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IMPACTful Thought - Musing on IMPACT's Faculty Ownership Discussion

By Mark Earley posted 05-01-2022 15:05:05

  

Much attention is given to helping students develop ownership of their learning. It is equally important to keep faculty ownership in focus. That is why this month’s planning team from the Statistics ANet chose to develop our month around suggestions and conversations among statistics faculty who regularly engage in these activities as well as faculty looking for new ideas. We invite you to look around and join the weekly discussions aimed at increasing an instructor’s sense of ownership.

IMPACT (2018) suggests three areas where faculty can take ownership in their introductory statistics courses:

  • Creating a learning environment,
  • Taking an active role in course design, and
  • Becoming a reflective practitioner (p. 34).

I would like to briefly share my own thoughts on these three areas as a way of introducing IMPACT Live! for the month of May 2022. My hope is these thoughts prompt you, our visitors, to engage in some dialog around these strategies in statistics courses.

“The Learning Environment involves instruction and assessment practices intentionally developed to help all students achieve course (as well as individual) goals” (p. 34).

My very first thought is the learning environment is more than instruction and assessment. The learning environment has as its focus people – students and instructor(s) working together to make statistics meaningful. Indeed, IMPACT describes four focal areas for faculty working on creating an inviting, equitable, and productive learning environment: (a) method of instruction, (b) teamwork, (c) diversity, and (d) activities outside the classroom. Rather than flesh out each of these (which the authors of IMPACT did rather well), I choose instead to highlight what most introductory statistics instructors already know: the learning environment is dynamic and complex. IMPACT provides several suggestions for what we can do in our learning environments, but any one of these will impact the others. We cannot modify our methods of instruction without impacting diversity. We cannot integrate teamwork into our courses without any sort of instruction on how to work together well. We cannot make a change for one student without impacting all students; conversely, we cannot make a wholesale change for the benefit of all students without understanding how it impacts each individual student. We cannot forget that we are not just creating the learning environment. We as instructors are active participants in that learning environment.

Question: Instructors work in this complex space we call a learning environment every day. How do we navigate our own role in this environment, not just by creating it, but by participating in it as well?

“Decisions about course design should articulate how the curriculum is going to be delivered to students in ways that promote PROWESS” (p. 37)

I appreciate this statement, but I take issue with “delivering content”. I believe that phrase separates us from our students: we deliver, they receive. Suggestions in IMPACT do not address course design from the perspective of students. The suggestions instead address course design based on what instructors can do to support students. This is a hazy difference, for sure, but an important one. While this month is focused on faculty taking ownership of their courses, how do we share ownership for course design with our students?

Question: How and when can we involve students in designing our introductory statistics course? Where can we give students choice over what they learn, how they learn and how they demonstrate that learning?

“Instrumental to faculty ownership is to be a reflective practitioner who examines curriculum and teaching practices to identify areas that need improvement” (p. 38)

I am a diehard reflective practitioner, and I have been for most of my 25+ years teaching introductory statistics. No class is perfect. From one semester to the next, I make sometimes small and sometimes grand changes in how I share particular concepts with students, how I provide students with opportunities to show me what they have learned, and how the entire semester flows from Day One through the Final Exam. Maya Angelou once said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” What we can do in our courses changes almost daily in the Information Age, and so many introductory statistics instructors have provided suggestions and examples of what they have done in their courses, including what they learned from their failures. Consistently reflecting on what we do, and how we can do it better, should be a regular and valued part of our workday. And we should share those reflections with others on a regular basis.

Question: What methods of formal and informal reflective practice do you find most beneficial for improving student success and “doing better” as instructors?

 

I hope these brief thoughts benefit each of you, and I encourage you to discuss these and other ideas around faculty ownership in the IMPACT Live! discussions this month. You are always welcome to contact me at mearley3@cscc.edu with comments and feedback. I look forward to learning with and from you!

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