## Wednesday, 30 January 2013

### A review of a book about good teachers.

"Enhancing University Teaching: Lessons from Research into Award-Winning Teachers" by David Kember and Carmel McNaught

This is the 7th post in my blog series reviewing a bunch of education literautre. The other posts can be found here:
This is the second book I'm reviewing in this series:
This book looks at various aspects of teaching in 3 parts:
• Identifying good teaching;
• How to practice good teaching;
• How to develop as a teacher.
Those three parts go across various chapters and everything in this book is informed from interviews with university teachers that have won awards recognizing their excellence:
• 44 instructors from Australia
• 18 instructors from Hong Kong
The whole book is basically a bunch of observations sprinkled with interview quotes. It's nice to read.
Here's a list of the Chapters:
1. Introduction
2. Method
3. Generalisability of perceptions of quality in teaching
4. Aims
5. What to teach
6. How to teach
7. Motivating students
8. Planning courses and lessons
9. Teaching large classes
10. Managing discussion and group work
11. Ways of encouraging active learning
12. Assessment
13. Influences on good teachers
14. Obtaining feedback
15. Conclusion
There first thing I quite liked in this book is that despite the large number of teachers considered and also the 2 different cultural aspects it was apparently possible to identify a bunch of common concepts of "good teaching".
"In Chapter 4 we established that the award-winning teachers believed that teaching was a process of facilitating student learning."
My PCUTL mentor Cath put this quite nicely at the beginning of the whole process when during a discussion she summarised:
"Teaching is creating learning opportunities"
So after spending some time going over common principals of good teaching. The book goes in to details about various aspects and day to day details. For example in Chapter 12 various aspects of assessment are considered and at one point the book considers "Peer assessment of contribution to group project". This section of the book interested me quite a bit as it's something I've been looking in to with +Paul Harper, it's nice to have some quote from teachers who use group evaluation forms. Here's what Stephanie Hanrahan a Sport Psychology lecturer from Queensland says:
"When I first started doing group assignments basically everyone in the group got the same mark and of course that didn't go over well if one student was carrying everybody else or whatever. Now I get each person in the group to fill out a group evaluation form."
The book goes on to discuss a bunch of procedures and then neatly offers up some references such as "A survey of methods of deriving individual grades from group assessments" which I need to read and will probably review here at some point...

There are various other aspects of teaching that are considered in the book such as the use of technology, using problem based learning and various other things (looking at the Chapters should give an indication as to what is considered).

The final part of the book looks at how these good teachers "came in to existence":
"Many if not most, academics started their teaching careers with no formal training in teaching. Most of the existing university courses for new teachers are recent introduction."
(I'm guessing PCUTL is one of those! :) )

The main conclusion from this part of the book in my opinion is that it takes time to become a good teacher and there are various ways of getting there which include influence from other teachers, feedback from students and a bunch of other stuff.

Conclusion

Big fan of this book. It covers a lot of aspects and as it's recent a bunch of these teachers are "around" so this book feel very relevant. A bunch of good references and ideas.

Here's my "PCUTL Mark" out of 10 which I'm using to say how useful this piece of literature is to me in the scheme of my pcutl portfolio (so it's not meant as a reflection of the quality of the paper which is subjective):

PCUTL Mark: 8

## Tuesday, 29 January 2013

### A review of an interpretation of Bloom's taxonomy.

"Bloom's Taxonomy Interpreted for Mathematics" by Lindsey Shorser

This is the 6th post in my blog series reviewing a bunch of education literature. The other posts can be found here:
In the fourth post in my series I described briefly some of the learning models presented in "Approaches to Learning: A Guide for Teachers". One of the pedagogic models very well described in that book is Behaviouralism, and one important contribution to Behaviouralism is Bloom's taxonomy.
Bloom's taxonomy is a model that attempts to link external and internal behaviour (a feature lacking in classical Behaviouralism which only considered external stimuli as having an effect on learning). What bloom did was put together various levels of learning. Here's the Cognitive skills:
1. Knowledge
2. Comprehension
3. Application
4. Analysis
5. Synthesis
6. Evaluation
This document by Shorser (if my memory serves me correctly passed on to my by +Paul Harper) maps the above general taxonomy to mathematics.

