In Dr. Freeman Hrabowski’s TED Talk “4 Pillars of College Success in Science”, he told the story of Nobel laureate Isidor Isaac Rabi’s mother’s famous question: Did you ask a good question today? Let’s pause for a minute and reflect: What is a good question? What questions do you ask most frequently? What questions do your students or children ask most?

Question
Question

Types of Questions

Teachers usually encourage students to ask questions. Dr. Peter Liljedahl, author of “Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics” and professor of Mathematics Education at Simon Fraser University in Canada, however, points out that not all questions need and should be answered directly. According to Liljedahl, there are three types of questions and only one type of questions requires direct answers. Liljedahl categorizes questions in K-12 mathematics classrooms into the following three types:

  1. Proximity Questions
  2. Stop Thinking Questions
  3. Keep Thinking Questions (Liljedahl, 2020)
Building Thinking Classrooms Book Cover

Proximity questions refer to questions students ask when the teacher is close by, as the name suggests. Liljedahl’s research showed that the information gained from such proximity questions was not being used at all. Stop-Thinking Questions are questions students ask just to get the teacher to do the thinking for them, with the hope that the teacher will answer it and they can stop thinking, such as “Is this right?”, “Do we have to learn this?”, or “Is this going to be on the test?” Unlike the first two types of questions, keep-thinking questions are often clarification questions or about extensions the students want to pursue. According to to Liljedahl, if you have an authentic and level-appropriate task for students to work on, 90% of the questions being asked are proximity questions or stop-thinking questions and only 10% of questions students ask are keep-thinking questions. Liljedahl pointed out that answering proximity questions and stop-thinking questions are harmful to learning because it stops students from thinking.

Next, how could teachers differentiate the types of questions being asked? Liljedahl offers a simple solution to separate keep-thinking questions from the other two types of questions: Are they asking for more activity or less, more work or less, more thinking or less?

After differentiating the types of questions, what should teachers do with these proximity questions and stop-thinking question? Ignore them? No, not at all! Liljedahl emphasizes that there is a big difference between having students’ questions heard and not answered, and having their questions not heard. How should teachers answers these proximity questions and stop-thinking questions then?

Ten Things to Say to Proximity And Stop-Thinking Questions

Liljedahl provides the following list of ten responses to a proximity or stop-thinking question so that you are not giving away the answer and taking the thinking opportunity away from students. Basically, you turn the questions back to your students!

  1. Isn’t that interesting?
  2. Can you find something else?
  3. Can you show me how you did that?
  4. Is that always true?
  5. Why do you think that is?
  6. Are you sure?
  7. Does that make sense?
  8. Why don’t you try something else?
  9. Why don’t you try another one?
  10. Are you asking me or telling me? (Liljedahl, 2021, p. 90)

Cross-Discipline Nature of Good Questions

“Building Thinking Classrooms“  is recommended to me by some college biology  teachers in the US. Biology teachers recommending math teaching book, isn’t that interesting? The reasoning behind this recommendation is that the techniques being taught in this book could be easily applied to any other teaching context to get your students engaged in thinking, whether it is K12 education or college education, math teaching or teaching of another subject.

If this brief introduction got you interested in reading the rest of the book and find out the rest of what the author has to share, it is available at Oregon State University library as an ebook or you can purchase it online.

Asking Good Questions for Management and Education Administration

If you are not directly involved in teaching and learning, but in administrative or management role in an organization, Dr. Amy Edmondson has some practical suggestions for asking good questions to keep organization growing healthily. Dr. Amy Edmondson, author of  “The Fearless Organization”, Novartis professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School, states that good questions focus on what matters, invite careful thought, and give people room to respond. Edmondson also suggests three strategies for framing good questions:

  1. To broaden the discussion. For example: What do others think?
  2. What are we missing? For example: What other options could we consider?
  3. How would XXX (such as our role model, our mentor, or our competitor) approach this? For example: Who has a different perspective?

With the above tips for asking questions, are you ready to ask a good question today?

References

Edmondson, A. (2018). The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation and Growth. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Hrabowski, F. (2013). 4 Pillars of College Success in Science. TED Talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/freeman_hrabowski_4_pillars_of_college_success_in_science?language=en

Liljedahl, P. (2020). Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics, Grades K-12 : 14 Teaching Practices for Enhancing Learning. Thousand Oaks: Corwin, 2020

team collaboration

According to the 2020 Brandon Hall Group Team Development Pulse Survey findings (Werder, 2021), at least half of work is currently done in teams in over seventy percent of companies. Global Human Capital Trends (2016) confirmed that this trend is continuing, with over 7000 organizations moving towards more team-based designs. However, the success of team collaboration is not a guarantee and requires diligent planning and hard work. Tannenbaum and Salas (2020) suggest that there are seven “Cs” (or drivers) of teamwork, namely: capability, cooperation, coordination, communication, cognition, coaching, and conditions.

To contextualize and apply each of these 7 “Cs”, I’ll use a recent team collaboration I participated in as an example. A team of four staff from Oregon State University Ecampus gave a virtual presentation on the role of instructional designers in research. Speaking of the first C – capacity, thanks to the selection of team members, this team had the perfect mix: the facilitator was in charge of setting up the stage and engaging the audience with an opening poll and scenario. A second team member was assigned to cover the institutional level, a third team member was assigned to cover the team level and the last team member was assigned to cover at the individual level. Capability: checked ✅!

Cooperation: During the preparation for the presentation, each of the four team members worked individually on our own parts. When we met again, we reviewed each other’s parts, felt comfortable voicing any concern or areas that could use improvement. We each revised our individual parts and met again to review. At this point, we felt we had the content nailed down. Laurie, Tianhong and Heather already know each other very well since we all work in the same instructional design team at Ecampus. Naomi opened herself up and welcomed us to give her feedback and ideas for improvement up front, which is very helpful for Laurie, Tianhong and Heather to connect with her, and built trust for working together on this project. Viola, Cooperation: checked ✅!

Coordination: During the two rounds of peer review sessions, we made many changes, based on feedback from team members. Naomi opened up with a poll of attendee roles and a scenario to illustrate why instructional designers need to be involved in research. Laurie demonstrated diligence and surveyed the entire instructional design team at Ecampus and was able to present some solid data on our team composition in terms of degree/education, and years of career in instructional design. Laurie also provided Tianhong with two prepared slides on areas to be covered as a suggestion. Tianhong conducted comprehensive research and her findings demonstrated that over 50% of instructional designers at Ecampus have participated in research activities with support from Ecampus. Heather’s storytelling of her research involvement was rich and fascinating. So she had the pleasant struggle of cutting down her content to fit within a nine minutes time frame. And we all put scripts of what we plan to say in the notes area of the google slide we were collaborating on, which help us to stay within the limited time and allow us to have discussion time with all participants. Since each of us diligently completed our individual work as planned, the whole presentation is full of data and stories. Coordination: accomplished✅!

