Featured instructor: Martin Gaal

Course Innovation Community CIC 2019

Martin Gaal, Lecturer

Faculty Member in Political Studies

Image provided by Martin

Martin teaches Political Studies 112, Justice and Injustice in Politics and Law to 100 students. He participated in CIC to help address his concerns regarding how to link learning outcomes to active learning strategies that ladder-in formative and summative assessments. Martin has noticed that student support for success is much more difficult with 100+ students than it is when he has smaller classes of 30 students. He continues to look for ways to tighten the course structure with technology and teaching strategies that increase student engagement and maintain a personal connection with students while seeking to maintain a manageable workload.

“Moving from what I am going to teach, to what are students going to learn”

For Martin’s large class context, having formative assessment strategies such as self-assessment and peer-reviewing allowed student development without becoming unmanageable. He has tried journaling, self-administered quizzes, peer-review feedback, and reflection assignments (amongst other strategies). One way in which reflection assignments helped was that he was able to share responses with the class. For example, if a student was successful at a certain task, their reflection about why they thought they were successful was a great formative feedback to share with the class.

In the future, Martin is going to try integrating a software called “statecraft sim” to allow students a virtual platform to test ideas. He also used some of his CIC funding to hire a student assistant. The student was helpful in creating TopHat assignments that students can answer via their mobile devices during the lecture.

In his own words:

The CIC has influenced my practice as a lecturer in three ways:

1. It has shifted how I conceptualize the classroom

– Moving from what I am going to teach, to what are students going to learn

– Use explicit learning outcomes for each class and include these on the presentation slides

2. It has shifted how I conceptualize assessment

– Move the balance of core assessments to the student through formative exercises

– Ladder these formative assignments towards the summative assignments

3. It has shifted how I conceptualize an active classroom

– If the class space or size is an obstacle to active learning, move the engagement online

– Use groups to engage in active learning that can bring their findings into the classroom

With students in Brussels – engaging with students is foundational to Martin’s teaching practice. Image provided by Martin.

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