Center for Teaching and Learning

Your Courses

Do you feel pressured to cover all the contents in the textbook for your course? How can you make time to allow students to engage meaningfully with the contents during class? Here are three evidence-based strategies by Petersen, C. I., et. al.:

  1. Identify the core concepts and competencies for your course;
  2. Create an organizing framework for the core concepts and competencies;
  3. Teach students how to learn in your discipline.

Keep reading here

Now, let’s talk about effective course planning, the backward design way.

Here is a detailed guide, understanding by design.

Effective teaching and learning begin with writing good learning objectives. The learning objectives:

  • Are developed on their own, and are not reverse-engineered from your favorite questions;
  • Articulate the knowledge or skills a student will be able to demonstrate;
  • Begin with an action verb (check out Bloom’s Taxonomy): “Students will be able to …”. Here are some useful tips for using Bloom’s Taxonomy.
  • Are clear and specific for a discrete piece of knowledge or skill.
  • Are measurable – how do you measure a student’s “understanding” or “appreciating”?
  • Should not contain activities to be conducted in the class or assessment questions.

Have your students’ learning in mind. Will the students:

  • Know where they are going (learning outcomes), why the material is important, and what is required for them?
  • Be engaged in the big idea?
  • Have adequate opportunities to explore and experience big ideas?
  • Have sufficient opportunities to rethink, rehearse, revise, and refine their work based upon timely feedback?
  • Have an opportunity to evaluate their work, reflect on their learning, and set goals?

Here is a video providing foundational knowledge of Backward Design:

WATCH VIDEO

Ready for your course? Let’s start with your syllabus. Have you ever asked yourself how many students actually read through the syllabus? As put by Dr. Stephanie Speicher of Weber State University, when created with intentionality, the syllabus serves as an invitation to connect the students to you, other students, and the course. Don’t miss the opportunities!

  • Syllabi are much more than a course contract! Syllabi carry immense opportunities to establish connections between who we are as humans engaged in the learning process.
  • Syllabi are linked to student success! Students rely on the syllabus as a guide, a reference point, and the framework of how they will engage with you and the course.
  • Syllabi can serve as a catalyst for connection! The syllabus can serve as a catalyst to deepen communication and solidify shared expectations, which ultimately is linked to students' overall success in our courses.

Need more information on creating a syllabus student will read? Continue reading Humanizing Your Syllabus.

Key attributes of effective assessment questions – 4 C’s

  • Clear - An assessment question is of little value if students are uncertain or confused regarding what is being asked. Clarity is a product of both the overall construction as well as its “wording”.
  • Complete - Contains all needed information to answer the question or accomplish the assigned task. Free of “implicit content” or codewords. Make extensive use of figures and tables to convey information efficiently.
  • Concise – Good questions are lean and focused.
  • Concrete - Learning outcomes and their associated assessment questions must evaluate students on the basis of measurable, concrete outcomes. Students need to know the characteristics and dimensions of a satisfactory response.

Writing Effective Rubrics

The rubric should:

  • Reflect levels of proficiency for the targeted learning objective
  • Provide a concrete, clear description of satisfactory answer(s)
  • Allow for fair, consistent, and efficient scoring

Based on the rubric, point values or ratings can be assigned to match the context. Writing the rubric is also a chance to check: Does the question explicitly ask for the expected response? If not, the question can be revised accordingly.

Level of proficiency can be set depending on the question and context: highly proficient, proficient, not yet proficient. Now, construct a highly proficient answer, define the essential element(s) of a highly proficient answer, and describe acceptable variations. Next, consider what essential element(s) consist of a proficient (or partially correct) answer, and describe acceptable variations. Lastly, define what is considered a not-yet-proficient answer. Reflect on the meaning of proficient and not-yet-proficient answers in terms of student learning. Revise the question and rubric as needed based on actual student answers and/or feedback from colleagues.

Formative Assessment

Immediate Feedback Assessment Test (IF-AT)
These multiple-choice cards provide immediate feedback on performance in a fun, scratchable, lotto-ticket like format. Quizzes are available in different sizes. Orders generally contain four different quizzes. The answer key is sent to instructors who can then create a quiz to match these answers.

Peer Evaluation
When doing teamwork, it may be important to collect student feedback on the contribution of team members to the group effort. This data can be used to adjust team grades for each person.

Summative Assessment
Two-Stage Testing
The following article provides an insightful description and discussion of two-stage testing, the practice of making students take a test on their own and repeat it with a peer.

Project 2061's Science Assessment Website makes available instruments that are effective and accurate measures of students' understanding of science learning goals and can be used to diagnose students' conceptual difficulties. This online bank of high-quality test items and related assessment resources were designed for use in middle and early high school science, but is useful for college and university courses as well.

Providing Constructive Feedbacks
Feedback is an opportunity for an exchange of ideas. The goal is to make the work better. Here are some suggestions on constructive feedback:

  • Highlight the positive and room for improvement.
  • Be specific.
  • Give concrete suggestions on possible actions.
  • Provide a reason.
  • Focus on key aspects of the work and its goals: what will make the learning more effective in achieving expected outcomes? 
  • Ask questions, and allow space for the students to reflect, re-formulate, or revise their own responses: Have you considered …? What if …?

