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Using Case Studies in Maths Tutor Training Brien Nolan CASTeL, Dublin City University University of Bath, 29 th January 2009 Introduction – whys and wherefores.

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Presentation on theme: "Using Case Studies in Maths Tutor Training Brien Nolan CASTeL, Dublin City University University of Bath, 29 th January 2009 Introduction – whys and wherefores."— Presentation transcript:

1 Using Case Studies in Maths Tutor Training Brien Nolan CASTeL, Dublin City University University of Bath, 29 th January 2009 Introduction – whys and wherefores. Brief history and description of tutor training in School of Mathematical Sciences, DCU Case Studies for Tutor Training Solomon Friedbergs Case Studies programme in Boston College Pilot programme in DCU September 2005 DCU Case Studies 2006-08

2 Whys and wherefores A trained teacher is an effective teacher – cf. US Glenn Report Before its Too Late. (Pre)history of tutor training. Case Studies: a means of accelerating experience and accumulation of knowledge. Chipping away at the mathematics problem.

3 Tutor Training Workshop: 2003-present. Workshop Aims To prepare new tutors for their role by: giving a clear description of this role – and listening to their expectations of what the role involves; introducing the necessary communications and presentation skills; raising interest and enthusiasm for the task; giving an idea of what to expect in and around the classroom; stressing the importance of empathising with students.

4 Tutor Training Workshop: 2003-2005 Service maths teaching and the role of the tutor (Head of School) Communication skills and tips for tutoring (Service teaching coordinator) Learning Mathematics (External experts) The Maths Learning Centre (Manager)

5 New element in 2005: Case studies for tutor training Teaching Mathematics Graduate Students How to Teach by Solomon Friedberg, Notices of the American Mathematical Society, 52 (8) p.842 (September 2005). An account of the development of training materials for teaching assistants. Basic notion: as in business and legal education, case studies can accelerate the accumulation of knowledge and experience for beginning tutors.

6 Case Studies With the right foundation, effectiveness increases with experience. Case studies used to accelerate accumulation of knowledge and experience. Structured discussion of different situations that may arise in and around tutorials.

7 Discussion and analysis of different cases can help to identify the T&L issues that arise; address how they can be tackled in the context of previous training and experience. Anticipate situations/problems that may arise Focus on general issues rather than technicalities of being in a classroom.

8 Using the case studies Friedbergs team have developed 14 cases included in Teaching Mathematics in Colleges and Universities: Case Studies for Todays Classroom, Issues in Mathematics Education, vol. 10, Amer. Math. Soc., Providence, RI, 2001. Includes the case studies and a guide for facilitators. We identified and used 3 that seemed most relevant to our situation.

9 Students spilt into groups of 3/3/4, each group given responsibility for one case. Read all 3 cases, and did some work on their own one. Back into large group for discussion and analysis of each case study. Kicked off by synopsis of each case, and answering of initial questions. Discussion closed by an activity, piece of information, summary question.

10 Feedback on Case Studies (Sep 05) very enjoyable…very interesting debate too late in the day [3-4.30 pm after 10am start] most relevant [part of the day] [too broad:] I was only interested in the case study allocated to my group [too narrow:] we could have covered a wider range of situations if they had been studied in less detail did not find the particular case studies relevant when we were discussing the tutorials amongst ourselves was the most useful [need to] find a more efficient way to do it

11 Some problems… BC Case Studies focussed on US context. Different issues arise in DCU. Tutors have different roles.

12 DCU Case Studies Project November 05: Seminar on pilot project at CASTeL (DCU/SPD) March 06: Funding from DCUs Learning Innovation Unit to develop Case Studies for Science and Mathematics Tutor Training. Project team: Odilla Finlayson - Chemical Sciences Eilish McLoughlin - Physical Sciences Michael Parkinson - Biotechnology 11 tutors from across the four Schools, each with at least one years tutoring experience. Estimated 30 hours work, paid 900 each.

13 Development of the Cases Followed (roughly) Friedbergs lead. First Workshop (May 16 th ) Identification of the principal issues (20) that arise in tutoring in DCU (pyramid discussion). Drafting 12 case synopses in groups of 3 (8 generic, 4 discipline specific; changed from 4/8 split). Material on creative writing, grammar etc. Drafting of full cases and teaching guides. (June) Second Workshop (July 7 th ) Test run of each case. Suggested amendments passed to authors. Final versions completed by August 4 th. Training material available online:

14 20 Issues for Science and Mathematics Tutors Expectations (students of the tutor and vice versa; public versus private). Different tutoring styles; running a tutorial. Knowing the students background (building on this; meeting them at their level). Boundaries. Empathising with the student. Conflicting instructions. Relationship with the class: authority, respect and trust. Handling difficult questions. Presenting concepts. Cheating and plagiarism. Dealing with mixed abilities. Apathy versus enthusiasm. Questioning and listening skills. Giving students feedback (in class and on assessed work). Health and safety. Exam versus education. Dealing with difficult students. Grading assessed work. Self-evaluation of the tutors role. Time management.

