Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Some UTeach PBI Modifications Currently Under Consideration

The following are some possible modifications to UTeach PBI currently under consideration for the sections that I teach over the next couple of semesters. The idea is that there will be a fairly slow but consistent evolutionally modification to the course:

1) modification to the field experience to be more consistent with PBI
2) introduction of the LEGACY cycle for designing of a curriculum semester project
3) addition of more substantive (in quality and quantity) course readings
4) incorporation of engineering/STEM into the content of the course
5) introduction of a formative assessment instrument to assess knowledge of previous UTeach course objectives upon entering PBI
6) incorporation of mentorship activities with existing PBI teachers
7) review by the students of some national PBI curriculum
8) a section of the course dedicated to online teaching pedagogy
9) utilization of in class survey's to provide regular feedback
10) expansion of potential STEM faculty willing to teach PBI
11) introduction of various lesson plan formats (other than 5E's)
12) Learning progressions and educative curriculum incorporated (Cesar)
13) More detailed discussions on the differences between: problem based learning, project based learning, case based learning, challenge based instruction, anchored instruction
14) In class conducting of a project based unit (Mission to Mars)
15) Instruction of class to include more opportunities for projects.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Initial Thoughts on UTeach PBI Field Modifications

Both of these attachments are taken from the UTeach Institute's Curriculum document.

1) The first indicates my conjecture that PBI is the capstone course in the professional development sequence. Maybe people were speaking about AT as a capstone for the entire program? I'm not sure.

2) The second item is the total FE hours that PBI students do for the course compared to other courses in the professional sequence. I spoke with many of the Local School teachers recently and they were uniform in their agreement that the field experiences in PBI were memorable and important...but they did not have much to do with PBI.

By the SPG 2011 semester, PBI's FE will be in in synch with the other CoE courses. Roughly, they seem to average a little less than 2 FE hrs per course credit. I will shoot for PBI to be in the range of 6-8 hrs (well over 2 FE's per course credit). As things stand now, PBI has 3X more FE hrs than CI, and 4X more than the Step courses. This is clearly referenced in the description of PBI above, "immersion in intensive field-based experiences"-- We are trying to keep the concepts of "immersion" and "intensive" still in PBI, but they will be defined not by quantity but by quality. In the long run, this course will be better for the UTeach students we teach as it will reflect better what PBI is and is not. PBI is not a field based course. I think it's time we bring it more in line with the other CoE courses in terms of the proportion of hrs dedicated to an integration of theory and practice *ABOUT* PBI.

I'm more confident than ever that by the end of the next 12 months (SPG 2011), PBI will become a course that multiple STEM professors will be able to teach. But, a reduction in quantity, not quality, of FE hours is very likely going to become a reality.

To be clear, the field experiences students receive during PBI are clearly important, memorable, and worthwhile. They just don't belong in PBI. They belong in a course called something like "Conducting Field Based Teaching in STEM Education". In order for me and the team associated with PBI to make the modifications needed, less time is going to have to be dedicated to FE. Not surprisingly, students rate the field experiences as a highlight (even this past semester). I hope the UTeach program can keep this important aspect of the program intact. This really needs to be addressed at the program level and with the Steering Committee and I imagine other courses will need to pick up some of the lost PBI FE hours (K&L is currently listed have having none) or we'll officially have to reduce this number we claim. I think with almost a year to plan, something can be worked out. I will formally bring this up at the first or second SPG meeting of the Steering Committee.

3) As an aside, when asked, the local Teachers said that Research Methods class (while excellent and important) did not prepare them to teach using project based instruction. They may have been referring to an older version of RM but their response was very uniform. I'm in contact with another researcher and plan on talking to her about her monograph...

4) I'm in the process of preparing a document that will summarize much of the 3 meetings I had this week about PBI---but, I wanted to give a little heads-up on these three issues as I will not emphasize them too much in the report but wanted the two co-directors to have as much lead time on this as possible.

5) I'll be meeting with members of the PBI team next week as we push forward.... I will also be bringing in some STEM faculty and other people in as the process progresses next semester.

Friday, December 11, 2009

December 11- Final Exam Section II

Friday, December 11 was the final exam/presentations for Section 2 of out PBI course. Topics included invasive species, astronomy, pollution, endangered species-- Everything went well and students were generally relieved and excited about the prospect about being finished for the semester.

