The Hidden Element in Teaching: Modeling Expert Thinking

Instructors often direct students to produce assignments with very good support and guidance, such as examples of past work, a set of criteria or rubric, and detailed instructions or guiding questions. Less common is giving guidance for how students should think as they approach a task. Every discipline has a specific approach to thinking within the field [1]. For example, historians use evidence differently than other disciplines. They must weigh evidence that leads to different interpretations of historical events. They need to learn how to identify, select and use evidence in arguments [2]. In the study of literature, there are particular ways of analyzing literary texts. Novices (students), however; approach academic tasks differently than experts (instructors). Without specific guidance, they tend to use ways of thinking from earlier educational experiences, work or other life experiences. These approaches tend to be ill-suited for the discipline-specific, higher-level approaches required. The key challenge in teaching this type of thinking may be to make thinking visible.

Below are two examples from online courses at Lesley that use voice-over videos to model how the instructor approaches a task, focusing on the thinking that guides them. In the first video, instructor Wendy Hasenkamp shows students how to review a scientific article. This is from the course “Meditation and the Brain: Intro to Contemplative Neuroscience”. In the second video, instructor Lisa Spitz gives a detailed example of how one might work through a design challenge in the course “Typography I”, part of the new online “Design for User Experience” program.

Example 1

 

Example 2

This type of expert modeling is not the only way to support more expert-like thinking. Another example is called the “process worksheet” [3]. This can be a simple, text-based scaffold to thinking; it provides learners with steps they need to take to solve a problem or approach a learning task. It might show a series of phases with key rules of thumb or advice for how they might approach the task.

One reason that modeling expert thinking is less common as a support for students is that we often forget how we came to be experts and, as a result, it can be difficult to tease apart the details of how we approach our disciplines. This is sometimes called “the blindness of expertise”. Once we review how we approach a task, we can begin to see details that might help guide students.

For more information about modeling expertise in teaching, please contact John McCormick: jmccormi@lesley.edu.

Citations:

[1] Meyer, J., & Land, R. (2003). Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge: Linkages to ways of thinking and practising within the disciplines (pp. 412-424). Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh.

[2] Grim, V., Pace, D., & Shopkow, L. (2004). Learning to use evidence in the study of history. New directions for teaching and learning, 2004(98), 57-65.

[3] Nadolski, R. J., Kirschner, P. A., & Merriënboer, J. J. (2005). Optimizing the number of steps in learning tasks for complex skills. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 75(2), 223-237.

Student Peer Review Research and Practice: A Cross-University Collaboration

A team of faculty, staff and students presented our research on student peer review at Community of Scholars Day: “Critique Creates Community? Effects of Peer Review and Metacognitive Strategies”. Inspired by the culture of critique at Lesley’s College of Art and Design (LUCAD) and with the shared goal of improving students’ analytical writing and other assignments, three faculty gathered a team to investigate peer review methods using a research-based approach. Our background research on peer review and the results of empirical research with our own students were closely aligned, revealing the many benefits of peer review that can be achieved under specific conditions. As a result of our inquiry, we have been revising our peer review processes, excited by the improvements seen thus far and the possibility for enhanced skills in many areas. Below, we will discuss key components and benefits of the peer review protocol we first drafted in the fall of 2016 and updated this year.

Our peer review protocol is driven by the Dialogic Feedback Cycle, which, importantly, includes extensive use of metacognitive learning strategies. Critical to the peer review process is the dynamic between students’ individual (internal) processing and pairs’ external collaborative processing (see Figure 1 below). Students work both individually and with peers in order to reflect on and revise their work.  Throughout this process, the writer drives the process, first by identifying their goals and requesting specific areas for feedback, and at the end, by explaining their choices for revising their work to the instructor.

