5104- Let’s Play a Game.

“in response to Blog Post 4: Tech and Innovation in High Ed” I read an article that sparked this blog post. (You can check it out here)

“Hello, ladies and gentlemen. I want to play a game. Up until now, you have spent your time sitting in class, wracking your head to write blog posts and journal entries. You’re good at this because, you, like them, are graduate students. You identify more with whom you teach than you do with the current faculty. I believe you want to be better, indeed than those faculty… in teaching. The following game you’re about to complete is a test . By the time this paragraph is finished, you will realize that you must make a decision. You should know better than anyone, what happens then, follow along the prompts. There is a single choice A or B at first that will start this game. It is right in front of you. Your decision affects others, but a little background first. You are now a biochemistry instructor at a midsize institution that does not have a graduate student program in your department. You have been tasked with increasing the passing efficiency of the major biochemistry lecture. You teach the first semester class (BCHM 1115) as a traditional lecture style. You have only a 65% pass rate and you get mostly negative reviews that your teaching style is boring. Now, all you have to do is decide and follow the rules. But do it quickly, make your choice: A or B.

A: Hello, you chose the quick option. You choose to teach the second semester biochemistry class (BCHM 1116) as a traditional lecture class, but this time you get former students to help you as teaching assistants in exchange for some class credits. You have them at every lecture to answer questions before and after class. You get them to reverse a space at the library for tutoring help every week. At midterm, you give a comprehensive test about the material you have learned so far and test the ability of your students to put it together like they would have to on the final exam. The class pass rate is a 65%. You must make another choice now choose the passive Path 1 or the active Path 2.

B: Hello, again. You attend an innovative teaching conference before the next semester starts. During this conference, you attend two sessions that you think can help you in teaching Biochemistry. The first one was a discussion on blended classrooms. Blended classrooms use a mix of short lectures with discussions or practice problems to reinforce knowledge. This is easily used in calculus classes and the humanities that have more discussions. You ask a question about how to implement this in a more fact-based discipline like chemistry or biochemistry. The moderator asks you to stick around after the session to answer you question. The moderator turns out to be a chemistry professor from a neighboring college, and tells you that this can be done in science, but it takes a lot of effort to get going. He invites you to attend another session about POGIL that is starting in ten minutes. As you walk there, he tells you that POGIL stands for Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning and that it has increased his class pass rates to between 85% and 95%. No choice this time, go to path 3.

Path 1: You chose the easiest way… Now, you attend the tutoring sessions and realize that the TAs basically had a reserved study space that no one from the class came to during the week, except for just before the test. You have a discussion with your class and you plead with them to realize that if they don’t pass this class, then they do not move on in the major. A few students are energized by this discussion and start to regularly come to the tutoring sessions that you run now as the instructor. The final comes and goes and you have a pass rate of 70%. Your reviews remark how the class lectures were boring, and the TAs were not as helpful as you had hoped. There were two reviews that thanked you for coming during the second part of the semester to help out and get them back on track. You think 70%; I spent all this semester thinking that I could get better and all I could get was 5% better. It is time to make some drastic changes and try to get the students more engaged in their own learning. Take choose B above.

Path 2: You realize that you need to be active and help get these students to pass. You start extra review sessions before the tests to answer any questions. You attend all future tutoring sessions after getting your class to start coming to them. You take the students that did not pass the midterm comprehensive test and give them a little extra support in trying to understand the material. However, you are still using the traditional lecture format that you were taught with and how you were taught to teach as a graduate teaching assistant. The final comes and goes and you have a pass rate of 75%. Your reviews remark how the class lectures were boring, and the TAs were not as helpful as you had hoped. There were five reviews that thanked you during the second part of the semester when you helped out and got them back on track. You think 75%; I spent all this semester working so that my students could get better and all I could get was 10% better. It is time to make some drastic changes and try to get the students more engaged in their own learning. Take choose B above.

Path 3: At this second session, the same moderator begins the discussion with a short presentation that last for about 15 minutes. He introduces POGIL and what it has done for his classes. After the short lecture, he breaks the room into smaller groups and passes out a sample packet that includes a small lesson on nucleic acids that he designed for this conference from old traditional lectures that he used to give before turning around his teaching with POGIL.

copyright Britton Hipple

A sample POGIL lesson page.

This approach suddenly makes sense for your classes. You call the department head on your way back from the conference and you spend the next three weeks preparing short lectures and POGIL lessons. You implement these lessons and the final exam come and goes. The class pass average is 85%, and you are acknowledged at the next faculty meeting for turning around the introductory class. You reviews are glowing and the students really responded to the new teaching style. You spend the break fine tuning the lessons to increase the pass rate even more. Move onto the wrap up.

Wrap up: Thanks for playing along, I tired to make this one more creative to have a little fun myself. I am a big advocate for blended classrooms rather than flipped classrooms (for the difference click here). I feel that in heavy fact-based majors (i.e. science) blended classrooms can give a basic understanding of the current topic and the students can put together the mastery together independently or in groups. That also means I am an advocate of POGIL vs. SCALE-UP. POGIL or Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning allows you to give a small lecture and then set up groups to do guided assignments during class to develop the knowledge and master it.  I believe this is disruptive as my experience in a small liberal arts undergraduate university and then a large research university shows that these ideas have not caught on as innovative. I learned and mastered my classes best by being able to teach the information back to other students during the activity.

2 thoughts on “5104- Let’s Play a Game.

  1. POGIL sounds really cool. I have not heard that acronym before, but I too learn better with small groups, than from large lectures. It is unfortunate that so many professors seem to be stuck in their “traditional” methods of teaching that are not very effective.


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