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Pauses Make Learning Visible with Melissa Wehler

Welcome to Episode 49 of the ThinkUDL podcast: Pauses Make Learning Visible with Melissa Wehler. In this episode, Melissa Wheeler, the co-founder of the Online Learning Toolkit, introduces us to the “Pause Procedure” with which we can help our students with their own self-regulation and executive functioning abilities. She takes us through four different kinds of pauses including learning, cognitive, engagement, and social pauses, each for different purposes. We will look at when to use the “Pause Procedure” in face-to-face and online classes, both in synchronous and asynchronous modalities. Melissa helps us to help our students sustain their effort and persistence with pauses and communicate to our students that we care about their learning. We hope you can pause for a while  and listen to this really helpful conversation!


Follow Melissa Wehler on Twitter @ProfWehler

Pause, Play, Repeat: Using Pause Procedure in Online in Microlectures is an article Melissa wrote for Faculty Focus that explains her technique

Hitting the Pause Button, from the OLT Blog 

Pause Procedure Infographic from the Online Learning Toolkit, or check it out in this plain text format, too.

Community of Inquiry framework comes up again in this episode.

Melissa mentions James Lang’s Small Teaching (see also Flower Darby’s Small Teaching Online)

Academic Articles on Brain Breaks and Breaks of other kinds:

Feiler, K. E. (2019). Brain Breaks Go to College. Pedagogy in Health Promotion, 5(4), 299–301.

Ferrer, M.E. & Laughlin, D.D. (2017). Increasing College Students’ Engagement and Physical Activity with Classroom Brain Breaks. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance,88(3), 53-56. DOI: 10.1080/07303084.2017.1260945

Hayes, S. M. (2020, May 6). Sweat so you don’t forget: Establishing the feasibility of exercise breaks during university lectures., I. C. (2018). Breaking the brain barrier: The effect of brain breaks on fidgeting behaviors in a lecture based college classroom (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


This is an auto-generated transcript. There may be errors. We will post an accurate transcript as soon as possible.

Lillian Nave  00:00

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 49 of the think UDL podcast. pauses make learning visible with Melissa whaler. In this episode, Melissa whaler, the co founder of the Online Learning Toolkit introduces us to the paws procedure with which we can help our students with their own self regulation, and executive functioning abilities. She takes us through four different kinds of pauses, including learning, cognitive engagement, and social pauses each for different purposes, we will look at when to use the pause procedure in face to face and online classes, both in synchronous and asynchronous modalities. Melissa helps us to help our students sustain their effort and persistence with pauses, and along the way, communicate to our students that we care about their learning. We hope you can pause for a while and listen to this really helpful conversation. Thank you, Melissa whaler for joining me today on the think UDL podcast.

Melissa Wehler  01:45

Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to have this conversation today.

Lillian Nave  01:49

Well, I was so excited to meet you over the summer, I was fortunate enough to get to participate in camp cool. And it changed my world about how to teach online. And I have certainly benefited from you and your co facilitators. I’ve interviewed them all I was getting to you and I had you in my head for a long time. And so I was really, really happy to talk to you about something that’s really important to me now, which is reflection and pausing. And we’re going to get to get to that question for our our conversation today. But you know, I asked the same question of all my guests, and I’m going to ask you that question. And that is what makes you, Melissa, a different kind of learner.

Melissa Wehler  02:38

And, you know, I’ve listened to the podcast, and I’ve listened to everyone’s answers. And wow, these are brilliant. And so when I was really reflecting on this question, which actually isn’t a question I’ve ever, I think, truly reflected on our habit for a very long time. And, you know, when I was thinking through my most recent things that I’ve been trying to learn, I’ve realized that I think holistically, but I learned reductively. So I have to really break things down into the very smallest components, and then build back up from there. And so that was kind of a revelation, as I was doing my reflection this morning, that I really have to break it apart, see how the pieces go back together. So I would have never said that without doing a deep reflection on my learning process. And then the other piece to that that I’m realizing as I’m thinking about it is that I also really need to learn repetitively, I have to do it again, and I have to get it wrong. And then I have to do it again and get it wrong. And then eventually, as I get it more and more, right. That is where my real learning takes place. The learning that lasts learning that sticks, that’s where it’s happening. So

Lillian Nave  03:50

awesome. I’ve already seen how many connections what you’ve taught me about pausing and thinking connects to this thinking holistically and learning reductively Oh, I love it reminds me of what I’ve learned through also about the science of learning with James Lange, small teaching and trying to like remind ourselves and pick out little quizzes, all these things we have to repeat in order to learn these things. But this idea about that holistic part and breaking it into little pieces. Absolutely love I would have to say that that’s a lot of what we have to do to learn incrementally. And I can’t remember who it was that taught me this part about you have to have some sort of background knowledge to then hang an idea on to like you have to have some sort of connection to it. In order to then make that next that next little chain or train car add to it. Otherwise you won’t get to the big idea. There has to be like something you hang your hat on. Yeah, so that background Knowledge, that sort of bringing that background knowledge up to, like what this new topic is? Or else, we’re not going to get it, just totally not. Yeah,

Melissa Wehler  05:11

I mean, it’s, it’s just so true. And you know, I have lived so long I do faculty development now. And so I live so long in spaces where I’m very comfortable. And so learning is just expanding on things that I know. And so I’ve really been trying to pick up things that are genuinely hard for me. And so I’ve been teaching myself how to draw and do digital drawing, I have no background, as you’re saying in that. And so I’m really becoming a learner. And in that way, and not just an educator or a teacher, and really having to think about Oh, I remember when these things were hard for me to. And so that’s been a real great process for me is to get outside of my comfort zone, and to get back into the uncomfortable place of learner and students where I don’t have that background to hang things on.