Internal-External Dynamic of Peer Review process

Figure 1

Before engaging in peer review sessions, the instructor builds an environment that prepares students to participate in a committed way to this collaborative process (Step 1). This is achieved by discussing benefits and challenges; explaining and modeling peer review; and, most importantly, creating a trusting relationship among students.  Many students dislike or distrust the peer review process based on previous experience – including concerns that peers will not take their work seriously, or that they themselves will be unable to review peers’ work satisfactorily – so discussing students’ insecurities and establishing goals aids in building trust.  Peer review sessions focus on collaborative discussion, driven by the needs of the writer. (Step 2). Following peer review sessions, students determine the most valuable feedback to revise their work, and then explain to the instructor how they used feedback in their revisions. This closes the loop on the feedback cycle (Step 3).

There is a growing realization that self-evaluation skills should be a major goal of higher education (1). Learners’ ability to effectively evaluate their own work greatly enhances their success, both in school and later in the workplace (2).  Research on peer review in higher education and our own work with our students has shown a multitude of benefits, including improvements in collaborative skills; self-confidence, understanding of subject matter;  connection with peers; metacognition; and transfer of skills beyond the classroom (3). In our study, students reported a strong connection to peers from the peer review process, which may have implications for general education and retention. As we continue to apply research to our practice in the classroom, we invite interested faculty members to join us.

If you have questions about our work or would like to join us in our research and efforts to improve teaching practice via peer review, please contact Liv Cummins (lcummins2@lesley.edu).

Peer Review Team:
Research and Practice:

  • Summer Clark (Assistant Professor of Literacy Education, CLAS)
  • Liv Cummins (Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Drama, CLAS)
  • Kimberly Lowe (Assistant Professor of European History, CLAS)

Lesley student research: Casey Bogusz (CLAS)
Research lead for Lesley student research: Linda Pursley (Research and Assessment)
Background research support: John McCormick (eLIS):

Citations:

  1. Boud, D., & Dochy, F. (2010). Assessment 2020. Seven propositions for assessment reform in higher education.
  2. Nicol, D. (2010). The foundation for graduate attributes: Developing self-regulation through self and peer assessment. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. Scotland.
  3. Pearce, J., Mulder, R., & Baik, C. (2009). Involving students in peer review: Case studies and practical strategies for university teaching.

Adding Video to Your Online Discussions

Are your text-based online discussions seeming a bit dry? Do you feel like something is missing or that you aren’t getting a good sense of the people you are conversing with. Would you like to do a little community building in the early days of your course? Perhaps you should add a little video to your discussion.

The Advantages

It can be difficult to envision the real person behind the text. Video can make it easy to connect and to literally put a face to the idea. Not to mention the huge amount of information we convey with expression and tone. Being able to hear the other person’s voice and to see their face and expressions can allow you to get a fuller sense of their personality. Do they have an accent? Smile a lot? Have a lot of plants in their office? At times, it can even provide more insight into the content they are delivering. Did the humorous tone they delivered their comment with completely change the meaning?

The Disadvantages

One of the biggest disadvantages of video is that it’s time-based. A three-minute video takes three minutes to watch. Multiply that three minutes across many posts and it can take a bit of time to view everyone’s post. Also, unlike text-based discussion, you can’t quickly skim to review or find a detail. Many instructors set time limits on video posts. This makes the content more manageable and helps to cut down on rambling posts. Students should be encouraged to create a script or outline of the points they wish to address before recording.

earbuds with micVideo can also present accessibility issues. Hearing-impaired students will need captions or transcripts to participate. It’s also important to have good audio quality and for the person to speak clearly so they can be understood. Fortunately, the audio quality issue can usually be solved by using a microphone such as the earbuds with a microphone that come with many cellphones. 

You Don’t Have to Choose?

“Literacy comes in a variety of exciting flavors,” argues Joyce Valenza, of Rutgers University’s School of Communication. “In the course of a semester-long course, this is not a binary decision [between text and video]. In life, as in school, we read and write across platforms for multiple purposes, for a variety of audiences, using different strategies.”

