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Team based learning part 2

  1. Oct 3, 2008 #1
    My computer stopped letting me reply to the original thread. https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=225592

    It could just be me. I saved my reply in a text file, waited for a day, a week, then two. So I guess I'll start a new thread with my saved reply.

    Here's my findings thus far: I am showing no gains in student attitude or improvement in thinking "expert-like" (from last terms pre-& -post survey using the "CLASS: Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey)... but neither am I seeing declines. Declines are, in fact what usually happens. There may be errors about post-surveying right as students are preparing for a final. I think students are sometimes just tired of it all at the end of a term. :rofl: So in my case, no progress is better than "negative progress."

    Here's more about my time-involvement and computer requirements:

    It generally takes me about as much time (or possibly even less) to prepare the worksheets as it did for me to prepare a "powerpoint" lecture suitable for Smartboarding. And it's more fun for me too, since I get to play with the simulation and concentrate on "application" not "terminology" or "rote standard examples."

    My preclass quizzes also don't take too long to prep up (our university subscribes to "Blackboard" software and hardware services that grade them as the students submit them)... but often I put in lots of feedback that students can view after the preclass work is due for all students. I kinda use that as a lecture substitute, and I give the same feedback "explanation" for both wrong and right answers so all students can see it. This takes time because I want to make sure my feedback is clear verbally (because I can't attach diagrams to it, the biggest problem, in my opinion, with Blackboard's testing tool).

    So yeah -- it's like teaching a course for the first time again. But then once it's done. it's done. I can't wait til next term when all my activities are there, and I just revise them as suitable! (never happy... perfectionist at heart). o:)

    Of course I have been generally lucky with a very good online site that covers many of the topics and is easy for me to design activities for. Sometimes, though, I've found it more appropriate to do a minilab (like the electromagnets), or to program my own simulation (through a 2-D physics emulator called "Phun"). The site I use doesn't have really great "rotational motion" sims yet. These can take longer if an activity uses materials I haven't used before, or less if it is a simple activity based on "grocery-store/hardware-store" supplies.

    I do only have ~1 computer per group of 3-4 students (and had students the first day get into groups making sure at least one person had a laptop they could bring)... the department has more than enough to supplement with their set of 20. I sheck computers out to students at the beginning of class in exchange for student ID's or drivers licenses. In a lecture hall, they can sit in a set of 3 with the computer in the center, or even in 2x2's with the computer in the lower row. Of course not ideal. But more ideal than texting with their phones or sleeping. And I haven't lost a department laptop yet.

    I just submitted for a wee internal grant from the University of Tennessee system. Fingers crossed... just because it would give me money for conference attendance, increased funding for my undergrad, and also assure me with a small bit of job security in these troubled economic times.

    Best, PG
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 13, 2008 #2

    Moonbear

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    Thanks for the update. I'm going to start lecturing in the nursing course next week, and decided it probably isn't wise to cut out lectures entirely for these students...some things NEED to be covered uniformly to ensure the information is presented. Instead, I'm going to introduce group discussions at the end of the lectures. Since it's late in the term already, and class attendance has been sparse at best (when I take over as course coordinator next year, I'll build attendance requirements into the grading policy for the course, but there's nothing I can do to enforce it this year other than hope the students attending lecture like what I'm doing and tell others in the class to show up again), I can't do a proper team-based learning experience for them. But, this will give me a chance to test run some of the cases I'll be using to do more formally next year.

    I wanted to collect data on student performance, attendance, and attitudes about the change in the course as pilot data to decide if I would want to design a larger scale study incorporating this type of lecture/team-learning combination course including other nursing programs, but have found the IRB regulations at our institution are rather stifling. It's all exempted categories, but our IRB still wants a protocol in place and the amount of work that requires to satisfy their requirements is insane for such a simple survey, so I won't be able to get it approved in time. So, I'm going to take a different approach and send out a questionnaire after the course is over and include some optional "quiz" questions for them to answer to see how well they retain the knowledge beyond the course exam. I have enough time to get that approved. It would be nice to have a pre-test though.

