The Get Engaged: Tips for Student Engagement series is a weekly e-mail message that describes an instructional strategy that faculty might find helpful in promoting active learning and student engagement. The Get Engaged tips are based on the scholarly literature on teaching and suggestions from faculty who have successfully used the strategy in their teaching.
Do you have an instructional strategy that improves student learning or promotes student engagement with your class? Send a description of your teaching tip to Claudia Stanny (firstname.lastname@example.org) at the Center for University Teaching, Learning, and Assessment for posting in a future Get Engaged mailing.
If you do not currently receive the Get Engaged e-mail but would like to receive future postings, contact CUTLA (email@example.com), and you will be added to the distribution list.
April 26, 2011
Establish expectations for appropriate team citizenship behavior to develop team skills and address team dynamic problems proactively
An important learning outcome for group work is that students learn to function effectively as a team member by engaging in appropriate team citizenship behaviors and communicating clearly and civilly with team members.
Unfortunately, students working in teams are frequently expected to either bring these skills to the team project or discover these skills on their own while completing a team project. When students and faculty experience negative outcomes from dysfunctional teams that cannot meet these expectations, they dread subsequent assignments that entail group work.
The following assignment establishes expectations for appropriate team behavior and a rubric for evaluating these skills:
Ask students to meet with their team members (or hold a threaded discussion in D2L) on the characteristics and behaviors of an exemplary group member by answering the following questions:
As a class activity, ask members of the various teams to share their descriptions. Develop a rubric or other grading/feedback form that uses the criteria described in the team discussions.
Students typically generate appropriate criteria and descriptions of exemplary and problematic team member behaviors in these activities. This rubric can then be used for peer evaluation of individual contributions to the group project. Although you might be able to predict the content of the rubric students generate during this activity, do not be tempted to save class time and simply provide a rubric you create. The process of identifying and defining student-generated criteria establishes norms for group work, communicates these expectations clearly, and develops consensus among students that these expectations are appropriate.
Hold students accountable for good team behavior by using this rubric to compute a component of student grades. For example, in addition to the grade the group receives for the final product produced for a group project, each member will receive an individual grade that is determined by the following components:
This tip is based on a suggestion from Dr. Claire Lamonica, Associate Director, Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology, Illinois State University.
April 19, 2011
Balance flexibility and fairness through course design
College students lead increasingly busy lives, juggling college courses, off-campus work schedules, family responsibilities, and other demands of personal life. When planning a course, consider the need to balance work and life, for your students and for yourself.
Maryellen Weimer (2006) encourages instructors to occasionally put themselves in their students’ shoes by taking a college course outside their field of expertise every few years. Attending an out-of-field course has several benefits.
This tip is based on a suggestion from Mark Potter, Center for Faculty Development, Metropolitan State College of Denver (http://www.mscd.edu/cfd/).
Robertson, D. (2003). Making time, making change: Avoiding overload in college teaching. Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press.
Weimer, M. (2006). Enhancing scholarly work on teaching and learning: Professional literature that makes a difference. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
April 12, 2011
Anticipate problems in team dynamics and help students develop strategies for resolving conflicts during group work
Students frequently justify their resistance to working in a group by relating a past negative experience when dysfunctional team dynamics created stress and interfered with completion of a group project. Many individuals are conflict avoidant and have difficulty identifying strategies for resolving conflicts that might arise during a group project. However, instructors assign group projects because these activities create opportunities for students to learn and practice effective communication and conflict resolution skills. Much stress can be avoided if students identify useful conflict resolution strategies before they are confronted with an actual conflict.
With this strategy, instructors rarely have to serve as mediators for group conflict. Students learn to manage conflicts effectively as members of their team.
This tip is based on a suggestion from Dr. Claire Lamonica, Associate Director, Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology, Illinois State University.
April 5, 2011
Engaging students at the end: Wrap-up activities for the last week of class
In the final weeks of a term, students and faculty can become so focused on “getting finished” that they neglect to reflect on the learning that has taken place during the term.
If you have succeeded in pacing the discussion of course content and managed to preserve one day in the final week of classes for a reflective activity, you might consider one of the following activities to help students identify and articulate their learning during the term. If you have spent more time than planned on some topics and find you need every remaining minute to address content you intended to include in course discussions, consider assigning one of these activities as an out-of-class reflection that can be uploaded to a drop box in D2L, turned in on the last day of class, or offered as a bonus essay with the final exam.
Reflections on student learning
Ask students to write down three things they think they will remember most about the class. Give students an open agenda for these reflections, including memorable comments from other students, examples or demonstrations, or unexpected interruptions or unplanned events during class. In addition, ask students to write down two things they know now that they did not know before they took your class (that is, two things specifically related to something they learned in your class).
Students can complete this activity during class time or bring this to class as an assignment on the final day. For the class activity, ask students to share their memories and descriptions of new learning as a group activity. Begin this discussion by describing a couple of highlights or events from the class that will be memorable to you and then invite students to share their class memories and reflect on their learning.
Advice to future students
Ask students to write a brief letter to future students who will enroll in this course and include tips on strategies future students should adopt if they want to do well in the course (read the material before class, see the instructor during office hours as soon as you can if you don’t understand something from class). Ask the students to describe one thing future students will learn in this class that will benefit them in their major or that they will be able to apply to real-life problems.
