March Faculty Community Conversation: Student Presentations

We’re all familiar with the traditional end-of-semester final presentation where each students speaks to the class for a period of time, often while sharing Powerpoint slide. But what if it could be different? This March Ingrid Stobbe, Assistant Professor of Digital Filmmaking, and Jason Butler, Associate Professor of Drama Therapy, led our Community Conversation on alternative ways to do student presentations or as Jason put it, how we can “play and innovate with our students.” 

Ingrid teaches film production and theory classes at Lesley and one of her students proposed an alternative. He wanted to create a short film as his presentation. As with any other presentation or final paper, he started with his thesis statement: Pink Floyd’s “Live at Pompeii” was an innovative documentary that merged the medium of music with innovative techniques that were starting to appear in documentary filmmaking of the time. He then provided Ingrid with an outline where his thesis statement would be supported by media clips. Ingrid liked the idea enough to open the option up to all the students in the class. They still needed to hit the objectives of the assignment, synthesize what they had learned in class, and communicate that information to others, but it allowed filmmaking students a chance to express themselves in their own medium. For Ingrid, the question at the end of the day was “Is there a way that I can support and allow for the key moments in my class?” 

Ingrid’s alternative presentations were the result of a student request. However, Jason purposely designed his into his Drama Therapy course. Jason based his approach on Universal Design for Learning theories (UDL) where multiple avenues are provided for students to engage with the content and to share their knowledge. 

Jason had both asynchronous and synchronous elements to his course assignments. Students began by creating a fictional story and character to learn about embodiment. They then created short videos of themselves showing how their character is embodied. In the follow up assignment, students compared autobiographical theater with self-love pieces. Many students created traditional Powerpoints, but others did a more creative interpretation which was then shared in VoiceThread. VoiceThread allows the presenters to have traditional slides, images, and video. Viewers can provide feedback in multiple ways, text, audio, or video, allowing them some choice in how they respond.    

Jason also had some tips for synchronous presentations. He hides non-video attendees in Zoom and then asks the students who aren’t presenting to turn off their camera in order to create a stage for the performers on screen. Other times, he asks students to move closer to the camera if they agree with what is being said and to move away if they disagree in order to get the audience involved and interacting rather than just sitting back and watching. He also uses the reaction buttons in Zoom or asks the viewers to enter a word or two in the chat that expresses their thoughts on the presentation.   

But how do you assess such innovative assignments?  

According to Ingrid and Jason, you must give it structure. Jason shares the criteria of what needs to be covered while Ingrid has a workshop day where the student comes in with an outline of the goals they need to meet and how they will do that. While you are providing the student with some flexibility and room to explore, it must still meet the assignment criteria and stay within the boundaries of what the instructor can grade. Having a rubric helps communicate the criteria and to grade.  

How do you provide options when you teach more traditional content?  

Look for places where you can provide a little bit of choice for students. Where can you provide a small piece of creativity for them. Your students might not be ready to dance their dissertation, but can they share a picture or a piece of music that will transmit another aspect of the article they presenting on? The process forces us to think in different ways. 

One significant goal is to create a classroom culture where students feel empowered and comfortable talking risks and stepping out of their comfort zone. Small gestures over time where you allow students choice or opportunities to be themselves helps to create that safe space. Jason shared that in partnership with UDL, there’s a trauma-informed pedagogy perspective that says when we are activated due to trauma, we can’t function or reason… or learn. One of the common reasons for trauma is a lack of choice. It’s difficult to properly engage with something when we feel that it is being imposed on us. Providing some form of choice in your assignments diminishes that activation and allows students to more fully participate. 

Do you provide alternative ways for students to share their knowledge? Let us know how. 

 

Which Tool is Best?

One question we in eLIS are often asked is which tool is best for a particular assignment, or the obverse; what sort of assignment would a particular collaborative tool work best for? The answer, which I always imagine frustrates instructors looking for clear, unambiguous information to apply to their teaching practices is, “It depends.” We also make the point that it’s important to start from your learning objective and go from there. The tool should always be in service to what you’re trying to accomplish.

Once you have your objective defined, there are a number of considerations that can go into choosing which tool to use for, say, asking students to reflect on a reading, getting formative feedback to help determine what to emphasize in an upcoming unit, or encouraging your students to interact to inspire collaborative learning. Should you use the assignment tool or a journal? The discussion board or a blog? A wiki or VoiceThread? There may be instances where one or the other of these tools is the clear best choice, it’s true.

However, one of your main considerations should be what’s convenient and familiar to you and your students: what tool you know well enough that you can create an exercise that will bring the material or concepts you’re working with to life for learners. There’s no one tool that’s going to be the best in all instances, but if you have a go-to tool, you can almost always figure out a way to make it work for the task at hand.

In my parents’ home, the go-to tool for around-the-house, quick-fix situations was a butter knife. We used them to drive screws, scrape gunk off of pots and pans, pry up nails or push-pins, remove staples, open envelopes, scrape off excess putty or glue from quick repairs, spread butter on bread or baked potatoes, cream cheese on bagels, icing on cake, pull up burning toast out of the toaster, or in any number of other scenarios.

