Are We There Yet?

Are We There Yet?

By Rachelle Hawtof
Math Department
Delaware Technical Community College
George Campus

Ever gone on a really long car ride?  I don’t care how old you are, we all think the same thing at some point in the ride.  Are we there yet?  How much longer?

Unfortunately, I think this is the way many students feel about the developmental math classes they are required to take.  They don’t see the utility or the fun in mathematics.  Instead, it’s a long tedious drive.  Continue reading

Using a Free-Form Lab: Chaos or Learning?

Using a Free-Form Lab: Chaos or Learning?

By Erin Hanlon
Mechanical Engineering Department
Delaware Technical Community College
Stanton Campus

Recently in my Friday afternoon class (who thought Friday afternoon was a good time to lecture, anyway?), as students’ eyes glassed over, one of them asked that we do a lab instead of the lecture that I had planned.

Having not planned a lab activity for that day at all, initially I hesitated to deviate from my carefully constructed plan. I didn’t have anything to give them to do, so how would this work? Would we just be wasting an hour of class time playing around with the lab equipment? What could they possible get out of this?

Knowing that flexibility is important (and realizing that I had already lost at least half of the students’ attention, anyway), I decided to allow the class to spend the remainder of their time working collaboratively in a ‘free lab’ setting. I gave some general guidelines so that they would be using their time constructively and using the equipment safely, but otherwise, I let them create their own goals and expectations. Once they had decided what they were trying to accomplish, I approved their plan and they started building.

In all of the previous labs that we had done in class, the students had very specific directions and measurements that were required. They weren’t coming up with suggestions or designing their own experiments.

When working during their free lab time, students were allowed to set things up and see how they worked differently when changes were made. They had the chance to notice how the decisions that they made based on their previous coursework altered their outcomes. They were also forced to justify their choices and think about the decisions that they were making instead of strictly following the steps provided to them.

I found that using a free lab approach provided a valuable lesson in problem solving and hypothesizing that was missing from the previous lab exercises. Students were able to exercise their system design skills and see that it wasn’t just plopping together a bunch of pieces to see what works. This was a much better representation of what technicians or engineers would be doing in the ‘real world,’ and having them get a glimpse of that in the classroom was very valuable.

This is a lesson that I will implement with intention into future courses. I believe it was successful in providing hands-on learning in a format different from what students were used to being exposed to and more realistic to what they can expect in the future.

Opening Lines of Communication to Get Students to Take Responsibility for Their Actions

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By Megan Wagaman
Math Department
Delaware Technical Community College
George Campus

Recently, the research discussion group of the Stanton/George Instructional Innovation Committee met to discuss an article by Scott Gaier titled Understanding Why Students Do What They Do: Using Attribution Theory to Help Students Succeed Academically. In this post, I wanted to share some highlights from the article as well as a the fruits of our group discussion.

One of the greatest challenges in helping students learn is identifying why they do what they do.

Scott Gaier, 2015

Attribution theory, developed by Bernard Weiner, was extensively investigated throughout the 1970s, and is still used today, partly in an attempt to meet this challenge.

The main idea behind attribution theory is that we naturally attribute causes to behaviors we observe; these “attributions” we make about students affect how we handle issues. Attributions made by students (their explanations for their own failure or success) affect how they handle these same issues. Attributions can be a factor in motivation and willingness to expend effort.

The article emphasized that to best help students, teachers need to understand to what a student attributes his or her success or failure, so that the teacher can guide a student to perhaps a better understanding of the situation, and appropriate interventions. As Gaier notes, “ … the more a teacher understands the cause for a student’s behavior, the more likely and able the teacher is to influence the student’s future behavior and decision making.”

For example, if a student thinks he fails all the tests in a class because the class meets at 8:30 and he is not a morning person, the teacher could help the student understand that, morning person or not, the student needs to study, do homework, and thoughtfully review class material — maybe at a time of day when he can better process it.

Essentially, we can push students towards success by helping them get past faulty attributions and take responsibility.

The article emphasized communication and caring as the keys to help students and teachers understand actual reasons underlying observed results.

Our discussion centered on the implications of this idea. How can we help students take responsibility for their learning? How can we find out what students think are underlying causes of lack of success (what students are attributing low achievement to)? How can we help students make the right sort of effort for success?

We did not arrive at one fail-safe method, but we kept coming back to the importance of keeping communication lines open, and how to best do this. It may be by stopping class 5 or 10 minutes early every session so that students know that is an easy time that they can talk to a teacher.

It could be by collecting an “exit ticket” at the end of each class that students hand to you personally, so you have at least a brief personal interaction with each and every one of them.

It could be sending check-in emails to students who have missed class or fallen behind — maybe with a “hope everything is OK” or something that could open the door for them to say more, without opening the door for excuses.