As with the class memories activity, these comments can be shared among students as a group activity. The most useful suggestions for future students can be compiled in a handout for future classes or included in the syllabus.
This tip is based on a compilation of suggestions to a question posed on PSYCHTEACHER (Society for the Teaching of Psychology Discussion List) by Jordan Troisi, University at Buffalo—SUNY.
March 29, 2011
Preparing for the end of the term: Strategies for deterring grade complaints and coping with them when they occur
Strategies for deterring complaints
Strategies for coping when complaints occur
And for fun (in anticipation of Finals Week)
Visit the fantasy software Grader 2.95 created by Sally Kuhlenschmidt, Director, Faculty Center for Excellence in Teaching (FaCET), Western Kentucky University
This tip was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium, (sponsored by Western Kentucky University) by Sally L. Kuhlenschmidt, Ph.D., Director, Faculty Center for Excellence in Teaching (FaCET), Professor, Department of Psychology, Western Kentucky University.
March 22, 2011
Improve classroom dynamics through inclusion: Use the Classmate photo roster to connect names with faces and call on students by name
Learning student names at the start of a new semester can be challenging. Many students decide to attend a regional comprehensive university like the University of West Florida rather than a large university because they expect that the smaller class sizes and lower student-faculty ratios at UWF will increase their ability to get to know and interact with faculty. They may be disappointed if they attend class regularly, participate occasionally, and find that their instructor still does not know their name. When faculty can recognize students and recall their names when calling on them during class or during out-of-class conversations, students feel a stronger sense of community and inclusion in the class. The classroom dynamic may also improve, fostering more frequent participation and student engagement.
The class rosters available through Classmate now include student photos. These photos can work as handy tools to aid instructors in learning and recalling student names. Learning the names of many students in a large enrollment class can be a daunting task. Make this task more manageable by creating small groups of students and learning the names of students in one group at a time. Usually one page from the Classmate roster prints approximately five or six student faces and names, which should be a manageable number for one day. Limit your study to one page of student photos on any given day.
Open one page of the roster at the lectern during class (or bring a printed copy of the page) and scan the audience as class discussion gets underway. Search for the faces of students in the group on your page and call on these students by name during class. At the end of the class, return to the photos in the roster and rehearse the faces and names of these students once more to reinforce your memory. Prior to the next class session, review these faces and names. Once you are familiar with the names and faces of students in this group, select a new page in the roster and focus on this new set of students during class. Gradually, you will be able to match the names and faces of a large number of your students.
Thanks to Michelle Hale Williams, Government & Political Science, University of West Florida, for this suggestion.
March 15, 2011
Spring Break Week.
March 8, 2011
Help students develop paraphrasing skills to help deter plagiarism
Although many discussions of academic integrity and plagiarism focus on failures in ethical reasoning, student problems with good authorship practices are often motivated by weaknesses in reading comprehension or skill in writing paraphrases (e.g., Roig, 2007). Students frequently have problems paraphrasing ideas from primary sources because their understanding of the original work is weak. Sometimes these problems manifest as an over-reliance on quotations. The student who has difficulty paraphrasing might string together quoted material to create a paper and contribute few, if any, thoughts stated in the student’s own language. Some students may attempt to disguise their reliance on quoted material by omitting the quotation marks (and, even worse, omitting a citation) and then discover they are now charged with plagiarism.
Use an in-class reading and paraphrasing activity to promote comprehension of source material and good authorship practices
This exercise will give students practice in writing appropriate paraphrases. It will also serve as an immediate source of feedback about how well they understood the original passage and the concepts discussed. When the class develops a paraphrase that is both accurate and original, misunderstandings of the original ideas will be clarified and corrected. The class will also get direct practice with good authorship practices.
Based in part on an audio workshop, Avoiding the Plagues & Pains of Plagiarism, presented by Caroline L. Eisner, Academic Coaching & Writing (www.AcademicCoachingandWriting.org), February 1, 2011.
Roig, M. (2007). Some reflections on plagiarism: The problem of paraphrasing in the sciences. European Science Editing, 33, 38-41.
March 1, 2011
Engage students in STEM courses with an inquiry-based assignment
Want to increase student engagement in your STEM course? Consider adopting an inquiry-based activity in your course. Inquiry-based activities present a scenario, problem, or question to students who then propose potential solutions and design some or all of the research methodology that will contribute to a solution or answer to the question. The exploratory nature of inquiry-based assignments differs from many traditional laboratory exercises that are designed to demonstrate an established scientific explanation and produce one correct answer if students follow procedures correctly. In contrast, inquiry-based projects frequently produce a variety of acceptable solutions.
If you have created an inquiry-based module for an introductory-level science course that produces successful student learning and engages students with your discipline, consider submitting your activity for consideration for the Science Prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction. The editors of Science recently established an annual prize to recognize and disseminate outstanding, inquiry-based interactive science education modules. Submissions must provide complete instructions on how to implement their module. Modules that are easily portable, require only modest resources (supplies, equipment, specialized expertise) are preferred. The module must contain no copyright restrictions. Individuals who develop winning teaching resources will be invited to describe their inquiry-based teaching module in an essay that will be published in the journal Science.
Rules of eligibility are posted on the web site for the Science Prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction.
