So here are some remarks on the workshops I managed to attend on day 2 of the AAPT meeting:
- Paul Green, "When and how to lecture"
Lecture has of course gotten a bad rap in recent decades. Paul took a nuanced approach in this workshop: We all know we shouldn't always lecture — but what are the learning conditions under which we should lecture? Paul suggested that given the apparently poor levels of retention associated with lecture, we should use lecture only when no other method is better suited than lecture than advancing the learning outcome we are pursuing. He encouraged us to divide learning outcomes into content outcomes, skills, and dispositions. Which of these can lecture serve well? Paul suggested that lecture can advance outcomes in any of these three categories, but only if it adheres to certain principles: pause every 15 minutes for 2 minutes of student processing, etc.; limit lecture points to 5-9 to make effective "chunking" possible; and most importantly, he underscored Terry Doyle's mantra that "whoever does the work does the learning." Lecture doesn't have to be a form of passive learning. The challenge for us is to tailor students' experience of lecture so as to overcome or challenge their tendency to be passive. We should instead think of lecture as a well-established and familiar pedagogical 'technology' — effective in some contexts and for some purposes.
- Steve Finn, "Change of pace activities for philosophy courses"
The notion of a change of pace activity is (I assume) fairly familiar: something that helps students learn by being unconventional by deviating from traditional teaching modes such as lecture and discussion. Steve's particular emphasis in his presentation was on change of pace activities that put students in a more philosophical frame of mind. He offered a number of exercises whose purpose was to illustrate to students the influence of bias and overconfidence on our own judgments (most students rate themselves as better than average drivers, etc.). These are fun exercises — but what they prompted in me is the thought that perhaps we could motivate the need for philosophical inquiry by being more interdisciplinary in introducing philosophy to students. I suspect that many of us use Socrates (for instance) to encourage students to be skeptical about others' opinions. But I wonder if we do enough to encourage students to be skeptical about their own opinions. Social psychology offers a wealth of evidence that might persuade students that their opinions are less coherent, stable, and rational than they are. The hope, then, would be to illustrate the need for philosophical inquiry precisely because we are so prone to bias, etc. I wonder if Steve (or others) have thoughts about this.
- Russell Marcus, "Sitting at the back of the class"
- Bill Anelli, "Not just argument mapping: Representing the structure of complex primary texts with concept maps"