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Riding the Winds of Their Interest: Exploring the Teachable Moment in College Classroom s Nancy F osdick Mills A d issertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of Adult, Career and Higher Education College of Education University of South Florida Co Major Professor: James Eison, Ph.D. Co Major Professor: William H. Young, Ed .D. Roberts Sullins, Ed.D. Frederick Steier, Ph.D. Date of Approval: June 11, 2009 Keywords: College teaching, reflection in action, f aculty development, active learning higher education Copyright 2009 Nancy F osdick Mills
Dedication This dissertation is dedic ated to three people who, each in their own way, kept me Revonda, my friend, because I would still be waiting to take statistics, and be cause we were in this together To Spencer, because you remind me every day what is really important, and because you navigated the bureaucracy so I could get this done on time. And most of all t o Michael because you always believed I could and would finish this, even when I did not. Your confidence in me kept me going. Thank you.
Acknowledgements I had many teachable moments in the course of my doctoral program, and there are many people who contributed to them. First of all, I want to thank my committee who shepherded this project to its completion. Jim Eison, thank you for suggesting this topic and for your attention to detail that made it so much better. Thanks to Bill Young and Bob Sullins who have supported me from the beginning of my studies at USF, clearing obst acles and never letting me give up Fred Steier introduced me to reflexivity, giving me a frame for my research and, along with Jim Eison, changed the way I teach. Barb Mc Lay edited more than one draft, an act above and beyond the call of friendship. Nancy White was instrumental in helping me identify participants for the diss ertation research. My r elatives and my friends put up with me alternatel y cheering a nd whining for many years now. I cannot leave out the friends I made in classes at USF. You have shared ideas, energy, helpful hints, caveats and inspiration. Interactions with you made the teachable moments work. Finally, I must thank al l of my pilot and study participants. Without the generous sharing of your time and your expertise, I would not have had a dissertation to write. I hope others will learn as much as I have from you.
i TABLE OF CONTENTS LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. v ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... vi CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW ................................ .................. 1 Problem ................................ ................................ ................................ .................... 2 Pilot Study ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 3 Purpose ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 1 1 Research Questions ................................ ................................ ............................ 12 Conceptual Framework ................................ ................................ .......................... 1 3 in Action ................................ ................... 13 The Ladder of Reflection ................................ ................................ ........... 15 Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 16 Comi ng Attractions ................................ ................................ ................................ 16 CHAPTER TWO: REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ................................ ..................... 19 Teachable Moments Literature ................................ ................................ .............. 19 Stimuli for Teachable Moments ................................ ................................ 21 Plan ning and the Teachable Moment ................................ ......................... 22 Wha t Fosters a Teachable Moment? ................................ .......................... 27 Teachable Moment Summary ................................ ................................ .... 33 Reflection Literature ................................ ................................ .............................. 33 Introduction to Reflection in Action ................................ ......................... 3 5 Dewey ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 3 6 in Action ................................ ................... 3 8 Subsequent Reflection Models ................................ ................................ .. 39 The Exper ience of Reflection in Action ................................ .................... 41 F ostering Reflection in Action ................................ ................................ .. 43 Critiques of the Theory of Reflection in Action ................................ ....... 44 Reflection S ummary ................................ ................................ .................. 45 CHAPTER THREE: METHODS ................................ ................................ ...................... 47 Research Questions ................................ ................................ ................................ 47 Pilot Study ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 47 Method of Data Collection ................................ ................................ ..................... 49 Participant Selection ................................ ................................ .............................. 52 Interview Format ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 54 Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 56 Bias, Generalizability, Validity, Re liability and Trustworthiness ......................... 59 Assumptions ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 63 Ethical consi derations ................................ ................................ ............................ 65 Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 65
ii CHAPTER FOUR: PRESENTATION OF INTERVIEW DATA ................................ .... 66 Question One: Definitions of Teachable Moment ................................ ................. 68 General De finitions of Teachable Moment ................................ ................ 69 The De fining Elements of the Moment ................................ ................................ 73 Interaction ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 74 Engagement ................................ ................................ ................................ 78 Continuum of Predictabil ity ................................ ................................ ....... 80 Calculated Teachable Moments ................................ ..................... 82 Foreseeable Moments ................................ ................................ .... 99 Least Foreseen Moments ................................ ............................. 110 Portability ................................ ................................ ................................ 118 Classroom Environment ................................ ................................ ........... 125 Class Size ................................ ................................ ..................... 126 Overcoming Anonymity ................................ .............................. 128 Initial Class Sessions ................................ ................................ .... 131 Covenants ................................ ................................ ..................... 136 Encouraging Dialog ................................ ................................ ..... 137 Student Centeredness ................................ ................................ ... 141 Frequency ................................ ................................ ................................ 143 The Un witnessed Moment ................................ ................................ ...... 146 Wrong Term ................................ ................................ ............................. 150 Summary of Question One ................................ ................................ ....... 151 Question T wo: Elements of the Decision ................................ ............................ 152 Risk ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 153 Com plex Interaction of Elements ................................ ............................ 156 Time ................................ ................................ ............................. 162 Relevance ................................ ................................ ..................... 165 Relevance to the Class ................................ ................................ 169 Relevance to the Course ................................ ............................... 171 Disciplinary Relevance ................................ ................................ 174 Rel evance to Academic Processes ................................ ............... 176 Participation ................................ ................................ ..... 177 Critical Thinking ................................ .............................. 179 Di scussing Religion and Ethics ................................ ....... 184 Learning Orientations ................................ ...................... 188 Goal Conflicts ................................ ................................ .. 193 Summary of Relevance ................................ .................... 198 Number of Students Engaged ................................ ...................... 199 O ver Participato ry Students ................................ ............. 203 Broa dening the Scope of a Moment ................................ 206 Student Content Readiness ................................ .......................... 210 Student Process Readiness ................................ ........................... 21 4 Classroom Dynamics ................................ ................................ ... 218 Challenges to Authority ................................ ................... 218 Pr eserving Classroom Relations ................................ ...... 225 Readiness ................................ ................................ .. 2 28
iii The Role of Planning ................................ ....................... 228 The Role of Experience ................................ ................... 235 ................................ ................... 238 Reflexive Co nsiderations in the Decision ................................ .... 251 Summary of Question Two ................................ ................................ ...... 253 Summary of Chapter Four ................................ ................................ ................... 253 CHAPTER FIVE: ANALYSIS AND IMPLICATIONS ................................ ................. 25 6 Brief Analysis of the Data from Chapter Four ................................ ..................... 2 5 6 Elements that Characterize the Teachable Moment ................................ 25 7 Eleme n ts of the Decision to Pursue ................................ ......................... 258 ................................ ............................... 2 58 ................................ ............... 259 Implications for Theory ................................ ................................ ....................... 260 Question T T heory of R eflection in Action ....................... 2 61 Pedagogical vs. Discipline Based Decisions ............................... 2 68 Ladder of Interaction ................................ ................................ .... 269 Relationship to Other Reflection Literature ................................ 270 How Faculty Conceptualize G oals ................................ ... 2 70 Proposed Corridor of T olerance ................................ ....... 273 eflective Practice ........... 274 Implications for T eaching P r actice ................................ ................................ ...... 2 75 Connections to Active L earning ................................ .............................. 2 75 Setting a Classroom E nvironment ................................ ........................... 277 Student Development and Attitudes towards Goals ................................ 2 79 Evaluation and Rewards ................................ ................................ .......... 2 80 Faculty D evelopment ................................ ................................ ............... 2 81 Use of T echnology ................................ ................................ ................... 2 8 5 Suggestions for F urther R esearch ................................ ................................ ........ 2 88 Flexibility and Tea ching Style Preferences ................................ ............. 288 Method ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 2 89 Level of Courses ................................ ................................ .......... 290 Disciplines Involved ................................ ................................ .... 290 Size of Classes and Institutions ................................ .................... 2 91 Experience of P articipants ................................ ........................... 29 1 Tenure and Evaluations ................................ ................................ 29 2 Timing of the Research ................................ ................................ 29 2 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 29 3 REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 29 6 APPENDICES ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 304 Appendix A: Informed Consen t to Participate in Research ................................ 305 App endix B: Interview Protocol 1 ................................ ................................ ....... 309 Appe ndix C: Interview Protocol 2 ................................ ................................ ....... 310
iv ABOUT THE AUTHOR ................................ ................................ ....................... End Page
v LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1 moments ................. 34 Figure 2 Steps involved in collecting, analyzing and presenting data in active interview Research ................................ ................................ ..................... 52 Figure 3 Possible professor in itiated teaching interactions ................................ ...... 77 Figure 4 Possible student initiated teaching interactions ................................ ......... 77 Figure 5 Continuum of predictability for teachable moments ................................ 83 Figure 6 The interaction of elements involved in faculty decisions to pursue teachable moments ................................ ................................ ................... 1 59 Figure 7 Categ ories of goals ................................ ................................ .............. 1 68
vi RIDING THE WINDS OF T HEIR INTEREST: EXPL ORING THE TEACHABLE MOMENT IN THE COLLEG E CLASSROOM NANCY F. MILLS ABSTRACT for granted connotation of readiness to learn, but has been rarely defined and researched in the literature of higher education. This stud undergraduate classrooms. This included the conditions in which they emerge, and the decision making processes used by faculty members to determine if and how to pursue such moments. I f professors have opportunities to clarify their understandings of such moments, the ability to capitalize on otherwise unplanned teaching opportunities may be enhanced. Seventeen experienced social science and humanities faculty members teaching undergr aduate classes at a large research university participated in two semi structured active interviews (Gubrium and Holstein, 2003). The interviews addressed their understandings of, experiences with, and decisions about teachable moments in the classroom. These interviews yielded descriptions of teachable moments as creating a heightened sense of engagement and interaction about a topic of shared interest. Teachable moments fall along a continuum of predictability, with some moments being intentionally des igned by the professor and others emerging spontaneously during a class
vii as a result of current events or student comments. When confronted with surprise moments professors consider a complex set of interacting elements to decide whether to pursue or postp one the exploration of the moment. They ask themselves several questions. Is there time? How does this fit with goals for the class, course or program? Are the students and I ready to examine this? What impact will this have on classroom dynamics? Doe s this warrant in class exploration, or should it be pursued outside of theory of reflection in action which describes how professionals make decisions in surprise situati ons when previously effective responses do not work, and more in interaction. Implications for theories and practices of teaching of college teaching as well as for oppo rtunities for faculty development were described.
1 CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION AND OVE RVIEW professional literature of higher education. Even though it appears throughout the literature, and has a taken for granted connotation of readiness to learn, there is not much systemati c analysis of what the phrase means. What is a teachable moment? When does one occur? What do professors do when one occurs? The term seemingly crops up everywhere in casual conversation, in educational discussions, and in current events. About two y ears ago my advisor caught my attention when he asked me what I thought about teachable moments as a subject of research. Around that time I was reading in action and reflexivity in teaching. The two concepts seem ed to connect and the awareness of both began to influence my own teaching, readiness for classroom spontaneity and responsiveness to student perceptions. This initial questioning led to a small pilot study of teachable moments involving interviews with e xperienced faculty members. I received approval for the pilot from IRB and, after conducting some preliminary interviews during 2005, I began to draft a working description of such moments. A teachable moment seemed, from the initial pilot study, to be a moment in a class when a student makes a connection between the content of a particular class or course and something outside the routine plans of the class. The moment is often unplanned or unanticipated by the professor who must make
2 an on the spot de cision whether to pursue the moment or not. The professor may try to happens in the student and its exact form and content are outside the control of the professor. Thi s spontaneity is what makes such moments both interesting and problematic for the classroom professor who is balancing demands for curricular breadth, depth, and relevance with concerns about classroom management. The findings from the pilot interviews le d me to believe that there is something of value to be learned from classroom. 1987) theor y of reflection in action highlights some of the habits of mind and decision processes that are involved in teaching during moments of surprise. While a great deal has been written about reflective practice, little specifically addresses the undergraduat e college classroom. This dissertation is a formal outgrowth of the initial pilot study and subsequent reading. The research used active interviewing (Gubrium and Holstein, 2003 ; Holstein and Gubrium, 1995 ) of experienced college faculty teaching underg raduate classes to Furthermore, I consider the usefulness of using theories of reflection, specifically reflection in action to illuminate our understanding of such int eractions. Problem The term "teachable moment" is used extensively in literature about teaching, but
3 the meaning of the phrase varies from author to author. Many authors use the term to teaching to ma ke course content more relevant ( Hamilton, 2005; King & Lindsay, 2004; Zlotkowski, 2003). Presidential elections, comments and the immigration debate are current examples of thes e While the phrase occurs frequently, there is little systematic exploration of what it means in the context of a college classroom. Writings in many cases exhort teachers and professors to stay abreast of current events and make explicit connections between their disciplines and the larger be tapped into by the professor (Caswell, 1991; Hamilton, 2005; Zlotkowski, 2003) At best, these momen ts provide professors with the opportunity to demonstrate curricular relevance to current events. There is no assurance, however, that the connection will be made or understood by a given student. Other authors (Hansen, 2003; Rockman, 1993; Stewart 1993 ) suggest that making lively classes with engaging examples or experiential learning can create teachable moments. Both sets of writings suggest that teachers can create such moments, but do not address the element of surprise. There is some research conc erning the study of the more spontaneous type of 1998; Hyun & Marshall, 2003; Rockman, 1993) or clinical educational settings (Byuck & Lang, 2002; Fabiano, 2003; Schultz, 2002; Wagner & Ash, 1998). The early childhood
4 literature focuses on the recognition of developmental stages encouraging teachers to look for signs that children have ente red a new developmental stage, signaling readiness for new learning. Early childhood teachers learn to watch for these developmental professors could similarly look for the readiness signals college students may demonstrate before introducing new concepts or perspectives. However, these place in the more traditional college or university classroom. This is due in part to the fact that university faculty are rarely well versed in college student developmental theory, and in part to the subtlety of the transitions between stages that makes them less frequently revealed during a college cla ss meeting. Furthermore, college class sizes may be larger, or be so lecture based that the degree of possible interaction is considerably less than early childhood educational settings. Other authors describe teachable moments that arise in clinical med ical and laboratory settings where experiential learning provides students with opportunities to connect theory and practice (Buyck & Lang, 2002). The clinical education literature, especially that concerning medical education, addresses the need for clin ical supervisors to recognize and capitalize on teachable moments. (Buyck & Lang, 2002; Schultz, 2002) While surprises may still occur in these settings, clinical experiences are designed specifically to highlight the theory to practice connection. It is important to recognize and capitalize on such moments, but the anticipation of them is fundamental to the clinical programs.
5 Buyck and Lang (2002) discovered in their research that even in these clinical settings, te achable moments may be missed. In a more traditional, non laboratory college by specific classroom experiences. Students are freer to make wide ranging or personal links beyond the professor expected bounds of the subject. The professor may be oriented to accomplishing specific goals and not be looking for the sa me kinds of connections. The less predictable the connection, the more adaptation may be required by the professor. This study attempts to offer a rich description of the many kinds of teachable moments that arise and some expert ways of thinking about them. As a result of having a description the surprise element, while never eliminated, may be reduced allowi ng more effective responses. While teachable moments may be easy to miss if the teacher is focused primarily on covering specific material, the re is real value in recognizing teachable moments. Since the sixties and probably before, students have called for relevance in their studies generated connections and teachable moments can be seen as calls for curricular relevance. Professors who miss or avoid the opportunities to establis r isk losing the interest of their students. Iannone (1995) and Rea (2003) argue that the ability to respond to such moments enhances student perceptions of faculty credibility. We do not at this time have an adequate description of teachable moments nor an understanding of the decision making processes used by professors as they reflect upon whether and how to capitalize on surprises when they occur. Defining, describing and
6 ability to recognize and capitalize on their occurrence. Because we tend to recognize or seek out phenomena we are familiar with, a more complete description of these unanticipated urthermore, a discussion of possible responses to such repertoire s of possible responses and help define those approaches that work to sustain learning. Pilot Study For my initial research, conducted in the spring and summer of 2005, I reviewed the existing literature on teachable moments and conducted medium length interviews (approximately 30 minutes in length) with six faculty members at a local community college a nd six faculty at a large research university, all having at least ten years teaching experience, and representing several disciplines. Three men and nine women participated. All of the interviews were recorded and analyzed thematically. The key finding s of these preliminary interviews addressed the manifestations of teachable moments, descriptions of some of the types of connections students might make, the creation of teachable moments, and influences on faculty responses to teachable moments. Based o n these preliminary interviews, I began to develop a description of some of the characteristics that distinguish a teachable moment from usual class time. A preliminary definition or description of teachable moments emerged from my analysis. A teachable moment is a moment in class when an instructor perceives that a student has made a connection between the content of a particular class session and something outside
7 described their experie nces with teachable moments said they manifested themselves in two ways. 1. Verbal manifestations such as s tudent questions, comments or errors Students may inquire about a current event, another course, or a personal experience. One example would be the student in a social psychology class who sought to understand the phenomenon of post Hurricane Katrina looting. Errors can provide teachable moments by revealing a need on the part of a student. A misapprehension can be carefully and appropriately ex amined in the light of the course content These often arise in classes that address social issues. An instructor who hears an expression of a stereotype can, if careful, use that opportunity to open a discussion, allowing students to develop new underst andings of the nature of such stereotypes. 2 Visual manifestations through notes or book. In other cases a stud ent, when challenged, may look disconcerted, with a furrowed brow, a frown or a puzzled expression. This allows the professor to follow up with a request for input or questions, or to ask students directly about their reactions. When students make a con nection between class material and some other concern these student created connections take different forms. The connections described to me in the first round of interviews fell into three broad categories.
8 1. Connections that are entirely within the scope of the course connecting previous material to current material. An example in mathematics is the student who realizes the value of factoring upon learning to solve quadratic equations. 2 Linkages between something happening in a course and somet hing in the larger environment Major current events such as Hurricane Katrina have provided numerous teachable moments across a range of disciplines. These teachable moments provided an opportunity to demonstrate the relevance and the methods of a discip line in framing our understandings of phenomena. One professor described her experience teaching suggesting that feminism was not relevant to any analysis of the a ttacks. She was able, however, to bring in gender issues in the training of the terrorists, in the tenets of radical Islam and in the responses and even presentation of the victims. An archeology prof essor explained that her task sk where is the archeology in this and then find it. 3. Connections b emotions. One professor described a personal conflict he was having. The student demonstrated greater attention to the content of those sessions. Whether the manifestation is heard or seen or both, and whatever the kind of connection, th e teachable moment triggers an interaction between professor and student. One professor talked of it being like a friendly ping pong match, where the student
9 serves, and it is then up to the professor to return the serve so the students or students can re ach the ball, and the professor and the class can sustain the volley. The implication in these descriptions is that the student can react or act comfortably and the professor can respond constructively. The preliminary research however, did not explore the classroom conditions that may allow such connections to emerge, though it did reveal something about what influences the decision to pursue such a moment when it does emerge. The research reported here will thus expand significantly on these initial interviews and preliminary findings. Once professors recognize that a teachable moment is potentially occurring, they must decide whether or not to pursue the opportunities it may present. This decision to pursue a teachable moment can have significant im pact on perceived teacher effectiveness. Interviews revealed at least six significant factors that influence this decision. 1. The relevance of the student perceptions to the goals of the course or, in some cases, the larger program. Some faculty wo uld integrate student connections if they fit 2. l Faculty reported that they needed to have a breadth of knowledge i n order to encourage the student to express the connection and then frame it adequately for the rest of the class. 3. the potential impact on students. One professor told me that if a student asks a question about gay marriage for example, she considers how such a discussion might impact any
10 gay students in the class. She decides whether and how to pursue a topic based on her knowledge of the students and her confidence in her and their ability to continue constructively. 4 Deciding to pursue a teachable moment, and extend its reach beyond the original student, requires that the other students be able to make and be interested in the connection. 5. The likelihood of maintaining control of the class to prevent what one English veering off into irrelevance, inappropriate self disclosure and/or attention seeking. 6. Time and the pressure to cover the material pursue this now, how much [of this other planned material] can I expect them to c over on Some faculty reported reaching compromise decisions. One calls the process student has made, addressing its value to the course as a whole and proposing either a return to the topic at a later date, resources for more independent research, or an offer to take up the conversation during office hours. For professors to recognize potential teachable moments, they need to know their students, their levels of ability and readiness and their interests, and know how to the ping pong game. Students need to know that they are in a class where their concerns and questions will be acknowledged and can be
11 and long optimum balance between the interests of the individual student and the greater good of the class as a whole. As we refine our understanding of teachable moments in college classrooms, we can better le arn ways to maximize the opportunities offered by these serendipitous events. This preliminary research yielded a thumbnail sketch of the teachable moment phenomenon and possible faculty concerns and responses. Since the interviews were conducted retrospe ctively, and generally without reference to specific events and without prior reflection on the part of the participants, the outlines are still general and somewhat vague. The purpose of this project and the more extensive interviews is to fill in more o f the detail. By interviewing each faculty member two times, and by asking people to explicitly share with me their examples and definitions of moments along with descriptions of their decision making this stud y yielded a more detailed and richer understanding of teachable moments Purpose The purpose of the study, then, is to describe faculty experiences of teachable moments in their undergraduate college classrooms, especially the recognition of unplanned moments and the contexts in which they arise. Some professors are seemingly more aware and deliberate in watching for such moments and capitalizing on th em than others. This research is intended to heighten awareness of the existence and the potential of such moments in college classrooms, so more faculty can look for and act on them when they occur. The current teachable moment literature applies largel y to educational
12 settings other than the undergraduate classroom. This study attempts to transfer some of that awareness and/or to expand the understandings as they relate to college teaching. Since we are more likely to recognize that which we have nam ed and defined, describing and defining teachable moments in the college classroom can facilitate faculty readiness to act on such events. A better sense of the contours of these experiences can enhance the recognition and response to unanticipated opport unities. A second purpose is to articulate the decision making processes some expert faculty members use to decide whether or not to pursue such moments. I also use in action as a framework for understan ding college classroom interaction in moments of unplanned teachable moments. The theory as described in his books applies to one on one teaching situations moment and resolution of surprise. There is some debate about its applicability to classroom teaching, but it seems to connect to teac hable moments. This study examine s the relevance of the concept to the study of classroom interactions. Research Questions There are several research questions that follow each other in sequence as we begin to explore the teachable moment. Questions one and two are descriptive questions addressed in the preliminary data collection and then refined with greater detail in follow up interviews. The last question is addressed in my analysis of data examining the in action. The research questions are
13 1. What are the elements that characterize a teachable moment in a college classroom? 2. What kinds of considerations contribute to or interfere with opportunities to explore these moments when they occur? 3. Can the teachable moment be understood in terms of refl ection in action? If so, is there both a pedagogical and discipline based reflection in action? Do professors make their decisions as practitioners of their disciplines or as professional educators? Conceptual Framework Theory of Reflection i n Act ion In his book The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action (1983) and later in Educating the Reflective Practitioner (1987), Donald Schon describes a model of expert reflection. Proposed to assist professional practitioners in examinin g differentiate between the simple application of rules to a situation and an artful analysis of a problem. He differentiates knowing in action, the spontaneous resp onse to a previously experienced situation requiring little deliberate awareness of our processes, from reflection on action the asynchronous looking back at a moment, and from reflection in action the synchronous reflection, self examination and testing that experts do when an unfamiliar situation presents itself. Knowing in action requires no reflection prior to immediate action. Reflection on action does not lead to immediate action in the context of the original situation; rather it involves looking back on the situation and the action that resulted.
14 Reflection in action takes place in the moment of professional surprise and n, the first condition is the existence of a situation which develops in surprising ways in response to our routine actions thus necessitating that we reflect on our actions. We re examine the beliefs and assumptions that led to the action we took and as a fix or this opportunity; and we may, in the process, restructure strategies of action, result of the reflection, the expert practitioner then experiments. If the experiment works, the problem may be solved; if it does not work, new surprises lead to new reflection and new experiments. Both art and science are involved in reflection in action; it is res ponsive, creative and experimental. Technical skill and rule application, what Schon professional practice settings such as architecture, city planning, psycho th erapy, counseling and musical performance and argues for more studio and clinical experiences in schools, so teachers can model this expert practice. In Educating the Reflective Practitioner (1987) Schon applies the model of reflection in action to the pr ofessional preparation of these practitioners. How do the people who teach the professionals enact their clinical experiences to foster reflection in action? These are case analyses of performing reflection in action in order to foster reflection in act ion. He examines how student/teacher interactions in practicum settings
15 for various fields model professional reflection in action as they prepare new professionals in clinical settings. The Ladder of R eflection in action in a teaching setting using the Educating the Reflective Practitioner is about how to teach reflective practice, he considers moments in which that seems to be successful and moments in which the desired learning does not occur. Successful teaching and learning happen when the teacher and the student are on comparable rungs of the reflective ladder. The rungs, from the most basic to the m ost developed levels, are: 1. The skill being taught. At this level the student is watching what the teacher is doing, and trying to copy it. 2. Description of the skill. At this point the professor describes the skill, articulating what the student should do. 3. Reflection on the description of the skill, the instructor begins to look at the interaction and think about the effectiveness and response to the description offered and 4. The instructor reflects on the reflection to identify assumptions and make any adjustments if necessary. Since the instructor has the breadth and depth of understanding in the subject the and making the movement up and down the ladder. Other factors that are necessary for the students to learn include willingness on
16 their part to follow and imitate, at least temporarily, and a willingness on the part of the teacher to reflect on the level and understandings manifested by the stu dent responses. The ladder is really the metaphor for reflection in action of the successful teacher. In examining the existing literature on teachable moments we see some overlap implicit and unstated with the ladder of reflection in action. Faculty ab ility to respond to surprises in a constructive and educational manner requires reading student responses and readiness in the interactions. The classroom setting multiplies the number of responses and interactions beyond the single student practicums des cribed initially by Schon, but the previously untested responses to surprise and the need for in the moment reflection exist in both settings. Summary This project is intended to examine the nature of the teachable moment in the undergraduate college cla ssroom from the perspective of experienced college teachers at a large university. The method for the study was active interviewing, in which the interviewer and the interviewee co created a new understanding of the phenomenon. After the data is presente theory of reflection in action serve s as a frame for the analysis of interview responses. The study is intended to yield a richer description of surprise teaching opportunities in the college c lassroom and effective means for capitalizing on such moments Coming Attractions The remainder of this dissertation addresses the related scholarly literature, the design for the study, then it presents data to describe the teachable moment and
17 professors decision making processes. Finally the data is analyzed in terms of its in action, and its implications for practice and future research. Chapter Two examines the literature concerning te achable moments, reflection and reflection in action. The teachable moment literature I include focuses largely on research efforts to describe the elements of such moments, their value and pursuit. Given that there is little relating directly to teachab le moments in the college classroom, the review encompasses some of the theories from childhood and clinical education as well. The literature relating to reflection, on the other hand, is very broad. In an effort to focus and manage the scope of the pro ject, I have differentiated between synchronous and asynchronous reflection and reflection in action and the literature relating to it. In Chapter Three I describe the method used and the rationale for selecting active interviewing, including a discussion of active interviewing, my selection of participants and my strategies for coding and analysis. Chapter Four then presents data from the interviews organized around the first two questions concerning the definition of teachable moments and the decision to pursue them. Chapter Five then analy zes the implications of the data as it relates to theories of reflection and as it relates to the practice of college teaching. Finally I discuss implications for further research into the teachable momen t
18 CHAPTER TWO REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE This literature review examines the current writing exploring the concepts of teachable moment and reflection in action. Teachable moment is a term used in both the professional literature and casual conversation to refer to a range of situations in which students appear more receptive to learning something new. Reflection in action, as described by Donald Schon (1983, 1987) attempts to describe expert practice in the professions, specifically expert practices used in encounters with unexpected problems. The possible link between the teachable moment and reflection in action emerges when we examine how practitioners capitalize on teachable moments in educational settings. The literature selected for this review applies directly to the planned research questions or provides context for understanding the critical concepts of reflection in action and teachable moments. The research questions to be explored in this dissertation are 1. What are the elements that characterize a teachable moment in a college classroom? 2. What kinds of considerations contribute to or interfere with opportunities to explore these moments when they occur?
19 3. Can the teachable moment be understood in terms of reflection in action? If so, is there both a pedagogical and disci pline based reflection in action? Do professors make their decisions as practitioners of their disciplines or as professional educators? I begin by examining the literature on teachable moments in several contexts, curricular and extra curricular. Then I will summarize some of the available literature on reflection in action, focusing on educational practice. Teachable Moments Literature The term teachable moment is used in many settings from research on teaching to casual conversations about parenting. It is a phrase that is heard so often it has developed a taken for granted quality that often leaves it unexamined. The literature addressing teachable moments is also expansive, but the term often remains just as undefined. A search for literature on th e teachable moment reveals a mix of uses from catchy titles to commonalities are a learner who is ready to learn and a teacher who is poised to capitalize on this. Theo ries vary, however, as to how this moment comes to be and what While a Wilson Education Full Text search of the phrase teachable moment yields 379 hits as of April 1, 2007, many of those citations use it as catch phrase or a reference the moments themselves, their emergence or their pursuit. Almost any current event or environmental condition can evoke the use of the phrase. An adverti sement about slavery reparations created a teachable moment by giving rise to discussions of the history of
20 slavery (Hamilton, 2005). A diagnosis of AIDS is a teachable moment for learning cation. Little of this literature actually describes a moment in a college classroom in which a student initiated interaction prompts a professor to change plans to pursue that new idea. Mu ch of the literature concerning teachable moments is based in eit her K 12 education ( Hyun and Marshall, 2003, Rockman, 1993, Siegrfried, 1992, Willis, 2007) or in clinical or practicum settings (Buyck & Lang 2002; McNutt, 1997; Schultz 2002 ;). The K 12 literature addresses the creation and recognition of teachable moments. The literature from clinical settings assumes that such moments arise; indeed, clinical experiences are designed to insure their occurrence, and the literature is concerned with the recognition and constructive pursuit of the moment. Both sets o f literature emphasize with the need to capitalize on teachable moments when they do arise, and both provide insights into the nature of such incidents and their value. There is, however, a smaller set of readings that actually addressed such events in t he traditional college classroom. Therefore, this literature review will address literature based in K 12, clinical and post secondary education in an effort to glean the salient aspects of the research and the applicability to the college classroom expe rience. The overview of teachable moment literature begins with a consideration of the stimuli for such events within and outside the classroom. This will be followed by an examination of the role of planning in the generation of such moments, placing li terature on a continuum of anticipation, from those who assert that the teachable moment lies in the specific plans of the teacher to those who argue that teachable moments originate in the
21 surprises that arise in the course of instruction. Other literatu re considers the types of connections these moments create, the conditions under which such moments are likely to arise, the nature of teacher responses and the stakes involved in responding to such events. Stimuli for Teachable M oments Some of the pr imary considerations in teachable moment literature seem to be the origins of such moments and various factors that may create or foster them. Some teachable moments have their roots in the larger environment; others result from individual experiences. I n some literature the teachable moment is planned or is the expected result of planned experiences, in some cases it is unplanned but anticipated and in other cases the teachable moment is unplanned and results from surprise interactions between teachers a nd students. Since the teachable moment literature relates to the connections between something new and the need to understand or explain it, the teachable moment has its roots in the experiences and phenomena that students and faculty encounter. In her literature review concerning master teacher behavior in a doctoral pharmacy practicum Schultz (2002) sorted the stimuli for teachable moments into four distinct categories. The first category concerned encounters with developmental tasks; next she descri bed moments for students to learn adult responsibilities. Another category incl uded larger
22 teachable moment for students and for faculty to re examine science educati on; or in slavery as a result of a controversial anti reparations advertisement. Finally, there were college. Articles such as Fabiano (1993) on AIDS education or Lassiter (2005) indicating that pregnancy is a teachable moment for smoking cessation might fit in this category. In all of these cases individuals are faced with an issue that is either perso nal or that exists in the larger environment but is relevant to the individual, the life of the campus and/or the curriculum and which they feel a need to understand and respond to. All of these authors recommend educational responses to these challenges; they do not, however, address individual classroom interactions or decisions that may tap into such moments. Planning and the Teachable Moment Other literature examines the relationship between planning and the emergence of the teachable moment in a classroom. Some literature, especially in K 12 but also in college, suggests that it is good planning on the part of the teacher that generates and allows pursuit of such moments. Other descriptions can be categorized as unplanned, but anticipated, and the rest address surprise as an element in their creation. Within the curriculum there are both formal in informal approaches to the teachable moment. In one segment of the literature, primarily centered on K 12 education, the responsibility for creat ing the teachable moment falls on the teacher. Those who believe the teachable moment can be created bring in outside events or
23 interests in an effort to stimulate learning. It is this introduction of surprise for the students (but not the teacher) that i s supposed to create the moment. Siegfried (1992) involvement and create teachable moments. This approach suggests the author is equating interested students and teachable m oments. On a more structured level, Rockman (1993) writes about the teachable moment in information science as being the (1979) anticipatory set to create that moment. Not all of the planned teachable moment literature is based in K 12 education. In higher education the use of computer simulations or case studies generate teachable moments as in the dissertation on using the Fed Cattle Market Simulator to create teachable moments in agricultural economics (Hogan, 2003). Another area of literature which addresses the teachable moment involves clinical or practicum settings, where students are placed in actual situations in which they need to learn new information in order to succe ssfully address an immediate problem. While these are less structured than a planned lesson, the realm of the topics is likely to be within the expertise of the supervisor and their occurrence is an anticipated in the design of the practicum. McNutt (199 7) reports that pastoral visits for those training for the clergy provide teachable moments for the trainees and for those they visit. Wagner and Ash (1998) find that teachable moments arise in a nursing practicum when the student and supervisor interact over issues the student is facing. These experiences combine the unplanned nature of issues in professional work life with the resident expert to mediate the learning.
