Course Overview

This project pairs  LL ED 005 College Reading (which I am teaching) with a content course, BiSc 003 Environmental Science, taught by Dr. Jorge Santiago-Blay. In LL ED 005, students acquire reading and learning skills that they apply to the content of the BiSc course. In addition to reading skills, students are also working through a series of reflections geared towards helping them become stronger lifelong learners, using the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory (ELLI).

Below is a concept map of the course design. The blog posts that follow are in reverse order, summarizing the activities and discoveries during the course. Analysis of the data is on-going.

concept map of course design



ELLI Results

Lifelong Learning Attributes. Control and treatment group ELLI scores were compared pre-semester to identify any significant differences between the groups before the semester began. There were no significant differences between control and treatment group scores in the pre-semester data collection (Figure 5) except in one important dimension, resilience, in which the treatment scores were significantly lower than the control group in this area (p = 0.03).


Pre-Semester P(T<=t) two-tail M= Treatment SD Treatment M = Control SD = Control
Changing and Learning 0.73        
Learning Relationships 0.31        
Strategic Awareness 0.98        
Resilience 0.03        
Creativity 0.36        
Meaning Making 0.59        
Critical Curiosity 0.82        

Figure 5. t-test of Significance Between Treatment and Control ELLI Scores Pre-Semester.


Pre- and post-semester comparisons for the control group relative to ELLI scores revealed no significant difference in the scores across the dimensions of lifelong learning (N=22) (Figure 6). This is not surprising as no direct instruction occurred in this area for the control group.

 Control Pre Post % Change Pre-Post P(T<=t) two-tail
Changing and Learning 71.67 73.68 3% 0.633
Learning Relationships 64.74 62.11 -4% 0.679
Strategic Awareness 59.36 64.18 8% 0.334
Resilience 61.05 57.02 -7% 0.468
Creativity 51.66 54.58 6% 0.596
Meaning Making 71.75 68.95 -4% 0.692
Critical Curiosity 48.68 54.39 12% 0.469

Figure 6. t-test of Significance for Control Group ELLI Scores Pre- and Post-Semester


Pre- and post-semester comparisons for the treatment group relative to ELLI scores revealed significant positive differences for this group in all categories but one, Learning Relationships, which was discussed only briefly during the last week of classes which may have contributed to this outcome (Figure 7.)


 Treatment Pre Post % Change Pre-Post P(T<=t) two-tail
Changing and Learning 70.53 81.57 14% 0.05
Learning Relationships 67.19 77.65 15% 0.108
Strategic Awareness 56.73 73.37 24% <.0001
Resilience 48.77 59.61 20% 0.027
Creativity 53.8 75.82 40% <.0001
Meaning Making 68.07 81.57 23% 0.002
Critical Curiosity 48.47 65.2 54% 0.005

Figure 7. t-test of Significance for Treatment Group ELLI Scores Pre- and Post-Semester


Therefore, t-tests revealed a distinct difference between students in the control group and those in the treatment group in terms of lifelong learning attributes, with the treatment group exhibiting positive growth in most areas. Clearly, the work that students in the treatment group did during the course of the semester made a difference. We strengthened our conclusions about this outcome through student journal entries and the end-of the semester CR survey.


Last Week – Course Wrap-up Game

Well, the last week has arrived and we lost one day to a snow day, so everything got squeezed into the last day… I wanted to finish with a game to leave them thinking about all the reading strategies we covered as well as lifelong learning attributes we had covered.

It was a great way to finish up the class – gave us a chance to review the big ideas as well as play the game in a fun way. Students had the chance to earn points in two ways – their own work (for more points) or getting help (for fewer points). Bonus points and lightening rounds were thrown in to add surprise and the fun factor. At then end, anyone who earned at least 80% of the points possible could choose to up their course grade in any weighted category by 10 points – 50% of the class made the mark – and for 3 of those it meant an increase in a half letter grade.

This class was about getting students to take advantage of every opportunity for success – to wake up and pay attention to what was happening to them in and through their educational experiences. I wanted for them to be awake and alive in the present moment – to notice the changes in themselves and to embrace the experience that is college, rather than just tolerating the courses and experiences – for many , it seems they just want to get it over with and get on with life – rather than really enter into the experiences – I think many students did wake up, and I felt very privileged and gratified to be part of the process (a catalyst) with them.


ELLI Post Survey and Final Reflections

Students from both BiSc and LL ED took the ELLI post survey and we now await the raw data to start the analysis. Visually, we see the spider diagrams as before/after and for students who spent the first term working on weekly reflections and action plans, we see a difference. Below are two examples between control group and treatment group.

Control                                                                                           Treatment

Pre Post ELLI results Control Group  Pre Post ELLI treatment Group


Now it will be interesting to look for correlations between learning dimensions and course outcomes as well as general success through the next semester.

Students in LL ED then spent some time writing a Final Reflection on the changes they saw in their ELLI diagrams and  then reflecting on the course and their general college experience.

