Apprenticeship in Teaching

Jazz Combos

José Bowen, Ph.D.

When over 150 students registered for his Jazz History course, former Georgetown University Professor José Bowen wanted to preserve the course's substance and still accommodate the large number of students by adding interactive elements. CNDLS helped Bowen reshape his course to ensure the key concepts remained meaningful by engaging selected students as small groups discussion leaders and enabling easy access to the course audio files.

First, the CNDLS team helped him incorporate the audio files into Blackboard, as well as onto a streaming server in Gelardin New Media Center, to allow a large number of students multiple means of access in a variety of formats. Then, Prof. Bowen implemented a 4th credit option for the students who acted as discussion leaders for 'listening groups.' The discussion leaders met with him regularly so he could monitor which topics the rest of the students understood and which required further attention. Armed with this insight, he refined the way he reviewed subject matter in class, focusing on the areas his discussion leaders reported as problematic.

At the end of the course, the CNDLS team brainstormed with Prof. Bowen about the efficacy of the new course design. They helped him formulate effective survey questions and organize the responses using an online survey tool to gather feedback from students.

Prof. Bowen also conducted small-group exit interviews with the discussion leaders. From these assessments, he discovered the majority of students found the small groups compensated for the large class size and enhanced their learning experience. The discussion leaders felt that as students, they could connect with their groups and explain the material in an engaging way. Moreover, they, as leaders, learned the course material and skills especially well.