collaborative learning

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Knowledge Games: How Playing Games Can Solve Problems, Create Insight, and Make Change

Schrier, Karen
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016

Book Review

Tags: collaborative learning   |   epistemologies   |   games   |   pedagogy of play
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Reviewed by: Mary Hess, Luther Seminary
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
The first section of this book is devoted to working through the complex definition of what constitutes a “knowledge game,” and more specifically, what does not. Schrier’s book is a substantial literature review of the vast – and rapidly growing – field of games that contribute to knowledge production. “Knowledge games,” by her definition, are “the set of practices, contexts, designs, and relationships that emerge from and around those games with ...

The first section of this book is devoted to working through the complex definition of what constitutes a “knowledge game,” and more specifically, what does not. Schrier’s book is a substantial literature review of the vast – and rapidly growing – field of games that contribute to knowledge production. “Knowledge games,” by her definition, are “the set of practices, contexts, designs, and relationships that emerge from and around those games with a goal or sub-goal of generating new knowledge about humanity, society, the universe, and any previously unknown phenomena” (26). In contrast to games such as “citizen science games,“ “crowd games,” “collective games,” “participatory games,” and “human games,” Schrier takes great care to delineate that she is exploring only those games which seek to produce knowledge, solve authentic, applicable problems, and/or “generate new ideas and possibilities for real world change” (25).

A few of the games she examines include those she designates as “cooperative contribution games” (Happy Moths, Citizen Sort, Reverse the Odds), “analysis distribution games” (VerbCorner, Who Is the Most Famous?, IgnoreThat!, Apetopia), “algorithm construction games,” (The Restaurant Game, Foldit, EteRNA, The SUDAN Game, Which English?), and “adaptive-predictive games” (SchoolLife), although she notes this final category is not yet robust, being instead “the next frontier of knowledge games” (30-31).

The second section of Schrier’s book tackles the challenging question of “why” knowledge games. That is, in what ways might knowledge games contribute to problem-solving? What kinds of motivation to play exist within these games, which are often produced very cheaply and without access to the million dollar production budgets of games in the entertainment world? Further, to what degree is social interaction nurtured or constricted by such games? Schrier acknowledges that these are complicated questions that require deeply contextual responses. She does not really offer answers, instead choosing to sketch out a brief summary of relevant research findings that point to principles related to motivation and games.

The final section of this book turns towards “perspectives, potentials, and pitfalls” to be found in the midst of knowledge games. While Schrier draws on significant theorists and wider literatures here (for example, Lave and Wenger, Jenkins, Benkler, Gee) she only lightly engages issues of ethics, and leaves entirely untouched pragmatic questions of pedagogy.

This book is not likely to be of much interest to people teaching in the fields of religion or theology, with the limited exceptions of those for whom shared knowledge creation in the midst of significant amounts of data are of pressing concern, or those for whom games are a specific focus. In that case Schrier’s appendices, where she lists categories of knowledge games along with examples, and where she enumerates a significant set of design principles, will prove useful. Aside from those small exceptions, this book is not likely to be pertinent to the readers of Teaching Theology and Religion.

 

My grandmother used to speak in adages, parables, metaphors, similes and symbols. Now I call her proclivity for language, literature, and meaning-making “wisdom-speak.” Then, I thought she was being corny. She knew her wisdom-speak was meant to teach me enough until I am ready to know more. Her adages came ...

As we go back to the classroom (and shake off the dust of summer), we all have mixed feelings and expectations. While some of us will just go back to the normal, others will be anxious and perhaps fearful about a new semester. The beginning of a semester can carry ...

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How to be a "HIP" College Campus: Maximizing Learning in Undergraduate Education

Rogers, Satu; and Galle, Jeffery
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2015

Book Review

Tags: collaborative learning   |   learning outcomes   |   outcomes-based learning   |   student learning outcomes
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Reviewed by: William McDonald, Tennessee Wesleyan College
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
Outcomes-based learning invites the question of how to best produce them, and this book introduces the reader to seven high-impact practices (HIPs), namely high expectations, close and frequent student-faculty interaction, effective teaching strategies, undergraduate research, collaborative learning, service learning, and diversity. Chapters are organized around these seven features. The authors use their own school, Oxford College of Emory University, as a test case for their hypothesis that these features provide ...

Outcomes-based learning invites the question of how to best produce them, and this book introduces the reader to seven high-impact practices (HIPs), namely high expectations, close and frequent student-faculty interaction, effective teaching strategies, undergraduate research, collaborative learning, service learning, and diversity. Chapters are organized around these seven features. The authors use their own school, Oxford College of Emory University, as a test case for their hypothesis that these features provide the best means for student success as measured in desire to continue learning, graduation rate, STEM interest, and community engagement. Institutions promoting HIPs provide intentional support to their students for these practices, cultivate diversity, and blur the boundaries between classroom and extracurricular life. The book is seasoned with excerpts from faculty and student interviews and almost constant reference to the last thirty years of research on academic practice.