Lillian Nave  05:58

Right, right. And we often forget when we’re the expert that our students are novices, and we’ve got to help make those connections and and connect the dots along the ways. Like we’ll look at it. And we’ll see this web of connection. We are like total Spider Man and spider women, like shooting our webs everywhere, and we see it all connect. And they’re like, chode. What I don’t see this connection at all. So Oh, already, this is fantastic. It’s off to a good start. Okay, so the big thing I called you in today to talk to you about is a few things I learned from you and went to a webinar that you were leading about pausing, and that reflection and how important that is for learning. And I’m interested in that in both online learning and what it might look like in a face to face class. So I’ll just start with why should we have students pause? Yeah, you know, there’s

Melissa Wehler  06:57

so many great reasons to introduce that technique into, you know, our teaching our lessons, our teaching toolboxes, I use pause in the biggest way you can, I think and so I want to just quickly break down different ways I use it because I don’t want it to be a huge umbrella conversation. But I think that when we typically talk about pausing, we talk about as a learning pause, like I’m going to pause, allow students to digest information, and then move on to another topic. And we need those pauses really to help students get the knowledge that sticks. And so those are genuinely how we, you know, think about pauses and use them in the classes. The other way, I think we’re coming to start using pauses in our teaching our cognitive pauses are literally giving students a break a reflection, moment or moments between topics where they can just take an actual breath, move away from the content for a second, and just think, and so I love that cognitive pauses are becoming more a part of our teaching toolbox. In addition to those learning pauses, the other ones that I think are getting more and more introduced are engagement pauses. And again, I think we’re probably a little bit more familiar with the way that function works, especially in the face to face classroom. And that’s really allowing students opportunities to take a breath before having them respond to a question or an activity. And we know that that works, especially for students who aren’t great with, you know, snapping their fingers and coming up with an idea who don’t necessarily love extemporaneous speaking or feel very put on the spot by it. And so we again, I think that one’s probably more part of our teaching toolbox. And then lastly, the ones that I love the most are the social pauses, where we’re just giving students opportunities to interact with each other interact with us in a way that is maybe related to the content, but maybe just one or two steps to the side of the content, where engagement and sociality and relationship building is at the forefront. And maybe some of those learning outcomes drop a little bit behind. So all of those reasons, students need pauses. And when we think about our own learning, and learning something new, even though we’re experts in our field, some of the best times we can we have with content and learning is in the shower, on our drive to work drinking our cup of coffee, it’s these pauses because we need that time to really get the synapses firing. And if people are just throwing information at you constantly, you don’t have time to really digest it in a way that’s meaningful. And I love your comment about the web of learning. I think that’s so appropriate because spiders need time to build webs they just don’t do it. We see it happening overnight. Right? We go to bed, there’s no spider web, we wake up there is one and that’s a beautiful thing, but we we don’t see the work that goes on. We don’t See all the times that the spider took a break, right. And I think that that’s so important. And when we learn new things, we give ourselves time to reflect him. So giving that same time to students is really crucial.

Lillian Nave  10:12

Well, there you go, thinking holistically again, right? That your students are whole beings and they might need a break, our brains need a break, oftentimes, we’re not going to be able to take in a 15 minute straight on lecture. Without our brains wandering for a little bit, it’s just case. And we all know that when we make some videos, or at least I’ve been learning, when you make a video, you want to definitely under 20 minutes, and probably six to 10, you know, something that is much easier to digest for for our students. So already, this seems to make a lot of sense about treating our students as the whole brain humans that they are. And those, I love how you just gave me four different ways to thinking about pauses learning pause, a cognitive pause, and engagement pause in those social pauses. Because, um, I can, I suppose I could see how I’ve done that, but never would have categorized them as those things and, and definitely thought, when I was looking at students in the class, when we actually were in classrooms, and I could see their faces, right, and they’re like, I don’t know what you’re talking about. And you’d be like, okay, we’re gonna pause, we’re gonna see if you can figure this out, I’ll see if I can explain this a little bit differently. And not realizing what you know what I was doing at that point, but you’ve actually put the hammer on the nail on that one. It’s, uh,

Melissa Wehler  11:40

you know, I think in the classroom, those moments, you know, really come to us organically, right? In that way, because we’re good at reading humans, part of what makes a good educator is just being good at reading humans, subject matter expertise, also critical. But the humans are the subject matter when you’re an educator, they’re part of what we teach. And I think that that is such a good point there. Because in the online world, we have to design in those moments, they don’t come maybe as organically as they do when you walk out and see, you know, deer in the headlight looks at you. And so the pauses when I’ve really thought about pauses is because when I started teaching online, it necessitated me to sit there and think, what is happening? What is the experience on the other side of the screen? What I want to have the same experience, is it reaching the students I needed to reach? And I think that that’s a really critical moment, when you realize, Oh, this is a thing I do in class. And I’ve got to find it’s meaningful, it’s useful, it’s valuable, I got to find a way to translate that.

Lillian Nave  12:44

Yeah. And it’s, it’s so important. All of those times. As humans, we need that break to sink. When you were saying, I, you know, get a cup of coffee or whatever, I’ve found that I’ve completely changed or come into new ideas on a hike. You know, I live in the mountains, it’s fantastic. It’s those times when I’ve actually had time to process to then be able to put those web things together and understand, oh, that’s the missing piece. Super, super important. And we get those spaces, like on the weekend, right? We’re hoping. But I have seen article after article lately, and living my life that we’re living right now. We’ve had no fall break, we have no a spring break coming up, we’re going to have, you know, in North because of safety issues, we’re trying to get everybody in and out and not go home and come back and all that sort of thing if you are on campus. And we’ve actually lost those chances to pause. So how we thought we were doing a great thing, I can see why we needed to do it. But we’re also losing that time sometimes to pause.

