Still Looking for ways to Improve My Courses (Pt. 2 of 2)

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Back to the Office (Soon)

As I wrote about earlier , I’m looking for ways to improve my course Psychology 303, Experimental Social Psychology. My first such course, experienced while I was an undergraduate at Oberlin, was life-changing for me as I discovered that the discipline of psychology could scientifically study issues such as prejudice, attitude change, interpersonal attraction, and aggression. I’ve had several former students indicate that they have been very favorably impacted in similar fashion. I recently read a well-written blog by a Harvard undergraduate who listed what he felt were 20 best lessons from social psychology.

  • I’ve been contemplating incorporating into my course a writing project that would culminate in something like his blog piece. I also am in the process of reviewing Jane Hart’s list of Top 100 Learning Tools to identify any that I want to bring into the course as research tools.
  • I am especially interested in integrating into the course opportunities for cross-cultural /international communication.
  • I’d be very interested in hearing from formed students how they have USED what they learned in experimental social psychology.

I welcome your input and ideas.

 

 

Still Looking for Ways to Improve Courses After 36 Years of Teaching (Pt.1 of 2)

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Proof of Self-Publishable Book I've talked about in progress for the past 30 years!

Proof-reading ready copy of self-published book I’ve talked about being in progress for the past 30 years!

I’m sitting on the porch attempting to complete the bulk of my Fall semester Carroll University course preparation before intentionally disconnecting from the Internet and enjoying five days of pure vacation in northern Michigan a week from tomorrow. This year I shall be teaching two sections of Psychology 205 (Statistics and Experimental Design) and one section of Psychology 303 (Experimental Social Psychology).

Tonight I am focusing on the Statistics and Experimental Design course—-a course that is particularly meaningful to me. For the past 20 years I have used a traditional textbook enhanced by my handouts. Students also have weekly labs to gain hands-on experience using SPSS (The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences). I’ve been very pleased by evidence that students learn, and I have received consistent positive evaluations across the years about the course both at the course’s completion and from graduates. But, there is always room for improvement—especially improvement attempts informed by thoughtful reflection from former students. So help me out. Are the two ideas below worth pursuing?

Across the years I have repeated heard from students how much they valued handouts I have distributed. These have essentially been a succinct outline of my notes (though I must confess that I haven’t used notes in 15 years!). The handouts are replete with a congery of Carroll-specific data and data collection exercises.

I have been troubled by the high cost to students of textbooks and bothered by what I see as unnecessary inclusions in textbooks (e.g. color, study guides, constant revisions, and electronic ancillaries of dubious didactic value) which drive up costs. Therefore,  I’ve been recently exploring a number of self-publishing mechanisms (especially Lulu.com and ibooks author). One of the best resources about self-publishing I have come across is Rick Smith’s  (self-published!)  CreateSpace and Kindle Self-Publishing Masterclass (2014 edition). I found it very useful and useable.

I’ve recently carefully examined Amazon’s CreateSpace.com. I have been very impressed by its ease of use, pricing structure, and quality of physical book production. I am holding in my hand tonight a hard-copy proof of a very physically attractive book —my book—with a glossy cover which I created using Create Space’s Cover Creator software. If I proceed, the book can be printed on demand and/or, if I choose, it can be converted relatively effortlessly to Kindle format (This i have not yet tried). I can pretty much decide the cost to readers (I’ve toyed with the idea of it being free).

  1. Idea 1: I am tempted to give students the opportunity to buy a copy and to help me improve the book by their adding their own data collection examples. Alternatively, I hold off distribution until 2nd semester when I before which time I add information to the book (perhaps with some student/former student collaborators).
  2. Idea 2: I am also considering building into the course this semester formal instruction in using Survey Monkey software now that I have a Carroll account in addition to my Schneider Consulting account. I envision in my last few years’ teaching creating a Carroll Student Statistical Consulting service and this would be one of the tools the use.

 

 

What evidence is there that collaborative, engaging, Web 2.0 tools indeed enhance learning?

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This thought piece  has been slightly revised from a blog piece I wrote a number of years ago for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel under the name “Curious David” when I was a community educational blogger for them.

I’m nervous and excited. Time to take off my invisibility cloak. Tomorrow (Tuesday, September 2, 2008 at 8:00 a.m.) I meet in person for the first time with my 20 first-year students. What an immense responsibility to be their first professor!

