Thursday, December 15, 2011

Overcoming the oldest problem in pedagogy

A short article by Lee Shulman does an excellent job capturing both the challenges and the goals of educating our students. Shulman, who has been at the forefront of the movement for a scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), focuses in on "the oldest problem of pedagogy":
What is the oldest problem of pedagogy? The appearance of learning, or illusory understanding, that is, the problem of people who appear to know something that they really don't know.
We often hear that we need to "engage" our students, and now we know why--so our students can overcome the problem of illusory understanding.
The only way we as teachers know whether our students understand something is by getting them to write or talk about it. As long as it remains inside their heads, we cannot teach, and in fact they don't know whether they understand it either. Deborah Meier (1995) once put it very well, in explaining why pedagogy was both straightforward and dauntingly difficult. She observed that, when properly understood, teaching is mainly listening, whereas learning is mainly talking.
So, students need plenty of opportunities to write and to talk, to make the "internal external, to render it what [Shulman has] called community property."

You can find resources at the CFD Web site to help you incorporate these opportunities into your courses. Specifically, click on the questions "What are my options for incorporating active learning into a course?" and "How do I incorporate collaborative, or peer to peer learning, in my course?" and you will be directed to additional resources. And if you know of online resources that are not referenced in the CFD Web site but should be, please let the staff know.

Citation: Shulman, Lee S. (2000). Teacher development: Roles of domain expertise and pedagogical knowledge. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 21(1): 129-135.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Learning is not a spectator sport."

"Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments, and spitting out answers." This line comes from Chickering and Gamson's (1987) "Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education." It had been a while since I last read the short article, but the "learning is not a spectator sport" line came to mind recently as I listened to "Don't Lecture Me," a feature production of American Radio Works. The program makes a strong case for  active engagement of students in the classroom:
The fact that people learn better when they're actively engaged is one of the central findings from an explosion of cognitive research conducted over the last several decades. Another major finding is that short-term memory is very limited - your brain can only store so much at once. A lot of the information presented in a typical lecture comes at people too fast and is quickly forgotten. Eric Mazur says lecturing is a waste of time. It's not an effective way for students to learn information; reading the textbook is better. 
What I liked about the program is that it gave a real feel to what learning is like in the classroom when students are doing more than sitting like spectators.

The program aired locally on public radio a few months ago. I only now had the chance to listen to it with focused attention. I recommend it as what will surely be an interesting and thought-provoking diversion during the Winter break. You can access the audio file and the transcript here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

When is the right time to ask for student feedback?

Many faculty ask students for feedback around the middle of the semester in order to be able to make mid-course adjustments. And then, of course, there is the end-of-semester Student Ratings of Instruction instrument that is intended both to furnish numerical data for evaluation and also to elicit student comments helpful for improvement. The problem with relying on the Student Ratings of Instruction, though, is that the results are returned to us too late often to do anything about whatever points the students raise.

There are other (probably better) ways to get end-of-semester student feedback for your own purposes of improvement, and I'll be writing about those in the upcoming November Newsletter from the Center for Faculty Development.

In the meantime, Susan Codone offers this simple yet effective way to elicit student feedback at any time in the semester: The Plus/Delta method. Why wait for the middle or the end of the semester when sometimes we want to know what's working for students and what's not working for students at multiple points in the term?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Reflections upon teaching improvement: Why?

At the annual POD (Professional and Organizational Development) conference this past weekend, Peter Seldin shared some research results that the number one most frequent practice designed to improve teaching and reported by educational developers is faculty self-reflection on teaching performance. In 1990, reflection was only the eighth most frequent practice reported by educational developers. Why did reflection move from being a relatively unimportant practice (ranked in 1990 as less frequently practiced than "informal assessment by colleagues" and "senior faculty working closely with new instructors") to the one that is now the most frequently practiced (reported as more frequent, now, than "systematic ratings by students" and "workshops that help faculty use technology in their teaching")?

