zUsing case studies can be a very effective teaching method. A process is outlined which starts with the establishment of the educational objectives of the case study to be presented while being cognizant of the logistics around the lesson including the time available, the number of participants, and the setting. This, in turn, will guide the decision and steps involved in develop a de novo case study or supplementation of a pre-existing one.
Case studies, including all of the commercially available ones, usually involve detailed, multi-page backgrounders culminating in complex problems or opportunities that need to be acted on. As a result, they allow individuals to learn from rich examples, i.e. inductively, that relate to real world situations. In addition to analysis and problem-solving, case studies usually require participants to engage in decision making under ambiguous circumstances. When various approaches are discussed and debated collectively, a richer understanding of different perspectives is afforded and hence is recommended.
 Harvard (HBP) https://hbsp.harvard.edu/cases/, University of Western Ontario’s Ivy https://www.iveycases.com/, and The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science (NCCSTS) https://sciencecases.lib.buffalo.edu/ are a few sources.
A seminar design is outlined that provides teams of students the opportunity to research, critically analyse and develop creative, viable solutions to real, “wicked” problems facing industries and organisations. In order to maximize the quality of each “Presenting” team’s solution, a “Mentoring” team of more senior students is assigned to provide them guidance. In addition, a second “Challenging” team of more senior students is specifically assigned to question, challenge and criticize the final presentation and proposed solution. Aspects of the design including: topic selection, team roles and responsibilities, schedule, marking scheme, presentation format, and research methods are outlined. The described student seminar design currently forms the core of a University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM), Master of Biotechnology (MBiotech) course.
This is a 3 1/2 minute video designed to introduce an undergraduate course, IMI302: Business plans and project management, that I teach at the University of Toronto, Mississauga. The reason that I post it here is not to pitch my course, but to demonstrate what can be achieved with a few tools in a reasonable timeframe. To produce this video, I used an Apple Mac running PowerPoint to prepare the slides as well as iMovie with a green screen (~$75) for the filming, integration and editing.
Adding a talking head or subject matter expert (SME) to a training or educational video adds a human touch that establishes expertise and can be more engaging, than straight narration.
There is a lot of information on the web about how to make talking head videos and especially powerful ones. Some tips and references are listed below:
- Ditch the script but don't worry about multiple attempts. YES!
- Panto mode which means be very active and energetic = 120%. Variation. YES!
- Small chunks at different distances from camera, different presenters.
- Try natural light and an iPhone on a tripod.
From How to make the best talking head videos (2017, March)
- Nose/eyes at top right/ieft cross of 9 box grid.
- Different distances can be done with digital cuts.
- External microphone is better
From Talking head video tips (2017, October) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPbEGa_u8JY
- Also consider creating or including interview-style or whiteboard animated videos.
Tesia Marshik gave an interesting 18' TEDxUWLaCrose talk in 2015 entitled, "Don't Believe Everything You Think: Learning Styles and the Importance of Critical Self-Reflection."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=855Now8h5Rs. (The first 11' are recommended).
In her talk, she dispels the myth that there are learning styles. Instead you may have a preference for one of the different styles: auditory, visual or kinesthetic but experiments show that they don't actually enhance learning. The style depends more on what you are trying to learn i.e the content and the best way is likely to stimulate all styles in combination.
She argues that most of what you learn is tied to concepts; its meaning to you; the way you organize it and connect it to other things; your understanding of it. Hence strict memorization, saying it aloud, flip cards, and writing out notes a second time do not aid learning. She goes on to explain the seminal experiments by Chase W.G and Simon H.A. (1973) Perception in chess. Cognitive Psychology, 4 55-81.
In these experiments, chess masters were much better at reconstructing a 20-piece chess position from a game in process that they were shown for 5 seconds as compared to a novice player, however the two groups performed equally poorly, about 4 pieces placed correctly, if the same pieces were just placed randomly. For the chess masters, the game in process chess positions had meaning and hence they could understand it and then recall it.
For me, this provides additional support for the use of applications and examples, case studies, case-based testing, field trips, research projects, science fairs, workshops, laboratory experiments, debates, discussions, student presentations, peer review, guest speakers and other experiential methods that demand a level of creativity, critical thinking and reflection in an effort to promote real understanding over too much rote memorization. As a result, I will continue to integrate more of these into my teaching.
43 moves into the greatest game ever played: Garry Kasparov def. Veselin Topalov 1999.
Dr. Derek Cabrera gave a very interesting TEDx talk in 2011 entitled, "How thinking works." In this talk, he defines thinking as being "knowledge able." He goes on to describe how current rote learning, memorization and regurgitation of facts prevents students from learning to think. He then outlines a model: DSRP. His model is also described in Wikipedia.
