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Synthesis 2013

Dartmouth Strategic Planning



The real problem with multiple-choice tests

“When a multiple-choice question is given to a student in hopes of measuring how well he or she understands something, it manufacturers the illusion of right and wrong, a binary condition that ignores the endlessly fluid nature of information.” Terry Heick (the Director of Curriculum at TeachThought, a blog and networking service for K-20 educators) argues that multiple choice testing is becoming less effective in a world that increasingly favors new data and fluid ways of learning. Heick reports that the “seeking and sharing of ideas” is becoming “an elegant kind of chaos” which multiple choice tests cannot possibly capture, now that information is absorbed through social media outlets, YouTube, video games, web essays, and blog posts, to name just a few. Strauss, Valerie. “The real problem with multiple-choice tests.” The Washington Post, 25 Jan. 2013. Read article »

Here a MOOC, There a MOOC: But Will It Work for Freshman Composition?

An assistant professor in the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Literature, Media, and Communication posits whether the MOOC model will prove effective in the teaching of a freshman writing course. The question of how to evaluate writing assignments in a course with thousands of students is one that not even Coursera cofounder Daphne Koller can answer, according to Professor Karen Head. Head outlines her project plans for the development of a MOOC on writing composition in the coming months. The project will involve a team of 11 post-doctoral fellows, several IT and copyright specialists, a writing program director and the chair of her school at GIT. They intend to launch a six-week course in the Spring after two months of prep, pilot development, and video-recording. Head, Karen. “Here a MOOC, There a MOOC: But Will It Work for Freshman Composition?” The Chronicle of Higher Ed., 24 Jan. 2013. Read article »

Desire2Learn Acquires Course-Suggestion Software Inspired by Netflix and Amazon

The learning software company Desire2Learn Inc. has acquired a new technology that will allow students to choose college courses in much the same way that users of Netflix or Amazon browse movie or product recommendations. An algorithm will generate individual course suggestions for students ranked on a five-star scale and based on their transcripts, prior grades, and standardized test scores. The service even estimates the final grades that students will receive in these courses, based on past performance. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided funding for the development of this technology in 2011. New, Jake. “Desire2Learn Acquires Course-Suggestion Software...” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 24 Jan. 2013. Read article »

Learning From MOOCs

Coursera cofounder Andrew Ng makes the case for MOOCs as tools for collaboration, learning, and pedagogic improvement among faculty. He suggests that the professors teaching through Coursera “are constantly learning and growing from their experiences” and quotes professors from Stanford, UPenn, Princeton, and the University of Michigan, all of whom have been surprised by the lessons they’ve learned from online teaching. One UPenn professor described it as the “most extraordinary pedagogical experience” in his 30 years of teaching. Ng argues that because Coursera students vary greatly in educational background, learning ability, and culture, they create many different pathways through the material, forcing educators to think about content in new ways and make their classes more accessible. Ng, Andrew. “Learning From MOOCs.” Inside Higher Ed, 24 Jan. 2013. Read article »

Popular study strategies called ineffective — report

Common study techniques like highlighting and rereading are not nearly as effective as practice testing and “distributed practice” – studying materials in short sessions – according to a report published on January 7 by researchers at Duke, Kent State, the University of Virginia, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The researchers evaluated the effectiveness of 10 common study strategies in an attempt to help educators determine which techniques to advise for their students. Strauss, Valerie. “Popular study strategies called ineffective — report.” The Washington Post, 23 Jan. 2013. Read article »

Advanced Placement, Not Credit

This article covers Dartmouth’s recent decision to no longer grant students course credit for high AP test scores. Dartmouth students in the Class of 2018 on will not receive credit toward a degree for high AP scores but will still be able to place out of introductory courses or be exempt from certain requirements. The policy change was informed by a study done by Dartmouth’s Psychological & Brain Sciences Department that appeared to prove that AP exams do not predict academic success, at least in introductory psychology courses taught at Dartmouth. The article contrasts the findings of that study with research published by College Board in 2007 showing that students who pass an AP course do better in the second-level course of that subject in college than their non-AP peers. Tilsley, Alexandra. “Advanced Placement, Not Credit.” Inside Higher Ed, 18 Jan. 2013. Read article »

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We want to scour the world to try to find those things that strike us as truly forward-looking. President Jim Yong Kim