A more strategic approach to arranging students into groups — from facultyfocus.com by Maryellen Weimer

Excerpt:

What’s the best way to put students into groups? It’s the first task that confronts teachers who want students to work together. And the best reply is one of those “it depends” answers. Here are the questions on which it depends.

 

If the group work is a project that requires extended collaboration and will benefit from a variety of opinions and perspectives, letting students form the groups may not be the best approach. On the other hand, for short, ad-hoc group work and for students who may be shy and not used to working with peers, knowing others in the group makes the experience less intimidating.

 

If one of the goals of the group work is getting students acquainted with others in the course or providing the experience of learning to work with peers they don’t know (which frequently occurs in professional contexts), then teachers should consider forming the groups.

 

What criteria should teachers use when forming groups? There’s a range of options. Here’s some of the more common criteria.

  • No criteria
  • Ability
  • Personality traits
  • Skills and experiences

 

 

 

Teaching with Technology in 2018 — from thejournal.com by David Nagel
In our third-annual ed tech survey, teachers reveal an overwhelmingly positive attitude toward tech in the classroom and its impact on teaching, learning and professional development.

Excerpt:

Teachers are growing fonder of technology every year. Even the dreaded mobile phone is gaining acceptance as a classroom tool, at least among those who participated in THE Journal’s third-annual Teaching with Technology Survey.

Teacher Attitudes Toward Tech
While teachers in each of the preceding survey were, for the most part, pumped up about tech for learning, this year’s results reveal an evolving positivism not just about tech, but about the direction tech is heading.

Exactly three-quarters of teachers in the survey indicated tech has had an extremely positive (38.37 percent) or mostly positive (36.63 percent) impact on education. The remaining 25 percent said tech has had both positive and negative effects on education. Zero respondents said tech had a negative or extremely negative impact.

Responses about tech’s impact on student learning were similar, with 84 percent saying it’s had a positive impact, 6 percent saying it’s had a negative impact and 10 percent being neutral.

 

 

 

What teaching that lifts all students could look like — from kqed.org by Kristina Rizga

An initial comment from DSC:
I recently ran across this article. Although it’s from 12/24/15, it has some really solid points and strategies in it. Definitely worth a read if you are a teacher or even a parent with school age kids.

Excerpts (emphasis DSC):

…his comments in class about the substance of her ideas, his feedback on her writing, the enthusiasm in his voice when he discussed her thinking. Over the course of a year, that proof solidified into a confidence that couldn’t be easily shaken anymore. It was that pride in her intellect that gave her the fortitude and resilience to cut through many racial stereotypes and negative myths as she made her way through high school and then Boston University.

For McKamey, the most important value driving her teaching and coaching is her conviction that being a good teacher means hearing, seeing, and succeeding with all students—regardless of how far a student is from the teacher’s preconceived notions of what it means to be ready to learn. When teachers are driven by a belief that all of their students can learn, they are able to respond to the complexity of their students’ needs and to adjust if something is not working for a particular individual or group of students.

 

 

The best way to improve teaching and reduce the achievement gaps, McKamey argues, is to allow teachers to act as school-based researchers and leaders, justifying classroom reforms based on the broad range of performance markers of their students: daily grades, the quality of student work and the rate of its production, engagement, effort, attendance, and student comments. That means planning units together and then spending a lot of time analyzing the iterative work the students produce. This process teaches educators to recognize that there are no standard individuals, and there are as many learning trajectories as there are people. 

 

 

 

No-quiz retrieval practice techniques — from thatboycanteach.co.uk by Aidan Severs

Excerpt:

So, although quizzing is one popular (and easy) way of ensuring that facts are remembered and recalled, here are some other ways to prompt retrieval of information from the long-term memory. All of these activities could be done by individuals, in pairs or in groups:

  • Free Recall
  • Retrieve Taking
  • Think Pair Share
  • Two Things
  • Last Lesson, Last Week, Last Month (or Can You Still?)
  • Sorting
  • Linking
  • Stories, Songs, Rhymes and Mnemonics

 

 

From DSC:
I just found out about the work going out at LearningScientists.org.

I was very impressed after my initial review of their materials! What I really appreciate about their work is that they are serious in identifying some highly effective means of how we learn best — pouring over a great deal of research in order to do so. But they don’t leave things there. They help translate that research into things that teachers can then try out in the classroom. This type of practical, concrete help is excellent and needed!

