Sixth Annual Instructional Innovation Conference
SIXTH ANNUAL INSTRUCTIONAL INNOVATION CONFERENCE
The Office of the Provost and the Center for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching hosted the Sixth Annual Boston University Instructional Innovation Conference on Friday, March 7, 2014. The Conference provided an opportunity for faculty to share their classroom and curricular innovations – small and large – with faculty and doctoral students throughout the University.
Educating for Personal Transformation: Exploratory Curriculum as Innovative Practice
Jamie Hillman, Emily Howe & Andre de Quadros (CFA, MET)
In this session, Hillman, Howe, and de Quadros present the teaching approach that they have developed called “Empowering Song.” Rooted in improvised song, poetry, bodywork, and imagery, this approach is designed to enable individual and community transformation. The uniqueness of this approach lies in its use of the arts as a platform for self-discovery and empowerment. The presenters argue that the tools of empowerment are central to higher education and that participatory and creative work can help students find personal meaning and form identity. This session is inspired by the philosophy, curriculum, and practice of courses that are co-taught by the presenters in two large Massachusetts prisons as part of Boston University’s Prison Education Program. The teaching in these courses is innovative and unique, not only because the classroom is behind barbed wire fences and the students have been convicted of serious criminal offences, but because the courses are intentionally designed to educate the whole person: body, mind, and heart. These courses, through a holistic blend of song, poetry, bodywork, improvisation, reflection, journaling, and discussion, provide a safe environment in which students are able to express themselves, take risks, and search for personal meaning and identity. The instructors have found that the lessons learned from working in the incarcerated classroom enhance teaching in more traditional classrooms. Because this session is located at the interdisciplinary convergence of performing arts, literature, sociology, and critical theory, the tools and concepts that will be discussed can be used by instructors in a variety of disciplines and classroom settings. Although the presenters are educators and professional musicians, the session will focus less on the musical content and more on overarching philosophical constructs and teaching process. The presenters will provide curriculum justification, and facilitate a discussion on exploratory curriculum as an innovative practice.
Practice-Based Learning: Establishing Academic and Community Partnerships to Teach Students Valuable Skills
Jacey Greece (SPH)
An SPH course was redesigned to foster practice-based learning – students planned an intervention and communication plan for use by a local public health agency based on public health priority areas of the agency. Through a partnership with Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), students developed products throughout the semester for BPHC. Students were the consultants and BPHC, the client. In spring 2013, students worked in groups on four public health topic priority areas for BPHC. Students first met with a representative from BPHC to learn more about the public health problem and target population. After an extensive literature review and consulting with BPHC, students identified a behavior or environmental condition that would be the focus of their project. Students met again with their client to pitch ideas for the project. Intervention components were based in evidence and research and the communication pieces were creative and strategic. Through this method of teaching, students not only met the course objectives, but gained practical experience and learned how to consult with a client. BPHC obtained high-quality deliverables that they are implementing. The collaboration resulted in several part-time job and practicum opportunities for students. The collaboration has extended to other divisions within BPHC for the course in spring 2014. Regardless of school or area of focus, there are agencies in all disciplines that would benefit from student and faculty collaboration. Given the current funding environment where agencies have too few staff to perform effectively increasing amounts of work, the use of students with faculty oversight to help develop ideas and products is mutually beneficial. Partnerships formed to enhance the classroom experience can lead to opportunities for students (jobs, internships, directed studies) and faculty (program development, funding, manuscript development, conference presentations) and can result in high-quality deliverables for participating agencies.
Telling the Story of the Class with Storify
Kate Mitchell & James Wolff (SPH)
We report on the use of Storify as a tool for equipping students with skills in documentation, aggregation, and synthesis of public health information. Storify served as a novel way to produce comprehensive and shareable narratives for class sessions. Through Storify, students highlighted themes and key messages, presented various forms of media, and provided links to publications. Students used Storify to expand awareness of their training activities and to share educational resources with the global health community. Students also referred back to the complete narratives as study tools. Our objectives were to help students to develop skills in documentation, aggregation, and synthesis of public health information, to understand how Storify can be used by global health organizations to share educational tools, to provide a tool to reflect, review, and revise workshop activities and learning, and to apply a social media tool to reach potential stakeholders with critical and useful information generated in class. We expected the benefits would be a robust document that tells the story of the class, serves as a study tool and makes reporting on workshop activities for the post-workshop evaluation easier, an opportunity for reflecting on workshop activities and lessons-learned, an opportunity to refine and expand on key learnings from the training, for students to connect what is being done in the class workshop with the outside world of stakeholders and colleagues, and for students to gain experience and confidence in using this type of social media. Storify is an effective tool for meeting multiple learning objectives. It can be applied to various disciplines and educational settings. For those interested in incorporating Storify into their courses: First, integrate the Storify assignment tightly into the existing structure of the class and critical class assignments. Second, to focus the activity without overwhelming the students, assign students specific responsibilities for limited parts of the class. Third, put the students in charge of creating the tweets and assembling the Storify to ensure they take ownership of the final product.
