Faculty Adventures in the AI Learning Frontier: Introduction

by Dana Dawson, Ph. D

Associate Director’s log, stardate 4616.2. Temple University. While minding our own business over here, someone invented generative AI and made it readily accessible to the people of Earth, which includes our students. We find ourselves in a strange and unfamiliar landscape; computer probability projections are useless due to insufficient data¹.  Some faculty members have boldly entered this new terrain.

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We decided to call this blog series Faculty Adventures in the AI Learning Frontier not only because Google’s new AI tool Gemini suggested the title but because of its resonance with Star Trek. The original television series and its many reboots and spin-offs depict intrepid adventurers exploring the deep reaches of space, the “final frontier,” as we were reminded at the beginning of each episode. With the rapid evolution of generative AI, we find ourselves standing on the threshold of a strange new world. Teaching in the age of AI is, indeed, a new frontier; instructors are boldly going where no instructor has gone before. With great ingenuity, and at times trepidation, faculty members throughout Temple have begun to explore what it means to integrate AI into their class planning and delivery. 

Over the course of this series, we will showcase examples of activities and assessments that Temple faculty members used in their classes in Fall 2023. In our March 11th post, we will feature assignments used in First Year Writing courses. March 25th will focus on implementation of generative AI assignments and activities in the health sciences and our final post on April 15th will include examples of how instructors across different disciplines have addressed ethics in the use of generative AI. Some of the featured activities and assessments have been designed to help students practice implementing generative AI in their fields while others encourage students to critically interrogate the impact of AI. 

Whether we like it or not, generative AI is now part of our–and our students’–world. It is our responsibility not just to familiarize ourselves with these tools but to help our students make decisions about their use and, should they choose to use them, to do so effectively and ethically. We hope this series will give you some concrete and applicable examples of how to address generative AI in your courses.

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¹ The Gamesters Of Triskelion, Original Airdate: 5 Jan, 1968.

Being Proactive About Student Success: Six Easy Interventions to Support Students in Week Five

Dana Dawson, PhD and Linda Hasunuma, PhD

It’s common for faculty members to use midterm exams or projects to assess student progress, however, for students who are struggling, a midterm check-in may come too late to effectively address challenges. In this post, we’ll talk about ways to check in with students earlier in the semester and what to do if students are missing classes and assignments or their work demonstrates a need for additional support.

Enter your Midterm Progress Ratings for Academic Progress

In spring 2024, Midterm Progress Ratings (MPRs) for undergraduate classes will be open from January 31, 2024 to March 11, 2024. This is three weeks earlier than in previous years so that instructors can provide targeted outreach to students who may need additional guidance or resources to support their learning and retention. It’s a good idea to check your rosters for students who have missed classes or assignments, or whose submitted work is not meeting a passing standard and enter progress ratings as early as possible. It won’t come as a surprise to faculty that missed classes and assignments in the first weeks of classes are a strong predictor of poor course outcomes, so the sooner these patterns are identified, the better. 

Some advising units use MPRs to identify students who require additional outreach and support. Students are also notified if a professor has submitted an MPR. While this can be a helpful indicator to some students that they are at risk of not succeeding in the course, for others, a rating of “Unsatisfactory” can be discouraging, so we recommend reaching out to students who are identified as “Unsatisfactory” (more on that below). There is a helpful guide to completing MPRs available in TU Portal.

Reach Out to Students Whose Attendance, Course Engagement and/or Work on Assignments is Cause for Concern

If in the process of reviewing student performance and completing MPRs, you notice a student has not been regularly engaging with your course or is struggling with assignments, check in with the student. You might send an email using TUmail or the Canvas email function or have a brief chat with the student after class. You can also check the “People” function in Canvas to see how much time students have spent in the course and email them directly from there. Some faculty members schedule meetings with students around the quarter-semester mark, though the size or number of your classes may prohibit this option. If you have too many students to make bespoke outreach possible, Canvas’s “message students who” function can help. 

Be sure to communicate to the student that you want them to succeed and that you’re there to help. Share information on resources such as the Student Success Center, Disability Resources Services, Cherry Pantry, and the Wellness Resource Center. If you want to learn more about available resources, the Dean of Students office has a “Red Folder” with advice on making appropriate referrals.Temple has also made new apps available to students who may need mental health counseling, such as TogetherAll and Welltrack Boost. Checking in with your students demonstrates your care and concern, which can also make a difference to a student who may be feeling overwhelmed or struggling.

Give a Word of Encouragement

This is the time in the semester when the full weight of their obligations begins to hit students. Assignment due dates start to amass. Midterm exams loom. A majority of Temple students hold at least one part-time job and many participate in extracurricular activities, some of which are required by their colleges. It’s a good time to remind our students that we see and appreciate their work and that we believe they can succeed. Some students may need more guidance about resources available to them for building their study skills, including note taking, time management, and mapping out their schedules with their various responsibilities outside of school; some may be managing challenges related to housing, food security, or other personal matters that may make it harder for them to manage coursework. We can be proactive and normalize help seeking by regularly reminding students about resources on campus during these stressful stages of the semester and ensuring we list available resources in our Canvas sites. 

