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Teaching Excellence Center

Circle Meetings April 1998

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Monday 12:00 Session (no summary)


Tuesday 9:30 Session

The discussion was on "Innovative Teaching" methods and the topic was focused on group activities. Some of the information that our group shared was:

*Group assignments are like reality----working in teams is the way many corporations approach a big project.

*It is good if you can allow students to choose their own team members or at least let them pick a few people with whom they would like to work.

*It is helpful for team members to be able to critique each other on writing assignments etc. as part of a team grade.

*Service learning was discussed where students share information they have learned with a group. One class of students used second graders and designed a playroom for them. Students had to learn to relate the information to the second graders on their level. It was suggested that a "Reflective paper" should be done by each team member after the project is completed so that students are forced to reflect on what information they gained from the experience.

*A final thought on group projects is that it is good if the team members can discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each team member thus making it easier to delegate assignments within the group. Then after the project is complete have each team member evaluate each other and themselves as well.

Wednesday 1:00 Session


Our topic for Wednesday's meeting was "addressing multi-level competence in our courses / classes."

In our conversation, we explored the following questions / concerns / issues:

What do we mean by "multi-level competence"? (For example, do we mean different 'academic' levels? Different 'intelligence' levels? Culturally determined ways of thinking, learning, knowing, interacting? Physically challenged individuals? Or?)

What might be some explanations for multi-level competence?

Are we really talking about only "competence" or are we often confusing "performance" with "competence"?

What do we do in our classes to account for "multi-level competence" (in anything)? (For example, do we typically "teach" to the "high" students? Or another level? Do we adjust exams, curve grades, change our expectations?)

How might we account for mlc in our classes and our interactions with students?


Some observations / comments:

Some of us report more "multi-levels" in our introductory courses.

One of the challenges we face with "multi-level competence" is the increased difficulty of translating traditional paradigms / academic habits of thinking and communicating into popular culture modes of thinking and communicating.

Some of us see multi-level competency as a positive dimension in our classes, especially in classes that promote active learning and peer interactions.

Some of the ways we account for different kinds of students in our classes is to consciously try to build learning communities in our classes, helping students help one another.

The university could do more to address this situation if first-year students were exposed more consistently to college-level expectations and if the courses they were taking were connected in more ways, helping students to develop higher order skills in multiple settings. In other words, we need more consistent and more cross-curricular efforts to help introduce students to college ways of thinking and performing.

Maybe as a way to say all of this another way:

All of us did not necessarily see "multi-level competency" as a problem.

For some of us, our teaching methods / philosophies assume these differences and seek to create classroom environments that challenge all students to succeed by giving them meaningful, active learning problems and by providing them with the kinds of instruction and assistance they need to succeed, when they need it. (And recognizing that peers are often just as capable of instructing and assisting as students.)

Wednesday 3:00 Session

Our teaching circle met on Wed. April 29th at 3:00 p.m. There were four of us present. We discussed grading and requested volunteer facilitators for the fall. There is no burning question to post from our circle and I just sat back and enjoyed our flow of conversation and did not take notes so there is nothing to post from our circle.

Thursday 3:00 Session

The Thursday at three teaching circle discussed "group and teams in active learning." Helpful discussion addressed some of the barriers to successful team and group learning activities as well as the benefits. The benefits of group participation along with ways to integrate the process into the classroom served as the focus of the meeting. Some of the suggestions presented to enhance student participation were to use a 'free write' followed by oral contributions; creative presentation techniques; and time lines documenting participation.

The question - thought for the day: Isn't all learning, in fact, active?



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