The answer, John Zubizarreta suggest, is in the power of the "why" question. Reflection is much more than a description of activities; when prompted by "why" questions, reflection can lead us to deep investigations and (re)assessments of our teaching practices. The result is often real, meaningful, change.

From my own teaching, here are some "why" questions that might serve as entrées into productive reflection:

  • Why do I wait until 2 weeks before deadlines to distribute essay prompts to my students? (This is an actual "why" question that I asked myself about a year ago and that directly resulted in a change of practice).
  • Why don't I use PowerPoint?
  • Why is my attendance policy as lax as it is?
  • Why (in some classes) do I give quizzes?
  • Why do I write some names, dates, and terms on the board and not others?
  • Why do I use images and visuals as infrequently as I do?
The list could go on and on...

What are your "why" questions? The Center for Faculty Development is exploring offering an Academic Portfolio Workshop in May during which participants will engage in self-reflection, share results and ideas, and produce drafts of their portfolios. Generating "why" questions and then exploring answers to them will likely be part of the workshop. Stay tuned for details.

Source: Peter Seldin, Elizabeth Miller, and John Zubizarreta, "Improving College Teaching," workshop presented at the POD Annual Conference, Atlanta, GA, October 2011.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Why Change?

In an interview with Higher Education Teaching and Learning Portal, Dee Fink shares his ideas for why the "traditional" approaches to teaching, which have for long (centuries, even) served society well, are no longer the best ways to teach.

His two reasons:
The first is all the evidence, using multiple criteria, that we are not currently doing a good job in higher education.  One of these is a study by Derek Bok, the former president of Harvard University.  He did some careful research on how well American students were achieving eight kinds of learning we would all like to see in college graduates, e.g., how to communicate, how to think, how to live with diversity, preparing for a global society, etc.  His conclusion for all eight kinds of learning was the same:  Students are achieving each of these desirable kinds of learning to a degree but nowhere near what they could be and should be achieving.
And secondly:
The second source of concern is the new kinds of learning that are being identified as important in the 21st century.  AAC&U (Association of American Colleges and Universities) recently asked a major set of civic and corporate leaders what kinds of learning they thought were essential today.  They identified, among others: Information literacy, teamwork and problem solving abilities, intercultural knowledge and competence, ethical reasoning, integrative learning, preparing for lifelong learning.
But there is an even more succinct and powerful reason for changing how we teach: Most faculty, Fink claims, already want to change, and so the case in favor of change is one that can be readily digested by college faculty: 
When working with professors, we need to recognize that they obviously do not enjoy seeing disinterested students in their courses, or the evidence of lackluster learning in the final exams.  If we can help them see that new ways of teaching can make dramatic changes in both these situations, it would go a long way toward helping professors take a more positive attitude toward learning about new ways of teaching. 
Read the full interview at the HETL portal, and if you would like to consult more resources, see here, here, and here. (Tip: You can find many online resources about course design at the CFD's social bookmarking site,

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Making Your PowerPoint Iconic

Today's Faculty Development Updates post comes from Hal Blythe and Charlie Sweet, Teaching and Learning Center, Eastern Kentucky University. It is made available by the 2011-12 Teaching Issues Writing Consortium.

Ever receive an email with one of those High Importance icons brightening your Inbox? The point is that the icon, being more visual than the printed word, indicates something powerful to the brain. Maybe that’s why those stars we all craved on our elementary school papers meant so much to us.

Humans are visual learners. Most of us have learned to apply that principle to our PowerPoints (PPTs), but we’d like to suggest another addition to your PPTs that is sure to improve deep learning and student learning outcomes. 

In Learning to Think Things Through (Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall: 2009), Gerald Nosich define fundamental and powerful concepts as “those basic concepts that lie at the heart of a discipline or course” (198). And if you haven’t heard us explain the importance of beginning each class with the key concept(s) you’ll be discussing that day, you’ve heard someone talk about the value of daily learning objectives.

