Faculty Conversations: 2010-2011

Fall 2010

Student Evaluations of Teaching: What are they good for? What do they tell us?
September 22. Jo Beld, Director of Evaluation and Assessment; Jason Engbrecht, Physics; David Schodt, Economics, and Director of the Center for Innovation in the Liberal Arts

Religion in the Classroom
September 28. Gwen Barnes-Karol, Romance Languages-Spanish; Brian Borovsky, Physics and Science Conversation; Bill Poehlmann, Religion, and chair of the 2010-11 Academic Year Theme Committee; Anant Rambachan, Religion
(co-sponsor: Academic Year Theme – “Liberal Learning and Religion”)

The ‘Twilight’ Effect: Pleasure Reading, Student Engagement, and Life-Long Learning
October 6. Gwen Barnes-Karol and Maggie Broner, Romance Languages-Spanish

Faculty-Advancement Partnerships: The Changing Face of Philanthropy at St. Olaf
October 13. Mike Stitsworth, Vice President for Advancement and College Relations; Dave Van Wylen, Biology
(co-sponsor: Office of Advancement and College Relations)

What Can LibGuides Do for You? Planning Rich Research Experiences for Your Students
October 26. Guido Alvarez, Art and Art History; Eric Fure-Slocum, History and American Conversations; Kasia Gonnerman, Head of Reference, St. Olaf Libraries; Molly Westerman
(co-sponsor: St. Olaf Libraries)

Using Video to Supplement In-Class Work
November 2. Peter Gittins, Greg Muth, and Mary Walczak, Chemistry
(co-sponsor: Information and Instructional Technologies (IIT))

Provost’s Sabbatical Series Luncheon
November 9. Tim Howe, Associate Professor of History, and Kathy Tegtmeyer Pak, Associate Professor of Political Science and Asian Studies.
(co-sponsor: Office of the Provost and Dean of the College)

Technology Poster Fair
November 17 . Faculty present effective uses of technology in support of teaching and learning
(co-sponsor: Information and Instructional Technologies (IIT))

Investigating How Students Think About Their Learning
December 8. Diane Angell, Biology and Environmental Studies; Clara Hardy, Classical Languages, Carleton College; Kent McWilliams, Music
(co-sponsor: ACM Teagle Collegium)

Spring 2011

Moodle: Beyond the Basics
February 15. Renata Debska-McWilliams, World Language Center; Joel Johnson, IIT; faculty
(co-sponsor: IIT)

Undergraduate Research: Different Models Across the Disciplines
February 23. Julie Legler, MSCS and Director of CURI; Undergraduate research faculty and students
(co-sponsor: CURI)

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Series: Engaging Undergraduates as Partners in Research on Student Learning
March 1. Peter Felten, Associate Professor of History, Assistant Provost, and Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, Elon University
(co-sponsor: CURI)

Making the Most of Class Time: Strategies for Increasing Opportunities for In-class Active Learning
March 9. Dolores Peters, History; Rick Goedde, Economics, Management Studies; Katie Ziegler-Graham, MSCS

Moving the classroom into the community: Student outcomes and faculty perceptions of academic civic engagement
March 15. Dana Gross, Psychology; Nate Jacobi, Center for Experiential Learning (CEL); Kathy Tegtmeyer Pak, Political Science and Asian Studies
(co-sponsor: CEL)

Teaching [to] No Bodies: Using the Virtual World as a Learning Environment
April 6. Guido Alvarez, Art and Art History
(co-sponsor: IIT)

Discussion as a Way of Teaching
April 12. Stephen Brookfield, co-author with Stephen Preskill of Discussion as a Way of Teaching, Distinguished University Professor, University of St. Thomas
(co-sponsor: ORC Program)

Provost’s Sabbatical Series Luncheon
April 19. Mary Trull, Associate Professor of English; Tom Williamson, Associate Professor of Anthropology
(co-sponsor: Office of the Provost and Dean of the College)

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Series: Stand and Deliver! Learning and engagement in role-playing simulations
May 4. Doug Casson, Political Science; Sheri Breen, Political Science, University of Minnesota-Morris; Alisa Rosenthal, Political Science, Gustavus Adolphus

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Descriptions

Fall

Student Evaluations of Teaching: What are they good for? What do they tell us?

