Category: Andragogy – Adult Pedagogy

Introducing Critical Thinking into the Classroom

by Rose Mary Foncree

(the below is an introduction to the webinar Rose Mary led on this subject which can be found HERE.   The webinar presents the argument for introducing critical thinking into the classroom and provides examples and ideas for doing so.)

For many of us who teach college students, we have likely found ourselves surprised at the lack of critical thinking among our students, especially as reflected in essays and classroom discussions.  When first considering the topic of critical thinking in the classroom, I began to reflect on my own college education and discovered that the courses I had taken for granted as basic requirements for the freshman and sophomore years had vanished from the required curriculum of most colleges and universities.  For example, I had not realized that an introduction to philosophy and a required course in logic had virtually disappeared as required courses.

At the high school level—where many of our interests and abilities are discovered, shaped, and formed—I learned that there is now a dearth of speaking and debate instruction—a consequence of budget-cutting as well as the desire to avoid introducing controversial political topics.  In my own case, I learned almost everything I know about thinking and argumentation from serving as a debater in high school and in college.

Here at Belhaven, we have a faculty mandate to integrate the Christian faith throughout the curriculum.  Foundational to this integration is the understanding that education (in its primary sense) is the acquisition of knowledge by which, secondarily, one becomes wise.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7, English Standard Version).  As John Patrick of St. Augustine College has written, a liberal education “is an apprenticeship  in wisdom.”

But how to introduce critical thinking into the classroom remains a challenge for everyone in higher education.  We can certainly teach our students how to identify and avoid logical fallacies.  We can introduce them to inductive and deductive reasoning.  But perhaps more importantly, students must be taught how to find evidence for their assertions and arguments.  We must teach them to take charge of their minds by basing their beliefs and ideas on facts, logic, and reason.

A Perspective on Student Engagement

by Dr. John Song, Full-time Bible Faculty, Atlanta

In our recent webinar, we had a panel of great instructors share some of their best teaching practices. The goal was to discuss how we can better engage our students. My personal contributions consisted of some basic but hopefully helpful principles. The three principles were: (1) relationships, (2) relevance, and (3) reflection.

First is relationship. While this seems obvious to many, it remains as a key component in increasing student engagement. Students tend to stay engaged in the classroom when they intuitively sense that their instructor cares about their success and overall well-being. This is a biblical form of shepherding. I suggested during the webinar that there were some key indicators that can help us gauge whether we have established sufficient rapport with the students. One of those indicators was whether the student felt comfortable asking the professor for prayer. As we all know, personal challenges can be serious obstructions to learning. Building trust and praying for our students, then, can make us better shepherds who can keep our students engaged. Trust can be built by sharing a moment of laughter and making conversation during breaks. These moments may hold more value than we surmise.

The second is relevance. During the webinar, I shared a brief anecdote about my personal experience in college. Before the dawn of the information revolution — the internet — I learned in my finance classes how to calculate loan payments. This required an expensive Hewlett-Packard finance calculator. To make a long story short, by applying what I learned I realized that I was being overcharged in my car loan. The moral of the story is that when instructors make the material practical students tend to become more engaged.

The third was reflection. Beyond the attempts at minor quips in the second principle, I tried using a more concrete example with this last point. I used the analogy of a “cup.” Our students, I argued, were like cups and over time these cups were filled with, to name a few examples, (1) elements of Christianity, (2) family and cultural values, (3) postmodern assumptions, (4) Nietzsche’s me-centered “will to power,” (5) hedonism, (6) nihilistic depression and so forth. What is interesting about this syncretistic mixture is not only the elements that have been inserted into this cup but the fact that after unconsciously swirling these worldviews together we label it “Christianity.” This again may seem obvious to those who study theology like myself but many don’t realize that from this we do what Ludwig Feuerbach has accused Christianity of doing all along — we take from this admixture (and because we have labeled it Christianity) we then project an image of “God.” In other words, our understanding of God is affected by what has been placed into this cup. This also, in turn, affects the way we live. Our job as faculty, then, is to help our students discover what is in this cup. By doing so, we keep our students engaged.

I personally enjoyed this webinar. I certainly learned a lot from my colleagues and I thank them for their valuable ministry at Belhaven.

If you would like to view the webinar it can be found at this LINK

 

 

Exit Tickets – Are you doing this????

According to an article just published in Educational Technology and Mobile Learning, titled: 8 Great Exit Ticket Tools for Teachers:

Exit tickets or cards are informal assessment tools teachers can use to assess students understanding at the end of a class. They can also be used for formative assessment purposes to help teachers design better instructional content based on students feedback. Exit tickets can take the form of a prompt or a question related to what have been taught in the lesson. Here are some examples of questions and prompts to use in your exit cards as featured in Brown University:

 “Name one important thing you learned in class today.
What did you think was accomplished by the small group activity we did today?

