Introverts in the Classroom – Crystal Tse

Picture of birds on telephone line, with a single bird by itself.

Last year I attended a professional development seminar that involved four days of intense group work and meeting new people, and I was completely exhausted by the end of it.  As a graduate student, conferences were a lot of fun, but I would need frequent breaks during the day to muster enough energy to keep going the rest of the time. As a high school student I hardly spoke up during classes and my teachers would tell me what a shame it was that I didn’t share my good ideas. My name is Crystal, and I am an introvert.

What is an introvert? This is a personality trait associated with people who, compared to extroverts, do not derive their energy from social interaction. In fact, sustained social interactions have the opposite effect of draining them of their energy and mental resources. They are not necessarily shy or socially anxious (common misconceptions of what introversion is) – it just means that they are generally more reserved, and enjoy having time alone or with people they know well in intimate settings.

Where did this construct come from? The five-factor model of personality, or more commonly called the “Big Five” was validated by psychologists McCrae and Costa (1987) and includes the dimensions of agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, openness, and most relevant, extroversion (you can take the Big 5 personality inventory to see where you might score lower or higher on along these dimensions). Their research has shown that these five factors can predict behavior, and appears in across different cultures in the world.

In the Atlantic last year an article was published on how introverts’ needs in schools are often neglected, as active learning strategies are encouraged and expected in the classroom. Introverted students benefit from having “quiet” time to reflect or complete individual work, and classrooms where activities such as group work and think-pair-share are the norm may at be odds at what they find are optimal learning environments. I’ve had many conversations with a friend and sessional lecturer, a self-identified introvert herself, about how she struggles with incorporating too many active learning strategies into her classes because she herself would struggle with having to do those exercises all the time.

That is not say to forego active learning strategies – there is good evidence for the benefits of active learning for example, in STEM fields. Active learning strategies can still be used, but they do not always have to involve group work or collaboration. They can include “one minute essay” questions or quizzes, and reflection activities. The flipped classroom can benefit introverted students, as they can complete readings and activities for the upcoming class individually, and have their thoughts and questions prepared beforehand.

Lastly, class participation is often valued, but introverted students may speak up less and to instructors, appear less interested or engaged with the material. This educator has a great perspective on this issue: You don’t want to alienate and punish introverted students by requiring that they speak up all time, but you also want to push students out of their comfort zone and allow them to develop their communication skills. He offers strategies that he has used to get students to speak up, and they’re simple, such as giving students time to think and prepare what they will say or transitioning from smaller to larger group discussions throughout the term.

It’s all a balance! As instructors and educational developers we can be more mindful of the introverts in the room, and come up with strategies (they don’t have to be extensive or immediately obvious to students) to engage, challenge, and draw out (but not tire out) the introverts in the classroom.

 

Image above provided by Scott Robinson under the Creative Commons “Attribution” license.

Crystal Tse

Crystal Tse

Crystal is the Educational Research Associate at the CTE where she contributes to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning work and to program evaluation. She received her PhD in social psychology in the Department of Psychology at the University of Waterloo, where her research involved applying psychological theory to inform evidence-based interventions that address different social issues.

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What is the “Case Method”?

Teaching using case studies has typically been used in Business Schools, Law Schools, and Medical Schools but it is a technique being used by other disciplines to provide exposure to complex real world problems for which there is no “right” or “wrong” answer. At Waterloo, cases have been used in disciplines including Engineering, Biology, Accounting, Social Work, Environment and Business, English and others.

The traditional “Case Method” used in Business Schools involves a three stage process where:

  1. students are given the case and asked to work on it individually to come up with a recommendation or course of action (done outside of class time). The key here is for students to be able to justify and support their choices or decisions.
  2. students meet in small groups of 4 or 5 to discuss the case and their recommendations (done outside of class time) – the objective here is to share perspectives, not come to a consensus as a group
  3. the case is discussed in class with the entire class with the Professor acting as a facilitator to guide discussion.

The amount of learning increases over each stage with exposure to different perspectives.

Learning using the Case Method

While this is the typical method used in MBA programs where cases are used in most courses, it can be modified and adapted. For instance, students can read the case and prepare before class and class time can be used for small group discussion and then discussing the case as a large group (i.e. the entire class). It is important to communicate expectations to students about coming to class prepared as the quality of discussion depends on proper preparation. One technique to encourage students to prepare is to give them questions about the case to answer and submit before class begins.

These techniques of using small group work for peer teaching (i.e. small group work to share perspectives) and facilitating a discussion with the entire class can be adapted and used for other contexts than just cases.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Case Method or using cases in your course, contact Scott Anderson in the Centre for Teaching Excellence.

