Tuesday, July 10, 2018

France's Soccer Program, Professional Development in Math Teaching

The World Cup 2018 is going on as I write this, and I happened to come across this Vox Video that explains why France has far more players in the World Cup than any other.  "France was one of the first European countries to create an academy system for scouting, recruiting, and training talented young soccer players; many grew up in immigrant neighborhoods where their foreign-born parents had settled." 

How did they get to having the most soccers players at the top level? They have a system that invests in their people.

System-level success is intentional work. You could try to rely on luck, “osmosis,” or search for a magic bullet, like the special textbook or school choice that will mythically unlock the learning potential in our students. Or wait for the next generation of talented people to move us forward. Of course good materials and dedicated professionals are needed. I’m not discounting those things. We need those things. But thinking in terms of only books or simple, one-dimensional ideas isn’t a strategy should bet on. It's too passive, and ignores the power we have to act and work together now to harness our ingenuity and passion. Further, if it was that easy, it would have been done already generations ago.

I prefer an intentional, systems approach. Teaching is a human system, and improving education means thinking carefully about solutions on a system level. This includes addressing change as a community building effort. People do the teaching. People, primarily students, do the learning. People write the assessments, publish the textbooks, set the schedules, and so on. Education a human endeavor, and teaching (math) is a cultural activity.

To get at the core things that we need to do to make progress, we shouldn’t think only in mechanistic terms like schedules and books. Education is not a factory, and children are not machines. Yes, math teachers are humans :) Like France’s approach to developing soccer players, we’re developing an approach to professional development to establish a system for math instructors to learn about IBL methods and join a community for continuing, long-term development. We're supporting math instructors. We’re investing in people, and hence the community of practitioners who are key players in system. (We've highlighted our real-world successes so far in this post HERE).

Professional development, therefore, is a vital strategy. It’s how knowledge, skills, and practices of the broader profession can be efficiently shared with and learned by individuals. IBL Workshops are in this sense a framework or structure that can collect or house the community knowledge, and then provide coherent programs for new IBLers to learn quickly the skills and practices of effective IBL teaching.

Professional development is also an opportunity to build new leadership. Developing facilitators is developing community leaders, and this then grows the capacity for the profession to effectively implement improvements to education. Professional development is to faculty as classes are to students. (See our team of IBL workshop facilitators and IBL community leaders!)  This year I am attending exactly zero workshops, so others can learn to do this and own it. In fact, this is one of the main goals of our current project (NSF-PRODUCT).

Some caveats... Professional development does not solve all problems in education, but it's how we get at solving many of those problems. The point I'm making here is that investment in professional development is necessary. People solve problems, and professional development programs bring people together to share, grow, and find new solutions.

Designing a professional development system with intent is our mantra. Not only are we focused on running workshops to disseminate IBL methods, we also have an eye on community building and scalability of our workshop model.

More Links:
1. A Vision for the Future of Active Learning: Professional Development Centers

2. 2018 IBL Workshop General Info

3. Vox Video "Why France Produces the Most World Cup Players"

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

2018 IBL Workshops in Chicago and Washington DC

This is a short blog post on the IBL Workshops going on right now or just ended. Last week, the Chicago team hosted an IBL Workshop at DePaul University!  This week the DC team is running a workshop at the MAA Carriage House at MAA HQ. More info about our workshops is available at www.inquirybasedlearning.org

It's inspiring that about 100 college math instructors are meeting this summer to get better at teaching!

Enjoy a mix of images of faculty and staff working together to improve college math education.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Student Voices Video: Episode 10

The student voices series of videos is focused on telling stories from student perspectives. In this episode, Shannon Sheehan is the subject. Shannon is an undergraduate at Cal Poly, majoring in Liberal Studies (Elementary Ed), who was in Professor Champney's IBL Calculus 1 class in winter quarter 2018. She discusses how IBL helped her learn math better, contributed to her success in the course, and perhaps most importantly she will use IBL in her own teaching. Shannon will be an IBLer, not just in math, but in all subjects. See this for yourself!