The document first of all lists the above levels, describing them. It then goes on to list some keywords for evaluating each of them. For example: Knowledge - "List" and Evaluation - "Rank".

The final part of the document gives some examples of questions for each level of learning.

Conclusion

This is a handy little document to have if only to use as a cheat sheet (so to speak) when setting exam questions and evaluating students learning.

Here's my "PCUTL Mark" out of 10 which I'm using to say how useful this piece of literature is to me in the scheme of my pcutl portfolio (so it's not meant as a reflection of the quality of the paper which is subjective):

PCUTL Mark: 5 (Not extremely useful for PCUTL but a great reference document)

## Sunday, 27 January 2013

### A review of a paper looking at using social networks in higher education

"A Characterization of Social Networks for Effective Communication and Collaboration in Computing Education" by G. Gannod and K. Bachman

This is the 5th post in my blog series reviewing a bunch of education literautre. The other posts can be found here:
I'm a huge G+ fan. Ever since a friend of mine got me an invite (in the early days it was invite only) I've been an active user. I've written a blog post about my use of G+ from the point of view of an academic and it can be found here. I use G+ to talk about research but I've also recently started to use it in teaching, happily enjoying some interactions with students on their and finding it an easy way to share relevant content with my class (in my last class more than 60% of my students viewed my posts on G+ before class).

This paper offers a comparison of the educational potential for 3 social networks:
• G+
The paper starts by describing some prior research looking at social media and education, for example a study by Junco et al. showed that students who engaged with twitter for various 'academic related discussions' achieved amongst other things better gpas.

A table is offered comparing the various social networks. It is noted that Facebook and G+ offer various similarities (as opposed twitter). In particular highlighting that they both have "recipient control". I haven't used Facebook for a while so not too sure what is now in place to offer that but G+ is entirely about controlling who sees what (which is why it's my particular social network of choice).
The paper carries on to describe a variety of interactions that were had through G+ between teachers and students but also students and students. The paper briefly discusses the use of Hangouts for virtual office hours.

The paper ends by describing some recommendations for the use of social networks in a teaching environment:
• "Establish guidelines for using social media within your course" (Help the students make use of the service)
• "Define acceptable policies" (Set boundaries for what is legitimate collaboration)
• "Model desirable behaviour and usage" (Teachers should be active: paving the way)

Conclusion

I thought this paper was pretty good. From a biased point of view (again I'm a huge G+ fan) it was nice to see G+ in educational literature. On a disappointing note, the ever changing face of social networks means that this paper is slightly outdated already. For example the recent introduction of 'communities' in G+ is not considered in the paper. I plan on using communities in my next class as a way of directing open information.

Here's my "PCUTL Mark" out of 10 which I'm using to say how useful this piece of literature is to me in the scheme of my pcutl portfolio (so it's not meant as a reflection of the quality of the paper which is subjective):

PCUTL Mark: 8

## Saturday, 26 January 2013

### A review of a book about Teaching and Learning

"Approaches to Learning: A Guide for Teachers" by Jordan et al.
This is the 4th post in my blog series reviewing a bunch of education literautre. The other posts can be found here:
For the first time I've reviewing an entire book:

The book looks at various aspects of learning, indeed the early chapters talk about various pedagogic models as well as educational philosophy. It is well written and has a great conclusion section at the end of every chapter highlighting some of the main ideas and implications for educators.

Here's a list of the Chapters (I'm not going to get sued for that right?):
1. Philosophy of education
2. Behaviourism
3. Cognitivism
4. Constructivism
5. Social Learning
6. Cultural Learning
7. Intelligence
8. Life course development
10. Values
11. Motivation
12. The learning body
13. Languages and learning
14. Experiential and competency-based learning
15. Blended learning
16. The future
As you can see it covers quite a lot of stuff. The first chapter describes Educational Philosophy and covers ideas such as Empiricism and Socratic dialog. I enjoyed reading this chapter quite closely as I hadn't thought philosophically about education in a rigorous way before.

