Monthly Archives: October 2014

Increasing Engineering Knowledge Through a Photo-Journal Project

Article Review 5 – Lori Sowa

Purdue University is one of the few schools in the country with a PhD-granting School of Engineering Education, with faculty research focusing on graduate, undergraduate, and P-12 engineering education.   The Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning (INSPIRE) was established in 2006 at Purdue, in part to promote engineering learning in the elementary classroom.   Each summer, INSPIRE hosts engineering academies for local elementary teachers.

Duncan et al. (2011) used Bloom’s revised taxonomy as a theoretical framework to evaluate teachers’ ability to recognize and understand engineering in the world around them through a photo-journal project.   Cameras were sent to elementary teacher participants prior to the start of the summer INSPIRE academy with instructions to take ten photographs related to engineering. For each photograph, teachers were instructed to record the date, time, and location, and to explain how each scene related to engineering.   Then, after the first of a five day workshop, the teachers were given further instructions to take ten additional photographs and to record the same information.   The additional ten photographs/journal entries were to be completed by the end of the workshop.

The photographs and associated journal entries were collected and categorized as either pre- or post- workshop.   Each journal entry was coded using Bloom’s revised taxonomy to determine the cognitive level of the entry.   Since Bloom’s taxonomy is hierarchical, the levels were given a numeric indicator, with 1 being “Remember” and 6 being “Create”.   Due to the nature of the exercise, none of the journal entries showed evidence of “Create”, so the highest level achieved was “Evaluate”. The authors used statistical methods to determine whether the teachers demonstrated an increase in cognitive level post-workshop, which they did (equivalent to one cognitive level).

This study was rigorous and well-conducted.   Extensive measures were taken to establish inter-rater reliability, including preliminary analysis of journal entries that would not be included in the study, refinement of methods, and then analysis on the study group (K-fourth grade teachers).   Limitations noted by the authors included: small sample size (n=40) from one geographic area; the timeframe for the photographs was not actually pre- and post-workshop, but rather pre- and during- the workshop; and using ordinal values assigned to Bloom’s taxonomy for analysis typical of Likert-type scales was a novel, untested approach.   In addition, the retention of this knowledge of engineering, and whether the understanding transfers to students in the teachers’ classrooms, has not been studied.

The underlying assumption in the hierarchical nature of Bloom’s taxonomy is that higher level equals better learning, perhaps since learning through this model is considered cumulative.   I find the assigning of numerical values to artifacts coded for each cognitive level to be a useful technique that could be applied to many situations to facilitate quantitative analysis of the data.   I’m curious to dig into this technique and see if and how other researchers are using it, as the authors state it is a novel approach.

I like the integration of journal-ling as a learning activity because it brings the important writing aspect into a STEM activity.   The learning objective targeted by this activity was to “convey a broad perspective of the nature and practice of engineering”.   This type of activity could easily be facilitated (and perhaps enhanced) in an online environment through posting to a blog.   Looking forward to my Engineering for Educators course, this activity could be adapted to help achieve my third learning objective (to understand the engineer’s role in society, and inspire a desire in students to use engineering to solve problems that matter to people).

This article was valuable to me for a number of reasons, not the least of which is a reminder that I need to brush up and expand on my readily-available statistics knowledge.   I’ve taken a number of statistics courses throughout the years, but none recently and it shows as I try to follow along with the statistical methods used in this and other recently reviewed papers.   Google was my link to definitions and explanations.

This article provides insight into the effectiveness of a summer academy on increasing teachers’ ability to recognize and understand engineering in the world around us – an important step in preparation of teachers who will teach or even just discuss engineering in their classrooms.   However, it is important to bear in mind the teachers in this study were provided a substantial amount of professional development centered on engineering (Monday through Friday, 7:30 AM – 5:00 PM with additional homework including reading and assignments).   In Secondary Level Engineering Professional Development: Content, Pedagogy, and Challenges, Daugherty and Custer (2012) describe a number of barriers to successful implementation of engineering in K12 classrooms, including: teachers’ lack of mathematical skills needed to implement engineering activities, lack of background in engineering to maintain fidelity of the curriculum, the amount of time required for lesson planning, student mathematical background and motivation, resources, and institutional barriers.     Certainly these barriers are not insurmountable in all cases, but they must be considered and point to the multifaceted and nontrivial nature of this issue.

