Monday, August 18, 2014

Julian Fleron, Phillip Hotchkiss "Inquiry-Based Learning to Engage and Empower the Disfranchised"

Julian Fleron and Phillip Hotchkiss, Westfield State University presented at the 17th Annual RLM and IBL Conference Co-Hosted by MAA, EAF and AIBL.  The conference was held in Denver Colorado, June 2014, and their talk has just been posted on the AIBL YouTube Channel.   This talk shows some practical ways to get going with students who typically have math anxiety and transform the course into a fun, engaging learning environment.

"Inquiry-Based Learning to Engage and Empower the Disfranchised"

I also recommend checking out their website on teaching courses for Liberal Arts Students at Discovering the Art of Mathematics.

Friday, August 15, 2014

IBL Poster Session at MathFest 2014

Some images from Portland.  The IBL poster session was held in the exhibit hall, and the turnout was steady and engaged.  Thank you Angie Hodge and Dana Ernst for organizing this session, and an especially big thank you to all those who presented posters!

Poster sessions are a great way to involve people in discussions on a particular theme.  Attendees can interact with presenters in a conversation.  I like both poster sessions and presentation, and perhaps there will be ways to mix the two strategies into a "mixed media" format in the future?  Just a thought.

Some images from the IBL Best Practices Poster Session, MathFest, Portland OR 2014.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

AIBL Booth at MathFest 2014

What is AIBL?  "AIBL is the organizational front to an existing community" says TJ Hitchman, University of Northern Iowa.   At MathFest 2014, the IBL community organized a booth in the  exhibit hall.

The co-organizers of the booth are Angie Hodge, University of Nebraska Omaha, and Dana Ernst, Northern Arizona University.  They asked IBLers to hold "IBL Office Hours."  These wonderful volunteers spent part of their busy conference schedule at the booth to talk to attendees interested in learning more about IBL.  A big thank you to...

  • Angie and Dana,
  • TJ Hitchman
  • Victor Piercey
  • Brian Katz
  • Elizabeth Thoren
  • Ron Taylor
  • William Lindsey
  • Melissa Lindsey
  • Susan Crook
  • Natalie La Rosa

In the age of top-down, centralized command-and-control reform efforts, based on model courses, external incentives, and penalties for non-compliance, we take a fundamentally different approach.  We take the bottom-up view, where working with individuals and supporting them to solve their own specific implementation challenges is the core.  Through intensive workshops, mentoring, small grants, and visiting speakers, we help individuals and small groups grow their IBL skills and practices, and cultivate a culture of learning at their institutions.  Over time we believe that this community will be more durable, more sustainable, and ultimately impact more students' lives.

One community. Infinite possibilities!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Productive Failure (#PF)

This spring quarter I taught Math 423, a course for future secondary math teachers.  This course is often called a "capstone" course and is intended as an advanced look into the secondary curriculum.  It's a hybrid course in that it is a math course, but it also has the goal of transitioning math majors from being a student to being ready to enter a credential program.  Put more simply, it's a transition course from being a math student to being a math teacher.

One of the main themes of the course was productive failure.  In an earlier post De-stigmatizing Mistakes, I wrote about how Ed Burger makes productive failure part of the course.  So I did the same for Math 423!  Five percent of the grade was based on sharing productive failure.  Students were required to share at least twice during the quarter a mistake that they learned from.  These mistakes could be natural or could be intentional (as in a strategy like trial and error).  

The results were better than I had anticipated!  Students felt as future teachers they needed to learn this lesson about the value of productive failure.  They felt a sense that everyone makes mistakes and that we can all learn from them and others can learn from them, if we share our newfound insights.  We de-stigmatized mistakes in our little segment of society, and it felt right and good.

One student writes in an portfolio assignment:
One of the biggest themes that I will carry not only into my teaching career but in my life is the idea of productive failure. Failure is given the stigma of being negative and until I came to this class I believed that. After going through this class my thoughts on failure have completely changed. I never thought of failure as a device that can enhance learning and ideas. Every day, watching everyone present their productive failure I noticed how no matter how small the failure was someone learned something. It not only taught us how not to do something, but the right way to think about certain problems and common misconceptions that can help you better adjust your lessons as a teacher. Failure is a part of life and should be embraced and not chastised. By
giving failure in learning such a negative connotation you can inhibit students from good learning habits and for a love of school. I believe that failure should be considered productive and embraced in classrooms all around the world.  -- Jordy Adamski, Cal Poly Math Graduate
Experiences like this are some of the major reasons why I spent so much of my time thinking about improving teaching and improving the system.  When it works, it's wonderful!    When we say the classes are more fun to teach and students get more out of it, it's hard to communicate the impact.  Some might think that the C student moves up to a B, but that captures little of the real transformation that occurs in some the hearts and minds of our students.  Changing one's entire outlook on mistakes and how that might impact that student's math teaching practices in the future is a tremendous change!

