Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-04-16

Posted to Diigo 04/05/2012

  • Students working in small groups interact in a variety of ways and the teacher has an important role to play
  • Barriers, more often perceived than real, may impede the adoption of small group teaching
  • Small group learning is the learning that takes place when students work together usually in groups of 10 or less
  • What matters is that the group shows three characteristics.
  • Active participation: A key feature of small group work is that interaction should take place among all present.
  • A specific task: There should be a clearly defined task and objectives, and they should be understood by all members of the group.
  • Reflection: In small group learning, it is important to learn from an experience and to modify behaviour accordingly. Deep learning is a key feature of small group work: reflection is a key feature of deep learning.
  • It provides students with experience of working in a group, it helps them to acquire group skills. These include the ability to communicate effectively, the prioritising of tasks, the management of time and the exercise of interpersonal skills.
  • The introduction of small group work into a curriculum is frequently resisted. Various arguments are used
  • “Students do not like small group work”
  • Initial dissatisfaction with small group work may be expected and is natural. Barriers may be:
  • Perceptual
  • Cultural
  • Emotional
  • Intellectual
  • Environmental
  • “Staff do not know how to teach in small groups”
  • : Teachers may lack the skills necessary for running small group sessions. This may be seen as more of a problem by course or curriculum organisers than by teachers themselves. A staff development programme, however, is important.
  • : Staff shortage may be a real issue – or may be a misconception. The small group method adopted and the timetabling both have a significant impact. Identify all the staff who could be available for small group teaching.
  • “We do not have enough teachers for small group work”
  • “There are too few rooms”: Space is frequently a contentious issue. Creativity is usually the best solution. Do not be afraid to experiment – students are resilient.
  • “It is a waste of time – students do not learn anything”: It may take longer to cover a topic in small group work than in lectures. However, what really matters is if, and what, students learn and not just what is taught.
  • The following checklists have been generated for running small group work.
  • Consider the objectives of the session: Consider carefully the objectives of the session or course you are running and whether other teaching methods, eg lectures, independent learning, may be more appropriate
  • Determine your available physical resources: Accommodation availability may be a limiting factor. Small groups require suitable accommodation, which allows chairs to be set out in a circle to maximise interaction among the students, and space for appropriate audio-visual materials.
  • Determine the manpower availability: Small group teaching requires the participation of a larger number of teaching staff. Consider carefully how many teachers are available and their expertise as small group facilitators.
  • Does a facilitator have to be an expert? For small groups to function most effectively, the facilitator should have expertise in the content area and in small group facilitation.
  • Can different facilitators be used with the one group? Continuity of the facilitator is desirable. The facilitator can be considered as a member of the group and changing the composition of the group may disrupt the group dynamics.
  • Can a teacher facilitate several groups? A floating facilitator can be assigned responsibility for maintaining the task and function of more than one group. Success varies, frequently depending on the dynamics of the groups and the skill of the facilitator.
  • Can a student facilitate his or her own group? A student can successfully facilitate a peer group. This depends on the group’s dynamics, on the student’s ability and on the briefing given to the student.
  • Determine the group membership: Groups may be self selected, strategically determined, randomised, or selected alphabetically. It may be appropriate to change the membership of a group after a designated period of time, eg semester or year. Groups will work less productively if constantly changed, as they are less likely to reach a productive stage.
  • Ensure that the staff is prepared for the session: Staff must be given detailed briefings for the small group work. They should have prior opportunities to see small group work in action and to attend staff development sessions.
  • Select the most appropriate small group method: The educational objectives should determine the choice of small group method.
  • Develop stimulus material: Stimulus material might include problem-based scenarios, video clips, a set of questions, key articles for exploration, a real or simulated patient. The stimulus material required will be determined by the small group method adopted.
  • Inform students about the role of the small group work: Students should be informed why small group work is being adopted and how it relates to other activities and to the learning outcomes for the course.
  • During the Small Group Activity
  • Allow adequate introductions – use ice-breakers if necessary
  • Ensure that the students understand what to do, why they are doing it and how they should achieve it
  • Facilitate learning: The facilitator’s objective is to help the student become more self-reliant and independent by establishing a climate that is open, trustful and supportive. An educational facilitator’s role has two distinct areas: maintaining the functioning of the group and ensuring the task is completed. Facilitators must understand the changing dynamics of a group through four stages: forming, storming, norming, and performing
  • Debrief the group on the activity: Debriefing summarises or clarifies what has been learnt and may take as long as the activity itself. During debriefing, constructive feedback may be given
  • After the Small Group Activity
  • Evaluate the success of the session: There are two aspects – achievement and quality. Have the objectives been achieved? Was the educational experience of a high standard? Students may be asked to complete an evaluation questionnaire. Alternatively, the session can be peer reviewed. Teachers should consciously self-evaluate the session.
  • Reflect on the experience: Evaluation, formal or informal, is pointless if no change in practice results.
  • Small group methods have a valuable role to play in undergraduate medical curricula. The student-centred focus and active participation enhance the likelihood of deep rather than surface learning. Decisions to be made are how much time to schedule for small group work, and what kind of small group work to adopt. If small groups are used, they must be valued and must not be seen as isolated from other aspects of the curriculum – or from the culture of the medical school.
  • Staff development is important. Success of small group learning depends on good planning, effective facilitation and a movement away from teacher-centred learning. For a real and sustained shift in medical education, students must be encouraged to learn rather than merely catching the output of teachers.

