Transforming Instruction with Technology

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Nathalie Vega-Rhodes

Nathalie Vega-Rhodes is currently a professor of mathematics and the mathematics technology coordinator at Lone Star College – Kingwood. She specializes developmental education redesign and focuses on researching and create valuable resources for students and instructors. Prior to her time at Lone Star, Vega-Rhodes taught mathematics and college student success courses at other institutions around the Houston area. Vega-Rhodes earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics with a minor in geology from the University of Houston and a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, traveling, and scuba diving.

Technology is advancing exponentially in our world; its use is growing in our classrooms whether we want it to or not.  Beetham and McGill (2012) observed that technology is “transforming what it means to work, study, research, express oneself, perhaps even to think.”   Bowen (2014) agrees and would further add that this growth has made course design and pedagogy more important than ever.  Given this current and irreversible trend, we must harness the benefits of this tool to enhance learning in the classroom.

As instructors, it’s incumbent upon us to leverage technology to engage students as well as organize our courses in a clear and concise manner.  Learning management systems (e.g. Moodle, Desire2Learn, Blackboard, etc.) at most institutions are a means by which instructors can manage learning and connect with students.  Clearly-named modules, checklists and release restrictions ensure access to relevant information and keep students on track.  Additional features such as Intelligent Agents allow instructors to define criteria for automated and personalized communication at critical points throughout the semester.

Other options for creating dynamic courses are college-supported software programs such as Softchalk or Webex.   For example, Softchalk can be used to create interactive lessons, while Webex can be used to meet with students virtually, thereby eliminating the age-old problem of providing timely feedback for students who are not present in a traditional face-to-face classroom.  Instructors and students can share screens to discuss concepts or work out examples, either one-on-one or in a group.  An added benefit of these software programs is that they can be integrated with most learning management systems, making for a seamless student experience.

While proper organization is unquestionably important, by itself it is insufficient.  One of the problems that instructors have traditionally faced is lack of available information, which means that instructors may not always know when to intervene or what interventions are necessary.  A valuable tool to solve these problems is the analysis capabilities in online homework systems. Easily accessible reports can be used to track progress and determine challenging concepts for individual students or the entire class.  This data can be used for evaluating current assignments or improving future courses.

In addition to online homework systems, an easy and convenient way to engage students is by harnessing the capabilities of pervasive smartphone or tablet apps.  A few favorites include Attendance (easy recording/reporting of student attendance), Show Me (easy video creation), Notability (note-taking), and Google Voice (texting/phone calls without sharing a personal phone number). Each of these apps have the potential to increase efficiency with everyday tasks.

In summary, these tools, when coupled with thoughtful implementation, can truly impact teaching and learning.  McLoughlin and Lee (2008) stated that “technological resources provide opportunities for a range of interactions, communicative exchanges, and sharing, but it is not possible to base an entire sequence of learning episodes based on tools.”  Indeed, I am able to do more and better for my students since the immediate feedback allows me to tailor specific solutions based on each student’s needs.  I look forward to increased productive interactions with my students using innovations, both present and future.

References

Bowen, J. A. (2014). The teaching naked cycle. Liberal Education100(2), 18-25.

Littlejohn, A., Beetham, H., & McGill, L. (2012).  Learning at the digital frontier: a review of digital literacies in theory and practice. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 28(6), 547-556. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2011.00474.x

McLoughlin, C. & Lee, M. J. W. (2008). The three p’s of pedagogy for the networked society: Personalization, participation, and productivity. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 20(1), 10-27.

Grading as Pedagogical Act: Three Methods for Assessing Writing That Work

 

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Lisa Hoeffner, Ph.D.

Lisa Hoeffner earned a Ph.D. in English with an emphasis in rhetoric from the University of Houston. She teaches English and Integrated Reading and Writing at McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas. She is the author of two developmental education textbooks, Common Places: Integrated Reading and Writing (McGraw-Hill, 2015) and Common Ground (McGraw-Hill, forthcoming) and speaks nationally on issues related to developmental education reform.

Anyone who has taught writing knows the dread that attends grading a stack of essays. Research suggests that grading can be a pedagogical act—an act that teaches students how to improve their writing—if practitioners take care to use effective assessment methods. Three methods are particularly commendable.

 1. Start the course with assessment. Starting with a focus on assessment helps students internalize writing standards and use them as benchmarks for their own writing (Defeyter & McPartlin, 2007). Supplying students with a rubric is not enough. One way to have students understand assessment criteria is to challenge students to verbalize the qualities of good writing. This active construction of criteria puts students in the role of participants rather than passive recipients of a rubric. Once students have articulated the criteria, they can create rubrics. Orsmond, Merry, & Reiling (2002) suggest that students can better understand the assessment process by using rubrics to score sample papers, assist in peer editing, and facilitate self-assessment.

