Project Background: Throughout the liberal arts curriculum, there are numerous ways, old and new, that reading skills and related habits of mind are taught. A rapidly evolving technology landscape is also shaping the student experience. To help document emerging pedagogies for reading, LACOL’s Active and Engaged Reading working group is embarking on an survey of faculty and academic staff across the disciplines at our member institutions. The survey tool was developed jointly by the AER project team with guidance from the Institutional and Educational Research offices of participating colleges.
The purpose of the survey is to gather insights into how our faculty cultivate various reading skills and practices for students at all levels of the curriculum, with a particular focus on the digital dimension. Results of this survey will be used to inform Active and Engaged Reading working group projects, including a collaborative thought piece on reading for the liberal arts in a digital age.
Instructions: The survey consists of several short answer questions and may take 15-30 minutes to complete, depending on the level of detail you can share. Your input is invaluable to the project. Thank you for your time!
This January, LACOL’s Quantitative Skills working group held a 3-day intensive workshop (also known as a hack-a-thon) to explore a shared framework for review of online modules designed to strengthen students’ quantitative skills (QS) and quantitative reasoning (QR). The face-to-face event was designed by a core team of faculty and technologists from the QS group. The workshop was hosted at Carleton College, with support from the Office of the President, Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching, and Office of Academic Technology.
Goals for the LACOL QS hack-a-thon:
Identify aspects of existing QS/QR curricula, frameworks, and methods to be adapted as an online module/program by participating colleges. The goal for the collaboration is to enhance, not replace, local offerings.
Plan for participating campuses to pilot one of the frameworks and agree to a process for assessment and sharing results among campuses.
Document workshop outcomes and recommendations to share with colleagues across the liberal arts.
Throughout the year, the QS working group has been exploring ideas for a collaborative framework to curate or build online tools and resources – including metadata on related pedagogical practices – to support students with QS/QR. Earlier this year, QS group members contributed to a joint exercise informally titled “What do we mean by quantitative skills?” to generate a shared list of key skills across the quantitative disciplines that students will need to have or acquire early in their academic careers. This common skills list provides input into strategies for helping students identify and close gaps. (more…)
Colleagues with wide-ranging expertise and disciplinary interests from seven LACOL schools spent three days sharing, working and learning side-by-side at the hack-a-thon. Together, the team developed an initial draft and prototypes of a collaborative framework for creating/curating and evaluating online QS/QR modules that can boost students success and improve access. With inspiration from special guest Jim Rolf from Yale ONEXYS, we delved deeply into collaborative strategies for design, implementation and measuring effectiveness. A grand time was had by all … and more to come! (Read more about the project.)
As a preview and prelude to LACOL’s “Language Instruction Hack-a-thon” next May at Swarthmore College (http://lacol.net/language-hackathon), you are cordially invited to join a team meeting on Monday, December 12, 2016. This session is particular relevant for faculty and technologists with an interest in language placement/diagnostics and refreshers, and especially anyone who is curious to know more about plans for the hack-a-thon.
Meeting:LACOL Language Instruction: pre-hack-a-thon brainstorm on language placement, diagnostics and refreshers
Special Guest Speakers:
Chico Zimmerman, Professor of Classics, Carleton College
Clara Hardy, Professor of Classics, Carleton College
To launch the conversation, Professors Zimmerman and Hardy from Carleton College will share an update on their Latin placement project. Throughout the summer and fall, they have been designing a more effective placement test for Latin and exploring a number of web-based tools/platforms for delivery – see: http://lacol.net/latin-placement-lacol2016. Thought focused on Latin content, their work provides excellent food for thought with broad relevance to diagnostics and refreshers for modern languages as well.
The remainder of the session will focus on plans for the hack-a-thon. What are the shared goals? What pre-work can help to lay a solid foundation? What kinds of productive “hands on” work can faculty and technologist do together in person in May?
A small group of faculty has done some brainstorming about the hack-a-thon already. We will share initial ideas and build from there.