24 The role of the teachable moment in clinical settings is examined in more detail in argues that the teachable moment is a central element in the clinical practicum for pharmacy students. Her analysis of those teachable moments centers on the problem s and interactions the students had with patients and the interactions of the students with the supervisors to address those issues. While they are less structured than specific lesson plans, they are more structured and anticipated than serendipitous mom ents in a classroom. In a classroom, not a clinical or lab setting, Hansen (1998) relies on his knowledge of the subject areas and probable student connections to foster teachable moment in his college classrooms. His article on teaching college psychol ogy and public affairs argues that the professor controls the content and methods of a class, but does so in such a way as to create learning and allow the students to bring in their questions and reflections. He asserts that it is the role of the profess beliefs and challenge their pre existing ideas about psychology or public affairs. If instructors do this in a way that is provocative and supportive, teachable moments will occur and students will learn more because of this elemen teachable moments may be less predictable than a planned lesson, but they remain mostly based in teacher planning within the range of probable student responses to teacher challenges. It is also possible to anticipate teachable mo ments that might arise out of the
25 help them understand the events at hand. Again, September 11 and Hurricane Katrina provide examples. In my own conversations with students, professors who did not address 9/11 upon returning to class seemed irrelevant or detached, unable to use their fields of study to help students process tragedy on such a scale. Since post secondary institutions are learning environments within and beyond the classroom, portions of the literature address necessity of the connection between the environment and the classroom Iannone (1995) warns that the teacher who cannot respond or re attention or both. Hamilton (2005) cites protests at Brown and the debate over reparations for slavery as creating a tea chable moment for the campus to consider its own historical ties to slavery, leading to extra curricular activities, speakers and publications. King, and Lindsay (2004) suggest that the total campus environment can help to create and sustain teachable mo ments through the strategic use of student services, residence halls and activities to supplement the traditional curriculum. There are also analyses of teachable moments that center on unplanned moments in the classroom. Hyun and Marshall (2003) prop ose a Teachable Moment Oriented Curriculum in elementary schools. This is based on the constructivist idea that the teacher and learner are co constructors of knowledge. In their curriculum, teachers identify teachable moments by more than the readiness of the child to learn. Rather, they suggest that the teacher must also identify moments in which the child is ready to teach and the teacher is ready to learn. This requires
26 going observat ions, their ability to recognize the uniqu e essence of the situation, and most importantly, their ability to make sense of the moment from the point of view (p. 120). rticipating constructivist and reflexive in nature and requires that the teacher be open to surprises. Teacher readiness to learn and to acknowledge errors is the prim ary factor in y chiefs in a composition class. Recognizing the personal history and bias this revealed, he initiated a discussion of his own blunder and reworked several class sessions to address biased language, using himself as the model. In this case the professor made a connection and experienced new learning whi ch he tried to share as a teachable moment with his class. He does, however, acknowledge that while he felt a strong connection and rethought his teaching, he cannot be certain that the impact was as powerful for his students. Other exhortations to atte nd to the teachable moment are also based on teacher readiness to confront surprise. Elsbree (2002) discusses using conversations and overheard remarks that reveal homophobic attitudes as teachable moments that allow the teacher to disrupt these beliefs. She is actively listening for misapprehensions and biased utterances and is ready to respond, but cannot necessarily anticipate their nature or their
27 source. In this vein, Miller (1993) cites teaching opportunities and methods relating to what he calls discussions. While the professor can anticipate that students may hold certain attitudes, the professor cannot be sure who does, what form those attitudes may take, how they may be e xpressed, or how they will affect other students in the class. These kinds of teachable moments may be anticipated, but unpredictable. Recent neurological research reinforces the idea that the surprise teachable moment is significant for student learning. Willis (2007) reports that neurological research shows that when students have a personal connection between the information they are learning and their own lives and when the element of su rprise is present, the student will be better able to sto re and recall that information. Since teachable moments are defined by the existence of the personal connection, if they also can tap into surprise, they provide some of the most long lasting learning. The research suggests that t he more vivid the experi ence, the stronger the memory. Willis applies this neurological research to her own elementary school classroom, emphasizing the need to be open to surprises and to keep students engaged and reflective about them. What Fosters a Teachable Moment? In c ases where the teacher or professor plans for a teachable moment, its pursuit is an assumption of the lesson and its nature is believed to be predictable. Where teachable moments they arise and are made an element of educational practice, certain conditio ns facilitate their emergence and their sustenance. However, surprise moments require some extra conditions if they are to be generated and pursued. A survey of the literature
28 addressing conditions that sustain teachable moments covers both environmenta l and attitudinal qualities. Some suggest very general conditions, like Stewart (1993) who argues that an elementary school where children and teachers are in positive moods creates teachable moments Others describe in more detail the elements that combi ne to foster such moments. Without naming the teachable moment Dewey (1933) describes many of the knowledge should be be much wider than the ground laid free to observe the mental responses and movements of the st udent the only alternative will be either aimless drift or else sticking literally to the text. Flexibility, ability to take advantage of unexpected incidents and questions depen ds upon the teacher coming to the subject with freshness and fullness of knowledge. (pp. 274 276) These qualities are echoed today in the teachable moment literature. Almost eighty years later, in her analysis of the teachable moments in a pharmacy pra cticum Schultz (2002) generated a list of conditions for a teachable moment. She identified clinical practitioner s (CP) who were considered master teachers in the pharmacy practi cum, observed students in all aspects of their clinical practic ums and did
29 an analysis of potential and realized teachable moments. The conditions for a teachable moment as gathered in her study include, 1 Trust, openness and a willingness to share 2. Engagement on the part of the CP and the student with the teachable momen t 3. Consciously investing time to pursue and develop 4. Time for reflection 5. Subject or content knowledge on the part of the CP and the student 6. Sustaining a process of collaborative inquiry (p. 231) Schultz concludes that anything and anybody has the potential for becoming part of that teachable moment or being the vehicle for that teachable moment. The CP and the student can become engaged in a teachable moment, each on an individual basis or each can draw the other into the teachable moment. P. 211 This research described condition s in a clinical practicum with advanced students, but many of the conditions are echoed in research on classroom practices. Faculty who pursue teachable moments, need to keep their goals in mi nd as they do so. Consciousness about goals, and focus on particular goals can influence both pursuit and recognition of teachable moments. This goal awareness is cited in the literature covering planned teachable moments (Hansen, 1998; Rockman, 1993), cl inical (Fabiano, 1993; Schultz, 2002) and unplanned (Iannone, 1995; King and Lindsay, 2004; Rea, 2003). Evidence of the influence on recognition is provided the by Buyck and Lang neral
30 patient/clin ician interaction. The medical faculty members were supposed to observe the i nteractions and suggest moments which they thought indicated that the clinician could benefit from communication skill instruction. Faculty ability to recognize a teachable moment varied widely, for example 29.6% missed all opportunities to teach a clin ician to build rapport with a patient, and 31% identified all of those chances; and 57.6% missed all of the opportunities to address responses to emotions and 18% identified all of those. The authors hypothesize that while communication skill imp rovement was supposed to be a goal in the clinical setting, the faculty members were heavily focused on the medical content and were not considering the communication goals. While their sample included only 67 members of the medical faculty, their results suggest that instructors who are expected to teach in clinical settings need to be aware of all of their instructional goals and develop the recognition of opportunities to teach them. developing awareness of teachable moments and developing understanding of instructional goals. They describe the initial needs of the new instructor to cover the conf idence, institutional requirements are still acknowledged, but move more into the background. In the foreground come more advanced possibilities for learning which there
31 capitalizing on chance events in the classroom to create springboards to significant their college classrooms. for pursuit (Fabiano, 1993; Hansen, 1998; McNutt, 1997; Rea 2002 ) There is also a need for trust and comfort and a willingness to work as a team on the part of the student and the teacher (Hansen, 1998; Schultz, 2002; Stewart, 1993; Wagner and Ash, 1996). In my pilot study, many of these themes emerged as professor s spoke of balancing the goals of the syllabi with calls for relevance, of being sure the rest of the class could benefit from draw on a wide range of information w hen called upon to make connections. In addition, Hansen (1998), writing about teaching psychology and public policy college students, also asserts that for the teachable moment to be used students need to be in a state of intellectual disequilibrium. The teacher is then responsible for designing instruction, discussion and writing opportunities for the moment to be meaningful. This is reinforced in Willis (2207) discussion of surprise. The need for time to reflect and process the learning asserted in Schultz (2002) is echoed in Hansen (1998) and McNutt (1997). The willingness to pursue unplanned opportunities for learning is discussed in the literature connecting teachable moments to chaos theory (Iannone 1995; Rea 2003). Iannone asserts that, while keeping the goals of the curriculum in mind, the teacher must
32 chaos theory opens the door to new ways of thinking about the balance between rigidity and chaos by kno wing the goals of the curriculum but allowing for re adjustments along the way. Rea (2003) provides a more detailed analysis of the concept of chaos theory in lesson on the spot in response to a question, an expressed student interest, or a news story about a science and his reading of chaos theory, Rea proposes that the decision to pursue teachable moment s in a classroom can be examined in terms of complex system adaptability. In order for any complex system (and a classroom is a complex system) to survive it must adapt. This requires strong enough ties among the parts of the system to sustain itself, bu t enough differentiation among the parts to be flexible. In a classroom there is enough difference in the identity and authority of the teacher and the students to allow change, and there is a strong enough connection among them to allow stability. When that balance exists, classes can pursue teachable moments without deteriorating into complete chaos. Being either too rigid or too flexible, however, prevents a system from adapting to new complexities so it cannot survive. He proposes a continuum or ta xonomy of responses to teachable moments and the style w ith which they are associated. See Figure 1on the next page.
33 Style : Authoritarian Authoritative Co creative Permissive C haotic Response: Actively ignore Opportunely Use Sustainably poised for Over respond Figure 1. from authorit ar ian to permissive Our current understanding of chaos theory takes us back to the extremes described by Teachable moment summary Teachable moment literature covers K 12, clinical and some higher education t eaching literature. The term is used to refer to a moment in which a student is more ready to learn material because of the existence of a perceived connection between something they want to understand and the content of a course. Some literature advises faculty on how to create such moments while other literature advocates readiness for surprise and explores the conditions under which such moments can be capitalized upon. In any case, in order for a teachable moment to be meaningful, someone must recogn ize it and take the necessary steps to turn it from potential to actual learning. This is the connection to reflection in action. Reflection Literature The concept of reflection is complex. The term surfaces in many middle, high school and college classes as well in many professional programs. Students are exhorted to reflect on their assignments, their portfolios, their experiences, their learning and their teaching. They keep reflective journals, write reflective papers, and create reflective art.
34 In fact, Boud and Walker (1998) warn against the overuse and misuse of reflection in poorly designed assignments and feedback, suggesting instead ways to k eep the use of professional reflection meaningful. While there are many definitions and analyses of reflection, they seem to have certain elements in common. In his concept analysis of reflection Rogers (2001) identified different conceptual izations of reflection and categorized them according to their central focus, timing and content. He went on to analyze the common elements that make up reflection across the literature and defined reflection, in general as a cognitive and affective process that (1) requires active engagement on the part of the individual; (2) is triggered by an unusual or perplexing situation or of the situation at hand; and (4) results in integration of the new understanding Rogers called reflection in action a synchronous concept in that the timing of the reflection (in the moment, not on the moment) is a key element of the concept. Reflection in action has as one o f its core dimensions immediacy or in the moment timing while other conceptions of reflection may be more retrospective. In a one referring to retrospection and the other referring to the direct turning back of an image (as with a mirror.) Reflection in action has generated a great deal of discussion and debate since Schon (1983, 1987) proposed it as an alternative way to understand the creative actions
35 of experts in surprise situations. Much of the debate over reflection in action centers on this immediacy the idea that reflection in action occurs within a moment, sometimes Roth, Lawless & Masciotra, 2002) hold that true reflection requires time and retrospection and, in action has much of the immediacy implied by the mirror interpretation mentioned earlier. This literat ure review acknowledges the extensive body of work on reflection in general, but for purposes of this research, I have focused on that work that relates to reflection in the moment rather than the less time bound, more retrospective interpretations of refl ection. Introduction to Reflection in A ction While the literature on reflection is quite extensive, the literature on reflection in action is focused heavily on the teaching and helping professions and on clinical or studio experiences. Research on ref lection in action can be found in a wide array of fields: using reflection in (Alexander, 1998), teaching pharmacy students (Schultz, 2002) developing business management skills (Seibert & Daud elin, 1999) and teaching religion (Heil & Ziebertz, 2004). Even college admissions professionals are exhorted to use reflection in action to make the admissions process more meaningful (Hicks and Shere, 2003). The notion of reflection in action has cap tured the imagination particularly of nursing and teacher educators, since Schon (1983, 1987) wrote about educating reflective members of the professions. In both professions the immediacy of professional interactions and the need for decisions and reflec tion in those interactions make
36 reflection in action relevant to developing professional expertise. This review will in r works that have built upon these foundations. Dewey Reflection in American education has its roots in the work of John Dewey, especially in his 1933 book, How We Think While Dewey did not specify whether this process was bounded by time, spontaneous or retrospective, he did spell out the steps involved in what he called reflection and he differentiated between reflection and ordinary thinking. Dewey defined reflective thought as active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which i t tends He went on to outline the phases of reflective thinking: 1. Recognizing a problem or a difficulty 2. Defining that di fficulty 3. Proposing a possible solution based on reason and experience 4. Experimenting to accept or reject the solution. 5. Examining reasons and proposing new solution i f the experiment fails,. We should note that the problem is not solved unle ss one can identify the reasons for the new ideas. Hence, Dewey stresses the need for doubt an d experimentation in reflection
37 To be genuinely thoughtful, we must be willing to s ustain and protract that state of doubt which is the stimulus to thorough inqu iry, so as not to accept an idea or make a positive assertion of a belief until justifyin g reasons have been found. (p. 16) (1988, 1987) work on reflection in action in its emphasis on experimentation and examination of assumptions. The need to examine underlying assumptions also and some of which came later. Mezirow (1990) writes about the role of reflection in transformative adult education. Mezirow asserts that we can reflect on content, process or premise but it is reflection on premises and previously unexamined presumptions that causes us to transform our frames and our beliefs. Dewey (1933), Mezirow (1990) and Schon (1983, 1987) address the need to examine assumptions in the light of surprise new evidence or information, but in reflection in action, Schon is usually addressing actions rooted in prior professional experience, whil e Mezirow is talking about more fundamental frame some instances, but may involve more retrospection and a different use of time than reflection in action since it has as its result transformative change, sometimes in basic beliefs and understandings.
38 in A ction In his book The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action (1983), and later in Educating the Reflective Practitioner (1987), Donald Schon describes a model of expert reflection. Proposed to assist professional practitioners in examining differentiate between the simpl e application of rules to a situation and an artful analysis of a problem. He differentiates knowing in action the spontaneous response to a previously experienced situation requiring little deliberate awareness of our processes, and reflection on action the asynchronous looking back at a moment, from reflection in action the synchronous reflection, self examination and testing that experts do when an unfamiliar situation presents itself. Knowing in action requires no reflection prior to immediate action Reflection on action does not lead to immediate action in the context of the original situation; rather it involves looking back on the situation and the action that resulted. Reflection in action takes place in the moment of professional surprise an d experimentation under certain conditions. According to Schon, (1983, 1987) the first condition is the existence of a situation, which responds in surprising ways to our routine actions thus necessitating that we reflect on our actions. We ask ourselves to examine our about the thinking that got us into this fix or this opportunity; and we may, in the process, restructure strategies of action, understandings of phenomena, or ways of framing
39 experiments. If the experiment works, the problem may be solved; if it does not work, new surprises lead to new reflection and new e xperiments. Both art and science are involved in reflection in action; it is responsive, creative and experimental. Technical Subsequent Reflection M odels Dew ey (1933), Mezirow (1990) and Schon (1983, 1987) were writing about educational settings, either schools, practic ums or adult education. Other fields have in action as well. In their work on managerial learning, Se ib ert and Daudelin (1999) propose an integrated model of active and proactive reflection, call ing it managerial reflection. They differentiate active reflection, 175) and influences future action. The managerial reflection model that they propose acknowledges the importance of active, or on line, reflection in some managerial m oments, but focuses more on the retrospective reflection that influences future action. In research directly linking reflection in action to college classroom teaching, McAlpine, Weston, Beauchamp, Wiseman and Beauchamp (1999) did a detailed study of six university professors noted for their teaching excellence. The researchers used retrospective accounts and video stimulated recall to develop a model of teacher reflection. As a result of their research they define teacher reflection as the process of thinking about teaching and learning by monitoring cues for the extent to which they are within a corridor of tolerance and making decisions to adjust teaching
40 as appropriate to better achieve teaching and learning goals They go on to say that ref lection in type of reflection which enables teachers to understand what is actually happening in While not specifically addressing teachable moments, certain elements of the work of McAlpine, Weston, Beauchamp, Wiseman and Beauchamp (1999) findings link directly to teachable moments. They found that these professors monitored cues from their students, evaluated those cues in terms of the course goals a nd made decisions and alterations concerning their teaching based on these elements. The two processes, monitoring and decision making, and the concept of goals are central to our understanding of how reflection functions. Ongoing use of the processes of monitoring and decision making links knowledge and action and are Clearly, teachable moments are iden tified by cues from the students. This article did not go into much detail about the nature of the cues, but they are significant. Cues alone, however, were not enough to lead to a change. The authors hypothesize a corridor of tolerance within which the professor may not feel a need to change or outside of which they may not wish to travel. This corridor of tolerance shapes how far from a plan a teacher may be willing to move depending on the cues sent by the class and the adherence to the goals for the day. The authors argue that knowledge of the subject
41 moving beyond their original pre 123). Their model of t in action. The new element, the corridor of tolerance suggests that there are limits to changes or to the degree of surprise that might be acceptable without necessitating change. This idea might h elp to adapt the one on one tutorial model reflection in action to group instruction. The Experience of Reflection in A ction In an effort to describe reflection in action Margit Szesztay (2004) interviewed seven teachers who participated in a year long se minar on reflective professional development. She sought to define reflection in action, identify what triggers it and identify the impacts it has on practice. She identifies four possible experiences of reflection in description demonstrates the synchronous nature of the experience and the mirroring effect watching everything including themselves. T Such moments are triggered by difficult work, novel situations and the need to correct a single student while helping others. Sometimes these can be handled with knowledge from past experience, but sometimes new experimen tation is required.
42 Lynn Stockhausen (2005) looked at practitioners who teach nursing in clinical placements. She observed practitioners interacting with patients and with clinical students and described a dimension of reflection in action she called M tier Artistry Metier Artistry experienced practitioners, who may not be consciously modeling or articulating reflection in action, nonetheless do model it and revea l it to the student nurses. Actual articulation of the behavior in the course of the interaction with patients would disrupt and nullify the effect of the artistry, but the students can learn to build a repertoire by observing and later discussing what th ey observed. Thus in the moment reflective action is later examined and articulated so nuances can be highlighted without interfering with patient care. Wagenheim (2005) studied reflective processes professors in an MBA program using video stimulated r ecall of critical incidents in their MBA classes. He was in action and reflection on action along with the ways in which these reflective modes developed. The faculty in his study described their refl ection in action as framing the parameters of their decisions in the face of surprise. Elements of this frame included the practical logistics and policies governing college classroom instruction e.g. time, class size, content, student readiness. Their reflection in action was also revealed in their commitment to experimental course designs and the willingness to try new things. The experiments, similar to those that Schon (1987) discusses are built into the planning of the course, facilitating surprise s which then require flexible course design. Reflection in action was sometimes
43 uncomfortable, and not all experiments were successful, but the act of reflection in action led to immediate attempts at reframing, changing goals, changing epistemology or di rection. Furthermore, reflection in action was a mirroring experience in which professors examined their own teaching, behavior, goals and interactions often leading to changes in one or more of these areas. The descriptions, combined with the idea of ex amining critical incidents of surprise, make his analysis especially relevant to teachable moment analysis. Fostering Reflection in A ction In their study of adult family educators, Ferry and Ross Gordon (1998) suggest that there are certain characteristics that support reflection in action. Expertise is often cited as necessary for reflection in action, but Ferry and Ross Gordon found that regardless of length of experience, those who tended to have reflective problem solving approaches, ha d more flexibility in defining problems, used more context sensitive approaches and tested their ideas in action; while the less reflective, even experienced practitioners operated in a more rule based mode. Their research suggested that there is somethin g besides experience that contributes to the ability of a professional to reflect in action. Perhaps the reflection should not be limited to the practice of a profession, but rather should be fostered in other endeavors, thus enhancing the likelihood of i ts application in practice. In her dissertation research into master teacher behavior, Schultz (2002) studied clinical teachers in a pharmacy doctoral program, examining how they used the teachable moment in a clinical, one on one setting. In her dissert
44 model of expert problem solving combined with artistry and improvisation as influencing her analysis of clinical practitioner instructors. Her work explicitly links the concepts of reflection in action and teachable moments. The conditions for a teachable moment include reflection in action on the part of the clinical supervisors. Critiques of the T heory of R eflection in A ction Not everyone is in agreement that reflection in action is a distinct form of reflection or that i t is a useful concept for considering teacher decisions in the classroom. Eraut (1995) argues that the idea needs to be reframed, and he suggests changing the prepositions involved. Hence reflection in action will become reflection before the action, ref lection on action is reflection after action, which could also be reflection away reflection in action be rooted in surprise and in the absence of previous related being retrospective and requiring subsequent time. It does not help educators to learn about processes if we lump them into the category of intuition without trying to arti culate their character. Roth, Lawless and Masciotra (2001) also assert that reflection requires time and in action fails to in action as an individual cognitive event and emergent
45 Spie lraum reflection as entirely retrospective, this argument may hold. The suggestion that teachers need to build a repertoire of responses relates mor e to in action and does not address the idea that we may face situations for which our repertoire is unprepared. However, if we include the possibility that reflection also refers to the moment in which we face an interaction and our own role in it, then reflection can be said -that is, with reflection in Speilraum in this way, when the reflection in interaction. Reflection Summary Re flection in action is a form of synchronous reflection in which a professional when confronted with a surprise problem outside the usual routine solutions of the profession experiments through interaction to find a solution. The exper imentation involves reasoning and reflection on underlying assumptions until a solution is identified. The idea has become a topic of teaching research and debate as researchers attempt to describe its elusive, time bound nature. In the field of educatio n, the concept of reflection in action is sometimes used to describe the moment to moment student/teacher
46 interactions that can change or maintain the direction of a class meeting, lecture or discussion. While teachable moments and reflection in action are core concepts in college teaching, their nature remains somewhat elusive. Research has begun to identify some common elements and links between the two. Both require sensitivity to context, flexibility with goal orientation a willingness to co create a learning experience. While they may be serendipitous, researchers, especially those using stimulated recall with video are beginning to build models of the phenomena. As we learn more about how they wor k, we should be able to enhance the likelihood that reflection in action and teachable moments can be used more effectively.
47 CHAPTER THREE METHODS This chapter describes the methods of data collection and analysis I used to explore the teachable mome nt, including the reasons underlying my choice of method, the selection of participants, data collection, storage, analysis and questions of reliability, validity, trustworthiness and ethics. Research Questions There are three primary research questions. Questions one and two are descriptive questions addressed directly in the interview data presented in Chapter Four. The last question is addressed in Chapter Five in my analysis of the interview data. 1. As viewed by university faculty, what elements chara cterize a teachable moment in a college classroom? 2. What kinds of considerations contribute to or interfere with opportunities to explore these moments when they occur? 3. Can the teachable moment be understood in terms of r eflection in action? If so, is th ere both a pedagogical and discipline based reflection in action? Pilot Study My initial research on this topic was done in the spring and summer of 2005, when I reviewed the existing literature on teachable moments and then, with I nstitutional R eview B oa rd approval, conducted medium length interviews (approximately 30 minutes
48 in length) with six faculty members at a local community college and six faculty at a large research university, all having at least ten years teaching experience, and representing s everal disciplines. Three men and nine women participated. The interviews were recorded and analyzed thematically. The key findings of these preliminary interviews addressed the manifestations of teachable moments, descriptions of some of the types of c onnections students might make, the creation of teachable moments, and influences on faculty responses to teachable moments. Based on these preliminary interviews, I began to formulate a description of some of the characteristics that distinguish a teacha ble moment from more routine classroom interactions. The data collected in those preliminary interviews suggested that there are facets ability to capitalize on their ins tructional potential. In the course of my interviews respondents described several types of moments and the thought processes they used in deciding whether or not to pursue them. While some of the themes or insights were addressed in multiple interviews, many interviews added new or original dimensions of understandings. I gathered sufficient data to believe that this line of inquiry was clearly worth pursuing further and that the initial interviews did not yield the kind of in depth insights and opportu nities for analysis that longer, two tiered interviews might provide. The pilot interviews also revealed that not every discipline is as easily open to or flexible class comment s and digressions. Courses with strict sequential skills requirements included teachable moments, but the nature of the moment and the decision making, in my small sample, suggested that the
49 phenomenon was different enough to require separate analysis. T herefore, for the purposes of this research I interviewed individuals in the social sciences and humanities, as those seemed to yield the widest range of opportunities for surprise teachable moments to arise and perhaps be pursued. Method of Data Collectio n Because the teachable moment has yet to be thoroughly described in current literature, and because it is a highly unpredictable and serendipitous event, it is difficult to explore. The description and understanding of such moments and the elements of hu man interaction they entail do not lend themselves readily to quantitative analysis. While the direct observation and description of such serendipitous events would potentially provide rich data for developing a description, the process of attending diffe rent classes in hopes of directly observing such spontaneous events was outside the time parameters of the proposed research. As a result, I relied on interviews with experienced professors who were recommended for their involvement with undergraduate tea ching and who report having experienced such moments in their teaching and who are willing to discuss their perceptions. The primary method of data collection for this study was the active interview (Gubrium and Holstein, 2003; Holstein and Gubrium, 1995) This method was selected for the following reasons. First, the teachable moment is a concept which has not been fully described within the context of college teaching. Second, in my pilot study interviews, respondents often indicated an interest in the topic and a willingness to explore it in conversation; however, many expressed concern that they had not fully
50 developed their ideas and could not, therefore, speak as experts on the subject. In fact many said they had not really thought about the teachab le moment systematically prior to my inquiries. If, as a result of this lack of certainty, I had not continued my interviews I would have missed many good examples and reflections, and I would have found very few participants for the study. And, third, th e nature of reflection in action is by nature fleeting. It often operates in an unarticulated and spontaneous manner. It is only in certain situations that the practitioner thinks back to a reflection in action moment to examine its components. My inter views provided such opportunities. In active interviewing the absence of pre existing, pre identified expertise is not an obstacle to the data collection. Rather, active interviewing is based on the premise that the researcher and the respondent will be engaged in conversational interviews which allow them to co construct knowledge about the topic. As Gubrium and Holstein point out, such respondents to develop topics in w fact, in the course of my interviews several participants began by telling me they had not researched this topic and were not experts. I responded by pointing out that very few had and that I hoped we could build an understanding out of their experiences combined with those of others. Figure 2 briefly descries the steps involved in the active interview method used in this dissertation. Each step is described on the page number referred to in the figure.
51 Figure 2 Steps involved in collecting, analyzing and presenting data in active interview research. The research design involved a two stage interview process, in which I met with participants initially to have preliminary conversations about the teachable moment, and then met again later in the semester to follow up on some of the interviews with more in depth questions and reflections. The intent was that the participants could build on their own understandings and interpret subsequent experiences in the light of the meaning constructed in the early interviews. The subsequent in terpretations could then be Select potential participants from nominees and teaching award winners Contact participants Interview Review notes Second Interview Review notes and transcript Detailed coding of ideas that emerged from interview: Created codes according to content Clustered codes into related categories Sorted categories related to definition of and the decision to pursue the teachable moment. Read and sorted quotes within the clustered codes Re organized quotes according to emerging patterns Wrote descriptions of aspects, based on transcript segments Selected quotes for clearest representation of the aspect being described Coded for reflection Found quotes for reflection were already included in data for definition and decision Analyzed data from questions 1 and 2 in terms of reflection in action
52 objective is not to dictate interpretation, but to provide an environment conducive to the production of the range and complexities of meanings th at address relevant issues, and when there is so little existing information about the topic. While this design was based on experiences in the pilot project, where p articipants came back to me to report they had had new experiences that were reframed because of our initial conversations, the calendar for the research may have influenced the success of this process. At some points in the semester, professors reported lower energy classes or more concern about covering Initial interviews provided me with the contours of the concept teachable moment as understood initially by the interviewees. In addition to laying the groundwork for subsequent conversations, these initial interviews served several purposes. As Berg (2004) explains, researchers must be able to conceptualize and operationalize the topics they explore. The initial interviews p rovided some of that conceptualization. By asking people to discuss their understandings of teachable moments, I developed a clearer understanding of the elements I needed to examine in the more detailed follow up interviews. This helped me to better con ceptualize the characteristics of a teachable moment and formulate deeper and more probing questions for the follow up interview. Participant Selection The participants for this study were selected using purposive sampling, in which narratively
53 activated teaching, had at least five years college teaching experience and were willing to spend time talking about their experiences and co creating new understandings of that e xperience for others to share. Consistent with the need to identify individuals who can describe their classroom p ractices and experiences, I interviewed full time, experienced faculty members at one large urban research university. While the university had a recent reputation for shifting its emphasis to a research focus, and budgetary concerns were driving some cla ss sizes higher, I was still able to identify full time, experienced professor involved in undergraduate teaching. I chose not to contact graduate teaching assistants or individuals with less than five years teaching experience. They were teaching at lea st one undergraduate course at the time of the interviews during the fall 2007 term. They had demonstrated an interest in and commitment to quality in undergraduate teaching as indicated either by receiving undergraduate teaching awards or referrals from department chairs, other participants, or my pilot participants. After conferring with my major advisor and choosing departments in the social sciences and humanities, I contacted the department chairs and my pilot participants explaining the study and as king for referrals. At the same time, I obtained lists of undergraduate teaching award winners. All recruiting contacts were conducted on e mail. I first co ntacted faculty who were university teaching award winners and were also recommended by the chair s or pilot members. Then I contacted referrals from chairs and participants. The referral criterion involved some snowball sampling (Berg, 2004), where individuals who were interviewed
54 referred me to others they believed might be interested in participat ing. Several of my initial par ticipants suggested colleagues even without me asking. Participants were recruited from the social sciences and humanities, as those subject areas seemed most likely to address a wide range of topics that might generate teac hable moments. I interviewed 17 faculty members from the Departments of Anthropology, Communication, English, History, Psychology, Sociology and Theater. Their years of teaching experience at the college level, not counting teaching assistantships in gr aduate school ranged from 6 to 27 years. Sixteen participants agreed to do second interviews as well, yielding 33 interviews ranging in length from 15 minutes to an hour. Participants chose the location for the interviews. Three participants chose a nea rby Starbucks for at least one of their interviews. The other 29 interviews were conducted in the faculty office of the participants. Interview Format Because the goal of the research was to delineate the contours of the teachable moment, I needed to be ready to pursue new facets as they aro se. For these reasons, t he initial interviews were what Berg (2004) called semi standardized or what Kvale (1996) calls semi structured. While there were individual variations in the sequence of the questions in order to follow the flow of our conversations I n the course of the interviews asked participants about their definition of the term teachable moments examp les of experiences they had with them, how they thought they emerged in their classes and how often they occurred. The interview guide is in Appendix B
55 The interview guide for the second round of interviews was based on the information gathered in the fi rst round and on the timing of the subsequent interviews. I scheduled the follow up interviews a few weeks after the initial interview. I encouraged participants to contact me if they had experiences in the intervening time, but no one did this. In the second round of interviews I offered to review my notes from the first interview. Most participants wanted that review. When necessary I sought clarification and additional details based on the initial interview. I then sought further experiences or insi ghts they had had since the first interview. Since the theme s of risk and of hose theme s and for advice they might have for new faculty. The interview guide for the second interview is in Appendix C Sixteen of the seventeen participants agreed to be recorded. One second interview was completed by telephone and one person, who did only one interview, declined to be recorded. The 31 recorded interviews were tran scribed by professional transcribers, and I checked the transcripts against my digital recordings and my notes to insure accuracy. I took detailed notes during the phone interview and the unrecorded interview and saved those in codable format as well. Qu otes used in the study have been edited to facilitate reading. I removed such provide clarity.
56 Analysis The active interview is analyzed for both its content and the process of knowledge construction. I analyzed the transcripts of the interviews and the interviewer notes to identify themes. As Kvale (1996) points out, analysis begins with the interviewee thinking about his/her responses and interacting with the inter viewer to explain and when she follows up or seeks clarification of points being made. When necessary, I sought clarification and amplification of information from t he first. I tried to make sure I e As I listened to the initial interviews some themes, like taking risks, emerged, so I was alert to opportunities to clarify those them es in later interviews. In this study the interviews were analyzed for patterns and themes that enhanced the clarity of the term teachable moment, the decision making processes faculty use when confronted with such moments and for evidence of reflective pr ocesses concerning classroom events. As Gubrium and Holstein (2003) point out, active interviewing is based on the idea that no single participant has a complete picture of the phenomenon being explored, instead participants contribute different elements o r facets to the description and the researcher assembles those pieces into a more complete analysis. Therefore, I was careful to include any facet introduced by my participants that contributed to a more complete response to my research questions. Since t he interviews were semi structured, but allowed for conversation, some of the contributions strayed from my original three research questions. I coded all of data I thought had potential
57 relevance to the study but if I found upon further analysis it did not serve to illuminate the definition of teachable moments or the decision making about them I did not include it in the report of this study. After checking each transcript with its recording, I coded each interview, identifying key ideas and quotes u sing HyperRESEARCH software to keep track of the codes I initially coded the transcripts based on my first two research questions concerning the definition and the decision processes inv olved in teachable moments. While some aspects of the data may have had more resonance with my experience than other aspects I included any aspects described by my participants, understanding that the se perspectives enriched the description beyond my personal experience and beyond the experience of individual professors. I read each interview and used either words from the interview or specific topic labels to identify the subject matter of the quote itself. Once an idea had appeared in several interviews I tried to cluster the codes and use more unified terminology. Fo r example, in identifying the elements of the decision I found that one participant may have talked about pursing moments if they were relevant but when asked, did articulate a definition of relev ance. An d another participant reported moments had to be r elevant to the course in general. As I kept reading I found that relevance was not specific enough a code since one person talked about moments being related to broad concepts of a discipline and another talked about moments t hat related to the days class plan. relevance codes.
58 After coding all transcripts, I examined the codes and quotes, allowing a more coherent set of themes to emerge. After reviewing the 282 codes applied to the interviews I clustered those that were related and organized the data in larger categories for purposes of presentation HyperRESEARCH allowed me to generate code repor ts with quotes that related to the themes. I sorted and color coded the quotes according to organizational ideas found in the quotations, allowing a description of the teachable moment and faculty decision making to develop. So, when my participants repo rted considering relevance as part of their decision making process and went on to explain what they meant by relevance, I coded according to that detail. The consideration of relevance was too broad to be useful in presenting the data but relevance to on e of several levels of goals allowed me to organize the data and include a comprehensive description of the different ways in which relevance is conceptualized by my participants. Every interview yielded useful data for at least some aspect of the phenome non of teachable moments. For purposes of data presentation I chose what seemed to me to be the most representative and expressive quotes in order to allow readers to understand the context for that selection and its contribution to the total picture. Since active interviewing (Gubrium and Holstein, 2003) involves constructing new knowledge through a series of conversations, the facets described in this dissertation emerged from the interviews. Some were surprises to me, like the number of people who s poke of calculated moments. Some I could see developing as I did more interviews, like description of the decision making process, where elements often overlapped and
59 inter acted. This description gradually unfolded through repeated analysis of the decisions people described. A number of the facets overlap and influence each other. The number of students engaged is an important consideration, as is student readiness for th e concept. Readiness is one factor that influences the number of students involved. In cases like this, I placed the quotes in the category highlighted by the participant but illustrated the connections in the analysis and in Figure 5. In doing the analy sis for Question Three concerning the application of Donald ory of reflection in action, I began by re coding the interviews for reflection, and found that this question really applied to an analysis of the decision making data. While I did code some particularly explicit examples of conversations about reflection, I also analyzed the descriptions of decision making in question to see if the model of reflection in action applied to the processes my participants described. As a result, th e basic interview data in the decision description is used to examine reflection in B ias, Generalizabilty, Validity, Reliability and Trustworthiness Some of the concerns abo ut the usefulness of interviewing as a research method relate to questions of bias, generalizability, validity, reliability, and bias. In doing qualitative research in general, and interviewing in particular, these are concerns to be addressed in part by redefining and clarifying the goals of the research and by re examining the meaning of these terms in the qualitative context. Clearly, bias can be a concern when doing active interviewing and analysis. However, Gubrium and Holstein argue that bias is a m
60 subject is seen to possess a preformed pure informational commodity that the interview contribute to the construction of meaning, it was import ant tha t rather than denying my role, I recognized and analyzed my role in each interview to insure that I was asking and co answers produced may lead to a biased view of the interview as merely reflecting the balancing my roles as interviewer and con tributor required reflexivity on my part as I worked through the interviews and as I interpreted the verbal and non verbal communications of my respondents. In the initial interviewing and my reviews for the second interviews, I observed that some of my p articipants interacted with me as a student, making sure I had the information they wanted me to have, being solicitous of my efforts, checking my understanding and giving me feedback on my interview or summary techniques. I reviewed the initial interview prior to conducting the second interview with each participant. Others were very conversational, asking about my teaching experience, speaking more collegially about enjoying having a conversation about teaching. In the analysis for this project, however, the data from the two types of interactions does not seem to be qualitatively different despite my awareness of a difference in the apparent perceptions my participants had of me. Asking clarifying questions, keeping d etailed notes and listening to the recorded responses promptly after each interview helped me to monitor my own contributions to
61 the interview and the nature of the interviewer/interviewee relationship as revealed in the interviews (Jorgenson, 1991 ) Kvale (1996) refers to two kinds of generalizabilty researcher and reader. In qualitative research generalizabilty is a shared decision between the researcher and the reader. As the researcher, my role is to provide complete enough information for the readers to determine if the cases, data and context can relate to their situations. No two teaching situations are ever alike, so the role of the researcher is to offer illustrations of some experiences in enough detail that other faculty can decide if there is r elevance for them. In the case of the teachable moment and understanding reflective practice, concern for generalizability requires that I provide as thorough a description of contexts and experiences as possible to allow readers to explore their own unde rstandings and practices in the light of this new information. While in research there is always concern for reliability and validity, these too have different meanings in interview research than in quantitative research. Gubrium and Holstein (1995, 2003 ) point out that when interviewing a variety of individuals in different subject areas, a researcher cannot expect the same questions to yield the same answers, in fact the researcher should expect variety because each participant is drawing on a different experiential and contextual background. Kvale (1996) suggests that the process, questioning, transcribing, analyzing and reporting. The interview guide provided a common basic structure for the interviews. While these were active interviews, my role in the interactions was to ask and to clarify with the goal of obtaining
62 the richest information. As Kvale points out, we cannot completely avoid asking questions th at lead the interview, but we must deliberately choose questions that lead it in the most meaningful, creative and constructive directions. Occasionally participants would ask me what I thought the definition was, or what others had reported. In the initi al interviews, when talking about the definition I replied that I was still teasing out the definition, that there was not one yet, but that the insights they provided were very helpful. In the second interviews I would share a few of the general themes t hat had emerged and ask for their thoughts on that information. When asked about other interviews, I would allude to some general themes, but re direct the conversation to their insights. Furthermore, reliability can be affected by analytical procedures As the sole interviewer on this project, I did not have reliability cross checks with other readers. I checked samples of my coding with one of my advisors and with an outside colleague. My decision making process is described above in the analysis se ction on page 52. Keeping in mind that this project is constructing new knowledge about the idea of a teachable moment, and that neither I nor my respondents had fully formed and well articulated conceptions of teachable moments at the onset, the validity of the data lies not and Holstein, 2003, p. 71) My participants described e xperiences and thoughts that they had about teachable moments, framing them in their own fields of expertise and their own experiences with students.
