FIRST IV Workshop evaluations

Evaluation of regional team leaders (Janet Batzli, Deb Linton and Emily Rauschert):  4.9/5 (5 best).

2011 FIRST IV KBS pictures

Open ended questions

1. Describe how your thinking about teaching has changed since the beginning of the workshop.  In other words, do you think differently about what it means to learn college-level biology?  Will you approach your teaching differently?  Did you learn anything about how you teach and what helps you teach?

·         I am beginning to think differently about how much content to deliver in an introductory biology course - more is not necessarily better for student learning.

·         I learned a lot at this workshop! I was always more inclined to just make a list of topics that I need to teach and just go through them one by one explaining and maybe add in a couple activities. Now I want to figure out the MOST important ideas to develop in the groups first and see how to make activities fit. Learning about Rubrics helped a lot.

·         Yes, I think differently about teaching college-level biology. Although I have had some of this information before, it is nice to hear it again and all together. I will include active learning activities in my class MEETINGS. This is very different compared to the way that I would teach my course without information about student centered classrooms. I think I learned the most about making course goals and objectives. I don't think that I have ever done that before. It was something that I thought would be easy, but it was very difficult. In doing that, I thought a lot about my own teaching. That will help me teach.

·         Yes, the approaches taught are very fun and engaging and capture the idea of science. I have realized, since there were very good examples presented, that I have a lot of work to do fine tuning my teaching technique.

·         My thinking of teaching has changed after this workshop. I think I was mostly worried about how to implement active learning in practice. Now I have a better idea. Before I had some doubt about the effectiveness of active learning maybe because I did not know how to make it most effective. This workshop also was good in that it showed examples where active learning failed (ex: if you have clickers and do not discuss results). It is very important that you gave the failed examples to me to see what not to do not just what to do. I learned a lot. I will teach differently for sure.Maybe I am less anxious to think on my feet now.

·         I think that the way I view my role in the classroom has fundamentally changed. Previously I had seen myself as a source of facts. Now I see my job as leading students so that they can discover facts and how they are organized on their own.

·         Yes. I am now much less concerned with whether I have covered all the "correct" content in the class and much more interested in fostering the acquisition of "soft skills" in the students... or rather how to combine the two efficiently and effectively. I'm also excited about the opportunity of using active learning and group work in large "lecture" classes and the high level of cognitive skills this fosters in the students. I will now always think about aligning activities and assessments with course goals and focus on creating a student centered classroom. Yes, I realize that I need to go much more meta on what I'm doing up there (and to share that with the students).

·         I have the same thoughts about what it means to learn college-level biology. I already felt that it's more important to learn how to think critically and to apply knowledge, rather than simply learning facts. However, I feel much more equipped to teach in a way that will help students actually learn that way. I have tried to implement active learning before, but it never quite worked for me. I think the keys I will be implementing are providing feedback on activities, letting students do things (versus doing it for them), and really getting students to go meta. I learned a little about how I teach, but more importantly, I learned how to improve aspects of my teaching that I already knew needed work.

·         My thinking has changed completely. I'm energized to use groups and interactive activities in everything I teach, not just the one lower level class for FIRST IV. Like the best actors who really try to be "in the moment", I feel like these interactive techniques will help me be "in the moment" so I can respond effectively and have a more interesting class and students who leave with better skills and appreciation for science.

·         I see that cooperative learning does help people to understand and retain information, and to be able to use that information in a problem-solving context. Probably the strongest change in my thinking involves the way I will try to help students experience science in the way that "real" scientific researchers do by guiding them through the scientific method and incorporating scientific literature into their learning materials. I think this technique will help me to achieve one of my main goals of teaching, which is to help students to become good critical thinkers.

·         I feel more comfortable concentrating on concepts rather than lectures laden with facts. I have already implemented some active learning into my teaching but I feel much more comfortable trying/adding new types of assessments and spending more time with these activities during the class meeting. I don't really feel like I learned much about how I teach, more about how I would like to teach, but I expect that to greatly change in the next year. Support greatly helps me teach and all of the resources this program has made available to me will be very helpful.

·         Although I consider myself interactive with my students and "let them do the work," I learned that students will participate more if you let them do more group work before asking them for their answers instead of just prompting the whole class all at once. I learned that although adding in one big activity a week is a step in the right direction, it is not sufficient to keep students engaged. Activities are not necessarily as aligned as you might think. It is better to follow something like a lecture - activity - lecture - activity - lecture, etc. Finally, I learned that students have far more misconceptions than I could have imagined and it is important to reveal those and offer the students the opportunity to correct those before going into deeper learning. Therefore, slow down and give the students time to think and process information.

