Friday, February 26, 2016

Is it Metacognition or is it Critical Thinking? (or The Importance of Questions)

by Pam Reese, Assistant Professor, CSD

“What’s the difference between meta-cognition and critical thinking?” That was the question running through my mind at the close of the webinar “Teaching Metacognitive Skills” that I attended on February 17. The presenter said there was “overlap” but I think using some of the strategies that they discussed would help students learn to use critical thinking.
My mind turns again and again to thinking about asking questions. How often do I really ask questions of the students? And more importantly, what type of questions do I ask? Using a revised Bloom’s taxonomy levels, questions can help students remember and understand, but also apply, analyze, evaluate and create. Not only is important to ask questions, but also to plan questions to ask. Clearly, this is the way to ensure that higher level thinking questions are asked. It’s more than just asking questions. How long should I wait for an answer? How to handle when the same one or two students are always quick to answer? A suggestion for this last question was to think of the class divided into sections and ask for the answer from different sections. Ask a question and get a good answer.
Questions are important for students to ask themselves. I believe these prompts for student self-questions goes to the heart of students learning to reflect and beginning to think critically. The presenters shared samples of self-questions in the areas of planning to learn, monitoring learning and evaluating learning. The handout taken from Tanner (2012) listed questions students could ask themselves before, during or after class sessions, homework assignments, quizzes or exams and even the overall course.

I plan to begin improving my use of questions in the classroom—both in number and quality. The first step will begin in planning which questions to ask and then asking them. This will be a process with some questions being better than others, but over time I should have the best questions to ask while teaching different concepts. Wish me luck! 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Critical Reflection Strategies from Dr. Z: Part 3

by Pam Reese

The third and final strategy I learned from Dr. Z. is the easiest to implement. He uses what he calls “RLM” for reflective learning moment. He will sometimes use this during tests or after showing a video clip. Although, wait, on the surface it seems easiest-just call out “RLM”! But on reflection, it may be more difficult.

How to teach what “RLM” means? As I imagine asking it after certain video clips or lecture statements my mind says, “RLM”, (pause) Why----? Should why always follow an RLM? Probably not. The challenge will come in recognizing, or even setting up RLMs for the students.

I use quite a bit of video in many of my classes. Clips from the master clinician website in CSD 449, clips from a DVD of a dozen different therapy methods for speech sound disorders in CSD 321 and documentaries of people with communication disorders in CSD 115. In each class, I feel I want the students to “think more” and “analyze” these clips. I’ve tried asking for “reflections” and making test questions that asked them to evaluate the clips.  For example, in CSD 115 I showed Sound and Fury a documentary about a family of mixed hearing and deaf members who must face a decision about cochlear implantation. It is the best movie I have seen that gives the point of view of deaf adults about cochlear implants, which is very different from the views of hearing individuals. I also show Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter about a woman whose mother is struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. The woman comes to realize that she must join her mother in her dementia rather than arguing with her about reality.

When my students write about these movies, predominantly, they write that the deaf people are “wrong”. It is hard for them to take the point of view of the “other”. When they write about the other movie, they tend to write that a relative, too, had dementia and describe an episode or an experience that they had. Neither response is exactly what I would hope for. Perhaps pausing at certain key points and saying “RLM” would help the students to find the deeper meaning in both videos. I’m going to try this, too, and let you know how it goes. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Critical Reflection Strategies from Dr. Z: Part 2

A second reflective thinking strategy from Dr. Z was the reflective thinking-writing 3 W’s: What? So What? What next? These W’s represent description, interpretation and outcome. It fits closely to what I already do when I ask students to summarize (describe) and then reflect. Reflect is where they lose it, so what if I said instead:
“Summarize and then add a So what? and a What next? Section.  For So What? think about what was the most important or interesting idea/ How can it be explained? How is it similar to/different from others? In the What next? section think about what you have learned and how it can be connected/applied in the future?”
This simple structure aligns well with that of Gibbs (1998). In that cycle description comes first (What?), then evaluation (So what?) and then an action plan (What next?). The beauty of “So what?” I believe directly addresses a problem that undergraduate students have. They tend to want the right answer to everything and accept anything read as a correct authority. To prepare my students for graduate school, I must help them ask “So what?” and take a step toward evaluating works that we read.

This strategy I can use next week, as my students are beginning to read and discuss and write “reflections”.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Critical Reflection Strategies from Dr. Z: Part 1

I was fortunate enough to hear John Zubizarreta (Dr. Z) at the Lilly Conference in November talk about critical reflections for significant learning. Three particular teaching strategies that he discussed I want to incorporate into classes this semester or in the near future. I plan to write three blogs, one for each of three strategies I learned from Dr. Z. For a little background, first, let me tell you that Dr. Z uses learning portfolios with his students which they keep throughout the semester and turn in at the end as evidence of their learning.

The first strategy is linked to their learning portfolio. At the end of each week, the students complete a Classroom Critical Incident Questionnaire (Brookfield, 1995).  Once copy is turned in as they leave class, and one copy is kept for their portfolios and used to summarize and analyze a record of their responses and propose future learning goals. The questions answered each week are:

  • At what moment in the class this week did you feel most engaged with what was happening?
  • At what moment in the class this week did you feel most distanced from what was happening?
  • What action that anyone (teacher or student) took in class this week did you find most affirming and helpful?
  • What action that anyone (teacher or students) took in class this week did you find most puzzling or confusing?
  • What about the class this week surprised you the most?

To use this strategy, I think I need to begin small. Every couple of weeks ask the students to do the questionnaire. Building to learning portfolios will take a little more effort and planning to use.