I posted one particular quote I liked here on G+:
"Even in distance or online learning contexts, it is important to create a learning environment that allows for the possibility of multiple interpretations in order to guide learners towards a better understanding of concepts."
I liked the quote but asked if it was relevant to Mathematics, is there room for interpretation in the meaning of a theorem?

+Theron Hitchman responded by saying that in fact he often discussed the interpretation of everything in class, including theorems (Theron, I apologise for paraphrasing you). I thought that was pretty cool as it must be an immediate way to gain feedback as to the understanding of theorems (not just their proofs).

I've read the first 4 chapters pretty closely and there are some great things in there. In particular I think it's helped me identify myself as a Social Constructivist and I like the idea of a Zone of Proximal Development described by Vygotsky.

I've actually attempted (with quite a low level of confidence) to "summarise" the first 4 chapters in the following picture:

There's obviously far too much in this book for me to review it in further details but other chapters I though were interesting included the blended learning chapter which talks about the use of technology in the classroom (although most of the stuff in there is pretty basic I feel). The final chapter talks about what the Teacher of the future "will be". I won't say anymore but I'll just put down one quote that I thought was awesome:
"If knowledge can be accessed in a multiplicity of ways, then learners will choose teachers for their ability to engage, both with the knowledge and the learning. It will require a different set of aptitudes from the teacher, requiring artistry rather than a set of technical skills. Teachers will have a role in motivating learners through personal coaching, and in scaffolding support learners in their personal projects. Teachers will be freed from knowledge transmission or duplication, to act as critical friends and guides for learners."
Conclusion

I think this book really is great. Lots of stuff in there looking at various aspect of teaching and learning. Further more each chapter has a bunch of other references which prove the book to be a great reference text to have on my bookshelf (shame that there's no kindle edition...).

Here's my "PCUTL Mark" out of 10 which I'm using to say how useful this piece of literature is to me in the scheme of my pcutl portfolio (so it's not meant as a reflection of the quality of the paper which is subjective):

PCUTL Mark: 9 (As far as utility to my portfolio is concerned, I doubt I'll find more useful as I need to specifically consider various pedagogic models which are all nicely explained in this book.).

## Friday, 25 January 2013

### A review of a paper offering evidence for a benefit to the flipped classroom.

"The inverted classroom in a large enrolment introductory physics course: a case study" by Simon Bates and Ross Galloway

(I found a prezi given at the HEA STEM Conference in 2012 here)

This is the 3rd post in my blog series reviewing a bunch of education literature. The other posts can be found here:
I've got a big interest in looking at using a flipped classroom methodology. I've used it before on a programming course, I've used it a bit in a general OR course and plan to use it in a hybrid IBL way in an upcoming programming course.

If you don't know about the flipped classroom here's a good Ted talk by Salman Khan (the guy behind khan academy):

Also here's a small diagram I made to help me explain it to my students:

This is a neat paper that presents evidence for the flipped classroom approach on a cohort of 200 odd students in a first year physics course at Edinburgh university.
The paper starts by briefly describing the flipped classroom approach as well as the particular class:
"The emphasis was very much on participatory discussion with the class, rather than instructor presentation to the class."
The paper nicely addresses a concern that I often hear when talking about open education with other academics: 'if I give out notes why would the students turn up?'.
"An often-heard comment relating to provision of material to students (usually lecture notes) in advance of class sessions is 'If you give them the lecture notes, they might not or won't turn up'. We gave students not just lecture notes, but in effect the entire course content in advance of class sessions: it might reasonably be asked did we not have empty lecture theatres by week 5? In fact, we did not see any evidence of a significant decline in lecture attendance 1, which we were able to 'measure' by observing a relatively constant number of total clicker votes per question (across 140 individual clicker question episodes) as function of a time period spanning 11 weeks of the course. There was a slight decline towards the final week of teaching in the semester, perhaps partly explained by the effects of a long teaching semester taking its toll and the looming shadow of degree examinations 2 weeks after the course concludes. This teaching methodology, therefore, provides evidence against the 'no notes in advance' argument as a technique to maintain student attendance and engagement."
The paper continues to offer some quantitive data with regards to the effectiveness of this approach.
1. "Student Feedback": Feedback was collected showing that students preferred this teaching approach (see table in paper).
2. "Evidence for learning": Data is shown that demonstrates that students did better on a standard physics test ("Force Concep Inventory") after instruction with a flipped classroom.
The paper finishes with a discussion and tackles certain things like the supposed additional workload related to a flipped classroom approach:
"Perhaps more significant than the additional workload is the mental shift that is required to accept and embrace an unstructured, contingent lecture experience in which the lecturer is no longer in complete control of."
Having personally used a flipped classroom approach I can certainly say that the initial workload is pretty big but I also agree that the actual lecture time needs a significant shift in mentality.
I also think that there's a huge gain to be made by flipping the classroom. Whereas in classic lectures a teacher might be able to gloss over something and not know whether or not your students are still with you. With a flipped class, when preparing your lectures there is some sense of finality and so I feel that it also allows me to better prepare my material.