Communication within the team of four presenters was relatively easy since we use slack as a communication tool internally and we used calendar invites and emails for scheduling purposes. Our slack messages were quite active throughout the preparation and on the day of the presentation and after the presentation with many suggestions, encouragement, and compliments! Communication: accomplished✅!

Cognition or shared understanding among the team members is vital. In my opinion, this should be the first C on the list! For our team project, Naomi hand-picked the three panelists to join her on this collaboration because she sensed that all three of us share a common understanding on the value of instructional designers being involved with educational research. This common understanding and vision is visible the entire time while we worked on this project. Cognition: checked✅!

Coaching: Does leader and/or team members demonstrate leadership behaviors? Yes, Naomi is a great leader in this project. It was a pleasure to work under her leadership since the role of each panelist is very clear, and we started the collaboration early enough so that we have plenty of time to review, revise, practice and practice again before the actual presentation. Laurie also demonstrated leadership by offering help to cohesively formatting and beautifying each of our slide decks into one presentation file. Coaching: accomplished✅!

Conditions: Does the team have favorable conditions such as resources and culture? Yes, each team member brought with them expertise in their own roles, we were also able to use existing tools such as slack and google slides, and ecampus presentation template for this collaborative presentation. Naomi could have done it all by herself. But she invited a panel of three instructional designers to collaborate with her on this presentation. Our combined effort makes our story stronger, richer and more impressive because we work as instructional designers and we have experience doing research as instructional designers. Conditions: checked✅!

On the day of the virtual presentation, Laurie and Tianhong were presenting from campus offices housed inside the campus library while Heather and Naomi were presenting from their remote offices. In the middle of the presentation, there was a 🔥fire alarm in the library which required everyone to evacuate from the library. Laurie and Tianhong moved to a nearby building and logged back online and re-joined the presentation within 10 minutes. We are so thankful that the four of us are presenting from different locations so that the fire alarm did not stop us from presenting. This is how virtual team collaboration saved our work during a fire alarm emergency. And this is how the 7 Cs led us to a great team collaboration. The next time you sit down to plan a team project or initiative, you might benefit from reflecting on these following questions:

  1. Does the team have the right people with the right mix? (Capability)
  2. Does each team member have constructive attitudes about their team? (Cooperation)
  3. Does each team member demonstrate necessary teamwork behaviors? (Coordination)
  4. Does each team member exchange information effectively with each other and outside? (Communication)
  5. Does each team member possess a shared understanding? (Cognition)
  6. Does leader and/or team members demonstrate leadership behaviors? (Coaching)
  7. Does the team have favorable conditions such as resources and culture? (Conditions)

I hope I have encouraged and convinced you a tiny bit in your next decision for teamwork and have fun collaborating and doing effective teamwork!😊

References:
Werder, C. (2021). How to develop a winning team. Brandon Hall Group. Retrieved from https://www.brandonhall.com/blogs/how-to-develop-a-winning-team/

Global Human Capital Trends. (2016). The new organization: Different by design. Deloitte University Press. Retrieved from https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/HumanCapital/gx-dup-global-human-capital-trends-2016.pdf

Tannenbaum,S.I. & Salas, E. (2020). Teams that work : the seven drivers of team effectiveness. Oxford University Press.

A group of instructional designers at Ecampus participated in a book club reading “Ungrading” (Kohn & Blum, 2020). We learned many creative ways of designing assessments through participation in this book club. If you happen to be searching for ideas on designing or re-designing assessments in your teaching, we would highly recommend this book!

The idea of “Ungrading” may sound radical to many of us. Yet instructors at all types of educational institutions have tried ungrading in many different courses, ranging from humanity courses, to STEM courses, and from primary education to higher education. Starr Sackstein (author of Chapter 4 “Shifting the Grading Mindset” of the book) encourages educators to consider “ways to adjust small things in the classroom that will lead to important growth for students”. And this suggestion of starting small is coherent with what James Lang proposes in his book “Small Teaching” (Lang, 2016) and Thomas Tobin’s +1 strategy for implementing new teaching and learning strategies (Tobin & Behling, 2018). Sackstein provides a table comparing the grades vocabulary that focuses on judgement or criticism, with the non-grade vocabulary focusing on assessing and opportunity for improvement.

In chapter 5, Arthur Chiaravalli proposed a way for teaching without grades: Descriptive Grading Criteria, such as A for outstanding, B for Good, C for Satisfactory and I for Incomplete. Do you remember elementary school report cards that use E for Excellent, S for Satisfactory, and NI for Need Improvement type of categories? I think that is exactly what descriptive grading criteria represent. 

In chapter 7, Christina Katopodis and Cathy Davidson offer a new approach to start a new term/semester by asking students:” What is Success in this class for you? And How can I help you achieve it?” (p. 107) Katopodis and Davidson also remind us the importance of explaining why when you challenge your students to take their own learning seriously and give students opportunities for metacognitive reflections about the learning activities themselves. Katopodis and Davidson also offer a model of contract grading for Twenty-First Century Literacies and a model of collaborative peer evaluation. Students’ grades in the course come from self-and-peer evaluations using detailed evaluation forms. 

In chapter 8, Christopher Riesbeck described his critique-driven learning and assessment design of do-review-redo submission process for his intermediate-level programming course. I have used similar approach in my own teaching before and it works very well for any course with manageable number of students. The advantage for this approach is every one of your students can improve their first submissions based on feedback they receive from the instructor. The disadvantage for this approach is the potentially extended time instructors may spend on providing the feedback and reviewing the submissions and re-submissions. The key to this assessment method is making sure that the workload of providing feedback and reviewing revisions is manageable. In chapter 9, Clarissa Sorensen-Unruh provided her experience of using ungrading in her organic chemistry II course, giving students opportunities to practice evaluating their own work.

And that is only snippets of what I took away from a few chapters from this book. Many resources about ungrading outside the book were shared during our book club meetings, such as two-stage exams, group exams  and public exams. To answer a common question that ungrading practices may fit humanity courses more easily, Cyndie McCarley shared “Grading for Growth” blog written and maintained by two math instructors Robert Talbert and David Clark. To learn about all the creative assessment design methods introduced in this book, read it yourself either through library ebook or get a hard copy and enjoy reading, designing and experimenting! 

References

Kohn, A. and Blum, S. (2020). Ungrading. West Virginia University Press. 

Lang, J. (2016). Small Teaching. Jossey-Bass. 

Tobin, T.J. and Behling, K.T. (2018). Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone. West Virginia University Press. 


reflection of hot air balloon over water(image from pxfuel.com)

Reflection assignments as an active learning strategy are commonly seen in humanities courses. The purpose of this writing is to share an example of how simple reflection activities can make a huge impact in two math courses.

MTH 251 Differential Calculus covers five units, with one exam for each unit, counting 14% of the final grade. Before students attempt to take the unit exam, they are assigned to read textbook readings, watch instructor-created lecture videos, work on Canvas-based homework assignment and Adaptive Learning based practice assignments in Knewton Lab online platform. After assignment due date expires, students are assigned to complete a weekly written homework reflection. The weekly homework and the weekly homework reflection together count for 14% of final grade in this course, weighing the same as each of the unit exams.