Starting in the fall of 2016, faculty at Bryn Mawr and seven partner liberal arts colleges (including LACOL member Vassar College) are field-testing faculty-authored online learning modules they have developed and refined over the past two years as part of the Blended, Just-in-Time Math Fundamentals program. Led by Bryn Mawr professor of physics, Elizabeth McCormack, the Math Fundamentals program tackles math review for students enrolled in introductory STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses. It is designed as a scalable, affordable method for helping students who are interested in STEM fields and generally college-ready in math, but who have areas of weakness or lack experience with applied mathematics, to build skills and confidence needed to thrive in introductory STEM courses.
For example, a student taking introductory physics will need to draw on trigonometry in order to solve certain types of vector problems. While most students encounter trigonometry at some point in high school math courses, the timing, breadth and depth of that exposure can vary considerably. To help these students, physics, chemistry and calculus professors at Allegheny, Bryn Mawr, Franklin & Marshall, Grinnell, Lafayette, Mills, Smith, St. Olaf, and Vassar colleges have worked with instructional designers to develop a “sandwich” approach to math review. Each module starts with a worked example of a canonical course problem — such as resolving vectors in introductory physics. This example identifies the fundamental math skills needed to solve the problem and provides links to online, interactive self-assessment and practice resources. According to the project manager Jennifer Spohrer, Manager of Educational Technology Services at Bryn Mawr:
These resources give students individualized feedback on their mastery of math fundamentals. Meanwhile, faculty, academic support staff, and peer tutors can review students’ work to provide additional assistance to those who need it. Students then solve a “do-it-yourself” version of the original problem to practice applying those skills in context.
Debrief on Carleton’s CUBE pilot (online summer bridge program for quantitative skills)
On October 19, LACOL held a webinar with special guests Melissa Eblen-Zayas and Janet Russell from Carleton College. In this one-hour session, Melissa and Janet shared their experiences running the first iteration ofthe ‘Carleton Undergraduate Bridge Experience’ or CUBE, a new online summer bridge program designed to support entering students with quantitative skills and reasoning. Carleton’s creative approach to developing CUBE riveted the audience at the June LACOL workshop as the pilot was just getting underway. Now in this “debrief” session, you can hear all about what went into running the program in the first round, how students responded, and the lessons that were learned. The meeting was held in Zoom with ample opportunity for Q&A and discussion. Contact Liz Evans (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
Melissa Eblen-Zayas, Associate Professor of Physics and Director of the Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching, Carleton College
Janet Russell, Director of Academic Technology, Carleton College
To advance their shared inquiries, AER is launching two initiatives this year: a multi-campus survey on the teaching of reading, to be followed by a thought piece that reflects on reading-related challenges and opportunities for liberal arts educators and students. A team of faculty, librarians and technologist from member campuses will collaborate on both projects, with coordination from AER’s co-leads, Ron Patkus, Associate Director of the Libraries for Special Collections and Adjunct Associate Professor of History at Vassar College (pictured at right) and hari stephen kumar, Instructional Designer and Associate Director of the Learning Collaborative at Amherst College. (See a talk from kumar at LACOL2016.)
Multi-campus survey of teaching practices for reading across the curriculum
Throughout the liberal arts curriculum, there are numerous ways, old and new, that reading skills and related habits of mind are taught. To help document emerging pedagogies for reading, AER is embarking on an survey of selected faculty and staff across the disciplines at our member institutions. The survey questions and methodology are being developed jointly with input from the Institutional and Educational Research offices of participating colleges.
I learned about The Early Novels Database when my English professor, Emily Vasiliauskas, told me about a joint END/LACOL effort to include more undergraduate students through summer internships. The project offered a unique combination of scholarly research available to undergraduates in the humanities with an introduction to a rapidly emerging sector of my own field I knew very little about. Throughout the summer, I worked with peers and mentors from Swarthmore College, University of Pennsylvania’s Van Pelt Library, Haverford College, and the Tri-College Digital Humanities initiative to gather metadata on early English novels. The experience acquainted me with the breadth and depth of works beyond the traditional literary canon. It also provided me with a rare opportunity to learn unfamiliar skills in the digital humanities in the context of my own discipline.
