CELT Teaching Tip: Desirable Difficulties Help Student Learning (February 2, 2017)

Students hold a number of misconceptions about learning. Many believe, for example, that the best way to remember something is to read it over and over again, or that the best way to learn multiple different topics is to study each of them one at a time. When students feel that a certain technique is effective for learning, it is usually because that technique increases immediate familiarity with the material, providing an intuitive sense that it has been learned well. In reality, however, techniques that encourage fast acquisition and familiarity often lead to fast forgetting.

Join CELT for a lively two-part workshop series around the book Make it Stick (registration is now closed for the spring series – CELT will be offering this series again in the near future – if you are interested email CELT). Workshop facilitators Shana and Cindy will review a number of evidence-based techniques that significantly improve students’ learning in their courses. Interestingly, these techniques are often regarded by students as ineffective because they reduce the intuitive feeling of learning and often encourage trial and error and an increased sense of effort invested. The techniques involving these “desirable difficulties” often lead to much greater long-term learning and flexibility of knowledge than the more intuitive (yet less effective) techniques preferred by students.

Part 1 of the series will discuss some of the research behind these learning techniques, why they work, and how they can be implemented in the classroom. Participants will then be invited to try these techniques in their courses and during Part 2 of the series, share their experiences. If you are unable to join this workshop series the book is available for check out at Parks Library or download the eBook via Park Library’s, Make it stick: The science for learning website.

We hope you will be able to join us and learn effective ways to make it stick!

Ann Marie VanDerZanden, Director
Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching


Register now for ISCORE events

The 17th annual Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE) will be held Friday, March 3 (8 a.m.-5 p.m., Memorial Union). All faculty, staff and students are invited to attend and/or volunteer; registration is free but required. A half-day professional development preconference for university employees, designed to enhance understanding and sensitivity to cultural differences, will be held Wednesday, March 1 (11:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Memorial Union). Registration is free and also required.

Good Course Design Makes All The Difference

Start with the end in mind. It seems like pretty straightforward advice for a lot of things in life. And, although it isn’t always considered Faculty member speaking with three strudentswhen creating a new course, or modifying an existing one, it can create a very useful framework for course design.

Often this approach to course design is called “backward design”. The process starts with identifying the course learning goals. Next, you determine the best ways to assess and evaluate if students are achieving these goals. Then after the goals and evaluation strategies are established the course content is considered. Designing and teaching courses this way puts learning first and content coverage second. It can help students achieve higher levels of cognitive development (i.e. higher order learning as described in the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy) than classes that have content coverage as a primary focus.

The CELT website has a set of resources available to help with your course design:

Additionally, CELT is offering a 5-part workshop series- Best Practices in Online Course Design starting January 31st (registration is now closed for the spring series – CELT will be offering this series again in the near future – if you are interested email CELT). The workshop series is based on the research-based Quality Matters (QM) framework. You may learn more about this framework through CELT’s Quality Matters Tracks for Faculty Development website.

(On a personal note, last fall semester I worked with a graduate student in my program to develop a non-credit online course using the Quality Matters framework. It was a big undertaking, but the QM framework provided a fantastic guide and ensured we implemented a number of best practices for online learning. We’ve had great response from many of the participants as well.)

Ann Marie VanDerZanden, Director
Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching


An update on the learning management system review

Information Technology and the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) are continuing their review of Iowa State’s learning management system (LMS). Faculty, staff and students can assist now by reviewing a proposed list of required elements for vendor proposals and offering feedback by Jan. 31.

CELT director Ann Marie VanDerZanden and IT director Mike Lohrbach are co-leading the effort to determine the university’s future teaching and technological needs. Iowa State currently uses Blackboard Learn, hosted locally on university servers. That license ends in December 2017, providing an opportunity to evaluate the newer, cloud-based version of Blackboard Learn — and explore alternative products.

