Welcome to Episode 95 of the Think UDL podcast: Math, Finance, Economics, & Employment Skills with Subhadra Ganguli. Dr. Subhadra Ganguli is an instructor in the Department of Economics, Ziegler College of Business, at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. She has had extensive experience teaching very practical workplace skills in finance and accounting globally and is now sharing her expertise in the United States. In this episode, we discuss how Subhadra has been implementing very engaging, collaborative learning in her classes. We also talk more about why math isn’t just an individual skill or subject. Additionally, we discuss the skills that economics, math and finance students will need once they graduate, and how Subhadra is building those skills in her classes for her students using the UDL principles.
Tobin, T. J., & Behling, K. T. (2018). Reach everyone, teach everyone: Universal design for learning in higher education. West Virginia University Press.
Coursera for Campus (2021). Education for Employability 4 Ways Universities Can Prepare Students for the Digitally Advanced Workforce
Lau, Yolanda (2021) Soft Skills are Essential to the Future of Work. Forbes.
Darby, F., & Lang, J. M. (2019). Small teaching online: Applying learning science in online classes. Jossey-Bass.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution and What It Means to Respond [weforum.org] (accessed Oct 10, 2022)
World Economic Forum: Preparing for the “New” Future of Work [intelligence.weforum.org] (accessed on October 5, 2022)
students, learning, udl, team, class, problem, presentation, teaching, math, classrooms, work, ideas, world, apply, technology, people, important, question, team members, skills
Lillian Nave, Subhadra Ganguli
Lillian Nave 00:02
Welcome to think UDL, the universal design for learning podcast where we hear from the people who are designing and implementing strategies with learner variability in mind. I’m your host, Lillian nave. And I’m interested in not just what you’re teaching, learning, guiding and facilitating, but how you design and implement it and why it even matters. Welcome to Episode 95 of the think UDL podcast, math, finance, economics and employment skills with Subhadra Ganguli. Dr. Subhadra Ganguli is an instructor in the Department of Economics Ziegler College of Business at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. She has had extensive experience teaching very practical workplace skills and finance and accounting globally, and is now sharing her expertise in the United States. In this episode, we discuss how Subhadra has been implementing very engaging collaborative learning in her classes. We also talk more about why math isn’t just an individual skill or subject. Additionally, we discuss the skills that economics, math and finance graduates will need once they finish college, and how Subhadra is building those skills in her classes for her students using the UDL principles. Thank you to our sponsor Texthelp, a global technology company helping people all over the world to understand and to be understood, it has led the way in creating innovative technology for the workplace, and education sectors, including K 12. right through to higher education for the last three decades. Thank you for listening to the think UDL podcast, I’d like to welcome you Subhadra to our Think UDL podcast. And thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.
Subhadra Ganguli 02:15
Thank you, Lillian. It’s my absolute pleasure to be here.
Lillian Nave 02:18
Oh, it’s great. So I want to jump right in and ask you my first question, which is what makes you a different kind of learner?
Subhadra Ganguli 02:28
That’s a very interesting question. And I haven’t really given it much thought. But I did think about it. Sometime back, and I realized my my learning style, which I realized much later in life is when I’m able to apply my learning into something concrete and something tangible. And I see that I’ve been able to apply that to something that really matters to me is when I feel that I’ve learned it. And that realization has probably come in a while it has taken some time for me to build to understand that.
Lillian Nave 03:07
Nice. Yeah. So it has to be somewhat authentic, right and useful.
Subhadra Ganguli 03:13
Yeah, I can. I think that it’s come from also my experience of working with professionals and employers for some time, where I’ve been working for about a decade in training and development. And I have actually worked with a number of employers where I have tried to get their perspective and see, for them, it is essentially important for their employees to be able to do things rather than just be able to understand it.
Lillian Nave 03:40
Yes. So and knowledge. Yes, are both very important.
Subhadra Ganguli 03:46
Yes. And I have also seen that in the way I have developed myself over the years. So that approach to me has helped a lot in my learning.
Lillian Nave 03:56
Great. Well, that’s a lot of what we’re going to talk about today is how we can put this learning into action. So I wanted to talk to you because I’m very excited about speaking to folks who are outside of my discipline and outside of the humanities, and I get the criticism and the question a lot about well, how does this apply to STEM fields specifically, and your background is in finance, economics and math. And you’ve been doing some really great things in your classrooms. And you’ve got this really incredible business experience to an international business experience and really getting corporate workers ready to work in the real world. So I wanted to ask you, how have you incorporated Universal Design for Learning in those finance, economics and math classes to connect the subject matter to the real world which as you say is so important and it is and help us didn’t understand why they should be learning these things anyway.
