What were you trying to change or solve? Identify the aspect of teaching and/or learning that you were attempting to improve or the challenge you were attempting to address by implementing your project.
Because my Career Counseling course had been transitioned to an online course, I felt there were several things that were being missed that I needed to find a way to bring back. For example, I missed demonstrating career counseling techniques or interventions during class periods. Students had provided feedback that watching me show how to complete a career card sort or work through a career genogram were incredibly valuable. During class periods, I would also invite students to practice the interventions with their peers. While students could be practicing on their own time, I had no way to confirm that! Finally, students accompanied myself to a homeless shelter during their last class period where they would conduct a career counseling session with at least one technique or intervention that they learned in class. Their final papers were case conceptualizations based on these sessions. I perceived that these things would be difficult to include with the new online format, but I realized that variations of these things would still be possible with the support of the Office of Teaching and Learning.
What did you do? Briefly explain your technique/strategy/idea/tool/activity. Include a description of what the students did differently (for example; how they interacted with you, each other, and/or the learning environment) and your role.
Prior to the OTL OneNewThing mini grant, my lectures included no videos related to the techniques and interventions in career counseling (unless I was able to track one down on YouTube!). My proposal was to create a series of videos of myself demonstrating career counseling techniques and interventions for students to have a better understanding of the material. Specifically for the grant, I started with one video of a career counseling intervention – a card sort. Learning how easy it could be through completing the experience myself, I asked my students to record a part of their mock career counseling session that would demonstrate a technique or interventions so I would be able to better evaluate their understanding of the course content. These short clips were uploaded to DU VideoManager by the students.
How did it go, and what did you learn? Describe how the students responded, what learning improvements you see or can infer, the aspects of the method that were most difficult or surprising, and the potential challenges that others might face. What advice would you give to someone and/or what would you do differently next time?
As I mentioned, the card sort video was surprisingly easy to create (with the support of the Office of Teaching and Learning, of course!) so I was encouraged to ask the students to complete their own videos! I provided them with information from the Office of Teaching and Learning that had helped me create that video and instructed them where to upload their videos. Based on feedback from the students, they enjoyed my video on the career counseling intervention and they appreciated the feedback that I was able to provide on their short clips! I am really looking forward to adding more videos and continuing to assign the video clip of students’ career counseling interventions for their final assignment!
Jessica D. Bartley PsyD, LCSW, CC-AASP
Behavioral Health Consultant/Staff Psychologist
Health and Counseling Center
University of Denver
Written by: Erika Trigoso, Department of Geography and the Environment
The FSEM I teach is entitled Geography and Genealogy and the main objective of the class is to provide a detailed overview of genealogy in relation to the geographic, religious, economic, political and social processes that shaped the migration choices of our ancestors. The course focuses on intensive research of a variety of primary and secondary sources such as Ellis Island records and census records.
Within this learning framework, as part of an OTL OneNewThing grant, in the Autumn 2015 term I developed a final research project that helped to sharpen the students’ research skills while engaged in a service learning project related to the historic preservation of older properties in Denver. The project consisted of pairing student teams with community members interested in applying for historic designation status based on three categories: geography (location contribution to city of Denver’s character), history (association with the historical development of the city or with a person or group of persons who had influence on society), architecture (possesses distinguishing characteristics of an architectural style).
The community partners were recruited via City Park West / Park Hill Neighborhoods Next Door and Facebook websites. The project involved a field trip in which the students met the community partners and collected information and pictures of the property. The students went to the downtown Denver Public Library to further investigate property records with the aid of librarians. The students also conducted research via ancestry.com (a required class tool) to research the property’s census records and occupant’s biographies. The main goal was to provide our community partners with a complete report to be used as part of the historic designation application.
The students were quite engaged with the project once they visited their assigned properties and got to meet the property owners and collect information in situ. The students had the chance to polish their recently acquired research skills with primary and secondary sources of information, and to participate in old fashioned field trips and library research.
This was a great opportunity for the students and for me as the instructor. We got to experience service learning while contributing to the preservation of the geographic/historic/architectural character of Denver. Many of the out of state students were able to learn in depth about Denver’s development as a city and got to enjoy the unique downtown architecture which is threaten by rapid urban development and infill. The students got to immerse themselves into old Denver.
Some of the challenges were that the properties were very different from each other. Some properties had lots of available information, while others were lacking. Some had significant advantages historically/architecturally in comparison to the others. It was somewhat difficult to provide a comparable experience for all students. Next time, we would like to partner with a city councilman who is seeking to conduct research of historic properties along Colfax Avenue. Due to the large number of properties involved it will be easier to provide all students with a similar and meaningful experience. It will be also beneficial to have the city of Denver as our project partner since the results will be incorporated in the larger Colfax Avenue Development Project.
