All posts by Adam Finkelstein

Techno-geeky, hyper-connected, educational technology, social media dad with a academic, educational developer, teaching and learning, social wrapper.

How can we become better teachers?


Professor Madhukar Pai, Canada Research Chair in Epidemiology & Global Health, wrote an insightful post ‘How can we become better teachers‘ in the February issue of Nature Microbiology. Its always great to see posts about teaching and learning appearing in mainstream research journals within a discipline. Professor Pai talks about starting small, thinking about your students, focusing on reflection and much more. He also makes many of his teaching resources available for free on his own teaching epidemiology website.

I pledge to be a better teacher


A great summary of the closing plenary from Andrew Hendry of our Learn to Teach Day. Thanks Ethan for the great summary!

Educational Sociolinguistics

Ethan’s 3rd post:

In the closing plenary of yesterday’s Learning to Teach workshop, Doctor Andrew Hendry, professor of Evolutionary Ecology at McGill, demonstrated a terrific example of what he called an ‘inspirational class’.

According to him, since information is easy to access nowadays, what distinguishes a good teacher from a mediocre one is whether he or she is able to inspire the students and make them feel sad when the class is over. He surely can do that. In his lecture, he demonstrated how to pass on hands-on learning, how to use social media to inspire students and how to ‘perform’ in front of the class. At the end of his lecture, I could literally sense the energy in every audience and feel that the spirit of the entire hall was lifted up. A picture says a thousand words, and here is a youtube link of how he teaches evolution:

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Teaching in an Active Learning Classroom: Pros and Cons


Professor Chris Buddle provides some very thoughtful reflections in his blog post on the benefits and challenges of teaching in one of McGill’s Active Learning Classrooms. Do you have any thoughts to add? Post them in the comments below.

Arthropod Ecology

Earlier this term I wrote about my excitement with teaching in an active learning classroom: as a quick refresher, my course had just over 80 students, and is an introductory ecology class. The course has a strong focus on quantitative approaches to population and community ecology, from equations to modelling. I gave up doing traditional PowerPoint slides for this class a long time ago, but until this term, I was still teaching in a theatre-style lecture hall. With continuing to push the “active learning” agenda, it was great to have an opportunity to teach in a classroom specifically designed for active learning!

The Active Learning classroom The Active Learning classroom So, here are some perspectives and thoughts about teaching in an active learning classroom now that term is over.

Pros:

1. I found the tables (with rolling chairs!) were especially great when I did in-class quizzes, especially with group-based problems…

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Why Flipped Classrooms Fail


Julie Shell (@julieschell) from peerinstruction.net provides some interesting insight into flipped classrooms and the #1 reason why they don’t work (and how to ensure that they do). Have a read a let us know what you think in the comments!

Turn to Your Neighbor: The Official Peer Instruction Blog

“I tried Peer Instruction and it didn’t work.”

As a champion of the popular flipped learning method developed by Eric Mazur, this phrase always hits me hard when I hear it from fellow educators. And I do hear it.

Over the years, I’ve run into many different accounts of experiments in innovative teaching and flipped classrooms, not just Peer Instruction, gone awry.  I have heard many refrains about clickers, “I tried clickers and it was a disaster.” About flipped learning with videos, “I tried it but my students didn’t watch the videos.” And even about the student engagement all-star, project-based learning: “I gave it a shot but my students perform better when I lecture.”

Of course, there are sundry reasons why one venture toward innovative teaching succeeds and another stumbles. I don’t claim to have the one answer or a lock on the perfect explanation. In this 3-part series, I…

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Expectations (of graduate students and supervisors)


A very thoughtful post from Prof Chirs Buddle on the importance of setting expectations for graduate students and supervisors.

Interested in discussing the topic further? Register for the TLS workshop on “Clarifying Expectations in Graduate Supervision” on Feb 25th, 2pm-4pm.

Arthropod Ecology

I have been running a research laboratory for close to 15 years, and I’m ashamed to say that I have not written down, formally, my expectations* of graduate students and their expectations of me. I regret this, especially since there are amazing resources out there to help with this discussion. I would argue that differing levels of expectation is probably a key source of conflict in research laboratories, and having a solid agreement between graduate students and supervisors is key for success.

Here is some context for my laboratory: I run a mid-sized laboratory (currently with three MSc and three PhD students and two undergraduate Honour’s students), focused on studying arthropod ecology. As a Professor, my job involves teaching, research and administration. When running my research laboratory, the three tasks overlap – for example, I’m a lab ‘administrator’ in some ways, including ordering supplies, dealing with budgets, working on…

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How to flip your class with quizzes in 5 steps


A great read from Julie Schell from peerinstruction.net (a great resource for ideas on peer instruction) on how you can flip your class using quizzes.

Turn to Your Neighbor: The Official Peer Instruction Blog

quizgooglenoncommuse Measuring a student’s knowledge state is the typical purpose of quizzes in education. Can these short tests do more?

Quizzes have long been used as a “stick” in education. Did you ever scramble at the warning from your own teachers during class,  “y’all better do your work…or else.. I am going to give you a quiz!”

Of course, most educators use quizzes for a more evolved reason. Rather than quiz as punishment, we use the mini-tests to check in on our students before a more substantial, high stakes exam or assessment. Indeed, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, a quiz is by definition a test of knowledge.

Recent research in cognitive science tells us that the power of quizzing students extends far beyond simply measuring a learner’s knowledge state at a given moment in time. Quizzing, it turns out, provides a robust learning effect in and of itself.

Memory researchers Roediger and Butler (2011) note:…

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