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LEARNERS

FALL #1 2011

featured in this issue

Inquiry-Based Instruction

Visionary Status

Hot 5

New Faculty Conference

Faculty Fellow

Inquiry-Based Instruction Inquiry Defined Inquiry-based instruction is a research-driven teaching technique designed to engage students deeply in a specific content area, to encourage reflection, and to improve research skills. It is the process of learning new ideas through participation in well-structured activities in which students develop and test hypotheses. In a sense, inquiry-based teaching is the “scientific method” applied not only to the sciences but to other disciplines as well. While inquiry courses do not share a single subject or theme, they do share a single method—that of presenting students with questions or problems and asking them to use a variety of research methods to answer the questions. Students are asked to analyze and synthesize information, examine evidence, and draw relevant conclusions. While inquiry-based instruction can be teacher-centered, with the instructor selecting the research question and directing the process closely, it is also possible to use inquiry in a highly learner-centered manner, in which the instructor identifies what the students already know about the topic and structures the research question based on students’ prior knowledge. Then students work somewhat independently, with the instructor primarily as a guide to resources. Benefits In their recent book, A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change (2011), Doug Thomas and John Seeley Brown say that inquiry must become the predominate form of learning in the twenty-first century because it enhances the learner’s tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge comprises sense learning, experience, emotional information—knowledge we gain by “watching, doing, experimenting, and simply absorbing knowledge from the things, events, and activities around us” (Thomas and Brown). The authors point out

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that in a stable, relatively unchanging culture, the educational system will value and convey explicit knowledge—information we can articulate and transfer verbally to others. (Encyclopedias are compendia of such knowledge.) “The twenty-first century, however, belongs to the tacit. In the digital world, we learn by doing, watching, and experiencing, “ say Thomas and Brown. In fact, they add, “When you focus on continually asking better questions, you rely on the tacit and use your imagination to delve deeper and deeper into the process of inquiry.” While inquiry-based instruction offers students a great deal of freedom to pursue their passions and interests, it is important to remember that the constraints of the method are as important as the freedom. Thus inquiry works best when students are given well-structured questions that serve as boundaries within which they can pursue their passions and interests. Inquiry does not work so well if students are set loose to ramble around the Internet in a vague quest for “information,” or if they don’t have a foundation of explicit knowledge. While inquiry teaching methods take time and effort to develop, the benefits to students are immense. They not only gain tacit knowledge, research skills, and reflective competence, they also use higher-order thinking skills such as synthesis, analysis, evaluation, and application. For those interested in learning more about inquiry-based pedagogy, the CTL’s pick as a good source is the Sheffield Companion to Inquiry-based Learning, which can be found online at http://www.shef.ac.uk/content/1/c6/10/88/63/Sheffield_IBL_ Companion.pdf


meet the VISIONARY Arthur Chickering scholar, advisor, author

“Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education,” written nearly 25 years ago by Arthur Chickering and Zelda Gamson, is still a classic article in the field of education. It defines and discusses seven simple, basic practices that lead to improved learning. One of its authors, Arthur Chickering, has written about student affairs and college student development for nearly 50 years and certainly deserves the appellation “visionary.” Chickering received his B.A. in modern comparative literature from Wesleyan University, his M.A. in English education from Harvard, and his Ph.D. in school psychology from Columbia. He joined the faculty of Goddard College in 1959 and from 1965 to 1969 directed Goddard’s Project on Student Development in Small Colleges, a four-year project on the interaction between educational practices, the overall college environment, and student development. This project provided the data for Chickering’s seminal book, Education and Identity (1969), in which he articulated his theory of what factors play a role in student development. During the academic year 1969-70, Chickering was a visiting scholar in the Office of Research at the American Council on Education. From there he went on to play an important role in the founding of Empire State College and served as that institution’s first vice president for academic affairs. Chickering was Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education at Memphis State University from 1977 to 1986. From 1986 to 1996 he was University Professor at George Mason University, where one of his roles was to advocate for quality and change, and where he also encouraged the practice of the scholarship of teaching and learning. From 1996 to 2004, he was Visiting Distinguished Professor at Vermont College. Today he is special assistant to the President at Goddard College.

