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Classroom Talking Points

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Unique Projects and Pedagogies

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


John Sangster P.E. Northeastern University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Sangster is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the First Year Engineering program at Northeastern University. Prior to joining Northeastern in 2018, he served for three years as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Nebraska. He received his Ph.D. in 2015 from Virginia Tech in Civil Engineering with a focus on Transportation.

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This Complete Evidence-Based Practice paper will introduce a structured handout tool, referred to as “talking points,” in use in a first-year engineering classroom. Analysis will focus on examining the learning outcomes of students who choose to complete this ungraded document versus those who do not. As an organization tool, the talking points document combines several Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) such as muddiest point and minute paper, while also providing an outline for discussion topics and sample problems throughout the class period. It is collected and used for attendance, but is returned ungraded (after being scanned to pdf), allowing students to select their own level of engagement with the document. The motivations for this paper are: (1) to document the classroom assessment technique referred to as “talking points;” (2) to assess the impact of this tool on student engagement and learning outcomes, and (3) to determine if grading of the document would improve learning outcomes to a degree that would justify the additional time investment. The handout is formatted as a sequential series of questions that encompass the full length of the classroom interaction. The first question on the handout either prompts students to reflect on what was learned in the previous class, or previews the upcoming lecture activating student prior knowledge on related topics. The last question is an equivalent of a muddiest point, reflecting on the least clear topic within the current lecture content. Questions in-between are numbered to correspond to the lecture slides and provide a place for students to fill in answers to in-class discussion prompts or example problems. Knowing in advance the slides on which questions occur, students can anticipate classroom discussion and prepare answers in advance, ostensibly allowing more students to engage. Answers are not readily apparent from the slide itself, and require reflection and discussion to draw out. Students are informed at the beginning of the semester and reminded periodically that exam questions draw heavily from the talking points documents, and are encouraged to complete them in class and review them before exams. Engagement with the talking points handout is optional, but encouraged. Data to support the arguments presented in this paper will include the quantification of completion rates for one semester’s worth of talking points documents for three sections, totaling around 80 students. This aggregate completion score will be analyzed against exam scores, overall course grades, and measures of student satisfaction with the course. Additional analysis of specific questions that represent significant class activities will be reviewed in-depth, assessing both completion and correctness of the in-class activity against exam performance on corresponding questions. Specific content identified for in-depth analysis includes engineering design processes such as Dunker Diagrams and Gantt Charts. Grading of the document for completion and/or correctness would represent a significant maintenance task and time commitment for the instructor/graders. This paper will conclude by evaluating this time commitment and the potential for formative feedback to improve outcomes for students.

Sangster, J. (2021, July), Classroom Talking Points Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36798

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