Modern Languages: Learning and Analyzing The Preterit and Imperfect in Spanish

Title: Learning and Analyzing The Preterit and Imperfect
Authors: Laura M Merino and Matthew Field
Discipline: Modern Languages, Spanish
Submission Date: April 2013

Abstract: The difference between the preterit and imperfect is a key intermediate grammatical concept in Spanish foreign language classes so this study aimed to observe student’s thought processes when analyzing it. Students would be given the task of completing a paragraph in the past that involved verbs in both tenses while the investigators walked around observing student’s strategies and methods of choosing either preterit or imperfect. Students were tasked with not only completing the verbs correctly but also discussing in groups and writing down the reason why they chose what they chose. Student’s discussions helped investigators learn that a few key words throughout the paragraph were causing confusion as to what the implications were for the students responsible for choosing between preterit and imperfect.

Spanish Lesson Study: Learning and Analyzing The Preterit and Imperfect (Full Report)

English: Student Interpretation and Application of Peer Writing Comments

Title: Student Interpretation and Application of Peer Writing Comments
Discipline/Field: English, Composition
: Ryan Friesen, Jennifer Mohlenhoff-Baggett, Bruce Handtke
Submission Date: June 19, 2013

Abstract: In order to understand how student writers perceive peer and instructor comments and what value or usefulness they assign to them, we observed students reading, understanding, and applying given comments to the revision of a text. Through observation we collected evidence of how students understand peer comments, how they translate them into a process, and how they use the comments to evaluate their revisions. To make student learning visible, we observed how peers offered revision comments on a paper written by a member of their group. For many of us, the habits and methods undertaken by student writers when they have peer and instructor comments in front of them are a mystery. We wonder how student writers read peer comments, what they recognize within them, and how they apply their reading of these comments to the revisions they make within the paper. We wish to understand what has happened when writers do not recognize meaningful content in peer comments or do not apply them to revision, and we wish we knew how this form of communication could be improved. In our lesson study, we observed students interpreting peer comments and making decisions about their applications. As a result, we have developed strategies for refining the peer critique process to the benefit of writers, readers, instructors, and the texts that students produce.

English Lesson Study: Student Interpretation and Application of Peer Writing Comments (Full Report)

English: Framing Expectations for Literary Study

Title: Framing Expectations for Literary Study
Discipline/Field: English, Literary Study, Literature
Authors: Susan Crutchfield, Natalie Eschenbaum, Bryan Kopp, Kelly Sultzbach (alphabetical listing), Department of English, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Submission Date: December 7, 2012

Abstract: Students frequently think about general education and foundational literature courses simply as requirements to fulfill. Our broader goal was to scaffold student thinking about the purpose, value, and necessity of literary study. We focused on three more specific goals: 1) to help students understand that both a “right answer” approach to interpretation and an “anything goes” approach are problematic; 2) to help students appreciate the positive value of ambiguity as something that invites multiple persuasive interpretations; and 3) to help them recognize that literary modes of thinking can be applicable to non-literary texts as well. Our observations revealed that some teams arrived quickly at single, closed interpretations whereas others generated new, persuasive readings of the poem. During the large group conversation, individuals generally were good at providing valid textual support for their interpretations. In subsequent classes students seemed more willing to entertain multiple interpretations and to challenge one another. Students seemed to have made progress with our first and second goals. We saw evidence for our third goal when students at the end of class started asking the question, what makes a text “literature” or not?

English Lesson Study: Framing Expectations for Literary Study (Final Report)

Theatre Arts / Library: Researching Hamlet’s Madness

Title: Hawk or Handsaw?  Researching Hamlet’s Madness.  A Theatre Studies Library Lesson Study Plan
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Theatre Arts and Information Literacy
Authors: Beth Cherne, Walter Elder (Theatre Arts), Michael Current, Cris Prucha (Murphy Library),  University of Wisconsin – La Crosse
Submission Date: August 21, 2007

Executive Summary

Learning goals were to introduce and deepen students’ knowledge and interest in library resources for theatre research. We wanted to ignite their curiosity and thrill them with the possibilities of finding information for their use in work for the stage. We designed a worksheet of questions, based on real-world scholars’ debates about Shakespeare’s Hamlet and interpretations of the title character. We found that when given a structure and real questions, students dug in and found strong information.