Waterloo Cases in Design Engineering also writes and supports the use of cases in Engineering courses.

References

Erskine, J., Leenders, M., and Mauffette-Leenders, L. (2012). Learning with Cases, 4th Edition, Ivey Publication Services, Richard Ivey School of Business, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada.

Erskine, J., Leenders, M., and Mauffette-Leenders, L. (2003). Teaching with Cases, 3rd Edition, Ivey Publication Services, Richard Ivey School of Business, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada.

Mauffette-Leenders, L., Erskine, J. and Leenders, M. (2001) Writing Cases, 4th Edition, Ivey Publication Services, Richard Ivey School of Business, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada.

Scott Anderson

As a CTE Faculty Liaison, Scott Anderson helps instructors in the Faculties of Arts and Environment integrate technology into their teaching through innovative learning activities. He also serves as guide for instructors to access other CTE resources. Prior to joining the Centre for Teaching Excellence Scott worked as a consultant primarily with environmental organizations. He received his BSc from the University of Toronto. In his spare time, Scott enjoys playing ultimate frisbee recreationally and competitively.

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Darth Vader: teaching method in disguise? – Josh Neufeld

Every year, I teach 600-900 students a “Fundamentals of Microbiology” course (Biol240). Three years ago, I wore a skull-print tie to class on October 31st. Afterwards, a student expressed disappointment that I had not worn a costume. The following year, I decided to wear a more… *impressive* Halloween costume to my lectures. I rented a replica Darth Vader costume and gave both of my back-to-back lectures fully suited. The reception for these lectures was nothing short of extraordinary. The university promoted the costume (http://www.bulletin.uwaterloo.ca/2012/nov/01th.html), students’ photos went viral (even making the front page of reddit; http://www.reddit.com/r/funny/comments/12eqaz/my_microbiology_professor_did_the_entire_lecture/), and I posed for many pictures with thrilled students after both class sections. Last year, I rented another replica costume: The Dark Knight. Again, student photos of the lecture circulated widely through social media and the costume was profiled in the Daily Bulletin (http://www.bulletin.uwaterloo.ca/2013/oct/31th.html). In a completely unexpected way, these costumes seem to have left their “viral” mark on Biol240.

Josh Neufeld in costume
Josh Neufeld darkens the day on two Hallowe’ens

But why? Many students wear costumes to campus on Halloween. Why is it so worthy of comment when a faculty member dresses up? 

Student appreciation of these Halloween costumes reminds me of other classroom responses that I’ve noticed at seemingly unrelated moments. For example, when I show a picture of my kids and quote them in relation to the course, the room responds warmly and audibly (“awwwwww”). When I told the class how a particular episode of Swiss Family Robinson (involving a creeping white mat spreading over the island and killing its animals) instilled a lifelong phobia of fungus in me, students sat rapt on the edge of their seats. When I recorded a message for students in my basement and as part of a narrated video animation of a class concept, course evaluations tell me that this was very much appreciated. 

It occurs to me that all of these teaching elements are linked. They convey unique messages to the class. These personal moments communicate that “I trust you”, and that trust is strong enough for me to be vulnerable in costume and risk looking silly, enough to show you my kids, enough to share my quirky personal foibles, and enough to let you see what my basement looks like (i.e., not pretty). In addition, I suspect that the simple personal things that we do send another message that is possibly even more important than trust, they communicate that we *like* our students. Our actions reflect that we like them enough to let our guard down in the classroom, just a little more than they would expect. 

In some ways, building rapport with a class is very similar to relationship building. When we trust and like someone, we do extra things for that person, we even act silly at times. And, if all goes well, we end up… learning about microbiology. We enjoy the classroom experience that much more. We want to keep coming back. Could this be the very spoonful of sugar that makes course content go down?

Importantly, this isn’t about parlour tricks for simple entertainment, it is about building trust and relationships as a precondition for effective learning. I am thrilled that students respond positively by cleaving to course content and exploring microbiology with enthusiasm in the classroom. These in-class experiences may also influence future course selections and career choices, steering interests a little closer to micro than they might have done otherwise. It’s a win win. 

Although wearing a costume can help foster trust and mutual appreciation in the classroom, there is an important unanswered question that lingers for me… what to wear for Halloween 2014?!

