Friday, August 14, 2015

Exposing our "expert blind spots" to support student learning

At the Distance Teaching & Learning conference in Madison, WI this week, Sharon Derry and Susan Rundell Singer discussed the role of novices and experts in the classroom. According to Singer, research shows that experts can make visible only 30% of what they do unless a specialist in cognitive task analysis is there to help them unpack it. As learning practitioners, she stated, we need to help experts expose their "expert blind spots" in order to aid novices in their movement along the novice-expert continuum. The two scholars explained how faculty should be aware of their expert blind spots so they can put on the persona of their learners and learn how to solve the problem without this expert knowledge.

They went on to discuss how "worked problems", a concept discussed in earlier research by Derry, might be a potential way for experts to make their expert processes visible. A worked problem is making visible the thinking process one might go through to solve a problem or filling in the gaps that an expert may not be aware they need to show you in order to solve a problem.

But a worked example is very different than just a physics professor solving a problem on the board. There needs to be specifics, unpacking expertise, scaffolding/making the thinking process. She referenced Allen Schoenfeld's work on making thinking visible, which is still critical (and perhaps lacking application) in classrooms today. She also discussed how the novice and expert might work together to expose the problem and developed the worked problem model together.

When it comes to helping students develop their writing, it is critical that we provide similar "worked problems" in the classroom. One way I do this is to walk students through my own writing process and show them my progress on real writing projects throughout our time in the course. I also provide annotated examples of prior students' writing to show my new students what works, what is good evidence, and what are good "moves" in academic writing. I will admit, however, that I could use more time talking with faculty or other specialists about what makes me an expert writer and what my blind spots might be when it comes to teaching writing. With this in mind, I suggest we spend time talking through our process and our methods for solving our discipline's "problems" with others. And since cognitive task analysis experts aren't always hanging around the corner to help us unpack our expertise, perhaps we can gather faculty and experts in other disciplines who may not have the same blind spots as us to help us unpack these blind spots together.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Lessons in Peer Review from Eli Review

Eli Review has put together free curriculum in "Framing Feedback and Revision" for students that assists them in both providing helpful feedback and then using the peer feedback given to them. Check out Nick Carbone's blog post summarizing the student curriculum with additional links and examples.

A Helpful Resource for Academic Writing

The Academic Phrasebank is a resource developed out of the University of Manchester to provide "examples of some of the phraseological ‘nuts and bolts’ of writing." Originally designed for non-native speakers of English, the Academic Phrasebank offers a variety of phrases, context, and organizational information for all scientific and academic writers.

Click here to visit the Academic Phrasebank and here to learn more about its development.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Will you give life to a Chicago statue?

Statue Stories Chicago is hosting a public monologue writing competition in partnership with the Goodman Theatre. The winning pieces will be recorded by members of the Goodman and included as part of Statue Stories Chicago.

Submit entries of 350 words or fewer here by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, September 30, 2015.

Click here for more information about the competition and to see photos and descriptions of each statue needing a voice.

Monday, August 3, 2015

"The Writing Assignment That Changes Lives"

A researcher in Canada is discovering that certain writing prompts not only help students with edifying self-reflection and goal-setting, but also nearly erase the gender and ethnic minority achievement gap in those studied.

Jordan Peterson, a professor at the University of Toronto, wanted to explore the relationship between writing and students' motivation. He created an undergraduate course in which "students complete a set of writing exercises that combine expressive writing with goal-setting." The course has already shown to reduce the drop-out rate of at-risk students and even increase academic achievement.

One educator theorizes that Peterson's course could be seeing results by limiting self-defeating behavior. "If you aren't sure you belong in college, and you don't hand in that paper," Melinda Karp explains, "you can say to yourself, 'That's because I didn't do the work, not because I don't belong here.' " Peterson's writing exercises might curb these thoughts by helping students to focus on their goals and motivations.

To learn more about Peterson's research and process, click here to read NPR's story, quoted above.