Using Peer Instruction To Strengthen Physics Teaching With Natalia Murillo-Quirós

Natalia Murillo-Quirós is Professor of Physics at the Tecnológico de Costa Rica.

Natalia Murillo-Quirós was frustrated. Since she began teaching at Tecnológico de Costa Rica, the physics professor sensed that her students were not taking full advantage of her class.

Overall performance was stagnant, and students seemed to commit the same errors on exams over and over again.

Murillo-Quirós has a deep appreciation for the field of physics and its potential to answer questions about the world and how it ticks. The desire to share this message is one of the factors that led her to teaching in the first place. With some dismay, she realized this message hadn’t reached her own students.

Something needed to change.

Determined to awaken her classroom, Murillo-Quirós and a handful of her fellow professors sought out Laspau to participate in the University Innovation program, Strengthening Physics Teaching, in Cambridge, Massachusetts during the spring of 2015. During the program, Murillo-Quirós participated in discussions with professors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Northeastern University, and Olin College to learn new teaching methodologies that would help her better engage her students. Murillo-Quirós even had the opportunity to sit in on physics classes and see the teaching methods in action.

After her three day-long intensive with Laspau, Murillo-Quirós returned to Costa Rica armed with a new teaching model: Peer Instruction for Active Learning. Created by Harvard Physics and Applied Physics professor, Eric Mazur, one of the program’s featured speakers, the Peer Instruction method, as the name suggests, asks professors to center their curriculum around discussions instead of lectures so students may learn from their peers. With this new idea in mind, Murillo-Quirós encouraged her students to read material before class and to come prepared to participate in class discussions.

After just a short time with the Peer Instruction for Active Learning, Murillo-Quirós noticed a real change in her classroom. Students now appear more confident come exam day and seem more interested and in touch with course materials. No longer is Murillo-Quirós’ classroom a place of sleepy students but one alive with engagement and interaction.

“With this model, I have feelings that I have never had in eleven years of teaching,” Murillo-Quirós explains.

Putting a new teaching method into place has brought some difficulties, perhaps the most notable has been the resistance to change by the students, who, after having learned via lectures for years, may feel uncertain at the moment starting a discussion and defending their ideas. I insist that, even though it may get them out of their comfort zone, that’s a good thing, because it prepares them for their professional lives beyond the classroom. As the semester progresses, they gain a better understanding, however, at the beginning students often need constant encouragement.

Another factor to consider is the work involved for the professor in changing the teaching methodology, including creating new classes. Any teacher will understand how time-consuming it can be and Murillo-Quirós recommends generating networks with colleagues and sharing resources to help reduce the amount of time needed.

Even taking into account the challenges she has experienced and those that may come, Murillo-Quirós feels the time she has invested has been worth, “After applying peer instruction in my classroom, I can’t, nor do I wish to, return to lecture style classes. It wouldn’t make sense for me as a professor.”

Encouraged by the positive change, Murillo-Quirós plans to continue using Peer Instruction with the hope of spreading her love for problem solving and physics to future students.

Laspau and SEMESP Implement the IV STHEM Brazil Forum

MOOCA, BRAZIL, March 22-23, 2018- Over the past two days, professor representing public and private institutions from Brazil met at the IV STHEM Brazil Forum to promote and exchange innovative teaching methodologies in higher education.

The STHEM Brazil Forum is an initiative between Laspau and the union of private higher education institutions from the State of São Paulo (SEMESP), which, since 2012,  has aimed to train professors from Brazil through innovative teaching theories and best practices in areas of content development, assessment, and learning management. Trainers are faculty and administrators of institutions such as Harvard, MIT, Olin College, Tecnológico de Monterrey, Université du Québec à Montréal, among others.

This year, professors gathered at the Universidade São Judas Tadeu and presented projects on varied practices such as peer instruction, active learning, project-based learning, gamification, design thinking, flipped classroom, and blended learning, which they had implemented in their respective classes.

The Forum had special participation from the MIT Media Lab researcher, Professor Leo Burd. Burd runs the Lemann Creative Learning Program, has worked on in education projects include Scratch and App Inventor and created the VoIP Drupal open source toolkit and applications for neighborhood communication, local tourism, open governance, and community engagement. His studies focus on designing technologies for creative learning and social empowerment.

For more information on the STHEM Consortium, please read about Fabio Garcia Reis, one of the Consortium founders, or  visit the STHEM Brasil website (in Portuguese).

For more information on University Innovation programs like the STHEM Consortium, please contact our Program Manager for Academic Innovation, Colleen Silva-Hayden.

Mexico’s First Mixe Fulbright Scholar Is Working to Improve the Lives of Indigenous Farmers

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Scholar: Tania Eulalia Martínez – a Fulbright COMEXUS scholar from Mexico holds a Master’s degree in Agricultural and Byosistems Engineering at University of Arizona. Currently, she is a PhD candidate at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Contributor: Yara Simón, senior culture editor at Remezcla.

Three years ago, before Tania Eulalia Martínez left Mexico to pursue a doctorate in Holland, her Abuelita Eulalia had one request: “Take this shawl with you. I want you to tell those who live over there, in that other world, who we are, how we live, and what we do. Take it so that you can remember us, so that you don’t forget us.” But what the late Eulalia may not have realized at the time is that Tania’s studies would bring her closer to the Mixe community. As she pursues a Ph.D. at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, Tania’s devoted to improving the lives of Mexico’s indigenous populations.

“I feel committed to giving something back to my country, and the area where I can do it is in the agricultural sector,” she said. “The technical background is important, but so are the social aspects. I want to help agricultural projects reach more people who have been marginalized, and to do so, I have to better understand the social and cultural contexts in which these projects take place. I want not just to create technologies and techniques to solve problems, but to understand the lives of indigenous peoples and farmers, so I can be more efficient as a scientist in helping them. I am an engineer learning to be a social scientist.”