Course reflections:

1) Overwhelmingly, students reported a very positive experience with the paired course design.
2) They enjoyed participating in the research study.
3) They would recommend the course to new students
4) They were mixed on the effectiveness of the adaptive learning technology (LearnSmart)
5) They saw positive changes academically and personally (lifelong learning attributes) as a result of the course as well as positive changes in attitudes towards school.
6) They reported specific changes in these areas:

Time MgmT/organization
Understanding myself as a learner
Study techniques
being an active learner

I still have to analyze the ELLI reflections and report on the data analysis so far…

Data Analysis Begins

We looked at 3 semesters of data for BiSc and found a strong correlation between SAT critical reading and exam averages. Using this correlation and the regression equation, we compared predicted exam averages for the LL ED students to actual scores and found something unexpected – that students with the lower set of SAT CR scores (in LL ED) actually did better than predicted and the students with higher SAT CR (in the LLED class) scored lower… We have our thoughts on this, and are exploring further…

Now the fun starts!!! Figuring out what it all means – for now and in the future…


Wk 14: ELLI – Learning Relationships + Review GAME!

ELLI: Learning Relationships

We flipped things around this week to fit everything in  - starting with ELLI and Learning Relationships.

We briefly discussed the  profile document for this piece of ELLI and then looked at the research in an article on student academic support:

Blair Thompson (2008): How College Freshmen Communicate Student Academic
Support: A Grounded Theory Study, Communication Education, 57:1, 123-144

Knowing that we were to do this segment on learning relationships today, I was quietly observing students as they came into class (just returning from our Thanksgiving break). The class was happy and rested and interacting in really nice ways – and across the usual groups…I saw hugs, and laughter, and asking questions about assignments. One student told me she had encouraged another student, who hadn’t been doing LearnSmart at all during the entire semester, to get it done. And indeed, I noticed the student had completed it over the break which amazed me!

So when we went over the article summary (see details below), I could use these very real examples from my observations in support of the research!

Learning Relationships is the last section of ELLI that we needed to cover, so next class, they will actually take the ELLI post survey and we’ll get to see the changes!! I am really excited about things at this point. One of the things I remember Teresa Hill (our ELLI trainer) talking about was the goal of creating a common language in the classroom about ourselves as learners. I really do believe I have seen this happen – in their responses and reflections, I see and hear the language of learning power… Now to measure that.

Review Game

I created a review game that we played using the material from CH 14 of the BiSc text. The game had a 3-fold purpose: 1) get good at the game itself before we play it for real stakes during the last week of the class (winners earn the opportunity to increase their grades in one category of the course), 2) to review the BiSc content after the break, and 3) to continue to foster connections between the class members as they move out of this first semester experience and into the rest of their studies.

Here is a copy of the Game card and instructions

For each round of the game, students have the chance to work with a different partner. In addition to the game itself, students would have to find a connection with their partner and get contact information (PSU e-mail for example) if they so chose to do so. This gave students a chance to get to know more students while there was still time. We had done groups during the class, but I know everyone didn’t get the chance to work with everyone else. This created a good positive spirit in the room which made me think to do this Learning Relationships segment as the first segment next year – as an ice breaker… This notion of a connecting game is a nod to our Head Librarian and project partner, Barb Eshbach, who has formalized this idea of connecting people through her First Year Experience game that she will formally pilot next fall!

Article Summary

Blair Thompson (2008): How College Freshmen Communicate Student Academic
Support: A Grounded Theory Study, Communication Education, 57:1, 123-144

1) College transition is stressful/ challenging – making new friends, adjusting to new academic expectations + separation from normal support systems (family, friends)

2) Studentrs need support – seek it out with faculty, support staff, and each other

3) Research shows that when you form social and/or academic bonds with other students, your persistence rates rise.

4) Freshman drop-out rate is 20-30%

5) Formal (peer tutoring) and informal support are both important.

A) Action-facilitating support – informational and tangible – academic problems – working together and explaining things – walking with someone to class to get them there
B) Nurturant support – motivational and venting – encouraging students to get the work done and compliments + overcoming frustrations through venting: listening, sharing similar experiences, identifying with each other, calming each other down, letting the person talk and listening support

6) Causal Conditions surrounding student academic support

A) Academic workload changes (hs to college) – more and more challenging
B) Level of responsibility and freedom changes (hs to college) – need for self-motivation
C) Need and level of support – in hs there wasn’t a need – now there is a need b/c it is more challenging

7) Phenomenon related to differences between HS and college

A) Initiating support – giving and receiving it – don’t assume others don’t need/want support
B) Informal nature of support – happens through daily conversations
C) Mode selection – how does it happen – mostly F2F – sometimes Fb
D) Developing a support network – different networks for different needs
E) Characteristics of supportive students – willingness to help – taking time to explain difficult concepts – challenging you to “Get to class!”

8) Context in which Support Strategies emerge

A) knowing each other
B) students’ communicator styles – shy students challenge yourselves
C) educational characteristics – students better at some subjects – more likely to support others
D) level of seriousness at college

9)Intervening Conditions
A) availability
B) comfort level
C) shared context


Week 13: How to Read an Academic Article + ELLI: Critical Curiosity Part II

We started with a Think-Pair-Share question, “What IS college reading anyway?” We’ve been “doing it” for 13 weeks now… The discussion was pretty good – capturing the complexity, more challenging vocab, meaning-making, connecting to their own experiences, need to work harder at comprehension, “higher level”..and need to chunk it over time…

From there we did a text comparison, using:

Vincent Rossi, Erik Van Sebille, Alexander Sen Gupta, Véronique Garçon, Matthew H. England. Multi-decadal projections of surface and interior pathways of the Fukushima Cesium-137 radioactive plume. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers, 2013; 80: 37 DOI: 10.1016/j.dsr.2013.05.015

For each text, they had to pull three important facts – we discussed the changing levels of complexity as well as similarities between each.

