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Summary of 2003

January 2003
A Focus on Learning Rethinking Effective Teaching
Barbara Millis, The Air Force Academy

  • Everyone can achieve more if teachers teach well
  • Three research findings that have strong implications for how to teach
    • Students come to the classroom with preconceptions about discipline, we need to work from these ideas
    • To develop competence students must have a deep foundation of knowledge, understand ideas in a context, and organize knowledge to facilitate retrieval and applicaiton
    • By defining learning goals and monitoring progress in achieving these goals, students can learn to take control of their own learning
  • Key elements that foster a deep approach to learning (learning for meaning, understanding)
    • Motivational context
    • Active learning
    • Interaction with others
    • A well structured knowledge base

Using the Power of Groups to Foster Student Learning in Small and Large Classes
Brarbara Millis, The Air Force Academy

  • Begin slowly with cooperative/active learning
    • Always explain the structure of the activity before you give the students the task
    • Move from group to group to monitor progress
  • Cooperative learning is
    • A structured form of small group problem solving
    • Incorporates the use of heterogeneous teams
    • Maintains individual accountability
    • Promotes positive interdependence
    • Instills group porcessing and sharpens social skills
  • Examples of cooperative learning:
    • The three step interview
    • Roundtable
    • Structured problem-solving numbered heads together
    • Jigsaw

    Promoting Learning in Large Classes: A look at both theory and practice
    Barbara Millis, The Air Force Academy

  • People construct new knowledge and understanding based on what they already know and believe, this should be a starting point for new instruction
    • Conduct a background knowledge probe to review prior knowledge, determine starting point. Some examples include:
      • Directed paraphrasing
      • Application cards
      • Key principles and rethinking
    • The context of content needs to be activated before students receive ambiguous information for the most effective learning
  • Encourage students to think about their own learning and thinking
  • Depth of knowledge is produced, in part, by covering fewer topics in systematic and connected ways

Making Teaching Learner-Centered
How to Implement Changes Successfully
Maryellen Weimer, Berks Leigh Valley College,
Penn State University

  • General principles for improving instructional practice
    • Get beyond techniques: think approach
    • Approach change systematically
    • Change incrementally
      • Make changes that fit the content, the instructor, the students and the learning context
    • Set realistic expectations for success
  • Advice on implementing learner-centered approaches (not just techniques):
    • Study the new approach
    • Begin with deeper and more accurate self-knowledge
    • Develop a positive attitude toward assessment
      • Get specific, focused feedback
      • Assessment is ongoing
    • Learn how to overcome resistance

5 Key changes to practice to implement learner-centered teaching: Teaching that promotes learning
Maryellen Weimer, Berks Lehigh Valley College, Penn State University

From Weimer's book
Learner-Centered Teaching
Jossey-Bass, 2002

For teaching to more effectively promote learning, instructional practice needs to change in five areas:

  • The function of content
    • Content should be used to build knowledge and to develop learning skills and learner self-awareness
  • The role of the teacher
    • Teachers should focus on student learning and not on teacher's actions
  • The responsibility for learning
    • together with students, faculty create environments that motivate students to accept responsibility for learning
  • The process and purposes of evaluation
    • Evaluation activities should be used to promote learning, to develop self and peer assessment skills and to determine grades
  • The balance of power
    • In ethically responsible ways, faculty share decision making about learning with students


    How to evaluate students within a learner-centered class
    Assessing learning and giving grades
    Maryellen Weimer, Berks Lehigh Valley College, Penn State University

  • Rationale behind grades
    • To assess mastery of materials and skills
    • To promote learning
  • We emphasize the importance of grades at the expense of learning
  • Ways to maximize learning potential of evaluation activities, especially exams
    • Nest exams in a series of activities that promote learning
    • Develop activities that prepare students for exam, build confidence
      • Foster structured review activities
    • The exam itself
      • Allow student to generate 1 quesiton that they felt should have been asked, answer it
      • Opportunities for group testing, student constructed exams
    • Debriefing the exam is a time for great learning potential
      • Allow students to show evidence for contested answers
      • Discuss learning strategies and exam performance
  • Feedback and learning
    • Make summative and formative evaluation distinctions
      • Separate commentary and grades
    • Cultivate self and peer assessment skills

