From: Ted Panitz
Subject: Innovative teaching method I received
a post from the POD (Professional Organizational Development)
list from Stephen Richardson inquiring about innovative teaching. I would like to share this question with this list and ask for your responses either to me directly or to the list as a whole.
<<<<<<Can you think of anyone taking a particularly innovative approach to teaching first- and second-year science/math/engineering courses on your campus? I'm not interested so much in curricular reorganization (although that would be good to hear about too) as I am in instructional methods and pedagogical "style".
To seed the pot, let me list a few perceived barriers
that challenge faculty in science/math/engineering:
a) Resource problems: equipment, large classes, inadequate faculty development, infrastructure barriers, inappropriate textbooks .....
b) Curricular problems: addressing majors and non-majors, clientele from several co-disciplines, rapidly changing subject matter ....
c) Student barriers: Entering freshmen unprepared for college-level work,math/science anxiety, unfamilarity with effective study methods for science/math, .....
d) Instructional ambiguity: theory vs. practice, synthesis vs analysis, "facts" vs concepts .....
The list could continue, but that's enough to get it started. I'm interested in finding out who has some clever ideas for leaping over these barriers (or tunneling under them). I'll gladly post a digest of the responses that come to me personally.
Steve Richardson, Director Center for Teaching
Excellence Iowa StateUniversity
204 Lab of Mechanics Ames, IA 50011-2130 Voice: (515) 294-2402
Fax: (515) 294-862 e-mail: email@example.com
response from Ted Panitz
Engineers are expected to work in teams in industry
and collaborate on
projects, yet in college they are faced with a competitive learning environment
where class rank and position on the grading curve are of primary concern.
Collaborative learning techniques are rarely used. Even in laboratories students
work in pairs to collect data and then work independently to write up their
reports. This is not just a problem associated with engineering programs.
College professors in general rely on the lecture method and competitive testing
to assess students progress. This article describes an alternate approach based
upon cooperative learning theories. This technique is not limited to engineering
courses but applies to all courses at all levels. The method utilizes teams in
class to cover the desired content.
Some teachers assign group projects outside of
class using pairs or larger
groups. I use groups in class to present material initially (instead of my
lecturing), review problem solutions and answer students' questions. I teach
engineering and math courses at Cape Cod Community College. In my sophomore
engineering classes I set the tone for collaboration and my high expectations
for student participation and preparation even before the semester starts. I
send each student a welcome letter and course syllabus describing my methods and
a course procedures. I show up at the first class with a quiz on the first
chapter of the text. I explain that my rationale is to see who is really serious
about the class which would be demonstrated by their reading chapter 1 even
before the class starts. I say this only partly tongue-in-cheek. After about 20
minutes when the shock has worn off I ask them to pair up and work together.
During the last 20 minutes I ask the class to arrive at a consensus and put
their answers on the board. At each stage I leave the class in order to
encourage them to deal with this situation on their own, without an authority
figure hanging over them. I do not grade this quiz, but use it to get their
attention. It works! All you need to do is say the word quiz or test and
everyone perks right up. With this little exercise we are off and running.
In the second class I use a warm up activity to help students get to know
each other better. Many have been in other classes together and are familiar
with each other but they have not worked cooperatively before. I use the
Pair-Share-Report technique to learn more about why they are in engineering and
what concerns they may have about the course. Most of the students are concerned
about being able to use group learning techniques. This gives me a chance to
discuss the concept of cooperative learning and what the class procedures and
grading methodology will be. Grading consists of individual tests, group
projects, team homework presentations and a factor for class participation. I
form teams of 2-4 students depending on class size. Each team is responsible for
solving and presenting in class at least one homework problem per assignment.
Each student is responsible for all problems assigned and they are encouraged to
work together outside of class. Several times during the semester I will assign
a team homework project and give a group grade. I do not lecture in advance of
the assignment. I wait for the students to present their solutions and then help
them explain the concepts by asking key questions or by calling on other
students to give their explanations. Students have a way of explaining things to
each other that are often more effective than my explanations because they are
closer to the process of learning than I am. Only as a last resort do I lecture
and then I try to keep my remarks to 5-10 minutes. Beyond that time eyes begin
to glaze over and body language tells me I am losing them. The students are not
left completely on their own. There are several sources for extra help including
other teams, the math lab and they can come to my office for help. This
procedure does not remove me from it, quite the contrary it involves me much
more actively and brings me closer to the students than when I lecture. By
observing them in every class I am able to assess their understanding of the
material well before they take an exam.