63 from verifying understandings in the course of the interviews to the pragmatic presentation of results. This has implications for probing and follow up questions, for record keeping in the course of recording and analyzing data and for presentation of th e results of that analysis. Since validity pertains to the truth of the data, I digitally recorded all but two of the interviews and had them professionally transcribed. I checked the transcriptions with the recordings for accuracy and integrated my fiel d notes and observations with the transcriptions to insure contextual detail. Participants were invited to review summaries and/or complete transcripts, but only one participant requested a transcript and made a brief comment on it. Almost every participa nt, however, wanted to be notif ied of the dissertation defense, and many have replied to that invitation with a request for a summary of the findings In the final analysis, the validity of the research will emerge from its ability to clarify the concept of the teachable moment in such a way that other professionals can read and judge the usefulness of the description. Assumptions Going into a qualitative study, it was important for me to examine the assumptions underlying my research topic and method. It was one of my underlying assumptions about teachable moments that despite good efforts by professors to make connections and pro vide experiences that facilitate learning, a true teachable moment can not be planned because there is no certainty that a student will make the desired connection. Students bring unique experiential backgrounds, ideas, preconceptions and
64 concerns to every class meeting. As I report in Chapter Four, however, s everal of my participants descr ibe a c onfidence that more than one ty pe of moment exists, and that some can be calculated with a fair degree of certainty. This research process relied on information gathered from purposeful sampling of experienced professors with some awarenss of or readiness to explore teachable moments. This is not to say that less experienced faculty cannot capitalize on such moments as well. I relied, however, on more experience d faculty who may have a level of confidence and flexibility and who can better articulate their experience in such a way that others can learn from them. Understanding expert teaching, reflection and decision making assists others in developing a broader range of approaches to problems. The design of the study was intended to involve co creation of knowledge with those people I interview. I did not expect my participants to have all the facts, rather that their perceptions and understandings would combine with mine and with others to bui ld new understandings. An underlining assumption here is that all of the parties involved in the research had pieces of information and understanding which, when combined, could create a new understanding. The two part interview design had the potential to cause the participants to think differently about the topic in the second interview, so there would be a change in their thinking and understanding of teachable moments that would show up in the second interview. Several of my participants reported fra ming something tht ahppened just prior to the second as a possible teachable moment that they might not have previously because they knew were going to be talking, but many also replied they did not have new examples in mind, but had been thinking about th eir previous examples
65 more. The questi o n of the timing of the two inteview design is discussed in Chapter Five Ethical Considerations In keeping with concerns for ethical research, I renewed my certification for IRB and filed a complete IRB proposa l and the necessary subsequent updates. My interview data is kept anonymous and under password security. Names and contact information are in separate files from the data. The informed consent form appears as Appendix A. Summary This study used two tiered act ive interviewing to examine the nature of college teachers in the social sciences and humanities at a large research university to interview twice at different points in the semester in an attempt to describe teachable moments that making practices in responding to such moments.
66 CHAPTER FOUR PRESENTATION OF INTERVIEW DATA The thirty three interviews with the seventeen participants representing seven departments in the humanities and social sciences yielded a great deal of insight into how faculty experience and address teachable moments that arise in their classrooms. Sinc e I used an active interview method, for which the protocol provided a loose framework for the conversations, participants were able to report a wide variety of experiences and insights, some overlapping, some related, and some singular, all of which contr ibute to a larger understanding of these moments. The active interview involves interactions that result in shared construction of meaning between the interviewer and interviewee. Each stage of the process involves multiple levels of construction. Each interview built some understanding of the teachable moment within that conversation, and subsequent and second interviews built on the earlier conversations and introduced ideas from other interactions. In addition, as the process progressed, I was constr ucting a more encompassing understanding from all of the conversations combined. My analysis, therefore, can be likened to creating a mosaic or a three dimensional collage in which I have tried to strategically place insights from disparate sources so tha t the ideas they highlight can be seen more clearly and so that patterns within and between ideas are revealed.
67 I have attempted to answer the research questions by assembling the relevant portions from the interviews and organizing those around the broa d elements of each research question. There is, at times, a repetition, since some experiences and observations overlap into more than one element and into each other. The data, therefore, will be presented as quotations from my many sources, arranged ar ound the identified relevant elements of the teachable moment and the decision making process. Some elements are addressed in many interviews, while some elements are addressed in detail in only a few. Even though the number of individuals who address som e aspects of the topic is small, their insights and contributions to the conversation introduce important pieces of information. I have chosen to include those contributions in my report of the data. If the same participant is quoted more than once in the same section, that is indicated. Otherwise, the separate quotes are from distinct sources. In most cases, I have chosen to not identify the gender of the participant or the discipline being taught. The selection of participants was limited to the socia l sciences and humanities and based on recommendations related to undergraduate teaching and was not designed to achieve gender representation. The research questions did not seek to identify gender differences, rather they sought to glean insights from a sample of experienced faculty across several disciplines. In order to describe the contexts of moments, m any of the examples name the topic that was the focus of the moment. Many of these topics are examined in multiple disciplines and surfaced in diffe rent fields. My decision to avoid identifying departmental affiliations is based on concerns for anonymity and also on my observation that most of the themes and concerns cut across several subject matter lines. Therefore,
68 inclusion of the specific discip line could be distracting from a description of the shared elements of the experience. I will address each research question separately in this chapter, attempting to construct a coherent description of the understanding and use of teachable moments by a g roup of experienced college professors in the social sciences and humanities. I begin with the first research question, concerning the elements of the moments themselves as n making processes centered on such moments. The third research question concerning the 1983, 1987) theory of reflection in action is an interpretive analysis issue and as such will be addressed in Chapter Five along with analysis of the implications of the data for other theory, practice, and future research. Question One : Definitions of Teachable Moment In my first research question I examine the elements that characterize a teachabl e moment in a college classroom. In my interviews I asked participants to explain their understanding of the phrase teachable moment and to share examples and descriptions of these moments as they had experienced them. Those questions opened wide ranging discussions that revealed the breadth and variety of experiences that can be classified as teachable moments. While some definitions incorporate unique ideas, most share several common elements. This section will present some of the definitions of a teachable moment and will introduce what the participating faculty members believe are the char acteristics that dis tinguish the se moments from other classroom experiences. As the conversations with my participants built on the general definitions, the
69 examples yielded insights into multiple facets of the teachable moment. This section will begin with definitions, a nd then examine the core elements that characterized the examples including student engagement, interaction and varying degrees of spontaneity. In order to understand those elements, this section will also describe efforts by professors to stimulate and s ustain interaction and engagement. G eneral D efinitions of Teachable Moments whatever happens ri The quote above presents the picture of the prototypical teachable moment, when the opportunity for learning and teaching match up and it is clear to the professor how to proceed. The angels sing. But many teachable moment s are not so immediately obvious or so celestial that they can be pursued unambiguously. Instead teachable moments take various forms and require on the spot decisions by professors We can see some of the variety in the definitions of teacha ble moments provided in the interviews and we will see more variety as we look at the experiences faculty fit under their definitions One person I spoke with defines a teachable moment as An opportunity to kind of ride on the winds of what the students were interested in. A teachable moment is an opportunity where instead of the teacher having to can then make an application.
70 interests. Another participant giv es a more st ructured definition that emphasizes the timeliness of teachable moments. That particular tim e within a framework of a class when either deliberately or coincidently a situation arrives where one can introduce material that may be of directly to that subject which i s being taught at the time. Another professor also spoke of being able to make connections, even if they are not directly related to course material necessarily have a direct relationship with the course material b ut I can make the This indirect relationship to the course material arises in many interviews, and along with that came the question of instructor preparation and the idea that much of what could be called a teachable moment is unplanned. A teachable moment to me is when you have your path that you go into class discussion, totally off s And f or some it is t highly charged because the
71 Teachable moments are not solitary experiences. Professor and students interact to generate these moments, and for some t he interactive aspects of moments are what distinguish teachable moments from individual learning or insight. I see it as like a shared experience, and when I think of that particular instance she and I were talking and we were kind of building on something, and it was almost like something popped up in her head that was her own reflection. And so I guess the dyadic part with us I would see as the teachable moment and maybe that led to an insight. Another professor emphasizes the degree of engagement that arises when students draw on their own experiences. Relevance to the course content is mentioned often, but the Teachable moments happen when there Something as simple as the professor asking for questions can lead to teachable mom ents, where the students, the professor or both may experience a revelation about content or process. I walk A any A nd you have 10 hands fly up. Boom! Here the signs of engagement are the hands going up. The professor may or may not be posed. Of co urse, the questions may or may not lend themselves to extended classroom
72 pursuit, so the decision whether or not to pursue a line of questions is left to the professor as the class progresses. This decision is examined in Question Two Clearly, experien ced college professors have a range of definitions for the term teachable mo ment, and are able to frame a variety of experiences according to the opportunity they provide for teaching. There are, however, certain elements that are common to the description s. The quotes above reveal that the teachable moment involves interaction, a heightened sense of student engagement, a certain level of energy or excitement, and a degre e of relevance to academic content. In its most general terms a teachable mo ment in t he college classroom is a situation in which a student or a group of students in a class interacts with and about an idea while demonstrating heightened engagement or interest As a result of the perception of increased receptivity, the professor sees a po ssibility for significant learning and must make a decision whether to class. The students, the professor and the topic all come into play in creating a teachable moment. As one professor says You had a point that you thought was important, even if it was not in your syllabus, and you saw your students engaged on that topic. And so it was just these three things coming together, you, the topic and the student comin g together. Interaction about the topic can lead to heightened engagement and engagement can lead to increased interaction. Once a cycle of engagement and interaction has begun it can be sustained or curtailed by the actions of the professor or the stude nts. Rather than
73 considering a teachable moment as a simple cycle or spiral, it might be helpful to think of a double helix, where the two sides are interacting and are traveling parallel to one another, but not in a straight line. Each interaction can t wi st or divert the path the s tudent (s) and professor are traveling. The Defining Elements of the Moment Experienced faculty operationalize the three el ements of the teachable moment -interaction, engage ment and decision making in different ways at diffe rent times in their own classrooms, and many experience more than one type of moment in the course of their teaching. In the initial pilot study I looked at the types of conceptual connections students could make between course content and something else of interest to them. As the present study unfol ded, it became clear that there were too many connections and that in the right situation almost any two ideas could be connected in some way at some point by someone. No professor can know or anticipate all of the personal attitudes, beliefs, experiences and interests the students bring to class or what connections students might make between their backgrounds and the course content. Sometim es these connections are clear and even predictable, as in the case of major events in the news. But other times they may not be so predictable, as when an individual student comment based on personal experience opens the door to an unplanned examination o f an issue like racism. But the connection and interactions about the c onnections are what constitute teachable moment s This section will examine the elements that characterize the teachable moment by describing how this heightened engagement is manife sted, and how it is engendered and
74 sustained. I will then discuss the frequency with which teachable moments seem to occur. Once the various aspects of a teachable moment have been described I will examine in Question Two the decision making process facu lty use to decide wh ether to pursue a moment or not, and finally in Question Three (1983, 1987) model of reflection may play in interpreting teachable moments. Interaction Many of my participants describe i nteractions as bei ng central to the emergence It was a two way interaction. It was on both sides, coming from both sides. While another describes a moment this way. It was a sustained inte raction too, that was part of what it was, now that I think forth and interaction, exchange t hat kept going... And it was crazy where they keep going with it for awhile. Just sort of exhaust it, I guess. In university classrooms the number of student/professor and student/student interaction varies tremendously. Available time, individual teaching style s class size and the nature of the material are some of the concerns that influence the nature and the degree of interaction that is possible or constructive. At t imes, only the professor is s peaking, but the students are still nonverbally communicating their reactions. In many teachable moments interactions are i ncreased. Students speak more to the professor or to
75 each other. This is true regardless of class siz e. Even faculty in large lecture classes report taking questions, allowing students to discuss or write about topics, assigning small group work or using clickers for student interaction. In smaller classes they might conduct whole group discussions or h ave individual interaction s where the professor tries to engage the attention of the class. While they express varying tolerance for side discussions, classroom noise, discussion and disagreement all of my participants comment on some degree of interacti on. Most of this is in class verbal interaction, but they also report out of class and written interaction in the form of e mail and reflective assignments. But all teaching is interactive to some degree. When does the interaction shift and develop into a teachable moment? We can think of classroom interaction in several ways. Interaction can be initiated by the professor, in which case the students either engage or do not and the professor may or may not re adjust upon reading the students response. Or students can initiate interactions in which case the professor must decide whether or not to sustain the engagement. In my pilot study one person described the interactions as being like a ping pong match, with one person serving and others returning the volley. Figures 3 and 4 below represent possible models of interaction in potential teachable moments in college classrooms. It should be noted that these are abbreviated models, as possible interactions can subsequently branch off into more and varied interactions during a class period.
76 Figure 3. Possible professor initiated teaching interactions. Figure 4. Possible student initiated teaching interactions. Professor decides how and if to engage in the moment. Professor initiates interaction Student Engages Professor continues (calculated) Student Engagement leads to redirection (foreseeable or unforeseen) Student does not engage Professor continues with interaction as initiated Professor re adjusts (Teachable moment for professor?) Student initiates interaction Professor engages and pursues new line of discussion delayed Professor engages but delays pursuit Professor does not engage
77 The moments when one of the parties initiates an interaction and another responds by manifesting heightened engagement ( E ngagement), thus intensifying and perhaps redirecting the interaction, are the teachable moments. These are the moments I am examining. Sometimes the conversations spre ad throughout the class as this description illustrate s And somewhere in there are students turning in their seats looking at each other, responding to points that have been made in a fluid fashion where people are being civilized and intellectually engaged. You know if they are having side conversations that And another says, In these cases the students may appear to be having personal conversations, but the professor gauges that the interactions are on topic and the energy of the interactions make them worth sustaining. Whether students are talking to the professor or to each other there has to be interaction. There has to be that give and take, where you throw out something, they throw it back. gagement the professor seeks when hoping to generate or sustain a teachable moment Participants report looking for engagement while they teach and making decisions about their teaching as they go
78 along. The next section will examine what engagement looks like to the faculty members in my study. Engagement S ince my participants find teachable moments in many forms of interactions, but consistently report noting a higher degree s tudent engagement, this section will briefly describe the outward behaviors that signify engagement and therefore suggest the potential for a teachable moment. Initially participants report simply that s tudents look engaged and involved. When asked for a description of that look, many provide similar sets of re sponses. The first sign of engagement comes from students who initiate moments with questions or comments and are therefore directly involved from the beginning of the interaction ; others join in the interactions that are taking place, while some stud ents quietly listen and communicate interest in other ways P rofessors continually look for cues while they are teaching, making micro adjustments based on th e signs they see. Teachable moments are often described as light bulb moments something on their face, or you see their face light up. You see that connection in the face lighting up is repeated in many interviews. One says, is metaphor of seeing light bulbs go off and seeing the faces and their minds light up. And
79 Even while teaching large classes, professors re expressions to see if they are still engaged. they followi In large classes it may be more d ifficult to gauge signs of engagement, but professors still try to do so. Another participant talks about student expressions this way. you can look at their faces and you can see that some of them clearly were already sense of recognition. Facial expression is not the only indicator of engagement. It can combine with b ody language to signal to a professor that students are involved. And you can see them star t to smile. A sense of recognition. They lean forward, a a sense of engagement because of something that y ou have said. They may have been sitting back or sitting there passively like this (leans back with arms crossed) but there will be that language or positioning of engagement. Faculty members I spoke with are conscious of these levels of involvement, look for the manifestations, and use them to make decisions about what they will pursue
80 It has always been part of my teaching always awareness of something clicking for the students. Are you engaging them? Are they with you? Do I see a look of, effective. If I stop seeing them, it is time to quit. When teaching, professors regularly seek signs of engagement from their students. They notice shifts in body language and chan ges in facial expression that signal that engagement has shifted to a higher level, either collectively or individually. It is the shift that signals a potential teachable moment. Professors report that some of these moments are predictable to some degree, while others emerge as a surprise. The degree of predictability influences their readiness to pursue moments. The next section will examine the varying degrees of predictability and the impact that predictability has on deciding to pursue a teachable moment. Continuum of P redictability Teachable moments arise when interactions lead students to experience a heightened sense of engagement. In classes there is usually an interaction that either sparks or reveals a sense of engagement, which in turn leads to further interaction and further engagement. Initially, the interactions can be very basic and even heavily one sided, as in a lecture, or they can be multi faceted as in small group work or class discussions. In the teachable moment however, the routine give and take is replaced by more active involvement. The professors in this study talk about their efforts to create a classroom environment that is likely to allow c lassroom interactions to flourish and generate fruitful moments. This section will begin by first examining the professor
81 initiated interactions then move to professor anticipated interactions, and finally explore surprise interactions that can lead to te achable moments Then I will examine the environment that fosters these interactions and allows them to emerge and develop into real opportunities for learning Faculty experience different types of moments at different times, and some disagree about the role of professors in creating these opportunities. Some people assert that they can create teachable moments, while others insist the moments must originate with the students. From the perspective s of the faculty interviewed the interactions that lea d to teachable moments range across a continuum of predictability. At one end of this professor using prepared material, assignments, examples or media intended to cap ture illustrations. Here the initial interactions are dominated by professor generated materials a degree of unpredictability, since the real moment of engagement still lies within the student, and the professor cannot be certain that the intended connection will be made. In the mid range of the continuum are those moments that a professor may antic ipate (from current events, awareness of student concerns or previous teaching) but preparation for the moment is more generally related to the implications of ass ignments or out of class events and the r elevance of those concerns to course content.
82 Finally there are those moments when a student comment, discussion, or question most difficult to prepare for, and they require the quickest decisions and perha ps the broadest application of course material to student concerns Figure 5. Continuum of predictability for teachable moments This is not necessarily a linear continuum because some surprise moments have such an impact on the professor s that they use them later as anticipated or calculated moments. And calculated moments can lose their effectiveness altogether, providing the professor with yet another teaching surprise F or the purposes of this presentation however, I will describe the three types separately. This section will begin with the calculated moments and work through the continuum ending with a discussion of surprise moments. Calculated Teachable M oments In the calculated teachable moment the instructor prepares lecture material, assignments or media presentations with the deliberate intent of heightening student meeti ng relevant, engaging and enduring by tapping student interests in popular Calculated: Professor plans and initiates Foreseeable: Professor anticipates; student (s) will initiate Unforeseen: Student iniates. Little professor preparation
83 culture, current events, personal concerns or professional aspirations. In the calculated teachable moment the interactions are initiated by the professor and the content or p rocess is intended to accomplish a specified and previously identified teaching goal. The professor attempts to use a hook to increase student intellectual engagement with a topic. Since these moments originate with the professor, they are, for that pr ofessor, the most predictable, most planned for and the least problematic to pursue. In the first cases, the professors talk about seeing the connection themselves and deliberately addressing it without waiting for students to bring it up. The first step in planning a calculated teachable moment is connecting course material to something the students might have an interest in, a familiarity with or a relationship to. As one person explained, when Instead of talking about exot ic cultures, I almost always draw Some people I spoke with choose anecdotes, graphic illustrations or media that they believe will heighten student interest, or at least serve as a supplement to traditional lecture in illustrating a course concept. These supplements are intended to make a to provide the students with illustrative experiences t hey might not have otherwise had. For some this is the dominant type of teachable moment; for others it is part of the range of moments they described. One participant asserts that reate teachable moments. I think that is what you have to do. If there is something
84 something. This is what I was going to do with my me thods class next week (handing i nter viewer a cartoon). Not only does such preparation enhance the probability that students can make connections, but it also may improve the chances they will be interested. One professor describes taking a potentially boring topic an d enlivening it by dra wing examples that might relate to student concerns. We talked about tariff policy. Now tariff policy is incredibly dull. And I And so we start talking about jobs and patriotism and what do we owe the country and do we owe Detroit anything? Do we owe the auto workers anything? Should we think of our families first and our own incomes or do we have a loyalty or responsibility beyond that to other Americans to keep t heir jobs? Now this all adds $5000 to the price of that car to make it competitive with wha t Detroit
85 experiences or interests, and by setting up the conversation in class to prompt a personal response, the professor tries to augment the impact of a lecture on a topic studen ts might otherwise consider removed from their lives. Other times professors bring up curren t events and outside media which feed into the course content and can more vividly illustrate principles from the course. Here a professor was able to use a curre nt event involving YouTube to illustrate principles he was teaching. You do it (create connections and interest) through something that they can understand from current events, which of course is the CNN YouTube Debate. (Fall 2008 presidential primary) N when something is there at the right time, you can grab it and make good use of it. And I think that it just has to be at the right time. I can see that if this same topic came up three months from now, it would be easy to want to try and smash something in. You can still talk about the relevant current events. But if this topic came up three weeks before you would just have to talk about the topic to force something to work. I know that some things have worked in the pas t, but
86 n Debate I had some stock things, but not with stuff that is right in front of them that can be effective for their interest level. While YouTube is attractive to students, succ essful use of it or any other strategy geared to accomplishing a teachable moment, may also depend on timeliness. Stories in the news, especially those that students might be interested in or relate to also provide opportunities to apply topics from cla sses. The same professor that introduced the question of the Chinese car to illustrate tariff policy describes using an item in the news to stimulate reflection about the First Amendment. This morning in my survey class we were talking about the young man up at Gainesville who was tasered and the issue of free speech. You can again mention can see them start to smile. Again, the media coverage and the fact that the taser incident took place on a Florida campus drew the students into the discussion and made the professor and the subject matter seem more relevant and up to date. Other times, professors link in class and out of class events to illustrate the relevance of the discipline to issues in the longer term. Here a professor is looking at an historical event in the light of both the discipline and current events.
87 But I had talked about showing a clip that Jewish conspiracy, in terms of money. On the same page! Okay, so these are issues on the Holocaust. Okay? So, I pulled that information. I begin it by saying, t that I can continually stay abreast of for the rest of my life. the discipline to examine the lasting impact of history on curren t events allows her to demonstrate the integrative nature and life long value of the course material. Some news items are much smaller than the Holocaust or tension in the Middle East, but still provide opportunities for a professor to introduce content. There was this story in the news a couple of weeks ago about the cat at the was an excellent opportunity to sort of pull together some things that we had been talking about in class -about critical thinking as well as research design and empirical evidence and that stuff like that. A lot of them had heard that story and T the New England Journal of Medicine
88 article. So we sort of walked through all of that and the whole idea of empirical evidence and stuff like that. And we had fun with it because along with that you can also add some more humor about maybe there was some cause and effect. Did anybody check to see what the old cat was doing? Here the recent news item allowed the professor to make a point about course content and abou t critical reading of the media, while using humor and connecting to student awareness. Applying the discipline to what students might call everyday issues. Not all examples have to come from timely news or media items. The deliberate introduction of h umor from many sources by the professor is another way to get students involved and attentive. Several participants report using funny performances, stories and even anecdotes from their personal lives to connect with the students. The same professor who addresses the Holocaust in class describes using not only humor, but a humorous lot of our media c ontent comes from a male perspective. And this was very much ip as a series, and used it because a lot of
89 ll remember that, because the professor made a fool of herself. It was a teachable moment. The impact of the humor is increased by the element of surprise that a professor w ould use such an illustration in class. Another professor uses simple, funny stori es from everyday life which not only makes the material more accessible, in the manner of the Chinese car, but also humanizes the teacher This is one example. course evaluations tha t I worked my family into the course in ways that were productive for the course, and that were funny, too. And my son does things that the press, it was really good. We were talking about his D.S. (video game) in down drag out yesterday morning because he wanted to bring his Nintendo to school. And the teacher said they can, but I d I was still so upset about it that that so rt of became a teachable moment. Because it was shaping my mood in the classroom. And here we are talking about consumer products and how they enable inclusion in groups, and I just had this argument with him, wh ere
90 it. Here the professor was able to turn what might have been a person distraction from teaching into an illustration of the impact of theories of consumer culture on personal lives, combining the humanization of the professor and the relevance of the discipline in one example that also engages the students. However, many of the people I spoke with are aware of the need to manage the time and the number of allusions shared in class to in order to avoid becoming one of the decision making. The prof essor above is aware of this issue when she says And I have read teacher evaluations where the students have complained that the teacher talks too much about their kids or their family, some of my colleagues. funny. Or at least entertaining. Or weird. Really weird, will work. Some instructors use another form of calculated teachable moments to tap into what is perhaps one of the most immediate concerns for students -grades. More than one professor tries to create teachable moments by demystify ing teaching processes, linking grading and teaching rationales to concepts they want to highlight. When a student asks for help or asks a question strictly for the purpose of getting a better grade without demonstrating some personal engagement with the topic beyond that grade, professors do not see this as a teachable moment, with one calling these grade Here the person is describing students whose primary concern
91 seems to be to pass the next test and drops in during office hours for just enough assistance to accomplish that without really engaging in the material more deeply or seeking connections and applications. However, some recognize that a co ncern over grades can help them highlight principles they are trying to address in their classes. This example uses a grading issue to illustrate a key concept in the discipline. When I go to grade my exams and then present those grades to the class, I te ll through the scanning form and I look at what percentages of the students got each question right and wrong. And then, if the majority of the class gets a particular questio n item wrong, then I usually throw out that question or give everyone illustration of what C. Wright Mills means by the distinction between public that there is something s ystemic going on What has been discussed in class as an abstract concept takes on a very concrete reality for students when it can be used to improve their grades. Another professor saw an opportunity to use grading concerns to illustrate learning proces ses he values.
92 happy about that. Part of me doi ng that and explaining was in the belief that that would hopefully teach them front about what the process of mistake. In this case the professor prefers that students take risks and try new learning and believes that mistakes are a valued part of learning, In admitting that he has made one, he both demystifies teaching a little bit, and he contributes to an atmosphere where stu dents can feel safer to take risks and admit mistakes. Professors speak of wanting students to understand the realities of their field. One person tells of serious disagreements within her department over appropriate assignments, and the difficulties caus ed by that tension. As the issue surfaced and students, especially majors in the department, became aware of the conflict, she spoke about it with those in her upper division sections who were considering graduate school, using the problem to illustrate th e realities of academic careers. a volatile job scene. I mean, any department can kind of implode, and I think that dents about the realities of going This person wants students to understand some of the issues involved in practicing the profession.
93 In a different class, the professional concerns of the students dovetailed wi th the content of the course so the professor could engage the class in a deliberately dual purpose learning experience Some students were asking me questions about what they could personally do to ensure a certain level of success or career advancement and things like that. And obviously that was not only applicable to our class but it stimulated interest among students because they saw we can learn about what we ourselves need to do, too. And so I contacted the Career Center, and a represent ative of the Career Center came, and we planned together, looking at what we had covered in the course, what we could co present about what kind of career trajectory they could anticipate if they went on and majored in this or this or went to graduate scho ol in this or this. Sometimes students themselves experience personal moments or make personal connections that they are not comfortable revealing to the entire class, but that they will share with the professor outside of class. In these cases, the profe ssor may recognize the class. They will come and tell me their stories privately. And then I ask permission, I will tell them at the than my stories, than the legal cases, than history, than statistics. I use all of those.
94 I deliberately use multiple ways, and I present information in different kinds of ways. But it is the power of their own personal stories that I think resonates the most with them. T he professor senses potential resonance for the large r group, and uses story to generate a connection between ideas for the rest class. Media can play an important role in helping students make meaningful connections between course content and issues they are concerned with. It can also bring a new perspective to more abstract or remote ideas. Media and technology allow faculty to stimulate interest and engagement if they are used as the stimulus for further reflection or interaction, rather than as passive presentations of information. Many professors talked about the advantages of some of the new technologies and of older ones, like documentary, to enhance student engagement. One person uses a powerful documentary to create a more lasting impact than a lecture or Power Point might accomplis h. I showed this really wonderful documentary about a Floridian, Harry T. Moore, who was a Civil Rights activist in the 30s, 40s and 50s and is really a bridge between one generation and one form of the Black Freedom Struggle and what we think of as the mo documentary. And they had read an article about him and then we watched the
95 about documentary is that it really can shake you to your soul, even in a way that Using media alone, no matter how powerful the images were, was less effective than combining the media with some opportunity to focus and to reflect. Many professors de scribe having time for the students to reflect, to focus and to interact about the materials. In the case of the documentary mentioned above I gave them this exercise where it was a series of just six questions about the film that they had to ask and tak e notes on while they were watching it. So it was part just to make them do that or seduce them into doing that, but they wrote their little fingers off, and many of them had very thoughtful things to say. The instructor here was using the medium of docum entary to engage, but designing follow up work to ensure that the impact of the moment is enhanced. Another professor who does like to have classroom discus sions after video presentations recognizes that time can be a problem and has devised other ways of encouraging reflection. And I want them to continue thinking about it. So I will either say write me a either as a class, a collective, some kind of an attendance thing as well. Sometimes I just have them talk to somebody sitting nex t to them so that everybody has a chance to reflect on it. But, you know, the teachable moment
96 does not always have to have you right there, physically present. I think you create the opportunity and there are a number of opportunities. But then for you to get some assessment of what actually happened to have them either have a discussion on what they said to their partner afterwards or have them write it down and then you have an opportunity to respond to what they wrote. Here the professor wants to know and enhance the impact of the moment she has tried to create, even if she has not been able to witness it firsthand. Another version of faculty initiated teachable moments involves the deliberate design of assignments or group interactions to bring about increased involvement on the part of the students. In these cases the professor is not necessarily making the direct instructional connection, but is setting up an experience that will likely lead the student to participate on a more personal level in th e learning experience. Many variations on active learning come into play in these descriptions. One person describes having students play a version of the Newlywed Game in order to appreciate the cultural variations represented by marriage I pick two scenarios of how to get married in a particular culture By assigning role playing to pairs of students this professor eng ages their imagination concerning different cultural practices. Another designs practical, hands on assignments that relate to students future career needs. The students in these classes are career oriented and have a very practical
97 focus to their inter ests. This professor designs assignments to channel this quest for relevance. knowledge from their book or from presentations or from DVDs and extra media teaching materials that I use and then turn it into a hands on product. And so for on opportunity for them to apply their learning. Some send students outside the classrooms to master assignments. The learnin g can take several forms, from broadening personal experience to realizing the value of learning other skills. Several people I spoke with create o ut of class assignments designed to immerse the students in experiences that will require they make personal connections. their ey es because I have students who never had to really deal with minorities. And so I provide the assignment, I provide the constraints, and then they end up teaching themselves. have to lecture them about you need to learn another language. Suddenly it god there are all these people who speak an
98 In this case, the professor intends for certain learning to occur, and can to some extent anticipate what will transpire and what the student will gather from the experience. The goal of the professor is to make the connection personal an d the issues real for the student. These assignments may not always produce the anticipated results, however. We will look at calculated moments that take an unexpected turn later in the chapter It is not always easy to differentiate between what some any given day, what we call good teaching still requires good learnin g to be successful. P rofessors are aware of this catch. Even the most calculated moments can yield sur prise but the calculated moments are the easiest to pursue since they are a part of the plan. In these cases the learning seems fairly predictable to the professors. They set up as much of the environment as possible and deliberately launch an experienc e. The next se ction will examine the foreseeable moment. These are the teachable moments that a professor might predict based on experience, current events, or student interests. Unlike the calculated moment, the
99 professor does not initiate a foreseeable moment, waiting instead to see if the students introduce the issues. Foreseeable M oment s While the calculated teachable moment is both planned and initiated by the professor, the foreseeable moment is planned for as a contingency, but the p rofessor does not initiate it, expecting or hoping that students will take the class along that path. Sometimes the impetus for the moment lies in significant outside events, and other times it can be found in the struggle to grasp a concept or in a react ion to a n assignment or reading. Faculty talk of accumulating enough experience and doing enough preparation to anticipate when and where students might bring up issues or make connections. Several observe that as time goes by there are fewer major surpr ises within their classes and more chances to connect with prior events. This section will look at a range of foreseeable moments described by my participants. They range from assignment designs to student identified interests to what Schultz (2002) calls to teachable moments. In the section on calculated moments, we examined assignments designed to accomplish a particular teachable moment, linked to a specific concept or goal the professor wanted to accomplish. In the fores eeable moment category, we have assignments which are designed to provide an experience with planned goals, but whose side effects can yield less calculated but equally useful moments. Unlike the calculated moments, however, these are student initiated co nnections and observations that the professor follows through on. In these cases the professor may not know what will
100 emerge, but is prepared to pursue an idea within the range of the class or the assignment when the opportunity presents itself In the c ase below, the assignment was broad and intended to give the students practice in observing behavior. The professor could not know all of the observations the students would make. But, when she saw a theme emerge, she was able to follow it. I gave them write just a one page kind of description of their observations. And then we reflected. It kind of opened up the discussion. A number of students started talking about how they saw mothers and fathers interacting differently with game and saw the moms were gabbing, and the dads were really engaged with the and paternal differences in child rearing and how that relates to abnormal child psychology. And so it was a kind of neat confluence of all of them prese nting took their experiences and then tried to add the scholarly level to it, while still from th em and then I could, without ever thinking I was going to lecture on it, I could relate scholarly material to their experiences.
