Ryan Edel — June 22, 2020
Assignment 6: Memory Reflection
Please answer the prompts below. You may submit your response via text, a screencast, concept map/web diagram or other means of representations as appropriate to your goal.
Which strategies provided in the previous section do you already use to guide memory encoding and retrieval?
When I give readings to my students, I do my best to "prime" their memories by saying something about the readings in class, and then I ask them to think about what they should expect to see. This is similar to the prediction stage of reciprocal teaching, except that my approach has been far less formal. During in-class and online discussions, I have students converse about the readings and the assignments, and then I'll regularly bring up the rhetorical terms for them to practice with. This reduces the stakes of the conversation, allowing students to engage in repetition without having to face the continuous pressures of quizzes.
For my online courses, I put together worksheet-type quizzes so that students are required to actively engage with the readings in order to answer the questions. In a way, I've always been trying to push their cognitive load just a bit past what they're accustomed to, but this is one reason I don't put time limits on my quizzes. And I also don't have giant comprehensive tests. Instead, the quizzes are meant to be fairly short (10-15 minutes or so) and to reinforce the key concepts of each unit. Since each quiz also brings up past concepts, students get steady reminders over time rather than losing information that's all be crammed in. Also, the quizzes themselves are intended to be the study aid — I incorporate lesson materials into many of the quiz questions, and then provide students with an example to apply the concept material that I've just presented them with. This helps with reinforcement because students are more likely to remember material they have to actually use and apply versus material that's simply presented as something to memorize without context.
Finally, I integrate the course concepts with projects where students choose the topic. So as students work with materials they're personally interested in — and thus already have a strong base of pre-established meanings — I add the course concepts in conversations with them about their projects. So for example, if a student was doing a project on Disney films, I might point out how the portrayals of the princesses affect audiences. The pathos of Cinderella have a sad story that turns happy is something that a fan of Disney could easily understand. And for more advanced students, we can then get into how these stories have had (often negative) impacts on social perceptions of beauty and (un)healthy relationships. If I have a student who loves both Cinderella and Moana, then there's an opportunity to really delve into changing views of the female protagonist over time — even in English 101.
Which of the sub-categories of the UDL framework do the strategies you list fall under?
The most main UDL sub-category I try to engage is provide options for comprehension by activating background information, highlighting relationships between course material and past student experiences. This also helps with recruiting interest, since I ask students to apply the material to topics they're already interested in, and thus my hope is to show them that "dull" concepts of rhetoric and genre do actually apply to real world settings that carry personal relevance in their lives.
With finding the right balance of information and cognitive load, I find that it helps to provide a lot of flexibility with the options for expression and communication. When I have students plan their projects, in an f2f class I'll sit down with them in their groups and individually to talk over their ideas. I ask them to explain their plans to me verbally, and then I offer suggestions for how to apply their ideas in research. This, I find, helps them better conceptualize of their projects versus simply writing out a research plan. I do also have track down lots of quotes for their projects, and then draw up maps of how these quotes may fit together. This allows them to visually match their ideas to core course concepts.
Which unaddressed categories might assist students in your area?
In the online setting, I find it much harder to provide the same options for expression and communication. and options for perception that will help with memory. Currently, I'm planning additional audiovisual materials that will use my written lessons as the script so that students who have trouble reading the assignments will be able to hear the same information as their peers. Given the wide variance I'm also seeing among community college students when it comes to comfort with literacy tasks, I think this will help struggling students at least engage with the concepts as their literacy skills improve over the course of the semester. As pointed out in the course materials, students who engage linguistically will build literacy skills. I see it kind of like how parents need to read to their children — whether the language is processed through the eyes of the ears, that language development is still occurring, and I want to set up a system that will be more accessible to students who struggle with reading and writing at the college level.