DSRP consists of four interrelated thinking skills, each with two opposing elements:
* I especially like and agree with his dislike of new "kits" of lego with instructions as opposed to the old box of random pieces that demand creativity.
Asking students 2-3 related Quick Write questions in succession starting with one based on knowledge or understanding and then moving up Bloom’s taxonomy to higher-order questions can encourage engagement and critical thinking.
This article is the first in my new Crash of Ideas series, where I combine different ideas. This one was inspired by Brian Oshiro's 2018 TEDxXiguan talk, “Encouraging critical thinking with 3 questions" thta can be found at https://www.ted.com/talks/brian_oshiro_encourage_critical_thinking_with_3_questions.
Exam design: To assess the application of the course material in addition to knowledge and comprehension
Each student’s ability to apply the key course learnings, beyond just understanding the material, was assessed using a 30 question short answer, case-based exam design in a number of undergraduate and graduate courses. Such a design provides a foundation for not only assessing each student’s knowledge and comprehension, but also their higher-level thinking surrounding the major concepts being taught. Developing such higher-level thinking abilities (application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation), which requires critical and creative thinking, is a transferable skill which should be a central focus of the educational process. Hence, student assessments of these abilities are valuable to the student, professor and educational institution.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, is video worth 3,000 words/a million? 1,2
I have recently embraced a wider application of video and audio recordings for my university lectures as well as student assignments.3 These include online lectures, video-based assignments and audio-based assignment feedback. The objectives were three-fold: to add a bit of fun and variation to the assignments, free up some valuable class time, and improve overall learning, retention and feedback. Judging by the student feedback to date, these innovations have been well received and have delivered these benefits.
Like many lecturers, I generally post my lecture slides and the rough audio recording of the lecture after class.4,5 However as a result of two “snow days”, i.e. school closings due to weather, I took it upon myself to deliver these two lectures online by providing an audio overlay to the PowerPoint slides that I had prepared. There are a number of ways to accomplish this within PowerPoint or other software.6 It is best if you take time to fashion a script as the resulting recording tends to be shorter and tighter. Nevertheless, it can be done top-of-mind, mimicking a live lecture, which is quicker and more spontaneous.7 In these recordings, I still asked quick write questions; asking the students to pause and answer questions using online tools.8,9 Having prepared these recordings, in addition to previously producing a few formal topic-specific videos, it reminded me of the all the benefits of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and the flipped classroom concept.10,11 As a result, I plan to make more recordings. These recordings provide students with a well-focused, asynchronous method of learning and reviewing the core material, while at the same time freeing up class time for higher order discussion and debate.
Given the ease of preparing videos and slide-audio recordings, I have also introduced them on the student side. I have had my students video themselves (in a slides over the shoulder mode), usually by tripod-mounted smartphone, giving 6-10 minute presentations on course-relevant topics.12 The resulting MP4 recordings are then posted on a shared hard drive so that I and a number of their peers can provide feedback on their presentation style and the content of their presentation.13 Given that video recording is only a tool, the quality and production of the recording itself is not, and in my opinion should not, be assessed. The advantages of making and sharing these recordings include: providing a fun and alternate way to complete an assignment, saving valuable class time by replacing in-class presentations, allowing students to practice presenting as well as observing and critiquing their own style and that of others, and finally creating a permanent record that is richer and easier to review for exams than articles or slide decks alone.
In a recent class, I also asked my students to prepare and post a 10-20 second video of themselves stating their name as well as telling me why they were taking the course and what they hoped to learn. This allowed me to match names and faces, perfect name pronunciations, and learn a little about each person. This was invaluable and is a practice that I will continue in the future.
Finally, I have started posting short audio commentary to student submissions. I first came across this idea in a research paper written by a colleague.14 In that study, Dr. Rawle et al. found that 70% of students felt that audio feedback improved their learning. The audio feedback that I now provide compliments both the specific, line-by-line, in-text comments that I post as well as the four level scale of the specific rubrics (i.e. exemplary, accomplished, attained, unattained) that I complete and post for assignments. I plan to extend this use of audio commentary to live or recorded students submissions as a supplement to the graded rubric and general written comments. The advantage of such audio feedback is that broad and general comments can be provided, including the highlighting of major issues, themes, insights and even oversights. In addition, audio allows the proper tone of the comments to be conveyed.
I have found that the wide application of video and audio recordings for lectures as well as student assignments and grading can add significant value to learning outcomes as well as being well received by my students.
