Starting Small: Small Steps That Can Build Large Change

Jill Nelson, Craig Lorie, Margret Hjalmarson

Session Information

Year: 2018 | Time: 1:00pm-1:40pm | Location: MINI WORKSHOP: Johnson Center (Room F)

Abstract

BRIEF SESSION DESCRIPTION:

This session is designed to introduce participants to ideas and resources for making small changes to their teaching that help them move toward a student-centered model. Facilitators will lead participants through the process of describing challenges/needs in their classrooms and identifying small, research-supported strategy (small change) that can address those needs in their course. After attending the session, participants will have identified at least one research-supported strategy (small change) that they can incorporate in their teaching to address a challenge or need in their course. Participants will also be aware of resources (books, websites, video series) to help them continue the process of identifying and implementing small changes. Finally, they will be connected to colleagues who are also interested in making small changes and can provide support and accountability moving forward. (We'd be thrilled if new teaching development groups emerged from the session.)

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FULL ABSTRACT:

Instructors often wonder how to make their teaching more effective, in particular how to engage students with content and promote class interaction. While motivated to improve student learning and engagement, instructors are reluctant to take on a full course overhaul that is often prohibitively time intensive and introduces many possible points of failure. This session is designed to introduce participants to ideas and resources for making small changes to their teaching that help them move toward a student-centered model. The motivation for small changes is drawn from instructors’ experience with teaching development groups that were established as part of an NSF-funded project focused on improving undergraduate STEM teaching. These groups were designed to study the SIMPLE Design model for teaching development: groups should be Sustainable, focus on Incremental change, include Mentoring, be People-driven, emphasize interactive Learning Environments, and have a design focus. 

More information about the project can be found on the project website: simple.onmason.com.

 

The incremental change principle, which we propose to highlight in this session, means that the changes made by instructors do not have to be large, but successful change can have slowly, over a long period of time. One of the session facilitators is a model example of the effects of incremental change. Over a four-year period, he has shifted from a lecture-driven format relying on Powerpoint-based presentations to now planning a class with minimal lecture comprised almost entirely of small group problem solving, and with content and practice resources provided before class via Blackboard. This dramatic shift required small changes over multiple semesters for the instructor to feel comfortable planning for the new format. In this session, this instructor will share his experience as we lead participants through the process of describing challenges/needs in their classrooms and identifying small, research-supported changes that can address those needs. As part of facilitating the “small change” planning process for participants, session facilitators will share resources for learning about simple strategies that can be integrated in one’s teaching without requiring a course overhaul.

 

After attending the session, participants will have identified at least one research-supported strategy (small change) that they can incorporate in their teaching to address a challenge or need in their course. Participants will also be aware of resources (books, websites, video series) to help them continue the process of identifying and implementing small changes. Finally, they will be connected to colleagues who are also interested in making small changes and can provide support and accountability moving forward. (We'd be thrilled if new teaching development groups emerged from the session.)

Keywords

active learning; active learning classrooms; student motivation; critical thinking; problem-based learning

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