Chapter 2-2 “We Passed the Turnaround Point of DAY 2, Filled with Essential Topics for Class Design. Here’s the Second Half!”
Let’s review Part 1 before moving on to the next topics!
We should always repeat important things, and that makes it easier for us to acquire them (as described in the last session.)
Part 1 consisted of the following topics:
(1) Reflection on making research presentations
(2) Goals and objectives / Where are we?
(3) Work: “Students don’t like statistics?” Let’s give advice to the professor.
(5) A model of motivation “expectancy/value/environment”
(6) Significance of class design
(7) The ADDIE model (a model for instructional design)
(8) The first step to creating a class design sheet: work “setting objectives”
As listed above, Part 1 was filled with information related to premises and frameworks necessary for class design, and these topics were not just conveyed by Dr. Kurita to the participants one-sidedly but were also provided through time for the participants to discuss and use them. So that’s “active learning,” which the participants already “experienced” on DAY 1 and DAY 2. This was the main topic in Part 2.
(9) Definition of active learning
Dr. Kurita started with the following question: “If you were asked what active learning is, how would you answer?” The participants answered the question via Sli.do (a highly anonymous Q&A app), and their replies were shared with everyone. (This activity is also categorized as active learning.) Receiving diverse answers from the participants, Dr. Kurita said, “In fact, many people define the term in many different ways,” and showed three definitions. (Slide 51)
[Just talking to myself] The term “Active Learning” was specified in the reform of higher education in Japan, but it rapidly became a trend after the issue of “(Consultation) What the Standards for Curriculum in Elementary and Secondary Education Should Be (November 20th, 2014)” in elementary and secondary education. The term was stated as “Active and deep learning through dialogue” in “Curriculum Guidelines (Revised in 2017/2018)” which was developed through discussion based on the Consultation.
In the definition (2012) by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, “educators and learners” is the subject of the following: (a) communicate with each other, (b) compete with each other, (c) stimulate each other, (d) develop intellectually, and (e) create a space. “Learners” is the subject of the following: (f) actively discover problems and (g) find solutions. I used to think that the subject of (b), (c), and (d) only referred to students, and (e) was for teachers, based on experiences in my job. Eventually, through trial and error, I realized that I, a teacher, was also the subject of (b), (c), and (d) along with students. If I had reexamined my classes when I first encountered this definition, I could have shortened the trial-and-error period, so I feel sorry for my students in those days.
(10) The point of active learning
“Strategies to encourage active learning are not a goal but a means.”
Aside from things in education, it often happens that the means is replaced by the goal… As described in “Part 1” and the past article in Nabetan Journal, “Goals and Objectives” are crucial, and replacing them with means may deteriorate the value of the learning activity itself.
Dr. Kurita provided the participants with the following three important perspectives (or questions):
・Do they correspond to the goals and objectives of your class?
・Do they contribute to student learning?
・Do they consider students’ perspectives? (motivation/academic level/relevance)
I believe these three questions are important not only in terms of active learning but also in every aspect of creating a class from design to implementation, and I think teachers should always keep them in mind.
(11) Effectiveness of active learning
The pre-post test scores of the student groups who took either two-way or one-way classes, each divided in terms of their scores (high/intermediate/low) were shown with graphs on Slide 53. Dr. Kurita asked what the graphs implied. The participants again replied to her question with Sli.do. (I really recommend this tool!)
The graphs show only the test scores, but it is remarkable that two-way classes have a huge positive impact on learners compared to one-way classes in various ways, such as a decrease in dropouts and an increase in their motivation, as shown by many other studies.
(12) Risk in active learning
While there are outcomes and effectiveness, there is also a risk in active learning. What matters is whether it realizes the points of active learning as listed in (10).
[Just talking to myself] When I was teaching as a school teacher, I had many opportunities to observe classes at various schools that they called “conducted in an active learning style.” It also applies to my own classes, but I often felt the risk of active learning in such classes.
They happened to overlook “class design” as described in Part 1. Active learning or “active and deep learning through dialogue” is just a method, and “goals and objectives” should come first. In addition, it is necessary to “analyze” the situation of learners and their learning environment. One elementary school teacher referred to it as “a problem that comes before adopting an active learning style,” and that was exactly to the point. With our knowledge of the “premise” in Part 1 and the ADDIE model, we can now verbalize what the problem is by pointing out the lack of Analysis and Design.
(13) Active learning strategies
Based on the “premise” of active learning explained so far, the session moved on to introducing specific active learning strategies and letting the participants experience them.
There are various active learning strategies for different group sizes: minute paper, self-evaluation, peer-reviewing, brainstorming, jigsaw method, case studies, PBL, TBL, poster tour, etc. The following three were explained thoroughly in the session.
