Things I didn’t try beforehand and that still worked out well: asking participants to brainstorm what students do who perform well in their courses, what less successful students do, collecting & clustering keywords for both on the whiteboard, and then projecting a picture from our Active Divers freediving training on top to stress the point that it is a surface APPROACH and deep APPROACH to learning, and rather than an inert quality in a student, that it’s often a strategic decision which one is being used (and a surface approach might be the strategic choice in many cases!), and that instruction can encourage one — or the other.
Category Archives: method
Automated subtitles in pptx presentations are so easy and super good! How did I not know about this before?
I just tried automated subtitles in pptx slides and they are SO GOOD!!! I had known for quite a while that this option exists, but had so many excuses for why I wasn’t using it. Like English isn’t my first language, pptx will probably not understand me anyway… But turns out that it does, and it works beautifully, I am so impressed! Just go to “slide show”, tick “always show subtitles”, and then, optionally, choose the input AND OUTPUT language. That’s right — it can also translate in real time! I tested with German and English and it is SO IMPRESSIVE! We’ve had a lot of discussions about whether it is more accessible to teach in Swedish or English* and now this discussion is moot — we can easily have both at the same time!
Now the one thing I need to figure out is how to capture the closed captions and save the transcript as a text file (so it’s searchable). Does anyone have any advice?
“The Biodiversity Collage” — a fun and collaborative workshop to explore the biodiversity crisis, but leave hopeful and ready to tackle the challenge
My awesome LTH colleague Léa Lévy invited me to a workshop she was doing with some of her colleagues yesterday, where we played a serious game on biodiversity in order to test if it might work as a teaching tool in their context. The game, “The Biodiversity Collage“, is about collaboratively organizing a growing deck of cards on different aspects of biodiversity: what biodiversity depends on, how we as humans make use of it in different ways, how our actions put pressures on the system, and what consequences those pressures ultimately lead to.
When talking about our negative experiences, it’s good to use the third person
In a workshop here at LTH led by Peter Felten in December, I wrote down something he said after having asked participants to think about stories of personal experiences to exemplify a point, and that was to talk about positive experiences using “I”, and negative ones using the third person, because that’s “psychologically better” (even though it might seem weird). I was thinking about this today planning a workshop I am giving soon, and wanted to back up the “psychologically better” part of my own instruction of talking in the third person with some research. Long story short (mainly because I only read a lot of abstracts and hence don’t want to actually cite any article I didn’t read…) — a quick google scholar search totally supports the “psychologically better” on many different measures in many different studies: higher life satisfaction, lower hostility, increased feeling of agency, less emotional pain. So there really seems to be something to it, and even though I can’t point to the One Study or fully understand the mechanisms (more than that self-distancing seems to be good to provide more perspective and overview), I’ll definitely follow his example, and pass on his advice!
“Doughnut Rounds” (after Fleiszer et al., 1997)
A great teaching method that engages students with literature, and that Cathy Bovill recently introduced me to, are “doughnut rounds”: Students (or workshop participants) are asked to read an article and formulate a certain number of questions, that are then discussed in groups. This leads to people being able to fill in gaps in their understanding (for example due to superficial reading…) and to general engagement with the topic.
Designing postcards to inspire discussion about co-creation methods
One deliverable in our #CoCreatingGFI project (which has a new website! Check it out here!) are a set of postcards to share our experiences with co-creation with other teachers and students — to invite discussions and inspire them to adapt the ideas for their own purposes. And we have designed the first five now! Click on images below for pdf downloads (The backsides contain space for all the usual postcard stuff [i.e. address and a message], plus a short explanatory text, and link & QR code to the website).
A quick introduction to Cooperative Learning (summarizing Anja Møgelvang’s workshop)
Yesterday morning, we had a very interesting “teaching breakfast” as part of #CoCreatingGFI: Anja Møgelvang introduced us to Cooperative Learning. Anja is a PhD student at the Center for Excellence in Biology teaching BioCEED, and in addition has 15 years of experience in high school teaching, and 5 in teacher education, so who better suited to talk about this?
Cooperative Learning (CL) is a highly structured method (and not to be confused with the much less structured collaborative learning) – the teacher sets very clear rules around how groups form, how students work together in groups, how tasks are structured and shared. The goal is to create “positive interdependence”, i.e. structuring groups and tasks in such a way that students depend on each other in order to complete the assignments, and on “individual accountability”, i.e. making sure that there is no social loafing.
