146. Lessons Learned Online

Faculty new to online instruction often attempt to replicate their face-to-face learning activities in the online environment, only to discover that they don’t work as well in this modality. In this episode, Alexandra Pickett joins us to discuss evidence on effective online teaching practices, gathered from a quarter century of experience in a large public university system. Alex is the SUNY Online Director of Online Teaching and an Adjunct Professor in the Education Department at SUNY Albany. Previously, she was the Director of the Open SUNY Center for Online Teaching and prior to that the Associate Director of the SUNY Learning Network for over 12 years, and has directly supported and coordinated the professional development of over 5000 online SUNY Online faculty.

Transcript

John: Faculty new to online instruction often attempt to replicate their face-to-face learning activities in the online environment, only to discover that they don’t work as well in this modality. In this episode, we examine evidence on effective online teaching practices, gathered from a quarter century of experience in a large public university system.

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John: Thanks for joining us for Tea for Teaching, an informal discussion of innovative and effective practices in teaching and learning.

Rebecca: This podcast series is hosted by John Kane, an economist…

John: …and Rebecca Mushtare, a graphic designer.

Rebecca: Together, we run the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at the State University of New York at Oswego.

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Rebecca: Our guest today is Alexandra Pickett. Alexandra is the SUNY Online Director of Online Teaching and an Adjunct Professor in the Education Department at SUNY Albany. Previously, she was the Director of the Open SUNY Center for Online Teaching and prior to that the Associate Director of the SUNY Learning Network for over 12 years, and has directly supported and coordinated the professional development of over 5000 online SUNY Online faculty. Welcome, Alex.

Alex: Hi there. Thanks for having me.

John: We’re happy to have you here.

Alex: It’s so cool to be able to sit here and talk with you both and I’m just really excited to be here.

John: Our teas today are:

Alex: I drink only Darjeeling tea… organic, of course. It’s the most delicious tea. I just can’t drink anything else. That’s what I drink.

Rebecca: I have my very last cup of Scottish afternoon tea. All gone. Last one.

John: And I am drinking Tea Forte black currant tea.

Alex: Wow, that looks interesting.

John: It really is.

Alex: Does it have caffeine in it?

John: It does. It’s a standard black tea with a really wonderful blackcurrant flavor, and it’s in this nice little silk pyramid-shaped object with a little wire leaf at the end.

Rebecca: It’s nice and light too. It’s a good summer tea.

Alex: Well, I used to use tea as my sugar and cream delivery system. [LAUGHTER] But, I have, over the last year and a half or so, cut sugar out and so I still use it as a cream delivery system. But, I just love my Darjeeling tea… at night… I usually have that at night.

John: Yeah, I’ve been using a lot of black teas in the mornings and early afternoons and then switching to green tea and herbal teas later in the day, with a lot of iced tea on the warmer days.

Alex: So, that’s never bothered me… the whole caffeine thing. Like I could drink whatever caffeine right before I go to bed and not a problem. My husband I’m not sure he agrees with that, because he thinks I stay up too late. [LAUGHTER] But, I don’t feel a problem.

John: You’ve been involved in online education for as long as I’ve known you. I think the first time I met you was at one of the Sloan-C conferences in Washington back in the mid- to late-1990s, when I was first getting involved and you were already working with the SUNY SLN network. So, what are some of the major lessons that we’ve learned since the early days of online instruction?

Alex: I was the first Online Instructional Designer in SUNY starting back in 1994, and have been working in this space for that entire time. We’ve learned a lot over the last 25 years, or whatever it is. I think when we first started, we were in a period of time of research and development and thinking about what works. We then spent some time thinking about: Will it scale? How do we scale it? and synthesizing our models and our processes: the procedures, infrastructure, support services, thinking about all those things. We then had a period of time where we were kind of in full-scale production, and this is SUNY Learning Network that I’m talking about, and then somewhere around 2006 to 2009 we really were in a process of transition and migration from our homegrown learning management system to ANGEL. And then right when we finished our migration with ANGEL, Blackboard bought ANGEL, and so we immediately started another migration. And so we have had these different phases of proof of concept to scalability to institutionalization to today where we are, which is continued evolution and scale. We have continued to grow and to learn and to scale over the many years that we’ve been doing it and we went from the SUNY Learning Network to Open SUNY and now from Open SUNY to SUNY Online. And at each of those evolutionary stages, we have shifted in either technology or focus or thinking or certain initiatives. And so today, the transition has to do with scale… and though by many measures, one would say that the SUNY Learning Network was large. At one point, we were one of the three largest online asynchronous learning networks in the country, and Open SUNY certainly continued that scaling trend. But the scale today that we’re talking about has to do with really focusing in on online degree programs that are specifically identified to support the needs of New York State and the needs of adult learners in the workforce and to increase the ability to serve larger and larger numbers of students.

So, things we’ve learned… I think, over the years, we focused on things like the models that we used, and learned a lot of lessons about having peer trainers and having interdisciplinary cohorts of people, and using our experienced faculty to help and mentor our novice faculty, we interspersed face-to-face training and online training and mentoring and one-on-one work with instructional designers. We integrated and developed templates to quick start online faculty into really effective research-based course environments so that they could just focus on their discipline in their content rather than the wrapper. We implemented courses for observation, which helped novice faculty actually see and visualize what an online course could look like. And we then began, as the numbers increased of existing experienced online faculty, we started to devote energy and efforts and professional development towards the growing group of experienced online faculty. So, support was another thing that we developed and have learned how to do better over time, and really focusing on supporting the instructor, supporting their course, supporting instructional designers, which was not a role that existed back in 1994. That’s evolved over time. I mentioned courses, faculty, IDs, and students, obviously. So, that has changed and evolved and grown over time. In terms of our approaches, we’ve learned a lot of things, and shifted that as we have done scholarly work to understand how people can teach and learn well online. Having access to large groups of faculty and large groups of students, we’ve been in a unique position in the SUNY system to really use it as an organic petri dish of research to continuously observe, to continuously apply interventions, and study the effects of those, and then to learn from those, and feed our learnings back into this sort of organic process that we have. And then, of course, we’ve always had a focus on quality to inform and influence course quality and developing things that allow us to better do that, I guess I’d say. We build into the processes, into the models, opportunities to integrate research and our lessons learned to extract information from students and from faculty and to build in time for faculty to reflect on their own experiences so that they can then infuse those lessons learned into their own ongoing course design, and their evolving pedagogical practices.

Rebecca: What are some of the most important things for faculty to do in online courses? You have such a rich history of experience, what advice that you have for faculty moving online?

Alex: Somebody just reminded me the other day of this paper that I wrote and did some presentations, and I can’t remember when it was, but it was quite a while ago, and it was called “A Series of Unfortunate Online Events and How to Avoid Them.” And it was all written in sort of the style of that story, A Series of Unfortunate Events. So, I had things like the “atrocious assumption” and the “bad beginning” and the “purloined pearls” and the “dreadful design” and all kinds of… [LAUGHTER] the “dilatory dawdler…” it was hilarious. All of these were tongue-in-cheek in terms of the style that it was written, but all trying to focus on things that faculty either should do or shouldn’t do. And all of this, I have to say, I learned directly from faculty themselves, from looking at their course designs, from looking at what students reported and said about their experiences in online courses. And because we started doing research pretty much right from the first day, we have a tremendous bird’s eye view over thousands of courses and hundreds of thousands of students to really see some trends. And so, one of the first things that we learned was the quantity and quality of interaction with the instructor is the thing that influences student satisfaction and learning the most. And so anything that you can do to improve the student’s perception of interaction with the instructor is gonna help that particular finding. it’s going to support that particular finding. And so one of the first things that I did in our template was to add a simple discussion forum labeled “Ask a Question.” And in that “Ask a Question” discussion, the expectation is that students will be able to ask any question that they have, and the instructor would monitor that area and answer it in one place. Because if one student has the question, it’s likely others have it and then over time that evolved to our understanding of teaching presence that extends out to students, and it allowed for students to express their teaching presence, so that they could help each other out, because the second most significant effect on student learning and satisfaction is the quantity and quality of interaction between students. So, the first one with the highest impact is between the student and the instructor and the second one is between the students. So, by having students help each other out in the “Ask a Question” discussion forum, they were able to support each other, express their teaching presence, and attend to that particular finding as well. It’s a simple discussion forum just labeled “Ask a Question” that meets those needs. And that is underpinned by the research that we did. The other thing that I added to the template was an “Ask the Professor” question area. So, it’s distinct, between the straight up “Ask a question” where the students interact with each other, or the expectation is that they can and will, and this is when a student wants to hear specifically from the instructor. And so, this supports that interaction between student and instructor. Interaction, I think, is one of those things that instructors need to pay particular attention to, it’s particularly important.