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In addition to Education and Identity, Chickering has written Commuting Versus Resident Students: Overcoming Educational Inequities of Living Off Campus (1974); The Modern American College: Responding to the New Realities of Diverse Students and a Changing Society (1981); Improving Higher Education Environments for Adults: Responsive Programs and Services from Entry to Departure, with N.K. Schlossberg and A.Q. Lynch (1989); Getting the Most Out of College, with Nancy Schlossberg (1995); and Encouraging Authenticity and Spirituality in Higher Education, with Jon Dalton and Liesa Stamm (2005).

HOT 5 (click the link to visit)

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PopTech poptech.org a community of people who come together to explore the social impact of new technologies, changes, and approaches to solving the world’s challenges

Smarthistory smarthistory.org free multi-media web-book designed as a dynamic enhancement for the traditional art history textbook.

Open Yale Courses oyc.yale.edu a selection of introductory courses taught by teachers and scholars at Yale University

Foundation Center foundationcenter.org connects people to information and resources about philanthropy worldwide, through data, analysis, and training

Teaching & Learning for a Sustainable Future http://www.unesco.org/ education/tlsf/ provides sustainable professional development for educators

Chickering has won numerous awards and served on many professional boards. He has also served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Higher Education, the Journal of Higher Education Administration, and About Campus. Educators who have not read “Seven Principles” can find a copy here: http://www2.honolulu.hawaii.edu/facdev/ guidebk/teachtip/7princip.htm


New Faculty Conference Faculty Fellow This year’s New Faculty Conference, hosted by the Office of the Provost and the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), provided nearly 100 new faculty (including 64 tenure-track faculty) an introduction to Bowling Green State University. New faculty had a chance to breakfast with the deans from their respective colleges before they were formally welcomed by Bowling Green State Univeristy President, Dr. Mary Ellen Mazey and Dr. Rodney Rogers, Interim Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost. Also on the agenda for the morning was Larry Weiss, who shared his extensive knowledge of the history of BGSU with the group. After breakfast and introductory remarks, new faculty members participated in an activity designed to acquaint them with several key departments for teaching and learning support, including WBGU, Information Technology Services/Classroom Technology Services, University Libraries, the Learning Commons, the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), and the Center for Online and Blended Learning (COBL). Lunch included opportunities for new faculty to get to know one another and a chance to meet people from various departments and areas around campus. After lunch a series of “lightning talks” introduced new faculty to Bowling Green’s strategic plan, core values, and University Learning Outcomes. The lightning talks were delivered in five-minute “bursts,” after which faculty were prompted to discuss their reactions to what they heard. Senior Associate Vice President and Dean of Students, Jill Carr, and members of her staff introduced new faculty to some of the areas under the aegis of Student Affairs, including student conduct, residence life, TRIO programs, and disability services. The day ended with a reception sponsored by Student Affairs. Day two of the New Faculty Conference included time for faculty to meet with Founding Vice President for Research and Economic Development, Dr. Michael Ogawa. Participants also had the opportunity to sign up for benefits with representatives from Human Resources and take a guided tour of the Jerome Library.

Dr. Tim Brackenbury

The Center for Teaching and Learning has added a new member to our team this year. Dr. Tim Brackenbury, Department of Communication Science and Disorders, is on a one-year faculty improvement leave and is spending part of his time here at the Center. One of the primary projects Tim is working on this year involves helping undergraduate students in the Communication Science and Disorders program get exposure to real-world professional issues earlier in their student careers than they do now. To help advance this idea, he is investigating programs that already include early professional exposure, such as architecture, education, and computer technology. Tim hopes that the end product of this work will provide a balance of theory and job preparation skills for students in this field of study. Another of Tim’s projects is a proposal to merge two graduate courses (early childhood language disorders and speech disorders) into a single speech and language disorders class that has an initial version in the students’ first semester and an advanced version three semesters later. One of the goals of this merger is to maximize students’ learning of these topics during their clinical experiences (including those in the intervening semesters).   In addition to Tim’s work associated with Communication Science and Disorders, he has taken on some responsibilities at the Center for Teaching and Learning.  He has committed to sharing his knowledge with two learning communities this year: Enhancing the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at BGSU and What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Student Learning. For example, Tim will coordinate projects on the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) being done on campus and compile lessons that video games have for classroom learning. Tim will also facilitate discussion groups on SoTL. Tim is a proponent of problem-based learning and of engaging students with problems before they are really ready to tackle them. Presenting problems that are outside students’ current knowledge base is intended to be a motivator for future action. While students may have some applicable knowledge of the issues, they will have to use problem-solving skills and course materials to fill in the gaps. These pedagogical methods prepare students for future instances of “not knowing” and begin to equip them with the skills to solve other open-ended problems throughout their student careers and beyond. We are pleased to have Tim with us in the Center. If you stop in, be sure to say “hello.”