Applications for the first round of evaluations are due April 15, 2011
If you have questions about whether your module is eligible for a Science Prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction, direct them to Dr. Melissa McCartney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
February 22, 2011
Provide students with feedback early and often in their learning. Teach them how to give themselves feedback so they can become independent learners.
Students need regular feedback to direct their attention and energies toward activities that will help them improve their performance, avoid major errors and dead ends, and avoid developing bad habits or learning things they later will have to unlearn (sometimes at great cost). Constructive feedback identifies problems and suggests strategies that will produce better outcomes in future performance. The interaction between teachers and learners engaged in constructive feedback can be an effective source of motivation for learners.
Provide feedback selectively for key examples to create opportunities for students to observe and reflect on their own performance. Practice with self-observation creates opportunities for students to internalize the voice of the "teacher/coach." When students develop the ability to monitor and identify errors in their own performance and reflect on strategies that might improve performance, they are on the way toward becoming independent learners.
Don't assume that students understand new concepts you’ve explained. Ask students to briefly explain a new concept or write about the "muddiest point" in a particular reading, lab exercise, or lecture. Respond to the most common areas of confusion in the next class meeting. Find out what students are actually doing with the feedback you currently provide. Do they read and use the comments you write on papers and exams? You can model how you make use of the feedback you get on your work. Few students are aware of or understand the revise-and-resubmit practices common in academic publishing.
Create opportunities for students to use your comments to improve their work. When assignments are structured to provide multiple opportunities to practice and improve work based on feedback, students will be motivated to make good use of the feedback you provide on their early work.
Angelo, T. A. (1993). A “teacher’s dozen”: Fourteen general, research-based principles for improving higher learning in our classrooms. AAHE Bulletin, April, 3-13.
Ericsson, K. A. (2008). Deliberate practice and acquisition of expert performance: A general overview. Academic Emergency Medicine, 15, 988-994.
The Topical Archive of Get Engaged Teaching Tips includes several tips on providing feedback to students and using peer review assignments:
February 15, 2011
Consider differences between experts and novices when creating teaching activities
After years of graduate school and academic teaching, we may no longer recall the experience of being a first year student enrolled in the introductory course for our discipline. The difference between the expert knowledge of faculty and the novice understanding of students (and in some cases, the naïve and erroneous assumptions novice learners bring to a discipline) can create challenges to effective communication between experts and students. Bransford, Brown, and Cocking (2000) identify several important characteristics of the knowledge and processing skills that distinguish experts from novices.
Differences between Experts and Novices
(Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000)
These differences have important implications for teaching and learning:
Based in part on a teaching tip submitted by Barbara Millis, Director, Teaching and Learning Center, University of Texas at San Antonio
Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (Eds). (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education National Research Council. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
February 8, 2011
Design courses that align learning outcomes with assignments, class activities, and assessments: Make the implicit explicit for improved student learning
Do you expect students to write professionally, using the accepted style of your discipline? Do you expect students to develop critical thinking skills that characterize scholarly thinking in your discipline? Do you hope your students will develop creativity in your course? Do you tell students directly about these expectations? Or are these implicit expectations?
How often have you thought, If I had only known that you wanted me to do that, I would have done it. We might have said this to an annoyed spouse, a funding agency that declined to fund our project, editors of journals, or major professors. We all appreciate when others clearly describe exactly what they expect us to do. When making requests ourselves, we often assume that some expectations “go without saying.” This assumption can set the stage for miscommunication, frustration, and disappointment with the work produced.
A recent review of syllabi for General Education courses indicated that the student learning outcomes described on syllabi focused almost entirely on course content. Although skills in writing, thinking, analysis of data, use of scholarly sources in argument, working effectively as a collaborator on a team, or adherence to professional ethics were implied in many assignments and course activities, these learning outcomes were seldom articulated as course student learning outcomes. Identify student learning outcomes related to implicit expectations about skills acquired along with content knowledge to clearly communicate course goals to students and colleagues.
Course redesign is a process in which faculty reflect on the relationship between their course goals, stated learning outcomes, the structure, activities, and assignments in a course, and the procedures used to evaluate and assess student learning. A well-aligned course is one in which the instructor intentionally creates classroom instruction, activities, or assignments that develop the skills describe in the SLOS. These courses will include assignments, projects, or exams that clearly assess these learning outcomes.
Contact the Center for University Teaching, Learning, and Assessment if you would like to discuss course redesign for a course that you currently teach or design a course you are thinking about developing.
Resources on Course Design
Diamond, R. M. (2008). Designing and assessing courses and curricula: A practical guide (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Fink, L. D. (2003) Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Wehlburg, C. M. (2006). Meaningful course revision: Enhancing academic engagement using student learning data. Bolton, MA: Anker.
Wulff, D. H. (Ed.). (2005). Aligning for learning: Strategies for teaching effectiveness. Bolton, MA: Anker.
February 1, 2011
Library online tutorials – not just for students!
The University of West Florida Libraries hosts a variety of online tutorials. The index page lists a variety of topics, ranging from basic search strategies through discipline-specific library research skills, evaluating scholarly sources, writing skills and good authorship practices.
Faculty can develop student skills with information literacy by assigning one or more of these tutorials to students. Many of these tutorials include an online quiz that assesses the learning outcomes for the tutorial. Results of these quizzes can be e-mailed to course instructors to verify student completion of the tutorial, use as a graded component of the course, or include in departmental assessments of program-level student learning outcomes.