    The Psychology of Learning
    What is the learning behind learning-centered teaching?
    Marilla Svinicki
    The University of Texas at Austin

  • What's learner-centered about learning?
    • Prior knowledge influencess acquisition of new knowledge
    • Level of instruction should be just beyond where the learner is currently
    • Active, meaningful learning
      • Learning is better when the learner makes the connections
      • Teachers should model active learning
    • Motivated Learning
      • Learning is influenced by the learner's goals, motivation and emotions
      • Intrinsic motivation is better
      • Learning is more efficient if the learner is in a non-anxious state
    • Self-regulated mindful learning
      • It is the learner who is responsibile for and directing the learning
      • Must be able to identify what know, don't know
  • Faculty should create opportunities to
    • work with and go beyond prior knowledge
      • assess prior knowledge
      • confront common incorrect prior knowledge
      • use familiar to explain the new through metaphors and analogies
    • encourage active, meaningful learning
      • encourage learners to ask questions about their learning
      • collaborative learning helps
    • support motivated learning
      • increase learner self-efficacy with appropriate formative feedback
      • emphasize compraison with self over comparison with others
      • work toward goals that the learner values by giving them choices and control
    • promote self-regulated learning
      • give students opportunities to make choices about their learnign
      • build self-reflection, monitoring opportunities into assignmetns and class activities
      • when students work with others they can see different models of learning


What are the developmental tasks for students and facutly that need to accompany learner-centered teaching?
Marilla Svinicki, the University of Texas at Austin

  • 3 kinds of developmental changes thatconstructed knowledge is better than received knowledge
  • need to accompany a learner-centered approach
    • epistemological beliefs about learning
      • constructed knowledge is better than received knowledge
      • structure of knowledge impacts on learning, retention
      • important for teacher to model learning
      • allow scaffolding through group work
      • sociological beliefs about roles in learning
      • student and teacher beliefs about their roles in learning are important
      • need to change roles of faculty, students
        • stop doing the learning tasks for the students
        • start designing more deliberately
        • give formative feedback more often
      • How do we support learner-directed learning?
        • Give assignmetns tahta are based on reflective questions and focusing on processes
        • Spend time regularly in class on reflection on learning
    • Learning is about the learner
      • The content, the instruction and the instructor are just supporting the learner


August 2003
Implementing Learning Centered Teaching
Phyllis Blumberg

  • What is Learning-Centered Teaching?
    • Learning drives the system
    • Students are actively engaged in their learning process
    • Students take responsibility for their own learning, faculty help students to learn how to do this
    • Faculty facilitate students learning
    • Faculty design learning environments, not just cover content
    • Students have some say or how they will learn, but not what they will learn
    • Learning how to learn, understanding importance of learning
    • Students should become self-directed, lifelong learners
  • Summary of Maryellen Weimer, Learner Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice. San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 2002
    • For teaching to promote more effective learning, instructional practice needs to change in 5 key areas:
      • The function of content to include learning skills and learner-self-awareness
      • The role of the teacher is to facilitate learning
      • The responsibility for learning rests witht the students
      • Evaluation activities should also promote learning. Peer and self assessments are important
      • Faculty need to share decision-making about learning with the students


    August 2003
    Making a good beginning to a class
    Kevin Wolbach

  • In addition to getting contact information from the students ask them
    • To tell you a little about themselves
    • What they have heard about you
    • If they have any questions about the courses
  • Address this acquired information, questions in an early class
  • Allow the students some say in deadlines on the syllabus
  • Tell them about yourself as a person
  • Make content relevant to them or to common life examples
  • Explain why and how they will be learning this content
  • Be sure the sutdents understand the syllabus


August 2003
Using Blackboard as an Effective Educational Tool
Jeanette McVeigh, Tamara Case, Cathy Poon

  • Start small
    • Start with 1 aspect of your course, grading or 1 assignment
  • Think from the perspective of students in your paraticular course
    • Ask yourself how should students access your material easily
  • It is easy to import files from other word or excel
  • It is easy to link to the internet html or pdf files
  • Blackboard is especially good for doing self-assessments of knowledge and other quizzes
  • For more information or help, contact one of the presenters


August 2003
Incorporating learning centered teaching philosophies and practices in large classes or with heavy teaching load
Phyllis Blumberg

The workshop participants planned one or more activities to help make a change in one of the key practices as outlined by

