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. 

 

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.