Conclusion

I think this paper is great and will serve as a great reference 'justifying' the use of flipped classrooms.

Here's my "PCUTL Mark" out of 10 which I'm using to say how useful this piece of literature is to me in the scheme of my pcutl portfolio (so it's not meant as a reflection of the quality of the paper which is subjective):

PCUTL Mark: 8

## "A Quick-Start Guide to the Moore Method" by Mahavier et al.

This is the second post in my series aiming to review a bunch of education literature. The previous post reviewed a paper looking at how threshold concepts could be missed when teaching a "classicaly" well run course.

This post is about a short paper aiming to introduce the reader to the Moore Method or Inquiry Based Learning (IBL).

My personal introduction to IBL was through G+ and +Dana Ernst  (who kindly passed this paper on to me) and +Theron Hitchman (and subsequently many more, check out the IBL community on G+).

This paper does not offer a very long description as to what IBL is or how to teach with it but it does give some pointers towards how to get started.
'The majority of Moore Method mathematics course will consist of students' presentations of solutions they produce independently from material provided by the instructor'
One of my favorite educational quotes (which I'm in fact using as the header for my second module pcutl portfolio) is by Moore:
'That student is taught the best who is told the least.'
After a brief introduction of the Moore Method the paper goes on to the following sections:
• "Should I use the Moore Method?" (highlighting that every teacher should use what is best suited to their personality)
• "I want to try the Moore Method. How do I start?" (options include attending workshops and/or looking up a mentor)
• "How do I develop or select materials?" (there are a bunch of materials already developed, but pointers are also given for people wanting/needing to develop their own)
• "What are the student goals for a Moore Method course?" (3 student centred goals are offered as starting points)
• "How do I gain the support of my department chair and colleagues?" (A short discussion is offered that I won't try to fit in to these brackets, but basically it's worth getting support...)
• "What will I do in the classroom each day?" (Some tips are given as to how to facilitate a pseudo-socratic discussion and ensure that students are ready to present. Most importantly it's highlighted that the teacher should not be the center of attention.)
• "How do I grade a Moore Method course?" (A nice quote out of this section is "whatever grading system you decide on, it should encourage 'learning' over 'earning'")
• "How do I assess my Moore Method courses?" (Lots of nice examples: ranging from requiring students to keep a diary to saving examples of students work and others...)
Conclusion This is a nice paper with a bunch of references, pointers to resources and a good overall discussion about how to get started implementing an IBL approach in class.

Here's my "PCUTL Mark" out of 10 which I'm using to say how useful this piece of literature is to me in the scheme of my pcutl portfolio (so it's not meant as a reflection of the quality of the paper which is subjective):

PCUTL Mark: 6 (this might be a bit low but it's not as useful as the previous paper)

# My first blog series: A review of some educational literature

"When good teaching leads to bad results: The disasters of well taught Mathematics courses" by Alan Schoenfeld

A few weekends ago I put together a list of reading materials I wanted to go through for my pcutl second module portfolio. I've started going through them and jotting down some notes for each paper/book. On G+ I posted a pic of some of the books I was taking on a quick trip to Germany and +Theron Hitchman asked that I share anything that I find of interest. I started responding that of course I would and all of a sudden remembered the series of blog posts that Theron had put together when reviewing differential geometry books. I know nothing at all about differential geometry but I really enjoyed reading the posts.

