A conversation between Don Saucier (K-State) and Elizabeth Yost Hammer (XULA) on teaching, learning, and "trickle-down engagement."
Don Saucier earned his Bachelor of Arts in psychology and classical civilization from Colby College, and a master's degree and a doctoral degree in experimental social psychology from the University of Vermont.
He is the director of undergraduate studies, chair of the Undergraduate Program Committee, and co-director for the teaching apprenticeship program in the psychological sciences department at Kansas State University. He has taught a broad range of classes at the undergraduate and graduate levels, from large sections of General Psychology to small classes in Advanced Psychological Research Methods.
His numerous awards and honors include the Putting Students First Award for Outstanding Service to Students, the University Distinguished Faculty Award for Mentoring of Undergraduate Students in Research, the William L. Stamey Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award from the College of Arts & Sciences, the Commerce Bank Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award, and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.
Elizabeth Yost Hammer is the Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and a Kellogg Professor in Teaching in the Psychology Department. She received her Ph.D. in experimental social psychology from Tulane University. She regularly teaches Introductory Psychology, Research Methods, and Freshman Seminar. Her research interests focus on the scholarship of teaching and learning, and she has contributed chapters to several books intended to enhance teaching preparation including The Handbook of the Teaching of Psychology. She is a co-author of the textbook, Psychology Applied to Modern Life. Dr. Hammer is a past-president of Psi Chi (the International Honor Society in Psychology), and served as Chief Reader for Advanced Placement Psychology. Her work in the Center for the Advancement of Teaching includes organizing pedagogical workshops and faculty development initiatives. She is a member of the American Psychological Association, the Society for the Teaching of Psychology, and the Professional and Organizational Developers Network.
Most anyone who has heard me talk about teaching in recent years knows that in every class I have a Class Engagement grade that counts toward 10-15% of the student's final grade. I started including this a number of years ago because I wanted to help students understand that simply showing up for class isn't enough. So I borrowed quite heavily from Stephen Brookfield (who encourages people to borrow from him) and his "Class Participation Grading Rubric". What I like most about Brookfield's approach is that he provides students with an extensive list of ways they can contribute to the learning that takes place in his classes, including ways that deviate quite a bit from the basic ideas of asking and answering questions. For example, active listening is a completely acceptable way of being engaged, according to Brookfield ("Use body language (in only a slightly exaggerated way) to show interest in what different speakers are saying"), as is encouraging other students to be a bit more mindful ("When you think it's appropriate, ask the group for a moment's silence to slow the pace of conversation to give you, and others, time to think"). Brookfield's rubric greatly expands what many of us (and many of our students) think it means to be engaged in a college classroom.
Engagement does not necessarily mean talking a lot or showing everyone else what you know.
As I said, for many years now I've used this model to assess my students for good engagement. Theoretically, during every class, I would give each student one of the following "grades":
✔+ (In class on time with good engagement.)
✔ (In class on time with adequate engagement.)
✔– (In class on time with no participation; or in class late.)
✘ (Not in class; or in class but actively disengaged.)
So — theoretically — each week, the students would get a grade through our LMS showing them how engaged they'd been according to me. For the most part, this worked pretty well over the years. When I started, I was worried that students would complain about receiving such a grade, but not only did I not receive complaints, I saw some students adapting to the expectations. They would actually do the things listed on the assignment sheet! Not all of them, of course. I've had plenty of students over the years who have ended up with Cs for their Class Engagement grades because they did little more than show up for most classes.
The problem with this is that it's difficult to keep up with in anything other than a very small class. For the first two or three weeks of the semester, as I'm still learning everyone's name, I can't really assign the grade at all. Then, during the last few weeks of the semester, I'm on a sort of autopilot, and I often forget to make notes about who does what. Last semester was perhaps the worst experience with it, as I was teaching two sections of Xavier's still new XCOR 1000 class, which meant I had 50 students who I only saw once a week, so I had a lot of trouble being accurate with my weekly assessments.
Class Engagement 2.0
This semester, I'm trying something slightly different, in order to A) take some of the burden off my shoulders and B) add a degree of reflection to the assignment. This semester in my XCOR 3010: Dystopias, Real & Imagined class, the students will be grading their own class engagement.
Figuring out how to do this was a bit of a challenge. Brightspace has a Self-Assessment tool, but that's not an accurate name: In Brightspace, Self-Assessments can't be graded. Instead, I set up a weekly quiz that asks students two questions:
Briefly provide examples of your engagement with our class this week. (This is what Brightspace calls a Written Response type question. It provides the students with text box.)
Please rate your own level of engagement in class this week. Based on the input you provided in the previous question, how engaged were you, on average, this week. (This is a Multiple Choice type question, using the same language as the rubric I included above.)
Each week, after our second class, that week's quiz will open up and remain open until the next Sunday evening. Students will have until 6pm on Sundays to submit their self-evaluation of their class engagement for the week. I've set the quizzes to allow the students to revise/resubmit their answers as often as they want during the open window, just in case they have second thoughts (This happens to me every year when I submit my Faculty Update: Within a few hours, I remember some important thing I did that I forgot to include.).
The quizzes are worth 6 points each. The multiple choice question is worth 5 points, and Brightspace allows you to Add Custom Weights on Multiple Choice questions, so instead of there being a "right" answer on this question, each option is weighted (see the image above for details).
The Written Response question is worth one point (because you can't have a question in a Brightspace quiz that isn't worth anything). At first I was annoyed by this, as it will require me to go in and grade each response, but now I think that will be a good thing, as it will require require me to go in and pay attention to each response. This will also give me a chance to comment on and evaluate the students' self-evaluations.
How will this work? We will see. Look for a follow up post around mid-term. In the mean time, feel free to take a look at the assignment sheet for my modified Class Engagement assignment: Class Engagement Assignment Sheet.