Collaborating with Other Educators
 
by Craig Rusbult, Ph.D.
 
As part of my plan for converting ideas into action, I want to work with other educators to develop curriculum & instruction that will help students improve their learning of ideas-and-skills in a wide variety of contexts.
 
As part of your plan for improving the quality of education, why might you want to work with me?   Because I have:

• many Ideas for Education;  I think the best of these are in Using Design Process for Problem Solving & Education.

Or, in the past tense mode of a conventional CV, I have

• a wide variety of teaching experiences;

• BA & MS in Chemistry, MA in History of Science, and a PhD in Curriculum & Instruction (Science Education) that was earned by developing an integrative model of scientific methods, and using this model to analyze a creative science-inquiry classroom;  plus extensive informal education.

• awards — ACS Best Chemistry Student (for all high schools of Orange County CA, and later for U.C. Irvine), NSF Fellowship for Graduate Study (at U of WA), Dean's Club Award in Education (at U of WI)— and two 800's [highest possible score] in Graduate Record Exam for Math & Verbal.

 

A bio-page has a brief history of my life, explaining the rewards and frustrations of my “road less traveled” as a scholar-and-educator;  and a personal history (re: solving problems with scientific method & design process) describes my long-time interest in this fascinating area, and in lab education.

Below, a Web Portfolio describes major “educational influences” and some personal results that you can see in my verbal-and-visual overviews of scientific concepts (for chemistry & physics) and thinking strategies (for science & design), plus my explorations of parts-whole analysis (for juggling) and problem solving (while tutoring), appreciation of eclectic instruction, and learning about respectful understanding.

 

 

A Personal Web-Portfolio  —  Influences and Results
This section is the continuation of my brief resume/bio above.
 

results:  Most of my recent writing about education is in a comprehensive website, Using Creative-and-Critical Design Thinking for Problem Solving & Education.  Also, links for a wider variety of my web-pages.

 

influences:  When you click the links below, you can see some results of major “influences” on the development of my thinking and skills:
 • reading-and-using summary notes made by Wolfgang Schubert (when he taught organic chemistry at UW in Seattle) helped me appreciate the benefits of a logically organized summary, and this motivated much of my later work.

• a related inspiration was studying Introduction to Chemical Thermodynamics (by William Davies - see the endnotes) with its integrative perspective that showed me how ideas which previously had been unrelated (for me) could be elegantly combined in my mind, thus changing-and-improving the way I think about the characteristics of molecules, and how this affects their reactions.

• In a similar way, Prof Keena (organic chemistry at U of Oregon) often said "it's eminently reasonable that molecules do what they do, because they are what they are," and he explained how, because the structure of molecules (i.e. what they are) determines where they contain locations with + or – electrical charge, and a + spot in one molecule is electrically attracted to a – spot in another molecule, and they react.

 

overview-summaries:  Some results of these inspirations — from the o-chem summaries and thermo book and o-chem principle, plus the many other educationally useful overviews I've seen and studied that have helped me learn more efficiently and effectively — are the web-pages I've written that, analogous to executive summaries or CliffsNotes, are an organized condensation of important ideas.    { But in other web-pages my ideas are expressed in more depth, and interesting tangents are explored, so my pages span a wide spectrum from condensed summaries to expansive expositions, and they also cover a wide range of topics. }

the benefits of organization:  Based on research, educators agree that organizing knowledge leads to better understanding, remembering, transfering, and using of knowledge.

thinking skills in education:  The use of education to improve thinking skills has fascinated me for a long time, and some of my web-pages are link-pages that condense a wide range of important ideas about thinking, and link to pages by other authors.  In web-checks during recent years (in Google before Panda, and currently in Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, or Bing) my pages have been #1 for "     in education" where the blank can be filled with creative thinking, problem solving, thinking skills, scientific method, or design process, and (ranking high but not #1) critical thinking.

verbal-and-visual representations:  In another result of these inspirational influences, I've been motivated to make summaries that combine verbal & visual information, spatially organized in a logically meaningful way, as in my newest diagrams (for using Design Thinking to solve problems) and earlier with summaries of physics chapters (in a book from 1989, Tools for Problem Solving in Physics) and diagrams for my models of Integrated Scientific Method (with diagrams: simplified & full) and Integrated Design Method (with diagrams: simplified & basic & detailed and isolations).   Because it's my scientific specialty, I've also developed many ideas in chemistry;  a few of these ideas (a very small fraction of the total) are now available on the web, condensed into summary-notes for chemistry, and later (iou) I'll put more of them online.   And in other areas, diagrams for music theory plus ballroom dancing rhythms, patterns, and transitions.

