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  • College students listening in a lecture

    The Success of the First-Ever Learning Catalytics Summit

    By Pearson

    At Pearson, we’re always listening to faculty and students and, recently, we kept hearing one refrain over and over — classroom engagement was at an all-time low. Fortunately, we knew just what to do. In fact, we had a solution ready.

    For years, Pearson’s Learning Catalytics interactive student response tool has been helping instructors and students connect in meaningful ways. As soon as we knew classroom engagement was lagging, we knew we needed to host a Learning Catalytics Summit to help more instructors learn how to use — and make the most of — this incredible tool.

    On August 1, we hosted the first-ever Learning Catalytics Summit to great acclaim. Attendees participated in four different webinar sessions hosted by Learning Catalytics experts. Each session focused on a specific advantage of Learning Catalytics, but they all spoke to the ways the student response tool can help instructors see learning as it happens.

    The overall message: Learning Catalytics is a powerful student response and assessment tool. As session-leader Aaron Warnock said, “Learning Catalytics — and I cannot exaggerate — revolutionized my classroom.” Brad Mehrtens concurred in his session, adding, “Learning Catalytics makes a huge difference in student engagement at any scale.”

    How Does Learning Catalytics Work?

    Designed to work on laptops and all common smart devices, Learning Catalytics gives instructors a way to connect directly to students and know when everyone is following a lesson and when some are falling behind. This real-time assessment allows instructors to adjust their teaching in-the-moment and address student confusion before it becomes a problem.

    Learning Catalytics empowers instructors to:

    • Engage students with 18 question types that include graphing, drawing, multiple choice selections, open-ended dialogues, and more
    • Identify misconceptions and monitor responses to find out where students are struggling
    • Facilitate peer-to-peer learning with automatic grouping of students so that every group has a member who understands the material

    These features are available whether the class is in-person or online, making Learning Catalytics useful in every teaching environment. As Brad Mehrtens said about his experience using Learning Catalytics with even difficult-to-connect-with classrooms, “[The students] were there, they were engaged. [Learning Catalytics] works… It’s the only thing that works.”

    What Did the Learning Catalytics Summit Cover?

    The summit’s four unique sessions provided a wealth of information on how Learning Catalytics works and how instructors can use it in all kinds of classroom settings and situations. An hour-long each, the sessions included:

    “Unleashing the Power of Learning Catalytics in a Hybrid Environment” with Aaron Warnock

    Aaron Warnock’s session focused primarily on the way Learning Catalytics’ question-and-answer function helps instructors connect with students and students learn better in hybrid environments. Aaron showed audiences how students can answer questions by drawing graphs, clicking on different regions of an image, highlighting relevant information, evaluating complex problems, or simply filling in a multiple choice answer.

    Aaron noted that the different question types give instructors a lot of flexibility in the ways they monitor student learning. Plus, the questions make it easier to get students to answer without them feeling uncomfortable, because everyone participates and no one feels put on the spot.

    “When I saw Learning Catalytics for the first time, and the eighteen different question types that are available, I was instantly sold,” Aaron said. “It creates a fantastic, engaging learning environment for students.”

    “Transforming Large-Classroom Activities with Learning Catalytics” with Brad Mehrtens

    Being a professor who routinely teaches classes as large as 600 students, Brad Mehrtens understands the challenges of connecting with students. In his session, he spoke to how Learning Catalytics helps him keep students engaged in even the largest lecture halls.

    After regularly watching class attendance dwindle — particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic — he started using Learning Catalytics. He immediately had a much better sense of how well his students were learning and, to his delight, attendance evened out.

    “I was as deflated by the pandemic as anyone was, and Learning Catalytics has made me excited about teaching again,” Brad says. “And I don’t say that lightly. It has completely recharged my battery and made it fun to be back in the classroom”

    “Connecting with Learning Catalytics for Success Throughout Your Course” with Pamela Sandstrom

    A number of years ago, Pamela Sandstrom was using other types of student response tools — but that all changed. “Once I switched [to Learning Catalytics], I’ve never even thought about using any other instant response system because of how much [Learning Catalytics] can do,” she said in her summit session.

    Centered on the ways Learning Catalytics can positively impact a course at multiple moments and in numerous ways, Pamela’s talk discussed how useful the real-time data on student learning is to her instruction.