Josh Neufeld (Twitter: @JoshDNeufeld) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology, studying the microbial ecology of terrestrial, aquatic, and host-associated communities. For several years, Josh has taught a large second year course (600-900 students) as well as a small upper year course (18 students). 

trevorholmes

As Senior Instructional Developer, Curriculum and Programming, Trevor Holmes plans and delivers workshops and events in support of faculty across the career span. Prior to joining the Centre for Teaching Excellence, Trevor worked at a variety of universities teaching courses, supporting faculty and teaching assistants through educational development offices, and advising undergraduates. Trevor’s PhD is from York University in English Literature, with a focus on gothic literature, queer theory, and goth identities. A popular workshop facilitator at the national and international levels, Trevor is also interested in questions of identity in teaching and teaching development.

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Presenting lectures with iPad and 2Screens — Paul Kates

Please visit the Presenting lectures with iPad and 2Screens page to learn about combining the ability of the iPad app 2Screens to make presentations to students in the classroom with the iPad’s ability to capture handwriting with a stylus.

Display, annotate, browse, or write-freehand with 2Screens on an iPad tablet. Using files from Microsoft Office or Apple iWorks; or files (pdf), images and video from the web you can present to your students or audience through the lightweight iPad with a VGA adaptor. With an additional pen stylus, pages can be annotated or new pages written, live in class. Files in 2Screen are displayed on tabs, so it is easy to switch among different content pages, jumping from a slide tab to a whiteboard tab for example, to work on a problem or exercise.

Paul Kates
Mathematics Faculty CTE Liaison
pkates@uwaterloo.ca, x37047

Paul Kates

Paul Kates

Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE) Liaison to the Faculty of Mathematics (pkates@uwaterloo.ca)

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Using “Transit Questions” in place-based pedagogy – Trevor Holmes

I love being in the classroom, whether it’s large or small, whether I’m officially the teacher or the learner. But I also love getting out of the classroom. Some of the most powerful experiences in my own learning and my own teaching have been observing, interacting, and reflecting in spaces other than lecture halls and seminar rooms. Some time ago, I wrote about place-based pedagogy (with some suggested reading) and gave the example of a workshop for the Educational Developers Caucus (EDC) conference at Thompson Rivers University. Since then, I have continued to use what previously I hadn’t a name for in my own cultural studies course — the field observations and intellectual response papers, the spontaneous “field trips” out into parts of campus to apply concepts, the incorporation of people’s experiences into the framework of the course.

Today’s post is about a small piece of the place-based learning experience I had at the EDC conference, a piece that I’m considering using with my own learners when they do their field observations. To date, I’ve supplied them with reflection questions and notetaking guides for the site visits. I’ve used the online quiz tool in the learning management system to ask “prime the pump” journal questions. But I’ve never yet tried the “transit question” approach. Transit questions were thought-triggering questions handed out just before traveling to the field sites in Kamloops. There were, to my recollection, four different cue cards and each pair of people received one or two cue cards. The idea was that the question on the front (and maybe there was one on the back) would ready us for what we were about to see by asking us about related prior experience with X, or what we expect to find when we get to X, or how is X usually structured. The idea was to talk to our partners about the questions and answer them informally as we made our way to the sites (which took 10-20 minutes to get to).

Photograph of two people in Iceland
Photo of two people in Iceland. Source: Karlbark’s Fotothing stream (shared under CC license)

I can imagine transit questions for pairs that would be suitable for my course too. However, we don’t always have pairs (sometimes small groups, sometimes solitary learners going to a space in their hometown, and so on). I can easily adapt the idea for solo use, though clearly I wouldn’t want someone to be taking notes in response to the prompt while, say, driving!

If we do the field trip to Laurel Creek Conservation area again to test ideas found in Jody Baker’s article about Algonquin Park and the Canadian imaginary, I’ll be using transit questions for the bus ride for sure. With other observations I will have to think about how to adapt the idea. Choosing the right question or questions seems to be important, and offering space to jot notes for those who don’t want to start talking immediately. I’d strongly encourage this approach when you know people will be traveling somewhere for the course by bus, or by foot/assistive device. I can imagine that there are lots of opportunities to do this (and it’s likely already done) in disciplines as varied as geography, planning, fine art, architecture, biology, geosciences, accounting, anthropology, and many others. I’m thinking it would be great if they could pull questions from a question bank to their phones or other devices en route as well… the possibilities!

