• Creative Approach to the Syllabus

      Dobersek, Urska; Kemp, Skyler; Henrichs, Mackenzie; Boik, Elizabeth; Dobersek, Urska; Kemp, Skyler; Henrichs, Mackenzie; Boik, Elizabeth
      Topic/Problem Statement: Regardless of its purpose and format, the course syllabus is one of the most extensively used documents in higher education [1]. Students not only learn about the course (i.e., traditional syllabus) and obligations (i.e., contractual), but also form impressions about their instructor. According to the signaling theory, individuals use limited information provided (in syllabus) to infer broader qualities (about the course and instructor) [2]. Additionally, instructors can ‘signal’ specific information to aid student learning and motivation. As such, it is imperative to create an informative and effective syllabus. Context and Approach: In the Fall 2018, I created a newspaper-like syllabus in the Sport Psychology course. A majority of the 28 students were Psychology majors (61%), with the remainder Individualized Studies or from a myriad of disciplines. My outcomes for the students were to take an active role in their learning and captivate and sustain their enthusiasm for learning. To meet these objectives, I created a graphic-rich syllabus. It attempted to meet Nilsons’s [3] claim that syllabus might “not only [be] the road map for the term's foray into knowledge but also a travelogue to pique student’s interest in the expedition and its leader” (p. 33). This is accomplished through the uses various elements of graphic design (e.g., images, colors) to create document like a newsletter, the uses of text that is student-focused, and the description of the course that connects to broader themes (e.g., life success) or professional experiences [4]. On average, students liked the syllabus a moderate amount (M = 6.29 out of 7) and agreed that it was well organized (M = 5.64 out of 6). The following themes emerged from “what they found the most appealing about the syllabus”: organization, format, presentation of the information, and course component/professor information. Themes that emerged from “what they found the least appealing”: too much/not enough information, format, and course component. Reflection: Due to the lack of comparison groups and a formal systematic assessments, I am unable to draw definitive conclusions of the effect of graphic-rich syllabus on students’ engagement and success. Nevertheless, the inclusion of engaging syllabus facilitated my understanding of student preferences. In addition to the class content, teaching methods, and requirements, instructors should consider additional factors when creating the syllabus including a) the presentation of the content and methods in a student-oriented, engaging, and meaningful way, and b) the effect of the presentation on students’ perception of the instructor, interest and motivation in the course [4].  References: Harrington, C.M. and C.A. Gabert-Quillen, Syllabus length and use of images: An empirical investigation of student perceptions. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 2015. 1(3): p. 235-243. Spence, A.M., Market signaling: Informational transfer in hiring and related screening processes. Vol. 143. 1974: Harvard Univ Pr. Nilson, L.B., The graphic syllabus and the outcomes map: Communicating your course. 2009, San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons. Ludy, M.-J., et al., Student Impressions of Syllabus Design: Engaging versus Contractual Syllabus. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 2016. 10(2).
    • Empower your Students through Open Education Practices

      Dobersek, Urska
      Please contact the author for additional information about this presentation.
    • Let's Play: 'Gamifying' the Introduction to Social Psychology course

