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Teaching and Learning Center: 2000 Events
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Winter 2000

Fostering Critical Thinking

Discussants: Roger Ideishi Laura Mandos, Fran Mayville,
Elena Umland, and Rod Wigent

  • Try to get students to go through problem solving steps, can be modeled by faculty at first, then students do with assistance
  • Students need to learn to accept uncertainty, that there is not always one correct answer
  • Students need to learn that they need to take risks in their learning and to be able to show their mistakes and learn from these experiences
  • Using real life examples helps to foster problem solving
  • Pharmacy faculty have tried to integrate material into blocks or have taught separate courses relating to different diseases. Divided opinions as which is the best method
  • Principles of Chemistry tries to develop following skills:
    • Develop a data base of terminology, facts, fundamental principles
    • Comprehend the problem, identify main point or type of problem that is necessary to solve the problem
    • Recognize relevant information from that which is not relevant to solving the problem
    • Recognize any necessary assumptions that are needed
    • Use fundamental principles to manipulate information to arrive at a reasonable solution to the problem
    • Critically assess the solution
    • Develop insights to alternative methods to solving the problem
    • Apply concepts learned in solving this problem to new problems
  • OT plans their entire curriculum to foster critical thinking skills. There is a developmental progression of reasoning skills:
    • Procedural thinking (usually enter professional program with this skill)
    • Interactive reasoning – as it relates to the situation, solution is not determined in advance
    • Conditional or narrative reasoning.

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Making Pre-lab Lecture a Learning Experience

Participants discussed and reflected on what makes an effective presentation and what their own strengths and weaknesses are concerning presentation skills. Stress management and the role preparedness plays in easing the stresses of presenting were also discussed. The attention span of students is about 15 minutes. If you will be speaking longer than that, the 15-minute interval is a good time to pause and allow your audience to digest or regroup the contents of the lecture.

Preparing an effective pre-lab lecture

  • Determine objective for lab and pre-lab lecture
  • Plan what you will say
  • Organization of lecture
  • Introduction
  • Body of lecture
  • Conclusion - 2 minute recap
  • Prepare lecture notes.

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How Classes Change With Technology

Discussants: Amy Kimchuck and Stan Zietz

Some Key Points that were touched upon during the discussion:

  • When technology is first introduced to students, they are not efficient with it. Therefore, early classes or activities using technology go much slower.
  • The use of technology allows students to spend more time discussing why something happens.
  • In math, it is still important for the students to get a feel for how to do the calculations by hand, even if they mostly use technology to solve the problems.
  • Textbook selection should be consistent with technology used.
  • Since students have been using graphing calculators, they have a greater sense of understanding the math and not just feeling like they are doing the problems without understanding.
  • Searching for information using technology is different from searching using the print sources, new skills need to be developed.
  • Graphing calculators can be used in chemistry labs to show real time data.
  • Using technology can take away from content in course if students concentrate on learning to use technology.
  • Must be concerned with accessibility for students, support for using the equipment.
  • New palm top computers cost about $600.00 have many capacities of larger computer.
  • Using technology greatly facilitates students ability to look for patterns, test if something changes, what will be the results of that change.
  • Many simulations available that aid in understanding.
  • With technology students do not have to understand theory to able to solve problems.

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Supplemental Instruction (SI)

Student Mentorship

Disucssants: Gail Webster, Phyllis Blumberg

Some key points that were touched upon during the discussion:

  • SI is a widely used, well researched academic assistance program
  • SI helps students in historically difficult classes master content, while developing study skills that can be used throughout college
  • Within the selected courses, anyone can participate in SI sessions
  • An upper class student re-takes the course by attending all classes, does homework, as part of the job as SI leader
  • The SI leader holds 3 one-hour sessions/ week to assist the students to learn the material.
  • Students may go over problems, review material
  • Students determine what will be done and lead the discussion, the SI leader provided guidance and clarifies when necessary
  • Students who actively participate in SI sessions do better than those who did not attend SI sessions
  • Students do better when the course faculty actively supports and encourages students to attend SI sessions

SI is currently being offered on a pilot basis with General Chemistry this semester

A proposal is being developed to establish SI more broadly at USP

A purpose of these Table Talk discussions is to see which faculty are interested in having their course participate in SI in the future.