  • Daniel Willingham and some of his colleagues take research and help teachers apply it as well
  • Another person who does this quite well is Pooja Agarwal, an Assistant Professor, Cognitive Scientist, & former K-12 Teacher. Pooja is teaming up with Patrice Bain to write a forthcoming book entitled, Powerful Teaching: Unleash the Science of Learning!  She founded and operates the RetrievalPractice.org site.)

From the LearningScientists.org website (emphasis DSC):

We are cognitive psychological scientists interested in research on education. Our main research focus is on the science of learning. (Hence, “The Learning Scientists”!)

Our Vision is to make scientific research on learning more accessible to students, teachers, and other educators.

Click the button below to learn more about us. You can also check out our social media pages: FacebookTwitterInstagram, & Tumblr.

 

They have a solid blog, podcast, and some valuable downloadable content.

 

 

 

In the downloadable content area, the posters that they’ve created (or ones like them) should be posted at every single facility where learning occurs — K-12 schools, community colleges, colleges, universities, libraries of all kinds, tutoring centers, etc. It may be that such posters — and others like them that encourage the development of metacognitive skills of our students — are out there. I just haven’t run into them.

For example, here’s a poster on learning how to study using spaced practice:

 

 

 

 

Anyway, there’s some great work out there at LearningScientists.org!

 

 


Also relevant here, see:

 

 

 

 

From DSC:
Low-stakes formative assessments offer enormous benefits and should be used extensively throughout K-12, higher education, L&D/corporate universities, in law schools, medical schools, dental schools, and more. 

Below are my notes from the following article – with the provided emphasis/bolding/highlighting via colors, etc. coming from me:

Duhart, Olympia. “The “F” Word: The Top Five Complaints (and Solutions) About Formative Assessment.” Journal of Legal Education, vol. 67, no. 2 (winter 2018), pp. 531-49. <– with thanks to Emily Horvath, Director of Academic Services & Associate Professor, WMU-Cooley Law School

 


 

“No one gets behind the wheel of a car for the first time on the day of the DMV road test. People know that practice counts.” (p. 531)

“Yet many law professors abandon this common-sense principle when it comes to teaching law students. Instead of providing multiple opportunities for practice with plenty of space to fail, adjust, and improve, many law school professors place almost everything on a single high-stakes test at the end of the semester.” (p. 531)

 

“The benefits of formative assessment are supported by cognitive science, learning theory, legal education experts, and common sense. An exhaustive review of the literature on formative assessment in various schools settings has shown that it consistently improves academic performance.” (p. 544)

 

ABA’s new formative assessment standards (see pg 23)
An emphasis on formative assessments, not just a mid-term and/or a final exam – which are typically called “summative assessments.”

“The reliance on a single high-stakes exam at the end of the semester is comparable to taking the student driver straight to the DMV without spending any time practicing behind the wheel of a car. In contrast, formative assessment focuses on a feedback loop. It provides critical information to both the students and instructor about student learning.” (p. 533)

“Now a combination of external pressure and a renewed focus on developing self-regulated lawyers has brought formative assessment front and center for law schools.” (p. 533)

“In fall 2016, the ABA implemented new standards that require the use of formative assessment in law schools. Standard 314 explicitly requires law schools to use both formative and summative assessment to “’measure and improve’ student learning.” (pgs. 533-534)

 

Standard 314. ASSESSMENT OF STUDENT LEARNING
A law school shall utilize both formative and summative assessment methods in its curriculum to measure and improve student learning and provide meaningful feedback to students.

 Interpretation 314-1
Formative assessment methods are measurements at different points during a particular course or at different points over the span of a student’s education that provide meaningful feedback to improve student learning. Summative assessment methods are measurements at the culmination of a particular course or at the culmination of any part of a student’s legal education that measure the degree of student learning.

 Interpretation 314-2

A law school need not apply multiple assessment methods in any particular course. Assessment methods are likely to be different from school to school. Law schools are not required by Standard 314 to use any particular assessment method.

 


From DSC:
Formative assessments use tests as a learning tool/strategy. They help identify gaps in students’ understanding and can help the instructor adjust their teaching methods/ideas on a particular topic. What are the learners getting? What are they not getting? These types of assessments are especially important in the learning experiences of students in their first year of law school.  All students need feedback, and these assessments can help give them feedback as to how they are doing.