MTH 341 Linear Algebra I has ten weekly modules. Each week, students  read textbook assigned readings, watch lecture videos created by the instructor (Dr.   ), complete post-reading questions in quiz format, work on graded group discussion questions to solve math problems in small groups, complete written homework individually, and in the following week, complete a written homework response activity individually in discussion format.   

The written homework reflection in MATH 251 and the written homework response in MATH 341 are both reflection activities designed to optimize student learning success, through comparing their own homework solutions with answer keys and evaluate whether they did it correctly or incorrectly and analyze where they did it wrong and how to get it right. The purpose of such weekly reflection is to help students develop meta-cognitive skills related to their learning. By looking back at students’ own work and learning from their mistakes, they develop an understanding of what is the proper way to solve a problem and what is not the proper way for solving a particular math problem. It also prompts students to plan for proper action in the future and exercises students’ executive functioning skills (CAST, 2018). 

Here is what the instructions for the weekly reflection look like:
1. First answer the weekly prompt: Reflecting on the Unit 1 module, which topics did you struggle with the most?
2. Download the written homework solutions PDF: (Solution for each written homework in pdf format is attached here.)
3. Look over the solutions and compare to your submitted homework. Look for any problems where your solution differs from the posted solution.

    • If your solutions had one or more incorrect problems then in the discussion board please discuss the following:
      • why you struggled with certain problems
      • why each solution makes sense now
      • what your misunderstanding was
      • what will you do in the future when solving problems similar to these?
      • what strategies will help you?
      • what did you learn by making a mistake?
      • what did you learn from looking at the solutions?
    • If you are still confused about a problem, ask a question. DO NOT simply list which problems you got wrong.
    • If your solutions are all correct then in the discussion board please discuss the problem that you found the most challenging. Describe what specific tasks helped you to complete that problem. Be as detailed as you can about your solution process.

Students not only posted their own reflections, but they also comment on or answer other students’ reflections as well. Additionally, the instructor and the four TAs in the course responded actively to students’ reflections, which makes the reflection more valuable since students get encouragement, praises, or corrections from the instructor and teaching assistants. Again, feedback from experts is critical in the success of a reflection activity (Vandenbussche, 2018)

What Reflection Usually looks like and what reflection should look like

Image 1: How reflection usually looks like and How reflection should look like (Image Source)

Many students were reflecting on what they did wrong and asked for help. Some were reflecting on their time management in completing the homework assignments. And we were glad to see students completing homework, evaluating their own work, analyzing where they did wrong, and planning for future improvement. Overall, the purpose of this assignment is accomplished!

goal 1 complete

(Image by Dave_Here)

A great benefit that comes from these weekly reflection activities is increased or sustained homework completion rate. For MTH 251 winter 2021 week 1 to week 7, over 85% of students completed the weekly homework and the reflection activity on average. For MTH 341 Fall 20 week 1 to week 7, over 90% of students on average completed the weekly homework and the reflection assignments. All math teachers love to see their students practice with homework assignments before they attempt to take the quizzes or exams! And evidence-based research tells us that deliberate practice with targeted feedback promotes mastery learning (Ambrose et al., 2010).

So, if it works in math courses, it will work in Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Engineering and other STEM courses too! If you’re interested in implementing this technique in your teaching and have questions about setting it up, feel free to contact us. We’d love to help you figure out the easiest way to set it up in your course.

References

Ambrose, S.A., Bridges, M.W., DiPietro, M., Lovettt, M.C. , Norman, M.K., & The Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence at Carnegie Mellon University. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

CAST. (2018). UDL Guidelines. Retrieved from https://udlguidelines.cast.org/ 

Vandenbussche, B. (2018). Reflecting for learning. Retrieved from https://educationaltoolsportal.eu/en/tools-for-learning/reflecting-learning 

In part one of Academic Success, we reviewed why it is important to help students develop time management skills and how to design courses that help students manage time. In this post, we will discuss the why, what and how about teaching students how to learn.

By this time, most public schools and higher education institutions are coming to a close for Spring 2020 teaching. Congratulations on overcoming so many challenges and finishing teaching during COVID-19! As we prepare for summer and/or fall teaching, I would like to invite instructors to consider teaching students how to learn in your next teaching adventure, in order to help students achieve academic success.

WhyWhy Teach Students How to Learn?

For teachers, teaching students how to learn enables them to facilitate dramatic improvements in student learning and success (McGuire & McGuire, 2015).

For students, metacognition helps them to become self-aware problem solvers and take control of their own learning, through taking stock of what they already know, what they need to work on, and how best to approach learning new material (The Learning Center at UNC Chapel Hill, n.d.).

Teaching students how to learn also aligns tightly with the neuroscience of how humans learn. Dr. Daniela Kaufer pointed out four key learning principles based on the neuroscience of how people learn: (1). Learning involves changing the brain; (2). Moderate stress is beneficial for learning, while mild and extreme stress are detrimental to learning; (3). Adequate sleep, nutrition, and exercise encourage robust learning; and (4). Active learning takes advantage of processes that stimulate multiple connections in the brain and promote memory (Kaufer, 2011).

WhatWhat to Include in “Teach Students How to Learn”?

Now we have seen why it is important to teach students how to learn from the perspectives of teachers, students and neuroscience, it is time to look into the content of a “Teaching Students How to Learn” training module. Dr. Saundra McGuire suggests getting students’ buy-in as a first step, through early diagnostic assessment which can be used to find out what students already know and what they did not know.  Past examples of dramatic increase in assessment performance after receiving “Teaching Students How to Learn” training can also be an effective way to gain students’ buy-in. Secondly, Dr. McGuire suggests teaching students Bloom’s Taxonomy and study cycle to help students self-evaluate what they are learning and where to focus their learning at (the higher levels of learning, such as the applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating). The Study Cycle includes preview, attend, review, study and assess (Cook, Kennedy & McGuire, 2013). Thirdly, Dr. McGuire suggests sharing metacognitive learning strategies with students. The Learning Center at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill lists eleven specific strategies that students can use to enhance their learning: (1) use your syllabus as a roadmap; (2) summon your prior knowledge; (3)  think aloud; (4) ask yourself questions; (5) use writing; (6) organize your thoughts using concept maps or graphic organizers; (7) take notes from memory; (8) review your exams using test analyzer tool; (9) pause and ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing and how what you’re doing relates to the course as a whole and to the learning objectives that your professor has set; (10) test yourself; and (11) figure out how you learn and what learning strategies work best for you.