This procedure is familiar to the sophomores since
I use teams in a
freshman Engineering Graphics course which they take. Here I ask the students
working in teams to develop lectures and presentations on the topics covered. It
does take them time to get used to their new responsibility for presenting
problem solutions and not all students participate at a high level. I monitor
this closely and make changes in teams or allow teams to make changes. There is
some disagreement in the literature about allowing teams to form themselves. I
believe that since they are taking on the responsibility for their learning they
need to be allowed to make other decisions such as team makeup, within reason. I
discourage them from having all "A" students in teams or from leaving people
out. However, if the group process fails to motivate individuals then those
students can be dealt with by having them work independently. I have had cases
where several non-performing students formed a team, somewhat involuntarily, and
then started working. Likewise I have had cases where students are in the
program for the wrong reasons and nothing I try motivates them to work. These
students are be allowed to distract the serious ones. This is where the team
approach is very helpful. Sometimes the team members can help another deal with
non-academic problems or provide extra support. Some of the pressure is removed
by having a few students responsible for a problem instead of focusing on one
person at a time. It also helps insure that someone will have a solution. If no
one in the group can solve a problem and other teams have trouble also then my
intervention is warranted. Thus helps me identify problem areas which the entire
class may be having and we can focus our attention there.
I have carried this class consensus idea to the
other end of the spectrum.
I had a small class of ten students who after working in teams for several weaks
decided that they preferred a more individual approach with lectures. They were
just too uncomfortable with the no lecture approach. It showed up in their
presentations which became briefer with each class. We worked out a compromise
where I used a lecture/discussion process with a few team projects scattered
throughout the semester. The emphasis was on discussion and their participation
increased markedly because they had significant input into the course
procedures. They seemed surprised that I actually listened to them and agreed to
their suggestions. I think this demonstrated the power of groups working
The team approach puts the student at center stage
and takes the professor
off it. Most teachers assume that it is their responsibility to present
information to the students, yet when we go to work no one is there to hold
their hands and lead them through problem solving techniques. There is a false
presumption that giving students content through lectures and having them solve
textbook problems will prepare the for the real world. Another false assumption
is that students are not mature enough to take on the responsibility for their
learning. Again, we want them to be responsible when the enter the world of work
but do not give them the tools. We only test their knowledge base. It is almost
too late to wait until students start working to introduce cooperative
techniques. People learn best by constructing their own knowledge base. They do
this by discussing concepts, arguing about problem solutions and advocating for
their positions. This reflects what companies are looking for in their
employees. This type of interaction does not take place in the lecture class.
Many companies find that they need to train or retrain new engineers. If
universities promoted cooperative learning at all levels they would produce more
effective graduates, people ready to function well in the real world.
From: Thomas Leal <tomleal@SYNERGYGROUP.COM>
Subject: Re: Innovative teaching method
Sender: The Learning Styles Theory and Research List <EDSTYLE@SJUVM.STJOHNS.EDU>
> People learn best by constructing their own knowledge base. They do
>this by discussing concepts, arguing about problem solutions and advocating for
>their positions. This reflects what companies are looking for in their
>employees. This type of interaction does not take place in the lecture class.
>Many companies find that they need to train or retrain new engineers. If
>universities promoted cooperative learning at all levels they would produce
more effective graduates, people ready to function well in the real world.
I agree wholeheartedly! This applies, I would be bold enough to say, in all
courses, regardless of subject matter. I teach marketing to undergraduates
at three universities in the San Francisco area. One has students almost
entirely from other countries, primarily France in my classes.
Somehow over time we professors got the idea that we were the great fonts of
all wisdom and knowledge. We seemed to forget that the root of the word
"education" means "to lead out of" or "to lead forth." Of course, most of
us learned by sitting passively in front of a lecturer who droned on for
hours without interacting with us. We soaked up what we could, then squeezed
it out onto paper at exam time. Retention? Only until the final.
So now we find highly educated people in business who can't make decisions.