Thinking Big in Small Spaces: One Hadoop, Two Hadoop (Big Data & 21st Century Analytics in the Classroom)
Nathan Kohn & Stanislav Seltser (MET)
Content generation is accelerating – terabytes, petabytes, and beyond; its categorization currently confronts educators and researchers. “Big Data” can, nonetheless, be brought into the classroom via creation of a Hadoop Cluster data warehouse, critique of the inferential consequences of big data, and for students just beginning their studies, a concise, yet dramatic introduction to this newest and hottest aspect of the data age. With modest effort Big Data can be incorporated in and across courses throughout every department, from Archeology to Zymurgy.
All Hands on Deck: Maximizing Student Participation
Beth Kramer (CGS)
As educators, we strive to keep students actively engaged in our classes. However, often seminars become reliant on a few vocal class members who bear the weight of course discussion. In my seminars, I have experimented with in-class exercises that require collective input from students to reach larger learning outcomes. Using a cooperative model, these “collective” classes present students with open-ended challenges that integrate their cumulative work, and prevent any class member from sitting silent. In this talk, I will review the benefits of this model and offer successful interdisciplinary exercises. These exercises integrate a variety of works including literature, art, music and film, and have the flexibility to adapt to varying course material. I will also address ways to use the “collective” class to garner student self-reflection and feedback at the end of the semester. This talk aims to inspire more dynamic and engaging classrooms that utilize the richness and diversity of all class members.
Teaching Students to Focus Their Writing: Lessons from a Photo-editing Exercise
Lou Ureneck (COM)
Achieving focus is an essential part of the writing process. A piece of writing — whether it is an academic thesis or an in-depth news article — should be organized around a single dominant idea or purpose that unites the writer’s evidence, argument, impressions and detail. This presentation uses a photo-editing exercise to demonstrate the way in which a writer can identify a dominant theme to limit and organize material to create clear and vivid writing.
Creating Short Films and Videos to Teach Course Concepts
Jack McCarthy (SMG)
This session explores our successful creation and use of customized videos and short films in our teaching and curriculum development. Extending from the long-standing use of film and video clips to illustrate key management and leadership concepts, we demonstrate the short films and digital media that we have created for – and with – our own students and faculty. Videos we have developed to creatively display, apply, and reinforce core course concepts will be shown and examined, along with a discussion of key success factors and lessons learned. Living in our digital, visually-driven age, we find our students to be more stimulated, engaged and open to learn through and with this innovative approach, which we have also found to be fun, broadly applicable and relatively easy to adopt and implement. We expect there to be many relevant lessons and ideas here for faculty members in all domains.
Flipping the Classroom: Increasing Class Time for Hands-On Work
Elizabeth Lewis & Joe Anzalone (SPH)
IH854–From Data to Dashboards–is a class that covers intermediate to advanced Excel skills and how to apply them to analyze data, provide context, and facilitate data-based decision making. In Fall 2013, we took a vote on the first day of class and opted to flip the classroom. I recorded the lectures in advance using Echo360. A link to each lecture was posted on the class’s Blackboard Learn site so that students could listen to the lecture in advance. Students then came to class with questions already in mind, and classroom time was used for hands-on work with instructors present. One major objective was to make the material available and accessible for repeated viewings in case the students needed to review a particular Excel formula or function. Another was to provide ample work time during class, rather than having students complete problem sets outside of class time, so that we could answer questions and troubleshoot problems as they arose. One student commented, “The flipped classroom not only gave me the option to have the details and technical aspects of each lecture in a video I could go back to as needed, but also gave me the opportunity to have the instructors available during class time to solve questions in working through challenges and exploring ways to solve the problem sets.” One benefit for instructors is that the Echo360 presentations, once recorded, can be used multiple times (for a different session or semester). Blackboard Learn also displays statistics for the Echo presentations so that instructors know how many unique viewers watched each Echo; how many total views there were; and “hot spots” (parts of each lecture that were viewed the most). So long as the class has a lecture component, flipping the classroom facilitates more classroom discussion and more in-depth questions of the material covered.