HowHow: Implementing “Teach Students How to Learn” in Online Course Design

There are many ways teachers and instructional designers can build activities and structures in course design to teach students how to learn. The following list is a starting point:

  • Provide specific, measurable, attainable, result-focused and time-focused objectives at both course level and module level, and ask students how these objectives connect to their own learning interests and objectives, for example, using an ungraded survey/poll/private check in at the start of the term.
  • Provide opportunities for students to reflect on prior knowledge they bring to the target topic/course
  • Provide a list of questions to guide students for targeted reading and better reading comprehension as an active reading strategy, when assigning required readings materials.
  • Provide questions in video lectures to help students check their understanding and keep students engaged;
  • Release answer sheet to homework assignments after submission expires and provide opportunity for students to compare what they did right or wrong and how to get it right if they did it wrong initially, to achieve mastery learning;
  • Provide opportunities for peer review and instructor feedback and make it possible for students to resubmit edited versions based on feedback received for mastery learning;
  • Allow multiple attempts for assignments and assessments for mastery learning;
  • Provide opportunities for students to reflect around midterm what learning strategies they use, whether they are effective or not, and how to adjust for better results in the reminding time of the course.
  • Provide opportunities for students to reflect near the end of the term on what they learned and how they have learned, and how they might use the learning in their lives. For example, using discussion forum, google form survey, quiz or assignment to collect students’ reflective feedback.

The list can go endless. The point is there are many opportunities for teachers and instructional designers to build elements in course design to teach students how to learn! Feel free to share your ideas or experience of teaching students how to learn with us.

References

Cook, E., Kennedy, E., and McGuire, S.Y. (2013). Effect of Teaching metacognitive learning strategies on performance in General Chemistry Courses. Journal of Chemical Education, 2013, 90, 961-967.

Kaufer, D. (2011). Neuroscience and how students learn. University of California Berkeley Graduate Student Instructor Teaching & Resource Center. Retrieved from https://gsi.berkeley.edu/gsi-guide-contents/learning-theory-research/neuroscience/

McGuire, S. Y., and McGuire, S. (2015). Teach Students How to Learn : Strategies You Can Incorporate into Any Course to Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills, and Motivation. First ed. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus, LLC.

The Learning Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (n.d.). Metacognitive Study Strategies. Retrieved from https://learningcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/metacognitive-study-strategies/

Resources on Neuroeducation

  • Adolphs, R. (2009). The social brain: neural basis of social knowledge. Annual Review Psychology. 2009; 60: 693-716.
  • Bransford, John., and National Research Council . Committee on Developments in the Science of Learning. How People Learn : Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Expanded ed. Washington, D.C.: National Academy, 2000. Print.
  • CAST (2018). UDL and the learning brain. Wakefield, MA: Author. Retrieved from http://www.cast.org/our-work/publications/2018/udl-learning-brain-neuroscience.html
  • Doyle, Terry, and Zakrajsek, Todd. The New Science of Learning How to Learn in Harmony with Your Brain. Second ed. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus, LLC, 2019. Web.
  • Eyler, J. (2018). How humans learn : The science and stories behind effective college teaching(First ed.), Teaching and learning in higher education (West Virginia University Press)). Morgantown: West Virginia University Press.
  • Kaufer, D. (2011). Neuroscience and How Students Learn. Berkeley Graduate Student Instructor Center’s How Students Learn Series talk in Spring 2011. Retrieved from https://gsi.berkeley.edu/gsi-guide-contents/learning-theory-research/neuroscience/
  • McLagan, Pat. “Unleashing the Unstoppable Learner.” Talent Development7 (2017): 44-49. Web. https://www.td.org/newsletters/atd-links/being-a-lifelong-learner
  • Perkins, D. N.,  Goodrich, H. , Tishman, S. & Owen, J. M.(1994). Thinking Connections : Learning to Think and Thinking to Learn. Menlo Park, Calif.: Addison Wesley, 1994. Print.
  • Schwartz, Daniel L., Tsang, Jessica M., and Blair, Kristen P. The ABCs of How We Learn : 26 Scientifically Proven Approaches, How They Work, and When to Use Them. First ed. New York, NY: W.W. Norton &, 2016. Print. Norton Books in Education.
  • Südhof, T.C. (2013). Neurotransmitter release: the last millisecond in the life of a synaptic vesicle. Neuron. 2013 Oct 30;80(3):675-90. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.10.022.
  • Tokuhama-Espinosa, Tracey (2011). Mind, Brain, and Education Science: A Comprehensive Guide to the New Brain-Based Teaching.New York: W. W. Norton.
  • Ware, D. (2013). Neurons that fire together wire together. Retrieved from https://www.dailyshoring.com/neurons-that-fire-together-wire-together/

(Estimated 6-minute reading )

Every college student registers for classes, hoping for academic success. However, college study can be challenging, even for those students who often get As and Bs in elementary and secondary schools (Macalester University, n.d.). Research tells us that lack of time management skills, life challenges that are out of students’ control, content challenges, and not knowing how to learn are among top factors contributing to academic failure in college. (Fetzner, 2013; Texas A&M Today, 2017, Perez, 2019) In this blog, we will examine the importance of teaching college students time management skills, and how we should teach them those skills.

Why should we teach college students time management skills? 

Fetzner (2013) reported top 10 ranked reasons students drop courses in college, after surveying over 400 students who dropped at least one online course:

  1. 19.7% – I got behind and it was too hard to catch up.
  2. 14.2% – I had personal problems (health, job, child care).
  3. 13.7% – I couldn’t handle combined study plus work or family responsibilities.
  4. 7.3% – I didn’t like the online format.
  5. 7.3% – I didn’t like the instructor’s teaching style.
  6. 6.8% – I experienced too many technical difficulties.
  7. 6.2% – The course was taking too much time.
  8. 5.0% – I lacked motivation.
  9. 4.3% – I signed up for too many courses and had to cut down on my course load.
  10. 3.0% – The course was too difficult.

Student services staff at Oregon State University Ecampus also confirm, based on their daily interactions with online students, that many college students lack time management skills (Perez, 2019). Now that we have realized that many college students lack sufficient time management skills, do we leave it for students to struggle and learn it on their own? Or is there anything we can do to help students develop time management skills so they thrive throughout their college courses? And who can help?

Who can help?

Many higher education professionals, including instructors, instructional designers, advisors, student success coaches, and administrators can help students develop time management skills. For example, at New Student Orientation, there could be a module on time management. Perez (2019) raised a good point that usually New Student Orientation already has too much information to cover, there will be very little room for thorough/sufficient time management training, even though we know it is an area that many of our students need improvement. Advisors can help students with time management skills. Unfortunately, with the current advisor/college students ratio and 15 minutes per student consultation time, that is very unlikely to happen either. Last but not least, instructors can help students with time management skills in every course they teach. If instructors are busy, instructional designers can help with templates or pre-made assignments to give students opportunity to practice time management skills.

How can instructors teach students time management skills?

How could instructors and instructional designers help students from falling behind? A couple crucial solutions are teaching students time management skills and giving students opportunities to plan time for readings, quizzes, writing original discussion posts, responding in discussion forums, working on assignments, homework problems, papers, and projects. Regarding self-hep materials for time-management skill, there are abundant resources on how students could improve time-management skills on their own. Apps and computer programs can help us manage time better. Sabrina Collier (2018) recommended over ten time management apps, including myHomework Student Planner, Trello, Evernote, Pomodoro apps, StayFocused, Remember the Milk, and more.