101 The professor was ready with the research when a topic arose even if it was not an avenue she specifically expected to explore. The three elements came together student experience, the topic, and professor preparation. In another case, the direction of the discussion combined with an awareness of the issues in the news let the same professor talk, not only about the topic at ha nd, but about the use of evidence and popular perception. scientific proof at all. And so a couple of times students were kind of going back o initely what a lot of Special Ed teachers think; then build on it. Here it was not only a course concept; it was also a lesson about the broader issue of intersected so some new piece of learning might be more likely to take hold. Using groups and group work is anothe r way to stimulate probable moments without direct professor participation in that moment. What I try to do is create mentoring situations in the way I engineer my groups. o
102 that. I try to balance by age. So I pick a mother or a father for each group, and I try to put young students who lack experience there, because I think that also the opport unity for that moment to happen in creating mentors within that teachable moments to occur, by have chosen to be with, and allow that dynamic, that group dynamic to happen. Even though the professor is not involved directly in the group interactions, the groups have been designed so accomplish certain g oals. The professor cannot be sure that the groups will interact as intended. One anticipated, indeed hoped for, type of teachable moment takes place when a class has been struggling with a difficult idea until eventually one student answer, comment o r question reveals the core difficulty many students are having. Sometimes students are just not grasping a concept, and the professor realizes that something new must happen. As one person described it suddenly So in one kind of teachable moment a student says or does something that will reveal the nature of that wall and let the professor plot a new path. If instructors are open to these revelations they can guide the class over that threshold and into new understanding. One instructor who had been teaching about social construction of gender
103 and how t hat might pl ay out differently in other cultures report s how one student comment opened the door to an examination of cultural assumptions and a new grasp of the concept of gender. We were actually talking about the idea of third genders besides being man or woman when there are other possibilities. They were having a hard time. We had watched a video; we did a reaction to a video about a gender in Samoa called fafafini. And they ar has been changing as a result of globalization and westernization of that role. And so this one fafafini who is biologically a male, but in every other way is a woman. She has a boyfriend. So th ey were having a hard time wrapping their brains around whether the boyfriend was then gay. Did that make him gay? Were these two gay men? themselves as gay because they are women. A nd I was trying to explain to them that for us gender is so tied to and based on sexuality and reproductive organs, really. That it is hard for us to separate and understand, and our only default is to that is what gender is all about. And they may have the body parts of a male, but she is a woman, so then it is not homosexuality that we are talki explained it much better. But they got it. And we had spent two class periods talking about this to get to this point, and it was her question that sparked me to
104 explain it slightly differently. That it worked. You could see it on their faces, and Students sometimes experience dissonance between what they believe and what is going on in class. This can provide a teachable moment as the students are asked to look back at themselves and examine their beliefs in the ligh t of new information. While these can be profound teachable moments, they are not always easy. Some professors set up class discussions or generate topics that are designed to inspire such self examination, without being sure if or how that self examinati on will play out. so powerfully that it reflects back on them, and I will use an example. And the up to 10% are not heterosexual, but for the sake of the assignment: Are you threatened by -to -three or four years, it was so interesting because the women would be he locker room with the same guy. The guys would -about half of them would do that. The
105 You should h themselves. Here the professor pose s a question already anticipating the answer but cannot be sure how the group will respond. Indeed, this person, aware of the uncertainty reports watching for changes that signal changes in the impact of the activity. Being able to connect the content of one course to other courses or ideas students may have encountered constitutes another type of moment. Professors talk about trying to be aware of the content of o ther courses in their fields, and in the general education curriculum as they prepare for their ow n classes, so they can make connections as opportunities occur. We were talking about one of the ways that people date the Middle Ages is with the beginning of the Reformation in 1517 when Martin Luther publishes his theses. And that led to talking about changing Europe from a sort of single dominant theological system to one in which there were multiples and how, from the outside, those would look very small, but inside very different. And I made a comparison to the situation in Iraq between Shiite and Sunni. Well, I think I could see flickers of recognition or somet
106 In this case the course topic was not religion, but an awareness of the historical connections of the discipline with the current events in the Middle East allowed a connection across academic disciplines and to world e vents. Students had more than one way to come to the information at hand. Professors who a re able to get to know individual stu dent concerns or attitudes find that they can anticipate possible issues and be ready to address them as they arose. Though th is is a luxury for people teaching large classes, some still comment on being alert to such opportunities. The same person who linked the Reformation with contemporary Iraq also describes preparing for the discussion of a reading assignment and anticipati ng that a particular student might have particular take on the reading based on her comments in other discussions. He did not generate a comment, but he was ready with feedback that would nudge the student to think more critically. I have a student in my honors class, and in this case I was actually kind of looking philosophy, and of the individual as being more worthy than society, but at the same time she is talking about noti ons of ethics, and so because that ties in with come up in our conversation today of a way of maybe just nudging her a little to think about the paradoxes or contradictions, not that they have to be resolved, between a belief in an ethical code of behavior for scientists and an individualistic point of view that says, what the person wants is most important, and free will is what is. So whether that came through or not, I do
107 least felt like that happened. Occasionally events in the larger environment so dominate student concerns that instructors have to be ready to use their expertise and the lens of their disciplines to help students process what has happened. Interestingly, the people I spoke with who brought up these major news events said they were not sure when they went into class how they would address the is sues, only that they would address them within their disciplines based on how the students responded. So they foresaw the likelihood of the issues emerging, but prepared more globally until they determined the direction the students wanted to go. Some me ntioned September 11, 2001 as an illustration of an event they felt they had to address, but were unsure how students wanted or needed to talk about it. As one of my pilot participants told me these are cases wh ere instead of trying to fit the event int o a discipline, she looked for her field in the situation. Finding gender issues in the September 11 attacks and being able to apply that to analysis of the events allowed her to illustrate the relevance of the discipline and its applicability to somethin g a lready A more recent example of an unexpec the attention of a class is the shooting that took place at Vir ginia Tech in the spring of 2007 Professors report being ready to talk about the event wit hout knowing exactly what direction the class discuss ion would take. One says Now, obviously the undergraduates wanted to talk about it. In fact, we talked about it, and many of them thanked me for giving them an opportunity to talk
108 about it in class. B ut I was able to relate it our course material. So we had talked about the movement for gun control in the United States. And so that incident gave us an opportunity to really dig deep into, okay, well what are the laws about gun control. Are the claims of movement activists who want to control guns in some way, the sale of guns, credible? If they had been successful in pushing for some of the legislation they want, could this have been prevented? So there were lots of ways to apply it. And, you know, it re quired shifting things around a little depth had that event not happened. But it gave me an opportunity to kind of ride on the winds of what the students W ed up starting to do a little bit more research on too (and this was generated from the students), was the whole issue of mental health and how can you detect mental health, you know, y to report potential mental health issues among students? If teachers do that, then do they become more like police agents or mental health professionals rather than connectio n. Also relating to the Virginia Tech shooting incident, another connected the material this way. The Virginia Tech shootings were a fine example where the whole plan for the day was thrown out. I had two ideas in mind. And I had some sense of what we wo uld do. I sort of let the feeling emerge in the classroom and sort of gauge it in
109 sort of floating topics in my course that can be addressed really at any time. One of the m is the critique of human nature arguments for human behavior. And so I think what we did was to take the case of Cho, the shooter, and to look at some of the media portrayals of Cho. And I think I had them list for me or, I listed them on the board, with their help, what are some of the common lines of investigation into him and the circumstances surrounding that shooting. And they knew a lot about his family; they knew about his personal background. But the fact that it was in the news, it was on their minds anyway. They had the Oracle in front of them, and it was plastered across the front of the Oracle, I think, made it seem as any current event and turn it into what we cove that was going to be a small portion of what we covered maybe in that two week period but it turned into a big demonstration and project, or in class project. formed, but not directed, able to demonstrate her field in action. So, some moments are anticipated and prepared for by the professor, but still allowed to emerge f rom the class. Still other moments come as surprises. These are the least anticipated.
110 Least Foreseen M oments Despite experience and preparation, there are still times when moments of strong engagement emerge unanticipated by the professor. These surprises can take many forms and require the quickest decision makin g with the least preparation but professors who are ready for surprises and who recognize the value of those opportunities can turn what might be an awkward moment into one of lasting ed ucational impact. The interviews describe several different types of surprises including students attempting to fluster, shock or challenge professors, students asking unanticipated questions, or students g the door to discussions of difficult topics. Not all teachable moments stem from positive engagement. Some can originate with a challenge or with a controversial, racist or sexist comment that the professor feels must not be left unchallenged. The sta kes in these situations are especially high according to my participants, since the nature of the response can set a tone for subsequent classes and send a signal about the relative academic safety of making or examining statements in class. P rofessors f rom time to time face classes in which a student or students set out to see if they can fluster the professor. The way in which the instructor fields such attempts can set a tone for an entire course one that may be difficult to undo. Participants speak of bein g aware of these stakes and of how, when possible, they try to turn them into useful teaching moments. In these cases the initial heightened engagement in the class may not be focused on the course content, rather it is focused on how the instructo r will handle the challenge.
111 And I was talking about language and culture and how that can be related and just talking about meanings of words and how we have certain words for some things know the classi c example is snow and all the different words for that so I brought Think about our culture. How many diff left field. But, if you are able to use that question, or example, or whatever, it can certainly turn into a teachable moment. In ca ses of challenges and attempts to fluster or undermine the professor, the response can have a double impact as well as the subject matter. Some student behavior is less directly related to the content of the dis cussion than it is to the broader academic context, providing a different sort of teachable moment. Some professors reported dealing with inappropriate or disruptive behavior by generating a discussion on rights and responsibilities in academic settings, sharing a philosophy of teaching and engaging students in the course in a new way. I once had a class in which there were a group of students who sat in the back and any class room, there are rights and responsibilities. One of the reasons why I set
112 able to concentr ate and focus. And so when things interfere with those rights, gave me a moment to kind of present them with sort of a philosophy of a classroom environment that maybe they Rather than allowing a negative situation to fester or become more negative, the professor here saw the behavior as an opportunity to re frame the situation and open a door to more thoughtful conduct. There are also students whose c onduct seems to stem more from individual issue s but who let those issues play out in the class. Learning to deal with those is a teachable moment for the professor, but it also sets a tone for subsequent interactions with other students, teaching them a One professor talks about feeling the need to balance be and limiting the impact of negative students on the entire class. Sometimes you are just dealing wit be in college who are forced to go because of their parents or something. O r they think that teaching is a completely biased political endeavor or someth ing and nd with students like that there is not much you can do I think, other than hope that they sort of see the light later on. Or embrace kind of shock oriented resistance -the students who probably f eel under challenged, and so they are trying to see how far they can get things going. They
113 are trying to spice things up a little. These are similar issue right? I f they feel they are being taken seriously then that opens up their sense of self teachin g, right? But if you appeal to them too often then they sort of alienate the rest of the class. So balancing between attending to the resistant student and attending to the needs of the rest of class is a concern. But attending to the resistance can open moment s for the resistant students as well as for the rest of the class. Each time a professor takes one student seriously, the rest of the class potentially learns something about what that professor values and will accept. Even if students are not tryi ng to be controversial, they may make comments that capture the attention of the class and either open or close doors to subsequent debate. Faculty reported listening for these moments and judging, case by case, how to address them. These can be positive or negative statements but they reveal either a need or an opportunity to address a concern. Th e instructor then has to gauge the probable readiness for that concern to be addressed. In the case below, an instructor describes a moment in class when a s tudent made a racist comment. There was already a climate for discussion in the room, and the student had demonstrated a willingness to challenge and be challenged, so when the issue arose the professor pursued it. Blacks were grateful when Puerto Ricans came along. statement. I just said it flat out. I said see why. So, the women students who were in the cl ass looked at me. You want
114 the students to take responsibility for what they say. You want them to recognize the students in the classroom who would be most affected by it agreed. And he response because then I got to talk about language. This professor valued the opportuni ty to open the discussion even while expressing a reaction to the comment. The community in the classroom depended in part on managing the response to the comment. The professor goes on to say that the student in question seemed to benefit from her chall enge to his thinking. my class because I pushed him so much with his writing, so I think that he, and probably he had even said comments like that before and just could have gotten away with it, you know. But I think with me challenging him, he had a kind of respect for me then and so he said a lot of things in class. He did extremely well in the class. The student had recognized some value in her feedback on his work and therefore valued the challenge she presented to him. She was able to separate that interaction from evaluation of his body of work, making it clear that ideas could be explored without a negative impact on the explorer. And she had succeeded in making it clear to the rest of the class that racist comments would not go unchallenged. As she goes on to explain,
115 gender dynamic in the class, I think because the women who ended u p reacting to him were the black women in the class, and they were unhappy, and by me, you know challenging him, I think that set the tone for them that they could talk, they could talk in class, or they could say something in class without feeling like th ere was no space to do that. This comment relates to managing surprise, but it also indicates efforts the professor makes to preserve openness in the class and to the decision making process involved in responding to a moment. Other moments may arise wit hin a class discussion, when the conver sation goes in a direction that surprises the instructor. Even well planned assignments may yield surprise responses that lead to higher than anticipated levels of engagement or to unexpected twists and connections. The professor has to be ready to let these play out and to follow where they might lead. Since students bring their own histories and experiences to class and since readings are open to interpretation and discussion, multiple interpretations may arise. This can lead to debate and disagreement in class as students sort out their perceptions. The same professor who addressed the racist comment above reports a different discussion taking an unexpected turn when students reacted to an essay they had read. A read about worked her way out of lower class poverty to a middle class status of existence, partly by marrying a middle class man, but also by getting a degree and
116 becoming a nurse and changing the way she lived and changing her behavior. And she just happens to be black. They read it as this heroic woman getting herself out of the projects. But the article was much more complicated than that. But it also dealt with race. And my stu thor, and the woman herself, talked we talked about that in class. They were furious. They were totally enraged, pissed off. They thought that the author was being racist. And they thought the author was trying to make the woman a kind of example. So we talked about that. And I was surprised by their reaction. And so it became a kind of faction. We had the group that thought the author was being racist and we had the group that said, became, in essence, a teachable moment. The professor did not anticipate this strong response from the class, but saw in it an opportunity for discussion of an i mportant issue. that takes the discussion in an unexpected direction. In a class examining sexism, a male student described feeling discriminated against for being in the milit ary. The professor saw the illustrative value of the example and le t the discussion go, allowing this more
117 tangentially connected example, in order to make a point that other direct, but less personal, examples had failed to make We were looking at sex ism in different contexts including the classroom, and I had sort of asked them to think about what they would do, and I had asked them if without leading them, if instructors in their classes ever made sexist or even subtly marginalizing comments, and nobody really had an example. I said what would you do if that happened? And a couple said I would e mail the instructor. If he pissed me off I would let him know. And it was s Being open to the link be course content allowed this professor to pursue her point in an unexpected, but no less effective, manner. The least foreseen teachable moments can take several forms, a challenge, a controvers s response to assignments. There are times when those surprise moments prove to be valuable enough that the professor wants to maximize their impact by re creating them in other classes. This is an attempt at what I call portabil ity.
118 Portability Some of the professors I spoke with talk about turning what was originally a surprise teachable moment and therefore a teachable moment for the professo r as well, into a calculated moment for subsequent classes based on the hope that the initial success was portable. Portability is the idea that a previously unforeseen teachable moment can be used by the professor as a calculated teachable moment in a new context. If an illustration, exam ple or connection had a strong positive impact in one class, even if it had originally been unplanned an instructor might try to use that connection in subsequent iterations of the class. These carry with them the same uncertainty of outcomes as oth er ca lculated teachable moments. Sometimes the re are differences in the compositions of the classes, the timeliness of an example or event will wear off, or Therefore gauging their effectiveness becomes part of the teaching proc ess. There are at least three different types of portability described in the interviews. Some cases, the professor tries to re create a moment or an experience. In another type, the professor uses the lessons learned in one class and incorporates them into subsequent course work. In the final type, a small class moment becomes a thread that weaves together themes, so the professor can come back to the moment repeatedly within the same class, and perhaps in other classes as well. In a case of a good teachable moment that a professor tried deliberately to re create, the element of spontaneity that made it initially exciting was lost in an attempt to re create it.
119 I have them study the Cold War. And so I have them do a debate. It wa s meant to plan but what actually happened was that Britain, America, and Russia ended up debating each other. Now, it was meant to be directed towards History, which was ano ther group of students. But I thought it would be History questioning each for any dialogue between the countries. But it was brilliant because the countries You know and it was just brillia nt, and it was one of those moments that were really into character. And it was just great. So, of course then the next time I taught the course I thought, oh, well, forget go And I think maybe because I had too high expectations because it went so well by chance the first time. them how to frame their que
120 were more stilted. While there is not a clear reason for the lack of portability the professor tried to capture the e lements that made the exercise initially engaging and in so doing changed the outcome of the exercise. In the original moment, that particular group of students interacted in a particular way to generate excitement and to surprise even the professor in the ir approach to the subject matter. In trying to engineer that synergy with subsequent do not always translate into successful replication ; not all moments have porta bility. The same professor, however, stumbled upon a simple analogy that illustrates a concept in her class. This analogy catches on and becomes a recurring theme. The hook may have been very small and spontaneous at first, but its usefulness in clarif ying a concept sustained its importance in aiding student learning. The professor may have provide d initial link, b ut the student response sustained its value and carries it to new contexts. A teachable moment can be something to be as silly as using an analogy. Like is neither fixed nor is it singular, that you can have many different identities. So I cam e up with this analogy off the top of my head about sweaters and clothing. weird. So one m
121 Britishness coming on and you can put on your British sweater, and you can feel that analogy came to me just in a moment of talking and trying to get across this. I felt like St. Patrick and the three leaf clover thing, you know. And it popped into know. So we talk about how certain things you can wear several of, but others But one has to be able to fit inside the other so we talked that about whether you could wear shorts and trousers. And I know it sounds silly but it actually makes them think s you can. spontaneous example comes at a moment where it meets with student experience to illustrate a course concept. The professor is astute enough to try returning to the analogy when appropriate and students pick up on subsequent opportunities to extend the connection. One professor, whose classes oft en involve field work, describes two separate surprise moments that arose and led her to change her approach to or desig n of field work assignments. Classes involving field work are designed much like clinical experiences to have students actively engage in the work of the discipline. T here are
122 many foreseeable moments that the prof essor hopes will be generated, but these two incidents are cases of surprise teachable moments becoming calculated moment s in subsequent semesters. The first involves students interviewing workers in ethnic food stores a task made more complex as immigration has become more of a concern. I had working in a store, a little Mexican place. And things seemed to be going really good, and then he went in one day and nobody would talk to him. He called me you are immigration. Now there are two ways to go about this. You can try to go back in with your ID and all this stuff and explain to them who you are and that you are not immigration. Or we can just find another place for you to do this, and I am Ok ay get past this. He went back in and yes, they were a fraid that he was immigration, and they worked through it, and this guy felt really good afterwards that he could get through that. The whole immigration thing has gotten heavier over time. I have been teaching this class over 20 years, so you know things change over time. So, this was the first time we hit it, and now I warn students about it. It may happen again. That is the reality of the world we live in for immigrants. In the second case the same professor describes another teachable moment, also involving interviews w ith members of another culture. This time the issue of gender i s complicated enough that the instructor subsequently put limitations on who m students
123 could talk to. This was in part to protect the students, not only from conflict, but also from getting too far into an assignment only to find they were unable to complete it. Eastern store and starts interviewing the woman who works there and after he has been in there a couple of times the husband gets pissed. So that teachable Students now interview people of the same gender. The professor indicate s a need to balance the exposure of students to the realities of the discipline with the academic and personal risks of that exposure. I mean his grade is dependent upon this i nteraction, so it is high stress. But that is the reality. You go out and talk to strangers, and things fall apart. And you have to control how much you are going to let things happen and how much you are going to protect them. I try to hit the middle; otherwise it is not real. Not only can the context of the class change, but the social context of the course can change, too. This professor gauged the impact of surprise moments resulting from societal issues and decided to either mediate the experience or avoid it for future students. Given this unpredictability, professors have to be ready to re think their examples and their successes and then analyze each class and each attempt at transplanting a moment to a new context. As the professor who used th e YouTube debate explains at one point invigorating, and then you try it the next semester and nothing, dead in the water,
124 it might be great in an ethnographer of my own class, basically, several times, and be ing an experimenter, not in a sense to social sciences experimentation, but in the sense of I guess aesthetic experimentation. portability, the same participant points out The between when it becomes historically relevant is still longer than the half life of its relevance. Another professor talk s of being curious each time to see if an exa mple retains its my own As contexts and student attitudes change, teachable moments may lose their impact. This shift of impact is one thing reflective faculty look for, since it reveals the need for change in teaching appro aches. So the realization that an old moment that is no longer portable becomes a new teachable moment for the professor. The challenge is to discover wha t has portability and what does not.
125 Moments emerge in given contexts. Attempts to transplant them may or may not succeed for a myriad of reasons. But, there do seem to be elements of the classroom environment that can facilitate their emergence. Classroom E nvironment While we say that engagement and interaction are central to the emergence of the teachable moment, interaction is not necessarily easy to generate or to sustain constructively. In the current educational and political climate, some even see encouraging interaction as a risky proposition. The media often reports complaints about the b ias of college faculty. State legislators suggest we limit our classroom teaching to our disciplines ; class sizes continue to grow. M ore and more topics seem to be off limits for discussion race, religion, politics and class. With all of these pressur es to limit or at least discourage classroom interaction, w hat classroom conditions lend themselves to the emergence of teachable moments? In order to discuss how teachable moments emerge, we need to look at the contexts in which they emerge and can be pu rsued. What characterizes a context that facilitates their emergence and sustains interactions to make them meaningful? The faculty I interviewed report several conditions that foster opportunities for teachable moments. Since interaction with and betwe en students is a central element, professors even in the large lecture classes -speak of getting students to talk to each other, to ask questions, to challenge ideas. Professors in this study often set out to create classroom environments that foster and manage interaction, maximizing the probability that teachable moments will emerge and that their pursuit will be meaningful. Many
126 deliberately set out t o convey this openness. Beginning with the firs t class session, professors try to set a tone or create an e nvironment in which students feel comfortable enough to discuss, inquire and even challenge. The i nitial tone allow s the first teachable moments to emerge, but the professor response to that emergence is what shapes the context for the next potent ial moment. There is a cycle that develops over the course of the semester as professor s and students learn what to expect from one another. This section will examine the initial efforts at establishing the general tone and environment. The subsequent s ection will look at the decision process and the factors that allow the moment to be sustained. Class size Class size has a significant impact on the way professors can interact with their classes. Many of the participants in this study teach classes wit h over 100 students at a time, some over 300. In classes of this size, it is both more important and more difficult to establish an open atmosphere where students feel free to speak and to question. While several people mention simply calling roll and le sections with hundreds of students acknowledge they a re not able to do that. They do, however, try to establish a relationship in other ways, creating opportunities for students to talk to each other, to work in gro ups, to use clickers to use e mail, to meet during office hours or to participate in TA led discussion groups. One tells of the difficulty of addressing sens itive topics in large classes where students may not feel comfortable revealing experiences or a ttitudes and where time also limits the opportunities to gradually develop ideas through interaction.
127 And you know the first time I had to teach a Racism class was 160. I wanted to cry. Because, you know, that is clearly straight lecture. And I think sometimes the tougher the topic, the smaller the class, or at least you know opportunities for them to bre ak down and talk. She goes on to say, We talked about student to student moments being very powerful. In large lectures, if they are under 100, we have no TAs. So it is difficult to do some of things I usually do. Fewer activities for student to stude nt interaction. We are losing those moments. It is harder to create them in class and I feel the absence. Another feels the challenge to keep larger classes engaged to the same degree as smaller classes. The issue is the different challenges of teachin g larger classes versus smaller. You know how much more individualized you can be with smaller, like for example, lab classes or hands on type classes. You know we have the same challenge with the active learning exercises and how much you can do with 20 s tudents as opposed to 100. One concern is that the large classes result in too much lecture and the simple transfer of information which is not his primary goal in teaching. I worry that, especially teaching a large lecture, that things are so prescribed and scripted that you miss that, and that can be an important part of my goal to help students become learners, and just giving them information, giving them
128 them take some responsibility. And so I want to be able to recognize opportunities for that (the spontaneous teachable moment). Larger classes seem to call for what is traditionally considered the most efficient means of transferring information, the lecture, and, at th e same time, they make it more difficult to pick up on the cues that would allow digression from that lecture. The need to balance the needs and interests of an individual student against the interests of a l arge group can be a challenge, but one person r eminds herself That if a student has a question, I will try to make an effort and first repeat the questions and get the class in gear and make the point that that is really good and cause if Overcoming anonymity Big classes can lead to student anonymity and sometimes a lessened sense of individual accountability. As one professor says, the students may realize that no one So, creating opportunities for interaction helps to generate different connections, making students feel accountable to thei r classmates in classes so large they might otherwise feel anonymous. I do a lot of group work. I will put them in groups of four or five and I try to have out a little bit around so they are not all in one group. I will allow chitchat. I will allow
129 conversations as part of that group because I think that helps them bond, and I think if they feel connected to their group. They feel connected to the class, so they are more likely to come because they feel an obligation. They know that they class down as well as me. The group ties are a substitute for class ties when the class is too large. Students cannot hide from their small work groups the way they may be able to blend into the large lecture. Being able to design small break out groups to allow for the level of interaction missing in the large lectures is another way to balance the demands of large classes with the need for interaction. In fact, the selection of TAs is a concern to faculty who oversee the discussion groups associated with very large classes. One speaks of being sele ctive about placing TAs in classes. I think the probability of them emerging and being able to go with them will be greater in the small groups. And they told me I can be selective on my TAs, so you know I got the TAs who have good interpersonal skills, ar e willing to listen, environment that way. Another wants to see how the TAs work and stresses their facilitator role while trying to decode what it is that makes the groups success ful.
130 stude same people will have sections that are wonderful and sections that are not really, but it teaches them something about teaching. One solution to the interaction problem is to us e clickers. While many of the people I spoke with knew of the clickers, few were using them at the time of the interviews. One, however, was using them to enhance interaction. Well, one of the things that I do that I find really helpful in the large lect ure said. And I use clickers to get them involved with the people around them. So simple defin itional question, you know of what we just talked about. They click in their answer and in the time that they have to click in their answer they can look gets kind of noisy s ometimes. Because usually I follow up then with a more really challenges their thinking beyond what we just talked about, you know, and sort of get them to think more conc eptually about the topic. And at that point they In large classes the out of class communication may be important in tapping teachable moments.
131 What I dealt with last week in class was some of the myths about sexual orientation, and some things like that. And that usually goes the way I anticipate. well, you know, and I get e get an email, in fact, that particular day I let them give me some feedback on the class in some informal course evaluation that was anonymous, and I got a lot of comments about this, that they were surprised at some of the stuff that came out about sexua l orientation. Whether a class is large or small, professors set the tone for interactions fro m the first class meeting, and even before. The next section will describe how faculty deliberately set out to create a classroom environment where interaction a nd engagement are more likely to emerge. Initial Class S essions Regardless of class size, the professors planning and first class meeting s establish a climate for interaction and engagement. Many professors describe using behaviors and expli cit instru ctions to inform students about how and when they might participate and contribute to a class Faculty who teach courses that address controversial comments are careful setting explicit ground rules for class processes. Many deliberately model the behavio r s they expect, and are conscious that smal l reactions may influence the flow of the class. Even small, taken for granted actions, such as calling roll can yield teachable moments and send messages both about process and tone. One professor describes th e basis for interactions in the classroom this way.
132 stupid comment. There may be some stupid answers, which I might give, but there are not going to be stupid questions. And so they h ave a comfort level that peers. And so, when I ask a question or I throw out an idea, I encourage them to r they say. First thing you do is treat the students with respect. You have to treat them to have the knowledge base that you do, that their level of inquiry and their need to both a provider of information and an access tool for them and someone who can leverage what they know within the context of your own biases and your own prejudice, which you ca n certainly admit to. He deliberately sets out to treat students in a manner he hopes will foster discourse while acknowledging that discourse does not necessarily mean agreement. Starting with something as simple as calling the roster on the first day of class, another person describes using name m ispronunciations as opportunities to model both his concern for students and his approach to handling mistakes.
133 One of the things I d o on the first day of most classes is I call roll. Now, experience a long time taught me that I was going to mispronounce some names, and it also taught me that the name on the list was not necessarily the name that the student preferred. So I always say s you prefer other than the computer generated name, let me know that becau se I why don theater history or something like that and students go, because people do this in real life too and they kee So, in this class, from the very first day, the professor demonstrates openness to individual prefer ences and identity, and also displays an attitude of acceptance for errors and their value in the learning process, laying the groundwork for students to take risks as the semester progresses.
134 Another participant talks of managing initial reactions to stu dent questio ns in order to show both enthu siasm and openness to questions, even if it means returning to topics already addressed. The very first day, how you answer questions, how you respond to students sets the tone, and they will get engaged if you have enthusiasm, if you have compassion, commitment, passion. I think that can help if you model those behaviors. I think they will stick with you. You know, having an inquisitive mind. reat question. lot of that is what you do from the very beginning. I mean, even in terms of a syllabus, what kind of tone you have in your syllabus, what kind of tone you hav e make sure you highli faculty can set. Even with basic questions about the syllabus, a professor who manifests a willingness to work with students until they grasp material, and demonstrates how they can access in formation for themselves, gives students confidence that future questions will be handled as respectfully. Some classes and some subjects entail taking emotional or intellectual risks in order to examin e ideas and attitudes in a new light S uch topics a s race, gender, religion,
135 and class can be difficult to discuss but are essential concerns in many disciplines. Instructors and stude nts both sense the risk, so professors try to model w ays in which sensitive topics can be addressed constructively, creat ing a safe place for examining difficult ideas. Those who deal with controversial topics often find it helpful to be e xplicit about the fact that such topics will arise and will be addressed appropriately. In the example below the professor, who is Bl ack, uses a story to show that a racist comment uttered by a student, while initially seeming offensive, was in fact constructive and courageous in the academic context In fact, I think it was almost the very first semester I taught a Racism class. I had a young man (a young white man) who talked about working as an Assistant Manager at Wal into the parking lot, grabbed h the class because he had the an example to say even though what he said was offensive, it was also very, very instructive. And so I retell the story. And I say, you know, wh en you take the risk like that you allow the opportunity for others to understand how they might
136 a risk, but you know we all grow from it. Because he grew from it, as well a s the rest of us, even though it was shocking. Given the power of his original admission, her response to the moment showed respect for that student and for his willingness to learn and to change. She affirmed that she believed that through classroom di scourse change is possible. In re telling the story, using the powerful language herself, s he demonstrates to her students that in her class such stories would be constructively examined, not used against those who sincerely wanted to learn. The portabili ty of the moment allows her to capture attention and set a tone drawing on the impact to the language she uses. Covenants The instructor above and several others talk about having the class work out a d etiquette for discussions, delineating respectful discourse. The initial contract can be drawn up as part of the first class, and is revisited as the professor or students see fit. I usually have to develop what I call (in classes that build controver you feel comfortable to take risks? And then we write those out, and then I say, th something, and you notice
137 the class or to me. So I have had students do that, saying somebody did something Another suggests that the c ovenant be revisit ed at the beginning of e ach class discussion d it, you know, in about 30 seconds to 45 seconds. And to start each class off that way, I think, is a way of creating that safe space. Encouraging D ialog Even with covenants, p rofessors describe having to be very explicit about the fact that disagreements are all right, that ideas can be challenged and that students can express their perceptions. Students do not necessarily believe they can or should disagree with classmates or with the professor. The way in which a professor addresses challenges and disagreements at first sets the context for subsequent discussions. The individual who teaches classes dealing with racism and with sexuality spoke more extensively and from more e xperience than many of my other participants about handling such topics constructively, therefore, in order to benefit from this experience, those ideas will be cited most extensively in this section. I believe interactions come from a climate that encour ages dialogue. I showed a This
138 so that opened up the door for me to see or talk about what I call intersectionality. It was the idea that all men are not alike. In this case a student was able to cha and a dialogue ensued, leading to a topic the professor had hoped to illustrate. The out disagreement, but to an examination of multiple perspectives. The concept of intersectionality and the value of the marketplace of ideas were reinforced simultaneously. At another time t he same person talks about making it clear tha t it is all right to challenge her in class. The way in which a professor responds to one moment then sets tone for subsequent moments. had students compliment me on that over the years. In large classes there are that, or the other. And so was something she brought up in class, and she indicated a disagreement. And The best ideas will eventually rise to the top and stick.