 2. Provide effective feedback. The most effective feedback in terms of seeing growth in students’ writing skills is formative feedback (Frey & Fisher, 2013). Nonetheless, many instructors provide mainly summative feedback, such as comments on a final draft. Good feedback is also timely, understandable, personalized, positive, and capable of providing a pathway for improvement (Li & De Luca, 2014). Effective feedback can be given in any number of ways. For example, in class, instructors can offer over-the-shoulder suggestions to students engaged in writing; outside of class, students can receive brief, formative feedback by texting their proposed thesis statements to their instructors. Instead of making writing assessment one onerous, summative task that happens after the product is submitted, instructors should rethink feedback so that the bulk of it occurs during the writing process. Instructors might expect to see greater improvements by using formative micro-feedback more frequently.

 3. Finally, provide a way for students to map improvement. Grading is not a pedagogical act when graders edit their students’ papers. This is especially true for developmental writers, for these students can rarely articulate why an edit was made. Even if students can identify the reason for an edit, they do not necessarily acquire the skills they need for improvement. A more successful way to mark papers is to assess via an ongoing dialogue between student and instructor so as to facilitate improvement on future writing assignments (Rust, O’ Donovan, & Price, 2005). One way to do this is to identify two to three recurrent errors to master before the next writing assignment. Students and instructors jointly keep a writing progress log on which goals are recorded and monitored. For instance, a student may be prompted to master paragraph development and subject/verb agreement before submitting the next paper. After grading the next paper, progress is recorded on the log and goals are revised. This kind of carry-through provides accountability and allows students to map improvements in a measurable and quantitative way.

By using pedagogical grading methods, the time spent on assessment can become a valuable part of the teaching and learning process.

References

Defeyter, M. A., & McPartlin, P. L. (2007). Helping students understand essay marking criteria and feedback. Psychology Teaching Review, 13(1), 23-33.

Frey, N., & Fisher, D. (2013). A formative assessment system for writing improvement. English Journal, (1), 66.

Li, J., & De Luca, R. (2014). Review of assessment feedback. Studies in Higher Education, 39(2), 378-393.

Orsmond, P., Merry, S., & Reiling, K. (2002). The use of exemplars and formative feedback when using student derived marking criteria in peer and self-assessment. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 27(4), 309-23.

Rust, C., O’Donovan, B., & Price, M. (2005). A social constructivist assessment process model: How the research literature shows us this could be best practice. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 30(3), 231-240.

 

Program Improvement in Adult Education through Professionalization

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David Borden

David Borden, dborden@austincc.edu, currently works at Austin Community College as the Director of the Career Accelerator, a program dedicated to moving non-traditional students through career pathways–associate degree programs faster and with more supports. He holds a Master’s Degree from UNT. He has taught and managed programs in the U.S. and abroad. This article is adapted from a forthcoming book titled, Unrig the Game: A Proven, Systematic Approach to Successful College Transitions for Adult and Developmental Education Students, with co-author, Charlene Gill.

Payne et al. (2012) show that full-time Adult Basic Education instructors achieve better student performance results than part-time instructors. Unfortunately, very few program directors believe they can afford the expense of hiring full-time instructors. During my nine year tenure as the adult education director at ACC, I oversaw the increase of salaried instructors with health insurance and retirement increase from 9 to 22. During that period, we made significant investments in instructor salary and benefits, but also witnessed significant enrollment increases and performance improvements.

I believe the path to professionalizing the industry is not found in low pay and/or encouraging regions to use more volunteers. Rather, the path is by providing teachers with stable employment, health insurance, retirement plans, and sustained and systematic professional development; by engaging them in decision-making; and by moving away from a seniority system to one that rewards excellence in teaching.

Raising teacher salaries is a long term solution that is difficult to implement in the short term. In our case, salaried instructors cost 30% – 50% more than hourly instructors when you factor in health insurance and retirement plans. This expense can be hard on a limited grant budget, and impossible on a small budget. We have a large enough program (about 4,000 students served per year) that I could find places to reallocate resources. I shut down classes with low enrollment, even with long-standing, high-profile partners that didn’t appreciate being sacrificed for the greater good. Every four classes closed generated a twenty-hour-a-week, salaried instructor with full benefits. Average class sizes grew, but we still capped enrollment at 20 per class.

This strategy created a core faculty that often accrue between 30 and 50 hours of professional development per year. These faculty are engaged in curriculum development, mentoring hourly instructors, and leading workshops. Over the years, hourly and salaried instructors have seen our commitment to them, and they have returned that commitment to the program. These changes have increased our ability to recruit teachers because salaries are more competitive with staff jobs at the college; thus, our ratio of teachers with master’s degrees has doubled. In addition, we’ve reduced costs associated with attrition and training.

