Professor of Medicine and Director of the IDEA Lab
Marie K. Norman, PhD, is professor of medicine and clinical and translational science at the University of Pittsburgh. She is director of the Innovative Design for Education and Assessment (IDEA) Lab, where she leads hybrid and online educational initiatives for the Institute for Clinical Research Education (ICRE). Marie received her doctorate in cultural anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh and conducted her fieldwork in Nepal, funded by a Fulbright award. Her first love is teaching, and she is proud to have taught in higher education for over 25 years, first in undergraduate and now in graduate education, teaching a wide range of courses, seminars, and workshops on topics from anthropology to leadership to team science to adult learning theory. She also brings experience from the business world, having served as Director of Intercultural Education at iCarnegie Global Learning and Senior Director for Educational Excellence at Acatar, an educational technology start-up. Marie has been fortunate to work with educators in Colombia, Kazakhstan, Tatarstan, and Qatar, sharing the principles from this book and learning from their expertise. She has been closely involved in a number of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, serving on the ICRE’s Diversity Advisory Committee and helping to develop and administer the LEADS, PROMISED, Building Up, and TRANSFORM programs for scientists from under-represented backgrounds. She is happiest working in collaboration with smart, curious, socially engaged people on projects at the intersections of teaching, learning, culture, technology, and design.
Interim Executive Director
Michael Bridges, Ph.D. is the interim executive director for the University Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. At Pitt, he leads the university’s efforts to support effective teaching and the use of evidence-based pedagogy, educational technology, and learning space design to support meaningful student engagement and deep learning. He is the co-author of How Learning Works: Eight Research-based Principles for Smart Teaching (second edition published in 2022), which connects the research findings from the scholarship of teaching and learning to practical strategies for successful teaching. His previous professional roles include Executive Director of Online Learning and Strategy at Duquesne University, Execute Director of Education at Amber-Allen Publishing, and Vice President of Educational Strategy at iCarnegie Global Learning.
Dr. Bridges is a social psychologist and received his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University. He teaches courses in survey research design and methodology. He speaks frequently on issues related to online learning, course and curricular design, assessment, student culture, motivation, online learning, and faculty development.
Bonni Stachowiak is the producer and host of the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast, which has been airing weekly since June of 2014. Bonni is the Dean of Teaching and Learning at Vanguard University of Southern California. She’s also a Professor of Business and Management and teaches a few times a year in an Educational Leadership doctoral program. She’s been teaching in-person, blended, and online courses throughout her entire career in higher education. Bonni and her husband, Dave, are parents to two curious kids, who regularly shape their perspectives on teaching and learning.
[00:00:00] Bonnie: Today on episode number 466 of the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast, How Learning Works, Eight Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching, with Marie Norman and Mike Bridges.
Welcome to this episode of Teaching in Higher Ed. I’m Bonnie Stachowiak and this is the space where we explore the art and science of being more effective at facilitating learning. We also share ways to improve our productivity approaches, so we can have more peace in our lives, and be even more present for our students.
Today’s guests are Marie Norman and Mike Bridges. Michael W. Bridges is Executive Director of the University Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. In this role, he leads the university’s efforts to create exceptional and consequential learning experiences. Toward this goal, he directs and works with a large team of instructional designers, teaching consultants, educational technologists, learning space designers, and assessment experts to support excellent teaching.
Mike received his doctorate in social psychology from Carnegie Mellon University in 1997. His early career focused on understanding the role of psychosocial variables and recovery from coronary artery bypass surgery and breast cancer. He formerly served as the Vice President for Educational Strategy and Excellence at iCarnegie Global Learning, where he used the principles from how learning works to help instructors from many different countries develop and deliver great courses.
Mike has more than 30 years of teaching experience and still feels a mixture of anxiety and excitement on the first day of every class. His most recent interests focus on understanding the role of narratives in teaching and the unending quest for a recipe for a perfect falafel. Marie K. Norman is Associate Professor of Medicine and Clinical and Translational Science at the University of Pittsburgh. She is director of the Innovative Design for Education and Assessment (IDEA) Lab, where she leads hybrid and online educational initiatives for the Institute for Clinical Research Education, ICRE.