Much of this felt like a wrestling match… and during questioning for comprehension, people visibly wanted to just give up… Frustration and frowns were all around… “‘I don’t know’ is not an acceptable answer in college” I always tell them… “Try at least!!!”

Surprising in the discussion was a return to the fact (they talked about this on day one back in August) that in high school, they didn’t have to read much at all – “We were always given the important points along with questions and answers to study by. In some classes we had a lot of books to read, but we always ran out of time and simply watched the movie.”

We always come back to this idea of what they are willing to change in order to be successful in college. The notion of the marathon runner – he/she couldn’t run 23 miles the first time out… practice and doing the hard work of trying to run (think for them) is what helps them (you) eventually to be able to do it… Building endurance and their own willingness to do it are important.. My pleading to “Come with me. Don’t give up. Stay in the game…” Does it make a difference? My thesis for this paper is coming together… stay tuned…

We shifted gears from the science example to begin working through the article on Metacognition and student self-testing (our rationale for using LearnSmart this term) more deeply using the Guide to Reading Academic Articles framework referenced below.

Jeffrey D. Karpicke, Andrew C. Butler, Henry L. Roediger III, Metacognitive strategies in student learning: Do students practice retrieval when they study on their own? Memory, Volume 17, Issue 4, Pages 471-479, DOI:10.1080/09658210802647009.

Guide to Reading Academic Articles -

Article Analysis Sheet –

Article Analysis Sheet explanation –

How-to –

We ran out of time, but we’ll continue to use the process as we continue to use more scholarly articles in the next few lessons.

ELLI: Critical Curiosity Part II

How did it feel last week to do those “performance” exercises and try them in front of the group? Was it anxiety-provoking? Who wanted to jump in and try it? Who was afraid? Today we continued to talk about curiosity and how it impacts academic performance and quality of life.

We used two articles (referenced below) and questions/activities on this curiosity handout to drive the activity, reflection, and discussion about critical curiosity which included:

  • Drawing a picture of a house where the roof is “academic success” What supports the roof?
  • Using the abstract only from the Hungry Mind article – identify the main ideas of the study – based on this modify the drawing
  • Series of intro reflection questions about their own curiosity levels in school and out (as well as ELLI scores)
  • Students take the CEI-II curiosity survey and reflect on the 2 aspects of stretching and embracing – how have their curiosity levels impacted their lives?
  • Final summarizing ANGEL reflection questions

Todd B. Kashdan, Matthew W. Gallagher, Paul J. Silvia, Beate P. Winterstein, William E. Breen, Daniel Terhar, Michael F. Steger, The curiosity and exploration inventory-II: Development, factor structure, and psychometrics, Journal of Research in Personality, Volume 43, Issue 6, December 2009, Pages 987-998, ISSN 0092-6566,

Sophie von Stumm, Benedikt Hell and Tomas Shamorro-Premuzic, The hungry mind: Intellectual curiosity is the third pillar of academic performance, Perspectives on Psychological Science November 2011 Volume 6, Issue 6, November 2011, Pages 574-588, doi: 10.1177/1745691611421204.


Week 12 CT: Evaluating Info + ELLI: Intro to Critical Curiosity

Critical Thinking element this week is evaluating information using the CRAAP Test - I purposely waited until the units on water, geology, and energy because of the extended case study on fracking I developed last year – that is both relevant to our geographic area and applicable to the BiSc content.

We started with the difference between fact, opinion, informed opinion , and bias… then I showed three TV ads that have been playing recently on TV – which would be about the usual amount of input that people (who are not critical thinkers) would take with them to the polls… and then I had students vote with clickers as if they were going into the polls. Should drilling for natural gas be allowed on our county lands? Majority said yes.

Then we did an overview of the CRAAP test criteria and then we went through a series of resources about natural gas drilling and they evaluated them using the CRAAP test – Using a handout to keep track of their in-class activity and whether they thought it reliable or not to inform their opinion.

At the end, they voted again and the majority had changed their minds. I tried very hard not to bias them during the process. I collected their analysis and we spent some time the next period talking about their analysis and getting people on the same page with using the CRAAP test. It was pretty cool!

ELLI – Critical Curiosity Intro

Introduced the dimension using the ELLI My Profile handout and general discussion – referring to their spider diagrams. This handout talks about the Why Ladder as a strategy to help students become more curious… Start with a “what” question – then as students answer, ask why after each answer… We did it using the starter question, “What  makes it so hard to speak in front of others? They worked it in pairs and we came back to whole group for sharing at each step… It was good to hear them articulating it. We have some ESL students and some shy students who really struggle and I want them to get stronger at this skill. Many students mumble when called on and I want them to stand tall and be more confident.

