Farewell to Surrey

A few thoughts inspired by the recently-concluded Political Studies Association-sponsored Workshop on New Pedagogies at the University of Surrey in Guildford, as I sit in Terminal 3 at Heathrow.

Not a hobbit
Not a hobbit

Active learning strategies present several advantages and disadvantages for teachers. First, they often recognize that people don’t necessarily all learn the same things at the same speed. Any classroom in which these techniques are employed can be thought of as an effort in differentiated instruction — which can be beneficial when students possess varying amounts of prior knowledge.

Second, these methods create spaces where students can and often must behave in different ways. Not only can this force students to figure out how to ask the important questions in the right ways, it can also increase their motivation, an important intermediary variable when it comes to learning.

Third, many active learning exercises include a meta-cognitive stage in which a student’s articulation of his or her understanding is what produces understanding.

Also not a hobbit.
Also not a hobbit.

Fourth, active learning can, if implemented properly, offer opportunities for students’ conceptual, skill, and emotional development. Integrating all of these dimensions into the classroom requires careful consideration on the part of the instructor, but the payoffs can be quite high.

We’re podcasting again!

CjYLfnYUYAIP_Eo With our latest workshop all safely put to bed, myself, Victor, Amanda and Chad took some time to sit down and talk about what we’d covered and discovered during their time here in the UK. You can listen to the results on our latest podcast.

We talk about the differences in US and UK universities, how we adapt ideas to new situations and about our future plans. And Shot Jenga (which I am totally trying to fit into a class).

Thanks again to the PSA/APSA for their generous funding which made it all possible.

There’ll be more posts from us in the coming days on what we covered, so do keep an eye out for them.

Fish out of water?

whirlpool-883755_960_720
That whirl I mentioned

It’s only a couple of days until we get to run our PSA/APSA sponsored workshop here at Surrey, so it’s a whirl of organisation around here.

Since I’m going to get everyone to try and chip in some thoughts as we go, I’m not going to dwell too much on the planned activities, but instead think about the potential dynamics that might arise.

While some of us very cosmopolitan, it’s also the case that others of us haven’t crossed the pond too often (at least to judge by someone’s queries about ATMs, sockets and mobile telephony standards).

I recall when I first met the ALPS people, back in New Mexico in 2011, I was also largely unaware of what to expect or of how things were. For me, it was a very liberating experience. Continue reading

A quick reminder

Just a reminder that if you’d like to apply for one of the bursaries to help you attend our fabulous workshop at the University of Surrey, then you need to get your paperwork in by midday Friday 6th May. We’ll still be taking bookings after that, but why miss on the opportunity.

Of course, I’m reminded that there are several roundabouts between Heathrow and Guildford, so it might all go wrong with getting the Americans here.

And Now For Something Completely Different

Holy GrailAre you interested in learning about new and alternative pedagogies in political science? Join the ALPS crew for a free workshop on the subject in merry old England. The workshop will be held on May 26 and 27 on the bucolic grounds of the University of Surrey in Guildford. Lunches are included. All you have to do is successfully make your way past the rabbit of Caerbannog and plonk yourself in a nearby hotel.

Session topics will include:

  • Active learning core concepts.
  • Use of case studies.
  • Integration of social media.
  • Creation of a flipped classroom.
  • Problem-based and competency-based learning.

Go to the EventBrite invitation for more details.

This event is made possible by the generous support of the Political Studies Association and the American Political Science Association Specialist Group International Engagement Fund.

Caerbannog Rabbit

Zendo Revisited: A Simple Methods Game for Large Classes

Zendo is a methods game that is the subject of the very first post I wrote for ALPS back in 2011. Since then, I have used it regularly on the first day of my research methods course.  Among its many advantages is that it helps reduce the anxiety students face on their first day of methods (a well-documented issue; at least six articles in recent years reference this concern) by having their first activity being a game.  The game itself allows students to engage in hypothesis generation and testing and begin to understand issues of generalizability and scholarly collaboration. It is a great introductory activity, but its utility has been limited due to the necessity of purchasing the physical pieces required for play.  Until now, that is! We now have a way of playing Zendo that requires no pieces and works for large classroom settings as well as small.

Continue reading

What We Know About Learning

Eddie WatsonAnother follow-up to the 2016 TLC — this year’s keynote address was delivered by Eddie Watson, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Georgia. He devoted part of his address to what the cognitive scientists and psychologists know about learning, and how we can put that knowledge to use in the classroom:

  • Identify what your students already know and teach accordingly. Use knowledge probes, pre-semester surveys, and pre-test/post-test instruments.
  • Performance followed by immediate feedback increases learning. The feedback doesn’t have to come from you — it can be just as effective if it comes from peers. [Perhaps this points to a reason why some simulations and games are pedagogically valuable.]
  • Learning is often facilitated by social interaction. [See above.]
  • Frequent testing promotes learning; it is more powerful than passive “studying.”
  • Being able to actively process information — for example, by applying it in a particular context — tends to result in greater learning.

For additional details, read Daniel Willingham’s work, which is linked to this post and to the blogroll on the ALPS homepage.