It could be though a quick Google Form survey to see how the each member of the class is doing with course content and expectations.

It could be just finding those casual moments to say hi or have a brief conversation with students, and being sure they realize that coming for help is not a sign of weakness. I

Or, it could simply be remaining ready and aware to not let those teachable, communication-opening moments pass by. Once communication begins, we can help students focus on the factors they can control, help them understand what constitutes effort, and let them know we care.

Gaier concludes with three key take-aways. First, he stresses that “Just having an awareness of attribution theory … is important for teaching and learning.” Second, once we have developed this awareness, “… it is very important to have student-teacher interactions that encourage and foster good communication… teachers need to genuinely care about students and the students’ learning.” Finally, during these interactions, “we need to be willing to be wrong,” and change our beliefs about the reasons for students’ behavior.

Students are ultimately the ones who set their own goals and priorities, and establish their study methods, but by keeping our minds open to their attributions for events, we can help students learn to better manage their situations to find success.


Reference

Gaier, S. E. (2015). Understanding why students do what they do: Using Attribution Theory to help students succeed academically. Research and Teaching in Developmental Education, 31(2), 6 – 19.

Communication Skills for Nurses: Engaging Activities to Use in Your Classroom

Communication Skills for Nurses: Engaging Activities to Use in Your Classroom

By Kimberly Hopkins MSN, RN
Nursing Instructor
Delaware Technical Community College
Owens Campus

One of the many foundational skills that I strive to pass on to future nursing students in one of my pre-nursing courses is effective communication. In this post, I want to share a few activities that I use to make the topic of communication skills for nurses as interactive as possible. How else can communication be taught if not interactively? The goal of these activities is to show students that there are many ways to communicate in nursing.

The first activity involves the following picture. Take a look at it and note what you think the drawing depicts.

 

Kimberly Hopkins 1

Do you see a mouse or an old man? When I display this optical illusion to students, I ask them to explain what they see and then debate over why the picture shows one image over the other. The goal is to help them understand that perception isn’t always objective, and that communicating a difference of perceptions isn’t always easy.

In the second activity, I divide the class into pairs, with one student acting as the patient and the other as the nursing assistant. The patients leave the room for a little while while the nursing assistants study the following image:

Kimberly Hopkins 2

When the patient returns, the nursing assistant’s job is to describe to the patient how to draw the picture without ever having seen it. The catch is that the patient isn’t allowed to ask any questions. Once everyone has had a chance to give it a try, I show them the correct image and let them discuss their results.

We then do variations of the same activity with different images. In one method, the patient is allowed to ask questions – but no hand gestures are allowed. In another, the nursing assistant is not allowed to give verbal directions, and must instead write the directions down while the patient is still outside of the room.

These activities provide students with a chance to realize that communication comes in many forms, and that these different forms can lead to different misunderstandings. The variation in which students are forced to use written directions, for example, often reveals that not everyone has the same understanding on how many sides to an octagon!

All in all, these activities to reinforce communication skills for nurses are great fun. They prepare future nurses for the workplace by helping them realize that communicating with their patients isn’t always as easy as as they might expect.

Adobe Spark for Education: How to Wow Your Students and Yourself

By Ish Stabosz
Center for Creative Instruction & Technology
Delaware Technical Community College
Stanton Campus

If you haven’t already heard of Adobe Spark, it’s an amazing free tool for designing visually stunning presentations, social media posts, and videos. I first stumbled upon Spark when I was trying to find something to use to create a really awesome looking web page. Well, it didn’t quite fit the bill there, but I did realize that Adobe Spark is perfect for education. So I created this:

Welcome to ENG 102 Click the image to view my creation

This Adobe Spark page was my alternative to the usual welcome message that I post in Blackboard. I thought, why not start the year off with something fun and visually stunning that shows students that this writing class ain’t gonna be what they’re expecting.

The best part of all: this was a cinch to create. If I were to make something like this using PowerPoint or Google Slides, it would take me all day and the final product wouldn’t be nearly as beautiful (or mobile responsive (you heard me: mobile responsive!)).* I probably spent two hours on this, which might seem like a long time, but it’s something that I can use for years to come.

Adobe Spark isn’t just great for welcome messages though. You can use it for your presentations too. Even better, students can use it for theirs. No more boring bullet points.

Check it out and create a free account today at https://spark.adobe.com/

*Yeah, I just parenthesized my parentheses. Sue me.

Let’s Get Clicking

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By Susan Chumley
Nursing Department
Delaware Technical Community College
Terry Campus

Teaching has evolved through the years. Instructors are no longer considered strictly the providers of information, but now they are the “facilitator(s) of knowledge” (p. 121) to self-directed learners, according to Carol S. Sternberger in her research article entitled Interactive Learning Environment: Engaging Students Using Clickers, published in the 2012 issue of Nursing Education Perspectives.

