Third time is the charm: Management Engineering Case Days

MSCI 100, a first year Management Engineering course taught by Professor Ken McKay, introduces students to the main concepts of the discipline in their first term. The course’s main goals are to introduce the core principles that students will apply throughout their undergraduate studies and to prepare them for their first co-operative education term.

The course was pedagogically redesigned based on including authentic self-directed learning, and providing students with opportunities to develop their professional skills (especially teamwork, project planning, time management and critical thinking). Professional Skills and Communication were taught within the context of the specific discipline as recommended in [1]. The overhauled course is composed of several activities/deliverables for students to experience multiple constructive failure-recovery cycles as a way to teach students the advantages of making mistakes [2].

In this blog post I will talk about the ‘case days’ experience, one of the cornerstones of the course that I helped plan and facilitate with the course’s teaching team. Three ‘case days’ were designed to provide an intense and deep learning experience regarding problem-solving, teamwork, and project management. On each case day, students, in teams, were given the case study at 8:30 am, their final product was due by 4:30 pm. There were no other courses, lectures, labs, or tutorials on these days. The requirements were vague, the problem was ill-defined, and the students were given ample opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them. Furthermore, not everything they needed to know had been taught in class and they had to teach themselves new material during these days. The students were expected to meet specific deadlines throughout the day and were given extensive rubrics. The student teams were assigned advisors (staff and faculty volunteers) who provided guidance throughout the day. The role of the advisors purposely diminished each case day. The teams eventually met requirements on their own, without any hand holding.

Student course evaluations were conducted in the prescribed way. In their evaluations, most of the students reported that they liked how the course was designed to foster their independent learning skills; this was evident to them during case days and hands-on projects where lots of ‘aha’ learning moments were achieved. They highlighted that they liked:

  • case days and how challenging they are
  • spending a whole day on MSCI 100
  • being encouraged to think
  • learning from their mistakes and improving
  • developing their team work and project planning skills

They also noted that:

  • cases related well to course material
  • cases allowed better understanding of the course as a whole
  • cases made it easier to learn VBA

In addition to what the students enjoyed in the course, some of them highlighted aspects that they thought needed improvement, they suggested to:

  • teach the material needed for case days
  •  shuffle the team members
  • change Samantha (our main case character)
  •  decrease amount of self learning
  •  decrease ambiguity

The student advisors witnessed the following:

  • Teams progressed from “groups” to “teams”. Throughout the case days, they learned each other’s strengths, weaknesses, how their different personalities meshed together, effective communication, roles, etc. By Day 3, their team building had successfully given them a foundation to problem-solve effectively.
  • Teaching teammates was one of the main skills that students developed as advisors always emphasized that every team member needed to be able to present all the work done by everyone, which was faced by students’ resistance initially. However, they really valued it by the end of the course.
  • Different advisors observed different time management skills in their teams, a couple of advisors noticed improvement in their teams’ time management skills based on their stress level. On Day 1, groups were highly stressed and struggling to meet deadlines while by Day 3, teams were much more relaxed and they handed in their work ahead of the deadlines. Another advisor noticed that time management was still a big challenge for their teams.
  • Generally the advisors stayed away from direct instructions and gave advice in the form of questions. On Day 1, this strategy seemed to incur more stress on the student teams since they were still working on building their professional skills and did not want to think the problem through on their own – they were hoping for some quick answers. By Day 3, they seemed to be more confident to take the open-ended advice and apply it to their work.
  •  On Day 1, student teams created project plans because this was a mandated deliverable. However, it was evident to most advisors that minimal thought went into the plan and it was sensed that students had no real intention of referring back to their original plans during execution. Luckily, teams realized their mistake at the end of Day 1 and from then on, the time spent in developing and adhering to their project plans was much more rigorous.

If you would like to know more about this experience, please refer to our paper  [3] or contact me

References

  1. Julia Pet-Armacost and Robert L. Armacost, “Enhancing communication and professional practice skills in an introductory engineering course,” in Proc. Frontiers in Education Conf., FIE2003, vol. 2, pp.10-15, 2003.
  2. Oscar Nespoli, William Owen, Colin Campbell, and Steve Lambert, “Engineering case study implementation: Observations, results and perspectives,” in Proc. ASEE American Society for Engineering Education Conf., (Austin, TX; 14-17 June 2009), 12 pp., 2009.
  3. K. Mckay, S. Mohamed, L. Stacey, “Concepts Only Please! Innovating a First Year Engineering Course,” in Canadian Engineering Education Conference, Halifax, 2016.