    “Learning Catalytics provides formative assessment,” she said. “But to me that means that I don’t have to wait till the test, or even till the end of the lecture — [I can see] how they’re doing in the class real time”

    “The Tips and Tricks You Need to Know About Learning Catalytics” with Terry Austin

    During his session, Terry Austin shared his screen to demonstrate exactly how Learning Catalytics works and all the ways he can customize it for the needs of a specific class. As an instructor who has been using Learning Catalytics for a decade, he had a lot of great tips and tricks, ranging from linking Learning Catalytics to a Pearson Mastering class to using it to improve seat maps to incorporating it into classroom presentations.

    “Learning Catalytics is clever,” Terry said, noting how much the tool is capable of doing. As attendees to his session and the summit as a whole learned, he was right. Learning Catalytics can empower instructors to assess student learning in-the-moment, improve student engagement, and make classroom time much more successful.

    As Terry noted, there’s a good reason he’s been using Learning Catalytics for a decade.

  • Man studying in a college library

    Cultivating Empowered Learners: An educator spotlight on Pearson eTextbooks

    By Pearson

    Justin Hoshaw, associate professor of biology at Waubonsee Community College, knows that an educator must always search for more effective ways to support their students’ learning, which is why he has used Pearson's cutting-edge online learning platforms and eTextbooks in his classes for years.

    Recently, Justin and a colleague conducted an extensive evaluation of their microbiology course, which included the consideration of new options for the course’s primary textbook. During their search, they reviewed Microbiology: Basic and Clinical Principles by Lourdes P. Norman-McKay. Both were so impressed with the eTextbook that they were the first educators in the country to adopt it — even before it was officially published.   

    eTextbook features that support student learning

    eTextbooks offer an array of unique features to support students’ learning.

    1. highlight and take notes
    2. search for a specific term or idea
    3. make flashcards based on key concepts
    4. listen to the audio version*

    The benefits of making the switch to eTextbooks

    Previously, Justin encouraged his students to buy the print version of his course’s textbook, but he changed his mind after witnessing the many advantages of eTextbooks for students and educators.

    For students, the ability to highlight and take notes in the eTextbook can help with overall comprehension. And when it’s time to prepare for assessments, they can use their annotations (as well as the learning objectives that accompany each section) to focus their study efforts and maximize their efficiency. As Justin says, “There are some students that are going to go back and reread the whole chapter when studying for an exam. No, let’s go back and look at those highlights. Look at the comments you added into the text. It will save you time. It will help you focus on those important concepts that you’ve already highlighted and already commented on. You are going to be more successful reflecting on that information.”

    The Pearson+ mobile app that offers both the eTextbook and audiobook options is especially beneficial for busy students. The convenience and flexibility of accessing their course materials on the go helps them keep up with their assignments. “There is a benefit to being able to go through and read the text, but then having the audio to listen to as they are reading, I think that really helps reinforce the information for the students. It helps keep them on track,” says Justin.

    As an educator, Justin also finds many of the features of eTextbooks and the Mastering online learning platform helpful, particularly the instructor dashboard. The analytics provided within Mastering Microbiology help him understand how his students are interacting with the eTextbook. “That was something that caused me to take a second look at having students use the eTextbook, the ability for the faculty member to go in and identify how long students have spent reading, how many comments they’ve made, how many highlights they’ve made,” he says. This is valuable information that Justin can use to support students who are struggling or falling behind in the course.

    The feature Justin found most impressive about Norman-McKay's eTextbook in particular was the way the content guided students through the learning process. "What clinched the deal was the study recommendations and coaching throughout the text,” he says. “I had never seen so many tips for students to keep in mind that would help them understand the material. It was as if the instruction was already embedded into the text and coaching them along.”

    Justin’s students agree that the layout of the content and the tone of the writing made them feel more engaged with the information. “They felt like they had a tutor right there with them while they were reading the text, Justin remarks.

    Pearson partners with innovative authors to create enriching experiences that meet learners where they are and inspire them to love learning. Justin’s experiences with Pearson eTextbooks and online learning platforms has convinced him that he made the right choice to switch from print to digital.

     

    *Audiobook available in most titles

  • Student looking at laptop holding a notebook.

    Guided Notes: A Road Sign to Success for Video-Based Learning in Math Courses

    By Anne Fischer

    We’ve all been there. We sit down to watch a movie. The storyline is a little slow in the beginning and our minds start to drift. As we try to bring our attention back to the screen, we decide we’re a little hungry. We get up and go to the kitchen to make a snack, all the while telling ourselves that we didn’t need to pause the movie because we can hear it in the kitchen. We return to the living room and settle-in to watch the movie as we munch on our pizza rolls and soda. The food rouses little Gizmo from underneath the couch and she sneaks out to investigate the enticing aroma. We offer her part of our snack and give her a little scratch behind the ears. Before we know it, we are involved in an all-out tug-of-war with a 10 pound ball of fur. The movie is long forgotten.