Daugherty, J. L., & Custer, R. L. (2012). Secondary level engineering professional development: Content, pedagogy, and challenges. International journal of technology and design education, 22(1), 51-64.
Duncan, D., Diefes-Dux, H., & Gentry, M. (2011). Professional Development Through Engineering Academies: An Examination of Elementary Teachers’ Recognition and Understanding of Engineering. Journal Of Engineering Education, 100(3), 520-539.

Thinking About My Learning = Reflection, Reflection, Reflection…

Reflection on Fink’s (2013) Integrated Course Design Approach

Designing an online unit is something very new to me and I feel I understand the basics because most of what is done online is also used in the face-to-face classroom. Taxonomies are nothing new to me and I understand the need to have well-rounded objectives and goals when designing a lesson plan or unit. The most difficult aspect of integrated course design for me is balancing what I like to do in the face-to-face classroom with what is possible in the online learning environment. I like discussion and that can be done in the online learning environment, but it requires a certain readiness and maturity. I have come to realize that when designing an online lesson with an 8th grade audience in mind that the discussion component I like to utilize in my teaching will need to be modified or at least the teaching goals I would have for a discussion will have to be met with other activities. I have had to change my mindset from imagining synchronous sessions to a totally asynchronous class. With integrated course design, creating community is important and I wanted to do this through discussion and sharing. But I feel with my choice of teaching 8th grade students the community building is going to be mostly a teacher-student relational, maybe with an optional discussion board component.

The most beneficial part of integrated course design that Fink (2013) has taught me is to consider the situational factors. When designing an online course I feel there are a lot more factors to consider. The students are the same, but the environment requires one to rethink how those same students will be successful in an online learning environment. I have to really think about online learning readiness and how to design a successful unit around the fact that students may not be ready for all the tools and benefits of the online learning environment. It has made me realize that online learning is not for every student and I appreciate the K-12 face-to-face classroom social interactions more and more. I never realized how much I would have to narrow my audience of students for an 8th grade online class.

Reflections on the Online Learning Environment

I personally think the online learning environment is much more difficult and more time consuming than a face-to-face setting whether you are the teacher or the student. You have to be a motivated self-directed learner. I like the online learning environment for the convenience, flexibility, and the change of space. I always learn something new because online classes are so diverse in the students who take them, which exposes me to different perspectives and ways of thinking. The think time that an online class allows also is nice because I can really chew on my own thinking and reflect on what I have learned.

Learning About Myself as a Learner and Teacher

I have learned that I enjoy a variety of learning environments. The online learning environment meets my learning needs, but I do not think I could only take online courses. I crave the social interaction of the face-to-face setting as much as I like the think time of the online classroom. The reason I think I like exposing myself to a variety of learning situations and environments is because I am a teacher and love to learn. I want to learn how to create the best learning environment for students and that requires putting myself in the position of student from time to time. I can view my learning experiences from both the perspective of student and teacher. I feel this class balance that desire well because I am participating as a student in the online learning environment, but I am also learning how to be a teacher in it too.

As a teacher I have learned that I do not prefer to teach in the online learning environment. I think I would prefer a blended environment in the K-12 arena. If I taught in higher education I do not think I would have a problem teaching a completely online class. There is a part of me that wonders what it would be like to go and work for a virtual K-12 school because many aspects are similar to homeschooling. Maybe one day I will just have to give it a try.

Creating Objectives – Exploring My Process

Sorry this is a late post, but after a long weekend without Internet and coming home and updating my operating system, which I now regret doing, things did not run smoothly after that. I have had issues all week with my computer and Internet thanks to my operating system update that required other updates. My computer is finally running smoothly enough that I can do things without my computer constantly freezing up or shutting down on me. I guess that is an aspect of online learning; sometimes you are your own tech support.