139 While making sure that the atmosphere in the class is conducive to serious discussion of difficult issues, the tone do es not always have to dour. A lighter tone does not preclude seriousness, but it can facilitate interactions. Many participants express a concern about the balance between entertainment and academics that is required to maintain engagement with ideas and to sustain interactions. One person reports I do a very rigid kind of outline on the board. I fill up the board three or four sets a mood for the class. And the mood inhibitions. But being lighthearted is not the same as abandoning earnestness and content. There is a tension between what some consider an emphasis on entertainment and serious teaching. Several faculty members warn that interaction and engagement do not necessarily mean learning. They speak of feeling the need to be performative in order to maintain engagement but are not alw ays confident that that translates to increased learning. The bigger the class, the bigger you need to be, especially for big ideas. I try to myself with points. I chang e physical location when I change perspective. I move myself to a new location when I enumerate a new point. Even in high school I
140 Even those teaching upper level undergraduate classes seem to feel the pressure to be And in undergrad classes you have to be in the whole acting mo ment. The Tonight Show basically. Even in my 4000 level undergrad, which is what I Although this may not really be a new problem, as two people observe, it is the medium that changes, but not the yearning for entertainment. There can be a tension between teaching and entertaining ; in the late 70s an older ned. They a bad thing. The lesson is not lost if it is done right. And at least one person sees this tension as pre dating even TV. I suppose this is true going back to S ocrates, that there was a certain aspect of teaching, as I joke about it now, but people do a standup comedy kind of thing. behind your lectern and talk dispassionately about what ever it is you are talking lectures that crop up, or interaction with students on a discussion level, there is always an aspect of performance involved in teaching, as there is in any kind of interaction. So performance and teaching have never been full y contradictory or fully reconciled. Instead, the people I spoke with do on going reflection and, as one said, sensemaking, to
141 differentiate and strike a balance between the appearance of engagement and actual engagement for learning. Trying to be attentive to what seems to engage people, without falling into the trap of thinking that because something engaged someone one time that that is is working, and you have to figure out is it the topic, is it the particular community in that room and at that moment, or is it something about a style of engagement? For some kinds of topics people really want to talk about their own experience. At oth er times they really want to talk in more abstract terms, and, you know, either of those things can get someone excited and get a class going, so Professors wan t to ke ep their classes engaged and try to set a tone that facilitates engagement and interaction, but do not want to step over a line into pure entertainment. Student centeredness While pro fessors are aware of the performative nature of teaching they are also concerned about the move from teacher centered to a learner c entered classroom. While this is a popular phrase, it is sometimes difficult to ac complish As we have seen, professors, especially those who teach larger classes have to try to balance the need for efficient delivery of content with student ownership of learning. The more the students participate in the class, the more they become responsible for their learning. One pers on sums up the problem of lectures and teacher centeredness with the observation that
142 The fact that you have a teacher lecturing keeps a lot of the students in this course My basic assumption with this class has been that the presence of the teacher teaching has been the biggest obstacle to this course. When the teacher teaching eliminates the student learning, and the students have to learn how to learn stuff on their own. Another talks about her shift this way. another way that teachable moments happen, when students are able to step up and become the experts And another prefers to step aside and let the students learn from each other know, I think that would cause me concern if I thought that they were looking to me for the answers or the figure in will, especially with the Comp students. But even with my upper division class I ot
143 do, but sometimes they tell me things, or I discover stuff through them so, I think always be everythin want you to be everything. They want you to be a parent. They want you to be a teacher. They want you to be a therapist. You know, they want you as their best friend. The move to increased student responsibility for the class and for their own learning will be discussed more in the section on goals later in this chapter. For now, however, we can see that those who want to have teachable moments emerge try to create a classroom atmosphere in which t he students are participants not just observers, and in which their questions and comments will be heard. Professors use specific strategies and behavior to establish a tone and a design that allows students to interact and engage, thus allowing teachabl e moments to emerge. Frequency So, how often do teachable moments occur? They are as difficult to count as they are to predict. Since each professor had a slightly different take on what one is or how they come about, each ha s a different estimate as to how frequently they occur. Those who speak more of calculated moments report higher numbers of moments. When asked how oft en such moments occur in their classes some who speak more of calculated or foreseen moments say
144 Like I s aid, I probably create them. I mean reading Dear Abby about which way you hold the fork, creates or draws people in; passing around a comic strip draws people in. I think I must do that a lot. I tell stories a lot. I show slides of various kinds of thi ngs. I think probably a good teacher is just creating that stuff. But even when they create them they may not be as frequent as one would like. One participant says Not often enough. I mean I consider a class to be particularly successful if I have a teachable moment in every class. But I strive for that either spontaneously or calculated. But some find them often, reporting Or, three in a three hour class. I guess those are the ones that I think of it being more of a community and a teachable moment. While th e person who wait s for the angels to sing, says about. You know, maybe once a month. The personality and dynamics of any given class will influence the frequency of the moment according to this participant. I think it totally depends on the class. And I think it often depends on the dynamic s in the class, and how many students you have who are the kinds of students who either are thinking critically about the material or who love to piss students off. I mean, those often, are the students, the volatile, loud, challenging students who love to
145 your classroom, then you rely on the students who are really engaged with the Th e participants who do not necessarily create the moments, but who teach controversial topics also find the m happening frequently, or at least believing that they are happening. all the time. And, as a teacher, you know when students h ave kind of checked out Perhaps there are more than we see. For me, I think a lot more is happening than we are aware of as the instructor. But for me it is not every class, not every we ek, maybe a few times a semester. to get my hopes up. But maybe I am using too narrow a definition. Because discussion really invites such moments, but for some reason they do stand out for me. Something has to happen in order for me to identify it as that. One participant provides a visual description of the frequency of teachable moments. ter happens for most students somewhere in the course of the semester. These last tw o quotes suggest that there is one more type of teachable moment whose existence instructors believe in and whose frequency they estimate B ut these moments
146 may remain un witnessed. The next section, will examine what faculty report about these un witness ed moments and their significance. The Un Witnessed M oment There is another kind of moment that is harder to describe because it is un witnessed and may never even be revealed to the professor. Many people describe hearing about these moments later, experiencing them personally, and needing to believe that they occur. These do not involve immediate recognition on the part of the student or the professor, and there is no immediate decision about following through. They do, however, come up in many of the conversations and highlight the delayed gratification aspect of teaching. There is a belief in the existence of the un witnessed moment, or, to A Hope in the Unseen (1999). These unseen moments may become mani life. T he descriptions point up the hope held by faculty that what they do in class will have longevity beyond the end of the semester, and that what they do will have relevance or connectivity to future learning as yet unknown. The hopes are founded on student performance, subsequent student feedback (some of it even years after the fact) and own experiences as students. The person who described personal teachable moments, but expresses the belief that they are quietly popping and that by the end of the regular teachi ng processes, and professors hope to be privy to them often enough to sustain confidence in their occurrence. Those teaching large classes express belief those
147 small teachable moments are happening in their classes, that students a re making connections an d feeling more attentive. They try to find small ways to confirm that learning has taken place and to sustain the engagements. But you know, the teachable moment does not always have to have you right there, physically present. I think you create the oppo rtunity, and there are a number of opportunities. But then for you to get some assessment of what actually happened, to have them either have a discussion on what they said to their partner afterwards or have them write it down. The person who describes the moments as being like popcorn receives written confirmation from some of her students either in formal reflection or in unsolicited letters later. addition to the university tool, where I ask for a narrative feedback. And this also gives the stude nts, too, the opportunity to speak about their own teachable moments. Where were the moments when learning happened to them? People who teach large classes hope they happen and know they may not see them. So in some way, I think I am teachable moment depr ived. Because I usually think of teachable moments, and I may be wrong about this, but I usually think of
148 teachable moments as happening more one on think it always has to involve the teachers either. As we saw earlier in t he field experience courses, s ome professors deliberately create out of class experiences or a ssignments so the students experience heightened awareness or understanding. They try to create particularly powerful out of class experiences that will make an impact; much the way a clinical practicum is created to give students a taste of the realities of a profession. Students are supposed to confront issues in dealing with other cultures or with doing research. While professors may learn of some of the mome nts when students bring their situations back to class, sometimes the students do not necessarily articulate these, but simply incorporate them into their experiences. As one professor reports, I provide the assignment, I provide the constraints and th Since so many of the goals held by faculty for students are long term and process having students come back even years later to tell them of finally understanding what they had been trying to teach, and others recall having such moments themselves and hoping their students will feel the same. The ones that matter to me are the ones who report it a year later or two years later. Or who have graduated, and I see them somewhere and they report it then. Because it reflects my own experiences with the long view of the emergence that teaching is not somethi ng that just happens right then, which makes the teachable
149 teachable moment I guess is something that happens two years later when something I taught opens up, and often this happens i n the former students, and sort of all comes together, which I think in best cases happens later when your course is done. And in his later interview this person re affirms the value of these moments. It is really not good for someone being evaluated by a teaching evaluation, but I think the best work that I do is going to be when something comes together for someone who graduated six years ago and they start to see something, and they are like oh, I know. something has really happened. At least two people express f ind ing solace in the idea that teachable moments ca n happen later My fall back is that And another muses I wonder is the teachable moment always that moment in t he classroom? Or does the teachable moment come later? I have had students come back to me and say
150 thr So, in the description of teachable moments at least one facet of the concept maybe unobserved and unobservable unless a student comes back to talk about it. In the discussion of long term goals in Question Two we also see this hope that the impact of classe s will extend beyond the end of the course calendar. Wrong T erm ether this was someone who did not reply to my invitation to participate, I will never know, but it does suggest at the very least ambivalence about the usefulness of the problem is that if you have a teachable moment, then it means that all those other be a teachable
151 In fact, this is the problem according to one participant who suggests that to call something a teachable moment draws the focus to teacher centered approaches and away from a more l earner centered paradigm while the moment we had been discussing was problems too. get ri d of the teacher teaching so you can get the students learning. So teachable Since it is the material that becomes lear nable in the moment the phrase is not more descriptive of what happens. He goes on to suggest epiphany moment, which another participant also referred to. For purposes of this research, I will continue to use the term teachable moment, but in the implications portion of Chapter Five I will examine the implications of the name further. Summary of Question One So teachable moments can take a myriad of forms a nd involve a myriad of personal interactions and connections. Faculty in my study report that teachable moments involve heightened engagement on the part of the student, heightened interaction and a shared interest in the topic at hand. Moments can be in dividual or involve the majority of a class. Teachable moments vary in their degree of predictability. We can look at them on a continuum from calculated professor designed attempts to
152 foster engagement through foreseeable interactions and on to unforese en moments generated by student interest. Professors have confidence in the existence of these moments beyond the view of the professor. The professors in my interviews deliberately set out to create a classroom climate where student engagement and inter action were possible and even probable. The awareness of the need for a safe environment in which to explore difficult ideas emerges in Question One and comes into play even more significantly in the data for Question Two concerning the decision making pr ocess for pursuing unplanned moments. Question Two : Elements of the Decision The second question in my research proposal asks what considerations contribute to or interfere with opportunities to explore teachable moments as they occur. Professors report having to make on the spot decisions about whether to pursue a line of interest that emerges during a class session. Sometimes they conclude that a moment can be developed. Other times there are practical, pedagogical, or academic concerns that outweigh the value of pursuit. This section will examine what some of the considerations are and how professors address or postpone these in order to achieve maximum benefits for their students. The data for this question is extensive and complex. There is not a linear process or established sequence of decisions that that professors follow. Rather, the decisions are contextual and overlapping. This section is an attempt to lay out some of the considerations is as linear a way as possible while acknowledging th e complex interaction of elements.
153 Risks In order to understand the need to make the decision whether or not to pursue a moment, we need to consider the risks involved in moving a class away from a plan. When unexpected topic s or issues emerge during a class session, professors have a limited amount of time to make a decision about how to respond. Since teac hable moments can emerge from a myriad of different sources, including professor provided examples, student questions, offhand remarks, and group discussions, there are a number of considerations are, depending on context, weighed differently in making the decision to pursue a teachable moment As Bonwell and Eison (1991) point out in their work on active learning, when a professor decides to set a side planned lectures to allow for more active learning, there are inherent risks like loss of time devoted to previously planned material, loss of control of content and /or process, and loss of face if not prepared Apparent digressions can also give rise to frustration in students who simply want to hear the professor present mat erial for the next test, do not see connections between the course work and the digression, or who are challenged in unexpected ways. This frustration can, in turn, lead to negat ive evaluations. As one person explains, The stuff of the mythical teaching moment is often stuff of various danger. You ecause they might just get mad. A different participant is concerned, therefore, that professors become too cautious and miss opportunities.
154 wild and crazy necessarily and say outrageous things simply to be provocative and to get responses. I mean, I think we need to be intellectually responsible. But re not sure. In other words, outc ome is going to be. What if it does become contentious? What if it does become argumentative? What if the student contradicts us? What if the student environment? I think some fac lot in terms of what we can gain from the cla ssroom. This quote raises concerns that we will examine in this chapter maintaining control, authority and classroom dynamics. One of the risks involves evaluations. Several participants mentioned the evaluation system as not rewarding faculty who pursue unplanned moments. This emerges especially when student and faculty goals are in conflict, or when students have not learned to learn from their peers, or examine personal beliefs through an academic lens. Even tenured faculty share this concern as we se e in this comment.
155 We are so at the mercy of the evaluations. And comments that say things like, ally interfere with better practice. I think with the discussion, that is where you have to The reward systems for faculty in general and student evaluations of instructors in particular are not always reliable indicators of, or even consistent with, pursuit of some of the goals that are less clearly defined than the content that appears on the next test. Professors, trying to balance their management of the class with spontaneous learn ing opportunities, may err on the side of control and comfort. When they do, however, they are making other sacrifices. T he risks of not pursuing an opportunity are there as well: the appearance of disciplinary irrelevance, inflexibility, unpreparedness or apathy towards student concerns. participation influences subsequent contributions. As we see in Question One the professors i n this study are interested in generating and main taining constructive interactions in their classes, so the manner in which they respond to a moment is significant in both substance and style. How are these matters weighed? How do professors manage to sustain an emerging interest even if they do not pursue the moment in class? This section will examine the elements of the decision making process and ways of responding to s.
156 Complex Interaction of E lements In their study of faculty reflection, McAlpine, Weston, Beauchamp, Wiseman and Beauchamp (1999) suggest that faculty read cues from their students and decide whether within a given range, the professor will not make adjustments while teaching. They suggest that this corridor of tolerance is contextual and involves a number of factors including faculty knowledge, experience and go als. The discussions with my participants about their decisions, while retrospective in nature, give some insight into how this might play out in a teachable moment. The decision to pursue a moment can be seen as choice to change plans because cues from the class suggest a value in doing do. Faculty balance risk and opportunity when the feedback they receive from a class leads them consider a digression, or as McAlpine et al would say, step outside the corridor of tolerance. The interview descriptions of decision making do not suggest that one dominant element outweighs all others. Nor do they reveal a consistent, sequenced decision tree where elements follow one another in a sequence. Instead, there is a complex interplay of considerations including involvement themselves any of several questions, in varying order. Is there time? What goal will this move us towards? How wil l this affect the operation of the class? Am I ready to address this? Are the students involved and ready? If the answers to at least some of these questions make the pursuit of a moment possible and desirable, professors will pursue it. If not, there ar e ways participants deflect the moment while trying to preserve student
157 interest. Since the elements are considered differently by different participants, and many expressed their own means of responding, the considerations and the response s will be combi ned in the reporting. The diagram below illustrates the complex interaction of factors in the decision to pursue a teachable moment in a college classroom. Faculty weigh the time available and the time required but it is only one element. They weigh t heir decision against their multi faceted course goals and the number of students who can be engaged in the content and the academic processes required. Finally, facult y readiness for both process and content influence how well the moment can be managed and how well students can be drawn into it. This section will examine each of these elements and the responses professors use as they make decisions about pursuing spont aneous moments. For purposes of analysis I have sorted the reported considerations into several categories, but those categories overlap and impact each other. For example, student readiness to handle the content of a moment will affect the number of stu dents capable of engaging in it. Figure 6 on the next page, shows the types of concerns described by faculty in this study and the ways in which the concerns interact with each other.
158 Figure 6. The interaction of elements involved in faculty decisions to pursue teachable moments. Not all factors are weighed equally or considered in each decision. The consideration and interaction of elements is context specific. Professors read cues from the class and feel the need to make on the spot decisions. While these decisions are difficult to capture retrospectively, they do happen and do involve professors reading verbal and non verbal feedback from students and changing plans when necessary, even in classes they have taught before. One describes the decision point this way. Faculty Goals Student goals Faculty Readiness Student Readiness Number of Students Engaged Process Content Classroom Dynamics Process Content Available Time
159 eady if somebody says something. I something, or has a comment t hat I never would have thought of. I am never anticipating that at all. Then you have to be ready and willing to pick that up and improvise and reformulate on the spot what is going to be happening the rest of that class period. And another reports I don want to go to the same well too often, so you try to have different things happen. This person is watching and listening and is ready to reformulate whatever was planned in order to capitalize on the comment that emerges unforeseen. A different participant captures some of the complexity and contextual basis of this decision by making an analogy to acting. There is a famous, in acting circles as well, and other historical circles anyway, essay by an American actor/playwright named to give every audience the performance you gave on opening night. And that involved in that. And so that means being alert and able to do that, and sometimes in a performance we have to be alert to the sort of micro changes that occur. You
160 know, if somebody asks you a question that they asked the night before, but th e rhythm is slightly different or they for some reason, or for whatever reason they the same way because the audience, although again they may not cognize it, will get t his sense that there is a kind of dissonance between the stimulus and in pursuit of a larger plan. So the teacher prepares for what can be anticipated by being more highly alert to what is different in a given context. In the case of the college classroom, that difference will be manifested by student responses to material and its presentation. Faculty then read these cues. Other participants made the analogy to public extem poraneous speaking. One explained it this way. Good public speaking is extemporaneous which means you know what has to be have to be willing to stick within that framework but be ready to come up with ideas on the spot, come up with examples on the spot, that just strike you right that openness is part of being able to take something they say and show them how it fits in because it shows that they intuitively understand something, right? And I can transform it into lecture ish stuff at the same time. So that kind of flexibility is probably important. But it requires just as much preparation. I thi nk that just
161 writing out a bunch of notes and sticking to it is less preparation, even though it do that. This theme of preparing in order to digress from a plan comes up in man y interviews. I will examine the preparation aspect later in this question when I discuss faculty readiness. The decision to change plans is t hen based on cues that professors read from the ir class. They may be verbal, like a direct question or comment, or they may be non verbal signaling either engagement or disengagement. And you know as a teacher you know when students have kind of checked out or channels and go to where you plan to go or do you let that go a little further? B ut even in a lecture class, I mean, you can tell when your students are engaged whe something into the ground. But at the same time when those opportunities arise... And most report making quick but deliberate decisions about how or how far to follo w an idea in class. well you know my background or anything else, I just thought I had a moment where I said, okay, I can either let this go or I can address it. And it was a
162 teachable moment in the sense that I was able to address it in the context, already, of what we were dealing with. Here are descriptions from my participants describing some of the interacting elements including time, relevance, readiness and classroom dynamics. Time Time i s a concern for m any of those interviewed. If the benefits of spending the time outweigh the cost in time, faculty will m ove on to other considerations, but if there is not enough time they will find a way to deflect, but not squelch the moment. One time, which has happened. Many others echoed this concern, and some wrestle with the concern constantly. I view time as the enemy, because you have to Can I go there? Or, you know, can I go there later? Or is this something I just let know, it happens. The concern for class time is influenced by the design of the course and the constraints of the semester calendar. There are times in the course of a semester that do not allow as much flexibility as do as other times Like now, with okay, well what do I not cover? Because this is what is up. This is what is important for them to learn.
163 S o faculty feel the tension between the potential richness of a moment and the pressures to cover material, especially when course deadlines or examinations are approaching. Professors impose their own content driven expectations, yet struggle with them fearing on the one hand that students will arrive in other classes without the necessary breadth and on the other that they are being too rigid. using some of the old questions from old exams and ol d assignments. And in order for that to work a certain amount of material has to be covered each time. Plus, in a class like the higher level courses about that, because you know, the teachable moment idea would tell y ou to not have such a rigid plan and to let it sort of unfold. I think with more skill I would be able to handle that. My problem is just time management. Participants feel that they must cover certain bodies of knowledge in order to prepare the students p roperly for upcoming exams or for subsequent courses. This concern is not limited to foundation or introductory courses as one person explains I think it goes across all of them (upper and lower division) because I think the upper level classes maybe f eel the same pressure to cover a certain amount of material.
164 Many of the people I spoke with report that Power Point plays a role in defining time constraints. While some people mentioned their outline points or syllabi, several indicated that the number of remaining slides is sometimes the ir overriding concern. those teachable moments or to pick up on those opportunities we have because we have a set agenda, we have PowerPoint slides And another participant puts it this way. ne of the challenges PowerPoint slide. And yet, if there is a certain amount of material that I feel is ne get to then I guess I would be a little more brief with that discussion. The number of Power Point slides has come to represent the content, pace and scope of a given class session, reinforcing the tyranny of the content over time. Despite the fact that the faculty memb er may have created the slides, once they are created and the slide show has begun, they impose a scope on the
165 The tension over time, weighing plans against unplanned opportunities in terms of time, cuts acros s levels and across disciplines in my study and participants believe that students worry about time as much as professors do if they feel like class is not prepa ring You promise them that they will finish them (the outline po ints the professor has provided) over their attention, and they will then resist any detours from the plan, even if the professor does believe there is enough time. We will come back to this concern when we look at the potential conflicts between students and faculty goals all of which play out within the con fines of the semester calendar. Relevance In deciding whether or not to pursue a teachable moment in class participants in this study place an emphasis on the relevance of the topic to a goal they hold for their students. While this sounds straightforw ard, what is noteworthy is the number of different goals. Goal relevance can be relevance to something as specific as the content r to something as broad as life long learning. Therefore, while the element of relevance is central t o decisions, it allows for flexibility in choosing the types of moments to be pursued. Faculty are concerned with balancing the broad and narrow goals they have for their class, again balancing the concern for both breadth and depth within the subject mat ter, but adding a concern with academic skills beyond disciplinary content.
166 Professors have a wide range of goals for their students. Entwistle and Walker (2000) report that faculty go through a series of developmental stages in their approaches to tea ching. These stages are similar to the cognitive stages that college students experience. Professors, according to their model, begin teaching focused most heavily on presentation of content and later develop more student centered approaches until they a chieve what the authors call a strategic awareness of events in the classroom, allowing a balance of content with a process that is responsive to what is happening in the class itself. Looking at the combined concerns of the professors in this study, we can see a similar range of concerns. For the purposes of organizing this data presentation, I have arranged the reported concerns for goal relevance in order by relative breadth beginning with class session specific goals. The participants in this study often mentioned that a moment had to be relevant for them to purse it, but t hey report considering a wide ranging set of goals that allows them to respond to a wide range of unplanned opportunities. The g oals become increasingly broad initially covering class or course content, then discipline based concerns, and finally academic processes and life long learning skills. There is some overlap in these goals, or as Entwistle and Walker say, o think critically is initially an academic goal, but thinking critically has influences in life long learning. The goals are reported here according to the descriptions and reasoning provided by the participants. The following Figure 7 summarizes the ca tegories that emerged from my analysis of goal relevance as an element of the decision to pursue a teachable moment. Class goals are
167 specific to a class meeting. Course and discipline goals are broader content objectives, while academic processes and lear ning orientations refer more to the skills and attitudes required to succeed in the academy and after graduation. Figure 7 Categories of goals. Teachable moments that are relevant to at least one of these categories of goals are more likely to be pu rsued. Relevance to C lass The easiest decisions to pursue teachable moments seem to come in cases where pens the door for clarification, as in the case of the fafafini discussed on page 164 or when a documentary opens the door for a good discussion. Since these moments are within the specific plans for the class, my participants who talked about these are ready to pursue those opportunities, indeed they plan and hope for them. It is only a slightly larger stretch to consider course goals Class Course Discipline Academic processes Learning Orientations
168 when weighing opportunities. If a question, comment, or example arises that fits easily within the scope of the course, professors are more likely to pursue it. The example of students observing parent child interactions at a football game fell within the subject matter the professor expected to cover. Even if ideas are scheduled to be addressed at a later class, if the relevance is easily established and if the students are ready, the professor may proceed. We saw in the section on time concerns that professors feel a tension between keeping on track for the next test and taking digressions that can enhance the class room experience. This is a concern felt by both the students and the professors. There is an expectation that in those three hours you will help advance those students; you will help them advance their understanding of (the subject of the course.) So it or I saw the movie version of t S This person keeps the student expectations for content in mind and makes an effort to remain on that track, even in the digressions, acknowledging interest without allotting a great deal of time. Student perceived connection is not suff icient reason to take a great deal of class time if the topic will lead the class too far afield.
169 e students may be bored or not. g about I will spend a minute or two pursuing it, answering their questions. But then I will move me in my office hours or something like that. If something is not clearly relevant to the topic of a class, postponing the conversation is one response we see from professors. Linking inquiries to possible paper topics is another way to engage the student, link a moment to the goals of the class and assert the value of the inquiry without involving the entire class in the conversation. be something to explore in you Think about it, make a note and we can talk later. Here a single response by the professor conveys multiple messages about the value of the question or comment and about the process of selecting research o r paper topics. But the appropriate connection to course material on some level is not always obvious, even to the professor. Sometimes you know a person is just crazy, and they start talking about something that they think is relevant but no one else c
170 The offer to take the conversation up after class is a way to get the class back on track without appearing to dim inish or demean a con tribution. Relevance to the C ourse the only criterion. Overlapping with and branching off from class relevance is course relevance. More people in this study discussed their broader course goals as being an element in the decision to pursue an unplanned moment. In fact, having longer range course goals yielded a flexibility that allowed for more possible meaningful digressions. A specific example of this kind of plann ing for flexibility is recounted earlier in the case s of the professor s who connected the course content to the Virginia Tech shootings There are certain sort of floating topics in my course that can be addressed Having th e themes of the class in mind, this person was able to adapt the course content in order to demonstrate the relevance and the methods of the discipline while addressing a contemporary student concern. One participant describes relationship between goals and flexibility this way. I have this whole sort of constellation of things that needs to happen every semester, and a smaller constellation of things that I hope will happen during one ath the openness to whatever is unknown that is going to be happening in the world because those are always the things that make the most sense for what I am talking about. The present tense is so important.
171 Having broad themes that run through a course, themes that can be visited or revisited as moments present themselves allows professors to react in a timely manner to events within or outside the classroom without sacrificing their objectives for the course itself. The idea of broad themes emerges ag ain when an instructor of a general education course reports I have my three or four course goals for them that are very general and very listen to me long enough to get som ething out of it. And you know given that ric, to appreciate other cultures for the things that run throughout. So timely illustrations can be linked back to the general course goals and pursued as they arise. This way the broad goals are reinforced throughout the semester to maximize their impact. A specific example of this comes from another participant. The same person who is concerned that not too many outline points remain at the end of class reports, At the end schedule, about the meaning of nations and the concepts of national community and national identity. And so you think, well, they got that, which is a valid
172 topic? Will it help in some way them understandi ng the larger material? Faculty awareness of their priorities for their courses and for their content allows them to be flexible without straying too far from their intended material. not to the immediate class topic, but to a long term theme, it might be pursued Yeah, if I feel like it is a theme. I do have a few themes I try to hammer home all along. Having, not only goals or themes, but a logical framework that models professo approach to the material can also help faculty decide how and if they follow through with Sometimes they say something that is not quite it. Sometimes it is blatantly wrong. Sometimes they have insights. There are different ways to see something. I have them follow the consequences of what they say. To see where it leads. Sometimes they misread in terms of the internal logic. These let me take them over a lot of material in a issues. What does the system of magic in one African society say about magic in general? And within this, how can it inform us generally? Th ere is a logical framework. Trying to work in layers the logic of the piece and how that fits within the logic of the course.
173 In this class, when students are discussing a piece of writing, they may take the discussion in various directions, but the professor makes decisions about that process based on these layers of logic, providing a consistency within the variety. This serves to develop both a general approach to academic material and a sense of the logic of the field. The need to connect inform ation beyond single class meetings might mean reducing the focus on some details. This does not mean, however, that errors go unchallenged. specific knowledge of dates, o f times, figures and names. Now glaring mistakes I would not allow and would correct. When it comes to the exam if they tell me What I tell them matters more is that they know th at World War I came before World War II and that there was a direct link between the two and how one led to the other. Rather than the specifics on which date the Treaty of Versailles was signed, better that they should know the contents of that treaty con tributed to the creation of conditions which contributed to the growth of war fever again. In covering course material the stronger the connections between and among ideas, the more in depth are the concepts pursued. The concern for time is addressed in p art by broadening the goals. As one more person explains,
174 to do too much. I mean, doing less b ut doing it well is better than trying to do too much and just getting everybody really confused. Having in mind broader course goals allows participants in this study to be flexible, to pursue interesting moments that arise, but to not lose sight of their long term goals for their courses. Faculty in this study have even broader goals than this. They go on to talk about their commitment to demonstrating the roles and methods of their disciplines. Disciplinary R elevance On a slightly more general scale some moments are relevant to the larger discipline if not directly connected to a particular course. In particular here, professors identify opportunities to demonstrate the methods or the relevance of their disciplines to broader interests expressed by t heir students. Instructors express the hope that students of class experiences. Participants value being able to illustrate the relevance of their disciplines to curr ent events or popular concerns, but they did not talk as frequent ly about modeling the methods of their fields. In the example of using YouTube political debates as a timely When you can pick what you are doing and connect it to something like that, it also says something about the field and In this case, being able to take a piece of current events in popular culture and examine it from a disciplinary perspective provid ed an illustration of the course content
175 and methods and, at least as significantly, it illustrated the timeliness and relevance of the field of study. Another professor describes a hope that such moments will encourage students to recognize applications of the field of study even outside of class. One of the things I strive for is for my students to take what they get in the course, course, and take it outside the course. So I could see them coming back or This professor, then, encourages students to use the content and metho ds of the class in new arenas and bring those observations back to the class. Showing that the discipline has relevance carries over into concerns for life long learning and the application of the discipline to current events beyond the duration of a given course. A participant who reported carrying in loads of books and planning well beyond the allotted time explains her concern this way. Create opportunities, both structured and unstructured, to make learning a life long orientation. This is especially and important lesson for seniors to take with them. They can see where the field is outside the classroom. Learn to learn as they go on. Here there is a double concern, that the be carried outside of the classroom and tha t students learn to continue to learn.
176 The examples of discipline related goals mentioned here address opportunities to pursue teachable moments with an entire group. There are additional subject area goals that are pursued when participants choose to p ursue moments with individual students outside of class. Since the focus of those relates more closely to the number and degree of engagement, illustrations of those pursuits are included in that section of the data. Relevance to the course and relevance to the discipline factor into faculty decisions about pursing teachable moments. These are not the only types of relevance that might be considered. Faculty I spoke with also consider the relevance of the moment to a much broader set of goals relating t o academic processes and academic values beyond their own disciplines. Relevance to Academic P rocesses Many f aculty in my study are concerned about students developing a set of academic skills and values that transcend their own classes and disciplines, y et apply across these arenas. These skills which I call academic process skills, include self expression, critical thinking, appropriate methods discourse, evaluation of evidence, responsibility for self learning, and ethical decision making. While the se may not be content based, or content specific, faculty report that these skills are very important in the decision to pursue a moment. Professors look for process readiness when deciding to pursue a teachable moment. When this readiness is lacking, th e professor is in a double bind, recognizing the opportunity provided to enhance student skills but hampered by that very lack. Further complicating this issue, is the fact that these skills take longer to develop and are harder to test and grade in any s ingle course. As a result, students,
177 lacking a long term integrated perspective on their academic careers, may not share the encouraging moments that foster student parti cipation, discussion, critical thinking, ethical development, and responsibility for learning. These are the goals covered in the category of academic processes. Participation The first consideration for some faculty is simply getting students to participate in class by speaking out. Not all students are ready, and not all classes are moments. Pa rticularly in this class where part of it is getting them comfortable using their voice, I am always thinking that I would rather have them talking than me talking. Really, they should be. It is a small class. When will they get a chance to speak in an academic setting if not in that class? So I have been kind of looking at that as the goal of the class and that has influenced a lot of my decisions to stop with are not use d to talking in periodic academic conversations, so it takes a lot of practice. You need to give it to them. This professor goes on to acknowledge that providing this practice does not always feel productive when it is happening, and that the long term g oal may not come to expressed confidence that it within that class but will serve the students in the long run. When a student who rarely speaks in class makes a c ontribution, many professors see this as an opportunity they should capitalize on Not only do the students notice
178 when a new person spea ks up, but the professors want to make sure they affirm the value of the contribution and reinforce the act of participation. Professors feel accountable for maintaining a tone that allows future st udent contributions. I think the most amazing teachable moments are the ones where the student has sat in your class all semester, never said anything and all of a sudden pipes up. nking, have always been quiet, or whatever, the students respond to them all of a sudden, r The student speaking is to be encouraged and the attention generated by a new voice Another professor talk s about working to make sure a student contribution is We will respond to different moments different ways. The student who rarely says anything, you really want that to be a moment, and so you r eally want to connect it to keep that going. participation encourages that student and everyone else to contribute to the class. Sometimes process is what demonstrates content. In the case of the student with a military background who volu nteered his experiences of in class discrimination, the professor allowed this student to pursue his illustration even though it was not a specific example of gender based discrimination, which was the topic of the day.
179 I felt like I had to go with what he was saying in order to illustrate my openness. Although he is a fairly active participant. If he had been quiet it would have been a no brainer that I wanted him to talk. Part of my thinking at the time was with the dynamics of the class and modeling something about giving voice to people. In order to reinforce the message that voice is valued, the professor allowed this moment to play out even though on the surface the contribu tion may have appeared less relevant experience worked into the discussion and the value of voice was affirmed in action as well as content. So one goal held by pa rticipants is to get students comfortable speaking in class. Once they do begin discussing ideas, the next goal is to help students discuss even controversial topics in a manner befitting an academic setting. To accomplish this, faculty report wanting st udents to think critically and formulate arguments that are based on sound reasoning and evidence. Critical thinking Being able to think critically and use that skill to formulate arguments and participate in discussions are skills at the center of aca demic involvement. Many individuals in this study believe students should learn to argue and discuss ideas in a respectful and academic manner. Many cite the adage that the university is the true o play out in their classes. In Question One I reported the efforts of some professors to establish a tone of openness by using covenants, examples, and verbal recognition.
180 Students need to learn to participate in academic conversations, and to form arg thanking a student who disagreed, also mentioned that hat I do. You have to know gument is the Having an academic argument without having the class session deteriorate into a negative or destructive interaction requires faculty guidance and intervention. This may be risky for faculty and for students. Since surprise teachable moments give professors less time to prepare and anticipate ways a discussion might proceed, but may also be characterized by increased i nteraction around a topic of students care about, the ensuing discussions can provide students with the opportunity to examine their beliefs in the light of other thin king skills.
181 The ability to formulate a verbal argument and take responsibility for it is an academic skill that develops slowly with practice. In many classes, students learn argument in written form, but not always as an interactive skill. Being abl e to formulate a cogent written argument may entail anticipating dissenting points, but it does not replicate discussion in an open forum. In oral discussions there are more variables and more potential responses and counterpoints. In a writing focused cl ass where a student was particularly argumentative, one professor explains managing responses to model clear thinking and verbal argumentation while avoiding getting into personal debate. I think the students finally got a sense that he was very illogical in his arguments. And so, one of the things which I talked to them about in class is being logical and organized, even in their verbal arguments, so that they can transfer that to the onnection between the verbal argum ent and the written argument. The same person, when talking about addressing the racist comment made by a different student, affirmed that their use of language and argument was one of the reasons the racist comment was ad dressed. You want the student to take responsibility for what they say. You want them to Part of being re sponsible for what they say is being able to examine and cite evidence in support of an argument. These skills are part of the long term goal of teaching students to think critically.
182 The ability to evaluate and to present evidence to support an argument is another long term academic goal. The work of King and Kitchener (1994, 2009) illustrates just Reflective Judgment Model, many did talk about the need for students to learn to evaluate evidence and use it in their own thinking and speaking. Faculty are concerned with students learning to differentiate between personal experience, anecdote and stan dards of evidence in a discipline. We saw this in the response to the cat in the nursing home and the question of vaccines and autism that people mentioned in Question One. The media reported connections, but the professors urged students to look at evide nce from a more scientific perspective. One of these professors, who also works with a TA leading a discussion group, described talking to the TA about how to develop critical thinking in undergraduate students while allowing a range of opinions. The TA had just led a discussion about corporal punishment. It is important to use that discussion to actively show the difference between opinion and empirical evidence to support a theory, because she sort of set it up in a way that we are going to be respectf ul of opinions. Well, you are respectful of opinions, but you also have a responsibility to teach what you know is baseless in involved in doing those critical teaching ski this is how I was raised so this is right or wrong. There is a balance to be struck between respect for difference and acceptance of untested ideas. Instructors work to learn the difference and convey the need for both to their
183 classes. In this quote we see the concern expressed earlier, that flexibility and openness not be confused with laxity. In a different field of study, another professor talks about teaching students to look at evidence this way. Where I am tal Here the challenges to an idea are expected to be based on evidence, but even evidence can be in conflict and is, therefore, subject to evaluation. When students make an assertion about a text, one professor reports looking at the not just the content of the text, but also at the means of formulating arguments about it. Students need to learn to provide evidence for their arguments. understan ding a play, or what does this play mean in its one and only meaning, but rather what are the kinds of things that you look for. Or what are the kinds of things you found? What do you make of those things? How can you begin to put them together in some wa times my response to student ideas or comments and things are questions. I go, about this piece of evidence over here?