Theatre Arts / Library Lesson Study: Researching Hamlet’s Madness (Final Report)

Theatre Arts: Active, Collaborative, Creative Processes

Title: Introduction to Active Collaborative Creative Processes in the Theatre Appreciation Classroom
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Theatre Arts
Authors: Beth Cherne, William T. Clow, Ron Stoffregen, Joe Anderson, Mary Leonard Anderson, Walter Elder, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse
Submission Date: June 25, 2008

Executive Summary:  The lesson’s principal purposes were to initiate an interactive environment in the classroom; to involve students actively in collaborative work; to introduce basic concepts in theatre production and performance. The instructional pattern took the form of an activity: small groups of about five students wrote, rehearsed and performed a one-two minute play for the class; we then discussed the theatrical concepts that arose. We found that the lesson accomplished all of these things, but that it worked better taught at the second class meeting of the semester, rather than the first, because the first class meeting required so many “house keeping” details, leaving little time for discussion.

Modern Languages: How Students Learn Object Pronouns in Spanish

Title: How Students Learn Object Pronouns in Spanish
Field(s) or Discipline(s): Spanish, Second Language Acquisition, Modern Languages
Authors: Ester Suarez-Felipe, Kathleen Wheatley, Magaly Zeise, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee
Submission Date: February 29, 2008

Executive Summary:
The lesson topic was one introduced always in first semester Spanish courses. The pronominal paradigm in Spanish presents unique challenges to Anglo speakers due to the many differences between both languages.

Learning goals: The broad goal of this lesson study project was to get a better understanding of how our students develop their understanding of grammatical concepts in Spanish that do not correlate with English, in particular the use of object pronouns. We hoped to come out of the lesson study project with better teaching strategies to help students learn in a more effective manner.

The specific academic learning goal for the lesson was for students to develop an awareness of the object pronoun structure in Spanish and to acquire proficiency in using them correctly in controlled authentic situations.

Lesson design: The lesson involved a progressive set of activities in which students were guided from recognition and choral repetition of the structure to the spontaneous use of the object pronouns in conversation. Students were first guided by the instructor to identify the verb, subject, direct and indirect object in Spanish sentences, and to identify the corresponding object pronouns. In the second step, students were asked to answer questions using the object pronouns in their response. The instructor used transparencies for these activities, providing answers as needed and asking for choral repetition of the answers. In the following step, student pairs were asked to match a set of questions and answers, in which object pronouns were used. An oral activity using props followed to trigger students’ automatic responses using object pronouns. Students were paired for the next activity, an information-gap that required them to produce meaningful questions and answers using object pronouns. The closing activity integrated vocabulary review with spontaneous production of the structure at hand using props.

Throughout the lesson, observers took detailed notes of students’ interactions, comments and discussions among themselves as they performed the activities.

Major findings about student learning: The main finding of our team was to observe that students relied on words that they already knew, rather than on the particular object pronoun structure, to derive meaning and complete the tasks. Little attention was paid to the direct and indirect object pronouns; instead, they gravitated towards the verb as the main, and often only, cue to the right answer. We learned that for students to acquire this complex structure, input has to be extremely controlled so that they have no choice but to focus on the object pronouns as their clues.

We also gathered insight into the importance of students being engaged in all the activities as active learners. Adding choral repetition and not providing the students with paper copies of the transparency increased student engagement to 100%.

The third main finding was not unexpected: cooperative work is fundamental for students to acquire complex structures in a foreign language. Students are predisposed to rely on each other to ascertain meaning and, when offered the opportunity to do so by design, perform the tasks much more accurately and at ease.

Philosophy: Phenomenology and Logical Forms

Title: Doing Phenomenology
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Philosophy
Authors: Eric Kraemer, Ken Maly, Sheri Ross, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse
Submission Date: January 24, 2006

Objective: Introduce Phenomenology as a Philosophical Method

Student Learning Outcomes:

a) students will have noticed the perspectival nature of attention/perception
b) students will become aware of how language and words bring something to the perception and how lived experience is historical and part of what we bring to perception.
c) students will note how structured absence makes us aware of the objects as perceived and aware of meaningful engagement in the world.


We found a great benefit to the discussing the lesson and revising it. The students were very able to grasp the perspectival nature of attention. More examples would have helped the students understand that lived experience is historical and part of what we bring to perception, and that language and words bring something to the perception. It is not clear exactly how this exercise could be modified in our to show the social constructed-ness of parts of our experience and the concepts we use to describe our experience. The final section of the class, where the students had to draw what they took to be the relation between their “mind” and the “object perceived” helped students understand a key sub-discipline of philosophy, i.e., philosophy of mind. The last observation we had was that it is difficult to quantify for the purposes of rigorous study the understanding of this feature of philosophy.