Use Informal Surveying or a Mid-Semester Instructional Diagnosis to Check In

While we collect student feedback at the end of the semester, at that point, it’s too late to change anything. Consider using an informal, anonymous survey that asks students what is most helping their learning and what is getting in the way of their learning. This can be done using a tool such as Google or Microsoft forms or simply by using index cards. Stephen Brookfield’s Critical Incident Questionnaire can also be a helpful tool for regular check-ins.

The CAT can also help! We invite you to schedule a Mid-Semester Instructional Diagnosis: a CAT staff person will visit your class for 35-40 minutes and (once you have left the room) gather consensus feedback from students on four questions relating to what you, and what they can do to improve their learning. 

Encourage Students to Engage in Metacognitive Reflection

Invite students to reflect on their learning strategies and on what is working and what needs adjustment. Share strategies for studying or reading that encourage students to check in with themselves on their own understanding. While the semester is still relatively young, we have a window of opportunity to provide formative feedback that will motivate students and encourage them to take ownership of their learning. 

As always, if you’d like assistance with supporting your students early in the semester, our faculty developers and educational technology specialists are ready to help. Make an appointment here or email a CAT staff member directly.

The 2024 Annual Faculty Conference on Teaching Excellence

Cliff Rouder, EdD

More than 225 faculty from universities across the region came together with the CAT on January 10 and 11 for the 2024 Annual Faculty Conference on Teaching Excellence. The event was co-sponsored by Temple Libraries, the Office of Digital Education, Information Technology Services, and the  General Education Program. 

This year’s theme was Teaching and Learning in the Age of Generative Artificial Intelligence. Participants grappled with the broad impacts of generative artificial intelligence (GAI) in higher education and the specific implications for teaching and learning–all evolving in real time! The availability of these tools to our students raises important and difficult questions about the nature of thinking and learning, academic integrity, and the purpose and effectiveness of our assessments and learning activities.

Keynote and Plenary Address

Dr. Sarah Elaine Eaton and Dr. Sharla Barry

The CAT was honored to have Dr. Sarah Elaine Eaton, Associate Professor at the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary, Canada, who also holds a concurrent appointment as an Honorary Associate Professor at Deakin University in Australia. Her day one keynote was titled, Academic Integrity in a Postplagiarism World: The Impact of Generative Artificial Intelligence on Teaching, Learning, and Assessment.

Dr. Eaton began by defining a post-plagiarism world as an era in human society in which advanced technologies are a normal part of life, including how we teach, learn, and interact daily. After introducing us to the breadth of areas beyond student academic integrity that concern generative AI integrity in higher education, (e.g., publication ethics, research and integrity ethics, instruction ethics, and institutional ethics), she urged us not to approach student academic integrity from a “crime and punishment/I will catch you if you try to cheat” mindset. Rather, she suggested faculty and administrators adopt a more humanist mindset, as cheating is often a symptom of other problems, be it a lack of understanding or trying to handle multiple life responsibilities.

Dr. Eaton then presented some likely realities of a post-plagiarism world, suggesting that some hybrid of human-AI technologies will be the norm, including wearable and implantable AI. Dr. Eaton reminded us that wearable AI is already here as is implantable AI (a cochlear implant), and thus we need to be preemptive rather than speculative in our thinking so that we are not caught off guard as we were with AI/ChatGPT. She stressed that we have an imperative as faculty to ensure the ethical use of future AI to leave the education system better than when we found it, and lastly, that we must also remember that students cannot relinquish their responsibility for what they generate and submit!

We were also delighted to have Dr. Sharla Berry, Associate Director of the Center for Evaluation and Educational Effectiveness at California State University, Long Beach. Her day two plenary session was titled, Teaching with Technology: Holistic Pedagogies in a Time of Change

Dr. Berry helped us explore the sociocultural implications of our evolving digital learning landscape by posing some thought-provoking questions we need to reflect on regarding the development of AI and its use in education:

  • While AI increases our ability to gather information, how are we ensuring that students have the ability to synthesize and use that information to benefit their learning? Is getting the right answer considered learning?
  • Are we acknowledging and looking out for historical information from limited perspectives that result in biased output? 
  • Are we helping students to give better prompts that enable more balanced perspectives? 
  • What are the environmental impacts of AI? Dr. Berry shared a finding of U. of Massachusetts researchers cited in an MIT report titled Reducing the carbon footprint of artificial intelligence: “The amount of power required for training and searching a certain neural network architecture involves the emissions of roughly 626,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. That’s equivalent to nearly five times the lifetime emissions of the average U.S. car, including its manufacturing.” 
  • What are the social impacts of AI? Dr. Berry asked us to consider a variety of impacts, such as the substandard hourly wages paid to AI content moderators, the potential for AI to increase loneliness and social isolation, and its potential to enhance social interactions and connections with others. 

In sum, Dr. Berry’s primary message was that while there are benefits of AI to humanity and society, there are also costs which need to be considered and addressed as we take a more holistic approach to assessing AI and its impacts

Building on the Keynote and Plenary Address

In addition to keynote and plenary speakers, the conference featured interactive workshops, breakout sessions, lightning talks, and poster sessions–all designed to generate discussion and share ideas for best teaching practices (with and without generative AI).

