The SoTL Advocate

Supporting efforts to make public the reflection and study of teaching and learning at Illinois State University and beyond…

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Outside the Box Pedagogies Supported by Emerging Evidence

Written by Jen Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL and Associate Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at Illinois State University

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 11.04.16 AM.pngIt’s back…syllabus construction season! I have spent the last several weeks considering various instructional approaches for a class I’m teaching for the first time. My class — Assessment Across the Lifespan — is a clinically-based course intended to round out ISU’s two-year speech-language pathology graduate program. I’ve been planning the semester carefully these last several weeks, focusing on important “take aways” for students. As I matched instructional approaches with various course topics, I struggled to find a pedagogy that would allow me to facilitate the development of high-caliber observation skills — a critical tool in any clinical toolbox — in my students. To figure this out, I started looking toward relevant evidence to see what types of strategies/pedagogies were being used effectively to teach observational skills.

While I learned of varied evidence-based approaches to students learn to be better observers, there was one that resonated strongly with me. Jasani and Saks (2013) studied the impact of using visual art to help enhance the observational skills of medical students at their institution. Their study used a pre/post-test design to evaluate student observations before and after a three-hour visual observation strategy module that focused on using art to sharpen visual observation skills. While the number of observations did not differ from pre- to post- measures, students perceived they developed stronger clinical skills (content understanding and clinical mindfulness) as a result of this activity. I’m thinking I may use this approach to help my students sharpen their observational skills this term…and perhaps evaluate the impact of this pedagogy on student learning in speech-language pathology.

As I was reading about the arts-based approach for clinical teaching, I came across a blog that detailed the use of one of my favorite TV shows, the Amazing Race, to teach cultural geography to students. Sarah Smiley reflected on the use of this approach in a recent issue of the Journal of Geography (2017). In great detail, Smiley explained her reasoning for selecting various shows (e.g., to teach about language or religion) and discussed how her course structure allowed for active in- and out-of-class learning experiences. She identified student learning barriers and work-arounds for subsequent applications of this pedagogy. Overall, while no learning data was provided, Smiley allowed for a very honest look into the development of and reflection on an “out of the box” pedagogy. A bit of digging turned up a similar type of course autopsy by Smiley and Post (2014) in which the use of popular music to engage students in the study of introductory geography is studied.

Thinking about one more, evidence-based, “out of the box” approach to teaching, I was reminded of the work my ISU colleagues Bill Anderson, Sarah Bradshaw, and Jennifer Banning (2017). They studied a “twist” on case-based learning that yielded interesting possibilities for course instructors focused on change or development over time. This pedagogy, the interrupted case study (ICS), allows for case studies to unfold over time, with course instructors releasing selected and organized parts of each case progressively to disclose important aspects of the case as a sort of problem-based learning experience over time (Anderson et al, 2017). For this investigation, researchers used a video case study in a human development course to follow a cohort of individuals through their lifetimes for a period of 50 years. Segments of the video case study were played over the course of the semester. In between video segments, students were tasked with applying, discussing, and comparing/contrasting relevant developmental theories germane to the videos they watched. Students were also asked to make predictions of what they might see during the next video segment that was released. Student reflections from across the semester were studied systematically to understand the impact of ICS. Preliminary findings indicated that the use of ICS has the potential to create the “need to know” in students, to connect theory to practice, and to raise students’ levels of critical thinking.

The instructional approaches discussed in this blog certainly are “outside the box” and have presented emerging evidence for their efficacy which provide a foundation for future inquiry to understand the comprehensive impacts of these pedagogies. I am appreciative of the work of innovators in teaching and learning such as those featured above. Their efforts often change my perspective and provide new ways of thinking about my teaching and my students’ learning, which is always a good thing, particularly at the start of a new semester! Happy fall term to all!

Blog References

Anderson, J. W., Bradshaw, S., & Banning, J. (2017). Using interrupted video case studies to teach developmental theory: A pilot study. Gauisus, 4.

Jasani, S. K. & Saks, N. S. (2013). Using visual art to enhance the clinical observation skills of medical students. Medical Teacher, 35(7).

Smiley, S. L. (2017). Teaching cultural geography with the Amazing Race. Journal of Geography, 116(3), 109-118.

Smiley, S. L. & Post, C. W. (2014). Using popular music to teach the geography of the United States and Canada. Journal of Geography, 113(6), 238-246.