Practice. Repetition. Feedback.  <– all key elements in providing a solid learning experience!


 

“…effective assessment practices are linked to the development of effective lawyers.” (pg. 535)

Low-risk formative assessment give students multiple opportunities to make mistakes and actively engage with the material they are learning.” (p. 537)

Formative assessments force the students to practice recall. This is very helpful in terms of helping students actually remember the information. The spaced out practice of forcing recall – no matter how much the struggle of recalling it – aids in retaining information and moving items into longer-term memory. (See Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, & Mark A. McDaniel). In fact, according to this book’s authors, the more the struggle in recalling the information, the greater the learning.

Formative assessments can help students own their own learning. Self-regulation. Provide opportunities for students to practice meta-cognition – i.e., thinking about their thinking.

“Lawyers need to be experts at self-regulated learning.” (p. 541)

The use of numerous, low-stakes quizzes and more opportunities for feedback reduces test anxiety and can help with the mental health of students. Can reduce depression and help build a community of learners. (p. 542)

“Millennials prefer interactive learning opportunities, regular assessments, and immediate feedback.” (p. 544)

 


Ideas:


  • As a professor, you don’t have to manually grade every formative assessment. Technology can help you out big time. Consider building a test bank of multiple-choice questions and then drawing upon them to build a series of formative assessments. Have the technology grade the exams for you.
    • Digital quizzes using Blackboard Learn, Canvas, etc.
    • Tools like Socrative
  • Alternatively, have the students grade each other’s work or their own work. Formative assessments don’t have to be graded or count towards a grade. The keys are in learners practicing their recall, checking their own understanding, and, for the faculty member, perhaps pointing out the need to re-address something and/or to experiment with one’s teaching methods.
  • Consider the use of rubrics to help make formative assessments more efficient. Rubrics can relay the expectations of the instructors on any given assignment/assessment. Rubrics can also help TA’s grade items or even the students in grading each other’s items.
  • Formative assessments don’t have to be a quiz/test per se. They can be games, presentations, collaborations with each other.

 


For further insights on this topic (and more) from Northwestern University, see:

New ABA Requirements Bring Changes to Law School Classrooms, Creating Opportunity, and Chaos –from blog.northwesternlaw.review by Jacob Wentzel

Excerpt:

Unbeknownst to many students J.D. and L.L.M. students, our classroom experiences are embarking upon a long-term path toward what could be significant changes as a trio of ABA requirements for law schools nationwide begin to take effect.

The requirements are Standards 302, 314, and 315 , each of which defines a new type of requirement: learning outcomes (302), assessments (314), and global evaluations of these (315). According to Christopher M. Martin, Assistant Dean and Clinical Assistant Professor at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, these standards take after similar ones that the Department of Education rolled out for undergraduate universities years ago. In theory, they seek to help law schools improve their effectiveness by, among other things, telling students what they should be learning and tracking students’ progress throughout the semester. Indeed, as a law student, it often feels like you lose the forest for the trees, imbibing immense quantities of information without grasping the bigger picture, let alone the skills the legal profession demands.

By contrast, formative assessment is about assessing students “at different points during a particular course,” precisely when many courses typically do not. Formative assessments are also about generating information and ideas about what professors do in the classroom. Such assessment methods include quizzes, midterms, drafts, rubrics, and more. Again, professors are not required to show students the results of such assessments, but must maintain and collect the data for institutional purposes—to help law schools track how students are learning material during the semester and to make long-term improvements.

 

And/or see a Google query on “ABA new formative assessment standards”

 

 

 

Writing Resources from the “State of Writing” — from stateofwriting.com with thanks to Mary Bennett who mentions that this site is an “incredibly useful resource with tips and its own collection of writing and grammar guides.”

Some of the useful sections include resources regarding:

  • Dictionaries and Thesauruses
  • Style Guides
  • Grammar and Punctuation
  • Etymology
  • Quotations
  • Writing various genres
  • Foreign Languages

 

 

Research roundup: 4 new reports on what’s working for blended-learning practitioners — from christenseninstitute.org by Luis Flores

Excerpt:

At the start of the year, we published a blog post on interesting research from 2017 related to innovative approaches to school design. Even though we aren’t even half-way through 2018, there are already several insightful reports on blended and personalized learning from this year that are worth highlighting.