Another is, for example, setting expectations very explicitly and very clearly. I think that sometimes for novice faculty, they underestimate, because they’re so used to being in the classroom where someone can just ask a question, it can be quickly answered. In the online environment, the only thing that the student has is whatever you have actually typed out or recorded and put into your course. And so any sort of question that they have, you sort of have to anticipate what questions students are going to have, and then respond to it somehow in the design of your course and have it be findable. One of the things that we found, and that there is research to support, is that findability is an incredible predictor of satisfaction or of not satisfaction in an online course. So, if a student has to spend a lot of clicks, and a lot of time… and by a lot of time we don’t mean like an hour, right? [LAUGHTER] Like it’s just really having trouble finding the piece of information that they need in that moment. When they have that experience, their satisfaction goes down. Actually, in this particular study by Kent State on findability, they found that the student’s perception of the course was not only lower, but they also had a perception of the instructor as not being qualified to teach the course when they couldn’t find something. So, setting expectations for the course, and making sure that those are in a very visible place… not like buried somewhere in the syllabus… but in a very visible place that is easily findable by the student. So, things like how to contact the instructor, how they’re going to be assessed, what types of activities are going to be required, what the percentages of how they’re going to be evaluated, those kinds of things. They want to be able to find those things very easily. And while all instructors no doubt have those in their syllabus, it’s important, how it’s communicated, and where, and that it be easily findable for the students, I think the main areas that online instructors need to think about are how they’re going to present content effectively and efficiently, how they’re going to facilitate interaction and collaboration between students, with the students, with the content, and how they’re going to provide feedback and authentically assess the students. What kinds of activities they are going to design and how they’re going to facilitate the feedback and the assessment of those activities and really understanding that they need to pay attention to. And in some ways, this notion of backwards design is critical for faculty so that they can really understand: What are the objectives of the course? What are the activities that they’re designing that are targeting specific objectives? What’s the content that’s necessary for that? And then how are they going to assess and give feedback on those specific objectives? And that formula is a magic formula for an online course because it immediately helps faculty understand how much content they need. That’s a question novice faculty always have. Without this kind of a formula, faculty will end up creating a course and a half. So they put everything and the kitchen sink into the course because they don’t want their students to miss anything and they know a lot about their discipline. And so they want to make sure that everything is in there. And then they also, because they don’t really know how to judge the amount of work that the students should do, they end up having a course and a half so the students become overwhelmed and it could potentially be very disorganized. And so that backwards design really is a magic formula to help faculty really hone in on what the specific content is that’s necessary, what the interactions need to be in order to address those objectives, and then what specific feedback or assessment they’re going to be doing in order to address those.

Rebecca: Alex, based on your experience, where do students struggle if they’ve never had an asynchronous experience before? Obviously, you’ve hinted at things that faculty can do to make that online experience better. But, if you’re not used to controlling your own destiny, in an asynchronous environment, what are some things that students really need support in, that we don’t always think about?

Alex: There are definitely behaviors that successful online students have either intrinsically or are able to adopt. They need to really understand how to set goals for themselves and how to plan. And so students who are not good at that are going to struggle. They need to have some kind of approach to organizing their study materials and their work. They need to have a stable, structured environment in which to work. And it’s not like they have to have like an office…that’s not really what I’m saying… just that they have to have a sense that when they go to school, online, when they go to class, that they’re in a setting where they’re comfortable, where they have what they need, where they can have access to the stuff that they need in order to not be struggling. They need to be willing to ask for help, which is not always something that students know or… there’s this wonderful thread this week from a first-generation student in Twitter, talking about all the things that she didn’t know or didn’t understand that was assumed that she did. And asking for help was one of them. And in some cases, they don’t know that the help is available. In other cases, they are self conscious about asking for help and appearing stupid or deficient in some way. And so I think successful online students are willing to put themselves out there to ask for help when they need it, and they also are aware of where the different help sources are, and how to approach them. And assumptions that faculty might make are that students already know this or should know this. So, I think it’s kind of like faculty can support student success and students need to understand what helps them be more successful. I think being able to self monitor… like checking the gradebook, for example, checking how they’re doing in terms of the progress of the course, with the deadlines of the course… simple strategies like not typing their paper or their discussion posts straight into the discussion forum where if you lose connection, you lose your post. A simple strategy of drafting your responses in Word, for example, where you can spell check, or in Google Docs where there’s auto backup, before you post it into the forum. These are strategies or behaviors that students know somehow, but many, many do not. Another thing in terms of supporting success is self reflection and metacognition, thinking about what’s helping you learn, thinking about what’s hindering your learning, making checklists or using rubrics if they’re provided. That notion of student self-efficacy is another one that you want to develop these self-regulated learning strategies to help support your belief in yourself, that you are able to achieve whatever it is that’s being asked of you. Obviously having goals, that whole notion of self-motivated student. And this is often something that is talked about, or that characterizes the difference between pedagogy and andragogy or heautogogy, that is the notion of motivation. In children or young people, the motivation is sort of forced on them… they have deadlines, and they have things that sort of scaffold them and that they don’t have to do a lot of that pushing of themselves, because they’re kind of just going through the motions with everyone else. As an adult learner or a non-traditional learner or a post-traditional learner or an online learner, I would argue, you really have to find that motivation to go to class because there is no one point, one time, one place where you’re going to meet on a certain day, at a certain time, with everybody. You have to actually get yourself in there, understand what is being expected of you, and be able to produce it In an effective way, in a high quality way, and in a timely way. And so there’s a tremendous amount of self pushing that needs to happen. So, those are some of the strategies or the things that students stumble on, and the strategies that successful online students need. And like I said, I think that this comes both from the student and from the faculty and from the course design, all of those things can work in concert. I have heard recently with the influx of tons of new novice online faculty, and I remember hearing it when I was working with cohorts of novice faculty, there is this tendency to feel, from the faculty perspective, this is like babying them or hand holding them. And while that might be true, I’m not going to say whether it is or not in a face-to-face environment… although I have an opinion about that… it’s definitely not true in an online environment. I think because of the nature of the environment. It is different when a student only has the computer screen in front of them, it really needs to be crystal clear to them… what they’re supposed to do, when they’re supposed to do it, how they’re supposed to do it… and any supports and any efforts to help the student understand what’s going to help them be most successful is going to help them. And ultimately, at the end of the day, we want students to have successful and positive experiences, and faculty to have successful and positive experiences, in an online environment. So, anything any of us can do to support that, I think, is particularly important. And when you think about students who are disadvantaged in any way, whether we’re talking about first-generation students, or whether we’re talking about COVID-related students who come from such varied backgrounds and who are not opting to learn online, it’s being foisted on them like it is on all of us, it’s particularly important to pay attention to anything that will help them be as successful as possible.

Rebecca: I think what you described is a bit onboarding method that needs to be done for students, especially if they weren’t expecting to be online, and now that they are.

John: And I think faculty probably underestimate the amount of cues and support they provide in face-to-face classes. At the beginning and end of the class, they’ll talk about what needs to be done… they’ll talk about deadlines. When they see problems occurring in student work, they’ll provide immediate feedback. And that just doesn’t magically happen in an online class. explicit instructions need to be provided so that students online get the same type of instructions they’d have an in-person class.

Alex: That’s exactly right, John, and the immediacy of it… one student may be there at 12 midnight, and another student may be there on the weekend, and another student may be there at some other time. And it is at any moment in 24/7 time on any day of the week that a student needs to be able to find the answer to their question right then. Otherwise, there’s a boulder in their way from moving forward in their learning. And so I always say that faculty should try to first, make no assumptions, which is difficult to do, because sometimes you don’t know you have an assumption, but to try and anticipate every question or any question that a student might have, and have something in the course that attends to that question. And it’s not an easy thing to do, because the assumptions are insidious there. And if you’re coming from a face-to-face environment, you have a lot of assumptions. And this isn’t intuitive, that teaching online is not an intuitive exercise. And it doesn’t just happen magically. There is effort and energy that needs to go into the design of the course, the sequencing of the course, the pacing of the course, the content, the interaction, the feedback, the assessment, all of that needs to be thought through, given the environment. So, you’re not thinking about it in a face-to-face way, you’re thinking about it in an online way with the lens of online students who only see what’s in front of them on the computer screen. So, it’s just a different way of thinking. And it’s not rocket science or anything, but I think faculty need to see examples of it, to have some of the foundational research understanding about it, and to be guided, maybe mentored, in some ways. It’s not like the first time you teach an online course you’re going to be a master at it. It’s the practice of teaching online, also. Practice means you keep doing it, and you keep getting better at it, hopefully, and keep improving. To me, it’s a practice in iteration. You do your best the first time when you’re dealing both with the learning curve of the technology and the learning curve of the different types of pedagogies required. And so the first time you do it, you’re dealing with these two major things. So, your first online course and online teaching experience, you’re going to learn a lot and your course might be somewhat vanilla. Nevertheless, it can be a really good tasting vanilla and then you can add some sprinkles and chips, and whatever, some sauce, as you continue to improve your ability to use the technology and your understanding of how you’re using the technology in pedagogically effective ways. What’s cool and wonderful about it is that faculty starting today have the benefit of 25 years of faculty who have been doing this and 25 years of research and best practices and lessons learned from all of us who have gone before, so they don’t have to invent the wheel the way that some of us did back in the early 90s.

John: Going back to that issue about providing explicit instructions in a face-to-face class, faculty often make assumptions, as you noted, about what they want students to do that may not be clear to students. In a face-to-face class one student will observe that, will raise a question, and it will be answered for everyone. If you don’t have that degree of explicit instructions in an online class, you’ll get some work that isn’t quite what you expected from students or you’ll be getting, perhaps, dozens of students asking the same question. So, having explicit instructions is not only helpful for the students, so that they know what you want them to do, but also it’s helpful for the instructor so you don’t have to explain the same thing to many different people. So, if you do get a question from a student online class, it’s probably good to use that to improve your course, as you said, in an iterative way to deal with that, so it becomes clearer in the future.

Alex: I totally agree with that. And it’s actually a practice that I have encouraged faculty to adopt, because you will know immediately in your online class where there’s something that needs improving. Because if you get a ton of questions on the same thing, then you know, you have to address that somewhere, either in the design of your course or in the information that you’re providing. You know immediately and so that “Ask a Question” area is specifically to address you know, those kinds of questions that one student has that likely all students have, so you can do it just once. But, it also is a pointer as you suggested to things that you need to shore up in the design of your course or in the information that you’re providing. Instructions come up all the time. If it’s unclear, you will know that immediately and you know that you have to fix your instructions on something.