I am no stranger to Bloom’s Taxonomy and Understanding By Design (UbD). Fink’s (2013) Taxonomy of Significant Learning was new to me. I have had classes and practice writing objectives for years now. It does get easier with time and practice, but it will always be something to continue to work on throughout my career in education. We do not normally think about it, but we are writing objectives everyday of our lives because we all have goals we want to achieve. This helps me when I approach writing objectives because it reminds me it is a life skill and I need to model it to my students. Objectives are my thinking made visible and students need to see where we are going together. I typically write the objectives you see in a lesson plan, but then I always rework the objectives so that they are student friendly, meaning they will not follow the writing pattern I have been taught to follow for writing objectives. For example, my objective could be: After instruction students will demonstrate their knowledge of correct comma use by correcting sentences with comma errors. The student friendly objective would be: Practice correct comma use. They are simple and to the point. Student friendly objectives typically look more like a to do list. In a face-to-face setting I typically go over the objectives before starting a lesson. When I have forgotten to do this I immediately know because I get questions about why we are doing this or students are asking what we will be doing through the entire lesson. Objectives are just as important to students as they are to teachers. Objectives keep everyone on the same page. I would like to find a way to incorporate this into the online learning environment, maybe with a short video that explains the objectives for each lesson.

I tend to use Bloom’s Taxonomy because it is comprehensive and aligns with Alaska’s K-12 standards and its language. Bloom’s Taxonomy is also more measurable in terms of assessment than other taxonomies. Another taxonomy of shorts that I reference from time to time is Webb’s Depths of Knowledge (DOK), which is comparable to Bloom’s Taxonomy. There is a need to expand beyond Bloom’s Taxonomy and Fink (2013) describes the need here:

Any model that commands this kind of respect half a century later is extraordinary. However, as noted in Chapter One, individuals and organizations involved in higher education are expressing a need for important kinds of learning that do not emerge easily from the Bloom taxonomy, for example learning how to learn, leadership and interpersonal skills, ethics, communication skills, character, tolerance, and the ability to adapt to change. (34)

Fink’s (2013) Taxonomy of Significant Learning and the UbD Six Facets of Understanding both have items that are not easy to assess and if they are assessed it is very subjective. I appreciate these items because it incorporates the human element, which does not easily fit into a hierarchy of cognitive levels. The thing to remember with taxonomies is that they are not as linear as they appear. There is overlap and many times more than one level is being used at the same time. When you incorporate the human elements of Fink’s (2013) Taxonomy of Significant Learning with the cognitive aspects of Bloom’s Taxonomy there are many interconnections. Usually what would be considered a low level cognitive activity can usually be easily connected to high level thinking and personal application. For example, I want students to expand their vocabulary while they read, but at the same time critically evaluate what they are reading and apply it to their own lives. More specifically I want students to understand the word euphemism and how the use of euphemisms in the book helps the community maintain peace. This then is to help provoke thoughts about the price of peace and personal evaluations of a student’s personal beliefs about peace.

This is why as a teacher I tend to lean towards Bloom’s Taxonomy and elements of the UbD Six Facets of Understanding. It is difficult for a teacher to objectively assess if a student has developed new feelings, caring, empathy, beliefs, values, etc. These changes in learning are not usually found in the Alaska K-12 State Standards and hence not assessed in the traditional sense. These types of learning are important and should not be neglected, but are hard to write into objectives that can be measured. I tend to write these items as goals or hopes for students to learn.

Below is my brainstorming web for my first attempt at objectives for my unit on The Giver. I used Inspiration to create the web of my thinking process.

Brainstorm for Objectives

As made evident from my objectives the final project for my unit is having students create a memoir. When designing performance tasks I like to use the GRASPS template from UbD. I like using this template because it is straight forward in explaining what students need to do and gives the task a real life feel making it more applicable and relevant to a student’s life. It is my hope by using the GRASPS template students will see how all the objectives fit together and work toward the ultimate goal of making them better readers, writers, and most importantly better learners.

  • G — Goal
  • R — Role
  • A — Audience
  • S — Situation
  • P — Product, Performance, and Purpose
  • S — Standards for Success


Bloom’s Taxonomy interactive chart

Fink, L. D. (2013).  Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. (Revised and updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

McTighe, J., & Wiggins, G. (2004). Understanding by design: Professional development workbook. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Webb, N. L. (2002). Depths of knowledge.

Unit 4 Week 3

October 25, 2014

AnneMarie Mattacchione

Since most of my experiences teaching is direct or face to face I feel I can related to the differing taxonomies of learning, active learning and problem-based learning through my sense of integration with relationships with students in a classroom setting. However, I have designed and taught eCampus courses for three years. My teaching lens is influenced mostly by the relational part of teaching face to face and before this course, I have tried to interpret those same strategies into the eCampus format. I purposely built in activities in which student must connect to one another and process course content together.

