cool pedagogy intersections: engineering and the rest of the world

My friend Sarah recommended The Journal of Engineering Education to me as a really solid and totally awesome source of pedagogy research. So, I went and looked at the most recent issue (October 2012) and picked the article that called to me the strongest: “The Informed Design Teaching and Learning Matrix.” Authored by David P. Crismond (CUNY, City College) and Robin S. Adams (Purdue University), it is a huge article (40 large pages of single-spaced prose before the 20 pages of citations), incredibly well-grounded in previous research, and meticulously written/organized. It inspired many ideas for my classrooms and I was regularly amazed by the universality a lot of what they recommend: it applies to my own learning, parenting, classroom teaching, one-on-one teaching, mentoring, and probably a number of other things I’m forgetting at the moment.

These authors are focused on how engineering design is taught and learned. By design, they refer to the process of creating an object/solution (such as a parachute) according to given parameters. They present their findings as a matrix (table) that “contains nine engineering design strategies and associated patterns that contrast beginning versus informed design behaviors, with links to learning goals and instructional approaches that aim to support students in developing their engineering design abilities.” (p. 738) This sounds intimidating, but it is very cool. The bulk of the article and –for me– the most thought-provoking is the section “Unpacking the Matrix.” Each of the nine patterns is discussed in two sub-sections: a summary/description and teaching strategies.  What a goldmine!  Here are three of my three favorite “ah ha!” moments. I have organized them from the most general to the most specific, in terms of “field of study.” Continue reading

2013 (January – August) Pedagogy Project

So, I’m on my first sabbatical.  This is my 11th year teaching here (nine years on the tenure track), and I have been very lucky to have 1.5 semesters of maternity leave and a mid-probationary leave since starting the tenure track. The maternity leaves delayed my first post-tenure sabbatical by two years, which (a) seems right and (b) is part of why people who take parental leave are slower to progress through the academic pipeline, but it’s finally HERE! Since I won’t be in the classroom, I have a slightly different project for this blog: Continue reading

Semester Wrap-Up with Myself

Sounds kind of silly, but I have a little ritual for closing up my semester. I clean out my course binder of extra photocopies, remove stuff from previous semesters that I didn’t use this semester and can’t imagine using in future semester, write a course reflection, insert reflection into the front of the binder, and put away the binder.

Even though I’m exhausted, I think it’s important to do the course reflection NOW while the semester’s experience is still fresh. Here’s how I go about it: Continue reading

Mirror Mirror on the Wall…

… which post was the fairest of them all?  I am not referring to this blog; rather, this question was posed to my upper-division students in their final informal out-of-class writing assignment. Over the course of the semester, they have written at least once a week in a GoogleDoc visible to me and that student [I resist the urge to call it a journal.]. Each time, they respond to a prompt. I grade these P/nP. To P, you have to follow directions and present your own thinking. I also respond (usually in a colored font) to their ideas and thoughts, which often starts a conversation between us within the GoogleDoc. Here are a few examples of prompts, which ran the gamut from hard core to touchy-feely. Continue reading

‘Tis the Season: Meaningful Grading and the Role of Redos

This post is a corollary to the post: Meaningful Grading: Is It An Oxymoron? 

I imagine I will remain unsure about the correlation between grades and learning for the foreseeable future. But, one thing I am pretty sure about is the correlation between grades and doing your work. If, then, the work has been constructed in a way that promotes learning, there might be a more meaningful connection between grades and learning…

I’m headed into what I call the Season of Redos. I have a very generous redo policy for my lower division classes (aural skills 1-4, music theory 1-4): any non-exam grade may be redone once, assuming you turned something in the first time (even if it was a blank piece of paper or showing up to class like a blank sheet of paper, unprepared to perform). I think about one-third of my students take advantage of the redo policy. Combining this policy with a +/P/nP grading system and a set of assignments designed with specific learning objectives (transparently shared with students) is increasing learning for a significant number of students without significantly increasing my grading burden. Here are the logistics, the pros, the cons, and a few concluding thoughts: Continue reading