New this year was our AI Playground where participants tried out these generative AI programs: 

Let’s Continue the Conversation

Our 2024 Annual Faculty Conference generated many thought-provoking questions and teaching strategies, so let’s continue talking! Here are some ways you can keep the conversation going:

  • Share what you’ve learned with your program/department faculty.
  • Avail yourself of the robust AI resources on our website.
  • Schedule a consultation with the CAT to work on incorporating what you have learned into your courses.  
  • Attend CAT workshops and consider joining one of our Faculty Learning Communities.
  • Follow us on social media: Instagram, Facebook and Youtube
  • A full album of conference photos can be found on our Facebook!

On behalf of everyone at the CAT, we wish you a joyous new year and a    fulfilling spring semester!

The Significance of Chinese Names and Their Pronunciation  

Everybody identifies with their name. Making the effort to pronounce a name correctly in class tells a student that you recognize them as a person they are and a welcome part of the class. Names are embedded in their cultures. Chinese names carry culturally rich meanings and a personal and shared history that reflect philosophical traditions and social customs. A person’s name tells the story of their parents’ ideals and hopes for them, aspirations that the name’s bearer often embraces throughout their life. So you can see, Chinese names are more than just labels.

Chinese names can be especially hard for non-Mandarin speakers. When talking about Chinese names, it is important to keep in mind that the basic unit in written Chinese consists of 3 parts: the character, the pronunciation and the meaning. All 3 parts come into play when naming a child. Below we will discuss Chinese naming culture in detail. 

Cultural significance of a Chinese name

Chinese naming culture has deep historical roots. Traditional Chinese naming practices date back thousands of years and have been influenced by various philosophies and belief systems, most notably Confucianism, which emphasized the importance of family and ancestral heritage. Chinese names are typically structured with three elements: the family name (surname), the given name, and, in some cases, a generational name. The family name comes first, symbolizing the importance of family and heritage. This structure is in contrast to many Western naming conventions where the given name comes first. For example, a common name in America is Joe Smith. In China, they would be known as Smith John. 

Family name: The family or surname appears first in Chinese culture and is of paramount importance. It represents not just an individual but an entire lineage. Surnames are shared by extended family members, reinforcing the sense of belonging and connection. There is a sense of pride and responsibility associated with carrying on the family name.  

Given name: Given names appear after the family name and are carefully chosen. Families want to give children names that are phonetically and semantically meaningful. Names may be selected to reflect desirable qualities, aspirations, or the circumstances surrounding a child’s birth. Names chosen for boys often symbolize strength and power. Girls’ names often represent beauty and kindness. The process of naming is also believed to influence a person’s destiny. 

Generational name: Generational names are built into a given name. They are used in maintaining continuity within the family and are passed down through generations, creating a sense of unity and tradition. It’s common for siblings and cousins related patrilineally from the same generation to share a generational name element.  For example, Jia Zhenni and Jia Zhenhai are siblings. They have cousins named Jia Zhenhua, Jia Zhendong, Jia Zhenguo, and Jia Zhenxing. The ‘zhen’ is their generational name. When all of their names are spoken, you can hear the “zhen”, but they all use a different character and may have different meanings. In some families, the generational character is the same for all members of the generation. Another option is for all the males to share a character and all the females to share one.  

Not all families use a generational name. Some generational names have been lost as time goes by. Some smaller families can’t trace their lineage back and do not have a family history of using them so choose to not use them going forward.  

Choosing characters with good meaning: Chinese names are composed of characters, known as Hanzi. Each character can carry cultural, historical, and sometimes even spiritual significance. The choice of characters can convey deeper meanings and invoke connections to Chinese heritage. Chinese culture also has a rich folklore related to names. So, while some names are considered lucky, others are believed to bring bad fortune. These folk beliefs influence naming choices, especially for newborns. The character for ‘ugly’ is chou (丑) and another chou character (臭) means ‘bad smell’ making it unlikely that you would ever use any character pronounced chou in a name, even if it has a different meaning, because it is too close to ‘ugly’ and ‘stench’ in pronunciation. 

Correctly pronouncing names is important. There are 4 tones in standard Chinese.  Correct tones are crucial for conveying the intended meaning. If the pronunciation of a tone is wrong, a different word from the one intended is said. A common example of how the 4 tones distinguish words from one another uses syllables that share the consonant-vowel sequence ma but differ in tone. Mā in the first tone means ‘mom’. Má in the second tone means ‘trouble’. Mǎ in the third tone means ‘horse’. Mà in the fourth tone means ‘to scold’.  

A Chinese name is always a Chinese word that has a tone as part of its correct pronunciation. Let’s look at an example of mispronouncing a tone in a name.  In the name Wang Wèn (王问), the second syllable is in the fourth tone and has a meaning of a smart and inquisitive individual, this being a very good trait in Chinese culture. If pronounced Wang Wén (王蚊) with the second syllable in the second tone, it could mean mosquito which has bad associations.  

One could also mispronounce a name and change its meaning. An example of this is the phrase Zhang Laoshi (张老师) which means Teacher Zhang.  If the name Zhang is mispronounced as zang (脏), the resulting phrase Zang Laoshi could mean “dirty teacher,” something one would not want to call somebody, especially their teacher or professor.   

What Can A Faculty Member Do To Learn Students Names? 