    Now replace the movie in this scenario with the carefully constructed video lessons that you have created for your students so that they would be eager to delve into the latest lesson on solving equations or factoring polynomials. The truth is that most students endure video lectures as a means to an end but struggle to stay engaged enough to absorb the material. It would be easy to say that this is just an issue for developmental or freshmen level students. The harsh reality is that it is true at all levels in all subjects. I witnessed first-hand as my son, who was finishing a master’s degree in Biosystems Engineering, struggled to stay awake while watching online lectures for a required statistics course which was only offered in an online format. He would stop every ten minutes, literally take a lap around the house, and then sit down to try and watch a few more minutes.

    While there is no universal solution to this difficulty for students, we can supply them with tools which will help to mitigate the time lost to distracted viewing. When I created full lesson videos for my online students several years ago (pre-covid), I included colorful guided notes to help them stay engaged with the material. Using PDF files deployed in our learning management system, I supply my students with word-for-word, picture-for-picture materials that match the video they are watching. I have strategically placed blanks and empty boxes on these guided pages, so that the student must fill-in-the-blank as they watch the video. If their mind begins to wander, they will miss a blank or box and will have to rewind to get the needed information. Sometimes the blanks are words that are being said in the audio. Sometimes the boxes are specific letters or numbers that are relative to the problem being shown. It is important to include three keys for creating and successfully implementing guided notes in your course: Color, Active Learning, and Grading.

  • blog image alt text

    Teaching reading in an IRW class: why, what, how

    By Kathleen T. McWhorter, Professor Emerita of Humanities, Niagara County Community College

    “College students already know how to read, don’t they?”

    Yes, students know how to recognize words on a page. But no, many do not know how to read actively to create meaning and analyze and evaluate the author’s message.

    Why reading needs to be taught

    Just as writing needs to be taught, active reading strategies also need to be taught. It may be intuitive to us, as instructors, but it is not for our students. Integrated Reading & Writing (IRW) classes teach these skills fundamental to student success.

    Many developing college writers have a rudimentary command of basic grammar. They can speak clearly and be understood. They may also possess a massive store of word meanings, but they cannot write coherent paragraphs or essays. Likewise, as readers, many college students can recognize words, understand word meanings, and pronounce and define words, but they do not know how to engage and interact with a text to extract meaning from it.

    Both reading and writing are essential survival and success strategies for college and the workplace. Both involve critical thinking: interpretation, analysis, and evaluation of ideas.

    What needs to be taught

    College reading is built on five approaches and skill sets that can be taught:

    1. Teach that reading is a process that parallels the writing process. Emphasize that it is an active process in which the reader interacts with the writer’s ideas.
      Reading = recognition of techniques (for example, identifying and understanding topic sentences)
      Writing = implementation of techniques (for example, drafting and revising topic sentences)
      Reading = analysis of ideas (for example, analyzing a writer’s tone)
      Writing = expression of ideas (for example, choosing a tone that suits the audience and purpose)
    2. Explain that reading involves strategies to use before, during, and after reading. Students need to:
      • preview before reading
      • think, connect, and anticipate ideas as they read
      • review and analyze after reading
    3. Teach students to extract meaning from a text. This involves interacting with the text and being able to explain the author’s intended meaning in their own words.
    4. Teach students to think critically, analyzing and evaluating the author’s ideas. Show students how to examine the author’s techniques and assess a work’s accuracy, worth, and value.
    5. Equip students with skills to learn and remember what they read. In their other college courses, students must not only discover meaning, but determine what to learn, and use strategies to retain the material. Skills such as paraphrasing, highlighting, annotating, summarizing, and outlining or mapping are valuable.

    How to teach reading more effectively

    Instructors can teach reading more successfully by following these guidelines:

    1. Always prepare students for a reading assignment. Don’t just assign a reading and send students off to complete it. You might pre-teach the reading by:
      • offering some background on the topic
      • building interest through a brief classroom discussion
      • asking students to do a quick Google search of the topic
      • creating a list of questions about the topic

      Alert students about trouble spots, and offer some specific purposes for reading. (For example, “Watch how this author uses shocking examples to stir your emotions.”)