Making Lemonade: Teaching On The Day Before Thanksgiving

While I understand lemonade is not a traditional Thanksgiving quaffing substance, it sums up my approach to tomorrow. The day before Thanksgiving is a frustrating teaching day because everyone wants to be somewhere else (self included). And it gets better… the public schools are closed. So, those of us with kids have to figure out childcare while we keep our professional commitments. I’ve always dug deep into my reserves of patience and taught a “real” class on this day, even in my 2:30p.m. class. After all, if more people cancel their Wednesday classes, more students leave early, and more Wednesday classes are less attended, and, and, and… I’m super sensitive about canceling classes because college is expensive, their classes are a big part of the college experience, and I already cancel two classes in the Fall (one for Rosh Hashanah, which I observe, and one to attend my professional conference).

So, here’s how I’ve chosen to juggle having my six-year-old in tow with teaching a “real” class.  She’s going to help me teach. Seriously. Continue reading

Keeping it fresh: four weeks to go

I’m exhausted.  We’re at that point in the semester where it seems like it will never end.  And, owing to a quirk of the solar calendar, there are THREE weeks of teaching after Thanksgiving instead of the traditional two.  I find myself worried about keeping an appropriate level of energy and excitement in my classes.

One of the weirdest things about earning tenure is that, suddenly, your teaching isn’t critically observed any more. It’s been three years since someone has visited my classroom with the intent to help me evaluate my own teaching (I have had many guests there to observe my so-called “good” teaching, but–for obvious reasons to do with experience and power structures–they rarely offer feedback on what they saw). I invited my long-time mentor and friend to come in last week to give me his outsider’s perspective on two things: (1) how high or low I am setting the bar in my class, and (2) strategies for raising it. Here’s what he thought and what we talked about over lunch after class. Continue reading

Podcasting pt. 3: Thoughts for the future

In this post, I want to do some thinking and organizing about when a podcast is a good learning tool (not just a last-minute work-around for something that I forgot to do). It’s the last podcasting post of three (pt. 1 was reflection on past use, pt. 2 was evaluations of present use). I will draw on student feedback and my own hopes to form some guidelines for identifying good podcasting opportunities and ideas of things to try.  I’ve organzied these thoughts as “good for podcasting,” “bad for podcasting,” “good podcasting habits,” and “ideas I want to tinker with.” Continue reading

Open-ended aural analysis: Ringo Oiwake “Apple Blossoms” (Enka Song)

About a month ago, I tried an experiment.  I let students form their own small groups and asked them to describe (without score) as much as they could on an excerpt from the opening of Beethoven’s violin concerto.  At that point, we had worked on the major mode, step-wise motions, I and V, and identifying meter. As I walked around the room, I heard a lot of peer teaching going on. I liked the format of the exercise, although I felt they needed a few broad questions to help them direct their listening (help them connect back to what the class is doing now).  So, I’m going to try this again tomorrow with a beautiful Enka song: Ringo Oiwake (“Apple Blossoms”) sung by the famous Misora Hibari.  I’ll be using the track off of disc three of Soundscapes (2nd edition), but here is a YouTube track that’s pretty close to my track. Here’s what I plan: Continue reading

Podcasting, pt. 2: Experiments from this semester

After feeling really good about my use of podcasts last semester, I wanted to continue exploring it this semester. My upper division class, Form and Analysis, didn’t seem like the right space for podcasting because we are working at a level of analysis wonderfully fraught with nuance and detail. Podcasts (as I have been using them) are best for passing on factual information, information I assume these upper-division students already have.

So, the experiments landed on my Aural Skills 1 class. This course does not initially feel like a natural fit for podcasting since there is almost no lecture anyways. Furthermore, I do not want to force things into a podcast just for the sake of using the tool. So, I was surprised that I ended up with two opportunities for a podcast use during the first 6.5 weeks of the course. Continue reading