In conclusion, we only hire the highest quality instructors into the core faculty. We do not follow a seniority system, but rather look to fill these positions with teachers who not only are effective with students, but also demonstrate a belief in the mission of the division by collaborating well with their colleagues to make considerable contributions.

References

Payne, E.M., Reardon, R.F., Janysek, D.M., Lorenz, M., Lampi, J.P. (2012). Impact on student performance: Texas Adult Education Teacher Credential Study preliminary results. Report for The Texas Adult Education Credential Project, Texas State University

 

Doing Different in the Mathematics Classroom

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Stephanie Cockrell Andrews, Ed.D.

Dr. Stephanie Cockrell Andrews is a mathematics professor and the mathematics department lead faculty at Lone Star College-Kingwood (LSC-K).  She has earned degrees from East Texas Baptist University, Stephen F. Austin State University, and Sam Houston State University. This is her 28th year in education, where 15 of those years were in public education as a secondary mathematics teacher and counselor.  Stephanie was a 2006 Project ACCCESS fellow with the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC). She has received the Faculty Excellence Award at LSC-K and the Educational Leadership Doctoral Award at Sam Houston State University.  She is a member of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society International for Key Women Educators. 

In the report, Closing the Gaps by 2015: 2009 Progress Report, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB, 2009) stated, “Texas must take bold steps for the future success of its people” (p. ii). Being the math chair, my president was always stressing to me that we needed to increase student success (A, B, or C) in our developmental courses, to get more students to and through our gateway mathematics course—and to do it all faster! Add in the definition of insanity—attributed to several, including Einstein (Howes, 2009)—of “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” and I was determined to do something that was bold and different.

So, during 2013 – 2014, I taught Foundations of Mathematical Reasoning (FMR) and Statistical Reasoning (SR) using the curriculum from The Dana Center at The University of Texas in Austin, and it rocked my academic world. I am a dedicated, traditional algebra teacher, and I have received awards for teaching, but when I taught these courses, my life and the lives of my students changed. The New Mathways Project (NMP) courses are based on principles including to provide relevant and rigorous mathematics, help students complete college-level math courses faster and use intentional strategies that help students grow as learners (The Charles A. Dana Center, 2013).

I have always been told that, while I am teaching, I should include real-world problems, interdisciplinary activities, collaborative work, active learning, productive struggle, reading and writing. I could not get all of this included much less included well, but NMP incorporates all of these skill—all based on proven practice! I did it with NMP!  I saw it work for me and be transformational for my students.

Even though this is controversial, I believe what I experienced teaching these courses is a strong rationale that this can be done and should be done. The courses are rigorous, involve collaborative learning; are saturated with real-world problems that the students get excited about (e.g., blood-alcohol-level formula for order of operations); teach students to be much better college students and well-informed citizens; and are much more closely aligned with degree programs than college algebra for non-STEM majors.

Testimonials from students include a video from Holly at https://utexas.box.com/s/vmr9xlba4kxv66csehm35obdsm716yml.

And an article by Kaleena Steakle at https://www.theguardian.com/pearson-partner-zone/2016/aug/31/approaching-math-differently-to-change-lives.

I have been working the last two years for The Dana Center helping other professors in our state and nation implement the NMP materials, but this week, I started back in the classroom! I have three, full FMR classes, and I am extremely excited to see how the students will grow this semester and be propelled to the next steps of their careers.

References

Howes, Ryan. (2009, July 27). The definition of insanity is…perseverance vs. perseveration. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-therapy/200907/the-definition-insanity-is

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. (2009). Closing the gaps by 2015: 2009 progress report. Retrieved from http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/reports/pdf/1852.pdf

The Charles A. Dana Center. (2016). The New Mathways Project curricular materials. Retrieved from http://www.utdanacenter.org/higher-education/new-mathways-project/new-mathways-project-curricular-materials/

 

Part-Whole Study Improves Memory for Science Information

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Michelle Kiser, Ed.D.

Dr. Michelle Kiser received her Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts, and Doctorate of Education at Texas Tech University.  Michelle completed her dissertation on the “Developmental Students Sources of Self-Efficacy and the University Academic Support Program Impact.” Michelle worked as the Assistant Director of Texas Success Initiative (TSI) Developmental Education Program for five years prior to being promoted to the Director of Support Operations for Academic Retention (SOAR) in May 2009. Michelle manages four programs within SOAR: The Learning Center, Supplemental Instruction, Texas Success Initiative, and Programs for Academic Development and Retention. Michelle has been employed by Texas Tech University for over 14 years. In addition, Michelle is an adjunct instructor for the College of Education at Texas Tech University teaching Teacher Education courses in Content Area Reading.  In her spare time, Michelle volunteers for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).

