Mark Your +1: How Adding Assignment Options Can Lead to Active and Meaningful Learning

Concurrent Session 2
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

You may have brought a plus-one to a wedding, but what about bringing a plus-one to your classroom? In this conversation, participants will be challenged to add 'plus-one' options to each assignment in a current class they teach - that is, to include one other way students can meet the learning objectives.


My background is made up of a variety of experiences, each one adding to my knowledge, skills, and abilities in the kinesiology field. I have been teaching in higher education since 2006, classes ranging from structural kinesiology to nutrition to fitness testing and interpretation. I love teaching because: 1) I get to share my passion for an awesome field; 2) I get to continuously learn myself because it is a field that is ever-changing. I believe that to be a good instructor, I must keep up with the trends; And, probably most importantly, 3) helping students discover how this field can fit into their lives- professional or personal- is so fulfilling. To see that what you teach is directly affecting others is a great experience. I have also worked as a Program Coordinator for an exercise program for special populations, a Health Coach, a Personal Trainer, a Health Screening Technician, and a Cardiac Rehab Technician. All these have helped me 'practice what I preach', which I believe is vital to teaching in this field. Kinesiology is a hands-on field and to effectively share your knowledge with others, you have to experience it. I moved into the online teaching realm in 2011 and have been there with IUPUI ever since. It has been, and continues to be, an interesting journey, as new technologies and ways to connect with my students have arisen. The number one piece of advice I would have for someone teaching online for the first time: Start over. Rethink your classes. Moving from the physical classroom to the virtual classroom takes time, patience, an understanding from the student's viewpoint, and, most of all, passion for teaching. Personally, I have two beautiful children who mean the world to me and who are very much learning what a healthy lifestyle is! I love to run and do races, which my children are beginning to get into as well. Showing them the fun of exercise and nutrition is so key to them becoming healthy adults!

Extended Abstract

You may have brought a plus-one to a wedding, but what about bringing a plus-one to your classroom? As many of us may have learned from experience, learning is not a spectator sport and neither is teaching. While the image of a college classroom is often of a large lecture hall with the instructor regaling the students with his or her knowledge, we know that our students learn best when they write, relate, apply, and experience. All of these often cannot be done simply and easily.

This is where the idea of plus-one assignments come in. We create our courses with a set number of assignments that, while meeting our course learning objectives, may not necessarily meet the learning needs of all our students nor provide active learning opportunities. While some students do best expressing their learning via a written paper or creating a PowerPoint presentation, this only meets the needs of some learners. Therefore, creating assignment options opens your class to meeting these needs while also enabling your students to participate in active learning no matter the assignment.

In this conversation, participants will be briefly introduced to the idea of what a ‘plus-one’ assignment is, how it can meet your students’ learning needs, and how it can incorporate the principles of active learning and multiple types of learning activity interactions (learner-to-learner, learner-to-instructor, learner-to-content). The majority of the time will be dedicated to having participants take a current course they are teaching and coming up with ‘plus-one’ assignments for as many current assignments as possible. Some assignment examples will be provided with active learning alternatives listed for inspiration. Finally, we will end the discussion with some possible challenges to this approach and participants will brainstorm ways to avoid or overcome these challenges.