Strategies for Promoting Interactive and Collaborative Learning in Large Undergraduate Lectures
Donna Pincus (CAS)
We all want to enhance our students’ motivation to learn and actively engage students in learning course material. But accomplishing this can be challenging, especially in large courses. What are some concrete ways to actively engage several hundred students in course material? The major objectives of this presentation are: 1) to present several concrete strategies for promoting students’ interactive and collaborative learning in large undergraduate lectures, including ways to use breakout groups and collaborative exercises to stimulate peer discussion, 2) to describe how to develop and utilize a course “YouTube” channel so that selected digital media clips can enhance students’ learning, illustrate course concepts, and bring course material “to life,” and 3) to introduce specific examples of how course content can be transformed into active and engaging experiential class exercises. This presentation will be focused on ways to engage undergraduate students but the strategies we will discuss could easily be applied to teaching master’s or doctoral students. All of the teaching strategies that will be presented were pilot tested in the undergraduate course Abnormal Psychology, but could easily be adapted by faculty in other courses and disciplines to foster experiential and collaborative learning in a large lecture environment.
Arts Now: Making Learning Real
Anthony Wallace & William Marx (CAS)
Arts Now is a curriculum-based initiative in the Writing Program to support the arts at BU. We are jointly funded by the College of Arts and Sciences and the BU Arts Initiative. In expanding from Theater Now to Arts Now, we’ve developed a small constellation of arts-related courses with a strong emphasis on outside-of-the-classroom learning; the Theater Now model has proven adaptable enough to transfer successfully to other Now courses within the Writing Program, and next year the BU Arts Initiative will provide funding for the development of Now courses outside the Writing Program. Our project is called “Arts Now” to suggest the immediacy of what is taking place right now at the present time and place. In “Now” courses, students and faculty together explore culturally and artistically enriching points of interest in the greater Boston area; such exploration provides additional motivation as well as material for the writing assignments at the heart of all WR courses.
Arts Now brings students together on and off campus, inside and outside the classroom, in real space and in digital space. To supplement plays and related films, we’ve hosted large-group discussions with prominent guest speakers. These events have yielded tremendous pedagogical results and insights. Students can see an academic “conversation” taking place in real time, and not only see it but actively participate in it. Because we bring all sections of the course together for outside-of-the-classroom activities and large-group discussions, we not only establish a learning community outside the classroom but expand that community both in size and scope. We are now in the process of expanding the concept of outside-the-classroom learning to include the possibility of writing and publishing for an audience outside the classroom. As writing instructors, we want to “make learning real”—our motto— with the ultimate aim of making writing real as well.
This academic year we are offering Theater Now, Jazz Now, Poetry Now, and Museums Now. Future Arts Now seminars might include Boston Symphony Orchestra Now, Dance Now, and Boston Writing Now.
Letting Go: Student Structured In-class Group Work
Trish Elliott (SPH)
Group work is a staple of many professional master’s programs, yet we often structure and guide students through the process, perhaps to their detriment. The vast majority of public health practitioners, like many professionals, will be in a position to participate in and lead teams during their careers. This innovation is a skills-building approach that equips students with the tools needed to manage a team effectively, then simply gets out of the way. As a result, students gain new insights into leadership and management through practice in a controlled and safe classroom environment. They translate knowledge gleaned from readings, assignment guidance, and brief lectures, into skills as they navigate student structured in-class group meetings. This approach is an example of applied learning that has the potential to be replicated widely. Its use can be adapted in nearly endless ways to suit a variety of disciplines. In this presentation, ideas for effectively using lectures, readings, and unstructured in-class group time will be shared.