I personally use outlook calendar, google calendar, and word document to create my personalized study at the beginning of a new term. Rice University’s Center for Teaching Excellence provides an online tool for course workload estimation that is worth checking out. Read-O-Meter by Niram.org will estimate reading time for you if you copy and paste the text into text input window.  In Canvas Learning Management System, to help students plan their total study time needed, instructors could help students visually and visibly notice time needed for study, by stating estimated time for each and all learning activities, such as estimated reading time, video length, estimated homework time, etc. The following is an example Dr. Meta Landys used in her BI 319 online course.

Task list for students with the estimated time to complete each item

Image 1: Task Time Estimate and Visual Calendar of the Week in BI 319 “Critical Thinking and Communication In the Life Sciences” online with Instructor Dr. Meta Landys.

At program and institutional levels, keeping important dates visible to students will also help students stay on top of their schedule and not miss important timeline. At Oregon State University, a user-friendly calendar is created for parent and family of our student population, which includes important dates regarding academic success and fun campus events. For example, on the page for October 2019, the calendar shows October 6th as the last day to drop a fall term course with a 100% tuition refund, and the last day to add a fall term course online without departmental approval. These important dates could also be added to Canvas course modules or announcements, just as friendly reminders to students to make relevant decisions in time.

Parent & Family Calendar 2019-2020

Image 2: Oregon State University Parent & Family Calendar with important dates such as last drop to drop a course with 100% tuition refund; first date to register for a course for the coming term, etc.

It is true that there are plenty of resources on time management for students to learn by themselves. However, not all students know how to manage their time, even with the aid of digital tools. The problem is that when students are not required to make a detailed schedule for themselves, most of them will choose not to do it.  The other side of the problem is that there is very few activities which students are required to show instructors that they have planned/scheduled time for readings and all other study activities for the courses they are taking.  In Canvas, to train students in time management skills, instructors could give an assignment in week 1 to have students plan their weekly learning tasks for each of the 11 weeks. Students can use a word document, excel spreadsheet, apps, or google calendar to plan their time. Charlotte Kent (2018) suggests asking students to include sleep time, eat time, commute time, worry time, and free time and four to eight hours of study time per week per course. Yes, scheduling worry time and free time is part of the time management success trick!

Image 3: A color-coded google calendar example of scheduling study time for a student taking two courses online while working full time and raising children.

To sum it up, there are many ways instructors can help students to develop time management skills, instead of assuming it is individual students’ responsibility to learn how to manage time. Instructors could make estimated study time for each learning activity in a module/week. Instructors could require students to plan study time for the entire term at the beginning of the course. And instructors could recommend students to use apps and tools to help them manage time as well! If you have other ways to help students manage time well, feel free to contact me and share them with us: Tianhong.shi@oregonstate.edu.

 

References

Collier, Sabrina. (2018). Best Time-Management Apps for Students. Top Universities Blog.

https://www.topuniversities.com/blog/best-time-management-apps-students

Fetzner, Marie. (2013). What Do Unsuccessful Online Students Want Us to

Know? Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(1), 13-27.

Kent, Charlotte. (2018). Teaching students to manage their time. Inside Higher Ed. September

18, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2018/09/18/how-teach-students-time-management-skills-opinion

Perez, M. (2019). September 2019 Oregon State University Ecampus Un-All-Staff meeting.

Oregon State University. (2019). Parent & Family Calendar 2019-2020. Retrieved from

https://families.oregonstate.edu/sites/families.oregonstate.edu/files/web_2019_nspfo_calendar.pdf

 

Oregon State University’s Learning Management System (LMS) migrated to Canvas in 2014-2015. The Canvas migration was based not only on the company’s feature alignment with our learning platform needs but also on the outstanding customer service Canvas Instructure has provided to our LMS user community including students, faculty, instructional designers, and administrators. How Canvas provides customer service offers an example we can model to continue to exceed student expectations.

According to Michael Feldstein’s July 8, 2018 report, major players in US LMS market include Blackboard, Canvas, Moodle, Bright Space, Sakai, Schoology, and others (Feldstein, 2018).

LMS Market share in North America

Figure 1: US Primary LMS Systems, July 6th, 2018 (Feldstein, 2018)

 

Of these major players in the LMS field, Canvas is most noticeable with fastest growth in market share among U.S. and Canadian higher education institutions.

LMS history and Market Share

Figure 2. LMS Market Share for US and Canadian Higher Ed Institutions (Feldstein, 2018)

 

Different people suggest different criteria when comparing LMSs. Udutu.com provided a list of 7 things to think about before purchasing a LMS:

  1. Be clear on your learning and training objectives;
  2. Don’t be fooled by the high costs of an LMS;
  3. Know the limitations of your internal team and users;
  4. Pay for the features you need, not for what you might need;
  5. The latest new technology is not necessarily the best one;
  6. Customer support is everything; and
  7. Trust demos and trials over reviews, ratings and “industry experts”

(Udutu, 2016).  Noud (2016) suggested the following ten factors to consider when selecting a LMS:

  1. Unwanted Features;
  2. Mobile Support;
  3. Integrations (APIs, SSO);
  4. Customer Support;
  5. Content Support;
  6. Approach to pricing;
  7. Product roadma;
  8. Scalability, Reliability and Security;
  9. Implementation Timeframe; and
  10. Hidden costs.

Christopher Pappas (2017) suggested 9 factors to consider when calculating your LMS budget:

  1. Upfront costs;
  2. LMS training;
  3. Monthly Or Annual Licensing Fees;
  4. Compatible eLearning Authoring Tools;
  5. Pay-per-User/Learner Fee;
  6. Upgrades and Add-Ons;
  7. Learning and Development Team Payroll;
  8. Online Training Development Costs; and
  9. Ongoing Maintenance.

Of all of the above lists, I like Udutu’s list the best because it matches with my personal experiences with LMS migrations.

I first used WebCT between 2005 and 2007, participated in migrating from WebCT Vista to Blackboard in 2008, and Angel to Blackboard migration in 2013-2014.  During my seven years of using Blackboard as instructional designer and faculty support staff, my biggest complaint with Blackboard was its unexpected server outages during peak times such as beginning of the term and final’s weeks. In 2014, I moved to Oregon State University (OSU). The OSU community was looking for a new LMS in 2013 and started piloting Canvas in 2014. At the end of the pilot, instructor and student feedback was mostly positive. Not subject to local server outages, the cloud-based system was stable and had remained available to users throughout the pilot. Of course no LMS is perfect. But after careful comparison and feedback collection, we migrated from Blackboard to Canvas in 2015. So far in my four years of using Canvas, there has not been a single server outage. Canvas has the basic functionality of a LMS.