Melissa Wehler  13:52

I have thought about that almost non stop since July, because that’s when institutions started announcing these plans. And they all sounded really good on paper. And I’m sitting there thinking, I understand the safety piece here. But there’s a mental health component that we need to consider. And I think that you’re spot on, because educators need time to pause students time to pause. And frankly, every supporting cast member and everything that we’re doing needs time to pause as well. For the learning to actually be meaningful so that you’re not just driving through content and pushing through content, just to meet learning outcomes, not again, not that that’s not critical. It’s what our job is. But allowing those learning outcomes to exist beyond the syllabus to make them manifest in our classes is quite different. And so just driving through chapters and content and textbooks, that is not what education and learning actually is. So I have been thinking about that. Just absolutely not so non stop and the only thing I have really thought about that has made any sense to me is I’ve started thinking about pausing in my own life, can I build in five minutes? If I have a busy day? can I build in 15 minutes? If I have a busy day? If I have a content heavy lecture? Can I devote five minutes at the beginning and five minutes at the end? Do I really need wall to wall coverage today? Is there a break coming up? Can I schedule in a day where we do you know, something outside of what my lesson plan was? So I think even more so now, the breaks, the pauses have to be designed for us and for the students in very small ways. And if possible, maybe a slightly bigger way. But I have really tried and struggled with this. And the only thing I’ve come up with is maybe those five to 15 minute breaks. Those are what we need right now. Because those are what we can have.

Lillian Nave  15:48

Yeah, yeah. I’ve been thinking about that. I think some of our fellow institutions have said, this was such a great idea. Oh, wait, maybe it wasn’t? What can we do? And I think in our UNC system, than the spring, there’s no spring break. But there’s supposed to be maybe five wellness days, like a random Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday. And I’m thinking we need that. And if our institution doesn’t do it, maybe we’re putting those in our schedule for online or something like that.

Melissa Wehler  16:22

Absolutely. When I teach online, I used to teach a very truncated schedule. That was an intensive schedule, and my midterm week, it was literally review. Do something nice for yourself. Take the test. I’ll see you next week. Yeah, has you need a release valve? Yeah, you do in there? Yeah. Slowly. Okay.

Lillian Nave  16:42

Alright. So then, if it’s important for us to design these pauses, then what are a few ways that you can design this and facilitate this in online learning?

Melissa Wehler  16:53

Yeah. And so this is where you really have to be clear in your head, what you want out of the pause, and clear what, what its function is inside the lesson that you’re going to house it in. And so often, I’ll use pause procedure. In the middle of a micro lecture, I’ll literally tell students, pause the video here, do a short activity. When you’re ready, play the video again, when I come back on the video, I’ll say something like, okay, so we all do this activity together. Maybe you wrote this, maybe you said this, maybe you said that. And I come up with a couple hypotheticals, because I want to really respond to whatever prompt it is that I’ve given them. And sometimes I’ll say okay, and then we’re going to talk about this more on a discussion board in this assignment, and link it back out to something else tangible for them so that they know that the pause was purposeful, meaningful, unintentional, there’s other things that you can do in terms of activities, you can do the one minute paper, we’re all pretty familiar with that you give students just a short amount of time to write a reflection, I do that I do have to do reflection paragraphs, often in online class, I’ll have them do them at the beginning of a week, and at the end of the week, so they can kind of see their trajectory through the week, I started this week in this kind of mood, feeling these kind of feelings, this kind of way. And I ended the week, maybe at the same place, but it’s important for them to kind of have those Capstone experiences where they can see the continuity, or see the contrast, I guess, I should also say, and then I also have a new knowledge check ins. So after they view, maybe a short lesson, or they read something, I’ll ask maybe two or three hyper specific questions about what they just, you know, interacted with, and have them, you know, you talk through a short answer, or do a multiple choice. And that’s helpful for me, because I’ll see, okay, this stuck, this did and I need to double down on this. Or it will say to them, okay, these are the types of questions she may ask. So these are, what she’s thinking are the important points that I need to make sure that I’m comfortable with. So those are some of the some of those things in the lesson. The other thing that I’ve come to do in online classes, because when you first put together an online class, you’re really focusing on content and activities and assignments, and it’s pretty wall to wall, do stuff, watch something, listen to something do stuff. And yeah, it’s tough. It’s a tough thing to do. And so I’ll put in what I call pitstop lessons, where the only the only function of those is there’s something nice in there, there’s just, you know, it’s a, it’s a video of, you know, a trail, I’ll find it. There’s all kinds of trails and things that people videotape like on YouTube. Yeah, I’ll throw that in there and say, watch five minutes of this. You know, it’s just a deep breath in deep breath out kind of moment. I’ll put a coloring book page in there, just kind of giving them a pitstop so that they’re not jumping from content to content to activity. I also do like take a breath lessons, where I’ll literally say, time to get up. Do not go to the next lesson. Even though you know the LMS might let you you’re not allowed to go Take a stretch, go listen to your favorite song, read a favorite book, something, go do something that is not the content of this class. And then I think one of the places where we often overlook on online education because they were just part of our rote design for online is the navigational instructions. Once you’re done with this item, please proceed to the next item. I always put an additional like instructions there where it’s like you this was a heavy lesson, y’all. That’s enough. Get up and take a stretch. Did you drink water today? Once you drink a glass of water, come back and go on to the next lesson. So I think we can build in those little moments where we’re just encouraging students to take care of themselves. And that whole that whole humaneness right, not just the Brittany, not just the learner in front of us, but the whole humaneness. And it takes nothing away from my lesson to have in the navigation instructions, go get a glass of water if you haven’t drank anything today, you know. And it’s funny, because those are the things my students remember, in my class, you know, when they say, what did you What did you really like about Dr. wheelers class? And they’ll always say, she always wondered if I was taking, you know, enough trying stretch breaks and getting, I was hungry, like she cared about me. Right? Yeah. And the navigational instructions, they can be so rote. And just inserting a little bit of humanity in there. It’s not hard to do. And it does, as students listen,