Segmentation of information has been shown to increase comprehension and retention of multimedia materials (Mayer & Chandler, 2001; Mayer, Dow & Mayer, 2003; Singh, Marcus & Ayres, 2012). We wondered if memory for science text could be improved by studying information in pieces and then all together.

In a part-whole study method, the person studies the text in several parts and then as a whole, rather than being presented immediately with the whole text. We conducted an experiment to determine whether a part-whole method would enable non-developmental and developmental readers to recall more from a science text compared to using a whole-text method.

Forty-three developmental college readers and 52 non-developmental college readers studied a science text about sea otters. The complete text was about 300 words and had a readability level at approximately an 8th grade level. Half the students in each group were presented with the whole text, and half were presented with the text using the part-whole method. All students studied the text for 10 minutes total. The text was presented on a computer screen, and the timing was controlled by the computer. After studying the text, students were asked what percentage of the text they thought that they comprehended, and what percentage of the text they thought they could recall. They were then asked to recall as much of the text as they could using the computer. Recall was measured using the number of idea units from the passage that each student was able to recall.

The study showed the superiority of the part-whole method when studying science texts. The non-developmental students recalled more idea units than the developmental students, but importantly, both non-developmental and developmental students recalled more idea units when using a part-whole method instead of a whole-text method.

Developmental students who used a part-whole method compared to those who used a whole-text method reported that they comprehended a greater percentage of the text.

Developmental students who used a part-whole method compared to those who used a whole-text method predicted that they would recall a greater percentage of the text—and they actually did!

Overall, the findings suggest that developmental and non-developmental readers are not qualitatively different. Rather, they engage in similar processes, but differ in the skill and effectiveness with which they apply those processes.

As Nist and Simpson point out, “[T]he complexity of learning and studying…cuts across all college students, not just developmental students or students who are struggling” (quote from Stahl, 2006, p. 21).

References

Mayer, R. E., & Chandler, P. (2001). When learning is just a click away: Does simple user interaction foster deeper understanding of multimedia messages? Journal of Educational Psychology93(2), 390.

Mayer, R. E., Dow, G. T., & Mayer, S. (2003). Multimedia learning in an interactive self-explaining environment: What works in the design of agent-based microworlds? Journal of Educational Psychology95(4), 806.

Stahl, N. A. (2006). Strategic reading and learning, theory to practice: An interview with Michele Simpson and Sherrie Nist. Journal of Developmental Education, 29 (3), 20-24, 26, 27.

 

 

Breaking Out of the e-Learning Courseware Box: Integrating Social Media

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Steven S. Vrooman, Ph.D.

Dr. Steven S. Vrooman is a Professor of Communication Studies, Chair of the Department of English and Communication Studies, and Director of General Education at Texas Lutheran University. Following his B.A. in English at Loyola Marymount University, he earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Communication from Arizona State University. He spoke at TEDxSanAntonio on how our brains work like Twitter. He is the author of The Zombie Guide to Public Speaking and writes The MoreBrainz Blog, which offers help for public speaking and pedagogy. He can be reached via email at svrooman@tlu.edu.

We are sure e-learning works, although we often act as if all online practices are the same as we continue to investigate online vs. face-to-face modes and find them equivalent. The finding remains the same over the course of ten years (Schaik, Barker, & Beckstrand, 2003); Mativo, , & Godfrey, 2013), yet each online course seems to have different designs.  Additionally, although we also believe that social media is good for learning, Facebook, to take one platform, sometimes works (Kivunja, 2015) and sometimes does not (Moran, Seaman, & Tinti-Kane, 2011), and my reading of the studies seems to indicate that it depends on what we use it for and how.

In reviewing the growing literature on e-learning and social media and the various course practices that bridge them, it is clear, as with PowerPoint an educational generation ago, that when we drill down to exact practices, some things work (see, I’m sure, the past fifteen years of each of our teaching, right?) and some don’t (Adams, 2006). Specific analysis of specific practices is the only way forward. To paraphrase McLuhan, it’s not the medium, it’s the pedagogy.

To that end, I have used the following social media practices in class:

  1. Blogs: Students post data analysis, drafts, final projects and peer review them, publically.
  2. Public Blog Comments: Alumni/outside experts invited to critique student work.
  3. Discussion via Facebook Event: Including alumni/experts.
  4. Students Publicized Work: They did work on Instagram and shared it & blog work via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Qualitative assessment of the outcomes of these results suggested the following positive outcomes:

  1. Better Work: Public work is better work, especially when outside voices tell them to improve it and students are promoting it.
  1. Engagement: Social media, used in certain ways, can increase engagement more than courseware, which can feel like a waste-of-time, count-my-comments-for-the-grade echo chamber.
  1. Portfolio: Students can retain their entire work to show progression or just the final versions to demonstrate their expertise.
  1. E-Learning Bonuses: Most gamified elearning practices work better on social media than in courseware. For example, debates have more at stake and engage the public. Creative projects get a larger audience and thus bigger reaction.
  1. Skillset Development: For my communication studies majors, social media skills are key. For other majors, they are more important than you might think.
  1. Alumni Engagement: Many LOVED the opportunity to reconnect with professors and students in this way and share their new skills and perspectives. Mentoring happened in many cases. And it set the stage for increased inclusion of those alumni in face-to-face events with students.