Rebecca: We have a lot of faculty preparing to teach online as they’re preparing for the uncertainties of the fall with COVID-19, or the explicit decision to be teaching online this fall that maybe they didn’t plan for. And so the planning and development time might be much shorter than it would be traditionally for an online class. What are some priorities? We already talked a lot about priorities. But is there any tip that you might have in this situation, which is a little different than a regular online class, to get faculty going?

Alex: That is a great question. I would say, in March, when everything shut down, it was an emergency situation where we all had to pivot really, really quickly. And many, many…I think the statistic I read was 98% of the faculty and courses across our country… went from being face-to-face to online in some flavor or another, it was a traumatic period of time for all of us, faculty, students, administrators, the country, academically, professionally, socially, very, very crazy. I would argue that even though we have time now to prepare for the fall that we’re still in a state of thinking about remote learning rather than online learning, because we still have uncertainty about the fall… number one. So, there are still folks and campuses and administrations and states who are still grappling with what they’re going to do in the fall regarding education. And is it going to be fully online? Is it going to be partially online? Is it going to be synchronous online? Is it going to be hybrid or HyFlex? Are they going to do things like changing the curriculum to, instead of semesters, be quarters are they going to have freshmen and sophomores come for the first seven weeks of the semester and then juniors and seniors come for the next? We’re still in some uncertainty about this. And even though we have some time to prepare, the problem is that we have many, many, many more faculty that are needing to think this through and prepare than there are people to support. In an online program or environment, you have 16 weeks, you are selected, or you get told that you’re going to teach online. You’re assigned an instructional designer. You have a process that you go through. And this is if it’s a well thought through developed program. You have a faculty development program that helps you with course design and then transitions you from course designe to effective online teaching practices. And so you get a full professional development period of time in advance of your first delivery of your course. And that’s really how it should be done in a well thought through environment and program. But what we have right now, even though we have time before the fall, we just have many more faculty than there are resources and because of the uncertainty of the modality for the fall, there is uncertainty in terms of the designs of the courses. And many, many institutions are not prepared, unless they’ve been doing online teaching and learning historically. My daughter’s school, for example, is a small liberal arts residential college that doesn’t do online teaching and learning. And so they like many schools, and even some within SUNY, are not as prepared as others who have been doing it for some time. So, I think we’re still in this stage of remote teaching where there are some unique circumstances for faculty and for the people who support faculty. So, I think for faculty who are trying to be flexible and anticipate different scenarios for the fall, I think the important things for them to think about are things like: prepare for whatever the most online scenario might be, and you have to take your cue, I think, from your state and from your administration, but if it’s likely that you’re going to be online for even some of it, thinking through what the course might be for all of it would be prudent so that you are better prepared, and so it’s a little easier to roll that back, then to start from scratch and have to develop it all. So to prepare for the fall, thinking about what pieces of your course absolutely would have to be face to face. So, I think there are some courses, lab courses, hands-on courses, things that require specialized equipment that might have to be face to face or they couldn’t be done, or couldn’t be done well. But there are courses that can easily be done in a fully online way. And so thinking through the nature of your course, the nature of your discipline, and what the assessments or evaluations are going to be so that you can understand what pieces might have to be face to face if they do and whether or not any or all of it can be online, and then thinking that through in terms of how you would lay that out and plan that out. I think thinking about your students, as a first step in your considerations for what you’re going to be doing in the fall is really, really important and not making any assumptions. And again, this is an area where there’s a lot of uncertainty because we don’t know what the Fall is going to look like for other aspects of life. Will the K-12 people go back to face to face, because if not, the kids are home. And if the kids are home, there may be burdens on the family regarding child care… whether or not students have safe and secure places to live, whether or not they have access to the internet… whether or not they are able to either financially or physically do synchronous components to a course. If you’re assuming that you can do a three-hour lecture once a week with your students at a specific time, there’s a lot of assumptions in that: that your students are in the same timezone, that your students are available at that time, that they have a data plan that will allow them to do that, and so forth. So, I think you need to think about things in terms of your course from those perspectives as you think about the planning and the design of your activities and how you’re going to go about it. For remote faculty, I think reviewing your syllabus, revising your syllabus, reviewing your objectives and articulating them in ways that are measurable, in ways that are really thinking about Bloom’s and what you’re targeting in Bloom’s, depending on the level of the course, the discipline, and really thinking if any revisions are necessary there so that you can do some of that backwards design that I mentioned earlier. Really starting out with a good solid set of objectives will help you do that backwards design, that magic formula, in a really effective way. I think thinking about the types of learning activities is a good exercise. I always say that it is impossible to duplicate what you do in a face-to-face classroom online, you actually have to reconceptualize your online activities, your online interactions, you have to reconceptualize those things for the online environment, given the options and limitations of the online environment. And that’s not to say that online environments… I mean, face-to-face environments have options and limitations as well. I guess my point is just to say you need to be attentive to what those are in an online environment in order to design activities that are going to be as maximally effective and engaging as possible. I think you need to pay attention to accessibility. You need to pay attention to your feedback and your assessments. You need to be attentive to developing a sense of class community and how you interact and where you interact and where you scaffold and support student-to-student interaction. I think you need to know and understand best practices in synchronous interaction or asynchronous interaction if you’re doing either of those or both of those. And accessibility is another one you need to pay attention to. Accessibility is an important thing because those courses where you see everything and the kitchen sink… it could be PDFs that you’ve had for years, or it could be a favorite video, or it could be that cartoon that you like to post from the New Yorker… whatever it is, you just need to pay attention to the fact that, in an online environment, there are issues and especially for those who are differently abled, let alone copyright permissions and so forth. But you do need to pay attention to making things as universally accessible as possible. And so the Universal Learning Design principles are really helpful in that regard. And if you plan for an inclusive, equitable, accessible course from the get go, you address all of those things without having to go back and retrofit which is super, super hard and annoying. So if you do it right from the beginning, it makes it a better plan.

John: And for those who are working towards preparing for the uncertainties of the fall, knowing that there’s a good chance that at least some of the semester will be spent online in some form, you’ve worked with other people to create quite a few online resources that perhaps we could talk a little bit about. One of those is the SUNY Online Teaching Effective Practice video series. Could you tell us a little bit about that? And some of the other resources?

Alex: Yeah, sure. I’d love to, I would love to have people check these resources out. In our YouTube channel, and over the years, we have sort of on an annual basis, I guess, now created a series of videos that have themes, and typically I collect these at our annual summit event. So I’ll have a theme and we will interview guests and participants around that particular theme. And so some of the collections that we’ve put together… =We have an effective practices series for example. We have advanced topics in online learning. We have faculty questions, there’s 23 videos in the collection on questions that faculty typically have about online learning. We have some ideas for new online faculty. We have recommendations for experienced online faculty, we even targeted topics that were targeting instructional designers and questions and issues that they have and online learning administrators, topics and themes that they would be interested in. There’s 12 videos in that collection and 21 videos in the instructional designer collection. There’s one collection that is about relationships, both with students and with instructional designers. There’s one about assessment. We have an ideas for engagement series that talks about helping faculty to think about how to create effective and engaging environments and all of these videos are beautifully produced by my friend Jeremy Case at Monroe Community College, who is a fabulous instructional designer and videographer and he has been my partner in crime here on all of these videos over the years and has done a fabulous job, so I need to give a shout out to him. In that “Ideas for Engagement” series, for example, we talk about things like assignments with real-world applications, using case study, critical thinking, teaching leadership through self reflection, preparing online tests, making team projects work, incorporating service learning, teaching in scientific method through example, using Wikis. So, there’s a lot of depth to these videos, and you can go and look at each of the playlists and they’re very well described, and they’re well titled, so you can just hunt for one within the collection that you might be interested in, based on the topic. Or you can just listen to them in an ad hoc way. There’s multiple people that are interviewed in each of the videos from varying perspectives, varying disciplines, various sectors of institutions (from community colleges to research institutions). So we have a really wonderful video collection that I would love people to know about and to explore.

John: Another resource that you’ve worked with is the online teaching course. Could you talk about that a little bit?

