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Professor Seuss: Teaching Spoken Argument with Bartholomew and the Oobleck, sponsored by The Institute for Writing and Rhetoric.

At Thursday’s workshop, Speech Lecturer Josh Compton demonstrated how he and co-teacher Paul Klaas used Dr. Seuss’ Bartholomew and the Oobleck to teach spoken argument in their Legal Rhetoric class. Professor Compton began the session by raising the question, “Why Suess?” In other words, why choose an unconventional text to teach legal rhetoric? Even more intriguing is that the children’s book was put “in conversation” with Cicero. By working back and forth between two very different texts, students learned that the principles that they apply to a reading of Cicero can also be applied to a reading of Suess. In the process, they learned to use rhetorical lenses to analyze trial arguments, and employed rhetorical principles to prepare and deliver dynamic and convincing trial arguments of their own.

And here is where the fun comes in. It turns out that Bartholomew and the Oobleck is chock full of crime. In order to have a way of judging these crimes, Professors Compton and Klass created laws for Suess’s kingdom of Didd, taking language from New Hampshire State Law. They then asked students to either prosecute or defend a particular case—for instance, King Derwin v. The Roayal Magicians, a case that potentially involves fraud and breach of warranty. Students presented their arguments—for and against—to their classmates, who served as jurors in deciding each case. The class then reflected upon the arguments made, and the various rhetorical and legal strategies that came into play.

Students clearly enjoyed this assignment. They also reported the assignment to be the most challenging of the term. In the end it seems that using unconventional texts extends to students the opportunity to transfer their capabilities and practices from traditional academic texts to unexpected ones, and to experience both fun and rigor in the process.

For the past several terms, DCAL has offered a program intended to inform faculty of campus trends and student needs regarding accessibility. Previous sessions dealt with learning disabilities and accessibility issues for students with physical handicaps. This session on April 26 in DCAL, focused on psychiatric disabilities. Often “hidden” until a student suddenly falls behind or stops coming to class, psychiatric disabilities like mood and anxiety disorders can interfere with learning, performance and communication. Dr. Mark Reed, a psychiatrist and Director for the Counseling and Human Development at Dick’s House and Ward Newmeyer, Director of Student Accessibility Services were on hand to facilitate discussion and answer questions. The major part of the session was devoted to a panel of students also shared their experiences as Dartmouth students navigating a rigorous curriculum while living with psychiatric disabilities. Their candid and insightful stories were shared in confidence, but I’d like to highlight two major ideas that surfaced and briefly discuss how faculty might address those to the benefit of all their students.

 
The first idea is that students respond well when they know their professors care about them and their learning. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how often students mention it in these sessions; there are instructors who appear indifferent. Intentionally looking for the unique contribution each student can make and genuinely valuing that contribution can make a big difference in the quality of student learning and effort, especially for students dealing with disabilities. Knowing your students helps to sense if any might be in trouble with their coursework. Panelists remarked how helpful it was when a professor was proactive in addressing their concerns early.

 
The second issue raised by students in this session focused on testing. Infrequent, high-stakes testing which has imposed conditions like time limit is stressful for most students, and often detrimental to students with disabilities. Cognitive research tells us that stress impedes learning and memory. This is certainly true of chronic stress, but it also applies to short-term stress, like the mid-term and final exam. Being flexible scheduling, timing and setting can reduce this stress and improve performance. But all students would benefit from a course assessment plan that included plentiful feedback, frequent low-stakes assessments, and a greater variety of types of assessments throughout the term. Faculty benefit as well when the assessment and grading workload does not all fall at the end of the term.

 
Faculty attending this session had many questions, and the student panelists did have good things to say about the support they have received at Dartmouth. If you suspect one of your students is struggling with a disability and are not comfortable approaching them, it was recommended that contacting their dean to inquire if the student is on their “radar.” (It is possible to identify a student’s dean through the Banner System). The big take-away message is that anything faculty can do to enhance accessibility for students with disabilities benefits all students. For those interested in exploring other ways of making their courses more accessible I recommend the book, Universal Design in Higher Education: From Principles to Practice, edited by Sheryl Burgstahler and Rebecca Cory.

On April 3rd, the corners of the DCAL conference room were buzzing with conversations between community organization partners and Dartmouth College faculty and staff.  Tucker Foundation hosted this session attended by representatives from eight community organizations and over 20 faculty and staff from undergraduate and graduate studies.

The eventual goal is to create a list of mutually beneficial partnerships, this session was an opportunity to begin the conversation between Dartmouth College and community based organizations about what is out there, what are the interests, and where are the matches.  Helen Damon-Moore of Tucker Foundation laid out the groundwork for what makes a good community based learning partnership:

  • Mutually beneficial.

Needs to provide a true benefit to the community and provide the students with a learning opportunity.  Otherwise it is a burden to the community and the students.