(A) Asking questions: Ask students questions.
(B) Think-Pair-Share: Let students think about the topic individually and then share their ideas in pairs.
(C) Peer Instruction: Following a brief lecture or students’ pre-class learning, the instructor poses a multiple-choice question (ConcepTest). Students discuss with their peers, and then the instructor gives an explanation.
For more details, please refer to Slides 56–66.
Dr. Kurita said that the following are the points in implementing any method, which overlap with the points listed in (10).
1- Don’t let the means become an end. Don’t set participation in activities as the goal.
2- Clarify the goals and objectives of activities.
3- Explain the merits of adopting AL. Cooperation enhances learning as demonstrated in research. (Johnson & Johnson, 2009)
4- Give specific instructions. Clarify the instructions by telling the students “what” and “how” they should do and “how long” they should get involved in the activities. It is also recommended to include “why” they should get involved in the activities.
We should always repeat important things. That’s the principle!
[Just talking to myself] I often hear at elementary and secondary schools that students who are assertive and active become the only ones to say something and the rest of the students just remain listening to them in group activities, but I think it is important to design classes in accordance with the learners. For example, adopting methods such as (A) Asking questions and (B) Think-Pair-Share in small steps will help you create a learning environment where students can express their ideas without worries.
At the same time, even in the case of an active learning style for a small number of students, teachers need to design and prepare classes carefully and flexibly change the style, especially at the beginning of a course. As the students get the feel of active learning, teachers need to decrease their support (i.e., removing the scaffold), but at first, they need to support them carefully by grasping their situation (i.e., scaffolding). And this is also advice to myself.
(14) Creating a class design sheet
As mentioned in Part 1, participants moved on to designing “a 6-min class on a topic in your field for novice students.” The design will be applied to the microteaching sessions on DAY 6 and DAY 7. They designed a class that realizes the objectives they set in the first half of the session by using a design sheet. They were provided with plenty of information so far, but now it was time for them to actually use it. The first 15 minutes were for creating a design sheet individually, and then they shared their sheet (still unfinished) with another participant in breakout rooms. They explained their own sheet in six minutes per person, organized their ideas, and found problems and new insights through discussion.
Finishing the class design sheet is an assignment to be submitted by May 5th, but the participants were able to share their ideas and discuss them in pairs, which makes the difference compared to just working on it alone as homework. Therefore, even if they couldn’t finish their sheet within a limited time, these 15 minutes and 12 minutes became a precious time for them.
(15) Class design of DAY 2
What you learn in UTokyo FFP is expressed in the class design of the program itself, so participants can learn by doing. To recognize that, the “explanation of the class design of today’s session” is important. As described in the past article in Nabetan Journal, you can also call it the class structure. Today, the following points were explained:
・This class was conducted by using a strategy called “Flipped Class.” The assignment of DAY 1 worked as preparation for DAY 2.
・Structure: introductory section, main section, and concluding section It also applies to DAY 2.
・Various issues and learning contents are related to the final assignment (i.e., class design sheet).
・Peer-reviewing (as an assignment): It is frequently used in online courses.
We have finished only two sessions so far, but the various topics we have learned are already related to practice.
That’s all for DAY 2. Part 2 was also filled with important topics. The participants should experience what they learned as much as they can to prepare for the following sessions. As I mentioned before, everything we learned will be connected to future topics.
And let me conclude the article with another [Just talking to myself].
Reflecting on my own teaching experience at school, I frankly think that I could have shortened the trial and error if I had known the topics of DAY 2. I regard the significance of UTokyo FFP as letting those who aim to become faculty, which doesn’t need a teaching license, learn about instructional methods, but they were not in the curriculum for obtaining a teaching license for elementary and secondary education either, at least in my generation. Many of my colleagues in the same generation and I myself learned about such findings in instructional methods through trial and error, from experiences through interacting with pupils and students. I think many of the mistakes I made shouldn’t have happened in the first place, but that was the reality. But how are the teachers today? With new Curriculum Guidelines and the need for a new type of education, I truly hope that future/present teachers can have an opportunity to learn about such findings before becoming a teacher or while working as a teacher at school. Knowledge must always be practiced, I know, but there is a tragedy that comes from the lack of knowledge in any field. When I finished with DAY 2 in the last semester, I thought from the bottom of my heart that many things can be resolved by just knowing them.
See you next time!
For more details on UTokyo FFP, please click the following links! (Let me repeat this again and again for we should always repeat important things!)
(Official) UTokyo FFP Website
UTokyo OCW “Teaching Development in Higher Education” (UTokyo FFP AY2020)
Interactive Teaching (Video Clips)
Research Support Staff (FFP)
Center for Research and Development of Higher Education