Because of the meanings and histories names can hold, we should make every effort to learn how to pronounce them correctly. Chinese names can be especially hard for non-Mandarin speakers. Below are a few steps and suggestions faculty members can take to learn students’ names: 

    • Review your class roster before you get to the first class and make a note of any names for which you are unsure of the pronunciation.  

    • At the first class, when going over the roster for the first time, you can say, “It’s important to me that I learn how to pronounce everyone’s names correctly, so I will ask again if I need more help. Thanks for your patience as I try to learn your names.” 

    • Ask students to tell you the correct way to pronounce their names and make notes on your roster of the pronunciation for future reference. Repeat the name after the student pronounces it. Ask “Is that right?” to determine if you need to make adjustments to your pronunciation. But try not to call a student out by spending too much time on pronouncing their name in front of the entire class. Students might find this embarrassing. If need be, catch them after class or before the next class. Some students might also insist you call them by their American name and that is okay too. Your initial effort will not go unnoticed.  

    • Check out this Chinese pinyin chart with audio included from Chinese.Yabla.com. There are a number of common Chinese names you will be able to find on the chart. This will not account for the correct tone a Chinese name should be pronounced in without hearing it from the student first, but it will help with certain sounds and show you the difference between the pronunciation of the 4 tones.  

    • For a non-classroom setting, say a business meeting, interview or social event, it is totally fine to ask someone again the correct way to pronounce and say their name. Even repeat it a few times until you get it right. 

Pronouncing a person’s name correctly is a sign of respect and cultural understanding, so the effort you put into learning students’ names will help you build a more positive rapport with students and signal that you care about them as people.  

For more help with Chinese names and things related to Chinese culture, please contact the Center for Chinese Language Instruction at Temple University, ccli@temple.edu

The Center for Chinese Language Instruction supports Chinese language instruction within the Chinese major and introduces Chinese popular culture through social and cultural events in the Temple community.

My trip down the AI rabbit hole

In her end of the semester wrap-up, our fearless leader reflects on her intellectual adventures springing from the emergence of A.I. as a factor in teaching in learning. 

For further help on the role of A.I. in your classroom, visit our Faculty Guide to A.I. or book an appointment for a one-on-one consultation.

 

Stephanie Laggini Fiore, Ph.D., is Associate Vice Provost and Senior Director of Temple’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

Another Look at Active Learning: Part 7: Overcoming Challenges to Active Learning

by Cliff Rouder Ed. D and Linda Hasunuma Ph. D

In this last post of our series on active learning, we identify the challenges faculty sometimes face when planning and implementing active learning. We also give you some strategies for meeting those challenges. 

How can I make time in class or online for active learning when I have so much content to cover?

While there are active learning strategies that don’t take a lot of class time and are easy to implement, integrating active learning into your class sessions will require rethinking the content you cover in class to ensure there is adequate time to complete activities. There’s a saying that’s useful to remember as you wrestle with what content may have to be moved out of class time: “If you say it, that doesn’t mean they’ve learned it.” So, ask yourself what foundational knowledge (e.g., definitions, factoids, easy-to-understand/background information on a topic) can be moved out of class time and assigned prior to class. To ensure accountability, you can give students a short assessment before or at the start of class. Another way to help you decide is by categorizing your content as “crucial to know,” “good to know,” and “tangential or unrelated to the Topic.” Often we include content that really doesn’t enhance students’ learning and does not move students toward meeting course goals, so consider simply removing it. Finally, remember that active learning strategies are used to address course content; they simply involve students in the process. While you may not be delivering the content in the form of a lecture, a well-designed active learning strategy will require students to grapple with key concepts, apply knowledge or skills and test their understanding.

I’ll lose control of the class if I don’t lecture.

Active learning doesn’t mean you give up control; it means that you provide opportunities for other ways of learning where you don’t take center stage while continuing to monitor and assist as students actively engage with course content. This short video demonstrates how instructors continue to guide students during an in-class activity. Viewing our role more as a facilitator of learning rather than as the dispenser of all wisdom can be a useful mindset to help you let go of this concern, especially if you are teaching large lecture courses. And remember, your TA or Diamond Peer Teacher can play a significant role in helping set up and monitor students when they work in pairs or small groups. 

My students are used to lecturing; they’re not going to be happy campers.

For a variety of reasons, you may get pushback from students who have never been in an active learning classroom or who have had negative experiences. It’s not unusual for faculty to hear some version of these student comments: “I pay your salary, and I expect you to be the one to teach me!”; “My peers don’t know enough, or I’ll get misinformation”; “I hate group work!”; or “I take five classes, work, and take care of my younger siblings. How can you expect me to be prepared for every class period?” 

These statements (and your concerns about them) are understandable, but here’s the thing: active learning can improve your SFFs! A 2019 study reported that “when the percentage of class devoted to lecturing fell between 20% and 60%, the most likely outcome was an increase of scores on student evaluations.” Not only that, but the messaging we give around active learning will greatly increase the chances that students will value the experience (translating to stronger SFFs).