It also revealed the following challenges:

  1. Age:
    1. Nontraditional students: They had troubles: unwilling/critical of social media, self-doubt due to lack of familiarity, higher privacy concerns.
    2. Traditional students: They had troubles: difficulty adjusting to violation of “fun” space, difficulty with academic self-promotion.
  1. Sign-Ups:
    1. Technical Difficulties: Fewer than with courseware & easy to Google answers to, but signing up for accounts is surprisingly very hard for them.
    2. Secondary Accounts: Younger students often do not want classwork in their personal accounts, but second email addresses are often required for multiple accounts. Managing multiple accounts is easy for some platforms (Twitter) but hard in others (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn).
  1. Oversight: Hashtags are not enough to find their work. You need them to @ you or you won’t see everything.
  1. Content ABOUT Social Media is Needed: Things like how-tos, technical difficulties, privacy, etiquette, bullying/flaming, etc. probably need class time/resources to go over (however, offloading classtime experiences into social media helps offset this).

References

Adams, C. (2006). PowerPoint, habits of mind, and classroom culture. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 38, 389-411.

Kivunja, C. (2015). Innovative methodologies for 21st century learning, teaching and assessment: A convenience sampling investigation into the use of social media technologies in higher education. International Journal of Higher Education, 4 (2), 1-26.

Mativo, J. M., Hill, R. B., & Godfrey, P. W. (2013). Effects of human factors in engineering and design for teaching mathematics: A comparison study of online and face-to-face at a technical college. Journal of STEM Education: Innovations & Research, 14, 36-44.

Moran, M., Seaman, J., & Tinti-Kane, H. (2011). Teaching, learning and sharing: How today’s higher education faculty use social media. Babson Survey Research Group. ERIC: ED535130.

Van Schaik, P., Barker, P., & Beckstrand, S. (2003). A comparison of on-campus and online course delivery methods in Southern Nevada. Innovations in Education & Teaching International, 40, 5-15.

 

Teaching Writing to Students in Transition: Models for Success

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William J. Barry

While researching how robust technology use can improve students’ first-year experience, William J. Barry teaches academic research and writing at Concordia University.  He also trains adult educators in partnership with the Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning (TCALL) and teaches first-year seminar at Texas State University, where he is a Ph.D. candidate in developmental education.

Writing helps students learn and persuade (Graham, Gillespie, & Mckeown, 2013), while supporting lifelong literacy, but learning writing challenges learners and involves a complex process.  Along the way, developing writers pass through stages, including telling only what they know, transforming the text to their own benefit, and adjusting the text for the reader’s benefit (Kellogg, 2008).

As writers acquire competency, they emphasize prospective beliefs regarding the reader’s understanding of the text (Kellogg, 2008), and they target their audience by applying elaborated strategies to structure and content problems (Hayes et al., 1987).  As per Spivey’s (1990) academic writing skills–selecting, organizing, and connecting sources–Schriver (2012) described using genre knowledge, arranging non-related text parts into a coherent document, and balancing the appropriate mix between content and target audience, according to community-specific expectations as essential skills.

Creating text, which reflects a clear understanding of reader perspective, structure, and content, requires writers to use a diverse toolkit of knowledge, skills, and strategies (Hayes & Flower, 1980).  One of the challenges educators face involves helping students acquire those tools and the ability to employ them effectively, and meeting the challenge means first explicitly teaching the skills, strategies, and knowledge relevant to academic writing.

Several supported models, including cognitive apprenticeship (Collins et al., 1989) and the socio-cognitive model (Schunk and Zimmerman, 1997) suggest sequences of learning by first observing before doing.  In other words, students must first observe a model (Zimmerman and Kitsantas, 2002), either a mastery model or a coping model (Bandura, 1997; Schunk, 1991).

Since academic writing includes building a macrostructure of the text as a first step, students need training on how the text should appear (Graham et al., 2012).  In particular, they need to learn and apply the text structure of the key genre in their community, which, for students in transitional roles, tend to be the various essays and term papers expected of a liberal arts education.  Starting by familiarizing students with the components, structure, and function(s) of such writing provides them with the essential framework within which to apply later process and skill training, translating to higher retention, better outcomes, and overall satisfaction.