Subhadra Ganguli 05:05
Yeah, that is a hugely important question to what I do and what employers want. So I’m going to start off with my experience. When I was exposed to UDL, my first exposure came in with Bloomsburg University’s steel Teaching and Learning Enhancement center. And from there, I followed up with Tom’s book. And then I also attended a couple of conferences ITLC DX conference was one of them. And I realized that I started talking about UDL and explaining and applying that to my classes with one small area of application. So I will take example of that, to sort of start off my discussion today. And that application was in the area of Math and Economics, in the form of student presentation. So I wanted my students in both my math and macro and micro economics classes to think about one or two small areas of their learning from the classroom, that they can apply to any real world business or a country. So in terms of math, I told my students to think about the business they might want to actually started off. And they gave huge, huge, beautiful responses in terms of new business ideas. And otherwise, I told them to study a business that exists out there and criticize it, find out if it has a problem that you actually see as a customer. And if you are owning a business, think about a problem that you are either facing today, or you will likely face tomorrow. So how would you solve it to any of the problems that you have done in class or techniques that you’ve learned in class? And I want you to think about it so that you remember it even after you’ve completed this class. And if you don’t remember anything else, this is one thing you take away from that class. And I told my macro economics students, is there a country that you would like to visit came huge responses in so many ways about countries that they would like to go because of a lot of personal, emotional, cultural reasons? And then I said, Okay, if that is something that you want to do, go ahead and see what this country has been doing during COVID? How has the government been able to apply COVID policies macroeconomic policies, and how are they coming out of this problem? So and then you DM approach was very much in it, because they could choose the teammates they wanted to work with. And sometimes it was unbalanced team, sometimes they had their friends, and they completely bypassed the whole room. So that information, but you know, that’s part of the game, that’s how I get to know and get to learn how to improve these techniques of team formation. So the team formation was, according to their choice, they were only given a very basic structure or template to work on, they would then fill it up with visual audio aids that they wanted information they wanted, they were given a whole list of research areas they could go and get their information from. So there was no restrictions, except if they did something different, they had to take a permission from me, that’s all and how they would present was their choice, but they will give them the time. And generally, they would come face to face in a face to face class or, you know, online, if it was a synchronous class. So a whole lot of flexibility, they will choose their team leader, they will choose their mode of presentation, they will choose they’re pretty much the topic except for the broad structure. So that gave them a lot of confidence, empowerment, interest and motivation to actually do something that they cared for, you know, so this course has something for me in it. And even if it’s my own business, or a country that I want to visit, so there was that interest, which UDL as a big umbrella allowed me
Lillian Nave 09:11
to experiment. And so that amount of choice allowed different strengths of each student’s right to, to come through. And so did they kind of choose the the country together? Is that like as a total? Okay.
Subhadra Ganguli 09:33
Yeah, that’s a great question, because I would let them go ahead on our bolt DTL platform to introduce themselves and talk about the countries and answer about a few questions of their peers. So they would at least three or four would come up saying that, Oh, I’ve always wanted to visit France because I have French lineage, or I love French cuisine or things like that. So then they would be able to get this common comments going on between themselves. And they will choose a team of three or four people who had the same interest in the same country for various different reasons to go. So that’s how they bonded. And in terms of business, there would be people who would like to think about a sports related business, some sports fans in my classes, some of them would go for cosmetics, because they love to use those and want to do something which is more sustainable and environmentally friendly. So they will choose based on their communication on the DTL platform in bold, and exchange ideas. And that’s how they formed it. I didn’t have to do anything. The choices were theirs. And that helped again, the UDL umbrella helped here.
Lillian Nave 10:46
Yes. And did they have to, like incorporate any number of equations or concepts? Or like, what sort of structure did you give them?
Subhadra Ganguli 10:55
Yeah. For math students, I told them. So these are the topics we have learned. And your solution to a business problem has to relate to at least two of these topics. So you would have to not only engage your audience in terms of the problem in a layman language, but you would also have to walk us step by step into understanding how you have used the problem from the real life into a mathematical theory or model. And from there, how you’re solving step by step. And they show them.
Lillian Nave 11:30
Great. Yeah, so you had, it was a really sounds like it was a very well laid out plan. But the topic could be the choice, right? So it doesn’t mean it’s a free for all, it means you’ve got a really clear goal that you have marked out with what the standards are, but lots of choice as to how they can get there and what the topic is, and that sort of thing.
Subhadra Ganguli 11:57
Yes. So the rigor is clear, you will be graded on your solution to the problem. But choose the problem that will be of use to you choose the problem that you’re interested in to solve.
Lillian Nave 12:12
And that you can apply whatever two of those concepts, right? Yes, yeah, you
Subhadra Ganguli 12:17
have been taught about maybe 10 different things in math in this course, you’re only asked to choose two of those and apply them.
Lillian Nave 12:26
Yeah. Oh, that’s great. That does give them a lot of leeway. But they also have to show their expertise. And they also have to put it in a real world circumstance, which I didn’t often do when I was in my math classes. Neither did I. Yeah, that’s fantastic. I can see how that’s, you know, that’s the whole first column of the UDL guidelines is all about engagement. And this is a great way to engage our students into you know, making math really personal or making it important to their future, what they might go into. Yeah, it seems to make the most sense. So, so when you’re teaching math, and my experience with with math is that it was you kind of had to work out the problems on your own, and it was sort of an individual subject, but I think that you have a different answer, like when I asked, Can we even do math collaboratively? And if so, what are the benefits for doing either econ, Math Finance collaboratively? And and how can it be done? Well?