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1From Shipper, F. (2013). If a Picture is Worth 1,000 Words, Is a Video Worth 3,000 Words? A Review of Video Resources Available for Use in Todays Management ClassroomIf a Picture is Worth 1,000 Words, Is a Video Worth 3,000 Words? A Review of Video Resources Available for Use in Todays Management Classroom. Academy of Management Learning & Education,12(4), 684-686. doi:10.5465/amle.2013.0304
2 From Yadav, A., Phillips, M. M., Lundeberg, M. A., Koehler, M. J., Hilden, K., & Dirkin, K. H. (2011). If a picture is worth a thousand words is video worth a million? Differences in affective and cognitive processing of video and text cases. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 23(1), 15-37 doi:10.1007/s12528-011-9042-y
3 I currently lecture at the undergraduate (Institute for the Management of Innovation) and graduate level (Master of Biotechnology) at the University of Toronto Mississauga.
4 I usually supply my slides in PDF format to avoid compatibility issues. For general audio recording, I use the free program www.audacityteam.org and export it as an MP3 file however a smartphone will suffice. I generally do not videotape my lectures as I find the slide and audio combination superior to a “talking head with slides over the shoulder” movie. Although it takes one more step as discussed below, by dubbing the audio over the slides it is possible to create a useful MP4 recording.
5 Indeed, I often post a set of pre-lecture slides as well that are missing some of the key items to which I plan to direct questions, generally in a quick write format.
6 The quickest, editable, slide by slide method involves simply inserting the audio on each slide (PP: Insert/Media/Audio/Record Audio/Insert or Keynote: Insert/Record Audio/Inset). An audio icon then appears on each slide, that can be played by clicking or animated to start automatically. One advantage of this method for the students is that it can be viewed and selected slide by slide. The disadvantage is the correct version of the specific software is required.
For a cruder one-take recording, PP: Slide Show/Record Slideshow and the microphone is automatically on as you toggle slides. Keynote: Play/Record Slideshow and then toggle the microphone on and off as you advance the slides.
You can also import your slides into more sophisticated video tools like Apple’s iMovie and then dub audio on top to make a full MP4 video capable of running on any computer. I tend to do use this method when producing more formal videos so that they will run in a standalone manner. I have also used this method to dub a live audio recording from a presentation over the corresponding slide set (see my quick write presentation at https://youtu.be/Sk6eem-WfZU as an example).
7 A combination of first giving a spontaneous talk, recording it, transposing it by hand or through voice recognition software, and then using this transcript to produce a polished script is the ultimate but somewhat more timely way to go.
8 For more on quick writes, watch my video https://youtu.be/Sk6eem-WfZU.
9 Here I tend to use www.GoSoapBox.com but this could also be done with other online tools like Blackboard or Canvas, or even through email directly.
10 These are online courses supplied at little or no cost from companies like www.coursera.org, www.edx.org and www.udacity.com covering a multitude of topics including academic courses from major universities. I highly recommend exploring their courses, having taken a number myself.
11 The flipped classrooms concept revolves around having the primary learning being done outside class through readings and especially videos. This frees up the in-class time for more tutorial style discussion, clarification and hands-on problem solving. For more information see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flipped_classroom.
12 The one difficulty with these recording is their size. For a smartphone, a 10 minute video filmed at 720p requires 600 MB, whereas at 4K it is almost 4 GB. As a result, sharing files often requires the use of cloud-based storage like www.dropbox.com or https://drive.google.com.
13 To allocate peers and collect the feedback, I use the online tool https://app.peerscholar.com. Generally I have each student complete 5 peer reviews and then a self-evaluation.
14 Rawle, F., Thuna, M., Zhao, T., & Kaler, M. (2018). Audio Feedback: Student and Teaching Assistant Perspectives on an Alternative Mode of Feedback for Written Assignments. Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 9(2), 1-20. doi:10.5206/cjsotl-rcacea.2018.2.2 Retrieved from https://ir.lib.uwo.ca/cjsotl_rcacea/vol9/iss2/2.
Quick write - an easy to implement educational tool to improve student engagement and learning outcomes.
A live 25' recording and slides from my 9/Mar/2019 presentation at the UofT Faculty Assoc. (UTFA) Challenges and Strengths II conference.
Quick write summary:
- A short written response to a question or prompt.
- Designed to spur creative or critical thinking though open-ended questioning.
- Inherently inclusive (everyone participates) and best used in a formative, reflective and interactive manner.
- Allows all individuals time to formulate their response.
- Can be used with planned and spontaneous questions.
- Generally, 2 or 3 questions are asked per hour of lecture and 2 minutes or so are provided to complete the paper-based/hand-written response before discussing the responses.
