Archive for the ‘Workshops’ Category

On November 5, DCAL hosted a presentation on community-based learning (CBL) at Dartmouth led by Helen Damon-Moore, Director of Service and Educational Programs at the Tucker Foundation. Sean Smith, Associate Professor of Computer Science, described his department’s EPICS course—Engineering Projects in Community Service—a culminating experience option for CS majors. Sara Kobylenski, executive director of The Haven, the Upper Valley’s shelter and support service for homeless people, shared her perspectives as one of Dartmouth’s CBL clients. Finally we listened to a student’s perspective from John Williamson who completed the EPICS course over two terms during his senior year, 2008-2009. Of the faculty members attending, some are just beginning to think about designing CBL components in their courses and several others, including Ivy Schweitzer (Women and Gender Studies) and Matissa Hollister (Sociology), have been teaching CBL courses and course components for several years.

Williamson’s 2008-2009 EPICS course helped to build a useful database for the Upper Valley Humane Society, allowing them to match reports of lost animals with reports of those found. His group turned a mountain of loose-leaf binders into a registry of pets and owners that saved time and money for the UVHS. This year, Professor Smith’s students are helping the Haven repair and upgrade its client database. Williamson and Smith expressed agreement on the following valuable features of CBL courses:

  • The work has a real-world authenticity not usually present in other course assignments.
  • The project requires collaboration among students and between students and the community client.
  • Students learn more about effective communication than they do in most CS courses.
  • As is usual in the real world, projects begun by one group sometimes must be finished by another, so students learn the importance of documenting their work, and how to inherit work begun by others.
  • Students learn by a process of discovery, a process they share with their community client.
  • Students rise to a level of responsibility rarely demanded by other courses.
  • CBL courses prepare students for life-long learning as few other courses can.

Damon-Moore helps faculty find community partners for CBL courses and offers consulting in course design, implementation and evaluation. The Tucker Foundation also offers grants of up to $2000 to defray the various costs associated with CBL courses—transportation, communication, special materials and the like. DCAL also stands ready to help faculty in course and assessment design; we also have a small library that includes helpful literature on collaborative work, grading and course management for CBL courses.

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I have been to at least three Cornell Interactive Theater Ensemble performances on this topic, and I learn something new each time. At the end of this posting I’ll tell you the new thing I learned this time.

For 18 years, CITE has been helping people in industry, business and academia think about unconscious gender and race bias in their workplaces. They do this by performing a short play, sometimes recorded on a DVD, and then inviting participants to put questions to one or two of the actors, in character.

This week’s mini-play, “It Depends on the Lens,” depicted the last 15 minutes of a hiring committee meeting in an academic department as they try to reach agreement on a short list of candidates to invite to on-campus interviews. Up to this point the meetings have gone smoothly, but as they try to settle on three (and the dean has said only three) candidates, it becomes apparent that some members have chosen their short-list favorites without reading some of the CVs and supporting letters as carefully as others. Quite unintentionally, some short-cuts have crept into the process, short-cuts not unrelated to some committee members’ professional friendships and privileged knowledge. The situation is aggravated by the fact that the chair must bring the meeting to a close in order to take an important conference call. The committee comes to a small crisis just at the wrong moment, or so it seems. After the DVD presentation, the committee chair, David (Dane Cruz), joined the Dartmouth participants and answers their questions while in character.

Next, Vivian Relta invited participants to reflect on some of the other characters in the sketch. What did we feel about them and their behavior? What did we notice? Questions about what anyone should do to “fix” the situation Vivian deferred until later. First our task was to try to think in other people’s positions, to try on for ourselves the perspectives of both the characters we admired and those we really disliked. It’s what CITE calls a “no blame—high accountability” analysis of what has happened where everyone has a chance to take ownership of a variety of perspectives.

Finally Cate Taylor, a sociologist, supplied us with an overview of recent research on unconscious gender bias. This research informed the script that underlay the mini-play. Research shows, very convincingly, that well-intentioned, non-sexist people routinely demonstrate unconscious gender bias in most test situations. They show it even more when they are over-worked, when women are rare in their department, when information is lacking or overwhelming, and when criteria for selection are vague or not explicitly articulated and re-visited.

So what bit of information was new to me? I have probably heard this a dozen times before, but only this week did it sink in: women demonstrate  gender bias against women applicants just as frequently as men do, especially under stress. However important it is to have women on your search committees, that alone does not eliminate gender bias.