We’re going to explore “21rst century” learning tools such as blogs, wikis, podcasts, social networks, virtual worlds, and YouTube. The idea for this course emerged from my experiences writing this “Curious David” blog column. Last year’s opportunity to write for “JSonline” was transformative for me as I learned from elementary and secondary school teachers, high school students, virtual school advocates, retired faculty and readers about innovations, challenges and successes they faced promoting learning.

In this first-year seminar we shall focus on some of the 25 free learning tools described by educator Jane Hart. [Here is an updated list I would draw upon were I to teach this course again.]  As we examine these learning tools we hope to answer questions such as these:

  1. To what degree can these web tools truly enhance student learning?
  2. To what degree are they just “cool” tools?
  3. Could they be used to develop critical thinking?
  4. Do they improve or degrade communication skills?
  5. Might they be applied to fostering cross-cultural or international understanding?
  6. Might they strengthen or weaken writing skills?
  7. What are their weaknesses or dangers?
  8. Should they complement or replace 20th century learning skills/tools?
  9. How can one evaluate their effectiveness?

[It seems to me it should be possible to produce an evidence-based paper like this to address the questions above.]

 My intent is to assist students in the transition from high school to college—and to investigate Web 2.0 learning tools which might be useful across classes and in the workplace. I want to involve them in educational experiences that will develop and enhance abilities in reading, writing, reflecting, presenting, thinking, and producing. Writing exercises will include short in-class and out-of-class reaction papers, journals, blogs/wikis, and exams. Presentations will be both formal and informal; individual and in small groups. Collaboration will be both with fellow students and with me.

Still Curious,

David


Post Commencement

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2014RyanandPhoumany

 

Commencement Is history. Academic life takes on a different rhythm. End of semester revisiting of goals. Planning for fall semester courses. Reflection, rejuvenation, redirection.

One of the first academic professional development efforts I’ll engage in this summer is in reworking my Experimental Social Psychology course, PSY303. I need to somehow incorporate into it lessons learned from Diederik Stapel.

 

I also want to transform it into a major introduction to international/global applications. Any suggestions from readers of this blog would be most welcome.

Dear 2014 Carroll University Graduate…

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My thoughts may be even fuzzier this Saturday morning as I sit here in my office—a little over 24 hours before your Commencement Day. I have just returned from a three hour meeting in my role of Faculty Observer at a Board of Trustees Meeting, and I was most impressed by the poise, courage, compassion, and intelligence of the remarks made by your Student Senate President. Now is a good time to gather together some last thoughts about and for you. Tomorrow will be a joyful and tearful day as relationships change. Because of my age seniority good looks  length of time at Carroll and rank of Full Professor, I march at the front of the line both at Baccalaurete (behind Dean Byler) and Commencement (following Faculty Marshall Pamela Pinahs-Schultz). That gives me an ideal seating position for seeing and hearing those of you in choir, but forces me to be on my best behavior (awake, disconnected from my Ipad, resisting wearing my Brewers’ or Carroll College hats). For those of you I have met, I have done my best to teach you well but I am only human. Every student I teach is different, special, and teaches me.  You have enriched my life and I welcome the opportunity as you become alumni to continue and perhaps to even expand upon our relationships. Thanks for the lessons. Many people (family, staff, faculty, administrators, and trustees)  have worked very hard, in addition to you, to try and provide you with the best education that Carroll can provide both within and outside of the classroom. I often think that we ought to set aside a time for recognizing those unsung “guardian angels” who have done their best to make Carroll a caring community and a better place.  As time and circumstances allow join them in giving back (without expectation of receiving “conovocation points”) your time, wisdom, networking resources, prospective student recommendations, and examples of skills or values developed here at Carroll that serve you well.  Give Carroll its due credit when it has earned it, but also offer constructive criticism when the institution has failed to meet your expectations for it. Seek out opportunities to do “a” right thing. Use your mind to think carefully and critically but don’t forget that there are indeed many times when it is appropriate to follow one’s heart. I envy your youth and the many opportunities that lie ahead to share your talents and to make the world a better place. Stay in touch. Oh, yes… Here is a final exam. With many fond memories, David Simpson, Professor of Psychology