What constitutes Meaningful Learning? What would you like your students to remember of your classes in five years from today? Is there any common ground that connects the STEM world (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medicine) with other areas of teaching?
As a preparation for our next meeting, please think of your favorite course. Write down the ONE most important long term goals of your teaching. I hope that we will find fertile ground for an interesting discussion.
If there are common goals in teaching, there might be a way of measuring / quantifying the efficiency of your efforts. In other words, assessment tools for teaching could be developed. I attached an article about “Navigating the Landscape of Assessment”. Even though it is written for chemists, it emphasizes a number of points that are important in any teaching subject.
The author of the article will give a public presentation at Ohio University on Monday, April 6, at 4:10 pm in 235 Walter Hall. She is a highly regarded chemical education researcher working at Miami University in Oxford, OH. Her research motto is: “advancing chemistry education research one assessment tool at a time…”. Her lecture will be about “Measuring Meaningful Learning in the Undergraduate Chemistry Laboratory”. Everybody is welcome to attend.
I believe that your class might benefit from an instructional strategy referred to as “POGIL” (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning). This method has gained considerable popularity in Chemistry, especially for college beginner classes (General Chemistry), but also for more advanced classes (Organic and Physical Chemistry).
I have never used it in one of my courses. I only participated in a few workshops that introduced the topic last year. (I became interested in it because two years ago I taught a class in which I miserably failed as a teacher. The final exam showed me that my students were almost completely disconnected from what I was trying to convey.) In my view, POGIL is especially useful for classes that consists of students with a low degree of motivation.
In POGIL the class is divided into groups of usually four students. The teacher is a facilitator that tries to guide students through a specially designed class in which the following processes occur: a) Exploring a question/problem, b) creating a concept that helps to solve the problem, c) applying the new concept.
The method is based on the constructivist model of learning (some background can be found in: Journal of Chemical Education 2006, 83, 324 and 2001, 78, 1107). At least in chemical education, this model is very influential. Some of the main points are:
a) Human learning is a continuous active construction process in the mind of the learner. The process depends heavily on pre-existing thinking patterns.
b) Teaching is a process that facilitates the construction process.
c) The teacher does not create knowledge, he facilitates the process of learning.
d) A good teacher does not impose knowledge, he “negotiates” with the mind of the learner to allow for assimilation processes to take place.
e) Student answers are not judged to be right or wrong, they have to fit or not fit a model (hypothesis).
I believe that the method could be very beneficial for you because the focus of the class is not only to learn discipline-specific content but also to develop learning skills. In fact, if you apply POGIL, you will not be able to cover as much material as in regular lecture classes. I believe that your students don’t need brought knowledge. They need to understand basics, and they need to learn how to learn. POGIL might be a good way to achieve this. Even if your students don’t end up becoming biology majors, you are still giving them valuable lessons for their future.
Unfortunately, I did not see that POGIL was widely applied in Biology. One good way to find out more about this technique is by consulting the following web page: https://pogil.org. I don’t see why POGIL should not be successful in Biology. If you need any more background materials, I have some in my office (Clippinger 292). You are welcome to come by and make copies.