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Changing Modes of Instruction and Learning

This is the most important project activity and happily good progress has been made in this area. Cooperative learning has been the primary theme in new modes of instruction. It was the focus of the fall 1996 Consortium conference, with plenary morning presentations and afternoon workshops. The idea of an instructor being more of a coach and less of a lecturer goes hand-in- hand with cooperative learning. There have been a number of workshops at Consortium institutions on cooperative learning in the past year, several featuring Dan Apple of PC-Solve. The Consortium has co-sponsored some of the workshops; some were totally supported by institutional funds. At Stony Brook, where many freshmen courses are taught in large lectures, cooperative learning is more commonly the focus of recitation sessions taught by graduate students. A workshop on cooperative learning was recently co-funded by the Consortium for Stony Brook TAs in chemistry, economics and biology. In a number of departments in Consortium institutions, the use of hand-held calculators and computers is forcing a change in what students are supposed to learn, with less emphasis on technical skills and greater emphasis on modeling, conceptual understanding, and open-ended projects.

When the Consortium proposal was written, there was some cooperative learning in all calculus courses at Nassau C.C., Stony Brook, and in selected calculus courses at Farmingdale, Dowling, Suffolk C.C., and C.W. Post. The Stony Brook Chemistry Department was starting it in recitations of the general freshman chemistry course. At most a score of other quantitative faculty, no more than one in any single department, were also experimenting with it.

Today, at Stony Brook, the Chemistry Department strongly backs the use of cooperative learning and Professor Hanson of Chemistry is using funding from his own NSF grant and from the Consortium grant to extend changes in learning and teaching in general chemistry. Those individuals who were previous trying cooperative learning are increasing its use and are getting more encouragement from their departments. Consortium efforts have encouraged additional faculty in engineering, physics, biology and the social sciences to try cooperative learning in their classes and to apply for external funding for these efforts. The Stony Brook Provost is setting up a campus-wide Center for Learning and Teaching, which will be working closely with the Consortium, to get more Stony Brook faculty to try different modes of teaching (non-lecture) and student learning.

At most other Consortium institutions, there have been a number of faculty trying cooperative learning for the first time, some in conjunction with Development Fund Awards. The initial feedback suggests that faculty are enjoying these efforts and will continue with them. At Farmingdale and Nassau C.C., there has been a major increase in classroom experimentation and innovative instruction, spurred by very active local Consortium committees. All calculus and precalculus courses are now reformed at Farmingdale with extensive use of cooperative learning and graphing calculators. At C. W. Post, Dowling, New York Institute of Technology, St. Joseph´┐Żs, and Suffolk C.C., Consortium efforts have yielded one or more departments with a high level of faculty activity.

As expected, faculty are getting energized to try new instructional methods by a variety of routes. Some have gotten excited by presentations at a Consortium conference, some by workshops, some by talking to colleagues or visiting a class, some as a result of an instructional innovation supported by a Consortium Development Fund award. While the majority of quantitative faculty have not yet become actively involved, several faculty considered by local PIs to be quite resistant to change have started to try new pedagogical approaches. One nice success story is at C.W. Post: a number of wary biology faculty were persuaded by Prof. Harless to visit Stony Brook to watch technology-based cooperative learning in a freshman biology lab. By the end of the visit, the faculty had become excited about trying such an approach in their own introductory course and have written an ILI proposal for improved computing facilities.

Some Examples of Recent Projects Include:

An Integrated Core Module For Student Learning By Using A Multidisciplinary Approach A New Technolog
Paul Hawryluk, Psychology Department
St. Joseph's College
Redesign Mathematics In Programming And Surveying With Cooperative Learning And Educational Technology
Amit Bandyopadhyay, Architectural and Construction Engineering Management Technology Department
Strengthen Mathematical Problem Solving And Computational Skills Of Nursing Students
Rosemary Scarangella, Nursing Department
Nassau Community College

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The Long Island Consortium is sponsored by the NSF Initiative: Mathematical Sciences and Their Application Throughout the Curriculum, DUE #9555142. The original NSF proposal can be accessed by clicking here.

Last updated October 7, 1997. Please direct comments or suggestions to [email protected]