Philosophy Lesson Study: Doing Phenomenology

Nursing: Learning About Nursing History

Title: Freshman Seminar in Nursing: Learning about Nursing History
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Nursing
Authors: Elizabeth Devine, Susan Fontana,. Florence Selder, Laurie Glass, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Submission Date: January 30, 2007

Executive Summary:

The one hour class period in which nursing history was taught in Freshman Seminar in Nursing was the focus of this study. The short-term, lesson-specific goals for the lesson were [a] that students will identify 3 major themes that capture the ways in which the nursing profession evolved, and [b] that given exposure to nursing artifacts, students will discuss form and function of these artifacts as they relate to technology and the work of the nurse. The short-term, general course goal addressed in this lesson was that students will complete assigned homework as evidenced by their participation in class discussion.

The lesson plan included various interactive methods to address the three themes that have undergone change as the nursing profession has evolved overt time. These themes are [A] the Identity of the Nurse, [B] Nursing Service/Practice, and [C] the Work of Nursing including the technologies used in nursing care.

Activities included a homework assignment, short lecture and guided discussion on the themes that used the homework assignment and involved passing around historic artifacts, a small group discussion of a job description of bedside nursing in the 1887, and small group activity in the Nursing Historical Gallery where students discussed artifacts and ways in which the work of the nurse has changed over time.

After obtaining informed consent, two cohorts of students enrolled in Freshmen Seminar in Nursing were studied. Data were collected using non-participant observation. The lesson plan was revised based on data derived from observing the first cohort of students. Based on 0 to 10 scales, where 0 is strongly disagree and 10 is strongly agree, the average across scores for student being attentive, responsive, and understanding of the concepts addressed, the average scores from two observers were as follows.

  • For the whole class lecture/guided discussion the means were 8.5 for Cohort One and 9.5 for Cohort Two.
  • For the small group discussion of a job description of bedside nursing from 1887 the means were 6 for Cohort One and 9.8 for Cohort Two.
  • For the small group work in the Nursing Historical Gallery the means were 9.8 for Cohort One and 10 for Cohort Two.

During the lecture/guided discussion part of the class, using homework-based activities allowed the content to be addressed in a more interactive manner than when lecture was the primary mode of content delivery. The small group discussion of a job description of bedside nursing from 1887 was the weakest part of the lesson. After observing the first cohort of students, this activity was simplified and it was much more successful with the second cohort of students. The activities in the Historical Gallery were characterized by excellent participation and thoughtful discussion in both cohorts of students.

Links to the lesson plan and the materials used to each it:

Women’s Studies: Civic Engagement and Exploring Gendered Ideas about Leadership

Title: Teaching Civic Engagement: Exploring Gendered Ideas about Leadership in Women’s Studies
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Women’s Studies, Ethnic Studies, Business, Education, History, Political Science, English
Authors: Lauren Smith, Ellie Schemenauer, Rebecca Schrum, Zohreh Ghavamshahidi, Mary Emery, University of Wisconsin – Whitewater
Submission Date: October 29, 2009

Executive Summary: With this lesson study, we wanted to foster critical thinking about male-centered ideas of leadership and challenge students to imagine leadership and leadership styles in more inclusive ways. In addition, we wanted to explore ways of empowering students to move from understanding social issues to understanding their own responsibility and capacity for civic engagement, particularly by addressing the difficulties women students have in imagining themselves in leadership roles.

The group invited three women leaders, two in politics and one in education, to speak to a total of five different Introduction to Women’s Studies classes.  We helped the students come up with a series of questions to address to their visiting speaker, and members of the group were available to observe each class.  In addition, we asked students to respond to a series of pre-lecture and post-lecture questions.  The group met several times before and after each lesson to discuss plans and observations.  The most useful data we found, however, came from the pre- and post-lesson discussion boards.

Our findings were sometimes surprising and multi-faceted.  For example, when asked to cite examples of good leaders in the pre-speaker discussion board, these women’s studies students named mostly men.  This dynamic was especially pronounced for male students, the large majority of whom didn’t list any female leaders at all.  We also analyzed the pre-lesson discussion board for the masculine and feminine qualities associated with leadership.  We found that students were slightly more likely to associate leadership with qualities we identified as masculine than with qualities we identified as feminine.  Men were less likely than women to describe leadership in feminine terms and more likely than women to have a hierarchical vision of leadership. Pre-lesson questions about the students’ own capacity for leadership also yielded interesting gendered results.  While both male and female students were relatively positive about their own leadership capacity, women were most likely to qualify and contextualize their positive responses and men were most likely to reply with definite positive or negative responses.

The post-lesson discussion board also yielded interesting results.  When we asked students whether their ideas had changed as a result of the lesson, relatively few students were willing to say that the lesson had changed their perspective.  Many students responded with what we classified a “no, but . . .” response.  These students would qualify their negative response with details about how their thinking had in some way been affected, enhanced or modified.  Self-reported changes were once again gendered.  Both in relation to their thinking about leadership qualities generally and their thinking about their own leadership capacity, women were much more likely than men to report some change in their thinking as a result of the lesson.

