Don’t Just Do Research, Apply it

Do you think educational research gets understood by people who should consume it?

Do you think educational research gets read by ordinary people?

Do you think educational research gets applied enough?

If you answered no to any of those questions, well-read on my new educational friend.

I have taken so much of my academic learning and put it into valuable use in my classrooms. The quality of my classroom experience is greatly enhanced in just one year. 

Scope of Improvements:

  • Improved test-question preparation
  • Intrinsically rewarding projects
  • Clear goals & outcomes and a sense of progress
  • More autonomy in classroom exercises and projects
  • More work that relates to the outside world
  • Better discussions to encourage students to ask questions
  • Improved clearly focus rubrics
  • Backward-curricular-design implementation

The list above shows innovation. The impact is my students have an easier time understanding curricular aims.

I read alot. I’m an ordinary sorta fella. So, a lot of the research I read, it’s challenging to encode. So many big words. I appreciate it when I can learn something consumable to the ordinarys of the world. So, it’s my desire to write this blog entry as ordinary as I can because I want you to not only read it, I want you to remember what you read.

A lot of my readings talk about working memory and long-term memory. The human mind can only remember so much.

So why read it all? Exposure. You don’t know what you don’t know. I point to my scope of improvements above. I’m retaining what makes me a better educator and throwing all that rest away. Yep, I admit to throwing all the information I find irrelevant away, and I encourage you to do the same.

This blog-post isn’t about working memory, but If you don’t know anything about it, I found this site.

If you remember anything about this part of this post, remember the number 7. We can hold about 7 chunks of information in working memory at a time. How many pieces of info am I going to the exposing you? Probably more than 7. So, it’s up to you to remember what you want to remember after reading this. Good luck.

Ok, let’s get back to those questions above. Remember?

Do you think educational research gets understood by people who should consume it?

Do you think educational research gets read by ordinary people?

Do you think educational research gets applied enough?

I’ve read about how research is viewed by working-educators (practitioners). Here are some of the bullet points the made it into my working-memory….ok, that’s not true. I lifted them from the reading and turned them into notes, and I hope it will make it into my working memory soon. Come on, working memory, don’t fail me now!

  • The gap separating research & practice has a central role in disappointing outcomes
  • Useful research is infrequently used in classrooms
  • Teachers utilize methods showing to have little or no positive impact
  • Change is difficult, and engineering broad change is a problematic endeavor
  • The general opposition to change and reform in educational institutions
  • Practitioners suspect that researchers may purposively bias findings
  • All research findings are interpreted through the filter of local context
  • Techniques require resources, time, or expertise that teachers do not have

Ok, there is more, but I’m over the 7 chunks of information by 1. Can you remember 8 bullet points? Come on, it’s not that much over the 7. Reread them and think about something in your past that connects to those 8 bullet points. Got it? Yeah, you remember them better now.

So there is resistance toward research and implication? So, how do we bridge the gap? What if we look toward an Evidence-based practice? You’re asking yourself right now, did Shawn read something about Evidence-based practices in education? Well, yes, I did.

In my spare time (not reading tons of research), I’m an Assistant Professor of Journalism. I don’t do a lot of journalistic research, in my spare-spare time, but I did for you and only you. I would never go into any educational setting and tell a teacher how to do their job or how to improve a student’s working memory just because I read some research about it. And, I would never go into a newsroom and tell a journalist how they could improve how to tell a story because I read some research. Mostly, because my wife works in a newsroom and she’d roll her eyes at me and call me silly. Also, because I respect working journalists. However, after reading another evidence-based practice article, one that ties Journalism into it, I got some ideas.

So after reading, Bridging the Gaps: Transfer Between Scholarly Research and Newsrooms in Journalism Education—Toward an Evidence-Based Practice in an Age of Post-Truth and State of Flux, maybe their is an opportunity for me and more importantly some of my students.

Before we get into the article, I’ll define the evidence-based Practice. There is no commonly accepted definition, so here is what I’m going to use.

Evidence-Based Practice is an instructional approach to use research-based on theory, expert opinion, and personal experience.

So, EBP (sometimes I’m not too fond of acronyms) is research that we can apply with meaning and trust by those who will use the research.

So in the article Bridging the Gaps they understood the “separation of practical journalism training from scientific journalism research and the lack of transfer between academic research and newsrooms.” So, can EBP connect research and working newsroom? 

Like, well, any career, the newsroom is changing. I don’t need to read about that. I just ask my wife. Remember, my wife works in a newsroom? That’s in your working memory now, right? I know the innovations going on in her newsroom. My students should study and understand and maybe come up with some changes themselves.  

