Case for case-based learning

Recently I read an article on case-based learning in the nutrition field. At first glimpse of the title I thought to myself, “why WOULDN’T we use this method?”

The study, a little method heavy for me, examined successes and student perceptions of case-based learning in upper level undergraduate nutrition classes.  It’s an interesting read if you have the time. If not.. here’s a short summary.

Case-based learning:

  • Real-world problem-based learning
  • Working in groups
  • Critical thinking: analyzing, evaluating, and creating

I’m definitely going to think more on how to incorporate this in future classes!

Pedagogy: Pony Edition

Allow me to take liberties here. Okay, lots of liberties. I’m going to talk pony.

Today I made a connection. A friend of mine at the barn agreed to work with my horse and I on groundwork. This involves getting the horse more “in tune” with your body language so they respond with the slightest of cues.

In the middle of her explanation she noted “it’s not about showing them what the answer is, it’s about asking the question in the correct and patient way that allows them to give the proper answer.”

Oh the proverbial light bulb flicked on, and this sucker was a megawatt bulb.

Is that not what teaching is in problem based learning? We ask questions, and we must structure the questions so the student doesn’t get too frustrated. We need to pose the questions such that a student may arrive at the desired answer.

It’s an interesting connection. How often do we use pedagogical techniques outside of the classroom when working with others? Animals, even? It’s interesting to ponder.

Code of Ethics

As a student in the Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise Department here at Virginia Tech, I naturally searched for a code of ethics from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This code focuses on the honest conduct of members and promotion of the code of ethics through the American Dietetic Association which is found here. There are responsibilities to the public, clients, and the profession which generally pertain to respectful behavior towards others and the use of the knowledge learned. It’s awfully long, a massive document, and much is rather intuitive, or one would think.

It’s overwhelming. I think it outlines important topics (be respectful, help others) which may be intuitive to some, but I suppose the code is there for a reason… it was likely an issue at some point.

I snooped around the ORI website, naturally clicking on ethics in human research studies. It seems to me like it’s another form of the Institutional Review Board certification that many of us using humans in research at Virginia Tech must have. It’s a good tool to have on your graduate student researcher belt, both as a researcher and as a study participant. It has definitely helped me to understand just how difficult some studies are to conduct, especially when they involve taking samples from participants. Don’t even try to use a sensitive population (children)- that’s a whole new ball game. It’s rather comforting that these ethics codes exist but I can’t help but wonder, do people actually read them?

Courage to Teach

Last semester I read the book called “The Courage to Teach“. This book, while valuable in parts, nearly gave me a seizure.

The author does a great job explaining why it is so important to invest oneself in teaching, but he also does a great job instilling into the reader that “there are no bad students, only bad teachers”. I beg to differ. Don’t misunderstand me, I think bad can come on both sides of the equation.

I believe there are discouraged students, downtrodden students, resistant students… these students need to be helped with a personal relationship with the professor, i.e. knowing that the professor genuinely cares about them. The instructor should take on the role as mentor as well as teacher… this is important. HOWEVER, I felt my anxiety needlessly rise through the roof as I turned page after page, leaving myself with the aching feeling that if a student fails, I failed.

I disagree. I do believe that there are some cases where this is true, but not all. I think it’s important to invest ourselves in our classes, putting our best self forward, trying as hard as we can, but not to blame our self for student who genuinely don’t seem to care. I will try my best to reach such students if/when they come along, but I will not beat myself up if I do try and it is simply fruitless.

Technology: Helping or Harming?

Recently in one of my (other) pedagogy courses, I was asked the if students want more technology in the classroom and why.

My initial response was “of course!” but then I mulled the question over in my mind, pondering it further. Do students really want more technology in an effective classroom?  I’m not sure.

I think it’s a great idea to use technology since we will be sending students out into their careers where technology surrounds them. However, I find that many professors tend to rely on technology or use it improperly, making the tools quite ineffective.

I know this question will make me think: “Do I need this technology? Is it helping to enhance the material or am I just playing with a new toy?”

After all, the tools are only as effective as those who use them.