Are there modules available for faculty use that are based on learning science research and, therefore, really do increase student learning? If so, how can faculty use them?
Page 10: Considerations for Application
Although the STAR Legacy model was originally designed for use with students during class-time, IRIS Center Module developers have crafted the modules so that they may also be used outside a structured classroom environment. Indeed, there are many ways to use IRIS Modules:
Full In-Class Use: The Challenge and Initial Thoughts sections of a module can be used to introduce a topic and initiate student discussion. You might then work through the Perspectives and Resources information during class. Next, go through the Assessment section to gauge the degree to which students’ thinking about the Challenge scenario has changed. Conclude with the Wrap Up.
Partial In-Class Use: Introduce the Challenge in class to pique students’ interest, and allow them to share their Initial Thoughts with each other. You might then ask students to complete the Perspective and Resources section as homework and to turn in a brief essay outlining their answers to the questions found in the Assessment section. Or, as a class, work through the Assessment section to gauge the degree to which students’ thinking about the Challenge scenario has changed. Conclude with the Wrap Up.
Homework: The Challenge, Initial Thoughts, and selected Perspectives and Resources may be assigned for homework. Then the Assessment and Wrap Up sections could be completed with about 15 minutes of discussion in class. This might be held with the entire class, or students could discuss in smaller groups.
Sequence Modules Together: Some IRIS Modules and materials work well together and may be used to develop more complete units of instruction. For example, IRIS has created a set of modules on behavior that can be used independently; however, content information is designed to build from simple concepts to more complicated techniques about behavior. Links to these modules may be found on the online module list under the Behavior topic. Faculty may lead their students through a sequenced program of study that deals with classroom behavioral issues. This sequence of modules starts with the basics of comprehensive behavior management plans and progresses through the acting-out-cycle and behavioral interventions like choice-making, high-probability requests, and differential reinforcement.
Other resources available on the IRIS Website may be used in conjunction with the modules. These include Case Studies, Activities, and information briefs.
Listen to Nancy Hunt and Brenda Naimy, both from California State University-Los Angeles, as they describe how IRIS Modules have been implemented into their university courses for non-special education majors.
Nancy Hunt, PhD California State University-Los Angeles Professor, School of Education
Brenda Naimy California State University-Los Angeles Adjunct Faculty, School of Education
1. Why should I use IRIS Modules in my course?
Although classroom presentations can consume a lot of time and may make some students uncomfortable, with the right set of norms in place, they can be an excellent way to raise the performance bar.
I like using them in class because it varies the format of what’s usually a lecture class, and I find that the students’ responses to pieces of the modules have been very positive.
I use the modules in our Introduction to Special Education class, the Foundations of Special Education, and a really wide variety of students take that class. The majority of them are elementary or high-school teachers-to-be. It also works for our people who’ve decided they’ll be special educators, but it pulls in students from other disciplines who work with children with disabilities in the schools—school nurses, rehab counselors, speech and language specialists—and then a variety of undergraduates who haven’t decided yet on their career choices.
Transcript: Brenda Naimy
I think they’re very user friendly, and there’s a couple of topics that I would love to see and I would probably jump on. I think any time you teach a foundations course, there’s a whole lot of breadth, and none of us are specialists in all of the areas. So we’re all going to be really attracted to, I think, options for information that are easy to use in areas that, you know, we might not specialize in. I would say I’d be most inclined, you know, with what exists now, to use the behavior Modules, you know, in class teaching because it’s not my area of expertise. So I would really enjoy having a resource like that. In this particular course, I’d still use it outside of class because I have this expected content that I have to cover. And this complements it nicely but doesn’t hit it directly.
2. Should modules be used during class or outside of class?
IRIS Modules may be presented in a variety of situations. Determining the method for use will depend on the course objectives, the syllabus, and the size of the class.
It’s been hard to use a whole Module in class because when you’re on the Web, people like to go through at their own pace. I’ve had students tell me that they’ve spent a half an hour or forty-five minutes in a module, but in class I can’t afford to spend that much time. So generally I use a module in class to introduce a topic and then we’ll have some discussion, some lecture, go back to the module for another piece, and often wind up with the conclusion to the module. But I’ve also used the modules as homework assignments for the students, and after the initial getting used to that format and that kind of assignment, students seem to have liked that very well.
I’ve come to my own style of using the modules, and I like the way that I do it, but I always have this sense that there are other ways that would probably work just as well. I think the students could do it entirely on their own at home. But I would kind of miss being in on it a little bit. I’m still experimenting. I think that I’ll probably try other ways of using the modules and determine the one that’s most effective for my students. But for my own sense of variety, I like the idea that there are still undetermined ways to use the modules.