·         I don't think that I learned much that was new about teaching technique and philosophy, probably because I have been familiar with this approach to teaching for awhile. But it was great to see these techniques modeled, and to continue to build my motivation to teach in this way. I also gained additional resources that will help guide my teaching experience this year.

·         I realized how much more effective it is to get students involved in the learning process as much as possible. I used to be concerned with course content and how much I know, now I am more interested in exploring ways in which I can engage students and stimulate them to seek out answers to their own questions (so that I am no longer the 'encyclopedia' of information for them but rather a facilitator in their learning)

·         Yes, my thinking has changed dramatically about teaching since beginning the workshop. I have learned so much and will be able to bring all of it into my classroom. I also got to meet great resources and support. At my institution, we are giving no direction on the format and content of the course. It seemed very opened ended and completely vague on what we were supposed to be doing. Now, I will have more confidence in my teaching skills and can relax a little bit because I have all of the tools and resources necessary to make it happen. I really enjoyed meeting new people out side of my discipline of science and get out from the bench to realize that there are other options out there for me if I so choose. This experience has definitely lit a fire in me and got me even more excited to begin this teaching journey and see what this leads for me. It has helped to nail down that this was the right choice for me career wise and I am going in the right direction. Yes, I do think differently about what it means to be teaching college level biology, I realized that less content is better and that you have to give the students time to process everything we are teaching them. I will definitely approach teaching differently, I will spend more time that I thought initially to make up lessons plans and assessments with the goal of student centered learning in mind. Yes, I learned that I can get ahead of myself and overwhelmed with ideas and concepts. I need to take it slow and put myself back in the students shoes. I need to realize that something may fall flat but that it is okay and we come back from it.

·         I have been thinking a great deal about the quantity of content to deliver in an introductory biology course, and that more information may not necessarily translate to more student learning. The important things that students need to leave a basic bio course (especially one for non-majors) knowing are things like synthesis and critical thinking skills, and the memorization of facts serves no real purpose in their lives as citizens. This has been part of my teaching philosophy for some time, but finding a way to successfully teach these skills has been challenging. The workshop has given me extensive tools and resources to go forward with this kind of instruction and to focus on aligning teaching goals with assessments and activity.

·         I do think differently about what it takes to learn college-level biology. Until now, I modeled my approach to teaching from professors that I had in college who were nice individuals, but instructed in the traditional lecture style. Because I learned science through lecture and textbook reading, I thought that this is how it is done. This program has exposed me to a new approach to teaching, and, perhaps more importantly, has provided me a staring set of skills and resources to conduct a class that promotes student-centered, active learning. The formal presentations, reading materials and group interactions were greatly beneficial in my development this week. I am looking forward to teaching at my home institution and developing a new course with my group.

·         Arriving to FIRST IV, I felt that I was grounded in the idea that teaching should be goal driven, I knew a little about assessment alignment, and I knew that group work was important. I felt that the idea of using Biology as a context to teach skills (critical thinking, concise communication, how to evaluate information, etc.) was important, but now I feel that it is the only way to teach. This project has really stretched me because trying new approaches is hard and there is always a tendency to go back to the comfortable model. But, I want to do better than lecturing first, because it is a better demonstration of who I am as a scientists (what scientists do) and there is an overwhelming body of evidence suggesting I will be serving my students better, too. I know that I will approach teaching differently, but I am still a little scared about the 'how' of approaching teaching differently. I know that I will get there, but as the lesson taught me today, the planning and the doing are different. In terms of learning about how I myself teach, I don't know if I gained any insight. Good teaching practices were modeled extensively and I reflected on my teaching experiences from the past within myself, but I guess that isn't quite the same as really analyzing how learner-centered my classroom is now and how I would like to grow and change about this experience. Could we have video-taped ourselves pre-First IV, been involved in analyzing our teaching as it is now, and then made an action plan based on a representation of how we taugh pre-FirstIV? I have learned about a wealth of resources and ways to get ideas, data, interesting news bits, etc. I have ALWAYS re-invented the wheel, which is exhausting and sometimes overwhelming. I now feel that it is important that I sit with myself or teaching group and hammer out the goals and objectives for my/our course, but that the activities that have been tested are always a better place to start. It has also been inspiring to work with my group. We strayed from business as usual and critically evaluated, "why do we teach this process at this point". We decided that photosynthesis was better taught as part of the ecosystem ecology section, as a way to solidify it's connection to the carbon cycle. I never would have thought to teach a different sequence of concepts on my own. It is so nice to be in a place and keep asking, "why". It is nice, too, to have the intensive time to ask why. Sometimes we are just playing catch-up in our daily lives that doesn't leave time for the thinking part.