Alex: Sure. So I developed this self-paced online course that is really basically just a website and it is the “Interested in Teaching Online?” self-paced course or resource. It’s designed like a course, so it has modules, and it has three modules. And every module starts with an overview. So you have some objectives for the module, there’s some presentation of content and it’s either in video or in text, and there’s several sections for each of the modules, and then there is a check your understanding self test at the end of each module. So, you can go through the content from start to end in order or you can look at it like a website and just browse to the topics that are of interest to you. You could just go in and take all the little self assessments if you wanted, just to check your understanding of the content if you already know things about online teaching. This really is intended as a prerequisite to any online teaching activities. So before you start getting trained by your campus to teach online, this could be a prerequisite to that to help everyone establish a common lexicon, for example, about what the common words are, that are used in online teaching in SUNY and beyond. It also helps to establish what we mean when we use the word online teaching, which does not mean a MOOC in this particular case… not to say that there aren’t MOOCs in SUNY or anything about MOOCs. It’s just that in this context, we’re talking about a different type of online teaching and which is now called traditional online teaching, [LAUGHTER] interestingly enough. So you can use it in a variety of different ways, like a website or like a course. You can earn a badge if you’re interested in completing all of the activities and submitting the evidence for the badge. There’s also optional interaction that you can have. You can join an online networking group with other people who are taking the course and interested in online teaching and interact with them around the course and around topics around online teaching. And so there’s a variety of different ways you can use it and a variety of different activities that you can do. There’s a lot of videos in there and a lot of good information. One of the pieces, kind of the first step, is the online readiness section of the course which is kind of like a mini course in and of itself, and it presents some checklists where you can self assess on things like your computer skills, word processing skills, your email skill, so all of the technical skills that are necessary to have a good foundation to take the next step to teach online. Because if you really need some of those technical skills, it’d be best if you get that shored up first before you start thinking about teaching online. And so there’s a bunch of information presented in that readiness section of the course. And this thing is just set up in WordPress, so there are little checklists that will retain your checks from session to session in the same browser, but it’s maximally open and it’s also openly licensed and freely available for anyone to use or adapt in any way that they would like. And it has been used and adapted and adopted in a lot of different ways across SUNY and beyond. So, I try to openly license and make freely available all of the tools and resources that we produce in the SUNY Online teaching unit. I’ve taken that open that we had when we were Open SUNY really to heart and I’ve been doing open pedagogy and being open since before it was a thing, because I feel very, very strongly that we just happened to be where we are because of luck and the position in which we sit, which is at the top of an enormous system with many, many years of experience in this. And these are public funds that have been used for the benefit of the people of the state of New York and beyond, I would argue, and so I’m very, very committed to openly licensing everything that we do. And so you will see that on all of the resources. And I love to hear from people who have adopted and adapted our tools and resources because I’m a learner too. And I want feedback. And I want to improve the things that we have created. And I want to know about things that others have created based on our things, so I can point to them and recognize them and talk about them and learn from them. So yeah, both of these resources, the readiness set of inventories and the teaching online course, are openly licensed.

Rebecca: You also have the remote teaching checklist, which might be really important right now.

Alex: Yeah, when all of this started happening, I thought it was really important that faculty who are novice and instructional designers who are in a position all of a sudden of having to deal with many, many more faculty than they anticipated, to have a little bit of a framework and a guide to help them. And so I did develop this checklist, and it starts out with helping faculty to think about what’s first, what things should they think about first. So putting the lens of the student on is a good first step, checking their syllabus, revising their syllabus, thinking through their activities, checking their accessibility and thinking about the modes, are they going to be primarily synchronous? …so some stuff online asynchronously, like their syllabus and materials maybe, like a paperless situation, but primarily, they’re going to be meeting synchronously with students either through Zoom or through Collaborate or WebEx or some sort of a synchronous tool like this one, or are they going to be primarily asynchronous or are they going to be hybrid in some way. So some face to face and some online and maybe that online is a mix of synchronous and asynchronous or maybe it’s totally asynchronous. I know some campuses and faculty or programs are playing with this HyFlex notion that allows maximum flexibility for students, which allows them at any point to determine or decide whether they’re going to be face to face, synchronous, or asynchronous. I think that is going to have to depend on the campus, because if the campus is not supporting face to face, then the HyFlex is not part of the equation because the whole point of HyFlex is giving students the option of face to face, online synchronous, or online asynchronous at any point. So I think remote faculty need to think about how they’re building community, whether they’re doing that in a synchronous online way or an asynchronous online way. They need to know and understand the effective practices of interaction either in a primarily synchronous or primarily asynchronous or combination kind of a way. And so this checklist gives them lots of resources to mine and suggestions and tips for all these things that I’ve been mentioning. Online assessment is another thing they’re going to have to think about. And this is an area where, with some time, it will be better than if you’re trying to think this through right before you have to deal with it. So I would really recommend that as soon as you are able to start thinking through some of these things. Because, as I said, you want to reconceptualize, you can’t duplicate. If you think you’re going to duplicate you can, you can duplicate, but it won’t go well or not from the students’ perspective, right? [LAUGHTER] …and you’ll be frustrated and the students will not be happy and your evaluations will not be good. So you really need to think about assessment and if you’re super, super concerned about online cheating, you need to put a lot more energy into this because you need to reconceptualize the multiple choice test that is 50% of the grade, mid term, is a way to assess something. But in an online environment, I would argue that that is not an authentic assessment, really, of much. And we could talk about what I think about that for a face-to-face class as well, [LAUGHTER] but I’m focused on online. So you need to really think, how is it that you are going to understand how are the students making their thinking and their learning visible to you? What opportunities are you giving students to do that? And then what feedback and ways of assessing them are you able to give? …and it takes some time to think that through. I would also recommend for remote faculty to take as much advantage as possible of any instructional design support that you might have on your campus. And always, always check with them first because there are standards. If your campus does online teaching and learning, they have a learning management system already… they have, potentially, templates for you to use to Quick Start your course design so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. They have training and supports and resources to help you think through all of these issues, and they may have things that are required in some ways ,or approaches or methods that they’re recommending for the fall that you need to know about and your students need to know about. So I would recommend very strongly that you check with them first before you start doing anything on your own so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel and get down the road aways when you learn that you have to start over again and do something differently. Oh, the other thing I want to make sure that they think about is how they’re going to end their course. So, this has to do with class community and teaching presence and social presence and so paying some attention to how you wind down your course and end your course, I think, and being deliberate, intentional about that. I always have a discussion group at the end of my online course that allows students to reflect on things, to say goodbye to each other, and where I say goodbye to them. And so there’s lots of different ways to do that. So, similarly, I don’t think I said at the start, you want to think about how you start your course… thinking about how do you create a sense of class community? How do you acknowledge that you’re about to embark on this journey together, in some cases, both instructor and students for the first time in different modes, and acknowledging that and saying, we’re in this together and breaking the ice so that you can immediately sort of break through that two dimensionality of the computer screen so that you can begin to establish this sense of learning community, this sense of class community, establish trust, get to know the students, get to know their names, have them get to know you. So, icebreaking, I think, is also equally important. And that’s not something that just happens. Anyone can say, okay, introduce yourself. But if you’re more deliberate about it, and think through how you might be able to create an engaging, interactive activity that is more authentic, that really gets people to know each other. And I have a list of 50 plus different icebreaking activities that we can put in the links for folks to mine for ideas for that.

John: We’ll include all that in the show notes along with links to the resources you refer to.

Alex: Yeah, I guess I would say that there are as many ways to teach online as there are faculty. And there are some effective practices, there are some things that will work better, that will work best, that you should know, that you need to know, in order to have good experiences,your students to have good experiences, to be effective. There are some things that you need to know and there is technology that you need to master and can leverage in a variety of ways. But I think that within that there is so much flexibility and there is so much innovation and so much freedom to do things outside of the four walled classroom box that I’m hoping that faculty will be able to experience, and even though we’re constrained by the limitations of the rush to figure out what to do in the fall with the remote teaching being pushed into things that we may not be ready for. I’m hoping that people will be open to the possibilities that are there. It’s kind of limitless in some ways,

John: We always end our podcast with the question. What’s next?

Alex: I am not sure what’s next for all of us in general, I’m waiting along with the rest of us to understand what COVID is going to do and how that’s going to impact us in August or in September. And I am coping professionally and personally the way that everybody is, and in terms of work, I am working on continuing to develop tools and resources to help instructional designers be more effective, have their lives be easier so that they don’t have to recreate wheels and tools and resources and supports for online faculty as well. We have, like I said, the benefit of years and years of experience, years and years of knowledge, years and years of things that actually already exists that can be leveraged or adapted for this moment in time. And so coming up with tools and resources and supports that make people’s lives easier and better, given the circumstances is what I do. And I always get up in the morning convinced that I can impact the quality of online teaching and learning in the State University of New York. It’s what motivates me and what I love doing. And so I feel very grateful that I am able to do that in my position, and to be able to share that with the folks in SUNY and beyond, and to be able to continuously learn and showcase and turn the spotlight on amazing things that are going on out there from our campuses, from our instructional designers, and from our faculty within SUNY who are doing amazing work. I feel very grateful to have been able to be where I sit, to be able to be witness to all of that, and to observe it. and to learn from it and be able to share it out in multiple, multiple ways. So, maybe that’s what’s next, I think. That’s what I would say.

John: It’s been a pleasure working with you and learning from you over the last couple of decades

Alex: Ditto, John, ditto. [LAUGHTER] Thank you, Rebecca, too.

Rebecca: Thanks so much for joining us and sharing your knowledge and experience, lots of experience.

Alex: You’re welcome. It’s been so much fun. Thank you so much for having me. I love having a cup of tea with you and chatting about this stuff that I really, really love to talk about.

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John: If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast service. To continue the conversation, join us on our Tea for Teaching Facebook page.

Rebecca: You can find show notes, transcripts and other materials on teaforteaching.com. Music by Michael Gary Brewer.

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124. The Missing Course

Graduate programs provide very strong training in how to be an effective researcher, but generally provide grad students with little preparation for teaching careers. In this episode, Dr. David Gooblar joins us to discuss what all faculty should know to enable us to create a productive learning environment for all of our students.

David is the Associate Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching at Temple University, a regular contributor to The Chronicle of Higher Education, and the creator of Pedagogy Unbound. He is also the author of The Missing Course: Everything They Never Taught You about College Teaching.

Show Notes

Transcript

John: Graduate programs provide very strong training in how to be an effective researcher, but generally provide grad students with little preparation for teaching careers. In this episode, we explore what all faculty should know to enable us to create a productive learning environment for all of our students.

[MUSIC]

John: Thanks for joining us for Tea for Teaching, an informal discussion of innovative and effective practices in teaching and learning.