Faculty will also find online tutorials (without quizzes!) that are useful for their professional needs. One online tutorial provides information about how faculty can find data on the frequency with which their scholarly work has been cited and information on rankings and acceptance rates for the scholarly journals in which they publish. These data are frequently included in tenure and promotion portfolios as part of the evidence to document the quality and impact of scholarly work.
The direct URL for the Faculty Promotion Resources tutorial is:
Each spring, CUTLA provides a workshop on preparing for tenure and promotion. A panel of administrators involved with the review process and faculty who were successful candidates in the previous cycle will describe the process, give advice on preparing a portfolio, and answer questions posed by future candidates. Check the CUTLA calendar for time and location each year. This year, the T&P workshop will be held on February 4, 2011 in Conference Center Room A. Lunch will be served at noon. Discussion will begin shortly afterward and run until 2 PM.
January 25, 2011
Improving student skill in critical evaluation of media
Media literacy has been defined as a framework to guide the access, analysis, evaluation and creation of messages in a variety of forms, including print, video, images, and web-based media. Media literacy entails articulating the role of media in society and developing the inquiry and communication skills necessary for functioning effectively as citizens of a democracy (Center for Media Literacy).
The core concepts of media literacy include the following:
The following activities can be assigned to help students develop media literacy skills:
Each student should select an example of a message delivered through visual media and answer each of the following questions:
Illustrate the way a complex media message functions with discussion of a short film clip or short video.
Based on a teaching tip submitted by Taimi Olsen, Ph.D., Assistant Director, Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
MediaLitKit. Center for Media Literacy.
Visual Thinking. Center for Teaching, Vanderbilt University.
International Visual Literacy Association http://www.ivla.org/drupal2/index.php
Film Vocabulary Flashcards. Quizlet. 2010.
Potter, J. (2004). Theory of media literacy: a cognitive approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Davis, B. (2009). Tools for Teaching ( 2nd Ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
January 18, 2011
Create activities that develop team skills and enable students to work effectively in groups
Students will work more effectively in groups on a major project if you provide them with explicit training on how to manage group dynamics and interpersonal interaction. If course learning outcomes include project management outcomes such as working effectively with colleagues, then include activities in the class that will teach these skills. An effective instructional activity for group interaction will
Strategies for structuring and guiding group processes
This tip was based on a submission by Barbara Millis, Teaching and Learning Center, University of Texas at San Antonio.
Portions of this tip were based on Walvoord, B. E., & Anderson, V. J. (2010). Effective grading: A tool for learning and assessment in college (2nd ed). Jossey-Bass and circulated as a teaching tip by TOMORROW'S PROFESSOR(sm) eMAIL NEWSLETTER http://cgi.stanford.edu/~dept-ctl/cgi-bin/tomprof/postings.php.
January 11, 2011
Include an assignment on evaluating sources to develop skills in scholarly research
Faculty often tell their students that they must only use scholarly sources in their research projects and papers, but many students have trouble distinguishing between scholarly and popular sources. Consider including an activity on the evaluation of sources that highlights the differences between such scholarly writings and other sources.
Suggested activities on the evaluation of sources
Talk with your subject-specialist librarian if you need assistance finding sample materials or developing one of these assignments. You may also assign one of the Pace Library Evaluating Sources Tutorials (e.g., scholarly journals vs. popular magazines) and quizzes as a graded activity for the course. Assignments that require students to evaluate the quality of source material promotes information literacy and critical thinking skills and helps students identify quality sources in a variety of source formats for future assignments.
Olin Library Reference, Research and Learning Services, Cornell University Library. (2009). Critically Analyzing Information Sources. Retrieved from the Olin & Uris Libraries Web Site: http://olinuris.library.cornell.edu/ref/research/skill26.htm
University of West Florida Libraries. (2010). Online Tutorials. Retrieved from the UWF Libraries Web Site: http://library.uwf.edu/tutorials/.
Thanks to Britt McGowan, Pace Library, for contributing this teaching tip.
January 4, 2011
Engage students in your course by placing it in the context of the student’s major
Students enroll in courses for a variety of reasons, some intrinsic, some extrinsic. They might be curious about a topic or discipline. They might have heard positive comments about an instructor from other students. Or the course might be required, either for all majors in a discipline (or related discipline) or as an option to meet a graduation requirement.
Students who register for a course for intrinsic reasons arrive on the first day excited and motivated to engage in the course. Students who register primarily because a course satisfies a requirement might feel coerced in their choice and be resistant to engaging in the course. How can instructors engage and motivate students who arrive with ambivalence about the course?
Students sometimes select a major without fully understanding the breadth and skill expectations of the discipline. They might regard some required courses merely as obstacles to their goals rather than as important components of the knowledge and skills that characterize the discipline. The first day of a class is a good opportunity to place the course in the context of the major and clarify the importance of the learning outcomes associated with that course for development of professional skill in the discipline.
Courses that function as service courses to a variety of majors may present additional challenges, although the subset of learning outcomes that align with the program outcomes the course serves should be identified. Instructors might benefit by learning which students are enrolled in their course to pursue a major in the discipline and which students are enrolled for other reasons. This information can be useful later in the term when selecting specific examples of applications to discuss in class. Including applications that are relevant to service programs as well as applications within the major discipline will help keep these students engaged throughout the term.
