Benjamin Cohen on Novel Pedagogy

On Friday, March 2, 2012, invited speaker Benjamin Cohen came to the CTLE to talk about the novel pedagogy he has implemented in his classrooms at the University of Virginia and Lafayette College, Pennsylvania, mainly with engineering students.

Benjamin Cohen biography

Cohen aims to engage his students in learning about local foodsheds and environmental initiatives, connecting the college classroom to the surrounding community. Rather than using traditional assignments, he opts for creative, collaborative class projects. One of his classes authored a book rather than writing individual research papers.

Technology, Nature, and Sustainable Design
Behind the Curtain of ecoMOD3

Another class constructed a website of podcasts, which investigated various local food topics from farmer’s markets to health food stores to vegetarian diets to composting. They presented at the Charlottesville, Virginia, public library to educate the public on local options for sustainable eating and living.

Bringing Engineers into the Local Foodshed

Cohen’s current students are developing projects related to “the governance of environmental engineering in the Easton, PA, Lehigh Valley, and broader mid-Atlantic region.”

The Governance of Technology

Cohen’s presentation helped us to conceive of novel pedagogical techniques that combine elements of service learning, hands-on problem solving, and projects that result in lasting products rather than term papers or exams that are discarded at the end of the semester.


Online Education

Daphne Koller discusses Coursera for TED

On May 2, 2012, Pedagogy Cohort watched the above TED video by Daphne Koller and discussed the idea of using standardized videos from top-tier universities as components of our courses.┬áKoller and her associate Andrew Ng created Coursera at Stanford University, which makes lectures from 16 universities across the country available to the public. It also provides assignments and assessments to support learning. Integrating the Coursera videos might enable us to “flip” our classrooms by allowing students to watch lectures outside of class and spend classtime working on problems or case studies with professors.

After watching the TED video, we discussed the strengths and weaknesses of integrating Coursera. On the positive side, Coursera provides high-quality lectures on various topics, enabling us to flip our classroom right away without videotaping all our own lectures – a process that may take an entire semester. The negatives, however, may outweigh the positives. First, lectures on the particular topics we wish to cover may not be available. Further, the information provided on these lectures is static; it does not necessarily reflect the latest scholarship. We also agreed that one of the benefits of “live” lecture is that students can stop and ask the professor to clarify or provide more examples. Students watching at home may forget where their questions lie by the end of a given lecture and fail to fully understand the material. Finally, classrooms provide distraction-free environments as opposed to home-learning environments, where students might not disconnect themselves from social media or cellphones. Concentration is key to learning.

Meeting Minutes 8/15/2011

Present: Jeremy Sepinsky, Katy Meier, Tara Fay, Jess Nolan

  1. Proposal Content
    1. regular meetings and guest speakers
      1. Ben Cohen
      2. Ed Prather
    2. conferences
    3. assessments
    4. produce classroom product
    5. teaching evaluations
    6. videotaped classrooms
    7. books and materials
    8. resource list / Wiki
  2. Classroom styles
    1. Jigsaw classroom:
    2. problem-based learning
    3. hybrid classroom