Just read Terry Greene’s brief post, A piece of thinking, that might solve a problem I’ve been wrestling with: how to change the way I set up prep work and related follow-up activities to raise levels of student understanding and engagement AND reduce paper usage.
Revisions to my course this semester include a significant change in delivery. We now have a one-hour lab to complete guided electronic activities such as research tasks, followed by a one-hour seminar where students will participate in learning activities that build on their prep work.
Ideally, this experiment will help students build their research and critical thinking skills, and their ability to communicate their understanding and ideas in writing and orally. I also hope that the scaffolding of the levels of discussion through the semester will result overall in more student engagement and in a richer learning experience for students. Maybe … more learning will stick!
It’s not the usual Thinkpiece – I’m just calling it that!
For the first couple of discussion board posts, students will be asked to remember; to write a brief thinkpiece based on their prep work: what stood out from the research or reading (a key point / partial summary), and then explain why it stood out. This format might result in an initial focus on opinion over facts; but, it won’t be long before they start to exercise their critical thinking muscle; especially, as we move up Bloom’s ladder. At this initial stage, peers will respond either with questions or by sharing something from their own prep work.
For the next level of discussion posts, students will be required to demonstrate understanding by writing a one-paragraph summary of their findings. Peers will be asked to respond with [thoughtful and respectful] probing questions which I hope will help reveal to the writers where their summaries miss the mark for reader comprehension and understanding.
At the final stage of the discussion boards, students will be required to think and write more deeply and more widely about topics – beyond a cursory thinkpiece – as their confidence and competencies in online discussions will have grown. They will be invited to apply what they learn from their prep work, from readings, from seminar activities, from assignments, and to make big-picture connections with their program courses in their posts and in their responses to peers.
As we near the end of the semester, students will participate in a “Take-a-stand” protocol where they will apply what they learned through their prep work and research to take – and defend – a position on a controversial health care issue (e.g., strategies to respond to the opioid crisis in Canada: safe-injection sites, distribution of naloxone kits to first responders, declaration of an emergency, etc.). This activity requires that students analyze their findings, and evaluate their perspectives on the topic before seminar.
In seminar, students will engage in a group activity wherein they will share their findings with peers. By this stage, we should have established a comfortable learning community where students feel safe to express and defend their views, and where they know that others will listen actively and respectfully. After hearing from all group members, students will be asked to [re]–evaluate the topic through the lens of new learning, new ideas, and again take a stand.
Some students will retain their position; others will potentially have been persuaded to formulate – create – a new position. Whatever the outcome, students will have participated in an engaging learning experience that requires preparation, thought, active listening, and consideration as the process moves students through: remembering, understanding, application, analysis, evaluation, and re-evaluation (create).
What it’s all about
I hope that the changes that I make in my course will effectively help students build their research, critical thinking, writing, and persuasive skills, as well as set the stage for higher engagement levels and increased [sustained] learning, through the stages of Bloom’s taxonomy. In other words, students will develop higher levels of thinking, reasoning, responding.