Faculty Spotlight: Dawn Burau

One Adjunct Faculty Workshop Delivered Three Ways

Dawn Burau, Instructor of Expressive Therapies, Art Therapy

Dawn Burau, Instructor of Expressive Therapies, along with fellow Lesley faculty Valerie Blanc and Jason Butler, ran a three-part workshop for adjunct instructors in the Expressive Therapies graduate division called “Engaging Students: In Class and Online Discussion.” Participants attended the workshop in person or online via Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. For those who missed the live event, an edited recording and other resources were shared online in the Expressive Therapies Faculty Community in myLesley.

Dawn decided to live stream and record the face to face workshop because, “many of our adjuncts have jobs or families that make it difficult to come to campus during the day. For those who could, we wanted to give them an in-person learning experience. For those who couldn’t, we wanted to include them in the community and give them access to the information we were sharing.”

In order to reach her goal of making the workshop content accessible to all adjuncts, Dawn reached out to eLearning and Instructional Support (eLIS) to help go over her game plan and receive technology training. For the workshop, Dawn set up a laptop running Blackboard Collaborate Ultra and acquired a 360 microphone to ensure that all participants could hear each other, whether in the room or online. Dawn used Collaborate Ultra’s built-in recording feature to record the workshop, which she edited and posted in the faculty community along with PowerPoints and other workshop resources.

With a little planning and creative thinking, Dawn was able to make an interactive workshop much more interactive and accessible to all of her adjuncts. If you are interested in exploring the use of synchronous online meeting tools or want to record and share academic events, reach out to us in eLearning and Instructional Support (elis@lesley.edu). We are happy to work with you to devise new ways to engage with students and colleagues.

Resources on how to use Lesley supported software like Blackboard Collaborate Ultra can be found on the Lesley Technology Support Site.  

Improving Peer Feedback with Peergrade

Lisa Spitz is an assistant professor at Lesley’s College of Art and Design and the program director for the User Experience online BS degree program. Lisa worked with eLIS this fall to pilot a peer feedback tool, called Peergrade, in her Sketching for Interactive Design course. Below she shares her and her students’ experiences using Peergrade.

In this course, students use sketching to document research insights, tell a story, and visualize mobile interface concepts and interactions. Each individual assignment includes a period of sketching and revising, where students provide peer feedback and then revise their own sketches for overall clarity. My initial experience teaching this course in Blackboard raised a number of challenges with the peer review process: not all peer feedback was of the same caliber and not all students received the same amount of feedback. This meant I was compensating for poor and/or incomplete feedback. I was also manually tracking the quality and quantity of feedback each student provided to their peers, for grading purposes. Further, due to inconsistencies in the types of feedback received, students reported finding it difficult to revise their work. 

Over the summer, John McCormick in eLIS introduced me to an online peer review platform called Peergrade. The overall format and structure of Peergrade was a good match for my particular assignment structure and I was interested in seeing how it might better support our students in the peer review process.

The tool itself was fairly easy to learn. As an instructor, I was able to set up my “classroom” in Peergrade and create each of my assignments. For students, their experience entailed posting their sketches in Peergrade and then evaluating their peers’ sketches based on a custom rubric (which I set up in advance of the course running). The biggest challenge I faced was in tailoring the rubrics to each individual assignment. Students evaluated their peers work based on quantity and diversity of sketches as well as unique requirements for each assignment. The rubrics I created provided students with both quantitative and qualitative feedback on their sketches; and the system guaranteed that each student received feedback from three other students.

Students responded favorably to the use of Peergrade. They were fairly self-sufficient in using the Peergrade platform. It required very little technical support from my end; for instance, allowing late assignment submissions and permitting students to re-upload their work. Some adhoc quotes found in journal entries and the course evaluation include:

  • “I really like Peergrade, I only wish the rest of my courses used this site. It is so much easier to give the feedback and receive the feedback that you want without upsetting another peer about your opinion. Since it is anonymous it is easier to be truthful if you have suggestions on changes.”
  • “That program allowed me to finally get honest feedback from my peers on how they truly felt about my work.”
  • “By reviewing other students, I often could improve my own work through just that process alone.”
  • “The peer commenting system was a great way to discuss among other students each other’s work before turning in the final assignment each week. Critiquing helped me understand my own skills better.”
  • “Peergrade was life changing, love it.”

In an ideal world, I’d spend more time user-testing assignment rubrics before launching these assignments with a live class. However, design is an iterative process and course design is no different and I anticipate refining each assignment rubric with each course instantiation.

If you’re just not sure how this would work within your classroom context, I’d say start small. Choose one project in which you’d like students to give and receive quality peer feedback. Decide what a “good” assignment submission looks like and set up your rubric to probe specifically on those areas. Then, see what the experience looks like from both the Instructor and Student views. Having an initial experience with Peergrade will help you to determine just how and when it might be an asset in your courses. 

Peergrade is currently be used in a small number of online and on campus courses at Lesley. If you would like more information on using Peergrade or peer feedback in your courses, contact elis@lesley.edu.