·         Teaching is not about transmitting information facts that can be found in text books. Teaching is about facilitating, accelerating the achievement of outcomes we set to accomplish. I don't want to be a talking head, always ask what students can do for the sake of achieving the desired outcomes, not what you can do for the class. Becoming aware of what works (Metacognition) and what not, how I as a teacher and the students process information will be crucial for success. In a way teaching is a path to self awareness and such to wisdom. Having the First i-IV community definitely lowers my anxiety about teaching. Now I am actually looking forward to wet my feet in teaching instead of dreading it.

·         This workshop has expanded the way I view a learning centered classroom is in Biology in two big ways. One is that I thought a learning centered class meant "add in some active learning throughout the class meeting", but now I realize the entire experience is learning centered from the way the students' develop in their groups all the way through to the way that students think and work as individuals in their life and in society. The second big change in the way I think of teaching in Biology is that we need to share with our students how scientists think, know, and do science by letting them practice being a scientist everyday in the classroom. These two important changes in thinking about teaching certainly challenge me to approach teaching with these two goals in mind: facilitate students' learning on their own and with one another and to provide a scientifically based way for them to think and learn. The workshop helped me identify many things that help me teach, including support from the FIRST program (past, present, future), the tools to develop a learner centered class, and the confidence to join "the revolution" in science teaching!

·         I have been teaching pre and in service teachers basic biology for quite some time. This workshop really helped convince me that intro bio students can learn about complex data based cases using the group work method. I also learned about how clickers work and how to use them.

·         I learned that I interact with my students more than other instructors and that my organization of material within a class meeting is on the right track. When we censogramed the three video examples on how student-centered, I was shocked to see peoples responses. I tended to score them much lower than others. I also felt like the second video was similar to how I have tried to run my classes in the past and that was shocked to see that this example was rated as very student centered. At the same time, I know have a vision regarding how much more I can do to make my class even more student-centered. I have learned a lot about how to structure my coarse as a whole: setting goals and objectives, so that the interactions with students in the classes are aligned directly with the coarse goals, as opposed, to interacting with students it get their input and to get feedback from students.

2.What changes would you make to the workshop?  How would those changes help facilitate your teaching?

·         Spend more time explaining the hierarchy of a class,unit,model,activity,or objectives. Maybe a visual map of this would make this more clear. I feel that the workbook was a little hard to navigate and could be better organized. I think going through a whole example of a class that has been backwards planned would be helpful to see "the whole picture" of what this looks like in the finished form.

·         I would like more group time. Having said that, it is difficult to know what I would leave out of the workshop. Perhaps cover the same topics, but allow less time for the different topics. This would allow our group to leave with a better plan, which may help facilitate moving the project along once after leaving the workshop.

·         I would like to see how to incorporte more terminology in a lecture, since in biology there are so many descriptive terms. I would feel more comfortable teaching.

·         This is hard to make it better...Maybe try to give more practical advice on the class we would actually be teaching?

·         I thought it was very helpful to watch videos of people actually teaching, I think there could have been more of that in the course.

·         As mentioned during a discussion during the course, the instructors should use consistent terminology. And the course material in the folder was a bit... disorganized.

·         I think it might have been nice to have taught more than once. I would have loved to see if our group could have done a better job a second time around. The problem with this of course is that we would have lost time working on our actual course framework, which I also think was a really crucial activity.

·         I'm not convinced that there are enough resources for me to develop an entire course very quickly. Some will have to start teaching very soon. I still want more examples of how to turn passive voice into active voice, how to turn a statement into a question, and how to turn a lecture into an activity. I am incredibly intimidated about the idea of coming up with many activities and learning objectives that are: 1) engaging, 2) instructive, 3) at the appropriate academic level.

