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Science Teaching Journal Club

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The Science Teaching Journal Club invites you to participate in our eighth year of weekly gatherings! The journal club is a cooperative effort of the Teaching Engagement Program and the Science Literacy Program. Meetings feature lively, structured discussions across discipline and rank with periodic small-scale teaching experiments. Participants from all disciplines are invited to join the whole series or stop by for a specific conversation.

This group provides a wonderful space to learn about, discuss and develop new ideas about teaching.  This winter we will read a book, Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning, by James M. Lang.  The book is available for purchase online as well as for electronic checkout from the UO library.  Please join us!

We will meet in 217 LISB (Lewis Integrative Sciences Building) at 9:00 am on Thursdays.

For more information, see http://scilit.uoregon.edu


Jump to:
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9
Week 10

 

Week 1:

This week in the Science Teaching Journal Club we will begin our discussion of James M. Lang’sSmall teaching: Everyday lessons from the science of learning.  To prepare, please read the Introduction and the first part of the Knowledge section (up to Chapter 1), pp. 1-18.  We look forward to seeing you there!

This week in the journal club, our discussion revolved around the following prompts:

  1. Define small teaching.
  2. What are some of the advantages of the small teaching approach over the larger changes people often discuss and think they need to make in order to reform their teaching?
  3. What do you already know about cognitive science and what it tells us about student learning?
  4. Identify a problem you experienced this first week of the term or that you anticipate this term.  As you read the book, keep this problem in mind so that you can think about ways to address it.  Have you already read something in this first part that could help you address this challenge?

Week 2:

This week in the Science Teaching Journal Club, we will discuss Retrieval as a tool for helping people learn and retain information.  To prepare, please read Chapter 1: Retrieval, pp. 19-40 of James Lang’s Small teaching: Everyday lessons from the science of learning.

This week in the journal club, our discussion revolved around the following prompts:

  1. The chapter lists some types of retrieval exercises students could do at the beginning and end of class.  Write down as many of them as you can (without looking back at the text!)
  2. How could you implement some of these retrieval exercise in a large class? 
  3. Why does retrieval work?
  4. What are other ways to build retrieval practice into a course (in addition to the beginning and end of class)?
  5. What retrieval practice could fit into your course?  Write a question you could give your students that would make them practice retrieval.

Week 3:

This week in the Science Teaching Journal Club, we will discuss prediction as a tool for priming people’s minds to learn and retain information.  To prepare, please read Chapter 2: Predicting, (pp. 41-62 of the hard copy) of James Lang’s Small teaching: Everyday lessons from the science of learning.

This week in the journal club, our discussion revolved around the following prompts:

  1. Make a quick summary of what we talked about last week.  Predict how it relates to the topic for this week. 
  2. Think of an example of when you've used prediction as a teacher or experienced it as a student.  How did it go?  How could it have been improved?
  3. Students are sometimes resistant to the idea of making predictions about material they haven’t “learned” even if they actually do have some background knowledge about it.  Explaining why you use the pedagogical techniques you do, and the research supporting them, is often helpful in overcoming student resistance.  Write down an explanation you could give to your students for why making predictions will help them learn.
  4. The principles outlined at the end of the chapter (things to keep in mind when asking students to make predictions) are: stay conceptual, provide fast feedback, and induce reflection.  Why is each of these important and how can you incorporate them into your prediction exercises?
  5. Describe a predictive activity or question you could use in your class.  You may want to use the list at the end of the chapter for ideas about the types of activities you could try.
  6. Next week’s chapter is about interleaving.  Make a prediction about what interleaving is and how it works.  If you already can define it, make a prediction about the reasons why it works.

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Week 4:

This week in the Science Teaching Journal Club, we will discuss how to use interleaving to promote long-term retention of information.  To prepare, please read Chapter 3: Interleaving of James Lang’s Small teaching: Everyday lessons from the science of learning.

This week in the journal club, our discussion revolved around the following prompts:

  1. Define and then compare/contrast interleaving, retrieval, blocking, massing, spaced learning, and knowledge transfer.
  2. Students are often resistant to interleaving, largely because it feels less efficient than blocked practice.  Why is it useful to implement interleaving strategies? How could you communicate the usefulness to students?
  3. It’s fairly easy to imagine designing an interleaved study routine, in which a student might interleave study of all the courses they are taking in a term.  What might an interleavedcourse look like?  
  4. What is a small change you could make in your course to include more interleaving?

Week 5:

This week in the Science Teaching Journal Club we will move beyond methods for helping students learn and retain information to ways to help them understand that material more deeply.  To prepare, please read the introductory portion of Part II: Understanding and Chapter 4: Connecting (pages 85 - 111 in the hard copy) in James Lang’s Small teaching: Everyday lessons from the science of learning.