Wednesday, September 22

Jo Beld, Director of Evaluation and Assessment, and Political Science; Jason Engbrecht, Physics; David Schodt, Economics, and Director of the Center for Innovation in the Liberal Arts

Most faculty members have an opinion about student evaluations of teaching, but what do we really know about them? What do student evaluations measure? Is there a gender bias in student evaluations? Are alumni better judges of faculty teaching than current students? Questions like these are particularly timely as the faculty has recommended a program of post-tenure reviews that includes mandatory student evaluations, and our student government seeks to implement its own system of evaluations of teaching by St. Olaf faculty.

This Conversation will feature a brief overview of student evaluations, including a summary of current uses and types of student evaluations at St. Olaf from Jo Beld, an update on the student government initiative from Jason Engbrecht, and a survey of the relevant research literature from David Schodt, followed by what we anticipate will be a rich discussion.

Reading suggestions:

1. James A Kulik, “Student Ratings: Validity, Utility and Controversy,” and Michael Theall and Jennifer Franklin, ” Looking for Bias in all the Wrong Places: A Search for Truth or a Witch Hunt in Student Ratings of Instruction,” in The Student Ratings Debate: Are They Valid? How Can We Best Use Them? Michael Theall, Philip C. Abriami, Lisa A. Mets, eds. New Directions for Institutional Research, Number 109, Spring 2001, Jossey-Bass. Available to borrow from the CILA Resource Library.

2. William E. Cashin, “Student Ratings of Teaching: The Research Revisited” Idea Paper Number 32, Center for Faculty Evaluation and Development, Kansas State University, September 1995. (http://www.theideacenter.org/sites/default/files/Idea_Paper_32.pdf)

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Religion in the Classroom

Tuesday, September 28

Gwen Barnes-Karol, Romance Languages-Spanish; Brian Borovsky, Physics and Science Conversation; Anant Rambachan, Religion; Kris Thalhammer, Political Science and Hispanic Studies

Students’ religious beliefs come with them to our classrooms and, along with the many other ideas and experiences they bring, influence what and how they will learn. In some courses, such as those taught by faculty members in religion, teaching about religion is an explicit objective. In other courses, a consideration of religion may be important for understanding aspects of those subjects. In yet other courses, teaching religion may not be an objective, but students may want to include religious perspectives in assignments and class discussions. Particularly as our students, and our faculty, become more religiously diverse, what are effective strategies and techniques for successfully supporting student learning in the classroom? Please join our presenters for a lively discussion of these issues.

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The “Twilight” Effect: Pleasure Reading, Student Engagement, and Life-Long Learning

Wednesday, October 6

Gwen Barnes-Karol and Maggie Broner, Romance Languages

How can we encourage increased student engagement with a foreign language and culture outside of class?  How can reading outside of class — especially reading popular literature in a foreign language for pleasure — promote increased engagement by our current students?  Furthermore, to what extent can reading for pleasure keep our alumni engaged with the language after graduation?  Questions such as these will also be of interest to faculty in all disciplines who seek to connect their students’ classroom learning with their student’s non-academic reading.

This conversation explores these questions within the context of the presenters’ on-going research into the reading of literature in a second language (Spanish).  It will feature preliminary results based on qualitative data from their 2009 study, “The Effect of Pleasure Reading on Second-Language Learners: El ‘Efecto Crepúsculo’” (supported by a CILA Just-in-Time Grant).

The presentation will be followed by a discussion in which we hope that colleagues from foreign languages, as well as from other disciplines, can think about ways to build bridges between our students’ leisure-time pleasure reading, their academic lives at St. Olaf, and opportunities for life-long learning after graduation.

Suggested Reading:

Bérburé, Michael, et al., “Community Reading and Social Imagination,” PMLA 122.2 (2010): 418-425. (PMLA is the official journal of the Modern Language Association.)

www.mlajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1632/pmla.2010.125.2.418

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Faculty-Advancement Partnerships: The Changing Face of Philanthropy at St. Olaf

Wednesday, October 13

Mike Stitsworth, Vice President for Advancement and College Relations; Dave Van Wylen, Biology

Today’s philanthropic climate requires collaboration between faculty members and Advancement staff to successfully engage alumni, parents, and friends with the college.  Over the past two decades, there has been a gradual shift in why people, corporations, and other organizations give to education.  Increasingly, these donors see their gifts as investments, not donations.  This shift has changed both how our donors give and what they expect from the institution in return.  By involving faculty members we can strengthen our programs, increase alumni ties to the college, and, ultimately, contribute to enlarging the pool of cultivated donors.  If you have ever wondered what Advancement does, and what role faculty members do, and can, play in this changing philanthropic environment, please join Mike Stitsworth and Dave Van Wylen to find out.

