One of My Best Professional Decisions

Participating in this course has be one of the best professional decisions I have made since coming to Touro…

I am Cathy West, MD, DrPH. I am an assistant professor in the COM and a member of Touro Western Division’s “Cohort A”. We are the TUC/TUN inaugural cohort of the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE)’s year long online course, “Effective Teaching Practices”.

For some background: There are about ten TUC faculty participating in the course, from COP, COM, and the PA program. Our course director and mentor is Jim O’Connor. There are four blocks comprising 25 modules, which are all completed online. Modules cover teaching in both the classroom and in online courses. We met up in person initially for a course launch and also have quarterly face-to-face meetings with Jim and our “classmate” colleagues.

Now to the heart of it: This ACUE course continues to inspire me and has revitalized my teaching. Preparing my learning activities has become a much more creative and informed task for me. The course itself is terrific: well-organized, relevant, and engaging. Since this is a course for educators created by expert educators, the strategies and techniques that are taught are evident in the organization and presentation of the course material itself.

I’ll walk you through one of my recent modules. We are in Block 3: Promoting Higher Order Thinking and Assessing Learning. The topic for this module is Checking for Understanding. The modules all have the same structure, which makes time management much more efficient.

Each module is organized into “chunks”; the first is Engage. It consists of an introductory video of one to two minutes that grabs your attention. Next comes the list of learning objectives. It is introduced with a sentence stating the evidence-based rationale for the module topic. The objectives list clearly introduces the specific techniques we will be learning in the module. Then we are put to work on an opening questionnaire that assesses our current understanding and experience with the techniques.

In the second “chunk”, Listen, Watch & Learn, we see the techniques in action in a classroom demonstration video of six to eight minutes. In the videos, the main points appear in the lower part of the screen as concise phrases in bold lettering. The next video is the Technique Talk, a “cartoon” style moving hand drawing each technique interspersed with faculty giving the evidence for the technique. For this module, the main point of the Technique Talk is “How you know your students are ACTUALLY learning”. Note to self—the use of short videos to introduce new material is key! We all have short attention spans when it comes to listening to a speaker…avoid the pitfall of straight lecturing for an hour! This section wraps up with the Instructor Resources, literally a treasure trove of how-to documents, specific techniques, samples, and links to articles.

In the next chunk, Deepen Thinking, we review Common Challenges and Misconceptions (a single page with succinct drop downs) and, in Observe and Analyze I, we assess (with a short quiz with the answers immediately available) a brief simulation in which an instructor tries out some of the techniques. We then watch another simulation and all address a question posted on a discussion board.

In the Practice and Reflect “chunk” we try out a new technique ourselves and write about our experience: why we chose the specific technique, successes and challenges in its implementation, the impact on student learning and engagement, and how we might modify it the next time around. We also contribute final thoughts in another discussion board and give feedback on what we learned in a brief reflection survey.

Finally, to Close Strong, we watch a one to two minute closing summary and receive a list of the references for the module.

Truth be told, this has been a lot of work. Completing each module takes longer than I expected and I have gotten behind a few times. The course is also designed primarily for university instructors who teach a course themselves, who begin and end the course with the students, and have regular frequent contact with them during the course of the semester. I may be more like those instructors than some of my colleagues because I teach many more large and small group learning activities and am a Course Coordinator. However, like many of my colleagues, because of the nature of teaching in our program, I would often not have a learning activity with students during a particular module and had to make a plan to implement a technique rather than being able to actually try it out.

Despite those few caveats, I am really enjoying the course and how it is making this such a stimulating year for me as an educator. In fact, this past week, I felt almost giddy with success in creating and implementing a new learning activity for the second year COM students. Because of my work in the ACUE course, I have so many new concepts and techniques in my teaching armamentarium and I knew I was using them every step of the way as I put this lab together.