Interestingly, when I shared this approach with some of my colleagues who primarily teach distance learning; I get confused and concerned looks. I often feel I have to defend my position to include synchronous components so students can have authentic social learning experiences. Their position is that they have designed eCampus courses so that student do not have to meet at specific times and/or the instructor is not obligated to teach on a specific day or time each week. It was as if having synchronous components defeated the reason for eCampus courses- being completely an asynchronous options for students. I can’t imagine feeling connected to the teacher or other students without it.

In fact, this course is a struggle for me personally. The content is valuable and meaningful. The text is excellent.  The learning activities up to this point do not benefit a wide variety of learning styles. I see the value in written reflections, article critiques, and written comments on students work, however, I miss the verbal exchange of thoughts, ideas and wonderings. The course is heavy on reading and writing. My personal learning style includes a good dose of auditorial and kinesthetic.  I lack the meaningful verbal interactions between teacher and other students. For me, meaningful learning takes place in more than one modality. For me, the synchronous component is necessary. I prefer a steady diet of it. I find that I feel better connected to the course content and can learn more deeply if I get to bat around the ideas and content of the course with others in synchronous time, without having to compose a precise and grammatically correct written statement. Which, for me takes many hours to compose successfully.  Since taking distance courses, the best courses are those in which there is a weekly synchronous component facilitated by a competent instructor who, instead of lecturing, selects hands-on, interactive activities with small groups of students or didactic pairings. It takes time for students to grow comfortable with sharing. It takes time for students to learn each other well enough to understand one another’s perspective in light of their occupation, temperament and learning styles. The success of such interactive sessions requires students to minimize the eventual issues of potential intimidation, proper online etiquette, and vulnerability. Once students are able to feel comfortable with the relationship aspects of distance education interfaces, in my experience, learning become richer and more meaningful. If I could change this course, I would require a weekly or bi-weekly synchronous session with a fixed agenda of interactive learning experiences.

The more I learn about designing significant learning experiences the more it affirms my selection of course assessments, feedback, learning and teaching activities in my face to face courses. It also causes me to pause about the eCampus courses I have designed and teach and wonder if I am capturing the excellent processes outlined in the book and supplemental sources. I struggle to decide if those courses are effective due to my inexperience with eCampus course development rather than perhaps I do not have all the elements or enough of the right elements articulated in the pages of the book. I sense that it may be a little of both. I am excited that I will have the opportunity and resources to answer that question more fully this summer when I have time to sort through the materials in this course again and develop/adopt useful exhibits that will help me derive an answer. I think the way to really understand this material is to apply the concept to several courses I teach, assess the courses ongoing, make changes based on measurable evidence and have the opportunity to tweak the course on-going several times over the course of a couple of semesters.

As far as my own reflection of my strategies for learning so far in the course, I have learned that I need to read and reread the texts assignment several times a week before attempting the written assignment or application. I am one of the unfortunate learners where I am not able to remember what I have read on reading it one time. I not only need to review and read again and again, I have to apply it right away or I lose important facts and concepts quickly. I am envious of learners who can rely on their memory. My husband has a book “How to Read a Book; The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading’ by Adler & Van Doren. At first, I did not understand the benefit of this book. Didn’t we learn how to read books in preschool and primary school? My husband is a doctoral student. He said it was one of the most important books he has ever read despite being a student. So I browsed the content pages- which is one of their strategies for successful reading- it included the following: The Dimensions of Reading, Analytical Reading, Approaches to Different Kinds of Reading Matter, and The Ultimate Goals of Reading. I was amazed at what I could learn about reading from reading this bookJ

In conclusion, my number one metacognition strategy this semester is applying some of the principles of this book since we are doing a good bit of reading. I am working on implementing The Activity and Art of Reading: Active Reading, The Goals of Reading: Reading for Information and Reading for Understanding, Reading as Learning; the Difference between Learning by Instruction and Learning by Discovery, Present and Absent Teachers.

Works Cited

Adler, M. J., & Van Doren, C. (1972). How to Read a Book; The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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

Weekly Writing, 4.3, Bob

  • What have you learned about integrated course design, taxonomies of learning, active learning, or problem-based learning?
  • How is the online learning environment working for you? What are the advantages and/or the challenges of taking this class in this format?
  • What have you learned about yourself during this unit? Have you discovered anything new about your own learning styles or preferences? Have you developed any new strategies that help you learn more effectively?