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What Can LibGuides Do for You? Planning Rich Research Experiences for Your Students

Tuesday, October 26

Guido Alvarez, Art and Art History; Eric Fure-Slocum, History and American Conversations; Kasia Gonnerman, Head of Reference, St. Olaf Libraries; Molly Westerman

The purchase of the LibGuides software in May 2009 encouraged reference/instruction librarians at St. Olaf to re-think how they introduce and present research material to students in the classroom. It has also encouraged faculty members to consider new approaches to devising research assignments for their students, and to reexamine the concept of essential research competencies for their majors. The software has allowed research guides to leave behind their original linear format, facilitating the inclusion of narrative notes, tutorials, or podcasts to explain a concept or a process.

As the research guides have changed, interesting pedagogical questions have emerged, inviting conversations among librarians, teaching faculty, and IIT staff. This Faculty Lunch Conversation provides a venue for learning about the opportunities afforded by the new LibGuides software, and for hearing from faculty members who have worked with librarians to develop new research guides in their classes.

Link to research guideshttp://libraryguides.stolaf.edu/ or under “Course and Subject Guides” on the Libraries homepage.

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Using Video to Supplement In-Class Work

Tuesday, November 2

Peter Gittins, Greg Muth, and Mary Walczak, Chemistry

In content-rich courses the overwhelming need to cover a certain set of topics puts pressure on faculty to adopt the most time-efficient means of content delivery: the lecture.  Thus, despite the proven effectiveness of alternative active-learning strategies, the predominant method of course delivery in many disciplines is still the lecture.  We will describe the factors that motivated us to begin using videos as an alternative means of delivering content in our courses.  We will also describe different approaches to using video, from recording entire lectures to recording short focused descriptions.  In summary, the use of video to supplement instruction has allowed us to change how we use class time in order to incorporate more activities that strongly engage students. Although developed by faculty members in the Chemistry department, the methods described in this Conversation should be of interest all faculty members interested in active learning strategies.

Resources:
Eric Mazur, Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics, Harvard University http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwslBPj8GgI

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CILA Faculty Technology and Teaching Poster Fair

Wednesday, November 17

Many faculty at St. Olaf are using technology in interesting and innovative ways to support their teaching and enhance their students’ learning.  We’ve asked some of them to provide posters, presentations, and/or demonstrations of their particular use of technology in and out of the classroom.  In addition, IIT and Libraries staff will discuss and demonstrate current technologies that are potential resources for faculty.  Come browse the buffet table, the displays, and the demonstrations, ask questions and get inspired!

Technology and Teaching Posters
Charlie Priore, Science Librarian: “EndNote and EndNote Web: Bibliographies Made Easy”
Paul Roback, MSCS-Statistics: “JiTT + Moodle = ‘Just-in-Time’ Moodling”
Eric Fure-Slocum, History, American Conversations: “Our American Lives: the AmCon Radio Documentary”
Jenny Dunning, English: “A Cinematographic Primer: A Brief Rhetoric of Film”
Alberto Villate-Isaza, Romance Lang-Spanish, and Renata Debska-McWilliams, World Languages Center: “NanoGong: The Sound in Moodle”
Kasia Gonnerman,  Library: “What Can LibGuides Do for You? Teaching with New Library Technology”
Jay Demas, Physics: “Almost Faster than a Speeding Bullet: Introducing high speed video acquisition to introductory physics students”
Guido Alvarez, Art and Art History: “Without Walls: Live Broadcasting and Other Possibilities”
Katie Ziegler-Graham, MSCS-Statistics: “Experiments with Podcasting”
Brian Conlan, Library: “Text a Librarian”

IIT Staff Demonstrations
Podcasting
Web HelpDesk

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Investigating How Students Think About Their Learning

Wednesday, December 8

Clara Hardy, Classical Languages, Carleton College; Kent McWilliams, Music; and Diane Angell, Biology, St. Olaf College

The presenters in this session have been involved, with twelve other ACM faculty members, in the just-concluded ACM Teagle Collegium, a two-year project that has sought “to deepen faculty members’ understanding of how students learn, and more specifically, of how students acquire the skills and knowledge that are the hallmarks of a liberal education: critical thinking and analysis, integration across disciplines, reflection about the goals of education…”

Our presenters in this session will discuss their introduction of teaching innovations — which for them meant assignments to help students develop metacognitive skills in Latin, music, and biology courses — and the research they undertook to investigate the consequences of their innovations for student learning. Please join us for this Conversation about the role of metacognition in student learning, and for examples of the scholarship of teaching and learning from three different disciplines.

