Teaching Internship – Week 2

Busy week! Trying really hard to understand how the textbook’s companion website works.  It contains resource materials and activities to reinforce the concepts that are presented in the textbook and in the class lectures and discussions. The primary purpose for this material is formative assessment. The instructor can select activities and assessments, and make them available to students. Students can review the material, take quizzes and submit them to the instructor to assess how well they are comprehending the course material. It sounds good, but the website is not very intuitive. So far, I have set up the course and created instructions for students to enroll in it. I have begun reviewing the materials that are available and trying to figure out which ones would be most beneficial for the students in our course. The difficulty is that I’m not sure exactly what the students see and how they see it.

To that end, I spent a little bit of time at the beginning of the second class session talking to the students about the site and asking them to try my instructions and see what they can access before the next class. One student mentioned that she had already tried to get into the site and needed an access code. Since she had purchased a used textbook, she didn’t think she had the required code. Ugh. An unexpected roadblock on top of the already non-user-friendly website. Something to investigate after class. I told students I would check into things and send them an update via email.

Class 1 had ended early, so Class 2 was the first full session (2 hours and 40 minutes). It started off with another example from Education Week: an article on a study about bullying. It served as the springboard for a discussion about quantitative vs. qualitative research. Dr. M asked students to divide into groups of 3-4 and brainstorm about characteristics that are associated with each approach. Then we went around the room and asked them to begin listing their responses one at time while I wrote the lists on the whiteboard.

After the activity, Dr. M gave a short lecture on the historical roots of quantitative and qualitative research, which he concluded by stating that all research (even quantitative) is qualitative because researchers make decisions about measures, and all decisions require judgement.

For the next part of class, the small groups skimmed short research articles and tried to find the purpose and research questions in each study. Dr. M and I circulated among the groups and answered questions. Following this activity, Dr. M gave another short lecture on variables. This content included more vocabulary terms: types of variables (independent vs. dependent), levels of measurement (categorical, continuous, etc.), extraneous and confounding variables, and how the variable type relates to experimental vs. non-experimental research. It was pretty clear that this terminology was confusing for many of the students. We were nearing the end of class, and I wondered whether fatigue was having an effect.

Dr. M and I met the next day to debrief. We talked about his strategy of breaking the class down into smaller units of time and interspersing activities with discussions and lectures or presentation of new content. We talked about the confusion near the end of class and what might be ways of gauging whether students were grasping new concepts. Dr. M has not used clickers since most of his classes are small, but we talked about the benefits and how they could be useful, even for graduate-level classes. As an alternative, I suggested that we might do some electronic surveys periodically to assess learning after a class session.

Later in the week, I was finally able to sort out the issues with the companion website. Apparently, access to the website is not included with the textbook… even when purchased new. It is an add-on that must be specifically requested by the instructor when the textbook is ordered. Since this wasn’t made clear at the beginning of the course, Dr. decided that it was not practical to try and use the site this semester. Although I can see the potential benefits of the website as a resource, it seems like a lot of work and maybe not the best use of my time as an instructor. It’s also an additional expense for students ($31) on top of an already expensive textbook. Al things considered, I don’t think it’s a resource I will try to use next semester.

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