Read the full story on Remezcla’s website >>


Follow
Tania on Twitter @tania_eulalia
Follow Yara on Twitter @SaraYimon

 

[vc_row][vc_column][mk_mini_callout]Disclaimer: This blog is not an official Fulbright Program site. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

 

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A Weeklong Discussion on University English-Language Teaching in Peru

LIMA, PERU, March 12-16, 2018- Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (UNMSM) organized the University English-Language Teaching workshop this week bringing together teaching and learning experts in the field. Representatives from The British Council, IATEFL Peru, Euroidiomas, and Relo Andrés were among the featured panelists.

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With the theme of “Empowering English Teachers in Language Training”, the workshop focused on improving teaching methodologies, understanding the need for faculty development, formulating active engagement strategies through effective communication and gaming, and more. As an invited panelist, Laspau Executive Director, Angélica Natera explored the topic on innovation trends behind teaching and learning and how the leading universities around the world are rethinking their approach to education.

The University English-Language Teaching workshop was held for 5 consecutive days and gathered university and department lecturers, and students from the Department of Linguistics, Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences.

Photo courtesy of UNMSM General Office for Cooperation and Inter-Institutional Relations

 

Strengthening Research: Laspau Signs Partnership with Universidad Nacional del Altiplano – Puno

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS, March 9, 2018- Over the past week, Laspau hosted a group of academic leaders from the Universidad Nacional del Altiplano – Puno (UNA-Puno) culminating in the signing today of a collaborative agreement between the two institutions.

Located in the northern region of Peru, UNA-Puno is a public university composed of 19,000 undergraduate students pursuing studies concentrated in the fields of science, technology or arts.

During the visit, UNA-Puno President, Dr. Porfirio Enriquez, along with the Academic Provost Dr. Rogelio Florez, and Provost for Research Dr. Wenceslao Medina, met with academic and administrative leaders from Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to discuss strategies for re-envisioning institutional transformation. “Human capital is the key element in the national and international positioning of the public university in Peru,” says Dr. Enriquez during the academic delegation visit.

The university is embarking on a comprehensive strategic planning process for the year 2021, which will focus on positioning UNA-Puna as a research-based institution for undergraduates and on improving teaching and learning through innovative methodologies.

 

How to be an international PhD student… and survive it!

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By: Deyanira Sindy Moya Chaves – a Fulbright Becas Colciencias scholar from Colombia and a PhD fellow in Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at Pennsylvania State University.

After deciding to change your life and leaving everything behind; after planning every detail, carefully packing your bag, attending every training offered to you by your sponsor, you finally get to a new place: your new home in the United States. It is probably an empty room; an empty house you are sharing with someone you do not know; or it is probably a new apartment you have for yourself. Maybe it is the first time you start paying rent by yourself or maybe you have just moved over there with your spouse and family. In any case, don´t let the emptiness of your new home scare you. Breathe and picture it as full of possibilities. Maybe the first night you will sleep on the floor, or in a sleeping bag, but it is OK, you will have better nights. Let the excitement of buying your first mattress or couch take over. Hang photos of your loved ones all around, put flowers on your night table and stock up on cool school supplies. Find a nice desk and a really comfy chair for it. In other words, build your nest, for it will be yours for a while.

First day of school at Penn State University
First day of classes at Penn State University

Every new international PhD student finds a new form of transportation to school, and a good old bike is always the best option to begin with. Name it (like Lola for example), put some stickers on the handles, make it yours for it will be your unconditional friend and companionship from now on. For every day of school, have a good powerful breakfast, pack your lunch (you will need it); put your school supplies in a new backpack and pedal your way to academic life. Most importantly, bring your laptop with you for it will become an extension of your body. Let air on your face and a feeling of freedom and adventure on your body take over. But do not get lost (arriving on time is another important trait for grad school), and park Lola at the right parking spot. You definitely do not want to find her later in a tree because you did not lock her (yes, it happens…), so register her and follow the rules.

Riding Lola
Riding Lola

You are in grad school now: a high-speed rail. It moves fast and gets you to new places you could not be before.  Get on board for it is exciting and demanding. Do not fear though…start buying your own books and always get enough highlighters. Over time, your books stack beautifully on top of each other, so build a creative bookshelf. Your most visited place is the library, so find your spot there. Get comfortable, and memorize author’s names and reflect about facts when reading, doing research, having study group meetings and checking-out piles of books at a time. Take vitamins for your brain needs them.

An international student is noticed everywhere h/she goes, but have no fear. Your accented English helps you spell out your long (and “beautiful”) first, middle or last names every time you buy coffee; when your professors, nurses, colleagues or your own students ask you to; when filling out a form (which happens a lot); or when giving information over the phone. Spelling; hearing, and seeing different possible combinations of your name becomes a joyful habit. You are corrected all the time, but your English improves little by little. The silver lining is that you are not alone. Feeling lost, confused, lonely, homesick, or even stupid is what your classmates also talk about. So, shake it off and start all over again.

Learning from professors and meeting famous authors
Learning from professors and meeting famous authors

To survive grad school, find a balance. Work hard and become the best doctor in your field; but don’t forget where you come from and what your goal is. Be humble, listen and observe carefully. Take feedback from your professors and colleagues, and keep on learning every day. Also, recharge every time you need to. Rely on your loved ones, go back home for vacations, visit new places, do exercise and try new foods from time to time for the experience of grad school will only happen once!

[vc_row][vc_column][mk_mini_callout]Disclaimer: This blog is not an official Fulbright Program site. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

 

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