Subhadra Ganguli 13:38
Yeah, and that is something again, I would say, I have learned from my experience of working with the industry. And yes, in the classrooms, the way I have learned has been marked as a very isolated loan subject where you actually sit down and solve it by yourselves, until you have that magic unique solution that is the correct answer to your problem. So having that real world experience, I realized that you know, math, two things, I would say, the real world experience of working with the industry and number two COVID. So when COVID head and I had to talk to my students synchronously online, I realized that they were tremendous amount of isolation going on in the classrooms, because there was no classroom as we know it, right. So both the real world experience and the COVID taught me that I needed to engage my students in a much important way than normally just having them to talk or do one or two problems in class. So what really helped me to do was math could be approached higher level math that I teach, get to teach, luckily, can be can be approached a problem can be approached in different ways. And a problem has a multifaceted Good ideas to it. So it’s not one single problem that you solve, you’re solving maybe two, three different things in one go. And you just have to look at it in, you may be able to look at it in different ways to figure out better, easier, more, less cumbersome solutions. So these were the ideas that kind of pushed me to think if I put these students together, will that help them to do it. And you know, the whole approach to active learning, and getting students to do stuff rather than me telling them was also one of the big blocks under which this fell. So what happened was, I tried to make my students understand through examples that you can think about a problem in different ways, and you can do a problem and several steps. And all those steps do not necessarily have to be identical to one another. So when you do that kind of a problem, you get to listen to others, and also have ideas of your own, and be able to throw those ideas and see what works best for the solution. And you may not end up with the same number. And that’s okay, because that is what some of the journals in this research have recently found out doing experiments in math, different students came out with different results. And there was a reason why that happened. So it was initially very difficult. And it is still a little bit of a challenge with some students to be able to think why should I have to do math with somebody else? Isn’t this something I should do by myself. But they’re realizing how much of more they’re gaining out of that interaction. And if I don’t know something, I may have a buddy who actually knows it, and vice versa. And then there is more confidence in the classroom that I notice. And sometimes they would say, I think you’ve missed that small step, or, you know, there should be a plus there, which I never used to get before. And I’m like, Look, see, I’m making this problem, because I’m working by myself, you guys are able to find these problems, because you’re thinking you’re more than me in terms of your brain power. So these small interactions, make them more confident. And they are able to understand things. If they don’t understand from me, they told me Oh, my friend actually knew this. And he or she has told me. So I can see some small changes in my students attitudes towards doing things together. And in math, which was a huge, huge reward for me to see. It’s it’s coming along, but I think we are not there yet.
Lillian Nave 17:38
Yes, yeah, that seems like it’s a very big attitudinal shift. And it happens, not just in math, but I can definitely see it in a larger scale, in math, and in more STEM fields, the idea that you have to do it yourself, and there’s only one, right, one right way, and I’ll be marked incorrect if I do some step slightly differently. And oftentimes, we have to show the work, right. And when I’ve spoken to other professors about this, that showing the work is often where you can see the process of the brain. And you can get, you know, maybe even almost all the credit, because you realize there was only just this one tiny step that was off, right. And so yeah, so this, this idea about having to do everything individually, is one of those faults, understandings that I come across a lot in, in higher ed and in talking with other professors. Because oftentimes, like we were taught, like, if you talk to somebody else that somehow cheating, do you get that as well? I mean, is that a pushback that you’ve heard?
Subhadra Ganguli 18:59
Yeah, I mean, basically, when I would, when I was a student, as well, talking to somebody or you know, discussing with somebody, in many cases would be considered to be, you know, cheating or plagiarizing, copying somebody’s ideas. But I think things have moved to some extent away from there. And I see students are more receptive to be able to think that, you know, I may not know something, but my friend might be able to help me a little bit here. And we can both together pull this through. And to the extent that I’ve also started using collaborative exams in my courses, so I’m giving them midterms and finals, which are still the norm in some of the classes because they have to face competitive exams at the end of a number of their schools, both in higher ed, and also in high schools or wherever. So I do give my students midterms and finals, both in economics and in math. They’re weighted towards the final grade have been reduced over the years. So it’s now carrying only about 10% or 20% of the final grade, they still have to take those exams. But those exams now, more and more with the UDL approach in mind, I have led them to use collaborative exams. So they work on their exams, there are teams in the class that has had an A started that this semester, I’ve seen huge increase in confidence among students. And I’ve seen how they’re leveraging and also working together, out of class, to be able to understand and do things better. And they did a fantastic and even the last assessment that I did went up very well, because they actually got to discuss it. When they did it together.
Lillian Nave 20:48
It’s great. I’ve experimented with that collaborative quizzes mostly. And they were, they were more low stakes. But in art history, there’s often these, the way I learned was, you took these recognition, quizzes, and you have to know the artists and the date and the name and the and the genre, right. And it was great. And then I found my students kind of forgot it after the quiz. And when I wanted students to show their knowledge, I had one that was about ancient architecture and how you build things. And so there’s things like a Greek temple, which is a posts and lentils, so kind of right angles there. And then there’s something else called Korbel vaulting where it’s slowly they put a stone on top of another stone closer and closer together until it closes the gap. And it looks like a triangle. And so I asked, I wanted them to be able to explain that and decided to put them into groups with blocks that they could use in Legos. And so instead of saying it or answering a multiple choice question they could, they had to build it and kind of use a post it note to say which one is which. And they did it in small groups. And it was so great to have my visual thinkers be able to express this and in some of my students who would have gotten the answer, right. But they didn’t quite understand what they were saying, even though they got the answer, right. Until they had kind of done it in the group. Yeah. And so the one thing I had to get over though, too, was Did I care? Did it matter to me if the student came into the exam, knowing the right answer, or if they came out of the exam, knowing the right answer. And for me, it was that they came out of the exam, and they now knew, and that was going to be a much better teaching moment when, let’s say, a, their, their colleague, their their, you know, fellow student, kind of taught them during the exam, if they didn’t quite know, they’re going to remember that a lot more than if they had just missed the question. Or that they studied, got the question, right, and maybe didn’t fully understand it, and then forgot it later. And so I’m finding that collaborative part is so anti the way I used to learn, but also has tremendous benefits.
