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Dec 11, 2013

The Power of Tests to Teach

Conventional wisdom is that new information is acquired while studying, and the extent to which the material has been successfully learned is subsequently assessed through testing. Typically, most individuals consider examinations neutral with respect to the actual learning process. Researchers are now reporting that tests themselves may be an important part of long-term retention of new information (Karpicke & Roediger, 2007).

In one such experiment subjects learned new material by reading blocks of information. One group of subjects read the test material four times and then took a quiz over the material five minutes after the last reading session. A second group of subjects read the block of material three times, took a practice quiz (no feedback), and then five minutes later took a different quiz over the material. A third group of subjects read the material only one time and then took three different practice quizzes (no feedback on any of the quizzes), and then five minutes after the last practice quiz took a quiz over the material.

As expected, the group that spent more time spent studying demonstrated higher quiz scores. Surprisingly, however, was the performance on quizzes one week later. At that later time there was a significant reversal of three groups. Those subjects who had repeated practice quizzes performed significantly better than the group who had more repeated study opportunities. Perhaps most interesting is that there was a very small (relatively speaking) decrease in performance over time for the group who had multiple testing opportunities (particularly as they received no feedback on the practice tests).

Several additional studies have confirmed the importance of repeated recall in solidifying information in long-term memory. Implications include the value of in-class practice quizzes in class, short extemporaneous writing assignments and group discussions that offer additional opportunities for recall, and students quizzing one another.

Resources:
- Karpicke, J.D., & Roediger, H.L. (2007). Repeated retrieval during learning is the key to long-term retention. Journal of Memory and Language, 57, 151–162.

To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at fglazer@nyit.edu. This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium hosted at Western Kentucky University and organized by Seneca College and New York Institute of Technology.

Contributor:
Todd Zakrajsek, PhD
Executive Director, Academy of Educators
School of Medicine
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
www.med.unc.edu/aoe

Author: francine_glazer

Dec 03, 2013

The ‘Gallery Walk’ as a Means to Making Metacognition Transparent

You turn a test back to your students. They look at their papers, and you span the room. Your students’ visages are telling – some look shocked, others proud, and still others are hurt or even bored. Perhaps one or two students ask to meet with you after class to “talk about their grade” or ask for the dreaded extra credit assignment. But, how often do they ask themselves how their studying approach (other than perhaps amount of time spent studying) affected their performance? Do they analyze their feedback to see if there were particular content areas they struggled with? Particular test item types?
In other words, do your students ever stop and take stock, whether of a test, an in-class activity, an assignment, or a conversation?

We work in a world of quick transitions and immediate gratification, and we seldom take the time to stop, look inward, and take stock. If we do, we often don’t use that “stock” to make changes or plans for the future. This is where metacognition plays a key role. Simply put, metacognition is thinking about thinking. It includes:

  • becoming aware of how we learn (cognitive awareness),
  • monitoring our learning strategies and evaluating how well those learning strategies work (self-regulation), and
  • adapting our learning strategies when and if needed (Flavell, 1979).

In general, students who use metacognitive strategies (i.e., plans or techniques used to help students become more aware of what and how they know) tend to have higher performance than students who do not use metacognitive strategies (e.g., Ertmer & Newby, 1996; Lovett, 2008; Nett, Goetz, Hall, & Frenzel, 2012). One way to helps students take stock and learn about metacognitive strategies is through a variation on the gallery walk, wherein you ask students to reflect on both their academic successes and failures.

First, introduce the concept of metacognition (including awareness, monitoring, and adaptation), and ask students to think about their academic successes and failures. Ask students to write responses to the following prompts on sticky notes:

Think about a time when…

  • you learned a lot. What did you do?
  • a writing assignment was particularly successful. What did you do to make it successful?
  • you performed particularly well on a test. How did you prepare?
  • you just didn’t “get it.” What were you doing at that moment?
  • a writing assignment failed. How did you work through the assignment?
  • you failed a test. How did you prepare?

Students place their responses to each prompt on separate charts (one chart per prompt) placed around the room. You (the instructor) facilitate a whole group conversation, walking from chart to chart. In essence, you’re taking a “gallery walk” with each chart functioning as a work of art. What are common characteristics across students’ successes? Their failures? What were the students doing in each of those situations? How are the characteristics related to awareness, monitoring, and adaptation? Through this process, students see a pattern in their collective academic successes and struggles.

Then, ask students, “Based on the gallery walk and what we’ve learned about metacognition, how will you plan differently for your next assignment/project/exam?” This final question could be addressed through a minute paper, a take-home assignment, or another chart in the gallery walk.

Resources:

  • Ertmer, P.A. & Newby, T.J., (1996). The expert learner: Strategic, self-regulated, and reflective. Instructional Science, 24, 1–24.
  • Flavell, J. H. (1979). Metacognition and cognitive monitoring: A new area of cognitive-developmental inquiry. American Psychologist, 34, 906–911.
  • Lovett, M.C. (2008). Teaching metacognition. Paper presented at the annual EDUCAUSE meeting, Orlando, FL.
  • Nett, U. E., Goetz, T., Hall, N. C., & Frenzel, A. C. (2012). Metacognition and test performance: An experience sampling analysis of students’ learning behavior. Education Research International, 1–16.