- Many variations possible including exit/entry tickets, group work, drawings and figures, calculations etc.
I have been doing a fair amount of teaching over the last 19 months at the University of Toronto, primarily in the excellent Masters of Biotech programme (MBiotech). I taught 4 half courses, co-taught 3 others, ran two workshops and assisted in a lab course. As a result, I'm a little behind on my blogs including this one on my educational innovations, experiments and learnings. So here's update on what's new as well as what's ongoing with some tweaks.
1) Application of PeerScholar
In my undergraduate course, HMB301, the students are required to do a major 7-part modular report on various aspects of a company of their choosing. Each section is based on the previous week's lecture and covers the technology, market, management, competition, intellectual property and finances. This has been an extremely successful exercise. This year I added a peer review component, based on the cloud-based PeerScholar software. The students were required to post their assignment 2 days before it was ultimately due. Two peers then reviewed it for both grammar and content, posting their comments and suggestions within 24 hours. They were pass/fail graded for their effort/participation. 24 hours later, the author was required to submit their section for grading and formal feedback, hopefully incorporating the suggestions. Not only did the students find the peer feedback very valuable, the reviewers also had the chance to learn about another two companies as well as pick up some tips as to how their peers approached their analysis. This was verified by an informal follow-up survey.
For a number of lectures, I have employed a PowerPoint-based version of the popular gameshow Jeopardy with some modifications. Briefly, an somewhat cryptic answer is given and the participants are asked to figure out the topic in the form of a question. My modification involves showing and discussing one or more standard lecture slides covering that particular topic after each answer/question. I can get through about 20 answers/questions (4 categories of 5 questions each) in about 45'. For longer classes we play a second round after a break and of course Final Jeopardy.
3) Expanded use of GoSoapBox
GoSoapBox.com is in effect a cloud-based clicker system. I use this in the class for polls and interspersed multiple choice questions to make the class more interactive. I have started using the quiz option to post 5 simple questions about the one (or two) pre-read(s) that I assign before every class (See Partially Flipped Classroom). Again this is graded as a simple pass/fail for the effort. I have found the students come to class better prepared, having read the pre-read which allows the lecture to cover the material in more depth and foster broader discussions.
I continue to use Twitter as a means to post current events relevant to the particular course I am teaching (See #BTC1820 for posts on agricultural biotech). My recent tweak (not tweet) was to post these twitter links in the Blackboard discussion forum and have the students, on a first-come-first-serve basis, write a brief summary of one tweet each. Again this was evaluated on a simple pass/fail basis. By providing a summary, the students did not need to read each tweet in its entirety (or not), but instead could read a short summary. The material covered by the tweets is not directly tested on the final exam, however many of the tweets are illustrative of important course concepts.
5) Final Exam
I do not like multiple choice exams. They are difficult to write, despite being easy to mark. In addition, in my opinion more effort is spent trying to trick students as oppose to extracting a representation of their knowledge and understanding. For that reason, I prefer short answer exams. The format that I have moved towards involves three sections in which the students are required to answer 10 of 12 questions, for a total of 30 questions over a 2-hour sitting. Giving some choice is much appreciated and reduces the "penalty" of not understanding one particular concept or from a complex or even poorly worded question. I have found that this is a fair amount of writing but not too much The marking on the other hand is a nightmare but that's the price. I can mark about 30 questions every 10 minutes so that's almost 7 hours for a class of 40! I do it page by page or the same 4 questions for all students before moving to the next page. This makes it quicker as you don't need to refresh your memory as to the question/answer and results in more consistent/fairer marking.
6) Interesting/intriguing questions
My newest and so far successful innovation (based on initial student feedback) involves assigning the class a fairly open, 2-3 page report expanding on something they came across or found novel, interesting, intriguing, or unexpected that arises from the pre-reads, lectures or even tweets. I supplied an ongoing list of items that I found and students could chose from those if they were stuck. I expected a detailed analysis/ explanation. Topics include items such as: What are the mechanistic differences between C3, C4 and CAM plants? What supports the claim that we need a 70% increase in food calories by 2050? How do you go about culturing a as yet "unculturable" microbe?
So there's the update. I still have the students present to their peers in every class. I use blackboard extensively to manage all the outgoing information and incoming assignments. I post slide sets just before class to aid note taking. I do encourage class participation and am still working on how to improve this. (One idea that I have yet to implement is my "Socratic hat" in which everyone's name is placed and over the course of a lecture or two - each student's name is drawn to answer a question or discuss an issue. If they opt not to, their name is simply returned to the hat for a future question.) And, I keep thinking and reading about additional innovations I can bring to improve my teaching as well as the students' experience and most importantly - learning.