It may surprise you to learn that my dad was an auto body repairman, and there was always an extensive collection of tools out in the garage at our house, one of which could do almost any particular (non-food-related) job a little bit more efficiently. But a butter knife was handy, right there in the kitchen, and frankly, it did most of the jobs it was apt to be used for nearly as well as the thing you would have to go out to the garage on a cold night and rummage around to find.

Arguably the most versatile tool in Blackboard/MyLesley’s suite of tools is the discussion board. While there’s no justifiably convenient way to make it function as a private journal, for example, it does have capabilities well beyond its named purpose. It can be used as a makeshift blog or as a place to host visual student work, which is the way we most often see the wiki tool used. We’ve also seen it used as a place for students to post assignments.

The discussion board can be made gradable. Using the viewing setting “Participants must create a thread in order to view other threads in this forum,” it’s easy to make sure that students don’t see each other’s work before they submit their own. Once they do, they can automatically view the work of their peers. With the default settings of MyLesley forums, students are not able to edit their own work once it’s been submitted, although you can change that setting if you wish.

While the discussion board may be the most versatile tool in MyLesley — the true “butter knife” in your course site — it’s certainly true that virtually any of the tools available in your course site can be used in unexpected ways. It only requires your creativity and resourcefulness to find those new, unconventional repurposings.

How have you used MyLesley’s suite of tools in novel ways? We’d love to hear about it.

Community Conversations: Peer Feedback

February’s Community Conversation focused on Peer Feedback, led by CLAS and LA+D faculty Kim Lowe, Summer Clark, Lisa Spitz, and Bill Porter. They are members of a longstanding research group that looks at ways to implement and improve peer review and critique and to “create a better learning experience.”  

Kim Lowe kicked off the conversation by explaining how she had hated peer review as a student and had vowed, “when I became a professor, I would never do it.” However, she saw the learning benefits and found the peer review protocol the group created highly effective for her students.  

Creating the Peer Review Protocol

In 2016, the interdisciplinary group began to study peer review by researching best practices for conducting peer feedback assignments, the benefits of peer feedback, and how to address challenges. The benefits of peer review include self-reflection, self-regulation, critical thinking, and communication skills that transfer not only to other classes, but to students’ professional careers. It enhances empathy and students’ ability to navigate social and emotional interactions in the classroom while exposing them to perspectives and opinions other than those of their instructor.  

Peer review also requires students to participate at a higher level of engagement. They must spend time and energy to provide constructive feedback that the other student can utilizeHowever, students may not trust the feedback they receive from other students and may not be sure if they should apply it or not. Students may even doubt their own ability to provide feedback.  

Due to these challenges, the first stage of the peer review protocol the group developed is to prepare students to do peer review. In this stage, the instructor builds trust in the process by discussing the strengths of peer review and, perhaps even more importantly, the reasons why they may be skeptical. Faculty should also discuss how peer review will be used within the class and model what effective peer review looks like. It’s also important to assess the feedback given, not just the assignment being reviewed.  

The second stage, the peer review session, is a scaffolded dialogue where students submit their assignment, identifying the areas where they most want feedback. Other students then provide feedback using a rubric or by answering a series of questions to guide their feedback. Students then review the feedback they received, rewriting it in their words to encourage processing, and determine how or if they will apply it.  

In the final stage, students revise their assignment. They also submit a summary noting how they implemented the feedback they received and the reasons why they made those choices. The instructor then assesses both the assignment and the student feedback.  

Internal-External Dynamic of Peer Review process

Q&A

One question asked of the group was if peer review was spreading beyond art and literature courses. Summer Clark spoke about using peer review to help her education students create better lesson plans and believes that it can be used across disciplinesThe group encourages faculty to co-create criteria for reviewing work in order to create consensus and understanding around what qualities embody good work, regardless whether that work is a drawing, essay, presentation, or business analysis.  

However, that was just the beginning of the discussion, which included brainstorming strategies with the other attendees. Watch the recording to hear more and join our Faculty Community Conversation Team to continue chatting 

Community Conversations: Using Class Time Strategically

On Tuesday, January 19, 2021, we held the first in a series of monthly roundtable discussions called, Community Conversations. We’re planning to host these faculty-led discussions on various teaching and learning topics throughout the Spring 2021 semester.

The topic of our first conversation, “Using Class Time Strategically,” was led by Jo-Anne Hart, Sue Cusack, Susan Patterson, and Diana Direiter. We had over 60 faculty join us throughout the hour, sharing their remote teaching and learning experiences.

Reflecting on your Course Materials

Jo-Anne started the conversation by sharing some questions she uses to help identify course elements to balance and boost the effectiveness of meeting synchronously and asynchronously. She reminded us that there is no clear-cut answer for every situation – No One Size Fits All.

Some example questions included:

  1. At what points in my material are student interaction and community most important to successful student learning in my specific class?
  2. Where it my material can I start something offline, in discussion-type mode, and pick it up in live session? Or vice versa?
  3. Where in my material is it key for students to engage with each other?

