Friday, 23 March 2012

Team teaching

From Tomorrow's Professor

The posting below looks at the advantages of having various perspectives that result from team teaching. It is from the introduction by Kathryn M. Plank in the book, Team Teaching: Across the Disciplines, Across the Academy, edited by Kathryn M. Plank. Published in Association with The National Teaching and Learning Forum. Copyright© 2011 by Stylus Publishing, LLC, 22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, Virginia 20166-2102. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Rick Reis UP NEXT: Intellectual Habits of Critical Thinkers
Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning
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Team Teaching and Student Learning: A Rough-and-Tumble Enterprise
Our knowledge of the world comes from gathering around great things in a complex and interactive community of truth. But good teachers do more than deliver the news from that community to their students. Good teachers replicate the process of knowing by engaging students in the dynamics of the community of truth. (Palmer, 1998, p. 115)
There's a messiness to team teaching that presents some of its biggest challenges, but also some of its most promising opportunities. Team teaching moves beyond the familiar and predictable and creates an environment of uncertainty, dialogue, and discovery. And that is what learning is all about.
Whether one is looking at classifications of critical thinking, or definitions of deep approaches to learning, or models of cognitive and ethical development (see Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001; Bowden & Marton, 2004; Perry, 1968), the goal for student learning is a dynamic, complex, and often unsettling place. In reporting on his study of what the best college teachers do, Ken Bain (2004) says, "[P]eople learn by confronting intriguing, beautiful, or important problems, authentic tasks that will challenge them to grapple with ideas, rethink their assumptions, and examine their mental models of reality" (p. 18).
Team teaching in itself is not really a teaching method and will not make achieving these learning goals inevitable. The instructors must still design a course and implement methods that challenge students to "grapple with ideas" and "rethink their assumptions." But team teaching does provide an ideal environment for this type of engagement, in part by making it almost impossible to stick with a teacher-centered classroom in which the teacher is the sole authority delivering knowledge to the students. The interaction of two teachers—both the intellectual interaction involved in the design of the course and the pedagogical interaction in teaching the course—creates a dynamic environment that reflects the way scholars make meaning of the world.
Almost by definition, team teaching encourages students (and teachers) to view the subject matter from multiple perspectives. When multiple teachers represent multiple perspectives on course content, they move students away from dualistic thinking toward higher (and deeper) stages of cognitive and ethical development. Students who enter a course wanting to see the teacher as the source of the "right" answers are now confronted with two or more teachers who have different views and sometimes completely different methodologies. While this may create some anxiety for students, as we discuss later, it also models for them how different perspectives come together to construct meaning.
Perhaps the dearest example of multiple perspectives comes in a common model of team teaching: the interdisciplinary course in which faculty from different disciplines teach around a common topic or theme. The next two chapters of this book explore two such courses. In chapter 1, Amy Jessen-Marshall and Hal Lescinsky, a microbiologist and a paleontologist, respectively, at Otterbein University, talk about their course, "Origins," which uses the techniques and perspectives of two different science disciplines to examine the question of human origins and evolution. In chapter 2, Min-Ken Liao and Sarah Worth of Furman University describe their course, "Disease and Culture," which examines the social, cultural, and ethical impact of disease from the divergent perspectives of philosophy and biology. As Liao and Worth say, "We believe this type of collaborative and interdisciplinary interaction in and of itself is a powerful demonstration to students that focused, interdisciplinary, team approaches to the pursuit of knowledge are at the core of a liberal arts education."
If it is true that "the undergraduate experience, often criticized as being fragmented, is challenged to develop more coherence by introducing students to essential knowledge, to connections across the disciplines, and to the application of knowledge to life beyond the campus" (McDaniel & Colarulli, 1997, p. 19), then higher education has been responding with greater emphasis on working across disciplinary boundaries. Both of these courses are products of initiatives intentionally designed to promote greater interdisciplinarity. "Origins" is part of Otterbein's Integrative Studies Program, a core element of the university's liberal arts mission, which "aims to prepare Otterbein undergraduates for the challenges and complexity of a 21st century world" by emphasizing "interdisciplinary and integrative skills, competencies, and ways of knowing" ( Likewise, Furman's general education program brings "a greater variety of intellectual perspectives into meaningful dialogue with one another, thus highlighting for students both the complementarity and the uniqueness of departmental and disciplinary voices" (Invigorating Intellectual Life, 2005).
This interplay of disciplinary voices is also evident in an introductory science course offered in the 1990s at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (described in chapter 5). In this course, taught by Ronald Duchovic and a team of faculty from different disciplines in the sciences, "it quickly became obvious that each question raised in the class discussion can be examined from the perspective of multiple, discipline-specific paradigms." The goal was to help students see the nature of scientific thinking and begin to understand how scientists make sense of the world.
Seeing differences between different perspectives is an important first step for students, but perhaps even more important is for them to see the connections. For example, Jessen-Marshall and Lescinsky describe how in their "Origins" class, "students will see how different fields address common questions, using a variety of techniques that support the validity of scientific tenets. This interconnectedness, often underappreciated by nonscientists, is in large part what gives scientists confidence that their understanding is correct." In a time when scientific literacy is becoming more important, classes such as these can contribute to students' becoming more knowledgeable citizens.
What these teachers are observing is a model of cognitive apprenticeship. Team teaching can "provide a means of focusing more on the process of learning instead of only on accumulating content knowledge" (Shibley, 2006, p. 271). Or, as Duchovic says of his course, students get to "hear a scientist think." When multiple instructors engage with each other in the class, they make their thinking processes and intellectual frameworks visible, thus encouraging greater metacognition on the part of the students, and better understanding of how we know what we know.
While interdisciplinary teams are one way to encourage this focus on process, it works for other kinds of partnerships as well. In chapter 3, Robert Richter and Margaret Thomas of Connecticut College bring together two very different sets of professional experience to the course "Arts and Community." Richter, who holds a staff position in arts programming, and Thomas, a faculty member in music theory, use the interplay of their two roles to model the concept of community that is central to the course topic.
Demonstrating yet another configuration, Mathew Ouellett and Edith Fraser discuss in chapter 4 how an interracial team of teachers from different institutions can facilitate students' understanding of race and racism in social work in their course, "Racism in the United States: Implications for Social Work Practice," in part by having a team of teachers "modeling authentic collaboration across racial differences." As Ouellett and Fraser say, "Perhaps the most unanticipated outcome of our teaching has been the discovery that, from our students' perspectives, observing our daily interactions and relationship as colleagues was more important to their learning than the formal curriculum."
In modeling the scholarly and professional processes of their fields, these teams of teachers can also create a learning environment where it is safe for students to confront intimidating subjects like science or challenging topics like racism. Seeing their teachers learn from each other and even disagree with each other models for students how scholars and informed citizens within a community of learning can navigate a complex and uncertain world.
Of course, none of this happens automatically. For example, although Jessen-Marshall and Lescinsky constructed their course to have pairs of labs exploring related topics from two different disciplinary approaches, the connection between the labs that was so apparent to them was at first lost on the students. They learned that they needed to make the connections clearer and more explicit for students, even to the point of renaming the two different labs part 1 and part 2 of the same lab to reinforce the connections.
Similarly, just watching teachers interact is not enough. I once took class as a student in which team teaching consisted mainly of four teachers arguing with each other in front of an audience of befuddled students. The teachers may have enjoyed the intellectual interplay of different disciplinary paradigms, but they apparently forgot that novice learners do not always see or understand the structure of content knowledge enough to appreciate this kind of dialogue.
In contrast, the classes described in this book all use many reflective activities—journals, reflection papers, guided discussion—to help students see the connections and grapple with complex and conflicting ideas. The combination of modeling reflection for the students and having students engage in their own reflection provides the kind of cognitive apprenticeship that introduces students into a community of learning.
As the Furman University curriculum review committee states, "Stimulating the mind for the pursuit of knowledge [is] a rough-and-tumble enterprise" (Invigorating, p. 9). Learning is indeed a rough-and-tumble enterprise and so is team teaching. But team teaching can also create an environment that makes this exploration safe. One method is to work actively to build community in the class. For example, Richter and Thomas's class attended arts performances together, and Liao and Worth's students bonded by baking cookies together to raise money for mosquito nets in Africa. But it also helps students to see their teachers learning and questioning.
Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (Eds.). (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching and assessing: A revision of Bloom's Taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Longman.
Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Bowden, J., & Marton, F. (2004). The university of learning: Beyond quality and competence. London: Routledge.
Invigorating intellectual life: A proposal for Furman University's academic program and calendar. (2005, September 10). Report to the Furman Faculty from the Curriculum Review Committee.
McDaniel, E. A., & Colarulli, G. C. (1997). Collaborative teaching in the face of productivity concerns: The dispersed team model. Innovative Higher Education, 22(1), 19-36.
Palmer, P. J. (1998). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher's life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Perry, W. (1968). Forms of intellectual and ethical development in the college years. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.
Shibley, I. A. (2006). Interdisciplinary team teaching: Negotiating pedagogical differences. College Teaching, 54(3), 271-274.