Last Friday, we had a wonderful presenter on campus Leslie Felbain from the U. of MD College Park, talking to the faculty about Teaching as Performance. Leslie is the head of the MFA in Performance Art at U MD and she showed us many techniques to be better presenters. I thought this would be perfect (and fun) to replicate with students “Speaking as Perfomance”. So we did three of the exercises and they took turns standing and summarizing the Why Ladder discussion for the class, using the techniques as they were coached (breathing, throwing the net, and making eye contact with the entire room). Every person improved, even though it was hard for some of them. I felt it brought us closer as a group though and started a good conversation later for those who really struggle outside of class. For these folks, we decided to “plant” a question ahead of class time and practice it. So these students had a chance to know what was coming, practice their response, and then get their hands up the next class to jump in and start building confidence… So far so good!

Finally, we used the discussion starter cards I bought from E.L. Achieve with language starters for 5 different discussion “roles” – agree/disagree, ask a question, cite an example, share your thinking, build on an idea – to further discuss the websites used in the fracking case study and incorporating the performance techniques.  I loved this class – It combined content, practical skills building, and active learning. I saw that they were engaged and curious to know more… It always amazes me (and thank goodness) that ideas/people/resources come along – sometimes at just the right time!


Wk 11 Writing to Learn: Reader Response + ELLI: Strategic Awareness

Today we continued the conversation about using writing in the learning process, and I chose the Reader Response strategy excerpted from U Texas El Paso handout online

I shared with students one of my favorite passages from We Make the Road by Walking where Paolo Freire is telling Myles Horton  that we do students a disservice when we tell them that writing is easy (or formulaic) – That getting to true insight is like giving birth – a hard process – but worth the journey!

My a-ha this week as a teacher is all about inspiration… inspiring them (attempting to) through stories and examples to want to do the type of academic work – thinking – writing – creating – learning that we expect from them. Getting them to feel the satisfaction of working hard – having breakthroughs and tasting success bred of sweat and time! To build their endurance and to coax them into the world of college work.

These Tuesday sessions have become about strategies that help them review the BiSc and integrate a new reading/learning strategy. A criticism last year was that I swerved away with these critical thinking exercises from the content of the paired content course – it was the first attempt, and I didn’t know the content well enough myself to keep up with making these concrete connections. This year, being more familiar with the reading content and the BiSc content, I was able to do this better! So I am able to help them use the strategies while they are reviewing sections of Bisc – MUCH more effective and satisfying! It also then stays with the original intention of the paired course – that we do just that! Here is the Reader Response in-Class Activity. Again homework had them do Cornell Notes for the entire chapter and Reader Response for one section.

ELLI – Strategic Awareness

I wanted students to think about how far they have come since August and to review the ELLI process so far. So I had them watch the Ruth Deakin Crick video for the Carnegie Foundation to hear the background of the project and tool once more.

As our intro activity for Strategic Awareness, I wanted them to pull together all the many things they have been learning along these lines.. So I had them in pairs create a brochure for new first-year students, describing how to be successful in Dr. Blay’s BiSc course. A second question then was for them to imagine what they would say to a student who comes to them mid-term and says they are struggling with the course… What advice would they give the students?

The final activity was to interview another first year student (not in our class) using interview questions I gave them around the ELLI dimensions we have been working with so far. When they came back to class with the interviews, we had a debrief discussion about similarities and differences noted between the students they interviewed and their own strategic awareness. This wasn’t as great as I thought it would be – too many questions perhaps… or I should have had them write in their journals something about noticing the differences/similarities between themselves and their peers in terms of academic work/success… I’m not sure about this one…. I was trying to pep them up, build confidence and awareness of their own growth which I see, but they are getting tired! And their endurance is low… so lots of conversations now about not giving up – lots of 1-on-1′s and checking in… what’s happening, why did you miss class, etc etc… still time to get your homework in… it’s like one step forward, 2 steps back… I know though that lst year, this was  critical juncture… Their exam scores started to fall off, and they continued to tumble to the end, so I am making them aware of this phenomenon and trying to get them to not let themselves slip right now…

Finished the class with the exam score debrief…we have been tracking our group against the rest of the class in terms of exam and quiz scores… and getting them to stop missing out on key opportunities – like why are they NOT acing the quizzes – which are open book – they are hard, but if they spend the time, they do well and it is 40% of the class – which also supports them when the exam scores aren’t so good.. so strategic awareness means to take advantage of this and do well on the quizzes – no excuses! This week, quiz scores are back up in the low 90 range… The highlight was the Calvin Borel video which was pretty thrilling as the exam score averages were revealed… Us versus them… like Calvin Borel coming up on the inside rail, they have started to close the 10 point gap between the rest of the BiSc class – ever so slightly, but we’ll take it!!! So let’s see what they can do on the last 2 exams and the post-test…If they don’t decline, I count that as miles ahead of last year…. It was awesome and dramatic!!!



Week 10 CT – Socratic Questions + Meaning Making Part II Significant Learning

Tuesday we continued with critical thinking skill-building – introduced Socratic questioning  as a way to go deeper into the BiSc content (and to help them review).

Gave them 15 minutes to read a small section of the BiSc text, complete Cornell Notes, and rehearse. They used Dr. Blay’s PowerPoint and their class notes to make sure they didn’t miss any important points.