They absorbed facts and figures, but never learned what to do with any of
that. I don't give my students answers, I give them questions. If they leave
my course knowing what questions to ask and how to go about finding answers,
they will be able to apply their learning in the world outside the academe.
If, instead, they leave with answers, they'll have yesterday's news. They'll
find themselves looking backwards in their efforts to succeed, trying to
recall something from a class long ago. That's like driving a car by looking
only in the rear view mirror.
We ought to prepare students to be able to figure out where they're headed,
determine what's happening around them, and to look back now and then to see
what's behind. And we ought to develop their skills for doing all this
without our guidance. We ought to bring out their talents for solving their
The more I let go of being in charge of my classes and push the students to
take more responsibility for their learning experience, the better they seem
to do. And, may I add, they indicate greater appreciation for what I've done
in their evaluations of the course and teacher (all my schools require
students to complete an evaluation for each course).
The Synergy Group
48 Mathews Place, Suite 8, Alamo CA 94507-2600
Phone: 510 / 938-7748 FAX: 510 / 943-7034
From: "Mansel A. Nelson" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Thank you very much for your description of an innovative teaching method for mathematics. I am a science teacher, but I ahve been trying to convince math teachers in my High School to consider some different strategies - they are pretty well stuck on lectures. I have been working at a method called Problem Based Learning. I will expand later, but here is a short abstract. Student Centered Instructional Strategies - Problem Based Learning; Tuba City High School, Tuba City, AZ - Hands-on workshop demonstrating a student-centered, constructivist instructional strategy that uses local environmental and health issues as the focus of the High School chemistry
curriculum. The presenter is in the second year of developing this successful instructional strategy for use at both the high school and community college levels. Students become active participants in the search to identify solutions for local issues involving water quality, air quality, natural resources, diabetes education, and many other community issues. The teacher serves as a coach, or facilitator, observing the progress of each student and tailoring assistance accordingly. No longer assuming the posture of an expert the teacher learns along with the students while encouraging students to develop skills in cooperative learning, paired problem-solving, Socratic questioning, and the use of seminars and independent research. Students are encouraged to interact with community members and agencies in their pursuit of information and ideas. Students identify and use all available information sources including libraries, internet, and industry and health professionals. The curriculum is enhanced and enriched by the teacher to foster problem-solving and critical and analytical reasoning. A National Science Foundation funded organization, Ventures in Education, is promoting this instructional strategy in several schools on the Navajo Nation reservation, as well as schools in New York, Washington DC and rural Alabama.
Mansel A. Nelson Community=Liaison, Colorado Chemistry Teacher, _-- Plateau Coalition
Tuba City High School Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico (UCAN)
Adjuct Faculty, Rural Systemic Initiative (RSI) Navajo Community College
From: Kirk Wesley Hunt <kirkhunt@SEATTLEU.EDU>
Subject: Re: Innovative teaching method <ALTLEARN Digest>
Here's the approach I take to Management Principles (which is not
math/science/engineering, but has the same need for innovative and
rigorous problem solving...)
I assign them to teams by the beginning of the 2nd week of the quarter.
Their first group assignment is due within a week of that. The group
work currently are business cases, which have no structured solutions,
so their answers must extremely well defended. (I used to assign a PC
based simulation where the groups competed with each other to sell
athletic shoes, but it encroached on another class' subject matter.)
Since they get to "throw out" their worst opportunity score, Up to 50% of
their grade can be based on the group work assignments (3 group cases); and
there are 4 individual exams and an individual case.
The team environment helps to balance the "curve" grading and individual
assignments. I suspect that they study together MORE, but not as much as
they should. In the future, I will cut the workload back to 3 group
assignments and 3 individual exams. This is a 10 quarter after all....