Processing campus input, developing RFP

VanDerZanden and Lohrbach conducted six listening sessions with faculty, instructional support staff, graduate and undergraduate student leaders, and central staff whose work interfaces with the LMS. Additionally, more than 330 employees, including 270 faculty, offered input through an online survey.

An LMS review steering committee was established, with representation from the Faculty Senate, faculty, college instructional support staff and procurement services. It also includes CELT and IT staff. Members are:

  • David Cantor, College of Business
  • Denise Crawford, College of Human Sciences
  • Lisa Gestrine, College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Steve Holland, College of Engineering
  • Eric Johnson, procurement services
  • Zayira Jordan, accessibility coordinator, IT
  • Jacob Larson, IT
  • Zhen Li, IT
  • Steve Lonergan, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
  • Emily Morgan, College of Design
  • Annette O’Connor, Faculty Senate and College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Gary Ockey, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Allan Schmidt, CELT
  • Amy Ward, CELT
  • Mike Wilson, IT

Based on the listening sessions and survey, the committee developed a list of required and preferred elements for a request for proposals (RFP) to ensure that vendors address specific needs. These elements include the broad categories of course management, migration, mobile capabilities, learning analytics, accessibility, technology and integration.

The required and preferred elements list, part of a draft RFP, is posted in CyBox. Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to provide comments about the list through Jan. 31 (a link to a comments site is provided).

Next steps

The RFP will be issued in February, with a proposal deadline of March 10. The current plan is to choose two to four vendors who would provide campus demonstrations after spring break. The steering committee will collect and evaluate input on the demonstrations before making a decision in April.

For more information on the LMS review, contact Lohrbach (mlbach@iastate.edu) or VanDerZanden (vanderza@iastate.edu)


Reminder: Proposals for Diversity Course Development Initiative Program are due on Jan. 16

Proposals for Diversity Course Development Initiative are due Jan. 16. New and modified courses must be offered in the fall 2017, spring 2018 or fall 2018 semesters. The request for proposals and proposal template is available on the CELT website. Funding decisions will be announced in February 2017. To learn more about this initiative read the Initiative intended to enhance diversity curriculum (November 3 article) on the Inside Iowa State website.

 


Apply Now for the Women of Color in the Academy (Stanford University)

Women of Color in the Academy logoStanford University’s Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity is organizing a 2.5 day professional development and networking conference for advanced graduate students, postdocs and early career faculty pursuing careers as faculty: “Women of Color in the Academy — Staying Fit: Mind, Body and Soul,” planned for Thursday, March 9 through Saturday, March 11, 2017, on the Stanford University campus.

Space is limited and applications to the conference are now open to prospective participants from across academic disciplines. The conference offers participants the opportunity to come together to share experiences, be inspired, and acquire knowledge and skills about key areas that directly influence the successful trajectory of women faculty today.

We invite applications from participants across the United States (seeking a mix of Stanford and non-Stanford participants). Airfare, hotel and transportation to/from airports in the Bay Area will be provided to those attending from outside the San Francisco Bay Area. There is no requirement for participants to come from certain disciplines or institutions, other than their interest in academic careers. Participants will learn about research-based findings and gain practical skills to advance their individual capacities to address the challenges and opportunities in their chosen academic career paths as women of color. They will expand their professional networks, and learn from peers and more senior colleagues at Stanford and elsewhere the art and science of a range of topics including negotiating job offers, academic authenticity, and approaching tenure. Participants will have an opportunity to develop action plans for success in the next steps of their academic careers.

Advanced doctoral students, postdoctoral researchers, assistant professors, assistant research professors, and other pre-tenure level faculty are invited to apply. More information is available, and online applications will be accepted via the Stanford University – Women of Color in the Academy website through 11:59 pm Pacific Time, January 15, 2017.

Questions?