For more student voices, please visit the Student Voices Playlist.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Interview: Professor Stephanie Salomone, University of Portland

Stephanie Anne Salomone, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair, Mathematics Department
University of Portland

Tell us about your institution and what the teaching environment is like, what courses you typically teach.
I teach at the University of Portland, a comprehensive Catholic university in Portland, OR. I started here in 2005, my newly-minted PhD from UCLA in hand. At the time, there were 9 full time mathematics faculty, and four of us were brand new to the department and new to the profession. We were a traditional department, as far as teaching goes.

Things are substantially different now. We have grown to fourteen full-time faculty, with several colleagues who teach using active-learning strategies rather than lecture. We have several practitioners of IBL in classes such as real analysis, modern algebra, discrete structures, topology, modern geometry and number theory. We have people inserting IBL modules into calculus and other lower-division classes, and several faculty have flipped their classrooms.

We are an institution that values teaching and learning, and reflective practice fits within the Mission. Our department is, as well, deeply committed to teaching, and our departmental mission.

As a department, we describe our purpose, vision, and mission in the following way:
Our purpose is to foster belonging and participation in our intellectual community, wherein we model the vitality of teaching and learning by addressing the whole person.
Our vision is to sustain a life-long, collaborative community of mathematical scholars, teachers, and learners, connected globally and locally, in order to empower one another as we engage and transform our world.

Our mission is to evoke curiosity about new ways of thinking, and connect to, collaborate with, and challenge one another as we invite students to contribute to our mathematics community. Through inquiry, creativity, and vital, relevant conversation, we instill habits of abstract and applied mathematical thinking and examine the impact of mathematics on our world.

How how long have you been teaching via IBL and how did you get started?
I started teaching IBL in 2006, the first time I taught Real Analysis. I enrolled in a summer institute in Costa Mesa, and learned from Stan Yoshinobu and Ed Parker. I’ve never taught Real Analysis any other way, and in fact, no matter who has taught the class since 2006 has revised and used the notes that I got from Stan. I don’t think we’ll ever go back to a more traditionally-taught class. Since 2006, I’ve taught IBL versions of topology (using Ed’s notes) and modern geometry (using David Clark’s book), and I added sections to Dana Ernst’s Discrete Math notes so that I could adopt it for our Introduction to Proof course. Several of my colleagues have also taught using IBL in other courses, and we have great support in the department for faculty who want to try new pedagogical techniques.

What are some of the benefits of IBL classes to your students?
I taught Discrete Structures in a traditional lecture format for many years, and always felt disappointed at the end. Students really were not as engaged as I wanted them to be, and finally, a little fed up with my inability to really capture their attention, I realized that I was trying to teach them to write proofs and follow logical arguments by showing them how rather than just having them try, fail, regroup, and try again. The answer was actually obvious to me, and I spent the summer of 2016 writing notes and adopting Dana Ernst’s notes for my classes. I’ve been using them ever since. Yes, it’s true that this change means that I “cover” less material in the class, and I don’t get to “cover” equivalence relations any more. What I found was that even if I went over them in class, students didn’t get them enough to use them in future classes anyway. I made a decision to sacrifice coverage for deep understanding and skill, and I believe it was the right choice. My students can write proofs. They can interpret logical arguments. They can find flaws and offer gentle and constructive criticism to peers. They can talk intelligently about the nuances of mathematical communication. And they can do these things well, far better than most students in my class prior to making this pedagogical switch.

In fact, that is true in all of the IBL classes I’ve taught. If I look at the content we cover, it is definitely less in quantity than what I could do in a traditional course. However, the quality of learning is so much higher, and beyond that, students learn to support one another. They learn to take risks and recover from mistakes. They learn to communicate well orally and in writing. They learn to pace their work around everything else that is going on. They learn to listen, to think on their feet, to work in teams. These are invaluable skills.

Tell us about your current grant-funded projects.
I am currently running two NSF-funded projects.