analysis-and-synthesis of juggling:  An unusual influence was learning how to juggle, and then becoming a juggling teacher (for UW's Experimental College in Seattle) and author of a comprehensive (but non-published) book about juggling.  The juggling was fun — well, it still is, as you can see in my juggling video from 2009 — and learning how to juggle and teaching others (in person & in a book) also contributed to my intellectual development.  How?  Because a good way to teach juggling, from the basics through advanced tricks, is with analysis-and-synthesis, by breaking a complex process into parts that can be learned and then recombined in a whole-part-whole process.  But another way of learning tricks is to ”try something new“ and let your hands "figure out what to do" in a process that is much like the minds-off strategy recommended by Tim Gallwey for The Inner Game of Tennis (Editorial Book Review from Amazon).  I've also combined these two approaches to learning (analysis-and-synthesis, and “just let it happen”) in my learning & teaching of musical improvisation, and I've thought a lot about the similarities and differences between learning physical skills and mental skills, whether these occur in sports & arts or design & science.  The process of writing-and-drawing a juggling book was challenging, and this was good practice for the relatively easy task (well, easier in some ways but not others!) of constructing verbal-and-visual representations in areas like physics and scientific method.  You can see the first chapter of Do-it-Yourself Juggling plus a few miscellaneous ideas, but unfortunately not my in-book or in-person teaching of Mill's Mess (wikipedia & video) and other fancy tricks, plus cooperative juggling like passing and stealing.    { I've played a variety of sports, watched even more, have studied sport-science (physiology, psychology, strategy) and taught juggling, tennis, and ballroom dancing. }

one-to-one customized teaching:  During the 1980s, I tutored students in science (chemistry, physics) and math (algebra, calculus, business calculus) at the University of Washington, both privately and in a learning center serving students with inadequate educational backgrounds.  While tutoring, I worked thousands of problems, constantly improving my own solution strategies and searching for ways to teach these strategies to students in easy-to-master steps.  In one-to-one conversations I shared their struggles, discovering how they think and learn.  Students' questions, such as "How did you get that picture from those words?", kept my attention focused on the goal of meeting their needs.  With no "front of the classroom pressure" I was able to relax and try different teaching methods (with instant feedback from students) to find what works best.  The teaching skills I learned while tutoring (and continuing since then) have transferred into my current classroom teaching, and for the past two decades my students have scored consistently high on exams.

eclectic instruction combining active reception and active inquiry:  By nature I tend to be eclectic, and one result is trying to avoid limitations on my thinking about education.  Reading two papers about “Overview, Case Study” instruction (by Arthur Farmer, and Alan Van Heuvelen) led me to think more deeply about the benefits of hybrid instruction that combines the best aspects of different approaches.  This fueled my optimism for a productive resolution of the typically unproductive arguments between educators (including myself) who appreciate the value of cognitively active meaningful reception learning and those who (also like me) appreciate the value of inquiry learning but who (unlike me) seem to think that combining "cognitively active" and "reception" is an illogical oxymoron, so meaningful reception learning through direct instruction (as advocated by David Ausubel and others) should not play a significant role in education;  I disagree.   Instead, I think we should develop creative eclectic instruction (combining the best features of different approaches) that encourages effective active learning.

accurate understanding with respectful attitudes:  Finally, one of the most significant influences on the way I now think was when "students in my high school learned valuable lessons about understanding and attitudes from one of our favorite teachers."



Endnotes:
Introduction to Chemical Thermodynamics,
by William Davies, is described in a book review from the Journal of Chemical Education, and I've summarized a central idea.

Here are some idea-scraps, maybe to be used later:  I tend to prefer eclectic teaching methods with a significant emphasis on meaningful reception learning (Ausubel,...) as a useful "minds on" learning activity, along with problem solving (structured and unstructured, with algorithmic and improvisational solutions) and guided inquiry with varying amounts of coaching, and "spiral" sequences in a curriculum;  also, considering alternative conceptions (misconceptions) of students, and using multiple logical/verbal/visual representations of concepts and processes.

Craig Rusbult, crusbult@wisc.edu