      Dobersek, Urska
      Effective educators use creative approaches to capture attention, promote engagement, and enhance student success. As such, in the Spring of 2017, I ‘gamified’ the Introduction to Social Psychology. Gamification is the application of game elements to non-game settings [1]. Research suggests that adding elements, such as ‘Experience Points’ (XPs), ‘Achievement Points’ (APs), and the ‘Feedom’ to choose the level of expertise (e.g., beginner), leads to greater student engagement, enjoyment, and success [2, 3]. A majority of the 28 students were Psychology majors (50%), with the remainder Undecided or from a myriad of disciplines. My objectives for the students were to 1) apply scientific method(s) in social psychological research, 2) demonstrate knowledge of the major theories and findings, and 3) recognize and appraise how basic theory and experimental results apply to their lives. To meet these objectives, teams of three completed challenges (e.g., quizzes, exams) and quests (e.g., a research journey, ‘show and tell’) to earn XPs. The winning team of ‘social psychologists’ demonstrated their newly acquired mastery on the topics covered during the semester. Students were able to earn APs by completing Optional Assignments (OAs; e.g., summarizing a research article) to ‘unlock the door’ and give them ‘special powers’ (e.g., skip exam questions). The principles of operant conditioning [4], suggest that behaviors are strengthen when they are reinforced. As such, the motivational mechanisms (i.e., rewards, e.g., ‘special powers’) of gamification increased the students’ interest and engagement that led to improved learning and socialization [5, 6]. Of the nine groups, only one completed the OAs suggesting that most of the students did not think that the ‘reward’ was worth their effort. Students’ feedback was mixed. One of the students “enjoyed the class a lot”, while for another student “[t]he material [was] boring, but she tried to make it interesting.” Based on my observations, most of the students appeared to be engaged throughout the semester and enjoyed the varied game activities (e.g., discussions). Due to the lack of comparison groups and a formal systematic assessment, I am unable to draw definitive/quantitative conclusions of the effect of gamification on students’ engagement and success. Nevertheless, the inclusion of gamification to my class facilitated my understanding of student engagement. In the future, placing a greater emphasis on OAs and APs and incorporating gamification software to build quests, award points, and keep track of progress will facilitate assessment while potentially increasing students’ engagement and success.  References Deterding, S., et al., Gamification. using game-design elements in non-gaming contexts, in CHI '11 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 2011, ACM: Vancouver, BC, Canada. p. 2425-2428. Barata, G., et al., Improving participation and learning with gamification, in Proceedings of the First International Conference on Gameful Design, Research, and Applications. 2013, ACM: Toronto, Ontario, Canada. p. 10-17. Betts, B.W., J. Bal, and A.W. Betts, Gamification as a tool for increasing the depth of student understanding using a collaborative e-learning environment. International Journal of Continuing Engineering Education and Life Long Learning, 2013. 23(3-4): p. 213-228. Thorndike, E.L., A proof of the law of effect. Science, 1933. 77: p. 173-175. Hamari, J., Transforming homo economicus into homo ludens: A field experiment on gamification in a utilitarian peer-to-peer trading service. Electronic commerce research and applications, 2013. 12(4): p. 236-245. de Sousa Borges, S., et al. A systematic mapping on gamification applied to education. in Proceedings of the 29th Annual ACM Symposium on Applied Computing. 2014. ACM
    • Teaching through Personalized Instruction

      Dobersek, Urska
      In this session, I will discuss my experiences with Open Classroom (OC) practices in which student learning is personalized with options to select different assignments with built-in choices (e.g., essay vs. presentation) that are accompanied with dynamic rubrics to match students’ personal strengths and preferences. A course syllabus is co-created with the students using a democratic process encouraging fair and just treatment to create an enjoyable, engaged, and student-centered experience. Reading material is often selected by the students and the course content is student-driven. Given that students who are engaged in the planning process, and adapting instruction, assessment, and learning environments to their needs and preferences, show increased motivation, performance, participation, and ownership in course structure and content, I believe that many educators would find OC practices useful and relevant (Blinne, 2013; Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2012; Hudd, 2003; Martindale & Dowdy, 2010).   References Blinne, K. C. (2013). Start with the syllabus: Helping learners learn through class content collaboration. College Teaching, 61(2), 41-43. Dabbagh, N., & Kitsantas, A. (2012). Personal Learning Environments, social media, and self- regulated learning: A natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning. The Internet and higher education, 15(1), 3-8. Hudd, S. S. (2003). Syllabus under construction: Involving students in the creation of class assignments. Teaching sociology, 195-202. Iyengar SS, Lepper MR. (2000). When choice is demotivating: can one desire too much of a good thing?. J Pers Soc Psychol;79(6):995–1006. doi:10.1037//0022-3514.79.6.995 Martindale, T., & Dowdy, M. (2010). Personal learning environments. Emerging technologies in distance education, 177-193. Patall, E. A., Cooper, H., & Wynn, S. R. (2010). The effectiveness and relative importance of choice in the classroom. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102(4), 896. Rathbone, C. H., & Smith, L. A. H. (2019). Open education: The classroom, philosophical underpinnings, English beginnings, the American experience, controversies questions and criticisms. Dobersek, U. Syllabus and other assignments created for Open Classroom.