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February 2013

I   GSI Symposium Highlights
Event well attended in its 2nd year

II   Faculty Spotlight: David Neufeld, Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, KSAS
A continuing series on teaching excellence at Homewood

III   Teaching Tips: Discouraging Cheating in the Classroom
Creating a culture of ethical behavior in the classroom

IV   2013-2014 Technology Fellowship Applications Now Open
Faculty/student grant money available - apply now!

V   Using the Blackboard Groups Tool
Create an online space for students to collaborate

VI   Catalyst - Now with Articles! 
Finding articles just got easier with a new feature in the Library's online catalog

VII   JHU Funding for Open Access
Let us help with your Open Access author fees

VIII   KIT-CATS: The Evolution of Classroom and A/V Technology Services
Transition for Homewood classrooms and A/V services  


I   GSI Symposium Highlights

GSI Logo The 2nd Annual Symposium on Excellence in Teaching and Learning in the Sciences was held on Thursday, January 17, in Hodson Hall. Over 300 JHU faculty, staff and students from throughout the university registered for the Symposium, which reviewed the status of round one Gateway Science Initiative funded projects and explored new approaches to active learning, integration of online resources to enhance the classroom experience, and a variety of approaches to assessment of learning gains. To view the program, read biographies of guest speakers, and access video recordings of the Keynote presentations, please visit: http://web.jhu.edu/administration/provost/initiatives/gsi/2013-symposium

II   Faculty Spotlight: David Neufeld, Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Krieger School of Arts & Sciences

David Neufeld PortraitCER: What are you teaching here at Hopkins this semester?
DN: I am teaching classical mechanics, the first semester of the General Physics sequence. It introduces students to one of the glories of human civilization: the understanding of the motions of objects that was first achieved by Isaac Newton 325 years ago. I'm teaching the course for the second time this semester.
CER: What are your strategies or approaches for engaging or connecting with the students in your course?
DN: The method I'm using is the one promoted by Eric Mazur in his book Peer Instruction. We are fortunate in physics to have a respected field of physics education research where these methods have been tested scientifically. The basic method is that students come prepared for interactive in-class activities after viewing pre-lectures as homework.
CER: Can you describe how it works?
DN: Students watch online flash animations before class, which replace the traditional lecture. These "pre-lectures", which are very well done, were originally created by a physics education research group at the University of Illinois; they are now published as a sort-of video textbook. The modules include embedded questions to test students' comprehension. Students can also submit questions and comments about the pre-lecture to me. I review these questions a couple of hours before class to identify topics that students find difficult or that I should address during class. During class we spend most of the time answering conceptual questions using clickers. I ask a question and if there is general agreement about the correct answer we move on to the next one. If there is substantial disagreement among students, then I ask students to discuss their answers for 1-2 minutes with those sitting around them. They then vote again and I ask students who changed their answers to explain why they did so to the class. This often leads to a discussion. This has worked well with class of 90. Next semester I'll try with a class of about 220 students to see if it's scalable. The other thing we've done this year is to redesign the conference sessions with support from the Provost's Gateway Science Initiative. This redesign effort was led by my colleague, Bob Leheny, and our graduate student, Matt Walters. In weekly conference sessions, the students engage in group problem-solving, with 8 groups of three students working simultaneously in Krieger 309 - a collaborative, active-learning classroom. Here, they are guided by one graduate student and one undergraduate TA.
CER: Is the conference session approach modeled on the PILOT peer-led team learning sessions that are being used in several introductory science and math courses on campus?
DN: It's similar to PLTL, but not exactly the same. Students are in fixed groups of 3 with a specific role: scribe, skeptic, or manager. Prof. Leheny modeled it after a program at NC State called SCALE UP. Next semester, he will implement this model during lecture for an entire physics course. Our department is remodeling a lab space to accommodate this approach. We will research whether the SCALE UP model works better than a traditional lecture, and conduct a comparison against the peer instruction method as well.
CER: What inspired you to make a change?
DN: Carl Wieman talked about these "active learning/peer instruction" methods during the Resnick Lecture here at Homewood in 2011. I also visited David Hammer, who leads an education research group at Tufts, to observe his teaching methods. I was impressed with how he could tease out students' misunderstandings and get instant feedback on their progress.
CER: How did students react to the change?
DN: My biggest fear was that the students would be unresponsive. I was pleasantly surprised by how engaged the students were. They were willing to give wrong answers without being embarrassed. Although this is physics - there are right answers and wrong answers - the key to learning is to understand the misconceptions that underlie wrong answers. So, I was careful to treat student responses with respect, and to try to expose their misconceptions.
CER: How do you know when you're successful? How do you assess student learning?
DN: We used three methods of assessment. 1) We used a CER-designed a survey in which students reported their perceptions about their mastery of key learning objectives. We administered it at the beginning and end to measure the change in scores. 2) We used the Force Concept Inventory - a test of conceptual understanding in classical mechanics that has undergone extensive validity testing. Again, students take the survey twice to measure their improvements over the semester. 3) Finally, we surveyed students on their opinions about the course at the end of the semester (e.g., "should this course be taught the same way in the future?"). Students preferred the new method by a ratio of 3:1. I was disappointed by the FCI results. Student improvements were similar to those reported previously for traditional lecture classes. Typically, in the hands of experienced professors, the peer instruction method leads to larger gains. I suspect the results reflect the fact that it was my first time teaching this way and it isn't easy to do. We are implementing the assessment again this semester to see if the results improve.
CER: Did you find this more rewarding to teach this way?
DN: It was intimidating to start with, but yes, it was more rewarding. I am feeling much more confident this semester. I think we always need to ask ourselves whether what we are doing in class provides "value added" beyond what the students could get by watching online videos or taking a MOOC. With peer instruction, my interaction with students is more substantial. And it's very helpful to get immediate feedback on what students understand; without feedback, I would likely talk over the students' heads. I also realized how difficult this material is for students who haven't thought about it before. That gives me new respect for what Newton achieved. It's really contrary to our intuition. As I told the students, the ancient Greeks were likely just as smart as we are, and Galileo was probably a more remarkable intellect than anyone on our campus, but none of them could correctly describe the motion of a projectile. It's only in the last 325 years that any human has understood how to do that, despite the fact that we've been throwing rocks and spears into the air for tens of thousands of years.
Student Quote "As someone who came into Professor Neufeld's class with almost no background in physics, the pre-lectures prepared me for lecture. The clicker questions always challenged my common sense and, with Prof. Neufeld leading discussions, helped me develop my ‘physics intuition.'" - Jackie Heath