they’re like, yeah,

Melissa Wehler  21:28

I actually did take a glass of water today. Yeah,

Lillian Nave  21:31

it makes a big difference. I’ve heard back from students recently where it’s, you know, it’s, we’re just slap dab in the middle of the semester, and there’s no breaks, and it’s slogging along. And I said up, you know, I’ve modified a little bit recently and said, You know, we’ve had a light week last week, and we’re gonna have a light week this week, just because of all the things that are going on. And one student wrote back saying, Man, I really appreciate that because our other professors said, yes, there’s a lot of stuff. But here’s some more, you know. And to just acknowledge the humanity of our students that maybe during this time, we’re going to pause, or we’re going to move away from some of these things, we’ll get to it at a different time. But just recognizing that the time that we have together may need to be used differently. That whole students that hosted in part is so important. I’m so glad you started us off with that. So okay, so we’ve got some online options to for designing, and what about this in synchronous settings, and that could be zoom, which I know you, you’ve taught me a lot about and or face to face. So what kind of ways you think about designing there?

Melissa Wehler  22:50

Yeah, and and you do get a lot more nonverbals communication, when you are in a face to face mastermind, zoom, whatever your situation is, wherever you are. And why I think that’s important is because it does allow you to be a little bit more extemporaneous with your pausing. It allows students to respond in real time. And that also will help you, you know, you may have, you may have gone this direction, now, you need to move over here a little bit more because of a response that you got in real time. And so I think that those things are really helpful in that scenario. One of my favorite things to do in a starting up a face to face or zoom session, is to start with a question that can be one of these engagement questions, where you’re asking them to do a certain thing it could be okay, what does everybody remember about last class, I’m just trying to get them back into the mode of learning activate some prior knowledge. Sometimes, and this is also important about those social pauses, giving students just a few minutes to talk amongst each other. Starting with a breakout room, I was just sharing with a faculty member earlier, you know about the big thing about well, the cameras are off and I don’t know what they’re doing. And I don’t know anything, starting with a breakout room putting them there, they may feel more comfortable in a small group setting to turn their camera on and when they come back their cameras already on. So those those soft cues, right without being you know, dictatorial or mandating things. And starting in those small sessions, just say, Hey, get together with some group members and talk about what you all remember from the last class. Not getting so caught up in answering this question, do these things and giving them time to really just engage with one another and again, get back into learning mode. This also will allow you to do like think pair shares, which I also really love, especially the think part there. I think sometimes we get caught up very quickly on Okay, you’re done thinking get into your pair and then share with everybody else. really giving them time putting them in individual breakout rooms so that they have their own breakout space just to be quiet and thoughtful. among themselves, you don’t even get that kind of privacy. It’s weird to talk about that way. But that kind of privacy in a face to face class, where you kind of are just like in your own little space where you can think about things, you can pull out a whiteboard, you can start drawing online doodling, things like that. So those are, those are things that you can do. And I always love to end a session on a pause on a reflective note, just to bring it all together, because otherwise, it’s like, Alright, everybody, I’m gonna end the meeting now. And that’s a weird conclusion. If you’ve just had a conversation, you know, a teaching moment, it just doesn’t feel right. It feels very just corporate and very, yeah, you know, tough meeting, like, Okay, I’m gonna literally click end meeting for us to be over. So I like doing those kind of things, just to just to bring it to, to a close there. So,

Lillian Nave  25:53

wow, okay, you’ve just mind blown over here with the individual breakout rooms, I have never thought about the kind of solitude or that, that privacy that it does give a student if they’re in a room by themselves, but maybe they’re with a roommate or something or, but but they’re just looking at their screen. And they can you can really say, hey, we’ve got one minute I want you to either a free right, or work on something, think about it, or maybe even you know, type it in or something. And, you know, then you’re not even looking at their faces. You know, nobody’s worried about how people are like, I don’t know what I’m doing, or that’s great.

Melissa Wehler  26:36

Yeah, and I think about it’s been my experience and all this, you know, over the last six months is really anecdotal, cuz we don’t have any, we’re not being driven by literature at this point. because things are happening in real time. I feel like zoom is very performative in a way that even in a face to face class, there is some performance happening there. But it’s, it’s very raw, to your mind, just kind of watching your every move, watching all these different rooms, and all their backgrounds and their every move. And having an opportunity to just to not perform in the middle of classes is precious. I also would encourage people to take, you know, actual breaks during their classes where cameras are off, yes, your phones are muted. And an activity is done, or you know, a stretch happens or some something, it doesn’t again, have to be wall to wall contents. And in zoom, again, unlike in face to face, you can actually turn off your mic and just take a deep breath, turn off your camera and do those things. So it does the technology affords us weirdly additional privacy that we don’t necessarily get in a face to face class.

Lillian Nave  27:49

Yeah, that flexibility, an opportunity that online is bringing is just something I had not thought of completely at all before this, before the pandemic gave me a laser focus on to what is possible in the online realm and finding Wow, there are so many ways, I don’t have to translate from, you know, face to face to online, I can think of a whole bunch of other ways that didn’t even exist before that I can use. So that’s absolutely helpful for our students, it’s helpful for me, and the things that you were just talking about made me think of several of our UDL principles, but about self regulation for students, that’s a really important part of the engagement. So having students being able to really know their limits also, but also to map out helping them to map out their progress. Those sorts of things are helpful when you provide pauses. and sustaining effort and persistence, when you put students in the beginning in a breakout room for them to get to know each other, maybe they have a friend, or at least they have another person their age, who’s in the same position like I’ve never taken this class before. Or you know, here we are at home with our our dogs. And we’re in the same spot here, then that helps with the persistence of our students, because one of the big problems or issues that students will often have is that they think there’s nobody on the other end, it’s just a computer, and there’s none of this human interaction. So the more we can get with that, I think the more persistence we’re going to have with our students.

