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Mapping the Present, Modeling the Future: Lehman’s New Faculty Seminars

This last week, our new faculty applied Daniel T. Willingham’s cognitive science principles for learning to their current teaching practices. Using concept maps, we covered whiteboards with visual networks that spoke as much to our individual teaching styles as they did to our understanding and implementation of what we had learned during the term. And, just as with learning styles and multiple intelligences, our diversity of maps revealed much more overlap than distinction in terms of basic content.

In our discussion, we noted that several of Willingham’s “implications for the classroom” are included in more than one principle (for example, “keep a teaching diary” and “change the pace”). It was exciting to see practical applications of the principles “Factual knowledge must precede skill” (Jennifer Poggiali’s step-by-step lesson building towards a comparison of advanced Google and library database searches) and “unless the cognitive conditions are right, we will avoid thinking” (Emma Tsui’s “rich infographic” example of Edward Tufte’s “beautiful evidence” that asked students to view and discuss a visually rich data display).

Willingham’s final chapter of Why Don’t Students Like School? describes the importance of understanding students as audiences when considering how to teach. Using easel post-its and markers, we diagrammed our classrooms and labs, students included, to come to a better understanding of what is happening cognitively with our students when we teach. Our library team generated a fascinating look at varying levels of student attention, while our health sciences team illustrated the differing levels of preparation and engagement in their classes through physical location and time of arrival. As we compared our audiences, we began to see the need to change settings and to present different expectations of our students before our classes begin in order to provide the appropriate “cognitive conditions.”

These two activities served as catalysts to continue our logic modeling from the previous week, as we expanded our short-, mid-, and long-term goals and added in activities, resources, and outputs for individualized teaching development. We did a quick round of peer annotating (one question, one comment) on the models and promised to complete those in our final week of the seminar.

With that, we were ready for one last teaching challenge discussion. Madeline Cohen, our new head reference librarian, asked for feedback on working with Gen Y students on increasing information literacy. How can she capitalize on what they already know while imparting additional skills for college-level research? 20 minutes of discussion led us to suggest a variety of techniques and emphases (see our Google site https://sites.google.com/site/lehmannewfacsp12/ teaching challenges for the full discussion) for Madeline to try in the summer and fall.

Our term of meetings and activities have felt like an immersion into a rich infographic display: many thanks to the faculty who participated!

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