Developing Discipline-Related Teaching Strategies

**This is part of the requirements of the Certificate in College Teaching Competency 1, details about the program can be read here**

Course: An Introduction to Evidence Based Undergraduate Teaching

Completed: Fall 2014

Description: The “Developing Discipline-Related Teaching Strategies” competency’s goal is to help graduate students overcome issues and challenges in our specific discipline. There are many challenges that we face as new professors entering Anthropology, and more specifically Archaeology.  One of the major challenges of teaching Archaeology is actively engaging students while teaching in the classroom. Archaeology is best taught in the field or the lab with small groups actively learning how to use archaeological methods by practicing them for themselves. However, most introductory archaeology courses are taught in large classrooms, and students don’t get the hands-on active experience. In addition to this, there are many misconceptions about what archaeology is due to popular media. Students come into these courses equating archaeology with Indiana Jones like concepts of looting or don’t understand its relevance (or importance) to modern day society.

“An Introduction to Evidence Based Undergraduate Teaching” was a Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) course, taught by Derek Bruff, Trina McMahon, Bennett Goldberg and Rique Campa as part of the Coursera online teaching platform. The course was designed to provide graduate students and post-doctoral fellows who are planning college and university faculty careers with an introduction to evidence-based teaching practices. Participants in the program learned effective teaching strategies and the background research that supports them, and how to apply these strategies to lessons and assignments that can be used in future teaching opportunities.

Over 7 weeks, we learned a number of topics including principles of active learning, how to design effective learning experience for students by using backwards design, creating active and cooperative learning experiences, motivating student learning, and creating lesson plans, assignments and activities that are aligned with the broader course goals. Learning about these strategies to create more active and engaging classrooms, as well as design courses that are coherent and well-aligned, can help address the specific challenges face in Archaeology classrooms of lack of engagement and misconceptions.

Artifacts and Rationale:

Syllabus: Course Description and Links to Syllabus

This course was a MOOC, and is still available to view online. The link above will take you to the website that has a description and link to the syllabus.

Artifact: Completion Certificate for An Introduction to Evidence Based Undergraduate Teaching

Rationale: Relates each artifact to your own description of the competency, explains why it demonstrates a specific skill or ability you have identified

In order to earn a Statement of Accomplishment, participants needed to earn at least a 70% average on weekly quizzes, each quiz weighted equally and participate in discussions. The Statement of Accomplishment demonstrates that the receiver has completed the course. This artifact demonstrates that I was an active participant in the course, and I have included further evidence to demonstrate what I learned and how I will apply these strategies to my own teaching.

Materials Developed During the Course and Rationale:

Material: Popplet Concept Map for ANP 203: Introduction to Archaeology

Rationale: This concept map is evidence of two important lessons we learned in this course: creating an aligned course through backwards design and helping students understand how knowledge is connected in the course. Both of these methods are crucial for developing courses that are well-designed to promote student understand and fix misconceptions.

Throughout the course, the instructors stressed the importance of having a well-aligned and coherent course outline with clear goals and objectives. This is the first step in taking a backwards design approach to teaching. By creating a concept map of the course goals, we can better structure each individual lecture, activities and exams. This ensures that students are learning the important concepts in a way that will help them succeed in the class and maintain their knowledge.

Further, in Module 1, Principle #2, we learned that students who can make more concrete relationships between concepts do better overall in the course they are taking. Therefore, if we give students structure to their knowledge they are more likely to remember the concepts. As part of this, it was suggested that we create concept maps that show how the different lesson objectives connect to the broader course goals. By using concept maps, the teacher makes their knowledge structure apparent to help students understand how things relate and improves their big picture understanding.

Creating a concept map has been extremely helpful for teaching ANP 203: Introduction to Archaeology. First, it allows me to link each class to the broader course goals and clarifies what is the most important message that students should be getting from weekly lectures, activities and assignments. Second, it helps students understand how each individual lesson relates to the broader goals of the course, and what materials they need to focus on to be successful. I used the concept map when designing the course and use it for each class. In addition to this, students have access to the concept map so they can see how the concepts taught in each lecture relate to the broader discipline, they know what to expect, and what important material they need to know for the exams. Most importantly, these concept maps show students exactly what Archaeology is and why it is important.