Rebecca: This podcast series is hosted by John Kane, an economist…

John: …and Rebecca Mushtare, a graphic designer.

Rebecca: Together, we run the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at the State University of New York at Oswego.

[MUSIC]

Fiona: My name is Fiona Coll. I teach in the Department of English and Creative Writing here at SUNY Oswego and this is my turn to sit in as a guest host.

John: Our guest today is Dr. David Gooblar. David is the Associate Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching at Temple University, a regular contributor to The Chronicle of Higher Education, and the creator of Pedagogy Unbound. He is also the author of The Missing Course: Everything They Never Taught You about College Teaching.

John: Welcome.

David: Thank you so much. I’m happy to be here.

Fiona: Today’s teas are…

David: I’m drinking green tea.

Fiona: That sounds delicious. I have a cup of wild orange something that’s quite delicious, but not as memorably titled as one might hope.

John: And I have a pumpkin spice Chai today.

David: Wow. Okay.

John: A little out of season but I wanted to try it. We invited you here to talk about The Missing Course. This book is intended for those of us that never received formal training on how to teach, which applies to most college faculty, and maybe we could start with this question of why don’t faculty receive more formal training while they’re in grad school, since most people do end up in teaching careers?

David: It’s a great question. And one that’s not that easy to answer, I think. To me, our graduate programs, almost across the board, almost across all disciplines, still sort of operate with an outdated model of the industry that they’re training students for. And I’m not sure that the model was ever actually something that applied to all graduate students, or even most, but there’s this idea of an academic career as being a tenure-track career where you teach two courses a semester, and the rest of your time is for research, and you are evaluated on your research and scholarship. And so our graduate programs still, for the most part, train students for that career. And what is clearer and clearer to more and more people is that that career is for a very slim minority of people who get PhDs. And as you mentioned, the job for most PhDs if they managed to stay in academia is, for the most part, teacher. And so I do think as well, there’s this notion that teaching is something that content knowledge is enough preparation for, so that if you know something really well, obviously, you’ll be able to teach it, that is not something that needs training in and of itself, that it can be a sort of byproduct of scholarship. And really, anyone who’s had a teacher [LAUGHTER] should be able to see the holes in that logic, that there are better teachers and worse teachers, and that doesn’t depend on how well they know their subject, that depends on how well they know how to teach. So this struck me as a big hole in our education system, and something that I thought would be, at the very least, a good frame for a book about teaching.

Fiona: That hole you describe, the missing part of graduate education, is something that produces a phenomenon you describe early in the book, which is your sense of surprise at discovering a community, a community of people interested in teaching as itself an intellectual and technique oriented discipline, I suppose. And it’s an amazing feeling to happen upon a group of people who are thinking the way you are. And I do wonder if you could maybe expand on what you talk about early in The Missing Course, which is a discussion of how your own view of teaching evolved from that initial focus on content coverage that you’ve just described. Could you tell us about your own transformation in that respect?

David: Sure. I don’t think unlike most people, in that I wasn’t trained to teach at all, I was thrown into the classroom. And to some extent, that’s not the worst way to begin to learn something, is to be thrown into it. But I of course did what most people do, which is that I sort of mimicked what my professors had done. And so my background’s in English, I’m not sure I would have been conscious of this, but my idea of what an English professor does in the classroom is to go and be brilliant about books in front of students… to go talk really smartly about the book in question. And I guess the idea is that you’re modeling interpretation, but you’re not really showing students how you arrived at your interpretation, you’re just showing them the fruits of it. So I would prepare, I was a very devoted teacher as a grad student. All my preparation went to uncovering smart things to say about texts. And what the students would be doing never entered my mind at all, for sure. And so this is kind of how I taught and it seemed to be successful. I don’t know how I was measuring success, but it seemed to go okay. Until I, as an adjunct at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, was given (as adjuncts are often given), a course in which there was no real content to teach. It was a skills-based course, the course was called Rhetoric in the Liberal Arts. And I was meant to teach students how to write academic papers, how to critically read, critical thinking was a big part of it. I was supposed to promote an understanding of the value of the liberal arts sort of broadly. And there were a couple of essays that I was given to teach, but for the most part, there wasn’t really a central text to teach. And so my old method of being brilliant about texts really quickly showed itself to be insufficient. I really scrambled. I had no idea what I was doing. I remember that semester so clearly, because I worked very hard to figure out day to day, there was such panic, “How am I going to fill the class period?” And I guess what I came upon is that it was the students that were my material, rather than material that I needed to explicate for students. Actually, it was these human beings in the room that I was tasked with improving, or helping to develop, or helping them to see things. And that’s just a completely different idea of what teaching is… and it changed my life. It changed how I see the job and the job became increasingly important to me. Because, and you’ll forgive me for rambling, but if the job is saying something interesting about books, well, that’s something that I think can be mastered pretty easily. If the job is help a new set of human beings to reach their potential or grow in ways that they didn’t think were possible, that’s an endlessly fascinating, endlessly challenging, and mostly difficult task. And that, to me, is something worth devoting yourself to. So that really, really sort of turned me on to teaching as a discipline in itself.

John: When you started to change your focus to students, what were some of the first things you did to focus on the students you had, instead of your earlier approach?

David: I think a lot of it comes down to, maybe strangely, trying to find out more about the students themselves. And I often tell faculty now in my role at Temple that the beginning of the semester is really a time to learn about the students in your room and to win their trust. If you’re going to be asking them to do things during the semester, you can’t assume that they’re going to trust that you’re doing it for the right reasons, you’re doing it in their best interest. So, forging that relationship is really the most important thing we can do at the beginning of a semester. So that starts, I think, by turning the tables a little bit. Usually students come into a class and they know the deal, which is that they’re there to find out the professor’s rules. They’re there to read the syllabus, “What’s this class going to be all about?” And the professor sets the course… and the students, if they’re good students, they sort of follow. And so I really like to advise faculty to try to switch that around, and from the very beginning, try to signal at every turn that the course is for the students’ benefit, and this should be their course. And therefore the opening weeks should be about finding out about them, and what they want to get out of it, and why they’re taking this course. And even if the answer to that is “it was required,” that’s good knowledge for you to have too. So, sort of going from there, from trying to find out who these people are, what their goals are, what challenges they foresee, how they want you to help them. That to me is the starting point and signals to them and to you that the point is the students, not the stuff you came up with beforehand.

John: Are you doing that through class discussions, or are there specific activities that you use to try to elicit information from the students?

David: Yes, certainly, I like to do a lot of class discussion and that’s going to depend upon your class size, for sure. A lot of class discussion. I also like to do a sort of initial, no- stakes writing assignment where I ask students for their goals for the course. And this helps me, of course, see more individually, and in a way that doesn’t make them say things out loud, which can be a problem for shy students or for students who maybe need a little more time to formulate an answer. To see what they’re going for, I ask them sort of what things have helped them in the past, you know, what their best teachers have been like, what challenges they foresee. I have to teach writing, it also helps me see their writing level really early on, so I can see where to sort of aim my writing instruction, what kinds of things they might need help with. So, a sort of diagnostic, low- or no-stakes writing assignment can help. But, a lot of it is trying to just be human in the classroom, and be actually curious about these people, and make that a subject of the early class periods in a way that, I hope at least, that the students will get to know each other as well. Is that gonna help as well with motivation down the line?

Fiona: You focus on teaching as this drawing out process from students as opposed to the fill the cup model, which is perhaps the older lecture-based content delivery model… but you do, you focus on this drawing out and you pay some attention to the verb “elicit.”

David: Yes, I do love that verb.

Fiona: It’s a very good verb. But part of the way you use that verb is to turn your attention towards active learning techniques…

David: Yes.

Fiona: … in the classroom. And could you give a brief sense of what you feel are the most important evidence based nuggets to know about active learning as a technique?

David: Sure. I’m increasingly convinced that more than any particular strategy or technique, the most important thing for teachers is to have a solid understanding of how people learn. And what we know about how people learn is that it doesn’t work by pouring knowledge into people’s heads. You don’t learn by someone giving you knowledge. We learn by actively revising our preconceptions. And so even just to have that as your starting point, that students aren’t blank slates to be filled up. But students come in with all sorts of ideas, usually wrong ideas, but all sorts of ideas about our subjects. The job is then to help them hold those conceptions up to the light, see that they’re lacking in some way, and revise them. So I try to let that guide whatever strategies I use in the classroom, so active learning strategies is a really vague term to refer to anything you do in the class where students are doing stuff. So, there’s nothing wrong with lecture per se, but lecture that assumes that just telling students information is enough is going to fail. So if we lecture we want to lecture in a way that elicits… there’s that word… that elicits students’ attention, that intrigues them, that sort of draws them in, that can work really great. We’ve all had really good lecturers in the past. And usually they’re the ones that get our attention, that present us with a puzzle that we try to solve. It’s us, as students, who do the learning, we, we can’t do the work of learning for our students, students have to do it. So, if that’s our guide, then that can sort of help us chart class periods. Active learning strategies are often a combination of trying to get students to see what their intuition is, get to see that the intuition is in some way insufficient, and try to solve that problem. If what I initially thought was wrong, how can I be right? That’s often what I’m trying to do with an active learning strategy is help students do that, if that makes sense.

Fiona: Most definitely. And one of my absolute favorite parts of The Missing Course is the sheer number of practical, applicable ideas for this nurturing, motivating, eliciting process you describe. It’s wonderful just as a resource for ideas, the book is fantastic. Do you currently have a strategy you’re trying or that you’re feeling very excited about? Do you have an anecdote from your recent teaching to put something into focus a little?

