Teaching and Learning Laboratory

The Teaching and Learning Laboratory (TLL) was founded in 1997 as a resource for faculty, administrators, and students who share a desire to improve teaching and learning at MIT. Its goals are to: strengthen the quality of instruction at the Institute; further an understanding of the learning process, particularly in science and engineering; and provide support for the creation and assessment of innovative educational technologies, curricula, and instructional methods.

In AY2003, TLL staff members continued to contribute to efforts to strengthen MIT undergraduate education and to develop educational innovations in science and engineering. Many of the assessment studies undertaken over the last year have begun to yield results (e.g., MIT undergraduates benefit from instruction using active, problem-based learning techniques). Other TLL achievements this year include: work to expand the range of services the Institute will provide to support teaching assistants; support for an experiment to train alumni to lead problem-based recitation sections in subject 6.002ex; and the organization of MIT's first annual EdTech Fair.

As described above, TLL has three broad and interrelated functions: instructional support, assessment and evaluation, and research. TLL's accomplishments in these areas are detailed below.

Instructional Support

Teaching Assistant Training

As a result of a recommendation by the DUE Visiting Committee, TLL has been asked to explore how teaching assistants (TA) can be better trained at the Institute. To that end, we: organized a faculty committee to guide this process; met with members of the Student Committee on Educational Policy (SCEP) to discuss the undergraduates' perceptions of TAs; created, administered, and analyzed a web-based survey that was taken by close to 400 current and former TAs; and are in the process of interviewing faculty who teach large subjects that have a number of TAs. By the end of the summer, we will circulate a report with specific recommendations, which we hope to implement in AY2005.

6.002ex Alumni Training

Dr. Breslow worked with EECS professors Hal Abelson and Gerald Sussman on an experiment in 6.002ex to substitute traditional recitations with ones based on open-ended problems. These recitations were taught by MIT alumni, who are practicing electrical engineers. Dr. Breslow developed and led teaching workshops for the recitation leaders, created a template for "Teaching Notes" that accompanied every case, and worked with the alumni individually on their teaching and coaching skills. The initial assessment of 6.002ex has been very favorable.

EdTech Fair

On January 28, 2003, representatives of 20 educational projects, services, and offices occupied the lobby of Building 10 and the Bush Room to demonstrate to the MIT community the many uses to which educational technology are being put. The plan is to continue the EdTech Fair on at least a biannual basis.

Continuing Programs and Services

TLL has continued to offer the services and programs in instructional support that it has developed over the last several years. Specifically: approximately a dozen workshops were designed and facilitated; 10 consultations with faculty or students on education-related issues were conducted; the IAP Better Teaching @ MIT series attracted approximately 100 participants.

Assessment and Evaluation

The following table details the assessment and evaluation efforts that TLL has been involved in during the year.

the Study Project
Scope of Investigation Status
1.00/1.01 Assessment of the use of active learning techniques Interim report completed
3 Online survey to assess student satisfaction with the teamwork component of the subject Analysis completed
6.001 Comparative investigation of conceptual and algorithmic understanding gained through either live or online presentations Report completed
6.002ex Formative assessment of the design of an experiment using case-based recitations taught by MIT alumni Interim report completed
6.55 Study to compare historical and experimental use of a problem-based pedagogy Article in Journal of Engineering Education
8.02 Led mid-semester focus groups to determine sources of student dissatisfaction Completed
8.224 Assessment of an experiment to enroll off- campus alumni along with undergraduates in a physics subject Findings presented at the AAPT
18.03 Assessment of the introduction of group work into recitations Report completed
CMI Undergraduate Exchange Investigation of cultural, personal, and educational impact of the exchange First year report completed
Institute Subject Evaluation Form Participated in a committee to revamp the subject evaluation form Ongoing
Mission 2005 Assessment to determine student, mentor, and UTF satisfaction Report completed
Mission 2006 Assessment to determine student, mentor, and UTF satisfaction. Administration of Problem-Solving Inventory. Data being analyzed pre- and post-tests to understand the subject's impact on students' problem-solving skills Interim report completed
OCW Participated in the development of the OCW assessment plan Ongoing
PRS/PDA Interviewed faculty using these two educational technologies to determine their effectiveness Report completed
(New) Second Semester Development of a faculty survey and questions for the Enrolled Student Survey for bench- marking purposes Completed
Freshman Grading Policy Registrar's data to be collected to measure impact Ongoing
Residence-based Advising report Analysis of satisfaction with and impact of the program Second year completed; third year data being collected/analyzed
Systems Dynamics Development of an online survey Analysis completed
Terrascope/1.016 Assessment to determine student satisfaction and learning gains Interim report completed

Research and Scholarship

Papers and Presentations

Breslow, L. "Strategic Assessment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology," published online at http://www.coe.gatech.edu/eTEE/, July 2002.

Breslow, L. "Thinking Strategically about Assessment," e-Technologies in Engineering Education, Davos, Switzerland, August 2002, and New England Association of Schools and Colleges annual conference, Boston, MA, December 2002.

Breslow, L. "How Faculty Developers Can Work with Departments of Physics," American Association of Physics Teachers winter meeting, Austin, TX, January 2003.

Dernay Tervalon, C. "Assessment of Exploring Black Holes, 8.224," American

Association of Physics Teachers winter meeting, Austin, TX, January 2003.

Greenberg, J.E., Smith, N.T., and Newman, J. H., "Instructional Module in Fourier

Spectral Analysis, Based on Principles of How People Learn," Journal of Engineering Education, April 2003.


"Teaching Undergraduates the Art of Research," submitted to NSF, January 2003; Dr. Breslow co-PI.

"Research and Education in Integrated Assessment Methodologies for Product Design and Strategies," NSF planning grant; Dr. Breslow, consultant.

Other Activities

Dr. Breslow was a reviewer for NSF "Research for Undergraduates" (REU) proposals.

Ms. Tervalon has been TLL's representative to the Educational Technologies Partners and has done research on the use of discussion boards in higher education for that group.

Two UROP students worked with TLL this year.

Staff Changes

Dr. John Newman resigned as associate director for assessment and evaluation and took a position with Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning. MeiLin Chan resigned as research support assistant to pursue a business opportunity. As of this writing, searches are being conducted to fill both positions.

Lori Breslow


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