When the group analyzed the discussion board for evidence of change beyond self-reports, the results were complicated.  The shifts we saw in the student discussion did not necessarily go in the directions that we had predicted or planned for, nor were student changes in thinking necessarily more feminist.  In addition, the qualitative changes in thinking were different depending on which speaker the students had seen.  Three promising threads emerged in the conversation, however:  speakers’ strength and ability to endure adversity, explicit conversation about gender, and the “down-to-earth” qualities of the speakers.  Each of these suggested to us the emergence of a more complicated and more feminized vision of leadership.

Students’ changes in attitude about their own leadership capacity were especially unpredictable.  We had assumed that women students would see themselves as more capable of leadership after the lesson.  Instead, all the students tended towards more specificity when they described their own abilities as leaders.  At first glance, this would suggest that students were less likely, rather than more likely, to see themselves as leaders.  After analyzing and discussing student responses, however, the group felt that student post-lesson responses showed greater sophistication, a more realistic idea about what leadership might involve, and a more thoughtful consideration of the questions than had been shown in the pre-lesson discussion board.

Overall, the lesson study was extremely useful in providing information both about student attitudes and about student learning processes.  The students clearly benefitted from the guest speakers we brought in.  They expressed enthusiasm about and engagement in the lesson.  Though the learning evidenced in the discussion board was often unpredictable, it was also profound.  Student thinking showed greater complexity and sophistication, as well as more depth and awareness around gender issues—even when the students did not arrive at conclusions we might have predicted or desired.  We also gained valuable insights about students’ gendered ideas about leadership and differing attitudes of male and female students on this topic.

Library and Communication Studies: Information Literacy Skills

Topic: Teaching Library Information Literacy Skills to Students Enolled in an Introductory Communication Course: A Collaborative Study
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Library & Communication Studies
Galadriel Chilton, Michael Current, Jenifer Holman, Christine Prucha (Library, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse), James Putz, Thomas Reinert (Communication Studies, UW-La Crosse), Becky Belter (Communication Studies, Jackson Community College)
Submission Date: February 28, 2007

Executive Summary: Our interdisciplinary lesson study group developed a collaborative learning experience designed to introduce CST110 students to library resources and research skills. The lesson was both interactive and hands-on. It was intended to serve as the model or template for all librarians to use when providing information literacy instruction for CST 110 classes. It included general library information, instruction about, and hands-on experience with, several library databases, exercises in evaluating resource credibility, and exercises in generating American Psychological Association (APA) style citations from several library databases. We utilized the new lesson for the first time on February 8, 2006.

Learning Goals: Our primary goal for the lesson was to ensure that CST110 students gained proficiency in basic research skills, including the use of library services and resources. Specifically, we wanted students to be able to:

  • choose appropriate library databases for a research question (navigate the library website)
  • efficiently search library databases (use basic search principles)
  • understand how to use library databases to identify and retrieve books, print periodicals, and electronic periodicals
  • discern the credibility of sources
  • format APA-style citations

Lesson Design:

Librarians and communications studies faculty designed the lesson to mimic the research process, taking students though the steps necessary to conduct quality research. In order to engage the students in learning we incorporated collaborative learning techniques, including a series of interactive questions that each group answered. The questions sometimes required a verbal response, and sometimes required a written response from each group. We also utilized a worksheet to help focus student attention.

Groups of three to four students shared a computer and completed tasks together. Collaborative learning serves a pragmatic purpose, as it keeps the class together, rather than having some individuals jump ahead or work on non-related web browsing. As Smith reported in his 2004 study on collaborative learning, the quality of the work increases with collaborative learning:

“In a meta-analysis of 122 studies involving 11,317 learners, Yiping, Abrami, and d’Apollonia concluded that ‘when working with computer technology in small groups, students in general produced substantially better group products than individual products and they also gained more individual knowledge than those learning with computer technology individually'” (2001, 476 in Smith, 2004).

Each group member had his or her own worksheet referred to as a “research log.” Librarians designed the worksheet to provide a:

  • Lesson outline that would aid students’ processing of new information
  • Guide for group activities
  • Model framework for completing the research process
  • Personal, customized job aid that students could use outside of class

Class outlines and worksheets with keywords from the lesson help students focus their attention rather than dividing their limited short-term memory between the instructor and note taking. Research by Kiewra and others (as cited by deWinstanley and Bjork, 2002) suggests that when instructors provide students with an outline or worksheet for note taking, students’ note quality, performance, and lecture recall improve.