Kirk Wesley Hunt Instructor, Seattle University email@example.com
From: "Michael Censlive" <MICHAEL56@mdx.ac.uk>
To: aednet <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I found this a very interesting input, especially in the light of the measuring of educational quality that is sweeping/seeping thru the world at this time I "teach" (?) electronics, production engineering technology and quality and reliability engineering to final year u grads and post grads at a UK university,(those of you in the states can work out equivalence to sophomore etc, perhaps you will let me know) here in the uk we have recently switched to a 2 x 15 week semester and modular course structure, so a lot of implicit interconnection of subject material has been lost. the problem list was like an old friend !!! although we seem to have same problems; will we get same solutions ? are we re rediscovering the wheel ?? or as i suspect there is no unique answer, it just keeps changing I have been discussing with Prof Myron Tribus and Skip Work; (via the net) ideas for motivating and stimulating/ developing self learning
activities in my students , as I feel this is my ( the ?) main problem. I too have used the method of dividing the class into groups/pairs to prepare a lecture on a set topic, they have one week to prepare a set of notes and transparencies. at the next lecture period I roll a dice to choose which group/pair gives the presentation. this makes sure every body realizes they can be selected. I give them 40--45 minutes to
present, and I get the class to ask questions just as if it is a normal lecture. interesting feedback is the amount of time it takes them to prepare, usually 6--8 hours.(same for me !!!!) the group giving the talk are also required to question the class, and assess the answers I then fill in any gaps i think are left. I collect everybodies notes and edit them (this gives me an overview on all the students) and put a copy on the "computer pool" to which all students have access. I also feed back comments on how well they present the material. there are no marks/grades awarded as such, as there is an end of
semester examination. but this could be done.
student time 6--8 hours: this must be pulling time from other subjects; which is a bad thing i would like them to cut off at 4 h max over one week. my experience is this method works best with small classes,< 30.however, i am about to use it as a substitute for tutorials for a very large class =80. absences there are cases of students( usually the same little group) skipping the class. i report these to their course leaders for action. on the plus side, they do learn some material; their presentation
skills sharpen up. a variant i am going to try, is to divide class into groups set a
topic to study, then the teams ask each other questions based on the studied material
and mark the answers. I cut out the formal presentation bit; this i think will give a more dynamic involvement of more students at any time. i like the idea of not being present when they do it, but I want to be in the loop to see what's going on. I hope this is helpful to some one and I would like some feedback, I look forwards to some interesting inputs.
Dr. MICHAEL CENSLIVE MIDDLESEX UNIVERSITY FACULTY OF TECHNOLOGY
SCHOOL OF ELECTRONIC ENGINEERING BOUNDS GREEN ROAD LONDON N11 2NQ
ENGLAND TEL. + 44 (0)181 362 5215 FAX. + 44 (0)181 361 1726
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 1996 16:26:08 +0100
From: email@example.com (Robert Wolffe)
Iproject you may be interested is one an indistrial engineer will be doing for the 2nd time this Spring. We intermingle my elementary math methods students with his industrial engineering students. There are several objectives to this procedure including working on clarity of communication, ways to best use expertise, learning about cooperative efforts in projects involving members from different backgrounds, and enhanced knowledge of math and teaching methods (to a greater and lesser degree for members of the two groups). This year we will be focussing our attention on the interpsersonal aspect of the project.
From: Joann Ward <joann.ward@VPSS.GATECH.EDU>
Sender: The Learning Styles Theory and Research List <EDSTYLE@SJUVM.STJOHNS.EDU>
We teach a Freshman Seminar to over 1,000 students who are predominantly
in technological programs. The challenge: to make 1,000 (or as close to it as possible) have good classroom experiences as possible, and to get them to conceptualize and grow academically. Staff size: 2.
How the hell can we do that? We got volunteer teachers from student services, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, we also got the commitment of 140 or so undergraduate student leaders to come participate in the classes. Each class of 35 is staffed by one instructor and 5 undergraduate team leaders. The classes are taught much like corporate training. Students work in 5 teams of seven, each led by a team leader, under the direction of the instructor. Much of the class is teamwork doing analysis, or problem-solving or presentations. Grading is done predominantly by team leaders who go by the guidelines assigned by the instructor. It's all much more than this, but I have to tell you, using the undergraduates was a real moment of truth for us. Will they blow this off? Will they use this as an opportunity to slander the program? Will we two be looking for new jobs directly? Answer: no. Students do a hellofa job for the most part.
Yes, there is an occasional slackard. But probably less than 1%. The rest are outstanding leaders who are given academic credit for taking "Foundations of Leadership," a class that teaches the concepts of leadership and illustrates them by using their team leadership jobs as examples. They also can take practicum hours and other classes to get a certificate in Leadership (the equivalent of a minor, here). I commend using undergraduates to help in the classroom. They are capable of more
than you'd believe.
