Ange’s takes on three concepts related to Digital Pedagogy!

Three of the terms that caught my attention while going through the Modern Language Association article titled “Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments”  are Blogging, Affect, and Assessment. I will first briefly describe what was said about each of those terms and then focus the rest of the blog on Assessment.

One of the terms, which I couldn’t help but notice was “Blogging”. This is because there is a strong blogging component to our “Contemporary Pedagogy” class and I wanted to learn how this relates to Digital Pedagogy. Blogging here was defined as being a powerful tool used by instructors to “challenge students to focus on process and audience, and to disrupt patterns and habits developed when writing more traditional essay forms students”. One aspect of blogging that I haven’t thought about, but which was discussed in the entry is how Blogging assignments are equally challenging for instructors, as they are for students. This is mainly because these types of assignments are more difficult to design and grade.

The second term that caught my attention was “Affects”. It was my first time learning about this meaning of  “Affects” in the entry. Affects as it was used in the entry is another word used to describe students’ emotions (mood) in class.  The authors argued that in the case of face-to-face teaching, instructors have to pay attention to students’ affects. This leads to the questions of  how can instructors ensure that students’ affects are accounted for in our current digitalized learning environment. Affects goes beyond the simple emotions shown by students in class. It also encompasses students’ feelings about the lectures, assignments, and other class-related activities.

Another term that I was extremely curious to explore was “Assessment”. Assessment is important because it allows instructors to re-evaluate their teaching, adjust and meet both their and students goals. The author of this entry discusses how there exists two competing ideologies regarding the use of Digital Pedagogy for assessments. While some scholars believe that the use of digital pedagogy could facilitate “attacks” on faculty, others think digital pedagogy could be used to design more advanced forms of assessment. I side with the latter stream of thoughts. I am one of those who believe that students assessments could be very subjective sometimes. All it takes is a bad grade (which is most likely justified) in a quiz, an assignment, or an exam for a student to have some very bad/mean words on an instructor who might have done a very good job during that semester. I believe students assessments should start raising red flags when a considerable proportion of students have bad assessments towards an instructor. Therefore, the more we could use digital pedagogy to help with assessments, the better.

How do we achieve Inclusion and Diversity using PBL and/or CBL?

So far this semester, we discussed three important concepts in Higher Ed. First, we talked about how important it is to have a diverse community, and second and more importantly we showed that it is almost inevitable to maintain an inclusive learning environment. Next, we discussed a few pedagogical methods used to ensure that we are facilitating Diversity and Inclusion. Specifically, we identified Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and Case-Based Learning (CBL) as two effective ways to help achieve Diversity and Inclusion in academia.

As far as I am concerned, I see two important things from here. First, from now on, I am going to prioritize taking classes that use either PBL or CBL. As shown in class and discussed in many of the blog posts on PBL and CBL, these classes are instrumental in helping students apply the skills they are learning to real-world situations. Many of the classes we are taught during our training (at least in my field) are so abstract that it is often difficult to really picture how we could apply these concepts and how useful they are for our future professions. PBL and CBL classes have the ability of helping us achieve these goals.

Second, I truly believe that programs should include more courses that use PBL or CBL in their curricula. As argued above, this is crucial for students, as it will help them acquire skills that they can bring on the job market. About two years ago, I attended a professional development workshop on how to be successful on the job market. One issue that was raised during the workshop was that employers are looking for students who have who ready or simply put, who have a specific set of skills. One thing that most people reading this blog can agree on is that courses that do not have a PBL or CBL component won’t be enough to acquire those skills. With PBL or CBL courses, there is an opportunity for students to learn something that could really be useful in their professional careers. Also, given that not everyone has the opportunity to get an internship before they go on the job market, students imperatively need to have such experiences during their training. Furthermore, schools should get invested in helping their programs design these curricula as ways to ease the Inclusion and Diversity process on campus.

My Case-Based Learning Experience

To be honest, I am not a big fan of classes that require you to write a term paper at the end of the semester. I am one of those who just prefer the old school assignments and in-class exams. Neither do I like classes where you are handed a project on which you have to work the whole semester, and produce a report for that project at the end of the semester.  Paradoxically, those classes are the ones which taught me the most valuable skills, which I am certain, could help me secure a job in the future.

