Rajiv Jhangiani, Ph.D.

Open Education, SoTL, Psychology

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Why have students answer questions when they can write them?

Questions by Alan Levine (CC-BY 2.0). Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/mrQ1x1

Questions by Alan Levine (CC-BY 2.0). Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/mrQ1x1

I recently trialled a new assignment in my Social Psychology class: During each of the 10 weeks when there was no scheduled exam I asked my students to write multiple-choice questions. That’s right, they wrote questions instead of merely answering them.

From a pedagogical perspective, I really wanted my students to achieve a deeper level of understanding (e.g., the level it takes in order to craft three plausible distractors). However, this assignment also served a pragmatic purpose in that the open textbook that I use for this course (and that I helped revise) does not yet have a readymade question bank.  By asking my students to craft and peer-review multiple-choice questions based on the concepts covered that week (and scaffolding this process over the semester), I considered I had a budding open pedagogy project on my hands.

Here’s how it went:

  1. The students were asked to write 4 questions each week, 2 factual (e.g., a definition or evidence-based prediction) and 2 applied (e.g., scenario-type).
  2. For the first two weeks they wrote just one plausible distractor (I provided the question stem, the correct answer, and 2 plausible distractors). They also peer reviewed questions written by 3 of their (randomly assigned) peers. This entire procedure was double blind and performed using Google forms for the submission and Google sheets for the peer review.
  3. For the next two weeks they wrote two plausible distractors (the rest of the procedure was the same).
  4. For the next two weeks they wrote all 3 plausible distractors (the rest of the procedure was the same).
  5. For the remainder of the semester they wrote the stem, the correct answer, and all the distractors.

I adapted existing guidelines about how to write effective multiple-choice distractors and how to provide constructive peer feedback and produced these two brief guides:

Guidelines for writing effective distractors for multiple-choice questions

Guidelines for providing constructive peer feedback

The result? My small class of 35 students wrote 1400 questions in the span of 10 weeks! And although I wouldn’t consider this a polished question bank ready for use by other instructors, I still consider this assignment to have been a success because the questions steadily improved over the semester (the experience of serving as peer reviewers was especially useful to the students when constructing their own questions). The students were also buoyed and motivated by my practice of including a few of their best questions on each of the three course exams. Looking forward, I plan to have my next cohort of Social Psychology students revise and add to this bank. I figure that it will take only a couple of semesters for us to provide the commons with a high-quality question bank, something that will enable even more instructors to adopt this open textbook.

If you have attempted something similar or would even like to collaborate with me on this assignment, please write a comment below or otherwise get in touch. Your feedback is very welcome.

2016: My Year in Review

2016 was a busy, unforgettable year.

By the numbers, 28 keynotes or invited talks, 12 conference presentations, 2 published chapters + 2 in press, 2 published journal articles + 2 in press, and 1 edited FAQ site.

This was a year for both family and opportunity, some setbacks but much progress, the occasional need to pitch a battle or take a principled stand, the discovery of many new allies, and the opportunity to meet many personal heroes.

It began at St. Pete’s beach in Florida at the National Institute for the Teaching of Psychology (where I will be again this week), co-hosting a discussion titled “Textbooks are dead and traditional assignments suck” with my dear friend Robert Biswas-Diener (aka the “Indiana Jones of Positive Psychology”; aka Senior Editor of NOBA Psychology). Although I would step down from my position as Associate Editor of NOBA in May, Robert and I continued to work together for the rest of the year, editing and writing chapters for our forthcoming volume, “Open: The philosophy and practices that are revolutionizing education and science.” With any luck this book will be published by Ubiquity Press (open access, duh) early in 2017. I am so grateful to Robert for his boldness (“we should publish a book!”) and to our contributors for their enthusiastic support and for sharing their hard-earned insights.

January also marked my first campus visit for the Open Textbook Network at the University of Washington, during which I had the honour of shadowing David Ernst and Sarah Cohen. In truth, I was blown away when they asked me to join the OTN team a few months earlier and have since thoroughly enjoyed facilitating faculty workshops for the OTN at Temple University (April), the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (September), George Fox University (also September), and the University of Northern Iowa (October).

February was PACKED and had me thanking the lord that I don’t teach in the Spring. A guest lecture at the University of British Columbia was followed by keynote addresses or invited talks for Campus Stores Canada, the University of Waterloo, McMaster University, Sheridan College, and Ryerson University (phew!), and an unforgettable Hewlett Foundation grantees meeting aboard a riverboat sailing up the Mississippi from New Orleans.