She’s also co-director of the Team Science Core of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Marie received her doctorate in cultural anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh and conducted her fieldwork in Nepal, funded by a Fulbright award. Marie’s first love is teaching, and she’s proud to have taught in higher education for more than 25 years, first in undergraduate and now in graduate education, teaching a wide range of courses, seminars and workshops on topics from anthropology, to leadership, to team science to adult learning theory.
She also brings experience from the business world, having served as director of Intercultural Education at iCarnegie Global Learning, and Senior Director for Educational Excellence at Acatar, an educational technology startup. She is happiest working in collaboration with smart, curious, socially engaged people on projects at the intersections of teaching, learning, culture, technology, and design. Marie and Mike, welcome to Teaching in Higher Ed.
[00:04:10] Marie: Thank you, Bonnie. It’s a pleasure to be here.
[00:04:12] Mike: Thanks for having us.
[00:04:13] Bonnie: I so enjoyed getting to read this book cover to cover and in revisiting it, going back and looking at your backgrounds. Mike, we’re going to start with you, but Marie, just caution you’re [laughs] coming next. Mike, your career sounds so fascinating. I would love to have you talk a little bit about your research and the ways in which has threaded its ways in unpredictable ways into your work in teaching and learning.
[00:04:42] Mike: Yes, it certainly represents what might be considered a nonlinear path. It’s somewhat serendipitous, guided by certain decision points that were critical along the way. I’m a social psychologist by training, focusing on the role of dispositional characteristics, personality and disease processes. Some of my early work was looking at the influence of psychosocial variables on recovery from what’s called cabbage. It’s a coronary artery bypass graft surgery.
This was with oftentimes middle-aged and older men who were undergoing bypass surgery. We know that recovery from those processes can be quite variable. Some of the traditional medical predictors in terms of behavior, whether they smoke, whether they’re overweight, the kinds of exercise they get, some of the social predictors like whether they’re married or having a large social support network, or even physiological variables like cholesterol levels, ejection fraction, those things, those don’t do a tremendously good job of predicting who’s going to recover and who’s not.
We were really interested if there were other variables in the psycho-social realm that would add to the predictive abilities to help us understand who might be at risk from poor recovery prognosis. We looked at a whole range of things from dispositional optimism and self-efficacy. It was a great research study. We did something very similar with a group of young women who were undergoing treatment for breast cancer, so kind of a similar trend there but started out at– I did my graduate work at Carnegie Mellon, which is known as a fairly strong research institution.
I also had this interesting experience that I sat across the hall from a guy named Herb Simon. Herb Simon was a Nobel Prize winner in the 70s for economics. He’s considered one of the founding fathers of cognitive psychology, a dominant force at the institution and certainly in my department. There was no way you could sit across the hall from Herb and not become interested in how people process information, the mechanisms by which they learn. It was a central feature of one of his many research trajectories. That kind of rubbed off on me.
I became really interested in teaching and learning, I found I had a particular affinity for it. As you note, in our book, we started out with a quote from Herb Simon that really guides our thinking about teaching and learning. Along that path, the theme has been to really understand how we create these kinds of robust learning experiences for our students, whether that’s in a clinical setting, whether that’s stepping out and looking at some international audiences where both Maria and I have worked, or at a small private institution, a large state research institution, that’s the unifying theme.
[00:07:32] Bonnie: One thing that is mentioned in your bio, which I read earlier, is this idea of creating exceptional and consequential learning experiences. Mike, that is a unique way of describing what it is that we either do or might aspire to do in our work. Would you talk a bit about– especially I think that consequential learning experiences, what comes to mind for you when you think about learning experiences that might be of consequence to us in our lives?