So here’s our tip. One way you can minimize PPT clutter while magnifying student learning is through icons. On your PPTs, get in the habit of starting each day with a slide that lists those fundamental and powerful concepts (FPCs). And to make your students metacognitive, let them know these introductory concepts are key by adding an icon beside the FPCs.

For instance, since we want to hammer our students over the head with FPCs, we use as our icon Mjollnir, so whenever they see the hammer of the Norse god Thor beside a key concept, they know—in their terms—it will be on the test.

Now what would happen to student learning if every course in our discipline, our college, or even our university adopted the same PPT symbol? That’s an inquiry for another time.

Submitted by:
Hal Blythe and Charlie Sweet
Teaching and Learning Center
Eastern Kentucky University

(For more from Hal Blythe and Charlie Sweet, see their feature in the December 2008 issue of Thriving in Academe, "Keeping Your Classroom C.R.I.S.P.")

Monday, October 3, 2011

It's time for mid-semester check-ups

A post from last week on ProfHacker reminds us that it's time to conduct mid-semester course assessments--those formative check-ups that tell us how we're doing in time to make adjustments to our courses. The timing of that post coincided with a workshop sponsored by the Center for Faculty Development that presented numerous options for framing midterm assessment instruments, including the thoroughly tested and widely applicable "College and University Classroom Environment Inventory."  Maryellen Weimer has written about this instrument here, and it is available for the asking if you email the Center for Faculty Development.

A simpler approach suggested in the ProfHacker post is to ask your students to write responses to these questions: What's going well? What needs improvement? What can the students do to improve the class? What can the instructor do to improve the class?

Even a simple approach like this that takes no more than 10 or 15 minutes of class time can convey to students that you care about their learning while providing you with some rich feedback useful for teaching improvement.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

This week in faculty development...

A lot is going on this week, including  workshops that you can still register to attend:

  • Career Advising 101--develop a best-practice tool box to help students with their career preparation. This workshop is offered twice. The first offering is TODAY, Tuesday 9/27, from 12:30 to 1:45 in SO-111 and then again on Friday 9/30 from 10-11:15am in NC-1316.
  • Mid-semester check-up--work with Jeff Loats (Physics) and Mark Potter (Center for Faculty Development) to develop your tailored approach to asking students for mid-semester course feedback. Wednesday 9/28, 9:30-10:45 in Science 1086.
  • Accessing and Integrating iTunes Media into your Curriculum--iTunes is more than music. Learn how to find and access everything from in-depth interviews with Chinua Achebe to films of Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders and San Francisco before the 1906 earthquake-most for free and all available to share with your students. Friday 9/30 from 9:30 to 10:45am in the Auraria Library Jackson Enhanced Learning Center.
Register for any of the above workshops at

Friday, September 16, 2011

Help Students Develop Paraphrasing Skills to Help Deter Plagiarism

Today's Faculty Development Updates post comes from Claudia Stinny, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment at University of West Florida. It is made available by the 2011-12 Teaching Issues Writing Consortium.

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
·         Assign a brief source passage for students to read and then write a one paragraph summary in which they describe or paraphrase an idea or argument presented by the author of the reading. If you think this part of the activity will take too much time, assign this in advance and require students to bring their written paragraphs to class.
·         Use a pair-share activity in which students share their one-paragraph paraphrases with one another and evaluate how accurately they describe the original idea or argument and how well they use original language when writing their description.
·         After discussing their paragraphs in small groups, ask the students to draft an accurate paraphrase of the original passage as a group. Describe the methods used in your discipline for providing a citation for the original passage and include an appropriate citation in the draft created by the class.

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 (, February 1, 2011.

Roig, M. (2007). Some reflections on plagiarism: The problem of paraphrasing in the sciences. European Science Editing, 33, 38-41.

