Jim Morrison (Professor Emeritus of Educational Leadership at UNC-Chapel Hill) talked in a recent POD post about an article in the Chronicle on “flipped” classrooms, peer instruction, and active learning and his experiences transitioning from using a “predominant lecture/teacher-led discussion mode to using a technology-enabled active learning approach” in his classes during the 1990s. He relates that he described the “painful details” and the “difficulty instructors encounter when their instructional behavior is counter to the predominant norm/mindset/paradigm” in Online learning: Personal reflections on the transformation of education. A colleague responded that it is important for faculty to take time at the start of the semester to really help students understand why the class will differ from the standard lecture class – and to help them understand the vision of a different way of teaching/learning and how it might really help them in their lives, now and in the future. He also makes the twin points that work needs to be done to help educate retention, tenure and promotion committees re: patterns in student evaluation ratings (and the lower scores that this type of innovation typically causes) and to reward faculty at all levels for doing the requisite work in making this transition – not penalize them, as so often happens.
I really resonate with another colleague’s comments. She says, “Knowing the contexts referred to in this article well, it gives me pause when institutional leadership puts so much stock in “the intensity” of comments and scores on SETs, given what the literature demonstrates about their validity. In order for change to occur in teaching and learning, we need to change the conditions that impede real innovation–both on the part of teachers, but even more on the part of learners. When institutional leadership fails to support and cultivate innovation in teaching and learning based on SETs, not clear, valid measurers of student learning, the conditions for change stagnate and the system remains broken.”
Another colleague uses a strategy that gives students the necessary information up front and provides a mid-term course evaluation in which they can express their feelings about the process. She compiles this data and presents it back to the students – discussing their concerns, referring back to the literature and providing context for innovation and change at the mid-point in the semester. This kind of peer sharing/group reflection is fabulous – and students do feel that their perceptions and perspectives are valued and placed at the center of the learning ethos and environment – good things.