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Updated: 2 hours 22 min ago

Peer review with 500 students

Fri, 06/05/2015 - 14:56

This post featuring Prof. Lawrence Chen is the latest installment in our ongoing series about assessment tools for large classes. On March 17, 2015, Lawrence was the guest speaker at a brown bag lunch session on Evaluation and Feedback for Large Classes. In his presentation, Peer Review as an Active Learning Strategy in a Large First Year Course, Lawrence shared his thoughts on the pedagogy and logistics related to his experience implementing a peer review writing assignment with nearly 500 undergraduate Engineering students, as well as his students’ thoughts on engaging in this peer review task.

Highlights from Lawrence’s presentation in Q and A format with one of the presentation organizers:

Before we get into the details of your peer review assignment with nearly 500 students, can you tell us how you understand peer assessment?

Sure. I’ll give you a quotation. Peer assessment is an instructional approach where “learners consider and specify the level, value, or quality of a product or performance of other equal-status learners (…) Peer-assessment can be summative  or formative” (Topping, 1998).

What is the context for the course where you tried out this peer review assignment?

The course is called Introduction to the Engineering Profession (FACC 100). It’s a gate-way course taken by all first-year Engineering students, which means about 850 students a year. I taught the course in Fall 2013 and had two sections with a total of close to 500 students.

What were the writing tasks that would be peer reviewed?

There were two assignments – a 1-page reflection and a 1-page process description. The reflection was designed to introduce students to the interdisciplinary nature of the Engineering profession. The process description called upon students to choose one of two situations they might encounter as Engineers where they would have to make a decision according to an ethical theory and/or decision-making process discussed in class. Using specific criteria, they had to justify their choice of decision-making process. Intentionally, these assignments didn’t have right or wrong answers.

How did students know what to address in the peer feedback?

We created rubrics so that students would have criteria to follow. Reviewer students first had to provide a one-sentence summary of the content. Then, they had to give a numeric score according to specific criteria. Finally, they had to justify that score with brief comments. In order for students to be able to give good quality feedback, I asked them to read each assignment twice: once in order to understand the content and a second time in order to give thoughtful feedback according to the rubric criteria.

I should also mention that students were able to see the rubrics before submitting their writing assignments. That way, they knew what to do in order to meet the criteria.

Example rubric from one of Lawrence’s peer review assignments in FACC 100

How much of students’ final grade were these assignments worth?

Each of the two assignments was worth 10%, but that 10% was based on peer feedback and instructor/TA feedback. Let me explain the break-down: 5% of the grade was assigned by peers. Each student’s assignment was reviewed by three peers. An average of those three grades made up 5% of the mark. The other 5% of the grade was based on students’ participation in the peer review process. TAs and I assessed the quality of each student’s feedback and assigned the balance of the grade based on the quality. We did not grade the students’ papers, only the quality of their feedback. In the end, a total of 10% of students’ final course grade was assigned by peers.

What did students have to say about the task of reviewing their peers’ work and assigning a grade?

Evidence suggests students were amenable to the peer review assignments.

Actually, I did a survey to find out what students thought. It was a paper and pencil survey. We received 314 responses, of which we analyzed 35%. Here are the results:

  1. Did you enjoy reading other students’ papers? Yes: 82%; No: 6%; Indifferent: 7%; No answer: 5%
  2. Did knowing your paper would undergo peer review change the way you approached your writing? Yes: 50%; No: 39%; Somehow: 2%; No answer: 9%
  3. Is this a useful exercise? Yes: 77%; No: 9%
  4. What are ways to improve this assignment? Responses to this question were grouped into categories:
  • Bias in peer’s grading
  • Acquisition of new skills
  • Grading scheme
  • Rubrics
  • Roles of TAs and course instructor
  • Quality of writing
  • Out of the nearly 500 students who took the course, I received only two emails with complaints.

I also read the course evaluations for comments on the peer review assignments. Out of about a 45% response rate, there were only two or three negative comments across two sections.

So, overall, it seems students were satisfied with the peer review assignment.