December 10- Meeting at Manor New Tech

On December 10, 2009, Denise Ekberg and Tony Petrosino met with about 10 teachers from Manor New Tech High School in Manor, TX (about 8 miles east of Austin). Manor New Tech is a high school that utilizes a version of project based instruction and includes a high proportion of former UTeach graduates.

Manor New Tech Meeting
December 10, 2009

I. Introductions

II. Discussion of Existing Relationship Between Manor and UTeach

III. Purpose of this Meeting

a. Short term goals (SPG 2010)
- Observations
- Semester Projects
- Field Experiences

b. Long term goals (Fall 2010 onward)

IV. Seeking Mutually Beneficial Relationship- beneficial to all parties

V. Next Meeting(s)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Final Exam- Section 1

On Wednesday evening from 7pm -10pm, Section 1 of PBI took their final exams. The exam was in the format of a presentation on the PBI unit that each group developed. Generally, there were teams of 4 students and they created a unit with an anchor video, a project calendar, lesson plans, resources, letters to parents, assessments, a summary paper and special modification for students. The exam was preceded by dinner and refreshments and teams were evaluated by peers, TA's, instructors of the course and even a visiting professor. The climate in the class was primarily one of celebration and relief. A great deal of coordination and collaboration was accomplished to finish this semester long project and with a full course load of intense classes, exam time can be stressful for anyone. But, presentations went well, comments were friendly and insightful and each group will receive substantial feedback on their project. Final grades are due early next week. The final exam for Section 2 will be on Friday from 2pm-5pm.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dr. Allan Collins Visits UT- UTeach Lecture Series

The following article appeared in The Daily Texan and was written by Vidushi Shrimali. Dr. Collins work has made significant impacts on education, artifical intelligence, and cognitive psychology. In addition to his lecture, Dr. Collins visited Dr. Joan Hughes Instructional Technology graduate course, met with numerous faculty members, and had wonderful interactions with some of our students. Please see his full bio at the end of this article. -Dr. Petrosino

In an age where adults blame new gadgets and social networking sites as the cause for students’ misconduct and poor educational performance, Allan Collins, a professor at Northwestern University, is encouraging students and teachers to use iPhones and Web sites, including Facebook, not only as entertainment, but also in the classroom.

Anthony Petrosino, a professor in the College of Education, asked Collins to speak at UT after he saw a posting on Collins’ Facebook page about his tour for “Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology,” a book Collins co-authored with peer Richard Halverson. Collins spoke at the University on Tuesday as part of UTeach’s Lecture Series.

“[His book] spoke [about] a lot of issues and topics we are grappling with,” said Petrosino.

“Collins’ work already has a huge influence on our graduate and undergraduate program. There are very few classes we offer in which an article by Dr. Collins is not present.”

Collins spoke on the benefits of what he calls new education, a growing internal movement that turns to technology to provide individualized instruction.

“We don’t let [students] use books, calculators or the Web when taking a test. But what matters in the real world is how well you can mobilize different sources like the Web to try to solve problems,” Collins said.

Collins summarized the history of education in three eras.

“In the apprenticeship era, education was personal, resource intensive, and engaging,” Collins said. “In the schooling era, education was mass-oriented, efficient and bureaucratic. In the lifelong-learning era, education is becoming customized, highly interactive and learner-controlled.” 

In new education and virtual and online high schools and colleges like the University of Phoenix, books are at least supplemented, if not replaced, with the Web, and students are given more freedom to choose what they learn.

Children as young as three or four years old use hand-held devices similar to the Kindle or iPhone, with stories, animations and voice recordings to practice reading skills, and students of all levels and ages have access to Web tutors and computer-based learning software that will allow them to work at their own pace and pursue individual interests.

Collins suggested questioning the current education systems, including the system of a high school, and replacing them with home schooling or a form of more individualized education.

“One of the problems with school is that we teach these things that in no context are relevant to real life,” Collins said. “Most students learn calculus and have no clue why they are going to use that in real life. I certainly didn’t and most teachers don’t.”

Brad Armosky, an employee at the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University, pointed out that university professors have the opportunity to pursue alternative teaching methods that elementary education teachers cannot.

“At university, if a faculty member wants to try something new, if it works, great. If it doesn’t, faculty and students can make up for it, no harm done. K-12 teachers can’t afford to take such a risk. They can’t say, let me try something totally new, using a level of technology we can’t use. If it doesn’t work, the two, three days you invested in the present topic, the kids didn’t learn what they needed to learn. What are the repercussions of missing that piece of information?” Armosky said.


