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    Normalizing Uncertainty Through Simulations

    Most fields, especially those that involve working with people, are not nearly as straightforward as textbooks might have students believe. However, many students find confronting uncertainty and not getting the “right answer” to be a discomforting experience. In Homeostasis I, Richard Schwartzstein and Jeffrey William see simulations as powerful exercises to get students used to navigating uncertainty. Through modeling, questioning, and devising scenarios without clear-cut answers, Schwartzstein and William emphasize to students the importance of “being okay with...

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    Engaging the Whole Class Through Strategic Role Assignment

    When a simulation or role play requires the direct involvement of only a small subset of students, the rest of the class may find themselves disconnected from the action. Even students within the subset of chief participants can become disengaged if their individual role is ill-defined. In this video, Richard Schwartzstein and Jeffrey William discuss how strategic role assignments can maintain engagement and “involve the crowd.” In this simulation specifically, the main actors in the simulation fulfill roles that mirror those on a hospital floor, while other...

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    Defining Strategic Roles for Simulation Facilitators

    As an expert in one’s field, it can be challenging for instructors to move to the periphery of the classroom and let students take the lead. Not doing so, however, can impede students’ problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Fortunately, acting as a facilitator in simulations does not necessarily mean instructors stand idly by. In this video, Jeffrey William discusses how instructors in Homeostasis I find ways to guide students’ thinking without overpowering them by posing questions, issuing subtle hints, and purposefully walking away. Considering the role of...

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    Debriefing the Emotional Experience of the Simulation

    When the simulation has formally ended, this does not mean the learning is over. Debriefing the simulation experience with students is a critical component of achieving instructors’ learning objectives. More intense than a paper case, role plays and simulations also stir emotions and raise stress levels among participants. Given this, taking time to debrief the anxieties and emotions simulations raise is imperative. In this video, Richard Schwartzstein, Jeffrey William, and Homeostasis I students discuss the importance of acknowledging the emotional component of the...

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    Asking and Answering Questions to Deepen Student Understanding

    Simply because one student has offered a correct answer does not mean other students are on the same page. In this video, Richard Schwartzstein discusses how he responds to student questions and responses in a way that invites the whole class into the conversation. “Tell me more about that,” is one of his go-to responses to gently probe students’ understanding and demystify their thought process for other learners in the room. “If they tell me the right answer, I don’t always validate it,” Schwartzstein explains, “because I’ll still turn to someone else and say...

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    Building intense learning environments through simulation design

    Simulations aim to replicate realistic problems from the field in a relatively controlled classroom environment. However, this is difficult since field-based problems are vulnerable to contextual changes, complicated by divergent social interests, and seldom straightforward. In this video, Brian Mandell and his teaching team discuss how they design classroom simulation experiences that mirror the real world and ratchet up pressure for students. This global negotiation simulation in particular features misaligned interests, cultural clashes, and periodic news bulletins that shift the very...

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    Preparing students for a simulation

    Complex, multi-party simulations require careful preparation. With so many moving parts, students should have some understanding of what to expect and how to appropriately prepare. In this video, Mandell and his teaching team describe the materials and instructions students receive before simulations. While all groups receive general instructions which provide broad details about the case, each group member also receives his or her own confidential instructions outlining individual interests, allies, and adversaries. To prepare, students study both sets of instructions closely,...

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    Leveraging the teaching team in a simulation

    The more complex a simulation becomes, the more important a well-organized teaching team is for an instructor. Having multiple teaching assistants allows lead instructors to delegate responsibilities procedurally and purposefully. In this video, Mandell’s teaching team reflects on some of the different roles they play throughout simulations. These roles range from gathering data for the whole class debriefs after simulations to coaching students individually as they negotiate. 

    Giving peer feedback promptly with "hot" debriefs

    Though simulations can be powerful learning experiences on their own, students’ learning is enhanced when instructors give them adequate time to process what they just experienced. Particularly when pressure runs high, fostering a structured space for students to debrief is critical. In Brian Mandell’s class, immediately after simulations conclude, student groups offer each member feedback about their performance in the activity. With the simulation still fresh in students’ minds, “hot” debriefs become candid spaces in which students provide one another specific, constructive support....

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    Synthesizing simulation takeaways through lecture

    If simulations plunk students right in the middle of the action, what is the role of the instructor? Though instructors in simulation-based classrooms typically play the role of facilitators rather than lecturers, a strategically placed lecture gives the disciplinary expert in the room a chance to distill key conceptual takeaways from student-centered activities. This video shows how Brian Mandell commences full group sessions by delivering a mini-lecture that responds directly to what students just experienced. The analytic lecture aims to, in Mandell’s words, provide students...