Transit questions on the way to field sites helped to ready me and my partner for what we’d be looking at, to reflect on the implications of our mini-field trip, and to connect our histories to the present task. I recommend them wholeheartedly.

trevorholmes

As Senior Instructional Developer, Curriculum and Programming, Trevor Holmes plans and delivers workshops and events in support of faculty across the career span. Prior to joining the Centre for Teaching Excellence, Trevor worked at a variety of universities teaching courses, supporting faculty and teaching assistants through educational development offices, and advising undergraduates. Trevor’s PhD is from York University in English Literature, with a focus on gothic literature, queer theory, and goth identities. A popular workshop facilitator at the national and international levels, Trevor is also interested in questions of identity in teaching and teaching development.

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Turning Information into an Invitation – Trevor Holmes

I’ve been teaching undergrads since 1994 I guess, as a TA at first, and by 2001 as a course instructor. Since 2006 I’ve been the instructor of record on a large first-year cultural studies course (and assisted in 2005 on the same one). This post is in the head-scratching, old dog / new tricks category, and is about office hours.

wordcloud-welcome-heart-1Generally speaking, I hold 1.5 to 2 hours of office time for consultation with students. I’m happy when I see three to six students in a week, which only happens around essay writing time. Some students come for help getting started, others with drafts to go through together, and others afterward to understand feedback. Although I ask students to show up or make an alternate appointment, I probably only see ten percent of my class that way in a good year (I teach 200).

Over the years I’ve read about some ways to use office hours more effectively. Don Woods (McMaster, Chemical Engineering Emeritus and architect of their problem-based learning approach) always talks about using student ombudspeople (1 or 2 per 50 students), with whom the professor meets each week or two to have a dialogue about how the class is going. A former professor at York when I was a graduate student there used to have his undergraduates come in to receive their essays — they’d have to read them aloud to him in order to get them back (this usually led to a deeper understanding on their part of their grades and their own writing). Teaching tips abound — and of course CTE has our own version of advice for the beginning TA or instructor.

This year, though, thinking I was past all such tips — surely these are all for beginners, not for seasoned oldtimers like myself — I once again posted my office hours for the term in the learning management system calendar tool. Week in, week out… can I remove just the one instance over Reading Break this time? Yes! Great. But…

…instead of writing “Trevor’s Office Hour” like I normally would, I wondered what might sound more inviting. I’m so tired of the discourse of “information delivery” as our role in higher education. In lecture, I’m not an information-delivery specialist. My discipline isn’t about transmitting information from me to many. That is a subject for another post, but it’s important to think about the whole endeavour, and how I communicate this belief I have. If I simply post my hours as information, how am I welcoming the discussion and support I feel I can share with my first years? So, I tried instead posting the calendar entry with the words: “Trevor’s Office Time: Come and Visit me in xxxx-xxxx from 4:30 – 5:00” (and the same, but an hour, on the other day).

For the first time in nearly 20 years of teaching, two students showed up for my first office hour before the first lecture day. I told them I was happy to meet them, we talked about their interests, majors, futures, and I asked them what made them come see me before the class had even begun. They said “because you invited us to come and visit you.”

I was pretty much gobsmacked, not having expected anyone to pop by until three weeks hence when the paper is due. I hope this signals an increase in the frequency of visits and the diversity of visitors. Pleasant surprises like this, that by the students’ own account were because of the three small words “come visit me,” are the kinds of things that keep my enthusiasm for teaching so high even after eight iterations of the same course.

 

trevorholmes

As Senior Instructional Developer, Curriculum and Programming, Trevor Holmes plans and delivers workshops and events in support of faculty across the career span. Prior to joining the Centre for Teaching Excellence, Trevor worked at a variety of universities teaching courses, supporting faculty and teaching assistants through educational development offices, and advising undergraduates. Trevor’s PhD is from York University in English Literature, with a focus on gothic literature, queer theory, and goth identities. A popular workshop facilitator at the national and international levels, Trevor is also interested in questions of identity in teaching and teaching development.

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Learning is a Social Activity – Katherine Lithgow

After attending one of the Sixth Decade Mid-Cycle Review sessions, I began thinking about some of the comments that were raised during and after the session regarding academic excellence and what that entails. Continue reading Learning is a Social Activity – Katherine Lithgow
Katherine Lithgow

Katherine Lithgow

As Senior Instructional Developer, Integrative Learning, Katherine Lithgow facilitates ePortfolio and Integrative Learning initiatives, supporting instructors across campus with the design and implementation of activities that help students integrate learning in academic, workplace, community and social environments. Prior to joining the Centre for Teaching Excellence, Katherine taught Cytology at The Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences. She received her BA from the University of Toronto, and a Master’s in Educational Technology from UBC. In what seems like another life, Katherine worked as a cytotechnologist graduating from TMI’s Cytology program.

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