Monthly Archives: October 2014

Metacognitive Review

While I am not new to developing curriculum plans, I found this exercise to be both challenging and interesting. I felt that my process relied heavily on training that I had done in the past, such as Backwards design and SIOP. The application of this background knowledge to the online environment, however, made me rethink much of the way I structure my presentation of the material and particularly the types of activities that would be feasible in an online classroom. Traditionally, I have always tried to make my face-to-face science classes very hands-on, however, the online environment adds a level of challenge to this type of instruction. After working through the steps involved in designing the curriculum plan, I found that there was a lot more opportunities for hands on activities than I had believed possible.

The actual design of the learning objectives followed backwards design principles. I knew that my final assessment for my unit on ecology should be a lab report on a unit long ecosystem model that the students would design and study. The objectives themselves were derived from standards set out by the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) Science Core, with only slight modifications. With the summative assessment and objectives in place, it was really the activities that were the most challenging. The Fink (2013) reading on active learning vs. passive learning was particularly helpful in giving me ideas of ways to create more active online learning activities. I still struggle with the desire to have students do hands on projects in an online class, while worrying how successful they might be. I know that success will depend greatly on the scaffolding that this course will provide, but ultimately requires motivation from the students. I think that through the article reviews I have done, I have gained new insights into how to better scaffold student projects and that having students interact with the instructor and with each other more frequently can be an effective tool in having them produce meaningful products. Scaffolding and monitoring for understanding is something I can do easily in a face-to-face environment, but requires much more deliberate effort in an online situation. I still have three distinct concerns for my plan: 1. That students will not have a realistic experimental design that can be carried out. 2. Students will lose interest or not take accurate data. 3. That they will have difficulty interpreting their results and produce a meaningful lab report. For the first concern, I feel that one way to reduce the error possible in a faulty design, is to give students detailed instructions on the basic materials to use in the project, while allowing for a degree of choice in the variable that they will manipulate. I will have them write a design plan and collaborate and review plans with other students to find possible challenges to their design. For the second challenge of loss of interest, I will require students to maintain an online journal and data notebook of the project. For the third concern of difficulty in interpreting their results, I think that I will try to build a solid foundational understanding of biogeochemical cycling and have them review articles that relate to human impacts on the environment. I will have them discuss possible human influences on their own models and that of others. Then I will have them peer review each others drafts and make recommendations. By requiring them to post their final version, I hope they will feel the importance of developing a quality product. Overall, the process of designing curriculum for an online unit has given me the opportunity to reexamine how and why I teach certain concepts in ecology. I think the process of reflecting on each objective and how to create active, meaningful assessments and activities to support that objective was a good exercise and I plan on applying some of my new insights into my face-to-face classroom as well.

Works Cited

Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Fancisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Unit 4, Week 3: Personal Reflections

I am almost near the end of my Masters program and after the end of this semester, I will have only 3 credits left towards my final project, after which I will receive my degree. During the course of this masters program, the only class I had that was a face to face class, was a public policy class called Organizational Theory and Behavior, which my advisor at the time had thought would be useful to me.

Taking online classes had been a new experience and the very first online class I took was with a professor who was very obviously a professor who preferred taking face-to-face classes. I learnt from this class that without the physical classroom, the teaching tools used in a physical classroom proved quite ineffective in a purely online setting. The professor would have slides prepared and would drone on for 2 hours about the topic, leaving no time for discussion or deliberation. Then he would assign a chapter for analysis and a paper to be written on the subject matter. It was taught like it was in a traditional setting classroom.

On the flipside however, last semester, I took two classes on research fundamentals. One was called ‘Developing and Writing Literature Reviews’ and the other one was called ‘Fundamentals of Research’ and they were both taught by the same professor. What’s more, they were back to back 2 hour classes (4 hours in the same spot with the same professor). I had resigned myself to a semester of boring and heavy topics and droning lectures about research. For the first class, I made myself a giant cup of coffee before sitting down and I was sure I was going to need a lot more before the second class of the evening.