Introduced Socratic questioning and how it relates to the CT framework…At this point in the course, I am also starting to emphasize the connection to writing as well – that completing Socratic questions for ANY topic can help them to go more deeply into that topic and allows their own ideas to float to the surface – rather than copy/paste from other sources only. Then I had them use this list of Socratic Questions to go back over the reading section and go deeper into it. For homework, they continue their Cornell notes, and for one section, complete Socratic questions for me to look at. It requires them to match questions to parts of the text that make sense for that question. If we had more time, it would be excellent to have them try to write their own questions… but you can’t do it all.. so we move on…

What is emerging for me is that I see a toolbox of tools coming together for them… If you need to do “X”, use this tool… Perhaps that will be the take away for my own learning.. what are the tools we have used so far? I am thinking about a game for our last class and perhaps it can be somehow doing something that reviews all the tools and pulls them together into the final toolbox to take and use…


This week, we finished up Meaning-Making, introducing L.Dee Fink’s Significant Learning Taxonomy. What keeps coming home to me is the students’ need to be constantly motivated and cajoled by me. My goal is to give them encouragement and tools (and sometimes tricks) to do that for themselves! So last week, I used meaning-making to get them to see the long road – where all of this hard work is getting them – connect it to the end goal… and this week, looking at the sig. learning taxonomy so they can increase their self-talk about why what they are doing is significant – to make those connections for themselves…. They worked on a handout in class using the taxonomy and then posted a summary reflection in their journals.

I keep thinking of whack-a-mole – I feel like I figure one thing out, and another pops up… but what I like about ELLI is the total flexibility to tailor the work we do in each dimension to the current needs of the students. I think it is making a difference. The data will tell the tale… only a few more weeks to go!!


Week 9: What Should a Study Session Look and Feel Like? + Meaning-Making Part I

So with the input from last week’s reflections, I thought long and hard about what else I could do.. and I finally concluded that I needed them to EXPERIENCE what I really meant by “studying” and “learning” using the activities we were doing each week. I wanted them to see the sheer amount of time needed to learn and also the unspoken things we do when we learn… an extended “read aloud” of sorts – but adding each piece of the cycle.

We took the next chapter in the BiSc textbook and started with just a sub-section – about 3/4 of a page of text. We used the countdown clock so they could keep track of time (and mostly to SLOW themselves down – because they want to just get it done.. and I have to say stop – review – rehearse.. then move on…I timed myself over the weekend to make sure this was a good time frame.

Here’s what we did

15 minutes actively reading that subsection – skim it – notice features – then read it more closely taking Cornell Notes while reading – stop to rehearse important points as they went along. At then at the end of the 15 minutes, take 5 minutes to use Dr. Blay’s ppts- check for gaps in info in their notes…

Take a mini stretch break -

15 minutes doing next subsection (together, both parts = 1 section of the chapter. Goal is to read, take notes, and memorize important points – repeat as above with ppt check.

15 minutes doing LearnSmart segment for that part of the chapter (I set up practice quizzes for each sub-section) – making note of the difficult questions.

5 minutes to rehearse info from both sections

10 minutes – Now with books closed, take the LearnSmart practice quiz from that section.

Still need help? Go to Dr. Blay’s practice worksheets – Then take the practice quizzes again.

Debrief – Notice – How long did it take us to do just this small section of the text… You  need to do this everyday + time to review material from previous day – I felt it showed them what to do – how to do it in sequence – not disjointed as they had been doing it – to let each part reinforce the previous – how much time and attention it takes to not only recognize terms, but to be able to answer questions about them too.. to remember them. NOTE this doesn’t even get into higher thinking skills and tasks… one step at a time I guess…

They weren’t taking the time to memorize the information – In their minds, just getting it done = success… and of course, their exam scores were telling the real tale of success… but what were they willing to change???? So I said, “Nobody in here should be content with an average exam score of XXX!” If this doesn’t change for them, they won’t be here next year at this time – something has to change… are they willing??? They now have the tools to succeed.. and they have experienced what it should look and feel like.. .will they do it???

Question is asked by student… This was helpful. Why can’t we just do this every class period? Answer… because this isn’t a study hall or high school anymore – you have to figure out a way to get this done within the context of your actual lives…for all your classes. That is your challenge…

So this was a bit of a bummer – reality is a drag… how to build them back up and open their minds to the possibility of change? Inspiration – dreams – seeing the future = motivation? Stay tuned for next class and Week 10!

Meaning-Making Part II

By serendipity, I was doing a workshop for students about to be graduating and I said out loud, I wish you could come to talk to my students so they can “See the future” and someone said, “I’ll come!” so, a lesson was born!!

I asked the students to talk about challenges but also be encouraging! To talk about how much they have changed and grown over their college years – and what it all means and meant to have attended college. I wanted my students to in a sense see their own future… hoping that this could motivate them to CHOOSE to enter into the hard work and challenge that they are fighting right now, but need…  The student did a great job…then I segued into the lesson on meaning-making – I did a handout asking them to think about their college experience so far and their goals for themselves -short term and longer term – and what it means to them to be in college. Then I had them plot their confidence curve from Aug, projected through December, and finally, I had them look over some sample college mottos…and pick some that spoke to them… then to write a personal motto that expresses what it means to them and how they can use that to keep moving forward.