    I met with one of the assistant deans of the nursing program today, and was really happy to find that her concern of a major weakness of our course for meeting the needs of their program is exactly what my plans to add in with the TBL exercises would address. Basically, we have a 1 1/2 hr lecture twice a week. Usually, lecturers get tired of talking after an hour, and students just head to lab early. So, I'm going to stick with the 1 hour lecture, but then use the other half hour for the TBL exercises. That way, I don't have to cut back on the traditional lecture and can instead use TBL as a follow-up from lecture to get them to relate concepts and tackle more complex issues (I've already sent out emails to the clinical faculty to get suggestions of clinical issues they might encounter that would be challenging so I can adapt those into the curriculum). I can even do this as a carry-over into lab, but lab time is more precious than lecture time in this course.

    I would even have a natural control group. We have an online course too, and are recording lectures for that course. So, the students taking the online course would get the identical lectures, but without the added TBL exercises. So, I can really compare performance between the two courses and see if the TBL component is beneficial.

    The more literature I read, the more I realize that very few people really do outcomes measurements when publishing about these new types of exercises. A lot of it is just surveys of student preferences...they like it more, they're more enthusiastic, they show up for class more, but nobody really does a controlled study to show it's actually effective for learning. I've seen some really sad comparisons where they pre-test students at the beginning of the lecture period, and then at the end, and show they improve as evidence the teaching method is effective. Well, it would have to horrendously awful if students didn't show SOME improvement after sitting through an hour class, regardless of what they did! Very few really have any sort of controls. Heck, I'd expect some improved performance and attendance for my lectures just because the students have decided I'm the "good cop" this year (they really don't like the course coordinator...but then she has to be the tough one).

    Anyway, outcomes measures in educational research is probably a topic for another whole thread...or several. :rolleyes:
     
  4. Oct 15, 2008 #3

    vanesch

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    In fact, I'm indirectly interested in general material concerning different types of learning. A (free) online platform to experiment with TBL is Moodle (moodle.org), and I experimented a bit with it. My feelings are mixed about the software. It is a lot of work to have something up and running ; but then, that's typical with online teaching: it takes an awful lot of work to put useful material online. Moodle is inspired by the learning theory of social constructionism, which claims that people essentially learn through social interaction.

    On the other hand, such learning techniques, when used exclusively, have received recently quite a lot of criticism, like Mayer in American Psychologist, Vol 59, no 1, 14-19: "Should there be a three-strikes rule against pure discovery learning ?" or Anderson, J. R., Reder, L.M., & Simon, H.A. (2000, Summer). "Applications and Misapplications of Cognitive Psychology to Mathematics Education." Texas Educational Review. In these papers, the *pure* forms of discovery learning, or team based learning, are critically analyzed. Mixed forms with "traditional learning" and complemented by these techniques are not considered here.
     
  5. Oct 20, 2008 #4

    Moonbear

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    I've seen a lot of bad software and computer assisted instruction type tools. This is something our department as a whole is working on. We have one faculty member who is very prolific with "publishing" these things, but I'm not very impressed by them. They look rather childish to me, but are quick to publish. On the other hand, I just saw a presentation by another group of our faculty today of some online learning tools they're developing that are AMAZING. The catch is that it has taken them 5 years just to get it to the point that they can start using it to supplement regular course material, and will probably be another year or two before it is ready to be published. That's a long time when publishing these things is what is needed for promotion.

    This is what I've been finding, and why I'm working on a mixed curriculum. Much of the literature I find does nothing other than survey student preferences, which really doesn't mean anything in terms of educational outcomes. The few studies I've found (no references on hand...they're at work on my desk) that have compared lectures to group learning in a systematic way and assessed actual learning outcomes really haven't shown differences in effectiveness. But, my own gut feeling on this is that this is that you really need both. I think there is a level of information that needs to be presented in lecture format just to get across the basics, and then group learning, be it TBL, PBL, or something else, helps to teach how to apply that information and to use critical thinking skills. I also think one has to consider the level of their students. Things like PBL work reasonably well for med students, but these are fairly sophisticated students. They've already gotten their bachelor's degrees (in the U.S.), and know how to study and learn. They can be fairly successful with self-directed or group-directed learning (and if I don't interfere much, they are harder on creating assignments for themselves than I would be). But, when I'm teaching undergraduates, they have no basic background in the subject, and really haven't developed their study skills very well yet. Cognitively, students aren't necessarily finished developing until their early 20s, especially with regard to decision-making (including prioritizing study vs play). So, with these undergraduates, I think of them as fledglings. They're ready to test their wings on exercises that inspire independent critical thinking and applying concepts, but still need the structure of lecture to guide them so they don't land on their heads. Lecture alone leaves them bored, but team-based learning alone doesn't give them the strong foundational knowledge they need.
     
