Faculty Matter Teaching Tip #19: Encouraging Active Participation

Encouraging active participation in between the First and Last Five Minutes of Class

A voluminous body of research supports the notion that students’ learning is enhanced when they participate actively in class.  Asking and answering questions, contributing to class discussions, working with classmates to solve problems, and other similar kinds of activities can result in better understanding and mastery of course material as well as enhanced enthusiasm about what they are learning. Building upon earlier tips, today’s Faculty Matter Teaching Tip consists of suggestions of things you might do with the time in between the first and last five minutes of your classes to create a climate where students are willing – even eager – to participate.

Two key constructs – Do you see evidence of them in your classes?

Several decades ago, David Karp and William Yoels coined the term civil attention, to refer to students who were, technically, abiding by classroom behavioral norms – appearing to follow the instructor’s presentation, taking notes, nodding or chuckling at appropriate moments, suggesting that they were “engaged”, when really, their attention was at least partially elsewhere. (Karp and Yoels, 1976).  From a distance, such behavior appears cooperative.  In actuality, while it is not outwardly disruptive, students who engage in it are robbing themselves of the opportunity to get much out of their presence in class, and they are doing little to enrich the experience of their classmates.

These same authors also introduced the notion of consolidation of responsibility, the observation that absent concerted efforts on the part of the instructor, a small handful of students is typically responsible for the vast majority of verbal contribution to the class. The rest of the students sit in silence – some are relieved not to have to talk, others are frustrated by the dominance of a few, and others do not care one way or the other.

Encouraging more wide-spread active participation in discussion

Make sure you’ve created a “safe” and inviting space in your classroom, where students feel comfortable speaking up.

  • Consider how your students likely perceive you. Would they say you are approachable?  Personable? Fair? Interested in them and their well-being? Although it is always wise to use self-disclosure judiciously, share your enthusiasm as well as your personal experience as it relates to the course content. Students who feel welcome are more likely to participate.
  • Consider how you have responded when students have offered answers that were incorrect or irrelevant.Have you invited them to explain or elaborate upon their though process? Have you conveyed that their answer, while non-ideal is some ways, may have moved the conversation (and the learning) forward? Have you responded similarly to students whose contributions were more obviously correct or pertinent?  Have you consistently enforced standards of civility and mutual respect among the students in the class.

Point to ponder:  Most “talkers” sit within a few feet of the instructor, where they can  “connect” more easily. 

  • Encourage more students to contribute by moving around the classroom (space and furniture permitting).
  • Make eye contact with students throughout the room, not just those who sit in the front few rows.

Another point to ponder: Many “quiet” students simply need time to compose their thoughts before they are comfortable speaking up. 

  • Buy time.  As you pose a question to the class, explicitly instruct students to write down a few notes or reflect before answering.
  • Refrain from always calling on students who are the first to raise their hands.
  • Encourage students who have not yet spoken up to join in the discussion (“Let’s hear from someone who hasn’t spoken up…” or Let’s hear from some in this part of the room…” and then remember to wait for someone to contribute.)
  • Be sure to acknowledge first-time or infrequent contributors. You may want to do this discretely, as you circulate about the room or after class.
  • For more ideas along these lines, consider additional resources discussing “wait time” and related constructs.

Ask questions that will likely lead to productive discussion.

  • Yes-no and factual questions do not typically lead to extended conversation.  Be prepared to ask follow-up questions. (“Why do you think that?” “Can you explain your reasoning?”)
  • Be careful that your conversational prompts are clear. The “talkers” in the class may be eager to respond to anything, even if they are not sure what you are talking about, but the “quiet” ones may be all the more reluctant to speak up of they are not sure what you are driving at. It may take a series of “scaffolding” questions to move through a multi-faceted or nuanced topic that you would like students to talk about.

Try a variety of structures for engineering class discussions.