READ MORE

I think this makes a lot of sense.  I think you could set this up as a discussion question in Canvas, or simply use paper and pencil at the end of the class session.  I definitely encourage you to check out the article for the other prompts that are being used at Brown University.  These prompts can mine for information about student learning and open up avenues for further discussion or instruction.

So, if you aren’t using Exit Tickets, why not give it a go???

Webinar: Best Practices to Inspire Student Engagement

by Dr. Warren Matthews, Mrs. Kim Priesmeyer, Dr. Ray Smith, & Dr. John Song

Four of Belhaven’s full-time faculty came together to share their ideas on how to increase student engagement in the classroom.  Their ideas are bulleted below but the real value will come when you take the time to watch this WEBINAR.  Each one brings new insights to the subject, applying their ideas both to online and on-site courses.  If you are like me you will be taking notes practically from the first word.  This was a great webinar with some take-away for everyone.  It will also be available in the Faculty Resources area of this Blog, under Webinars

John Song, Full-time Bible Faculty, Atlanta

“My personal contributions consisted of some basic but hopefully helpful principles. The three principles were: (1) relationships, (2) relevance, and (3) reflection.”

Kim Priesmeyer, Full-time English Faculty, Houston

  1. Send out a reminder announcement sent out each week through Canvas regarding what’s due next class meeting.
  2. Spend a few minutes each night with each student giving feedback on writing (require that students bring some writing to class to review before a paper is due)
  3. List nightly objectives/agenda on the whiteboard with approx time to spend (ex:  peer review with first draft, 30 mins)
  4. Show APA videos from Resources during class so we’re all on the same page about APA

Warren Matthews, Full-time Business Faculty, Houston

  1.  Effective feedback is very important, not only in grading but also in class discussion
  2. Socratic questioning is important to add value in the classroom.
  3. In an online class, be visible on a regular basis in the classroom
  4. Share our professional experience and insights.  Give examples from real world situations that are relevant to the course.
  5. Refer to current events as appropriate to apply the theory of the classroom to the real world.
  6. Inspire students by recognizing excellence in discussions and assignments.

Ray Smith, Full-time Business Faculty, Chattanooga

  1. Use of Wall Street Journal
  2. Current movie clips representing text topics
  3. CWV – use of entire books or topics that follow the full course
  4. Technology or mobile devices – turn them into assets rather than distractions
  5. Use small groups (2 or 3) to respond to questions instead of instructor merely quoting text or giving opinion

After the webinar was over, I received this addition from Nick Walters, Adjunct Instructor

Dr. Upchurch – Thank you for setting up these monthly webinars.  Even though many of us have the spiritual gift of teaching, it doesn’t mean we have cornered the market on how to do it.  These webinars have been very helpful.

Setting the Table . . . Insights on Andragogy from IWU

There are a lot of resources available for Instructors to draw from to improve their ability to achieve student learning both in and out of the classroom.  At this LINK you will find an excellent resource from Indiana Wesleyan University Faculty Development Blog.  This particular session deals with group work within the classroom and how to organize and manage group work effectively.

In this series on “Setting the Table” from Indiana Wesleyan you will find other presentations which will hopefully inspire you to try something new and see your role in a fresh light.

Related Webinars

Visual Teaching Strategies

by Dr. Cynthia Wilkins

Rently I had the opportunity to present a webinar on the topic Visual Teaching Strategies.  I opened with an overview of John Hattie’s theory of visible learning (Click HERE for more information on his theory).  In the webinar some examples of teacher actions and instructional techniques along with their effect sizes were presented.  Some of these techniques were considered “tried and true” but were surprising in that the effect size was much lower than expected.  The webinar moved into a presentation of characteristics of the millennial student – how their lives are different from earlier generations of students, and how teaching can be adapted to accommodate these differences.  Four examples of how technology can be effectively integrated into college-level instruction were presented. At the end of the webinar I answered some of the questions which had been posted when participants registered for the webinar, such as how modifications to PowerPoint and other presentations could be modified to reduce the cognitive load, or overload, on students with a goal of helping them retain more information.

Participants responded to points in the webinar via chat messages with questions and ideas.  A one page summary of effective PowerPoint development ideas and a PowerPoint of ways to integrate technology into instruction were offered to the participants and I would be happy to send this to you if interested (email:  cwilkins@belhaven.edu).

Visual teaching strategies is a perfect match for the adult studies program as it meets the learning style of most adults.  I hope you will take time to watch the webinar.