I summarize integrated course design with three insights I have picked up through the course and with Fink’s five elements.

First, creating community — this is a lifelong benchmark or touchstone for me, and my thinking about any enterprise.   In 1987, I attended the Alaska statewide conference on creating community in Sitka.   It was a formative experience for me.      Similarly, Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone reminded me of these values.   Creating, even briefly for a place-time, a community of learning is something that I can support, even get invigorated by.

Second flipping the classroom so that content is learned outside the contact time and contact time is used for specific application, is a new notion for me.   Though, as I have mentioned another framing of the concept: extending or continuing the conversation beyond the moment of the classroom is a practice I have celebrated for years.

Third, helping learners solve real problems or problems formulated in a real world format. Learners do what it is they are learning to do.   This is a closely held value in both my criticism of my schooling and as I have tried to help, my employees learn to do their jobs.   I think the first, most articulate, formulation of it came from reading Eliot Wiggington’s, Sometimes a Shining Moment.

Finks’ five:

  1. What are the important situational factors in a particular course and learning situation?
  2. What should our full set of learning goals be?
  3. What kinds of feedback and assessment should we provide?
  4. What kinds of teaching and learning activities will suffice, in terms of achieving the full set of learning goals we set?
  5. Are all the components connected and integrated, that is, are they consistent and supportive of each other?

I am comfortable in an online learning environment.   In particular, this course with its collaborative approach to blogging and commenting is effective for me.   It makes sense to take a course about teaching and learning online… well, online.   Indeed, it would be a little odd to take it in a solely face-to-face environment.   Where we are having frequent synchronous sessions, it would be easy to see this in a blended environment too.

I have a theoretical understanding of integrated course design.   However, because I am not a teacher I lack the details of practical experience with integrated course design.   I lack the repetition of daily practice.   I also understand a little bit more about how I include my direct reports in making the content of our training, indeed every aspect of our workplace, for our student employees.   I feel hampered not having their contribution and insights into the work.     That insight has raised the question for me, about how teachers can create courses on their own.   I know that in my situation professors frequently design courses on their own.   Sometimes core courses are informed by conversations and are practically designed by individuals.   This is a significant difference from how work is done in many other work places.   I wonder how much better courses would be if along with the content expert were a team of an instructional designer and an assessment specialist.

My own learning is less of a matter for reflection at this point in the course.   Rather, I am focused on my target demographic for the “course’ we are designing as our final project.   Getting out of my own head and into theirs is the challenge.   That empathic exercise however is important.   I have been reading in popular writings about the generational differences between “Boomers’ and “Millennials.’     I am trying to avoid over generalizations like: “Kids these days….’   Rather, there are very specific differences in expectations and experience and I cannot gloss those details if I hope to facilitate learning in that demographic.

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

Putnam RD. (2000). Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.   New York: Simon & Schuster.

Wigginton, B.E. (1985). Sometimes a shining moment: The Foxfire experience.  New York: Anchor Books.


Providing case-based online science courses for gifted students.

I chose the article Describing Learning in an Advanced Online Case-Based Course in Environmental Science because it addresses differentiation for gifted students and problem-based online activities in the context of a science classroom (Missett, Reed, Scot, Callahan, and Slade 2010). In my own classes I spend quite a bit of time trying to improve differentiation for my students that find material or concepts too challenging. However, I can greatly improve in the area of offering better differentiation for students that need additional challenges.The opportunities for differentiation and adaptive learning using online classrooms appears to have endless possibilities.  This article was based on a study that “examined the learning outcomes of an online environmental sciences course using a case-based and problem-based model designed for academically advanced learners.‘  The project was titled “Project LOGgED ON (the Project)’ and was developed by the University of Virginia Curry School of Education and the Department of Environmental Science. It’s proposed purpose was to address the problem of “access to highly challenging science curricula for economically disadvantaged, rural, or otherwise underserved gifted and academically advanced learners’(Missett, Reed, Scot, Callahan, and Slade 2010). The study was designed to offer an alternative to the AP examinations for students that did not have access to these programs. The goals of “The Project’ were to:

(a) prepare students for advanced science studies by increasing knowledge and skill acquisition, (b) provide students with opportunities to communicate with peers, (c) write about advanced science topics, (d) work as independent learners, and (e) provide authentic experiences in studying science online.