Suggested Resources:

1. http://www.acm.edu/our_collaborations/Teagle_Collegium_on_Student_Learning.htm

2. The Scholarship of Teaching: What’s the Problem? Randy Bass (Georgetown University)

3. RM Isaacson, F Fujita, Metacognitive knowledge monitoring and self-regulated learning: Academic success and …, Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 2006

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Spring

 Moodle: Beyond the Basics

Tuesday, February 15

Joel Johnson, IIT; Renata Debska-McWilliams, World Languages Center; Alberto Villate-Isaza, Romance Languages-Spanish; and faculty Moodle users

As you are putting your spring semester courses together some of you may be thinking about how Moodle could be used to give quizzes, survey student choices, facilitate student discussions, or help students learn the pronunciation of non-English names and places. Others of you may already be using Moodle to do those things, and others.  We would like to invite both faculty who are using advanced Moodle features, as well as those who would like to learn how to use these features, to this Conversation.  We would like to hear from you about what you have done with Moodle in the classroom, about what worked, and what may not have worked so well. Are there tricks you’ve learned that others might profit from? Are there things you wish you could do with Moodle, but haven’t been able to figure how?

This conversation will begin with a overview from Joel Johnson (IIT) about Moodle features (he and other IIT staff will also be available to answer questions). Renata Debska-McWilliams (World Language Center) and Alberto Villate-Isaza (Spanish) will talk briefly about NanoGong, a feature which allows audio files to be created and listened to in Moodle. NanoGong has obvious uses  in the languages, but Renata and Alberto will suggest ways this feature can be used in non-language course. Primarily, however, we would like to hear about how you have used Moodle, and what questions you may have about its use in the classroom.

When you respond, please let us know what questions about Moodle you would like have answered, and also whether there is a feature of Moodle you are using that you would like to tell others about.

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Undergraduate Research: Different Models Across the Disciplines

Wednesday, February 23

Julie Legler, MSCS-Statistics and Director of Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) with undergraduate research faculty and students

Have you considered undergraduate research? Would you like to know more about possible models for research projects, and get some ideas for how faculty and students can get the most out of the experience? At this lunch, faculty and students from different disciplines who have participated in undergraduate research will share their experiences. Several different models for organizing undergraduate research will be considered: summer, academic year and study abroad. Participants will have an opportunity to learn about and discuss different undergraduate research models that have worked successfully for St. Olaf students and faculty members.

Resources:

The Council on Undergraduate Research (http://www.cur.org/ )

Laura L. Behling, Butler University. Reading, Writing, & Research: Undergraduate Students as Scholars in Literary Studies (http://www.cur.org/publications/litstudies.html)

David Lopatto, Grinnell College. Science in Solution: The Impact of Undergraduate Research on Student Learning (http://www.cur.org/publications/solution.html)

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Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Series:Engaging Undergraduates as Partners in Research on Student Learning

Tuesday, March 1

Peter Felten, Associate Professor of History, Assistant Provost, and Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, Elon University

Research demonstrates the importance of student engagement in learning.  Faculty and colleges encourage that in diverse ways, including everything from undergraduate research to writing-intensive and community-based pedagogies. What happens when we engaged students in scholarly research into how undergraduates learn? This discussion will explore theoretical and practical questions about student-faculty partnerships in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

Peter Felten is assistant provost, director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, and associate professor of history, at Elon University. He has published widely on engaged learning and the scholarship of teaching, and he is on the editorial boards of the International Journal for Academic Development and the International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Peter is president (2010-2011) of the POD Network, an international association for teaching and learning centers in higher education. His recent research focuses on how students learn and develop in college, and on the possibilities of student-faculty partnerships in the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Resources:

Carmen Werder and Megan M. Otis, eds. Engaging Student Voices in the Study of Teaching and Learning(Stylus Publishing, 2010).