  • The function of content
    • Develop a classroom activity or assignment to foster the students ability to take useful notes, review for a test, find appropirate literature in the discipline, critically evaluate the literature or commuicate
  • The role of the teacher
    • Participants used a decision tree analyses to determine how and where material should be covered to facilitate learning
  • The responsibility for learning rests with the students.
    • Participants reviewed policies. Most of the policies tend to inhibit students taking responsibility for their own learning.
    • Participants developed a mechanism for the students and instructor collaboratively to describe student and instructor expectations
    • The role of evaluation includes learning
    • Participantes decided what kind of assessments should be done by whom. They developed an instrument for peer and self-assessment
  • The balance of power
    • Paraticipantes developed a way to allow students more say in how they are graded through a contract grading system


August 2003
Making teaching a large number of students a manageable experience
Phyllis Blumberg

  • Logistics Plan in advance
    • Organize paper distribution and collection through using groups of students and folders for each group, set out paper in advance in folders
    • use technology for efficient distribution of materials
  • civility
    • The larger the class the greater the chances for incivility.
    • Get to know students as individuals
    • Have the class develop their own rules for their conduct
  • Assignments
  • To facilitate students working together, give them 5-10 minutes in class just to sest up a meeting
  • Larry Michaelsen lists five characteristics of good group assignments
      1. Ensure individual accountability
      2. Promote close physical proximity
      3. Promote discussion among team members
      4. Provide teams with meaningful feedback
      5. Reward group success
  • Assessment and evaluation
    • Provide individual and group feedback or formative assessments
    • Prior to grading papers, make up a numbered checklist of your criteria that you will use in grading. Comment on one of these by putting the number of the checklist item beside the sentence.
    • Distribute the checklist to your students


September 2003
Enhancing Students' Ability to self-evaluate: using exam responses to refine study skills
Ellen Flannery-Schroeder


  • This technique helps students to use their exam performance as feedback on efficacy of their studying
  • When the instructor returns an exam, give additional information for every question on a multiple-choice or short answer exam. For example:
    • Was it a factual or application type of item
    • Did the information come from the textbook or the lecture
  • Students make a grid of what type of questions they got wrong, e.g., application from the textbook
  • Students found this information very helpful to prepare for future exams and wanted to continue getting this information on all exams
  • Students could complete grid as a self-assessment prior to getting the results and then compare to actual results
  • Technique could be adapted for essay tests in terms of where the students lost points i.e., got facts correct and how well argument was developed or supported
  • This would be useful information to gather to see if students worked on their weaknesses

September 2003
Using cooperative learning, peer modeling and e-mail to help students learn more
Miriam Diaz-Gilbert

  • The following are very effective techniques for teaching ESL students to read and write English better. They also work very well with other types of classes:
    • cooperative learning is the instructional use of small groups so that students can work together to accomplish a common purpose and maximize learning (Johnson and Johnson, 1983)
      • in small groups students discuss essay questions, brainstorm how to answer questions, write an essay together
    • peer modeling allows students to show each other their own work and have peer, formative evaluations
      • process provides peers with tips for better writing
    • email each other drafts and revisions
      • get feedback highlighted in yellow
  • These techniques
    • Must be guided and purposeful
    • Are time consuming
    • Need to integrate individual learning needs and styles with process
    • Are very rewarding for both student and instructor


September-October 2003
Using handheld devices for educational purposes
Jacqui Smith

  • Advantages of handheld devices:
    • Small, portable
    • Low cost
    • Ease of use
    • Can save to desktop or laptop computer
  • Many different palm devices available including:
    • Science lab kits are available for data collection in the field
    • Can present PowerPoint presentations that have been created on regular computers
  • Excellent educator's guides are available to see what is available:
    • HICE University of Michigan
    • classroom management
    • avantgo
  • Pedagogy and objectives need to guide if and what handheld device is used
    • Often tempted to let technology and new toy appeal guide decisions to use these devices
  • Must align use of handheld devices with university goals and personal instructional goals

October 2003
Revising courses to foster student learning: Close contact calculus
Lia Vas