There are three points that can be helpful in your messaging to students about your decision to use active learning strategies: 1. The skills they’ll develop as a result of actively engaging in the course will be of value to them (now and in their future professional lives); 2. There is a large body of research demonstrating that students in classes where active learning strategies are used learn more and retain what they have learned for longer; and 3. Acknowledging that “stuff happens,” and thus what you are hoping (or expecting) to see is that more often than not, they will come to class prepared to engage with the material and with each other.

Messaging about your use of active learning strategies can start before the semester begins. You might create a “welcome to the course” email or video in which you share a little bit about how your course will run and why that’s of value to students. In addition to the benefits of deeper understanding and better course outcomes, you can share these other valuable benefits: You’ll practice working collaboratively (skills crucial in most workplaces and in life!); you’ll hear different perspectives and thus will become a better listener and a better citizen; you’ll help create trust and a sense of community–a crucial element to feeling a sense of belonging, especially for students from underrepresented or marginalized groups or who are first generation college students. Raising the value of active learning is key! Keep in mind that the messaging may need to be repeated during the semester as student motivation and effort ebb and flow.

Then, devote a paragraph or two in your syllabus to your expectations for students, your role in an active learning classroom or online course, and the value of active learning. Here’s one way you can structure the messaging in your syllabus: 

    • Here’s my role (e.g., facilitator/coach) and why. 

    • Here’s your role (e.g., active participant) and why it’s so important for you now and in the future. 

As we’ve presented in this blog series, there are a wide variety of active learning activities from simply pausing your lecture in order to ask a question all the way up to devoting an entire class period to learning activities (a.k.a. flipping the classroom). If you are new to active learning, we encourage you to dip your toes in the water and pick a few easy-to-implement activities to try out in the next semester. If they don’t go as anticipated, be sure to take some time to reflect on why. Getting your students’ perspective on how they went can never hurt. With each subsequent semester, tweak the ones you’ve tried as needed and consider adding some that are more involved. Always remember that your course goals should guide your choice of active learning activities. For example, if a course goal is to have students deliver effective oral presentations, think about the types of active learning experiences that would give students practice and feedback to prepare them to give a strong oral presentation.

The CAT is here to assist. Make an appointment for a consultation to help create or refine your active learning activities or to have us come observe and give you feedback on what you’ve tried.

Cliff Rouder is Pedagogy and Design Specialist at Temple’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching (CAT). Linda Hasunuma is Assistant Director at the CAT.

Another Look at Active Learning, Part 6: Active Learning Online, Synchronously and Asynchronously

by Emtinan Alqurashi, Ed. D

In our ongoing series, “Another Look at Active Learning,” we’ve explored various active learning techniques. While active learning is an effective approach in all types of courses, its application can differ in online environments. This is especially true for asynchronous courses where students lack real-time contact with the instructor and their peers. So it becomes crucial to establish opportunities for active engagement with the instructor and fellow students in asynchronous settings. In this blog post, we delve into activities that can effectively engage students in both synchronous and asynchronous online learning settings.

Synchronous active learning strategies 

Synchronous activities take place in real-time, often using platforms like Zoom. They often mirror the types of activities that we use in in-person settings, with some adjustments to help them work in this modality.

Examples

Strategy #1: Jigsaw Online

How it works: 

Step 1: Identify a reading or learning unit that can be divided into parts.

Step 2: Form small groups and have each group focus on one of the parts. This can be completed prior to class, or by reading independently during class time.

Step 3: In class, form breakout rooms for each group to allow them to discuss their part with the goal of being able to explain it to other classmates. They should be working together to identify key concepts and clarify any gaps in understanding. Then, have them return to the main room.

Step 4: Form new groups in the breakout room so that each new group has one member for each of the different parts. I recommend asking students to add their Step 3 breakout room number next to their names to make it easier for instructors to reform the groups. Each group member now explains their part to the other members in the new group.

Step 5: Optional: Provide the new groups with a problem to solve that requires the integration of the different parts.

Strategy #2: Rotating Stations 

How it works: 

Step 1: Define the learning unit and craft a set of open-ended discussion questions before class.

Step 2: Create shareable collaborative documents (e.g. Google Docs) for each question, and change the sharing setting to enable “edit access for anyone with a link”. Provide all the links on a single Google Doc, using it as the central hub. 

Step 3: In class, establish breakout rooms for group discussions. Have students record their answers in the documents and rotate every 10 minutes through the questions. 

Step 4: After they’ve cycled through all stations (i.e. google docs), bring them back to the main room for discussion through chat, raised hands, or taking turns to speak.

Note: Monitor document activity to support groups if needed during the activity. 

Strategy #3: Digital Sticky Notes

Sticky notes are great for getting lots of student ideas quickly. You can use them for brainstorming together in real time, making mind maps, and helping students sort out concepts to boost their critical thinking.

Digital sticky notes work just like the real ones, they can be added by everyone, and you can keep coming back to them. Padlet is an easy digital sticky note tool to use, great for sharing and collaborative editing. 

Strategy #4: Live Polling 

Uses for live polling:

  • Assess Learning: Use multiple-choice or open-ended polls to assess comprehension.
  • Build Community: Foster a sense of belonging using image or word cloud polls.
  • Gather Feedback: Collect course and teaching feedback.
  • Facilitate Peer Learning: Encourage discussions and decision-making through polls.

