Oklahoma State UniversityGraduate Teaching AssistantConference on Teaching, 2013 Effective Teaching Techniques: Keeping Students Engaged Donald P. French, Ph.D. Professor of Zoology Coordinator, University Faculty Preparation Program firstname.lastname@example.org http://grad.okstate.edu/ufp
Why am I here? • I started like you!! • Scientist whose research now focuses on Science Education • Coordinate Introductory Biology • 40 TA positions • Coordinate UFP program • Succeeding in the Professoriate • Teaching Zoology
Why are you here? • Why should you engage students? • In a recent survey, TAs rated “motivating students” as one of their least important responsibilities (Sohum, Cho, French 2012)
Where shall we start? Why do you want to engage students? What do we mean by engagement? How would you recognize engagement?
Why do we think our methods work? If we throw “bricks” of knowledge at the heads of students, why are we surprised when the students duck? --Jeff Weld, University of Northern Iowa
How People Learn People are not blank slates or empty vessels to be filled
They don’t retain isolated information They must organized it But how does this organization arise?
Concept Concept Organization reflects connections
Memory take home messages Information should be well structured, personally relevant, and rich in emotional and sensory qualities There are limitations on how much we can pay attention to at one time No attention - no memory; varying the type and sensory modality of learning activities may be helpful Students should engage with material frequently in ways that require retrieval - frequent testing. (Miller 2011)
Misconception vs. Misunderstanding “Mutations cause cancer, therefore all mutations are bad. “ “Evolution occurs only by natural selection.” Misconception: Incorrect association in cognitive schema Misunderstanding: Gaps in cognitive schema
How do we ‘rewire’ schema? “Mutations cause cancer and they are also a source of genetic variation. “ “Evolution can occur by natural selection and other processes like genetic drift.” Misconceptions: Confront misconceptions Misunderstandings: Provide connections from previous information to new information
Which questions for engagement? Closed-ended questions such as those requiring a Yes/No response or selection from multiple choice Open-ended questions probe and elicit expanded thinking and processing of information Convergent questions have one right answer Divergent questions have multiple possible answers and encourage students to be creative or express insight. If working in groups, students have the opportunity to learn from a variety of perspectives.
Active Learning Classroom • Involves students in physical and mental activities that engage students with the subject • “hands-on” experiences • Social interaction • Problem solving
Characteristics of Scenarios • Provide Stories or Situations • About topics to which students can relate • Present Question(s) • Connect variety of topics
Conditions to Motivate • Relevance • Students see value in what they can relate to • Learning outcomes should align with students' interests and goals (academic, career, and social). • Learning activities provide opportunities to attain learning outcomes. • Possibility of Achievement • Assessments are fair and appropriate. • Students perceive learning environment as supportive. • Students experience success in activities and assignments. • Control • Give students choices. • Students know what to expect and what is expected of them. http://www.cte.cornell.edu/
Provide opportunities to apply concepts in different contexts • Evolution – pervasive throughout semester • Others applied repeatedly, e.g. • Gradients • Surface-to-volume ratio • Structure/Function • Laws of Thermodynamics
Integrate-Connect Information Tundra (Biome) Thermoregulation Respiration Cellular Respiration from different levels
Types of exercises • Solve problem • Offer Opinions • Observe - Generalize • Observe and Propose Hypotheses • Design Experiment
Style of exercises • Turn to your neighbor • Minute Papers • Extended Papers • Clickers
If the vacationing slug family's internal fluid salt concentration was 0.9% and that of the great salt lake was 5%, what affect would swimming have on their cells? • They would shrink • They would expand • There would be no change
Remember • It is not about what you do, it is about what you get your students to do… • …and think about,... • … and talk about.
Worth Reading and numerous journals
University Faculty Preparation • Earn certificate to accompany doctorate • 8 hours of coursework • Success in the Professoriate • Two courses in Teaching and Learning • 4 hours Apprenticeship and Practicum • Expert Mentorship • Guidance in professional development and documentation http://grad.okstate.edu/ufp