Posted to Diigo 08/21/2011

    • “ ‘Thunks’ are deceptively tricky little questions that ‘make your brain go ouch!’

      Ian’s examples of ‘Thunks’ include:

      • ‘Is a broken down car parked?’
      • ‘If you read a newspaper in the newsagents without paying for it, is it stealing?’
      • ‘Do all polo’s taste the same?’
      • ‘Can you be proud of someone you have never met?’
      • ‘Is a hole a thing?’
    • Active Learning-I ask students to use their prior experiences (interests, hobbies, coursework) in a service learning project for my class, using what they know, and connections they have been able to make, to benefit others. They propose their own projects.


      This idea has all 5 components:
      a. Incorporating peer feedback into a course.
      b. By giving students the opportunity to learn how to give feedback to classmates’ works-in-progress, this motivates students to perform at the same or higher level or their peers in a non-threatening way.
      c. It is also an activity which reinforces learning of the subject matter (active & challenging).
      d. It can create a sense of support and community because the students are helping each other improve their own works (and grades!)
      e. And peer feedback allows students to gain an appreciation for classmates’ efforts and a glimpse of the instructor or professor’s role.

    • When students are stressed by the lesson, find a way to show how you (the teacher) messed up learning the topic
    • First day of class: When introducing class & trying to establish rapport, have the students say where they see themselves in 3 to 5 years
    • I give several smaller “low-risk” assignments in addition to “high-risk” mid-terms and finals
    • Share with my students some of my personal stories as a student, my stories and failures
    • I teach a 3rd year/level class and on the first day of a particular subject, in this case hydraulics, I give them an exam of what they should know from 1st year. I eventually let them take it home to complete it on their own
    • review some student work in class in front of the class, inviting student input. It challenges many students to work harder on their own work
    • I give an exam which I grade and return as soon as feasible to the students. I identify the learning outcomes that most students missed and offer students another test that focuses ONLY on those learning outcomes using different test items. They know they have a chance to improve their exam grades with the subsequent test score.