·         Overall it was great. I think it would have been useful to get some information about writing exams/quizzes within the context of the teaching style described in the workshop. My only other suggestions involve small things: the organization of the Notebook was a little confusing (page letters/numbers did not always increase alphabetically/numerically). The conference room was sometimes too hot and sometimes too cold.

·         more discussion on time management would be useful. this is one of my biggest challenges as a teacher. I did get some feel for how a lecture would be run/what a lecture would look like, but I would have really liked some more help with ideas to keep a class moving and make good use of my time.

·         The effort to have us do more together as a group was effective, but it felt like it might have been at the expense of getting to know the other folks in the room. We had meals and socials but not everyone was involved in those and it was a small window of time. Perhaps having the groups interact a bit more while they wrestle through the process of creating a course together, would be a good idea. If you don't set that up formally, most groups felt so stressed by the amount to do in the time we had that they would primarily remain as an isolated entity. Doing this would help facilitate a greater connection for future networking. I thought the goal of having groups put together their course with all 80-90 learning objectives plus do some alignment, although a worthy goal, was too much for the time we had. Many of us felt pressure to reach that end goal by 4pm on Saturday and ended up with quantity (learning objectives) over quality (flow, connection between parts of the course, assessment, alignment). As a result, instead, most groups ended up with basically a syllabus (although better than a typical syllabus since it was learning goals and not just material being covered) and a couple of activities sprinkled throughout and didn't do the higher order parts of thinking of flow, connection, and alignment in the course. To add some positive to the end of this, I would say the Saturday activity of alignment and activities for one learning objective was quite helpful. Thus, I would suggest having us do a more digestible part of putting the course together -- perhaps one unit -- so we could do more higher order parts of it together while we are together in the same room.

·         I enjoyed seeing videos of other people teaching and thinking about how they could improve. I enjoyed the information about cooperative learning and strategies for making that work well. I would have liked to have more practice with my group designing and teaching activities. I think these activities would have built confidence in teaching using these techniques. I felt that the goal to create an entire framework for a class resulted in group discussions focusing on "what is the appropriate content?" whereas, if our goal for the week was to create a single module, we could have more easily decided on appropriate content and quickly move on to teaching strategies and learning goal/assessment alignment. I felt like the learning goals for the FIRST IV workshop this week had a little bit of mis-alignment themselves..... we ended up working through our feelings of insecurity about our biology content knowledge instead of practicing backward design/scientific teaching.

·         Our group really struggled with what the expectations were for the course framework. If the instructions were laid out differently we may have been able to start working sooner and have a more complete framework by the end of the workshop.

·         The only changes I would make would be to let the participants know ahead of time that they may be designing a hypothetical course and not a real course. Also, I was under the impression that most of these people wouldn't have as much experience as they do. Maybe it would be good to recruit postdocs that are new to expressing an interest in teaching. Though it was good to bounce off ideas and get the support of those that have teaching experience.

·         I know it is difficult to balance time and content, but there were times when the frustration and exhaustion level in our group felt unproductive. Perhaps more small breaks - opportunities to laugh and blow off steam - might make the group work feel a bit more productive.

·         Shorter, more concise discussions would help people like myself who, sometimes, like to work in individual groups or as indiviudals

·         Even though I have been exposed to all of the content in this workshop before, I felt the pace of the first day and the amount covered was too quick to process. It went so quickly that I can't really recall what all we talked about, even though it was ALL so important. Could we have done a bit more prep work that would have helped? I liked reading the Handelsman et al stuff ahead of time, but maybe a chapter in backward design, educative assessment, a chapter about managing an active learning class period would have been more helpful. I know that we had to get from the talking to the doing quickly, and that part I liked, but I guess I feel less secure in the tools, especially designing classes around groups. If we had done some reading, maybe we could have hit the ground running and grown more from that first day.

·         Having a mic going around would help with hearing some of my soft-spoken course mates... this would also be very useful to some students who'll teach huge classes. Coming from Hawaii, the first two days were brutal in terms of staying up and be involved. If I could come in 2 days earlier and stay on site for a small fee would be great.

·         Minor changes such as knowing what the daily schedule was going to be, but ultimately the changes I can recommend are not a critical part of the workshop (for ex. wouldn't help facilitate my teaching).