David: One thing that I really love that I’m kind of endlessly fascinated by is this idea of naive tasks. I do mention that in the book, but it’s something that I often talk with faculty about. It’s particularly helpful if you do need to lecture if you have large classes, or if you teach in a discipline that is very content heavy, and you have a lot that you need to tell students. The idea of a naive task is you give students a puzzle, or a challenge, or a question that they’re not yet equipped to solve. And you give that to them before you give them the information that would equip them to solve it. The example that I always use comes from a guy named Donald Finkel who wrote a great book called Teaching with Your Mouth Shut, and he writes of a physics professor who gives his students before a lecture, this challenge, which is that he wants them to picture a canary in a very large sealed jar. And the jar with the canary inside is on a scale. And the problem is this “if inside the jar, the canary takes flight inside the sealed jar, does the reading on the scale change?” So, I put the challenge to you two, what do you think? Does the reading on the scale change if the canary takes flight?

Fiona: I’m feeling very elicited at the moment.

David: Yeah.

John: I read that, and I wondered that, because I don’t think you answer the question in your book, do you?

David: Oh, good. I’m glad I didn’t. I don’t remember. You got to make the reader do the work. So, what’s your intuition? Does the weight change when the canary is flying in the air inside a sealed jar?

John: My intuition would be no.

David: The weight stays the same, there’s still a bird in a jar, even if it’s in the air?

JOHN and Fiona: Yeah.

David: And does your intuition change if the jar is open, does that change things?

John: My intuition would change, then, I would say no in that case.

David: That the scale would change?

John: My intuition was that the scale would change if the bird took flight.

David: Okay, that is correct. In a sealed jar, the amount of force pushed down by the bird’s wings is exactly equal to the weight of the bird. That’s how flight works.

Fiona: Of course, right?

David: And so that would keep the reading on the scale the same. If the jar is open, the air can escape.

Fiona: Yeah, right.

David: So, this is a great example of a naive task for students who have not yet learned the laws of weight and mass and force. They have to struggle with this, and it’s kind of an intriguing puzzle. It’s a challenge. And in trying to answer it, and of course, you can sort of prod them along and help them consider the various factors, they’re engaging with the material in a way that they’ll want to know how this works after working on the subject. You’re priming them for your lecture. So I often like to work with faculty and I give them this example. This is always my example, because it’s one I remember. I actually don’t know very much about physics, but I can tell you this. And then I ask them to try to come up with naive tasks for their own discipline. And that’s sort of like “What’s a puzzle? What’s something intriguing that you can give students that they won’t be able to do yet, they won’t be able to solve yet or you think they might not be sure about?” and try to give that to them before you give them the information that would help. So I do like that idea of that the timing of when we give students activities can matter, and can make it more effective when we do tell them things. That’s been something that increasingly I talk to faculty about.

John: And the nice thing about that, too, is not only does it make them curious and want to know the answer, activating that curiosity, it’s also forcing them to activate whatever prior knowledge…

David: That’s right.

John:…whether it’s actually correct knowledge or any misconceptions they may have, but it makes them consciously aware of what they know and what they don’t know. So, they’re not only primed to find out more, but they’re also ready to make more connections and try to integrate the materials.

David: Yeah, ideally, it will leave them in a place of sort of dissatisfaction with their current model of how things work, which is where you want them.

Fiona: You do describe the learning process as a process of revision… revising, exactly as you’ve described, preconceived notions or prior knowledge, updating it, expanding it, refining it. But, as you suggest, this doesn’t feel easy to students. There’s a lot of pushing of comfort zones…

David: Right.

Fiona: …There’s a lot of truly difficult risks sometimes involved for students.

David: Yes.

Fiona: And so how do you approach that piece, the effective piece, or the willingness of students to maybe trust your methods or to actually engage in these essentially revising oriented activities? What do you do about student motivation?

David: It’s a very important factor. I mean, what we know about student motivation and a lot of this I take from the great book How Learning Works from a lot of folks at Carnegie Mellon that came out maybe 10,12 years ago. Their chapter on motivation sketched three main factors from the literature that govern motivation in educational context. And the first two are probably maybe the more apparent. One is value. The more students value a goal, the more they’ll be motivated to pursue it. That seems obvious. The second is efficacy. If students feel like they’ll succeed, they’re more likely to be motivated to pursue something. That makes sense to me too. The third one, which is maybe less obvious, is the extent to which students perceive that their environment is supportive. It’s a very important factor. If, as you say, we’re asking students to take risks and significant learning does involve taking risks, they’ll be more motivated to pursue those risks if they feel like they’ll be supported if and when they fail. We want them to be comfortable with failure. We want to give them the sense that they’ll be supported. So, how do we do that? That to me is again, part of this opening weeks of a semester trying to cultivate trust. And part of that is through signaling to them at every turn that your intentions are for their benefit to help them, not because of your agenda. But part of that, I think, is also trying to cultivate a supportive community between students, among students, kind of apart from you. I mentioned in the book a number of times research by the sociologist Polly Fassinger who tried to sort of pin down what are the most important factors that govern why students participate in class. And what she found, maybe surprisingly, is that more important than anything that the professor does is the students’ sense of their peers as being a supportive group. And that makes sense to me, that students wouldn’t feel comfortable opening their mouths if they felt like they might be the object of fun or they felt like maybe they weren’t in the mainstream of the class. Again, a lot of this work is best done early in a semester. Cultivate community. Often that means trying to encourage students to bring in informal parts of their lives to class, get them to share bits of themselves, get them to, if not become friends, become comfortable with each other as people they can talk to and share an experience with. If I’ve got that, if I’ve got a class that seems to genuinely like each other, respects each other, wants to find out what other people are thinking might want to learn from each other, that makes my job so much easier. And I think most professors can think back to classes they’ve had where the students really gelled. And those to me are the best classes, and not just because it’s pleasant, but it seems to magnify the possibilities for learning if students want to be there, and usually what makes students want to be there is not that they like you so much, but that they like each other.

Fiona: Could you give us an example of a relatively community building activity you can do early in a semester?

David: Yeah, what I really like to do, and it does take a little bit of time, but I think it’s worth it. This is an idea that came from a colleague and friend of mine at the University of Iowa, Ben Hassman, he calls it question roll, and it’s a way to take attendance at the beginning of each class. And it’s certainly easier with a smaller class, but you can do it with larger classes with a little bit of finagling. Instead of just calling out people’s names, you ask a question, and you go around the room and everyone has to answer the question as their way to signal that they’re there. And the best way to do it is for these questions to be absolutely easy to answer. They should be like “What is your favorite movie?” or “What’s something that your parents cooked for you when you were a kid that you have fond memories of?” And so they’re often informal. I like to make them have nothing to do with class content. You can, of course, make them be lead-ins to discussion, but I like to give students an opportunity to speak up that is so easy that they’ll speak up. Basically, I think there’s something that happens after someone speaks up for the first time in a class period that makes it more easy for subsequent times. So, that’s one reason to do it. The other thing is that if you do it regularly, students get to know each other, they remember that so and so likes spaghetti. They remember that so and so likes comic book movies. And so that’s a kind of easy ritual that helps students bring a little bit of their outside lives into the class. And again, signals to them that this class might actually matter to those outside lives, class might be something that they want to do not just because they have to, but because it’s something central to their goals and ambitions.

Fiona: And I’d imagine that’s an approach that also includes you in that learning community, right? You learn?

David: Of course, I have to answer the question.

Fiona: One of the chapters in your book is devoted to what you call teaching the students in the room. Could you give us a little bit of an overview of that approach?

David: Sure. I do think that if there’s anything that teaching is about, it’s about helping particular people develop and learn. And so that is going to change. This is what I was talking about earlier, that’s going to change depending on the human beings in the room. And so I do think that as much as most professors are preparers and were good students themselves and like to do lots of preparation to make sure that they have every “T” crossed and “I” dotted before entering the classroom, there’s a limit to what you can do without meeting and understanding the people you’re going to teach. And again, it’s that idea of thinking of the students as the material rather than the course content or the text. So I do think it’s important that we do more than just tweak our teaching, depending on who’s in the room, but we try to leave a lot to the particular people we have in our classes.

John: One of the things you described is something I’ve been doing recently which is starting with a shell of a syllabus and letting the students pick some of the content on that. And I’ve done that to a varying degree, but I found a dramatic increase in the amount of student engagement when they have some say over the course concepts. Could you talk about some examples where you’ve used or heard good examples of that type of tactic?