There were several interesting research results: 1) matching a property to a previous owner who was the first City of Denver librarian, 2) linking a property to a former presidential candidate, 3) determining that one property owner was the founder of the Jewish National Hospital. To complete the loop, we are eager to learn if any of the community partners were successful in obtaining historic status for their houses.
17 Nov 2016
In the spring quarter of 2016, the Western Colorado Master of Social Work (MSW) Program at DU offered a new course entitled: “Contemporary Social Work Issues in Western Colorado.” The course focuses on environmental justice as a core social work practice area and was developed so that students could learn about the disproportionate burdens of environmental injustices in communities across the Western Slope of Colorado. The class provides an opportunity for students to critically explore, analyze, and discuss current environmental justice disparities and relevant social work interventions in their home communities.
As part of their coursework, students reviewed environmental justice theories and perspectives as they bear on place-based case studies from the region—from oil and gas development in Western Garfield County, to the implications of food waste in Grand Junction, to the damming of the Colorado River in Hot Sulphur Springs. The students were then asked to write and record original podcast episodes and blog posts surrounding their research and experiences. You can read the student blog posts: www.westcomsw.com and listen to their original podcast recordings: www.soundcloud.com/westerncoloradomsw.
The purposes of the blogging activity were threefold. The ability to effectively communicate environmental justice concerns is an important skill to cultivate for professional social workers. Staying informed about innovative communication strategies in an increasingly digital age is an ethical imperative for social workers across the world. Additionally, this regional program in Western Colorado, with mainly online and hybrid courses, needed a better way to connect distance students both socially and academically.
In reflecting upon their blogging and podcasting experiences, students agreed they were able to achieve these goals. Brooke Lightner, Western Colorado MSW student and Steamboat Springs resident appreciate the new learning experience. Brooke states: “I really enjoyed writing the blogs…It felt risky putting my voice out there, but the rewards were far greater. I think there is a compelling argument to be made that teaching MSW students about this new technology, how to use it effectively and creating an opportunity to reflect on the ethical issues surrounding those methodologies, is not only essential for the marketability of students post-graduation, but the responsibility of a progressive social work program. This is especially important for those who work with youth – we must be savvy in current means of technology in order to foster the relationships necessary to do good work with our clients. Overall, I want to say how grateful I am for the innovative approach this class took in our learning. Not only was the content extremely valuable, but also the assignments were designed such that we had the opportunity to practice a style of communication that is practical for the 21st century.”
This project was part of a OneNewThing grant from the Office of Teaching and Learning, led by Rachel Forbes, Western Colorado MSW Program Director and Assistant Professor of the Practice of Social Work at DU. The program will offer the Contemporary Social Work Issues class again in Winter Quarter 2017.
In the Summer Quarter 2016, I taught the Reiman Fund class (FIN 3710). This class actively manages a $275,000 equity fund that is part of the DU endowment. The primary goal of the class is to select sectors and stocks to outperform a benchmark, which in this case in the S&P MidCap 400 Index.
Students are required to recommend stock trades within the portfolio. These “pitches” are provided through presentations in class and involve extensive discussions about valuation and fit with our investment strategy. To provide a more enriching educational experience and give our students the best chance of outperforming the benchmark, I implemented curriculum changes to achieve the following objectives:
1. Encourage students to start this assignment early
Identifying undervalued investments involves outsmarting many of the brightest minds in the world. This task almost always involves more time and effort than students expect.
2. Provide students with feedback prior to the presentation
3. Develop student skills in providing constructive comments
4. Develop student skills in collaborating using in an online environment.
The specific curriculum change was to require students who are presenting the pitches to post a summary of their pitch (called a written stock report) at least 48 hours prior to their presentation. Students post these reports in Google Docs that I create within the Collaborations section of Canvas. The students who were not presenting are required to post comments on the presentations prior to the start of the class.
I also established guidelines for student comments. Comments need to directly relate to our evaluation of whether the stock fits our investment strategy. The feedback needs to better our understanding of the stock by providing information that is not in the stock report. Also, comments can be either a positive or negative aspect of the stock. If negative, the comments must be constructive critical. Students are required to express their opinion in a professional, respectful manner.
This curriculum change added significant value to the class. By providing students comments in a collaborative online environment, students learn from my comments on their peer’s work. The student presentations improved by getting feedback and suggestions prior to the presentation. The class votes on whether or not to implement the student recommendations with real money. Therefore, we all benefit from having the best possible presentations. Finally, the students gained experience in working in an increasingly popular approach of jointly editing online documents.
17 May 2016
In Winter 2016, my first quarter teaching at DU, I taught two courses in the Investments sub-field of Finance. The first is a core course for finance majors, Investments, which introduces students to the institutional details of the investing process and how to invest optimally and evaluate investment performance. The second course, Fixed Income, is a cross-listed undergraduate and graduate elective course about investing in bond markets and related contracts called derivatives.