[00:08:04] Mike: I think it’s one of the enduring challenges that we have. I don’t know for most of your listeners, I assume that their teaching either currently or will be in the future. One of the things that at least haunts me to some degree, haunts isn’t the right word, but with which I’m concerned is, what do my learners remember, what do they know? What are they able to use two years from now, three years from now, five years from now?
I’ll tell a quick story. I was in New York. We live in Pittsburgh. I was in New York, and somebody called, “Dr. Bridges.” I turned around, and it was a former student who had been in a class that I taught three or four years earlier. After reintroducing ourselves and figuring out, orienting to, okay, where do we know each other from, I was really interested. I said, you took my course, what can you remember, from– it was a full semester-long, 15 week course. It was an introduction to personality. What do you remember about that? It was a bit humbling, his response. He said, I remember one day, I had a young daughter at the time, your daughter was sick, and you taught class with your daughter on one of those–
[00:09:13] Marie: BabyBjorn.
[00:09:13] Mike: BabyBjorn, and her name was Zoe, because she had Zoe written on the bottom of her shoes. I said “that’s the only thing you remember from my class?” He said, “I remember CANOE as an acronym for the five dimensions of personality.” It made me think about when I say consequential, I mean, it’s a synonym for meaningful, impactful, applicable, something that’s beyond the kind of esoteric from simply a broad knowledge or understanding point of view, but something that our students can really use in the consequence of their lives.
[00:09:47] Marie: I’d want to argue that for a man to bring in his baby girl in a BabyBjorn and teach with her on his chest, really makes an important point that is. a kind of consequential form of learning. I’m actually not surprised that that’s what stood out and that’s what he remembered from that because it’s one of the things I think our students look to us for is models of adulthood, not just content from our courses but what’s it like to be a grown-up and what are the options. I think that that model, the merging of family and work that is most powerful.
[00:10:24] Bonnie: I’m so glad that you pointed that out, Marie, and how beautiful that is to be– beautiful and haunting as you said earlier, Mike, to think about the things which we explicitly attempt to facilitate in terms of other people’s learning and those unintended consequences which I tend to think of as bad things, but what a delightful unintended consequence to have put that out into the world in such a way to have him remember all those years later.
When I had Dan Levy on the podcast from Harvard, he introduced me to this idea of airport ideas and it’s the same thing, Mike, where you see someone in the airport five years and you’re making me feel a little bit better because I do now ask that question to students if I see you in an airport five years from now, what will you remember? [laughs] I’m teaching a business ethics class, so in the beginning, we’re introducing most of them for the first time to some of the great philosophical thinkers and so I show videos from Michael Sandel’s justice videos, what’s the right thing to do. He mentions a case about cannibalism where they’re in a lifeboat and Dudley versus Stephens, I believe is the case [laughs] that’s being mentioned. I asked one of the students what are you going to remember, and he’s like, “I’m going to remember cannibalism.” I thought, “Okay.” [laughter] Just okay. [laughs]
[00:11:52] Marie: Just don’t take the wrong message about cannibalism.
[00:11:55] Bonnie: Yes, exactly. You’re making me forgive myself a little bit more. Also, I mean this is not a great time to ask someone these final weeks of a stressful semester for everyone what they’re going to remember five years because the fact is we just don’t know what we’ll remember for a whole host of reasons, but yes. Anyway, I want to hear now from you, Marie, a little bit about your background. I am just so intrigued by the work that you’ve done and the ways that you see it weaving into the work that you do now.
[00:12:28] Marie: Yes. Absolutely. My background is in cultural anthropology. I did my fieldwork in Nepal. I was born in Nepal actually, too. I’ve always been really interested in culture and how we’re shaped by culture in the vast range of manifestations of cultures there are in the world, how many different ways there are to think about things and do things. I find that really exciting and liberating, but I was also not sure I wanted to live the life of an anthropologist. I’m a bit of a homebody compared to most anthropologists and it was really teaching anthropology that interested me the most. That I was so excited about these ideas and these cultures and that I wanted to share that with students and let them into this world.