My motus operandi in this was to articulate their goals and then USE those goals to see the meaning and importance of THIS time for them – not just getting through it to the other side…but to be touched and changed by it.


The last goal for me, was to stop and review the ELLI dimensions that we had done so far – wanting to foster more conversation and dialog about the 3 so far: resilience, creativity, and changing & learning. To do this in a fun way, I had them get into teams and choose one of the dimensions – Their goal was to create a “movie” – the idea – not the actual movie – around their dimension – and decide the title, the challenges the characters would face, the actors, location, etc… and then create a poster that they then would present –  which would give us a chance to talk about the dimensions a bit more and point out the inter-relatedness too. We got half way through… continued next class.



Week 8 – Critical Thinking Intro + ELLI: Changing & Learning Part 2: Exam 3 Debrief

Critical Thinking Intro + POV (Tuesday)

This week we started the next large section of the course – Critical Thinking (CT) – with a general overview of CT using the Paul & Elder (2006) framework – talking about general disposition, elements of thought, standards, and characteristics of CTers.

We did a quick in-class practice for Point of View (POV), using the identity wheel and 5 egocentric practices to consider the term “success”. This was rushed, but I realize this year that I can’t really do this as in-depth as I would like, so I am approaching it as a broad survey of the CT components at this point…Some exposure and scaled down opportunities for practice within the context of readings for BiSc.

Paul, R. & Elder, L. (2006) Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of your Learning and your Life. Pearson-Prentice Hall. Upper Saddle River, NJ.

ELLI – Changing & Learning Part II (Thursday)

I realized after the disastrous performance on exam #3 (although everyone did worse – we still kept our 10 point spread from the rest of the BiSc class), that I needed more information from them about what they are actually doing to prepare for the exams. Tying this together with an action plan for changing and learning was a natural fit (at least in my mind).

So we started class with a 5 minute relaxation meditation – away from technology – push back from the keyboards! Close your eyes, deep breathing, relax… now with eyes closed, remember the last week and exactly what you did to prepare for the exam… now – with no talking – open your eyes, and in our private journal space, describe in great detail what you did exactly – where – for how long – what you did  - with whom, when… to prepare for the exam – paint me a picture… They typed for about 20 minutes and I spent the rest of the day looking it over and looking for patterns which I found.

These findings went into designing next week’s lesson – Wk 9…

In general, I found nothing surprising, but I thought I had all the components there for them to be successful – Active reading (Cornell Notes, Reinforcement & Self-testing – LearnSmart, Dr. Blay’s weekly quizzes and PowerPoints – all leading to what’s important and time-on-task to get the important concepts under their belts… What I found though was what I suspect is this…

1. Trying to just get it done (check it off) without being really touched by it – not really being engaged, not attending or focusing… doing Cornell Notes during commercials for example

2. Doing it at the last minute or all at one sitting (in spite of weekly reminders to spread it out – and to start early and work on it in small chunks each day with time to review – the LS being created to make them spread it out over time) yet many describe spending an entire day doing it all – reading, LS, Dr. Blay quiz… then final review for the exam the day of.

3. Not changing their schedules or time expectations for amount of time needed (students working at a job >20 hours per week), friends/family time – “getting it done so they have the weekends free for friends/family

4. Only studying Dr. Blay’s quizzes for the exam

5. Inefficient study habits – reading – then re-reading the chapters – rather than using their notes

6. Not refreshing/reviewing throughout the week

Back to the drawing board….

They voted on the next ELLI segment to tackle – Meaning-Making… next week…


Wk 7 ELLI Changing & Learning

Head of our Career Counseling is coming in as the guest to talk about CN ED 100 as a possible spring course for some of them – in depth look at what they want to do in life…

He’ll tie this together with their ability to change and learn! and we’ll reflect based on this….


Week 7

Today we took a catch our breath break and did a little presentation and where we’ve been and where we’re going. I wanted them to see how far they have come and how much they have done in just 6.5 weeks – almost mid-term. Talked about the purpose and definition of a liberal education… handout from AAC&U.

Exam #2 saw them reach their goal… 10 more points on average… For exam #3 – I want them to start to close the gap between them and the other students in Bi Sc… about a 10 point difference… We’ve been having individual appointments and overall it seems that people who are struggling on the exams are either spending too much time on Cornell Notes and not enough time in the hard work of memorizing the material – or not spending enough time at all on things. Let’s see if some tweaking for those folks can make a difference – and will that raise the overall performance.

I also gave them mid-term evals – so I’ll see what they have to say there….what’s working, what isn’t  - suggestions and Keep it/Lose it/Modify it for all the major activities and assignment types.

Finished up with a fun activity – using Twitter as they listened to an 8 minute recorded lecture by Dr. Blay to tweet just the main points of the lecture – using the hashtag #lled005. I wanted to see who was able to get the main ideas and who not… Interesting overall – after about 3 minutes typing slowed and some started doing other stuff on the devices… I stopped – had them re-group – talked about needing to build up endurance and focus time… stay in the game!!! We finished up – looked at the data – I need to do it again – the technology was in the way – second time should be better…


Week 6 – Tackling Different Question Types

We have class Tuesday – Exam #2 is Wednesday – so we’ll look over quizzes 3 & 4 and do a session like I had as an extra session before exam 1 –  looking at every question and learning how to break it apart and tackle it… Lastly, students will do the LearnSmart Practice exam.

