Welcome to my Classroom – 2014

Cramer80x90to my Classroom: On the Nature of Human Nature
Ken Cramer. University of Windsor.

 In this WTMC session, I will showcase for attendants the opening class of Personality Theory and Research (a 3rd year class at the University of Windsor). Throughout the semester, the class explores the philosophies and perspectives of various personality theorists (viz. Freud, Jung, Allport, Rogers, Maslow, etc.). Because the class includes a high experiential component (personal self-analysis), it is important for students at the start of the year to uncover and explore their own implicit philosophies of human nature so as later to juxtapose them to more formal theories – are we basically good or evil, is behaviour the result mainly of genetics or the environment, are we the product of our past (early childhood experiences) or our future goals.

I will begin with a brief discussion with the STLHE class on the nature of human nature, and subsequently divide them into smaller groups to think about and share several questions on an assigned topic:

What is personality?
What is the self?
What is a healthy personality?
What is an unhealthy one?
What makes us distinctly human?
What gives life purpose or meaning?
What makes us similar to each other?
What makes us essentially different from each other?
Can our personalities change?
Are our selves chosen or handed to us?

After an involved class discussion – highlighting elements for further consideration (e.g., do pets have personality, do infants have a self given they cannot self-recognize until 18 months while elephants can), I will highlight how the exercise paves the way for the more formal perspectives on human nature for the remainder of the semester, since the same questions have been asked (and answered) by various personality theorists. For instance, Jung will emphasize spiritualism as the road to mental wellness, whereas Adler will endorse volunteering and social interest). By juxtaposing their current thoughts with more formally espoused philosophies, students should hope to see their views of human nature from a new perspective. This exercise will transform students’ single perspectives (of personal philosophies) into more diverse worldview perspectives.

Dickson80x90Welcome to my Classroom: Integrated First-Year Experience, Day 1: Frames and foundations
Lisa Dickson, Angèle Smith and Tracie Summerville. University of Northern British Columbia.
Date, time and location: TBA

This interactive session will demonstrate the principles of design for an innovative, integrated first-year arts, social sciences and humanities curriculum that transforms not only the traditional “silo” disciplinary model but also the community of learning that encompasses students, faculty, staff and service-providers. The Integrated Advanced Skills and Knowledge curriculum (IASK) is a suite of 6 question-based courses designed to introduce students to the culture of scholarship and inquiry. Cohort-based and emphasizing the “conversation” that is the foundation of scholarship, the curriculum helps students to understand the intellectual, social, cultural and historical “frames” that underlie disciplinary studies at university, as well as the connections between domains of knowledge and social practice. Arising out of a process of institution-wide visioning and needs-assessment, the program is grounded in key outcomes and principles. One of these, “integration of knowledge,” demanded the creation of a new model of pedagogical delivery, which in turn demanded the transformation of the relationships among faculty who now work in a fully collaborative, mutually supportive, and transparent environment. Embedded librarians, representatives from the First Nations, Academic Success and Wellness Centres, Career Counsellors, Teaching Assistants and student mentors work with faculty to provide experiential learning opportunities for students who themselves are encouraged to work collaboratively to become active participants in the scholarly “conversation.”

The session will begin with a brief “walk-through” of the first class of the 3-course 1st-semester curriculum, including a hands-on experiential learning exercise, “the puzzle box,” followed by a presentation of the design and pedagogical principles that structure the curriculum, and wrapping up with a general discussion period for all of the session participants. Three instructors will demonstrate the model of collaboration and integration by introducing “students” to the interlocking conceptual “frames” that shape their courses: “Ways of Knowing;” “People, Place and Culture” and “Foundations of Learning.”

While the exact model demonstrated here may not be transferable whole cloth to all institutional settings, the demonstration of the “first day” of this program provides an example of the opportunities and challenges created when outcomes-based design principles, such as those advocated by Robert Diamond (2008), Noel Entwissle (2005) and Peter Wolf (2007), are allowed to drive the ground-up transformation of pedagogical practices and academic structures. By presenting a practical application of these principles, the session contributes to the broader discussion of pressing issues: the complexities of academic leadership in the implementation of innovative pedagogical models within the constraints of institutional structures; the role played by supportive learning communities in the fostering of overall wellness and satisfaction of students, faculty and staff; the potential for interdisciplinary and collaborative teaching to transform the atomized view of knowledge typical of traditional “silo” pedagogical models; and the imperative to create a space of reflection and experiential learning that nurtures student agency. 

connie80x90Welcome to my Classroom: Let’s Google that: Using the Web to engage students and promote information literacy
Connie Varnhagen. University of Alberta.
Date, time and location: TBA

The traditional lecture is very efficient for presenting a large amount of information in a short period of time. How much do students learn from the lecture? Although more conjecture than empirically derived (notable exceptions include Baddeley, 1981; Giles, Johnson, Knight, Zammett, & Weinman, 1982; Johnstone & Percival, 1976; Weiland & Kinsbury, 1977), most experts agree that students have limited recall for information presented in lectures, calling into question the efficacy of the lecture for student learning. The research literature now abounds with demonstrations and reviews of active learning, experiential learning, constructivist learning, etc. (e.g., Biggs & Tang, 2011).

How much information should students learn anyway? Given that information (“bad” information as well as “good” information) is widely and easily accessible, shouldn’t we be helping students develop information literacy skills so they can find and critically evaluate information for themselves (cf. Association of College and Research Libraries, 2000)? Given the relationship between information literacy and academic readiness and performance in first year courses (Smith, Given, Julien, Ouellete, & deLong, 2013), developing information literacy strategies is an important goal for university instruction.

In this interactive workshop, I will first model implementing information literacy skill development into a lecture and then engage the participants in a discussion on helping students develop information literacy skills to foster active, personally-motivated, life-long learning. The course I will use is AN SC 496, Research on the Human-Animal Bond, a fourth year lecture and lab course on social science research methods taken mainly by students in agriculture (the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Alberta). I have chosen this class because fuzzy animals tend to evoke emotion over critical thinking and because most STLHE participants will be able to relate to the topic. However, I use the same approach in very large (500 student) introductory psychology classes and the approach is relevant to a wide range of introductory and upper level lecture and seminar courses.

This workshop fits well within the theme of transforming learning experiences by considering how we can use information literacy to help our students transform from passive recipients of knowledge to active constructors and connoisseurs of knowledge.

Association of College and Research Libraries (2000). Information Literacy competency standards for higher education. Use this link
Baddeley, A. (1981). The cognitive psychology of everyday life. British Journal of Psychology, 72(2), 257-269. Biggs, J., & Tang C. (2011). Teaching for quality learning at university. McGraw-Hill.
Giles, R.M., Johnson,M.R., Knight, K.E., Zammett, S., & Weinman, J. (1982). Recall of lecture information: A question of what, when, and where. Medical Education, 16(5), 264-268.
Johnstone, A., & Percival, F. (1976). Attention breaks in lectures. Education in Chemistry, 13(2), 49-50.
Smith, J.K., Given, L.M., Julien, H., Ouellete, D., & deLong, K. (2013). Information literacy proficiency: Assessing the gap in high school students’ readiness for undergraduate academic work. Library and Information Science Research, 35(2), 88-96.
Weiland, A., & Kinsbury, S.J. (1977). Immediate and delayed recall of lecture material as a function of note taking. The Journal of Educational Research, 72(4), 228-230