March began in Knoxville, Tennessee, where I gave a talk for the Psychology Department and then went on a road trip with my dear friend and collaborator (in all things, including Kriss Kross karaoke) Erin Hardin through Chattanooga to Atlanta. There we co-presented on our article about skill development in Intro Psych at the Southeastern Teaching of Psychology conference. I flew back from Atlanta just in time to leave again for Edmonton, where I keynoted at the U of Alberta’s Open Education week event, reuniting over dinner with future collaborator Danielle Paradis. I participated in a panel discussion (once again, for Open Education week) at UBC and hosted the generous Paul Stacey at Kwantlen for a talk about all things Creative Commons. March wound up with two more guest lectures (at the Justice Institute of BC) and another talk, this one on the Psychology of Genocide at the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, to students about to take part in the March of the Living.

In April Surita and I took the boys to India—their first trip and my first in 7 years—which involved family reunions aplenty, city hopping, gully cricket, divine food, serious heat, fun shopping, and delicious mangoes. Back just in time for the start of the summer semester.

May hit the ground running with four classes, two interviews, and a webinar for the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources. Plenty of meetings that month, including with the Association of BC students about OER advocacy strategy and a delightful lunch with the even more delightful Sirish Rao, who convinced me to give a talk at the upcoming Indian Summer festival.

June sent me to Sarnia, Ontario, where I gave a talk and a workshop about OER at Lambton College. Oh and then I broke my hand. And fingers. At cricket practice, no less. Sadly this was right after I took a wicket (top of off stump, if that means anything to you—AND IT SHOULD). Even more sadly, it ended my cricket season and took me out of the classroom for a few weeks as I couldn’t type or drive or much else normally. Much pain, much rehab, and an increasingly smelly cast (TMI, I know).

July featured a GO-GN webinar and that 5×15 talk at the Indian Summer festival (about privilege, moral justifications, and the psychological foundations of evil). And much more rehab.

August brought a welcome if brief getaway with the family in Whistler, followed by the American Psychological Association conference (my first, in Denver), the Open Textbook Network summer institute (at the University of Minnesota), meetings aplenty with friends from THE Ohio State U, Plenty of Fish, the Commonwealth of Learning, BCcampus, an instructor at Maskwacis Cultural College in Alberta interested in adopting OER, and a group I puled together to began planning and organizing the inaugural Open Education Ontario summit.

September and the start of the new semester brought me back to campus to teach three courses, visit North Carolina and Oregon for the OTN, give a keynote  at Alexander College in Burnaby, and give a talk as part of POF Talks in Vancouver.

October was unforgettable and began en route to Inverness in Scotland (via lovely Amsterdam) to represent KPU at the annual OERu Partners’ meeting. An immensely productive meeting in a positively breathtaking location with my dear friends Brian Lamb and Irwin DeVries. Back (groggy-eyed and caffeine-fueled) in time for the BCcampus Open Education Strategy Session at BCIT in downtown Vancouver, followed a week later by a cherished trip with my older son—his first accompanying me on a work trip. This one was at Oregon State U where we were hosted by the incredible and kind (and incredibly kind) Dianna Fisher. No doubt the first of many such trips for K and I.

October wrapped with a trip to Northern Iowa, another interview, Open Access Week events at Simon Fraser University and KPU, and the Fall ETUG workshop, where I got to see Audrey Watters (for the first time since South Africa)and meet Kin Lane (for the first time).

The penultimate month rivalled the second for busyness, with the Open Education Conference (Richmond, Virginia, four presentations), a keynote address at Mount Royal University in Calgary (bonus dinner with Amanda Coolidge at the Calgary airport!), and my first OpenCon conference (Washington, DC, one panel). Plus all the teaching and wrapping up an editing project for 100 FAQs about OER for the Commonwealth of Learning.

And finally, December marked the end of the semester, sent me into my grading bunker for a couple of weeks, and more importantly allowed me to enjoy the Christmas break with the boys before the travel madness of January arrives.

At KPU, I believe we accomplished a lot during 2016. We surpassed 100 course adoptions for open textbooks, held workshops for our community about Creative Commons licensing and Open Pedagogy, launched and oversaw the first round of a small grants program for faculty wishing to adapt or adopt OER, applied for external grants to support our work, conducted research, raised awareness, and continued taking proactive steps towards a culture of Open. KPU also created a new position—via a 50% faculty teaching release—known as the University Teaching Fellow in Open Studies. I applied, interviewed, and, to my delight and everlasting gratitude, was successful in this competition. This finally gives me what I have always sought—the time to do what I have been doing so far off the side of my desk (and at the cost of a reasonable work-life balance) and gives me great reason for optimism in 2017.