However, I was very wrong. This professor succeeded in taking the two most boring courses from my Masters program, and turning them into an absolute delight to study. He was a young professor and was not unaware of how often his subject of choice was turned boring by the professor. He also had studied how to best conduct courses that were purely online. He understood the need to create a sense of community among the learners and in his blackboard sessions, he would always insist (whenever possible) that everyone speak to each other using not just the mic, but also the video. He would allocate the first 15 minutes of every class for everyone to fill each other in on their weeks and just in general, mingle. And that was just what we needed. We began developing friendships in the class and hesitated less before speaking up. The sense of community that was created was so strong that we were able share a good deal about our personal lives with each other (one woman had a baby and brought her newborn on camera for us to see; another woman shared with us her grief when her assistant committed suicide). Not only was that sense of community a hugely important aspect of the class, but it also brought out a greater sense of learning and understanding among the students. We guided each other and facilitated conversations that were reminiscent of face-to-face group discussions in class. Mike Meuller is a great professor who really knew how to teach online classes.

Personally, from taking so many online classes, I have learnt of some patterns in my own learning. I learnt that without the pressure of a regular timed class each week, I easily procrastinate the work I need to do. For me, nothing motivates more than the pressure of a deadline (occupational hazard as a journalist). However, I also learnt that I truly enjoy the flexibility of having online classes because I am able to juggle different things at once and can then study according to my flexibility.

In the past, I have attempted to take a course or two on sites like Skillshare or Coursera or iUniversity. However, I learnt early on that there needs to be a motivating factor for one to learn, or it takes a lifetime before they do. I would often sign up for a course, but when other aspects of my life would take precedence, I would drop out thinking, “well, I’m not losing anything in the process’. I would always promise myself I would go back and make time to take course. However, it never did happen. Taking online courses as a degree-seeking student is way different from that because there is a lot to lose if you just drop out. You lose out on tuition and GPA in the process. As a result, I have found that online classes can be effective, if there is a driving motivator behind taking the class. This is probably true of any kind of learning/education.

Unit 4, Week 2: Journalism Lesson Plan



In creating a lesson plan and determining the learning objectives for my lesson plan, I became increasingly aware how important the taxonomies were. The break-up of the different aspects of student learning and student understanding were a great help for me in understanding what I wanted to achieve from my lesson plan and what the students should take away from the class.

With learning broken down into knowledge, comprehension, application, etc. determining the objectives for a lesson became a lot easier for me and I would imagine it would be easier for first time teachers as well. I was able to determine through Bloom’s Taxonomy and Fink’s Taxonomy just what kind of learning I wanted to achieve. My lesson plan is for an intro to journalism class for students who have never taken a class on journalism before. However, while I do want to cover the basic theories, I realized while going through the taxonomies, that my true student learning goal is for the students to be able to apply those principles in real-world situations. I was thus able to refine the objectives of my lesson plan as well as the title of the course and what kind of activities and lectures I was planning for.

Lesson Plan Title: Journalism Basics: A comprehensive course on the applications of journalism

Learning Objectives:

  1. Understand the different basic principles of Journalism and analyze real-world situations according to these principles
  2. Apply the basic principles of journalism in real-world scenarios
  3. Construct effective narratives following the basic principles of journalism

Concept Map:


Unit 4, Week 1: Situational Factors (Journalism Lesson Plan)

The topic I want to develop a lesson plan for is an “Intro to Journalism’ class which would be the very basics of journalism for the students who want to take a journalism class in high school or are coming into college fresh out of high school. Some of the situational factors I would have to take into consideration for this lesson plan would be age and situation of the target demographic, topics being covered in the lesson plan, intensity of the coursework, etc.

Learning situation: This class would contain about 20 students and would be lower division class in a Bachelors degree program. The class would be a 3 credit class with coursework that is a little more intensive than the regular lower division classes so as to ensure that students get a realistic and complete picture of journalism before the end of the semester. The class would have a face to face meeting for 2 hours each week in which there would be a mix of lectures, guest speakers, group discussions and classroom activities. In addition to this, the class would be assigned weekly homework that would be turned in the day before class, which would give the professor time to go over the submitted work and provide feedback in class the next day.

Expectations of the External Groups: From this course, it would be expected that students gain a comprehensive knowledge of the basics of journalism. This would be a stepping stone for them if they wanted to take more upper division journalism classes in the future. This course would be the gateway to a possible degree in Journalism and would be the very first course any student would have to take in order to move on towards Journalism major. As a result of this, the Journalism department would expect that students coming out of this course understand the general core principles of journalism that they would later learn the nuances of, in further classes. The expectation is that this class is an interesting and engaging one for students, so as to peak their interest in the field of Journalism and to gain more students as Journalism Majors in the department.