Overlearning is the goal… (term by Stephen Chu Samford University – YouTube videos on Deep Learning)


Week 5 Toolbox – Study Guides

This week, we concentrated on ramping up the study time as the second exam looms before them. They still have one new chapter to process, as well as LearnSmart, and then to start to put it all together by refreshing the important info from Chapters 3 & 4! Instead of asking the professor for the “study Guide” (and making him crazy in the process!) I suggested they learn how to make their own!!

So we spent the class time with me doing a demonstration of creating a study guide of one section of CH 3, using the TOC, the professor’s PowerPoints (which they haven’t been tapping enough), their Cornell Notes, chapter quizzes, and the chapter worksheets. Then each group of 3 students was assigned 3 sections from which they were to create a study guide – they met briefly, chunked up the work, and got to work! With 21 students in the class, we had exactly enough for each student to take a section and by the end of class, we had an entire study guide for all three chapters. The template was a 3 column table – use the TOC for the framework (left column), main points from the PowerPoint – center column – associated quiz questions (from the online quizzes) – right column. I collected them and scanned them right after class and posted them online.

My mantra between exam 1 and now was for them to have a modest goal of 10 improvement points over the last exam – I’m secretly hoping for more – but I don’t want to be unrealistic either – But the truth is, everyone spending quality time studying should do reasonably well on the exams… Between LearnSmart, the Cornell Notes Toolbox assignments, and the work we do together in class, everyone should have a reasonable shot at success.


ELLI Update – What we’ve done so far

Reflection #1 had students writing an in- and out- of-school learning autobiography

Reflection #2 – Students commented on their Learning Profiles using a set of reflection questions & began to reflect on the notion of resilience, thinking of role models and people who struggle with resilience. In their reflections, they looked at areas of strength and struggle with resilience in their own lives.

Reflection #3 – Resilience Action Plan – Goal – Plan – Success Criteria… Students follow the plan throughout the week and finalize their comments, describing how the week went and whether they followed their plan – Success? Yes/No … why/why not

Reflection #4/5 – Students voted (using iClickers) on the next unit to cover which was Creativity – Keeping with our format of week “A” in the cycle being an intro week, I invited in to class, 2 faculty – English (working poet) and Art (painter) – asked them to talk about their formal creative process BUT ALSO how they see creativity plays out in the other areas of their lives. It was a really interesting presentation and conversation where lots of ideas around creativity came up – risk-taking, ability to “see” new opportunities – or the ability to envision themselves in new/different lives/scenarios, problem-solving – the need to just work – and not be afraid of perfection – to get things out there – not to be afraid to try – and how this connects to our everyday lives and improves them… Finished with a general discussion about what students love to do and how they see creativity as a part of that…

Week B cycle with creativity – Incorporated what we did with gaming and “play” and looked at the 5 types of play – did a play history – then 3 mini activities – imaginative play… What would you do if you won the lottery… Change some aspect of your favorite movie/book/song – change the end, or gender of characters, or the conflict, or location, etc….Lastly, Exuberant ANimal – Athletic Director came and did some movement “Body play” with them – Finished the session with a fun group project of using the creativity framework and SCAMPERR techniques to “Plan a Party”…

Then based on the aspects of creativity that we touched on in the 2 weeks of this cycle – students will do a GOAL – ACT – SUCCESS CRITERIA reflection – carry it out over the week and follow up the week with a report on how it went with the “Results” show


Week 4 Toolbox – Memory & Recall with Reciprocal Teaching & Associations

Coming up on BiSc 003 Exam #2 – covers three chapters in the environmental science text…

It has been interesting how this has played out… Still doing Cornell Notes with variations to highlight the week’s focus… Last week was Cornell notes + vocab strategies

Week 4 – Concentration/Memory/Recall – Called this the  ”Getting it off the page and into your head lesson”… still struggling with convincing them that they can’t do it at the last minute – 3 chapters of material is impossible to cram at the last minute….

Week 4 Toolbox –  Cornell Notes + Reciprocal Teaching Table = Columns with Main Ideas – Test Questions – Connections

In class, students completed one section from the textbook and their partner a different section – Then they took turns teaching and testing each other from their material. Homework was the next chapter in the BiSc textbook doing some sections as Cornell Notes – other sections Reciprocal Teaching Table.

In this lesson, we emphasized the importance of associations and connections for “deep learning”. We did the little research study activity – seeing 10 words and trying to memorize them… Then seeing 10 words and making an association for each and seeing how many they could remember. Did the “Journey” exercise – for remembering the large sections of the TOC – making each section a “stop” on a familiar journey….

Underlying goals – Meet other students in the class, review the material for the weekly Bi Sc quiz, more “time on task” reviewing the material


Week 3 Toolbox – Cornell Notes + Vocab Strategies

Students have fallen into bad habits already of waiting til the last minute to do the work – today we emphasized how impossible it is to learn 60 pages of science in one night – and that LearnSmart is meant to give them practice everyday in manageable chunks that they can do over time to learn and refresh what they are learning…Hopefully they start to catch on – lots of individual conversations today about what needs to change and that they can be successful if they just do the work! I hope they do… Optimism is my meditative word this semester!

