Instructor: Matthew Sanger
Observer: Kirk Fiereck

Class: Rise of Civilization

Instructor's learning goal and vision

Students are often challenged to organize and understand the myriad lines of evidence, theoretical arguments, and historical developments offered within Rise of Civilization as this is a broad survey class filled with non-majors, yet also engages with demanding social theory. Through my discussion section, I will introduce students to the idea of “concept mapping” in which data, theories, and cultural developments can be visualized, lines of influence can be drawn, and other factors, such as temporal placement, can act as structuring agents. Beginning in the third week of class, when normal recitations start, I will bring an open source program (Spiderscribe) into my lecture to show students how it can be used to organize the information offered in class and through the readings. The goal will be to create and build a single map for the entire semester which will encapsulate all of the data offered in class. The map is web-based and will be available for students as a study guide as well as being used to organize weekly lectures in section. Students will also be offered an opportunity to add to the map as an alternative to the traditional writing assignment. Students opting to add to the map will be assigned a week in which they will go online and expand the map based on the readings and lectures of the week. They will then be called upon in section to explain their thinking and rationale to the class as there are always multiple ways in which this information can be organized.

The goal of this project is to enhance student’s ability to visualize and organize information as well as to make links between apparently disparate historical events/processes/cultures. The addition of concept mapping will hopefully provide structure to weekly sections as well as create a single point which students can find all of the data provided by the class. As such, it will hopefully be a powerful study tool, particularly for midterm and final exams. Finally, by asking students to add to the map they will hopefully become more engaged with the information offered in class as well as fostering a point of discussion with their peers.

Observer's understanding of what is being tracked and how progress will be measured

The instructor will implement an online digital teaching tool, Spiderscribe, in order to help students organize and understand a wide range of types of data and the theory they are using to interpret this data. The goal of this method is to help students to understand the links between the disparate forms of data they are shown in the class and how to decide how to organize this data well by being able to link data forms to an appropriate interpretive theory. The use of Spiderscribe will be voluntary, so some students may not sign up to use it. Some students will, and other students may not decide to use Spiderscribe. There are also other students in other TA sections who will have no exposure to Spiderscribe in the classroom. This creates three groups for potential comparison: 1) students in this section who use Spiderscribe (high exposure to concept mapping); 2) students in this section who don't use Spiderscribe, but have access to the work done by other students and the section's discussions (some exposure to concept mapping); 3) students in other sections without exposure to Spiderscribe (no exposure to concept mapping). The observer will not be able to observe students using Spiderscribe. However, I would be able to observe the proposed in-class presentation of students who used Spiderscribe. After the mid-term, we would be able to compare exam scores, but perhaps the best evaluation tool, would be to do short interviews with a selection of students from Matt's section (those who did and did not populate content on Spiderscribe) to see if actively using the technology helped students towards reaching the teaching goal compared with those who only interacted with Spiderscribe by virtue of being in his section. Additionally, pre-made questionnaires regarding the teaching goal and use of Spiderscribe will be circulated to the entire section to get some basic feedback about the use of Spiderscribe in relation to the teaching goals.




Do you regularly attend section? How many sections have you missed?

How did you study for the midterm (circle all that apply)?

Read assigned readings
Read Professor’s Lecture Notes
Went over Professor’s Powerpoints
Reviewed my own Lecture Notes
Reviewed someone else’s Lecture Notes
Attended Review Section
Reviewed TA’s Online Study Tools
Made my own Concept Map
Studied with Classmates
Made Flashcards, Cheat Sheet, or other study tool
Other – Specify
Other – Specify
Other – Specify
Other – Specify

What was the most useful thing you did to study for the midterm?
What was the least useful?
What will you do the same/different in order to prepare for the final?


1/30: Teagle meeting to discuss Spring Observations

2/04: Chat with Kirk to Create Observation PlaN

2/10: Request permission and share observation plan with Professor D’Altroy

2/14: Formalize Plan and Survey Questions

2/17: Introduce students to Spiderscribe – use in section to organize information from lectures and readings

2/24: Continue to use Spiderscribe in section and introduce students to how it works – invite them to create their own maps in lieu of paper assignment

3/3: Papers/Maps due in section

3/10: Observation Date
12:50 Arrive at 963 Schermerhorn Extension
1:10 Class starts – Introduce Kirk to the class, explain goal of class (Study session for midterm)
- Utilize Spiderscribe to link together previously unconnected concept maps to show interrelations and power of tool for studying
- Share maps made by other students with section and ask students to explain their thinking
- Kirk notes general level of engagement with the concept mapping tools, monitors how many students are using the tools on their laptops in class
2:00 Class ends

3/12: Midterm

3/13: Collate grading data to see if there is any correlation between performance and section

3/17: Follow up with section.
1:00 – Normal section – recitation over the week’s readings and lectures. Inform students that Kirk will be visiting near the end in order to do a quick survey.
1:45 – Kirk comes to section. Passes around questionnaire, explains that while it is not anonymous, I will not be privy to individual responses.
2:00 class ends

3/24: Kirk correlates individual responses with midterm grades to determine if there is any correlation.

3/26: Meet up to talk about observation and write up report.