Tag Archives: Peer instruction

February 27, 2012, 8:00 am

Encountering abstraction with clickers

I had the great pleasure this weekend of leading a session at Math In Action, which is Grand Valley’s annual K-12 educators’ conference. My session was called “Classroom Response Systems in Mathematics: Learning math better through voting” and was all about the kinds of learning that can take place in a class where active student choice is central and clickers are mediating the voting. (Here are the slides.)

It always seems like a bait-and-switch when I do a “clicker” workshop, because although people come to learn about clickers, I don’t really have much to say about the technology itself. As devices go, clickers are about as complex as a garage door opener, and in fact they work on the same principle. There’s not a lot to discuss. So instead, we spend our time focusing on the kinds of pedagogy that clickers enable — which tends to excite teachers more than technology does.

The a…

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February 17, 2012, 11:40 am

When are students teaching themselves?

Over the last 24 hours I have run into at least three situations where I’ve heard either peer instruction or the inverted classroom model as being pedagogical frameworks in which — according to others — “students teach themselves”. I don’t think this is accurate, and I’m trying to understand where this idea comes from.

Certainly in the inverted classroom model and in many instances of peer instruction, it’s simply not the case that “there is no lecture”. There can be a lot of lecture in either of these models. It’s just that the lectures are not given in class. They are broken up into rewindable, pause-able, digestible chunks and posted online where people can view them on their own schedules and according to their own listening practices. For my inverted MATLAB class, I recorded 41 screencasts’ worth of lectures, amounting to about 332 minutes of lecture, which is not very far off…

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February 9, 2012, 8:48 pm

Starting off in SoTL

Today I was excited to attend the startup meeting for a faculty learning community on the scholarship of teaching and learning (“SoTL”) here at GVSU. This group is sponsored and facilitated by our Faculty Teaching and Learning Center; it consists of the FTLC director and fellow faculty members from philosophy, history, computer science, and movement sciences. (And me.) Together over the next calendar year, we’re going to be working together to help each other develop research questions and projects in SoTL and serve as a sounding board for each others’ ideas.

I’ve been an end-user of SoTL for a long time and have done a lot of you might call “scholarship” in SoTL — for example all the writing and speaking I’ve done about the inverted classroom and clickers — but I’ve not done what I consider actual research in SoTL. One of the reasons I came to GVSU was to have the time, space, and …

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January 30, 2012, 7:55 am

The Owner and the Renter in Education

Since moving to west Michigan in July, my family and I have been living in an apartment while our house in Indiana sells sits on the market. This is the first time since 2001 that we’ve spent longer than six months in a rental property. Sunday morning, as we woke up to find that we’d been buried in snow overnight (as per usual in west Michigan), I realized that the home ownership habit runs pretty deep with me.

When I looked out the door and saw the image you see in the photo, I naturally grabbed the snow shovel, walked out the door, and started clearing off the walkway and the van. I got some curious looks from my neighbors, as if to say: What are you doing? We are paying rent not to have to do stuff like this. And it’s true: The apartment manager usually comes through shortly after a snowfall and clears off the walkways. Usually. But who knows? Maybe he won’t come today. And anyhow,…

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January 17, 2012, 8:00 am

A new online community for peer instruction users

Peer Instruction has gotten a lot of attention lately thanks to this NPR piece, “Physicists Seek to Lose the Lecture as a Learning Tool”.  Now, Eric Mazur — widely credited with the invention of peer instruction — is helping to create an online community of peer instruction users at peerinstruction.net.

If you go to that web site and click “Join”, you’ll be taken to a Google Documents form that asks for some basic demographics, and you’ll be added to a mailing list. The site has not officially launched yet, but from my Twitter stream there appears to be some considerable interest.

I’m hopeful that peerinstruction.net will be a good resource and, especially, a support group and collaboration incubator for PI users across multiple disciplines. I especially hope there are some resources for helping students and university administrators learn about PI.

October 25, 2011, 7:30 am

Better examples through peer instruction

I just gave midterm evaluations in my classes, and for the item about “What could we be doing differently to make the class better?”, many students put down: Do more examples at the board. I think I’ve seen that request more often than any other in my classes at midterm. This is a legitimate request (it’s not like they’re asking for free points or an extra day in the weekend), but honestly, I’m hesitant to give in to it. Why? Two reasons.

First, doing more examples at the board means more lecturing, therefore less active learning, and therefore more passivity and dependence by students on authority. That’s bad. Second, we can’t add more time to the meetings, so doing more examples means either going through them in less detail or else using examples that are overly simple. In the first case, we have less time for questions and deep thought, and therefore more passivity and dependence….

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November 29, 2010, 9:00 am

What correlates with problem solving skill?

About a year ago, I started partitioning up my Calculus tests into three sections: Concepts, Mechanics, and Problem Solving. The point values for each are 25, 25, and 50 respectively. The Concepts items are intended to be ones where no calculations are to be performed; instead students answer questions, interpret meanings of results, and draw conclusions based only on graphs, tables, or verbal descriptions. The Mechanics items are just straight-up calculations with no context, like “take the derivative of \(y = \sqrt{x^2 + 1}\)”. The Problem-Solving items are a mix of conceptual and mechanical tasks and can be either instances of things the students have seen before (e.g. optimzation or related rates problems) or some novel situation that is related to, but not identical to, the things they’ve done on homework and so on.

I did this to stress to students that the main goal of taking …

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