Concurrent Session Seven

Friday, April 28th - 10:00 AM - 10:45 AM

Title: The benefit of undergraduate tutors as classroom facilitators in a first-year course

Abstract: I am currently teaching Liberal Education 1500, “The First-Year Experience: Mapping Our Communities”. This is the first time that I have taught this course, which was designed by Jan Newberry (Anthropology) and Shelly Wismath (Liberal Education). The course offers an introduction to life at the U of L through the overarching theme of mapping. Over the term, we have heard from guest professors in disciplines such as Native American Studies, Anthropology, Fine Arts, Psychology, Geography, and New Media, with the aim of introducing students to a breath and range of mapping perspectives.

The class of fifty is divided into ten groups, which remain the same over the term. An upper-level undergraduate student who has previously taken the course leads each group. These tutors are responsible for guiding their group through a range of activities, including tours of the university, a scavenger hunt around campus, and weekly in-class group assignments. Throughout the term, the tutors support the students’ culminating assignment-- a multimodal map of the U of L. Importantly, the tutors become mentors to the first-year students, reinforcing the course’s aim of introducing students to a range of people, places, and disciplines on campus. During one lecture, the tutors lead a panel on their own experiences as university students, reflecting on positive and negative experiences that they have had. Their presence in the classroom provides the first-years with immediate, relatable perspectives.

As an instructor, these instructional exchanges inform my pedagogical and curricular practices. The course, in many ways, is co-taught by the instructor (me) and my five tutors. This roundtable will focus on the role of these upper-level students in flipping or sharing power dynamics within the classroom. The tutors will share their experiences of working with students not much younger than them. I will reflect on my role within the course, and share how we effectively constructed a positive classroom space for new U of L students, strengthening retention and engagement, and fostering dialogue across disciplines and years of study.

Presenters: Dr. Erin Spring - Instructor, Liberal Education, and LibEd 1500 Undergraduate Tutors

Room: M1040

Title: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Instructor-Centered and Student-Centered Pedagogies

Abstract: In the summer semester of 2016 I instructed a course on Classical Chinese Philosophy. In this course I experimented with student-centered pedagogy rather than the traditional instructor-centered pedagogy typically used in philosophy courses offered at the post-secondary level. In this presentation I explain the structure of the course as well as offer an assessment of its advantages and disadvantages for both instructors and students. I first review my motivation, goals, and concerns in developing this course. I then explain the structure of the course, including the various components of student assessment, and how this course differs from a traditional, instructor-centered philosophy course. I then review how the course operated in-practice and offer an assessment of the merits and limitations of student-centered pedagogy based on my experience. Ultimately I conclude that both student-centered and instructor-centered pedagogy have a useful role to play in post-secondary education, though they excel at achieving different goals. Looking to the future, I suggest that post-secondary curricula seek to accommodate both pedagogical approaches in their course offerings.

Presenters: Dr. Karl Laderoute - Visiting Assistant Professor, Philosophy

Room: M1060

Title: What Can a Digital Platform Teach Us?: Perusall and Reading Engagement

Abstract: At the 2016 STHLE conference, I learned about a relatively new digital platform called Perusall , which promises to encourage students to read and to communicate meaningfully with each other about assigned texts before class. More specifically, this platform works by facilitating students to make digital annotations in assigned readings and transforms the margins of texts into sites of active discussion between students supporting each other in making sense of what they read. It also identifies areas of reader-confusion. In this presentation, I propose to share my observations derived from its use in two courses this academic year. I will give a brief demonstration of the platform, addressing what this tool has taught me about how students read and interpret the texts I assign. I will discuss how students describe their use of it, as well as how it assesses their reading practices. With respect to the latter, this platform’s capacities raise crucial questions, such as: What might be the implications of an algorithmic tool that can mark students’ work?  While I have observed that Perusall brings students to class with well-formulated questions and comments before the lecture begins, I suggest that its greater strength resides in what it can teach us as instructors.  Nevertheless, I am aware of potential pedagogical contradictions presented by the use of a digital platform that has advanced capacities. These considerations respond to this year’s Spark theme of “50 Years of Teaching,” particularly the sub-theme regarding improvements in educational technology and their impacts on teaching.

Presenters: Dr. Kimberly Mair - Associate Professor, Sociology

Room: M1090


Quick Links

Concurrent Session Eight

Spark 2017 Schedule Overview