I was teaching anthropology when I started working in the teaching center at Carnegie Mellon which is where I met Mike. Both of us started to do consulting with faculty about their courses and it, to me, was extremely anthropological that every discipline is a culture, every classroom is a culture. It’s got its own languages and its own rituals. I found that really fascinating to move between those disciplinary cultures and learn the lay of the land. That’s what got me interested in really teaching and then the scholarship of teaching and learning and all the research that I think can really inform good teaching. Then somewhere along the line and I’m not sure there was a particular point at which this happened, but I had an early childhood ambition of being a children’s book illustrator.
I drew a lot. I was interested in art and aesthetics. Somewhere along the line working on teaching and learning, I really came to appreciate beauty as an important part of learning. That design, visual design, both for reducing cognitive load and creating clear accessible learning experiences, but also, beautiful ones and inviting ones. In my more recent work, I have a small team of people at the University of Pittsburgh, I’m now teaching at the School of Medicine, where we do a lot of graphic design and video production, and instructional design. I find that really energizing and exciting as how do you meld that visual design and course design in the best way.
[00:14:56] Bonnie: I’m quite intrigued by the idea that’s coming from both of how you’ve just shared about your lives and your careers. The ways in which we have these unexpected paths and yet, how many times something from our childhood there was a rootedness in some sense of who we are and in how we might contribute to the world. It’s fascinating to me. Would you ever have thought, Marie, growing up that you would have not illustrated children’s book, somehow you would be in science or medicine?
[00:15:35] Marie: That’s the last thing I would have expected. Right. Life takes you in some interesting journeys. I think Mike and I have talked about this a lot, that we’ve really come to appreciate how one thing leads to the next thing. A really wonderful collaboration can take you in a new direction. I think really what, don’t want to speak for Mike here, but has been the through-line is that we love to learn. We love to learn new things. When you love to learn new things, it takes you towards other new things and it might kick you off a linear path, but ultimately, it all comes back to that.
[00:16:13] Mike: Yes. I think we’re curious by nature. We want to learn. We’re both somewhat exploratory where we’re willing to take some risks. That’s challenged us in interesting ways. As you recognize, we’ve taken these nonlinear paths and it’s funny because I often times will talk explicitly to my students. They have this idea as a 21, 22, 23, I teach some graduate courses. Here they are in their life at one spot and they look forward and they believe that it’s going to be this linear path for the next 30, 40, 50 years.
There’s a side of me that almost paternally wants to say, “Oh, grasshopper.” [laughter] It may be very different. Certainly, I had that view, but there have been these decision points, these intersections that provided opportunities. Some more plan-ful, some more strategic than others, some completely serendipitous that led to new and different paths. As a consequence, I would have to learn a new skill, a new ability, a new talent, and oftentimes, that would be the foundation on which the new trajectory would take off. It’s these series of bifurcations over this period of time that’s been fun. It’s led to international work. It’s led to work in academic medicine. It led to work on the business side for a while and in publishing, but each one of those experiences adds to a collective body of experience that in some ways positions us uniquely in the work that we do.
[00:17:47] Bonnie: I know an important aspect of the work, especially in the second edition, is around the social and emotional components of learning. Something that you just said, Mike, I think is an important thing perhaps for where we might begin in this part of our conversation. You mentioned curiosity. I think most of us, at least if you’ve been listening to the show, maybe ever recognize how important curiosity is to the learning. I think sometimes in my own mind I oversimplify that a little bit as that’s where it ends, but to feebly attempt to truncate what you just said, there’s the element of curiosity as vulnerability. Would you talk about the vulnerability required to continue that curiosity far enough that we might experience deeper learning?
[00:18:43] Marie: There’s definitely a leap of faith there to sort of follow your curiosity or follow where the path takes. It’s not as reassuring as thinking, “Okay. I’m going to study to be a pharmacist and then I’ll be a pharmacist.” I do think there are times when that is– It’s full of uncertainty like, “I hope this all winds up okay. I hope that it leads me to a better place.” I think that’s difficult for younger people to have that faith because they just haven’t been doing it long enough, but looking back over– I love the choices I’ve made.
