Andrea Stevenson Won is an assistant professor in the Cornell Communication Department where she directs the Virtual Embodiment Lab. She studies how people communicate in virtual environments and how this differs from other forms of communication. She spends her days working with the latest virtual reality gear and conducting experiments in virtual worlds. She’s also collaborating with physicists to create new ways of teaching using VR. In this episode Andrea talks with us about how virtual reality affects her teaching today and how it could affect all our teaching tomorrow.
Cornell psychologist Robert Sternberg has done seminal work on creativity, wisdom, and cognitive styles. He cares deeply about higher education and teaching, and in this episode we focus on the role of creativity in the classroom. We talk about the importance of creativity in today’s labor market, how to measure creativity, and how students are motivated to learn when they are given an opportunity to be creative.
Standard assessments of student learning are vital to quantifying the effectiveness of different teaching methods (Freeman et al. 2014). Physics, biology, and chemistry have well over 100 publicly available assessments that cover a wide range of courses and topics. Economics currently has only one high quality standard assessment that is appropriate for undergraduate students: the Test of Understanding College Economics (TUCE). George Orlov (Cornell’s first Economics Active Learning Initiative postdoc) and I have spent the last six months developing two new assessments of learning in econometric methods that we hope will catalyze improvements in economic education.
After 145 blog posts and 69 podcast episodes, the Teach Better website needed some TLC. The look and feel were dated, and more important, a ton of great content was getting lost under the more recent great content. Over the winter break, I upgraded the underlying software (Jekyll) and overhauled the navigation of the site. Check out the new podcast and blog pages to browse the archives in brand new ways, and let me know what you think either by mail, on Twitter or in the comments below!
In this episode we take a walk through our archive and share some amazing examples of extreme teaching. These include college classes prisons and chapels, incorporating balloons and cotton candy machines into a student project fair, and holding office hours on the radio. If you’re new to the podcast or just want to be inspired by feats of pedagogical daring, you’re going to love this one.
This might sound crazy, but the best teaching idea I implemented in 2017 was giving a test on the second day of class. And I mean a full on 40 minute exam, not a little quiz.
Laura Gibbs has been teaching mythology and folklore online since 2002 for the University of Oklahoma. For the past five summers, Doug has taught small private online courses (SPOC’s) for the Yale Summer Session, and Edward has taught several courses in a variety of online formats. In this episode all three share the lessons they’ve learned along the way.
Mark Urban-Lurain is the Associate Director for Engineering Education Research at Michigan State University. He’s also the Principle Investigator on an NSF-sponsored project developing methods and software for Automated Analysis of Constructed Responses. Open-ended questions force students to think differently than multiple choice questions, but are much harder to grade. In this episode we talk to Mark about how the project uses machine learning to evaluate and analyze free text answers in order to shed new light on student understanding and misconceptions.
Michelle Smith is an Associate Professor in the School of Biology and Ecology at the University of Maine, and she’s one of the world’s leading discipline-based education researchers. Among many other things, she studies why and how peer discussion works as an effective teaching tool, collaborates with biology teachers in college and high school settings, and develops concept inventories (standard assessments of learning) at the course and program level. In this episode, we talk about the benefits of using concept inventories in your own classes, and Michelle gives advice for finding, creating and/or giving them.