Melissa Wehler  29:28

Yeah, and I also think about the faculty role there in an online class in our traditional online class, the faculty member kind of is this fulcrum on which all engagement must pivot and the burden, the burnout, the workload is so great when we put ourselves with a fulcrum point. And what I what I try to do and what I try to get other faculty do is to allow peer to peer allow spaces where they’re managing the learning the control of information, you know, the discussion where we don’t have to That fulcrum point because really in education, we’re not always the conduit through which all information or wisdom, all knowledge, all skills flow. And so to allow students to have opportunities to do peer to peer interaction in the online space, it’s critical. And it also is critical for us, because that’s how we’re going to make those independent learners that we all talk about wanting and wanting to give them that lifelong love of learning, we’re not going to do that. Because after our classrooms in 15, weeks, they still have their peers, they still have one another. And so to allow those spaces where they can really, you know, make those deep connections, I believe in study groups, online study groups, for that reason, not creating all these mandatory, you must, you must, you must requirements, but giving them contact information, something that’s that simple, that allows them to if they’re interested, this avenues open, and I will support that, I’m not going to run the study groups, I’m not going to, you know, if you want me to come, I will happily come and talk, you know, whatever you need, but they’re yours, their space is uniquely designed for you. And I agree with that, you know, the persistence piece that really does come from us in some ways, but that peer to peer, I’m really having a tough time. I know, you understand, because you’re not only in this class with me, but you’re in my other two classes with me. And you know, that the other faculty member, you know, Dr. whalers giving us a break this week, but you know, there’s other faculty members saying, actually, we’re gonna write two papers this week, or, yeah, sorry, sorry. So that’s really, it’s really key. And it’s okay for faculty members to take a step back every once in a while,

Lillian Nave  31:42

right. And then many things can fill in that void, and that are really, really good for our students. And I find that when I give my students the chance to explain something to their peers, in their own words, and with their own analogies, and in their own way, they do it sometimes, and most, oftentimes a lot better than I could. When I thought of like, Oh, I’m gonna have this really fun, hip, cool, a way for them to talk about this chapter. I’m gonna have them sing The Brady Bunch song, but haven’t changed the lyrics. And they’re like, what is the Brady Bunch? Oh, yeah. Yeah, okay, well, let’s do a little history lesson. Here’s the story. I’m gonna tell you about a lovely lady. And then I was like, You know what, guys, actually, y’all have a bunch of things that you’re going to teach me. And so Oh, I’ve had incredible raps. I’ve had SpongeBob Square Pants songs. I’ve had lots of other ideas when I kind of stepped back and said, Oh, you pick it and you explain it to each other. And oh, it was so much better, so much better when I wasn’t there. You know, they’re

Melissa Wehler  32:51

the meme generation. That’s what I say to myself. Like, you know, when suits like, well, how exactly do you want this done? I’m like, y’all created memes. Heard out like, you took pop culture from 30 years ago made it relevant again. Ah, go. You don’t need me here. Yeah, you can do it. I’m just getting in the way here. Yeah.

Lillian Nave  33:11

Yeah, that, and you also bringing up that peer to peer relationship makes me think of our community of inquiry. And those three very important parts of a successful class, the teaching presence, the cognitive presence, and the social presence. And that social presence is when those students are interacting, and are we building into our courses, that part where students are interacting with each other. And we can take that step back, take a pause from our teaching, in that role, that that ends up being so important, and it’s hard sometimes to let go of the reins. And we think we’re supposed to be in charge of everything and directing everything. But I found again, these students surprise me and delight me in Whoa, I never would have explained it that way. That’s so much better. Yeah, sure. Did.

Melissa Wehler  34:01

You know and even in the pauses, I often do reflections, I say, reflect for one minute, you know, and a lot of students their default is writing because they become acculturated to when an educator asked them for something, they want it in writing and proper sentences, paragraph form with evidence and citations and all of this. And the first time they do and I say, you know, if this is what you’re most comfortable doing, please do it. But otherwise, find a different way to reflect you want to make a bulleted list. Go ahead. You want to draw a concept map, do you want to draw me a doodle of of the things that you were thinking about during this class? Go for it. And what I get from that is genuine, as opposed to what does she want me to do? It’s, it’s a lot more about them and their needs, and I get closer to actually what I do want, which is that and instead of playing this guessing game with me, I actually get the feedback that I need about where they are They love sharing it when it’s genuine, you know, because they’re proud of it. And for that social aspect, when you’ve done a reflection, and it’s a paragraph, and it doesn’t really, you know, reflect you in that way, it’s not something you necessarily want to share with your peers. But if you’ve created a pretty cool meme about your feelings on this topic, you’re gonna share that with people. And it sets a tone for the community of the class as well. So the pauses can can do that they can be tone setting in that way.

Lillian Nave  35:31

Oh, yeah, it’s I, one time last year, I asked them for memes. And that was just the most fun exercise, you know, and they come up with so much more. And I you know, of course, I have to go and ask, how do you make a meme, you know, there’s meme generators, there’s plenty of ways to do it. But I didn’t know the first step in it. And of course, they’re teaching me how to do it. And it’s so much more fun. And when you’re doing that you’re recruiting interest, when you’ve got authentic tasks with authentic audiences. That is also a part of our UDL principles and engagement, but also an action and expression with something that is meaningful to the students, and not just maybe an abstract that’s kind of out on the side. But how does this relate to you? How are you using tools that are useful to you that makes sense to you? In order to get these concepts out? Yeah. So okay, so you’ve already told me actually a couple of these results and how fantastic they are. But I’m interested in what results you’ve gotten so far from using this technique.