Announcing new Learning Innovation and Teaching Enhancement (LITE) Seed Grant Recipients

Photo of lightbulb with tree insideThe Office of the Associate Vice President, Academic, the Centre for Teaching Excellence, and the Centre for the Advancement of Co-operative Education are pleased to announce that 7 LITE Seed Grant projects have recently been funded. We are pleased to note that LITE Grants involve collaborations across departments/units, faculties, and institutions.

Information about the LITE Grants

The LITE Grants provide support for investigating innovative approaches to enhancing teaching with a focus on fostering deep student learning at the University of Waterloo. Two kinds of grants are available: LITE Seed Grants fund projects up to $5,000, and LITE Full Grants fund projects up to $30,000.

The next LITE grant application deadline on October 1 is for the Full grants.

The annual LITE Seed Grant application deadlines are February 1 and June 1.

For more information about the grants, please visit the LITE Grant website. If you are considering applying for a grant and would like to discuss your project, please contact Crystal Tse or Kristin Brown at the Centre for Teaching Excellence.

Important note: There have been a few changes to the LITE grant application process. Please carefully review the revised application guidelines and contact Crystal or Kristin if you have any questions.

Scholarly Teaching Library Research Guide

The Scholarly Teaching Library Research Guide (created by the Library, Centre for Teaching Excellence and The Office of Research Ethics) is a step-by-step guide and resource for individuals who are interested in and/or engaged in conducting research on teaching and learning. This guide includes:

    • Refresher on research skills and keywords related to teaching and learning to use in your literature search
    • Resources on getting started on conducting teaching and learning research
    • Relevant journals, organizations, websites, and blogs
    • Learning assessment tools used in the literature
    • Resources on ethical considerations on conducting research with students as participants

 

Light bulb image provided by Matt Walker under the Creative Commons “Attribution-ShareAlike” license.

Wrapping to Uncover Learning – Monica Vesely

Many of us have likely heard the term wrapper or cognitive wrapper used when discussing ways to help our students in becoming more independent and self-aware learners. In particular, this term comes up when discussing assessment as a learning opportunity. So what exactly is a cognitive wrapper and how can it be used to aid learning?

In brief, a cognitive wrapper is a tool to guide students before, during or after a teaching and learning event to help them identify their own approaches to the teaching and learning event and what aspects of their behavior are productive and which aspects are not. It encourages students to purposefully examine what they can and should change so as to improve the teaching and learning experience. Wrappers are a structured way to guide students through a reflective process that increases their self-awareness and leads to a modification of behavior through self-regulation.

Continue reading Wrapping to Uncover Learning – Monica Vesely

Why It Seems Like Your Students Can’t Write — Stephanie White

Whenever I talk with instructors here about how my job is to support them in their writing and communication instruction, I hear some version of the same response: “My students are brilliant, but they can’t write a sentence to save their lives!” No matter whom I’m talking to, regardless of discipline, job title, teaching experience, linguistic background, educational background, or teaching load, nearly everyone has the same anxieties around the role of communication in their courses. But I’m always glad to have the chance to talk about these concerns. If you’re one of those instructors I’ve talked with about teaching writing and communication in your discipline, you’ve probably seen my eyes light up as I eagerly launch into my spiel about the research on teaching writing and communication across the curriculum.

You: “My students are smart, but they can’t write!” Continue reading Why It Seems Like Your Students Can’t Write — Stephanie White

The ICE model: An Alternative Learning Framework – Monica Vesely

IMost often we approach the design of our main course elements – intended learning outcomes (ILOs), formative and summative assessments, and teaching and learning activities – by turning to Bloom’s Taxonomy (and most frequently the cognitive domain) to help us determine the appropriate level of thinking required and to help us express that accurately in our descriptions.