The Graduate of Belhaven Adult Studies

I have recently had the privilege of visiting all the campuses through video sharing my heart for what we are hoping to achieve through the Adult Studies programs in the lives of our students as they graduate and leave Belhaven.  Please watch the video below and join me as we look to have our students:

  • apply learning to experiences to professional and other situations
  • be able to articulate a Christian worldview and its implication for their home, work, and society
  • demonstrate habits of clear, constructive critical thought
  • demonstrate a command of standard oral and written English
  • evidence a lifestyle of moral and spiritual integrity
  • compete in the job market for positions in keeping with their major course of study
  • incorporate ongoing learning strategies toward the fulfillment of their life goals.

Reading for Understanding: Motivating your students to read and understand course material!

by Dr. Larry Ruddell, Dean at Houston-Belhaven

Adult students face many challenges during the week apart from your class.  For example: traffic accidents, a relative needing help, a baby-sitter that doesn’t show up, a missed payment, and health problems … among other things. So, sitting in class may be a big accomplishment for an adult student … along with submitting any assignments … which may or may not include actually reading the course assignments!

One of Belhaven’s “Student Objectives” for Adult Learners is that upon graduation, our students will: “Incorporate ongoing learning strategies toward the fulfillment of their life goals.” One “learning strategy” that must be in place front and center is the ability to read and learn from reading.

As faculty, we face barriers in helping students with reading. Students may have a negative attitude towards reading. We are used to receiving “information” easily with the internet, so sitting down with a big book seems daunting. Text books can be dry and may actually be misleading at points or run contrary to the Christian Worldview.

How do we cope with student challenges in this particular area? I would suggest three things: expect, motivate, and explain. Let’s start with expect. You should always expect students to read all of the required course material, no matter how daunting. Our classes are short and it is impossible to cover all of the required information in class. So NEVER lower your expectation that students should complete all assigned reading before class.

Secondly, you need to motivate students to do the reading. The “go to” motivation approach according to the Bible is to appeal to others through love and truth. See Philemon 1:8-9 that reads;

Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. (English Standard Version) [Bold added]

So, we should appeal to students to do the reading because (as mentioned above), there is not enough time to cover all the course material in class, we want them to become lifelong learners, and it is a course requirement. However, Covenantal motivation is also based on “blessings and curses” or, “rewards and punishments.” So, make sure your grading “rewards” students who do the reading and draw from the reading in papers and other assignments … and holds students accountable who fail to draw from class reading in papers and other assignments.

Finally, explain HOW TO read the required material. This may be the most difficult one for you if you have no training in learning/study skills. Pauk and Owens, in their book entitled How to Study in College, Eleventh Edition, give a crisp answer about what it takes to read more effectively, “To truly improve your reading, you need to prepare properly, navigate confidently, and learn how to strategically vary your pace.” (2014, p. 132) They then goes on to say, “Comprehension is all about connections.” (Pauk & Owens, 2014, p. 132)

Briefly, let’s list some ideas (that you can pass on to students) on how to build those connections!

  • Review assignment requirements BEFORE doing the reading
  • Read for what YOU want to get out of the reading. So try to see how any past experiences or future endeavors might apply to the content
  • Before reading in detail, just look at summaries, vocabulary (make sure you understand), read side bars, read main headings, ask questions. The more you read to answer questions, the better the comprehension and retention
  • Read in detail, spending more time on text that applies to your priorities and/or course assignments. Note that since you have already gone through all the other material, you don’t need to “stop” and change gears and look at that other material. This should improve speed.
  • Conclude the reading by taking notes that apply to completing assignments.

In conclusion, consider taking a few minutes at the end of class to go over next week’s reading and apply 2 or 3 of the motivational and/or practical tips!

References

Pauk, W., & Owens, R. (2014). How to study in college, eighth edition. Boston, MA: Wadsworth CENGAGE Learning.

Collaboration is More Than Busy Work

I know there are some who are reading this whose opinion of collaborative exercises is low, that is assuming they read this at all!  I have to confess that I have seen some collaborative exercises/assignments that really were nothing more than busywork, or worse.  It is a fact that any collaborative exercise or assignment that doesn’t have clear learning outcomes probably fits that description.

However, I’m glad to say, that is not the norm.  When well designed and thought through, collaborative exercises/assignments are powerful tools to achieve student learning, particularly with adults.  There are quite a few posts in this category already here on the faculty blog (simply click on the Collaborative Teaching Ideas link under Categories to the right) and many more examples of excellent activities can be found by searching the web.

But I want to reinforce the importance of having clear learning outcomes before adding these activities.  I’ve said this before and I truly believe it, collaborative teaching can feel like controlled chaos, and sometimes only marginally controlled!  Without the boundaries of clear learning outcomes, the can quickly activities deteriorate into a waste of classroom time.

It takes some time to effective plan and implement these activities – which is one of the reasons I think many Instructors eschew them entirely or find them ineffective when they do try them.  Planning the outcomes, and then designing the activity so that it achieves the outcomes, including the debriefing which is a big part of the learning, can make connections for adult learners that just don’t happen through lecture.

