Thanks to all who attended our Faculty Workshop on High Impact Practices, 9/22/11

Prof. Dan Wells led a workshop on Thursday, September 22, focusing on the kinds of High Impact Practices (HIPs) that can help faculty create more engaged students and encourage better classroom interactions.  Dr. Wells began by providing a brief summary and overview of the literature regarding HIPs (linked here as a pdf), including these Faculty Senate presentations by Renu Khator and David Mazella, along with some of the recent research and scholarship concerning HIPs’ implementation in classrooms at CS Northridge (Huber) and elsewhere (Brownell and Swaner).  (For those interested in the original article regarding HIPs, please consult this 2008 study by George Kuh.)

Dr. Wells then led a group discussion regarding the HIPs currently being practiced throughout the university.  Below you will find a summary of the practices being tried by faculty who attended the workshop:

  • Clickers, polls, and other forms of instant electronic feedback were especially important for teachers of very large sections, because of their ability to help instructors monitor their students’ comprehension of the material.  Two techniques emerged from discussion:  polling the group about right and wrong answers to a question, giving students the opportunity to debate the answer for another 5 minutes, then repolling, which generally resulted in many more correct responses; asking a question mid-lecture about material covered about 15-20 mins. earlier, to make sure students are following the lecture.
  • Many faculty said they were de-emphasizing lectures, and emphasizing problem-solving of one sort of another, focusing on authentic problems from research or the workplace (examples included groups attempting to solve problems of a CEO/faculty member; or Math problem-sets; or in a literature course having students create an annotated bibliography over the previous 3-4 weeks’ reading, then trade bibs to correct each others’ work and report out to group; or having students analyze previous student work to see how they need to critique their own).
  • There was a considerable amount of discussion about building up students’ communication skills, either by using the Writing Center or by one’s own feedback on student essays.  Some also mentioned one-minute papers (i.e., “low stakes writing”)  at the beginning or end of class, to prime discussion or to assess students’ understanding of the subject matter. BlackBoard or Blogging forums also served a similar purpose of priming discussion or engaging students outside the classroom.  Other formats for teaching communication skills include the KWL method (What do you know? What do you want to know?  What do you need to learn?) and the use of snap presentations.  Even a relatively brief ungraded discussion segment regarding some “real world” dimension of academic work helps students to see the application of their studies to future goals and broader frameworks.  (e.g., human genetics and the ethical issues of cloning, stem cells, etc.).
  • There was also an extensive discussion of group work, including the difficulties of creating policies for monitoring and grading group work.  Some of those who practiced it said that though the benefits were clear, there were always some students who made their groups chaotic or dysfunctional and needed to be warned or removed from their groups altogether.  To counter these problems, some faculty suggested clear communications regarding the expectations regarding group work (up to and including specific training in group work), along with peer evaluations and ongoing progress reports from students.  to a grade for specific individual participation, seemed necessary to prevent some form of “social loafing,” perhaps the biggest single reason why students often resist group work.
  • There was a discussion of more synthetic courses or projects that allowed students to synthesize larger parts of their coursework.  This often occurs in senior-level “culminating experience” or capstone courses, but can it happen in the students’ first few years in college?
  • Finally, there was a brief discussion of attendance policies, and the desirability of enforcing or not enforcing such policies.

The meeting broke up at 4 pm.  We hope to continue to address these issues at our upcoming Oct. 14 conference, and at additional workshops.

Have we omitted something?  Still have something to say?  Please hit the “comment” link and let us know.



2 Comments on “Thanks to all who attended our Faculty Workshop on High Impact Practices, 9/22/11”

  1. Miranda Bennett says:

    Here’s a thoughtful blog post about using some HIP-like techniques in a physics class: The professor also describes his experience with the Poll Everywhere system that Rex Koontz mentioned.

  2. Dave Mazella says:

    Miranda, thanks for the nice link. I liked this prof’s humility in his description of what went well and what didn’t in his class. It’s also good to remember just how much of an impact scheduling has on one’s teaching. If you can’t find a spot for a technique within the meeting-times, or in homework, your whole approach needs to be rethought. So this blog lays out both the pros and cons of this kind of reworking of existing courses.

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