Use Poll Everywhere for both in-person and online teaching; it integrates into presentations with various question types. Kahoot, another polling tool, enables creating multiple-choice questions for instant feedback and leaderboards. Employ Kahoot games for knowledge reinforcement, review, or as individual challenges for asynchronous learning with set deadlines.

Asynchronous active learning strategies

Asynchronous activities occur at students’ own pace and on their schedule. Designed well, they can be successful at actively engaging students with the content and with others in the class. 

Examples

Strategy #1: Collaborative Writing 

Consider using collaborative writing tools like Google Docs, or Microsoft Word, when assigning group writing projects where students can work together asynchronously. These tools are very useful because they allow everyone to contribute and edit the same documents. In addition, they have features like tracking changes and adding comments, which make it easy for everyone to give feedback and improve the work together.

Strategy #2: Peer Review 

Leverage peer review for student connections and enhanced learning using Canvas Peer Review in asynchronous classes, and keep the following considerations in mind:

  • Define expectations: Provide precise instructions for the criteria students should consider in their reviews.
  • Offer guidance: Provide students with guiding questions, rubrics, or worksheets to assist them in their peer reviews. This can aid in structured and focused evaluations.
  • Encourage author questions: Encourage students to include initial questions for their peer reviewers to guide them on what aspects the author would like them to focus on.

Strategy #3: Gamification, like Escape Games

Using gamification, like online escape games, is an exciting and effective approach to foster active learning, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills among students. To create and manage such games, select a suitable tool (e.g., Genially), and design the game with a storyline, puzzles, and challenges aligned with the learning objectives. Provide clear instructions, establish support and feedback channels, and encourage engagement through debriefing discussions to review solutions and outcomes. It’s worth noting that escape games can be utilized synchronously where you give students a link to the game and then return to debrief.

Strategy # 4: Online Discussions 

Using tools like VoiceThread for online discussions is excellent for engaging students, especially in asynchronous courses. VoiceThread is an interactive collaboration tool where you can share materials and multimedia, and students can add text, audio, or video comments directly. It facilitates rich discussions and allows students to interact directly with shared material and also build digital presentations with comments for discussion.

Strategy #5: Generative AI

Generative AI, like ChatGPT, offers exciting opportunities for engaging students in active learning. Refer to the CAT AI guide on how to incorporate these activities in our EDvice Exchange blog post A Survival Guide to AI and Teaching pt.4: Make AI Your Friend.

If you’re interested in trying these techniques, we encourage you to reach out to the CAT. In the next post of this blog series, we will focus on overcoming challenges in active learning.

Emtinan Alqurashi is Assistant Director of Online and Digital Learning at Temple’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

Another Look at Active Learning, part 5: Active Learning in Large Classrooms

by Sheryl L. Love and Jeff Rients

In the previous three installments of this series, we’ve proposed a variety of active learning techniques that you can implement in your classroom. A common faculty response to some of the active learning techniques we’ve outlined is that they do not scale up, i.e. the claim is that these strategies may function admirably in a typical classroom, but they don’t work in a lecture hall. In this post we will be sharing some active learning techniques with proven track records in large classes as well as discussing the mental disposition needed for faculty to take the leap of faith into active learning.

Techniques

Each of the following techniques are designed to encourage student engagement with the lecture by providing an additional way of interacting with the material. Used repeatedly, they also help build the sense of community sometimes missing in lecture-based learning environments. This sense of community directly contributes to student motivation to succeed.

Neighbor Check-In

Ask students to talk with their neighbors to see if they have the same/correct understanding of a new concept. Working in a small group helps students to see that they are not alone in having questions and misunderstandings. After a few minutes of discussion, ask them to share any unresolved questions that the group still has.

Note Comparison

Invite students to pair up and take a few minutes to compare the notes they’ve taken with another student nearby. Pairs will be able to fill in gaps in each other’s notes. Invite students to share any point of disagreement, giving you the opportunity to clarify misunderstandings. Done regularly, this activity also encourages note-taking.

Interactive Polling

After a lecture segment use a polling tool like Poll Everywhere to ask students a multiple choice question. Then give the students an opportunity to talk in small groups, sharing their answers and justifying it to the other students. Without revealing the answer, repeat the poll. You will see that the students with the correct answer will have convinced many of their peers. Finish by explaining the answer for the benefit of those who still got it wrong.

Pass the Answer

Students write the answer to a prompt on an index card. They then swap answers with a nearby colleague. Turn and repeat swapping with someone else. Then swap one more time with someone else nearby. The instructor then calls on students to read the answer they are holding. This makes it easier for students to speak out in a large lecture hall, because they are offering someone else’s answer rather than their own. This also works well when soliciting student questions.

Two-Stage Quiz

Have students complete a quiz or solve a problem individually. Then, ask students to compare their answers with other students in small groups, come to a consensus on their answer(s)/solution(s) and commit to a final answer using Poll Everywhere, IF/AT scratch sheets [samples available at the CAT], index cards, etc. This activity works best if group responses can be reviewed during the class period.

For more ideas on active learning techniques, try our 3-page handout on Active Learning in Large Classrooms, which is split between simple, easy-to-implement strategies and those techniques that require more time and preparation.