Co-Building Community Norms

Sue reminded us that “unstated norms in a virtual classroom will evolve, for better or worse.” (Fisher, Frey & Hattie, 2021) Start your course’s sense of community by having everyone collaborate to build out stated norms. She shared a few questions from Fisher, Frey and Hattie to help set the stage:

  • What habits and dispositions are needed to be successful learners? ​
  • What should they learn about themselves as learners? ​
  • How should they interact with you and others to maintain learning conditions? ​
  • What should they do with their learning? ​

She then asked the group, “What guidelines or norms do you think are important?” Here are a few of the responses:

  • Listening to others​
  • Lean In/ Lean out idea​
  • Be present…Defining what it means to “be present”
  • Careful not to interrupt​
  • Using proper pronouns
  • Practice Active Listening
  • Set rules for positive, constructive feedback
  • Establish guidelines for respect for differing opinions
  • Quick feedback

Five Steps to Stay Focused

Susan shared a teaching strategy that is akin to working out with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): Five Steps to Stay Focused When Teaching Online: Try Balancing High Intensity Activity with Periods of Recovery, from Ringal, Tarallo, & Green (Harvard Business Publishing, May 13, 2020). When  you plan a class meeting, treat it like a HIIT workout. For example, “if you have an hour of class time, think of ways to break it up into intervals of presentation, participation, reflection, and individual silent work and study with the educator on hand to answer any questions that arise.”

Susan shared an example of how she breaks up her 90 minute civics course into intervals of activity: agenda and welcome (rest), check in (warm up), introduction to the project (moderate), brainstorming (intense), stretch break (rest), report out ideas (moderate), breakout groups for discussion (intense), short discussion and Q&A (moderate), and an exit ticket (cool down).

Example of Susan's 90-minute civics class, broken into intervals of rest, warm up and cool down activities, moderate activity, and intense activity.

Example of Susan’s 90-minute civics class, broken into intervals of rest, warm up activity, moderate activity, intense activity, and a cool down activity.

Connecting Synchronous and Asynchronous Coursework

Diana shared some strategies for connecting synchronous and asynchronous coursework. Her key points were maintaining balance, connecting to the materials, and connecting to one another. She summed up these points with the three R’s from Katz and Jordon (2020):

Rhythm: Spread out the sync and async sessions.
Routine: Build consistency for the class, not the delivery.
Relationship: Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Community Discussion

The short presentations sparked a lot of interest from the participants and led to some great questions and discussion.

One participant asked Susan about the Mood Meter she mentioned as a way of quickly taking the current temperature of the class. Susan shared her favorite Mood Meter, but suggested doing a Google search to find one that would might work best for your class.

Another question that sparked a lot of interest was, “Is it better to record lectures ahead of time rather than deliver them live?” Opinions differed. Some faculty stated that their students preferred to have their lectures live on Zoom, while others stated that their students prefer them pre-recorded. But, as Jo-Anne mentioned at the beginning of the conversation, there is no one answer for every situation. It comes down to your learning outcomes and what will help your students reach them.

Stay Connected and Continue the Conversation

Our next conversation will take place on Tuesday, February 16 at 12:00 PM ET and will focus on Peer Review with Kimberly Lowe, Lisa Spitz, Summer Clark, and Bill Porter.

For more information, email elis@lesley.edu or join the Faculty Community Conversations Teams Channel. The Teams channel will feature all the presentation slides and a copy of the Zoom chat for each of the Community Conversations. You will be prompted to login with your Lesley University credentials to access the Teams channel.

Set Up Your Grade Center in myLesley

Setting up the myLesley Grade Center is not always the most intuitive thing. However, with a little bit of thought, it doesn’t have to be difficult.

Step 1: Create Your Plan

The first mistake most people make is they start in the Grade Center. Going into the Grade Center is usually the last step. If you try to set it up piecemeal, you will inevitably miss a step or forget what you entered somewhere and then before you know it, you’re lost.

The first step is to grab you syllabus, list out your assignments and grading scale, and make a plan. Watch the video below to see an example.

 

Step 2: Create Your Content & Assignments

The next step is to create my content in Blackboard, assuming I haven’t already done this. I’ve already created most of my content, but I still need to create the Final Project assignment. This video from Blackboard shows me exactly how to create an Assignment so my students can submit their work and I can grade and provide feedback.

Need to create graded discussions? Review how to create discussion forums on our support page.

 

Step 3: Create Grade Columns

Now that I have created all of my content and assignments, I can finally go to the Grade Center and finish setting things up.

 

Step 4: Calculated Grade Columns

Decisions, decisions… Total column or Weighted Total?

See our support article on Calculated Grade Columns for step-by-step instructions.

 

Step 5: Organize Your Grade Columns

All the grade columns are set up and ready to go, but Blackboard has them organized based on the order they were created. This might not be the ideal set up for you. So change it.

View Blackboard’s video tutorial on customizing your Grade Center view for more information.

 

Additional Resources

Your grade center is now set up and ready to go, but there’s always more to know and more scenarios for set up. Check out these resources below or email elis@lesley.edu for assistance.

myLesley Grade Center and Grading
Advanced myLesley Grade Center and Grading

Grading myLesley Assignments
myLesley Rubrics
myLesley Faculty Resources