AAC&U GEMs: Exemplar Practice

A while back, I wrote about my early experiences as a member of the Digital Working Group for the AAC&U General Education Maps and Markers (GEMs) initiative and promised that I would do my homework for the group in public. Today I will make good on that promise. The homework is to write-up an exemplar practice of how digital tools and practices can help support students in their journeys through GenEd.

As I said in my original post, I think this is an important initiative. I invite all of you to write up your own exemplars, either in the comments thread here or in your own blogs or other digital spaces.

The template for the exemplar is as follows:

Evocative Examples of Digital Resources and Strategies that can Improve General Education: What are these cases a case of?

Brief Description of practice:

  • In what ways is the practice effective or transformative for student learning? What’s the evidence? How do we know? (If you can tie the practice to any of the outcomes in the DQP and/or the LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes, that would be great.)
  • How does the practice reflect the digital world as lived student culture? What are the skills and content associated with the digital practice or environment? How does the practice deepen or shape behavior of students with digital tools and environments with which they may be variously familiar?
  • What does it take to make the practice work? What is the impact on faculty time? Does it take a team to design, implement, assess? What are the implications for organizational change?
  • How is it applicable to gen ed (if example doesn’t come from gen ed)?
  • Are there references or literature to which you can point that is relevant to the practice?

I decided to base my exemplar on the MSU psychology class that I’ve written about recently.

Flipped and Blended Class with Homework Platform Support

In this practice, every effort is made to move both direct instruction and formative assessment outside of class time. The “flipped classroom” (or “flipped learning”) approach is employed, providing students with instructional videos and other supplemental content. In addition, a digital homework platform is employed, enabling students to get regular formative assessments. In order to give students more time for these activities, the amount of in-class time is reduced, making the course effectively a blended or hybrid course. In-class time is devoted either to class discussion, which is supported by the instructor’s knowledge of the students’ performance on the regular formative assessments, and by group work.

In what ways is the practice effective or transformative for student learning? What’s the evidence? How do we know?

This is a particular subset of a practice that the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) calls “the replacement model”, and they have a variety of course redesign projects that demonstrated improved outcomes relative to the control. For example, a redesign of a psychology Gen Ed course at Missouri State University produced the following results:

  • On the 30-item comprehensive exam, students in the redesigned sections performed significantly better (84% improvement) compared to the traditional comparison group (54% improvement).
  • Students in the redesigned course demonstrated significantly more improvement from pre to post on the 50-item comprehensive exam (62% improvement) compared to the traditional sections (37% improvement).
  • Attendance improved substantially in the redesigned section. (Fall 2011 traditional mean percent attendance = 75% versus fall 2012 redesign mean percent attendance = 83%)
  • Over a three-semester period following the redesign, the course DFW rate improved from 24.6% to 18.4% (most of which was because of a significant drop in the withdrawal rate).

One of the investigators of the project, who also was a course instructor, indicated that the quality of class discussion improved significantly as well.

Possible reasons why the practice is effective include the following:

  • Teacher/student contact time is maximized for interactivity.
  • Regular formative assessments with instant feedback help students to be better prepared to maximize discussion time with the teacher and with peers.
  • Feedback from the homework system enabled the instructor to walk into class knowing where students need the most help.
  • Reduced number of physical class meetings reduces the chances that a student will withdraw due to grade damaging absences.

How does the practice reflect the digital world as lived student culture? What are the skills and content associated with the digital practice or environment? How does the practice deepen or shape behavior of students with digital tools and environments with which they may be variously familiar?

Students are used to getting their information online. They are also often very effective at “time slicing,” in which they use small increments of time (e.g., when they are on a bus or waiting for an appointment) to get things done. This exemplar practice enables students to do that with the portions of academic work that are suited to it while preserving and actually expanding room for long and deep academic discussion.

What does it take to make the practice work? What is the impact on faculty time? Does it take a team to design, implement, assess? What are the implications for organizational change?

The redesign effort is significant and, because the creation of significant digital resources is involved, is often best done by a team (although that is not strictly necessary). For the purposes of this design, the homework platform need not be cutting-edge adaptive, as long as it provides formative assessments that are consistent with the summative assessments and provides both students and instructors with good, regular feedback. That said, implementing the technology is often not seamless and may take several semesters to work the kinks out. The shift to a flipped classroom also puts new demands on students and may take several semesters for the campus culture to adjust to the new approach.

How is it applicable to gen ed (if example doesn’t come from gen ed)?

This model is often used in Gen Ed. It is particularly appropriate for larger classes where the DFW rate is high and where a significant percentage of the subject matter—at least the foundational knowledge on the lower rungs of Bloom’s taxonomy—can be assessed through software.

Are there references or literature to which you can point that is relevant to the practice?

http://mfeldstein.com/efficacy-adaptive-learning-flipped-classroom/

http://mfeldstein.com/efficacy-adaptive-learning-flipped-classroom-part-ii/

http://www.thencat.org/PlanRes/R2R_Model_Rep.htm

http://www.thencat.org/PCR/R3/TCC/TCC_Overview.htm

http://www.flippedlearning.org/

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About Michael Feldstein

Michael Feldstein is co-Publisher of e-Literate, co-Producer of e-Literate TV, and Partner in MindWires Consulting. For more information, see his profile page.
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