Subhadra Ganguli 23:18
Yes, and this is beautiful. I mean, that that experience that you just mentioned, to me, is a beautiful synergy between art and science. And to be able to have somebody, you know, walk out of an assessment, feeling more confident and saying, Well, I learned so much is I think what the goal of teaching and learning
Lillian Nave 23:37
Yes, yeah. It’s that taking the hat off that we were the judge or evaluator and, and putting on that, maybe a coaching outfit, you know that we’re the encourager and facilitator of this. And that there are other ways to learn besides also just from me, right. They can learn from their fellow students, and sometimes that is a far better way. And a way that students have that information stick in their heads a lot longer. Yeah, absolutely. So you have a lot of experience with workforce. And I know, you were training kind of international businessman and saw that there was a gap really between the graduate of college or university, and then they had to get into the working world. And there were some skills gaps. And so, you know, you’ve worked in doing short courses or kind of ways to bring those skills up to speed for the workforce. So you’re trying to fix that, in essence, and making sure that your students that you’re teaching now have that real world skills readiness, so I I wanted to know what skills do your graduates need to thrive in the workplace after graduation? And we’re talking in your econ and finance and math classes, because you know what they’re going to have in the real world right after they graduate?
Subhadra Ganguli 25:17
Yeah. So again, that’s a very pertinent question in terms of the role we play in our classroom and how it culminates as to how a student graduates and what he or she is ready for in their workplace. And as much as we give some of the best knowledge for our students, and we impart create learning to them, I think survival in the workplace is also a different skill altogether. And with the onset of technology, and the way we have invasive technology, in everything we do, I mean, our whole lives have changed figure from where we started to where we are now. And if you think all of these are being catered to by businesses, we can imagine how much the employers and the businesses are struggling to be able to keep pace with consumers, their tastes, their preferences, and the products and services using technology. So what today’s employers are looking for essentially, is the use of technology by our graduates. And by that I do not necessarily mean that our graduates need to be able to do all the hardware and the software and programming and stuff. Yep, plenty of people doing that, I believe. So I think our students should be ready to handle and be equipped to use the technology that they will have to in their profession. So that means if I’m teaching business and math, my students should be able to use those applications in business and math, they should become comfortable to use the Excel sheets, they must be very comfortable using those various Google documents, PowerPoint presentations, Google PowerPoints, whatever, teams, Microsoft teams to be able to go out and do those comfortably. So I think technology should be a part of what we do. And whether we like it or not, that’s how the world is moving. That’s where the world is. So technology skills, in terms of being able to make our students comfortable to use that knowledge is important. And that should be done in the classrooms. And that’s what I try to bring about because my students work remotely with each other in preparing their presentation, nobody actually sits face to face anymore. And they use this different applications, Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google PowerPoint, and they bring in audio and visual elements into their presentation. So that helps a lot in terms of making them technologically more savvy, in terms of doing a part of the work that they’ll have to do in the future. And that is working in teams. So I think employers are looking also additionally into people who can work in teams thrive in teams, lead teams, be able to communicate well, both in writing and verbally with their team members and be comfortable working in any way that they have to. So I think resilience and flexibility are two very, very important thing that employers are looking at. So that is one of the reasons I wanted my students to become more used to working with technology, whatever simple way they have to. And secondly, to be able to get into that feeling of the ease and comfort of working with people they’ve never come across people they’ve never seen, maybe they may have to work remotely with teams, they have never going to see physically in maybe three to six months down the line. So trying to talk about all of those post COVID has also taken a lot of important meaning for the students and they understand it much better than before. So from the employers perspective, working in teams helps working using technology helps building that resilience in terms of handling any kind of projects in a team, which they have to pretty much they have to work throughout the semester working with people they’ve probably never met before working remotely adjusting the times to end up talking to them in meetings outside class preparing those presentations. Some people may not be cooperating as much as they would like to. So I’m able to work in teams thrive in teams, some of them take up leadership roles. So that is very important for employers to see those happening in our classrooms. So that when they have those graduates they have done some of those work, at least in a simulated environment.
Lillian Nave 29:53
Yeah. And there are so many things that technology has been able to do To make things easier for us, and so there’s a lot that our computers can do applications can do. But there’s that human element that it seems like you’re focusing on here, not only do they have to have the knowledge about what operations to do what, what theories to apply what calculations, you’re really focusing outside of that, you know, yeah, that’s kind of like the minimum, but then what do you do with them? Right?
Subhadra Ganguli 30:31
Yes, I think that’s, it’s also a learning that I’ve gone through during COVID. I’ve seen a lot of my students have gone through several issues, which have, which are beyond the curriculum, and which a lot of mental issues as we all know. And having having gone through that experience, I think the fact that living in isolation and working in isolation has had its negative impacts. And so I have tried to build more of my work in teams. So my teams get set up in my classrooms at the beginning of the semester. And I do not change my teams, I lead them to develop that feeling of friendship, and camaraderie that happens over time. So and they work on any possible project that they want to do together. So they work on homeworks. Together, they work in class on quizzes together, they sometimes prefer to work on assessments midterms together, and then through these processes of getting to know each other, they build their final presentation in class. So I have deliberately done that, because I felt that community and social interactions was very much needed apart from the learning that is going on.