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Book Review The title of James M. Lang’s recent book, On Course: A Weekby-Week Guide to Your First Semester of College Teaching, could be considered a bit misleading. The chapters are organized as “weeks” in a school semester but, as the author himself states, the title is a “conceit,” and the book is not a mere recipe for how to conduct a course. Rather, On Course is an incredibly readable and practical collection of advice for educators who are just beginning classroom teaching. As much as the book is aimed at those new to the classroom, the content would be just as helpful for veterans looking to reflect on their teaching. Lang, an associate professor of English at Assumption College and author of a monthly column for the Chronicle of Higher Education, writes in a clear and conversational style. He shows a wonderful sense of humor throughout the book, using his own real-life teaching experiences to demonstrate what has worked well in the classroom and what has gone disastrously wrong. The opening chapters provide a handy and concise guide to syllabus construction, followed by suggestions about what to do during the first days of classes: what (not) to wear, the problems of letting class end too early on the first day, and strategies to get students to participate in and think about the course right away. The subsequent chapters do not strictly correspond to the passing weeks of a semester but focus on the teaching and learning between the beginning and the end of the course. The use of technology, lecture, discussion, and group work are examined, followed by a look at assignments and grading. References are included at the end of each chapter and appendices include a sample syllabus and an example of a student participation evaluation form. Aside from the practical material regarding teaching strategies and assessment, Lang includes some insightful chapters to prompt the reader to think of students as people as well as learners, navigating university politics, and re-energizing the classroom as the semester goes on. A particularly fine chapter corresponding to the week near Thanksgiving break examines finding a balance between life inside and outside the classroom. The inclusion of these thoughtful passages alongside practical classroom advice is one of the qualities that make this book a stand out. Lang’s witty prose, humorous anecdotes, and concrete advice provide a volume that is clear and helpful for those finding themselves standing in front of a class for the first time. Lang, J. M. (2010). On Course: A Week-by-Week Guide to Your First Semester of College Teaching. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Did You Know? In the late 1990s, Professor Mark Carnes of Barnard College developed an active-learning concept that was later refined, he says, “by hundreds of scholars.” The pedagogy came to be called “Reacting to the Past.” This pedagogy, which has now spread to more than 300 colleges and universities, involves students in complicated role-playing games that are based on important texts from historical periods or on current controversies. While the games often feature disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, the National Science Foundation has been active in developing a number of games for use in STEM courses. Examples of games are “The Pluto Debate,” “Challenging the USDA Food Pyramid,” and “Puzzling the Carbon Question.” The games last for a month or more and are governed by a complex set of rules and roles that students undertake. In one game set in Athens, Greece, students play democrats and oligarchs and try to determine how the city state should be governed. In another, students enact roles from the French Revolution; in yet another they become characters from Puritan-era Boston. Educators have been amazed at the level of student involvement the games generate. When it became clear to Paul Fessler’s class at Dordt College in Iowa that they would not be able to deal with all of the issues they uncovered in the time allotted, they volunteered to start class 30 minutes early for the remainder of the semester. The class normally started at 8:00 AM! Barnard College offers an annual institute to help educators learn the pedagogy involved in “Reacting to the Past,” and there is a plethora of information on their website, including a video of a class in action. The University of Georgia also offers an annual institute. Pearson has published a “Reacting to the Past” series based on the Barnard cases; the titles range from “The Trial of Galileo” to “Henry VIII and the Reformation Parliament.” A full list of titles can be found at http://www.pearsonhighered.com/educator/series/Reacting-to-the-Past/10510.page. Each book comes with downloadable instructor resources. For additional information see Mark Carnes, “Setting Students’ Minds on Fire,” Chronicle of Higher Education, (March 6, 2011), http://chronicle.com/article/SettingStudents-Minds-on/126592. The Barnard website may be accessed at http://reacting.barnard.edu.

This newsletter is a publication of the Center for Teaching and Learning Visit us online at www.bgsu.edu/ctl or in 201 University Hall.

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