Ch. 1, Foundations of Student-Faculty Partnerships in SoTL: Theoretical and Developmental Considerations

Ch. 7, Equalizing Voices: Student-Faculty Partnership in Course Design

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Making the Most of Class Time: Strategies for Increasing Opportunities for In-class Active Learning

Wednesday, March 9

Dolores Peters, History; Rick Goedde, Economics, Management Studies; Katie Ziegler-Graham, MSCS

Student learning takes place both in class and out of class. Lectures and discussion typically happen in class; reading assignments and problems sets commonly take place out of class. But which activities are best suited to be done in class, and which are best done out of class? Are there activities currently done in class that might better be shifted out of class? In this CILA Conversation, faculty teaching history, statistics, and management talk about how they design out-of-class activities so as to enable students to take better advantage of active learning opportunities in class. Out of class activities discussed will include Moodle quizzes on pre-class readings, podcasts with lecture slides, using the electronic class folder to post images, video clips, PowerPoint slide shows, etc., and team quizzes using scratch-off answer forms. The presenters will also talk about how they combine these out-of-class activities with in-class active learning strategies.  Don’t miss this opportunity to learn ways to boost student learning and the energy level in your classroom!

Suggested Resources:

On podcastshttp://dme.medicine.dal.ca/dme-features/docs/0809/1158_McKinney%20Et2009_podcast_lectures.pdf

On active learning and student engagement: Ellen J. Langer (1997), The Power of Mindful Learning.   LB1060 .L35 1997
Wilbert J. McKeachie (1999) McKeachie’s Teaching Tips:  Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers, 10th ed. LB1738 .M25 1999

On team-based learning and just-in-time teachingwww.teambasedlearning.org , http://webphysics.iupui.edu/jitt/what.html

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Moving the classroom into the community: Student outcomes and faculty perceptions of academic civic engagement

Tuesday, March 15

Dana Gross, Psychology; Nate Jacobi, Piper Center for Vocation and Career; Kathy Tegtmeyer Pak, Political Science and Asian Studies

A recent survey of St. Olaf faculty indicated that, with the appropriate support, incentives, contacts and faculty development opportunities, more than two-thirds of those who responded would be likely or very likely to incorporate academic civic engagement into their teaching in the future.

Last spring, St. Olaf received a “Bringing Theory to Practice” grant from the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) to assess the impact of academic civic engagement (ACE) on student learning, with special attention to students’ civic and vocational development. Since that time, a group of eight faculty members have collaborated with the Center for Experiential Learning to discuss community-based teaching, develop courses, and assess student learning. At this lunch session, two members of the group will talk about ACE courses that they taught over Interim: Psych 224: Community Applications of Psychology (Dana Gross) and PSci/AsSt 245: Nationalism, Regionalism, Globalization in Asia (Kathy Tegtmeyer Pak). They will reflect on their motivations for incorporating ACE in their teaching, the process of developing their respective ACE projects, the resources and institutional support that they utilized and the impact of the ACE components of the course on student learning.

Among the questions this session will address are:

– What kind of academic civic engagement approaches lead to what kind of student outcomes?

– What faculty development opportunities, resources and support exist for faculty who would like to initiate or enhance community-based teaching?Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about community-based teaching and its impact on student learning!

Suggested Resources:

Bringing Theory to Practice Grant Project:http://www.stolaf.edu/pipercenter/FacultyStaff/Bringing_Theory_Practice.html

Academic Civic Engagement Student Outcomes(developed by learning community):http://www.stolaf.edu/pipercenter/FacultyStaff/Student_Outcomes.html

Project Pericles: Civic Engagement Course Program (with sample syllabi from other liberal arts colleges)
http://www.projectpericles.org/projectpericles/programs/classroom/cec/

Minnesota Campus Compact (service-learning outcomes and resources:http://www.mncampuscompact.org/index.asp?Type=B_LIST&SEC={93F35BCF-AE90-4093-952D-EBDABFDF3BA6}

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Teaching [to] No Bodies: Using the Virtual World as a Learning Environment

Wednesday, April 6

Guido Alvarez, Art and Art History

A recent New York Times article (March 22, 2011), describes projects at Bryn Mawr where students in an introductory Shakespeare class create avatars and use them to block scenes from “Titus Andronicus,” at Hamilton College where students explore a virtual reconstruction of the South African township of Soweto during the 1976 student uprisings, and at the University of Virginia where history undergraduates have produced a digital representation of the college’s first library collection. At St. Olaf, Guido Alvarez is using the virtual environment of Second Life® as a way to introduce students to the vast possibilities that electronic virtual environments have to offer.