We did vocab strategies today with three additions to the usual suspects… “Not your Momma’s Index Cards”, “SEE-I”, and “Almost but Not Quite” – They’ll incorporate this into their Cornell Notes for next week for CH 3.

LearnSmart completion = 30%
Reading skills Toolbox assignments (Cornell Notes, vocab, concept mapping) = 30%
ELLI reflections = 30%
Participation = 10%

This is driving some behavioral changes, thank heavens…hopefully eventually they’ll do it b/c they want to…

ELLI Reflections
They began their learning autobiographies and so far they are really great!!! They are writing about themselves as learners in and out of the classroom. I shared mine with them too, so it felt more equal. I’m hoping this will start to become really interesting for them as we think about their actual lives and improving their own Learning Power.

Exam #1 for BiSc is tomorrow – Dr. Blay and I are holding our collective breath for the results – AND we can start to crunch some numbers…


Just finished week 2!

The first update after a hectic fall start!

Just fyi… The entire project description can be found here minus the mobile devices – We didn’t get the entire grant, so students are doing the adaptive learning technology on computers…

IRB & Consenting
Our IRB was approved and we have finished the consenting process for the IRB and we have 17LLED/36 BiSc (22non LLED) (those not in LL ED) participants!! IRB requirement for exempt status – to avoid undue influence by the instructor of the course: Barb consented my students, and I consented Jorge’s. Jorge offered 5% extra credit which we believe helped increase participation from his students. We learned that anyone consenting must go through the IRB training, so Barb jumped in to do the deed!

Except for a few stragglers, everyone has taken the initial ELLI online in both treatment(LLED) and control (BiSc only). It went pretty smoothly – taking about 35-40 minutes start to finish getting everyone to create accounts, join the PSY group, read the intro statement abut ELLI, agree to the Vital Partnerships Consent, and for me to grant permissions to join the group. Once that happened, they could log back in – go into the PSY group, and take the ELLI. We didn’t have any problems, except for a little slowness between screen changes on our second day (LL ED).

My LLED students have begun their reflection process with a first intro reflection – a sort of autobiography about themselves as learners – thinking about key moments, challenges, and successes for in and out of school learning. After they took the ELLI, we did a brief intro to ELLI overall and the importance of both reflection in learning, and developing lifelong learning skills in general. I asked students to be both open to and trusting of the process as everything we are doing has been shown to have a significant impact for participants through research. Students will share their reflections with me first in an online private journal format where I can respond as coach as we progress through the dimensions.

My goal is to work in 2-week cycles on each dimension (for 1.5 hour class time per week – 15 week course), starting with the dimensions that seem to need most attention. We’ll take a look at the dimensions, discuss them in general in small groups, and then reflect on students’ own spider diagrams relative to that dimension. They’ll do an online private reflection which will include their reaction to their diagram, thoughts about what they’d like to (or feel they need to) change, concluding with a concrete plan for the following week to “notice” events relative to the dimension, and how they’ll record their reactions + a plan for one specific thing they will do differently in the coming week that they can track and report on to me and/or their group.

So each 2-week cycle will have 2 reflections:

  1. Initial thoughts on the dimension (in general) related to their life – with examples of challenges and successes + response to their spider diagram – agree/disagree and why and in what ways could change impact their success + choose at least one thing they will do in the next week to consciously think about and do something to increase their power in that dimension + how they’ll record any other “noticings” during the week where they see examples of the dimension happening
  2. The reflection the following week will be a report on how their action plan went – what they did – a description of the scenario – how it went – how they felt + a report on any other “noticings” from the week related to the dimensions – what happened and what they did and why + a wrap-up comments on anything they learned about themselves this cycle related to the dimension.

Adaptive Learning Technology: LearnSmart

The other part of the project came out of an article we read in class last year – about students’ misconceptions about what they know as they prepare for exams. They confuse recognition with understanding – so they may think that  since they’ve seen a term, they know what it really means – and so finish studying much sooner than they should – The “illusion of competence” – The remedy is frequent self-testing… underutilized as a study strategy. So as I learned more about the powers of intelligent technology – in the classic Carnegie Mellon stats course – where they finished in a much shorter time with higher scores… b/c of the technology – so I decided to investigate and it seems to fit the bill for self-testing!!!

So far, there is a strong correlation between students finishing the LearnSmart and also doing well on the quizzes; first exam is tomorrow, so we’ll see how they do. LearnSmart is a combination of questions from each chapter – students are asked first how confident they are of the answer and then must answer the question – Until they are correct and confident, the program will reshuffle how topics are asked until students are both confident and correct. The back-end analytics are somewhat limited, but, I can tell how much time they are spending and their meta-cognitive awareness rates which is interesting!

The technology is not the most stable – students keep getting mysteriously bumped out of our “standalone” section – I put them back in and the scores are intact so that’s OK… but I have one student whose account is just not working and they can’t seem to figure it out…Luckily, I bought a test account and have given it to that student to use during the semester. But calls to McGraw-Hill have been a little frustrating – they say the standalone product (at 25.00) is an outsourced product, so they aren’t happy with the performance either – The more expensive version in their CMS – with Connect is 66.00 and may have much better service/performance – it certainly has more bells and whistles – I just didn’t want students to have to pay that much – We are muddling through…