A problem addressed in the Bridging the Gaps article is, conveying information from research to newsrooms often breaks down. Findings collected by researchers are independent and probably wouldn’t get used. The article’s aim is to overcome that obstacle. Using EBP (Evidence-Based Practice in case you forgot), they want to apply the research within the journalist’s work-day. Then, evaluate in a joint learning process of the innovation.

By using a participatory and interactive methodology, the researchers include their project into the daily activity of a working journalist. Then, both the researcher and journalist evaluate innovation. So, the tradition of the researcher taking data and just writing an article and be done is gone. In this EBP, the data is shared with the journalist. The journalist then puts research into practice, thus, a joint learning process. 

Remember bullet point 1? 

  • Gap separating research & practice has a central role in disappointing outcomes

These journalism students are trying to eliminate that gap. In the article, there is a quote. “Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.” This quote is from a social psychologist, Kurt Lewin. He said that in 1946. However, so much research is precisely that.

Kurt Lewin

If there is nothing else you take from me then that chunk of information, I’m ok with that.

Getting back to my students. No matter what I teach, I promise to never have them do any research just for a grade or to produce a paper. If they want to change or affect someone or something, I want to give them a chance, the opportunity to see if their innovation is a failure or success, and how the implication of their change is seen through ‘working-eyes.” I will bet this process will encode in their working memory better too!  

Working memory and evidence-based practice, it’s a thing.

Every Lesson a Transformative Experience?

When I read a journal article, I like to import the entire piece into a google document. I’ve learned there is usually a keyword in the title. I recently read Transformative Experience: An Integrative Construct in the Spirit of Deweyan Pragmatism by Kevin Pugh. The article has the word experience 290 times.

Maybe experience is an essential word for education.

Experience is defined as useful content with and observation of facts or events. Kevin’s article is about the transformative experience that teachers can observe in students. So, the question I ask myself is, do students see everyday life experiences in a new way after a lesson in my classroom? I believe I do, but just thinking that is not enough.

Can I point out circumstances that illustrate this?

My teaching philosophy of Vital, Active, Vibrant guides me. I can point out many exercises, projects, lessons that do have meaning, and authentic learning. However, it’s the easy ones that I can point to. What about the more abstract teaching? Maybe the lessons not having a concrete existence is what I should reflect on? In the Pugh article, he has a quote from John Dewey, 

“Does it end in conclusions which, when they are referred back to ordinary life-experiences and their predicaments, render them more significant, more luminous to us, and make our dealings with them more fruitful?”

Take a journey with me for a paragraph or two. Way back in 2012, I took a class called Effective Teaching, this class gave me clarity on goals and objectives I should prepare before a lesson. I enjoy the occasional acronym or two from time to time. I came up with P.O.P.E (purpose, objective, practice, evaluation). This POPE was from the fall of 2013 when I taught Photoshop at Front Range Community College.

Coincidentally, this very lesson is in my Digital Storytelling class at the University of Colorado. The primary teaching and outcomes have changed very little in 7 years. It’s an excellent lesson, and the project is fun and gives students a pleasant experience with layers, selection tools, masks, and creating a fun image of themselves.

But at the conclusion, can students associate an ordinary life-experience?

Is this lesson giving them something significant and/or illuminating something they can associate with real life? Did I pick a challenging experience? Let’s see.

Recent Fruit Face Project for my Digital Storytelling Course

After every lesson, students in my courses write a reflection document I call a WISE. I told you I like an acronym or two. WISE stands for Wisdom, Intention, Success, Evaluation.

In the success sections, I want them to tell me, “What is success going to look like for you applying what you’ve learned. Tell me a familiar or new situation using the knowledge.” What I’m trying to have students tell me is how is the information in the lesson going to stick in their long-term memory. Can they tie the experience of the teaching in my classroom to a concrete scenario? So, does my success item and transformative experience line up? Well, kinda. I got to admit I’m not always happy with the response I get from this item on my WISE. Maybe I need to transform it to see if students write something that’s more in line with a transformative experience that Pugh writes about in his article. Then, my WISE could help me understand if every lesson I teach does have some transformative experience for students. What I think is transformative is irrelevant; it’s what the student believes that’s important.

“In summary, an experience is fundamentally transformative in that it changes one’s relationship with the world,” Pugh writes in the article. So, what if I come at my fruit face lesson a bit differently? I’m talking about graphic design principles in this lesson. If I go back to creating POPEs for every lesson and think about how elements of a lesson can/should change student’s relationship with the world, I should redirect my efforts, so the lesson makes them look at graphic design in the world with a new eye.

