The 2011 Lilly Conference was held in Greensboro, NC on Feb. 4-6. The theme of the conference this year was “Evidence-Based Learning and Teaching”, and consisted of more than 160 presentations and poster sessions. Lilly Conferences are retreats that combine workshops, discussion sessions, and major addresses, with opportunities for informal discussion about excellence in college and university teaching and learning. Internationally-known scholars join new and experienced faculty members and administrators from all over the world to discuss topics such as gender differences in learning, incorporating technology into teaching, encouraging critical thinking, using teaching and student portfolios, implementing group learning, and evaluating teaching.
Below I’ve summarized some of the highlights from my experience at the conference.
- A discussion of the Wabash Study, which assisted institutions in collecting, understanding and using assessment data. The researchers found the real challenge for the participating universities was how to use the data for improved student learning. They noted several lessons to be learned. First, effective assessment is based on evidence about learning in the entire community, which includes students. Second, take advantage of data that you may already have on campus before collecting new evidence. Third, websites and reports don’t create action; you must find reasons to use the data. Choose one or two outcomes at most. And finally, be practical scholars who are willing to experiment despite uncertainty.
- A Science and Psychology of Learning presentation, which described recent work on learning in the fields of psychology and neuroscience as a basis for understanding successful learning and teaching. Some gems from this presentation include the following:
- “Thinking isn’t always conducive to survival, but becoming engaged in solvable, interesting, and relevant problems is.”
- “Learning is hard.”
- “It takes time to unlearn things.”
- “The brain is plastic not static and intelligence is developmental not limited.”
- “Talking to students about their learning helps their learning.”
- “We are pattern recognizing beings – we expect patterns and fit evidence into our already existing patterns.”
- “Intelligence is analogizing, seeing connections, making connections and using connections to develop hypothesis and understanding.”
- Teaching Metacognition described how to encourage students to recognize that learning is taking place in them. For students, it involves understanding and appreciating the factors that make learning possible, and their own strategies and processes of learning. Learning metacognition strategies is important to students because they gain confidence and become more independent as learners. This increased independence leads to ownership of their own learning because they realize that they can pursue their own intellectual needs and discover a world of information at their fingertips. Students need to be coached to learn good metacognitive strategies. There are five basic strategies: self-reflection, self-responsibility, time management, goal setting, and initiative.
- Additionally, John Classen, Associate Professor, Biological and Agricultural Engineering, and I presented Integration of Google Apps and Maps to Support Experiential Learning. We discussed the results of an exploratory IDEA Grant that looked at ways to engage students more actively in their understanding of biological waste management systems for animal production practices across the country. One result of the exploration was an interactive animal production practices map, which is still growing, that harnessed the power of Google forms / spreadsheets, and Google sites as well as two Google API visualization tools, Geomap and Tables. Dr. Classen and I developed this product with the assistance of David Howard, Associate Director, Instructional Design and Course Production group at DELTA.