    2. Be intentional about teaching reading and writing together. Always remind students that reading is the “flip side” of writing. If you consistently remind students of this connection, they will eventually make the connection themselves and transfer this awareness to new situations.
    3. Teach process not content. Don’t focus on the content of the reading (who did what, when and where). Instead teach how to discover what the author says and means. Strategies for discovering meaning have long-lasting value, while knowledge of a particular reading’s content is far less important. Think of the reading as a vehicle for teaching skills and strategies, not as an end in itself. Show students how to find the important details in a paragraph, for example, but don’t spend time on the details themselves.
    4. Ask students to stretch. They should be asked to engage with challenging material, while you give them help and support to succeed. You might create a reading guide or graphic organizer; or use scaffolded instruction by providing a partially complete outline to guide them through the reading. Students will encounter difficult materials in other courses, so they need to develop strategies to cope. As they complete difficult readings, they will experience growth, a sense of accomplishment, and greater confidence in their abilities.
    5. Teach by showing, not telling. “Walk” students through challenging readings. Demonstrate how to uncover meaning. For example, suggest questions to ask, or use think-aloud protocols.

    By using these techniques to teach the approaches and skills outlined here, you can help students think more critically, and interpret, analyze, and evaluate ideas more effectively. Those abilities will empower them — in college, at work, and in society.

     

  • blog image alt text

    3 simple research-based ways to ace a test

    By John Sadauskas, PhD, Learning Capabilities Design Manager, Pearson

    On top of the traditional challenges of balancing their classwork, part-/full-time jobs, extracurricular activities, and social lives, today’s higher education students also face the challenge of the ever-present information firehose that is the Internet. Every day, they receive a constant stream of emails, push notifications, instant messages, social media comments, and other digital content — all of which they can carry in their pockets, and more importantly, can interrupt whatever they’re doing at a moment’s notice.

    As a result, one major challenge for today’s students is to manage the ever-growing amount of information, communication, and priorities competing for their time and attention — especially when they need to study.

    We’ve been hearing from many students that when they do make time to sit down and study, they find it difficult to manage that time efficiently — particularly making decisions on what to study, when to study, how often to study it, and how long to study until they become confident enough in preparation for multiple upcoming exams.

    Fortunately, researchers have been investigating this problem for decades and have identified multiple methods for getting the most out of study sessions. Accordingly, here are some research-based best practices that students (or anyone else, for that matter) can use to boost their memorization skills.

    Memorization takes practice

    Every time you recall a piece of information (your mother’s birthday, a favorite meal at a restaurant, a key term’s definition for an exam) you retrieve it from the vast trove of knowledge that is your long-term memory. However, you’ve probably found that some pieces of information are easier to remember than others.

    You’re likely to recall your home address easily because you constantly need it when filling out online forms and ensuring Amazon knows where to ship your limited edition Chewbacca mask. On the other hand, it may not be as easy to recall a friend’s phone number because it’s stored in your contacts and you rarely need to actually dial the numbers.

    Unsurprisingly, researchers have found similar results to these — the more often people “practice” retrieving a certain piece of information, the easier it is for them to remember it. More importantly, scientists have demonstrated that getting yourself on a regular studying schedule can take advantage of this using what is called “spaced practice” — studying in short sessions spaced out over long periods of time. Essentially, spaced practice involves quizzing yourself and giving yourself many opportunities to practice pulling information out of your long-term memory — and doing it often over an extended period of time.

    Want to give spaced practice a try? Here are some key guidelines to ensure you’re getting the most out of it.

    Study early and daily

    One of the most important things to remember when using spaced practice is to give yourself enough lead time before an exam. Research has shown that in general, the earlier in advance students start studying and keep studying until an exam, the higher their scores.

    For example, if you have an exam in two weeks, you could begin studying for 20 minutes every day for those two weeks. That way, you’ll have many opportunities to practice retrieving the information, increasing the likelihood that you’ll remember it the day of the exam.

    In contrast, if you start studying only a few days before the exam, you’ll have fewer opportunities to practice retrieving the material, and are less likely to remember it. So while there isn’t a magic recipe to determine the exact moment to start studying based on the amount of material you need to remember, it’s clear that the earlier you start studying every day, the better.

    Short and sweet beats long and grueling

    Another key component to spaced practice is the length of the study session. While it is common for students to embark upon marathon, multi-hour study sessions, researchers have found that when using spaced practice, long study sessions are not necessarily more effective than short study sessions. In other words, committing to studying certain material every day for 30 minutes is likely just as effective as studying that same material for an hour every day.