David: Yeah, I do love that tactic as well. I recommend to faculty to make a list of things that they absolutely have to have in their courses that are non-negotiable that have to be in their classes, and things that aren’t on that list give to students to decide. This is, again, a way to get as you say, greater engagement, have students have a sense of ownership in the class. I’ve had real success when I taught a survey of American Literature. And I gave students as the assigned text one of these big Norton Anthologies of American literature, these huge 1200 page, very thin paged, big books of poems, and short stories, and excerpts from novels. And what I did was I left slots throughout the semester, throughout the calendar for poems, but I didn’t choose any poems, and I had each student assigned to a slot on the calendar and I said “On your slot, we are going to read the poem you choose. You’re going to introduce it for the class, talk maybe five minutes about it, but then we’re going to talk about it, you’re going to put it on the calendar.” You can do this with bigger classes through voting, through putting them in groups to choose, there are ways to do it. And then I had as the first writing assignment, the first essay for students to justify why they chose the poem. “Why should your classmates read this poem? What’s so good about it?” And the reason I loved how this worked in that particular class was one, of course, that it had that engagement that students owned part of the class, they had their little patch of land, but it also made them read the book. They had to look through this anthology that otherwise they would have just flipped to what I assigned, this made them browse and look for a poem that they could pick and I think it made them think about, “Well, what makes a good poem? What kinds of poems do I like?” Certainly, some students just picked very, very short poems, and we were grateful for that too. But I think students surprised themselves. They discovered things they wouldn’t have found otherwise. And they thought a little bit about, “Well, what’s my taste in poetry?” which is a wonderful thing to encourage, at least in my students. I’ve also had success, I do this all the time now, with letting students determine policies for the class. I do it all the time with technology policy, using technology in class. This is easy for me to give to students because I don’t care at all about what students do with their phones or laptops. I’m not a stickler, other professors feel differently, and that’s fine, of course. But that was an easy thing for me to offload to students because I don’t care. And what I found is that inevitably, students come up with a technology policy that is more strict than anything I would have come up with. I asked them to think about what really annoys them about people using phones in class and come up with regulations, and they tend to regulate pretty heavily when left to their own devices. And it works better if the rules are coming from them than from me. I just don’t like to play policeman, that’s not a role I’m suited for. So policy is a good thing to give to students, whether that’s a technology policy or late policies some professors do, they leave it to students to come up with. And that’s another thing where you’d be surprised that students are not that laissez faire. Some tend to be quite strict when they suggest late policies. But sort of going through your syllabus and looking for “What can I give to students to come up with?” And I think that you’ll see that there are sort of outsized effects from letting students decide. Student ownership is, I think, a really helpful concept for professors.

Fiona: And a totally practical question. So is this an activity you do on the first day, first week kind of thing? And then do you codify it in a formalized syllabus in some way?

David: Yes. So, usually, if I do a technology policy activity, it’ll be on the second day, it’ll be sometime in the first class periods. And what I usually do is I put them into small groups and have them brainstorm possible challenges with using technology in class and possible rules that they want. And I tell them I want them to think about their experiences as students, that they are veteran students, they’ll know probably better than I what comes up from a student’s point of view. And then I open up a document on the screen and I say, “Call out your suggestions.” And I type them as they call them out on their transcriber. And sometimes I have them vote if there are some things that are different, but often they kind of find consensus. I sort of try to guide a discussion, we find consensus. It’s a sort of constitutional document that I add to our learning management system. It lives there for everyone to see and I almost never need to refer to it. But there have been times where I do refer to and I say, “Let’s remember the rules we put in place.” And again, it helps that they’re not my rules. It helps enforcement if I can say “This is what you came up with, do we want to revise them? Maybe this doesn’t work anymore, that’s fine.” I would much rather be their learning coach, for lack of a better term, than to be Nurse Ratched in enforcing rules.

John: The only problem I’ve ever had with this strategy is the secretary keeps nagging me for a copy of the syllabus a week or two before the semester and I say “We won’t have a syllabus until after we meet” and I just open up a document which has the learning objectives and broad categories, and then we spend that first class period just working it all out.

David: I tend to make a distinction between the syllabus I give to the people upstairs and the sort of living document that governs what we do in the classroom. Some people make appendices to their syllabus. I think there’s things that the college needs to know, and I think that’s appropriate. And there’s things that the college doesn’t necessarily need to know.

Fiona: I wonder if I might turn the direction of our conversation towards the way that you talk about faculty and teachers themselves in this book, because many of the ideas: that learning is a process of revision, of challenging your preconceived notions about how something might work, you actually suggest that teachers themselves do the same sorts of processes in terms of their own experience as learners of teaching.

David: Yeah.

Fiona: Could you talk a little bit about how you ask people to revise their teaching?

David: Sure. I think you’re right that how I think about students learning influences how I think about giving advice to faculty on improving their teaching. And I think it’s important to remember that most of us did not have a rich education on how to teach. And so we sort of have to teach ourselves as we go, which does mean that it’s a process of revision. It’s also the nature of teaching that it’s such a complex pursuit. The product in question, the thing that is produced by our teaching, is spread out over a whole semester and diffused by how many students we have. And it’s very difficult to assess how well we did. And you can come out of a classroom thinking “That was a great class, I did wonderfully.” And you can come out of a class period thinking “Oh, that didn’t work well,” and equally have no idea why it worked or it didn’t. So, I do think it’s important for faculty to know that it’s a difficult process and to give attention to trying to assess, trying to evaluate, trying to stay on top of what they do that’s healthy and works, and what they do that doesn’t work. So, I do try to encourage what we might think of as good writing advice for teaching. And that’s thinking of a drafting process when coming up with a lesson plan, just as I tell my writing students to write a really bad draft as their first draft just to get something down, knowing that you’ll come back to it. I do the same thing with teachers I work with, I say, “First just fill the class period. Come up with a class period and then try to be critical in looking at what you came up with. Does that meet your goals? Does that do what you think students should be doing? Does that engage students?” And keep going back to and going back to it. The other thing that I think is really important is after a class period, or after a unit, or certainly after a semester, writing down how you think it went before you forget. I find that, especially in August for a fall semester, but even in January, if I’m teaching something I taught before, I am always kicking myself for not having taken good notes on how I changed things from what I wrote down, because our lesson plans don’t often survive a class period intact. And so trying to keep good notes, trying to see teaching as a sort of career long pursuit that you’ll benefit from having an archive of notes to self. Just sort of developing those habits I think are really important. I try to be aware of this whenever I talk teaching, but certainly when I was writing the book, that most faculty members are, without a doubt, overworked and underpaid, and almost without exception, not given enough credit or time for their teaching. And so I think it’s all the more important that we try to come up with strategies that help us to be better teachers that don’t keep us up all night grading, and that don’t add to our considerable anxiety and stress. I think we need to sort of navigate within what’s still a pretty unfair system for most faculty members when giving advice. So I really try to be aware of that.

John: Talking about that issue of the effort required for grading, you do recommend giving students the right kind of feedback. Could you talk a little bit about how we can do that? We know that students benefit from having feedback. But the more feedback we give students, the more time it requires. What type of feedback would be most helpful for students without overburdening faculty with the work of grading?

David: That’s a really good question. I think the most effective feedback comes at a time when students can still use it. So, too often I think we give students feedback after the fact, we give students feedback on their essays or on their assignments when we give them their grade, and then we’re already moving on to another unit. Often, because of time constraints, it might take us a month to grade a paper. And we’ve already moved on for a month to another unit when we’re giving them feedback on something they did last month. And so that can tell them a little bit. But most students, it doesn’t help them that much to find out that a month ago, they made an error with a too long paragraph or something. So I really try to give students feedback while they’re still working on something. And so the way to do this without doubling your work is to give them much less feedback after the fact. So I think it’s entirely appropriate to give just a grade and very minimal feedback at the end, if you give lots of feedback in the middle. So when I teach writing, I have all of my students, for their essays, they have to turn in a rough draft, and this is after a number of checkpoints where they’re working on components, but they turn in a rough draft at a midway point. And I meet with them one-on-one. Again, this is something that can be adjusted for bigger classes. But I try to give them feedback at that point, like really extensive feedback. That’s where they hear from me the most. And why that’s effective is, well one, because they still haven’t gotten a grade, there’s still something they can do with the feedback, but two, it allows me to be much more of a coach rather than evaluator. And that’s where, at least personally, where my strengths as a teacher lie. I’m much worse at justifying a grade than I am at giving advice on how to improve work. So I never answer in those conferences, questions like “What grade do you think this will be?” Or if they ask me that, I say, “Well, it’s not done yet. This is a draft, I don’t grade rough drafts. Here’s what I think you need to do for this to be better.” I try to sort of strenuously resist being evaluator there. But I do think looking for ways that you can shift when you give feedback to earlier in the process can help you keep that feedback formative. I think it’s useful to have this distinction between formative feedback, which is feedback designed to teach, designed to help students grow and learn, and summative feedback, which is feedback designed to deliver a verdict on their performance. Summative feedback is important. Certainly an engaged student will want to know whether their work met the grade. Certainly we have institutional pressures that want us to give them a summative grade at the end of the semester. But to me, formative feedback is so much more valuable, it is teaching rather than just grading. And so looking for ways whenever possible to make our grading formative, I think, is good practice.

John: Do you recommend giving some sort of light grading though, even just “They completed this or not” just to provide incentives for those who may not be as intrinsically motivated?

David: For sure. 34:21 Yeah, I think that can help. I think that it’s worth considering the ways that our grading policy, like how much weight we give to each element of the course itself, is a rhetorical signal that tells students what we value and so I think, unless you’re able to do away with grades altogether, and most of us are not because of our institutions, it’s worth looking for ways to use that to help us teach, for sure. And extrinsic motivation is not worthless, even as most people, I think depend on it too much. But if you’ve got the grades yeah, I try to use them strategically.

Fiona: Could I ask about the chapter which you’ve entitled Teaching in Tumultuous Times, which in many ways pulls together all of the threads we’ve been discussing. What it means to meet students where they are, what it means to work as a learning coach in order to develop long-term, perhaps civic oriented ways of being in the world, but also opens up into issues of inclusivity in teaching and what it might mean for teaching to be a space in which we can actively address some of the more alarming directions that the world is tending at the moment. Could you talk about teaching in tumultuous times?