Lillian Nave 31:46
Yeah, and, you know, as part of the universal design for learning guidelines, that engagement part is, you know, not only are you bringing students in with real world authentic tasks, which make, which helps students understand the why, why they are doing something. But that collaborative part is the the sustaining effort and persistence, it’s, it’s a lot easier to say just for yourself, I’m not going to finish this assignment, I just can’t do it. And so I’ll, I’ll get an F on this. But it makes the stakes a little higher, when your part also affects these four people or so that you’ve been working with who who have cared about you right over over time. And it is you are replicating what’s happening in the real world when you know, oh, we have a team member who’s you know, absent or something.
Subhadra Ganguli 32:47
Yes. And I see that happening in the class nowadays. So they say, Professor, I was not in class, but I’ll be able to get this from my team. And I had this issue that I could not make it. So there is a fallback mechanism, there is this feeling that you know, I’m not alone, and I have others to fall back on. And similarly, I’ll be able to help somebody else. And I think that kind of support mechanism helps students in many ways that we were unable to receive, at least when we were students in many ways. And secondly, it also prepares you to face that world where you will be working in a team, and you will have to back each other out. So as long as you can learn and do that nothing like it experience in a classroom should not just be about learning this part of my curriculum, it is also preparing our students for what’s to come in their life.
Lillian Nave 33:44
Yes, absolutely. And there is like another positive, I think, that you just mentioned that comes out of that, which is when you have a student who misses the class, or is somehow you know, maybe an emergency, who knows. Then they have a group that they feel confident and comfortable talking to. And rather than maybe you get 20 emails from students who miss class and say, What did I miss? Or the ever popular? Did I miss anything important? Right? You get those emails? Oh, no, we did nothing of importance all day, as if that would be the answer, right. So it makes our jobs as instructors. It eases that burden, you know, and allows really, that’s allowing for multiple access points to that information. If they miss class. They’ve got a method to get to it from teammates that they’ve already created a relationship with. And yeah, that can really help them when maybe even they’re shy or it’s a bigger barrier to reach out to the professor. And then you’re sort of calling yourself out You feel like you should have been there and you weren’t. And even if it was no fault of your own, or that, yeah, you know, those sorts of feelings about getting help,
Subhadra Ganguli 35:09
and they feel more comfortable to write to me saying, you know, I could not come to the class or because of XYZ, but you know, I have my, my team members to talk to, so I’ll get back to you find any issues on that, which is, which is getting them more confidence to be able to come across as you know, I don’t know it, but I know that I’ll be able to get the information. And if I still can’t, I’ll come to you, which is a great way of trying to say, you know, I’m responsible enough, and I’m accountable to you, it makes them feel good in many ways.
Lillian Nave 35:38
Yeah. And that is a, it’s a failsafe, it seems, or you’re adding to that, you know, one thing I do is record the sessions, right? If online and make sure there’s a way to to get at it. And you are, in essence, providing another failsafe for students to have another way to get at that information that isn’t just emailed the professor and asked them to repeat everything they said.
Subhadra Ganguli 36:08
Yeah, and also, I see a lot of my students nowadays are just not students, I have very unconventional students to who are working quite a few of them long hours, and then managing their work. So it helps to have people with you in your team sharing the burden with you. And
Lillian Nave 36:26
I think, I don’t know if it’s, if we’ve forgotten it, or if we’ve, in some ways beaten it out, the system has kind of beaten out that collaboration and that social, emotional learning, because so much of the emphasis was on the individual, at least in my schooling. And that, as we talked about, before, that idea that if you did talk to somebody, it was cheating. And you had to do all of this work by yourself. And that’s not entirely true, because we had seminars where we were learning from each other and, and talking and hearing each other’s voices. But it was, it was so individuated. Yeah, and I love a book called Teaching across cultural strengths that looks at I’ll be happy to put in the resources but but looks at a long continuum between that individuated idea and a more community oriented idea, where there’s a lot more collaboration and in different cultures, that’s what you begin with. And that’s what it learning is, is a whole lot about how we get there together. But in higher ed, especially in Europe, and America, it is that model is very individuated.
Subhadra Ganguli 37:58
Correct. And what happens is, because of that very individualistic approach to learning, I find a lot of the students are not well equipped when they have to deal with teams, when they are going out in the real world, and having to deal with people who’s on the other side of the world. Those cultural norms, the various ways in which how to work through those, those become very tough. So in some of my courses, where I have the opportunity to teach my students about other countries like in macroeconomics, I tell them to go out and seek a country that never visited, try to learn more about that country. Because we are pretty much living in a small Global Village, everybody has to know something about the other of somebody else, right? So if we do more, a little bit more of that, and our students get more ready to be in this global village, which they have to they have to be, they cannot be only in one part of the world, or in one part of the country, all the allies. So with globalization and the way technology is invading everything we do, I just tell them, try, the more we learn about other things, the more we will be able to apply your learning more robustly. And that helps. That helps a lot.