III   Teaching Tips: Discouraging Cheating in the Classroom

Clipart - Students Research has shown that colleges and universities with honor codes backed by an institutional culture of ethical behavior experience fewer incidents of student cheating than those with no codes or codes that are not reinforced with institutional expectations. (Donald L. McCabe, Linda Klebe Trevino & Kenneth D. Butterfield. 2001. Cheating in Academic Institutions: A Decade of Research. Ethics & Behavior. 11(3):219-232). Even in the absence of an honor code, researchers found that creating a culture of ethical behavior at the level of the classroom could have a significant positive impact on the likelihood of student cheating. As to implementing such a culture, the University of North Carolina's Center for Faculty Excellence's blog, CFE 100+ Tips for Teaching Large Classes, offers practical and concrete examples in Tip #27: Discourage Cheating by Providing Moral Reminders and Logistical Obstacles. They suggest having a brief discussion about cheating before a test and asking students to write out and sign the honor code. Even if there is no specific honor code at the institution, faculty can ask students to write a statement on their exams saying that they will not give or receive assistance. This is most effective if done before, rather than at the end of the test. The UNC blog post also offers examples for making it logistically impossible to cheat. These tips will be particularly useful for faculty teaching large classes and using multiple choice questions on exams.

IV   2013-2014 Technology Fellowship Applications Now Open

The Technology Fellows Program is a mini-grant initiative that enables faculty to partner with technology savvy students to develop resources to enhance pedagogy, increase or facilitate access to course content, encourage active learning, promote critical thinking, or support student collaboration. Full-time faculty and students are eligible to apply. Each faculty member receives $1,000 for project leadership and oversight; student fellows receive $4,000 for resource development and implementation. While faculty need not have specific technology expertise, they must understand how digital technologies could be employed to support their teaching objectives. Student applicants are encouraged to have programming or multimedia skills, or they must have a concrete, feasible plan for acquiring the skills required for their projects. Approximately 285 hours of work should be devoted to each project. Tech Fellows Logo The CER can help interested applicants to formulate project ideas and match faculty with student partners. Once fellowships are awarded, CER staff serve as liaisons to project teams, conducting update sessions, providing some technical consultation, and helping teams prepare for a year-end showcase where project results are shared with the community. A committee of faculty and technical professionals from the Johns Hopkins community reviews all applications using the criteria listed in the application form found on our website at http://www.cer.jhu.edu/techfellows.html. Applications will be accepted from February 11 - March 29 at 5:00 PM with awards announced mid-April. Funding will be available from May 15, 2013 through April 15, 2014; projects must be completed by April 15, 2014. For questions or to obtain more information, please contact Cheryl Wagner at cwagner@jhu.edu or 410-516-7181.