References

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control. New York: Freeman.

Collins, A., Brown, J.S., & Newman, S.E. (1989). Cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching the crafts of reading, writing, and mathematics. In L. B. Resnick (Ed.) Knowing, learning, and instruction: Essays in honor of Robert Glaser (pp. 453-494). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Graham, S., Gillespie, A., & Mckeown, D. (2013). Writing: importance, development, and instruction. Reading and Writing, 26(1), 1–15.

Graham, S., Mckeown, D., Kiuhara, S., & Harris, K. R. (2012). A meta-analysis of writing instruction for students in the elementary grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104(4), 879–896.

Hayes, J. R., & Flower, L. S. (1980). Identifying the organization of writing processes. In L. W. Gregg & E. R. Steinberg (Eds.) Cognitive Processes in Writing (pp. 3-30). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Hayes, J. R., Flower, L., Schriver, K., Statman, J., & Carey, L. (1987). Cognitive processes in revision. In S. Rosenberg (Ed.) Reading, Writing, and Language Possessing (Vol. 2, pp. 176-240). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kellogg, R. T. (2008). Training writing skills: A cognitive developmental perspective. Journal of Writing Ressearch, 1(1), 1–26.

Schriver, K. (2012). “What we know about expertise in professional communication,” in Past, Present, and Future Contributions of Cognitive Writing Research to Cognitive Psychology ed. Wise Berninger V., editor. New York: Psychology Press.

Schunk, D. H. (1991). Learning Theories: An Educational Perspective. New York, NY: Merrill.

Schunk, D. H., & Zimmerman, B. J. (1997). Social origins of self-regulatory competence. Educational  Psychologist, 32, 195–208.

Spivey, N. N. (1990). Transforming texts constructive processes in reading and writing. Written Communication, 7, 256–287.

Zimmerman, B. J., & Kitsantas, A. (2002). Acquiring writing revision and self-regulatory skill through observation and emulation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94, 660.

 

Acceleration in Mathematics (AIM)

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JP Anderson, Ph.D., & Kristen Foxley

JP Anderson (Ph.D., Rice) and Kristen Foxley (M.S., University of Houston—Clear Lake) have been teaching math for over 20 years. They share not only a passion for teaching, but for running as well, and have been running together for the past 10 years. Both JP and Kristen were part of the original design team for AIM and have been co-teachers since its beginning in 2012.  In addition to working with students, they enjoy providing professional development for faculty on ways to incorporate active learning in the classroom and presenting on AIM at conferences at the local, state, and national level. 

Nationwide, over 40% of students enter college needing one or more developmental courses. Unfortunately, traditional methods of remediation are not successful in preparing students for success in credit-bearing courses. In Texas, for example, only 12% of community college students who begin in developmental math courses will pass a gateway math course, such as college algebra, within 2 years (Complete College America, 2016). Although counterintuitive to some practitioners, many colleges have improved success through accelerated course offerings (Jaggars, Edgecombe, and Stacey, 2014), with corequisite models showing particular promise (Complete College America, 2016).

After implementing such a model, Acceleration in Mathematics (AIM), in Fall 2012, San Jacinto College has seen a significant improvement in student success. A study of seven long semesters’ data showed that 64.1% of AIM students passed college algebra with a grade of C or better, compared to 44.8% in traditional college algebra classes. This is especially notable since the majority of AIM students who are placed into developmental math courses are one or two levels below college algebra. Moreover, AIM narrowed the success gap for Hispanic students—approximately half of our student population—from 6% to less than 1%. In addition to AIM’s impact on students’ cognitive learning and academic success of students, a separate study showed improvements in their attitudes, feelings, and mindset regarding their mathematical abilities (Campbell, 2015).

Acceleration in Mathematics is a one-semester corequisite pairing of math courses that allows students who are not college ready in mathematics to complete all developmental requirements as well as college algebra in a single semester. Students who take AIM sign up for two classes: a three-contact-hour developmental course and a four-contact-hour college algebra course.  A typical AIM section meets Monday through Friday for a total of seven hours each week. AIM is team-taught by two instructors, one experienced in teaching traditional college algebra and one who specializes in developmental math instruction, both of whom are in the classroom for all class meetings and who share equally in the teaching duties.