An important point to mention is that productive failure fits naturally into an IBL framework.  Productive failure can easily be included in the course grade, since IBL courses already have the active, student-centered dynamic that can easily accommodate short student presentations on productive failure.  On the other hand, a lecture-based course normally does not have the comfort level and student buy-in that would allow students to open up and expose themselves by sharing their latest and greatest mistakes.   Hence, it is emphasized that the teaching system used is fundamental and that adding low-cost, high-impact strategies, like productive failure, should be done within a broader framework that supports it.

Throughout the term we used hashtags.  We labeled productive failure with #PF, which made class more fun and also elevated productive failure to it's rightful, dignified place in the learning process.  #PF showed up all over the place throughout the course, and I hope it finds it way into your classes, too.


The #PF Crew

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Legacy of R. L. Moore and IBL Conference 2014

Denver, CO hosted the 17th annual Legacy of R. L. Moore and IBL Conference, co-hosted by the Educational Advancement Foundation, The Mathematical Association of America, and the Academy of Inquiry Based Learning.  The theme: Engaging in IBL.  More than 80 presenters, over 200 participants over 2 days.

If you missed the conference or were not able to attend a parallel session for one reason or another, videos of all of the sessions will be available by the fall of 2014 on the AIBL YouTube Channel.

Many thanks to Harry Lucas, Jr., Norma Flores, Albert Lewis, Fain Brock, Judy Diaz and everyone else at EAF for their tireless efforts to setup the conference.    Thank you to Angie Hodge and TJ Hitchman and the conference organizing committee for putting together a wonderful program.

A big thank you to all participants!  Your contributions made it a special event!

Some images from the conference (more to follow)...

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Data Points Toward Active Learning

NSF recently posted a summary findings from a study by Freeman et al (Link to NSF News Release "Enough with the Lecturing")    The original article appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences and is a meta-analysis of research from STEM fields.

 I have been saying for a few years that "All the vectors are pointing in the same direction."   The data continues to accumulate and the preponderance on evidence suggests that we should be engaging our students actively in high-quality tasks.

No guilt or shame.  We're all in this together, and I believe everyone who works hard at teaching has good intentions and the best interests of students at heart.  The perspective I like to take is one that is used in medicine.  When new techniques or treatments are shown through evidence to provide better care for patients, then the medical community adopts those new practices.  Likewise we can do the same in teaching.  We study, we collect data, we learn from our efforts, and we put those things into our classrooms. It's the logical thing to do.

Implementation is where the biggest challenge is.  Implementing IBL methods is challenging and takes a significant effort initially.   The estimates we have available are that it takes about 100 hours for a new instructor to get started, and several hundred additional hours to build the necessary expertise.  This is based on my experiences running weeklong IBL workshops and organizing the AIBL Mentor Program.   But the skills learned stick, and once instructors get acclimated to IBL methods, they tend to continue using them.   At the moment professional organizations including (but not limited to) the MAA and AIBL are the platforms for implementing these changes, as they focus on instructors and supporting them through the process of developing teaching skills and practices.

The evidence grows each day in support of active, student-centered instruction. If you feel the call to take action, come join the Academy of Inquiry Based Learning and get started!

Upward and onward!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Student Testimonial: Alfred and Diana

I am happy to share an interview of Alfred and Diana, two math majors at CSU Monterey Bay.  This interview was filmed in April 2014, by Kaylene Wakeman, AIBL and Cal Poly.  Their instructor is Professor Rachel Esselstein, Department of Mathematics CSU Monterey Bay.

Transformation is a term we use in the IBL community.  The word, transformation, truly is appropriate.  It's hard to convey the experience of teaching via IBL through data or talking about it in a presentation. The experience of working with students, seeing them grow, believe in themselves more and more each day, discovering that they can be movers and doers.  It's special.  This interview captures some of that magic.