December 7, 2010
Use T-charts to develop metacognitive skills in students
T-Charts are tables or matrices (graphic organizers) in which students list and examine facets of a topic, such as the pros and cons of a position, describe the advantages and disadvantages of several potential solutions to a problem, or identify pieces of information on a controversial topic as either facts or opinions.
Use T-Charts to develop skills. We often assume that students already know the skills they need to thrive in our classrooms. However, students often cannot describe the specific behaviors intended by words faculty use to describe their expectations for classroom behaviors, such as participation, preparation or listening. Similarly, students do not necessarily connect behaviors such as punctuality, use of communication tools, and characteristics of their discourse with teachers and peers to the concept of civility.
Consider the responses students might give to the following question: What are the boundaries for an acceptable response when a peer makes a point you find offensive? Students might not respond to this prompt by articulating specific behaviors. The ability of students to articulate and engage in appropriate behaviors that faculty describe in response to this question represent team skills that are critical to successful functioning in a collaborative workplace.
In addition to using a T-chart to develop firm expectations about team skill, this activity can be used to help students develop specific study skills, such as reading a textbook or listening for and understanding another’s point of view. Create a T-chart to show visually what “active listening” sounds and looks like in terms of specific behaviors.
An instructor could develop a T-chart to describe expectations and distribute this as a handout. However, creating a chart collaboratively can have a more powerful effect because the activity will develop consensus and create buy-in. Constructing a T-chart with student input requires about 5 minutes of class time. The activity can also be used to encourage students to model some of the skills. This activity is a great opportunity for creating student engagement and class participation, often with a refreshing touch of humor. T-charts can be created to focus on any skill you would like to develop.
This tip was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium, (sponsored by Western Kentucky University) by Michael Dabney, Director, Teaching and Learning Center, Hawaii Pacific University (http://www.hpu.edu/index.cfm?contentID=9473&siteID=1).
November 30, 2010
Mentor undergraduate students in research and scholarly and creative activities with support from the Office of Undergraduate Research
Undergraduate research is one of five “high impact” practices that engage students at their academic institution (Brownell & Swaner, 2010). Undergraduate research refers to a variety of scholarly and creative activities that occur outside the classroom. This activity involves collaboration between faculty and students in original research or other creative work that results in a tangible product (e.g., submission of a manuscript for publication, presentation at a professional conference, creation of a public performance or exhibition). As such, undergraduate research is broadly defined to encompass scholarly and creative activity in all disciplines.
Students who participate in capstone experiences, directed study, or independent study projects generally have improved GPAs after participating in these experiences (Clewell, Cosentino de Cohen, Tsui, & Deterding, 2006). These experiences enable students to be more competitive when they apply for admission to graduate and professional schools. Summers and Hrabowski (2006) report that students who engage in these projects are five times more likely to go to graduate school than are other students.
The earlier students begin to engage in undergraduate research, the better. Students build close mentoring relationships with faculty during these experiences, which help them clarify a career path in the discipline early in the undergraduate major. If you have not worked with undergraduates in the past, consider ways you can include them in your own scholarly and creative work.
The University of West Florida has established an Office of Undergraduate Research to inspire and sustain undergraduate student engagement in research and scholarly activities across all disciplines. The Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) facilitates collaborations between students and faculty by providing funding and administrative support for both project and travel awards for undergraduate students engaged in a scholarly project.
The OUR will have its next call for proposals from December 3rd to January 31st. OUR funds can be used to support research projects begun in the spring semester and to support student travel to present results at a conference prior to June 1st, 2011.
The OUR, the Graduate School, and the Office of Sponsored Research will host a campus-wide student symposium showcasing scholarly work completed at UWF on April 21st, 2011. All students who participate in research at UWF are encouraged to present their work at this event. More details about the student symposium will be available soon on the OUR website (http://uwf.edu/our). If you have any questions about the OUR, please contact Pamela Vaughan at email@example.com.
Clewell, B, Cosentino de Cohen, C, Tsui, L, & Deterding, N. (2006). Revitalizing the Nation’s Talent Pool in STEM, The Urban Institute Report (NSF).
Brownell, J. E., & Swaner, L. E. (2010). Five high-impact practices: Research on learning outcomes, completion, and quality. Washington, DC: AAC&U.
Summers, M. F., & Hrabowski III, F. A. (2006). Preparing minority scientists and engineers. Science, 311(5769), 1870–1871.
Thanks to Pamela Vaughan, Assistant Professor, Chemistry, Director, Office of Undergraduate Research, for this teaching tip.
November 23, 2010
There is no tip for this week.
November 16, 2010
Web Resources on Course Design
Dee Fink, author of Creating Significant Learning Experiences, has launched a web site with resources on how to design courses that encourage student engagement and produce better student learning. http://www.designlearning.org/
The web site includes examples of course designs and links to useful print resources related to course design. An especially good resource on this site is the report, Enhancing student learning through effective formative feedback (2004).
Juwah, C., Macfarlane-Dick, D., Matthew, B., Nicol, D., Ross, D., & Smith, B. (2004). Enhancing student learning through effective formative feedback, York, UK: The Higher Education Academy (Generic Centre).
November 9, 2010
Improve the technical preparation of students in your class by describing the technical skills and specialized software needed for your course during course registration
Students will begin registering for courses on November 15.
