Dr. McGuire’s Presentation

I would agree with the previous comments posted about Dr. McGuire’s presentation last week. What made an impression on me was her emphasis on creating an environment in the classroom that fosters self-confidence in students. She talked about giving students opportunities to do well and most importantly acknowledging their accomplishments, especially students that struggle with the subject matter. I could not agree more. Over the course of a semester there is a significant amount of information presented in the limited time-frame of a class. This can be isolating to students who take longer to process information and struggle to keep up. For such students receiving praise from an instructor can go a long way to boost the ego – something I believe to be an essential ingredient in the leaning process.

The Impact of Last Week’s Seminar

Dr McGuire had plenty of good things to say about increasing our students’ motivation, but the notion of teaching our students Bloom’s Taxonomy had the greatest impact on me. I don’t think that Dr. McGuire was literally suggesting that we take a day of class to teach Bloom’s to our students, rather that we take advantage of “teachable moments” to enlighten our students and challenge them to analyze their learning process. I found myself, in the week following the seminar, pointing out to students where they were stuck at the memorizing stage of Bloom’s, and challenging them to think about how they might develop understanding. It also just so happened to be a week where my lecture topics were about applications and I found myself similarly trying to ask questions that would push my students into analysis and evaluation.

Of course, it is quite understandable that our first-year students come to us stuck in the first (maybe second) level of Bloom’s. With the current nearly exclusive focus on standardized exams, the concept of learning has been twisted into this grotesque notion that the purpose of education is to be able to vomit facts onto a scantron. Convincing our students otherwise is one of our greatest and most important challenges, and training our students to think about their learning process is the key.

Dr. McGuire’s Presentation

Parts of Dr. McGuire’s presentation really resonated with me. The students I have in the last course prior to graduation and taking the licensing examination often feel defeated, neglected, and just plain fried. Some don’t feel they can perform any better than a “C,” and indeed, aspire to barely pass. It doesn’t take all that much to make them feel better about themselves as students, and as individuals. Acknowledging their contributions to the classroom and clinical settings, becoming excited when they try to successfully put the pieces together, and promoting that they have worked hard to occupy the seat in class, all go a long way in making a positive difference in how students see themselves as well as the educational process. As Dr. McGuire emphasized, many students really do not know the difference between learning and studying. Having discovered that to be true long ago, I always start the first day of the semester discussing and illustrating learning, studying, reading, teaching, and Bloom’s Taxonomy. We discuss the autonomy, accountability, responsibility, and persistent discovery inherent in the educational process. These students need to appropriately assess how people learn, because they need to teach people all facets of health, and then evaluate the outcomes of their efforts. So, much of the presentations validated why we do what we do as educators, as well as what we call it, so we can properly name it. Before we can change things, we must give it a name. Dr. McGuire helped to do that.

Thoughts from Last Friday

Dr. McGuire had a very enlightening presentation.  Much of the presentation did not directly relate to the students and materials that I teach, except for her part on enhancing involvement and creating a positive approach in the classroom.  With over a decade of teaching in the Architectural Technology department, I have tried a variety of projects and in classroom activities to engage the students into the course.

One of the activities I have added to my Design V studio course happens during the residential project, where the students are designing a single family house. The students are responsible for designing a house for a family, including all the interior and exterior material and furnishings.  The first semester I taught this project the students were excited to design a house, and did the work as required.  The second semester I let the students pick out of a hat their family – different occupations, number and sex of children, pets, extended family members…  The students embraced their families, giving them names, hobbies, images.  They wrote a description of their family and included images of how they live and what their needs are in their new house.  They brought them to life. They did not design houses, they designed homes.


Thoughts from last Friday: Reading strategies

Dr. McGuire’s talk was very informative and inspirational. The single biggest take-away for me was how to help our students with their reading. Material I teach in both my classes (anatomy and pharmacology) is not the easiest reading, and its is not enough to read superficially to sort of ‘get the idea’. It requires deep concentration, analyzing of the material, and, unfortunately, memorization of new terminology, each time. A simple suggestion she shared, to read each paragraph and try to put what is written in your own words, seems to offer the solution to prevent the mind from wandering away from the subject, to keep the attention, and to also decipher complex scientific texts. I actually tried this method myself and it worked for me. I will talk to my students about this type of slow, attentive reading and its benefits, and I hope it will be a very helpful strategy for them. This can be especially beneficial to our ESL students, who often do exactly that – read and translate the material, paragraph by paragraph – but instead of translating it in their own native language (which is absolutely not helpful) – they should ‘translate’ the text in a simpler, more manageable English.

Many of us also reflected on her suggestion to show the students Bloom’s Taxonomy and discuss with the students what level of learning is expected, and how our tests focus on the different types of learning. I think this is very helpful and I will do it with my new groups in the upcoming courses.