184 where I, anyway, attempt to guide the student more into the process of thinking This profess or seeks to balance the planned course content with a desire to accomplish broader goals so the students learn the content of the material and develop the ability to support their ideas with argument and evidence. Discussing religion and ethics. Of partic ular concern are moral and religious arguments, as some of my participants report that students either do not know how to discuss religion, values and ethical issues, or would prefer not to. In Question One we saw how faculty attempt to create a safe plac es for students to explore difficult ideas. Even with these efforts, the results are not automatic and professors report wanting students to learn how to discuss sensitive issues and formulate ethical and moral stands. Again, student unfamiliarity with t he process of discussion and discomfort with some topics compound the difficulty of talking about sensitive ideas. Faculty, recognizing the need for these types of discussions also experience frustration over trying to generate them. As an example, the p rofessor who wanted students to discuss the moral aspects of the bombing of Hiroshima describes the purpose of that this way. Prohibition and not think that there were people out there who firmly believed mor al issue for these folks. So, you
185 based. the fact that the se people have these beliefs, and that their religion was terribly important to them and they wanted to make that religion actually play out in a process of learning and then coming up with your own set of values, your own set of understandings as to, in my discipline, what happened. And you get as close as you can to what constitutes particular sets of truths or realities or what you can accept as the past. For you. Okay? You very much. You like particular events in history, which you see as positive and at the textbook and answering the questions at the end of the chapter. events and draw conclusions about them in ethical and moral terms, the reluctance of students t o discuss the ethical and moral underpinnings of events makes the discussion process simultaneously more difficult and more necessary. According to another participant in this study, students do want to discuss topics like religion, but lack the tools to d o so. This (religion) is an area both ends of the continuum, those who are religious and those who are not, need to learn how to talk about; I give them permission. Here are the frames, we can talk about it ways to access it. Students want to talk
186 about t framework. This is a teachable moment about the academy and the market place of ideas, how to conduct discussion and inquiry. Providing a framework and a model for respectful classr oom conversation and for examining ideas systematically, lets students explore ideas they may not been able or willing to examine previously. So it is not that they are unwilling to explore the topics, but they need to feel safe in doing so. Some teachab le moments arise when student comments reveal racist, sexist, or stereotypical beliefs, and professors feel an ethical responsibility to intervene. We saw this in the case in Question One where the student made a racist comment, and the instructor believe d the minority students in the class were relying on her to intervene. Another professor explains the sense of responsibility this way. I think I have realized how immature the student is and how receptive. It is important to intervene, this sounds prete ntious, but in their moral development in that case. It is a profound teachable moment to interrupt the kind of stereotyping that is so easy to fall into. Influencing student moral development dovetails with critical thinking, as faculty encourage student s to examine their beliefs and make their own decisions about them. Another participant explains, nge, you
187 being able then to make a decision as to whether they are worth following or not rather than just doing it because this is the way I have been told, and this is wha t I think. Learning to think about issues, use evidence, and hear other perspectives can help students arrive at their own sets of beliefs. But one person tells of a student inquiry that highlighted how difficult a process this can be. This professor, who is quoted earlier talking about presenting other opinions so students will know the arguments that are out there tells the story of a student who posed a question thinking about revealing personal opinions in the classro om. we were at the end of the unit and this young man raised his hand at the back of we are at a moment when we are trying to learn So, he said, s how they make those In this case a student was asking the professor to model the critical thinking processes that led to personal opinions so the students could learn that process for themselves. The professor no w deals differently with personal opinions in class, going on to say,
188 I do. You have to know the arguments for some of the positions that we take yields a teachable moment for the professor as well. This requires a balance between expressing personal stances and advocating student decision making. So, teaching critical thinking and argumentation includes modeling the process of arriving at personal beliefs on complex issues without advocating that students accept those beliefs unquestioningly. Not everyone agrees that professors should express their own positions, but there is a difference between expressing them and advocating them. Learning orientations The last set of goals in the conti nuum pertains to what I call learning orientation s This set of goals relates to how students approach their own learning and carry it on beyond the academy. Included in this set are developing the abilities to learn from fellow students, to assume respo and to continue learning after leaving the university. O ne of the real challenges for faculty who want to pursue teachable moments is the resistance that some students exhibit to learning from one another. Since the numb er of students engaged in a moment is a critical factor in its pursuit, faculty want students to be open to learning from each other. As we will see in the discussion of numbers, however, students will often shut each other out. So, an academic goal that faculty hold, but students may resist, is the ability to learn from each other. Many professors report this is an obstacle to pursuing teachable moments, but they also report the tremendous value of students sharing experiences and of learning from one a nother. While students
1 89 may be resistant to learning from each other, preferring to hear what the professor wants them to know, once opportunities to share are available, students seem to respond to them. This may be, in part, related to how the professor communicates the value of the One person, who told me that the goal is to get the students to become the teachers talks about leading the class until achieving Teachable moments that build on each other. And the rea son I say that is at least for a part of the class I try to foster discussion. And sometimes it works better than others, depending on their preparation, my preparation. But I would say, in that trying to use the Socratic Method in helping them build off o f each other, that I would see their comments as really the opportunity for teachable moments. The teachable moment is when they learn that they are going to be teaching going to change roles here and by the end of the semester they should be Leading discussions and sustaining interactions early in the semester gets students to ease into the idea they can learn from each other. Further into the semester, the primary method for accomplishin g this goal is an oral history semester which of course is
190 semester all along. Because they love listening to each o ther. They applaud. You flower. They perk up. I mean, the person can stand up there and look disheveled, not really well prepared, especially, but tell about interviewing his g randmamma. And people just applaud at the end. And I think that that really is, again, I think symbolically as well as in reality, you (the student) become the teacher. And so I ally There is a gradualness in building these habits up over the course, taking small steps that might not be significant alone, but which may come to fruition by the end of the semester, or, as some have suggested, even later. In the previous comment, we can see that the professor hopes that students will learn from each other, but also that they will take ownership of the course. This leads to the next learning orientation goal, which is that students assume responsibility for their own learning. Sev eral professors I spoke with express ed the desire that students assume responsibility for their own learn ing and learn and think for themselves. They describe teachable moments as those ti mes when students take responsibility for their learning, learn from one another, or learn how to learn for themselves. My goal is to help students become learners, and being, just giving them to recognize opportunities for that.
191 In addition to learning from one another, students need to learn to assume responsibility for their own learning. Ano ther person echoes that desire for students to become self learners this way. self responsibility, self teaching, right? All learning is really self teaching in a sense. All teaching is trying to create an opening for self teaching to happen. moment, empowering the students to take responsibility for the content of the course. The responsibilit analogy to try to illustrate to students the need to participate in their own educations, not just rely on professors to tell them everything they need to know. So I really spend a lot of ti me trying to, you know, foster the sort of twin always use is of the gym. College and the gym are the two things that you purchase that require you then to do a lot of wor k yourself. You know so in the analogy that I always use is that you pay the money to the gym and you come in In many of the moments we examine, the faculty member comments on the value of engagement and of rewarding participation because it is when the student assumes ownership of the learning. As is the case with most of the goals professors have, turning the l earning orientation inward results from teachable moments and facilitates their
192 pursuit. Once students learn to learn for themselves, the next hope is that they will continue to do so after leaving a class. While professors always hope that what they ar e teaching will impact students long after the end of the class, they realize that this may not be the case. A few people in this study did explicitly mention life long learning and changes in ethical or thinking skills as goals. The individuals who talk ed about the need to formulate evidence based and moral arguments and apply them outside the class, the person who feels responsible for interrupting stereotypes, and the person who is concerned that seniors see the application of the discipline in new are nas express the value of a life long learning orientation. Another person asserts the values of critical thinking, curiosity and the ability to make connections. I think that one of the guiding principles of a liberal education is to try to get students sure you know, one of the largest problems I think that we have is that from high school at least on if not earlier, students begin to think of each class as a kind of separate box very least go, so you remember that history class you took when you studied this? Well, this was happening at the same time, and you know that. But you have to remember to think about what yo I believe in my subject matter, but I also believe that more important than that for most of these students is just being able to think critically and to learn to foster their curiosity, which is one of the thing s that seems to get bleached out of
193 my data set I will. So, goals can range from the mastery o f a specific skill or idea during one class session, to re framing perspective on complex moral, ethical, or educational questions for the rest discretion in choosing to pursue a teachable moment, students do not always share all of these goals. Many of my participants talked about their goals, but many also willingness to go along. Goal c onflict Professors, as we have seen are more likely to pursue moments when they see the relevance to their goals. Students share the need for relevance, and the more clearly they can see the connection between what is happening in class and th eir own goals, the more likely they are to participate in the teachable moment. goin the more teachable people are. So whatever you can do to try and foster that is really helpfu l in terms of creating more of these kinds of moments.
194 Students are willing to participate when they see the relevance of a moment to something they want to know or do. The relevance of a moment, however, may not be as clear to students as it is to profes sors. As we have seen, my participants speak of students who are unready or unwilling to address controversial topics and who are unwilling to go outside the confines of the of the unplanned moment. Students want to make sure they have the information for the next test and may not see the long term impact of learning to discuss, or of listening to other between appealing to what students think they need and developing what the academy values. College is a period of major developmental change when students move from a reliance on authority for truth through periods of doubt and eventually establishing th eir own criteria for acceptance and creation of knowledge. In any given classroom, there are likely to be students operating with differing degrees of analytical sophistication. While progress along the developmental path is enhanced through practice of higher level thinking skills, the perception of need for this practice, and the type of practice vary throughout a class. The professor, therefore, needs to monitor the class as a whole, balance the needs of all the students and construct interactions tha t serve to move the class and the individuals in it along the developmental path. A lot of students have been conditioned that they just want to know what they have to know. If I could just hand them out a card that has everything they need to know on it,
195 bout what the grades are. I care about trying to do my best, current undergraduate, especially at a big state school with a large local f focus on those very practical goals, numbers, wanting to know what kind of grade can I get, how can I get two more points, these kinds of things. I need to keep my scholarship. I need to be able to play in the game on Saturday. I need to be able to, what ever, stay in the major. Those are all the kinds of things that are obviously important to people. So, the goals the professor has for broader learning and thinking are not obviously linked based and gra de dependent goals. goals this way. And today when I was kind of winding up this discussion on sexuality, I said, you s than answers today discussin g Hiroshima as a moral issue, in their reluctance to listen to one another, and in student comments about professors going off on tangents. If they do not recognize the connection to a goal they value, they will resist the shift in their attention.
196 Just a s faculty used the first days of a class to set a tone for open interaction, at least one person talks openly with the class about the frustration they will feel. The same person who explained that she preferred opening up more questions, tells her class frustrated. baby with the bath water. Take what you can. Opening students to new ideas and new perspectives is a value, but not all students will appreciate the journey equally. This professor recognizes that difference and prepares students for it. A different participant reports that it is not easy to get students to engage in pursuing more abstract goals and processes (getting everyone to engage in the pursuit of academic process goals) of doing what we do. We are always going to have frustrated people. It only takes one frustrated person to start expressing their frustrations to try to wreck the do it because then all you are doing is responding to the negative. I want to try to take those moments and turn it into meta talk, but I
197 think too much meta talk gets people out of the moment. The opening closes when you have too much meta talk because you wa nt meta thinking, not meta talking you want them meta talking. Again there is a delicate balance between getting students to assume responsibility for their learning processes and having the professor talk about that process too much. Too much talk does not advance the cause, since the students do not share the goals, but not talking about these goals allows students to avoid necessary involvement in their accomplishment. Students see the talk as taking them even fur ther away from the content of the course. But if the professor does not make the connection explicit, students may tune out as well. As another person acknowledges, if a link to a goal is not made explicit students will think it is just a case of the prof When I talk to test, why am I here? I could have slept in. You know. The professor may have more expansive goals for the class than some s tudents are ready for. This does not mean abandoning those goals or expecting everyone to achieve the impact may not be felt until after this class is over. One sums up the readiness of students to see and value the more abstract goal of self teaching using an analogy he has heard from someone else. Education works like this. In elementary school yo u have a bowl on your desk and the teacher comes along with a tureen and a ladle, and ladles out your
198 nd then the ladle and tureen anymore and the teacher says you can go and find it over there. In graduate school they hide the tureen. Most of the students that we have are in that and then coming up to ask, recognizing that there is some work that they have to do, to be involved in. What you hope, I think, is that in the course of their four years, they will move further towards the point of recognizing that to really learn and know things you have to go out with some guidance to find it, but then that you have to discover what th e answers are, and in fact you have to discover what the questions are. The conflict in goals between students and faculty is one of the factors that can influence student participation in a teachable moment, taking us back to the concern over the numbers who are engaged. Students do not engage in sufficient numbers because they do These habits of learning develop slowly from small beginnings that might not feel signific ant when considered singly. Summary of r elevance Goal relevance was a major consideration in the decision to pursue a teachable moment. If professors could connect the moment with goals they had for the class or for their students, they were more likely to pursue an unplanned
199 moment. Digressions could be relevant to a wide range of goals. A wider range of goals allowed for a more flexibility in decisions. Teachable moments might be relevant to that Problems may ar course goals. Having time and clear goals in mind may still not be sufficient support for pursuing a teachable moment. It is also necessary that a sufficient percentage of the cla ss be engaged in the moment and capable of following it. The next section will look at the degree of involvement, what can impact engagement, and how faculty respond when there is not broad engagement. Number of Students E n gaged In the original definition of a teachable moment participants described a sense of heightened engagement. The degree of engagement, reflected especially in the number of students involved in the generati on and sustenance of a moment, i s a significant element ion to pursue the unplanned moment. Some occasions are idiosyncratic with only one student engaged, while others are all consuming and seem almost inevitable to pursue. Some moments captivate the class as a significant number of students engage and wait to see how a moment will play out. The professor who repor ted the racist comment describes feeling like the students, especially minority students, were all waiting to see how she would handle it. The class in which the student brought up the number of synonyms for excrement was also waiting to see what that professor would do. Other
200 times, outside events are so significant they weigh on and there is little or no way to proceed with class, except to address their concerns. As one H arry Potter fan explains: ber Hermione wants to know and so does everybody else. The shootin gs at Virginia Tech provided this type of moment in several classes. One professor reports having made prepar ations then waiting to read the mood of the class before deciding how to address the subject. It quickly became clear that the class was concerned and that there was a discipline related way to proceed. have made it into the class at some point but probably not that particular day. But the fact that it (Virginia Tech) was in the news. It was on their minds anyway. They had the Oracle in could see the Oracle on their desks. And I could see them looking at it. course content capitalizes on student interest and demonstrates the relevance of the field of study Professors have to gauge the degree of involvement as part of their decision making.
201 Not all moments are as immediately universal as The Chamber of Secrets or the shooting at Virginia Tech. Participants report trying to measure and adjust the degree of attention in order to be able to capitalize on a moment. if this is almost like a dialogue between myself and one student and everyone else is kind of getting jittery mail or whatever. I try to kind of gauge that and if it seems like then a lot of other hands are going up and -go ahead and keep with it. But And another person reports that it will get us too something. So trying to not put them down in any way but also trying not to get too off task, because, especially with 100 students, it can go really far afield and people who are still interested. If a student asks something interesting to them but not generalizable to the class one person describes the decision this way
202 not just about a conversation that you might have with any one student or any group of students. The number of students who participate, or who are reluctant to participate can be influenced by large class size. Some students are reluctant to participate in large group discussions, but might be willing to share insights with the professor. These are also cases where taking the conversation outside of class allows a teachable mome nt to flourish. But this is not a fool proof strategy either. One person reports that this can be very effective in about half of the cases. Sometimes taking the moment outside of class allows the professor to deal with challenges or inquiries that d o not need to be played out in front of the class. This person goes on to say is interested and invite the student to come during office hours or after class. I like to do it after class because they almost never come to office hours. So you have a chance to do
203 for many of us the closer to the moment, if you can seize it and act on it, the better. O ver participat ory students Then there is concern about the student who tends to dominate the classroom intera ctions. Just as people report trying to capitalize on the moment for the student w ho rarely parti cipates, faculty are concerned about managing the input of those who seek to dominate class time. Some students are naturally more interested and more engaged than others. While professors appreciate engagement, they realize that not all students respond well to what they consider over participation by their peers. A highly participatory student can generate engaging moments, but that engagement may not be broad enough to warrant class time. Student reactions to questions and comments from other students may not be verbal, but may s till be very communicative, as one looking for the certain body language, or Ohh Another describes the need to avoid alien ating the interested student while sustaining the interests of the rest of the class. nd you know engaged in a way that disengages others, just try to make that be after class stuff,
204 or office part of setting up the environment is trying to manage an environment. There are times when the student who cares, cares for personal or idiosyncratic reasons that the professor cannot, or even should not pursue during class time. One person tells of a s tudent who had a personal interest in a topic, but whose degree of self disclosure was too great for the comfortable use of class time. And a student asked a question about some interview techniques that I was talking about and I answered it. When was the diagnostic schedule for disturbed children developed? 1994 I answered that question. And then she said ell and then she went into this very detailed observation of her own experiences of being diagnosed with ADHD when she was a child, and then she challenge to help wrap her up and not disc lose too much. Because people kind of that one I tried to curb her energy in talking about herself and turn it into more of en I try to come immediately back to the lecture. In this case the professor was able to bring the discussion back around to the class topic, managing to connect the personal experience and the discipline while protecting the student. This concern over bal ancing whole class interests with individual interests is a difficult one, especially in large classes. The professor wants to stimulate and sustain
205 at the expense of the attention of the rest of the class. Not that the rest of the class is unprepared because the topic is beyond their preparation, but because it falls outside their interest. h monopolizi ng their time or the interest or whatever and they start to get angry. So, if in the space of an hour the same student asks more than four or five things to control thing So, of the people I spoke with, some set limits for these students in an attempt to teach them to monitor their own participation, and to show the class that they are making an effort to keep the class open but on track. in social skill that tells her fascinating, I may have just heard enough from her that week to realize. You of the class But shutting down the over participatory student carries a risk as well.
206 And there are others th at you may want to shut down. But if you shut that one down, are you risking the one that never talks, never talking, for fear of being shut down? But you think that student can take it. Consistent with the concerns about fostering a sense of openness, fac ulty are concerned with balancing that openness with a sense of relevance and appropriateness to ensure the broadest engagement. Broadening the scope of a moment Trying to strike a balance between the individual and the group, faculty strive to use class time for t he broader moments and seek out of class interaction for the individual ones. The number of students involved in the initiation of the moment is less important than the number of students who can ultimately be engag ed. Because, So, the professor looks for the likelihood that the individual expression of a teachable moment may signify a breadth of appeal beyond the initiator of the moment. When students do not immediately see the appeal or the relevance of the question some professors take steps to try to get the attention of mor e of the group on the assumption that others may be wondering the same thing even if they are not listening to their classmate. In that really big class I do sometimes interact with the one student, but I do try to make an effort and first repeat the ques tions and get the class in gear and make the point that that is really good and really important question, so that I hopefully get
207 more listening. Because if one person in a class of 350 asks the question it is The instructors here are reading the signs of inattention, but based on experience with the topic, make assumptions about the need for a moment to be extended. They then take steps to engage more students and tap into thei r need to understand the material. Rephrasing a question in order to broaden the attention it receives also reinforces the message that participation is valued. At times when students prefer to listen to the professor and shut out other students the pro fessor steps in to assert the value of the contribution and to draw more students into the moment. You know the student who raised the question is probably quite happy to have me answer the question. But the rest of the class is wondering if this is goin g to be on way that I rephrase, paraphrase, and ask the question back works really well, is to connect it with what is clearly a key part of the material so that the other stu dents can recognize its relevance. And that boosts the confidence of the question asker but it also boosts the interest level of the class. Being able to ask a relevant question and have the professor respect it with an answer can ipation and interest, establishing to the students that appropriate questions will be recognized and respected. Another person reports learning from debate experience to re work a student question so the class can benefit.
208 In high school I was on speech and debate and my specialty was extemporaneous speaking So I was good at it and I think that skill has funneled right into teaching in that it allows you to figure out when a question is asked how to turn that into what wou ld be a superb question and to rephrase it and to make them think that that was the question they raised So re phrasing a question broadens its appeal, reinforces the value of the question and Not a ll attempts to broaden succeed, and this in turn influences how far someone may pursue a moment. One of the most challenging parts of the classroom experience is taking the teachable opportunity, the teachable moment, and saying very quickly to yourself, o kay, what can I do with this, how can I make this work? Not just for this conversation that this person and I are having but how can I broaden this? Or can I broaden? I mean first you ask can I broaden it, and then, two, how can I broaden it. Because in so moment for you and one other person. And can I broaden this and get everybody else involved, or as many people as possible? And in some cases, you
209 something that you can introduce to everybody else. If the attempt to broaden succeeds, then the value of the moment has been expanded to more students than might have initially been involved. This concern that students are not f or teachable moments. Finally one professor I spoke with encourages interest and participation by turning the question back on the class to get more students involved. This can help really important to gauge, I generally will slow it down and give myself time to point in time and it helps to be an experienced teacher in a course because you ha encountered that particular line of thinking and gone through that thought process think, a good i dea to turn those back on the class in the immediate moment in order to engage more students in the same question that the student had raised or the point the student had raised. There are several factors that can influence the degree of involvement stude nts feel in a moment in class. The number of students involved is affected by their perception of relevance and by their readiness to engage in both the content and the processes of the moment.
210 Most of the p rofessors I spoke with gauge the degree of invo lvement that students manifest at the point a teachable moment emerges. If the engagement is broad enough or can be made broad enough professors are more likely to pursue the moment. If the engagement is limited to one or a few students and the topic can not be broadened sufficiently, professors will recognize the question or comment and suggest that the interaction be resumed outside of class. At times, it is difficult to engage a high percentage of the class because students are not yet prepared for ma terial at the level being discussed. Student readiness for content impacts the decision to pursue a teachable moment. The next sections will examine the impact of student readiness on faculty decisions to pursue teachable moments. Student C ontent R eadin ess Sometimes a student or small group of students will introduce a topic or a question that the larger class is not ready to address. While this intellectual curiosity is exciting for a faculty member to witness, it does not always lend itself to the mos t constructive classroom interactions. Lack of student readiness to follow a teachable moment where it might lead can take three forms. In some cases, the stude nt generating the interaction i s more advanced in the content of the class asking questions f or which the groundwork had n ot been laid for the whole group At times students are not ready for content because of the sequencing of the course. Other times the moment may fall completely outside the content goals the professor has for that class.
211 In one class there was a student whose questions, stemming from work he was doing elsewhere, required a level of subject specific sophistication that the class in general had not reached. t these talking to him about what kinds of things he could do and looking at the printouts and wh beyond the scope. In this case, one student and the professor and the topic are coming together, b ut the rest of the group is not ready to join that discussion. While the intellectual curiosity provides readiness and an opportunity for that student, it is not yet an opportunity from which the rest of the class can benefit. S ometimes readiness to delve into an idea. Even though the topic held great potential interest and fit with the goals for the course, the connections to the class would be hard to demonstrate until they had more back ground. There were times, like even yesterday in class, when I was tempted to talk about whether it would confuse them or not in terms of how it related to what we were curren
212 present it with all of its nuances so that they could see the connection yet. Yeah. The professor weighed the potential value of the digression against the potential for confusion, and despite likely interest decided not to take the risk. The connection to the content ha d to be more easily discernible by the students. The time dimension overlaps with concerns about student readiness to pursue a topic as well. Sometimes student curiosity leads that professor to want to delve more Once, the students were really interested, wanted to know more about A dorno. This essay they give you a whole background on critical theory. Because of the background preparation the students required, t the kind of depth even though the students were interested. Even taking a conversation outside of class might require a delay until the students are ready. Or, if the understanding is the important thing then I have to say, well, this is going to take too long to deve lop for you to understand it. You can get this but the foundation yet, so we have to build that first and that take a couple of hours. and so this might be appropriate a month from now. Or we can set up a time to talk about it.
213 Offering two options, postponing it until the larger class is ready for the material or talking about it outside of class if some students really are ready and engaged allows for the possibility of a prompt response for those who can benefit and who are re ady and willing to do so. At the same time, it signifies the value, relevance and perhaps the sophistication of the inquiry to the class as a whole. Within any class there is a range of interest and ability levels, so professors must balance between be ing too easy for the more sophisticated class members, and teaching over the heads of the less savvy students. I had two students come up to me and say that there are a couple of people in there who are just talking too much just to hear themselves talk letting the class go with them instead of sticking with material, which I took as constructive criticism. But what they wanted was a detailed study guide and for me to put outlines on the board, and I said you know, we have to find a negotia bit up on the board. They are just not quite at the level they should be at. They Striking a balance between performance levels within a group requires negotiation and adjustment for the professor in order to meet the learning needs o f students across the spectrum of readiness. Students who are working harder to keep up with the scheduled material are more frustrated by digressions that are initiated by other students.
214 There are, therefore, moments that cannot be fully capitalized on because students are just not ready. One person reports trying to revive the moment in a subsequent class, but with inconsistent success. pick up that thread again and sa the thread after they have the second bit of information that relates to it. Maybe Professors are co ntinuously assessing student readiness to follow new ideas and topics as they emerge. Student interest is not a sufficient condition to pursue a moment if students are not yet ready to understand the material involved. Content knowledge is not the only t ype of readiness that is required. Students must also be ready for the processes required for academic digression. The next section will look at how faculty gauge that kind of student preparedness. Student P rocess R eadiness In the examination of facult y goals we saw that student participation, discussion skills and critical thinking are all valued. Teachable moments provide opportunities to develop these skills, but they also require these skills. In some cases, the lack of process readiness weighs on faculty decisions. One person observes having to be concerned Whether they are drifting off. Yes, it seems like one characteristic of our
215 I have described the reluctance of students to listen to other students. The ability to learn from one another is a key component to the successful pursuit of a student initiated teachable moment. Faculty, therefore, feel the need for balance between pursuit of exciting new and maybe more difficult material, and student readiness to participate constructively. While this is sometimes a content driven concern, it may be that students lack the academic skills necessary skills like thinking critically, being able to evaluate or formulate arguments, or being able to participate in a discussion of difficult issues. Student process readiness weighs heavily on faculty concerns for classroom management. The tension between process and content leads professors to weigh the value of discipline specific instruction agai nst the need for student to develop academic skills and values. Therefore, faculty describe struggling to achieve a balance that satisfies their sense of academic necessity while meeting student and self imposed expectations for coverage of course content Faculty frequently assert that students can and should learn from each other, but student unwillingness to do so thwarts some attempts, or at least leaves professors unsure as to how to proceed and foster such processes. I also have read more about the dialogic classroom and not wanting the instructor to get the last word and I am aware that I could just stop talking and just let go of
216 u mark. You would almost have to start from the first day and they would resist in the beginning and probably come around. Here the professor recognizes the value of having students learn from each other and participate in academic interactions, but al so recognizes how slowly this develops, referring back to the importance of initial class meetings in setting the context for subsequent interaction. We see this dilemma in the case of students not wanting to discuss Hiroshima from a moral point of view and in the case of the professor who is happy to leave the class with more questions while they want more answers. While the professor in the Hiroshima class had prepared what he anticipated to be an engaging class debating and ethical question, the stud its successful pursuit. If too many students in a class are waiting only for the professor to tell them what they need to know for the next exam, it is difficult to construct the sorts of inter actions that develop and rely on higher order academic processes valued by the professors. especially in a big class, is trying to get them to see that the really, really you start to do that kind of stuff and you see, you know, 15 people leave because
217 that happens all the time. And I try not to let that stuff affect me either, because then I keep on the mes sage about the difference between these things. And being something that I think a lot of these kids will sort of click two or three The hope in that delayed click is part of the description of the teachable moment, and it is one of the factors that allow people to decide to purs ue moments despite student resistance. This person also focuses on to the longer term process goals for the course, trying to fill a need the students may not understand they have. So student process readiness is tied to their understanding and subscribi ng to the process goals the professor has for students. Students are not the only ones who need to be ready for teachable moment. Faculty too must be prepared to manage the class, the processes and the content. As we have already seen, they need to ha ve clear goals, long and short term, in mind, and they have to be able to gauge interest. If professors do not feel ready, or act as if they are not be undermined. The next section will examine how faculty think about their own preparedness to pursue moments while maintaining constructive classroom dynamics.
218 Classroom D ynamics Faculty make decisions based in part on how they will impact the functioning of the classroom and relationships between and with students. There is a need to weigh the ability to manage the content and the processes of the class against the goals the mome nt might achieve. If professors feel unready in terms of process or content they risk losing control of the learning context. Several people in this study say that their own willing ness to wade into controversy or even to answer questions that fall outsi de the class routine depends on their own degree of comfort with the material and the processes required As one person sums up the concern about management and preparation this way, lls some disc at. And then just see what happens. And sometimes you know you may have allotted 20 minutes but it may turn into 40 minutes and then you have to be also willing I think to be a little flex ible and let that moment happen There are a number of issues that can have an impact on the dynamics of the class. These include overt challenges to authority and the preservation of openness and tolerance. Challenges to authority One category of cla ssroom m anagement concerns
219 the class. These concerns emerg e in cases where professors feel th ey a re being baited by students who attempt to fluster or lead them off course. In these cases, fail ure to respond constructively i s seen as detrimental to the operation of the clas s in the future. While some students may be trying to take the class off course, others learn by challenging, questioning and participating m ore. The challenge for the professor then is to distinguish between sincere interest and attempts to derail the plans for the class Sometimes, even baiting can yield teachable moments, as in the anecdote about the student soliciting terms for excrement when the professor was able to turn a potential challenge into a teachable moment. He was trying to, fluster me, so I was not about to let that one pass. Because it would completely undermine my authority for the rest of the semester, and with 350, you c As that person points out the comment related directly the topic of the class, and the decision had a direct impact on the potent ial tone of the course. While some of these challenges may be obvious, like the excrement example, others become clear over time. These students may begin with what appear to be interesting questions, but the tone or frequency of the questions reveals the curiosity is less than sincere. But I feel like I have been in classes where there will just be these kinds of because I did tell that
220 opposed to this is going to expose her vulnerability. I think And I think that if there are people that are going to use that to just make your life difficult versus real intellectual curiosity you can nip that in the bud. The p inquiries, defusing the implication of unpreparedness or inability and, at the same time, treating student inquiries seriously so future sincere inquiries will not be sque lched. This theme of following up on questions is explored further in the discussion section on not knowing an answer. One professor reports that some students who set out to disrupt the class can b e brought into it if the professor can respond by turn ing things around. As with the excrement example, another participant explains, They will say things maybe to shock, or they will say things to try to undo the environment, right, to try to create discomfort or something, right? Those kinds of moments. A turn it around and make the comment be the kind of focal point for the content. no matter what they do. The more they resist the more central they are to the content, and so they get sort of folded into the discussion, and some students like that can be then inspired because it turns out that they really just feel like some
221 kind of outsider or some kind of c og in the machine. And you just show them that they have something to contribute. So, responding to the disruptive student in a constructive manner, drawing them into the class and addres sing their comments can involve student s in a class they might oth erw ise feel disconnected from and can demonstrate to other students in the class that the professor can manage challenges and turn them into learning opportunities without losing control of the classroom dynamics. Even when professors think they know an answe r to an inquiry, students may have asked others and gotten different answers. Rather than treating these challenges as the fact that even within fields, and within the academy, not everything is agreed upon. I think another moment is when students will challenge you. Right? And this And then they get And then I get to ut t of defensive, I
222 the nature of the way we exist on the planet. Multiple perspectives. Absolutely. Responding to a challenge fro m a background in the field opens the door to a discussion of the nature of debate in the academy and the nature of evidence within or among disciplines. Sometimes the problems manifested by the students go beyond the concerns of the particular class, an d professors have to deal with issues they may not be directly involved in. Their response still has an impact on the participation of the class. car accident and he had th is pretty extreme physical disability that he was he would try to say things that were just racist or homophobic or something, ut of me or out of his classmates, engage it for the sake of some of the students, at least at first, and when do you not engage it? Are you going to get through to this student? If are, are you going to lose everyone else by focusing too much time on this? Management in this case involves addressing the angry student and maintaining or creating a teachable moment by showing the rest of the class that you will add ress issues of appropriateness in student participation, and assessing the impact of your responses on that student, on the other students and on the class as a whole.
223 But sometimes these moments may not be worth pursuing if all they do is result in anoth er round of the same interaction. Instructors balance the messages conveyed by responding vs. not responding to consistently abrasive students. One of the professors who discussed students making racist and sexist remarks observes Even though you could get a lot of teachable moments from a student like that every teachable moment is a desirable teachable moment, because if you have a ly in that frame of mind, of a challenge, or a push, it can get very frustrating for both me and the students. I mean, what are they learning? Okay, this student wants a battle. Even though he might create the teachable each him. So the utility of some moments may be minimal once the professor has established a tone and a quality of responses. But this participant does describe managing the impact of the abrasive student in order to preserve the openness of the class in general. teacher. A nd so with this student I just always remained very calm, and I picked apart his arguments because he was not being logical. And it was important I thought for the other students in the class to recognize that he could say what he wanted to say without me getting emotionally involved.
224 Other times students may not be intentionally disruptive, but may be passionate about the topic or a particular idea. Again, professors have to decide how to manage their own responses and respect the commitment of the enga ged student. And you know what one needs to do I think, is to see it, as an environment in which you may, in fact, come to a point where you simply agree to disagree. And and you have reached the point where the teachable moment is gone. And you have made a particular point, they have made a particular point and you simply, again, at that juncture you faculty do this) where they need to throw out more and more and more you r reputation with the students but damaging your credibility because then you got a lot of knowledge to bring to the table here, but knowing enough to leave the
225 ntemporary Yet another person talks of difficult students and the moments they provide this way. inside her comment, I think, makes her feel smarter, makes the class feel like know Responding to one student can send a message to the entire class about what the professor values and how the professor expects a class to function. Teachable moments are points of hi gh engagement, but that does not mean they have to be moments of positive interaction. We have seen that there are times when challenges or unpleasant comments can open the door to learning as well. The issue is to preserve the relationships in the class room so even difficult the moments can yield positive results. Preserving classroom relations There are times that faculty may not feel attacked, but instead feel the need to step in to protect students fro m classmates. With or without the covenants and caveats described in Question One faculty still may be called upon to intervene when an interaction turns unpleasant. This serves more than one
226 purpose, first to maintain the openness and the climate of the classroom and also to teach appropriate methods of discourse. The latter concern is discussed f urther in the section on relevance to goals. The same professor from the previous example also talks about deciding to step in to moderate what might be a teac hable moment, but a heated one. getting sort of too judgmental, too emotionally insistent upo n being heard over everyone else then I think you have an obligation to step in. And in the second interview, speaking of a student who made a racist comment in class, and the decision to challenge him, the same professor says: I think if I had stayed pa ssive and let it go he would have taken a, I think it would have destroyed the gender dynamic in the class. I think because the women who ended up reacting to him were the black women in the class, and they were unhappy. And by me challenging him, I thin k that set the tone for them that they could talk. They could talk in class, or they could say something in class without feeling like there was no space to do that... And so I try always to think about that. (How the students are feeling.) Which is why, w hen my student did make that comment, that racist comment, it was just an instant kind of thinking process of two things. How are my students feeling at that moment? And then, what do they see as my responsibility to them? This person is looking at the incorporate that view into the decisions. In order to maintain a functional atmosphere in
227 the class, the instructor is responsible for challenging inappropriate comments even if students do not do so, mod eling so students can learn to do so in the future. While participation is valued, some participants are also concerned that the student who receives too much recognition or who talks too much might have a detrimental effect on participation in general. W e see in the discussion of goals that faculty frequently pursue moments because they will foster the goal of increased participation. And in the section in engagement they are concerned about the over participatory. Feedback is used to encourage more int eraction when it is needed and to discourage excessive participation if it is a problem. Here is case where, for the sake of I had them doing presentations of specific readings and there was o ne the other day where the student presenter talked about profanity and talked about how sometimes people use profanity to take charge of a situation. I thought it was a brilliant point, but I had never even thought about it and my uncertainty was do I re inforce this? And then the process things came back into play because he is anything I just wrote on his evaluation it was an excellent point, and often overlooked. I guess that was an example of missing a teachable moment because I was so preoccupied with the process and the community that I missed an opportunity and I decided to go with the processional.
228 In this situation, the professor decided to keep a teachable moment out of the classroom interaction, not because of the content, but because of the potential impact on classroom relations. The one student did not need the reinforcement, an d the professor believed that giving it would have a negative impact on the other students, who might just have heard enough praise for this presenter already. There is one particular situation in which the concern for classroom dynamics and the professor forced to confront a question or comment that they are unprepared for, they are particularly concerned about how to admit this without hurting the dynamics of the class or their own authority within it. The next section will examine this admission as it relates to teachable moments. eadiness Professors feel the need to be ready to address both the content and the processes involved in pursuing a teachable moment. I f they are not confident about the importance, the relevance or the appropriateness of a response, they are less likely to enter into a moment. But how does one get ready for the unexpected? Some participants compare what they do in class to improvisatio n in music, theater or extemporaneous speaking. Many speak of the value of preparation in permitting flexibility. The role of p lanning Faculty in this study talk about how they prepare for class and how that preparation can facilitate taking the class in unplanned directions. Since goal conflict can be an issue for classes students who learn to trust that the professor does
229 have a plan a nd will cover what they need are more likely to be willing to follow along when a digression occurs. The way a professor plans for and organizes a course sets a tone for class interaction and the pursuit of teachable moments. There i s no consensus on o ne best way to plan or to organize a class, but most of the people I interviewed talk about the need for a plan and the need for the students to see that plan, and to see that they are progressing through it. Pursuing a surprise moment is actually easier if there i s a plan and a set of goals in place. Students a re more likely to raise an issue or participa te in a discussion if they can see where their contribution or digression fit s in and if they can be con fident that the material they are responsible for i s still going to be covered. The planning element is therefore, paradoxical, planning for digression and flexibility while remaining concerned construct an envi always going to be; it has to have a lot of vagueness to it. It just has to. The professor who worries about the outline points on the board as an indicator of material to cover bases that makes teaching decisions accordingly. W can see here how planning plays a role in the management of the teachable moment. terms semester) I write this whole outline on the board and that my lecture will follow
230 with way that a p wonderful topic to bring up becaus e it does go back to our subject matter. About p next time. So you promise them that whole lecture gone astray, then they would worry. And likewise, if I came in now with nothing and I seemed to only talk according to t heir questions I think they would find that off putting. On a different scale of planning, one professor describes an overall course design that allows the injection of structure of lectures with Po wer Point presentations PowerPoint i s a way of making the class more dynamic and keeping students involved. Since PowerPoint is often considered to generate passivity, this design is intended to overcome that. T he basic information is on PowerPoint, but the professor uses that only as a jumping off point or baseline. This allows a framework in which to insert the interesting connections, media or examples without having to divert too much attention from the core goals and content.