These reports examined various tools and approaches to implement blended and personalized learning models, as well as the potential impact these models could have on students and teachers. From examining how schools implemented their models sustainably to recommending methods to best support teachers, these are informative reports for anyone interested in implementing blended and personalized learning models in their schools.

1. Digital math tool produces gains in student achievement
2. Personalized learning can be implemented sustainably
3. PD-rich blended-learning plans increase chances of success
4. Ensure that teachers create, and design strategies for, their goals

 

 

 

 

From DSC:
I vote that we change the color that we grade papers — whether on paper (harcopy) or whether via digitally/electronically-based annotations — from red to green. Why? Because here’s how I see the colors:

  • RED:
    • Failure. 
    • You got it wrong. Bad job.
    • Danger
    • Stop!
    • Can be internalized as, “I’m no good at (writing, math, social studies, science, etc…..) and I’ll never be any good at it (i.e., the fixed mindset; I was born this way and I can’t change things).
  • GREEN:
    • Growth
      • As in spring, flowers appearing, new leaves on the trees, new life
      • As in support of a growth mindset
      • It helps with more positive thoughts/internalized messages: I may have got it wrong, but I can use this as a teaching moment; this feedback helps me grow…it helps me identify my knowledge and/or skills gaps
    • Health
    • Go (not stop); i.e., keep going, keep learning
    • May help develop more of a love of learning (or at least have more positive experiences with learning, vs feeling threatened or personally put down)

 

 

 

From DSC:
As important as being able to effectively communicate with others is, I think we could do a better job throughout the entire learning continuum of proving more coaching in this regard. We should provide far more courses, and/or e-learning based modules, and/or examples where someone is being coached on how best to communicate in a variety of situations. 

Some examples/scenarios along the continuum (i.e, pre-K-12, higher ed and/or vocational work, and the workplace) might include:

  • For children communicating with each other
    • How to ask if someone wants to play (and how best to find an activity everyone wants to do; or how to handle getting a no each time)
    • How to handle a situation where one’s friend is really angry about something or is being extra quiet about something
    • How to listen
  • For children communicating with adults (and vice versa)
    • How to show respect
    • How to listen
    • Not being shy but feeling free to say what’s on their mind with a known/respected adult
  • For highschoolers
    • Wondering how best to interview for that new job
    • For communicating with parents
    • How to handle issues surrounding diversity and showing respect for differences
    • How to listen
  • For college students
    • Wondering how best to interview for that new job
    • Encouraging them to use their professors’ office hours — and to practice communication-related skills therein as well
    • For communicating with parents, and vice versa
    • How to listen
  • For those entering the workplace
    • How to communicate with co-workers
    • For dealing with customers who are irate about something that happened (or didn’t happen) to them
    • How to listen
  • For managers and their communications with their employees
    • How to encourage
    • How to handle disciplinary issues or change behaviors
    • How to listen
  • For leaders and their communications with their departments, staffs, companies, organizations
    • How to inspire, guide, lead
    • How to listen

I intentionally inserted the word listen many times in the above scenarios, as I don’t think we do enough about — or even think about — actively developing that skill.

The manner in which we deliver and engage learners here could vary:

  • One possible way would be to use interactive videos that pause at critical points within conversations and ask the listeners how they would respond at these points in the scenarios. They might have 2-3 choices per decision point. When the video continues, based upon which selection they went with, the learner could see how things panned out when they pursued that route.
  • Or perhaps we could host some seminars or workshops with students on how to use web-based collaboration tools (videoconferencing and/or audio only based meetings) and/or social media related tools.
  • Or perhaps such training could occur in more face-to-face environments with 2 or more learners reading a scene-setting script, then pausing at critical points in the conversation for students to discuss the best possible responses
  • ….and I’m sure there are other methods that could be employed as well.

But for all the talk of the importance of communications, are we doing enough to provide effective examples/coaching here?

 


Some thoughts on this topic from scripture


James 1:19-20 (NIV)
Listening and Doing
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

 

Proverbs 21:23 (NIV)
23 Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.

 

Proverbs 18:20-21 (NIV)
20 From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. 21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

 

Proverbs 12:18-19 (NIV)
18 The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. 19 Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.

 


 

 

 

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