  6. Mar 7, 2009 #5

    Moonbear

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    Since I don't get in here very much anymore, here's a little update. Our med school wants to start using team based learning in second year to replace some of the small group courses that the class size has outgrown (too many students, too few faculty). So, they brought in someone to do a training workshop on TBL at the beginning of the year. I was already enthusiastic about TBL, but after going through the workshop, which was run in a TBL style, I came away very excited and very convinced it is the way to go.

    The downside is with more understanding of how it's done, I realize how much work goes into the preparation of a good TBL exercise. It's going to take time to develop enough questions. So, instead of trying to implement it right away, I'm going to develop the exercises gradually. This coming year, I'll have some homework questions, some in-class exercises, and some group work in one of the lab classes I teach. I think that'll be a good way to start test-driving TBL exercises without making the whole course dependent on them yet. I have several other projects underway that are going to keep me from getting this done quickly too, and was delayed in planning by a lot of indecision from the "higher ups" about whether I would be working on improving an anatomy course, or developing an entirely new anatomy and physiology course. In the end, the decision was to once again set aside plans for the anatomy and physiology course. Basically, it seems I'm the only one who could teach it, so my dept chair isn't willing to start up a new course if nobody can teach it if I left (drat...I was thinking that was definite job security), and the physiology dept chair doesn't want to start up a new course if it means committing faculty to yet another course in a semester when they are already overloaded.

    But, I've completely revamped the schedule for next year. Basically, used some of what I learned in the TBL workshop to decide to toss the textbook out, design the course to present material in a way that makes the most sense to me, and then find a text I could use selected reading from to accomplish that. Stepping stones toward making it a TBL course.
     
  7. Mar 9, 2009 #6
    I've been getting good teaching reviews this term in departmental observations of my team-based learning. It's also been a lot less stressful now that I'm finally teaching one of my courses in TBL format for a second time -- so I'm just "tweaking" activities each time. The faculty actually think it's great to be doing these activities since these students have no lab with this particular class.

    Unfortunately this time around my students (while as friendly as last year) aren't performing as well as last year, but that's their own fault... they aren't coming prepared (looking over the practice test, etc) during the class session I set aside for review before the tests. Maybe word got around that my 101/102 classes are "fun" or "easy." As a result, their test average is about 5% lower than last-year's TBL class, even though my activities and "mini-lectures" are, in my opinion, improved.

    I did just post-test this set of students using a standardized test... and I'm going to be running those scantrons this week (This is part of my grant). That data can be compared to classes at other institutions.

    My undergrad is currently working on comparing the performance of last term's TBL class to a prior lecture-based version of the course (which used the same final). That's where the real data will come in.

    Lots of stats to crank through before our conference in April.

    It's always tough when you don't have a suitable text. I'm lucky with this class that the text is good (not GREAT... but certainly upper end good), but last summer, I basically tossed out my engineers' text. The students did read it and use it for problems, but (for one of the two engineering classes I taught) much preferred the way I was teaching the concepts, especially because I diverged into topics on medical physics when possible (one of my 15 students was going to dental school after her engineering degree, another was in nuclear physics because he's interested in radiology). Too often, however, classes just simply repeat the text (I never REALLY read a text when I was an undergrad!), and I was lucky that set of students was receptive. My other engineering class really wasn't receptive... it's a tougher course and the more you force-feed, it seems the better... sadly.... so if I'm teaching that course again this summer I'm back to lecturing... Augh. I like the dynamics of TBL much better.
     
  8. Mar 16, 2009 #7

    Moonbear

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    Every class seems to have its own personality. A 5% fluctuation in grades doesn't surprise me, and you might be right that if word gets around that a class is easy and fun, students take it because they don't expect to have to work, so you don't get the same quality of students who had so much fun they didn't realize how hard they were working for their grades. I like that you're including a standardized test to compare students to their counterparts in other courses or schools.

    The biggest frustration of educational research I'm finding is the lack of proper controls.
     
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