Course designers used a case-based approach to teaching content by developing 16 cases, assigning students roles using genuine scientific organizations and were intended to give students a “perspective on the environmental problem at hand, to enable them to participate as one who endeavors to solve environmental problems, and to expose them to the role of an actual scientist grappling with environmental issues and problems’(Missett, Reed, Scot, Callahan, and Slade 2010).  Content was presented in a variety of ways (access to an expert video library, primary source references, and the use of open-ended questions) and “students were required to apply new  knowledge to evaluate the issue presented, to explain why it presented a problem, and to use their scientific understanding to defend and support a proposed solution to the problem’(Missett, Reed, Scot, Callahan, and Slade 2010).

The sample population included 138 self-identified students, from 14 states, ages 12 to 17 years old.  However, only half came from rural school districts, from school districts comprised predominantly of minority students, and/or from school districts with a significant population of students receiving free and reduced lunches. Of these, 60% were female and 40% were male. Students were encouraged to take the AP exam at the end of the course, free of charge to serve as a comparison. Only 30% of those that chose to take the exam received a 3 or higher on the AP exam. Not surprisingly, the study reported that “students who were independent learners with strong time management skills and were more active on the discussion boards had the most success with the course’ while students that were weak in these skills were most likely to drop the course (Missett, Reed, Scot, Callahan, and Slade 2010).

The study concluded it was a success because students who participated in the Project’s environmental science course “experienced learning, engagement, and challenge’.

Course work promoted “inductive thinking and the use of problem-solving skills as it called upon students to interpret data, analyze case studies, and solve complex real-world science problems.’ While these are noteworthy and desirable outcomes the Project did not serve its ultimate purpose of studying the effect of access to rural and minority populations, because the authors did not confine the study to those specific students, nor did they collect the necessary demographic data from the students that would make it possible to compare these populations.

I believe that this article serves as an excellent starting point for further inquiry. The need for alternative challenging coursework for advanced learners is an area that deserves attention. The curriculum design of this course used best practices from both science and the National

Association for Gifted Children and it appears that it had successful learning outcomes for the participants in the study. The AP exam data did not indicate that it could be used as a direct substitute for an AP course with positive outcomes on the exam, but this was not the intention of the researchers. I think one of the most interesting quotes in this paper was found in the conclusion and stated that “an interesting impression derived from this study is that the instructors played little, if any, role in the overall success or failure of the students. That is, learning and engagement resulted principally from student-to-student interactions, and without significant instructor facilitation’(Missett, Reed, Scot, Callahan, and Slade 2010). If learning success is primarily dependent on student-to-student interactions, perhaps it is the facilitation of student interaction between academically advanced students in remote, rural and underrepresented populations that should be the focus of further research.

Works Cited

Missett, T. C., Reed, C. B., Scot, T. P., Callahan, C. M., & Slade, M. (2010). Describing Learning in an Advanced Online Case-Based Course in Environmental Science. Journal of Advanced Academics, 22(1), 10—50.

Instructional Design Unit Reflection-ww7

Integrated course design is, in my opinion, critical to creating effective courses. I have followed the Understanding by Design model for most of my teaching career, but I was very interested by the approach suggested by Fink (2005). While he incorporates many of the same ideas as in Ub.D, I like how uses them in a more integrated rather than linear fashion. Fink suggests that “the learning goals, the feedback and assessment, and the teaching and learning activities must all reflect and support each other’. While this is somewhat implied in Ub.D. I think that Fink’s model is stronger, because it allows for more flexibility in the process of design.  I found the exercise of examining situational factors suggested by Fink to be very enlightening and it helped me realize areas of my curriculum that I might need to further adjust for my population. I also like his emphasis on student reflection and metacognition. I learned that I need to integrate more opportunities for students to reflect on their own learning in a more deliberate way.  The taxonomies of learning served as good reminders on creating learning activities and objectives that ask students to use higher levels of critical thinking. I think it is valuable to revisit objectives and ask “Is there a way I can make this objective more rigorous and more meaningful?’ The most interesting part of this unit for me was the information on active learning. As a science teacher, I have always felt that providing opportunities for active learning is one of my strengths.  However, after reflecting on the reading this week, I realize how much I rely on indirect experiences and materials for learning. Fink gave excellent examples of how to integrate more “doing and observing experiences’ into my classes and how I can produce these experiences in an online class as well.  