Why did you decide to have students do a peer review assignment?

I like my students to develop their critical analysis skills, to develop an ability to follow standards and to be able to provide and receive feedback. These skills are important for their future, whether they start practising as engineers and especially if they continue to graduate studies.

Do you feel the peer review assignment supported your students’ learning?

Yes, but in the future, I’d like to do a better job of communicating to students what to do with the feedback. Students got feedback from their peers, but there was no requirement to act on it or process it in some way. I might consider doing one peer review assignment and giving students the opportunity to revise their writing based on the feedback.

I also plan to do a calibration exercise as an in-class activity. I would give students the rubric and a paper to grade. Then, they would discuss in class how they approach assessment of peers’ writing.

Can you tell us about the logistics of doing a peer review assignment with a large class?

It was a challenge. It was a double-blind review process for academic privacy reasons and because I wanted to mimic the academic peer review process. I tried to run the assignments and reviews through myCourses, but unfortunately, the software is not designed to accommodate blind reviews. In addition, students were not attentive to instructions such as, “Don’t identify yourself by name or ID number anywhere in the assignment or in the file name.” In the end, I went through each file—assignment submissions and reviews—one by one to remove identifying information. And because myCourses isn’t designed for this type of exercise, grades had to be recorded manually and then entered into myCourses. Logistically, it was a frustrating and time-consuming endeavour. Really, McGill needs a suitable peer review platform, and I know TLS is looking into it.

In light of these challenges, do you think you will try this assignment again?

Yes, it’s definitely an assignment worth repeating because Engineering students have to become more aware of the importance of communicating effectively in writing for being successful professionals in the field.

After Lawrence’s presentation, colleagues posed questions. Below are selected questions along with Lawrence’s answers.

Q: This is an ambitious project. You deserve a lot of credit for it. What was the average score given by students?

A: The average grade received overall, with both parts combined, was generally about 8/10, which means students were giving an average grade of 4/5. Some students scored consistently high or consistently low; others made use of the full rubric scale.

Q: Was there a change in how reviewers provided comments from the first to the second assignment? Did the comments improve as reviewers saw how they themselves were being graded?

A: I didn’t analyze this metric although the data is available. We’d have to go back and look at that.

Q: Knowing undergraduates, would it be beneficial to have assignments with an actual “right” answer?

A: Well, if it were a technical question in Engineering, it would require more content expertise. Students in this first-year course wouldn’t necessarily be able to adequately assess technical problems.

Q: What were the TAs’ impressions of this peer review assignment?

A: Generally, they felt frustration, which can be attributed to the logistical problems. But when I explained why we were doing what we were doing, they said, “Oh yeah, that makes sense.” But I don’t really know to what extent they felt the assignment had value.

Q: Would it be logistically simpler to use paper submissions?

A: I originally avoided paper for environmental concerns, but in light of the logistics problems, I intend to have printed submissions in future, which will be scanned personally to ensure they are double-blind. Of course, I may yet find a way to run this automatically. Also, McGill is in the process of investigating software for peer review, so maybe a tool will eventually be in place.

Other teaching initiatives in the Faculty of Engineering

Click to read more about teaching and learning in McGill’s Faculty of Engineering.

Expanding boundaries and increasing diversity by teaching with technology

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 11:55

Originally posted on Arthropod Ecology:

“As teachers, technology encourages us to be more creative, more influential, and more mindful of the implicit and explicit impacts our words have on students, and to explore new ways to make our classrooms more diverse”.

That’s a quote from a paper by Josh Drew, published last week. In this paper, Drew provides some fascinating case studies about how teaching with technology can help break down some strong barriers in higher education, with a focus on STEM disciplines. For example, students from the LGTBQ community, visible minorities, and other marginalized groups are often at a distinct disadvantage in a university context, whether it’s lack of access, finances, support, or mentorship. Drew argues that teaching with attention to this problem, and in a way that embraces diversity, is critically important, but is also a challenge. Technology can be a potential facilitator for this, and help overcome the challenge. To help…

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Ephemeral art

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 13:06

Adam Finkelstein:

An interesting post from Chris Buddle about a rogue artist in his class. What a wonderful way to start your class every week! Has this ever happened in your class?

