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Feb 19, 2014

Peer and Self-Evaluation of Participation in Discussion

We often focus on presentation skills as oral communication skills, but students also need to learn skills for leading and contributing to productive group discussions. Small group discussions can easily go off the rails when students indulge in off-topic talking, inadequate listening, and disrespectful behavior. The dynamic quality of class discussion presents challenges to faculty who would like to hold students accountable for the quality of their participation in these discussions.

Multhaup (2008) describes how to prepare students for substantive class discussions and suggests two strategies for evaluating student contributions to class discussion. Many of these strategies can also be adapted for the online environment.

Establish ground rules for effective class discussion (first week of class)
Establish expectations for class discussions by facilitating a think-pair-share activity during the first week of the term.

  • Think. Ask students to reflect silently on the characteristics of great class discussions they’ve experienced and identify things that undermine a good discussion.
  • Pair. Students discuss their thoughts in pairs (not naming any specific courses, professors, or students).
  • Share. Bring the class together as a group and ask pairs to discuss the highlights of their discussion.

Use the comments from the group discussion to identify some ground rules and expectations for individual participation in class discussion during the remainder of the term.

Adaptation for online courses
Create a threaded discussion based on questions such as

  • What kinds of contributions to an online discussion make the thread worth reading?
  • What kinds of contributions help you learn course concepts?
  • What kinds of contributions are not helpful?

Peer evaluation of the quality of participation in discussion
Require students to complete a Participation Survey three or four times during the term. Each student must complete the following three evaluation elements for every student in the class, including themselves:

  1. [Student name]: needs to talk more / talks about the right amount / needs to talk less
  2. [Student name] 6-point rating of the quality of contributions to discussions (1 = unacceptable, added nothing to discussions, 6 = outstanding, comments in every class have been helpful)
  3. Open-ended comment about the student’s role either as a discussion facilitator or participant

Compile the collective (anonymous) feedback for individual students and distribute this feedback to each student. If necessary, edit comments or add your own comments.

Adaptation for online courses
Create an assignment or survey in Blackboard in which students answer these questions. You can make completion of the feedback a graded assignment (completed/not completed), compile the feedback information for individual students, and distribute this feedback through the course email function or provide it as feedback within Blackboard.
If you ask students to facilitate a discussion, gather peer feedback about this skill.

After each facilitated discussion, members of the discussion group complete a peer feedback survey for the discussion leader. The peer feedback answers the following questions:

  1. I was prepared for the discussion (true/false)
  2. The discussion leader was organized and prepared (6-point rating scale)
  3. The discussion leader asked good questions (6-point rating scale)
  4. The discussion/activity helped increase my understanding (6-point rating scale)
  5. Describe one thing the discussion leader did well
  6. What might the discussion leader have done differently to make the discussion better?
  7. Other comments (optional)
  8. Overall evaluation of today’s class (6-point rating scale)

Provide feedback several times during the term to enable students to improve their participation and discussion skills over time.


  • Multhaup, K. S. (2008, Spring). Using class discussions to improve oral communication skills. Teaching Tips (APA Division 20 – Adult Development and Aging).


To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium hosted at Western Kentucky University and organized by Seneca College and New York Institute of Technology.

Claudia J. Stanny, PhD, Director
Center for University Teaching, Learning, and Assessment
University of West Florida

Author: francine_glazer

Feb 12, 2014

Found Metaphors: A Strategy of Applied Creative Thinking

As English professors in general, and creative writing instructors in particular, we have used the technique of found poetry to convince students that the printed word abounds with more poetry than most people are cognizant of. We assign students to read typical print sources (e.g., newspapers and magazines) as well as atypical print sources (e.g., advertisements and soup-can labels) in order to locate some examples of poetry (e.g., free verse or metered) or poetic technique (e.g., metaphor, metonymy, and caesura).

Now, in teaching applied creative thinking we’ve adapted the found poetry assignment into one involving found metaphors. As we say in Introduction to Applied Creative Thinking (Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press, 2012), a metaphor “is an effective creative strategy for learning about the unknown and gaining a perspective on it” (67). In Borrowing Brilliance (New York: Gotham Books, 2009), David Kord Murray elaborates that “a creative idea begins, either consciously or subconsciously, with a metaphor or analogy. By using a metaphor, a comparison of one thing with another, you intellectually connect the two things” (110). A found metaphor, then, begins by discovering an object (creativity theorists often refer to it as the “vehicle”) that elucidates a subject (something creativity theorists call the “tenor”).