Lillian Nave 39:12
Yeah, and I mean, if we haven’t learned anything in the last several years is how interconnected we all are. Yes. And and in the state of the world now, how many things like global supply chain issues and how, you know, we might think in our little town, you know, even in a rural place, the prices are up in the local grocery store because of things that are happening all over the world, and so we can’t ignore it. Yeah,
Subhadra Ganguli 39:41
absolutely. It’s so true. What you said is exactly the way we talk about, you know, how a small event in China, or a small event in Ukraine can make such a massive impact in everybody’s lives. So we have to pretty much know how you’re all going to work. In this environment, and things are uncertain if you look at it with things changing on such a irregular pattern, not no predictability is always available in the way things will happen in businesses or in our lives. Students need to become more flexible and resilient, not only in learning, but also in how they’re going to apply their learning. So if they believe that this is how things have been done, and this is how they’re going to do it, that’s not going to happen anymore. There will be times when they will not know what to do COVID As an example, nobody knew what’s going to happen and how and how are you going to even survive in terms of education? How are you going to teach our students from tomorrow when everything closes down. So they might come across things, which will be similar yet, nothing that they have experienced before. So to make them aware of how to apply their knowledge in uncertain situations, in situations they have never come across, is what is going to be the driving force behind a lot of what we do in classrooms. So I asked my students to think about these business problems, think about a problem your business is going to face if you’re going to try and expand your little outfit more in the future. And try to think about how you’re going to solve that problem. Any imaginary situation, like shocks into your system, you know, like macroeconomic shocks, or war, or climate change that’s going to impact people, not only your country, but everywhere. So our students have to get used to those thinking and think about how they can solve those problems in their unique ways. And that is why teams are important, because no one individual can do that. Right? It’s going to be a massive problem. But teams have to come together think about multiple solutions and multiple ways of doing things. So strengths of my teammates are also very important because I see students now leveraging on each other’s strengths, like some of them are good and doing the research. So they’ll pull out some information or those good net refined, some of them will put that information together, because they’re very tech savvy, some will learn how to put those presentations and put the audio the white voiceover over it because he or she has a good voice and can present it well. So it doesn’t then become okay, I have to do everything, I have to be the master of everything, I can actually in a team leverage on my strength and get my team those high points that otherwise individually, we would not have been able to do. And they should realize the world is pretty much that kind of a place, they will never have everybody or one person with all these trends that we need, right? So we need to talk about teams to solve problems.
Lillian Nave 42:38
And it looks like you’re really dividing out knowledge and skills. And so a lot of that, like class objectives, and the curriculum is about certain knowledge in you know, finance, and economics and math and you know, what sort of calculations you’ll need to do and when, where you use them and that sort of thing. But you’re also building in a lot of skills, in that how they go about applying those things. So it’s not just this individual, can you take a test? It’s can you apply it, and then you’re applying it with other people. And that’s one of the things Universal Design for Learning has been, I think really good about is saying we need to separate knowledge goals and skills goals. And, and do both, but be clear about what they are. And so do you have some like peer review of the teams? And do they have a chance to reflect on being a member of that team? Can you tell me about that?
Subhadra Ganguli 43:42
Yeah. So what you mentioned is also, I think, a very crucial aspect, which I’m currently developing, it’s not again, it’s an evolving thing that I’m that I think is going to go on for a few more years. In peer evaluation, what I do is, when I have my students present their final presentations in class, I actually asked every other team teams to be able to reflect on the presentations and find out what they can honor your break, in terms of what is at least one very important idea or element of the presentation that came out very clearly. And was done well. What was it what was one item or one characteristic or one problem or something in the presentation that could have been done better? And if you were the owner of this presentation, how would you turn things around for you on your team to get a higher score? So when it is a more reflective question, rather than seeing, saying, did this presentation have the required number of slides or did it conform to the number of things He wasn’t needed? Or did it answer the question correctly? I was trying to ask the students, can you reflect it from your individual understanding? And then I got some, not all. But definitely I was moving in the right direction of getting the feedback, I found students were trying to reflect on it rather than criticize it constantly saying, we did have this not bad. So it’s a zero and one ticking the boxes. But rather than that, they were thinking about, okay, if I were here, what I would do, would I do this? Or would I think of making some more changes into it? And they actually came up with some good ideas that were taken up in the in the consequent presentation. But I do not always get that opportunity in a semester. I unfortunately, am not able to finish two rounds of presentations. That’s the sidebar.
Lillian Nave 45:56
You’re working working on it. Yeah, I’m working on it. Yes. And so that seems very interesting to me, too. You’re really asking for this qualitative feedback about what could could go better? What could be improved in some way? And the quantitative would be like checking off a rubric. Was it 15 minutes long? Did they have five slides? You know, did they use the two math problems? Right, is just sort of making the, the bare minimum or or fulfilling the requirements? And that, that question that you talked about when they’re reflecting that it really is a more in depth, analytical type of question. I think that gives them a lot more to think about.
Subhadra Ganguli 46:43
Yes, exactly. And also, when they are in a team, it’s not always that my team’s work very well. So when there are conflicts, and when there are dysfunctional teams, one of the ways I’ve been able to resolve the issue to some extent is I tell the team members to figure out what each one of their roles and responsibilities will be. So if they have figured out their own roles and responsibilities, they actually draw up on on the digital platform itself. As an assignment. These are individual tasks and roles and responsibilities. And they’ve all agreed to sort of do that. So when I have conflicts, it becomes an issue of transparency or accountability. So if you’re not meeting your goals and responsibilities, you obviously have not delivered to your team. And then it becomes much easier to be able to say, you know, what will be our next steps rather than seeing? Or how do I know? How do I, you know, what are the ways to get around this problem of non deliverance when it comes to a team member. But a lot of the conflicts get resolved, if the team member has to own up at the end of the day saying, well, I could do it, I didn’t do it. And I know that I don’t deserve it. So that that helps in many ways. And I tell them, Look, at the end of the day, when you are not going to deliver in a team. The consequences are dire when you get into a job, right? It, it gets translated into your financial benefits, not benefits and, and it’s your job at the end of the day that is on the line. So we are here to prepare you for that experience to become much more meaningful to you. So if you’re not delivering here, we do not award you the points that you should. So the team member then has accepted the fact that he or she has not delivered, and he or she doesn’t deserve the team great that the others do. And it was much easier to be able to do it in a much more civil and in a much more human manner. To be able to say like, you know, if you’ve got a contract drawn up, the contract has
Lillian Nave 48:47
to be it’s very good. So being very clear on what those roles are in, do you help them to determine what those roles and responsibilities are.