I am the PI of the NSF Noyce Scholars and Interns program at UP. We are finishing up our 5th year, and are heading into an extension year to spend the remainder of our funds. We have been offering scholarships and internships to undergraduate STEM majors and to career-changing STEM professionals who want to become teachers in high-needs schools. It has been interesting to partner with faculty from other disciplines, including biology, engineering, and education, as we attempt to address a national need for highly-trained K-12 STEM teachers. In addition to our original Noyce project, I’ve submitted a proposal as part of the Western Regional Noyce Alliance to fund a series of conferences and meetings for in-service, pre-service, and post-secondary educators involved in Noyce programs.  I am working with several faculty members from a variety of universities in the Western region of the United States.

I am also the PI of the NSF IUSE program at UP, which is a professional development program for UP STEM faculty. We’re in the pilot phase of this program, called REFLECT. The goal of the proposed project, Redesigning Education For Learning through Evidence and Collaborative Teaching (REFLECT), is to increase significantly the use of highly effective, evidence-based STEM teaching methods at the University of Portland using peer observation. The proposal team from science, engineering, mathematics, and education is testing an innovative method of teacher change based on faculty peer observation that leads to reflective teaching. The REFLECT framework is organized to support adopters by providing an alternative form of assessing teaching through peer evaluation and reflection, going beyond student evaluations. The REFLECT project will develop and facilitate training workshops to expose faculty to highly effective evidence-based teaching methods and assist faculty in implementing them. The on-going professional development (PD) will be designed to foster support within a cohort of faculty using evidence-based methods. The workshop and PD will also provide training on faculty peer observation and the process of reflective teaching. Over time, this peer observation and reflection process will provide a support network that helps STEM faculty to continue to implement evidence-based teaching methods in the future, ensuring sustainability of the REFLECT program. The project structure aligns with the incentive system for teaching-focused universities, where teaching performance is highly valued and may not be well characterized in student evaluations. Our first cohort of eleven will participate in a four-day institute this May on evidence-based practices, including IBL. We’ll have a second cohort next summer, and then at the end of the three-year grant, we will host an evidence-based practices symposium for the campus and community.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Interview: Professor David Failing, Lewis University

This post is a Q&A interview with Professor David Failing, Lewis University.

Professor David Failing has been using IBL methods for the past few years, and recently posted on instagram a nice letter he received from a student about learning to be more comfortable presenting math to classmates and how that impacts their level of engagement. Professor Failing is an avid runner of ultra marathons, and one of the bloggers on A Novice IBL Blog