Originally posted on Arthropod Ecology:

It’s a difficult time of year for many people: Instructors are looking at how many lectures are left before final exams, and starting to panic about how much material hasn’t yet been covered! We are planning field seasons, applying for research permits, juggling meetings, and starting to think about how the summer’s work-life balance will play out. As we approach the end of term, stress levels in the classroom are also building. Students are working madly on term papers, scrambling to get things organized for summer jobs or internships, and looking ahead to final exams.

It’s busy. Everyone is too busy. The days are too full and it’s not easy.

Then this happens:

A gift on the chalkboard

I teach with chalk, and in my lecture hall there’s a vertical sliding chalkboard. When I enter the room, the front, upper board is where I start the lecture and as…

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Do students do better when they write exams faster (or slower)?

Wed, 04/29/2015 - 13:08

Regular contributor Chris Buddle examines the relationship between how quickly (or slowly) students complete exams and their performance. He demonstrates some very interesting results.

From Chris’ post:

As I was grading my final exams last week, I wondered about ‘quantity’ of answers to written questions as opposed to ‘quality’ of the answer: in other words, some students write a lot of stuff for an answer, but could have received full points on a question without filling a page with tiny handwriting. Here’s what I tweeted about this.

The students that fill the page certainly take longer to complete an examination, and this reminded me of a little project I did many years ago* about the speed at which students write their exams relative to the grade they received on that exam. For one of my larger undergraduate classes the final exam is meant to be about a two hour exam, but some students finish in just over an hour, and some students wait until we take the exam from them at the end of the three hour exam period.

One year I tracked the order that students forwarded me their exams and after the course was over I plotted their grade on that exam relative to the time it took them to complete the exam**. I’ve always wondered whether or not students who finish quickly are the ones that really know the material, or whether the ones who take the longest are so careful to check and re-check everything that they tend to do better than their peers. Here are the results:

Read more on his blog:

Do students do better when they write exams faster (or slower)? | Arthropod Ecology.

Making the Grade in myCourses

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 10:50

The Gradebook tool in myCourses has many powerful options to make managing your class easier. That said,  it can also be one of the more daunting aspects of myCourses. That’s understandable—grades are a high-stakes matter. Here are some tips to help you use the myCourses Gradebook, along with some tricks to ensure that you’ve done everything correctly.

While this blog post is not directly about setting up your gradebook, you can find more information in the IT Knowledgebase (using the Setup Wizard, creating grades items). Setting it up will be another blog post!

Making grades visible to students

myCourses makes it easy for you to disseminate grades for any component of your class. If the grade item is marked as visible, students will be able to see how they performed. In general, it’s a good practice to hide your grade items at first. This is because as you are entering grades, you are able to make any adjustments without alerting your students. Then when you’re sure the grades are ready, you can change the grade item from hidden to visible.

To change the status of a grade item from hidden to visible and vice-versa: in the Gradebook tool:

  1. Click Manage Grades.
  2. Click Edit Grade Item in the drop-down menu next to a specific grade item.
  3. In the Restrictions tab, you are able to change the visibility settings; options include Hide this grade item and Grade item is always visible.

When a grade item is hidden, you’ll see a closed eyelid next to the grade item. In the example below, the Midterm Exam and Participation grades will be hidden from students.

It is possible to verify from your end what students see when they go to check their grades. In the Gradebook, click on a student’s name. At the top of the new page that appears, click on the drop-down menu next to their name, and click Preview. The view that appears is exactly what the student sees. If the grades are not appearing as you would like them to, you can adjust your grade item restrictions and/or your display settings.

Encourage students to sign up for notifications so that they are alerted via email or text when their grades are updated.