The most valuable and impactful higher ed-related learning experience I had, occurred in Spring 2016, the last semester of my masters training at Michigan State University. I was strongly advised by my supervisor to take a class called Program Evaluation in Agriculture and Natural Resources”. The goal of the class was to teach us the necessary tools and techniques needed to monitor and evaluate agricultural programs/projects. Monitoring and Evaluating agricultural projects allow us to make sure the activities initially planned for the project/program are being implemented so as to achieve the goals that were set for the program.

At the beginning of the semester, we were all asked to evaluate an actual project that is either being implemented or had already been implemented. The aim was to have us write an evaluation report that could be distributed to the project management team. Throughout the semester, we gradually applied different concepts taught in class using other cases as examples. As an assignment, we each time, had to write a section of the final evaluation report based on the concepts we had learned. After discussion with our instructor, I decided to evaluate a program for which he had been the Principal Investigator (PI) in the past. The program was implemented in Cambodia and its main goal to supply environmentally-friendly farm inputs to farmers in order to help them improve their income and strengthen their livelihoods. I was able to write a whole evaluation report for that program, which was distributed back in Cambodia to the project management team.

This remains to date the most impactful class that I believe I have taken. I haven’t got the opportunity yet, but because of that class, I can design an evaluation proposal for a program/project, and this is a very good skill to have in my field of study. This experience simply showed that the best and probably the only way to teach certain courses is to use Case-Based Learning.

Inclusive Pedagogy

For the first blog post of the semester, we were asked to discuss why we believe Inclusive Pedagogy and increasing diversity in our discipline matters to us. My discussion here focuses on STEM fields, but the arguments made could apply to any other field.

According to the Center for New Design in Learning and Scholarship, Inclusive Pedagogy is “A student-centered approach to teaching that pays attention to the varied background, learning styles, and abilities of all the learners in front of you. It is a method of teaching in which instructors and students work together to create a supportive and open environment that fosters social justice and allows each individual to be fully present and feel equally valued”. This definition highlights the diversity and inclusion aspects of Inclusive pedagogy. An Inclusive pedagogy should be designed to account for every student’s background (race, religion, sex, … etc.)  so as to make them successful. More importantly, such pedagogy has to make all students feel welcomed and accepted (inclusivity).

Inclusive pedagogy will help increase the persistence rate for underrepresented minorities in STEM fields.

It is well documented that students from underrepresented minorities have the lowest persistence rate in undergraduate and graduate programs in the U.S. While the number of students from underrepresented minority groups who enter college has been increasing over the years, only 20% of those students complete a bachelor’s degree, and half of those students go on to complete a graduate training (Asai and Bauerle, 2016). The obvious question that comes to mind is:  What is the cause of that low persistence rate? How do we explain that minority students drop out of college? Are they dropping out because they find STEM fields too difficult and can’t meet the GPA requirement? One might even argue that minority students, coming from lower income families, find it difficult to make ends meet and therefore drop out to look for a work. All of these questions show that it is difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons why minority students studying a STEM field could drop out from school. However, a minority student is still likely to drop out if she/he does not feel welcomed or accepted in her/his school, or if her environment is not diverse enough for her/him to feel that she belongs there.

Inclusive pedagogy is beneficial for the advancement of science

A faculty from an underrepresented minority ethnic group, who has been a product of Inclusive Pedagogy is likely to be engaged in Inclusion and diversity activities, which will help train more students exposed to Inclusive Pedagogy, and the cycle continues. It’s been proven that a diverse and inclusive scientific community is more productive and innovative (Jimenez et al, 2019). As such, schools should prioritize increasing the diversity of faculty and students and implementing effective Inclusion programs. One way to help engage all students and faculty in those inclusion and diversity programs is to offer more course and workshops related to those topics and require all faculty as part of their tenure track to participate or organize those workshops. All students should be required to attend at least one workshop on Inclusion and Diversity as part of their coursework.

 

References

Jimenez, M. F., Laverty, T. M., Bombaci, S. P., Wilkins, K., Bennett, D. E., & Pejchar, L. (2019). Underrepresented faculty play a disproportionate role in advancing diversity and inclusion. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 3(7), 1030–1033. doi:10.1038/s41559-019-0911-5

Asai, David J. and Bauerle, C. (2016). From HHMI: Doubling Down on Diversity. Undergraduate and Graduate Science Education Programs, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Chevy Chase, MD 20815-6789