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Fall term TWIT

Teaching with Technology, affectionately known as TWIT, is one of DCAL’s regular offerings. Held once every term, TWIT features 3 or 4 faculty presenters who briefly showcase an interesting or novel use of technology in their teaching. Here’s a synopsis of today’s presentations:

  • Jonathan Chipman (Geography) gave an “Eight-minute introduction to mapping and spatial analysis tools” – complete with a live demo (how to create a Google map from a data set in five minutes or less), and several examples of curricular applications of mapping technologies. As Tom Luxon remarked, in the Q and A section, “maps can tell stories” – and that’s of interest not just to geographers, but in a variety of disciplines. Faculty interested in the use of mapping technologies in their field should feel free to contact jonathan.chipman@dartmouth.edu. And here is Jonathan’s handout
  • Ivan Aprahamian (Chemistry) talked about lecture capture in a large lecture course with difficult subject matter: organic chemistry. He demoed the Camatasia Relay software which he used to capture his powerpoints, as well as the audio of his presentations, and showed some interesting data collected from a student survey of the technology. Overall, students were very enthusiastic of the technology and found it to be a valuable tool for reviewing and increasing mastery of difficult material.
  • Michael Bronski (Women’s Studies and Jewish Studies) shared his experiences of using clickers to facilitate discussion on racial or cultural identities. Michael used clickers in a large Intro the Women’s Studies course, as well as in asmaller Jewish Studies seminar, to do poll students (anonymously) on their accuracy of identifying faces as “gay” or “Jewish”. The clickers allowed anxiety about the subject matter and stereotyping to be contained, and, in the end, facilitaed meaningful discussion in an environment taht was perceived as “safe”. Michael’s in-class polling exercise was inspired by the research of Nicholas Rule.
  • Joshua Kim and Susan Simon (Academic Computing) summed up their use of video mashups in a recent Intro to Sociology course. Students created mashups in order to teach key sociology concepts to each other – and effectively to the world, since all mashups were posted on a public You Tube channel created for the course. By taking on the role of knowledge creators, rather than consumers, students were challenged to master the material at a deeper level; and sharing their work with the world gave their assignments a new level of authenticity. One interesting twist of the course was that the students’ video mashups were shared with the author of one the course’s textbook – who was delighted to see students take ownership of the key concepts.

Faculty interested in Camtasia Relay and presentation capture, clickers, or video projects, should contact curricular.computing@dartmouth.edu for help getting started.

Joshua Kim and Susan Simon summing up the intent of their student projects

Joshua Kim and Susan Simon summing up the intent of their student projects

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A Small, Silent Ode, by Sarah Parkinson '09

A Small, Silent Ode, by Sarah Parkinson '09

Today’s DCAL practicum was an inspiring presentation by Alex Halasz (English) of her COCO 11 Book Arts Studio Seminar, co-taught last spring with Lynne Avadenka (book artist, Studio Art). Alex shared with us her syllabus, as well as her methodology and course structure, which rests on three legs: project work, reading (and writing), and research. She also shared many photographs documenting the student work produced throughout this course – impressive in its creativity and variety, and demonstrating that the students had no trouble going up a considerable learning curve during the course.

Alex’ presentation reminded all of us of the power of authentic assignments, produced through a transparent process (in public); she also stressed the importance of tactile and visual elements in learning. Some of the positive outcomes she could point to, other than the tangible project work produced by her students, were:

  • increased attendance
  • successful team work (with all group member contributing)
  • individual research activity becomes an integral component of project work
  • very high student ehgagement, motivation and sense of ownership

The main question raised during discussion was how best to replicate some of these principles and successes in other courses. Here are some of our suggestions for transferable principles:

  • make student work public and shared
  • cover less content, and incorporate more project-based learning
  • structure projects and assignments so that students have choices, within a controlled framework
  • fold research organically into project work
  • when creating student group, try to distribute skills equally
  • change the role of the professor: s/he needs to set up the right framework and conditions for the course, but then be able to et go and become a mentor and evaluator, rather than an instructor in the traditional sense
  • think about incorporating media projects, poster projects, student-curated exhibits and other “non-traditional” assignments
  • think about round table presentations for courses where “deliverables” or projects are very text-focused (final paper)

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Graduate students and postdocs have been coming to DCAL workshops this fall to talk about being a TA, presenting a science cafe at a local middle school, writing a teaching statement, and communicating their research to broader audiences.  Peer feedback is an important part of most of our workshops for future faculty.  In the workshops on teaching statements and the series on communicating research (which was developed by Nancy Serrell, Director of Outreach), we ask participants to use the technique of reading as a common reader to give feedback to their peers.  Each reader tells the writer 1) what they felt as they read the teaching statement or research description, 2) what words, phrases or sentences made them feel that way, and 3) why they felt that way.  Our participants were usually interested in their peers’ teaching ideas and big picture of their research.  However, they often felt confused by technical language outside their disciplines and curious about how their peers might accomplish some of their teaching goals.  In response to peer feedback, participants crafted teaching statements that included goals, examples, and plans for assessing their students, and research descriptions (often including analogies) that were clear to their peers in biology, computer science, psychology and astronomy!  Next time we hope to have postdocs and grad students from non-science disciplines to join us in the research communication series as they did for the teaching statement workshops.

