McCombs Staff Help Demonstrate New Classroom Learning Software
New York Times
Grouping Students With Software
July 18, 2012
How do you get the most value out of classroom debates with your peers? According to Harvard physics professor Eric Mazur, forcing students to defend their positions to someone other than their friends, someone with perhaps a completely opposite opinion, will enhance the learning experience for all. A new software program called Learning Catalytics, developed by Mazur and his colleagues, supports this idea.
McCombs staff members Merri Su Ruhmann, BBA Career Advisor in the Undergraduate Program Office, and Jessica Khalaf, a graduate assistant working in the Leadership Program in the Office of Student Life, were there to help demonstrate to the New York Times how the software is being used in the university classroom. An excerpt from the Times article explains how it works:
When Merri Su Ruhmann sits down in a graduate seminar on student development theories at The University of Texas at Austin, she “checks in” to her seat on a map of the classroom displayed on her iPad. Then the lecturer, Cassandre Alvarado, poses questions in Learning Catalytics. If there is enough divergence in answers, she clicks a button on her laptop and students are automatically grouped. Ms. Ruhmann obeys her prompt: Please discuss your response with Jessica Khalaf behind you.
“It forces them to either have certainty, and to really defend their idea, or it gives them that moment of cognitive uncertainty, which is really powerful for learning,” Ms. Alvarado says.
The responses can be educational for Ms. Alvarado, too. At times, she has planned to fly through what seemed like easy questions, only to discover students had major gaps in understanding. “I have data now,” she says. “Not just a feeling.”
You can read the entire article here.