Supporting Out-of-Class Student Learning Experiences in Creative Ways (Dr. Kerry)
We keep saying that learning is something the learner does. Herbert Simon, the late Director of the Carnegie Mellon Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation said, “Learning results from what the student does and thinks and only from what the student does and thinks. The teacher can advance learning only by influencing what the student does to learn.” Dr. Kerry had developed a pattern of learning support that shows how this idea can be practiced.
For every lecture that Dr. Kerry presents, she provides students with a PowerPoint copy of the presentation, with the notes section of each slide covering—in detail—the slide content. She is careful to present the notes in a different way than she did during the lecture, but it is a detailed version of the same material. In addition, she provides hand-drawn concept maps for every lecture. Finally, for some of her lectures she develops elaborative interactive study aids. These aids, developed using PowerPoint with links, present the learner with branching paths based on their responses to options of the slide. She can save these linked PowerPoint slides as a PowerPoint show and then provides them to students. In this way, the presentation paths are controlled by the design of the show. They are particularly helpful with difficult concepts.
To summarize, in addition to the class video and presentation, Dr. Kerry provides:
- Complete notes for every slide of her presentations, covering the same material, but presented using different language.
- Hand drawn concept maps for every lecture.
- Elaborative interactive learning aids that branch according to student choices as they use them.
What’s the value of this approach? First, providing students with multiple ways to aid their study of the material is effective because the approach is consistent with the truth that it is, in the end, the learner who must do the learning. By presenting the complete notes—in different language than used during the lecture—Dr. Kerry is employing a foundational multi-media instructional strategy (Mayer, 2009). Her approach creates a constructive type of redundancy. If she had presented the very same words in the notes that she did in the lecture, two negative things could have resulted: First, the research shows that if the student were listening to the lecture and then looking at the notes, and they said the same thing, the learner’s attention would be split and the learner would actually comprehend less from both sources. In this circumstance, the learner spends a lot of energy trying to figure out if the two sources are saying the same thing. By using different language, the learner is not concerned with trying to synchronize the incoming streams of information, and the effect is that both streams are strengthened. Second, if she had used the same words, she would lose the opportunity to present multiple representations of the same thing. Such presentations can be very effective in strengthening memories (Ainsworth, 1999), they provide a different view of the same phenomenon.
By providing concept maps, Dr. Kerry is assisting students in creating a cognitive schema for the learned information. Since this is what learning looks like anyway (from a cognitive perspective), the effect is positive (Bruning, et al., 2004). The maps provide a structure on which to hang new knowledge.
Finally, by providing the interactive learning aids, Dr. Kerry is giving learners an opportunity to practice and rehearse. By creating branching possibilities within the aids, she allows students to follow their interests or preferred paths, and then receive a winsome kind of feedback. Getting students to engage with learning content in such an active way supports learning. Because, after all, it is the student who must do the learning.
Ainsworth, S. (1999). The functions of multiple representations. Computers and Education, 33, 131-152.
Bruning, R. H., Schraw, J., Norby, M. M., & Ronning, R. R. (2004). Cognitive Psychology and instruction (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Mayer, R. E. (2009). Multimedia Learning. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Pre-Exam Review Questions (Dr. Kerry)
Dr. Kerry uses clickers during her pre-exam reviews. She will develop two or three questions relating to each of the lectures included in the exam, and distributes them through the review session. There end up being between 20 and 30 questions for the entire review. She will ask the question, everyone responds, and then she provides feedback explaining why the correct answer is the right one, and why the others aren’t.
What’s the value of this approach? Generally in review sessions, we ask students questions and they think of the answer without having to really produce one. We provide feedback, and students nod in affirmation. The problem is, students often get a sense they know things that they don’t.
This approach—using clicker questions—has students produce a specific answer and then receive feedback instantly. It solidifies the memory of correct answers, and also helps the student accurately identify areas of weakness.