Joann Ward, Ed.S., LPC, NCC Assistant Director Georgia Tech, Success Programs
Student Services Building, Suite 227 Atlanta, GA 30332-0285
firstname.lastname@example.org PH: (404) 894-1970 FAX: (404) 894-1980
From: KALMAN@VAX2.CONCORDIA.CA (Calvin Kalman)
>Sheila Tobias was compiling a book on innovative practices in the science
>education field about a yaer ago. A number of us were contacted to
>contribute to that book. I don't know if it has been published or not at
>this time. I know I contributed and signed some copyright release stuff
>about a year ago. You may check directly with Sheila to see what stage
>this is in. For certain, the study of the type you mention has indeed
>been done by her. Any other POD people knowing about the book's status,
I just got a fax from Sheila Tobias re the book. She says that it will
definately be out in August in two volumes. Contributors will receive 2
mailings before than. They will be speaking about the book at the chem
education meetings in Southg Carolina in August and in Brisbane in July.
I too contributed to that book and I just phoned them to find out when it
is comming out. I'll get back as soon as I have the information. My wife
and I wrote an article on writing to learn which will appear in the
American Journal of Physics I have the students read the course material
in advance of each week's classes and freewrite and comment on the
material. To do this I use a tight course outline that informs the
students in advance of the material to be covered in all classes. Not all
of this material is covered in class. The course is summed up by a method
I call a course dossier. I got a call last November from the editor of a
cooperative group at the university level journal asking for a
contribution. I noted that I had finished some physics research in the
summer and had been sidetracked from writing it up. No problem. We'll hold
publication for you. Forget the Jan 2 deadline. Just get it in for Jan
18. Well I just managed to do that and my article Developing Critical
Thinking Using Cooperative Learning Techniques will appear soon.
* Calvin S. Kalman Phone: (514) 848-3284 *
* Professor,Department of Physics Fax: (514) 848-2828 *
* Fellow, Science College *
* Member, Center for the Study of Classroom Processes *
* Concordia University *
* Montreal,P.Q. H3G 1M8 KALMAN@VAX2.CONCORDIA.CA *
* or KALMAN@CONU2.BITNET *
* homepage- http://fermi.concordia.ca/Facultypages/Kalman.html *
* Phys conf at ConU: http://fermi.concordia.ca/Particleconf.html *
From: "* John Pickrell" <PICKRELL@vet.ksu.edu>
This sounds like something that I use in Clinical Toxicology with
some really innovative details which you have added. I'd be
interested in receiving a preprint, as soon as you feel that you can
release it. I'm especially interested in the course dossier,
the tight schedule, and examples of student comments and your
response in grading of this.
I also assign readings ahead of time, with what might be called a
tight schedule. I'd have to read about yours to see if they are the
same, but they may be. I do not require comments on the material,
but give unannounced quizzes which may do the same thing.
Unannounced quizzes are more stressful than are individual comments
written about the material, and less informative for the teacher,
although we do have some evidence of increased diagnostic and
therapeutic abilities. I bring closure of sorts to each of the cases
from which we instruct with PBL, but I'm guessing that this is quite
different from your course dossier. You may have a really great idea
here, and we'd like to adapt parts of it to our Clinical Toxicology
I'm going to present results of my work at the Annual Society of
Toxicology meeting in early March, and I'll compare my work to all
published and ideas that I've heard about on net, and as personal
communications. Yours is about as similar as any so far, so I'd like
to give you proper credit and send a few interested parties your way.
From: email@example.com (Peter Pflaum)
Subject: For a really great class
RE: Grouping by style : how to have great classes
What I use to set up groups is the Keirsey Temperament sorter ( a
free form of the Myers-Briggs from "Please Understand me" (an
I use the chart in the book as a map of the classroom and ask
people to stand in their personality profile square. I have them
label themselves with first name and type - i.e. the Extroverts
to the front of the room, the introverts to the back; The sensing
( materialist ) to the left, the Intuitive (spiritual) to the
right, then divide each quarter into thinking/feeling and
Judgmental (really the planning type)/ Perceiving (spontaneous )
types. Form groups of less than 7 - I like 3 or 4 maybe 5 people
to a group. The groups are stable all term ( 15 weeks). They can
expel non-preforming members.