In addition to keeping in-class performance on track and helping students’ process new information, the CST 110 worksheet is also a job aid. Job aids are “repository[ies] for information, processes, or perspectives that are external to the individual and that supports work…by directing, guiding, and enlightening performance” when a need arises (Rossett & Gautier-Downes, 1991). Many students who come to the library with their CST 110 class have not yet selected a topic for their assignments. Therefore, when students are working on their research outside of class or in future classes, their worksheet — a customized job aid — directs and guides their search for information.

Major Findings About Student Learning
Analysis of student behavior observed during the lesson indicated that:

  • The worksheet questions, coupled with librarian interaction with individual groups, resulted in successful learning of searching techniques.
  • Student searches observed during the class indicated that material introduced only through lecture was not learned as successfully.
  • Students were particularly excited to learn how to use database features to automatically format APA style citations.

Students perceived the lesson to be effective in improving their ability to use information resources. However, we did not ask for their perceptions about specific research skills. After the library lesson, the CST 110 instructor recognized that the students located and cited more credible information to support their speeches. Students were also able to use proper citations in their bibliographies. The instructor reported that students expressed that they felt more comfortable using available library resources.

After the lesson the librarians recognized shortcomings in their standard assessment instrument, and planned to implement improvements. In addition, they recognized the continuing need to collaborate with CST instructors to evaluate the efficacy of the CST 110 library lesson.

Links to materials used to teach the lesson:

  • Library Introduction
    This is the library introduction video (Windows Media Video format) used on February 8, 2006, the date of the lesson study. It was playing in a continuous loop as the students arrived for the lesson.
  • Presentation
    This is the presentation used on February 8, 2006, the date of the lesson study.
  • Handout
    This is the handout used on February 8, 2006, the date of the lesson study.

Links to the study of the lesson:


History: The Gilded Age

Title: Lesson Study: The Gilded Age
Discipline(s) or Field(s): History, Political Science, Economics
Authors: Kathleen Thomas, Robert Zeidel, Kam Zogorski, University of Wisconsin – Stout
Submission Date: June 2, 2008

Executive Summary: Our learning goals revolve around students’ struggle to learn about strikes and government regulations because of their preconceived notions about unions and big government. We want students to understand why Americans supported an expansion of government regulations at the turn of the 20th century, especially why the middle-class initiated and drove these reforms in pursuit of “modernity.” Therefore, we begin with the problems of the Gilded Age. Here students learn about the extreme wealth disparities, high mortality and injury rates in the workplace, poor public health, violent reaction to strikes, high unemployment rates, and corrupt urban machine politics. We constructed our study around an interactive lecture with a primary document discussion group activity that was graded for historical interpretation (i.e., an explanation of why these events happened at this particular time and are still relevant for us today). We found that students’ preconceived notions of immigrants are their biggest stumbling block, but when we have them focus on their reactions to low wages, lack of workers’ compensation, etc., they are able to anticipate Progressive Era reforms. Students enjoyed and seemed more engaged when asked to respond personally; they were most frustrated when asked to apply the reading terms from the textbook and to stick to the historical context. Individual reflection followed by group work seems to minimize these frustrations. However, finding the time in or out of class to cover the topic, reflect, then discuss (and grade homework) was still problematic.

Links to lesson plan materials:

Links to the study of the lesson:

Next Phase: The Progressive Era.
These are historical documents used to connect the Gilded Age problems to the Progressive Era reforms:

English: Using sample papers effectively

Title: Using sample papers effectively in the classroom
Discipline(s) or Field(s): College Writing, Research, Freshmen Seminar
Authors: Kyla Moore and Debra Siebert, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Submission Date: March 2, 2009

Executive Summary:  The purpose of this study is structure an activity that effectively helps students to see multiple uses for sample writing that is shared in the classroom. Students are asked to participate in two sets of small groups to discuss a sample paper, and the ways it could be read and used effectively. Each small group meets for 15-20 minutes. The first group brainstorms how to read the sample paper through a particular pedagogical lens, while the second group focuses on synthesizing the lenses represented. The group summaries demonstrate that when students are given a carefully constructed lesson, they are able to recognize and discuss multiple perspectives of a text and then synthesize them collaboratively. Additionally, a pattern emerged from our reading of student self-reflections: students overwhelmingly claimed that the lesson will both help them consider and analyze their audiences and consider multiple viewpoints when reading and writing.