So here is the process I use:

  1. What is the subject or topic that I want to reinforce/teach?
  2. What do I want the student to walk away knowing? This is the learning outcome and I put this down in a clearly written sentence.
  3. Think about what learning activity can I use which will get the students to engage the topic or subject.  Sometimes it is a hands on experience, other times it requires movement, other times it can be problem based or through role playing or debates.  There really are so many options that it is hard to list them all.  I have included a longer list under Faculty Resources/White Papers titled Collaborative Teaching Options.
  4. Work out the plan for implementing the exercise in class including resources you need to bring with you and how much time it will take.  It usually takes a few times to get the time figured out correctly.
  5. Conduct the exercise, being cognizant that things can drift out of control and you need to stay engaged and provide direction.  It is not “Practice that makes Perfect,” but “Guided practice that makes perfect.”
  6. Debrief the exercise and hone in on the learning outcome by asking questions that direct the students to think about the exercise in relationship to what you wanted them to come away with.  You may want to plan your debrief questions ahead of time.
  7. Refine the exercise for the next time you use it.

I hope you’ll give it a try.  It can be amazingly rewarding to see the light come on in a student’s eyes as they engage in the debrief and make a crucial connection to their life.

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Foster Critical Thinking

by Elizabeth Juneau
Co-presenter with Dr. Jerald Meadows
Webinar:  Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Foster Critical Thinking

Bloom’s Taxonomy was named for Benjamin Bloom, who created the taxonomy in 1956, revised in 2000. The taxonomy has different domains, but our focus is the cognitive learning domain. The cognitive domain has seven levels:

  1. Knowledge/Remembering- Basic recall and remembering of facts
  2. Comprehension/Understanding- Understanding of facts and ideas
  3. Application/Applying- Making use of the knowledge and information; problem solving
  4. Analysis/Analyzing- Examining and breaking apart information; making inferences and giving evidence to support a claim
  5. Synthesis/Evaluating- Making a judgement regarding the information; defending opinions and judgements
  6. Evaluate/Creating- Producing and generating ideas independently using knowledge and information; thinking abstractly

When using Bloom’s Taxonomy to plan lessons, begin with your end in mind. What is the goal for your lesson? Your unit? Do you want to cover more than one level in a lecture? What about the end of your course? What do you want your students to gain? By utilizing Bloom’s Taxonomy, you can create a road map of where you want to go throughout the course of your individual lectures, modules, and course as whole.

I currently teach sixth grade gifted students in Alabama. For the month of October, our focus in English was Edgar Allen Poe and scary stories, discussing character and plot development, figurative language, and analysis of a piece of literature. I knew, by the end of the unit, I wanted my students to create their own scary story (Level 6) to demonstrate mastery of the skills. I then used each level to scaffold my lessons to get my students to that level. Here are some sample questions I used to guide them through the levels of Bloom’s:

  1. Knowledge/Remembering: Tell me the main events in “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Masque of the Red Death”
  2. Comprehension/Understanding- Compare and contrast Montresor of “The Cask of Amontillado” and Prince from “The Masque of Red Death”
  3. Application/Applying- Sketch a picture of the Prince’s apartment according to the description in “The Masque of the Red Death.” Interpret what each color room represents.
  4. Analysis/Analyzing- Which story do you feel makes the best use of figurative language to create a feeling of uneasiness and suspense? Cite evidence from the text.
  5. Synthesis/Evaluating- Were Prince’s actions in “The Masque of the Red Death” noble? Why or why not?
  6. Evaluate/Creating- After several weeks reading selections by Poe, discussing plot and character development, mood, and tone, students will write their own scary/suspenseful short story.

Bloom’s Taxonomy also creates a level of accountability for the instructor and the students. By clearly laying out the goals for you students at each level, they can see how each part of the course works together and then how to relate what they are learning to other aspects of their coursework. As you move through your course, you can relate the information to other courses, recall back to previous levels if students are stuck “Remember this from a week ago, try thinking about it in a new way…”, and also reference the information and knowledge with clues to say “This bit of information will be used later in in your project this way….”

It is important to remember, the goal in using Bloom’s is to guide your learners up through the taxonomy, gaining and utilizing their knowledge at each level. You can’t skim over levels, then you may run the risk of students not fully grasping the information or knowing how to apply it. As students move forward, mastering each level, they are able to take control of their learning, take control of the information and knowledge presented, the student can be empowered, growing a student in their knowledge, but growing as an individual who is capable of so much more than we or they can believe.

For other information about using Bloom’s to enhance your Collaborative Learning Strategy (CLS) check out this matrix of verbs which identify the level of Blooms.  Also, if you weren’t able to attend the webinar, please check it out at the link above.