In this Conversation, Guido will illustrate the “possibilities that the flexibility of a virtual world can offer once the protective cloak of tradition versus innovation is removed from the pedagogical discourse.” Although the medium may at first seem to be too informal to be worthy of scholarly attention, once faculty members discover its potential to enhance their own teaching goals, the possibilities for student learning and engagement are exciting. As the Bryn Mawr faculty member comments, “students are fluent in the new media and faculty bring sophisticated knowledge of a subject. It’s a gap that won’t last more than a decade…but now it presents unusual learning opportunities.”

Guido provides a rich resource for this session on-line at http://guidoalvarez.typepad.com/teaching_to_no_bodies/.

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Discussion as a Way of Teaching

Tuesday, March 12

April 12. Stephen Brookfield, Distinguished University Professor, University of St. Thomas

Discussion is often promoted as a democratic, active, participatory teaching method that students warm to as they engage emotionally as well as cognitively with subject matter. To students, however, discussion is often seen as a meandering interruption to the real business of higher education – finding out what’s in the teacher’s head and what will secure an ‘A’. Alternatively, it is seen as an anxiety-inducing experience in which the purpose is to impress peers and professors with the profundity of one’s insights.

In this session Stephen Brookfield (co-author, with Stephen Preskill, of Discussion as a Way of Teaching) will examine the uses and abuses of discussion. He will explore the factors that ensure productive discussions and how power dynamics can disrupt patterns of participation. Throughout the session Stephen will refer to practices and techniques he has found useful in his own work.

Since beginning his teaching career in 1970, Stephen Brookfield has worked in England, Canada, Australia, and the United States, teaching in a variety of college settings. After 10 years as a Professor of Higher and Adult Education at Columbia University in New York, he now holds the title of Distinguished University Professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota where he recently won the university’s Diversity Leadership Teaching & Research Award and also the John Ireland Presidential Award for Outstanding Achievement as a Teacher/Scholar. During 2002, he was a Visiting Professor at Harvard University. He has written fourteen books on adult learning, teaching, critical thinking, discussion methods and critical theory, four of which have won the Cyril O. Houle World Award for Literature in Adult Education (in 1986, 1989, 1996 and 2005). He also won the 1986 Imogene Okes Award for Outstanding Research in Adult Education. He currently serves on the editorial boards of educational journals in Britain, Canada and Australia, as well as in the United States.

Suggested Resources:

Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms, 2nd Edition:http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0787978086.html and in the CILA Resource Library

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Stand and Deliver! Learning and Engagement in Role-Playing Simulations

Wednesday, May 4

Sheri Breen, University of Minnesota, Morris; Alisa Rosenthal, Gustavus Adolphus College; and Doug Casson, St. Olaf College

How do we get all of our students to take ownership of their own learning? How can we inspire them to pursue their own research and develop their own arguments? These are questions that resonate across the disciplines.

In order to engage our own students more actively with their own learning, the three of us have used a variety of role-playing simulations from the “Reacting to the Past” program (originally developed at Barnard College).  In these simulations, students learn by taking on roles in elaborate games informed by classic texts and set in places such as Ancient Athens, Revolutionary France, or India on the eve of independence. Students must write and deliver speeches, strategize with members of their factions, and negotiate with potential allies and enemies. While they are required to adhere to the philosophical or intellectual positions of the historical figures they are assigned to play, they must also devise their own strategy for expressing their position persuasively and for pursuing a course of action that will lead to the outcomes they wish to accomplish.

The results have been encouraging; students seem to engage with the texts and the arguments in a more personal way. They learn to read carefully and write persuasively, but they also learn to get up in front of other students (who have different objectives and perspectives) and deliver cogent arguments in favor of particular policies and actions. Students learn to take ownership of their own learning because the simulations force them “to stand and deliver.”

During our lunch presentation, we will demonstrate how these simulations work, talk about some of the benefits and challenges of fitting them into the semester, and review our findings from an assessment of student learning that we conducted at University of Minnesota-Morris, St. Olaf College and Gustavus Adolphus College in 2009-2010.

Suggested Resources:

Mark Carnes, “Setting Students’ Minds on Fire,” Chronicle of Higher Education, March 6, 2011. Seehttp://chronicle.com/article/Setting-Students-Minds-on/126592

Mark Carnes, “Inciting Speech,” Change, March/April 2005 (Awarded the 2006 William Gilbert Award by the American Historical Association for the best article on teaching history). See http://reacting.barnard.edu/headlines/essay-inciting-speech

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