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Olivia Cheever

Dr. Olivia Cheever

Dr. Olivia Cheever teaches Anatomy and Kinesiology Through Somatic Learning in the Expressive Therapies program.

In 2012, Dr. Olivia Cheever decided to take the plunge and begin bringing some of her course materials online. Olivia teaches Anatomy and Kinesiology Through Somatic Empathy in a five-day intensive format. Realizing that she wanted more time in class for hands-on practice, she reached out to eLearning and Instructional Support for help in moving some of her content online.

Olivia started slowly, first posting her syllabus, creating a course introduction and some narrated presentations using VoiceThread, and introducing a class blog. Over time, she began adding additional elements to the course, including course materials (readings and videos), online discussions, an online journal, and assignments. When her typical 5-day intensive course was cut down to 4 days because of the July 4th holiday, she was able to bring more content and activities online to make up the missed class time. With the skills she has gained, she is now preparing to teach an independent study course with a student at a distance.

What was the driving force in wanting to bring some of your content online?

I teach Anatomy and Kinesiology through Somatic Empathy in a one-week intensive format. A lot of what we do in class is hands-on movement and touch. Part of why I wanted to explore moving content online is to give students pre-work, so they come to the course further along, already having experienced something experientially, as well as didactically.

So, giving them, for example, a recording of a movement lesson and having them practice the movement and writing in their journal. So, they first see what the movement will be like, then they practice the movement and sense what is going on with their skeletons and their muscles, then they reflect and write in their journals about what they felt in their body. This allows them to capture what they’re learning from the inside out and the outside in, which is what somatic learning is all about.

I find that giving my students this pre-work gives them a little bit of a taste before they come in class that we can build on during the week we’re together.

The other reason that I wanted to do it is that, as an adjunct, I wanted to take advantage of the tremendous resource that is free to us at Lesley University with the eLIS staff, who are so accommodating and welcoming.

What are some of the advantages for you and your students using this more blended format?

It provides the opportunity for students to be using different parts of their brain. With online learning, they can take a look at videos, read through articles, and enter a discussion board with each other. Then you don’t have to take up class time; you can cover the big points in class and they can follow up online in their own time.

I think that another advantage of online learning is that some students who are quiet in class are more articulate when they write online. It’s wonderful sometimes to have students come out and be more forthcoming through that medium, where they’re not as comfortable sharing in class.

It also helps to bring up some issues before we meet in class. For example, some students are not comfortable being touched. And part of what we do in class is based on touch. We explore anatomy with hands-on palpation of self and others. So knowing that in advance gives us some time to work through it and come up with some solutions.

Also, one of the ways that I address diversity in my class is showing films from other cultures and documentaries with other ethnicities and you can do that through this platform. It’s very nice that you can include video in the online course rather than trying to find a DVD and DVD player to show the video in class.

What kinds of challenges have you faced?

I find this very challenging because I’m used to teaching in front of a class. I go from being an old-fashioned professor where you’re doing a lot of written review, feedback, and written papers and doing a lot of in class discussion to stepping back and being more of the guide on the side. Which is something that I really enjoy but it’s an art.

For an example, you see an online discussion going and want to insert a comment like, “good for you, guys, that sounds great,” or, “what about this over here?” or something like that. I can’t do that yet. Not during that week we’re meeting. What I do instead, at the end of the course, is read their papers as well as the discussion boards and the ongoing journal and I try to bring them together with my overall feedback.

Do you have any advice for faculty who may be hesitant to include technology in their teaching?

There are those, I think, who would benefit from this but don’t know how to take the first step. But it’s important to take that first step. To reach out.

There are some faculty who may feel that they can’t do it because they’re not comfortable with the actual mechanical stuff, such as using the computer and navigating online. And that may be something where they would benefit from a one-on-one or a small group where they can go at their own speed and build up to it.

I’m able to do it now, but in some of the eLIS workshops and trainings things can move quickly. And that can be intimidating for those that don’t know what they’re doing. But knowing that they can set up a one-on-one to get started and move slowly, at their own pace, that’s helpful.

Do you want to learn more about adding online elements in your course? Do you have ideas for adding digital content into your course but don’t know where to begin? Email elis@lesley.edu to set up an appointment. We’re happy to meet in person, online, or on the phone.

Lesley Instructors Publish in Journal “Literacy Research and Instruction”

Leah Van Vaerenewyck, a Lesley doctoral student, Valerie Shinas and Barbara Steckel, two literacy instructors from Lesley’s Graduate School of Education, have co-authored the article Sarah’s Story: One Teacher’s Enactment of TPACK+ in a History Classroom in the journal Literacy Research and Instruction.