When choosing to do a video or text-based discussion, it doesn’t have to be either/or, even in the same discussion. Providing information in different formats can provide varied, boost attention, and help reinforce the information delivered. Students can learn to present information in different modes or choose the method they feel the most comfortable with. We all learn in different ways. They can also use their cell phone cameras to share an experience or location via video and describe it in text.

How to Create a Video Discussion

There are a couple of options for having a video-based discussion board.

VoiceThread

VoiceThread is a multimedia discussion tool that allows students and instructors to have a conversation around media such as images, documents and videos. They can post comments on the “slide” using text, audio and video allowing them to express themselves in the mode they feel strongest.

 

To learn more about how to use VoiceThread in your course, check out the help resources.

Kaltura Media

Want to stick with the traditional discussion board in myLesley, but have the option for video. Try Kaltura. It’s integrated directly into myLesley. Anywhere you have access to the text editor you can create a video.

mashup tool in the myLesley text editor            record from webcam

Learn how to create a Kaltura post at our support site.

Using the Deep Web for Research

Doing research for a paper or project and relying only on Google can mean never seeing the most useful content. It may be locked behind a password. Fortunately, the Lesley Library has databases full of articles, ebooks, videos and images available to you as a Lesley student, faculty or staff person.
 

To get started, go to the ‘my library’ tab in myLesley and start searching. Don’t forget to Ask a Librarian if you need help.
SearchLibrary

Common Craft has over 80 videos like the one above. View their video library and contact elis@lesley.edu for assistance embedding it in your myLesley course.

TeachLive: Using Immersive Simulations to Practice Being a Teacher

Lesley Graduate School of Education (GSOE) faculty members Maureen Creegan Quinquis and Susan Patterson are wrapping up a successful year piloting TeachLive, a new immersive technology to prepare teachers for classroom experience. TeachLive (produced by Mursion) allows faculty to guide teacher candidates through several types of classroom situations from behavior management to practicing for parent-teacher conferences.

To learn more about this initiative, rewind to the summer of 2016.  Faculty members Maureen Creegan Quinquis and Susan Patterson, collaborating with GSOE Dean Jack Gillette wrote a grant proposal to the Department of Education (DESE) to allow Lesley students to gain access to a new technology tool that blends an immersive experience with live action by an actor. They wrote a proposal detailing the elements of teacher preparation that immersive virtual reality could most effectively address. Specifically, it provides students with experience in:

  • Classroom management
  • Parent-teacher/community relationships
  • Special education practice, particularly developing skills in differentiation
  • Job interview practice

Lesley was awarded the grant for equipment and services in August 2016, allowing GSOE to offer this experience for candidates in initial licensure programs. The equipment for the program is situated in a dedicated space in University Hall. Faculty schedule time with their students to interact with virtual students. Faculty introducing the tool have work closely with students on the preparation, the live simulation itself, and then debriefing after the simulation—all of which are essential components to learning from an immersive simulation.

In Fall 2016, Elementary/Creative Arts in Learning and Elementary and Middle/High School students began working with two of the simulation scenarios:

  1. a classroom setting of 8th graders with a variety of personalities and levels of knowledge;
  2. a parent teacher conference where the teacher is speaking with family members about their child’s progress or presenting a serious issue to the family.
image from http://www.rdmag.com/article/2016/04/simulation%E2%80%99s-teaching-moment

image from http://www.rdmag.com/article/2016/04/simulation%E2%80%99s-teaching-moment

The faculty members report that in addition to providing the space to “practice” with simulated students, there is a real benefit to being able to also pause the simulation to debrief specific moments or to step back from the situation.  As Professor Creegan Quinquis notes, “If I have a group of students who have been working on differentiated ways to present a lesson; they can all be in the room fishbowl style– they can watch each other to try and present the lesson. If the student candidate suddenly freezes– he/she can say “pause” and then ask for help or let someone else step in, or we can have a discussion right there in the room. You get to practice it several time.  What’s interesting is how much like real life it is. You have this experience of feeling like it’s really happening…The beauty of this is that they can make mistakes and have a safe space to practice” …before ever getting in front of real students.