The daily routine of paging through dozens of never before cataloged early modern novels might seem repetitive on the surface. In practice it acquainted me with a new way of close reading distinct from what I was accustomed to in my academic courses. I learned about preservation and handling techniques essential to maintaining special collections and preserving aging works. I became fascinated with the question of the book as object. Specifically, I was interested in books which had been physically torn, annotated, or stitched together, and books which comprised edited compilations of other works. One of the most interesting examples of alteration to the book as object is the popular 18th century practice of binding together periodicals received over a subscription period to form one larger volume. Certainly, there is a sense of continuity or comprehensiveness, even status, that comes with a complete set of matching volumes, a gilt-edged collection of encyclopedias. I wonder whether at least a portion of the appeal of this completeness might have been the pretense of omniscience, or appearance of omniscience, it conferred on the owner.
At one time, owning a complete set of encyclopedias might have connoted possession of nearly all officially recorded, general knowledge—a possession that, in the digital age, is simultaneously impossible in physical form as information is constantly generated, and accessible to everyone via the Internet.
The practice of interacting constantly with dozens of rare books gave rise to my final project, Imagined Distance: Visualizing Place and Space in Faux Epistolary Travel Novels. I had the opportunity to peruse a variety of epistolary novels. Many of the characters wrote to one another across divides of cultural and physical geography, age, gender, and class background. My project focused on how epistolary novels ignore, honor, or attempt to collapse those distances: geographical, emotional, or even spiritual. I sought to contrast and quantitate, when or if possible, the various types of distances in a novel as the author conceived of them with the distances I could map through various digital tools that use a standard Mercator projection. I used a corpus of literature that eventually organized itself around a particular subgenre, one both oddly specific and widely published in the 18th century.
This genre, faux epistolary travel fiction, emerged as a way for Europeans to read about the adventures of primarily non-white travelers–except those travelers were actually white British writers impersonating people of color.
What I found so interesting, even alarming, about the faux travel fiction trend in particular is that it creates and then purports to collapse a fictional distance from the dominant culture that the writer does not actually have to negotiate in the first place.
I used the intentionally blunt tool of mapping out locations I noted in the novels, noticing which details fell off the page. I was particularly interested in those distances that defied my attempts at modelling. After completing close readings, I used the Stanford Name Entity Recognizer tool to identify locations in the novels I’d selected. I created in Google My Maps a map of each of the novels, with their geographical references displayed on a standard Mercator projection map, and I used Google Fusion Tables as a further tool for exploration. I brought together my newfound facility with digital tools and my love for geography in literature in a final public presentation supported by faculty and my peers. Examples of the maps I created can be found at the top of this post and below.
At the June LACOL workshop, Swarthmore Classics Professor William Turpin gave a presentation during the Adaptive Learning breakout on his investigations into various digital tools to support students with learning and practice of Latin and Greek. As shown in the short slideshow below, Turpin is experimenting with platforms such as Fluenz and Smart Sparrow which offer a variety of modes for presenting interactive content and adaptive drills to students.
Alongside presentations from two other speakers in the session, Turpin’s experiments sparked a robust Q&A on the useful applications for supporting student learning through adaptive tools, and also concerns regarding data and content portability when considering the use of proprietary software. It is clear that the promises and potential pitfalls of adaptive learning for the liberal arts will remain a keen focus of interest for the Consortium.
Slides (no audio) from William Turpin’s investigations into adaptive tools for Latin learning.
At the LACOL workshop in June, classicist Chico Zimmerman from Carleton College shared a short plenary talk entitled, “Toward a better Latin placement test”, also known as, “A Tale of Two Arcadian Friends, a Homocidal Innkeeper, and a Pile of Manure.”
In their teaching, faculty strive to meet students where they are, but often must ask, where exactly ARE they? For incoming students at Carleton, the Classics department found that their Latin placement test was not giving enough granular diagnostic information, especially for less experienced students. To address this need, Zimmerman and his colleages are investigating a variety of adaptive tools and platforms with the potential to help them better understand and guide their students at the appropriate level.