Five Month Retention of Basic Genetics Knowledge Following an Introductory Biology Course
Peter Busher & Andy Andres (CGS)
The importance of student assessment in university courses is growing. Many courses use pretesting before the course starts to measure student knowledge coming into the class, and some courses use these same test instruments to measure the increase in knowledge after the course is finished (e.g., on a final exam). Due to the uncommon “Team Structure” of the College of General Studies at BU (the vast majority of students stay with the same cohort and same professor over two semesters of Natural Science, Humanities, and Social Science), we are able to assess student retention of knowledge from a fall semester course in human genetics five months later at the end of the spring semester. We have given our students the same pretest of general genetics knowledge on the first day of class in the fall, measured the increase in knowledge by giving the same pretest as part of their final exam in December, and then asked a random cohort of those same students to take the same pretest at the end of May (five months later). We present our results for the last three years of measuring five month retention of basic genetics knowledge in students who are not majoring in biology.
Expanding the Walls of the Spanish Language Classroom
Molly Monet-Viera (CAS)
All professors feel that we have limited time in the classroom with our students. In Spanish, it is our goal that the students achieve a low advanced proficiency after the two-year CAS requirement, yet we only have three contact hours a week during the third and fourth semesters. As a result, this year, as coordinator of the multi-section Third Semester Spanish course, I piloted the adoption of a new textbook that gives students online access to grammar tutorials, interactive exercises, readings, videos, and cultural expansions activities. By utilizing this “flipped” model, students have two professors, a computer-generated professor that teaches them grammar rules and corrects their errors on mechanical exercises, and a classroom teacher that can dedicate him or herself to communicative activities that support a much higher level of proficiency and cultural competence. Students therefore don’t “waste” time in class passively listening to the professor but instead are actively producing meaningful communication. This kind of textbook is certainly available in other languages (and perhaps other disciplines), yet professors might also consider making their own recorded explanations of basic information that allow their students to be better informed and prepared to delve more deeply into the course materials.
Interdisciplinary Distributed Courses: A Hybrid Approach
Lucy Hutyra (CAS)
The need for interdisciplinary education is clear, but the execution can be challenging. Individual faculty do not necessarily have both the disciplinary depth and interdisciplinary breadth to teach the types of applied, interdisciplinary courses that students are requesting. This presentation describes a hybrid approach to interdisciplinary teaching that merges guest lectures, traditional classroom experiences and online technology to create a multi-campus distributed course.
Inline Tutorial Self Assessments: Improving Satisfaction (and possibly learning)
Robert Schudy & Dan Hillman (MET)
We think that students learn more effectively when they have the opportunity to ask or be asked questions about the material as they are studying it. We have been trying to capture in web format some of the dynamic interactivity of good teachers who ask leading questions to guide the student to deeper understanding and ask summative questions to provide the student with an opportunity to rehearse what they have learned and to clarify areas where they need additional study. To do this, Dan Hillman implemented the ability to include questions inline in web pages, with automatic grading and provision of tutorial material when the student answers the questions. We have used these inline tutorial self assessments in courses in the MSCIS online program over the last few years. The experiment appears to be entirely successful, in the sense that students value them and report that they help them learn the material and improve their confidence that they have learned the material. We have also obtained affirmation of this approach from peer faculty reviews of courses submitted to the Blackboard Exemplary Course program. We plan to continue this effort of improving web site interactivity and pedagogic value by using similar mechanisms to adapt the web site behavior to differing students’ needs by adapting some of the presentations based on how students answer questions.
Using Blended Teaching Technologies in Study-travel Courses
Rachel Black (MET)
Blended course technologies can be used in exciting ways to enhance and support study-travel courses. These technologies aid in preparing students for the travel portion of their course, deepen the experiential components of the course, and strengthen the follow-up after fieldwork. In addition, a blended format (combined online and face-to-face) can expand the reach of study-travel programs, making these courses available to out-of-state and international students. This presentation will use as a case study the Culture & Cuisine of Québec course that Metropolitan College’s Gastronomy Program ran in 2012 and 2013. This case will demonstrate a number of potential online platforms and potential directions for curriculum development.
