Category Archives: andragogy

Stony Brook University’s first local Summer Institute

Faculty using low tech response cubes during a presentation
Faculty using low tech response cubes during a presentation

Attending the Summer Institute here on campus this week, primarily in the role of technology support and as a representative of TLT, was a really great experience.  There were many informative presentations given to prime the participating faculty for the workshop work that they would be diving into, including one given by Jennifer Frederick from Yale University’s Center for Scientific Teaching. The possibly confusing point here, is that while these Summer Institute sessions are all aimed at the departments involved in STEM education, and so therefore you are addressing a room filled with Biologists, Physicists, Mathematicians, Computer Scientists, Chemists, Engineers, etc….  “scientific teaching’ is not about teaching science, but rather teaching using effective methods that have been proven using scientific methodology.

It makes a lot of sense. These are primarily researchers. Don’t stand in front of them and tell them what they are doing wrong in the classroom and how to change it.  Show them what years of data have  to say about different aspects and strategies in teaching. Show them where they can find out data about the schools that their students are coming from (a great reason to hold these events at an individual institution or region is how you can really drill down to local issues – did you know that no schools in the Bronx even offer Physics in high school? (other than a charter school that doesn’t count because the students that go to that school don’t actually live in the Bronx)).

As soon as studies and data started to be presented to the faculty participating, I could feel them losing up and the defences coming down.  They became more comfortable and realized that they were home among their peers.

Structure of the Summer Institutes


  • Engage in teaching and learning through interactive presentations, mini-seminars, group work, and discussions
  • Work in small groups to develop instructional materials for a general topic area
  • Design and adapt instructional materials that integrate active learning, assessment, and diversity and that have clear learning goals
  • Present and revise instructional materials based on fellow participants’ review and feedback

Three tenets of scientific teaching were explored everyday.

Active Learning (or Teaching)

Common activity teaching techniques that were demonstrated and then used in the faculty presentations included:

Think – Pair – Share
Student Response Systems (traditional clickers and low tech response cubes)
POE (Predict Observe Explain)

IMHO the event went very well and CESAME did a great job bring it to SBU.  I hope everyone involved was happy with the outcomes and that the participants feel a bit revitalized the next time they are stepping into a classroom.

Google Forms as a virtual clicker

Students could use laptops, ipod touches, or smart phones in class to respond to questions from the instructor. If you keep the “poll” or quiz open, you can also collect answers asynchronously for online/flipped learning. The answers are dumped to a spreadsheet, so you have all the data for assessment, attendance and participation.

poll seen from iphone
poll seen from iphone

Flipping your class

When considering whether to flip your class, consider this: No one says you have to flip every single lecture. In fact, it’s probably easier inside your department politically if you just flip a couple of lessons.

Can you think of a few homework activities, that through the semesters, your students have always found especially challenging? Maybe those lessons should be the ones you flip. That way they can complete the assignments within a group in the classroom and with you and/or your TAs right there to help out.

There are some other advantages to only flipping a few classes as well. Throwing in a few flipped classes now and again will keep things fresher for the students. Having change-ups like this is more likely to create situations where the students are successfully learning in your class. Remember, humans learn when active, alert and practicing… not by sitting behind a desk and falling asleep.