Calculated versus adjusted final grades

The rightmost columns in your spreadsheet are the Calculated Final Grade and the Adjusted Final Grade (provided that you haven’t disabled it while completing the Setup Wizard). The Calculated Final Grade calculates students’ final grades based on the weights you have assigned to the grade items in your gradebook. The Adjusted Final Grade allows you to make changes to the calculated final grade; for example, if the student is between two grades and you believe that they deserve to be bumped up, you can make the adjustment in the Adjusted Final Grade column. Note that myCourses will not allow you to make any changes to the Calculated Final Grade.

To transfer the Calculated Final Grades to the Adjusted Final Grades column, click on the drop-down menu next to Adjusted Final Grade and click Grade All. When the new page appears, click on the drop-down menu next to Final Grades and click Transfer All. You can also transfer the grades one-by-one.

Here you have several options to adjust students’ grades. After the grades have been transferred, you are able to adjust the numerator and/or denominator of students’ grades. If you click on the Calculator button as in the screenshot above, you are also able to choose which grade items to include in the calculation for a students’ final adjusted grade. By clicking on the speech bubble in the Feedback column, you are able to provide a personalized note to students that they will see when they check their grades, provided you have released the grade to students.

When you have finalized your grades, you can then release the final adjusted grades to students by clicking on the drop-down menu next to Final Grades at the top of the page and clicking Release All. Please note, though, that the grades in myCourses are considered “unofficial”; grades must be submitted to Minerva, which brings me to my next point…

Exporting to Minerva

myCourses makes it very easy to submit transfer your final grades to Minerva. There is an Export to Minerva wizard available in the Gradebook tool. Instructions are available here; our friends at IT Services made a video to guide you through the process, too.

Sorting, Filtering, and Statistics

By default, the Gradebook will sort the gradebook by students’ first names. You can change this by clicking on the Last Name field at the top of the Gradebook so that it sorts by students’ last names. You can also sort the gradebook from highest-to-lowest or lowest-to-highest grade based on individual grade items; simply click on the title of a grade item column in your gradebook to sort this way.

You can also filter the Gradebook by Groups (if you use the Groups tool) and/or by Section (if the course is crosslisted). At the top of the Gradebook, change the settings from View By: User to View By: Group, select the Group you would like to see, and click Apply. This can be particularly handy for courses in which Teaching Assistants are responsible for grading certain groups of students. In this case, they are able to focus on only the students for whom they are responsible.


Once you have entered grades in your Gradebook, you can get statistics for the individual grade items as well as the Final Calculated Grade and the Final Adjusted Grade. Click on the drop-down menu next to the grade item and click Statistics. Here you can see the minimum grade, maximum grade, average, mode, median, standard deviation, and grade distribution.

You can also filter the statistics by Section and/or by Group. For example: if you teach a cross-listed course consisting of undergraduates and graduates, you could use View By: Section to see the statistical differences between the undergraduate and graduate students. Or, if you have Groups organized by Teaching Assistant, as in the example above, you could use View By: Group to verify grading consistency.

“Grade All”

Looking at the entire Gradebook spreadsheet can be overwhelming, especially if you have many grade items. If you click on the drop-down menu next to a grade item and click Grade All, a new page will open that is just that single grade item.

You can also use the Grade All tool to provide the same grade to all students in the class without entering it for each student. You can also use Grade All to provide students with personalized feedback on their individual grade, which they can view when they check their Grades in myCourses, provided the grade item is visible to students.

Did you know?

  • When setting up Assignments, Quizzes, or Discussions, you can link the Assignment, Quiz, or Discussion grade with a grade item in your Gradebook. This means that when you give your students a grade on the Assignment, Quiz, or Discussion, the grade you give will transfer directly to the Gradebook—no need to enter the grades twice!
  • myCourses can and will do all the math for you. For example, if you’re grading an assignment out of 46 points but it only counts for 37% of the grade, set the maximum points for the assignment to 46 and the weight to 37%. Then, you can enter students’ grades for the assignment out of 46 in the Gradebook.
  • The Categories option can be useful for managing many assignments. For example, if students can choose to submit 8 out of 10 assignments, you can configure the gradebook such that 2 assignments will be dropped.
  • You can use the gradebook to assign Bonus marks without adjusting individual grade items.

Want to test things out?