English Lesson Study: Using samples papers effectively (Final Report)
Link to material used to teach the lesson:

English: Teaching Logical Fallacies

Title: Teaching Logical Fallacies in the English Composition Classroom
Discipline(s) or Field(s): English
Authors: Mialisa Moline, Elizabeth Schneider-Rebozo, Robyne Tiedeman, University of Wisconsin – River Falls
Submission Date: June 8, 2008

Executive Summary:  Sound argumentation is the foundation of rigorous critical thinking and ethical writing. This lesson study analyzes ways to improve student awareness and understanding of logical fallacies, and makes explicit the connection between logic and argumentation. Our lesson study team had two main goals in mind: first, to provide students with the critical thinking tools to support them in identifying logical fallacies when they encounter them and, second, to foster student sensitivity in their own rhetoric and writing to the distinction between sound logic and fallacious logic, valid arguments and invalid arguments. The final lesson design incorporated team findings to make substantive changes to virtually every aspect of the lesson. The lesson in its final version includes four parts: a brief introduction including a two-minute comic video clip of the Monty Python skit known as “The Argument Clinic,” a small-group analysis of a short student-authored argumentative reading containing multiple fallacies (the “Death” essay, which discusses the death penalty), an interactive PowerPoint to alternate between small- and large-group discussion of five common logical fallacies, and a final individual or small-group worksheet that asks students to label examples of logical fallacies. Our team felt that the logical fallacies lesson study was enormously successful; by the end of the second iteration of the lesson, we all felt that student learning was significantly improved. While students of the first iteration responded courteously and expressed positive feelings about the lesson in post-lesson free-write responses, they also revealed a notable amount of confusion about lesson content and purpose. In the second iteration, students demonstrated greater clarity about the underlying purpose of the lesson, and exhibited greater engagement and a higher rate of success in identifying the commonalities and articulating the logical disjunctions in the examples included in the lesson. Overall, students responded much more positively to the second iteration of the lesson, and we attribute this change to improved content, formatting, and delivery.

Below are links to the materials used to teach it.

English: Revision and Peer Review

Title: How many peer reviewers does it take to revise a thesis?
Discipline(s) or Field(s):
Authors: Terry Beck, Susan Crutchfield, Bryan Kopp, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Submission Date:
April 2, 2004

Our goals:

  • Help students revise their essays—particularly their thesis statements—through critical thinking and rhetorical understanding
  • Encourage critical conversations between students as writers/readers
  • Foster an awareness that writing involves the discovery and development of ideas, involving learning for writers/readers

The “Lesson”

  • “Workshop groups”—a small group of students meets with the instructor to discuss the work in progress
  • Workshop focus is finding and discussing main idea of the draft.
  • Given the recursiveness of writing and individual differences among students, it is challenging to design a lesson about a discrete writing issue.
  • Qualitative research (no lab coats)

Preliminary Findings

  • The students with the highest abilities seemed to benefit most from the process.
  • “Average” students were not engaging in critical conversations and revising their papers to the extent we had hoped.
  • Students were struggling with the subject matter itself as well as how to write about it.

English: “What is Literary Studies?”: An Online Lesson Study

Title: “What is Literary Studies?”: An Online Lesson Study
Discipline(s) or Field(s): English, Literary studies or interdisciplinary studies that involve literary studies (face-to-face, online, or hybrid)
Authors: Nancy Chick (University of Wisconsin-Barron County), Holly Hassel (UW-Marathon County), Chuck Rybak (UW-Washington County)
Submission Date: August 6, 2007

Executive Summary: The lesson study topic is the discipline and methodology of literary studies. Introductory courses often focus on the goal of covering enough material to introduce the texts, theories, and concepts of the discipline; just as often, they gloss over the discipline itself, assuming students will get it along the way. On the contrary, introductory courses should be intentional and explicit about their disciplinarity to help students recognize the scope of what they’re learning and situate each course within the wider context of their educational careers. This kind of disciplinary and methodological awareness–which facilitates an awareness of the whole liberal arts curriculum–is something we should be intentionally and explicitly fostering as a service to all of our students (not just our majors) and as a way to deepen our students’ learning of literature. Our lesson encourages students to discover and practice the larger vision of literary studies as a discipline.

Learning Goals: The immediate learning goal is for students to apply the methodologies of literary studies to a single poem, a focused goal that will ideally transfer to other literary readings and contexts. Ultimately, students will recognize the methods and goals of literary studies as a discipline, and they will begin approaching literary texts using some of the methodologies of literary scholars.

Lesson Design: Before the lesson, students read a poem, wrote their interpretations, and submitted them to the course website’s dropbox. These initial interpretations would serve as prior knowledge, illustrating assumptions about close reading, interpretation, and the work of literary analysis. Students then read an online lecture “What is literary studies?” and our model hypertext interpretations of the same poem students just interpreted. In small groups on the discussion page, using their own novice readings (anonymous excerpts of their initial interpretations of the poem, posted by the instructor) and the expert readings (the model hypertext interpretation), students identify and discuss the differences between the ways novices and experts approach a literary text and then connect these ideas to the lecture on literary studies. After the lesson–either immediately or as a final project–students apply what they’ve learned to a new poem by creating individual hypertext interpretations of the poem and using as needed an unstructured discussion area devoted to the poem. Finally, students submit a brief reflection about what they’ve learned.