Canvas wanted to expand their market share by building up positive customer experiences. They were eager to please OSU and they provided us with 24/7 on-call customer service during our first two years of using Canvas, at a relatively reasonable price. The pilot users were all super satisfied with their customer service. Several instructors reported that they contacted Canvas hotline on Thanksgiving or Christmas, and their calls were answered immediately, and their issues were resolved.

Michael Feldstein (2018) summarized that Canvas’ “cloud-based offering, updated user interface, reputation for outstanding customer service and brash, in-you-face branding” have helped its steady rise in the LMS market share. As instructors and instructional designers, we can learn a lot from the CANVAS INSTRUCTURE’s success story and focus on improving the service we provide to our students, such as student success coaching, online recourses, online learning communities, etc. Would you agree with me on this? If you have specific suggestions on how to improve the way we serve our students, feel free to let us know (Tianhong.shi@oregonstate.edu ; @tianhongshi) !

 

References:

Goldberg, M., Salari, S. & Swoboda, P. (1996) ‘World Wide Web – Course Tool: An Environment for Building WWW-Based Courses’ Computer Networks and ISDN Systems, 28:7-11 pp1219-1231

Feldstein, Michael. (2018). Canvas surpasses Blackboard Learn in US Market Share. E-Literate, July 8, 2018. Retrieved from https://mfeldstein.com/canvas-surpasses-blackboard-learn-in-us-market-share/ on February 2, 2019.

McKenzie, Lindsay. (2018). Canvas catches, and maybe passes, Blackboard. InsideHigherEd. July 10, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2018/07/10/canvas-catches-and-maybe-passes-blackboard-top-learning on February 2, 2019.

Moran, Gwen (October 2010). “The Rise of the Virtual Classroom”Entrepreneur Magazine. Irvine, California. Retrieved July 15, 2011.

Noud, Brendan. (February 9, 2016). 10 Things to consider when selecting an LMS. Retrieved from https://www.learnupon.com/blog/top-10-considerations-when-selecting-a-top-lms/ on February 2, 2019.

Pappas, Christopher. (June 13, 2017). Top 9 Factors to consider when calculating Your LMS Budget. Retrieved from https://blog.lambdasolutions.net/top-9-factors-to-consider-when-calculating-your-lms-budget on February 2, 2019.

Udutu. (May 30, 2016). How to choose the best Learning Management System. Retrieved from https://www.udutu.com/blog/lms/ on February 2, 2019.

Wikipedia. (n.d.). WebCT. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WebCT on February 2, 2019.

 

I pledge that I have acted honorably in completing this assessment.

There are two sides to the story of security of online assessments. On the one side, cheating does exist in online assessments. Examity’s president Michael London summarized five common ways students cheat on online exams:

  1. The old-school try of notes;
  2. The screenshot;
  3. The water break;
  4. The cover-up; and
  5. The big listen through devices such as Bluetooth headset (London, 2017).

Newton (2015) even reported the disturbing fact that “cheating in online classes is now big business”. On the other side, academic dishonesty is a problem of long history, both on college campuses and in online courses. The rate of students who admit to cheating at least once in their college careers has held steady at somewhere around 75 percent since the first major survey on cheating in higher education in 1963 (Lang, 2013). Around 2000, Many faculty and students believed it was easier to cheat in online classes (Kennedy, 2000), and about a third of academic leaders perceived online outcomes to be inferior to traditional classes (Allen & Seaman, 2011). However, according to Watson and Sottile (2010) and other comparative studies (Pilgrim & Scanlon, 2018), there is no conclusive evidence that online students are more likely to cheat than face-to-face students. “Online learning is, itself, not necessarily a contributing factor to an increase in academic misconduct (Pilgrim & Scanlon, 2018)”.

Since there are so many ways for students to cheat in online assessments, how can we make online assessments more effective in evaluating students’ learning? Online proctoring is a solution that is easy for instructors but adds a burden of cost to students. Common online proctoring service providers include ProctorU, Examity, Proctorio, Honorlock, to name just a few (Bentley, 2017).

Fortunately, there are other ways to assess online learning without overly concerned with academic dishonesty. Vicky Phillips (n.d.) suggested that authentic assessment makes it extremely difficult to fake or copy one’s homework. The University of Maryland University College has consciously moving away from proctored exams and use scenario-based projects as assessments instead (Lieberman, 2018). James Lang (2013) suggested smaller class sizes will allow instructor to have more instructor-to-students interaction one-on-one and limit cheating to the minimum therefore; Pilgrim and Scanlon (2018) suggest changing assessments to reduce the likelihood of cheating (such as demonstrating problem solving in person or via video, using plagiarism detection software programs like TurnItIn, etc.) , promote and establish a culture of academic integrity (such as honor’s code, integrity pledge), and supporting academic integrity through appropriate policies and processes. Kohnheim-Kalkstein (2006) reports that the use of a classroom honor code has been shown to reduce cheating. Kohnheim-Kalkstein, Stellmack, and Shilkey (2008) report that use of classroom honor code improves rapport between faculty and students, and increases feelings of trust and respect among students. Gurung, Wilhelm and Fitz (2012) suggest that an honor pledge should include formal language, state the specific consequences for cheating, and require a signature. For the honor pledge to be most effective, Shu, Mazar, Gino, Ariely, and Bazerman (2012) suggests including the honor pledge on the first page of an online assessment or online assignment, before students take the assessment or work on the assignment.

Rochester Institute of Technology (2014) ’s Teaching Elements: Assessing Online Students offer a variety of ways to assess students, including discussions, low-stake quizzes, writing assignments (such as muddiest point paper), and individual activities (such as staged assignments for students to receive ongoing feedback), and many other activities.

In summary, there are plenty of ways to design effective formative or summative assessments online that encourage academic honesty, if instructors and course designers are willing to spend the time to try out suggested strategies from literature.

References

Bentley, Kevin. (2017). What to consider when selecting an online exam proctoring service. Inside HigherEd. (June 21, 2017). Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/views/2017/06/21/selecting-online-exam-proctoring-service on February 22, 2019.

Gurung, R. A. R., Wilhelm, T. M., & Filz, T. (2012). Optimizing honor codes for online exam administration. Ethics & Behavior, 22, 158–162.

Konheim-Kalkstein, Y. L. (2006). Use of a classroom honor code in higher education. Journal of Credibility Assessment and Witness Psychology, 7, 169–179.

Konheim-Kalkstein,Y. L., Stellmack, M. A., & Shilkey, M. L. (2008). Comparison of honor code and non-honor code classrooms at a non-honor code university. Journal of College & Character, 9, 1–13.

J.M. Lang. (2013). How college classes encourage cheating. Boston Globe. Retrieved from https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2013/08/03/how-college-classes-encourage-cheating/3Q34x5ysYcplWNA3yO2eLK/story.html on February 21, 2019.

Lieberman, Mark. (2018). Exam proctoring for online students hasn’t yet transformed. Inside Higher Ed (October 10, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2018/10/10/online-students-experience-wide-range-proctoring-situations-tech, on February 22, 2019.