I wasn’t usually very conscious that they were choices or that they were heading in any particular direction, but I think it’s giving me, and I know Mike agrees, this range of experience and knowledge to draw from which is I think the essence of creativity. Creativity is a matter of making connections between things. It’s not just coming up with things out of thin air, but it’s connecting things that maybe weren’t connected. When you have worked in different spaces, I think it’s easier to draw those connections and it can be very rewarding. Does that get it which we’re talking about with vulnerability?
[00:19:54] Mike: Yes.
[00:19:55] Marie: Yes.
[00:19:56] Mike: I also think that at the heart of vulnerability is a recognition that I don’t know, right? I’m not an expert. I have a very nascent understanding at the very best and to make that admission or that recognition to either yourself or if you’re a part of a broader community of learning, that does take some vulnerability, particularly as you advance your career. Right? When students look to you as an authority, a guide to admit, I have absolutely no idea about this, and then the privilege and the excitement of, but let’s figure this out together or let’s explore, that’s a really fun space to be. I don’t think I was very comfortable early in my career doing that. In fact, I know for sure I wasn’t.
[00:20:45] Marie: Yes, I think it’s taken me a long time to get there. When I moved into academic medicine which was not my home discipline in any way, shape, or form, there’s a big culture of mentorship in medicine and I was encouraged to sign up to be a mentor to someone, and I was like, I have nothing to offer. I’m not a doctor. I’m not even really a researcher in the sense that my colleagues are. I finally, after many years, gotten to the place where I realized, you know what? People need to be mentored by folks who have not gone down the beaten track and they need to be exposed to other options and nontraditional careers, and they need to hear from people who approach their careers not in such a goal-oriented style, but maybe even a more relational or experiential style. I’m beginning to recognize that there’s a place for us as mentors too.
[00:21:36] Bonnie: What else do you want to make sure that we are thinking about when it comes to the social and emotional components of learning?
[00:21:46] Mike: We were talking a bit about this, certainly in the context of all the change that’s happening both in the world and in higher ed. Right? There’s a great deal of social unrest where the last three years characterized by our experience with COVID. The changes in higher ed, the demographic shifts, the fewer number of students that are coming out of high school, the geographic shifts away from particularly the Northeast where we’re living and to the south, and the west, the continued debate about the role of higher education and its value proposition.
[00:22:25] Marie: Technologies are changing all the time. We’ve got a lot of new political incursions into higher ed curriculum. The pace of change is dizzying.
[00:22:35] Mike: All of those have social emotional components. I would also say that what we’re seeing too is the increasing diversity of the student populations, right? With that increasing diversity comes the need for greater attention to equity and inclusion in the classroom. If our goal is to make higher ed more accessible, more inclusive, we need to pay attention to a much more kind of person-centered dispositional aspects of our students, and recognize the role that that diversity plays in terms of background and experiences, and expectation as an asset to our classrooms.
I think there’s a great quote that somebody observed that just as medicine, the holistic movement in medicine has really challenged physicians, doctors to treat the whole patient, right? Not the symptoms, but the person as a whole, our student-centered approach to teaching requires us to teach the whole students and not just content. As our populations become more diverse, we have to recognize not just the cognitive side. One of the principles we talk about is prior knowledge.
One of the ways that we’ve expanded and furthered our discussion of the important role of certain grounding principles is to really recognize who our students are, the individual differences that they bring to the classroom setting and how that influences what they attend to, how they perceive, how they interact, not only with the environment, but with the knowledge and the skills that we’re hoping to build and develop. That’s a 30,000 foot view.
[00:24:24] Marie: Yes, but also how much they bring to the table from those different backgrounds and different experiences that we can all learn from and also real– We’ve given a lot more thought in the second edition of the book to things like the climate of learning, that issues of belonging have just emerged as enormously important that people can’t learn well when they feel under any kind of threat, and that could be stereotype threat where they’re worried about confirming some kind of pernicious stereotype.