Thanks for joining us today on the IBL Blog! We’d really like to hear about a positive note you had with a student from your fall Linear Algebra class. Could you share what your student wrote and tell us more about how this student got to this point?
Just one week in to the spring 2018 semester, I received an email from a student who is currently taking Discrete Mathematics with me, and had taken my Linear Algebra course in the past fall semester. The student is a graduating senior in computer science, and while they are an A student, expressed some concerns in the fall about how the material was being presented, and how at times they didn’t “get it” right away when examples were shared in class without a lot of time for discussion.
Hi Dr. Failing,
I just wanted to take a second to say how much better I think this semester is going to be with the presentation-style course! I was hesitant with the idea at first, but I think everyone in the class is much more alert during class and open to learning this way. In addition, it's nice to have notes that are not too overwhelming in the amount of information given to us each day. 
Also, if the peanut gallery of us who haven't presented yet are getting another chance, I'd like to attempt at presenting tomorrow :)
Fall 2017 Linear Algebra Student
How did you teach your fall Linear Algebra class?
My Linear Algebra course in the fall was one of the largest I’ve ever taught - starting with 38 students. Previously, I had used David Clark’s Linear Algebra notes from the Journal of Inquiry Based Learning in Mathematics with a 2-person course I taught for math majors. This time around, my course had to meet the needs of several constituencies - mathematics, computer science, chemistry, and physics. I chose to conduct the course “interactive lecture” style, building Beamer slide decks for each of the sections we covered from David Lay’s “Linear Algebra and Its Applications,” anticipating that I would record YouTube lectures in the future to conduct a flipped class. I peppered the slides with lots of “Think-Pair-Share” activities and examples we would work out on the board as a class, aside from the usual selection of definitions, examples, and major theorems. Students did some online homework in MyMathLab after I lectured, and once a week they'd turn in 2 problems per section as written work. The online HW was computational, the written would be more "proofy."The classroom dynamic was high energy, even at a 9am time slot, and student evaluations were high at the end of the term. The approach worked out in the end, but largely because the students were attentive, stayed on top of the online HW, and asked lots of insightful questions in class. 
You just started at Lewis University. Tell us what some of the factors you considered
I left my previous institution, where I was ultimately the only tenure-track faculty member by my third year, with the intent of joining a larger department at another liberal arts university, to find more support and time for work outside the classroom. At Lewis, I saw a growing department, joint with computer science, where innovative pedagogies were supported, and the curriculum was being retooled to be more research- and project-driven. I also grew up in the Chicagoland area, so returning home was a big motivator.
What are you teaching this spring term (2018) and how are you teaching the course?
This spring, I’m teaching Applied Probability and Statistics, Advanced Linear Algebra, and two sections of Discrete Mathematics (meeting 4 days a week, with about 20 students apiece). I’m viewing Discrete as an “introduction to proof” type course for computer science majors, who are the majority of my students both sections. Ellie Kennedy (Northern Arizona University) shared a set of IBL course notes for discrete mathematics with me after the 2015 IBL Conference in Austin (which I was able to attend due, in part, to a small grant from AIBL). They had been passed down to her through Ted Mahavier, Jackie Jensen-Vallin and a few others. I was impressed with the problem sequence, but hadn’t had a place to use it until now. This semester, my students are working 2-5 problems from the sequence for class each day, and volunteering to present them at the board. I collect their write-ups at the end of the hour for a completion grade, and we are also having three “Proof Workshops” throughout the semester that will lead to their producing a drafted and revised Proof Portfolio representative of the techniques and topics we encounter this semester. It’s my first full-on IBL course at Lewis, and I look forward to iterating it in the future.
What are your future plans related to teaching and IBL?
I plan to continue teaching with “big tent” IBL throughout the rest of my career, focusing on full blown proof-and-presentation courses at the upper level, but adapting to include more “traditional” lecturing when the course merits. I actually could use a more experienced practitioner as a mentor - it would be good to have regular meetings with someone to talk about the particular difficulties that one encounters in selecting “teacher moves.” What happens if the students have nothing to present one day? What happens if the class is low energy? What happens if it looks like you won’t cover the full set of materials by the end of the term? I am slated to teach Linear Algebra again in the fall, and I have a good idea of how I’ll modify the course further to make it more rewarding for the students. However, I’ve also got a few new preparations - Theories of Geometry and Abstract Algebra. Both have some good materials out there (David Clark’s text for Euclidean Geometry and Dana Ernst’s notes for Abstract are my target materials at this point), but I’ll need to adapt or supplement them to meet our own learning outcomes at Lewis.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Interview: Professor Gulden Karakok

This blog post is an interview of Professor Gulden Karakok, University of Northern Colorado. Professor Karakok works in math education and also facilitates IBL Workshops. Thank you, Prof. Karakok for sharing your insights!

Tell us about your institution and what the teaching environment is like, what courses you typically teach.
I work at the University of Northern Colorado at the School of Mathematical Sciences. Our university started as a State Normal School to train teachers in the area, in 1890s. Since then it is known for educating future teachers in the area, especially the future elementary teachers.  (Here is a short history, if interested: http://www.unco.edu/president/unc-history.aspx)

Our department offers a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics in three different emphasis areas: a Secondary Teaching, a Liberal Arts, and an Applied Mathematics, and most of our undergraduate students are part of the secondary teaching emphasis. We also offer a Ph.D. in Educational Mathematics, but different from many other math departments that offer Ph.D in Math Ed., we do not have a competing Ph.D. program in Mathematics. We have 6 mathematics education professors in the department (the ratio of math educators to other faculty members is 1:2). I guess the point I’m trying to make is our department focuses a lot on good teaching and our programs are geared towards that aim. 