Aloha! Engaging Students on Virtual Global Leadership Teams
Sandi Deacon Carr & Yoo Jin Chung (SMG)
This presentation discusses how to incorporate technology into creative team learning by engaging students in a virtual and global team initiative. We will be using an example of virtual and global teams from the Fall 2013 Leadership Challenge course where teams of BU students and Brigham Young University Hawaii’s Management & Leadership course were asked to collaborate to develop and deliver a leadership training module to both classes, simultaneously. Through this virtual team experience, students learned to manage issues with communication, diversity, technology, and cultural and time differences. The presentation will also explore opportunities and challenges for the faculty in implementing technology and global teams in other courses.
Move it! Using Movement to Enhance Learning and Student Engagement
Sarah Benes (SED)
Do you want to engage students? Do you want to connect with students? Do you want to improve students’ focus and attention? Are you ready to try something new? If so, this is the presentation for you! We will explore movement as an effective teaching strategy in educational settings with a focus on how to use it in your courses. You will leave with a basic understanding of why movement works in the classroom and with specific ideas that you can use in your next class!
Learning in a Studio Mode, Spotlighting Teamwork and Interaction
Andrew Duffy, Manher Jariwala & Bennett Goldberg (CAS)
We describe BU’s new interactive studio classroom at 590 Comm. Ave., in which students work in teams of three at nine round tables of nine students each. There is no “front of the room,” which shifts the focus from a traditional instructor-centered mode of content delivery to a student-centered mode of active engagement. For much of the time, students work together on worksheets and hands-on activities, supported by the instructor, graduate TFs, and undergraduate Learning Assistants. We discuss specifically the use of this classroom for our introductory physics courses and will provide evidence that this highly interactive environment produces better learning outcomes for students.
Developing Reflective Teaching Practices through a Graduate Student Peer Mentoring Program
Joseph Hardcastle, Manher Jariwala & Bennett Goldberg (CAS)
We have developed and implemented a peer mentoring program in which experienced graduate students mentor first time teaching fellows (TFs) throughout their first semester of teaching. These peer mentors (PM) provide feedback to their mentees during the semester through in-class observations, a student teaching survey, and group discussions. This approach develops the TFs teaching skills by providing frequent, constructive feedback, fostering a self-assessment mindset, and building a local learning community around graduate student teaching, in line with BU’s goals within the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) network. Using several assessments, we found measured gains in classroom skills, such as classroom management and blackboard technique, and their understanding of science education. In addition, many stated that mentoring was essential in their professional development.
Integrating Real life Projects into a Curriculum
Gouri Gupte (SPH)
Our student cohort is now “younger,” and therefore less experienced and less aware of the complexities of organizational life. A major teaching challenge is to help students understand the importance and application of curricular material as well as to share with them the requisite foundational knowledge. This presentation will highlight three courses in the Department of Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health that use “live projects” that cross various disciplines and constitute the main assignments of the course curricula. Logistics, mentorship and professional challenges faced by the faculty during these projects will be identified and discussed. In addition, students who have been enrolled in these courses will share their experiences working on these projects. The presentation aims to provide information not only on the benefits of these projects, but also to discuss their applicability and implementation challenges.
Sustainability: A Quantitative Approach
Emma Previato (CAS)
“The Mathematics of Sustainability” is a new summer course designed and taught in 2013, suitable for any majors with previous exposure to calculus concepts. Content and format are innovative. One innovative aspect that can be applied to other contexts and will be demonstrated is the “just-in-time” pedagogy. In each lecture (two and a half hours), a technique is introduced and explored collectively in several applied settings, without previous theoretical training. Students absorb concepts and rules, and master them by solving a problem, related to sustainability. Other pedagogically innovative aspects (e.g., lab demos by graduate students, work in teams) will also be illustrated.
Emma’s Sustainability ePortfolio:
Implementing a Quality Improvement Curriculum for Residents
Nadja Kadom (MED)
A quality improvements (QI) curriculum was developed at Boston Medical Center as a novel means to enable residents in radiology to perform QI projects using the Plan Do Study Act-cycle method. While few such radiology residency programs exist elsewhere, this is the first with built-in faculty mentorship, thereby allowing radiology faculty to learn about QI in their function as mentors and fulfill their own requirements of maintaining radiology certification. One of the key barriers identified in the literature to successful resident QI curricula and projects is a lack of faculty mentorship. By linking the curriculum for residents to building faculty mentorship capacity, we are innovatively addressing this important barrier. This model of teaching QI is generalizable across many disciplines.
If you have any questions, please contact Lauren Hess at firstname.lastname@example.org.