  • Just-in-Time Remediation. Unlike traditional multi-semester or accelerated sequential remediation models, which teach basic skills weeks or months before they are needed in college algebra, AIM integrates these skills right before they are needed in the college algebra curriculum. For example, simplification of radical expressions is introduced just before the quadratic equation.
  • Streamlining. AIM focuses on learning objectives prescribed by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Some skills that have been part of the traditional developmental math curriculum, but which are not needed for college algebra, such as rationalizing the denominator, have been eliminated.
  • Active Learning. Daily lessons alternate brief lectures with small-group practice activities. To maximize student interaction and foster a sense of community, instructors use a technique called “clock partners” to pair students with a different practice partner each day.
  • Low-Stakes Assessment/Prompt Feedback. AIM students turn in daily homework assignments of approximately 25 questions. A portion of the problems are graded, and the assignments are returned the following day. Answer keys are available online for the ungraded problems. Students are tested every other week, for a total of seven unit tests and a final exam. Each unit test counts only 9% of the semester grade, making it possible for students to recover from one or two setbacks.
  • Cumulative Review. Every homework assignment and exam contains review problems to help students maintain essential skills throughout the semester.
  • Learning Resources. AIM students have online access to instructor-authored videos providing examples of all topics and worked-out solutions to the exam review sheets. San Jacinto College’s Student Success Center has a designated AIM table for on-campus tutoring. Also, thanks to the strong sense of class community, AIM students often form study groups on their own.

AIM has proven most successful for students required to take college algebra for their associate’s degree. To support students who would benefit from an alternative math pathway, however, the college has begun offering corequisite courses for developmental students seeking credit in a statistics or quantitative reasoning course. Early results show that these pathways show similar promise.

References

Campbell, P.S. (2016). Self-Efficacy in a Co-requisite Model of Developmental Mathematics and College Algebra: A Qualitative Analysis of Student Perceptions (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from https://ttu-ir.tdl.org/ttu-ir/handle/2346/66121

Complete College America. (2016). Corequisite Remediation: Spanning the Completion Divide. Retrieved from http://completecollege.org/spanningthedivide/

Jaggars, S. S., Edgecombe, N., & Stacey, G. W. (2014). What we know about accelerated developmental education. New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center.

 

Developing a “Visual Rhetoric” for Students on the Spectrum

Jack Trammell RMC pic (1)

Jack Trammell, Ph.D.

Jack Trammell received his B. A. degree in political science from Grove City College and, following a M. Ed., was awarded a Ph. D. in Education, Research and Evaluation from Virginia Commonwealth University. His experience includes working as a special education teacher in the Virginia public schools. He is currently Director of Disability Support Services and Assistant Professor in the Sociology Department, teaching disability studies at Randolph-Macon College. His research interests include disability stigma, transition, and the social mechanisms related to disability discrimination. He can be reached by email at: jtrammel@rmc.edu.

A growing body of research is suggesting that students on the Autism spectrum (including Asperger’s) have a particular preference for or benefit from visual learning activities in many learning situations.  This may be for very specific neurological reasons, but the practical benefits from a learning assistance perspective can very easily be explored and imagined, and present the possibility for diverse and innovative interventions.

For example, training students in group orientation sessions can be supplemented or even replaced with video lecture or online content.  Students on the spectrum are likely to focus better on a video and be less distracted or anxious with the social component removed from the equation.  Of course, if direct communication and face-to-face interaction are the primary learning objectives, that won’t work.  But the enterprising presenter/facilitator/instructor can mix live group action and face-to-face speaking with video monitoring and prerecorded videos, or place recurring content online, and even this blended approach can sometimes mitigate a great deal of communication anxiety for spectrum-oriented students and provide a powerful visual reference for them.

A recent study focusing on college upperclassmen looking for jobs demonstrated that a “visual rhetoric” (an overarching communication framework that focuses on visual techniques) taught through face-to-face meetings and video training could improve job interview performance for students on the spectrum.  The intervention involved students utilizing television sitcom reruns to catalog and organize body language and facial expressions seen on television.  Students were later trained to “play the role” visually of an interviewee using rote cues and dialogues they had studied and matched to specific situations.  This visual approach, with an emphasis on assuming a role, resulted in much greater job interview success (Trammell, 2013; Trembath, Vivanti et al., 2015).

In a similar fashion, some recent studies indicate the potential benefit of playing video games for students on the spectrum, in large part due to the visual component.  A self-identified “Aspie” reports that video games are not just fun but also a safe place to play roles and transition from communications they control to real human communication that carries far greater social risk (Raede 2016).  Some studies show that the benefits of video games can benefit many children, and not just those on the spectrum (Kovess-Masfety, Keys et al., 2016).

Drama related pedagogy is more frequently being used to help students on the spectrum learn to play roles, and assume the kinds of communication behaviors that will help them adapt successfully to the mainstream (Kempe & Tissot, 2012).  Although many projects have focused on younger children, the promise of the technique remains valid for post-secondary students, as the interview example above demonstrates, which utilized a type of drama/role playing.

