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The Institute on Learning Technology Promotes Best Practices in Teaching

Jean-Pierre R. Bayard
California State University, Sacramento

J ean-Pierre R. Bayard, a professor at California State University, Sacramento, calls himself a bricoleur, the French word for "handyman." A designer of learning environments, Bayard was invited by the National Institute for Science Education (NISE) College Level One (CL-1) Team to conduct in-depth studies of exemplary technology use in a variety of science, mathematics, and engineering disciplines in higher education. With support from EOT-PACI, Bayard is making contributions toward NISE's goal of making the CL-1 Web site a comprehensive resource for learner-centered teaching practices whose effectiveness has been established by education research.

Each year, CL-1 hosts an institute and selects a fellow to study a particular subject or pressure point that strongly influences learning, student career choices, and science literacy. In the first year, the Institute for Collaborative Learning Techniques resulted in a comprehensive Web resource on the topic. The CL-1 Web resources on collaborative learning provide factors to consider when setting up groups, student comments on the experience, possible difficulties for instructors, and ideas on the issues of gender and ethnicity. In addition, an annotated bibliography contains a listing of references for both the novice and experienced practitioners.

One of the case studies, for example, highlights the experiences of Cathy Middlecamp, director of the Chemistry Learning Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her general chemistry course for non-chemistry majors. In their essays, students provided frank discussions on the advantages, disadvantages, and issues in a collaborative learning environment. Female students, for example, don't always feel comfortable working with the opposite sex. "Being a woman, I sometimes feel intimidated by being put in a group of all males," wrote one student.

The second institute, the Field Testing and Learning Assessment Institute, offers an accessible, up-to-date resource of classroom-tested assessment tools for instructors who have an interest in sharing and implementing new approaches to evaluating student learning, attitudes and performance. Each of the techniques and tools in this guide has been developed, tested, and refined in classrooms and teaching laboratories at colleges and universities throughout the country.


The College Level One Web Site
The College Level One Web Site
The College Level One (CL-1) team of the National Institute for Science Education (NISE), based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a nationwide community of science, mathematics, engineering, and technology faculty, education researchers, faculty developers, and students.


Last August, Bayard was invited to join a group of fellows and work with the CL-1 Team to examine the impact of technology, ranging from e-mail to high-performance computing, on learning and teaching practices. Bayard hopes that this third institute, the Institute on Learning Technology (ILT), will encourage science instructors to reflect on why they use learning technologies, shape the powerful emerging technologies in learning tools, and provide students with more experience with and a better appreciation for science as a living enterprise. "We want to look beyond delivery systems," Bayard said. "We want educators to really reflect on what they are doing." Other fellows of the ILT include Susan Millar of the LEAD Center at the University of Wisconsin; Marco Molinaro and Flora McMartin from UC Berkeley; Steven Ehrmann from the Teaching, Learning, and Technology Group of the American Association for Higher Education; and John Jungck from Beloit College.

"Professor Bayard's redefinition of his classroom role is part of a new paradigm that's slowly developing among faculty," says Bob Mathieu, associate director of NISE and an astronomy professor at Wisconsin. "We want to discover tools that promote student engagement rather than that simply increase information transfer."

"The ILT is making the case to various academic stakeholders that there are very interesting opportunities and potentially huge learning benefits in using computers in the classroom and other computer-related activities performed by students outside the classroom," Bayard says.

As with the Institute for Collaborative Learning Environments, Bayard will provide information from instructor and student interviews. So far he has visited six campuses and will have all of the case studies posted by the end of summer 2000. In the future, Bayard hopes to produce CDs and workshop products for instructors seeking opportunities to engage in active, student-centered teaching and learning with technology. "I would personally like to see the ILT become the national forum on technology-based science education," he says. --EN *

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