So I've decided to do something similar. I'm going to try and post semi regularly (every other day or so) about one particular piece of educational literature. Some of these posts might be quite shorts (briefly describing what is in a paper) and some might end up being a bit longer (I might actually discuss what I think about each paper). Very worst case scenario is that this is the only post of the series...

My main pedagogic interests are in the use of technology to create student led learning opportunities. In particular I like to look at flipped classroom approaches and more recently (mainly based on the cool posts by +Theron Hitchman, +Dana Ernst and others) Inquiry Based Learning.

My first post in this series will look at the following paper: "When good teaching leads to bad results: The disasters of well taught Mathematics courses" by Schoenfield

This paper was passed on to me by Dana Ernst when I asked if he had any literature he could point me to on the subject of IBL (he did not disappoint, more to come later in the series).

This paper discusses a case study on a particular mathematics course:

- It was a succes based on classical critera
- It was a failure according to threshold concepts

The paper points out that in early educational research the actual subject being taught (Mathematics, Physics, English etc..) was seen as a minor variable to teaching (see Doyle 1978).

Here's a cool quote from the paper:
"Learning was operationally defined as performance on achievement tests -- tests which, as we shall see below, may fail in significant ways to measure subject matter understanding."
More recent work (Brown and Burton 1978, Helms and Novak 1985, Romberg and Carpenter (1985)) show the importance of subject specific teaching methodologies.
Here's another cool quote:
"In elementary arithmetic, for example, Brown and Burton (1978) developed a diagnostic test that could predict, about 50% of the time, the incorrect answers that a particular student would obtain to a subtraction problem -- before the student worked the problem."
The paper then goes on to discuss 'problems' with the classical approach to mathematical teaching. A neat example is given showing that in general students are capable of calculating $\frac{\sum_{i=1}^na}{n}$ by 'brute force' methods but do not have the deeper understanding of the connection between addition and multiplication to immediately realise that the above is just $a$.
"The predominant model of current instruction is based on what Romber and Carpenter (1985) call the absorption theory of learning. 'The traditional classroom focuses on competition, management and group aptitudes; the mathematics taught is assumed to be a fixed body of knowledge, and it is taught under the assumption that learners absorb what has been covered'. According to this view the good teacher is the one who has ten different ways to say the same thing; the student is sure to 'get it' sooner or later. However the misconceptions literature indicates that the students may well have 'gotten' something else -- and that what the student as gotten may be resistant to change."
The author links the common 'problems' with classical approaches (such as memorising proofs but not understanding them) to 4 beliefs, which I'll paraphrase here:
• Belief 1: Formal mathematical concepts such as "proof" has very little to do with "real world problem solving".
• Belief 2: If a student is going to manage a mathematical problem they will do so in less than 5 minutes (implying that if students don't solve a problem in 5 minutes they might as well stop).
• Belief 3: Really 'getting' mathematics is only doable by geniuses.
• Belief 4: Students do well in class by performing tasks and doing well in school (implying that 'getting the work done' will do).
I liked all of these as I can almost hear myself and former classmates saying the same things. Belief 3 I think is a very powerful one if "broken", when a student "gets" something and realises that "getting it" is not out of their reach I think that a huge barrier is broken... I'm speaking mainly from personal experience as it was in high school that an awesome teacher helped me "disbelieve that belief" (I wrote a blog post on that particular teacher here).

The next section of the paper goes to show that whilst the course was well run in a 'classical' sense there was evidence of students developing the above beliefs.

The final discussion is well written and describes how it is important to not only consider learning outcomes (a classical measure of success of a class) but also threshold concepts although these are not mentioned specifically. The author talks about students being able to "think mathematically".

Conclusion

I thought this paper was very well written and I really enjoyed reading it. It was a refreshing read saying what could be wrong with a 'good' course and the importance of threshold concepts. Importantly, the author states the importance of subject specific threshold concepts.

For this blog post series I thought I'd give each paper some sort of mark. My critique is obviously quite subjective so I don't want to mark how good a paper is but instead will offer to each document I read in this series a mark out of 10 of "how useful I think reading this document has been to me with regards to pcutl".

In this instance:
PCUTL Mark: 7 (not too sure where to start, I might revise this later)