Sometime we can find ourselves overwhelmed with the distinctions that Continue reading The ICE model: An Alternative Learning Framework – Monica Vesely

Online Math Numbers at Waterloo, and Comparative Judgments as a Teaching Strategy — Tonya Elliott, CEL

math equationOnline Math Numbers

If you weren’t already aware, here are a few numbers about online math at the University of Waterloo:

  • The Math Faculty has been offering fully online courses since Fall 2003 and, since that time, has offered 55 unique online courses to more than 21,000 students
  • The Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing (CEMC), with support from the Centre for Extended Learning (CEL) and local software company Maplesoft, was the first group on campus to release a large set of open educational resources (OERs). Called CEMC courseware, the OERs include lessons, interactive worksheets, and unlimited opportunities for students to practice skills and receive feedback. At the time of this post, the resources have received over 1.8 million hits from 130,000 unique users in 181 different countries.
  • In 2015, the Canadian Network for Innovation and Excellence (CNIE) recognized CEMC, CEL, and Maplesoft for their OERs through an Award of Excellence and Innovation.
  • The Master for Mathematics for Teachers (MMT) program has the highest enrolment of all the fully online Masters programs offered at the University of Waterloo. MMT and CEL staff who work on the program were one of three teams from Waterloo who won a 2016 Canadian Association for University Continuing Education program award.
  • Maplesoft is using a focus group from Math, CEL, and CTE to develop a new authoring environment that will specifically target the needs of online STEM course authors. It is anticipated that this tool will be released in early 2017 and, over time, should save development costs by 50%.
  • The Math Faculty, together with the Provost’s office, has dedicated $1.2 Million over the next three years for additional work on online projects; over 90 course development slots allocated by CEL have already been filled.

These numbers are some of the reasons Waterloo is considered a leader in the area of online math education.

Comparative Judgments

From June 19 – 22, a small group from Waterloo and I joined an international team of mathematics educators to discuss digital open mathematics education (DOME) at the Field’s Institute in Toronto. Lots of great discussions happened including opportunities and limitations of automated STEM assessment tools, integrity-related concerns, and practical challenges like lowering the bar so that implementing fully online initiatives isn’t the “heroic efforts” for Faculty it’s often viewed as being today. Of all the discussion topics, however, the one that got me most excited – and that my brain has returned to a few times in the month since the conference – is using Comparative Judgement (CJ) in online math courses.

colour shadesThe notion behind CJ is that we are better at making comparisons than we are at making holistic judgments, and this includes judgments using a pre-determined marking scheme.  It doesn’t apply to all types of assessments, but take this test on colour shades to see an example of how using comparisons instead of holistic rankings makes a lot of sense. Proof writing and problem solving may also lend themselves well to CJ and three journal articles are listed at the end of this blog for those who would like to read more.

Here are some of the questions I’ve been pondering:

  • Are there questions we aren’t asking students because we can’t easily “measure” the quality of their responses using traditional grading techniques? How much/when could CJ improve the design of our assessments?
    • Example: Could CJ, combined with an online CJ tool similar to No More Marking, be used by students in algebra courses as a low-stakes peer assessment activity so students could see how different proofs compare to one another? Perhaps awarding bonus credit to students whose proofs were rated in the top X%.
  • Which Waterloo courses would see increases in reliability and validity if graders used CJ instead of traditional marking practices?
  • How much efficiency could Waterloo departments save if high-enrolment courses used CJ techniques instead of marking schemes to grade exam questions or entire exams? Could CEMC save resources while using CJ to do their yearly contest marking?

I don’t have answers to any of these questions yet, but my brain is definitely “on” and thinking about them. I encourage you to read the articles referenced below and send me an email (tonya.elliott@uwaterloo.ca)  If you like the idea of CJ, too, or have questions about anything I’ve written.  If you have questions about Waterloo’s online math initiatives, you’re welcome to email me or Steve Furino.

References

Jones, I., & Inglis, M. (2015). The problem of assessing problem solving: can comparative judgement help? Educational Studies in Mathematics, 89, 3, pp. 337 – 355.

Jones, I., Swan, M., & Pollitt, A. (2014). Assessing mathematical problem solving using comparative judgement. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 13, pp. 151–177.

Pollitt, A. (2012). The method of Adaptive Comparative Judgement. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy, & Practice. 19, 3, pp. 281 – 300.

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Blackboard image courtesy of AJC1.

 

 

 

“Learning from Challenge and Failure”: Resources — Julie Timmermans

Michael Starbird
Michael Starbird, keynote speaker at the 2016 Teaching and Learning Conference.

Presenters at CTE’s recent Teaching and Learning conference explored the theme of Learning from Challenge and Failure. As a follow-up to the Conference, we’d like the share the following list of compiled resources:

Books

Articles and Blog Postings

Podcasts and Talks

Growth Mindset Resources

Other