This week in the journal club, we used the following prompts to guide our discussion:

  1. How is making connections important for students and relevant to their learning process?
  2. How can instructors help/prompt students to make connections?
  3. Is there a connection in material you teach that is particularly challenging for students?  Or one that was particularly challenging for you to make as a student?  What can you do to scaffold the learning experience to help students make that connection?
  4. How do you find out what information students already know (either correct or misconceptions/long-held beliefs)?
  5. Minute Thesis.  Choose one item from the Problems list and two items from the Small Teaching Tools list.  Develop a way you could use the tools you chose to address the problem.

    a. Problems:

    i.     hearing all student voices
    ii.     correcting misconceptions
    iii.     helping students to move beyond the bottom of bloom’s taxonomy
    iv.     help all students to engage throughout the class
    v.     help all students in a group to engage in the activity

    b. Small Teaching Tools:

    i.     Retrieving
    ii.     Predicting
    iii.     Interleaving
    iv.     Connecting
    v.     Other?

This is Week 5 of the quarter, a great time to get some student feedback about how things are going in your course! TEP recommends asking a few simple questions, with perhaps a few others to address issues specific to your course. Consider using an online survey (e.g. through Canvas) to ask:

Once students have completed the survey, thank them and talk about the results in class, even if you won’t be implementing any of their suggestions! This makes students feel that you actually care what they think, predisposing them to evaluate you favorably in the future. The conversation also makes it more likely that you will follow through on any planned changes. For more ideas and details on how to implement the survey, visit the TEP website at: http://tep.uoregon.edu/services/midtermfeedback/midtermfeedback.html

Week 6:

This week in the journal club we will discuss how to use and structure practice to help understand content.  To prepare, please read Chapter 5: Practicing (pp. 113-136) in James Lang’s Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning.

This week in the journal club, we used the following prompts to guide our discussion:

  1. How is mindful practice different from repetition?
  2. What skills do you want your students to develop?
  3. Think of an assessment you’ve recently given your students.  What skills would they need to do well on it?  Is the assessment aligned with your initial list?
  4. What opportunities do they have to practice these skills?
  5. How could you build in more opportunities to practice these skills?
  6. What type of feedback do you give students on the skills you're asking them to practice?
  7. How can you give students feedback?  Did anything from the chapter stand out for you?  Do you have other ideas for ways to stimulate mindful practice? From p. 133:
    1. Why have you chosen to use that strategy for your introduction?
    2. What alternatives might you have chosen?
    3. Is that the only formula that you could have used to solve this problem?
    4. Have you ever encountered a question like this outside of this course?  How did you answer it then?

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Week 7:

This week in the journal club we will discuss self-explaining and how to incorporate it into classes to help enhance students’ learning and retention of material.  To prepare, please read Chapter 6: Self-Explaining in James Lang’s Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning.

And the discussion material for Week 7:

This week in the journal club, we used the following prompts to guide our discussion:

  1. What is self-explanation and why is it useful?  How is it similar or different from metacognition?
  2. How have you experienced self-explaining in a course? (Both in what context and what was the experience like?)
  3. One version of self-explanation discussed in this chapter was having students either identify or select principles or categories that are related to a problem.
    1. Think of a problem or type of problem in a course you teach.
    2. Generate a list of principles that students could select from in the process of answering that question.
  4. The more cognitively demanding version of self-explanation was having students describe their thought process when answering a question.
    1. Think of a problem or type of problem in a course you teach.
    2. How can you create opportunities for students to self-explain as they work through a problem?

Week 8:

This week in the journal club we will discuss motivation- how it facilitates learning and what you can do to enhance your students’ motivation.   To prepare, please read Chapter 7: Motivating in James Lang’s Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning.

This week in the journal club, we used the following prompts to guide our discussion:

  1. Why are you enthusiastic about your content area?
  2. How do the reasons you are interested in your subjects differ from why your students are interested in the course?
  3. What are reasons you could give students about the purpose of your course, both specific and big-picture (long term, change the world goals), and when do you communicate those reasons to students?
  4. Do you tell stories in your courses? What stories can you tell in your course to draw students in? Where do you find these stories?
  5. Lang suggests talking to students before class begins – “You don’t have to wait for the clock to strike to begin teaching.”  What are the benefits for the students (and maybe for the instructor) in engaging students before class begins?
  6. Stuff comes up--how can you create a classroom structure that shows compassion for your students?

Week 9:

This week in the journal club we will discuss mindset and the steps instructors can take to influence students’ thinking about their ability to develop skills and learn material.   To prepare, please read Chapter 8: Growing in James Lang’s Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning.  Also, please bring with you a hard copy of a syllabus, either one you’re using this term or one you’re developing for next term.

This week in the journal club, we used the following prompts to guide our discussion:

  1. Identify an area of your life in which you have a fixed or a growth mindset.
  2. What fixed and growth mindset language do you hear from students?
  3. Designing for growth: Examine a syllabus you use for a class.  Identify areas of the syllabus that support a growth mindset.  Also identify one or two things you could change in the syllabus to encourage a growth mindset.  Could you change the assessment structure to support growth mindset?
  4. Communicating for growth:  What fixed mindset language (written or spoken) do you use with students?
  5. Feedback for growth:  Do you give students individual feedback?  Is your feedback typically growth oriented?  What opportunities can you take to make feedback more growth-oriented?

Week 10:

This week in the journal club we will finish our book!   We’ll discuss a few larger-scale ways to motivate students and bring your subject alive for them, including the possibilities of including service learning or various types of games in your class.  To prepare, please read Chapter 9: Expanding as well as the Conclusion (pp. 219-246) in James Lang’s Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning

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