Melissa Wehler  36:34

Yeah, in addition to the ones that, you know, we’ve discussed, I would also say, the pauses really do help me to tweak my teaching and my delivery of that teaching. They allow me to hone in on resources that are meaningful and speak to the needs of the students, as opposed to me just posting resources, because I know they need them. And I’m guessing at what they need, but allowing me to really tailor those to that. And the the community building and the tone setting, I really can’t say enough about that piece of it. Because the pauses show the students that I care about the content. Yes, I care about the learning outcomes. Absolutely. I care that they’re learning and engaged, but I care about them, which makes all the other things easier. Because I’m invested. And I’m they’re not just, you know, in name, but um, their whole bodied person, you know, and I think that that’s really important. The other thing is, and we talk a lot about engagement, and that has, you know, we’ve always talked a lot about engagement. And now I feel like we’re talking about it even more this semester, because of this online. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, but everyone says, Well, when I can’t see them, I don’t know if they’re engaged. That’s not really the reality. You know, I have sat through many lectures where I shook my head. Yep, I get this gap. And I had no clue what was happening. To Yeah, math classes. I can’t tell you that x does make sense there. Thank you for pointing that out. And so what I always think about are those moments how do you actually measure engagement. And really, the way you can do that is through pause procedure, no matter the modality that you are, you know, engaged in at the time, and it does give you that honest look into into what’s happening there. And I think that that’s, if we really want to crack the nut that is our students engaged. It’s about getting that feedback, those micro moments of feedback, those micro moments of assessment that allow low, no stakes, honest response. And then of course, we have to engage that response, right? We can’t just say, Okay, thank you for your responses, never, never engage with those responses, and the engaging with those responses. Also, when I think about what I’ve gotten out of this technique, those conversations about their reflections are where the teaching happens. Everyone, I noticed that in your reflections are really struggling with this topic. I’m going to take today’s lesson, and I’m going to just talk us through this using a different approach. Because clearly the approach that I was using, it’s not landing. So let me see what else I can pull out of my bag of tricks over here and explain in a different way. Those conversations, those lessons, I’ve gotten more out of those. I’ve been, you know, more creative in those moments more innovative in those moments, and the students have responded in kind. And I think that that alone is worth doing it. It takes literally sometimes two minutes. Who wouldn’t want to do that for you know, quote, unquote, giving up two minutes of your class time. which I know is sometimes what the hesitation is like, I can’t possibly give up Five minutes at the beginning of five minutes, and you can’t really know really think about that. That’s what I would say there. I know content is important, I know that we have coverage. And you know, sometimes we have field tests, and all these things that are important, but 10 minutes to do something that can yield those kind of results. I just don’t know how you do the math any different way.

Lillian Nave  40:24

You know, it seems like what you are doing is you are making the actual learning that is happening visible, because it’s, it’s invisible when those gears are turning. When we are making that connection, when the spider is drawing another little piece of that web, we have to pause and look back and say I just made that connection. I just built this web or I’ve just added something to my background knowledge I can hang my hat on. But when we are going so fast, a mile a minute, and lots and lots of content. And we don’t either recognize or give the chance to verbalize or write down or make a meme or something of the learning as it’s happening. We’re losing it. I think we’re missing it.

Melissa Wehler  41:18

You know, that is such a great point is learning made visible? Because you’re absolutely right. One of the things that I said is I do this Capstone reflection of the beginning of the reflection at the end. And that’s exactly why because I always pitch it to students, I was like this is this is a study aid. And they’re like, how is this what I’m writing here a study, I said, Because today, what I said to you is all right here, it’s all front of mind. We need to work to get to back of mind, and then long term memory. But right now it’s all front and it feels very clear. And getting you to capture how you’re thinking about it is going to be the way when you go to study later, it’s going to remind you, oh, I was thinking this I was making these connections, I was building these relationships I was even making these doodles at the time putting yourself back in that place is so critical. And I can’t do it. That is the one thing I cannot do for them, I cannot capture the way that they uniquely interpret what I’m doing. And if they can capture that, and when they go back and look at that, that’s going to be the key to unlocking the memories of that moment. Now I’m very spoiled because an online, you know, they can rewatch me a million times. Yeah. So there is that repetition. But just because you watch something 20 times doesn’t mean it makes any more sense than the first time. So I do tell them, you know, even if you’re frustrated, write that down, because that frustration moments going to remind you, okay, I was frustrated when I learned this, that’s probably why it’s not sticking. Maybe that also leads you to come talk to me about it, as opposed to you know, internalizing those feelings like I’m just not getting it. No, I was frustrated, then. Maybe it’s time for a conversation now because it’s still not progressing in the way I need it to. So yeah, I love that point about learning made visible, because it’s the one thing I cannot do for them.

Lillian Nave  43:16

Yeah, that’s brilliant. It really is. It’s the essence of learning, it is so important to give the to give our students and ourselves that chance to reflect and to think and to be and make it visible. Wow, super important. I didn’t realize how important this conversation was going to be for me. I need to pause and reflect on it.



Lillian Nave  43:44

yeah. So okay, so we need to design these things. We need to do it in online and face to face. We’ve got you’ve given us a lot of ways to think about it. So when is a good time to schedule a pause?