Additional faculty may indicate interest by contacting Phyllis Blumberg

Once the number of courses that will participate in SI is determined, the exact costs of the program will be determined. It costs about $1200 for each three credit course to have a SI leader, and a SI supervisor to coordinate the program.

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March, 2000

Becoming a Successful Graduate Student Instructor Workshop Series

Handling Difficult Situations in the Lab

The participants were asked to bring a written description of a difficult situation they encountered in their roles as lab instructors. Each of these descriptions was attached to flip chart paper that was distributed around the room.

Participants, including some faculty, went around the room and wrote suggestions on how to handle each of these difficult situations. Thus, each participant received written guidance or help from numerous people.

Next the individual papers were grouped into appropriate categories. For the set of situations presented the categories were:

Disinterested, unprepared students

Classroom management skills

Students who work without thinking, makes mistakes, panic

Students with attitude problems

Lack of information, knowledge by GSI, faculty

The participants worked in small groups on one self-chosen category. They wrote further suggestions, comments, and developed strategies further.

At the end of the session, participants received their original sheet along with all the comments.

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Fostering Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Discussants: Peter Miller and Joseph Ruane

Some key points that were touched upon during the discussion:

  • One of the ways students develop their critical thinking is to challenge what they accept or what they have grown up with through asking about implications of their thinking
  • Through class discussions and assignments, students come to question and expand students’ perspectives and view of the world
  • Assignments on sociological theories can be personalized so that students have to apply the concept to their own lives
  • In discussions, it is important for the faculty to role model respect for what students have to say and to accept different points of view
  • In such an accepting environment, students become more willing to participate and open up about themselves
  • Random assignment of groups and rearranging the groups throughout the semester helps students to learn how to work with others and hear about different perspectives
  • Throughout discussions students are asked to probe for deeper meanings and help to identify their biases
  • Uncomfortable experiences with conflict can be good growth experiences to foster critical thinking
  • Student groups can be given unknown problems. They need to explore the literature to help solve the problem.
  • Students have difficulty when there are more than one correct answer or solution to a problem. Faculty need to help them become comfortable with uncertainty.

An unplanned, but discussed sub-topic was peer and self-assessment.

  • Although students are uncomfortable with peer and self assessment, practice doing these assessments helps them do a better job with them.
  • Peer and self assessment skills help build critical thinking abilities.
  • Asking students to write peer assessments before presenting them to their classmates helps them think them through better

Ask students to write 3 positive and 3 negative things about themselves and each peer

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Using On-line Testing

Discussants: Mignon Adams, Jeannette McVeigh, Andrew Peterson

For the past two years, Andrew Peterson has used Cyberexam, Internet-accessible online testing software, in his class for the 4th year pharmacy students. Since the pharmacy licensing exam is now given online, experience in online testing is important for our students. He says that a definite advantage is that students get immediate feedback; a definite disadvantage is that they get immediate feedback and want to discuss it immediately. To discourage cheating, he uses randomization of both questions and answers, although that negates the use of other types of multiple choice questions: all of the above, for example.

Some of the security concerns with online testing: verifying the test taker on the Internet and possibility of test taker receiving answers via e-mail from another source. Some of the features of Cyberexam help ease some of these issues.

Jeanette McVeigh has used Cyberexam as a way for students to demonstrate that they are familiar with computer use policy. In the past, all students have been required to attend a half-hour class. Now, each student takes two out of three sections, randomly determined. Students have been vocal in their enthusiasm about having it available at their own convenience.

Other ideas for using an online exam as a teaching medium; for example, when a student misses a question, he or she could be directed to a website that instructs the student so that the questions can be answered correctly.

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How are on-line courses different from live courses.

Jacquie Smith and Lili Fox Velez

Web-Based Courses require four types of support, 1)distribution of course materials; 2) access to materials and related resources; 3) dialoguing, between faculty and students, among students and between students and resource; and 4) management and assessment process.