V   Using the Blackboard Groups Tool

Blackboard Logo The Groups tool in Blackboard is a convenient way for instructors to create subsets of students for collaborative activity. Once created, group members have access to a number of communication and collaboration tools within Blackboard, as determined by the instructor. These tools include: a group discussion board, blog, wiki, journal, email tool, chat tool, a file exchange tool, and a task list. The instructor has access to all group tools at all times. This allows him/her to monitor each group's activity as needed. The blog, wiki, and journal tools have the option of being graded; they are connected to the Blackboard grade center, so any grades entered are automatically transferred and recorded in the grade center. Within these tools there is the option to grade each member of the group individually or grade the group as a whole. Blackboard groups can be created one at a time, or as a set. Members of groups are selected manually, with the instructor choosing students from a pre-populated list, or by using the self-enroll option, where students use a sign-up sheet to enroll themselves into a group. There is also a ‘random enrollment' feature (if creating a group set), through which Blackboard randomly assigns students to groups. This feature is often helpful in large lecture courses. Working in groups can be a very positive experience for students; it allows them to take ownership of their learning and they become active rather than passive learners. In addition to gaining a deeper understanding of the subject at hand, students' interaction with their peers is valuable. Students have the potential to develop life-long learning skills, including critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making abilities, as well as social skills such as effective communication, negotiation, and conflict resolution. Blackboard Groups Menu Screenshot Instructors may help ensure the success of group work by following some of these simple guidelines:
  • Establish clear expectations of participation by group members.
  • Specify the roles and responsibilities needed within each group and have students delegate them.
  • Have group members assess each other at various times throughout the project/activity.
  • Periodically check the online collaboration tools to monitor group progress.
  • Use rubrics to assess both group and individual contributions.
For more detailed information about using the Blackboard Groups Tool, please see the Groups Tool tutorial.

VI   Catalyst - Now with Articles!

If you have been to Catalyst recently, you may notice something's a little different. In addition to receiving your regular results from the catalog, you will now receive article results as well. MSE Catalyst Logo Think of it as a JHU-specific Google Scholar. In many cases, clicking the title of the article will take you directly to the article itself. For those instances where we do not have access to an electronic copy, you will be taken to a screen where you can request one via Interlibrary Loan. Looking for articles and databases that are more finely tuned to your research area? You can view a complete list of the 908 databases licensed for your use at the Directory of Licensed Databases. For suggestions based on your subject area, consult the guides. After you've had a chance to check out this new feature, don't forget to let us know what you think using the red Feedback link.

VII   JHU Funding for Open Access

Open Access Logo During Open Access Week (October 2012), the Scholarly Communications Group announced an initiative to help JHU authors publish their articles in Open Access journals. Now we need your help to spread the word. To date only nine JHU authors have received money from the JH Libraries Open Access Promotion Fund. We would like to increase the numbers. Authors supported by NIH grants are required to make their articles are freely available to all within 12 months of publication. If you publish in a fully Open Access journal that requires you, the author, to pay, we can reimburse you. The form is online here.

VIII   KIT-CATS: The Evolution of Classroom and A/V Technology Services

As of January 1, 2013, the Classroom Technology and A/V Services teams have been moved under the management of Krieger Information Technology (KIT). There have been some behind the scenes changes including merging operations to streamline and improve services. During this transitional semester we are reviewing how things get done so that processes can be improved and services strengthened. Krieger IT Logo For now, procedures remain the same. If you need assistance with classroom technology, please call 410-516-6699. Those with smartphones can access self-help information in the general pool classrooms by scanning the QR codes that are posted in each room. A/V service requests can still be placed using the Audio Visual Request Form. For questions about A/V call 410-516-8303. As part of our effort to improve services and plan for future technology deployments, we will be hosting several town hall meetings in March. We would like to hear from the community about what works and what doesn't and how things could be improved. Times and locations will be announced soon. Please check the Krieger IT website (http://kriegerit.jhu.edu) or the CER site (http://www.cer.jhu.edu) for updated information.