Read more:

  • Faculty Focus
    This website provides short articles for the classroom practitioner. Based on research, the articles are focused on concrete and practical suggestions for teachers. You can sign up for an email notification whenever a new article is published.
  • Icebreakers
    Icebreakers are activities used to get people comfortable with one another. Many have been described in books and website. Two websites which may be useful to find classroom icebreakers are provided below.
  • How to Teach a Good First Day of Class
  • How to Hold a Better Class Discussion
  • How to Improve Your Teaching — Fast
  • Science in the Classroom 
    Science in the Classroom is a collection of freely available annotated research papers from the Science family of journals. This website aims to help educators, undergraduates, and advanced high school students understand the research contained in scientific primary literature by using annotations and providing accompanying teaching materials. Annotations include vocabulary, methods, descriptions of prior research, and explanations of major conclusions.

Equitable, Accessible and Inclusive Pedagogy

Equity may mean different things to different people. To me, it means to remove barriers for students, which requires instructors and institutions to provide personalized support for student success. A college student with young children and working full time will require very different types of support compared to a traditional high school graduate entering college. Here are some practices that can promote equity and inclusion, and broaden accessibility for all students.

A case study is using content of something really happened to teach relevant concepts that students are actively involved in.

Case Study Methods

  1. Lecture
    • Story-telling
  2. Discussion
    • “Socratic Method” (cross-examination)
    • Symposia
    • Public hearing
    • Debate
    • Trial
  3. Small groups
    • Problem-based learning
    • Team learning
    • Interrupted cases (clicker cases)
  4. Individualized learning
    • Dialogue paper
    • Directed case study

Type of case studies
Analysis (issues) cases – what happened?

  • Who: Who are the characters, their background, their motivation? From those viewpoint does the story unfold? Are there other reasonable viewpoints?
  • What: What happened or is about to happen? What are the facts? What data are important?
  • Why: Why did the events unfold the way they did?
  • Where: Where did the event occur?
  • When: When did the event occur?
  • How: How might the events have unfolded differently?

Decision (dilemma) cases

  1. Analyze what is the situation.
  2. Decide what action should be taken.
    • Short-term (immediate) solutions
      • Consequences
      • Risk/Benefits
    • Long-term solutions
      • Consequences
      • Risk/Benefits
  3. Closure: lessons learned
    • Specific
    • General

Combine team-based learning and case studies

  • Concerns about teaching difficult science concepts (what are they?)
  • Creating student-relevant lessons (why should students care?)
  • Fostering reading skills and critical thinking (why is this important?)

Case Collections
National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science (NCCSTS) Case Collection: A curated collection contains nearly a thousand peer-reviewed case studies on a variety of topics in all areas of science.

coming soon

Edpuzzle
This website allows teachers to clip videos, insert multiple choice questions at specific points in the video, and track student responses.

Playposit
Similar to Ed Puzzle. Free to join, this online service allows instructors to add interactive questions, video branching, and rich media into the video's timeline to actively engage on mobile or web devices

Poll Everywhere
This is an online tool to survey students anonymously and show responses in real-time. Students use mobile texting or access to the internet to provide input. It works like a clicker, and there are more response options than multiple-choice (e.g., Word Cloud). The tool is free for up to 40 participants.

PhET
Founded in 2002 by Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman, the PhET Interactive Simulations project at the University of Colorado Boulder creates free interactive physics, chemistry, biology, and math simulations. PhET sims are based on extensive education research and engage students through an intuitive, game-like environment where students learn through exploration and discovery.

King's Centre for Visualization in Science
Committed to improving the public understanding of science through the development of innovative ways to visualize science. Most of the applets developed were created by an interdisciplinary team of undergraduate researchers.

Flip (formerly Flipgrid)
Flip is a video discussion app, free from Microsoft, where curious minds connect in safe, small groups to share videos, build community, and learn together.

 

High-Impact Practices

Working collaboratively with Community-Engaged Learning (CEL), we are excited for the CEL program to be successful at NJCU, including expanded course offerings in Honors, General Education, and major courses, Scholarship publications (E. Nir & J. Musial), and grants received from the Mellon Foundation (PI: S. Donaldson), AAC&U (PIs: Y. Wei & J. Pax), and NSF (PIs: Y. Wei, W. Zhang, J. Pax, & W. Montgomery).

  • Undergraduate Research and Internship
  • CURE

Modernizing the Curriculum for Student Success

Defining and Assessing Skills for Equitable Career Preparation
Guiding Questions:

  • How can we more effectively align industry relevant skills with campus learning outcomes?
  • What are effective ways for measuring workforce preparation?
  • What are strategies for linking evidence of students’ learning and career preparation to empower student narratives, campus planning, and industry needs?

Developing and Scaling Equitable High-Impact Experiences for Career Success
Guiding Questions:

  • How can we ensure all students have access to high-quality, workforce preparation experiences (e.g., ePortfolios, Internships, community-based engagement and global learning)?
  • What are strategies for developing strengths-based approaches to career preparation, particularly for underserved students?
  • What are effective strategies for developing equity-focused approaches, particularly around career advising and mentorship, to support equity in career preparation?

Promoting and Supporting Interdisciplinary Design Thinking
Guiding Questions:

  • How can we more effectively highlight the arts and humanities as integral for career preparation?
  • How do we create and sustain meaningful collaboration across interdisciplinary and cross-divisional teams?
  • What are ways to navigate and manage change in order to move beyond mandates to a shared vision and collective ownership?

Advancing Models for Effective Campus/Industry Partnerships
Guiding Questions:

  • What are the approaches, models, and opportunities for defining and designing innovative campus/industry partnerships?
  • What are the common threads across case studies of effective partnerships that point to increased probabilities for success, engagement, equity, and sustainability?
  • How can we translate successful campus/industry models to fit our unique campus context and culture?

Additional reading: What Career-Focused Curriculum Looks Like

If you need more resources

Additional readings: