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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Designing Developmentally: Simple Strategies to Get Students Thinking | Teaching Professor Blog

Photo: Maryellen Weimer, Ph.D
notes, "I continue to be concerned that we don’t design learning experiences as developmentally as we should. What happens to students across a course (and the collection of courses that make up a degree program) ought to advance their knowledge and skills."

Photo: The Teaching Professor Blog

Generally, we do a good job on the knowledge part, but we mostly take skill development for granted. We assume it just happens, and it does, sort of, just not as efficiently and extensively as it could if we purposefully intervened.

Perhaps it would help if we had some concrete examples illustrating how assignments and activities can be designed so that skills are developed. Kathie L. Pelletier describes an interesting iteration of the now vintage two-minute paper strategy. Normally students write those papers during the final minutes of class and the papers usually focus on something students have learned and/or think they should have learned but don’t yet understand. Pelletier embeds these writing events within sessions of her upper-division organizational behavior course. On a number of unannounced days in the course, a question appears on the screen and students have two minutes to write an answer. She uses a rubric to quickly grade their responses. But here’s what makes the strategy intriguing: the questions are sequenced developmentally—they get more complex as the course progresses. In the beginning, the questions ask for definitions and descriptions of theories, and by the end of the course they’re challenging students to apply theories to specific organizations.
The Teaching Professor Blog

The approach has multiple benefits. For teachers, it’s do-able: one set of questions. I wouldn’t say that makes it easy, given that we don’t generally plan question sequences, but it’s manageable. If the goal is to develop thinking skills, then the questions have to be rolled out in a way that each question promotes more complicated kinds of thinking. Preparing that kind of question set takes mental energy, but it’s bound to clarify our thinking about the kinds of questions that promote increasingly complex thinking. That’s a plus for us and our students.

Another benefit to this approach is that the questions themselves can be used, not just to debrief good answers (or with certain content, correct answers) but to explore different kinds and levels of questions. Pelletier confesses she came up with the approach (which she combined with a set of announced quizzes) to solve a couple of more mundane problems: poor class attendance and study habits. The two strategies accomplished those goals, plus they resulted in higher mid-term and final exam scores when compared with scores in sections where the strategies were not used. A good instructional strategy often garners multiple benefits.

Source: The Teaching Professor Blog