classroom strategies to engage students in higher-level learning?
Have your students bring a list of points they’d like to have clarified to class
Alternatively, have them post them to a discussion board
Address these points first before moving on to other learning activity
Students discuss/clarify muddiest points in groups
Have students teach what they learned
Let the students demonstrate what they have learned
Is flipping right for me? The real question is whether or not flipping is right for your students. One of the big advantages of flipping is that it gives students more control over their learning as they guide the classroom activity with their questions. Another is the opportunity it provides instructors to review their teaching methods. After considering your options, you may decide that flipped instruction does not provide any advantages. However, keep in mind that this is not an all-or-nothing proposition. You may determine that some material in your course is suitable for flipping, while some still require more of a hands-on approach. In either case, you’ll have reflected on how you are teaching and that is always a good thing. (Trach, 2020)
Barkley, Elizabeth F., and Claire H. Major. Learning Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty, John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2016. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/hunter-ebooks/detail.action?docID=4205832.
Bergmann, J., & Sams, A. (2007). Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day. International Society for Tech in Ed. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/hunter-ebooks/detail.action?docID=3317690
Hertz, M. B. (2012, July 10). The Flipped Classroom: Pro and Con. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/flipped-classroom-pro-and-con-mary-beth-hertz
Trach, E. (2020, January 1). A Beginner’s Guide to Flipped Classroom. https://www.schoology.com/blog/flipped-classroom
Having students work in groups is an effective teaching strategy. It gives students the opportunity to practice formulating and expressing ideas, evaluating the ideas of others, building consensus, and other collaborative skills applicable to both the classroom and the workplace. It gives instructors the opportunity to challenge students with more complex and authentic assessments that more accurately gauge their achievement of course learning objectives. It also reduces the number of submissions an instructor must grade and ideally, they are of higher quality than individual work. On the downside, group assignments take more planning and time to properly design and deploy in Canvas. Let’s review some of the best practices to consider for group assignments in Canvas.
Why make an assignment a group activity? Reduce Number of Student Submission to Grade: If you are just looking to reduce the number of submissions you must grade that’s fine, but there are upfront costs. First and foremost, you will need to ensure your students have the skills required to make groupwork a positive learning activity and not an exercise in frustration for all concerned. Develop Student Collaboration Skills: If developing collaboration skills is a course objective, then so much the better. If not, you’ll need to evaluate whether committing learning time and effort away from the core of your course is worth the benefits of group work. For a major course assignment like a capstone project, developing group work skills in your students may be time well spent.
How will you grade the group submission? All Group Members Receive the Same Grade: This is fastest, but not always equitable. Group Members Graded Individually: If you do this, you’ll need to determine how well each student contributed to the group submission. This can be accomplished simply by having each group member identify their portion of the submission. Alternately, you can have group members rate their peers. Peer Evaluation: This will require that you ensure your students can do a fair and accurate peer evaluation and how much weight that evaluation will count towards a student’s assessment. You’ll need to decide how often students evaluate their group peers. If it is only when the final product is submitted, students are denied the chance to respond to the feedback they receive. Periodic peer assessment will benefit your students more than a single review, but it will complicate your grading. You may even want to consider the quality of the peer evaluations a student does in their performance assessment. Check out this Self and Peer Evaluation Tool for Group Work
How will handle group enrollment? Canvas Random Enrollment: Having Canvas create the group membership is easiest and fastest but can create less than optimum groups. Student Self-Enrollment: Letting the students self-enroll can create problems with peer assessment if friends enroll in the same group. Manual Enrollment: When instructors manually create group membership, they can create groups with complementary skills and experience. Of course, instructors need to get to know their students first with something like a skills survey or an introduction forum. Fixed or static groups? If you’ve got multiple group assignments in your course, you can have the same groups of students work together on all of them. This has the advantage of students getting to know each other well and build effective working relationships. On the other hand, changing the members in the group gives students the opportunity to get to know more of their classmates well and experience more diversity in their learning. The Group Set feature in Canvas makes mixing up your groups easier to manage.
Group work is not something to be ventured into lightly. Just because “everyone else is doing it” doesn’t mean group work is right for your course. There are definite advantages to using group work, but there are always challenges associated with higher-level learning opportunities. You should consider whether the time investment associated with developing group assignments, preparing your students for group work, and setting up the groups in Canvas will pay dividends in improved student learning. You may decide that your subject matter is not well suited for group work or that your students will not benefit sufficiently to make group work worthwhile.
If you’d like to talk about group work with a member of the Coulter Faculty Common, click here to schedule a consultation.