The courses that I typical teach are mathematics content courses for preservice elementary majors, introductory linear algebra course (we have only one linear algebra course) and graduate level mathematics education courses. I was the course coordinator for the first two mathematics content courses for elementary majors for six years overseeing 10 to 12 sections each semester. Together with course instructors (i.e., faculty members and many graduate students) each semester, we designed and/or revised many activities; which was a great collaborative process. In addition to teaching such courses, I also run Math Circles for middle school teachers and local 4th-8th grade students monthly. 

How do you implement IBL?
Let’s say you walked in to my classroom at a given day, you will see students working on a task in small groups. I typically have students work on a problem or a set of questions in small groups and then present or discuss ideas/approaches/solutions etc. We usually end with a wrap-up whole class discussion, which can look very different each day. As students work on tasks in their groups, I walk around to assess what students are thinking, check to see if they are stuck, challenge their thinking by posing questions and make sure that each individual student is “doing” mathematics. Also, I make decisions on if we need to have a whole-class discussion on certain problematic ideas or if we need to present approaches that are seemingly different to make connections among ideas. I do not necessarily have all students present the same solution/answer, rather try to orchestrate presentations to tease out important mathematical ideas and make connections to the learning objectives of the activity or the course, in general. This working in small groups requires attending to your students’ thinking and progression as well as  decision making on your feet in the moment. It can be very exhausting, especially when you are teaching a new course. 

What are some of the benefits of IBL to your students?
I think the most important benefit for the students is that they “do” mathematics instead of watching some else do it for them. They get their hands “dirty”. On the first day I tell my students that I’m not a selfish person and won’t take away the joy of doing mathematics from them- they laugh, but they slowly understand what I mean as the semester progress. I think having them actively work on mathematics empowers them and gives them the ownership in their learning.  Here is a quote from one of my students:

“I thought it was so funny cause after my meeting yesterday with Dr. G. I went back to my dorm room and all my suitemates were like, ‘How did it go?’ And I was like, ‘My life has changed. I understand math.’ And I was just like freaking out and I busted out the three pages of the portfolio…We worked on stuff and it was weird that I understood because she didn't even tell me what to do, she made me do it myself and figure it out myself. And I thought that was weird because usually, like teachers in high school would be like ‘Oh, yeah, this is how you do it. Now go work on it yourself.’ But she was pushing me to think and try to find the process of how it works. And when I did it... I think that was why I was like so excited, because I figured it out myself, with help obviously, but it was my own thinking.”

Well, this approach of teaching is beneficial to me as the teacher because I can know where my students are in their development of mathematical ideas sooner than later. This (information) allows me to adjust my lessons and provide better learning opportunities for students.  We can skip some materials and focus on other areas as needed.

How did you learn to teach via IBL?
My first IBL teaching method was through the Emergent Scholars Program training that I attended one summer at the UT Austin. When I was a graduate student at Oregon State University, I was selected to run a recitation section for Calc 3 course in this ESP format. With a couple of other graduate students we attended the training during one summer.  I believe the ESP was created by Uri Treisman, connecting to his research work at UC Berkeley in calculus courses. So, the main idea was to create different, challenging tasks for students in our recitation sections for students to work on in small groups. Overall, I got excited to create tasks that were different from the textbook end of the chapter ones. Students were also excited because these tasks were allowing them inquiry into deeper mathematical ideas. After that experience, I worked in another project to create STEM activities and also run sessions using these activities. During this project and in many other projects, my advisor Dr. Barbara Edwards, Dr. Corinne Manogue (in physics) and Dr. Tevian Dray provided me opportunities to develop my teaching style. I’ve been so lucky that they allowed me to develop activities, observed me teach and gave me very helpful suggestions. 