Friday, 9 March 2012

How students REALLY get information...

Deciphering student search behaviour

Deciphering student search behaviour
A new study reveals how students conceal their real search strategies from their tutors. Sarah Bartlett reports
Is there a learning black market in higher education? This intriguing question emerges from early findings of the JISC-funded Visitors and Residents project [1], which explores learning motivations and information-seeking behaviours across education stages.
The project, in which OCLC Research is partnering with the TALL Group at the University of Oxford, in collaboration with the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, J. Murrey Atkins Library, has already made some fascinating discoveries. Students routinely turn to Google and discuss their work with peers on Facebook. Such unorthodox blends of personal online lifestyles with formal learning seem to serve them well.
But according to David White, senior manager of development of the TALL Group (ALT Learning Technologist Team of the Year, 2010), students are nevertheless nervous about the validity of these practices and conceal them from their tutors. White and his colleagues have noted that students are side-stepping their tutors’ opposition to Wikipedia, for example, by citing articles it references rather than Wikipedia itself. ‘This masks the true scale of these new modes of engagement,’ says White.
White believes that information-seeking behaviours are converging across personal and institutional spheres, as a combined effect of the social web, cloud-based applications and the multi-tab environment. He observes: ‘A lot of the students we interviewed do their research on Wikipedia or syllabus-based websites and have an adjacent tab open on Facebook. They flit between the two, occupying personal and institutional spaces simultaneously, and gather information from outside the institutional context as well as within it.’
Quite often, students will disregard a textbook recommended by their tutor in favour of an online search, the latter being more likely to give a concise and exact answer. ‘Hiding in our data is the perceived importance of effort in teaching and learning,’ says White. ‘If the web can deliver a completely correct answer, is true learning taking place? When asked what would be the ideal way to find things out, most students want a Google search that gives them exactly the right answer in exactly the right volume of information. This implies that what many regard as the traditional process of research is what you have to do because the technology doesn’t actually work properly yet.’

Motivations for technology

Little is known about learner motivations for using specific technologies and spaces when engaging with the information environment. In a longitudinal study, the Visitors and Residents project is mapping the activities of 24 individuals across diverse stages of learning in the UK and the USA to the Visitor-Residency and the Personal-Institutional axes (see box). Mapping the full arc of web-based activities will identify where the personal and the institutional overlap and where they are distinct. ‘It is clear that institutionally-provided resources and services are not always the first port of call when searching for information, and instead form part of a much larger information-seeking cycle,’ says White.
However, the convergence of the personal and the institutional belies a genuine desire for convenient, trustworthy information, explicitly articulated by students participating in the project. ‘If institutions can gain an understanding of learner-owned literacies,’ continues White, ‘they can locate where they intersect with quality resources and the academic rigour of the institution in the context of the wider web culture.’

The role of the library

Many university librarians are now embedded in the faculty, and work with both students and staff throughout the year on literacy skills. This is a commendable development but one problem that remains is that students do not always realise that they are using a high-quality, paid-for, curated service because access is so seamless that it blends into more general web resources.
Lynn Silipigni Connaway, senior research scientist at OCLC Research, agrees: ‘Research carried out by OCLC Research since 2003 bears this out. Individuals say they never use the library but when you probe a little, they actually use databases and e-journals provided by the library. By branding these resources, the library would signpost the intersection between the web and the institution, as well as promoting the value it is adding.’
Even though institutions are keen to ensure that students make full use of academic information resources, as Connaway points out, ‘In the current climate, libraries cannot offer every conceivable service channel. At the moment, though, one size fits no-one. We need a model for allocating resources to all channels. One of the [Visitors and Residents] project’s deliverables will be a matrix of implementation options for institutions, based on the user needs that emerge from the mapping process.’