All UWF students are expected to have an active ArgoNet e-mail account, regular access to e-mail (2-3 times a week), and basic skills in the use of a word processor. Many courses make additional demands on technology skills, including the ability to use web conferencing for Elluminate sessions, access to D2L, the ability to use course functions in D2L (such as uploading material to an assignment drop box), and the use of specialized software required for tasks such as statistical analysis, creation of power point presentations, or creation and manipulation of digital images.
The academic course search pages on the UWF web site include icons for each course that allow students to view the course syllabus, determine whether the course is an eLearning course or a distance learning course (and whether the instructor will be present in the location for that section), determine the extent of computer use expected in the course, and identify other technology needs associated with the course (special software available only in a lab, Elluminate, need to purchase a clicker, use of proctored exams, and other specialized software or technology needs).
If you expect students to use specific technology in your course, identify these needs on your syllabus and set the appropriate technology codes for the course. After logging into MyUWF, select the Classmate App and then click on the Syllabus/Tech Codes link under Action to open an interface for uploading your syllabus. This interface also includes drop-down menus that allow instructors to set technology codes for their course. When a technology code is selected, the appropriate icon will appear in the course search output for this course. A full list of the technology codes available for the course search interface can be found at https://nautical.uwf.edu/people/techCodesExplained.cfm.
November 2, 2010
Improve team dynamics by providing resources to help students develop and complete a major group project
The Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation at Clemson University published an 88-page resource, Successful Strategies for Teams: Team Member Handbook (Kennedy & Nilson, 2008), that is designed for students to guide them through the potentially treacherous waters of completing a major group project. The Team Member Handbook equips students with techniques and templates based on models from corporate experience that are effective in making teams more productive, efficient, and successful. Specifically, these techniques help teams organize information, organize and run effective meetings, and generate useful member contributions. This handbook promotes a variety of learning outcomes for students:
Sections of the handbook address why students should learn to excel at teamwork, the stages of team development, team player styles, mental models of teamwork, teamwork skills, ways to troubleshoot group problems, and tools for organizing, problem solving, and collecting and analyzing information.
Successful Strategies for Teams: Team Member Handbook
by Frances A. Kennedy, Ph.D. with Linda B. Nilson, Ph.D
Available as a free download to everyone at:
You can also download an Excel spreadsheet with templates for team planning tools:
This tip was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium (sponsored by Western Kentucky University), by Linda B. Nilson, Ph.D., Director, Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation, Clemson University (www.clemson.edu/OTEI).
October 26, 2010
Balance flexibility and fairness when designing courses
Learner-centeredness shifts responsibility for learning to students by creating varied learning opportunities and multiple evaluation options that allow students to make choices and determine how they will demonstrate their learning (Weimer, 2002). Learner-centered course designs simultaneously hold students responsible for their learning and provide allowances for flexibility when life “interrupts” their studies, while preserving our “lines in the sand” for academic standards and our sanity.
Students need to know that submitting work late creates obstacles for getting and using feedback effectively. Still, life sometimes gets in the way of the best of intentions. Instructors who provide flexible solutions for these situations create opportunities for students to manage deadlines and learn material without delivering instructions or course material multiple times.
Examples of course design ideas that accomplish this:
Weimer, M. (2002). Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
This tip was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium, (sponsored by Western Kentucky University) by Mark Potter, Center for Faculty Development, Metropolitan State College of Denver (http://www.mscd.edu/cfd/).
October 19, 2010
Maintain momentum on your research through collaborations with faculty and students
Balancing the demands of teaching, research, and service can be difficult at a regional comprehensive university, where faculty teach more courses than colleagues at a research-intensive university. Finding the time and resources to develop a research program can be especially challenging. Several resources are available to faculty at UWF that will help you establish and maintain a productive research program:
Each fall, the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs facilitates a CUTLA Faculty Friday on finding funding for research. The current workshop is scheduled for Friday, October 22, 2010. Details and reservations for this workshop are on the CUTLA calendar.
October 12, 2010
Responding to Students in Emotional Distress
Many college students experience emotional distress as they learn to cope with new responsibilities, academic and financial pressures, expanding independence and social demands, and separation from their home. When should faculty or staff be concerned that this emotional distress has escalated to a dangerous level? What is the most appropriate response to students who express emotional distress in your class or in personal interactions with you?
Counseling and Wellness Services has prepared a web page with tips for faculty and staff on how to help students in crisis: http://www.uwf.edu/cws/selfhelp/Tips%20for%20Faculty%20and%20Staff.cfm
This site offers useful information for faculty and staff, including warning signs of a serious problem and guidance about how to respond. Faculty who have questions or concerns about a student are encouraged to call Counseling and Wellness Services (474-2420) for guidance on individual cases.
Thanks to April Glenn, Counseling and Wellness Services, for contributions to this teaching tip.
October 5, 2010
Request closed captioning feature or obtain a companion transcript when ordering DVDs to ensure compliance with ADA
Segments of video from a DVD can be a great way to liven up a lecture or engage students with material in an online course. However, instructors should be aware of the ADA implications associated with these materials, which might not be accessible to a student who has difficulty hearing.