    • apply newly acquired knowledge to themselves or someone they are familiar with
    • In many sciences, students are concerned about memorizing information (ex. Periodic Table). I tell them that we never used to memorize an atlas, but we learn how to use it as a tool/reference
    • At the end of each lecture topic, students hand it a slip of paper with two items: “Got it”-what they understood and “don’t get it”-what they don’t understand. Once a week, results are posted on Moodle and explanations given for the “don’t get it” items
    • Collaborative learning: I found that students learn better and smooth out their rough edges when they combine conflicting analysis to produce a bounded unit of learning
    • When composing homework assignments, I combine questions of varying difficulty. I ultimately include a problem or two beyond the difficulty required for my course and offer extra credit for solving these problems. The number of students that choose to step up to the challenge is so incredibly refreshing and motivating
    • Have students take responsibility for their learning by applying lesson concepts to their occupations, field of expertise, and personal experience
    • The student gets to choose a topic they feel they could teach the class (for 15 minutes), they become the expert with certain guidelines to follow. Motivation—they are the “star” for 15 minutes. Active learning—they research. Task—they choose the topic. Community—they all practice with each other to get feedback before their 15 minute presentation. Holistic—they learn all types of things; respect, confidence, professionalism, body language, etc.
    • In a writing course, students receive each others drafts throughout the semester and one by one the whole class peer reviews the drafts. Students learn from other student papers and gain critical feedback on their own paper. In other words, every paper is read by every student, and every student must provide feedback.
    • Start each class with a “hook”—something that is contextual and related to the day’s concepts—provides relevancy and captures interest and involvement
    • I engage students to choose a concept from the course and teach a segment of the class.
    • Take students’ pictures 1st day of class and memorize their names. Call students by name from the 2nd class on. Use their names frequently. This instills community and aids in engagement because students cannot hide
    • Allow students to text you with questions
    • I am a student—I am tired (flight came in late). I am hungry (I missed lunch), I can’t concentrate (my daughter keeps texting me). How will you engage me? Tell me a story, a story with characters facing shocking/new or interesting challenges. Then ask me about it, allowing me to be a little grumpy, but encouraging me to continue to participate and reward my efforts. I will cheer up and feel transformed by your class session
    • “Self-correcting exams”: Students are able to alter test answers after the fact—through additional research/working with other students—and resubmit exam responses for additional partial credit.
      • Can the Ethics oral exam use a similar approach? After the exam students go and write a short reflective essay on what was discussed during the exam?
    • Clarify how knowledge that is being taught is important to students’ future work and/or life. Students will value only what they believe they need to know and will use in work/life
    • Problem based learning in groups. Assigning a facilitator in the group and then pick an idea that there isn’t a right answer. You can use concept mapping. First, students present the problem. Second, they find resources and list them. Third, they investigate solutions to the problem and list them. Fourth, they identify the three best solutions. Last, they pick the best one and provide the reason
    • I ask my students (every week), why are you here? I note week one and compare it with the final week. Typical observation: growing ambition.

    • Motivation and Value: I get my students to stop thinking like a student, rather think like a teacher (or a professional in their field) to see the value of the activities and assignments in the course
    • People respond to genuine concern for their well-being
    • Active Learning: I occasionally divide the assigned chapter up among the students, and give everyone 10 minutes to come up with a 1 minute presentation to the class. The students have at least read a few pages, and they talk to each other instead of listening to me
    • When a student engages in course dialogue, I write a note thanking them as their classmates and I enjoyed their participation and how important their questions and comments are to educators and their students. I also include that I hope they continue to share in all courses. This helps encourage participation, especially from those who seldom do
    • Recognize and sustain the “cool” in everyone and challenge the students to move from “pretend cool” to “cool.”
    • Remove fear/anxiety and increase expectations of success by: allowing students to redo/resubmit work or problems for regarding/assessment. They work and learn from their mistakes, but are not punished for their mistakes.
    • Living Concept Maps: During a case study, have the students in groups of 4-5, actively create a concept map as the case study is unfolding—adapting and changing it as new data becomes available. At the end, share the concept maps and see how different/similar they are and explore those.
    • the selection and use of technologies for teaching and learning is driven as much by context and values and beliefs as by hard scientific evidence or rigorous theory
    • There are deep philosophical, technical and pragmatic challenges in trying to provide a model or set of models flexible but practical enough to handle the huge range of factors involved
    • theories and beliefs about education will influence strongly the choice and use of different technologies
    • it is a mistake to focus solely on the educational characteristics of technologies. There are social, organizational, cost and accessibility issues also to be considered
    • what is best done face-to-face and what online, and in what contexts? What is the role of the human teacher, and can/should/will he/she be replaced by technology?