Subhadra Ganguli 48:58
It’s the leader who is selected by the team. And the leader is the one who takes up most of the responsibility of coordinating the team activities. And the other team members have very specific roles in terms of either preparing a number of slides, or preparing the background research, somebody would just be there to visualize all the slides using audio visual gimmicks, as you would call them or techniques. So they all write those. And those are examples I’ve given them. So if you want to have roles and responsibilities in your team, these are the ones I can think about because it’s a presentation. Whether they work on their homeworks or whether they work as a team in their quizzes or whether they work as a team on their midterms and finals is their call. I do not I do not interfere with those that’s between the team members and how the dynamic of the team works.
Lillian Nave 49:58
So These are really great interventions that I wish I had in my math and economics. I remember taking economics as a senior because I was like, Oh, this will be interesting. It was not easy for me. But because I didn’t realize that one on ones are way more information than what I’ve been used to. So, but let’s say somebody’s listening to this, and they want to try to implement universal design for learning interventions in these STEM subjects like math and economics and finance. So what advice do you have for others who are interested in using UDL in these types of courses?
Subhadra Ganguli 50:40
So, I would suggest, so I would suggest to get hold of a book and Tom’s work comes to my mind. That’s the first thing that I think anybody should and I it’s such an easy read and so full
Lillian Nave 50:53
of to reach everyone teach everyone should Tom Tobin and Kristen Beilin
Subhadra Ganguli 50:57
Yes, reach everyone. And sorry, I just become Townsville. That’s it. Yeah. That’s the one that I think that should be in the resources. If you want.
Lillian Nave 51:07
I can, yes, I’ll make sure we got it in the resources.
Subhadra Ganguli 51:10
I’m sure you annoyed that you will. Yeah. So that’s the first thing I would ask anybody to go through, it gives you a very widespread understanding of what that is. And then I would think about starting with one small thing, like in my case, I started off with a presentation with a team presentation. And I experimented for about four years with it. I experimented for years, changing the various facets of that. And now I have come to a point where I’m moving on to other areas like assessments like my midterms, my finals, my quizzes I’m using and trying to put in detail into those. But that is after a couple of years minimum, I would assume. So. I would I would say anybody who wants to use UDL and econ, math and finance, think about what you want your students to learn the most, what is one important thing you want them to learn? And use one type of assessment that you want to experiment with UDL like I did. I wanted them to apply their learning. And I started off with presentation. So it’s your call. But that’s my advice. And then it just takes
Lillian Nave 52:20
off. So I’m interested, you said you worked on that presentation, changing the presentation over four years. So you didn’t get it right the first time?
Subhadra Ganguli 52:30
No, I never got it right. The first time, I didn’t have a template for them. I didn’t have a structure for them. I was very, because I was I was trying to sort of think about how they will apply it, I did not think that they needed so much structure. So I wanted I realized later on that it has to be a guided design, you know that approach. A guided design approach is what my students needed, because I was dealing mostly with freshmen. And because I was teaching the principles and the foundation scores. And there were seniors, there were sophomores, and juniors, but freshmen coming out of high school needed that structure. So again, it depends if you’re teaching a grad calls, if you’re teaching an undergrad and at what level you’re teaching the undergrad. But I would say a lot of structure, a guided structure, not structure where there is no flexibility, a lot of guidance structure, like you give them the structure of the presentation as a template, and allow them to just change their presentations the way they want. Let them fill in those slides with what they want. But tell them what should be included as a header only this identity, so I had all kinds of things coming in my way. And I realized I this is not what I’m doing correct. It’s not my students, it’s me. Formation of teams is not easy to begin with. So students need to be able to feel the level of comfort. They need to be able to be in their teams for a while to build a nice presentation to be able to throw ideas that way they want to exchange ideas they want. So that will not happen in a day or two. That will only happen when they are trusting each other to do that job. So I never thought about that in the beginning. But lots of literature looking through those work of the previous academics who have done this kind of work helped me to understand teams need to work with themselves for a while before they can do this kind of stuff. Then allowing teams to be formed by themselves, even if they’re friends, you know, even if they’re friends, even if they don’t know each other and they just click let them form their teams giving them a small area of interest that they can form the teams about, like which country would you like to travel? What business do you want to own is There’s a sports team that you really like, do you want to build a sports team like that? Do you want to be part of something like that? Anything that you teach, but cater to their interests and their passion that really helps in getting them to do the work. They jump into it, and they under work on it. And technology helps these kids that I teach who are freshmen are born with technology. They’ve worked with technology. So they allow them to do what they like to do, you know, use the kinds of apps they’re interested in experiment with different audio visual techniques, social media, they want to do something using social media, within certain restrictions and guidelines to let them do those kinds of stuff. And it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s very refreshing to see what they can do when they’re allowed to do certain things under the UDL that otherwise would be considered No.