Disposition

In addition to having the right technique at your disposal, it is also important to approach the active learning lecture hall with the right frame of mind. Lecturers often experience a sense of loss of control the first time they ask students to perform an activity. The movement of students and the general hubbub as they work on a task makes the normally orderly lecture hall feel like a chaotic place. We argue that, although the feeling is quite real, the control was always at least partially an illusion. 

In a standard lecture environment student silence can be interpreted as successful teaching. In fact, since a lecture is a one-way act of communication, there’s no easy way to determine whether the students are learning. At least, not in the moment. The following cartoon nicely illustrates the problem.

Cartoon depicts lecturer's thought balloon is different from students'.

An active learning lecturer welcomes the seeming chaos of an energetic classroom engaging in an activity as an opportunity to directly monitor student learning. By stepping away from the podium and patrolling the room, the instructor can view student learning while it is still forming and intervene when needed. Thus, the learning activity is not just a break from lecturing and an opportunity to re-establish waning student attention, it is a chance to informally assess students before we find out what they have learned via high stakes assessments such as exams and papers.

In the next installment of this series, online teaching expert Emtinan Alqurashi will share her thoughts on implementing active learning in both synchronous and asynchronous learning environments. In the meantime, if you want to discuss how to build more active learning into your Temple courses, please email the Center for the Advancement of Teaching or schedule an appointment for a one-on-one consultation with one of our pedagogy specialists.

 

Sheryl L. Love is Associate Professor of Instruction in Temple University’s Department of Biology, where she serves as the Lab Coordinator for Biology 1011 (General Biology I) and Biology 1012 (General Biology II) for non-majors.

Jeff Rients is Associate Director of Teaching and Learning Innovation at Temple’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Adjunct Associate Professor for Temple’s College of Education and Human Development.

Testing Assignments in ChatGPT

Jeff Rients and Jennifer Zaylea

As our understanding of artificial intelligence and its uses in higher education grows, we continue to expand our faculty guide to A.I. Previously, the Center for the Advancement of Teaching produced a video introduction to prompting in ChatGPT. Our newest A.I. resource is a short demonstration on testing an assignment using the tool.

This video only provides a brief introduction to how to think about testing the tasks that you give your students. You may need to develop additional prompts and/or make additional uses of the Regenerate Response option in order to thoroughly understand how ChatGPT can respond to each of your assignments. 

Need additional help wrestling with the challenges posed and opportunities offered by A.I.? The CAT is here to help! Send an email to cat@temple.edu or book an appointment for a one-on-one consultation.

Another Look at Active Learning, Part 4: Long-term Active Learning Techniques

Dana Dawson, Ph.D. and Cliff Rouder, Ed.D.

In part 2 of our series on active learning, we identified high-impact, easy-to-implement active learning techniques, and in part 3, we explored peer and collaborative learning. In this part, we’re going to examine high-impact active learning techniques that extend beyond a single class period, possibly spanning an entire semester or even the entire year. These techniques require a bigger planning component and involve a significant shift in roles for the instructor and for students as students assume more responsibility for their own learning. However, they also yield big rewards, including deriving solutions to real-world problems, increased engagement and greater ability to communicate/work effectively in groups. So without further ado, let’s take a look at a variety of long-term active learning techniques.

Experiential Learning

Experiential learning encompasses activities that invite students to learn by doing. Students apply the skills and knowledge they’re learning in their courses within actual civic and work-based contexts that place them in a position to grapple with and reflect on real-world problems. This approach improves student engagement and retention because there are meaningful stakes involved and students can see how what they’re learning will be used in post-graduate situations.

Case-Based Learning

In case-based learning, students are presented with real-world scenarios and asked to apply their knowledge to come up with solutions or to advise on the best way to address the issue at hand. It is a form of guided inquiry where the problem is defined and students use knowledge and skills gained in the classroom to tackle the problem, or in some instances, choose from a set of possible solutions or analyze how others have resolved the scenario. 

Project-Based Learning

In project-based learning, students are presented with a complex real-life scenario that has multiple potential solutions. Working in groups, students develop a plan and design and create a ‘hands-on-solution’ in the form of a product or artifact to address the problem. 

Problem-Based Learning

Here, students are presented with a case or scenario where they define the problem, explore related issues, and identify a solution. While similar to case-based and project-based learning, problem-based learning is generally less structured and more open ended, and the problem is typically not as well defined as in case-based learning. Problem-based learning focuses on the process of discovery, with students working to define and solve the problem.

Service Learning and Community-Based Learning

Community-based learning (CBL)  (also called service learning) integrate direct community engagement into academic courses to mutually benefit students and community partners. These approaches emphasize the development of students’ civic awareness, knowledge, skills, values and goals to produce tangible social change and promote students’ critical thinking, self-efficacy, interpersonal skills, civic and social responsibility, academic development, and educational success. 

Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL)

POGIL is a structured protocol in which students work collaboratively to investigate a topic. This approach begins with the assumption that we learn and complete tasks more effectively in groups because everyone has gaps in their skillset and knowledge base. By pooling assets, students are more able to tackle complex problems, thereby facilitating higher order tasks and ultimately promoting better learning experiences. Key elements of the POGIL approach are the use of persistent teams who together work through challenging, inquiry-based problems and the assigning of roles within those teams that enable students to self-manage the group’s work. Faculty members serve as guides while students learn through the process of inquiry.