You and any Teaching Assistants appear in the gradebook – you can verify your gradebook settings by assigning different grades to yourself and your Teaching Assistants. This gives you a chance to test all possible scenarios without affect the students’ grades. However, you will want to remove these grades if you are looking at grade statistics.

I hope this post helps you feel more comfortable using the Gradebook tool in myCourses. To request a one-on-one consultation or a custom group workshop to learn more about any of the tools available in myCourses, please fill out this form.

The effects of Twitter on student engagement and learning

Tue, 04/14/2015 - 10:27

Adam Finkelstein:

A great summary of a recent article submitted by Lauren Soluk and Chris Buddle on the effects of Twitter on student engagement and learning. Thanks Chris for sharing your findings!

Originally posted on Arthropod Ecology:

There are lots of ‘feel good’ stories about using Twitter in teaching, and I’ve long been a supporting of using social media in undergraduate classes. But does it work…? What effects does Twitter have on learning?

An example of a student Tweet, used to promote their blog post.

This was a question we decided to tackle in my field biology class, and recently, in a collaboration with Lauren Soluk (as part of her graduate work), we surveyed students about using Twitter in the classroom*. Here are the take-home messages from the work:

  • Students Tweeted over 200% more than what was required as part of the course work
  • Students used Twitter in many different ways, from informal communication, to promoting their own blogs, to asking questions of each other or of the course instructors and TA.
  • Students used Twitter to communicate with their instructor or TA 56% of the…

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Being a layperson in pharmacology

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 09:49

My identities in life are many – a staff member at McGill’s Teaching and Learning Services, a mother–daughter-sister-wife, a former waitress-house painter-birthday party animator, etc. However, thanks to Prof. Terry Hébert in Pharmacology, I can now add “lay person” to the list.  Last week, Prof. Hébert invited me and a group of other non-pharmacology types to read student papers and provide comments.

The twist is that the assigned work in this 500 level course is not the typical term paper, lit review or annotated bibliography that you might expect. Instead, Prof. Hébert asks his students to read recently published articles from scientific journals like Nature and Cell, and to rewrite them as articles for the public – like something you might read in the New York Times. Prof. Hébert, after grading these articles, hands them over to me and the other “lay people” and charges us with providing feedback from a non-specialist’s point of view. The purpose of the exercise is for students to practice communicating science to the public – an extremely important skill and one that is sorely lacking in the general media. This assignment is a fantastic opportunity for students to see how important their scientific background is and to better understand some of the ways they can use their knowledge to make a difference.

I tackled my job with great enthusiasm, delving into the student articles, ready to learn something new.  However, as I started reading, I couldn’t help feeling the stress that I know many students feel when assigned peer feedback assignments. Circling in my head were questions like: What if just don’t get it? What if I say something stupid?  How can I avoid hurting people’s feelings? Will my feedback be useful or am I just wasting my time?

In the end, I did manage to overcome my unease and write some comments that proved at least moderately helpful. When I visited the class with three other lay people, I was impressed by the students’ graciousness and willingness to help us understand some of the more difficult concepts.  Overall, the experience was rewarding and fun.   I work mostly with faculty, and it is a rare treat to interact with students and see their commitment to learning.  I also learned many new facts: did you know zebrafish can regenerate their hearts? I didn’t but I have a new-found respect for scientists seeking to treat human heart failure by investigating this phenomenon.

Still, the whole process made me wonder about the way peer feedback is often used in classrooms.  Just as I questioned my ability to evaluate these students’ papers, I know many students feel uncomfortable judging each other’s work. How can they be expected to provide a critical and constructive perspective when they are just learning the fundamentals themselves? Even an upper level undergraduate is still a disciplinary novice.

For professors, the allure of integrating peer feedback into the classroom is strong: writing is a crucial skill for students to develop and much of the research suggests that peer learning and assessment can be quite effective for developing critical thinking, communication, lifelong learning, and collaborative skills. However, research also shows that there are problems with student-to-student feedback: the quality may be uneven, and validity and reliability may be limited.