Further Information

[1] White, D.S., and Connaway, L.S. 2011. Visitors and Residents: What Motivates Engagement with the Digital Information
[2] Prensky, 2001. Digital natives, digital

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Students on teams learn more when they help teammates

TP Msg. #1158 Help Yourself by Helping Others

These results indicate that a team is not just a group of individuals who share a common goal, but a social entity with complex social, affective, and cognitive interactions. Teamwork can support individual student learning when these interactions promote self-efficacy. The results also suggest three observable characteristics of teams that reinforce learning and self-efficacy. Teams that lead to better learning for the individual members: 1) determine and assign tasks collaboratively, 2) respond to, critique, and elaborate on each other’s comments, and 3) minimize off-task behavior and negative criticism.

Help Yourself by Helping Others
Students gain confidence in their own skills by supporting teammates.
Imagine a student, Alex, who constantly disagrees with his team members and procrastinates in completing his project assignments. Imagine another student, Bryan, who patiently listens to his teammates and intervenes when discussions appear to take a disruptive turn. Is Alex’s behavior a reflection of his self-efficacy? Do interactions with teammates affect Alex’s and Bryan’s achievement in class? Do Bryan’s positive verbal interactions result in improved self-efficacy and learning? While much research has been conducted to study the relationship between cooperative and collaborative learning in higher education, few studies have explored the nature of team discourse and how these discussions support or hinder individual student learning.
In a mixed-methods discourse analysis study involving 22 engineering students, I investigated the relationship between team discourse, self-efficacy – perception of one’s own academic competence – and individual student achievement. By combining survey and discourse analysis methods, I was able to gain an in-depth understanding of team learning processes. Thousands of verbal exchanges of the students were recorded weekly in the classroom when students worked on their design projects. These exchanges were then transcribed and coded. Quantitative data on students’ pre- and post-project self-efficacy were also collected using a Likert-scale survey. Next, I interpreted my results within a framework of two robust learning theories: Bandura’s social cognitive theory and Vygotsky’s social constructivist theory. Three key findings emerged from these analyses.
* There is a relationship between being supportive toward peers and one’s own self-efficacy.
The results indicated a moderate and positive correlation between the post-project self-efficacy of a given student and support-oriented discourse initiated by that student. However, in contrast with the social cognitive theory, receiving verbal persuasions did not improve self-efficacy. This suggests that what affected students’ self-efficacy and academic performance was not necessarily the negative or positive comments they received, but the amount of support-oriented discourse they themselves provided to others.
* Lots of explaining, little task clarification.
Students engaged in six types of discourse actions during their classroom discussions: task oriented, response oriented, learning oriented, support oriented, challenge oriented, and disruptive. Among these discourse actions, they spent most of their time answering questions and explaining ideas (response oriented) and less time identifying goals and clarifying tasks (task oriented). In addition, engaging in challenge-oriented discourse or learning-oriented discourse did not reveal correlations with self-efficacy or achievement.
* Self-efficacy gains were related to task-oriented discourse.
Another relationship was found between self-efficacy and task-oriented discourse. Students who were primarily told what to do had only small gains in their self-efficacy.
These results indicate that a team is not just a group of individuals who share a common goal, but a social entity with complex social, affective, and cognitive interactions. Teamwork can support individual student learning when these interactions promote self-efficacy. The results also suggest three observable characteristics of teams that reinforce learning and self-efficacy. Teams that lead to better learning for the individual members: 1) determine and assign tasks collaboratively, 2) respond to, critique, and elaborate on each other’s comments, and 3) minimize off-task behavior and negative criticism.
To reinforce positive actions and achievement of all individuals, teams can be monitored closely or taught how to monitor their own interactions. Video case studies of experts and novices and how they interact in their teams can be used to stress learning through vicarious experiences. These team self-monitoring skills and video case-study reviews have been put in place as a part of the revised curriculum at several institutions following this research, and the impact will be an area for future study. -------------------------------