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Workshop description:
When doing research, students must be able to place their sources in context before they can understand them, evaluate them, and put them to good use. In this workshop, librarians Peter Carini and Laura Braunstein demonstrate context-building exercises using both primary and secondary sources.


What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “archival materials”? Go ahead, think about it.

Did you think “murder mystery” or “scandal”? Did you think of archival materials as pieces of a puzzle? That’s just the role these documents played in our workshop today. Peter divided us into groups and gave each group some primary source documents. We read them, speculated on their contexts, and then pieced all our separate documents together to uncover an exciting, albeit tragic, tale from Dartmouth’s history. Peter regularly does this type of exercise with Dartmouth students in order to expose them to archival materials, to demonstrate how primary sources can be utilized in research, and to help them develop critical thinking skills to apply to primary and secondary sources.

Laura Braunstein then lead us in a discussion on the ways in which we can achieve similar outcomes while exploring secondary sources. She shared ideas with us, and we brainstormed our own. By leading students in critical readings of texts we can help them discover the research process from the inside out and ask questions of the text (Why was X interpreted this way by the author? Why is Y not present in this argument?). They can do this type of critical reading on the papers of scholars and of their peers, and then apply what they learn to their own writing.

Note: This workshop was sponsored by the Institute for Writing & Rhetoric and led by Karen Gocsik.

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ALI day 2

Another great day of learning about and discussing active learning techniques. The day started with a talk by Chris Jernstedt, Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences. One of the many interesting points he made in his presentation was that the person who is doing is the person who is learning. In an instructor-focused, presentation-style class, this means that the instructor is the one who is doing the most learning. As we create our lectures, respond in class to students’ questions, and create exams, we are actively engaging with and processing the course content, and learning in the process. By involving students in the creation of course material, we can provide them with greater learning opportunities than we can by lecturing to them. In one if Chris’ classes, he actually has the students write the textbook on the topics they are studying. You might have students create exam questions, lead discussions, develop discussion questions based on the readings, etc.

Karen Gocsik and I facilitated a session on research assignments. The group had a great discussion on expert (instructor) and novice (student) understandings of the research process, and how these (often mismatched) understandings can impact student learning. It can be tricky to discuss the notion of research in a multi-disciplinary setting, and we grappled with some of the issues that arose when we tried to apply certain concepts to different disciplines. It was a great discussion, and we had the chance to actually draft assignments that addressed the learning obstacles we had identified.

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ALI 2009 Day 1

The 2009 Active Learning Institute, sponsored by DCAL and Academic Computing, got off to a great start with the largest “class” of participants in the program’s history. Twelve faculty members joined staff members of DCAL, Curricular Computing, Dartmouth Library, RWiT and the AHRC for a two day workshop designed to help faculty develop and refine skills for learner-centered teaching in their courses.

The first day included sessions on “Unsettling our Notions of Teaching and Learning,” “Student-centered Learning through Discussion,” building community in the classroom, and techniques for helping to make large classrooms feel and act like much smaller discussion seminars using clickers and in-class blogging. Additional presentations were on…presentation. More importantly, ways to improve PowerPoint presentations to make them feel like discussions and how to avoid the pitfalls commonly associated with the dreaded “death by PowerPoint” that often plagues contemporary classrooms.

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ALI 2009

The fourth annual Active Learning Institute (ALI) will be held on Wednesday and Thursday, September 2nd and 3rd. ALI helps faculty develop and refine skills for learner-centered teaching in their courses. Once again this year Professor Chris Jernstedt (PBS) will address the institute with a presentation on how people learn and how learning changes brains.

Comments from Previous Participants

  • “ALI is a phenomenal asset to this college. I not only learned valuable practical content, but I also find myself sharing these ideas with my colleagues in informal discussions. It’s rare to have a two-day workshop have such a strong positive impact.”
  • “All in all, the Institute ranks among my most productive professional education experiences.”
  • “I do not think I could overstate how much the experience, authority, authenticity, intelligence, commitment, and enthusiasm of the facilitators and other participants defined my ALI experience. They helped me see how these techniques could be used and gave me the sense that it would be OK to try using them.”
  • “I was pleasantly surprised with just how incredibly useful it was.”

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yeah, it's long -- I didn't have time to make it shorter

Feral Librarian

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