The people believe that they share traits in common. This helps
keep the groups active for the whole term (15 weeks). They give
themselves a group name "The Boston Tea Party". They make a color
coded folder for their work. There are 15 units (weeks) each made
up of A: reading and discussion of the textbook (a group report,
one page each unit ); B: An activity in my workbook or can be
made up by the groups (a group report, typed) and C: a personal
journal ( Theme and how all this relates to me, one page typed )
when finished all the papers are put into the folder and handed
it. (One A, one B and as many C's as people in the group- one
page each typed) I give points and comments. (Up to 8 points per
unit - 2 really not much, 4 something, 6 good but lacks
initiative, only what's required; 8 = excellent, more than
required ) They can improve the work and hand it in again ( more
like the real world where your work is not just accepted as a C
but you do it again, and again and improve ). They put finished
the material in file, get it credited then put it into a
"portfolio" (3" binder). 80% of the total points need to be in
these basic units. The other 20% can be in innovative activities,
field trips, movies, books, videos, almost anything. At lease 50%
of class time is given to group meeting. They also have outside
meetings ( lab time).
When they have 113 1/2 points ( includes attendence points ) they
become eligible for the "A", the whole portfolio is reviewed for
organization and themes. When they are done they are done. There
are no test or anything else. It works great. The people are
turned on, fired up - dull bored students lighten up and become
active. Synergy happens and its a joy to see. It's not easy
because you have a lot of paper work but worth while and you will
love it. The joy of teaching will return. Cut down lecture, bring
SYNERGY-NET on http://metro.turnpike.net/~pflaump is where YOU
can collaborate with the future using Interactive Education and
Training on your own Web pages. Join, Beta Testers free.
** Peter E. Pflaum Ph.D. , Headmaster GLOBAL_VILLAGE_SCHOOLHOUSE
225 Robinson Road, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32169-2176 (904) 428-9609
Dear POD folks,
If you are still searching for info on innovative teaching in any of these
quantitative subjects, here are some resources I think you will find
practical, theoretically grounded, and generally well documented. I've made
a couple of private replies on this topic but thought since my reference list
seems to be growing, and since it's a topic near and dear to my heart, others
To start with, you might want to check your shelves for a couple of volumes
of New Directions for Teaching and Learning.
A good bet is Developing Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Abilities
(NDTL No. 30, edited by Jim Stice at UT-Austin). This one emphasizes
engineering and physics, and has a nice chapter on problem solving by Don
Woods at McMaster University (firstname.lastname@example.org). Don has done interesting
work recently on Problem-Based Learning in engineering.
A more recent entry (1995) is vol. 61, Fostering Success in Quantitative
Gateway Courses, edited by J. Gainen and E. Willemsen. Core chapters are
written by authors who have designed successful, innovative science courses
as well as successful courses in calculus, accounting, and engineering. I
wrote the introductory chapter on barriers (including preparation issues, and
esp. for women and minorities), and Eleanor Willemsen (a developmental
psychologist) contributed one on the psychological side of failure in
quantitative courses (based on observations in her statistics courses). We
tie it together in the end using the cognitive apprenticeship metaphor to get
beyond a list of pedagogical features that seem to be shared by successful
courses in these (and other) subjects. We also extrapolate those concepts to
the redesign of Eleanor's stats course.
Two other classic NDTL volumes include examples from the sciences. One is
Teaching Writing In all Disciplines, by C. W. Griffin, volume 12 in the
series. Another classic NDTL volume is no. 14, Learning in Groups, by Bouton
and Garth. Steve Monk, one of the contributors, pioneered collaborative
learning in calculus at University of Washington; he and his co-author Don
Finkel (psych, now at Evergreen State in Olympia, WA) developed an extended
summer workshop on using Dewey, Piaget, and collaborative learning methods.
Outside NDTL, you may be familiar with the work of A.M. Starfield, Karl
Smith, and A.L. Bleloch, captured in How to Model It: Problem Solving for the
Computer Age. Starfield and Smith are at U. of Minnesota (applied math and
engineering, respectively). There is also a Higher Ed Research Report
(published by ASHE-ERIC) on collaborative learning which Karl contributed to
(can't retrieve details).