    Now, this doesn’t mean we should all keep our study sessions as short as humanly possible and expect amazing results. Instead, it reinforces the concept of spaced practice. For instance, let’s say your goal is to memorize 15 definitions for a quiz, and you’re committed to practicing every day until that quiz. You sit down to practice each definition twice, which takes 30 minutes. (Remember, the aim of spaced practice is to retrieve a memory, and then leave a “space” of time before you retrieve it again.)

    Because your brain has already retrieved each definition twice in that sitting, you may not benefit much more from studying the same words for an additional 30 minutes and reviewing each definition a total of four times. In short, once you’ve started studying early and daily, make sure to practice each concept, definition or item a few times per session — but more than that in a single sitting is likely overkill.

    Don’t break the chain

    I’ve emphasized the importance of practicing daily quite a bit here, and there is also a scientific reason behind that. A solid spaced practice routine means we’re continually retrieving certain information and keeping it fresh in our minds. However, if we stop practicing before something is committed to our long term memories, we’ll eventually forget it. Scientists have charted out this phenomenon in what is referred to as “The Forgetting Curve.”

    The Forgetting Curve

    Source: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/cns-spectrums/article/play-it-again-the-master-psychopharmacology-program-as-an-example-of-interval-learning-in-bite-sized-portions/E279E18C8133549F94CDEE74C4AF9310#

    In the same way that continual practice with short spaces between each session helps us to remember information, scientists have found that our ability to remember something decreases over time if we don’t practice or use the information — which is what the steep downward slope of the Forgetting Curve is meant to illustrate. When we learn new information and are immediately asked to recall it, we’re likely to remember it (the very left side of the graph).

    However, from that moment on, the likelihood that we’ll remember decreases quickly and drastically unless we recall or use the memory again. If we do, then we can keep resetting or “recharging” that Forgetting Curve and keep remembering the information over time with daily practice.

    Herman Ebbinghaus and the forgetting curve

    Source: http://www.wranx.com/ebbinghaus-and-the-forgetting-curve/

    For example, if you took a foreign language in high school, it’s likely that being in class five days a week, doing homework and studying for the exams kept the language’s vocabulary words fresh in your mind. However, unless you have continual opportunities to practice speaking that language after high school, it’s likely that you won’t be able to recall words, phrases, and verb conjugations over time — unless you start practicing again.

    With this all in mind, if your goal is to remember something, the Forgetting Curve suggests that daily practice is key. Essentially, it’s “use it or lose it.”

    Start early, finish quickly, practice daily

    Although memorizing material for an exam (or multiple exams) can be intimidating, research on learning has given us a few key guidelines that have consistently demonstrated results:

    1. Start early. The earlier in advance you start studying daily for the exam, the better
    2. Finish quickly. Cover all of the material you need to remember in your daily session, but keep it short and sweet.
    3. Practice daily. Don’t break the daily studying chain.

    While today’s students may struggle with numerous competing priorities, incorporating these habits into their routines when they do sit down to study is sure to make their sessions much more efficient.

     

    References

    Cepeda, N. J., Pashler, H., Vul, E., Wixted, J. T., & Rohrer, D. (2006). Distributed practice in verbal recall tasks: A review and quantitative synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 132(3), 354–380.

    Ebbinghaus, H. (1964). Memory: A contribution to experimental psychology (H. A. Ruger, C. E. Bussenius, & E. R. Hilgard, Trans.). New York: Dover Publications. (Original work published 1885)

    Nathan, M. J., & Sawyer, R. K. (2014). Foundations of the Learning Sciences. In R. K. Sawyer (Ed.) Cambridge Handbook of The Learning Sciences. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Pavlik, P. I., & Anderson, J. R. (2005). Practice and forgetting effects on vocabulary memory: An activation-based model of the spacing effect. Cognitive Science, 29(4), 559-586.

    Rohrer, D., Taylor, K., Pashler, H., Wixted, J. T., & Cepeda, N. J. (2005). The effect of overlearning on long-term retention. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 19(3), 361–374.

    Stahl, S. M., Davis, R. L., Kim, D. H., Lowe, N. G., Carlson, R. E., Fountain, K., & Grady, M. M. (2010). Play it Again: The Master Psychopharmacology Program as an Example of Interval Learning in Bite-Sized Portions. CNS Spectrums, 15(8), 491–504.