What are your future teaching plans? Aspirations?
As a course coordinator, I have been trying to work with graduate students to give them similar opportunities that I had in my teaching as a graduate student. However, I was doing so many different things as the course coordinator and I did not spend enough time in coaching graduate students in their teaching. Hence, this is my future teaching plan - providing support to graduate students in teaching. This semester I’m teaching one credit seminar course for graduate students on teaching. We have been reading the MAA IP Guide, and discussing what they can implement or are already implementing in their classrooms. Their first assignment for the first week of classes was to read blog posts (e.g., Dana Ernst’s blog and the Discovering Art of Mathematics blog) about what to do during first week/first day and implement one idea in their class and reflect on how it went. I’m so excited that they are enjoying this experience and I love observing their class to see how great they are in their teaching. 

Anything else you want to add?
I’m not sure if such a teaching scholarship exists, but it would be great to spend a semester or a year to observe and/or co-teach with others to learn more about others’ great teaching practices. Such scholarships or fellowships would be great to spread what others are doing their classrooms to improve the learning of mathematics for others.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Iceberg Diagram: Fixed-Mindset, Math Anxiety

When students say something like, "I don't learn this way...", it may be the tip of an iceberg. A sign that math anxiety and/or fixed mindsets about learning math lurks underneath the surface. Unless you know the student really well, you may not know the size and depth of the issue. Most people don't go around campus telling others about their math anxiety and fear of failure. Instructors often learn about these things indirectly through more subtle ways.

Here's the Iceberg Diagram

"I don't learn this way..." and "I need to be shown the steps..." are two commons ways to detect an iceberg. Some students may not verbalize these things at all, which highlights why it is important to visit with students regularly and discuss with students about how they are doing with the math task at hand. The more comfortable students are at asking you questions, the better you can hone in on this issue.

Stereotype threat, poor attitudes that do not support learning (i.e. non-availing beliefs), believing mistakes are bad, not realizing hard work is an ingredient of success, and so on. These are things that students have picked up along the way, possibly starting as early as elementary school or perhaps from their homes or elsewhere, and they bring them to your class. These beliefs lie beneath the surface, and ultimately hold some students back.

What can we do? 
There isn’t an easy fix, but we can do something to help melt the iceberg. A broad approach provides the most options and angles of attack. First, problems that are pegged at the right level are necessary, including problems that ask students to explain why things work. Second, instructors need to be ready to coach students through being stuck, pointing out the advantages of productive struggle, including spending time on student buy-in. Third, assessments should also measure process, not just getting the right answer. Fourth, active learning environments that allow all students to ask questions (not just the vocal 3 to 5 in each class), and also regular opportunities to discuss with one another rich mathematical topics. Fifth, readings and/or videos about effective thinking and growth mindset are needed to provide other expert insight, who weigh in on growth mindset. If you, the instructor, are the only one saying these things, it might seem to students like you are making things up. But if growth mindset is presented as a widely accepted emergent truth from research across disciplines, then that's a entirely different framing.

With all that you have a set of strategies that hits at the issue from multiple angles.  Let's get back to the main point. We have a model and a way to see the iceberg, and we have a set of teaching strategies that can address the core issues, which is like applying gentle heat to slowly and surely melt the cold ice.

Here's a quote at the end of the term from a first-year student. This is what melted icebergs sound like.
One big thing I learned from the... assignments was how productive failure can be. Your brain actually grows and develops when you fail. This proved to me that it is more about the process of arriving at the answer than it is about actually getting the right answer right away.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Setting the Stage by Dana Ernst, Northern Arizona University

Hello IBL community. Here's a short post linking you to Dana's great piece, "Setting the Stage." It's a good way to get started at the beginning of the term thinking about what to do to get your students to be more engaged and build buy-in. http://danaernst.com/setting-the-stage/

Another thing I like to do at the beginning of the term is watch Ken Robinson's Ted talk, "How to Escape Education's Death Valley". It's a nice way to feel a bit more inspired so that you're encouraged to take that next step.

So take a look at some ways to get started on day 1 and on getting pumped up for the rest of the term.

Happy 2018 everyone!