These courses are both quantitatively and conceptually rigorous in nature. Moreover, the students have a variety of mathematical backgrounds and levels of motivation. Investments has students from several of the business majors, including less technical ones, and Fixed Income combines undergraduate and graduate finance majors. Hence, the challenges in these courses include:
- Engaging the less motivated students
- Offering enough rigor to keep the technically able and motivated students interested
- Delivering material in a manner/pace that gives the less technically able students a chance to learn the material.
Prior versions of these courses used traditional lecture formats of presentation and relied primarily on exams for assessment. I tried to improve on these formats to address challenges 1-3 above by assigning case studies, mostly published by the well-known Harvard Business Publishing. In addition to addressing the challenges above, cases benefit students who tend to learn more effectively by induction, as opposed to deduction, because cases come from real-life finance-industry decisions, and the same concepts apply to many other finance problems. Moreover, using cases and case discussion necessitates grading participation, which has a secondary benefit of promoting interaction and engagement in delivering lectures. When I lecture, students respond more to questions that I pose in class and participate more in solving example problems as they know it directly affects their grade.
What did students do with the cases presented? How were they used, in general?
Overall, students did well on exam questions that involved similar technical problems as the cases, though this was my first quarter teaching at DU, so I do not have a perfect control group to compare these outcomes to. Students also wrote enthusiastic comments about using cases and the associated active classroom on evaluations in both classes. Hence, the method appears to work, though the quantity of data is limited.
I did make a few rookie mistakes and noticed a few areas for improvement to the case study/active learning method. I will discuss three. First, I underestimated the importance of setting clear expectations, particularly with the Investments course that has younger students. I did have a couple of paragraphs in the syllabus about what good participation and case write-ups look like. Many students communicated well orally during the case discussion, but did not put the effort into explaining their problem solving process well in their write-ups. I had students treating cases more like a “homework assignment”, trying to find a “right answer”, but assuming I did not care as much about their explanation. Conversely, I cared much more about a carefully written explanation of how they went about solving the problem than a “right answer”. In the future I will and would suggest writing a precise grading rubric that relates letter grades to different qualities of the product. I might even make a sample case write-up myself to show them what an ‘A’ write-up looks like.
Second, grading participation was challenging and students would have benefited from regular feedback. Many students overestimated their contribution to class discussion and participation would have been even better if I corrected this misperception earlier. Next time, I will create a precise rubric for grading participation. Keeping track of many students’ comments is also challenging. I am not precisely sure what to do about this yet, but next time I will find a tool to help keep better track of student participation. One possibility is letting students turn in their feedback for any given day on a note-card. Another possibility is choosing a rotating set of students that I can realistically focus on in any given class and then carefully recording their participation after class.
Finally, any class will have a few students who have a stubborn desire to just show up, do the bare minimum, and hope for a C. I had the naïve idea that I would motivate every student to do ‘A’ work with really interesting cases and my enthusiasm. After a few tries and returned graded assignments, I did get some of the less motivated students significantly more engaged, however I did not get to them all. It was then easy to get discouraged by the few students that did not respond as favorably as I wanted than be encouraged by the outstanding majority of the class who were explicitly excited about the case and active learning approach. Hence, it is important to maintain your enthusiasm for the majority that respond favorably than lose it by being discouraged about the few that do not.
06 Oct 2015
Debbie Mitchell from the Department of Chemistry kicked off our first faculty showcase on September 23rd. Over twenty faculty and staff attended Debbie’s session about how she has spent the last few years converting her Chemistry course to a flipped classroom.
What is a “flipped” classroom?
Professor Mitchell shared the following definition of Flipped Learning:
A pedagogical approach where direct instruction moves from a group to an individual learning space. The group space is dynamic and interactive instead of a passive environment where students are lectured to for the majority of the class.
Debbie described how she first began by flipping one class per week, and found the approach so successful that she flipped her entire course this fall. She showed a few of the videos she has created for students to watch outside of class, staring from her earliest video using simple technology, and then showing more current videos that use more sophisticated software.
Debbie facilitated the session in the spirit of a flipped classroom – with participants using a worksheet to guide small and large group discussions. Participants at the session discussed how not only students but also instructors might benefit from a flipped or more active classroom environment – including better relationships with students and really getting to know their learning. Debbie and others referenced some of the research that supports a more active classroom environment.
One challenge discussed was student resistance to this teaching approach. Some suggested that you don’t necessarily want to use the term ‘flipping’ when describing your class. However, you do want to spend time explaining to students that they will be expected to view materials before coming to class and must be prepared to be actively engaged during class time.