Submitted by:
Claudia J. Stanny, Ph.D., Director
Center for University Teaching, Learning, and Assessment
University of West Florida

Monday, September 12, 2011

Peer Instructional Coaching--Last call for participants

This week on Wednesday 9/14, a cohort of faculty will be meeting at 2pm at the Center for Faculty Development to form a peer instructional coaching cohort. More information about this opportunity is at Center for Faculty Development Web site.

Experience from past semesters has shown that for a cohort approach to peer observation and peer coaching to be effective, we will need to take the time to get to know one another, particularly around the topic of teaching, and build trust. This is why the cohort will be meeting twice before pairs break off and observe one another’s classes. But don’t worry, we won’t be falling backward into each other’s arms!

It's not too late to become part of this cohort. Cohort members have some light shared reading to do before this first meeting. To receive those readings and to be added to the list for Wednesday, email Mark Potter.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Announcing the fall-semester cohort of Peer Instructional Coaching

Formerly "Peer Observation of Instruction for Continuous Improvement," Peer Instructional Coaching is an initiative designed to take the threat and risk out of peer classroom observations and make them useful and relevant for Metro State faculty.

Participants benefit both from observing and from being observed. Past participants have remarked that the experience:

  • enabled one another to see how different students in different disciplines interact with their teachers.
  • provided the opportunity to see how teachers in different departments approached their teaching.
  • opened their perspectives to very different teaching styles.
  • provided actual ideas and constructive feedback.
Additional information, including expectations and instructions for joining this semester's cohort, is at the Peer Instructional Coaching page of the CFD Web site.

Monday, August 29, 2011

"This shouldn't come as a big surprise..."

Last summer, as Metro State faculty gathered for a teleseminar by Professor Linda Nilson on "The Mind Has a Mind of Its Own: Teaching and Learning That's in Sync with the Mind," we heard Dr. Nilson claim that there is no such thing as distinct "learning styles."

This morning, NPR aired this story that confirms Dr. Nilson's claim. While individual students have particular strengths, we should not assume that there are visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learners who learn best when presented with new information in their "learning style."

Does this mean that we can all go back to lecture and expect students to learn, retain, understand, and apply what they have learned? Not quite. Research also shows that variety, or mixing things up, boosts both attention and retention. Spreading learning over time with recurring learning activities also helps to strengthen the synaptic connections that can create deep learning and understanding.

The Center for Faculty Development has a recording of Dr. Nilson's teleseminar available for listening. Interested Metro State faculty should contact the CFD.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Faculty Learning Communities

Faculty at Metro State are invited to join Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs) for the 2011/12 academic year. To view the list of FLCs offered, their descriptions, and their schedules, please visit the FLC page of the Center for Faculty Development Web site

You must apply to join an FLC. A link to the online application is found on the FLC Web page.

Why join an FLC? Past FLCs have written articles for publication, attended teaching conferences, and presented at the Spring Forum. You can read about past FLCs here. Most of all, FLCs are a fun way to build community and get to know your colleagues while learning.

Apply now! The application deadline is August 26.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) Using Technology

CATs have long been recognized as important to a learner-centered instructional approach in which we can answer the questions “what are my students learning?” and “how do I know?” Technology can aid in implementing CATs. Faculty Focus recommends some strategies for adapting CATs to online learning or to the technology-enhanced classroom.

One example: Muddiest Point conveyed through a backchannel.

In this CAT, students provide information about what is the most confusing or least clear aspect of instruction, whether it is an assigned reading, a podcast or video, an assignment, etc. Creating a backchanneling site such as Wallwisher allows students to post brief notes to identify their muddiest points. Creating a Muddiest Point wiki allows students to interact with one another in an attempt to resolve muddiest points, sometimes even before the professor becomes involved.

Read the full post at Faculty Focus.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Student Conflict and Conduct

Workshop sponsored by the Office of Student Life: Friday August 12, 1:30 to 2:30pm, CN-208

Disruptive students... students whose behaviors are of concern to you... students experiencing conflicts... students in conflict with you... These are all situations that we may very well confront.

