Course improvement grant spotlight: “Compare studies of 3D materials to creating quizzes to consider whether learning strategy outshines motivation in memory retention.”
|Alison Hilbun, senior lecturer in biological sciences, recently talked to CFT associate director Cynthia Brame about her Course Improvement Grant, “Compare studies of 3D materials to creating quizzes to consider whether learning strategy outshines motivation in memory retention.”|
Can you tell me briefly about your project and what inspired you to do it?
Part of my core teaching philosophy is that most assignments should really reach towards the enhancement of analysis skills. There is a lot of memory that’s important for learning anatomy and physiology, though, because it’s difficult to make connections between the different systems unless you have a map in your mind of where everything is. The Course Improvement Grant allowed me to purchase 3-D Complete Anatomy software to help students visualize these maps.
I’ve been thinking about what tactics in class would help students feel like they’re making the most of their time in class and doing some that important memory work in class as opposed to just doing more application-based things. How can I make it so that class time can be both application and analysis and also some memory retention?
I’m assigning students to one of two groups. One group will do active recall where they’re looking at a list of muscles or a diagram and will take out a blank sheet of paper and write down everything that they can remember individually. The other group will write quiz questions that they exchange with each other, and I’m going to ask students to write application questions, like “A person is coming to kick a ball. Which muscles are most likely to be impacted if there’s an injury?”
The group assignments will flip; they’ll be assigned to one condition for the bone section and the other one for the muscle section so everybody gets to be in each condition. I’m going to be doing frequent quizzes to see how the ability changes throughout the semester so there’ll be one quiz during each of those weeks to see how well they do.
At the beginning of the semester, I asked students how motivated they thought they would be to do use each of these methods and how effective they thought each would be for themselves and for others. I want to see how much the level of motivation that a person expressed and their predictive ability for what was going to help them related to how well it did. I’m interested to see if the student had expressed a very strong level of motivation, if that that lends itself to a difference in terms of change in score.
I’m also interested in students’ qualitative responses, and the Course Improvement Grant will also allow me to hire a graduate student to work with me in analyzing these responses.
What impact do you anticipate this project might have on students and on the Vanderbilt community in general?
I’m hoping that it’s enlightening in terms of how perceived motivation relates to how well a strategy ends up working for a particular student.
What recommendations do you have for others who would like to apply for the internal teaching grants?
I would say that they should find a river, walk beside it and just let your brain like go loose for a minute and then let yourself think about the first thing that comes to your mind that feels like a like a knot in your stomach, that makes you a little bit concerned about the class that you’re teaching and you feel like you don’t know the answer to. Then spend the rest of the time walking along the river making a plan. The grants seem like a really awesome program for the expression of a creative idea related to teaching. I feel like anybody who is able to take that knot in their stomach and put it to words and put together a strategy for exploration should put in an application.
In in one or two sentences how would you capture your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy would be best summarized as: ten years after the course ends I want to make sure that the students are able to do something that is pivotal. Usually the things that people are able to do that are pivotal involve the ability to explore and to find reasonable answers to questions. I feel committed to connecting with students and making them feel like they’re capable and wanted and have amazing potential, and also to providing the tools and conditioning for them to go forward and develop the ability to find answers on their own and think critically.