Melissa Wehler  44:01

Yeah, and and I’ll talk about my process here, because I do think it’s probably different for everyone. But I can tell you, you know, when I’ve designed a lesson, I start with the outcomes, obviously, and I say this lesson needs to cover this content, I need to transition from this moment in my class, and get them prepared for this next moment that’s coming up. And so I do design the whole lesson with those outcomes in mind. And then I go back and say, if I was a learner In this lesson, where are the places that I might need that kind of engagement? And so I look at Do I need to establish a baseline of knowledge of my students? Do I need to make sure if I’m introducing a new topic or a hard skill or something complicated or controversial? Do I need to just take some temperature, so thinking about it at the beginning. The other thing is, if I’m moving from a topic to a new topic, do I need to gauge comprehension and retention of previous interest Maybe that happens at the beginning, middle or end. And I will say, depending on the length of the lesson, there should be multiple pauses. You know, in a 60 minute lesson, it’s not unusual for me to have five or six. And if it’s discussion heavy, you know, maybe you’re building those pauses a little less frequently, because there’s a flow to the conversation. But if it is content or skill heavy, as my classes do tend to be five or six pauses an hour long classes, not a typical for me,


I’m, again, we’re

Melissa Wehler  45:35

talking minutes. So you know, structuring around a couple minutes, not that hard to do. The other place I always look for, for pauses, as we all are subject matter experts, we’ve likely taught these classes before so thinking about pain points, places where the students typically struggle for some reason. And those are very tactical pain points, like this is a hard concept, even under the best circumstances. And those are those intangible pain points. Like I know, right now, there’s a pandemic going on, I need to check in now, this is a good place to check in. Because I’ve talked about something that might have, you know, been hard for, for these students to hear at this particular moment in time. Transitions are good time. And then I also think about when I’m getting too much, and not enough feedback, those are always places to try to put in pauses. So if I’m getting too much feedback, and by that, I mean, just a lot of questions. That shows me the students just aren’t my deliveries off, students are just not communicating with this with this topic that I have here. So I’m getting a lot of questions like, Can you go back you review, I know, it’s time to put in a pause and say, what’s going on? Do you know, tell me a little bit more about what’s happening here. And when I’m not getting enough feedback, so online teaching really does require you to read the silences. I think we do this in every modality, but really, the emails not returned, you know, the assignments not turned in the chat that’s not active. Those are all good silences and places where a pause is necessary. And maybe you get out of that pause, you know, I’m burnt, you know, I’m toast this part of the semester. And that can be a good conversation. Hey, y’all, I can see the engagement slow. I asked you for some feedback, you also told me that, you know, we’re tired, we’re kind of burnt out, we need a break. And that pause can actually lead to the need for a longer pause. And that’s really critical, I think, too. So I would just say, once you have your lesson, especially if you’ve taught it before, really take a hard look at there and say to yourself, you know, I’ve been talking now for 20 minutes, I probably should have put in a couple more pauses there.

Lillian Nave  47:53

Yeah, yeah, I remember a while back learning about that 20 minutes or so is your end of your brain power. And when I was teaching 15 minute, face to face classes, that meant every class in the middle, there’d be a stop and switch groups move into a different question, or the mini lecture is over. Now you’re working together. And I think it’s just a little bit more tricky. And I just haven’t had enough time to think about where those go in online classes. And my synchronous sessions are only 15 minutes as well. So trying to get those moving along. There’s always a breakout, there’s always some time me talking and, and I but I don’t think I’ve put an actual pause in that part that and I can see how useful it would be right now.

Melissa Wehler  48:43

Yeah, and I think about that, I think about the the zoom. Um, and the reason why I think about zoom a lot is because it feels very face to face. But there are some significant differences that are some good, some bad. And when I think about that, it is very easy to go for 15 minutes, because you’re on camera, and it does feel like it’s time to perform. And what I would say there is not that anybody’s winging it, but don’t wing it. Yeah, no, you do have to design that. And you do have to have, even if it’s just some bullet points, like, I’m going to talk about this, it may take me 15 minutes, so be it. But at the end of this, I have a note here to remind myself that if I’m going to take a step back, they’re going to take a step forward, and it can be just that simple. In in the online environments, the fully online environment you do have to be conscious. And as much as this is probably not everybody’s favorite piece of advice I’ll give you need to go through your whole lesson. You need to watch all of your videos you need to go through your whole lesson you need to do it in Student Preview mode. And the reason why is because you Feels doable to you as you’re creating this content. It, it does not always feel that way on the receiving end. And so I always flip my LMS on the Student Preview mode. And I go to the lesson, the only thing you learn when you do that is I have in a in a week’s worth, I could have four or five learning modules. I never intend for the students to sit down at ATM one day, go through everything and be done by five. Some of my students do that though. Yeah. And you have to think about if the flow of information is continuous, how do you help them take those breaks? That’s why I do those like pitstop, or take a break lessons in the middle of content, because I want to remind the students who are even who are going to sit down and do the whole thing that day because they work full time or, you know, scheduling permits that to happen that way, that they still have to treat those as discrete lessons. And so I sit through all of my lectures, I sit through I do all of my assignments, I answer all of my discussion boards, and it helps me also gauge the workload on that.

Lillian Nave  51:08

So Wow, that is very helpful. We’ve I’ve mentioned there are some workload estimators out there, Wake Forest has one rice has one. But I suppose you would be the arbiter of that. But it might take you might take our students a little longer than it might take us, right, if we’re the content experts. So maybe add a few more minutes after we’ve gone through it.

Melissa Wehler  51:35

Yeah, that’s exactly what I do. And, and I try to do it as slowly and as methodically as I possibly can. I don’t, I don’t rush through it. I watch my videos four or five times.

Lillian Nave  51:50

It’s great.