It’s also the feeling that they don’t belong here, maybe as a first generation student, maybe as a person of color, that the subtle messages and sometimes not so subtle messages from the university about who this system is designed for and who it’s not designed for really influences people’s learning and achievement within the academy. If we really want to mean business about diversity, equity, and inclusion, we have to really start looking carefully at the messages embedded in the content that we use. Whose stories are included? Whose backgrounds are included. Whose perspective is centered?
Also the tone of syllabi and classroom interactions, the subtlest kinds of microaggressions that can again, tell you who belongs. I think that’s another thing we’ve become more aware of as we’ve scattered and gone to different universities with different student populations is we got to be a lot more mindful about the culture of our classrooms and take responsibility for it. That requires coming back to vulnerability much more humility on our own parts, right? We don’t necessarily know, as Mike said before, precisely what we’re dealing with. We have to stay humble and open to learning from students.
[00:26:13] Bonnie: Mike, you talked earlier in our conversation about running into that young man all those years after taking your class and what it was that he remembered. Something that for me has been really important in my own sense of humility is this class that they’re taking with me is not just their only class in the sense of wanting not to take myself overly seriously or the class overly seriously. It’s a part of a broader thing, but yet also the humility that comes from if we really care about what we do, it’s helpful to be reminded and be exposed to the ways in which we are acting in solidarity with others such that the humbleness of–
If I wasn’t able to get across what was hoping to get out of this particular class, that hope, that belief that other people who share those values and care about the world, and the world that these students, both currently and in the future will be such a big part of, that’s an aspect of maybe collective humility that I think is important since I was raised in an individualistic society, have to constantly go. How do I take that and try to attempt feebly to other ways of thinking that doesn’t come as naturally for me? Any thoughts in terms of more of that collective humility that’s important for the work that we do?
[00:27:38] Mike: You make an interesting observation and I think it’s one of the things, one of the valuable lessons that we took away from the time when we were all challenged with figuring out how we’re going to maintain instructional continuity, engaging experiences for our students while at the same time dealing with the COVID virus. Right? One of the things that we learned was that demonstrating, articulating our solidarity with our students in terms of the experiences that they were going through, and recognizing explicitly that those were shared experiences went a long way in helping creating a classroom climate where students felt, heard, seen and valued. It also went a long way in helping students with different perspectives, different points of view, feeling as though, again, in many ways, they were heard and seen in ways that perhaps they hadn’t been heard and seen before. That was just a reaction to your observation about the solidarity.
[00:28:41] Marie: I think in that vein too that when we all started teaching through Zoom, we’re doing it from our own houses with our posters on the wall and our cats walking across the keyboard, and the noise of people in other rooms, and that was humanizing in both directions that students got to see us as contextualized, as more whole people and we got to see the same, and often the not great, not super optimal context from which they were trying to join a class. My students, many of them are doctors, and they’re trying to join classes from tiny little conference rooms on the wards where people are coming in and out.
It just gives you a little bit more sense of what they’re grappling with and a little more– I think there’s a little bit more grace given now since COVID towards the stressors and situations in people’s lives. I appreciate that about COVID. Maybe not about COVID per se, but it’s a silver lining.
[00:29:46] Mike: I love the thematic direction that this has taken around vulnerability because I do, I think it’s one of the important characteristics, dispositions, I think it’s a skill that we can also learn that we bring to the class room that makes it a more equitable place, a more inclusive place. I think we as instructors, faculty members, teachers, even parents, if we model that, what that does is give our students the space to be intellectually vulnerable, to make mistakes, to grow, to understand the value of feedback constructive. That there is this ally ship, there is an advocacy that exists within the classroom that I am trying to help you be the very best you can be in the realm in which we’re operating together.
Right now I’m teaching a survey research methods course. My goal is to help you be the very best survey researcher that you can possibly be in the context in which we’re operating. I give them plenty of space to mess up and to be intellectually vulnerable and to recognize that they come up with a lot of misconceptions. Perhaps they have many times misinformation and that’s a great– not only is that an okay place to start, but that’s a great place to start and leverage that-
[00:31:13] Marie: I’m going to steal an idea of Mike’s. Mike, I’m told this is really low of me to do.