It was a pleasant surprise to listen to Dr. McGuire’s presentation last week. For quite some time, I have been thinking about how to best “motivate” my students, and what is the most efficient way to enhance their learning. It just struck me that students may not know the various strategies for different learning, and led me to re-think about learning improvement. I think this goes well with our college’s movement towards gen ed as well. We talk about students’ learning skills and outcomes, but have we really thought about “how” to improve the learning outcomes?

This week, I shared Bloom’s taxonomy with my students, and found out that students’ expectations of learning were somewhat different than my own. My students and I had a good discussion on the terms on the taxonomy and I found out that how students define the term on the taxonomy was in fact the definition for another term on the taxonomy. We often take it for granted and make an assumption that our students know the terms used in assessment, but my discussion with students showed otherwise.

Dr. McGuire’s presentation was an eye-opening experience for me, and I will integrate some of the strategies to my future teaching.

Many of the workshops this semester are quite inspiring, especially this past week’s presentation by Dr. McGuire from LSU. Her foundational learning strategies can have a profound impact on struggling students, turning likely failure into potential success.

Earlier in the semester we had some debates in our seminars about the range of students we have in our classrooms and the inevitability for some of failure in an academic environment. Dr. McGuire challenges this inevitability, pointing instead to the underlying mechanics of the students’ approach to their academic work. Faculty take it for granted that students come to our classrooms with obvious academic skills and understanding how to apply the skills. When we see them struggle, our assumption is usually that a lack of effort or discipline is the primary cause. I am as guilty of this assumption as anyone. Dr. McGuire shows us, however, that we cannot make these assumptions. Instead, we must recognize the importance of teaching our students the underlying skills and learning strategies that can lead to clear improvement.

I was most struck by the now obvious power of talking to students about their own understanding of levels of learning, especially by presenting Bloom’s Taxonomy. Why should we keep our intensive discussions of learning process to ourselves? Along the long road of our students’ education, how many of their teachers shared the very pedagogical thinking/body of work that guides so many of the activities in the classroom? College is certainly a good place to lift the veil and share openly our pedagogical thinking to our students.


Reflections on Dr. McGuire’s Talk

It was very interesting that the assigned reading for the day was also about student motivation and its effect on learning. Listening to Dr. McGuire basically reinforced all those ideas. I have often times thought about how best to motivate my students in a General Biology class and the best I could do was to tell them to work harder in order to get better results. It was a revelation to me that there are these tested and highly effective strategies that can be used in a class room to such good effect. I am certainly going to use some of these methods including methods to build student confidence early in the semester, use strategies in the class to get them involved early, help them learn how to take good class notes etc. After attending the talk, I realized that there is a very fine line between challenging the students intellectually and affecting their confidence and motivation level. I realized that along with teaching biology, it is equally important to teach them about how to study biology; develop good study habits. I am also going to incorporate Bloom’s Taxonomy in my assessment methods and make the students aware of this as well. We all have some general ideas about how we have to remember and understand something before we begin to analyze and evaluate but we never take the time to actually discuss it in the class.I thought this was a great learning experience for myself and it will definitely reflect in my teaching in the future.

Response to Sandra Mcguire Workshop

I was reminded by Dr. McGuire that it is important to re-iterate the ideas in Bloom’s taxonomy and to instill these concepts into general practice with the students. Teaching General Biology, we often meet resistance from the students. They simply don’t want to be there and they take it because they have to. What is the goal for reading an assignment? “To finish the reading.” We’re reminded of how explanations of expectations and minding the motivational levels of our students can help us adapt to their needs.

The lowest level of Blooms is the act of Remembering. As students come in to the class on the first day, they will tell me that they are not good at the Sciences. They believe that Science is rote memorization. But I remind them to treat Science as a language. In order to excel at a language, one must practice it. When explaining Bloom’s to my students, I often inform them that the things we see in action in stem from Creating and Evaluating. Rote memorization of jargon and differentiating it from the vernacular is the challenge that students should undertake in order to have an ability to seek out a more meaningful appreciation of the course. Does it really help to explain Bloom’s to students? This can influence the way that students prepare for exams. But this also requires them to have a higher awareness of what each level actually means.

Dr. McGuire also focused on the aspect of metacognition that tends to plague the students. They’re assessments of themselves and their prior knowledge challenge their progress in the course. Finding ways of having the students assess themselves when reading their texts so that they are not simply trying to finish is a difficult task and continues to plague any meaningful processing of the material. This is a particular nuisance with first year students since they often invoke numerous incorrect pieces of prior knowledge that can interfere with self-assessment. I feel that this is the greatest challenge and I wished there was greater discussion about this topic during the workshop.