Major Findings: Although not our initial goal, this lesson’s primary value was in revealing student misconceptions as related to literary studies and the reading of poetry. By analyzing the students’ initial, and often subsequent, interpretations of assigned poem, the research team was able to identify clear patterns of student error and misinterpretation. Our lesson makes clear distinctions between “novice” and “expert” literary readers, and executing the lesson allowed us to more explicitly define the novice reader and his or her practices. By explicitly defining the novice reader, we are better able to present our materials in a way that matches our initial goal: to lay bare and articulate the methodology and strategies of literary studies. Finally, we believe the specificity provided by these student misconceptions reaches far beyond the common assumptions made about why students struggle when interpreting poetry. If the misconceptions we identify could become the starting point for teachers, rather than an eventual realization, we believe students would gain a much more immediate, thorough, and rewarding engagement with literary studies and poetry in particular. Such contribution to pedagogical content knowledge in literary studies will be invaluable.

Below are links to the lesson plan and the materials used to teach it.

Below are links to the study of the lesson.

English: Recognizing and Valuing Ambiguity in Literature

Title: Reading for Complexity: Recognizing and Valuing Ambiguity in Literature
Discipline(s) or Field(s): English
Authors: Nancy Chick (University of Wisconsin-Barron County), Holly Hassel (University of Wisconsin-Marathon County), Aeron Haynie (University of Wisconsin Green-Bay), Terry Beck & Bryan Kopp (University of Wisconsin-La Crosse)
Submission Date: February 28, 2007

Executive Summary

Goals: The goals of the lesson were to teach students to recognize and value ambiguity and to resist simplifying a literary text by reducing it to one flat meaning. We chose a poem (“My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke) that, in our experience, students often interpret in one of two ways: either as representing a loving father-son relationship or as illustrating abuse. Our goal was for students to recognize that multiple patterns of meaning co-exist within this poem, hopefully showing them the richness of literature and enabling them to produce more sophisticated, nuanced readings of literary (and non-literary) texts.

Design: Prior to the class, students were asked to read the poem for homework and bring to class their written interpretations about the “patterns” they see in the poem, as well as “elements that don’t fit the patterns.” Working in small groups, students annotated each of the group’s patterns on separate overhead transparencies, underlined elements of the pattern, and crossed out with Xs elements that don’t fit. The groups then shared their patterns with the whole class by showing their transparencies, followed by the instructor overlaying all transparencies at once as a visual representation of the poem’s complexity. After a whole class discussion of the exercise, students reflected in writing on how their initial interpretations of Roethke’s poem had changed and what this activity suggests about the process of reading literature.

Findings: The data from this lesson study reveals evidence of some success in students reading for complexity. Students’ initial, pre-class writings illustrated a tendency toward flattening out the poem and attempting to reduce it to a single, defensible interpretation. Most of these initial readings offered no textual evidence. The majority of these interpretations focused on the “abuse” theme, rather than the loving relationship.

In the second step–the small group annotating exercise–students’ interpretations became more evenly balanced, perhaps due to the effect of listening to their classmates and the lesson’s prompt that they identify patterns and elements that don’t fit. Thus students who began with one reductive interpretation had to acknowledge others and find textual details that resist their own initial interpretations.

Students’ post-class writings indicated that the lesson developed some reading for complexity: a majority stated that they saw the interpretations as connected. In their reflections about the process of reading literature, the majority of students focused on the reader as the site of meaning, which shows an awareness of multiple meanings, but also a disappointing relativism. The second most common response, however, located meaning within the text, indicating that the lesson forced students to use textual evidence in their interpretations.

In summary, an unsophisticated look at the student work may conclude that their relationships with the text haven’t changed; however, a close reading of the group annotations and post-lesson writings suggest that they recognize ambiguities and multiple meanings but lack the language to articulate their emerging and more sophisticated relationships to the text and to making meaning. For instance, in the written responses to “After today’s activities, how has your interpretation of the poem changed?” about half of the students reported that the in-class activity expanded their initial interpretation of the poem (some explicitly recognizing co-existing or multiple meanings), while a majority reported that they still held to their initial interpretations. However, many of these students then expanded on their initial interpretations, inadvertently revealing that the lesson had indeed opened up–without contradicting–their readings. Indeed, the students who participated in our lesson are primed for additional practice and lessons in reading for complexity, particularly in how to articulate textual ambiguity and complexity.