  • Traditionally calculus courses emphasized techniques. Now with advances in technology and greater understanding of how people learn and remember, reformed calculus courses emphasize why are we doing this
  • Lia's personal version of reformed calculus involves
    • more dynamic classes, more motivated and engaged students
    • using computer labs once a week
    • an interdisciplinary approach using examples from sciences
  • In each class students work on worksheets consisting of
    • Summary of new concepts that the class will cover
    • Short introductory problems or solved examples that the instructor will go over
    • The main is problems for students to solve on their own to help them master the content
    • Applications from other disciplines
  • Overall course structure involves:
    • Assignments often using technology
    • Individualized take home exams
    • Projects
    • Student presentations or posters
  • Student reactions have been very positive

October-November 2003
Learning-centered teaching will not work with my teaching because

Q&A session with the faculty learning community on learning-centered teaching
The following concerns and ways to address each were discussed:

  • I have a large class
    • Small groups can work with any size class, just need to plan better
    • If you seat students in clusters around the aisles in tiered classrooms, it is easier to get around to listen to them
  • Students who are getting grades in the 70’s are comfortable with their present grades and do not feel the need to work harder, come to class prepared, etc.
    • These are often the students that get turned on to learning centered activities and do better with this approach
  • Some disciplines seem to fit better with a learning-centered approach than others
    • Disciplines where there is an emphasis on concepts, critical thinking and problem solving do seem to work better with learning centered approaches
    • Courses with a high emphasis on factual knowledge seem harder to adapt to these approaches
      • Just in Time Teaching such as in Physics is a good example of a learning centered approach in a science course
  • Getting students to work well in groups is difficult
    • Use nonrandom groups assignment made up by instructors
    • Holding each person responsible for the work by asking different ones to demonstrate understanding increases participation
    • Asking students to evaluate each other’s participation and effort.

November 2003
Transitioning from student centeredness to patient- centered care
Michele Mulhall

  • Student-centered teaching puts the student at the center and makes them feel that they will always be seen as the most important. Yet when they become health professionals, they are not the center, the patient or client is the most important person
  • Traditionally students entered clinical experiences expecting to be a dependent consumer (because that is how they were treated as students), this is not realistic in clinical settings
  • The National Academy of Sciences has established ten rules for health care reform (
  • These rules closely parallel the characteristics of learning centered teaching that USP has developed. These two documents were developed without knowledge of the other.
  • In many cases one could substitute the word patient for student in the learning centered teaching characteristics and then see how the two systems parallel each students should have an easy time transitioning to patient-centered care
    • Learning centered teaching should empower students to become caregivers
    • Faculty need to make explicit why this type of teaching is so important for health professionals
  • Asking students to reflect on their learning and learning activities both in the classroom and in the clinical experiences helps them to become more patient focused

    December, 2003
    Making your students evaluations work for you
    Micki Cohen


  • Save all evaluations including the written comments
  • Prior to filing them make notes as to unique circumstances that might have influenced your evaluations or your perceptions
  • Do a qualitative analysis of the comments to look for trends
  • When you have a problem with a course or with evaluations, note your plan for solving the problem. Follow up on how well plan changed the course
  • Collapse a 5 point scale into a 3 point scale
  • Report the modal response and the range if all in the good range and not the mean
  • With small classes use frequencies not percentages
  • Group questions in to how well students evaluated the course and how well they evaluated the instructor. The topic and time of the course really influences some ratings
  • Think about the story you want to tell
    • Pattern of improvement
    • Not much room for improvement
    • Innovation, first time tried method, versus more mature course
  • Ask for formative feedback early in the semester so that changes can be made


December 2003
Concept Maps
2003 Leahy Award Winner,
Peter Miller
  • Concept maps are visual representations of knowledge
  • Good concept maps reflect organized knowledge and deep learning
  • Students can easily identify the concepts but have a much harder time describing the links between the concepts
  • Meaningful learning takes place when students have to determine links and cross-links between concepts
  • Forcing students to use the concept mapping software such as, “Inspiration” leads to better organized, cleaner and easier to read maps
  • Use a rubric to assess students’ concept maps
    • Criteria might include organization, hierarchy, linkages, integration and discovery
  • Never let students see the professor’s concept map. Students should not feel that there is only one correct map
  • When one uses concept maps one must accept that there are multiple constructions of knowledge and different perceptions of reality
  • Concept map grades do not correlate well with multiple choice test grades (different representations of knowledge)
  • Developing concept maps promotes critical thinking and problem-solving ability








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