Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Teaching Concepts with Examples and (free) ConceptTutor

I recently came across a quick article, "Six Proven Ways to Use Examples and Non-Examples" by Connie Malamed that describes a variety of techniques for effectively using examples to teach concepts.
You'll want to read the entire article, but here are Malamed's ideas for effectively teaching with examples:

Rule #1: Use examples in which the irrelevant attributes vary widely
Rule #2: Progress from simple to difficult examples 

Rule #3: Present instances of a concept in rapid sequence or allow all instances to be viewed simultaneously
Rule#4: Use matched examples and non-examples for concepts with related attributes

Rule #5: Provide opportunities for learners to generate their own examples of a concept

Rule #6: Expose learners to a wide range of examples and non-examples and allow them to discover the concept

This article reminded me of a wonderfully simple yet powerful tool that can help instructors or instructional designers create learning modules centered on learning conceptual knowledge. ConceptTutor Plus, freely available from the University of Wisconsin's Engage program, is a tool that "promotes effective learning through the use of definitions, examples and non-examples contextual information, and self-check quizzes."
Example content created with ConceptTutor

ConceptTutor creates collections of html files and media that can easily be uploaded to an LMS course site or any web server.

One powerful learning exercise is for students to create their own ConceptTutor modules as a way of demonstrating their own mastery of key concepts.

Friday, October 14, 2011

"Test-enhanced learning" in LMS

Is quizzing a more effective learning strategy than studying? In this short video, Univ. of Wisconsin professor Brad Postle explains his dramatic findings and the cognitive process behind this effective teaching strategy.

I wanted to incorporate a newly characterized finding in cognitive psychology research -- "test-enhanced learning" -- into how I teach my 200-student lecture course on Cognitive Psychology. We did this by assigning weekly quizzes that are administered via Learn@UW and, critically, set up to provide immediate feedback in which incorrect answers were followed by an explanation of the principle(s) underlying that question. This innovation was highly successful, resulting in doubling the number of 'A's earned in the course, a dramatic reduction in the number of students who failed the course, and an overall improvement in performance by all the students in between. --Brad Postle

Watch Postle explain this teaching strategy.
Obviously, the LMS (Desire2Learn -- Learn@UW -- in our case), was a critical component in the design, delivery, and reporting of this educational research.

I'm also proud to show off this video as it's part of the excellent work in digital narratives our department has effectively promoted and supported here in DoIT Academic Technology at UW-Madison.