Nature of the Subject: Journalism is a highly fluid field. There is never one right answer as to how reporting must be done. However, there are core rules that are generally supposed to be followed even in a fluid field like journalism. The students would be working towards understanding that these core principles are unshakable and around that is built the constantly changing field of journalism. A lot of critical thinking and student interactivity would be involved in this class as students are tested as real journalists as part of assignments for class. Students would have to find new and innovative ways of covering the same story so as to make it as interesting and factual as possible.

Characteristics of Learners: The students taking this class would be presumably in their late teens and very early twenties. These students would be taking other classes as well and this would be a group of people who know nothing about journalism and many will probably not want to continue with more journalism classes after this introductory course. Students taking this class would probably initially take the class because they enjoy writing and that would be their primary reason for taking a journalism class. However, many over the course of this class would learn to enjoy other aspects of journalism like photography or video editing. The group of students taking this class would be very diverse in their academic and personal interests.

Characteristics of the Teacher: The teacher would be a seasoned journalist. They would be someone who has worked for years in the field as a reporter or editor and know tricks of the trade and real world applications to the theories and principles of journalism. This teacher would have real-world insight to give to the students as most of the assignments and many classroom activities would be created to be as realistic as possible. The teacher would have a great deal of knowledge about his own field of journalism and working knowledge of teaching and how to teach.

Special Pedagogical Challenge: I think the special pedagogical challenge would be for the teacher to break the pre-existing ideas that students come in with when they come to take a class on journalism. One such pre-existing idea would be that if they enjoy writing, they will enjoy journalism. Most students, who like writing, do not end up enjoying journalism because there is no scope for creativity or diversity in journalistic writing which always has to be factual, while using as few adjectives as possible. Another idea that would have to be changed is that journalism is only about writing. There are so many different aspects of journalism that do not get as much of a spotlight and as a result, a large group of people who would not take the class because they think they are not good writers and so they are not cut out for journalism.

Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating Significant Learning Experiences An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Week 5 Unit 1: Weekly Writing

AnneMarie Mattacchione

October 30, 2014

So far I have used many learning strategies while working on designing my unit. Just reading the information from articles and the text, I have reviewed and noted particular ideas that I want to consider and implement. Getting the foundational knowledge this way was helpful because I could review the information, sit and think about it, compare and contrast the differing taxonomy and play with it in my mind before application. The one struggle I have with learning is, I often feel I need more time to wrap my brain around the new information and how it fits or doesn’t fit into what I already know. For me, this process takes time. Given the fact that each week we must move on I am aware that I can’t linger long. Ideally, courses would be twice as long. I am sure there are very few people that would agree with me. Costs and time prohibit. In my ideal world, students could move along at a pace that is most helpful to them. So, when a student is a quick study, they do not have to linger unnecessarily. Online courses can offer this type of service. However, I don’t think the opposing idea could occur. Our university has removed year-long courses from course selection. It seems our completion rate on those courses was low.  I planned drafts of the differing ways to approach development of a unit of study on paper and then developed the graph of my unit of study on MindMeister. This was a good way to apply my thinking manipulating objects. Although I prefer concrete objects to digital, it was still a good way to organize my thoughts and to create a specific structure of the unit.

The most helpful learning regarding the development of the unit of study was the shared activity with another peer. First it was synchronous and second it was a time of reflection. Evaluating other’s work helps me to understand my own. Hearing another’s perspective helps me to fill in the blanks in my own considerations. I was glad that I could ask a question and not have to wait very long for the answer, which is often the case when using discussion boards or blogs. I feel energized by the back and forth exchanges. It really is my preferred way to learn. No answer is the right answer, there is just food for thought. This kind of collaborative work is what stretches my own learning and also teaches me new metacoginitive strategies. As I listen to how someone developed their unit, I become aware of their approaches and thinking. I always learn something new about the way I learn.

Weekly Writing: Reflecting on my own Learning

What have you learned about integrated course design, taxonomies of learning, active learning, or problem-based learning?

I’ve encountered taxonomies before, but I did learn more about the different styles out there and how some focus more on the cognitive and others focus more on the interpersonal. I like studying the taxonomies and being reminded of the different “levels” of learning. I think it’s important to have a mix of activities that target more than one level. Often it’s easy to get stuck in a routine or feel pressed for time and go for very surface-level, basic activities. But this backfires later on in the course when students aren’t prepared for deeper thinking and application of the concepts. In my speech class, we have to go beyond recognition of vocabulary and get to an ability to apply and synthesize, because students will be graded on an actual speech performance. So it’s critical I design a variety of activities that build on each other and set students up for success.