To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at fglazer@nyit.edu. This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium hosted at Western Kentucky University and organized by Seneca College and New York Institute of Technology.

Contributor:
Freya Kinner, Instructional Developer
Coulter Faculty Commons
Western Carolina University
www.wcu.edu/academics/faculty/coulter-faculty-commons/index.asp

Author: francine_glazer

Nov 20, 2013

Help Students Learn from their Mistakes

Testing is primarily used for assessment purposes. It is a way for a teacher to determine if students have mastered the required material. After exams are graded they are often returned to the students with the intention that students will review their incorrect answers and understand their errors. In reality, most students just look at their grade and file the exam away. They never follow through to understand what they did wrong or to learn the concept they missed.

Rather than reviewing exams in class and providing students with the correct answer, have students make “corrections” on their exam. This strategy will help to ensure that they not only understand why their answer was incorrect but also better understand the concepts. When making corrections, require the students to provide the following:

  • the correct response
  • a detailed explanation as to how they derived their answer. This includes all steps and calculations (if applicable to your discipline)
  • a detailed explanation of any relevant concepts
  • for multiple choice questions, an explanation as to why all of the other choices are incorrect.

Consider assigning a point value to this exercise, and allowing the students to earn some extra credit on their exam. For example, each question that is corrected, with detailed explanations, might earn back 1/3 the original number of points. As a result, students will be more likely to engage in this activity and complete the assignment.

 

To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at fglazer@nyit.edu. This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium hosted at Western Kentucky University and organized by Seneca College and New York Institute of Technology.


Contributor:
Cecile M. Roberti
Assistant Professor
Community College of Rhode Island
Department of Business Administration
www.cba.uri.edu

Author: francine_glazer

Nov 13, 2013

NYIT Faculty Talk About How We Know Whether our Students are Learning

“I would ask my students what did you learn today? Many couldn't answer the question.” – Carlo Hallak, NYITCOM

How do we know that our students are learning what we are teaching? Do we check in at frequent intervals with our students to see whether they understand the material, or do we teach and hope for the best? And when we do check in, how do we know we are getting an accurate picture of their progress?

In the last two weeks of October, the Center for Teaching and Learning offered a two-week online workshop called “Are They Learning?” The online format enabled faculty and staff from different campuses to exchange ideas: 34 people participated from our campuses in Manhattan, Nanjing, NYIT Online, Old Westbury, and Vancouver. Another six NYIT faculty members joined as ‘resource people’ by reviewing workshop materials, facilitating the discussion, and sharing their expertise.

Classroom check-in techniques provide a way for us to get immediate feedback on what and how well our students are learning. The techniques are simple, non-graded, anonymous, in-class activities that give both you and your students useful feedback on the teaching and learning process. This information enables us to structure our teaching in a way that enhances student learning. At the same time, classroom check-in techniques provide a “reality check” for our students, helping them see the extent to which they have mastered a particular concept.

Classroom check-in techniques address questions such as

  • Are my students learning what I think I am teaching?
  • Who is learning and who is not learning?
  • What am I doing that is useful for these students?
  • What am I doing that is not useful for these students?

If we were to sum up the benefits of using check-in techniques for faculty and students, the list would probably look something like this:

For faculty, more frequent use of check-in techniques can:

  • Provide immediate feedback about the day-to-day learning and teaching process at a time when it is still possible to make mid-course corrections.
  • Provide useful information about student learning with a much lower investment of time compared to tests, papers, and other traditional means of learning assessment.
  • Provide information on student engagement.
  • Help foster good rapport with students and increase the efficacy of teaching and learning.
  • Encourage the view that teaching is a formative process that evolves over time with feedback.

For students, more frequent use of check-in techniques can:

  • Help students become better monitors of their own learning.
  • Help break down feelings of anonymity, especially in larger courses.
  • Point out the need to alter study skills.
  • Provide concrete evidence that the instructor cares about learning.

Workshop participants shared how they use various check-in techniques to learn about student learning:

Cecilia Dong, Engineering and Computing Sciences, Manhattan, stated: “One of the check-in techniques I use in my senior design class is a one-sentence summary, I ask students to explain their project to someone who does not have technical background (in layman terms) at the proposal stage. This helps them to practice their communication skills and reflect on their project’s objective. This also serves as a means to train their critical thinking by putting their knowledge to solve a real world problem and being able to explain it in a 2-3 minute pitch.”