Melissa Wehler  51:51

Yeah, it’s something I don’t know. I don’t love the process. But I but two things, I want to make sure I’m pulling putting out quality videos, you know, I’ve shot videos where I didn’t realize it, but my mic cuts out in the middle of the video. And so watching it as quality control, and to if I cannot listen to myself for five minutes. Why is anybody else? Yeah, you really do have to ask those questions. And, you know, I’m not hopefully breaking anybody’s heart. But it’s not uncommon for our very tech savvy students to watch us at 1.5 times. Yeah, um, and to fast forward through the boring parts. And so either we get those things down, or we don’t be boring, but it has to be one of those two options, I think. Yeah. So I do I, I watch it a couple of times, just to kind of get the flow of this. And the other thing that’s really important for me is I do tend to speak quickly. And so I need to make sure that I can take notes while I’m talking. If I ask my students to take notes while I’m talking.

Lillian Nave  52:55

Well, and they can also slow it down to point seven, five, I suppose. Right? They could

Melissa Wehler  53:01

be? I’ll test that next time. You’re one of those because that’s a great point.

Lillian Nave  53:05

Yeah. Well, I was listening to one of my videos, you know, going through it, to see that I’d done it maybe four weeks ago, I was like, let me check on this one. I don’t even know why I had to check on it. I think I was gonna see if it still worked in a different context. And I could not listen to myself on regular speed. It’s like, I gotta speed this one up. It’s too slow for me. So I’m thinking, Hmm, I wonder if my students maybe I should just tell them, You guys might want to watch this a little bit faster than the way I’m speaking now, because I’m bored right now.

Melissa Wehler  53:36

And you know, just think that kind of honest, I think, poor do I introduce a micro lecture, I’ll say, y’all, this is not the most exciting thing for me this semester. I recognize it, but it’s a needful thing. It’s a thing that we need to talk about. I’m going to give you this little nugget, and then I promise you something else will be interesting this week, you know, so it kind of offsetting it because not everything we do is literally the most exciting thing they’re ever going to come

Lillian Nave  54:03

across. Yeah, we have to get over ourselves in that way. Don’t we do? Yeah, especially

Melissa Wehler  54:08

if we won’t watch our own videos. I lose that ability. Yeah, no fee. Like, ah, you know, they’re not watching my videos, but neither am I Exactly.

Lillian Nave  54:18

Like, I’m not gonna spend the time rewatching all of these right now I can expect them to. Okay, yeah. So we have to get over ourselves and also have to make you know, our class is not the only one or the absolute most important one, but so make it as interesting but helpful, you know, as it as it can be. I always think about that as well. Yeah, absolutely. Okay. All right. So my last question is kind of a catch all and maybe it’s the first question in another forum. But my final question is, you know, what good are pauses for anyway, if somebody were to come up to you hadn’t listened to this podcast, and they’re in And they were thinking pauses, that is a waste, what good are pauses for anyway?

Melissa Wehler  55:06

Yeah, and and i would say, you know, for us as faculty, it does those very needful things. It does help us to gauge learning and assess knowledge and give us feedback. But I think that taking a step back for a moment, it does really hard work in our classes. When we talk about building community and classes, one of the ways we can do that is through pause procedure, you know, and as we talked about those pauses and reflective moments can be opportunities for sociality, and sharing, and, you know, humor. Those things are important to building that community that feels very ephemeral, but actually, there’s very specific things we can tie that community piece to, they communicate to the students that we are building, always and designing always with them in mind and their experience in our classes in mind. I think the other thing that communicates maybe more implicitly to students is that we’re not interested in plowing through information for information sake, that we’ve theorized our approach, that we care about their learning, that we’re actively engaged in their learning. And I do think it helps to build that trust and rapport with students, especially when you engage the feedback you’ve received from those pause moments. Students really appreciate when you can say, I care about you enough that I want you to be the driver of this class and this content, giving up some of that control. And pauses can help us to understand those needs. Sometimes the students do need us to drive the, you know, to drive the course, sometimes they need us to step back and not do that. And the only way we get that is if we give them a moment to say is this working? How’s it working? What’s working? What’s not? I think that those are ways that you build meaningful relationships. And you do that in the classroom. And it’s how you do it in life. And I think it’s important not to divorce those two, what generally works with humans works, no matter the context, right? Yeah. and telling students, you know, you can do this time is yours, what a gift to say, these five minutes, I’m giving to you to think about yourself, and to take care of yourself. And to Kate, take care of your learning.

Lillian Nave  57:24

So here we are, again, at the holistic learning and the holistic human learning and thinking right back at as who you are as a learner, and what makes you learn, I think is so important. And one of the things that you said during our conversation was the instructor takes a stick, step back so that the students can take a step forward. And if we don’t take a step back, how can they move forward and and become drivers in their education? And that’s what we want are purposeful, motivated expert learners. But if we are the ones that are continuously driving and not stopping, then we’re not even giving them the chance. Yeah, our expectations and our actions have to meet in the middle there.

Melissa Wehler  58:12

If we want. If we expect these learners to be independent and lifelong, then our actions have to support that, not just our words.


Yeah, I agree with that. Absolutely.

Lillian Nave  58:23

Oh, thank you so much, Melissa, I have really enjoyed this conversation and have a lot to take away too from it. So I really appreciate your expertise and, and a pause from your other duties to talk to me about the pause procedure and all that it means this has just been

Melissa Wehler  58:43

absolutely delightful. Thank you so much. And, and thank you for also giving me space to reflect on these teaching techniques and to give me an opportunity to pause about my own learning and how that works. So I appreciate that.

Lillian Nave  58:56

Wow, that’s great. All right. 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 website. The think UDL podcast is made possible by college star. The star stands for supporting transition, access and retention in post secondary settings, and the website provides free resources and instructional aides based on UDL principles. If you’d like to know more, go to the college website. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University where if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw in Appalachia. The music on the podcast was performed by The Odyssey quartet comprised of Rex Shepherd, David pate, Bill falwell and Jose coach as our sound engineer is Tanner Jones and I am your host

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