How is the online learning environment working for you? What are the advantages and/or the challenges of taking this class in this format?

I signed up for an online class because I do not have time during the day for a face-to-face class. I work full time at an 8-5 day job and then overtime as an adjunct. Usually, online classes allow me to work on assignments when it’s convenient for me, and I don’t have to worry about anyone else’s schedule. Although some people say it’s a negative that online classes “lack” real time interaction, I honestly prefer it that way given that my plate is already full. So the “challenges” for me come in when we’re asked to meet synchronously or do group projects, and I have to incorporate that into my schedule.

What have you learned about yourself during this unit? Have you discovered anything new about your own learning styles or preferences?

I’m an introvert and I prefer to work alone. I am also not a fan of having my personal thoughts, however academic, online for the world to see. I had to make a trade-off for this class. I really, really want to learn more about online pedagogy from an instructional designer. The cost is posting on a public blog. In a traditional classroom, any less than stellar verbal contributions or awkward exchanges can dissipate into the air and be forgotten in time. Online, I must trade written comments with peers publicly in a digital record that may never be truly erased.

Have you developed any new strategies that help you learn more effectively?

Not necessarily more effectively; perhaps I’d say more modernly or efficiently? I’ve finally given in and forced myself to start reading articles on the computer screen. I really prefer to print things out and go over them like a traditional text. However, in the interest of time and printer ink I know I must get used to reading on a screen. I know from communication research that people read better on screens when it’s a dark background with light letters (like most PowerPoint designs). So PDFs with their white background and black letters really make my eyes cross sometimes. Also, manipulating a cursor to highlight is still not as quick for me as swiping a real highlighter on paper. It will take more practice to make these things more automatic.

Article Review #5: Team Learning and Performance Goals

Nahrgang, J. D., Jundt, D. K., DeRue, S. D., Ilgen, D. R., Hollenbeck, J. R., & Spitzmuller, M. (2013). Goal setting in teams: The impact of learning and performance goals on process and performance. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 122, 12-21.

Since we’ve been reading about writing learning goals and objectives, I wanted to relate the current topic to the class I am teaching this semester. We do a “group” section of the basic communication class, where speech students learn small group theory and must do activities and a speech as a group. I am interested in how to write goals that  require collaboration to reach. This article gives a framework for how to test the effect of different types of group goals, but didn’t include explicit examples of the wording used to set goals for the different group conditions. I would have loved to see an appendix that spelled those out.

Nahrgang et al. (2013) studied 80 teams of undergraduates as they completed a military style strategy simulation. Students were assigned randomly to teams of four. The researchers had several hypotheses related to differences in how teams would orient to learning goals versus performance goals. Also, task complexity and specificity of learning goal were varied. In sum, the authors state that “we theorize that the combination of a learning focus and high specificity will cue team members to adopt a more narrow focus on learning specific aspects of the task and therefore impair team coordination. We also expect task complexity to be an important boundary condition of the goal-performance relationship in teams” (p. 12). Also, “We propose that specific learning goals are less effective in team contexts than general ‘’do your best’ learning goals and specific performance goals, and that these differential effects operate through the process of team coordination” (p. 13).

All teams were offered a $40 prize as an incentive for reaching the top level of whatever their goal condition was. Teams were not told what the different goal conditions or hypotheses were. Each team of four met separately from the other teams, in a room where each team member was at a separate computer. Each team member controlled a different “asset” in a situation where they were strategizing how to move friendly military forces into a certain geographic area while keeping enemy forces out. I thought this was a good design for ensuring that the teams were not influenced by other participants in the study. By not having multiple teams in the same room, there is no chance they will overhear the differences in goals for other teams, or be influenced by their decisions.

To illustrate the difference between “learning” goals and “performance” goals, the authors explained that “participants in our specific learning goal condition were told that their team should focus on learning specific strategic aspects of the task” including how to
execute successful attacks” and “understand speed and accuracy trade-offs” (p.15). Performance goals were “specific offensive and defensive goals” based on a points system. As I was reading, this part was a bit confusing. I’m not sure students would automatically be able to separate, in their thinking, what they’re supposed to be learning from what they’re supposed to be doing.