Overall, I believe that the online learning environment has worked well for me. As a working parent of two small children, living in a rural area, I would probably not have the flexibility to take traditional face-to-face courses. This class also allows me to attend the program of my choice even though it is produced 3,000 mi. away. I am also able to stay current with the class while traveling to conferences and on family vacations. One of the challenges of this class are the synchronous meetings, which because of the time change, typically fall during very difficult times of the day for me. I prefer the asynchronous communication, because it allows me to think through my responses and respond where I might otherwise remain silent. It also allows me to work at times of the day when I don’t have other commitments. I think that having a set of prompts before a synchronous session, would give me the time to process the information so that I can better contribute the conversation. I like the relative independence this class offers in pacing, while providing some deadlines to keep me focused.

This unit has helped me reflect on the way I teach and the types of activities I have been using. It has inspired me to reevaluate some the activities I currently do with my students and think of ways I can create more authentic learning experiences. There are many ways that I can substitute more meaningful observation and “doing’ experiences for topics I cover using direct methods. I have learned that I am not as comfortable working in synchronous meetings as I would like to be and that this is an area that I need more practice in.  I have learned that there are ways to effectively and ineffectively use online synchronous communication and that it is somewhat of an art that requires preparation and good design to be successful.

Works Cited

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

Reflections on Bob’s piece…

Bob’s work in the area  of professional demeanor  reminded me of this famous online copy of Nordstrom’s employee training manual. This is printed on one side of a 4 X 6 card and constitutes the entire HR Manual. The implications are interesting. The first is that we trust you. The second is that you are supported in an educative environment. It is empowering, at the same time that it places tremendous responsibility on the individual. Very interesting from the standpoint of rules regarding learning communities.


Reed College has something they call “the code.” It covers all aspects of student life, such as behavior and academic honesty. Instructors mostly give take-home exams. Students don’t cheat as it would violate “the code”… The code is unwritten by design. Sometimes the  spirit of a guiding principle is more powerful than a legalized verbalization?

Objectives for Online Interviewing Unit

My focus when looking at taxonomies and writing objectives and activities was to plan a unit for a 200-level interviewing class in which students would learn and apply skills necessary for conducting an interview in a web-based space. I am a list-maker and that is one of the reasons I appreciate taxonomies. They are useful for grouping and listing ideas.

The Taxonomy of Significant Learning (Fink, 2013, p. 35) was interesting because it was presented in a circular shape. Rather than a line that comes to an end, I liked the circle as parts of a whole that all exist in a learner’s mind and life at the same time. Similarly, Figure 2.2 shows how the categories are “interactive” (p. 37). I wish the chart builder I chose had a circle option. I also appreciated Fink’s discussion of how today’s learning goals must go beyond cognitive learning (p. 34). His taxonomy is similar to Bloom’s with the levels that build on each other and involve increasing cognitive effort, but adds intrapersonal/interpersonal elements. As communication is a social science, affecting our personal lives as well as intellectual, Fink’s categories seemed a good fit for organizing interviewing units.

What follows is a chart I made using the six significant categories presented by Fink (2013). Under “Foundational Knowledge” I am assuming students have a background in vocabulary and concepts from the first few weeks of the course (like the definition of an interview) but will also be learning some core concepts specific to interacting in an online environment (what software exists, how to navigate it). We can then work on some “Application” goals which are characterized by “critical, creative, and practical thinking” and “managing projects.” In this case, students will be writing questions and preparing for an actual online interview that will be conducted as part of the “Integration” of their new knowledge.

I will also ask them to reflect on their own performance and that of their interview partner, and social factors that may have affected the interview, as part of the “Human Dimension.” That also leads nicely into a discussion of the interpersonal side of interviewing, with “Caring” learning that can happen when students reflect on “feelings, interests, and values” including how students can protect their legal rights and use interviewing skills to reach their career goals.

Lastly, I am hoping to engage students in “Learning How to Learn” by showing them how interviewing can be a reflexive process through which they can continually improve. On the first day of all my communication classes, I point out the fact that even though we “talk” to other people every day, we never usually take the time to reflect on where misunderstandings really come from or how we could present ourselves better. It’s like how many of us use a computer every day but have no idea how the parts work or what coding language means. You don’t have to know the theory or mechanics to do everyday tasks, but if something breaks you’re stuck. Taking the time to study what you’re doing and learn the how/why behind it means you will have a better understanding of how to get unstuck.