Contact Stanford University’s Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity


Spring 2017 Programming: Something for Everyone

CELT is offering over 68 hours of professional development programming this spring semester including: 3 workshops, 3 award-winning faculty presentations, a panel on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 4 faculty/staff learning communities, 4 Inclusive Classroom Faculty Development Workshops, and 3 discussions on teaching inclusively. In addition, CELT is featuring 3 multi-session workshops:

All of our programming is designed to support and enhance teaching effectiveness and student learning. Download the Spring 2017 CELT’s Event Schedule PDF (323 KB) or for most the up-to-date event schedule visit CELT’s Events and Registration website. You may register for CELT programs through the Learn@ISU website.


Announcing the Online Learning Community (ISU-OLC) (formerly Blackboard User’s Group)

The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) would like to take this opportunity to announce the transformation from our Blackboard User’s Group (ISU BUG) to our new Online Learning Community (ISU-OLC).  This community will share campus best practices to improve online teaching and learning; see how others are using the University Learning Management System (LMS) to create innovative learning experiences, inform the campus about existing and new web-based instructional technologies and participate in new technology testing and evaluation. The group will also seek to leverage staff and instructor LMS expertise and experience as well as share training resources from support units across the University.

In addition, this group will be asked to inform future activities surrounding ISU’s migration to a new LMS software product. To learn about this process and timeline visit ISU’s Learning Management System website.

Audience: faculty, staff, and graduate teaching assistants.

This group will meet on the following Fridays (11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., 2030 Morrill Hall): January 13, February 10, March 24, and April 14.

Registration is required at least one-day prior for this learning community via the Learn@ISU website.


CELT’s Winter Break Partial Shutdown

The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) (3024 Morrill Hall) and CELT’s Online Learning Innovation Hub (281 Parks Library), will observe a partial shutdown for winter break.  Listed below are office hours and days/hours for winter break:

Monday, Dec. 19 through Thursday, Dec. 22 – Office hours will be 7:30 am – 4:00 pm
Friday, Dec. 23 and Monday, Dec. 26 – University CLOSED
Tuesday, Dec. 27 through Friday, Dec. 30 – CLOSED
Monday, Jan. 2 – University CLOSED
Tuesday, Jan. 3 through Friday, Jan 6 – Office hours will be 7:30 am – 4:00 pm
Resume normal 8:00 am – 5:00 pm office coverage on Monday, Jan 9

Visit Partial shutdown authorized for winter break (Inside Iowa State) website


Don’t Give Me a Paper Syllabus with Hyperlinks ‘Cuz I Can’t Click on Them!

Now that we are mostly through Fall Semester’s Dead Week, it is time to really start thinking about Spring Semester. And, that brings me to the syllabus for your spring course.

The syllabus is the ‘first impression’ students have of our course. Because we only have one chance to make a first impression, I believe it is important to think carefully about what message a syllabus conveys. It certainly needs to include some of the standard content: your contact information, the course description, learning objectives, course schedule, and recommended ISU syllabus statements. These components may all be found via the How to Create Effective Syllabus website. But, beyond these items, what message do you want to convey to your students? Do you want to inspire curiosity about your field? Encourage class discussion and dialog about the content? Expect them to engage in meaningful teamwork? Apply new knowledge to problem-based learning? Whatever your plans for the semester, use the syllabus to set the stage for the students.

In addition, CELT has created a Mindful and Learner Centered Syllabus Checklist (PDF) that provides a useful framework for creating a new syllabus, or reworking an existing one.

If you haven’t done so in the past, consider creating a brief (3-5 minutes) video that highlights key elements in your syllabus. For example describe your expectations particularly if the course is in a blended or flipped format. Everyone will be more satisfied with the course if expectations are clear up front. Post the video in your course Blackboard space so students can access it even before the first class meeting. Making course content, including the syllabus, available in multiple modes (print, audio, video) will make the course more accessible to a broader group of students.

Ann Marie VanDerZanden, Director
Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

*The title of this Teaching Tip comes from a student who expressed frustration when the received a printed course syllabus with hyperlinks, but the professor did not make an electronic copy of the syllabus available. The class never could access the hyperlinks!