Dr. Collins Bio: 

Allan M. Collins is an American cognitive scientist and Professor Emeritus of Learning Sciences at Northwestern University's School of Education and Social Policy. Collins' research is recognized as having broad impact on the fields of cognitive psychologyartificial intelligence, and education.


Collins is most well known in psychology for his foundational research on human semantic memory and cognition. Collins and colleagues, most notably M.R. Quillian and Elizabeth Loftus, developed the position that semantic knowledge is represented in stored category representations, linked together in a taxonomically organized processing hierarchy (see semantic networks). Support for their models came from a classic series of reaction-time experiments on human question answering.[1][2][3]

Artificial Intelligence

In artificial intelligence, Collins has been recognized for his work on intelligent tutoring systems and plausible reasoning. With collaborator Jaime Carbonell, Collins produced the first documented example of an intelligent tutor system called SCHOLAR CAI (computer-assisted instruction).[4]Knowledge in SCHOLAR was structured analogously to the then theorized organization of human semantic memory as to afford a variety of meaningful interactions with the system. Collins' extensive research program pioneered discourse analysis methods to study the strategies human tutors use to adapt their teaching to learners. In addition, Collins studied and developed a formal theory characterizing the variety of plausible inferences people use to ask questions about which their knowledge is incomplete. Importantly, Collins developed methods to embed lessons learned from such research into the SCHOLAR system, improving system usability and effectiveness. Subsequently, Collins developed WHY, an intelligent tutoring system that used the Socratic method for tutoring causal knowledge and reasoning. In conjunction with this project he developed a formal computational theory of Socratic tutoring, derived from analyses of inquiry teaching dialogues.


As a cognitive scientist and foundational member of the field of the learning sciences, Collins has influenced several strands of educational research and development. Building upon his work on intelligent tutoring systems, Collins has conducted numerous projects investigating the use of technology in schools and developing educational technologies for assessing and improving student learning. Collins has gradually shifted towards the situated cognition view of knowledge being embedded in the activity, context, and culture in which it is developed and used. In response to conventional practices that often ignore the influence of culture and activity, Collins and colleagues have developed and studied cognitive apprenticeship as a effective alternative educational practice. In addition, Collins was among the first to advocate for and outline design-based research methodologies in education.

Education and Professional Appointments

Academic Honors and Service

Noted and Representative Publications

  • Collins, A. M., & Quillian, M. R. (1969). Retrieval Time from Semantic Memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 8, 240-247. (citation classic)
  • Collins, A. M., & Loftus, E. F. (1975). A Spreading Activation Theory of Semantic Processing. Psychological Review, 82, 407-428. (citation classic)
  • Collins, A. M., & Michalski, R. S. (1989). The logic of plausible reasoning: A core theory. Cognitive Science, 13, 1-49.
  • Collins A. M., Brown J. S., & Newman S. (1989). Cognitive Apprenticeship: Teaching the Craft of Reading, Writing, and Mathematics, in Knowing, Learning and Instruction: Essays in Honor of Robert Glaser, edited by LB Resnick, Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ.
  • Brown, J. S., Collins, A.M., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18 (1), 32–42.
  • Collins, A. M. (1992). Towards a design science of education. In E. Scanlon & T. O’Shea (Eds.), New directions in educational technology (pp. 15-22). Berlin: Springer.
  • Collins, A. M., & Ferguson, W. (1993). Epistemic forms and epistemic games: Structures and strategies to guide inquiry. Educational Psychologist, 28(1), 25-42.
  • Greeno, J., Collins, A. M., & Resnick, L. (1996). Cognition and learning. (pp. 15-46) In D. Berliner and R. Calfee (Eds.), Handbook of Educational Psychology. New York: Macmillan.
  • Bielaczyc, K. & Collins, A. M. (1999). Learning communities in classrooms: A reconceptualization of educational practice. In Reigeluth, C. M. (Ed), Instructional-design Theories and Models: A New Paradigm of Instructional Theory : 269-292.
  • Collins, A.M.; Joseph, D., & Bielaczyc, K. (2004). "Design research: Theoretical and methodological issues". Journal of the Learning Sciences13 (1): 15–42.

Picture: Sara Young

Allan Collins, professor emeritus at Northwestern University, spoke Tuesday about restructuring educational approaches to include current technologies in his “Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology” tour.