Archives For Robert Talbert

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On Saturday, May 5, 2013, I was joined by TJ Hitchman (University of Northern Iowa) for the Michigan Project NExT Panel Discussion on Teaching Strategies for Improving Student Learning, which was part of the 2013 Spring MAA Michigan Section Meeting at Lake Superior State University. The title of the session was “Teaching Strategies for Improving Student Learning” and was organized by Robert Talbert (Grand Valley State University). The dynamic looking guy in the photo above is TJ.

Here is the abstract for the session.

Are you interested in helping your students learn mathematics more effectively? Are you thinking about branching out in the way you teach your courses? If so, you should attend this panel discussion featuring short talks from leaders in higher education in employing innovative and effective instructional strategies in their mathematics classes. After speaking, our panelists will lead breakout discussions in small groups to answer questions and share advice about effective instructional strategies for college mathematics. Panelists will include Dana Ernst (Northern Arizona University) and Theron Hitchman (University of Northern Iowa), both noted for their effective use of the flipped classroom and inquiry-based learning.

Sweet, I guess running my mouth often enough about inquiry-based learning (IBL) gets me “noted.”

Each of TJ and I took about 10-15 minutes to discuss our respective topics and then we took the remaining time to chat and brainstorm as a group. The focus of my portion of the panel was on “Inquiry-Based Learning: What, Why, and How?” My talk was a variation on several similar talks that I’ve given over the past year. For TJ’s portion, he discussed his Big “Unteaching” Experiment that he implemented in his Spring 2013 differential geometry course.

Here are the slides for my portion of the panel.

Despite low attendance at the panel, I think it went well. Thanks to Robert for inviting TJ and me!

Producing learners

December 21, 2012 — Leave a comment

Robert Talbert (Grand Valley State University) recently posted an article titled “We need to produce learners, not just students” on his Casting Out Nines blog that really resonates with me. In the article, Robert expresses what he feels is the goal of higher education and states in general terms how an educator can get on the path to achieving this goal.

There are so many wonderful nuggets in the article. Here’s one of my favorites.

I even care about this more than students’ grades. In my mind, and I think in the minds of most people who employ my students later in life, if you graduate from university and don’t have the skills or dispositions necessary to teach yourself new things for the rest of your life, it doesn’t really matter what your GPA says: You’re not educated. And if I shepherd a student through the university without putting them in a position time and again to hone these skills and dispositions, it doesn’t matter what my title or my course evaluations say: I’m not an educator.

This quote summarizes exactly why I started incorporating inquiry-based learning (IBL) and the Moore method into my courses. IBL is not a magic bullet, but the experiences that I have had watching students transform into independent learners is why I am so passionate about it. I want students to have life-changing experiences! Learning the content of mathematics is just a bonus.

Robert ends the article with the following statement.

But it doesn’t matter whether we use the flipped classroom, IBL, PBL, or what-have-you — what counts is whether we are training people to be able to learn on their own. Doing education without this in mind is just irresponsible.


If you haven’t already, please go read Robert’s article.

Yesterday, I was part of a panel discussion about inquiry-based learning (IBL) at the Fall 2012 Indiana MAA Section Meeting. The other panelists included Robert Talbert (Grand Valley State University) and Mindi Capaldi (Valparaiso University). The panel was organized by the Indiana Section NExT, which is the Indiana version of the national Project NExT. Here is the abstract for the session:

We will discuss inquiry based learning, inverted classroom models, peer instruction, and other alternatives to lecture-based instruction. Panelists will give a brief intro of their experience in these areas, followed by an extended time of Q&A with the audience. This panel is open to all meeting participants.

You might be wondering how I ended up at the Indiana MAA Section Meeting. One of my Project NExT fellows, Lara Pudwell (Valparaiso University), sent me a message several weeks ago asking if I knew anyone near Indiana that would be interested in speaking on a panel about inquiry-based learning. I told her that I wasn’t anywhere near Indiana, but that I would love to be a part of the panel. Since I’m not swimming in travel money, I contacted Stan Yoshinobu (Cal Poly and Director of the Academy of Inquiry Based Learning) to see if the Visiting Speakers Bureau might be able to pay my way. Thankfully, my request for travel funding was approved. Woot! I’d like to thank AIBL and the Educational Advancement Foundation for funding these sorts of things.

The panel discussion was well-attended and it seemed to go very well. Each of the three panelist spoke for about 5-10 minutes and then the floor was opened to questions. The questions (during the session and later at lunch) covered a variety of topics, but as expected, people were interested in how to implement IBL in large classes and/or courses where coverage of a significant amount of content is a requirement. In my opinion, these are two of the biggest obstacles to adopting all sorts of effective and progressive teaching approaches. The obstacles are not insurmountable, but modifications (and compromises) of how I might run my upper-level proof-based classes must be made. I’ll try to write a post that addresses some potential strategies for dealing with large classes and the coverage issue.

Here are the slides for my portion of the panel discussion.