How’s that for a lesson about a lesson and a transformative experience for the lesson creator? The word experience only appears 16 times in this blog entry. However, I do realize the importance of the word relating to education.

Connecting More with Student earlier.

So classes started yesterday for me. Students already commenting on my Hangout Hours instead of Office Hours. I overheard a conversation saying that’s kinda cool is just want to hang out. One student thought Office Hours were when I was working, and that this time wasn’t for them. Interesting how you change a few words and it invited them to be more sociable.

Why hangout hours instead of office hours? I read this NPR article a few months ago.

In the article by Kate Szumanski, she talks about office hours and that they are scary to students, and this is my attempt at inviting them to my office. 

I also emailed every former and current student before the semester started.

I desire to get them to visit and chat about whatever they want. I want students to get to know me as a human, not just as a professor.

I want to get to know them as well. My 1st assignment is the Getting To Know You Assignment. I have them answer some questions about themselves.

My semester-long quest starts today. And I’ve already had one student stop by and hangout

Just like Kate says in her article the students least likely to come visit me are the ones that need me the most. I’m hoping to see more of them this semester.

I’ve been using slack as another communication platform, but this semester It’s mandatory. This is from my syllabus.

The First Day of Class

Monday is the 1st day of class. I’m excited. I’m excited to get to know new people. I’m excited to get to know new faces. I believe it’s vital to start the courses as best as I can. I thought I would share what I’m going to do on the first day of class. Perhaps a few ideas you can use for your 1st day of the new semester. Perhaps you can make my 1st day even more vibrant with your suggestions. Education is a life-long process.

I want students to understand how important and vital to our success getting to know them is. So before any discussion about the course work, we start with this. I will display this and ask students to pick a question to answer. Depending on class size, I have everyone go at least twice, picking a question to answer. I will also record this so I can write this material down at a later time.

  • What’s your name, or what do you want to be called, and why?
  • What’s your catchphrase or word, and why?
  • What’s your nickname, and why?
  • You walk into the door, and your theme song plays what’s the song and why?
  • What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given, why is it the best piece of advice you were ever given?
  • What aspect of your personality adds the most value to the world, and why?
  • What’s the last movie that made you laugh or cry, and why did it evoke that emotion?
  • What is something you hate doing? And Why?
  • What is something you love doing? And Why?
  • Tell me the most insignificant fact about your life and why you are telling me this?

After this getting to know you exercise I will introduce my syllabus, which I have totally rebuild.

This is the front page which looks more like a flyer than a traditional syllabus.

I will not go over the syllabus. What I mean, I’m not to read the syllabus out loud. Instead I will break students into groups and they are going to go over the syllabus and answer the following questions about the course.

Welcome To Shawn’s Visual Storytelling Community.

Thank You For Joining Us This Semester. 

We All Know That A Community Is Not Easy To Build.  

It’s Essential To Survive This Semester. 

I’d Like You To Look Over The Syllabus And Answer Some Questions.  

You May Have To Jump Into Canvas To Find Some Answer Too. 

  1. What The Mission Of This Course?
  2. How Does This Mission Relate Directly To You Or Your Group?
  3. What’s Going To Make This Course Different From Other Courses?
  4. How Do You Think You Will Demonstrating Learning Objectives?
  5. Looking Over The Course Outline;
    • What Topics Or Lesson Activities Are You Looking Forward To?
    • What Topic Or Lesson Activities Do You See As Challenging?
  6. In Your Own Words, How Will I Measure Successful Learning?
  7. In Your Own Words, How Will I Measure Successful Teaching?
  8. What Do You Think A Feedback-focused Approach To Assignments Will Look Like?
  9. What’s Your Reasonable Time Of The Day To Take A Quiz?
  10. There Are 5 Types Of Assessment Shown In The Wheel;
    • Which One Do You Think You Will Accomplish The Most In?
    • Which One Do You Think Is Most Challenging For You?
  11. What Do You Think Is A Deep-dive-mentality For This Course?
  12. What About My Career Do You Want Me To Incorporate Into Lectures?
  13. What Do You Think ‘the Experience’ Will Be In This Course?
  14. What Are The Biggest Obstacles You’ll Face This Semester?
  15. How Can Your Teacher, Your Counselor, Your Advisor Assist You?
  16. How Will We Measure Progress In This Course?
  17. How Can We Share Our Success?

Here are my learning Objective to question #4.

For Question #6 they’ll see this on my syllabus.

For Question #7 they’ll see this on my syllabus.

For Question #10 they’ll se this on my syllabus.

I’ve also produced a brief teaching philosophy students can read and help them understand how I teach.

As you can see I will talk very little our 1st time together. This class is all about them and I want to introduce that on the 1st day of class.