  • Have students consider a topic in pairs or small groups before inviting whole-class discussion. Circulate as students talk in small groups.  Call on individuals or groups strategically (“Would you mind if I call on you when we come together as a whole class? That was a really interesting observation you made…”)
  • Assign students to categories – numbers, colors, types of flora & fauna, etc.. –  and solicit participation by group (“Let’s hear from someone who is a ‘Red’ now”). This can lessen the threshold for shy students.

In future posts, we will consider a variety of ways to engage students actively in class through group activities in class.  In the meantime, for additional suggestions pertaining to today’s topic, see, for example, advice on the Washington University in St. Louis Teaching Center website. Please add your own strategies using the comment link below.

 

Occupational Therapy Students Present at Annual Conference

San Jose State University’s Occupational Therapy department will be well represented at the American Occupational Therapy Association Annual Conference March 30 to April 2, in Philadelphia. Department Chair Wynn Schultz-Krohn shared that 40 students will be presenting research projects that they complete as part of collaborative work with faculty. The conference is designed for practicing occupational therapists with several years experience so it is an accomplishment for student presentations to be accepted. This year’s event celebrates 100 years of the profession.

Poster presentations will be given on topics ranging from the relationship between stress factors and occupational engagement among occupational therapy graduate students to the effects of swaddling during bottle feeding in infants born preterm to fostering imaginative play in homeless preschool children, among others. One group of students who worked with Schultz-Krohn were selected to be highlighted as early researchers and will give a podium presentation on the efficacy of the cognitive orientation to daily occupational performance (COOP) intervention for children with developmental coordination problems. The students in the group include Nancy Huang, Monique Afram, Cameren Muller, Ashley Sanches and Tiffany Tzuang.

More than 50 OT students also presented at the Occupational Therapy Association of California Annual Conference in Pasadena in fall 2016.

University Scholars Series Continues March 22

SJSU’s University Scholars Series continues March 22, from noon to 1 p.m. in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, Room 225/229 with a lecture by Associate Professor Shannon Rose Riley, who will discuss her book “Performing Race and Erasure: Cuba, Haiti, and US Culture, 1898-1940.”

When Riley was a graduate student at the University of California, Davis – with a background in fine arts, performance art and video, among other artistic disciplines – a conversation with a respected colleague more than a decade ago encouraged her to follow her passion for the nations of Cuba and Haiti and their impact on American arts, culture and society.

Riley said the spark that led to her book grew out of a conversation she had with the late Marc Blanchard, a highly regarded UC Davis comparative literature professor, who was impressed with her passion on the subject.

“I was talking about my belief that those countries, which are on opposite sides of the Windward Passage and provide a corridor for travel between the U.S. East Coast and the Panama Canal, have had a major impact on culture in the United States,” Riley said.

The proximity has been significant to the nation’s artistic culture as well as perceptions of race and racial relations in the U.S. Riley’s interest in the Caribbean grew out of a trip she made to Haiti through the Art Institute of Chicago as a young art student.

Sharon Rose Riley poses for a photograph at San Jose State University, on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Riley will be participating in the Spring University Scholars Series. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Sharon Rose Riley poses for a photograph at San Jose State University, on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Riley will be participating in the Spring University Scholars Series. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

Mineta Transportation Institute Receives Community Partnership Recognition Award

On March 2 the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) presented the Mineta Transportation Institute with their Community Partnership Recognition award. Specifically, VTA recognized the efforts of MTI Research associates Dr. Frances Edwards and Mr. Dan Goodrich for the expert training they provided to VTA on emergency management.

“We are recognizing the Mineta Transportation Institute for being a valued community partner,” said San José Mayor Sam Liccardo and VTA Board of Directors Vice Chairperson.  “VTA reached out to MTI to educate VTA on its roles and responsibilities in the event of a wide-scale emergency or disaster. The MTI instructors brought multiple decades of emergency management and security experience to VTA and provided a depth of knowledge of the four phases of emergency management: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. VTA continues to partner with MTI to deliver quality emergency management education to its employees.”