The article focuses on the case study of one secondary History teacher and her approach to using technology in developing and supporting a socially-situated community of learners. The authors cite research suggesting teachers do not integrate technology within literacy or disciplinary curriculum at high levels (to support higher level cognitive skills, for example). They argue that to prepare students for higher education and employment, students must learn to think like scholars in the disciplines in which they study. For example, history students should be able to analyze primary documents, conduct research and synthesize information across various sources to draw conclusions. They argue that strategic and principled use of technology can support the development and maintenance of a community of learners focused on higher-level skill acquisition.

tpack visualization

TPACK, or Technology, Pedagogy, and Content Knowledge, is a framework built on Lee Shulman’s PCK (Pedagogical Content Knowledge). TPACK suggests the incorporation of technology with pedagogical content knowledge can produce more effective teaching. The authors suggest an expansion of the TPACK framework to include a sociocultural component and use this case study as empirical evidence to support an update to the TPACK model (TPACK+). They set out to “examine how sociocultural-oriented teacher knowledge, skills and beliefs intersect with TPACK in ways that leverage digital tools to create and sustain vibrant learning communities” (Van Vaerenewyck et al, 2017). Their observations showed strong evidence supporting this updated conceptualization of TPACK. The instructor’s use of learning technologies enabled the students to engage in authentic disciplinary discourse within socially situated learning experiences. The instructor was able to create a community of learners both within and beyond the boundaries of the physical classroom. Students engaged collaboratively in sophisticated ways, demonstrating that learning can be enhanced when embedded in socially situated experiences.

The authors call for further research examining in-service teachers’ skills and knowledge in relation to technology-integrated instruction to provide additional empirical support for their claim that the TPACK framework must be expanded.

Van Vaerenewyck, L. M., Shinas, V. H., & Steckel, B. (2017). Sarah’s Story: One Teacher’s Enactment of TPACK+ in a History Classroom. Literacy Research and Instruction56(2), 158-175.

Lessons learned from running our first online Design for User Experience course

Today’s post is by Lisa Spitz, Lesley Assistant Professor and consultant for the College of Art and Design’s bachelor’s program in design for user experience.


In Fall 2, 2016 we ran our first course in the Design for User Experience program, Typography 1. 10 students signed up for the course. Excitement ensued. And then I started looking into the class roster. Of the 10 students, just 1 was a Design for UX student. The remaining students represented a mix of Business, Counseling, and Psychology programs. As a new program in an entirely new category for Lesley, I realize that it takes time to market and enroll new students. Nonetheless, I was a bit disappointed by the turn out. I didn’t question the applicability of the content to individuals “outside the field”. Principles of good typography is something anyone can benefit from. But I was worried about the complexity of the learning activities I’d planned and the Adobe software that was required to complete them.

What I learned over the subsequent 8 weeks is the importance of being flexible and the benefit of testing a course with individuals outside your domain. Let’s start with the latter point. For those familiar with Universal Design for Learning or Inclusive Design, it’s a bit like that. If you can make your course “work” for individuals outside your program, chances are it will work better for those inside your program as well. I’m not talking about “dumbing down” content or removing requirements. I’m talking about adding instructional supports to make the course content and expectations clearer. Here are a few ways I made that happen while the course was still in flight:

Providing better prompts
As a typography course, students were expected to create several designs and critique the work of their peers. However, journal entries revealed that students lacked the confidence to do so and some even felt hypocritical critiquing their peers’ work. The original critique questions I’d provided assumed they could judge which design was best (or worst) and give concrete recommendations on what to do next. But students were not sure how to assess the work of their peers. How would they know which was best? They certainly could tell which one they liked, but could not articulate why it was better. So, I went back to the drawing board and made the questions more personal. “What words would you use to describe this?”; “What is being emphasized?”; “What interests you about the design?” Etc. These questions were easier to answer. They required students to respond based on what they saw and how they felt, not what they deemed to be “good” or “bad”.

Original critique language:Critique_Before

Revised critique language: 
Critique_After


Creating more explicit directions

As a visual learner, one of the biggest challenges I faced when creating my own online course is finding ways around the “wall of text”. To explain an activity requires quite a bit of documentation. Aside from using all video or images, there’s almost no way around it. And when confusion arises, the tendency is to double down with more explanation. Instead, I took a step back, added images, cut text, and used more headings and bulleted lists – detailing process, specifications and steps for completion.

Original assignment description: (click for full size image)
direction_before_crop

Revised assignment description: (click for full size image)
directions_after_crop

Personalizing the feedback process
As students submitted their design work each week, I used the Assignment Tool to provide feedback. Originally, I defaulted to the WYSIWYG editor and took to writing what I thought worked/didn’t work and needed improvement. However, it felt as if some of my feedback was getting lost in translation. Again, the wall of text. Midway through the course I switched to video. Instead of writing a single piece of feedback, I recorded my screen as I looked at each of their design options and spoke about their use of typography in great details. If I’d have typed that feedback out, it would have been a novel. But to record it took just a few minutes. Students appreciated the new format and commented on how incredibly helpful it was.

All of these changes required a great deal of flexibility on my part. I ended up re-writing each week’s content before it went live; I added images to show, not tell; I created videos that demonstrated how to do the assignments; I offered up 30 minute 1:1 time slots to address individual challenges; and I gave feedback that was personal and specific. In the end, I had students comment on their appreciation for typography and design. But more importantly, I witnessed their transformation. When week 1 started, students proclaimed themselves unable to be creative. When week 8 finished, they professed the ways in which they were using their new knowledge of good typography to impact their professional and academic lives. As for myself, I still have some work to do within the course curriculum – but am confident that the results will be even better the next time around.