[00:31:19] Mike: Go ahead.
[00:31:19] Marie: Mike has been using this technique in his survey methods course that I think is fabulous and does speak to the kind of creating a space where vulnerability is okay, it’s allowed. Which is that he cold calls, except it’s warm calling. It’s not … so warm calls on students and tells them that they can either answer the question with what they think is the right answer or they can answer with what they know is a wrong answer. For example, if you ask something like, what’s the optimal size of a focus group?
Rather than giving the right answer they could say, it’s not 30 and then they’d have to explain why. That’s too big, that’s unwieldy. You wouldn’t hear from everybody and it’s not two, and they could explain why. In fact, you’re getting into much deeper understanding of the real reasons behind the best practices using that. It also opens up space for people who may not know the book answer to participate regardless. I particularly like that as a way of saying, “We build knowledge together and part of that is understanding why the wrong answers are wrong.”
[00:32:29] Bonnie: What a tremendous idea. I do something similar, but also totally different, which is you can either answer or you can phone a friend. I just think that’s kind of…
[00:32:39] Marie: I like that too.
[00:32:41] Bonnie: I think I’m going to maybe also take this from Mike and you can either answer or phone a friend or give a wrong answer and say why.
[00:32:50] Mike: It’s funny because this was catalyzed by a course that I’m teaching right now where I couldn’t really get– and I feel pretty skillful when I’m in the classroom, but for whatever reason I just couldn’t get them to respond. I thought about it for a while and I thought, okay certainly coming up with a wrong answer might be easier, less intimidating, less threatening for whatever reason. It took off and they have fun with it.
Sometimes they tease each other and they go with completely ludicrous stuff, but then they’ll check each other. This is the first semester I’ve ever done it. I need to think a little more deeply about how to operationalize it. I think there’s a kernel of an idea there in that by identifying the wrong answer, oftentimes they exclude a whole realm of possibilities, which in and of itself is a piece of knowledge, what doesn’t fit. Then some explanation around it.
[00:33:46] Bonnie: I get really curious about wrong answers and I have been told by students before that one of my superpowers is that I will tell students when they’re wrong because I guess other people don’t, that maybe too vulnerable for other professors to do. They’ll be like, great job Johnny and move right on. They’ll say, you have a superpower of telling someone when they’re wrong, but then not making them feel stupid.
I am truly intrigued by the wrong answers, because I often find there’s actually either some kernel of truth in it that represents some fascinating way of looking at something I hadn’t even anticipated or that there’s something where I go, “Oh my gosh I didn’t do as good of a job or at least say, I more understand, oh well of course that– now I see how that misunderstanding–” It just helps me be a better educator, to be curious about the wrong answers and maybe not really even call them wrong, but just tell me more about this and anyway– iI’s almost time to get to the recommendations segment. Before we do, I’d like to take a moment to thank today’s sponsor and that is Text Expander. If you’ve been listening for a while, you know that Text Expander is one of the essential tools that I consider. A device isn’t really complete unless it has Text Expander on it.
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Thanks so much to Text Expander for sponsoring today’s episode. This is the point in the show where we get to do our recommendations and today I have a recommendation. It’s going to be a total spoiler alert for people. I would like to recommend a book called How Learning Works, Eight Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching, the second edition. We’ve been of course talking about the book this entire time, but I just wanted to read the quote Mike that you mentioned earlier in our conversation because what a wonderful way to start and the spirit with which this quote opens the book, just flows with generosity and competence and care throughout every page.
This is the book, this is the quote that Mike mentioned from Herbert A. Simon, one of the founders of the field of cognitive science. I’m quoting and reading from your book, “Learning results from what the student does and thinks and only from what the student does and thinks the teacher can advance learning only by influencing what the student does to learn.” Thank you for this wonderful book. Thank you for the opportunity to get to read it in advance. It always feels like I get the special opportunity to really let it work in me and in my thinking in advance, which is always such an honor to do and so delighted to be connected with you and now Marie to have you share whatever it is you would like to recommend today.
