Professor George Hoffmann, LSA
1060 Biological Sciences Building (BSB)
Professor Hoffmann created this course as a new offering in the Honors Program and taught it in the largest Team-based Learning (TBL) classroom, 1060 Biological Sciences Building (BSB). A primary motivation for him was the belief that learning should be social and this space would enable him to incorporate elements of collaborative learning into the course. Since this course meets LSA’s First-Year Writing Requirement (FYWR), creating a structure that integrated individual and team writing was critical. His goals of “slow reading and slow writing” led him to focus on a recursive series of writing activities in which students create pieces and then revisit them throughout the semester. As part of that sequence, each team publishes a portfolio of their written work for the term on WordPress. Each team site included members' individual writing -- a personal evocation, a compare and contrast piece, a close reading piece including an evidence-based argument, rebuttal and an open-ended reflective conclusion -- and a reflection on their writing through the course. Creating an introduction where they say how Westworld related to their team reading and a conclusion that outlined their key take away points put a team "wrapper" around their individual writing. Each team designs the site layout and other aesthetic elements and creates its graphic elements.
Professor Hoffmann invested in the idea of course “community” by using a structured approach to the formation of the student teams. He used a software tool, CATME, which offers several components for managing teams. Team Maker enables instructors to create student surveys and use those surveys to automatically create groups. Peer Evaluation tools enable students to evaluate their teammates’ performance as well as their own. Finally, Rater Practice and Teamwork Training materials help students recognize effective team behaviors. Responses to certain survey questions were tied to potential team roles, such as interest in visual design, moderation skills, time keeping. Assignments and in-class activities utilized these roles to better distribute the workload among team members. Students could switch roles at various points during the term. Students had frequent opportunities to provide and receive anonymous feedback from their team members and their contributions were a part of their grade for the course.
Class sessions were usually a mix of mini-lectures and activities. Professor Hoffmann presented from his tablet via wireless presentation software so that he could move around the room and ensure that he engaged with the full group. Additionally, the course’s GSIs were instrumental in assisting during class. All the teams in a section were located close to one another so that the GSI could interact with those students in lecture as well as in discussion sections. GSIs played a crucial role in spotting questions and comments and distributing microphones to students. Name tents were also helpful for quickly checking attendance as well as ensuring students and the instruction team learned one another’s names.
Perusall, a social annotation tool, enabled team members to collaboratively annotate course readings. The tool automatically grades the annotations based on criteria set by the instructor. Although typically used as a reading accountability tool, Professor Hoffmann used it as team-building tool to encourage early buy-in around the core reading that each team would write on all semester. He found this tool very effective in eliciting high quality student comments and interactions. Additionally, each team had a Canvas Group and used Google Docs for many of the collaborative writing assignments and in-class activities. Finally, Professor Hoffman used Canvas Quizzes as a pre-class understanding check of the reading for each session.
From the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT), Professor Hoffmann worked with Deb Meizlish and Whitney Peoples as part of the LSA/CRLT Large Course Initiative and then on an ongoing basis with pedagogical questions. Nicole Tuttle from CRLT also provided assistance with CATME. Anthony King (CRLT) provided assistance with Canvas, along with Phill Cameron, from the Language Resource Center (LRC). Carla Stellrecht, from LSA Technology Services, provided assistance on utilizing classroom features and overall course design.