Questions to consider prior to developing on-line courses. What kinds of content work well? What content may not be appropriate? What level of course may be appropriate? Which students are best suited for this? How do you develop relationships with the class? Is the class entity going to be replaced with a lot of individuals? How can you achieve a class community? How can students learn to be more independent? How can you handle 25-30, or more students in this environment?

Creating and sustaining online communities requires interaction, collaboration cooperation and a sense of community.

Interaction Activities

Begin by requiring interaction between 2 peers
Give plenty of time (i.e. one week) to allow for scheduling difficulties
Bottom Line

An online community does not "just happen". It must be diligently planned and requires commitment from the class and especially from the faculty member.

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New ERes

Course Document Management System

Mazen Khoury from Docutech

  • Nicole Duncan-Kinard is developing a new handout explaining how to use ERes.
  • Version 4 was demonstrated (Version 3 was used in1999-2000)
  • Documents can be put on the ERes system, password protected or archived to be available for future use or for a specific time period.
  • Documents can be imported 3 ways-
    • Type or Scan
    • Fax
    • Browse local machine, find document and insert, can stay in the same format
  • Documents can be downloaded in any form-
    • link URL
    • Audio
    • Video
    • Text
  • Discussion bulletin board can direct discussion to specific topics, follow entire discussion on this topic.
  • Chat rooms are live, cannot be archived, but all discussion from chat can be printed.
  • All journals that the library receives electronically can be downloaded on ERes files.
  • We will have 2 ways to access ERes using new service-
    • From on-campus through the University website
    • From off-campus through campus access
  • Creating a course page -
    • Very user friendly, just follow directions given.
    • Specific help information provided along with each section.

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Use of Assessment Data

Eric Boyce

The fundamental goal of higher education is to improve the abilities (knowledge, skills and attitudes/behaviors) of students. Assessment data can assist with this.

General Assumptions of Assessment Activities

  • Assessment should be an ongoing, prospectively planned, efficient activity.
  • The most important outcomes and/or goals of a program need to be assessed.
  • Students, alumni, faculty, student service staff, and administrators all have a role in assessment activities.
  • Assessment is not an evaluation of an individual student, instructor or course. Assessment is of whole program.
  • Data should come from a variety of sources and be collected in a fair, unbiased manner.
  • Both formative (developmental) and summative (at the end of the program) assessment data should be collected and used.
  • Assessment data need to be disseminated to all appropriate individuals
  • Assessment data should analyzed and used to make decisions in academic and student services programs.
  • The assessment plan also needs to be assessed routinely.

The Teaching Improvement Loop

From the Framework for Outcomes Assessment, Middle States Commission on Higher Education

For further reading see

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How can the successful innovation that won the 2000 Patricia Leahy "OWL" Award be adapted for other courses?

Annette Iglarsh

  • Requiring students to develop a portfolio of their work is a good technique for a capstone course.
  • Projects students developed included a health fair, an in-service activity, reviews, etc.
  • This portfolio was very helpful for students in their job interview process.
  • Contract grading requires the students to decide what grade they will get by the number of assignments or projects they will do.
  • If students contract for their grades, work is either acceptable or not acceptable (needs to be redone or not counted).
  • Students can do more work to get a higher grade than originally contracted for, but not less work and get a lower grade.
  • Need to spend time talking about expectations, requirements.
  • Assignments need to be very clearly described.
  • Tell other faculty, especially in the same department, about the course and its expectations - they might hear about it as complaints from students.
  • Students can hand in their projects 1 week in advance of deadline for feedback.
  • For a capstone course, all materials were due at the end of the semester; students did not always budget their time well.
  • Students requested that they carry over the completion of their projects past the semester.
  • This year the students will get 1 credit hour in the spring, with most of the credits being assigned in the fall semester.
  • Students worked harder for this course, complained as they were going through it and then saw how helpful it was later on.
  • Now that students know this portfolio is coming as a capstone course, they are beginning to think about preparing it as they go through the program.
  • The second time this course is being run is going much smoother than the first time. There are far fewer student complaints.

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