Emilia Paul and Braelin Pantel from the Office of Student Life will be presenting strategies and resources, including the College's judicial process, that can be of help in such situations.

Light refreshments will be offered.

For additional information, please contact the Office of Student Life, 303-556-3559.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Advice to new faculty

Earlier this summer, the Center for Faculty Development asked assistant professors to provide advice for their incoming tenure-track faculty colleagues. The questions they were asked to respond to touched on numerous topics relevant to a new faculty member, including teaching Metro State students, succeeding with a 12-credit hour teaching load, balancing academic and family/personal life, and fitting into one's department.

You can read all of the unfiltered responses in the mentoring area of the Center for Faculty Development Web site. Some highlights include:

It is important to meet students where they are yet to set clear expectations and guidelines for the course.

Let your curriculum inform your scholarly activities and your service so you are not creating new work all of the time.

Be very organized in planning the semester so you don't end up trying to grade projects and papers all at the same time. Stagger the scheduling for exams as well.

Learn to set limits. One weekend day each week is a "sacred" day when I won't work. There is no way you can be at an A+ level at everything that is required of a faculty member. Set priorities, and if you have perfectionist tendencies, let them go!
We will be sharing more highlights in a handout at orientation for new faculty. We expect that the new faculty will appreciate hearing from the lived experience of their (not so) senior colleagues. Many, many thanks to all who contributed their advice.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Inquiry and Critical Thinking Using Primary Sources

Workshop: Friday September 9, 9am-2pm, Jackson Enhanced Learning Center (Auraria Library)

Co-sponsored by Teaching With Primary Sources-Colorado and the Center for Faculty Development, this workshop will offer participants hands-on experience with the process of searching, identifying, and integrating into their courses primary sources from the Library of Congress. Participants will:
  • Explain what primary sources are and understand their value in teaching.
  • Examine inquiry learning models and methods.
  • Explore the connection between primary sources and 21st century learning skills and habits.
  • Access, save and present primary sources from the Library of Congress website that fit instructional needs.
Registration is limited to 25. Please visit the Faculty Development Events Calendar to register. TPS-Colorado will provide a box lunch to participants. Also, TPS-Colorado will provide incentives: Attend the entire workshop and receive a $50 gift certificate, redeemable at TPS-Colorado, to prepare and print primary sources from the Library of Congress collection; follow up the workshop by developing and documenting an inquiry learning activity that uses primary sources and write reflection and receive an iPod Touch.

Questions? contact

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Prepare, Produce, and Present First-Rate Handouts

Webinar: Thursday July 14, 4-5:30pm, NC 1324.

In this 90-minute Webinar led by Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D., learn how to design handouts using Word and PowerPoint . You'll find out how to create handouts that look as if they were produced specifically for a workshop or class, learn to polish and refine handouts that you've used in the past so that they are current and fresh and how to modify your materials so that they have a sharper, crisper look. You will also learn how to make sure your handouts are set up in such a way that they enhance the learning. If you are a professor, speaker, workshop leader, teacher, manager, consultant, school administrator, or other professional who prepares handouts for others to use in learning situations, and you want those handouts to be top-of-the-line & first-rate & professional-quality learning materials, then make plans to be part of this Webinar.

The Center for Faculty Development is arranging to "air" this Webinar live. Please register by visiting the Faculty Development Events Calendar.

Welcome (back) to this blog space

As part of a revised plan for communicating to the Metro State community, this space will be devoted to making available up-to-date and pertinent information from the Center for Faculty Development to faculty and staff. The Center for Faculty Development will strive to minimize its "email blasts" and instead drive traffic to this site by using targeted emails and monthly electronic newsletters.

To ensure that you are receiving the most up-to-date information, consider subscribing to the RSS feed for this page. If you're unsure what an RSS feed is or how to subscribe, take a look at this short video, "RSS in Plain English."

Please always feel free to contact the Center for Faculty Development with comments or questions.