Choosing technical terminology that does not make people feel excluded or uncomfortable
A colleague recently sent me a great article by Peter Kirn: “So yeah, let’s just use plug and socket — industry group recommends obvious change in terminology“. In the article, it is pointed out that the “male” and “female” terminology, referring to and how cables are connected together, is problematic and should be avoided in any environment that wants to feel welcoming to everybody, and that there are alternative terms readily available that are not any less clear, but don’t evoke uncomfortable feelings in people. This prompted me to do a search on other terms that might have similar negative effects on other people and that I might not be aware of, and here are a couple of my take-aways first of technical terms, and later of general everyday language. I especially enjoyed the website https://itconnect.uw.edu/work/inclusive-language-guide/, which seems comprehensive and does provide alternative terminology along with explanations for why terms are problematic in the first place (and there were some terms on that list where I had absolutely no idea where they originated from!). I’m thinking about this in different categories:
A lot of terminology in academia is really ableist once you start thinking about it, for example a “(double-)blind review“. Instead of implying that blindness equals ignorance, speaking about an anonymous review, or one where the reviewers do not know whose article they are reviewing, would be much more to the point of what that term is actually trying to express. Also if we speak about someone who is “blind to something”, a better way to express that might be to talk about them being clueless or ignorant.
Similarly, the “dummy” in “dummy variable” comes from the historical use of “dummy” for someone who cannot speak, and who was then assumed to be less intelligent.
And do you sometimes feel like you need a “sanity check“? Or did you actually want to know whether your perception and/or reaction to something is appropriate, instead of implying that mental illness makes people wrong?
Race / ethnicity / nationality / religion
There is a lot of terminology that is racially insensitive and perpetuating stereotypes of black = bad and white = good, for example “black list” for deny lists (in contrast to a “white list” for the allow list), or a “black box” for a box where we don’t know what’s going on inside (in contrast to a white box, where it is transparent).
Speaking about “master/slave” is obviously problematic, and an easy fix is to speak about a main and secondary program/file.
While these are fairly obvious once we start thinking along those lines, there were others that I had no idea about. For example “no can do“: I thought that was just a fun way of saying “I cannot do it”. Turns out it is imitating Chinese Pidgin English and stems from a very racist time. Not something that I will use in the future!
Another example: I never thought about how a “mantra” has spiritual and religious importance to some people, so using it as abbreviation for “a phrase I often say to myself” is really not ok.
And then there are many more examples of phrases that I would use to show off my familiarity with English phrases, but that are related to the colonial history in the US, and that, on second thought, are actually not helpful for communication (especially in global English when communicating with people in a multicultural team). They are not actually literally expressing the essence of what I want to say, but rather assume some common understanding of what phrases and figures of speech mean (when my understanding was clearly not as good as it should have been in order for me to use these phrases!). Examples of that are “taking the cake” (which comes from pre-Civil War show competitions of enslaved people!!), or even “brown-bag lunches“, where it would be so much better to talk about “bring your own food” meetings at lunchtime, for example, instead of evoking the association of brown paper bags to determine whose skin colour is on the lighter or darker side of that.
Gender / sexual orientation
This is a field that I am very much aware of and that I’m often calling people out on: “man hours” could very easily be “person hours” or “engineer hours”, a “chairman” is a “chair person”, “manning” a work station could just be “working”, “staffing”, or “taking care of” it. Just yesterday someone was talking about “mankind”, and I shouted “humankind”.
Another term that I saw on a list of things to avoid (which I can’t find again now) is “grooming”, as in “backlog grooming”, because it might evoke not just brushing a dog’s fur or clipping its nails (as it does to me), but also grooming that predators do to children. “Taking care of”, “cleaning up”, … there are many alternative that don’t potentially evoke negative reactions!
Another thing I wasn’t really aware of before is how often unnecessarily violent language is being used. For example someone might talk about how they are “killing it“, when saying that they are doing a good job, or exceeding expectations, is expressing the same sentiment in a more precise way, evoking less of a strong-man macho culture.
Or think about “aborting” or “terminating” a child process. Is it really necessary to evoke the imagery and emotions related to abortion, when you could just as easily cancel, stop, end, force quit a process?
So what now?
This was a very interesting excursion into the world of inclusive language for me, and I am much more aware of what I (and others) say than I was before. But what next? How to share this knowledge and awareness without calling people out in a way that just makes them defensive and doesn’t actually get them to think? Yesterday in a workshop, someone was talking about how someone else was “blind to something”. I echoed back what they said, using clueless and ignorant as synonyms, and they took on that suggestion and seemed happy with it. Maybe, since the workshop was on microaggressions, that was enough to make them and the other participants notice and think about how they equated “blind” with “ignorant”. Maybe it also wasn’t. But then how big a deal do we want to make out of language in the moment, potentially distracting from and derailing a conversation that focusses on other, equally important issues? My personal strategy is to circle back to these things privately with the person who said these things, but then that also means that I did accept the situation, did not show solidarity with people who might have perceived the situation as hostile and/or aggressive, and I also did not include everyone in the learning opportunity and potentially intresting conversation. And I’m still figuring out what the best balance is. What are your thoughts?