231 Students are alert fo r the diversions and their connections to the material. The medium, is providing connection points to stimulate that engagement. sics but opens up opportunities for other pieces of information or for personal teachable moments. e information available to them in their notebook. And then we can jump off of that he notebook is just PowerPoint slides with blanks in them have my PowerPoint slides, which have these, but in addition to these, they have the fun things that I like to insert. to go through the information a little bit more quickly than if they were writing everything
232 The professor uses the preparation to stay open to and even to create opportunitie s for teachable moments to emerge. One person I spoke with draws the parallel between preparing for class and the preparation actors do for a performance. One of the things that Stanislavski talks about is the need to prepare yourself inspiration as an actor, but you can do certain things that make it more likely to to get through whatever it is that you are doing. And I think there is something about that, I guess in the recognition that oh, this is something that I can glom that is, I react to what you do, you react to what I do, not only the words we say but the whole demeanor and everything. And we do that in everyday life, but most of that is on an unconscious kind of level. But I think, and I think you prepare for it, or at least I prepare for it in a way as a teacher by trying to make sure that I am as aware of as wide a range of things as I can be. Another called it Over preparation can lead to either flexibility or inflexibility depending on how the professor uses it. Several talk about learning to l et go of some of that pl anning in order to pursue moments or achieve other goals. One person reflects on planning and over as well.
233 I do think some of our younger faculty, because they have g rown up in the Power Point era, do have a command of the technology and have benefited from the teaching workshops for the new grad students, and they kind of over prepare. I have had to do a couple of observations with grad students teaching and I think that would be my advice: prepare rigorously, but take in half of what you prepared, or just allow space because I think what took me a long time was my fear was having 45 minutes of material and then running out, and ok, well I have to let them go early be cause there is nothing left to do here. And I do that sometimes, but I think that to be more confident that the calm periods or the quiet We talk about that in teaching graduate students what you need to know. If you are teaching three hours you need so much stuff. But I just think it is different with the undergrads because they are not used to talking in periodic academic conversations, so it takes a lot of practice. You need to give it to them. Even professors who present less rigid plans to their class have ways of communicating the value of their apparent digressions. At least two talked about le to do so when the teaching process and the goals for the course are made clear, so the tangents are not idle diversions, but alternate paths to a goal. Based on mid semester, and of the year assessments, some (students) get it and know, go off on a tangent as some of them call
234 very long way out of the way in order to come back the right way correctly. A different person tries to demonstrate the value of reading and research by preparing more extensively than she needs to for the time limits, allowing her to change directions. My ay, o. that we usually carry lots of stuff. And they talk abou t when you come to class you know like six hours you know for two hours. And part of it allows them the ull this out. hen. An can refer them to it. And sometimes in my best semesters I have a thing on Amazon.com and I will put up lin ks for them. Or I will put up links for articles. I put up links for While another tells of needing to be responsiv e to students and where they are. The tangential discussion that goes off on some route that you did not expect. Or,
235 classroom with a plan. Okay, we need to discuss something o r I need to teach two students, all on different levels, all with different brains staring at me reacting or classroom. Rather than limiting options wide preparation and order can allow for more relaxed interactions. If the class knows its destination and its responsibilities, it can enjoy the voyage and the sights along the way. The same is true for the professors. If they are confident that what is happening moves them closer to something they want for their class, they are more likely to allow even unexpected events to unfol d. The role of experience For many of my participants, the longer people they had been teaching and the more they had read, the more they felt rea dy to field different moments, and the more moments were foreseeable. Each surprise moment provided somethi ng else to keep in mind the next time they prepared. Every time they taught a class, they felt they had a little more to work with than the time before. For others, there is a comfort level with improvisation and spontaneity, but even that comfort is inc reased about the role of experience. It definitely helps to feel mastery of the material I have taught that course six times now, so even when they are a surprise it i think of how to integrate them some way. Usually I can. And because I have
236 come up with that will totally surprise me. Every time a person confronts a surprise, they learn from the experience and incorporate it into subsequent planning and teaching. Even if a professor does not seek portability for a moment, there is a comfort that develops over time. Another person points ou t that the pur suit of teachable moment s is made easier with experience. It was a moment that was not anticipated. But I think past experience with similar kinds of moments creates a kind of game plan for what to do should that arise. And I do teach the same courses over and over again. And I love them, and I do well at them, so I get to keep teaching them. And that helps. As the ability to anticipate increases, the role of preparation shifts. Sometimes when I first started teaching, when I walked in I taught everything I to serve your stude nts best. This does not mean that there is no need for preparation, just that it take s different forms. A different person explains that e reworked things so that that most of those
237 questions are already answered. If I have gotten a bunch of stuff the first time then Another likens the preparation to being able to do impromptu speaking. experienced teacher in a course because you have years of previous questions to think ing and gone through that thought process that will help you answer that question well, or address it well. But one wonders about the changes he has made over time as he has accumulated experience. Some of it I think, some of it comes from just having been in similar situations and beginning to finally go okay, I know that there are certain kinds of things that are likely to happen and I have had similar things like it. I can handle them. So there is an experience type of thing, which again is one of the da ngers of teaching, them before, which is how we recognize anything. Or because they are close classroom, of course, because we stay alert as human beings and to how they behave.
238 So we incorp orate what we see, not only in the classroom, but in all kinds of interactions, and we learn of things to be alert to. Not only can we respond more readily, but we may notice more opportunities than before. But professors cannot prepare for everything th at might arise in a class. Sometimes they do not know the answer or how to respond to a student comment or question and have to admit they do not know. Saying now While professors are concerned with making sure that students do have correc t information they cannot always address every student question or concern immediately. There are times when the professor does not know an answer but still must respond. The potential risks involved in pursuing any teachable moment outside the planned class work, appearing unprepared, losing control of the classroom processes and losing time needed for content, are magnified if the professor is unfamiliar with the ideas that emerge or is unable to respond to them. Participants in this study talk extens ively about the dilemma the fact that they can lose credibility by being unresponsive to student interests, but they can also lose credibility by offering an t know something if they have confidence and a solid awareness of the information that is within their grasp. Several faculty members in this study describe the factors that they weigh in deciding to reply to a teachable moment by acknowledging know. Professors, using a sense of what they do and should know to guide them, react to not knowing in ways that sustain and may even enhance the teachable moment. This section describes some of the factors that allow professors to admit not knowing an d reveals some of the responses that can make that a constructive admission.
239 At times professors may be unprepared to address a question or concern, but are able to explain that the material will be addressed in a later class. We saw this in the discussio n of time. Ideas too complex to address at a certain point in the term might be postponed until the groundwork has been laid. One participant reports prepared enough to ta explaining it, I may do it right there. In this case, the participant does not have to reveal not knowing, and can just defer the moment. But not everything can be deferred or falls within the plan of the course. When confronted with information they are unprepared to address professors weigh their options using several considerations including risk, resources, relevance, and knowledge at hand. While saying they don people I interviewed agree that it is preferable to any of the alternative responses. The real issue is not whether to say it, but how to frame the response to maintain their credibility and Because what are my recourses? Make something up? Lie? I little unethical to me. One participant advises, would be lying to tell you
240 And another points out that to credibility as sayin You lose credibility so quickly and so permanently if they know that you are making it up and you are pretending what you know Setting oneself up as an expert with all the answers is not a good solution because it is difficult to main tain that status. Furthermore, student perception of your authority is even more problematic once that authority has been undermined. have all the answers then they hold you up fall, you fall hard. And why should you fall hard when you could just topple over slightly instead of just you know falling on your face? Some professors report a sense that students seem more likely to want to see profes sors who set themselves up as experts fall from their pedestals. One person describes coming to this realization after initially feeling the need to be that expert in all things. se one, it was ok ay going to dislike me any more or resist what I was trying to teach them. And as
241 and get back to you. A professor who works with teaching assistants describes teaching them about ac knowledging they may not know something. There is an emphasis on the importance of follow up in maintaining credibility and modeling academic processes even when a student challenges something in class. One professor tells of being challenged with the inf ormation presented in the lecture did not match the specifics in the textbook. One of those times was, it was the capacity of short term memory or something like that, anyway. A student asked the question. I thought it said that. I had to follow up on that Blackboard. That was one time we did, post an article for them to look at that showed some of the updated information. The textbook mentioned it, so she saw it in the textbook, where it was learning for me A nd I do make it a point in telling graduate students you tell them, because that models beha and you leave it at that. I will find out. And I always tell my graduate students you ask the questions. Once faculty are able to ad mit not knowing or making mistakes they report that it t just was extremely liberating not to have to be the expert, to be the person who creates the
242 learning situation but wh Having one expert in front of the class undermines the shared responsibility for learning that is one of the start of a shar ed learning process. Still acknowledging that they do not have an answer requires that professors have confidence in what they do know and can answer. One element of the decision, then, was how to frame their response to represent what they did know and offer solutions for the problem, not leave the question hanging or unaddressed. something that I ought to know, usually. whatever. In a way, the ability of confidence they have in what they do know. enough sense of what you do know is described by another particip ant this way.
243 So, if a topic is outside the discipli ne and neither the professor nor the students expect the professor to have the information then it is less problematic to admit not knowing. One individual in the social sciences reports read a couple of articles about women and illness and one of them was about fibro myalgea and they did ask a medical question about chronic fatigue syndrome. I said it was no t anything that I felt like I needed to. Even within a discipline, professors do not have all the answers in hand and further research may be required We can see in the previous responses and in the ones to follow, that the important element in this resp onse is not the admission of not knowing, but the solution to that admission. If no one knows, then someone needs to find out. The discussion of time indicate s that sometimes technology allows a quick response. for you to look up. So maybe letting them Other times professors may admit they do not know the answer to tha t particular question but their knowledge of their field allows them to respond while modeling disciplinary thinking. One person who emphasizes cultural logic in courses reports sometimes being able to reply by modeling the logic and understandings of the field. to know everything about a people, a society etc. I sometimes deal with is a s I
244 would (in my profession.) And try to figure it out. If I can get into the cultura l logic I can give a good guess. If I know about the set of relationships in a culture, its values and world views, I can deduce an answer to a question I may not know. For example: If I know a society is patri lineal and polygen ic. I can deduce the fo rm of residences and the organization in space and if there is co wife cooperation. A strong knowledge about the discipline and how it arrives at its own knowledge allows this professor to reason, and show students how to reason through their questions ap plying the logic of the field. If a question has to be answered after class time, some professors do the research themselves, others let students do it, or they share the responsibility, but questions are not allowed to lie unanswered. question seems like an interesting and/or important one and certainly worthy of looking up and wh both look at it and talk about what comes of it. And the thing is though, you have yourself want to learn and you yourself seek joy in discovery of new knowledge.
245 their fields and their own curiosity while validating the s At least one person responds differently depending on whether the topic in question is something within the area of expertise or not. If there is a sense the professor should know, the professor finds the answer. If there is a sense it is outside the s How old was Winston Churchill when he became Prime Minister ? to you. Let me look at that. But I should know it. squat about American History so w another faculty member that I know Not m But This person is demonstrating several points at one time. When a professor differentiates areas of specialization within the discipline this reveals more the nature of the field and
246 the areas of study within it. By agreeing to research the information, or guiding the student in locat ing the answer, the professor is taking responsibility for learning or helping the students learn for themselves. And, as in the other examples, the value of the moment is reaffirmed to the students. The ability to refer students to appropriate sources and resources is one part of a larger area of confidence that professors have. In fact, sometimes teachable moments recounts a particularly successful moment where the responsibility for developing a topic was turned over to a student. He reports that he had to say the answer to that. And if someone in here wants to go hunt down the answer you have some air time here next class. And some people do that. Yeah, I remember varying levels of inequality between advanced industrial countries. So why is the United State s the most unequal country among the advanced industrial countries? But many of the countries in northern and Western Europe have really, relative to explains this? And obviously willing to tax the population and then use that tax money for either redistribution or social welfare programs that meet the needs of children and elderly much more than the United States does. And immediat
247 like And so thi she did that, and she cam e in the next class with PowerPoint slides on the percentage of Socialist Party representation in the legislatures of these different countries, and their corresponding levels of inequality, and money directed toward programs in aid of elderly and children good about that was that it challenged everyone who disagreed to do their own disagreement. In this case the professor was not ready to add ress all the comments in the class, goes further by giving the student class time to share the discoveries making students responsible for teaching and learning from report to other students, the professor is making a strong statement that student input is more content, covering resources relevant to the field, and developing shared responsibility for learning. This turning the research back to the students is a constructive and often reported response to the idea that the professor does not have the information at hand. But one
248 person warns that too many times because then the students stop asking because they are afraid you are going to make them do more So there is a balance between encouraging student research, participation and di scussion, and turning questions or interests into burdens students are not willing to shoulder. When faculty do not know an answer themselves they also have to gauge student willingness and depth of interest. Even if the pr ofessor does the research, the response can validate a student question and encourage other contributions. moral make And they asked me, does th century, how a Victorian listserv of academics. And I wro te them, and I asked them, and I started this whole discussion. And then when I went back into the classroom I brought it up on the web and I showed them some of the answers. And you know, even question started a very interesting thread for people, because some people points of view. So I brought that into the classroom. Because I wanted her to
249 know that her questions spurred on more discussion, and there was a place that they could go if they wanted to ask. Here a student question that the professor could not answer opened u p an academic debate beyond the classroom By sharing the research, the listserve and the debate with the class, the professor validated the original question, taught something about resources in the field and demonstrated how discussion takes place in th e academy. So, technology can make some research and information dissemination easier and some participants report being able to follow up on moments more easily as a result of the internet and communication systems like Blackboard Blackboard helps with te achable moments, I think, because it gives a way of interacting, for students too. And they can post links and they can get on the forum pages and things like that. And I can post things as they become available. interesting to check out, you know. morning, you can sit there and you go, okay, this is going up on the course documents At another point this person goes on to say that I had taught last night, so I was kind of foggy today. And he wanted to know piece within the past week. I had gone through it earlier, creating study questions for them. And I could not make sense of it in
250 And then I wrote a note and I had them a probably put that quote in on Google, or part of it, and it would probably pop u p Access to the internet also allows students to find answers quickly while their interest is piqued and I think that is just the sort of self recognition that you are more likely to recognize the value of learning if they see it as something you are still engaged in. Techn ology makes it easier for professors to acknowledge they do not have an answer but can find the material. Technology speeds the response time and the dissemination of certain kinds of research and, therefore, it allows more flexibility in responses even i f the professor does not know the information immediately. admission can be the opening for a larger teachable moment. It is not the closing comment. The follow up to the admis sion, offering a means for answering the question or researching the topic sends a message to the class that questions are worth asking and worth answering. It tells students they share responsibility for learning, and that learning
251 continues beyond the c onfines of the classroom. These messages are consistent with the goals described earlier in this question, learning academic processes, learning the Having to acknowledge seen, there are cases when a concern for processes and classroom dynamics may prevent the pursuit of a moment. But we also see that faculty prepare in order to digress or improvise as the need arises. They read more than is necessary, bring in extra materials, and consider other disciplines, contemporary events, popular culture, and even family anecdotes. They lear n from previous moments and incorporate those experiences into subsequent teaching experiences. And they learn to read cues from the class and be reflexive in order to make decisions about how to proceed. Reflexive Considerations in the D ecision When professors decide whether or not to pursue a teachable moment in class part reflections of their own teaching. Many of the participants in this study repo rt trying to see the material or their own interactions as their students would see them. In deciding whether to follow up on a moment, or to engage in a particular interaction many report such considerations as going to show to my students and they are going to be bored. And I think sometimes if my students are frustrated with
252 they be feeling? Watching student reactions to get feedback and recognizing that student reactions reflect their own input lets some professors make adjustments to their teaching as they go. It is not only interest, but also energy that is cyclical. Pro fessors seek energy from their students and feed it back to them in an interactive loop. The cues that professors get about engagement inform their decisions about continuing along a given plan. What I give you is only partly a reflection of what I get from you. So if you the preacher is a reflection of the response that he or she gets from the congregati on. The teachable moment i s a moment of excitement for professor s They describe is as heightened energy or freshness. That energy, they believe, is contagious. As one professor explains, You have to trust that you know what you are doing, that you know the material and that, and also trust that you, that when something happens that would obviously be exciting to the teacher, that that excitement would be seen. So, teachable moments are moments of reflexivity. Pro fessors and students experience hei The decision to pursue a moment is a result of this exchange of ideas and energy.
253 Summary of Question Two The elements that faculty report considering when deciding if and how to pursue a teachable moment form a complex network of concerns. Professors report weighing different elements in different situations. The decision does not entail a linear set of steps; rather there are different elements that surface depending on the nat ure of the moment, the class, or the point in the semester. Many of the elements influence each other. Time is a major concern, but it is one that can be tempered if students and professors are ready, if the moment has sufficient relevance to any of a wi de range of goals, if the idea prompts sufficient engagement, or if pursuit can positively influence classroom dynamics. Summary of Chapter Four The teachable moment, as described in this composite assembled from interviews with 17 experienced professors is a complex phenomenon that can manife st itself in a myriad of ways. The experiences have certain elements in common, including a heightened sense of engagement and increased interactions. Some professors believe they create such moments with active lea rning opportunities, others believe they are unplanned surprises, and so there is a continuum of predictability across my data. In the most predictable teachable moments, the professor initiates the interactions and students engage with the professor or w ith each other about the professor selected topic. Even in these cases surprises might emerge as students bring in new ideas or react in unanticipated ways. Surprise moments require more on the spot decision making on the part of the professors as they d ecide how much class time to turn over to previously
254 unplanned explorations. Some professor report learning form their surprise teachable moments and attempting to recreate them as calculated moment. In any case, professors work to deliberately create and maintain classroom environments where the necessary interaction and engagement can be sustained so teachable moments can arise. This is true regardless of class size, though it is more difficult to accomplish in larger classes. Many use explicit covenan ts or class contracts and guidelines to establish the ground rules for academic dialog. Others use feedback or encouragement to stimulate student participation and many deliberately model the values of academic discourse and curiosity. All of this require s a balance of planning and flexibility. While faculty plan for class, part of that planning for many of my participants is intended to allow for flexibility which facilitates decisions concerning the pursuit of teachable moments. The decision to pursue an unplanned moment involves a complex set of concerns which influence each other. Not all concerns are weighed in every instance as the decisions are highly contextual. Faculty weigh the availability of time against the value of the moment, the degree of engagement and their own and student readiness. In order to pursue a teachable moment, professors should see it connects to goals they have for their students ; goals, however, fit into a wide range of concepts from mastery of material within a specific class sessio n, to formulating and evaluating arguments to a life long learning orientation. Professors need to feel prepared to address the content and the academic processes required of the moment and they must sense that the students have content and p rocess readiness as well. At times they risk having to admit they do not
255 know or are not prepared, but even in these cases they demonstrate a willingness to follow up on ideas, demonstrating the value of student contributions and of academic inquiry. Different professors frame different situations as teachable moments. What one professor might view as problematic, like a challenging student or a racist remark, another will describe as a teachable moment. A few of my participants think there should b e a different phrase, but none offered a phrase they were satisfied with. Many refer to the individual nature of learning, pointing out that students make connections to different ideas at different times. One participant used the metaphor of popcorn popp ing. Teachable moments happen to one student at a time, but by the end of a semester one hopes that every kernel will have popped. Chapter Five will discuss some of the conclusions and implications to be drawn from this data.
256 CHAPTER FIVE ANALYSIS AND IMPLICATIONS In examining the implications of this study, this chapter will begin with a brief synthesis of the data presented in Chapter Four and then address the third research lection in action to an analysis of the teachable moment. The chapter will then look at other theories of reflection in action that assisted in the organization of the data. Important implications for the practice of college teaching, faculty development a nd designs of general education are also identified. Finally, since the design of this study was only one of many that are possible for this topic, and since I became aware of several noteworthy design issues in the course of the study, I will make suggestions for further research into teachable moments. While professors in this study have different experiences with and different examples of teachable moments, the themes of interaction, engagement and complex decision making run throug h the interviews This chapter will begin with a brief synthesis of the data as presented in Chapter Four, and then examine the implications for theory, then for practice and finally for future research. Brief A nalysis of the D ata from Chapter F our Since this study is qualitative in nature, in order to organize the data presented in Chapter Four, concurrent analysis was necessary. To avoid excessive redundancy, this
257 section will briefly summarize the conclusions of the data presentation. A more thorough summary ca n be found beginning on page 255 Elements that C haracterize the T eacha ble M oment The illustrative quotations presented in Chapter Four suggest that the concept of teachable moments covers a broad range of experiences a nd that different professor s frame different moments as being teachable moments in different contexts. In fact, what one professor might find to be a problem or a difficulty, for example a racist comment, an unexpected question or an angry student, another p rofessor might frame as an opportunity for expanded learning. There is a continuum of predictability for such moments, but even the most foreseeable carry with them the potential for surprise. The greater the element of surprise the more the professor may have to reflect prior to responding. The data suggests that if faculty learn to frame occurrences as teachable moments, by connecting them to course material, broader goals, or contemporary concerns, and then risk venturing into unplanned areas, the impact on student learning may be increased. In response to my first research question concerning the definition of the teachable moment, the various teachable moments described in Chapter Fo ur have three things in common, a topic of mutual interest, engagement and interaction. They all involve heightened student engagement and interaction about a topic of interest. Whether the professor sets up the moment or it occurs spontaneously from a student comment, everyone is more engaged and interactive. Also observed in the interviews is a continuum of predictability for teachable moments. Figure 4 on page 83 illustrates this continuum. Some are deliberately planned by the professor to be teachable moments.
258 These fall at the calculated end of the continuum. Others are anticipated but n ot initiated by the professor and finally some emerge unanticipated as the result of a student comment or inquiry, In a sense, the teachable moment is a significant manifestation of active learning as described by Bonwell and Eison (1991). This connecti on will be explored more fully in the implications for teaching. When confronted with this combination of conditions, and while in the midst of classroom interactions, professors engage in a complex set of decisions, quickly weighing several elements, to decide whether to pursue a moment in class, out of class or not at all. Question Two focuses on how professors go about making that decision. Figure 6 illustrating some of the interactions of those elements is presented on page 159 in Chapter Four. Elements of the Decision to Pursue a Teachable M oment The elements that factor into the decision include time, student readiness, professor readiness and potential impac t on classroom dynamics. One major consideration, relevance has a number of possible definitions. Some participants talked about moments having to be relevant to the particular class session in which the teachable eneral concepts and academic skills. However, the degree of student involvement and the K The issue of having to admit to their students that emerged in my interviews as an important consideration for many professors encountering surprise teachable moments. While that admission seems potentially risky
259 in terms of maintaining constructive classroom dynamics, many professors in this study report learning to ma ke that admission. They go on to describe doing so in a way that allows them to still affirm the value of the moment, the value of curiosity and inquiry and the value of student contributions. Admissions of not knowing become teachable moments about more than the content as students see what their professors do when they do not know. Professors who follow up on this admission, or help students to do so, provide multiple lessons in these teachable moments, about the content of the initial inquiry, the val Is Teachable Moment the Wrong T erm? Like other taken for granted phrases, such as used and under examined. While the origin o f the phrase is difficult to trace, it appears in early childhood and child developmental literature first related to the Bank Street Project and describes moments in which young people are more receptive to learning because they are confronted with what H avi ghurst (1972) development al tasks tions they proposed. The question is one of what exactly is teachable, the student or the material; and what exactly is learnable. If a moment is teachable, or learnable, what are all the moment, which one person suggests, centers on the material and learning moment does not seem to differentiate between moments of heightened involvement and moments when more
260 routine learning takes place. The fact that the people I interviewed were able to talk about these moments and, in so doing, distinguish them in their own minds, is evidence that the phrase, while sometimes used carelessly, does carry a connotation of being different form the routin e flow of classroom instruction. Trying to coin a new phrase that captures the complex set of elements of this study may, instead, overlook the cultural traditions associated with the phrase. This traditional use entails the ideas that the moments are somehow different from other moments involving teaching a nd learning, that there is increased involvement with a topic or readiness to learn new material. If we phrase still makes sense in describing college classroom mom ents of heightened interaction and engagement. Implications for T heory Question Three: T heory of R eflection in A ction Question Three asks if th e teachable moment can be understood in terms of reflection in action and goes on to ask if in action might be both pedagogical and discip line based. Does the decision making process used by participants follow and as practitioners of their disc iplinary specialties? In the description of teachable moments I presented a continuum of predictability. While some moments are initiated by professors to deliberately enhance engagement, the moments of greatest challenge are the surprises. Since Schon (1983, 1987) describes the reactions of professionals in moments of surprise, these are the moments I will focus on
261 in action are clearly visible in the descriptions gathered from my participants when they describe moments of surprise and their decision making as they respond to them. Donald Schon, in his book, Educating the Reflective Practitioner (1987), argues that professionals use more than technical knowledge to operate effectively in their disciplines. Writing in part in response to the technical rationality of positivist methods, Schon argues that there are moments in which training and prescribed methods may fail to solve an unusual problem and that in those moments competent professiona ls exercise In the absence of having direct prior experience with a particular situation, professionals must experiment with responses and monitor the success of th eir experiments as they decide how to proceed. St eier and Ostrenko (2000) gest that in communication we experience what could be call in they describe as being Better understood as an int eraction that is with others. We need to recognize the communicative context in which reflection in action takes place. More importantly we altering the situation at han This variation allows us to look at the multiple interactions that might take place in a classroom, among several peopl e at the same time, each person influencing the context of the subsequent interaction.
262 When professionals encounter a situation that is unforeseen and presents challenges including unclear choices and potential conflicts Schon (1987) calls these the spot in in action is thinking about an action while still in the moment, so the reflection has a direct impact on the immediate inter action. Since the situation is new, any action is experimental, and the results of the action reveal the appropriate ness of the decision. This is different from reflection on action, where the individual has time and the benefit of hindsight to think bac k on an event and make decisions about it. The unforeseen teachable moment is an example of the indeterminate zone of practice that Schon (1983, 1987) describes. Professionals enter these zones when a problem is new or unique, and its resolution may requi re a choice between conflicting values or interests. Any response is an experiment whose outcome may be uncertain while, at the same time, it yields new insight into how to proceed. In the description of the unforeseen teachable moment we see surprises e xperienced even by seasoned professionals; surprises such as students encountering conflicts in their research, making racist comments, sharing anecdotes that might seem unrelated or s asking unanticipated questions. Surprise moments in the classroom alwa ys require that professors make decisions on the spot. Will it be instructionally productive for the professor to pursue this ? How? What if ? What are the stakes? What are the risks? Is there time? Can the students man age the processes or the content? Is the professor ready? We see in Chapter Four that the faculty in this study go through a set of
263 decisions in a split second. Furthermore we see, as Schon describes, potential value conflicts, for the professor and for the students. There are several levels of value conflicts. Time can conflict with engagement. Long term goals may impede the pursuit of shorter term goals or vice versa. Professors decide whether devoting class time to broader concepts or skills is more important in that moment than the previously planned points on their PowerPoint slides. Any decision to pursue one thing in class is a decision not to pursue other things. Furthermore, a moment may be teachable because students are engaged in challengin g value laden ideas on difficult topics like race, class or gender. And students may be looking towards different goals altogether, so a decision to digress has to include a manifestation of its value if students are going to follow along. If a surprise t eachable moment can be seen as a zone of indeterminate practice, then the on the spot decision reflection in in interaction. The response to a surprise, according to Schon is an experiment which either succeeds, in which case the surprise problem is solved, or it fails, in which case the nature of the failure suggests further adjustments and additional experimentation. When confron ted with surprise teachable moments the comment so more of the class can benefit. In these cases, they may attempt to broaden a moment, and read the subsequent cues being sent by the other students. Signs of disengagement and boredom may lead to a delay or curtailment of the
264 interaction, whil e signs of interest and wider participation may encourage further exploration. Students who over participate require that the professor assess the signals being sent by the larger majority of the class While these over or under participatory students ar e a very small percentage of the classroom population, they impact can be powerful. Professors draw on what they know about their students, what they see happening and what they think needs to be accomplished and make adjustments accordingly. This is what Schon (1987) Steier and Ostrenko (2000) describe as transformation in and by the situation. Participants report trying to remember how it felt to be a student, trying to see their classes as their stu dents see them, or trying to think how their students are feeling. This reflexive behavior allows them to examine the role they are playing in the interactions. If students signal disengagement, concern about coverage of material or if they take the materi al too far afield, the experiment may have failed and the professor may need to try a different tack. It is true that professors make adjustments on some level even while lecturing, but they report being forced to make more new decisions when confronted wi th surprise. Their views about the material and what is important become manifest when they are forced to make choices and decisions. Every student comment or question has tudents as that the data in these interviews does not suggest that the professors make decisions based o n the reactions of their students, rather that there is a complex interplay of interactions,
265 actions and reactions including consideration of what students reactions suggest about the moment,. Reflection on action is easier to study since the time element is less immediate and the process is more deliberate. Reflection in action, as Schon (1983, 1987) describes and refle ction in interaction as Steier and Ostrenko (2000) describe, may be more difficult to articulate since these two types of synchronous reflection shape and respond to immediate interactions in a compressed timeframe, and therefore each result influences the lens through which participants look back on their decisions. This study is retrospective in nature and therefore asks participants to think back about their decision making processes and rec all the elements that influenced their interactions. Participants do discuss elements of their decision making and how those elements impact their interactions, they also describe surprise, a continuous sense of experimentation and a willingness to make o n the spot adjustments. The data reported in Chapter Four addressing the definition and response to teachable moments suggest that the concept of reflection in action is a frame that may help us to understand what happens in such moments of surprise. The interviews also model may be more complex when dealing with larger groups of students. We can see the difference between reflection in action and what Schon (1987) calls knowing in on experience and reflection in action. A well crafted lecture or even active learning assignment may go along as planned and yield the desired learning outcomes This success may set the stage for subsequent use of or modification of the original plan. But
266 the sur prise moment is what requires consideration of a potential detour from a plan. Professors do, however, try to incorporate some of the surprises they confront into new in in action is a result of reflection on an experience in order to incorporate it into future action. Portability is one aspect of the teachable moment that demonstrates this incorporation of surprise as a result of reflection on action. While Schon (1987) was talking about modeling professional artistry in such a way that apprentices could learn it, this examination of the teachable moments suggests that college professors exercise their own sort of professional teaching artistry in their classes, influence d by, but also independent of the disciplines they teach. When working with a small or large group of undergraduates instead of a single apprenticeship, the potential for surprise is increas ed because there are so many more students and therefore, so many more personal contexts the professor cannot be aware of. Participants in this study report wanting to know about their students and trying to do so, but with each additional student in a class, that possibility diminishes while the number of spontaneous personal connections, ideas and insights made by the students i ncreases. As a result, professors in large classes are even less likely to be able to anticipate how an idea will be perceived or an interaction will progress. The probability of surprise inc reases. Even experience cannot eliminate surprise because each group of students is different and interacts differently and as a group some characteristics of student populations change with time. So, along with the continuum of predictability described i n Research Question One there seems to be a continuum of knowing in action where the most predictable
267 moments allow the professor to draw most reliably on experience and the least predictable moments allow the least reliance on experience. But each experi ence builds a degree of comfort with surprise that may allow for future pursuits. There is another factor that Schon (1983, 1987) does not explicitly discuss. This is the development of comfort with surprise in general. Many of the faculty in this study report being, or at least trying to become, comfortable with the idea of surprise. Each surprise they confront not only prepares them for the next time that surprise arises, but it also gives them confidence that they can respond appropriately and product ively Many can digress. They may not encounter another explicitly racist comment, or the s ame reaction to a reading, but they will encounter another potentially offensive comment or another controversial response. So, in talking about college teaching where flexibility is valued and surprises may arise, there may be a set of experiences, refle ctions or experiments which yield, not knowing in action per se, where the same response can be put into use, but reinforcement of the value of experimentation and reflection in action in new teachable moments which is how artistry emerges. And, in colleg e classes, the sheer number and diversity of students involved makes surprises more likely to appear. Professors describe attending to cues from their classes, constantly scanning the group for signs of how to proceed. This is not the same thing as know ing what they will do, but rather that they know to look for signs that will help them decide what to do.
268 artistry choose what they will notice and are prepared for improv isation. Again, as Schon points out i nstantaneous reflection in action, when looked back upon can yield knowing in action for subsequent similar moments. Indeed, Ferry and Ross Gordon (1998) find that it is not simply direct professional experience tha t develops reflective problem solving skills and that some practitioners prefer experimental models while others prefer more rule based practice. They suggest that the more reflection is fostered in multiple areas, the more likely it will be practiced in a profession. Several professors spoke of being trained in improvisation or extemporaneous speaking, not as faculty but in some other aspect of their lives. They refer to this as a valuable foundation for them to be able to respond spontaneously and cons tructively in class. So, professors do not so much need to learn to handle a particular set of surprises, as they need to learn to handle all types of different surprises Pedagogical vs. Discipline Based D ecisions As for the part of Question Three addr essing the existence of multiple professional frames when doing reflection in action, the data did not yield many decision elements that were discipline specific other than those that relate to covering content or disciplinary relevance to the material in question. In other words, participants did not often base their decisions on what a psychologist, sociologist or anthropologist would do. Instead, when we look at the elements of the decision time, readiness, and goal relevance we see more pedagogical th an discipline based factors. This may be because I was researching college teaching and they were, therefore, targeting their comments to my area of inquiry. It could also be because I was focused on undergraduate classes,
269 many of which are general educa tion classes and therefore faculty did not view their role as preparing students to be future professionals the particular field of study. Perhaps teachable moments in specialized upper division and graduate courses would yield different decision making e lements related to disciplinary specializations. Furthermore, how different professors learn the pedagogical reflection demonstrated by my participants. In the implicat ions for practice I propose faculty development programs that can enhance awareness of the elements involved in making decisions in class. Additional research as to how reflection in action plays our pedagogically in different teaching fields can enhance that understanding. Ladder of I nteraction Since this study has a retrospective interview design it is difficult to capture the details of the decision making processes as it relates to what Schon (1987) calls the ladder in my interview data. This may be in part because of the design and in part because many of the teachable moments described in these interviews a re less skill oriented and more broadly conceptual and, therefore, do not involve explicit directions for and practice of a skill like architectural design. Rather they involve complex, abstract thinking about issues like race, gender, religion, ethics or history the modeling of which is more abstract and less continuous within a class period.