So, to Amanda Coolidge, Mary Burgess, Jesse Stommel, Robin DeRosa, Martin Weller, Brian Lamb, Irwin DeVries, Wayne Mackintosh, David Wiley, David Porter, Kelsey Wiens, Dianna Fisher, Sarah Cohen, David Ernst, Joshua Bolick, Amy Collier, Sean Michael Morris, Audrey Watters, Danielle Paradis, Nicole Allen, Heather Joseph, Paul Stacey, Brady Yano, Cable Green, Clint Lalonde, Tannis Morgan, Alan Levine, Grant Potter, Jamison Miller, Jon Tennant, Beck Pitt, Rob Farrow, Christina Hendricks, Sara Trettin, Karen Bjork, Amy Hofer, Meg Brown-Sica, Steven J. Bell, Beth Bernhardt, Ishan Abeywardena, Robert Biswas-Diener, Peter Lindberg, Merinda McLure, Shawn Gilbertson, Erika Smith, Cari Merkley, Jess Mitchell, Jutta Treviranus, Lena Patterson, Leonora Zefi, Alexa Roggeveen, Joe Kim, TJ Bliss, John Hilton, Serena Henderson, Erin Hardin, Sirish Rao, Tara Robertson, Erin McKiernan, Shirley Lew, Baharak, Rick Overeem, Michelle Brailley, Lin Brander, Debra Flewelling, Trish Rosseel, Delmar Larsen, Scott Marsden, Tom Woodward, Viv Rolfe, David Kernohan (and others whom I have no doubt missed):

You are my family, in open education, in pedagogy, and in social justice. You have enriched my life. And I am grateful.

I can’t wait to continue to change the world with you in 2017.

Review, Revise, Adopt. Rinse and Repeat.

I am often asked about how I got involved with the open textbook movement. My red pill moment was when I first heard the term “OER” uttered by David Wiley in May 2013 at an annual workshop held at Thompson Rivers University for faculty in their Open Learning division. This is when I began to see the Matrix for what it was—an artificial, parasitic, publisher-driven system in which faculty are unwitting carriers. Continue reading

Principles vs. Publishers

This is been an interesting week. Yesterday I made the decision to formally withdraw a chapter from an edited volume about themes for teaching Introductory Psychology. It was not an easy decision because I had put a lot of thought and energy into the chapter, made the necessary revisions, and even saw it accepted by the editors more than a year ago (a change in editorial staff at Cengage prompted the massive delay). So you can imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when I received a very curious email from a “Product Manager” at Cengage. Continue reading

The opposite of open is broken

The opposite of open is not closed; the opposite of open is broken. The more I think about it, the more this cogent observation, made by John Wilbanks, resonates with me. Continue reading

Idealism or pragmatism? A false dichotomy in four tweets

Continue reading

Are open textbooks the end game?

“I don’t want to be part of a movement that is focused on replacing static, over-priced textbooks with static, free textbooks.” I hope Robin DeRosa’s thoughtful post about open textbooks provokes some reflection on the tone and goals of the open textbook movement and its advocates. It begs the question of whether we are waging the wrong war here, at least in part. Continue reading

Pilot testing open pedagogy

This summer, as has become usual practice for me, I adopted open textbooks for my Introductory Psychology and Social Psychology sections (produced by NOBA and the BC Open Textbook Project, respectively); however, my desire to enjoy a semester entirely free from traditional textbooks was challenged by the absence of a high quality open textbook for Cognitive Psychology. Continue reading

Tunnelling up: Announcing a new book project

A measure of salvation by cujoquan. Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/Lnp6f CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

The open education community is multidisciplinary and consists of passionate and intrinsically motivated leaders. In inspiring one another, we serve as caretakers of our mutual flame. We are the core. Continue reading

Textbooks? Where we’re going we don’t need textbooks!

Back to the future time machine

As many of you will remember, 2015 is the “future” year in the beloved 1985 film “Back to the Future.” Although this may make you chuckle, I believe that Doc Brown had it right and that at least part of the future is here.

Consider this: In a now-famous blog post, David Wiley argued that “using OER the same way we used commercial textbooks misses the point. It’s like driving an airplane down the road. Yes, the airplane has wheels and is capable of driving down on the road (provided the road is wide enough). But the point of an airplane is to fly at hundreds of miles per hour – not to drive. Driving an airplane around, simply because driving is how we always traveled in the past, squanders the huge potential of the airplane.”

As always, David makes an important point in a persuasive fashion. But let me add what I believe is the perfect meme to his argument with a slightly amended version of the famous final scene of the iconic film:Doc Brown meme

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