In the video clip below, Zimmerman shares details on Carleton’s experiments thus far with Moodle, Assistments, Smart Sparrow, and other tools. Similar themes of adaptive and digitally-enhanced support for language instruction and other disciplines were explored in sessions throughout the two-day workshop program.
Chico Zimmerman explores tools for better language placement at the LACOL workshop.
A major highlight of Saturday’s plenary session at the June LACOL workshop was a presentation from Carleton College on their new online/hybrid bridge program called ‘Carleton Undergraduate Bridge Experience’ or CUBE. Associate Dean and Professor of English George Shuffelton opened the session with some background on the motivations for designing the new program to support incoming students with their quantitative skills and reasoning which pilots this summer. Director of Academic Technology Janet Russell has worked closely with the program’s director, Physicist Melissa Eblen-Zayas, and the Carleton IT team to guide the learning design for the first cohort of ~24 students. Janet described various elements of the program, including on-campus and online mentoring, videos and connections through social media. Workshop participants, especially those involved with the Quantitative Skills working group, applauded this excellent presentation and are excited to learn from Carleton’s initial experiences this summer. The QS group is exploring various ways the colleges might collaborate to support students with quantitative skills and reasoning as they arrive on campus and progress with their studies.
Carleton’s G. Shuffelton and J. Russell share a look at the CUBE for QS/QR.
On April 27th, five expert panelists from across the Consortium gathered online with an audience of faculty, technologists, and campus administrators for a discussion entitled, “Learning Data. What do we know? What do we want to know?” The session began with some thought-provoking remarks from the panelists, followed by two case studies, leading into free flowing conversation around several themes noted below in the video highlights.
The goal of this online conversation was to set a broad frame for faculty perspectives on learning data as it is useful in guiding teaching and student success in the liberal arts. As indicated by audience feedback, this area has rich possibilities for exploration and potential collaboration as a Consortium. We will be looking for opportunities to foster further conversation and collaborative investigation on specific aspects of this important topic.
Video Gallery – Online Panel
The who of learning data for the liberal arts.
• Dr. Audrey Bilger, Professor of Literature and Faculty Director of the Center for Writing & Public Discourse, Claremont McKenna College; incoming Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College, Pomona College
Levels of data that may inform teaching practice and institutional structures.
• Dr. Catherine Crouch, Associate Professor of Physics, Swarthmore College
How can liberal arts colleges collaborate on data that guide teaching and learning?
Following discussions and collaborations mostly via Zoom in the fall of 2015, Mark Andrews, Baynard Bailey, Thomas Parker of Vassar College and Virginie Pouzet-Duzer of Pomona College are looking for new LACOL partners who would be interested in adding a digital storytelling element to their fourth semester French classroom.
French Digital Storybook created by Vassar students Rafaela Vega del Castillo, Rose Clarfeld & David Sparks.
The current project started at Vassar College when Susan Hiner (Dept. French and Francophone Studies) received a grant to create a course for teaching intermediate French based on authentic French and Francophone story books.
The premise is that during the semester students learn French in the same way a Francophone child would through authenticate cultural material. During the semester, students “grow up,” beginning with illustrated nursery rhymes, songs, fairy tales, myths, and fables then short stories, bandes dessinées, animated movies, and concluding with adolescent literature.
Attached to these texts, the course proposes grammar and writing exercises combined with interpretative and creative exercises, all launched through a digital platform. Most importantly, the course features a student-authored semester-long storybook that students write, illustrate, animate, and narrate in French on a digital platform.
The course has been through several iterations as part of a collaborative effort in Vassar’s FFS department, primarily between Susan Hiner, Mark Andrews, and myself, Thomas Parker, with the active involvement of a succession of French Language Fellows (visiting French assistants). We have been having much success with students who adore the creative element of the course (the book writing), the strong visual emphasis and engaging content of the authentic source material (children’s books), and the different elements and non-traditional pedagogical strategies it provides.