Farzana Gandhi, Architecture and Design, Old Westbury, shares: “In many of my architecture design studio and seminar courses, I often ask students to step up and become "professors for the day." I ask them to present some of the major points of a previous lesson and then comment on each others work (using the evaluative criteria that has already been discussed) in pairs of two and/or in a large class group setting. Students often learn better from other students. To me, this is a spin on the check in technique called "directed paraphrasing."“

Jim Martinez, Education, uses a variation on the one-minute summary: “I call it the 1 minute reflection. Immediately after group work I go around the room and ask students to say something about how they participated in the group activity and how they perceived that choices were made in the group. I try to identify through the reflections the patterns or themes that emerge. For example, students will tend to use the tools, resources and concepts that were introduced immediately prior to the group work. Another example: students that self-identify as leaders will automatically assume those roles. I encourage students to get out of comfort zones during check-in by suggesting that they try on new roles during group work. I use the 1 minute reflections to help me figure out where the students are at and as a feedback mechanism to prepare for the next group activity.”

Monique Taylor, Global Academic Programs, Nanjing, described how she uses small groups in class. “I have large groups work as small groups and then the small groups talk as one voice or voices in a cluster when we come back together as a large group/I like having the room rearranged so students work in 5-7 or 10-12 etc etc as needed. I will put an outline in lieu of a lecture posted at front and have students fill in the lecture scaffolding from study questions that I provide or that students must develop. This allows me to walk around the room and teach something differently with each group I visit. Sometimes I will present an entire assignment to the larger group but ask each smaller group only to take a piece that they must present or post on the board at end of one class session or in next session (like a jigsaw puzzle).”

Anne Sanderson, Arts and Sciences, brings in another aspect of learning: “We so often leave out one of the most important parts of the equation: students learn best when there is an emotional connection. For some reason, we don't talk much about this. Whether the student is 5 or 50, the emotional connection with the teacher, with classmates, and yes, with the content, creates an atmosphere of trust where real learning can take place. It may not always be measurable by conventional assessment, but it happens.”

Resources:


Contributor:
Olena Zhadko, PhD 
Instructional Designer, Center for Teaching and Learning
New York Institute of Technology
ozhadko@nyit.edu

Author: francine_glazer

Nov 06, 2013

Dealing with Academic Dishonesty in the 21st Century

While some research shows that students are not more likely to cheat in online courses (Watson & Sottile, 2010), the 21st century has seen a rise in student acceptability of “cut and paste” behavior that is considered academic dishonesty by most faculty (McCabe, Butterfield, and Trevino, 2012). According to Olt (2002), there are three approaches faculty can take toward cheating either in the face-to-face or online environment:

  • the “virtues” approach (honor codes, discussion, tutorials, etc.)
  • the “prevention” approach through creating assignments and assessments that make dishonesty less likely
  • the “policing” approach using software (Turnitin, Safe Assign, Google, etc.) to “catch” dishonest students.

No matter what approach you decide to use, the best way to promote academic integrity in your courses is to help students learn what behaviors are considered dishonest and how they can avoid such behaviors. Ways to do this include:

  • communicate to students why academic integrity is valuable (in the syllabus and in face-to-face or online communications)
  • assist students with proper citation rules
  • model academic integrity when designing your course (for example, make sure you get permission to use materials and acknowledge copyrighted materials)

Other best practice strategies include:

  • use three or more short assessments rather than only a midterm and final. This lowers the stakes for each assessment, which can in turn reduce the student’s motivation to cheat
  • require coordination and cooperation among students for assessments so that they are also accountable to peers
  • use some fast, informal [Classroom Check-in Techniques]() so you can learn what is “typical work” for your students, and are able to recognize extreme aberrations
  • be clear about if and how much students are allowed to collaborate on assignments
  • change assignments frequently from semester to semester and tailor them specifically to course materials
  • draw from a large bank of questions and randomize when the test is administered
  • design assignments to be completed in stages, so students document their work as they create it

Resources:

  • McCabe, D.L., Butterfield, K.D., and Trevino, L.K. (2012) Cheating in College: Why Students Do It and What Educators Can do About It. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Olt, M.R. (2002) Ethics and Distance Education: Strategies for Minimizing Academic Dishonesty in Online Assessment. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume V, Number III available at: http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/fall53/olt53.html
  • Watson, G & Sottile, J. (2010) Cheating in the Digital Age: Do Students Cheat More in Online Courses? Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume XIII, Number I available at: http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring131/watson131.html

To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at fglazer@nyit.edu. This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium hosted at Western Kentucky University and organized by Seneca College and New York Institute of Technology.

Contributor:

Christopher Price, Ph.D. 
Director, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT)
The College at Brockport, State University of New York
www.brockport.edu/celt

Author: francine_glazer

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Profiles
Jeffrey Raven Jeffrey Raven, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
Associate Professor and Director
Department: M.Arch. in Urban and Regional Design
Campus: Manhattan
John Hill John Hill
Adjunct Assistant Professor
Department: Architecture
Campus: Manhattan
Donna Darcy Donna Darcy
Clinical Instructor
Department: Nursing
Campus: Old Westbury