·         To me, a large part of reform science teaching is thinking deeply about the course framework, especially what is really means to understand a broad topic or sub-topic. Therefore, I spent A LOT of the work time provided thinking about what it mean to understand X, what the instructional goals must be to ensure that students would really understand X. I felt what we were asked to do was jump into aligning teaching activities and assessments with the instructional goals. I think this was very necessary but the pressure to create a whole course worth of instructional goals, assessments and teaching activities led to me to think that the specific instructional goals weren't that important. Perhaps asking us to think deeply about the required instructional goals about one unit during the workshop and then there would be more time to work collaboratively about assessments and activities.

·         The first day was a little over whelming. The first morning was very confusing to me because we started with how to build a community in our classroom, but I was thinking.... what is FIRST IV? What are we going to be doing this week? I think we really needed a brief introduction to this workshop before moving into a discussion about our classroom. When I arrived I had very little understanding of what we were going to be doing this week. I thought we were working on the class we will be teaching as opposed to the class as a group. Would have been helpful if we had received the schedule in via email a few days before arriving. Before attending, I was expecting more details about designing the class meeting. The last morning helped with the envisioning each class meeting. Setting up time or an activity to get us into some of the databases out there that contain data and other examples would have been helpful. The leaders know so much about the resources available to instructors. Attending the workshop gave me a list to webpages but little familiarity with these or knowledge about which of those resources will really assist me. This would help in my preparation for class. Over all great workshop.

3.Please provide any additional comments about the workshop.

·         I really like having a small group to work in throughout the class.

·         Diane is great. I appreciate her pioneering mentality and frankness about teaching. Deb, Janet, and Emily are very positive people and exhibit phenomenal teaching skills.

·         it was AWESOME!!!! I'm eager to get in the classroom now and apply what I've learned. Thanks so much to Diane, Janet, Deb, and Emily - GO FIRST IV!!

·         I think our team leaders' personalities and strengths were extremely complementary. We got a lot of different kinds of feedback from them, as well as from the rest of our cohort. Overall, I thought my group worked together extremely well and thought our whole cohort functioned as a real community. It was really exciting to talk to scientists about teaching in general, as well as their specific research. Everyone's research was so different and it really got me excited about science in general and made me remember the excitement I had as undergrad about all the possibilities science had to offer me. I was especially struck with this when we did our final activities. Being a student in those activities was incredibly fun and I actually learned ( or re-learned) a lot. It reminded me that the teaching really is about the students. If I can help my students get so excited about science, I'll consider that a huge success.

·         We were not told about our responsibilities to the program other than attending the two summer workshops and teaching a class in between (and video taping two of those classes). I had no idea that I would be followed through tenure. I think this should have been made clear ahead of time. In my mind, it is a selling point of the program. Also that we would need to continue working on our course with our group for the next several months. I wish I had know that was going to be a requirement on my time. Also, I might make it a requirement that the postdocs teach in the Spring semester after the workshop so that they have more time to develop their courses. Being required to teach and implement these techniques within a few weeks or even a couple of months after the workshop is incredibly intimidating.

·         I love each of the leaders of this workshop and the way that they make each person feel valuable and part of a family. I hope that science in general can move from its current competitive environment toward a more nurturing environment, as was modeled by the ambiance of this workshop. Also I thought each of the group leaders had a lot of great wisdom that they effectively downloaded into us.

·         I am very excited about the experience at FIRST IV. I really think it will help me become a better teacher and, more importantly, help my students learn more by taking an active role in their learning.

·         Thanks for your hard work in putting this together and giving us all an opportunity to learn from one another.

·         Some of the direction given to our group about the assignments varied by RTL and Ebert-May. For example, how much we use previously developed lessons and what the goals of the assignment are. Could the workshop learning goal be very specific and be presented at the beginning of the week for more transparency? I'm excited to get to work teaching!

·         This was a really great workshop, it was intense but I feel that we accomplished what we wanted. I feel that I am walking away with the tools I need to implement this in my teaching with confidence.

·         All of the regional team leaders were awesome and I learned so much from all of them. I will definitely use them as a resource for the future.

·         I learned a lot and had a lot of fun.

·         I am so happy to be working in groups! I feel very fortunate to be placed with the people that I was put with. More than that, I am thankful to talk to other post-docs about living life in this stage, careers, families, being a woman in science, not being bashful about loving teaching, etc. It was post-doc summer camp and I loved it! Thank you all for your hard work and your continued passion. You have made a difference in my life :)

·         I feel very lucky to be part of this community and my mentors enthusiasm will stay with me long time. I feel very very honored.