How local field laboratories can enhance student learning – first thoughts
One of iEarth’s stated goals is to develop “local field laboratories” at at least three out of its four member institutions: UiB, UiO, UiT, and UNIS. But what exactly a “local field laboratory” is, and why it actually should enhance learning, is yet to be figured out. In a discussion with iEarth colleagues yesterday, we talked about many benefits of local field laboratories (a term which, again, isn’t clearly defined yet). I am elegantly skipping over the step 1 of the action plan, which would be to do a comprehensive literature search on the topic, and am just documenting my own thoughts after that meeting.
Let’s start out from what we know is necessary for intrinsic motivation, and hence for student learning, namely continuously feeling autonomy, competence, and relatedness (Ryan & Deci, 2000). How can we use interdisciplinary, local field sites to create conditions in which those are experienced?
— Note: ultimately, whether or not those conditions are created will of course depend on how a course is designed and conducted much more than on where it happens! —
Fostering a feeling of autonomy
A feeling of autonomy means that students feel that they have (some) choice over what they do when and where. This can mean many things, of course, and a couple of ideas are provided here.
How a local field laboratory can help foster a feeling of autonomy
Autonomous access: If the local field laboratory is close to campus, students can access (and leave!) it by themselves, possibly by foot, bike, car, public transport, rather than for example a plane. This means they can – at least to a degree – adapt it to their needs: arrive a bit earlier or leave a bit later. It also means that if that they really want to leave a situation they are not comfortable in, they can do that at any time (and are not stuck in some remote location with whoever makes them uncomfortable).
Depending on the setup, it might be possible to access the local field laboratory outside of normal hours, for example for students to catch up on experiments that they missed because of sickness, or to do extra projects because they are curious. This also gives a lot of flexibility to accommodate students that cannot be present during scheduled times.
Low psychological threshold: Field trips – especially the first one to a new location or with a new group – can be scary situations. If the local field laboratory is located close to campus, students stay in an environment where they are familiar with the general culture, language, … This likely means that they feel more confident, and thus more autonomous, in that setting.
Low financial burden: In a local field laboratory close to campus, students are likely to already have appropriate personal equipment (for example a rain jacket appropriate for local climate) rather than having to purchase it for a new-to-student-and-never-to-be-visited-again location. This lowers one potential threshold for participation, giving the students autonomy.
Accessibility: A local field laboratory close to campus is more accessible than having to hike and carry equipment in difficult conditions. A local field laboratory close to campus is NOT accessible to everyone just by virtue of its location though, but it might be easier to make it such.
How using the same local field laboratory with many different disciplines and courses can help foster a feeling of autonomy
More choice of potential research questions: If the local field laboratory is used by many different disciplines or courses, there will be more equipment available for experiments, and more diverse data from previous experiments (if there is a good data storage system). This makes the potential student research questions more interesting and provides a wider choice (if the teachers are flexible enough to allow it).
Accessibility: As stated above, accessibility does not happen by itself, but needs to be considered and planned for. But if there are many students using the same local field laboratory, there might be more resources invested into making sure that the local field laboratory is actually accessible for everybody, and also teachers can build on other teacher’s experiences and good ideas.
Fostering a feeling of competence
Feeling competent means receiving positive feedback: Either external through teachers, friends, family, or an audience on social media, or just by succeeding at doing something.
How a local field laboratory can help fostering a feeling of competence
Transfer: Learning is always situated in a specific context, and the transfer to other contexts is not easy. If the local field laboratory is located close to campus, students can transfer more easily into their own life as it is the same type of environment they spend their whole lives in, thus re-prompting the topic they learned at in that environment over and over again, making them see the world around them with the eyes of an expert – an experience of competence!
Not only one-off: Since the local field laboratory is so close to campus, students can revisit the lab if they want and either repeat or do more. They can also bring friends and/or family to show what they have learned, and have their expert status confirmed. More training in being in the lab and talking about lab content is always practising both lab and science communication skills.
A local field laboratory close to campus can also be used as a red thread throughout the curriculum: the lab can be visited repeatedly over several courses, each time going into more depth, building more competence.
How using the same local field laboratory with many different disciplines and courses can help fostering a feeling of competence
Relevance & context: In a local field laboratory that is used by other courses and disciplines, students can more easily recognise how their own discipline fits into and contributes to a larger scientific context.
Interdisciplinarity: If the local field laboratory is used as a red thread throughout the curriculum, different aspects of the same site can be explored over several courses (geology, soil, climate, weather, plants, …)), thus building interdisciplinary aspects over time, increasing competence by exploring different facets of the same site.