  • Asset-based model.

We (Dartmouth) are not out to fix the community.  It is important to educate the students on this concept.  Students instinctively have a “save the world/community” attitude and they need to understand this.

  • Academic rigor.

Assignments need to be on par with college class work. Professors can grade based on effort but grading needs to be objective and evaluated in the same way any other course would be graded – heart alone doesn’t count.

The facilitation method used for this session was as interesting and innovative as the topic of community based partnerships.  Open Space Technology is a facilitation method that allows the participants to drive the agenda and conversations.  Tracy Dustin-Eichler from Tucker Foundation introduced Open Space Technology:

Law of two feet:

You (participants) are responsible for proposing agenda items,  joining conversations and leaving the conversations when you are done.  Start. Join. Leave.

Principles.

  1. Whoever comes are the right people to be there.
  2. Whatever happens is the right thing that could have happened.  Focus on now.
  3. When it starts is the right time (freedom to come and go).
  4. When it is over, it is over.  When it feels like it is done, ask “is it done”? and if the answer is yes, then it is done.

With the concept of Open Space Technology explained, conversation topics were proposed by participants:

  1. Government. entities in community
  2. Well Communities
  3. Links to careers/ post grad options
  4. What can students really do?
  5. Engineering/Architecture needs.
  6. Project Implementation

The conversation initiators found a space to host their conversation and the work began.  Groups of varying sizes formed, people voted with their feet by leaving conversations and joining others.  New conversation topics were added to the list as participants were inspired. This lasted for approximately 45 minutes and then the participants was brought back together again for a brief report out on the outcomes of the discussions.

A week later an email was sent to all the participants with notes from each conversation topic, a list of participants with contact information and an offer of assistance from Tucker Foundation for participants who “need help finding the right partnership, planning a partnership, or have questions about where to start”.

-by Jen Schiffman

On May 1, Rebekah Carrow and Amanda Childress led a workshop on how faculty members can help victims of sexual assault who choose to identify themselves to their teachers for whatever reason. Amanda and Rebekah are new to Dartmouth and serve as co-coordinators of Dartmouth’s Sexual Abuse Awareness Program.

Faculty members are not professional counselors, nor should they try to be, but we are teachers. As teachers, we are concerned with anything that inhibits our students’ success. The trauma of sexual assault, whether from long ago or recently, can seriously inhibit a student’s academic success. When a student shares information about such experiences, we should be prepared to offer the kind of help they need to heal.

Carrow and Childress led the small group of faculty participants through a number of exercises that prompted us to identify some DOs and DON’Ts. Here’s what we came up with:

What YOU Can Do

Listen

  • You don’t always have to speak
  • Silence is okay Concentrate your energy on what S/HE is saying and feeling, NOT what YOU’RE thinking and feeling.
  • Be sensitive to HIS/HER needs
  • What is it that s/he wants from you?
  • Get him/her the help s/he needs Encourage him/her to seek help, but don’t push it
  • Be Sincere; edit your comments
  • Censor comments that may be irrelevant/inappropriate to the conversation
  • Be cautious of judgmental statements
  • Ask him/her how to help (don’t assume)
  • Believe what s/he is saying
  • Try not to judge his/her actions or statements

What NOT To Do

  • Don’t tell him/her what to do.
  • Don’t investigate the situation or interrogate the person (who, what, when, where, why???)
  • Don’t try to fix/solve the problem Don’t blame the victim (ie. have a risk reduction conversation or ask “why did you…”)
  • Don’t insert your opinion Don’t make false promises or statement
  • Don’t share his/her information with non-relevant personnel

Things to Remember

This is about them and their needs, not you and your needs

  • You don’t have to know all the answers -Direct them to someone who does
  • Every situation will be different
  • Be cautious of your facial expressions and tone
  • Use empathetic statements Stay focused and be aware of his/her verbals and non-verbals -Be there, in the moment
  • Make appropriate eye contact
  • Be cautious of touching, ask before
  • Remember… Actions can speak louder than words
  • Level with them about confidentiality, preferably before.

For more information, contacts, resources and help: Department of Student Health Promotion & Wellness
37 Dewey Fld. 4th Floor
http://www.dartmouth.edu/sexualabuse

Four colleagues presented innovative applications of IT for teaching: Bob Hawley (Earth Science), Ehud Benor (Religion) Frank Magiligan (Geography) and Sarah Scully (Library).

Bob Hawley showed us how he uses his iPad as a kind of hand-held white board for presenting material in class. Using Airsketch, an iPad app, and a special wireless network provided by Apple Airport, Bob can write and draw on his iPad as he circulates around the classroom and everything on his iPad is projected on the classroom screen by way of his laptop. These drawings are captured for circulation to the class.