Many commercial materials are available with closed captioning and/or printed transcript options. When ordering these materials, request these features to prevent future difficulties if a student who needs accommodations for hearing impairments enrolls in your class. Although making transcripts available to accommodate students with documented disabilities is necessary for ADA compliance, including these features for all students is beneficial to student learning. Hearing students appreciate having access to a transcript to clarify speech that might be garbled in the audio or to rapidly review the content in follow-up study. Arranging for closed captioning or transcripts for existing materials can be extremely costly. These expenses can be avoided if care is taken at the time departments place orders for these materials.
Learn how to turn on the closed caption or subtitles feature of DVDs used in class. In addition to being prepared to accommodate the needs of hearing impaired students, displaying the captions will benefit students who may have difficulty hearing the audio because of poor quality sound systems, a noisy air handler in the room, a groundskeeper running equipment adjacent to the building, or various auditory distractions created by other students. Many difficulties can be forestalled if these features are requested when placing an order.
Thanks to the following members of the UWF community for assistance with this tip:
Dr. Vannee Cao Nguyen, SDRC
Dr. Ray Uzwyshyn, Head of Digital and Learning Technologies, Pace Library
Dr. Vance Burgess, Director, Distance & Continuing Education
Dr. Michael White, ITS
September 28, 2010
How does Team-Based Learning differ from “group work?”
Team-based Learning (TBL) differs from group work in that TBL structures the activities and provides mechanisms for addressing group dynamics. In contrast, much group work entails assigning students to groups or allowing them to self-select into groups and work out dynamics on their own, often with mixed results.
Team-based learning includes the following four components:
Team-based learning strategies can be implemented in large lectures (even in rooms with fixed seating) as well as in smaller classes.
Create diverse teams to distributed attributes associated with student characteristics across the teams. Collect information about the characteristics of students enrolled in the class and assign team membership to ensure that each team include a variety of majors, years of experience as a student, athletes and non-athletes, men and women, racial and ethnic groups, and other characteristics. Diverse teams provide opportunities for students to learn about the unique strengths that students from different backgrounds contribute to work on a given task. Self-selected teams tend to be too homogeneous and undermine the goal of providing students with experiences working with students different from themselves. Student-formed teams frequently perform less well than instructor-created teams.
The readiness assurance component ensures that students are prepared to engage in team activities when these are scheduled. One example of a readiness assurance strategy is to require that students take a short quiz on material for the team activity at the beginning of class before they participate in the activity. After completing the quiz individually, students participate in groups to work on the quiz. Teams can appeal a question answer in writing but must provide a clear justification for their appeal based on citations of text-based evidence to support their argument.
Examples of application activities include:
One characteristic of these team-based activities is that all teams work on the same problem and report their decisions simultaneously. Some faculty will ask student teams to use clickers to report their choices, but other mechanisms can also be used.
Examples of peer evaluation criteria include:
View a 12-minute video that illustrates team-based learning in action (on the site).
Developed by Michael Sweet, University of Texas Austin.
The web site is a great resource for team-based learning strategies, including information on creating teams, grading team-based activities and assignments, pre-class preparation, ensuring students are prepared for team activities, peer evaluations, and application exercises.
September 21, 2010
Textbook affordability: Encourage students to read by making sure they have access to a text
Many students have difficulty acquiring course texts, especially at the start of the term if they must delay purchasing texts until after their financial aid has been disbursed. Instructors have several options to help make textbooks more affordable for their students.
Information about accessing the textbook rental program is available at: http://www.bkstr.com/CategoryDisplay/10001-529757-10759-1?demoKey=d
Visit the FAQ page for the Florida Orange Grove for additional information, including pricing information: http://www.theorangegrove.org/OGTtest.htm
September 14, 2010
Use a rubric to evaluate class participation
George Kuh (2008) and Carol Twigg (2003) propose that if a given activity or study strategy is known to be effective and we want to encourage our students to use it, we should find a way to make the activity mandatory. This usually entails grading the activity in some way.
Students who prepare for class and actively participate in discussion are more engaged and learn more, but grading these activities can be a challenge. Many instructors include class participation as a graded element but have difficulty evaluating student participation. Simply recording attendance or how frequently students ask questions or make comments during class feels superficial and sometimes encourages students to make uninformed or off-topic contributions for the sake of “participating.”
A rubric that describes appropriate preparation and participation behavior will enable instructors to provide clear guidelines to students about participation expectations. The rubric also gives students effective formative feedback about their participation if you provide feedback with the rubric periodically throughout the term. Finally, scores based on the participation rubric serve as an unambiguous method for determining a participation grade.
An example of a rubric that I developed and used in a small seminar is posted to the CUTLA web (http://uwf.edu/cutla/Rubric_for_Class_Participation(Stanny).pdf). The rubric includes evaluation of the quality of the student’s preparation for class discussion, the substance of contributions made to discussion, and aspects of general class citizenship (listening skills, responding to other students with respect, promoting on-topic discussion).
I shared this rubric with students during the first week of the class and provided feedback to them about once a month during the term, with a final evaluation at the end of the term. This strategy allowed me to give regular feedback based on a period of observation that I could recall accurately. When I provided feedback early in the term, the students initiated a useful discussion about my expectations for participation. I noted an improvement in the quality of discussion following this initial feedback that persisted through the remainder of the term. Students appreciated the opportunity to make corrections and improve the quality of their participation across the term.