Specifically, we ask students to locate on-campus objects that convey some of the fundamental and powerful concepts of creativity (e.g., perception shifting, collaborating, and piggybacking). To prime the pump we utilize our building. When the Noel Studio for Academic Creativity was constructed in the very center of the University’s Crabbe Library, two synchronistic events occurred, or maybe the construction of the Studio sensitized our own creative thinking. First, as plaster walls, stacks, and lofts were torn down, two covered-up skylights were found in the ceiling/roof. The cover of Introduction to Applied Creative Thinking, in fact, depicts a student with an iPad standing below one of these windows to the outside world. For us that complete concrete image suggests the tenor of creative thinking.

As the Noel Studio moved from concept to reality, a wooden spiral staircase was installed in the middle of the location. In the beginning, the spiral staircase suggested to us the tenor of the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy and the movement up it the progress from lower-order thinking to the higher-order thinking. The more we went up and down the spiral staircase, however, the more we began to see another found metaphor. Our University’s SACS-necessitated Quality Enhancement Plan is that it “will graduate informed critical and creative thinkers who communicate effectively.” The spiral staircase suddenly seemed to look like the double helix used in biology to describe the structure of DNA, but for us the two strands envisioned were the inter-related critical and creative thinking.

Because found metaphors abound, the assignment can be adapted by any discipline.

To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium hosted at Western Kentucky University and organized by Seneca College and New York Institute of Technology.

Charlie Sweet, Co-Director, Teaching & Learning Center
Hal Blythe, Co-Director, Teaching & Learning Center
Rusty Carpenter, Director, Noel Studio for Academic Creativity
Eastern Kentucky University

Author: francine_glazer

Feb 05, 2014

Get Your Students’ Perspectives

On Assessment Day, January 15, one of the topics under discussion was how to gather and use student input to gauge whether you are meeting student learning outcomes at the course- or program-levels. There were some interesting ideas shared:

  • In the College of Osteopathic Medicine, each cohort of students provide feedback at the end of each course. Faculty consider their comments and provide responses in writing. This format allows the faculty members to take time to consider the ideas, and prevents any feelings of being put “on the spot.” More often than not, the faculty incorporate suggestions from the students. If the suggestions seem inappropriate, then the faculty respond with the pedagogical rationale for their decisions.
  • The English department surveys both the students who take writing courses and the faculty members who teach the courses. It’s an interesting strategy, because the faculty can compare their perceptions with those of their students.
  • Larry Herman, chair of the Physician Assistant program, said that in his cohort-based program student representatives will discuss issues with the faculty members. This system preserves student anonymity and creates a constructive dialogue.

There are some simple ways that you, as an individual faculty member, can gather input as well. One of my favorite strategies is to use a Minute Paper, about one month into the semester. Five minutes before class ends, I ask each student to take out a blank piece of paper. This activity is anonymous, so they do not need to write their names down. I ask each student to answer two questions:

  1. What is helping you learn in this class?
  2. What would help you learn better?

Students can respond with things that I’m doing, or with things that they are doing. They drop their papers at the front of the room as they leave. It only takes a few minutes to look through them, and at the beginning of the next class, I spend a few minutes telling the students what I’ve learned. A couple of caveats:

  1. Make sure to “close the loop.” It’s absolutely essential to spend those few minutes debriefing the class. It tells the students that you care about what they have to say, and you take them seriously.
  2. Be prepared to change something. Actions speak louder than words. If you tell the class, for example, that “many of you said you’d like the handouts posted on Blackboard, so I’m going to start doing that,” you send a powerful message to the students. (See item 1.)
  3. You don’t have to change everything. It’s perfectly fine to tell the students that “although many of you asked for x, I’m not going to start doing that, and let me tell you why.” If you explain your pedagogical rationale to the students, you make them partners in the learning process. They’ll know you are not acting capriciously, and that there are good reasons for your decisions - reasons that have their learning in mind.
  4. Don’t ask if you don’t want to know! ’Nuff said.

To follow up on any of these ideas, or to discuss some other ways you can gather useful feedback from your students, please contact me at

Author: francine_glazer

Jan 29, 2014

Prior Knowledge Check

“A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.” - Thomas Carruthers

On the first day of class, I like to ask students to write a 1-page response to the following question: “What do you know about (Insert your field here)?” I do this for multiple reasons:

  • It activates prior knowledge, requiring students to pull from their experiences and see how they might apply those experiences to class material (Pressley et al., 1992).
  • It demonstrates that I value what they may already know about the field.
  • It puts the responsibility on the students and illustrates that this class will require active participation.

Near the end of the semester, I return these papers to the students, and have them respond to what they wrote previously. Students are usually surprised by their initial writings and by their ability to respond with what they have learned. This activity shows how much a student’s conceptualization of a field can change in just 15 weeks. It also reminds me of the quotation above—and how quickly I become unnecessary, if I do my job well.