Dr. Edwards, deputy director of MTI’s National Transportation Safety and Security Center, and Mr. Goodrich bring decades of experience in emergency management to their work with transportation agencies. Their most recent research, Emergency Management Training for Transportation Agencies, identifies best practices in providing training courses to adults, with a particular emphasis on the effectiveness of interactive training materials.

ABOUT THE MINETA TRANSPORTATION INSTITUTE
At the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University (SJSU) our mission is to increase mobility for all by improving the safety, efficiency, accessibility, and convenience of our nation’s’ transportation system through research, education, workforce development and technology transfer. We help create a connected world.

MTI was founded in 1991 and is funded through the US Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants. MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.

March 2017 Newsletter: Room Updates Bring Campus into 21st-Century

Photo: James Tensuan Connie L. Lurie College of Education students gather in the Student Success Center for a career advice session.

Photo: James Tensuan
Connie L. Lurie College of Education students gather in the Student Success Center for a career advice session.

By Barry Zepel

Technology continues to enhance more and more of the classrooms of San Jose State University. Outdated classrooms have transitioned into 21st-century learning spaces, one of the goals of the Vision 2017 strategic plan.

More “smart” classroom are – or are scheduled to become – operational across campus during the spring semester. Modernization has been an ongoing project for several years within the Connie L. Lurie College of Education, according to Mary McVey, a former associate dean who directed the changes in classrooms and other facilities. She reports that with the installation of modern mobile furniture and “state-of-the-art” technology, 14 old-style classrooms have been converted into “smart” learning spaces. Added to those updates are a student collaboration lab, a faculty-staff meeting and professional development room, and a conference room.

“We were the first at SJSU to redesign our classrooms so that they were fully mobile and based on a 360-degree classroom concept,” said McVey, who recently returned to duties as a full-time professor of child and adolescent development. “The idea is there is no front, back, or sides of the room. All walls are used for active instruction and the instructor is able to move freely about the room rather than being restricted to the front or ‘sage on stage’ position. All of our furniture is mobile so that the rooms can be easily and quickly reconfigured to suit the mode of instruction.”

The newest of the facilities in Education, a Student Success Center (SSC), opened this spring. Whereas other colleges have utilized their centers for academic advising, Education will use its SSC for career counseling of its predominately-graduate level students.

“Unlike the other colleges, two-thirds of our students are at the graduate level,” said Michele Burns, who is coordinator of the SSC for Education. “Most of our students are working on their teaching credential or preparing to become school counselors, speech pathologists and education administrators.

In some cases, students will be able to check out equipment that includes a new supply of 75 iPads and five swivel cameras, mini robotic video devices that move to follow the instructor as he or she moves about the room. McVey indicated that the new technology will be used for communicating with student teachers who are working in the field as well as for professors to record lectures and provide students with supplemental information.

“We want to engage students with their individual learning styles,” said Burns, who has been a lecturer in counselor education at SJSU for six years. “Some students are more kinesthetic (wanting hands-on experience), others are more auditory (wanting classroom discussion to hear other people), while others are visual (seeing and reading the text) learners. By using the technology, we reach more students’ learning style. Students will more likely remember what they learn.”

Similar changes have been made in the College of Science, where “facilities, student seating and instructional technology renovations in classrooms include large lecture rooms in Duncan Hall 135, and Science 258 and 142,” according to Stan Vaughn, instructional and research facilities manager for the college.

“Of special note is the work completed in Science 142, the largest and most heavily used lecture hall by our college,” Vaughn said, noting that three new projectors, a document camera and demonstration camera can now be used for multiple projections on three screens. Those devices are complimented by a new audio system in that room.

Vaughn said that additional improvements for several other teaching labs in the Science Building are scheduled for use during the spring semester, with the Physics and Astronomy teaching lab in Science 319 being the first designated “active learning lab” in the College of Science.  When completed, the facility will have new furniture, digital projectors, wall-to-wall whiteboards, sound attenuation, and modern window treatments to better control room lighting conditions.

In addition to the technology upgrades, more than 150 classrooms were improved during 2014-16 with upgrades that included new blinds, whiteboards, projectors and other enhancements. Read more about classroom updates online.