So what can be done to use peer feedback in ways that are most helpful for students and not overly burdensome for faculty? I looked to the literature on peer review and found some intriguing responses in the work of authors like Nilson and Walvoord. According to these authors, asking students to make observations about one another’s work might be more effective than asking them to make judgements. Typically, profs who use peer feedback, ask their students to answer questions such as:

  • Is the central idea clear throughout the paper?
  • Is sufficient background provided?
  • How logical is the organization of the paper?

These types of questions demand that students understand how knowledge is presented in the discipline and to comment on the quality of argumentation.  In essence, students need to operate as experts in the field – no easy task, not even for graduate students.  Nilson suggests an alternative: ask students to reflect on their reading of the paper, to describe their experience and identify key elements such as the main points and evidence. In this approach, the reader does not critique but observes, and the professor can encourage this by providing guiding questions such as:

  • What one or two adjectives would you choose to describe the title of the paper?
  • What do you think is the thesis of the paper? Paraphrase it below.
  • List the main points of the paper.
  • What are the writer’s justifications (readings, logic, evidence, etc.) for taking the positions that he or she does?

I can immediately see the application of these types of questions to the pharmacology assignment. What if my task had been structured around questions like: What is the discovery in this article? Who made it? Why is it important? Had I seen my role more as a reader than an evaluator, I may have embraced the job even more, feeling qualified to comment on my understanding without needing to judge the quality of the work or the logic of the explanation.

It’s also possible that this type of approach is more helpful to student writers. When they read their peer’s feedback, they can learn what it’s like to have a real audience, and  decide how to reformulate the writing to better express their ideas — as long as there are opportunities built in for rewrites, this could be very helpful.

At the end of the day, I felt honoured to be invited to take part in this exercise. I could see all the thought and care that went into the design of an alternative pedagogical strategy such as this one, and I admired how students stepped up to take risks and share their work with strangers. This type of assignment makes it clear how much undergraduates can contribute when given the opportunity.

Thank you Prof. Hébert and students for opening the classroom door and inviting in the lay people  – I hope to visit again!

  • Nilson, L.B. (Winter 2003) Improving Student Peer Feedback. College Teaching, Vol. 51, No. 1:34-38.
  • Walvoord, B.E., and Anderson V.J. (1998). Effective grading: A tool for learning and assessment. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Formative – free student response / online formative assessment tool

Tue, 04/07/2015 - 12:21

Adam Finkelstein:

An interesting student response system designed to give a greater range of formative feedback to students on their learning. Of particular note is the ability for students to “show their work” as they work on a class problem. If anyone is interested in trying this tool, or has tried it already, please let us know.

Originally posted on ICT Across the Curriculum:

Formative is an online student response system / online formative assessment tool which is made by teachers from across the US and is free for teachers and students. The tool enables a range of responses including multiple choice, numeric, text, drawing and taking pictures. Assessments are shared with students via a quick link or access code and student responses are sent to the teacher in realtime so that early intervention and tracking of student responses can be undertaken.

This video provides a useful overview of the tool.

There is also a useful tutorial video which shows you how to upload and convert a .pdf into a digital formative assessment. This video helps to show you the potential of the tool for setting online assessments as homework or classwork. As student work is completed it can be monitored in realtime.

I really like the potential of this and hope to give…

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Student for a day (Part 3): operation dissection

Thu, 04/02/2015 - 11:25

Adam Finkelstein:

The third and final post in the “Student for a day” series by contributor Chris Buddle. Thank you Chris for your thoughtful reflections on the student experience!

Originally posted on Arthropod Ecology:

This is the third and final post about going back to the classroom: you can find the first post hereand the second one here.

