Archive for September 2011

CETL sessions for fall 2011

What We Might Be Missing–Non-Verbal Signals in the Classroom. Kevin Pry, Dept of English and the Theatre Guru, will share some ideas and tips for noticing and translating students’ body language in class. Maybe there’s more there than they’re telling you…
Thursday, Oct 6, 11am. Blair 228 (top floor, north end of the hallway)

Team-based/collaborative learning. In the real world you work with other people (who are often from different fields), so why is school such an individual experience? Students need to learn how to get things done as a team, so bring your ideas and examples for 1) designing group-based classes and projects, 2) managing everything along the way, and 3) assessing and grading.

How do I teach majors and non-majors at the same time? Whether you teach a 101 Gen Ed course or a higher-level class that often attracts non-majors, you’ve got students with different reasons and goals for being there. Let’s have a conversation and see what solutions we could try.
Wednesday, Nov 2, noon. Frock Conference Room (Library).

CETL news update

Here are the various ways we’ll be supporting the discussion on teaching and learning. Specific topics and events will be announced as we go along – lots of great stuff to talk about and share with each other. Let me know if I can be of help – have a great semester.

  • TeachingTips are brief ideas about learning, teaching, or things you could try in the classroom. These are emailed weekly, posted on the CETL website, and broadcast via CETL’s Twitter feed.
  • TechTwenty sessions feature demonstrations of technology tools and how they can be used in your classes. The basic idea is covered in less than twenty minutes, after which you can feel free to leave or stay to dig in a bit more. This way you don’t have to commit an entire hour – just drop by and see what it’s all about.
  • TeachingMatters are more in-depth discussions, demonstrations, and presentations on various ideas and issues. These typically last about an hour.
  • The CETL website has lots of short articles, resources, and links related to teaching and learning, including content/handouts from our sessions.
  • Tune in to CETL:



Team learning

Divide students into groups and have each team research a different component of a project or subject. Now reorganize everyone into new groups that include one member from each original team. Students in these new groups share what their team learned, allowing everyone in the class to hear about the entire subject.

This ensures that all students have the opportunity to present their findings, rather than hiding behind their peers – people learn more when they have to explain the information to others. It would also be helpful to have them post their findings to a class wiki so everyone has access to the material at any time.

Jump-starting class discussion

You ask a question and the class responds with…nothing. Awkward silence. They’re afraid they might be wrong, maybe not quite sure which direction you’re headed. So, pair them off and let them bounce ideas around for a few minutes. Then let groups share their thoughts with the class. Most students are far more comfortable with this approach and are more willing to engage in the conversation.

Assessment & grading doesn’t always = learning

Assessment & grades: Practice + feedback = learning. Testing + grading ≠ learning. Give students opportunities to try tasks and skills without worrying about grades. Provide feedback to help them do better – then you can grade an assignment which they should be prepared for.


Rich media projects

Instead of requiring a paper, have them develop a rich media project – text, photos, graphics, video, audio. There are lots of tools to do this, many of them free on the web, and most students already have them on their computers. They can create a presentation, podcast, movie, interactive time line…the list goes on. We live in a multimedia world, so why do we always revert to paper-only work in school?


Writing exam questions

When writing exam questions, make sure students aren’t unfairly cornered into regurgitating the exact answer you’re looking for. Sometimes questions are straightforward, as in 2+2=4. Many times you’d be surprised at 1) how they read the question differently, and 2) how many ways you could approach a certain question. I finally realized that when I had to explain to students “yes, but that’s not what I was looking for there”, I had created a dilemma.