Michigan Project NExT Panel Discussion on Teaching Strategies for Improving Student Learning

Michigan Project NExT Panel Discussion on Teaching Strategies for Improving Student Learning

Are you interested in helping your students learn mathematics more effectively? Are you thinking about branching out in the way you teach your courses? If so, you should attend this panel discussion featuring short talks from leaders in higher education in employing innovative and effective instructional strategies in their mathematics classes. After speaking, our panelists will lead breakout discussions in small groups to answer questions and share advice about effective instructional strategies for college mathematics. Panelists will include Dana Ernst (Northern Arizona University) and Theron Hitchman (University of Northern Iowa), both noted for their effective use of the flipped classroom and inquiry-based learning.

This talk was given on May 4, 2013 as part of the Michigan Project NExT Panel Discussion on at the Spring 2013 Michigan MAA Section Meeting at Lake Superior State University.


Dana Ernst

May 04, 2013


  1. Michigan MAA Project NExT Panel Discussion Teaching Strategies to Improve

    Student Learning Inquiry-Based Learning: What, Why, How? Lake Superior State University May 4, 2013 Dana C. Ernst Northern Arizona University dana.ernst@nau.edu danaernst.com Special thanks to the Academy of Inquiry-Based Learning and the Educational Advancement Foundation for providing travel funding. 1
  2. About me • Assistant professor at Northern Arizona University •

    PhD from University of Colorado (2008) • Special Projects Coordinator for Academy of Inquiry- Based Learning (AIBL) • New MAA blogger at Math Ed Matters with Angie Hodge • Spent 4 years at Plymouth State University prior to NAU • Number of IBL classes I had as a student: 0 • Taught first full-blown IBL class in Fall of 2009 2
  3. One minute version of why IBL • Our system needs

    an upgrade • Unintended negative outcomes via traditional methods • Research suggests IBL outcomes are better If we really want students to be independent, inquisitive, and persistent, then we need to provide them with the means to acquire these stills. The big picture
  4. Wait, what the heck happened?! Kids: “Why?” Adults: “I hate

    math” ??? Two anecdotes • Montessori observation • “So, what do you do for work?” ... “Oh, I hate math.”
  5. What is IBL? • According to AIBL: ‣ IBL is

    a teaching method that engages students in sense- making activities. ‣ Instructor provides well-crafted problems/tasks requiring students to solve problems, conjecture, experiment, explore, create, & communicate. • Key ingredients: Students are responsible for ‣ guiding acquisition of knowledge, and ‣ validating ideas/arguments that are presented. • Example: (Modified) Moore Method, after R.L. Moore. 5
  6. Our main objective How do we get here? Students answering

    questions Students asking questions
  7. Continually ask yourself the following question: Guiding Principle of IBL

    Where do I draw the line between content I must impart to my students versus content they can produce independently? 7
  8. • About half of STEM majors switch to non-STEM •

    Top reasons for switching are teaching related • Good ones leave, too • Loss of interest • Curriculum overload • Weed-out culture Talking About Leaving 8 MAA Calculus Study bears this out, as well. See www.macalester.edu/~bressoud/talks
  9. Some good news: The Colorado study • Comparing IBL vs

    non-IBL university mathematics courses. • Sandra Laursen, CU Boulder. • Statistically significant advantages for students in IBL vs traditional courses. Interview SALG Pre/post tests Transcript Data Gender IBL Non-IBL Class Observation 9
  10. • 5-10 “tasks” are assigned each class meeting (Daily Homework).

    Due at beginning of next class. • Students are responsible for digesting new material outside of class (readings and screencasts). • Nearly all class time devoted to students presenting or discussing proposed solutions/proofs to assigned tasks. • Students may request mini-lectures or screencasts. My approach to IBL • Students use felt tip pens to annotate work in light of discussion and presentations. • Daily Homework graded on ✔ system. What did they have done before class?
  11. Keys to success • Marketing! ‣ Students have had 12+

    years of direct instruction. They probably don’t like it, but it’s what they are used to. ‣ Students need to understand student & instructor roles. ‣ Students need to know that it is ok to be stuck and that you will support them in this endeavor. • Adjust problems/tasks appropriately. • Patience, trust, and community. Build on positive experiences. • Pick a style that you are comfortable with.
  12. Obstacles • The elephant in the room: coverage! • “That’s

    how I learned, and it worked for me...” ‣ But you are peculiar! • “I like inspiring lectures.” ‣ Inspiration is necessary, but not sufficient. • “I’m afraid the students won’t like it.” ‣ Maybe they won’t. But I bet if you are passionate, having fun, and willing to adapt, it’ll be amazing. • Control! ‣ If I lecture, then I dictate pace. ‣ If I write something on the board, then there is a good chance that it will be done correctly.
  13. Resources • Academy of Inquiry Based Learning ‣ http://www.inquirybasedlearning.org ‣

    Mentoring ‣ Visiting Speakers Bureau ‣ Small Grants available for developing IBL materials • Journal of Inquiry-Based Learning in Mathematics ‣ http://www.jiblm.org ‣ Refereed IBL materials • Legacy of R.L. Moore Conference ‣ http://legacyrlmoore.org ‣ Conference devoted to IBL and the Moore Method