This literary lesson is adaptable to any passage illustrating the ambiguity or complexity that students frequently oversimplify, resist, or even ignore. In fact, inasmuch as texts in philosophy, political science, art, biology, or music reward careful and analytical reading practices, our study invites further inquiry into activities that may cultivate reading for complexity in other disciplines. We also encourage other scholarly teachers in literature to build on our lesson. Ours is just one method for introducing students to the notion of reading in complex, sophisticated ways. What would other introductory lessons look like? What follow-up activities would reinforce and build upon what students just begin in our lesson? What about lessons for late in the semester? Perhaps, if our lesson is built upon and reinforced throughout their education, students will abandon their expectations for a solvable puzzle with discrete pieces of knowledge and instead situate their learning through a more complex, ambiguous, multi-layered metaphor.

Communication: Instructor Modeling of Small Group Speaking

Title: Instructor Modeling of the Small Group Speech Assignment: Can it improve learning and presentation skills for our students?
Discipline(s) or Fields(s): Communication, Humanities, Education, Training & Development
Authors: Jeanine Fassl, Kathy Brady, Sue Wildermuth, University of WisconsinWhitewater
Submission Date: March 2009

Learning goals: The lesson focused on the goal of producing a group informative speech. This included addressing small group communication issues such as leadership and leadership styles, interpersonal conflict resolution, decision-making, problem solving and critical thinking. Skills to be measured revolved around researching, organizing, outlining and presenting an informative speech as a group.

Instructional design: To assist the students in understanding the complexities of working together to achieve a final presentation, and working on the belief that presenting a model of the speech the students were assigned in the course and then using that model as the basis for a discussion of the components developed to create the presentation, students would have a better idea of what was needed to create their own presentations. The overriding goal of the design of this lesson was to ultimately result in better student presentations.

In order to meet the requirements of this assignment, we decided to explore a fairly recent addition to our downtown, the Wall Crawlers Climbing Gym. Conveniently, the youngest of the three instructors, had some experience in Rock Climbing and was able to convince the two older members of our team that it was a safe and fun activity that our students would never think we could actually accomplish. We set up an evening on a Friday, which is half price night for women, and proceeded to get the instruction necessary to complete the activity. While we were there, we used a digital camera to document our successes as well as the discovery that one of the members of the team found out she was better suited to be a “belayer” and stay on the ground to make the climb safe for her colleagues. We actually enjoyed the experience, so we already had one small success. Of course, the researching, writing, outlining and development of our power point slides to enhance our actual presentation was not nearly as fun as the wall climbing. We documented each of our meetings to work on the finished presentation keeping track of the hours, how we divided the duties and responsibilities between us as well as the amount of time spent practicing the speech to get it to meet the requirements of the assignment.

Major findings about student learning: Actual student comments on the Modeling Day Worksheet indicated that the students were happy to have had the chance to see what the instructors were expecting of them and then to question us as to the details of what we had to do to develop our presentation. They were also fairly candid about what we needed to improve. The expectation of improving the grades for our students did not hold for this lesson study. In the three semesters we have used this lesson, we have seen a significant grade improvement in only the first semester of using the new format for the course and therefore cannot make any solid claims as to our effect on the student learning process other than what the students themselves wrote in their reaction sheets after the presentation.

Communication: Unconventional Lessons in Logic

Title: Unconventional Lessons in Logic
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Public Speaking, Persuasion
Authors: Nancy Norris, Stephanie Rolain-Jacobs, Susan Kirkham, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
Submission Date: May 2, 2008

Executive Summary: Three colleagues who teach the basic speech course at the same university found themselves at the same Lesson Study seminar in the spring of 2006 asking the question: Why aren’t my students’ persuasive speeches very persuasive? The answer was the students did not understand the importance of reasoning, or logos, in a persuasive argument. This report explores the systematic process taken to achieve the following short-term lesson study goal: to develop students’ abilities to effectively construct a convincing and ethical argument for a persuasive speech that contains a well-articulated claim/problem and valid and reliable evidence. The specific learning goals for the lesson include the following:

  1. Define and identify the categories of reasoning as they pertain to persuasion.
  2. Name and identify the different types of fallacies associated with the categories of reasoning.
  3. Integrate this knowledge in order to critically assess persuasive messages in printed media and to make a choice based on reasoned argument, on the validity and reliability of the evidence.
  4. Apply this knowledge to effectively construct a convincing persuasive speech. 

After developing new lecture material and an article analysis activity to allow students to reflect on how persuasion works, an improvement was witnessed in the persuasiveness of their students’ speeches. An unforeseen benefit of the Lesson study was that these colleagues gained a better understanding of not only the subject matter and how their students learn, but of the importance of collegiality and lesson sharing.