Michael London. (2017). 5 Ways to Cheat on Online Exams. Inside Higher Ed (09/20/2017). Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/views/2017/09/20/creative-ways-students-try-cheat-online-exams on February 21, 2019.

Derek Newton. (2015). Cheating in Online Classes is now big business. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/11/cheating-through-online-courses/413770/ on February 21, 2019.

Vicky Phillips. (n.d.). Big Fat Online Education Myths – students cheat like weasels in Online Classes. GetEducated. Retrieved from https://www.geteducated.com/elearning-education-blog/big-fat-online-education-myths-students-cheat-like-weasels-in-online-classes/ on February 21, 2019.

Chris Pilgrim and Christopher Scanlon. (2018). Don’t assume online students are more likely to cheat. The evidence is murky. Retrieved from https://phys.org/news/2018-07-dont-assume-online-students-evidence.html on February 21, 2019.

Rochester Institute of Technology. (2014). Teaching Elements: Assessing Online Students. Retrieved from https://www.rit.edu/academicaffairs/tls/sites/rit.edu.academicaffairs.tls/files/docs/TE_Online%20Assessmt.pdf on February 21, 2019.

Shu, L. L., Mazar, N., Gino, F., Ariely, D., & Bazerman, M. H. (2012). Signing at the beginning makes ethics salient and decreases dishonest self-reports in comparison to signing at the end. PNAS, 109, 15197–15200.

George Watson. And James Sottile. (2010). Cheating in digital age: Do students cheat more in online courses? Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration 13(1). Retrieved from https://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring131/watson131.html on February 21, 2019

Neuromyths                                                                                                     made with wordart.com

In part 1 of Debunking Neuromyths and Applications for Online Teaching and Learning, we reviewed the neuromyths and neuro-facts about learning styles, intelligence, and emotions, and their corresponding online teaching applications. Here is part 2, where we will review the neuromyths and neuro-facts about sleep, memory, attention and creativity, and their corresponding online teaching applications.

neuromyth#4 About sleep:  “When you sleep, your brain shuts down.”  Is this statement a myth or fact?

neuro fact It’s a myth. Neuro-fact regarding sleep: Sleep strengthens memory because the activity patterns, neurochemical and gene environments of sleep serve to clear noise and strengthen weakened networks of neural circuits for efficient subsequent cognitive processing demands. (Poe, Walsh and Bjorness, 2010)

danger of neuromythDanger of this myth: It tempted students to procrastinate and skip sleep before important test to cram in missed study time.

online learningOnline learning applications from debunking sleep myth include:

  • Teach students the importance of sleep: sleep time brain activity enhances learning.
  • Teach students test preparation secret 1: spaced practice, retrieval practice, interleaving practices, way before the test day.
  • Teach students test preparation secret 2: review thoroughly (practice retrieval, teach others, explain it, etc. ) the night before test day.
  • Teach students test preparation secret 3: have plenty of sleep regularly, and especially the night before the test day.
  • Teach students test preparation secret 4: Eat balanced healthy food regularly, and on test day as well.
  • Teach students test preparation secret 5: Calm down and have a positive attitude. You are bound to perform at your best!

neuromyth #5 About memory: “Memory is like a container, an assembly line, or a recording device.” Is this statement a myth or fact?

neuro factIt’s a myth. Neuro-fact regarding memory: Memory is malleable. We use our memory to manage situations we know very well. When faced with a new problem, we try to modify and adapt known solutions from previous experiences. (Brandeis.edu, n.d.)

danger of neuromythThe danger of this myth lies in the assumption of its accuracy.

Why is it important to debunk this myth? It helps liberating both instructor and students to focus on improve the learning environment and malleability of memory.

online learning Online learning application of debunking the idea of “fixed memory”:

  • Encourage/motivate students’ effort to enhance memory.
  • Encourage instructors to provide multiple means of content presentation for strengthened memory connections.

neuromyth #6 About attention: “The brain can multitask while learning, especially Gen Z”. Is this statement a myth or fact?

neuro factIt’s a myth. Neuro-fact regarding attention: Learning requires focused attention. Multitasking works only for routine or simple tasks. (Tokuhama-Espinosa, 2018)

danger of neuromythThe danger of this myth lies in wasting time and low productivity during study.

online learning Online learning application from debunking the myth of multitasking:

  • Content presentation in online learning needs to be in modular format to avoid cognitive overload and increase focused attention.
  • Offer time management tips to students. For example, use physical or digital devices, such as Pomodoro Timer, to help students concentrate on a focused study session.

neuromyth #7 About Creativity: “Creativity is primarily a personality trait and can’t be taught.” Is this statement a myth or fact?

neuro fact It’s a myth. Neuro-fact regarding creativity: Creativity can be practiced and reinforced, just like other cognitive skills such as critical thinking (Miller, 2018). Koestler (1964) proposed a broader definition of creativity: the ability to make connections between two previously unrelated ideas or contexts.

danger of neuromyth The danger of this myth is the mission-impossible syndrome caused by self-denial of creativity, for both instructors and students. If instructors do not view themselves as creative, it is very unlikely for them to encourage creativity in their teaching. If the students do not view themselves as creative in the subject area, it is very unlikely that they will attempt to produce creative work.

online learning Online learning application from debunking the myth of creativity:

  1. As an instructor, model creativity in your mindset and teaching practices. Need help? Read these eight steps to becoming a more creative teacher.
  2. Think of creativity as a skill.
  3. As an instructor, openly share your original ideas with the class. Model what it looks like to be open to feedback and bounce ideas off of one another.
  4. Encourage students to learn a variety of skills and subjects. The more unrelated the field, the better. “Learning different methods and practicing new skills not only engages different parts of the brain, but it inspires cross-pollination of ideas from one domain to the other. ” (Shah, 2018)
  5. Practice generating more ideas or read the 18 idea-generating techniques or read these 19 ideas to promote creativity in your class.
  6. Provide opportunities for both individual thinking and group thinking. (Shah, 2018; Johnson, 2011; Catmull and Wallace, 2014)

Feel free to contact your Ecampus instructional designer if you would like more information on any of the above topics. Enjoy your online teaching.

* This blog was inspired by Online Learning Consortium 2018 workshops on Neuro, Cognitive, and Learning Sciences,  Bring Theory to Practice (Part I  & Part II –new offering of part II coming again in March 11, 2019), facilitated by two amazing teachers: Dr. Kristen Betts and Dr. Michelle Miller. A big “thank you” to their passionate work in promoting the application of neuroscience in education!

* Icons used in this post comes from the Noun Project.

References:

Cast.org. (n.d.). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines. Retrieved from http://www.cast.org/our-work/about-udl.html#.XEc_189Kh24 

Catmull, E. and Wallace, A. (2014). Creativity, INC. Overcoming the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration. London, UK: Townworld Publisher. 

Johnson, Steven. (2011). Where Good Ideas Come From. New York, NY: Riverhead books.