[00:38:19] Marie: Absolutely and thank you very much for those kind words about the book. I think my recommendation, I have so many recommendations I’d like to make, but I think the one I’m going to recommend is another book called– it’s a book and a blog and a set of trainings from a group called Teach Like A Champion. A lot of people are aware of the book, which is for K–12 educators, grounding a lot of really useful classroom techniques in terms of the research underlying them so it’s kind of the reverse of our book. I’ve gone through some trainings recently by those folks that I have considered so stellar that have changed my teaching practice in a way nothing else has. It’s very, very hands-on. It breaks down teaching skills and gives you an opportunity to practice and reflect on them. I would recommend those for anybody teaching any level, any discipline.
[00:39:17] Bonnie: Wonderful. Mike, what would you like to recommend today?
[00:39:21] Mike: I’m going to recommend a couple of reflective prompts or probes. I’ve been thinking about these a lot in the last six months in particular. That’s consider who may be left out as a consequence of the way you have designed your course and think about who may be left out as a consequence of the way you teach or deliver your course. Those are hard things sometimes to come up with an answer. I find myself thinking really hard about those and that’s one of those deals where you wake up at three o’clock in the morning. I’m a good sleeper, but occasionally I can’t go back to sleep and then I’ll lie there and think about it.
I think that challenges us in ways to think about supporting those students who may be left out. One of the great things that we know as we lift all boats, as we support those students who may be left out in our approaches, either in design or in delivery, we benefit all students. That’s the fun about what we do. That’s the interesting cool challenge. Sometimes the hair-pulling challenge, but it’s why we do what we do. It’s why we have fun doing what we do. It’s why we’d like to talk to people who share ideas in these kinds of venues, right?
[00:40:45] Bonnie: So much. Marie, I know you also love talking about teaching. You talk about that in your bio, just in terms of being an absolute teacher at heart. What a joy it has been to get to read your book now twice, two different editions, and to get to learn from you today and be connected with you. It’s absolutely been a pleasure and I appreciate you so much, and I’m going to be walking away from this conversation doing a lot of thinking. Mike, we’d love to have conversations with others who might explore a little bit how to answer these prompts. Thank you each for your ways in which your stories have woven into so many people and impacted this profession so profoundly.
[00:41:22] Marie: Bonnie, thank you for giving us this opportunity and for your podcast, which has given me so much to think about for many years. We are honored to be on your podcast and to be given this chance to talk about our lives and our books. Thank you very much.
[00:41:43] Bonnie: Thanks once again to Marie Norman and Mike Bridges for joining me on today’s episode of Teaching in Higher Ed. They are just two of the five co-authors of How Learning Works, the second edition. Thanks to each of you for listening. Today’s episode was produced by me, Bonnie Stachowiak. It was edited by the ever-talented Andrew Kroeger. Podcast production support was provided by the amazing Sierra Smith. If you have not yet signed up for the email updates from Teaching in Higher Ed, you can go to teachinginhighered.com/subscribe. You’ll receive the most recent episodes, show notes, as well as some other things that don’t show up in the main episodes, so head on over to teachinginhighered.com/subscribe. Thank you so much for listening and being a part of the Teaching in Higher Ed community. We’ll see you next time.
[00:42:42] [END OF AUDIO]
The transcript of this episode has been made possible through a financial contribution by the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE). ACUE is on a mission to ensure student success through quality instruction. In partnership with institutions of higher education nationwide, ACUE supports and credentials faculty members in the use of evidence-based teaching practices that drive student engagement, retention, and learning.
Teaching in Higher Ed transcripts are created using a combination of an automated transcription service and human beings. This text likely will not represent the precise, word-for-word conversation that was had. The accuracy of the transcripts will vary. The authoritative record of the Teaching in Higher Ed podcasts is contained in the audio file.
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