On critical thinking in science, often an implicit or explicit goal of
innovation, a favorite paper by Tyser & Cerbin, Teaching Critical Thinking in
Biology, Bioscience, 1991, vol. 41 (1), pp. 41-46. For the critical thinking
angle, you'll find an overview of research on problem-solving in quantitative
subjects in Critical Thinking: Theory, Research, Practice and Possibilities
(Association for the Study of Higher Education-ERIC, Washington, D.C.,
published under my "nom de plume" at the time, Joanne G. Kurfiss, 1988).
Joanne Gainen email@example.com Writing Mentors
Santa Clara, CA (408) 244-8267
My name is Glen Richgels and I teach at Bemidji State University in Minnesota.
Last spring I was part of a team that taught a course on Integrating Math/Science
/Technology into a curriculum. The course was for future teachers. The course
was team taught by a Math, Science, Technology, and Education professor. The
four of us were at every class and contributed and interrupted each other at
will. The core of the course was built around the Principles of Engineering
model developed out east. Each period we tried to do a little of each topic and
would periodically have the students work on integrated projects in class and
out of class. The final project for the course was to develop an instructional
project which integrated the three topics and then to present to the class.
If you would like more information about the course please feel free to contact
me. I'll try to answer some of the concerns below.
To seed the pot, let me list a few perceived barriers that challenge faculty
a) Resource problems: equipment, large classes, inadequate faculty
development, infrastructure barriers, inappropriate textbooks .....
we developed our own curriculum and found that we had enough for a year and
tried to teach it in a quarter ... ouch.
b) Curricular problems: addressing majors and non-majors, clientele from
several co-disciplines, rapidly changing subject matter ....
part of the course was to deal with ongoing and current problems and how to deal
with that to keep the curriculum current. We didn't solve the problem about
across discipline credit ... we are still working on that ...
c) Student barriers: Entering freshmen unprepared for college-level work,
math/science anxiety, unfamilarity with effective study methods for
This wasn't a problem in this particular course. Even though the students were
not strong in some areas, they all tried. The class seemed to help some get
over their anxieties.
d) Instructional ambiguity: theory vs. practice, synthesis vs analysis,
"facts" vs concepts .....
The student response to the course was excellent. One of the recurring
discussion topics was on how we developed the course. The students knew that
they were going to have to develop a course like this on their own, so we talked
a lot about the evolution of the course ...
Glen Richgels, Dept of Mathematics & Computer Science, Hagg Sauer 365
Bemidji State University, 1500 Birchmont Dr. NE, Bemidji, MN 56601-5723
office 218-755-2824 home 218-759-0375 fax 218-755-2822
From: DEGRAZIA JANET L <degrazia@spot.Colorado.EDU>
Okay, here goes. I have taught two courses so far, Thermodynamics and
Heat Transfer for Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineers, and
currently Fluid Mechanics for Chemical Engineers. I have had the same
problem for both of these classes - how do you make the class interactive
and promote collaborative learning when there are seventy students and
one teacher. Add to that the fact that CA and E engineers hate Thermo and
Chem E's hate Fluids, and you can have a disaster of a class on your
hands. Two ideas that I have trieds with great success are collaborative
homework sessions, and group quizzes. We meet twice a week for 1.5 to 2
hours and everyone breaks up into small groups and works on their
homework. I am there to provide assistance, but the bulk of the work is
done by the groups. The sessions are voluntary, but I have had almost 100
% attendance. The other thing I do is to have group quizzes. I give six
quizzes a semester (they can drop one) worth 10 % of the grade. I allow
students to work in groups of no more than three, and turn in the quiz
together. The only restriction is that you can't work with the same
person on more than one quiz. This has worked very well because it has
allowed the students to work with a number of different people and has
exposed them to all different types of thinking (we tend to pick people
with similar learning styles to work with if we're left to our own
devices). The other thing this has done is to divide the class a little
better gender-wise. The women students tend to stick together and work
together, but this way they are spread out among the class and different
group dynamics are created. I will allow people to work alone if they
prefer as well.
If I come up with any other ideas, I will let you know. Also, if you have
any ideas on how to make these classes more approachable, let me know.