Canvas Group Work and Collaboration 02.2020. (n.d.). Google Docs. Retrieved March 23, 2021, from https://docs.google.com/document/d/1sAlBPafDCYN6SOSVz-3PUQFt5VkrtNskUd63m2mmT8A/edit?usp=sharing&usp=embed_facebook Collaborative Learning. (n.d.). [Higher Education]. Cornell University Center for Teaching Innovation. Retrieved June 21, 2021, from https://teaching.cornell.edu/teaching-resources/engaging-students/collaborative-learning Forslund Frykedal, K., & Hammar Chiriac, E. (2018). Student Collaboration in Group Work: Inclusion as Participation. International Journal of Disability, Development & Education, 65(2), 183–198. https://doi.org/10.1080/1034912X.2017.1363381 Why work in Groups? (n.d.). University of Birmingham. Retrieved September 20, 2021, from https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/metallurgy-materials/about/cases/group-work/why.aspx
Faculty will be pleased to know that Canvas has a Groups function, just as Blackboard did, and is more functional and flexible.
Faculty can create a variety of groups (e.g. a working group, study group, or project group), and can even allow students to self-sign up, as they could in Blackboard. Groups can be created manually (with the teacher choosing members) or automatically (where group memberships are randomly created based on the number of groups specified).
Faculty can move students from one group with a simple drag and drop movement over their name on the screen. Leaders can also be assigned to each group and are easily managed on-screen.
Once the groups are created, assignments are designated as group assignments in a different area of Canvas. Grades for those assignments can be assigned to everyone in a group (protecting individual integrity of work), or the “same grade” for all students in a group. A simple checkbox toggles that function.
Contact the 24/7 Canvas Help if you need help with issues as you are working in Canvas. (NOTE: 24/7 Canvas Help goes away on June 30 and Help will be taken over by the WCU Helpdesk which is not manned 24/7).
Register for one of the Zoom sessions which will be held on Thursdays and Fridays at 11:00 A.M. after reviewing the Priming the Canvas Course.This week’s sessions will cover Canvas Course Storage as well as using Quizzes and Assignments in Canvas.
Our next article will highlight the Discussions in Canvas; visitCanvas Blog to see all our Canvas articles.
As more schools begin to make the transition to distance learning and online classrooms, we want to help. Microsoft has created resources, training, and how-to guides that we hope will help educators and their classrooms make this transition.
To help support you during this time, we’ve created a support page for O365 with the information Microsoft has provided.
Microsoft Education is committed to helping all teachers, students, and staff stay engaged and focused on learning. Creating an online classroom is an important step in moving to a remote learning experience. Free for schools, Microsoft Teams, provides a secure online classroom that brings together classroom management features, collaborative workspaces like OneNote Class Notebook, and virtual face-to-face connections in a single digital hub that keeps students engaged.
The mere phrase elicits dread in the heart of almost high performing college student and many time spells frustration for the faculty who know its potential benefits but wonder why it is so hard to get this important teaching tool to work right.
Dr. Maurice Phipps
Professor Emeritus, Parks and Recreation Management
Dr. Maurice Phipps, faculty emeritus for Western Carolina University has developed a guidebook for teachers and students to rediscover the value and the joy of cooperative learning.
“Cooperative Learning is a highly effective method of instruction and students trained in effective group skills are valued in the workplace but groups can be dreaded without some assurance that group skills and group processing are properly taught and applied.” – Maurice Phipps
He has simplified the challenge of group work by using the five elements of Cooperative Learning, which he says must all be present in order for students to form a high performing cooperative learning community. He breaks down group work into concepts, skills and roles, and tactics and strategies.
What does cooperative learning look like?
Positive interdependence (ways to ensure students work together)
Individual accountability (making sure all students are learning)
Face-to-face interaction (many ways to interact)
Interpersonal and small-group skills (to enable effective group functioning)
The Group Book
Dr. Phipps cowrote and published The Group Book: Effective Skills for Cooperative Groups as a reference manual for teachers and students to use in bringing together the necessary pieces.
Faculty can use it as a workbook for students (e.g. study p.5-10 and come into class prepared to practice the skill).
Or they can review it themselves and deploy the strategies as needed.
Some teachers give it to students to help them take ownership of their group learning and solve the kinds of 21st century problems they will encounter throughout the rest of their life.
Faculty who want to use this, do it because they want their students to learn soft skills (that combine with technical skills) for student success.
Compared with other dynamic group learning methods (e.g. team-based learning), cooperative learning is flexible and adaptable to any learning environment.
The only way to enable high-functioning student groups in your classroom is to equip students with group processing and group skills while setting a context for them to succeed.
Want to learn more?
Read more about Cooperative Learning using the resources below.
Keep an eye out for upcoming events hosted by the CFC for Excellence in Teaching and Learning that may include a workshop hosted by Dr. Phipps on the art of facilitating group work.