We rushed from the lecture hall to the basement of the main teaching complex on campus. I walked down the hall towards the lab, that old familiar smell was in the air: it was the “face-muscle dissection day” in Comparative Anatomy. This took me immediately back to my undergraduate days at the University of Guelph.  There were just over a dozen students in the lab, and the ‘specimens’ (I shall NOT mention what they were!) were sitting on stainless steel lab tables, with the dissection gear at the ready. Scalpel? CHECK. Forceps? CHECK. Scissors? CHECK. It was operation: dissection. I was nervous…. then I was handed rubber gloves and a labcoat. I was WAY out of my element…

The instructor started with…

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Student for a day (Part 2): the lecture hall

Wed, 04/01/2015 - 10:26

Adam Finkelstein:

The second of Chris Buddle’s series on being a student for a day. Thanks Chris, we look forward to part three!

Originally posted on Arthropod Ecology:

This is the second of a three-part series on going back to the classroom: check out the first part here.

So far I was enjoying shadowing students for a day: I was excited after my exposure to the research project course, and was fuelled up on coffee as I checked the schedule, wolfed down my lunch and met my next chaperone. We walked together to a different building and to a more traditional setting: a lecture hall. The class was about animal health, and the content was about a retained placenta in cows, and how this affects bovine health and how the retained placenta might lead to other uterine diseases. The instructor, after setting up the Powerpoint, first took 5-10 minutes to ask the class questions from the last lecture. It was clear that this was a normal start to each lecture as the students had dutifully prepared…

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Student for a day (Part 1): spaces for discussion

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 10:06

Adam Finkelstein:

Chris Buddle, Associate Dean for the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (and regular blog contributor) writes a thought provoking piece about being a student for a day. The first of three parts, stay tuned for more…

Originally posted on Arthropod Ecology:

Yesterday I went back to the classroom and shadowed undergraduate students for the day. I did this because I just don’t really know what happens in classrooms. As an Associate Dean, I feel a responsibility to be aware of what students face throughout their day. I think this will help me gain perspective in my administrative role, and allow me insights into other instructional styles and approaches to teaching and learning in different contexts. After all, I really only know my way of teaching: I’ve not been an undergraduate student for a very long time.

Due to a bit of poor planning on my part, and since we are nearing the ‘end of term madness’, I wasn’t able to get a schedule for the whole day, and instead attended only three classes, with two different students. These students were my chaperones, and took me under their wing as they went…

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Emaze – an alternative to PowerPoint?

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 10:42

Adam Finkelstein:

With everyone actively looking for PowerPoint alternatives, here is an interesting possibility. Very slick looking templates, all web based, and might work well for certain types of presentations. Any instructors that try this out, please let us know how it goes in the comments!

Originally posted on ICT Across the Curriculum:

Emaze looks like a potentially useful tool which can be put to good use in education, whether it is for students to create online presentations for homework or assessment purposes, or for teachers that want to create a presentation with a different look to PowerPoint with stunning visual effects for added impact, either in the classroom, or for creating CPD presentations for training purposes.

Emaze is also said to have  animation facilities which surpass those available on Powerpoint. It is a cloud based technology so you can access your presentations from anywhere. Another benefit is that it is multi-device so that it can be viewed and edited on PCs/ tablets / smartphones etc. There are also ready made templates and slides which can be easily edited.

Whilst Emaze wont replace my use of PowerPoint and SMART notebook in my teaching I can certainly see the benefit of having another tool in the toolkit when wanting to…

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Take the active learning challenge

Fri, 03/20/2015 - 09:41

Adam Finkelstein:

A great article by Chris Buddle on his efforts to include active learning in every class. Congratulations to Chris on his success! We look forward to hearing more as the term progresses.

Originally posted on Arthropod Ecology:

Dear Instructors,

Here’s your challenge: Include active learning activities in every lecture.

Just do it.

Active learning is a philosophy and approach in which teaching moves beyond the ‘podium-style’ lecture and directly includes students in the learning process. There is certainly a big movement out there to include active learning in the classroom, there is evidence that it works, and active learning strategies have been around for a long time. Active learning can make learning experience more interactive, inclusive, and help embrace different learning styles. Active learning places the student in a more central role in a classroom, and allows students to engage with the course and course content in a different way.

So, why doesn’t everyone embrace active learning?

Without a doubt, it can take a bit of extra work. This post by Meghan Duffy provides an excellent case study, and illustrates the benefits and drawbacks of…

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