I’m reading this article about Dr. George Plopper (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) and his approach to teaching students how to think. I’m curious as I’m teaching a new course this fall on social media and am trying to decide how to structure the class. I'm sure the students will all have various levels of skills and experience with different social networking sites and I'm picturing the class as one in which each student uses his or her expertise to teach their classmates.
Thus, I'm interested in Dr. Plopper's approach:
After spending the first class of the semester outlining expectations, Plopper breaks the class into six groups of five students, and assigns a group of students the task of giving a presentation on the subject that is to be covered the next week. That is, they are required to teach the subject to their peers the first time they encounter it -- and they must determine what three learning outcomes they expect their fellow students to demonstrate.
Plopper points them to the relevant literature, including journals and a textbook, and the students must sort out what's important and what isn't -- and then grasp the details with enough clarity and complexity that they can convey them to the rest of the class. The final exam will include material that is relevant to the subjects they've covered, but will not be limited to what has been presented in class -- forcing students to read and think widely about the subject independently rather than turn up at class simply waiting to receive information.
Plopper also evaluates the students -- and they evaluate one another (which allows students to call out the slackers on group projects), according to a rubric he shares with them at the start of the semester, which is matched to the various facets of Bloom's Taxonomy. The approach forces Plopper and his students to think not just about the subject matter, but also about the process by which they have come to understand it, he said.
I'm curious whether others have tried this and whether the students see how much they are gaining (there is no better way to learn something than to teach it!) or if they feel they are doing the teacher's job.