I was able to set the students up for success in this new lab first by giving them the opportunity to choose a topic in advance of the lab (one of six sensitive/difficult conversation situations), then read an article about it and come to lab prepared to discuss that topic. I had chosen a jigsaw format to increase their engagement through student-student teaching, so to make use of the time efficiently with a lot of moving parts, I had to develop clear instructions.

Each of the six different Doctoring Groups contributed a student to each of the topic groups. The six topic groups met separately and each created a concept map and action plan, each of those on a giant Post-It that was stuck to the walls of the lecture hall. Doctoring Groups then reformed and rotated around the lecture hall together, spending ten minutes with each concept map and action plan, which was explained by their very own “expert” on the topic.

One other facilitator and I moved around the lecture hall during both parts of the lab, asking questions to help groups that were stuck and answering questions as needed. I handed out index cards to each Doctoring Group and asked students to give me feedback that would be both anonymous and voluntary. I mentioned examples such as whether they felt more confident about having these conversations on the rotations they will soon begin, whether they felt the structure of the lab was effective, and if nothing else, at least whether they thought we needed more faculty facilitators.

One third of the class did this activity each day over three days (about 45 students per session). The really good news was that I had those three tries to succeed with the lab, and I needed them!

My feedback?

Day 1: Nine index cards returned, helpful feedback about instructions (which I used to amend them for Day 2), and several very positive comments such as “The split group combining into one group was excellent”, “This was a great lab! My favorite part was the active learning aspect”.

Day 2: Nine index cards returned, mixed responses about having more preceptors, and more positive comments such as “Marvelous exercise with great topics”, “Lab was enjoyable and informative”.

Day 3: By the third day I had it right. I got back 29 index cards! A few students commented only that they preferred having only a few preceptors so that it could be student-led but nearly all the cards were very positive about what they learned (even “I liked having the opportunity to work on my public speaking skills”) and the structure of the lab (“great” and “loved it” with specific details appeared on many cards).

To finish up, If I hadn’t already been convinced of the value of the ACUE course, after this week, I can state unequivocally that participating in this course has be one of the best professional decisions I have made since coming to Touro. I am a better educator and hope to be a resource for others. I highly recommend this course to any faculty who are looking to improve the learning experiences of their students, and to increase their own sense of satisfaction and engagement in this wonderful profession of teaching.

Tips on the first day of class

Dear Colleagues,

Recently the Chronicle of Higher Education published an extensive article focusing on tips for a successful first day of class. This is a very comprehensive article addressing numerous topics, ideas, strategies and tactics for starting class off on the “right foot”.

If you are interested in reading this article, here is the link:

https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/advice-firstday?cid=wsinglestory_hp_1a

Best wishes for a great semester. How can we assist you?

Questions or comments?

Happy New Year.

Jim O’Connor Ph.D.
Director

CILT Teaching Tips

Dear Colleagues,

From the Chronicle of Higher Education is a 3-minute video – https://www.chronicle.com/article/3-Tips-for-the-Minutes-Before/244357 – entitled “Three Minutes Before Class.”

Take a few minutes to watch this video and glean some excellent ideas for improving your teaching.

Questions or comments?

Jim O’Connor Ph.D.
Director

A Technique For Increasing Deeper Learning And Higher Order Thinking: “Today I Learned”

Dear Colleagues,

“The research on how people learn continues to show the value in helping students make meaning and learn through reflection. The process of reflection helps students take a step back to carefully consider that they learned, absorb the information, and process what it means to them. Fortunately, fostering reflection in the classroom can be relatively quick and easy.” In the post below from The Higher Ed Professor, a simple, but powerful reflection activity, “Today I Learned” is described.

http://higheredprofessor.com/2018/10/01/today-i-learned-reflection-activity/

Questions or comments?