15 Running a Case Study – Patricias Practical Problem Case Synopsis Patricia is a first-year post-grad student. Her teaching duties include the supervision of fourth year labs of the course she just graduated from. This class contains many of her friends, two of whom consistently hand up suspiciously similar lab reports. She knows that she must deal with this issue but she is afraid of jeopardising their friendship.

16 Running a Case Study Principal issues addressed in this case Secondary issues Beginning the discussion Discussion questions Wrap-up activity/question

17 Patricias Practical Problem: Discussion Questions 1. Should Claire and Elaine be punished? Should they just be warned personally? Or should the whole class be warned? Who should Patricia report this matter to? 2. Was Patricia right to bring the matter up informally at first? 3. Should Patricia have been assigned to this class? Should tutors be asked to grade the work of students who are their friends? 4. What guidelines should tutors be given for grading work? 5. What would be a fair and reasonable policy on plagiarism?

18 Faculty of Science and Health Tutor Training Workshop September 06 56 tutors from across 4 Schools (Mathematical Sciences, Physical Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Biotechnology). Day 1 Pyramid discussion on the role of the tutor. Support for undergraduate students in DCU Case Studies 1 Communication Skills for Tutors (James Wisdom, OCSLD) Day 2 Case Studies 2 Tips for tutoring Presentation skills Questioning and listening skills

19 Feedback: post-workshop, pre-practice. The training workshop has increased… Agree Strongly% Agree%Neutral%Disagree%Disagree Strongly% A…my awareness of what to expect in labs/tutorials 21631600 B…my awareness of the importance of my role as a tutor. 37531100 C…my interest in and enthusiasm for tutoring 37422100 D…my awareness of the importance of empathising with students. 26581600

20 Feedback: post-workshop, pre-practice. Overall, I think the training workshop… Agree Strongly AgreeNeutralDisagreeDisagree Strongly E…will help to make me a more effective tutor. 32581100 F…was relevant to the job I will be doing as a tutor. 37471600 G…helped me to learn some valuable skills. 32422600

21 Feedback: post-workshop, pre-practice. Comments tips for tutoring part very informative the training was perfect and it was very useful the first [day] was quite long…repeating the same things sometimes helps get to know one another…hearing [the other new tutors] ideas and experiences is also very helpful case studies…often a bit exaggerated, but helpful nonetheless most helpful part…was the case studies…they address problems which would have thrown me before, but I now thikn Id be better able to handle them

22 Feedback: post-practice. Round table discussion of c. 1 hour. The workshop as a whole provided good preparation for working as a tutor – helped to allay nerves. Case studies were realistic, and helped with foreseeing and dealing with different problematic situations. Questioning/listening skills, tips for tutoring and presentation skills were of most practical benefit. Unanticipated benefit: creation of a sense of community among the tutors.

23 Feedback: post-practice training workshops were about people skills; assuming your people skills were ok it wasnt really of any benefit… It did give you an idea of what was expected of you… …didnt give enough training on the experiments themselves… …a good opportunity to voice your worries about tutoring… …helped me understand what was expected of me… Discussion of the role of the tutor was helpful and gave you a different perspective to being a was as if they thought…that we were socially inept.

24 Feedback: post-practice. Suggested changes: reduce the programme to two afternoons or one day; reduce/remove session on undergraduate supports; more on practical presentation skills; more on discipline knowledge; introduce role play; introduce video-based case studies.

25 Conclusions Case studies: an effective means of getting new tutors to think and talk about their role. Great fun! Lively discussion. Criticising students is not only permitted, but encouraged!

26 A final word Always in the short story there is this sense of outlawed figures wandering about the fringes of society, superimposed sometimes on symbolic figures whom they caricature and echo - Christ, Socrates, Moses. It is not for nothing that there are famous short stories called Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District and A Lear of the Steppes… As a result there is in the short story at its most characteristic something we do not often find in the novel - an intense awareness of human loneliness. Frank O'Connor, The Lonely Voice (Cork City Council, 2003. p.5)

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