Postsecondary education, even with an overarching transition to new pedagogies and more online or distance learning for everyone, remains primarily a visual experience.  It also remains, in many settings, an intense exercise in human communication skills which directly impact students on the spectrum in challenging ways.  Developing a visual framework in pedagogical thinking for ASD students will likely prove beneficial in helping this at-risk population of postsecondary students, providing lower stress practice opportunities and a neuro-friendly technique.

References

Kempe, A. and C. Tissot (2012).  The use of drama to teach social skills in a special school setting for students with autism.  Support for Learning 27(3), 97-102.

Kovess-Masfety, V., K. Keys, et al. (2016).  Is time spent playing video game associated with mental health, cognitive and social skills in young children?  Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 51(3), 349-357.

Raede, D. (2016).  Why people with Aspergers play video games.  Retrieved April 22, 2016, from https://www.aspergerexperts.com/go/playvideogames/

Trammell, J. (2013). PRACTICE BRIEF: Modeling positive behaviors for postsecondary students with Autism/Asperger’s: The use of “Television Coaching”. Journal of Postsecondary Education & Disability, 26(2), 183-187.

Trembath, D. D., G. Vivanti, et al. (2015). “Accurate or assumed: Visual learning in children with ASD.” Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 45(10): 3276-3287.

 

 

 

Beyond Pro and Con: Re-thinking MOOCs

william j barry profile 2016 (1)

William J. Barry

While pursuing his research interests, which include effective technology use, especially among students in transition, William J. Barry teaches developmental reading at St. Edward’s University.  He also trains adult educators in partnership with the Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning (TCALL), and teaches first-year seminar at Texas State University, where he is a PhD candidate in developmental education.

Questions of access and affordability remain at the heart of the developmental education discussion (Braun, 2016; Floyd, Felsher, & Ramdin, 2016), and as the results of Moore’s Law continue to bring the world increasingly powerful technology, stakeholders turn to ones and zeroes for answers.  Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) represent one such proposal enjoying ample coverage in the literature (e.g., Bastedo, 2016; McClure, 2016).  Advocates say MOOCs increase the accessibility of high-quality education while decreasing the costs (Carey, 2012; Teo, 2015), and critics point to the low academic rigor of MOOCs, while suggesting they profit at the expense of faculty and students (Axmann & Atkins, 2016; Marshall, 2014).

Despite this crucial debate, MOOC critiques rarely consider college students’ perceptions and attitudes.  While administrators, faculty, and media argue apace, it remains unclear how students view MOOCs.  As an educator in the developmental space, I consider students the primary stakeholders.  As such, I expect MOOC policy to benefit students first.  I expect researchers and faculty interested in MOOCs to focus on how students perceive these issues.  After all, their education faces significant transformation in the face of widespread MOOC implementation.

Such expectations drew my attention to a recent study (Cole & Timmerman, 2015), which examined students’ MOOC perceptions.  Using thematic analysis, Cole and Timmerman (2015) suggested students believe MOOCs hold the potential to augment lifelong learning, even though they serve as inferior alternatives to traditional coursework.  Students made their determinations based on several interesting criteria (see Figure 1), which suggest a deeper appreciation for what works in education.  These kinds of nuanced student responses also suggest the value of asking deeper questions regarding MOOC utility, rather than yielding to seductive pro/con binaries.  Answers to such questions inform decisions with regard to the place of MOOCs in higher education, and those decisions stand to affect each one of us in yet unseen ways.

Figure 1.

bill barrys infograph

Click on image to enlarge.

References

Axmann, M., & Atkins, R. (2016). Online community-based practices for massive open online courses (MOOCs) at Open Universities Australia: A case Study. User-Centered Design Strategies for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), 83.

Bastedo, M. N. (2016). American higher education in the twenty-first century: Social, political, and economic challenges. Baltimore, MD: JHU Press.

Braun, H. (2016). The dynamics of opportunity in America: A working framework. In The Dynamics of Opportunity in America (pp. 137-164). New York: Springer International Publishing.

Carey, K. (2012, September 7). Into the future with MOOCs. Chronicle of Higher Education, 59(2), 29.

Cole, A. W., & Timmerman, C. E. (2015). What do current college students think about MOOCs? MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 11, 188-201.

Floyd, D. L., Felsher, R. A., & Ramdin, G. (2016). A retrospective of four decades of community college research. Community College Journal of Research and Practice40(1), 5-22.

Marshall, S. (2014). Exploring the ethical implications of MOOCs. Distance Education, 35, 250-262. doi:10.1080/01587919.2014.917706

McClure, M. W. (2016). Investing in MOOCs: “Frenemy” risk and information quality. In Globalisation and Higher Education Reforms (pp. 77-94). New York: Springer International Publishing.

Teo, T. H. (2015). Just-in-time teaching visual instruction for cohort base interactive learning for engineering course. GSTF Journal on Education (JEd)3(1).