It seems to me like there would be a gray area, tough to define or measure, where students are moving from learning to performing (and back if they are reflecting on successes and failures). The authors did note in their results that groups reacted differently to performance versus learning goals. In their discussion they note that “the best team performance  may occur when teams are given learning goals in order to learn  tasks or develop strategies for the task, and then are switched to  a performance goal after they have mastered the task.” So I think the authors would perhaps agree that students need assistance separating the two types of goals and when to focus on them. I’ve been doing this somewhat in my classes when I have groups go over the chapter and identify what they think are the take-aways and would make good test questions, and how the concepts might apply to their own life. After we brainstorm best practices for application, they move to actually practicing the new information in an outline or speech.

As a supplement if folks are interested, here are the verbatim hypothesis compiled, as well as whether or not they were supported. From pp. 16-17:

  • In Hypothesis 1 we predicted that teams with specific learning  goals would have lower performance relative to teams with general ‘‘do your best’’ learning goals.
  • Hypothesis 2 predicted that the negative effect of specific learning goals on team performance relative to general ‘‘do your best’’  learning goals would be mediated by lower team coordination.
  • In Hypothesis 3, we predicted that teams with specific learning  goals would perform worse than teams with specific performance  goals.
  • Hypothesis 4 predicted that the negative effect of specific learning  goals on team performance, relative to specific performance goals,  would be mediated by lower team coordination.
  • Hypothesis 5 predicted that the negative effect of specific learning  goals on team coordination relative to general ‘‘do your best’’  learning goals would be stronger for teams operating in a complex  task.
  • Hypothesis 6 predicted that the negative effect of specific learning goals on team  coordination, relative to specific performance goals, would be  stronger for team performing a complex task.

Hypotheses 1 and 3 were supported. Hypotheses 2 and 5 were supported “in that complexity moderated the negative effect of specific  learning goals on team coordination, relative to general ‘do your  best’ learning goals, and team coordination mediated the moderated negative effect of specific learning goals on team performance,  relative to general ‘do your best’ learning goals.”  Hypotheses 4  and 6 were supported “in that complexity moderated the negative  effect of specific learning goals versus specific performance goals  on team coordination, and team coordination mediated the moderated negative effect of specific learning goals on team performance  versus specific performance goals on team performance.”

Reflections on Learning: Integrated Course Design and the Online Environment

Weekly Writing 7 – Lori Sowa

I have learned a tremendous amount about integrated course design and taxonomies through this course.   What I am seeking in my current education is the educational content knowledge that I lack, and so I very much appreciate that this course is every bit as much about “pedagogy” as it is about “online”.   The most valuable lesson for me is stepping away from the basic content of a course and thinking about, planning for, and valuing other types of learning.   I believe this becomes all the more important when designing on online course, because so much of the course must be scripted beforehand.   Effective spontaneity is more difficult to achieve online.

I experienced perhaps the most poignant difficulty so far with teaching in the online environment earlier this week.   In a synchronous Blackboard session, I provided some engineering content before students performed hands-on activities (tower-building) individually.   I talked about towers failing due to either individual members breaking (strain) or from the tendency to rotate (called “moment”).   After the activity, I was trying to point out to a student that when his tower was leaning, this was an example of the tendency to rotate, and he typed “not rotating, leaning” in the chat box.   If I had been in a classroom I could surely have clarified this point with him with hand gestures, chalk on the chalk board, or demonstrating with a tower.   But instead, I just let it go because I couldn’t think of a way to readily explain it with the tools available to me.   If it had been a major point of the lesson, then surely I could have pulled up a blank slide and fumbled my way through use of the drawing tools to at least attempt an explanation, but it was a small point and so I just let it go.   It still   bugs me, though, and so perhaps I’ll try to find a relevant link to share to make up for my inability to provide a better explanation at the time.   I’m still not sure this is an inherent disadvantage of the technology, or just my inexperience with dealing with these types of situations online.

I am grateful for the availability of online courses – otherwise it would not be possible for me to pursue this degree (without some major life changes).   While some may question the medium, it is hard to question the demand for it.   In my opinion the online environment for this course has been highly effective, albeit time-consuming to complete all of the activities.   However, I don’t think the time commitment it is out of line with face-to-face courses.   As always, there is variety in every medium and type of classroom.

What I have learned about myself as a learner is that I find asynchronous discourse to be an effective means of both collaboration and learning through reflection.   This is due to the practices employed here.   I appreciate the quick and meaningful feedback from the instructor and the others in the course.   The specific guideline about number of responses expected is valuable and gives me a goal to strive for (even if I don’t achieve it each week).   I’m not sure what the teaching future holds for me, but I am sure that I will be better prepared to develop and refine both online and face-to-face classes in the future.