For a recent faculty development class, I was part of a group researching Turning Technologies clicker tools, and my curiosity to ascertain if this type of technology would actually be proven to be beneficial to nursing students led me to Sternberger’s article. I wondered why learn another piece of technology unless the research substantiates its efficacy?!

The article was really quite interesting. The study was descriptive in nature and explored the pedagogical approach of using clickers to enhance a learning scenario with nursing students. The learning environment in this research project utilized the constructivist theory. This model states that “learners construct their knowledge by building on their internal representations and previous experiences and thus create their own meaning or constructs” (p. 121).

In other words, new learning takes place via the building of new synapses on the already existing synapses. The research sample consisted of 72 students enrolled in a one-credit weekend undergraduate nursing course on disaster health care. The students used the clickers to answer multiple-choice questions from different short scenarios that were meant to assess the application, analysis, and evaluation skills of students.

The instrument in the study was a 22-item fivepoint Likert-type scale questionnaire that measured four subscales. The subscales ranged from how the students were able to integrate the clickers into the classroom setting to how much they thought the clickers helped them with their critical thinking skills. At the end of the course, a 50-item, multiple-choice comprehensive exam was administered online and was available to the students for a four week time period. The questions on the exam were all different than the questions given with the clicker scenarios.

The results from this study indicated that the students enjoyed using the clickers to enhance their understanding of the presented material. Most students either agreed or strongly agreed with items on the Likert-type scale questionnaire. Fifty-one students added comments at the bottom of the questionnaire. The written statements contained three themes. The students commented on the “novelty of using clickers in a learning environment,” that the scenarios “promoted discussion and analysis,” and that the clickers “created a competitive game-like environment” that made “learning fun” (p. 122).

Another result that was analyzed was the scores from the comprehensive exam. The mean score was 41.8 and scores ranged from 30 to 49. The author described the scores as “disappointing” (p. 122) since the students reported that the clickers helped them to create and explore new concepts instead of just memorizing answers to test questions. The author suggested that perhaps the four week time period for completion of the exam might have contributed to the lower scores. She suggested that short-term knowledge gain might be lost as time passes.

So, how does this study impact the educator who might chose clickers as a way to enhance learning? The author states that other studies indicate that clickers may encourage more discussion among students and this discourse could inevitably lead to a deeper understanding of complex issues. If a student commits to an answer, the student is more willing to discuss the rationale behind their choice. Also, students report a higher level of satisfaction in the learning environment while using this technology. It’s all about keeping the students tuned in verses tuned out.

However, the educator must be aware that studies do not necessarily indicate higher overall exam scores when students use clickers. This technology can definitely be used to foster classroom discussion and student participation, but instructors should not hope for a miracle with the dreaded examination scores.

Reference

Sternberger, C. (2012). Interactive learning environment: Engaging students using clickers. Nursing Education Perspectives, 33(2), 121-124.

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Why I Added Research,Writing, and Presentation to My Math Class

Why I Added Research,Writing, and Presentation to My Math Class

By Rachel Chase
Mathematics Department
Delaware Technical Community College
George Campus

After attending an undergraduate research conference, I was inspired to implement a research driven assignment into the statistics courses I teach. Over the last few semesters of trials and tribulations, I have learned much about what works and what doesn’t. Continue reading

Let the Students Teach

Let the Students Teach

By John Burbage
Bio/Chem Department
Delaware Technical Community College
Stanton Campus

If you have ever taught a class in an accelerated format, you know how hard it can be to keep the student’s attention for three, four, or even 5 hours. To keep the students engaged, I like to include a project that requires the students to become the teachers. Let me share with you an example that I have used in a five hour Environmental Science class. Continue reading

After the Flip: What to Do With All That Extra Class Time

After the Flip: What to Do With All That Extra Class Time

By Kate Lind
Nursing Department
Delaware Technical Community College
Owens Campus

After teaching in the K-12 sector of education, I was initially shocked at how difficult it was to involve active learning at the collegiate level.

At the high school level, I developed a Medical Program, using Learning Focused Strategies (LFS) as the delivery system. This meant concept mapping to encourage students to make connections and understand vocabulary, activities to break-up the monotony of a block class, and many formative assessments to ensure students were doing more than treading water.

Coming into higher education was eye opening, but I discovered we are teaching such heavy content that we have to find a delicate balance of creating a foundation with information and engaging learners in various ways. Continue reading

What’s the Big Idea?

What’s the Big Idea?

By Holly Hermstedt
Education Department
Delaware Technical Community College
Stanton Campus

Personally, I love reading research in my field.  I enjoy knowing what’s new and what’s working best, and digging into a journal article is fun for me.

For my students?  Not so much. Continue reading