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    Presenting simulation data to spark discussion and reflection

    Failing to debrief after an intense simulation is a missed opportunity, but when simulation debriefs fail to draw on specifics from the activity, this can also short circuit discussion and reflection. Accordingly, providing fresh, relevant data from a recently conducted simulation can deepen debrief conversations and offer students concrete details to drive their reflections. In this video, Mandell and his teaching assistant share both quantitative and qualitative data from the simulation to enliven and enhance the full group debrief. Calling upon specific groups to...

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    Incorporating humor to ease tensions in active learning

    Well-timed, appropriate humor can provide relief in tense classroom environments. Humor can be especially critical in active learning environments, where students’ immersion can heighten anxiety and stress. In this video, Mandell, his teaching assistants, and students discuss the central role that humor plays in whole group sessions following simulations. After the intensity of the learning activity and the constructive criticism of “hot” debriefs, humor becomes a helpful tool to keep students engaged and allow them to reflect on mistakes with some levity.

    Contextualizing learning with guest speakers

    Though simulations may effectively replicate real-world situations and problems, they are still just that: simulations. Accordingly, finding ways to reinforce the idea that similar situations are being experienced by real practitioners in the field becomes critical. In this video, Mandell and his teaching team discuss how their negotiations course enlists guest speakers to come speak to the class. These speakers contextualize the skills and concepts students learn and enact in class and share their first-hand experiences with similar problems in the field. 

    Using Project-Based Learning to Engage Students

    In contrast to traditional lecture-based courses, using projects in the classroom pushes students to actively apply what they have learned. In AP50: Physics as a Foundation for Science and Engineering, instructors put aside textbooks and lectures, challenging students instead to construct a machine that meets a real world challenge. Once students are engaged, instructors then begin to make textbook connections, pointing out how fundamental class concepts can enhance the quality of students’ project. This is what Eric Mazur calls the “Trojan Horse” of learning.

    Designing Authentic Projects

    Effective projects are carefully designed in order to deepen and broaden students’ understanding of course concepts by applying them to real-world challenges. The point is to demonstrate to students how what they’re learning in the course -- information that may see fairly dry in the abstract -- becomes  extremely important when applied to everyday problems. In this video, Eric Mazur and his teaching team underscore the value of using projects to give learning a deeper meaning. They emphasize how learning is much more memorable when students get a chance to be hands-on and enact...

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    Presenting Projects Publicly as Summative Assessment

    Creating opportunities for students to make their learning public can raise the stakes and broaden a course's horizons. In this video, one of Eric Mazur’s students and his teaching assistant introduce how they use a public project fair as the primary summative assessment in the class. At the fair, students demonstrate how their projects work to external judges and then answer questions about the design process and related class concepts. The result is an engaged public and motivated, proud students.

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    Using Team-Based Learning to Prepare Students for the Real World

    As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the future of work will become increasingly collaborative. As he explains in this video, this is what underpins Eric Mazur’s approach to team-based learning: a belief that instructors need to help students learn how to work together because this is how they will succeed once they leave our classrooms. 

    Designing Project Teams that Work

    Teams are most productive and conducive to learning when students with complementary skills, knowledge, and dispositions work together. That said, students generally don’t enter classrooms already sorted in these diverse ways. Often they group together based on achievement and engagement or based on background characteristics. In this video, Eric Mazur and his teaching team explain how and why they intentionally design heterogeneous teams. By using pre-class surveys and student demographic data, they find ways to assign students to teams in ways that play to each member’s strengths and...

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    Using Team Contracts and Peer Feedback to Foster Team Building

    Many students balk at the idea of working in teams, particularly when they don’t know who the other students are. Students may be concerned others won’t pull their weight or that the output may not meet expectations. Given this, it is important for instructors to be intentional in fostering team-building experiences and peer-accountability processes. Doing so, instructors can ensure that teams get off on the right foot and persist productively throughout the class. In this video, Eric Mazur and his teaching team give examples of how they do this by discussing the use of reflection, team...

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    Devaluing the Right Answer

    Most instructors experience students asking them if they have the right answer or just asking for the right answer outright. However, as Eric Mazur and his teaching team in this video acknowledge, simply giving students the right answer can “sabotage” problem-based learning. This is because what matters in problem-based learning is not the answer so much as the process of arriving at an answer. Devaluing the right answer is one way for instructors to make this principle of teaching clear in their classrooms.

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