Marsh, H. W., and Yeung, A. S. (1997). Causal effects of academic self-concept on academic achievement: structural equation models of longitudinal data. J. Educ. Psychol.89, 41–54. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.89.1.41

Memory Adaptation. Learning by Trial and Error. Retrieved from http://www.cs.brandeis.edu/~pablo/tron/t10.html

Miller, Michelle. (2018). Neuro, Cognitive and Learning Sciences, Part 1: Applying Theory to Practice. Online Learning Consortium online workshop.

Poe, G.R., Walsh, C.M., & Bjorness, T.E. (2010). Cognitive Neuroscience of Sleep. Progress in Brain Research, Volume 185, 2010, pages 1-19. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-53702-7.00001-4

Shah, Raj. (2018). 5 Ways for Teachers to Nurture the Creative Genius in Their Students. Retrieved from https://www.gettingsmart.com/2018/01/5-ways-for-teachers-to-nurture-the-creative-genius-in-their-students/

Tokuhama-Espinosa, Tracey. (2018). Neuromyths: Debunking false ideas in education. New York, N.Y. : W.W Norton & Company, Inc.

Vaughan, Tanya. (2017). Tackling the ‘learning styles’ myth. Retrieved from https://www.teachermagazine.com.au/articles/tackling-the-learning-styles-myth

neuromyths about emotions, fixed intelligence, learning styles(image generated at wordart.com)

As we have settled into the start of a new term, it is a good time to pause for a short moment and reflect: is there something new I can learn about teaching and learning and apply it in my teaching?

“Neuromyths: Debunking false ideas about the brain” (Tokuhama-Espinosa, 2018) offers an easy read yet presents challenging ideas. Could our beliefs about teaching and learning be totally wrong as neuroscience develops and scientists unravel more and more understanding about how our brain functions? In this post, we will investigate three aspects of learning: learning styles, intelligence and emotions.

  1. neuromythAbout learning styles: “Individuals learn better when they receive information in their preferred learning styles.” Is this statement a myth or fact?

neuro factIt’s a myth. Neuro-fact regarding learning styles: Although learning style have been widely used, the above statement is not supported by the science.  Individual variance in learning preferences do exist.  Yet evidence suggests that it is unhelpful to assign learners to groups or categories on the basis of a supposed learning style. (Vaughan 2017)

danger of neuromythThe danger of this myth lies in its potential to mislead students to think: “The content is not presented in my preferred learning styles, so I can not learn it well. Therefore, I don’t even need to make an effort to try learn it.” Instead of focusing on positive attitude and efforts, students can blame on content or curriculum not delivered to meet their individual learning styles.

Why is it important to debunk this myth? It helps redirect teachers’ efforts into developing real learning, real progress and real success through universal design for learning, such as multiple means of representations, multiple means of interactions, and multiple means of expressions. (cast.org, n.d.)

online learningPractical applications of online learning for debunking learning styles include:

  • Provide content in multiple formats if possible
  • Interact and engage students at all levels: student-to-content interactions, students-to-students, students-to-instructor interactions.
  • Provide opportunities for students to  demonstrate and express their learning.

2.neuromythAbout intelligence: “Intelligence is fixed.” Is this statement a myth or fact?

neuro factIt’s a myth. Neuro-fact regarding intelligence: Neuroplasticity is one of the main characteristics of adult human brains, where neurons and neural networks in the brain are capable of changing their connections and behavior in response to new information, sensory stimulation, development, damage or dysfunction (Encyclopedia Britannica). Cognitive psychology tells us that belief in one’s own abilities is highly relevant to successful learning (Marsh and Yeung, 1997).

danger of neuromythThe danger of this myth lies in its potential to lead both the instructor and students to think that because a student’s intelligence is fixed, there isn’t much to do about their learning success.

Why is it important to debunk this myth? It liberates both the instructor and students to believe that teaching and learning success is possible for everyone.

online learningOnline learning applications from  debunking the idea of “fixed intelligence”:

  • Encourage and motivate students to to believe in malleable intelligence and the neuroscience evidences behind it.
  • Provide opportunities for students to reflect on past learning success
  • Provide opportunities for students to acknowledge their capability of learning well in the course.

3.neuromyth About emotions: “The brain is for thinking, the heart is for feeling”. Is this statement a myth or fact?

neuro fact It’s a myth. Neuro-fact regarding emotion: Emotions amplify  memory. And emotions influence decision making. (Miller, 2018; Immording-Yang, 2015).

danger of neuromythDanger of this myth occurs when instructors don’t consider the impact of students’ emotions on learning and motivations. Have you heard such sayings like: “I am a chemistry/biology/physics/math teacher. I only need to focus on teaching the content”? As a matter of fact, teachers can exert great influence in motivating students to have a growth mindset and challenging students to put in their best effort for learning.

How is it important to debunk such myth? It points out to both the instructor and students that students’ self-perception and their learning success are closely related. (Marsh, 1997)

online learning Online learning applications from debunking the idea of “The brain is for thinking, the heart is for feeling”:

  • Show that you are welcoming through a welcome message using announcement, post or email.
  • Provide opportunities for students to get to know each other through text, audio or video-based messages, such as a week 1 discussion forum that allows everyone to introduce themselves to the class, using voicethread (a video, audio, and/or text-based commenting tool) to introduce everyone, or record a short video for self-introduction.
  • Tell your students that they can be successful in learning the content even though it might be challenging. With confident self-perception, they will have the motivation to persist throughout the term.
  • Tell your students that the most effective way for learning is through spaced practices, retrieval practices, and interleaving practices.

Feel free to contact your Ecampus instructional designer if you would like more information on any of the above topics.

* This blog was inspired by Online Learning Consortium 2018 workshops on Neuro, Cognitive, and Learning Sciences,  Bring Theory to Practice (Part I  & Part II), facilitated by two amazing teachers: Dr. Kristen Betts and Dr. Michelle Miller. A big “thank you” to their passionate work in promoting the application of neuroscience in education!

* Icons used in this post comes from the Noun Project.

References:

Cast.org. (n.d.). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines. Retrieved from http://www.cast.org/our-work/about-udl.html#.XEc_189Kh24 

Immordino-Yang, Mary Helen. (2015). Emotions, Learning, and the Brain: Exploring the Educational Implications of Affective Neuroscience. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.

Marsh, H. W., and Yeung, A. S. (1997). Causal effects of academic self-concept on academic achievement: structural equation models of longitudinal data. J. Educ. Psychol.89, 41–54. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.89.1.41

Miller, Michelle. (2018). Neuro, Cognitive and Learning Sciences, Part 1 & 2: Applying Theory to Practice. Online Learning Consortium online workshop, facilitated by two amazing teachers: Dr. Kristen Betts (Drexel University) and Dr. Michelle Miller (

Tokuhama-Espinosa, Tracey. (2018). Neuromyths: Debunking false ideas in education. New York, N.Y. : W.W Norton & Company, Inc.

Vaughan, Tanya. (2017). Tackling the ‘learning styles’ myth. Retrieved from https://www.teachermagazine.com.au/articles/tackling-the-learning-styles-myth