Team-based Learning

Team-based learning (TBL) engages student knowledge through individual testing and collaborative work in persistent teams. There are four essential elements of team-based learning: 1. Groups: Groups must be intentionally formed and managed. 2. Accountability: Students must be accountable for the quality of their individual and group work. 3. Feedback: Students must receive frequent and timely feedback. 4. Assignment design: Group assignments must promote both learning and team development. When these four elements are implemented in a course, the stage is set for student groups to evolve into cohesive learning teams. 

The Flipped Classroom

In traditional classrooms, students consume content during class time, generally through listening to lectures. The flipped classroom moves more passive learning activities–such as listening, watching, or reading–outside of class time to make space within the classroom to practice skills and receive feedback. Students gain first exposure to content prior to class, ideally complete a knowledge check before coming to class so they and the professor can assess understanding ahead of the class period, and then participate in in-class or in-clinic activities that prompt higher-level thinking about the content through collaborative learning.

Gamification

We enjoy games because they’re fun, interactive and in many cases, capitalize on our competitive tendencies. There are many ways to bring the energy of play to the classroom by gamifying learning, ranging from easy-to-implement options such as using the “Competition” activity option in Poll Everywhere (for which Temple has an institutional license) to more complex activities such as Reacting to the Past (RTTP), a role-playing and immersive pedagogy. For example, our 2022 STEM Educators’ lecturer, Dr. André Thomas, described his successful creation of a video game designed to educate calculus students on the concept of limits. Where games are devised in such a way that they are enjoyable, involve collaboration, and require students to retrieve and apply course material, they are a surefire mechanism for encouraging engagement and information recall. And where they involve exploring and contextualizing a subject position that the student then must inhabit through an assigned role, as in RTTP, they allow for meaningful reflection on the complexities of contemporary and historical situations.

Executing long-term structured active learning

As mentioned above, long-term active learning techniques can require additional planning and intentional steps for ensuring group success. Faculty often ask us if there are ways to have students work more equitably and effectively in team projects. Asset-mapping can be used to promote equitable teamwork. 

Asset Mapping

We know that student group projects can be a valuable experience for students. However, even with an equal distribution of work, they may not always be equitable. This can be especially true in disciplines where underrepresented and marginalized groups might be stereotyped as not being capable enough to handle the project. Consistent with prior research in STEM fields, Stoddard and Pfeifer from Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s required first-year interdisciplinary project-based learning course, women and students of color more frequently experienced their ideas being ignored or shut down, being assigned less important tasks, dealing with an overpowering teammate, and having their work go unacknowledged or claimed by others.

They employed an equity-based approach using asset mapping originally developed by Kretzman and McNight in 1993. In essence, asset mapping gives students the opportunity to get to know their and their team’s strengths, interests, identities, and needed areas of growth related to the project. But it goes well beyond that. Asset mapping is just the initial step of a process that enables students to take a deeper dive into bias and stereotyping as they evaluate their own behaviors and the dynamics of their teams. As a way to operationalize asset mapping, Stoddard and Pfeifer developed this toolkit containing three modules that include the tools, activities, assignments, and rubrics needed at different times of the semester. 

If you’re interested in trying one of these longer-term active learning techniques, don’t hesitate to reach out to a CAT staff member for support. Stay tuned for the next installment of our active learning blog series which will focus on active learning in large classes!

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References

Amaral, G. (November 11, 2019). Using “Reacting to the Past” Role-Playing Games to Foster Vigorous Active Learning. EDvice Exchange Blog. Center for the Advancement of Teaching. 

Association for Experiential Education. “What is Experiential Education?” 

Bringle, R. G., & Clayton, P. H. (2012). Civic education through service learning: what, how, and why?. In Higher education and civic engagement: Comparative perspectives (pp. 101-124). New York: Palgrave Macmillan US.

Guo, P., Saab, N., Post, L. S., & Admiraal, W. (2020). A review of project-based learning in higher education: Student outcomes and measures. International journal of educational research, 102, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijer.2020.101586..

McLean, S. F. (2016). Case-Based Learning and its Application in Medical and Health-Care Fields: A Review of Worldwide Literature. Journal of Medical Education and Curricular Development, 3. https://doi.org/10.4137/JMECD.S20377 

Pereira, O. P., & Costa, C. A. (2019). Service Learning: Benefits of Another Learning Pedagogy. Economic Research, 3(9), 17-33.

Pfeifer, G., & Stoddard, E. A. (2018). Diversity, equity, and ınclusion tools for teamwork: asset mapping and team processing handbook.

Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning. Team-Based Learning.

Rouder, C. (March 21, 2022). A Game-based Approach to Teaching Calculus: Implications of the Research for STEM Courses. EDvice Exchange, Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

Team-Based Learning Collaborative. What is TBL: Overview.

The POGIL Project. General POGIL Book

The POGIL Project. What is POGIL?

Thomson, B. (September 24, 2019) Flipping the Classroom. EDvice Exchange Blog. Center for the Advancement of Teaching. 
Yew, E. H., & Goh, K. (2016). Problem-based learning: An overview of its process and impact on learning. Health professions education, 2(2), 75-79. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2452301116300062