Concurrent Sessions: 2022 Teaching and Learning Symposium

The concurrent sessions will be held from 11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. You will be asked to join the breakout room of your choice.

Breakout Room 1

How We Evaluate: A Novel Online Critical Thinking Course

Gary Comstock, Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, NC State
Sophie Korenek, Undergraduate Student, NC State
Sam Macy, Undergraduate Student, NC State

This session will introduce a new advanced online critical thinking course, “How We Evaluate.” The course uses a method called “Discover Deduction” to help students learn to evaluate the strength of arguments in argumentative texts. Students are taught first to identify the central contention of an essay, identify its supporting reasons, and then supply missing premises. They then look for objections and rebuttals. Finally, they evaluate the argument’s soundness. These are difficult skills to learn, but they can be taught. Once learned, they bring confidence in spotting suppressed claims and more charity in students’ attitudes towards interlocutors.

Discover Deduction’s unique strategy is to create simple, valid, deductive arguments for an author’s main contention. This step strikes many as counterintuitive. Most arguments are not deductive. Indeed, most arguments are inductive. Teaching students to find deductive arguments where they are not apparent hones their critical thinking skills in ways few other methods do. This session will provide an overview of the course, its pedagogical strategies, and initial results. We will engage participants by asking questions and guiding them through one of the course’s interactive argument mapping puzzles.

Breakout Room 2

The Courage to Unclench: Thriving in the Classroom

Mary Estrada, Lecturer, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, NC State
Heidi Echols, Instructional Designer, Poole College of Management, NC State

As COVID has created anxiety and isolation for students, instructors have responded with an increased desire to create community in their courses and lower anxiety for students (Stocker & Gallagher, 2019). Teaching with vulnerability and humanity, or “unclenching” as an instructor, is receiving attention as a way to restore engagement to online and face-to-face teaching environments and to meet the increased social and emotional needs of students (Ashby-King, 2021). However, many instructors are reluctant to “unclench” in this way because they fear losing professional credibility and a perception that their course will lack “rigor.” In this presentation, an approach will be described for teaching with flexibility, kindness, and empathy, simultaneously revealing the humanity of the instructor while seeking to honor the humanity of the student. Specifically, participants will leave with strategies for applying humanizing language to syllabi, re-invigorating discussion forums, and gathering early-semester student feedback for agile instruction.

Breakout Room 3

Ungrading is More Work and More Rewarding

Dana Kotter-Gruehn, Associate Teaching Professor, Department of Psychology, NC State
Lisa Falk, Assistant Teaching Professor, Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, NC State
George Hess, Professor, Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, NC State
Faith Bradshaw, Undergraduate Student, NC State

Our keynote speaker, Susan Blum, is a leader in ungrading on college campuses and recently edited a book called Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (and What to Do Instead). If the approach has you intrigued, there are faculty at NC State who have tried it. It hasn’t been all roses, but it sure has been interesting.

In this 45-minute panel discussion, you will hear the experiences of three faculty using ungrading in undergraduate and graduate courses in the Colleges of Natural Resources, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Sciences. Two students on “the receiving end” will also contribute their perspectives to the conversation. The panelists will each describe their experiences briefly and then open the floor for questions, discussion, and debate.

Although we found ungrading to be more work than traditional grading, the focus on feedback and reflection rather than points and scores made this work more rewarding and helped create rapport with students. After 15+ years of being evaluated by others, most students don’t know how to evaluate themselves or reflect on their personal and academic growth – so we teach them these career-relevant skills.

Another challenge is that some students prioritize traditionally graded courses (i.e., everything else they’re taking) over one that’s “not being graded,” resulting in failure to submit work and poor engagement. Clear communication about how ungrading works, the kinds of work that constitute various final grades, the need to clearly defend their grade, and guided reflection around that defense throughout the semester helps counter this.