Material: ANP 203: January 28, 2015 In Class Activity

Lesson Plan for ANP 203: January 28

Slides for ANP 203: January 28

Rationale: As part of the course, we were taught the importance of using cooperative and problem based learning to improve student comprehension, build community, and create a learning environment that is more similar to real-world working conditions. Cooperative learning is the use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and each other’s learning. Students become active participants in their own learning, rather than being more passive in lecture-style learning. Problem based learning allows students to actively use their knowledge to solve real-world problems in a manner that is collaborative. It shows the value of learning the material, develops critical thinking and requires active engagement with the problem. This helps us solve the problem of having to teach an inherently active discipline in a lecture setting, as well as address misconceptions about archaeology’s value by showing how it can help solve real-world problems.

In Module 5, we learned some strategies for successfully implementing this type of cooperative and problem based learning into our classrooms. This included creating scaffolds for learning by structuring the problem in a manner that allowed supported student growth, providing students with time to process the material learned, encouraging open discussion of solutions and ideas, intersperse the lecture with discussing and problem solving, and demonstrate how this relates to real-world problems they may face in this discipline. Think-Pair-Share style discussions were proposed as being an effective method for cooperative learning that could break up lectures and support problem-based learning.

For ANP 203: Introduction to Archaeology, I designed a lesson plan that integrated these principles learned from this module. Students were told that they were being ‘hired’ by an archaeological firm to help investigate a colonial burial found in Leavy Creek. The lesson proceeded with short lectures to introduce the data, and Think-Pair-Share cooperative learning activities to use the knowledge from the lecture to interpret the colonial burial. Over the hour and twenty minute course, the students helped each other to interpret the burial and provide evidence to support their interpretations. The activity was structured so that there were four lectures and three Think-Pair-Share discussions to interpret the data from the lecture. Interpretations became increasingly difficult and built off prior knowledge gained from each level of interpretation as the lesson proceeded. It was a highly successful activity. The attached lesson plan documents the lectures and the work that the students produced as part of it. This activity demonstrates how I was able to integrate what I learned into my teaching.

Reflection: 

This course greatly shaped the design of my course ANP 203: Introduction to Archaeology, which I taught the semester after taking “An Introduction to Evidence Based Undergraduate Teaching”. Prior to this course, I was unsure how to develop a class that would be engaging and effective. This gave me a set of tools and strategies to ensure that my course goals were aligned with the lectures, activities, assignments and exams. Despite the large size of the course, it has been highly successful in creating an environment where students are active members of the class. The concept map has been highly useful for myself as a tool for aligning each lesson, activity and test, and I can use it in each class to show them how the materials they are learning today relate to the broader concepts in the course. For the students, it is useful for understanding expectations and studying for the exams. They can see how each class is relevant, and how the materials learned relate to previous and future classes. By using cooperative and problem-based learning strategies, the students are more involved in their own learning and have a better understanding of how archaeological knowledge is produced. Throughout the course, I have used the concept of students being ‘hired’ by an archaeological firm as a way to show them how archaeologists solve problems as part of a collaborative team, and how the knowledge they are learning directly relates to real work problems. During an informal survey that was issued during their midterm, many of the students cited these activities as being beneficial to their learning and requested more for the second half of the semester.

My overall goal in this course is that students will come away with an appreciation for archaeology and an understanding of its importance. By having an active, engaging, aligned and coherent class, that emphasizes the same values throughout, I know that I can achieve those goals. Archaeology will always be a discipline that is best learned in the field or in the lab- but by taking an approach towards teaching that uses real world problems and cooperative learning, we can simulate that lab and field environment, and at least help students decide if they want to take that next step into the discipline.

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