Lillian Nave 55:54
Yes, exactly. I’ve, I’ve worked with some, you know, putting my first year students into teams to and this year I, you know, I’m always trying something different and seeing what, what works. And, and this year, I thought, they have a couple group projects. And after the first one, where I sort of randomly put them in something just to do something during a zoom No, so it wasn’t a very long one. And they’ve gotten to know each other a little bit. Through the first couple weeks of class I said, Alright, for there’s going to be a group project this coming week, it’ll require you to get together and discuss something. And so if you have, you know, if you’ve kind of met someone in the class, and it’s a totally online class, so it could be in the discussion board, or it could have been in their little group that they were in during zoom, then let me know, I’m gonna give, you know, I’m gonna give a sign up sheet so you can form your teams. But let’s say that hasn’t happened or you doesn’t doesn’t matter to you. And so I said, Okay, if you want me to put you in a team, then tell me and then I said, Do you want to be in a smaller team or larger team and, and my Max was five, but I thought anywhere from two to five would be workable for for these projects, that it was definitely very important that they had more than their own perspective, they had to work with at least one other person to, to look at these topics. And, and so I said, Alright, so if you have so many kind of work, well, you’ve kind of clicked great. Tell me what your team is. And if you don’t just tell me, you want me to put you on a team and whether you want it small or large. So small was two to three, large was three to five. So small and large, could have been three. But they knew that because some people are, are not intimidated by that larger group, they want to have more perspectives, but it also makes it a little harder to coordinate as far as schedules. So. And if somebody would much rather just do a team of two, maybe three, they had that option, too. So I had previously only done random groupings, where I’m like, Okay, you guys are in this group. And then I realize what you have talked about all day is that knowing somebody and kind of getting into a groove over time and feeling more comfortable, we’re talking about harder and harder things as the, you know, as the semester progresses, that, that I wanted that as an option. And with my three different courses, there was, you know, more than half had at could kind of figure out a team. But there was still a good number of people who said, please just put me on a team. So I always had at least three or three to five teams that I was putting focus on but but I saw how important it was to have multiple perspectives on and what we were doing. That was a skill I wanted them to have.
Subhadra Ganguli 58:49
So nice. Yeah, it’s so worth it.
Lillian Nave 58:52
Yeah. So this is great advice to you know, start out with one thing, and I really appreciated that you said it took for four years and you know, still working on it. It. It’s not perfect, that no unexpected,
Subhadra Ganguli 59:08
no, it’s not going to be perfect, you will not get good feedback, there will be a lot of resistance in working with teams. And I have had that resistance from students, because it is a lot of extra work for them. Remember, it is meeting outside, I could easily do a small paper by myself. But this is about putting in so many things in a presentation across three or four members of a team getting time to meet with each other when everybody has such busy schedules. So it’s not easy to do that. But the resistance comes down and down as they get to be able to reap the benefits of the team. And when they see having to do a group project not only the presentation, but doing our assignments together. Doing our quizzes together, doing our collaborative assessments together, helps us so much and having a team And when I cannot attend the class and get some things done, get their help is so much more beneficial than me working alone. So less than less than seeing. I mean, as the word of mouth spreads around, and people are talking about good work in teams, I’m getting less and less resistance on it. And I think I still need to improve, because peer evaluation is something I am not making the most leverage out of. And I also think that students, because our courses are so individualistic, and the learning is still so individualistic, there are lots of free riding elements, even in our in our small groups. So we see, students still want to have a lot of free riding benefits. And I think it’s the attitude rather than the ability or the time. So I think we need to become better in making our students build better teams to work. It’s an attitude problem, it’s nothing.
Lillian Nave 1:01:09
And they’re going to need it. That’s what our working world is, is a lot of working with each other. And, and you might think, oh, no, I’ll just sit in my cubicle or in my office or, and do this. But and even if you’re working remotely from home, you’re still working in teams across an ocean oftentimes. Yeah. So that’s an important skill to add to our finance and econ and math perspective. Great. Well, thank you i that this has been fantastic. And I’m really glad I had the chance to talk to you Subhadra about what you’ve been doing worldwide, and, and specifically lately in Bloomsburg. So thank you very much for joining me on the podcast.
Subhadra Ganguli 1:01:56
Thank you, Lillian. It’s been absolutely wonderful, so much to learn so much to talk about an exchange. And as you talk, you learn and reflect so much more. So it’s been a great exercise for me. And I thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity.
Lillian Nave 1:02:11
Thank you so much. You can follow the Think UDL podcast on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to find out when new episodes will be released. And also see transcripts and additional materials at the think udl.org website. Thank you again to our sponsor, Texthelp Texthelp is focused on helping all people learn, understand and communicate through the use of digital education and accessibility tools. Texthelp and its people are working towards a world where difference, disability or language are no longer barriers to learning and succeeding, with over 50 million users worldwide. The Texthelp suite of products include Read and Write equates to an orbit note, which work alongside existing platforms such as Microsoft Office and G Suite, and enabling them to be integrated quickly into any classroom or workspace with ease. Texthelp has changed the lives of millions worldwide, and strives to impact the literacy and understanding of 1 billion people by 2030. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University where if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw an apple-at-cha. The music on the podcast was performed by the Odyssey quartet comprised of Rex Shepherd, David Pate, Bill Folwell and Jose Cochez and I am your host, Lillian Nave. Thank you for joining us on The Think UDL podcast.