Transcript: Brenda Naimy
I like the fact that the modules are developed so that they can be used both in class and outside of class. However, I’ve primarily used them outside of class. In the Foundations of Special Ed course, I’ve used two of the modules as assignment options. So in this course, I give students four or five different options for assignments, and they need to complete two from the options. So far in the course, I’ve used two different IRIS Modules as assignment options, both the Success in Sight vision Module and the Who’s in Charge? Module on positive behavior support. And these modules are real good for my course because they complement the topics and the content that I cover in class very nicely. They’re very easy to use on an independent basis, and they’ve been a real popular assignment option, I think, with the students.
3. Are Initial Thoughts really that important?
Helping learners to make their own thinking visible is a critical step to helping them learn with understanding.
The Initial Thoughts have been really valuable in that they allow students to identify what might be their stereotypes about a particular topic, and I’ve used it that way with a couple of the modules—I hope subtly, but obviously these are adult learners: They have ideas about these topics; they have preconceptions. And part of why we do the modules and why we teach the classes is because we want to dispel some of those misconceptions.
So the Initial Thoughts—when it’s used well, as really the starting-off point for a discussion—has the potential to have students identify those previously formed conceptions, whether you want to call them stereotypes or not.
The drawback, I think, of the Initial Thoughts for me—and I’ll be frank with you—is that I don’t always spend the time on them that they probably need in order to serve that function for students’ learning. It’s a jumping-off point for a discussion, but I teach a large class, so discussions have to be managed rather carefully. And sometimes, in the interest of time, I don’t let them flow the way they might. So the Initial Thoughts are valuable. As I say these words, I think to myself, Gee, I really should spend more time on them rather than thinking about not doing them at all, because I do think it’s valuable for adults to think about what they already know before they dive into a new topic.
Transcript: Brenda Naimy
I think Initial Thoughts are important, for a couple of reasons. One thing I like about them is that they get the students focused right way on the important content in the modules, and they also realize right off the bat, like, what they do or they don’t know about the upcoming content. As they progress through the module, I think they are more focused than they might normally would be if they hadn’t spent a few moments reflecting on the Initial Thoughts or questions. Probably the most valuable aspect of the Initial Thoughts is that when they’ve completed the modules and they address the questions again in the Assessment portion of the module, I think they really see how much they’ve learned. So I like that piece of it the best.
4. How do I discuss IRIS Modules in class? How do I introduce the module topic?
There is seldom enough time to accomplish all that you would like. Nevertheless, even a brief discussion at the right time can help learners to make powerful connections.
I generally try to introduce any topic with a story that is going to ask people to dig into their own experiences. And again, I try to serve that function of tapping into what they already know, and I am convinced—and in part because the two Modules that I use quite a bit, Success in Sight and the Perceptions of Disability module—and both of those topics really lend themselves to this kind of introduction. What do you already know about this? What do you think when you see a person with a visual impairment or—I really believe in personalizing the topic, and so that’s how I introduce the modules, too. I try to draw people in with a story and then maybe give them a hint about the format, that this is a somewhat unusual format. I sometimes say, “It’s a little bit irritating for me to have somebody else manipulating media or the Web for me.” You know, I can’t stand to sit next to somebody else who’s using a computer—I want to jump right in and steal the mouse away from them. So I tell them that I will be showing a part of it and stopping it, we’ll be having a discussion, and I’ll come back to it. Then I say, “I think this will pique your interest in the topic and allow you to think about this topic in a new way,” and then we go into the module.
Transcript: Brenda Naimy
Well, I found overall that the students haven’t needed a whole lot of introduction to the modules because they’re set up and they progress in a very clear and straightforward manner. But I do introduce the modules on the first night of class when I’m reviewing their assignment options. And I project the IRIS Website on a large screen, and I show the students where they can find the modules, how to progress through the Challenge cycle. Also, my course syllabus has instructions on how to find the modules and what students are expected to do for each assignment. But other than that, you know, I’ll reference them, but I haven’t really needed to do much more than that to introduce them to the course.
5. How do I grade a module?
Because IRIS Modules are not typical teaching components, determining the best way to be equitable in your grading may require some careful thinking.
When I give the students a module for an assignment—either a homework assignment or as part of a paper assignment—part of the reason I like it is because it’s very structured. The questions within the modules are predetermined, the answers are . . . also give us evidence of whether or not they’ve really taken in the module, and they’re relatively easy to grade. In fact, to be honest, I don’t always read every word of the student’s answer. I look at the format and the length of the answer and really skim it. And I know that might sound like I’m cheating, but again, I have such a large number of students—175 or so—I really need something like that. I know they’ve had an experience of learning. I know they’ve had to write about it, and I have the format right in front of me that makes it easy to grade. So it’s pretty ideal for me.
Transcript: Brenda Naimy
I’ve used the Assessment questions that are toward the end of the module, and because my course assignments are worth 30 points, I rephrase the questions just slightly to give them a maximum point value: You know, 30 points total. For example, if an Assessment question asked the student to provide suggestions for adapting materials for a student with low vision, I’ll indicate in the question that the student should provide five examples for a maximum total of five points. Basically, I’m just asking for a specific number so that I can grade them easily and give them a 30-point value.