Fostering a feeling of relatedness
Relatedness is the feeling of being part of a supportive group. That doesn’t mean the group has to be around someone all the time, but they have to know that it is there.
How a local field laboratory can help fostering a feeling of relatedness
Contribution to local community: If the local field laboratory is located close to campus, it is also located in the community where students live. Their research can thus have a direct relevance for their community, which can help them feel more connected both by doing something for the community as well as by sharing their learning with members of that community and getting their feedback.
Reducing the carbon footprint: Doing the slightly less exciting field lab that doesn’t go to an exotic location contributes to lowering our carbon footprint, which students might perceive as their personal contribution to something bigger than themselves.
How using the same local field laboratory with many different disciplines and courses can help fostering a feeling of relatedness
Larger context: If the local field laboratory is set up well, there is an overarching theme of all the measurements that are being taken, so that everybody is contributing to something beyond just doing their laboratory results, but much bigger, beyond their own discipline.
Interdisciplinarity: If several courses are at the field site simultaneously, students get to meet students and staff from other disciplines (formally in course context, or informally over dinner) and build a larger scientific network for themselves.
Other considerations that might be relevant to universities
Of course optimising student learning is not the only consideration that universities have, and it would be naive to assume that it was. So here are a couple of other relevant considerations:
Benefits of local field laboratories
- lower travel costs
- lower risks connected with long travel or dangerous field sites that the university might have to mitigate
- easier logistics because of shorter transport that isn’t going across borders or oceans
- lower carbon footprint!!
- the field laboratory can be used for outreach “in the field”, inviting people into authentic research situations
Benefits of using the same local field laboratory with many different disciplines and courses can help
- synergies: using equipment, buildings, … for multiple purposes
- easier logistics since everything just needs to go to one place
- red thread in curriculum: teachers meet (formally or informally), talk more, improve coherence between courses / find more interesting interdisciplinary questions
Is that really the full story?
Of course, many of these arguments are just one side of a coin, and local field sites might be best suited to undergraduate education and less so for advanced courses. Maybe one of the learning outcomes is for students to learn about dealing with logistics in a part of the world where everything works differently from what they are used to, and where they don’t speak the language. Or some things just cannot be taught in a certain area because that process just does not happen there. But then those arguments should be made specifically, and weight against the benefits listed above. But I think it’s definitely worthwhile to consider local field laboratories as an alternative to many established field trips to far-away locations: for carbon-footprint reasons just as much as for all the reasons listed above!
What are your thoughts on local field laboratories? And what references should I start with when I finally will have the time to start reading on the topic?
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American psychologist, 55(1), 68.
How much of the work should the teacher vs the student do? Teaching as a dance, inspired by Joe Hoyle
This week I spent in a really interesting position: Sitting in the back of a workshop on “introduction to teaching and learning in higher education”, occasionally giving inputs, for example on microaggressions or Universal Design for Learning. And, this morning, about dance as a metaphor for learning and teaching.
I first came across this metaphor in Joe Hoyle’s blogpost on “how much of the work should you do?”. In there, he argues that “in a dance, both parties need to do half of the work but one party does have to lead. Likewise, in a class, both parties need to do half of the work but one party does have to lead. As the teacher, you are the one who has to lead. And, it is that leading that will encourage your students to get up and do their half of the work so that the class will go beautifully well every single class session”. For me, this metaphor works beautifully, not only about how much “work” people should put in, but also that there are different skills involved in teaching/leading and learning/following: the most excellent lead can only do so much if there isn’t a willingness to (learn how to) follow, and likewise the best follower cannot do much without a strong lead (or they might eventually even start leading themselves out of the follower role. I actually took up Lindy Hop, where you change partners all the time, with the explicit goal of training to not take over the lead but let myself be led by people who aren’t very good at leading, and adapting to different styles of (not) leading, hoping that I could transfer that into my professional life. Worked only so-so ;-)).
What I also really like is that in dance, it is becoming much more common that lead and follower switch roles — and this is where I see big potential to expand the metaphor towards co-creating learning. The lead can give the follower the chance to do “turns and stuff” (here my language to talk about dance in English is breaking down) by themselves, which might be compared to giving students a little choice, for example letting students do think-pair-share, where they get the opportunity to do something by themselves for a little while, but in a safe and controlled environment (see lower levels on our “co-creating learning in oceanography” framework). As we move higher up in the framework, we give students more freedom, but also more responsibility, until at the very top, we might actually consider giving up the lead and “just” follow the students’ lead. Which, again, doesn’t say about the amount of work or skill that goes into either learning or teaching, just about who takes on the lead.
So yeah, I think this is a really nice metaphor for teaching and learning :)
P.S.: For a beautiful example of how both leading and following takes enormous skill, check out the youtube video below.