David: Yes, I believe very strongly that teaching matters. And I believe that because of my experience in the classroom. I really think that the transformations that can happen through working closely with young people are real, and they are incredibly meaningful to me. And once I realized that teaching is the pursuit of helping people develop, or change, or learn, it then became inevitable that I’d have to be committed to helping every single student develop, or change, or learn. And I recognize that I am not going to be successful in reaching every single student, but my practice needs to be committed to helping every single student. So what that means on the one hand is student centered teaching, as we’ve been talking about what that means, on the other hand, is looking closely at our status quo of teaching and realizing that it doesn’t serve every student equally well. I think it is decidedly the case that our normal way of teaching rewards students who can navigate the school environment, it rewards students who have better preparation, it rewards students who are mentally healthy. It rewards students who are physically capable and we want to ask ourselves, “Is this what we want to promote in our classrooms?” It’s not what I want to promote. And so that sort of led me into thinking about inclusive teaching practices, which I talk about not nearly long enough in that chapter, but as part of that chapter. I do think if we’re committed to helping every student learn, we need to think about making our classrooms more accessible. We need to think about practices that unwittingly, unwittingly, privileged students who have had better schooling, we need to think about ways that we are reproducing inequality. The other part of that chapter, or one other part of that chapter, has to deal with talking about politics in the classroom. And to me these things go together in a sense, because they are, as you implied with your question, they’re kind of about taking responsibility, or seeing that teaching does produce changes in our students and trying to be responsible for creating citizens. And I think that’s kind of a difficult pill for some professors to swallow, who say, “Well I teach chemistry. I don’t produce political thinkers,” but I do think that we have more influence than we know. And it’s worth thinking about what kinds of thinking we’re encouraging in our students. For those times when politics do come up, and they do come up more frequently than you think, it’s worth thinking through what we’re trying to achieve and what we’re trying to avoid. What really helped me in writing about politics in the classroom, and you’ll know this if you’ve read the book, is coming across some material from philosophy of education on the concept of indoctrination. And I really like this because indoctrination is one thing that everyone can agree we don’t want to do. And so it helped me to clarify my thinking to get clear on what we’re trying to avoid. So there are a number of philosophers who have worked to define more closely this concept of indoctrination, and what they’ve come up with is that indoctrination requires us to use our authority to inculcate an uncritically adopted belief. And so keeping that in mind that we have authority that can be used for ill, and that we want to avoid as students adopting beliefs without examining evidence without being critical. That helps me think about how I do want to talk about politics. So I want to privilege open mindedness rather than closed mindedness. I want to foster students to have more control rather than me having the control, I want to work against the authority that I might have. So things like that, I think, came out in that chapter. It’s a chapter that I get asked about probably most of all, I think these are subjects that are on a lot of teachers minds. And I think for good reason.

Fiona: The other piece of this puzzle is, of course, how the authority you just described that inheres in the figure of the teacher in some way in the classroom is itself not evenly distributed. So different sorts of teachers do and don’t match students’ ideas of what an authority figure is, what a professor looks like, what a teacher looks like.

David: Absolutely. Right.

Fiona: And so I wonder if you could talk a little bit about how these techniques you suggest also are risky?

David: Yes.

Fiona: For professors or for teachers who are already themselves in some way at risk just by trying to be in a classroom in the role that we call teacher.

David: Yeah, I think that there’s a real problem in advice given to teachers that ignores the many kinds of teachers that there are and ignores the, the huge differences in power that belong to different kinds of teachers. I learned this very vividly when I worked with grad instructors, all novice instructors, particularly young women struggle with authority in the classroom with students not respecting them, with students openly challenging them. And it’s something that I think we need to take very seriously. So it’s worth remembering that there’s no one size fits all teaching advice. You need to take a teaching approach that works for you particularly as a teacher. But it’s also worth remembering that no matter how powerless any one faculty member feels, institutional realities ensure that students have less power, at least within the institution. There are many other kinds of power, and those are real as well. But as long as we have the power to grade students and the power to fail students, we have to remember that giving students more control, giving students more power where we can, is almost always going to benefit us, no matter our position. And so that’s a difficult thing to get across, particularly for me as a white man, relatively healthy, relatively young, though that’s less and less each day. So I do try to be aware of that, that what works for me is not going to work for every teacher. And that’s pretty clear to me. And so no teaching approach is going to work if it makes the faculty member uncomfortable, if it makes the faculty member feel like they’re going to lose the room, as it were. So this is things that anyone who gives advice, which I guess it’s something that I’m doing professionally now needs to keep in mind, for sure.

Fiona: It also points to the importance of collaboration and community building among teachers, which is something that all of your work points towards, and your suggestion that we take co-teaching opportunities if they come along, or at the very least sit in on each other’s classes.

David: Yes.

Fiona: Which is something that I don’t think we think about as an actual pedagogical strategy.

David: Yes.

Fiona: But which seems so, so important, both in terms of what you described, which is seeing the classroom from the students’ perspective, but also seeing another teacher…

David: Absolutely.

Fiona:… In their environment dealing with what they’re dealing.

David: Yeah, I often think that so many of the problems that afflict teaching as a profession, so many of the reasons why teaching isn’t taken seriously as a discipline. So many of the reasons why students and learning is not understood as well as it should be, has to do with how private connectivity teaching is, how thick our classroom walls are. And actually the traditional independence of tenured faculty, which tells everyone else to stay away and “don’t tell me how to teach.” I do think that we do ourselves a disservice when we don’t pay attention to community, where we don’t try to learn from other people who are doing the same thing we do. Almost every other profession tries to take advantage of this. And so it’s a really strange and terrible tradition that we don’t get in the habit of seeing other teachers. It’s really amazing actually that you can go your whole career as a professional teacher and never, unless you’ve been required to evaluate someone for promotion, never see the inside of someone else’s classroom.

John: We’re starting to introduce an activity this semester where faculty will sit in on other people’s classes and then get together informally, and I think more and more colleges are doing that, but it is a relatively recent phenomenon. And I think it’s one we can all benefit from. One of the things you suggest, and we just talked about a little bit, is breaking down some of the barriers caused by that authority figure in the room. One of the ways you recommend doing that is by letting people know that you don’t know things.

David: Yes.

John: Could you talk a little bit about that strategy?

David: Yeah. And this is something that I often get pushback from faculty of color, from women faculty, but I get a lot of mileage out of self deprecation as a teacher. And again, this isn’t gonna work for everybody. But I do think that in that pursuit of students feeling like they own the class, part of that has to be me, giving up some of my ownership. It doesn’t need to mean inviting disrespect, but it does, to me at least, mean showing students one that I don’t know everything, which is pretty easy, for me at least, but two, that learning is a process and that you’re never done. And it’s not just that I’m not so smart, but that anyone, no matter how much they’ve learned, they’ve got more to go, and they’re going to make mistakes, and they want to keep learning. So I’m trying to encourage this to my students. A lot of it comes from being a parent actually and trying to encourage this in my children, this idea that I can always learn more and that curiosity is the best engine. So I do try to model uncertainty. This is quite common advice, but I do tell faculty all the time that it’s very powerful to tell students “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” When students ask something, to not feel the need to pretend like you know everything, I think, is really powerful and can take away, in fact, some of that anxiety that young instructors have about being found out, which is something I certainly felt very strongly when I was starting out. If you take away from your concept of teacher this idea that you have to be the supreme authority, it can actually, maybe paradoxically, increase your authority a little bit because you’re no longer aiming so high. You don’t need to know quite so much. You can be a sort of fellow searcher with your students. And that’s a great place to be, where you’re part of that community of looking for answers of learning. You can model along the way for them.

John: And you could also work with them perhaps in trying to explore how you would find an answer to model that more explicitly and get them involved in finding the answers themselves.

Fiona: That sounds great.

John: One of the problems we had in preparing for this is in reading through the book, there were just so many wonderful things that we wanted to discuss that it could have taken days to go through all of this.

David: That is wonderful to hear. Thanks for saying so.

Fiona: We do end by asking “What’s next?”

David: I’m very excited about what I’ve been working on. I’m working on what I see as my next book. We’ll see if it gets there. But I’ve been thinking more and more about what I think of as one of the most important and most persistent problems in higher education, which is inequality of outcomes. We still have quite shocking completion rates in America. These numbers can vary depending on how you measure or what you’re looking at. But typically 70% of all White students in universities graduate within six years. That number for Black students is 40%, which is shockingly low, I think. For Hispanic students it’s at 50%. We see similar gaps for first generation students, we see similar gaps for students with disabilities. We see similar gaps for academic achievement for women in STEM still, we see similar gaps for low income students. So it’s something that I’m looking at in my research. Most universities are aware of this problem and are tackling it, or trying to tackle it, in one way or another with diversity and inclusion initiatives. And what’s really interesting to me is that for the most part, these initiatives don’t tackle teaching. They very often target students support networks. There are financial incentives, of course, but they don’t really tackle teaching. And I guess my intuition is that there’s a lot we can do in the classroom to affect these outcomes. My initial research so far has borne that out, that actually there’s been quite a lot of research in the scholarship of teaching and learning in the past decade on narrowing academic achievement gaps within particular classes. And I guess my running thesis is that by changing teaching approaches, we can do something about these broader completion gaps. So that’s the big picture project. I do think it’ll take a number of years to turn into a book, but that’s where I’m working right now. And I’m finding it very exciting, I think it’s something that’s really important.

Fiona: Your work is exciting and inspiring to us, we look forward to hearing about the developments in this newest direction.

David: Right, thanks so much.

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John: If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast service. To continue the conversation, join us on our Tea for Teaching Facebook page.

Rebecca: You can find show notes, transcripts and other materials on teaforteaching.com. Music by Michael Gary Brewer. Editing assistance provided by Brittany Jones and Savannah Norton.

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