For the technology aspect, we’ve worked closely an instructional technologist – Baynard Bailey. He works with the students to help them to construct their storybooks in Final Cut Pro X. Most students make illustrations by hand, scan them and then import the images into their digital books. Students then record their voiceovers, adding sound effects, music and animation to complement their stories. The videos are exported and uploaded to YouTube, and the scripts go into the closed captions. We’ve refined the process over the years and the evolution of the student work can be seen at http://pages.vassar.edu/ffs-digital-storytelling.
Now we are seeking partners and support to improve the course with colleagues. Our first partner is Virginie Pouzet-Duzer at Pomona College. In the fall of 2016, she is planning to incorporate several features from our version of French 206 into her French 44. She is going to keep the focus on fairy tales, but her syllabus partially let go of the texts originally aimed at a younger audience. Also, she is planning on adding a remote presentation of the final projects, having students from Pomona and Vassar share with each others using Skype or Zoom. (more…)
Dr. Audrey Bilger, Professor of Literature and Faculty Director of the Center for Writing & Public Discourse, Claremont McKenna College; incoming Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College, Pomona College
Learning data generally:What do we mean by learning data? How is such data collected? Where does it live?
Faculty perspectives: What data sets are typically available to faculty? What insights can be gained? What other kinds of data might be useful?
Mini Case Studies:
Student course responses at Williams College: As part of a year long look at teaching evaluations, Dick De Veaux analyzed 10 years of data from Williams, about 100,000 student course responses. Some of the results were as expected, others were more surprising. He’ll summarize some of the things he’s learned from the analysis and point to what it says about the possible future of teaching evaluations at Williams.
Evaluating ALEKS at Carleton College: Andrea Nixon will share an overview of Carleton’s approach and the insights gained in assessing their pilot of ALEKS, an adaptive online tool for supporting students with Quantitative Skills.
The second half of the session will be devoted to discussion among the five panelists with opportunity to take questions and gather additional views from the online audience.
About the Learning Data panel:
The focus of this online conversation is to set a broad frame for faculty perspectives on “learning data” as it is useful in guiding teaching and student success in the liberal arts. This area has rich possibilities for exploration and potential collaboration as a Consortium. Although related, this panel is not intended as a discussion of “learning analytics” methodologies/tools, or assessment as it may relate to accreditation.
Dr. Audrey Bilger, Incoming Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College, Pomona College. Professor Bilger is interested in the human face of learning data. How are the “unmeasurable” aspects of learning captured and reflected in faculty teaching practice? Can narrative inquiry contribute in useful ways? She is also interested in communicating the value of learning data to faculty who may resist the idea of quantifying the unquantifiable.
Dr. Catherine Crouch, Assoc. Professor of Physics, Swarthmore College. Professor Crouch has led numerous research projects evaluating instruction and also seeks to be guided by data from the discipline-based education research community on best practices for teaching. Her experiences with these projects have also made her aware of the constraints that individual faculty face in gathering data to evaluate their courses and curriculum, as well as the institutional challenges that faculty face in implementing research-based pedagogies and practices.
Dr. Richard De Veaux, Professor of Statistics, Williams College. Professor De Veaux is deeply engaged with faculty and IR colleagues at Williams to develop more meaningful statistical analyses of teaching performance. Rethinking the design of student course evaluations can lead to better insights for faculty and for the institution. As a textbook author, he is interested in the evolution of student performance metrics and the increasing reliance of faculty on these assessments. (more…)
On Monday, Feb 29, members of LACOL’s Quantitative Skills working group met with Yale’s ONEXYS team for a discussion of online/hybrid approaches to supporting students with quantitative skills and reasoning.
Areas of common interest include:
Yale’s experience with ONEXYS
Measuring program impact and student success
Online module design/content for summer bridge
Training of peer coaches/mentors for effective tutoring (blended and online)
Envisioning a virtual community/social network for students and/or coaches
Online Bridge Programs for QS/QR Preparedness
Yale ONEXYS / LACOL QS web conference
Monday, Feb 29, 2016
Jim Rolf (Yale Math Department)
Edward O’Neill (Yale Teaching and Learning Center) (more…)