Good luck & happy teaching!


  • Pressley, M., Wood, E., Woloshyn, V., Martin, V., King, A., and Menke, D. (1992). Encouraging mindful use of prior knowledge: Attempting to construct explanatory answers facilitates learning. Educational Psychologist 27(1), 91–109.

To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium hosted at Western Kentucky University and organized by Seneca College and New York Institute of Technology.

Dr. Michelle Jackson
Manager, English Language Institute
Professional & Public Programs
The University of Texas

Author: francine_glazer

Jan 21, 2014

Sometimes, You Really Need to Meet Face-to-Face

“I used Zoom for a live lecture with 43 students and it was fantastic. They loved that they didn’t have to come in with the snow. One was actually on a bus with wifi!!” – Zehra Ahmed, School of Health Professions

Yesterday’s snowstorm, which caused the the New York campuses to close on the first day of the spring semester, makes it an opportune time to introduce Zoom HD videoconferencing. I’ve written about it before, and would like to share with you some of the ways that faculty and staff at NYIT have been using this tool.

First, a little background on what Zoom is, and why you might want to consider trying it out with your students:

  1. Zoom allows you to videoconference with up to 25 people at a time. Participants can join the meeting from a desktop computer (PC or Mac), a mobile device (Android or iOS), a phone, or from one of our distance learning rooms. You can toggle between a ‘speaker view’ and a ‘gallery view’ that enables you to see all 25 participants at once.

  2. Zoom allows you to share your computer screen, and annotate it during the meeting. For example, an architecture professor could ask a student to share her designs with the class, and could annotate the drawings as part of a critique. An engineering professor might display a circuit diagram, and use the virtual pointer to draw the students’ attention to a specific part of the image.

  3. You can record the meeting, and place the recording online for the benefit of students who can’t be there in real-time. Alternatively, you can record a quick demonstration, or a review of a problem set, and put it online as a tutorial.

  4. The only person who needs an account is the person who hosts the meeting. Everyone else simply clicks on a link that you email to them. As the meeting host, you can look back at the list of people who attended the meeting — good for taking attendance at a virtual class session.

Here are some of the ways our faculty and staff have been putting this tool to use:

  • Cheryl Hall, in Physical Therapy, uses Zoom with the students she is supervising on their clinical rotations. The students can all have a discussion of what happens at the different clinical sites, so it enriches their experience.
  • “Based on my attendance records, the majority of my students will miss at least one class during a semester. With Zoom over the past few weeks, one student ZOOMed into class to participate for an hour during our group discussion time, it was her turn to lead, and one e-mailed me today asking if she could do the same. A third student is using the tool to record a screencast for her students in school. Zoom is a hit with me!” – Jim Martinez, School of Education
  • Mindy Haar uses Zoom with her online graduate Community Nutrition class, to enable students to make live presentations. With students from time zones ranging between Germany and California, Mindy was still able to schedule times when everyone could be there. “I sent out a Doodle invite with eight different possible times and I chose the top two that would cover everyone.” Students each made a 10–15 minute presentation to the class, and they were able to discuss the material together. “Every student so far felt that this was a good addition to the class. They all felt totally comfortable and loved interacting and asking each other questions. I also assured them that I’m just getting comfortable with this software as well so we’re all learning together. I think the students respected that I was very upfront about being a beginner with this so that while they were worried about presenting, I was worried about making the meeting work. They shared my delight at the end in feeling like we made this happen together!”
  • The Fine Arts department has been using Zoom to have faculty meetings across both New York campuses. Similarly, the Interior Design department has been using Zoom to communicate between New York and Abu Dhabi campuses.
  • The Advising and Enrichment Center has been using Zoom to advise students who cannot easily get to campus at a particular time.
  • Global Academic Programs uses Zoom on a daily basis to communicate with faculty and staff at all our campuses. Communications and Marketing has been holding staff meetings via Zoom, and Human Resources has been using Zoom to share information about benefits.

Everyone with an NYIT email address has a basic account, which has the full feature set but limits meetings to 40 minutes. The Center for Teaching and Learning can set you up with a Pro license if you’d like to have longer meetings - just contact Fran Glazer at


Author: francine_glazer

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Danielle LaCasse Danielle LaCasse
Campus: Old Westbury
Major: Sociology
Class Of: 2016
Peter Ruggiero (B.Arch. ’81) Peter Ruggiero
Class of 1981
Profession: Design partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
Edwin Wealth Edwin Wealth
Campus: Manhattan
Major: Public Relations and Crisis Management, M.A.
Class Of: 2014