Ehud Benor showed us how he uses VUE, a Visual Understanding Environment developed at Tufts University. Unlike Powerpoint slides which tend to enforce a linear presentation, VUE allows one to connect slides, documents and various other media clips to a concept map. The concept map can present on one page all the concepts of a course or a single lecture, allowing students to visualize their relationships to each other. Items on the concept map provide hyperlinks to all other media: audio and video clips, pdfs, websites while it serves as an “anchor” for study and presentation.

Frank Magilligan requires his students to write blog entries on scientific articles related to his course. Over the course of a term, novices develop and share their growing expertise in scientific literature by summarizing and evaluating assigned articles and posting these to a course blog. All students then have access to this blog for study and review.

Sarah Scully introduced us to a promising new library resource—Alexander Street Press’s Academic Video Online. Documentary, educational and performance videos can now be searched and retrieved for use in classes and presentations. Many of these videos include searchable transcripts that allow users to find specific places in the video. The can also scrub through the video and the transcript keeps up. The best way to search for videos relevant to your course is to use the Library catalog, limiting your search to “video/dvd” and look for “electronic resource.” The catalog link will take you directly to the Academic Video resource. Alternatively, you can browse or search the Academic Videos Online webpage.

On the Way to Saginaw

Today’s DCAL workshop began with the image of a map, and a route marked from Hanover to Saginaw. The map inspired quite a bit of conversation before we settled in to the workshop proper. “Why that particular route to Saginaw?” one faculty member wondered. “There’ll be quite a traffic jam crossing into Canada at Niagara Falls,” another added. “Why not go through Cleveland?” I queried. Finally one faculty member asked, “Why go to Saginaw at all?”

Of course, the map had been offered as an analogy. The questions it raised might be applied to our teaching as well. When designing a course, we, too, are planning a journey from point A to point B. Our students may well ask, “Why that particular route?” or “Why take this journey at all?” The point of this workshop was to practice composing learning outcomes, so that these important questions might be answered.

Facilitators Tom Luxon and Prue Merton began the workshop by asking faculty to consider, in pairs, two course descriptions: one that focused entirely on course content, another that focused entirely on what students would be doing in the course. The two examples demonstrated powerfully how important it is to keep students at the heart of course design.

Once we’d been appropriately student-centered, we turned our attention to composing course objectives—a task that is always more challenging than it seems. The aim of our challenge was not simply to compose the objectives, but to assess them in light of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Higher Thinking. I enjoyed the opportunity to reconsider Bloom, who has been an important figure in my professional thinking. I found myself preoccupied by the fact that Bloom’s taxonomy is often interpreted hierarchically—i.e., one must know in order to understand; must understand in order to apply; must apply in order to analyze; and so on. I wondered, along with my colleagues, if learning indeed happens this way, or if it is in fact a messier process. I’m leaning towards the latter.

While we didn’t reach any conclusions, we raised some first-rate questions. Another excellent conversation at DCAL. In the end, we didn’t make it all the way to Saginaw. But we had the feeling that the journey was well begun.

How many ways of seeing are there? How can we learn to see differently, see deeper? Most courses could incorporate asking students to “read” images or interpret their environment through observation, and the generous folks from the Hood Museum are available to lend their expertise, enthusiasm and time to help you design learning experiences that use items from the Hood collection. This session highlighted two such collaborations. Kathy Hart, Lesley Wellman, and Amelia Kahl, from the Hood demonstrated how “reading” works of art were used to develop students’ observation and critical thinking skills as well as provide a basis for further inquiry and research. Using examples from courses taught by Sara Chaney and Stephanie Booth (The Institute for Writing and Rhetoric) workshop participants gathered in the Bernstein Study Storage Center to see some of the art works and hear how they were used.

Sara Chaney’s course focused on visual analysis and was structured to afford students several opportunities to view photographs and artwork from the Hood collection in order to “read,” “unpack” and “decode” these images. Led by Lesley Wellman, Assistant Director and Hood Foundation Curator of Education, students had two class sessions in the Bernstein Study Storage Center. In these sessions, students closely studied selected photographs, and explored their reactions and interpretations through discussion. Working with Amelia Kahl, Stephanie Booth chose provocative and often disturbing pictures for her course “Memory, Trauma, and Place.” Using a set of writing prompts, students wrote an essay on a photo they chose.

As John Berger (Ways of Seeing) asserts, what we know and believe affects the way we see things. Learning to see things deeply and reflectively can reveal layers of meaning in not only paintings and photographs but in the many scenes and images we scan unconsciously on a daily basis. This kind of intentional and reflective seeing can also reveal cultural biases and assumptions that we hold. This workshop was a refreshing reminder of how there are many kinds of “texts” available for the courses we teach.

Feral Librarian

Research libraries & higher education. Sometimes music, sports, & other stuff.

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