270 Relationship to O ther Reflection Literature Question Three specifically addressed the issue of the theory of reflection in action. In analyzing the interviews, a nd organizing the data, however, I identified connections to other writing about issues of reflective practice and faculty decision making. How faculty conceptualize goals expanded awareness within sophisticate Based in part on a review of the literature and in part on the journaling of a physics professor about his teaching this sequence parallels in some ways some of the theories theory of intellectual development. According to Entwistle and Walker, faculty conceptualizations of teaching and the goals of teaching develop over time. The initial stage in their theory level, professo rs develop insights into the content that they may not have had before and course content to what they call the real world. The third level the authors describe invol ves an awareness of the real conceptual challenges and epistemological nature of their field. Once that awareness develops, teaching methods change and professors try to encourage student reflection and turn lectures into conversations. Finally, professor s connections to the material and to the process of learning and encouraging students to do
271 the same. They warn that students may be uncomfortable with student focused, and learning centered classes so the authors suggest that professors need to keep in mind more than one focus at a time to allow students to operate at the level of their int entions and take fro m the class what they need to. Entwistle and Walker suggest that faculty experience A change in the general approach to teaching which stemmed from the expanded awareness. The focus of attention had changed from the content and its logical coherence (which was then taken for granted) to ways of involving the student m ore actively in the might call a strategic alertness capitalizing on chance events in the classroom to create springboards to significant learning. (2000, p. 357) In this quote, what Entwistle and Walker (2000) call chance events, I would call teachable moments. The strategic alertness they describe is the picking up of cues, gauging interest and decision making described by my participants, which allows professors t goals, we see some parallels to the goal relevance professors described in my data. My particip ants, for the most part, do not describe themselves going through the stage s outlined here, though some do talk about starting out needing to be prepared and needing to stick to their lectures, only to later become more flexible and aware of options so they could respond to classr oo m events. They also describe choosing to pursue different kinds of moments that would yield different kinds of learning. Moments could be directly
272 related to class, but could also demonstrate the relevance of their disciplines or broader academic and lea rning skills. (2000) research focused on physics instruction, and it was more focused on the specific concepts, values and applications of that particular field, while my participants responded in more general terms. They spoke of the goals more often as being either content specific or broadly academic, but they were less focused on in that their respo nses to those student inquiries that are more discipline focused were often pursued outside of class and led to individual student projects, presentations or conversations. This then, is one manifestation of the adjustment the authors call for in order to accommodate different learning expectations and needs of students. Not everyone in a class may be interested in a spontaneous moment; if they are and it is relevant, fine. But the professor sees the value in more moments than the class might and makes de cisions to help students who are interested without penalizing those who are not. They are using what the authors called Proposed corridor of tolerance In their work Building a meta cognitive model of reflection McAlpine, Weston Beauchamp, Wiseman and Beauchamp (1999) study the reflection in action and the reflection on action of experienced mathematics professors. They examine t e changes in their instruction, during class or upon further reflect ion. adjustments to their teaching, the authors of this study found that o ver two thirds of the
273 make change s and the changes themselves are made within the class session The decision to pursue a teachable moment is an example of that in class change. The authors cite this as evidence of reflection in action as professional practice. com fort with how a class is progressing. If the feedback from students suggests that the class is progressing well, the professors are less likely to make adjustments than they are if they are receiving signals from the class that a change is needed. The c orridor defines how strong those signals have to be before they necessitate change. The authors go on to propose that professors make a decision to change more often when the cues they observe are negative or neutral. In my data, however, the signals may b e different. Students may be making comments or asking questions that open the door to digressions. At this point professors are looking for such positive signs of engagement as smiling, nodding, or talking as they decide what to do. The difference bet ween my data and that in McAlpine et al (1999) seems related to the nature of the disciplines being studied. In math classes, where surprise questions and connections may be unlikely and the plans for the class are highly sequenced, students looking frustrated or disengaged would trigger change, but students demonstrating comprehension and engagement would be signaling that the class was progressing and that the professor should continue on. In social science and humanities classes the opportunities for unanticipated connections and their expression m ay be greater, so signs of positive reactions may signal the value of digression as much as continuation. Negative responses to surprises, disengagement, or eye rolling for
274 example, might prompt the professor to minimize the changes made during class. In terms of the corridor of tolerance, then, professors do read cues and make decisions about change, but the limits of the corridor and the flexibility o f its walls may vary by subject as well as by professor preference. Analysis ve practice Wagenheim (2005) conducted a study of the use of reflective practice by experienced professors in MBA classes. Using video stimulated recall, he interviewed faculty abo u t what they perceived as ncidents might have been questions, difficulties or comments that required them to make decisions a bout how to proceed. His study was different from this dissertation in that he had the video, that the classes were all in MBA programs and the interviewer was asking explicitly about reflection in action, while I was inferring it from the descriptions. Wagenheim suggests that faculty view their reflection in action as falling within any of several frames. One theme in these descriptions that corresponds to my data concerns the limitations placed on classes by the clock, the calendar and the realities of working in specific program. Another set of descriptions he st as part icipants in this study describe those elements as a part of the decision making questions or problems necessitate a re working on the spot in order for students to acc opportunities to pursue goals they may not previously have had in mind. The data in the teachable moment research reflects many of the same types of reasoning and even uses
275 some of the same descriptions. While our analyses may be of different discip lines and may name themes differently, there is a marked overlap in responses that helps to confirm the data and interpretation of this qualitative study. Implications for Teaching P racti ce This study has several implications for the practice of college teaching. The participants in this study reveal valuable insights into what can constitute a teachable moment, how to create a classroom environment where they are likely to emerge, how to plan for and manage a set of goals for maximum flexibility. The faculty quoted here are able to frame a wide variety of moments as being teachable and as being goal relevant. As a result, we can expand our understanding of the dynamics of the moment and of the possibility of participating in them. Connections to Active Learning In some sense the teachable moment can be seen an illustration of active learning in practice. According to the definition arrived at in the data, a teachable moment is characte rized by heightened engagement and interaction about the topic at hand. It may be an experience shared by a large percentage of the class or by a few students, and it may be sustained within the time frame of the class or it may be re visited outside of c lass, but students are engaged and interacting about ideas. The goal of active learning is to achieve just this combination of elements. Bonwell and Eison (1991) describe active learning as involving students doing e class time is not so much on the transmission of
276 in moving off center stage Those in large classes worry about being able to generate sufficient engagement and creating an atmosphere where students are comfortable speaking and discussing difficult ideas. Even those who lecture and use Power Point want give and take with their classes. Some of the most challenging moments involve discussion on ethical issues and require students to use or develop critical thinking and argumentative skills. When a student makes a comment or asks a question that reveals to the professor a potent ial teachable moment, students are often challenged to think in new ways. The participants in this study talk about re framing or broadening comments to engage more of the class. As Bonwell and Eison (1991) point out, this kind o f participation occurs w hen students perceive the classroom is a safe place to explore ideas and students and professors share an understanding of the value of the experience. Attempts to design active learning experiences fall at the more predictable end of the continuum, but un foreseen moments can lead to active learning opportunities if the professor is ready to let them play out. The same obstacles that limit faculty use of active learning in general, according to Bonwell and Eison (1991), apply to the pursuit of teachable moments. In order to foster active learning there is risk for faculty in giving up control and allowing more student input into the class, in admitting they do not know something students are interested in and in allowing discussion of difficult or controversial topics.
277 The problems and benefits of active learning continue to be topics of discussion and are addressed with each new generation of students and professors. This means that even as professors become more comfort able and conversant in dealing with surprise, new groups of students and professors must be introduced to the values and processes of the academy in general and active learning in particular Surprise moments, as some this is all fresh for the students. This brings us to another implication of this study students need to see and have trust in the value of what the professor decides to do, and not all will come to this understanding at the same time. Setting a Classroom E nvironment The interviews revealed a great deal of concern with creating and maintaining a classroom environment that is open and accepting. The faculty in this study spoke of getting students comfortable to talk in a large group, of openly valuing student participa tion, even in controversial forms, if it could forward the interests of learning. academic argument and exchange in the marketplace of ideas. At the time of the interviews, and even today, political rhetoric in the media can be strident, and the internet allows people to filter news to fit their pre existing politics and val ues. It is easier to escape systematic examination of ideas of ideas and beliefs The college classro om is one of the few remaining places where the examination and exchange of perspectives is still a value. Some of my data suggests that students may resist this, but it also suggests that if given a framework and a safe place in which to try, many do wan t participate in
278 this exchange. Professors then need to create the space and model the processes ok Teaching to Transgress bell hooks (1994) makes the distinction between classes a s safe places to explore ideas and as comfortable places. Safety still allows for challenge, but challenge may not always be comfortable. My participants also made that di stinction, acknowledging that it is not always the positive or comfortable moment that yields the most learning, but it needs to be a safe moment. When a topic challenges long held have the recognition that not all students are going to participate equally in every opportunity, but that does not make it less of an opportunity for others. Even the smallest acts can be framed as contributing to a constructive environment. Mispronouncing a name, encouraging students to talk to the person next to them, or quickly googling the answer to a question, take on meaning when viewed as way s of constructing a context where teachable moments can flourish. Putting together small groups creates bonds that help fight the anonymity of large classes. Then there are more overt behaviors like using events from the media or the news that students w ould care about, creating covenants or deliberately taking a different side to expose more aspects of a topic. Many of the professors in this study make continuous adjustments to maintain an atmosphere of openness and flexibility that contributes to the em ergence of teachable moments. Every interaction lays the context for the next.
279 Student D evelopment and Attitudes t owards G oals Students go through stages of intellectual development. There are several development in terms of changing from expectations that someone in authority will teach them the right information to a recognition that knowledge may be constructed based on a combination of evidence and personal standpoint. These theories vary in their descriptions of the stages but all encompass a range of movement away from external authority as students move through higher education (see Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger and Tarule, 1986, Kitchener and King, 1994, Perry, 1968). The faculty in this study w ho commented on students unwillingness to discuss something from an ethical perspective, who leave a class when the professor works on process rather than content, or who do not assume responsibility for their own learning are talking about students who ar e in the earlier stages of cognitive development. Students at this stage may not accept that a professor does not know an answer, that another student may have a valuable contribution to make, or that an experience that is not on the test might still have value to their education. Research on cognitive development, however, suggests that people progress in their intellectual development when exposed to experiences just beyond where they currently are. This speaks to faculty trying to pursue new moments a nd expose students to new processes so that they may practice them and eventually master them. Unfortunately, the students who need this the most will be the students who value it the least, placing professors in a quandary. Thus t he difficult surprise m oments are at the same time more difficult and more necessary to pursue. Some professors choose not to engage in such moments out of
280 a concern for their evaluations or for the time it takes to achieve incremental developmental growth. If faculty resist the kind of digression presented by some teachable moments then the opportunities for students to develop these incremental skills are more limited than they might be otherwise. Faculty who pursue moments despite feeling like they cannot accomplish the go al themselves report having faith that the growth will happen eventually, perhaps even when students are in another class. Perhaps if faculty discussed these long term developmental benefits within and between departments there would be a stronger sense o f both the probability of accomplishing them and value of individual e message of the value of the moment and the skills involved can be more strongly conveyed. Increased communication about these values could also i ncrease confidence in the accomplishment over time. Evaluations and R ewards Unfortunately the evaluation systems for faculty do not incorporate this long term view. Many participants commented that student evaluations are a major personal concern and tha t what faculty reward systems there ar e at this institution do not seem to recognize the kinds of risks professors might take in exploring uncharted opportunities. percep tions of the management of the class. Professors worry that pursuing too many apparent digressions, dealing with emotional topics, fostering student participation over professor centered lecture or allowing some students to dominate class time will lead t o unsatisfactory evaluations. Several participants commented on the difficulty of pursuing
281 unexpe cted teachable moments when too many students are unready or unwilling to engage in discussions of difficult or controversial material. For example, students did not want to discuss Hiroshima from an ethical perspective. Many participants talk of s tudents want ing to focus on the material that they believe will be tested or will help them accomplish short term goals or get the right grades. Skills like critica l thinking and academic argument develop incrementally and are more difficult to assess, especially on the kinds of tests necessarily given in large classes. Professors want students to develop these skills but are not sure about how to do so in such a wa y that students see the value by the wayside out of concern over teaching evaluations, student satisfaction and easier assessment. Professor s therefore, need to be exp licit about the value of what might otherwise just be seen as a digression. Some do this when they try to broaden or reframe a moment to engage other students, when they tell students it is ok ay to have more questions than answers, or when they admit they do not know something but it is worth finding out. Being explicit about the goals and values they have and how what they are doing fits in that framework can help maximize the impact of teachable moments without having them seem like random digressions. In the absence of short term rewards and evaluations, the people I spoke with class is over, and that student may not realize the value of what they have done unti l much later. So, the rewards the faculty reap may be in the form of evaluations, but may also be much more delayed and intangible. One of the problems that is highlighted in
282 eachable moments in the face of immediate resistance or risk. Faculty D evelopment One strategy to reinforce faculty confidence is to increase the number of conversations faculty have about teaching in general and managing risks in particular. More conversations within departments might distribute the responsibility for developing stude formulating arguments, carrying on discussions and evaluating evidence are not the topic of isolated classes, rather they cut across the curriculum and should be the r esponsibility of everyone. If faculty agree on the need for certain skills and some broad definition of them, then perhaps more will share the responsibility for their development, so when new professors and teaching assistants join their ranks, part of t he acculturation of new faculty will include the value of engaging students in these long term skills. The professors in this study rarely talked about a sense that their colleagues shared concerns for these skills. I cannot determine from my data whethe r they sense an absence of shared concern or an absence of conversation about shared concerns, but from personal experience teaching I believe there is a combination of the two issues. Professors might be more likely to risk teachable moments that require and foster long term academic skill development if they are aware of how broad the goals are shared in their departments and in the university. Faculty development opportunities are one way to enhance the communication among concerned faculty and to enhanc e the ability to recognize and capitalize on teachable moments when they occur.
283 The fact that the professors in this study expressed a deliberate use of teaching strategies despite their primary academic training having been in a field of study other tha n teaching speaks to efforts to help faculty and graduate teaching assistants think about their teaching. Some of my participants have worked with the Center for Teaching Enhancement, both as participants and as faculty facilitators Several are also inv olved in the training of the graduate teaching assistants in their departments. Some spoke explicitly of selecting teaching assistants who were skilled at engaging their students. Having opportunities for graduate assistants and new faculty to learn abou t teaching as a compliment to their disciplinary training seems to be an important step toward incorporating more deliberate conversations about handling difficult and unplanned moments in college classrooms, which can then have a positive impact on teache decision making in response to teachable moments by allowing them to think beyond the limits of class meeting specific content This study suggests that the teachable moment could be the central concept in a comprehensive program of faculty development sessions and training sessions for graduate teaching assistants. The descriptions and definitions of teachable moments reveal that faculty learn to frame a wide variety of moments as exceptional teaching opportunities. Some of those frames have emerged from experience, some people pursue them more easily than others, but it is probable that faculty and teaching assistants can, with exposure to the concept of teachable moments, learn to frame more moments in their classes as teachable.
284 I propose a seque nce of faculty development programs to be offered over a that begins with self assessment about teaching style preferences and their implications, (e.g. Myers, McCaulley, Quenk, & Hammer, 1998 ; Pratt and Co llins, 2001) connecting that to fundamental active learning principles. Since active learning covers a range of strategies, faculty can initially learn to one of my p articipants suggested. Subsequent faculty development sessions would address goal setting conceptualizations. Participants would explore their own conceptualizations of their courses (. Entwistle and Walker, 2000) and connect these to their understanding of their teaching preferences. In order for faculty to learn how to communicate those goals so students understand them as well, a workshop can also introduce an Student Goals Exploration There are two versions of the survey, one for students and one for professors. The intent is to provide a common language to talk about the goals of the course form both perspectives, so that the students and the professors are aware of potential conflicts and can examine them before the conflict can impede the pursuit of the goal. Having this kind of discussion at the outset of a course, and revisiting it periodically throughout a course. Along with an understanding of their own learning preferences and intentions, participants in the development opportunity would learn about some of the developmental theories that outline college s tudent cognitive developmental theor ies as they r
285 This understanding would then be incorporated into training on classroom climate, with an emphasis on encouraging constructive student participation. Videos of teachable moments in various forms and professors who learned to pursue them could be incorporat ed into later sessions that address managing large or small group discussions and provide concrete assistance in how to discuss difficult or controversial topics in the spirit of the marketplace of ideas. As the series of sessions progresses, participant s should be encouraged to talk about moments that they encounter and perhaps to build a discussion group around teaching. The participants can then use this training in working with departmental teaching assistants. Such a sequence would require commitm ent on the part of the faculty members involved, and should be designed with the understanding that the comfort with spontaneity may develop at different rates for different people, but exposure to multiple opportunities and perspectives can help to expand comfort zone. Use of T echnology When we look at the comments participants make about using technology, Power Point, clickers and the internet emerge as factors that either foster or impede the emergence and pursuit of teachable moments depend ing on how they are viewed. In large classes, clickers can provide a means of generating interaction and engagement as one professor reports having students talk about their answers before clicking in and another reports being able to do mini polls of stu dents in the class thereby generating data from the students that they can discuss and use to analyze course concepts, generating personal connections to the material. In the data about generating moments, professors
286 report being concerned that Power Point may be too passive if it is done poorly. But if it is done correctly, Power Point allows enhanced engagement by allowing professors to easily combine transmission of information with multi media materials. The trick some explained is to give students so me of the Power Point, but to include surprises, other media, and chances to interact in class. In discussing their concerns with the use of class time, however, several participants comment that the number of Power Point slides is a primary indication o f how much is left to cover. They feel pressure if there are too many slides left or if they have not explained everything on a slide. The number of Power Point slides has come to ny of the One suggestion is to build active learning moments, questions, clicker activities or discussion topics into the slideshows, so the interactive moments become a part of the technological content. On the other hand, in the decision making process many people report being able to follow up on questions and moments more readily because easy access to the internet streamlined the research process. The ease of looking things up on t he internet makes it less onerous for students to follow up on teachable moments, or makes it easier for professors to do so. Some even comment on the students already looking things up on wireless connections during class. Whether students or professors do the research, lea rning systems like Blackboard are mentioned as facilitating the dissemination of the this, another person talked about on,
287 so students could pursue the lines that they were interested. So, in that sense technology allows the professor to follow up on what might have been an individual teachable moment, making materials available to those who wish to take advantage of them Technology extends the ability to work with the differing needs and interests of the class. Within traditional classes, t echnology seems to be most effectively used as one of many tools, expanding opportunities or limiting them depending on how it is u sed and how it is put multi media and research capabilities at the disposal of more faculty and students. What used to be time consuming research can now be don e on the spot. This is useful but it can also lead to what one participant worried about confusing engagement with learning. As technology is more and more integrated into the classroom it can be used to pursue unexpected lines of inquiry more quickly, bu media classrooms against the possibility of student passivity and expectations for entertainment. Technology can generate involvement in the entertainment aspects of a moment, but for the mo ment to be called a teachable moment, the professor has to do more to insure interaction and not simply let the electronics take over. Technology that allows both engagement and interaction will allow more moments to emerge and will allow them to have mor e of an impact. On line classes have the potential to yield different kinds of moments. While the synchronous nature of the in class moment and its related decision making may be less of an issue in an on line class, time constraints can play out very d ifferently. Since class sessions are not limited to 50 minute or three hour segments, but can be conducted asynchronously, a professor can interact with one or a few students without having the others sit by wondering when the rest of the planned material will be covered. With on line classes, or components like chat, professors and students can engage in detailed interactions about a subject of interest without
288 concern about losing the interest and cooperation of the entire class. Students can join in o n their own time, and others can watch or disengage without feeling deprived of other content and without sending non verbal signals that discourage interaction. The recognition of on line teachable moments might be based on different signals. The on lin e teachable moment has been written about very little and is a possible topic for future research. Suggestions for Further R esearch There are several implications for future research that stem from my data and reflections on my research method. The method of collecting data, the timing of the interviews, the retrospective nature of the study, and the selection of participants and disciplines could all be varied to yield a more detailed and perhaps more context specific definitions of teachable moments and Flexibility and T each ing S tyle P references In the interviews about teachable moments several of the participants spoke about enjoying the improvisational nature of teaching, or teaching by digression or by tangent and of planning in order to be flexible. Not all of the faculty in this study reported comparable comfort with the potential tangential nature of teachable moments, even while admitting the value of pursuing teachable moments some admitted it is hard to give up control, or to let the students influence the direction of the class. Just as we recognize students have different preferred learning styles, there is literature concerning preferred teaching styles as well. A potential line of research then would be preferred teaching styles via an instrument like the Teaching P erspective s Inventory ( Pratt & Collins 2002), or the Myers Briggs Type Indicator ( Myers, McCauley Quenk, & Hammer, 1998 ), and explore how these preferences might impact the recognition and
289 pursuit of different types of teachable moment. If professors can learn to understand their teaching style preferences and develop strategies to work initially within their comfort zones while responding to teachable moments perhaps t heir ability to capitalize on the opportunities provided by teachable moments. Method Since my method was retrospective in nature faculty had to re construct from memory and frame their experiences in hindsight. Our conversations and my questions prompted their selection of events to discuss. As a result, the data is highly retrospective and subject to even more retrospective sensemaking than might be the case if the research involved direct observations and video stimulated recall of critical incidents (Gass and Mackey, 2000). With direct observations and video mo re of the verbal and non verbal details of spontaneous interactions could be included. Being able to focus on identified moments watch them play out, and having participants be able to watch them again could enhance the descriptions of moments and of fac making processes. This research would involve the researcher and the professor agreeing on particular moments to analyze with more detailed and targeted interviewing concerning those agreed upon video recorded moments. The method would nec essarily take more time, since it would target surprise moments, making it necessary to video record classes extensively in order to capture surprises when they occur. The benefits of doing so would be capture moments to stimulate recall and perhaps to sha re with other faculty who are learning to recognize and pursue teachable moments. Even if someone conducted
290 similar, two part active interviews, the data in different settings might yield different context specific dimensions to teachable moments. Le vel of C ourses My research was focused on faculty teaching undergraduate level students many of whom will not be majors in or practitioners of the disciplines being taught. Those instructors teaching general education classes work with students who may n ever take another course in their field. In my interviews professors spoke of moments and their decision to engage in them largely in terms of teaching issues such as time, academic skills or concepts, rather than addressing skills specific to the practice of a discipline. Is it possible that graduate classes or even upper division major classes, might yield insights as to how professors consciously model their discipline when they believe their students will be practicing it or at least have the experie nce of previous courses to build upon. Disciplines I nvolved This study was limited to people teaching in the social sciences and humanities. These types of courses address social concepts that yield connections and questions fairly easily within the co nfines disciplines. Race, gender, class, and current events emerge and connect to the content of these courses without requiring complete digression from their stated course objectives. This allows more teachable moments to emerge naturally at the least foreseeable end of the predictability spectrum. In my pilot study, I did speak with professors in math and the physical sciences who reported that teachable moments in general had to relate more directly to course content, particularly in the sequential c lasses
291 pursuit of teachable moments within the confines of sequential science, math or engineering courses might yield a very different de scrip tion of the teachable momen t and a different decision making process altogether. Size of C lasses and I nstitutions I conducted this study at a large research university where class sizes can range from under 12 to over 300. My participants taught classes of undergraduat es that ran ged fro m 16 to 400. While they reported that it was helpful to know their students and their concerns, they acknowledged that this was not always possible. Research that examines teachable moments in smaller vs. larger classes or in smaller institutions more focused on the liberal arts may suggest additional elements of the moment. In smaller setting s professor s may know more about the ir students and be better able to help generate personal connections. In liberal arts focused institutions, especially where general education in i s a primary concern, the thread of values may be different. The broad academic goals of participation, discussion and critical thinking, may be more central institutional concerns so pursuing them may be less of a risk. Doing s tudies in different academic settings to see if there are elements of the context that facilitate or impede the emergence and pursuit of teachable moments can enhance our understanding of them. Experience of P articipants The faculty members in this study had at least six years of college teaching experience not counting teaching assistantships in graduate school. I did not analyze the data for variations in the definitions or decisions of participants based on level of experience. Another possible rese arch study could examine the perceptions of professors
292 at different stages of their careers to see if there is a development sequence of conceptualization what is a teachable moment. Tenure and E valuations Most, but not all of my participants had tenure a t the time of the interview. I did not observe major differences between those who had tenure and those who did not. The issue of tenure was not raised in the interviews. Everyone who spoke about student evaluations as a concern was tenured, while both tenured and untenured spoke of getting feedback about their teaching. A study examining the pressures on untenured faculty, especially in terms of their pursuing more abstract instructional goals and exploring spontaneous and controversial classroom momen ts might yield insights into impediments to their pursuit and possible rewards. Furthermore, since tenured faculty expressed concern about the content of student evaluations of instruction, contrary to stereotype of tenured professors just proceeding in o ld habits without considering student input, it would be interesting to learn more about how faculty use student feedback to influence subsequent teaching, what the relationship is between student evaluations of instruction and reflexivity in class, and wh ether faculty concern stems from institutional practices of individual approaches to teaching. Timing of the R esearch In designing my study I planned to interview participants twice when possible. The assumption was that the initial interview would probably be shorter but would lay the ground work for a second more detailed conversation once the participants had had the opportunity to reflect on the initial conversation and use that insight to increase their
293 awareness of teachable moments in their classes. This design, however, did not allow for variations in the energy level that occur in the course of a semester. Most of my initial interviews were longer than the follow ups. Many faculty were more pressed for time when I tried to schedule second appointments, but were still willing to meet with me. Participants did not report being aware of many more moments than in the first interviews, though most did have ideas to add or more details about the moments they described originally. There were however low energy points in the course of the semester that seemed to affect what participants reported, times when moments w ere passed over or when students did not pick up on what they were trying to do. As exams neared, there was more concern for content and for getting to end of the material. Perhaps it is natural that people would be more willing to digress when they see more time ahead of them to catch up. As the semester nears its end professors and students are concerned about accomplishing everything laid out in the syllabus. A research design that somehow accommodates these rhythms might yield different insights. P erhaps interviews prior to the start of the semester and again before midterm, or interviews and observations over more than one semester would give us a different picture of the role of teachable moments. Conclusion The participants in my study contribute d significantly to the understanding of teachable moments in college classrooms. As with any exploration of a complex idea, each point that was clarified opened the door to new questions and new possible explorations, some of which are outlined above. Th e dimensions of teachable moments
294 and the decision to pursue them reveals a great deal about teaching, its processes, its values, its goals and it requirements. From the interviews I have built a description of many kinds of teachable moments, calculated and surprising, significant and small, simple and complex, rewarding and discouraging, and easy and challenging. They all have in common a topic of interest, interaction, and engagement that give the professor a sense that the learning potential of the mo ment is somehow enhanced. Using the descriptions provided here, I hope more people will learn to recognize teachable moments and the opportunities they provide. This is only the first step, however. While some of these moments are easy to incorporate int o a class, others require complex and deliberate decision making. By examining the elements participants considered when deciding whether to pursue unplanned teachable moments, we see a complex set of interacting elements. For a new, or even an experien ced professor, juggling all of these concerns can be overwhelming, especially if one is standing in front of a classroom of students while weighing them. In looking at the elements of the decision, we see reflected many of the dilemmas of classroom managem ent encountered by faculty balancing the need for coverage of material with opportunities to pursue new ideas, setting a range of goals for the class and the course, managing classroom discussions so they remain constructive, encouraging participation but not over participation, demonstrating disciplinary the field. The more comfortable professors are with these elements, and the more they feel able to weigh and manage them, the more likely they are to pursue a moment. In
295 addition to clarifying what to look for in teachable moments, I hope this study also helps professors think about what they want to have happen in their classes. Opportunities to think and talk about teachable moments and the elements of the decision outside of class should allow professors to feel more ready once they are in class and facing a decision. Even in a large research oriented university, full time experienced faculty are engaged in teaching undergraduate students. Participants in this study expressed an appreciation for the opportunity to talk about teaching and regretted not having more opportunities to do so. Several of my participants had, over the years, worked with the Center for Teaching Enhancement, and several also were involved in the training of the teaching assistants for their departments. We need to continue to have conversations about teaching, its goals, trials and opportunities, in order to foster this involvement. Too often the emphasis of the institution and its reward system is research focused, but the data in this study suggest that there are still people who are highly committed to undergraduate teaching as well as their research agendas. Teachable moments ca n be fostered when professors know how to frame them as opportunities and when professors and students feel like the opportunities and rewards will outweigh the risks and the costs. Whether we call them teachable moments, learnable moments, learning momen ts or something else, I hope that this study can contribute to the conversation and help new professors and teachers recognize and have the confidence to pursue such moments.
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305 Appendix A Informed Consent Informed Consent to Participate in Research Information to Consider Before Taking Part in this Research Study Researchers at the University of South Florida (USF) study many topics. To do this, we need the help of people who agree to take part in a research study. This form tells you about this research study. We are asking you to take part in a research study that is called: An Exploration of the Teachable Moment The person who is in charge of this research study is Nancy F. Mills The research will be done at the University of South Florida, Tampa campus. Purpose of the stu dy: research for a dissertation for a Ph.D. in College Teaching The objective is to develop a description of "teachable moments" and the conditions which facilitate or impede their incorporation into teaching. This study can benefit college teaching if it be gins to help us capitalize on the teachable moment and make the classroom experience more meaningful. If we tend to notice that which we look for, and my research can help faculty know what to look for, perhaps we can improve our capability to fully take a dvantage of the moments that do arise. You have been invited to participate in this study because of your experience and expertise in teaching undergraduates in your field of expertise. Study Procedures If you take part in this study, you will be asked t o participate in two interviews over the fall semester, totaling 1.5 to 2 hours. The first interview, approximately forty five minutes long, is intended to discuss in general your experiences and thoughts about teachable moments in the undergraduate colle ge classroom. After the midpoint in the semester I will contact you to schedule a second interview in which we will talk in more detail about your perceptions of teachable moments and any more recent experiences you may have had. This interview may be about 45 minutes to an hour in length. The
306 Appendix A. (Continued) interviews are scheduled at your convenience, in a location of your choice. For accuracy interviews will be digitally recorded and transcribed. Alternatives You have the alternative to choose not to participate in this research study. Benefits Th e potential benefits to you are the opportunity to further explore a phenomenon in college teaching and develop even more strategies for meaningful classroom interactions. When the study is complete I will be glad to share the results with you, providing the possibility of sharing ideas with other experts on a subject you may not have had other opportunities to explore. Risks or Discomfort There are no known risks to those who take part in t his study. Compensation W e will not pay y ou for the time you volunteer while being in this study Confidentiality We must keep your study records confidential. Recordings and transcriptions will be electronically stored under password. All identifying i nformation will be removed and stored separately. Once the dissertation is complete and approved and the results disseminated, the materials will be deleted or shredded. Transcripts of recordings may be shared with dissertation advisors to ensure appropr iate coding of responses, but identifying information will be removed. However, certain people may need to see your study records. By law, anyone who l ooks at your records must keep them completely confidential. The only people who will be allowed to see these records are: The research team, including the Principal Investigator, study coordinator, research nurses, and all other research staff. Certain government and university people who need to know more about the study. For example, individuals who p rovide oversight on this study may need to look at your records. This is done to make sure that we are doing the study in the right way. They also need to make sure that we are protecting your rights and your safety.) These include: o the University of Sou th Florida Institutional Review Board (IRB) and the staff that work for the IRB. Other individuals who work for USF that provide other kinds of oversight may also need to look at your records.
307 Appendix A. (Continued) We may publish what we learn from t his study. If we do, we will not let anyone know your name. We will not publish anything else that would let people know who you are. Voluntary Participation / Withdrawal You should only take part in this study if you want to volunteer. You should not feel that there is any pressure to take part in the study to please the investigator or the research staff. You are free to participate in this research or withdraw at any time. There will be no penalty or loss of benefits you are entitled to receiv e if you stop taking part in this study Questions, concerns, or complaints If you have any questions, concerns or complaints about this study, cal l Nancy F. Mills at 974 0580 or 994 7506. If you have questions about your rights, general questions, complai nts, or issues as a person taking part in this study, call the Division of Research Integrity and Compliance of the University of South Florida at (813) 974 9343. If you experience an adverse event or unanticipated problem call Nancy F. Mills at 974 0580 or 994 7506 Consent to Take Part in this Research Study It is up to you to decide whether you want to take part in this study. If you want to take part, please sign the form, if th e following statements are true. I freely give my consent to take part in this study. I understand that by signing this form I am agreeing to take part in research. I have received a copy of this form to take with me. Signature of Person Taking Part in Study Date Printed Name of Person Taking Part in Study
308 Appendix A. (Continued) Statement of Person Obtaining Informed Consent I have carefully explained to the person taking part in the study what he or she can expect. I hereby certify that when this person signs this form, to the best of my knowledge, he or she understands: What the study is about. What procedures/interventions/investigational drugs or devices will be used. What the potential benefits might be. What the known risks might be. I also certify that he or she does not have any problems that could make it hard to understand what it means to take part in this research. This person speaks the language that was used to explain this research. This person reads well enough to understand this form or, if not, this person is able to hear and understand when the form is read to him or her. This person does not have a medical/psychological problem that would compromise comprehension and therefore makes it hard to understand what is being explained and can, therefore, give informed cons ent. This person is not taking drugs that may cloud their judgment or make it hard to understand what is being explained and can, therefore, give informed consent. Signature of Person Obtaining Informed Consent Date Prin ted Name of Person Obtaining Informed Consent
309 Appendix B Interview Protocol 1 An exploration of the teachable moment 1. Describe your idea of a teachable moment? Do you have an example? Possible follow up questions: When does one occur? How do you recognize teachable moments? Does the teachable moment necessarily fall within your instructional plans? Curriculum? Discipline? 2. What is the source of a teachable moment? Possible f ollow up: Do you intentionally set out to create teachable moments? Are they student generated only? 3. How do you decide whether or not to pursue a teachable moment? Possible follow up: If one student asks a question, how do you determine if this is a teachable moment for the entire class? What might limit or prevent your pursuit of a teachable moment? 4. How often do you think teachable moments occur in your classes?
310 Appendix C Proposed Interview Protocol 2 An exploration of the teachable moment 1. Would you like me to recap some of what we discussed at our first interview? Possible follow up: I would like to make sure I understood what you meant last time 2. Have you had any new experiences in your classroom this semeste r that relate to teachable moments? Would you describe them for me? Possible follow up: How did you decide to follow (or not follow) up on this? Tell me about how you think that went? 3. Please tell me about any additional ideas you have had about re achable moments since our last conversation. 4. Have you been aware of changes in your thinking about such moments since our last conversation? If so, please tell me about them. 5. One theme that has emerged from the first intervie ws has to do with having to say you
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Nancy Mill s has an A.B. from Centre College and a eading and La nguage from Boston Universit y. S he has taught college reading and study skills in community colleges and in four year institutions since the mid 1980s and is currently teaching in the Department of Academic Support at St. Cloud State University. Over the years, conversations with colleagu es about teaching and learning have sustained her interest the d ynamics of college classrooms Her co urse s of study, in higher education and in communication d ovetailed with this interest and led to this study. This study is the result of that combination of interests and experience. She hopes that these interviews with c ollege faculty will open many new conversations about teachable moments college teaching and the social interaction s they entail and that this will, in turn, shed some light on teachab le moments, and on ways to maximize their impact in college classes.
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Mills, Nancy Fosdick.
Riding the winds of their interest :
b exploring the teachable moment in college classrooms
h [electronic resource] /
by Nancy Fosdick Mills.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 310 pages.
Dissertation (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2009.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic dissertation) in PDF format.
ABSTRACT: The phrase "teachable moment" has a taken-for-granted connotation of readiness to learn, but has been rarely defined and researched in the literature of higher education. This study described faculty members' experiences of teachable moments in their undergraduate classrooms. This included the conditions in which they emerge, and the decision-making processes used by faculty members to determine if and how to pursue such moments. If professors have opportunities to clarify their understandings of such moments, the ability to capitalize on otherwise unplanned teaching opportunities may be enhanced. Seventeen experienced social science and humanities faculty members teaching undergraduate classes at a large research university participated in two semi-structured active interviews (Gubrium and Holstein, 2003). The interviews addressed their understandings of, experiences with, and decisions about teachable moments in the classroom.These interviews yielded descriptions of teachable moments as creating a heightened sense of engagement and interaction about a topic of shared interest. Teachable moments fall along a continuum of predictability, with some moments being intentionally designed by the professor and others emerging spontaneously during a class as a result of current events or student comments. When confronted with surprise moments professors consider a complex set of interacting elements to decide whether to pursue or postpone the exploration of the moment. They ask themselves several questionsIs there time? How does this fit with goals for the class, course or program? Are the students and I ready to examine this? What impact will this have on classroom dynamics? Does this warrant in-class exploration, or should it be pursued outside of class? The set of considerations can be examined as manifestations of Schon's (1987) theory of reflection-in-action which describes how professionals make decisions in surprise situations when previously effective responses do not work, and more specifically of Steier and Ostrenko's (2000) adaptation of Schon's model, .reflection-in-interaction. Implications for theories and practices of teaching of college teaching as well as for opportunities for faculty development were described.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
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Co-advisor: James Eison, Ph.D.
Co-advisor: William H. Young, Ed.D.
x Higher Education
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.