Examples of rubrics, including rubrics for class participation, are posted on the CUTLA web site: http://uwf.edu/cutla/rubricexamples.cfm
Kuh, G. (2008). What matters to student success: Lessons from high performing institutions. Workshop on Assessing Student and Institutional Performance, University of West Florida, Pensacola, FL. (Power Point slides on CUTLA web: http://uwf.edu/cutla/georgekuh.cfm)
Twigg, C. A. (2003, July). Build it, but will they come? Learning Market Space. Electronic newsletter published by the National Center for Academic Transformation. Retrieved from http://www.thencat.org/Newsletters/Jul03.htm#1
September 7, 2010
Request feedback from your students about your course during the term
Model the use of formative feedback for your students and reinforce the credibility of the end-of-term course evaluations. Discuss the value for both you and your students of constructive, formative feedback about the class structure and your teaching. Point out to your students that evaluative feedback from students at the end of the term does nothing to benefit the students who are currently enrolled in the course. Faculty simply can’t correct a problem that they don’t know about. If they learn about a problem only after the term ends, the problem might be corrected in the following term and benefit those students, but it can’t possibly be resolved for students during the current term.
Consider conducting a mid-course evaluation.
Not all suggestions or comments can be acted on (nor should all suggestions be acted on). Instructors can draw attention in class to those changes they make based on student suggestions and explain why some suggestions cannot be implemented (e.g., dispensing with exams or grading, ending an evening class half an hour early every night). The fact that you take the comments seriously and responded to those that you can reasonably implement strengthens students’ beliefs that you take course evaluations seriously.
This tip is based in part by a tip submitted by Michael Dabney, Director, Teaching and Learning Center
Hawaii Pacific University (http://www.hpu.edu/index.cfm?contentID=9473&siteID=1).
August 31, 2010
Information Literacy: Create assignments that encourage students to use feedback to improve their work
Faculty are often frustrated when they discover that the student papers from the previous term that they spent considerable time writing comments on are still languishing in the department office, unread by the students who wrote these papers and who might never come to retrieve them. Feedback is useful only if it is received in a timely manner and the person who receives the feedback has an opportunity to act on the feedback and correct problems.
How can faculty motivate students to read and use the feedback written on their work? If you expect students to learn from formative feedback on their work, provide them an opportunity in your course to practice using feedback to improve their work. You can do this in two ways:
August 24, 2010
To Post or Not to Post: What are the consequences of posting power point slides for student learning?
What is the evidence about the impact of having a handout of the power point slides during the presentations? Do instructors who provide the slides as handouts free students from the multi-tasking associated with copying information from the slides and allow them to concentrate on listening to the presentation and class discussion? Or does having a copy of the slides encourage students to skip class, allow them to surf the web during class, or otherwise disengage?
Marsh and Sink (2010) examined the content of notes students took during classes when they either had an advance copy of the presentation slides or only had blank paper for taking notes. They also examined student performance on several types of course exams (multiple choice questions, short answer questions, free recall essays). Although students took more notes when they did not have copies of the presentation slides, the notes they took consisted primarily of verbatim copies of the content of the slides presented during class. Both groups recorded additional information from the lecture and discussion that had not been included on the slides, but both groups of students recorded this additional information at equal rates.
What were the consequences for learning? Students who received a copy of the slides as handouts before attending the lecture performed better than students who took notes and received the slide handouts later when both groups were tested with short-answer questions. The groups performed equivalently on other types of questions. Thus, student’s claims that having a copy of the slides in advance helps them focus on the meaning of the lecture by reducing the time they spend recording specific slide content appears to be supported by evidence.
If you decide to post slides in advance, consider posting a bare-bones variant of the slides you plan to use in class. This handout will support note-taking without providing all the detail that might be included on class slides. This creates an incentive to attend class, provides a structure for organizing the notes, and forces students to attend to details included in the class slides and your presentation as they add these details to the notes on their handouts.
Marsh, E. J., & Sink, H. E. (2010). Access to handouts of presentation slides during lecture: Consequences for learning, Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24, 691-706. doi: 10.1002/acp.1579
August 17, 2010
Preparing for the first week of class: Useful resources on the CUTLA web site
Classes begin next week and you may be putting the final touches to your syllabus. As you think about your plans for the first class meeting, remember that teaching tips from the past 3 years are archived by topic on the CUTLA web site.
Collections that might be especially useful in the first week are the tips on the first day of class, ice-breaker activities, setting the tone for class, and building community in the class. Topic areas for these collections of tips are listed alphabetically on the Topical Archive of Get Engaged Tips: http://uwf.edu/cutla/topical_archive_teaching_tips.cfm.
If you are still finalizing your syllabus, consult the Syllabus Development page (http://uwf.edu/cutla/frs-syllabus.cfm), which includes examples of all required syllabus elements and recently updated information about the Student Disability Resource Center office. This page is updated regularly to ensure that links and contacts are current. You may use language from this page for various syllabus elements on your syllabus without modification.
Consider developing a rubric for one or more graded assignments in your course. Rubrics can help you grade more efficiently and improve the consistency of grading. They also provide students with clear feedback about your expectations for the assignment. The Rubric Development page (http://uwf.edu/cutla/rubricdevelopment.cfm) explains how to create a rubric. You will also find a link to a large collection of rubrics, organized by topic, and a collection of links to other web resources for rubrics.
To report errors and/or broken links on the CUTLA web site, please contact Connie Works, Business Systems Specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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