Jim O’Connor Ph.D.
Director

Tips for starting the year: Suggestions from CILT

Dear Colleagues,

I found some great suggestions from Stanford’s Teaching Commons website about starting off the year on the “right foot”.

https://teachingcommons.stanford.edu/teaching-talk/great-start-stanford-teachers-share-tips-successful-first-day-class

There are some excellent tips in this article including:

  • Learning your students’ names.
  • Diligently vetting your classroom space
  • Arriving early to class
  • Greeting each student as they arrive to class
  • Getting students invested in your topic
  • Setting expectations for students
  • Teaching something important and interesting on the first day
  • Making your class memorable

Please read the article for details.

Questions or comments?

Why are we here? Our students!

Have a great academic year. Let me know how I can assist you in improving your teaching.

Jim O’Connor Ph.D.
Professor and Founding Dean Emeritus of the College of Education and Health Sciences
Director of the Center for Innovative Learning and Teaching, Western Division
Touro University California
1310 Club Drive
Vallejo, CA 94592

Faculty Opportunity: INFORMATION ON ACUE COURSE

Dear Faculty Colleagues

The Center for Innovative Learning and Teaching of Touro’s Western Division is pleased to announce that we are offering an online ACUE (Association of College and University Educators) Course in Effective Teaching Practices designed to enhance our campus commitment to faculty and student success. A limited group of (33) faculty participants will be selected to complete the nationally-recognized Certificate in Effective College Instruction endorsed by the American Council on Education (ACE).  The cost to participate in the program will be funded by the Provosts’ Offices at both Touro University Nevada (TUN) and Touro University California (TUC) with no cost to you or your department.

The Course consists of 25 modules that will be completed online with a cohort of other faculty and guided by facilitators from TUC and TUN. The modules include five units of study: Designing an Effective Course and Class, Establishing a Productive Learning Environment, Using Active Learning Techniques, Promoting Higher Order Thinking, and Assessing to Inform Instruction and Promote Learning.  You can learn more about the Course and the content of each module here: http://acue.org/course/

Attached and below is a tentative schedule for the ACUE Course at Touro Western Division. ACUE will kick off the program with an in-person Course Launch on Friday, August 3rd  from which participants will complete their first module. The Course will begin on August 6, 2018 and go through April 21, 2019 with coursetakers completing approximately one online module each week.  There will be four face-to-face sessions, each following a course block.
Participants will need to spend approximately two to three hours for each unit, which will be presented using Canvas. It is important that you are willing to make a commitment to completing this course, as there are others who are on a waiting list.

The Center for Innovative Learning and Teaching (CILT) enthusiastically supports this initiative and looks forward to recognizing participants at the end of the course via a pinning ceremony.

Participants will also receive a check for $500 upon completion of the course and a certificate in Effective College Instruction.

There may be some openings available for interested faculty.

If you are interested, please email me immediately so we can place you on a wait list.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me.

Here is the current tentative schedule:

Touro University – Nevada and California
ACUE Course in Effective Teaching Practices
Proposed Course Sequence, 2018-19