High expectations are created in classroom synergy between students and instructors, where instructors lead students in exploring beyond the basic subject information students are expected to learn on their own. Students report appreciation for being pushed beyond introductory knowledge and for gaining the self-knowledge that they underestimate their own learning capacities, something they would not have learned without high expectations. High expectations are successful when students have more opportunities to interact with faculty. This works best at smaller institutions and requires the institution’s support to work. While faculty report that interaction helps them tailor their instruction to students’ needs and abilities, they also caution against an over-customization that reduces a subject’s breadth and prevents students from being challenged by new and unfamiliar material.

As expected, high-impact teaching calls for active learning techniques, with fourteen such practices – called “Inquiry Guided Learning” – described in the third chapter. Among them are student discovery (as in problem-solving), systematic construction of knowledge, cross-disciplinary integration, addressing misconceptions, creating surprise in the classroom, and using mistakes strategically. These practices are not formulas set forth by the authors but were derived from student-faculty conversations about good teaching at Oxford College. The reader looks in vain, however, for the redemption of the lecture as a component in active learning. In any case, faculty are advised to use practices that fit their personality and their discipline; some fit better than others.

Collaborative learning is enhanced through student research projects, which should be found across the disciplines (STEM fields have done the best job here). Such learning is best coupled with collaborative leadership in student life activities. The greater benefit accrues the less division there is between a campus’s academics and student life. Students learn leadership skills and gain confidence if collaboration with their peers is encouraged in both areas. Service learning includes collaboration and moves students beyond mere cognition to an experience the authors describe as spiritual and aimed at the “whole student.” And, the more diverse a campus, the better the outcome of any sort of collaborative activity.

The conclusion offers readers ways and means of implementing these HIPs on their own campuses. Flexibility and adaptation are key, and in the process, more HIPs may be devised from conversations among all parties in different campus contexts.

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Facilitative Collaborative Knowledge Co-Construction (New Directions for Teaching and Learning, Number 143)

van Schalkwyk, Gertina J.; and D'Amato, Rich Carl, eds.
Wiley, 2015

Book Review

Tags: collaborative learning   |   collaborative teaching   |   learning community
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Reviewed by: Laura Simmons, Portland Seminary
Date Reviewed: August 4, 2016
Facilitative Collaborative Knowledge Co-Construction is the second volume in a series under the Jossey-Bass New Directions for Teaching and Learning imprint (see Carolyn Jones Medine’s review of volume 1, From the Confucian Way to Collaborative Knowledge Co-Construction, posted April 15, 2016). Van Schalkwyk and D’Amato both have experience at the Centre for Teaching and Learning Enhancement at the University of Macau, China. As such, this volume and its predecessor aim at ...

Facilitative Collaborative Knowledge Co-Construction is the second volume in a series under the Jossey-Bass New Directions for Teaching and Learning imprint (see Carolyn Jones Medine’s review of volume 1, From the Confucian Way to Collaborative Knowledge Co-Construction, posted April 15, 2016). Van Schalkwyk and D’Amato both have experience at the Centre for Teaching and Learning Enhancement at the University of Macau, China. As such, this volume and its predecessor aim at improving the learning experience of Asian students, particularly in Confucian teaching contexts. In the first volume, the “authors provided a framework that was designed to encourage teachers as they move from a Confucian way of teaching toward a more collaborative way of providing a co-constructed knowledge base in the classroom” (i).

“One can certainly train students to memorize facts and follow algorithms, but unless they know what the algorithms mean and when and how to use them, their mastery of the subject is only superficial. Moreover, most of the knowledge that is acquired by rote learning will be lost quickly because it has no connection to anything meaningful in students’ minds and lives” (3), argue the editors. One challenge in considering this volume for use in US-based contexts is that it is firmly aimed at those who have traditionally taught using rote learning and memorization of facts – repeated references to “the Asian classroom” make this clear. One questions the degree to which such methodologies are entrenched among religious and theological educators in this country. Certainly constructivist learning is a challenge for any number of traditional educators, but involving students in problem-solving or helping them see the value of personal reflection and application in their learning is less foreign to many of us.

Where these insights may be useful is in reminding faculty of the unique needs of international students coming from Confucian-based systems. Chapters in this volume focus on the value of constructivist, cooperative, and collaborative learning; relational intelligence; insights from neuropsychology; sociocognitive skills and emotional intelligence; and “engendering critical reflective thinking within a collaborative teaching and learning context” (2-3). Mary M. Chittooran’s chapter on “Reading and Writing for Critical Reflective Thinking,” for example, contextualizes specific tools like questioning, feedback, and the presentation of alternative explanations, demonstrating how each might best be used with Asian students. Chittooran also explores sixteen different reading and writing activities; any of these might spur creative ideas for teaching a variety of students. Helen Y. Sung’s exploration of emotional intelligence offers seventeen suggested questions to help expand students’ emotional fluency.

There is some repetitiveness between chapters, particularly as various authors review the characteristics of Confucian learning environments and how education is changing. This volume may lend itself best to “cherry picking” whatever portions or techniques are needed for a given professor’s context or students. Most of Amato’s chapter on brain-based learning with Yuan Yuan Wang, for example, may translate over to a variety of educational contexts. Their advice that “learners should not be grouped by age but should be grouped by processing or aptitude levels in most learning activities” (55) is as germane in a Biblical languages class as it is in a room full of international students.

 

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