Timeframe       Module  Unit    Meeting Topic
Aug 3, 1 – 4 p.m.        Course Launch – Motivating Your Students        2d      Orientation
BLOCK 1: Establishing a Productive Learning Environment
Aug 6 – Aug 12  Connecting with Your Students   2c      Supportive Learning Environments
Aug 13 – Aug 19 Promoting a Civil Learning Environment  2b
Aug 20 – Aug 26 Engaging Underprepared Students 2e
Aug 27 – Sep 2  Helping Students Persist in Their Studies       2f
Sep 3 – Sep 9   Embracing Diversity in the Classroom     2g
Sept 10 – Oct 7 Break or Makeup Weeks
BLOCK 2: Engaging Learners
Oct 8 – Oct 14  Planning an Effective Class Session     1e      Active Learning
Oct 15 – Oct 21 Delivering an Effective Lecture 3c
Oct 22 – Oct 28 Using Active Learning Techniques        3a, 3b
Oct 29 – Nov 11
(two weeks)     Planning and Facilitating Effective Class Discussions   3d, 3e
Nov 12 – Nov 18
Developing Self-Directed Learners       4e
Nov 19 – Dec 9  Break or Makeup Weeks           Celebrate!
BLOCK 3: Promoting Higher Order Thinking & Assessing Learning
Jan 14 – Jan 27 Leading the First Day of Class  2a      Higher Order Thinking
Jan 28 – Feb 3  Using Advanced Questioning Techniques   4a
Feb 4 – Feb 10  Using Concept Maps and Other Visualization Tools        4b
Feb 11 – Feb 17 Checking for Understanding      5d      Assessing Learning
Feb 18 – Feb 24 Providing Useful Feedback       5c
Feb 25 – Mar 3  Using Student Achievement and Feedback to Improve Your Teaching 5e
Mar 4 – 10      Break or Makeup Weeks
BLOCK 4: Designing Courses
Mar 11- Mar 24  Establishing Powerful Learning Outcomes 1a      Backward Design
Aligning Assessments with Course Outcomes       1b
Aligning Activities and Assignments with Course Outcomes        1c
Mar 25 – Apr 7  Preparing an Effective Syllabus 1d      Syllabus and Course Policies
Developing Fair, Consistent and Transparent Grading Practices    5a
Developing and Using Rubrics and Checklists      5b
Apr 8 – Apr 21  Makeup Weeks
TBD     Pinning Ceremony                Celebrate!
Course Ends – All reflections due by Apr 21

Thank you,

Yvonne M. Randall
Interim Associate Dean
College of Health and Human Services, Touro University Nevada

and

Jim O’Connor Ph.D.
Director, CILT

Attachment: ACUE-Course-ScheduleTouro_SuggestedCourseSequence_2018-19-3.docx

Dynamic Lecturing

Dear Colleagues,

Are you interested in improving the quality of your lecturing?

Listen to the podcast by Todd Zakrajsek: https://teachinginhighered.com/podcast/dynamic-lecturing/

Dr. Zakrajsek, an Associate Professor of Family Medicine at UNC Chapel Hill, has recently written the book:

Dynamic Lecturing: Research-Based Strategies to Enhance Lecture Effectiveness (The Excellent Teacher Series)
by Christine Harrington and Todd Zakrajsek.

Consider taking 30 minutes to listen to this podcast to get some new ideas to improve your lecturing.

Questions or comments?

Best regards,

Jim O’Connor
Director

Challenge from CILT

Dear Colleagues,

July 1st marks the beginning of a new academic year. I’m challenging each of you to improve your teaching by choosing one new technique, tactic, strategy or assignment that will lead to increased student engagement and student learning.
If there is anyway I, or any of the CILT Center Fellows, can be of assistance to you, please feel free to contact me by responding to this email. I will be happy to meet with you to discuss ways to improve teaching, student learning, and engagement.

There are many joys of teaching, three being: (1) teaching is a lifelong learning experience; (2) teaching is transformational, you are changing lives; and (3) you never know where your influence will stop.

Let’s have a great 2018-19 academic year.

Questions or comments?

Jim O’Connor
Director

Activating Student Curiosity

The Chronicle of Higher Education publishes a weekly newsletter focusing on effective teaching in Higher Education, entitled “Welcome to Teaching”.

Here is an example of one article that may be of interest to you, which focuses on Activating Students’ Curiosity:

https://www.chronicle.com/article/How-One-Teaching-Expert/243609

Comments or questions?

Jim O’Connor
Director

Gaining Students’ Attention

One of the important aspects of cognitive processing is attention. Obviously, if we do not initially attend to a stimulus (such as a lecture, powerpoint or other course information) that information will not even make it into short-term memory, let alone move into longterm memory for future retrieval.

Here is a link to an article from UC Berkeley’s Center for Teaching written by Dr. Rita-Marie Conrad.

https://teaching.berkeley.edu/news/paying-or-gaining-who%E2%80%99s-responsible-attention

Feel free to send comments or questions.

Jim O’Connor
Director