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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

Dec 11, 2013

The Power of Tests to Teach

Conventional wisdom is that new information is acquired while studying, and the extent to which the material has been successfully learned is subsequently assessed through testing. Typically, most individuals consider examinations neutral with respect to the actual learning process. Researchers are now reporting that tests themselves may be an important part of long-term retention of new information (Karpicke & Roediger, 2007).

In one such experiment subjects learned new material by reading blocks of information. One group of subjects read the test material four times and then took a quiz over the material five minutes after the last reading session. A second group of subjects read the block of material three times, took a practice quiz (no feedback), and then five minutes later took a different quiz over the material. A third group of subjects read the material only one time and then took three different practice quizzes (no feedback on any of the quizzes), and then five minutes after the last practice quiz took a quiz over the material.

As expected, the group that spent more time spent studying demonstrated higher quiz scores. Surprisingly, however, was the performance on quizzes one week later. At that later time there was a significant reversal of three groups. Those subjects who had repeated practice quizzes performed significantly better than the group who had more repeated study opportunities. Perhaps most interesting is that there was a very small (relatively speaking) decrease in performance over time for the group who had multiple testing opportunities (particularly as they received no feedback on the practice tests).

Several additional studies have confirmed the importance of repeated recall in solidifying information in long-term memory. Implications include the value of in-class practice quizzes in class, short extemporaneous writing assignments and group discussions that offer additional opportunities for recall, and students quizzing one another.

- Karpicke, J.D., & Roediger, H.L. (2007). Repeated retrieval during learning is the key to long-term retention. Journal of Memory and Language, 57, 151–162.

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.

Todd Zakrajsek, PhD
Executive Director, Academy of Educators
School of Medicine
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Author: francine_glazer

Dec 03, 2013

The ‘Gallery Walk’ as a Means to Making Metacognition Transparent

You turn a test back to your students. They look at their papers, and you span the room. Your students’ visages are telling – some look shocked, others proud, and still others are hurt or even bored. Perhaps one or two students ask to meet with you after class to “talk about their grade” or ask for the dreaded extra credit assignment. But, how often do they ask themselves how their studying approach (other than perhaps amount of time spent studying) affected their performance? Do they analyze their feedback to see if there were particular content areas they struggled with? Particular test item types?
In other words, do your students ever stop and take stock, whether of a test, an in-class activity, an assignment, or a conversation?

We work in a world of quick transitions and immediate gratification, and we seldom take the time to stop, look inward, and take stock. If we do, we often don’t use that “stock” to make changes or plans for the future. This is where metacognition plays a key role. Simply put, metacognition is thinking about thinking. It includes:

  • becoming aware of how we learn (cognitive awareness),
  • monitoring our learning strategies and evaluating how well those learning strategies work (self-regulation), and
  • adapting our learning strategies when and if needed (Flavell, 1979).

In general, students who use metacognitive strategies (i.e., plans or techniques used to help students become more aware of what and how they know) tend to have higher performance than students who do not use metacognitive strategies (e.g., Ertmer & Newby, 1996; Lovett, 2008; Nett, Goetz, Hall, & Frenzel, 2012). One way to helps students take stock and learn about metacognitive strategies is through a variation on the gallery walk, wherein you ask students to reflect on both their academic successes and failures.

First, introduce the concept of metacognition (including awareness, monitoring, and adaptation), and ask students to think about their academic successes and failures. Ask students to write responses to the following prompts on sticky notes:

Think about a time when…

  • you learned a lot. What did you do?
  • a writing assignment was particularly successful. What did you do to make it successful?
  • you performed particularly well on a test. How did you prepare?
  • you just didn’t “get it.” What were you doing at that moment?
  • a writing assignment failed. How did you work through the assignment?
  • you failed a test. How did you prepare?

Students place their responses to each prompt on separate charts (one chart per prompt) placed around the room. You (the instructor) facilitate a whole group conversation, walking from chart to chart. In essence, you’re taking a “gallery walk” with each chart functioning as a work of art. What are common characteristics across students’ successes? Their failures? What were the students doing in each of those situations? How are the characteristics related to awareness, monitoring, and adaptation? Through this process, students see a pattern in their collective academic successes and struggles.

Then, ask students, “Based on the gallery walk and what we’ve learned about metacognition, how will you plan differently for your next assignment/project/exam?” This final question could be addressed through a minute paper, a take-home assignment, or another chart in the gallery walk.


  • Ertmer, P.A. & Newby, T.J., (1996). The expert learner: Strategic, self-regulated, and reflective. Instructional Science, 24, 1–24.
  • Flavell, J. H. (1979). Metacognition and cognitive monitoring: A new area of cognitive-developmental inquiry. American Psychologist, 34, 906–911.
  • Lovett, M.C. (2008). Teaching metacognition. Paper presented at the annual EDUCAUSE meeting, Orlando, FL.
  • Nett, U. E., Goetz, T., Hall, N. C., & Frenzel, A. C. (2012). Metacognition and test performance: An experience sampling analysis of students’ learning behavior. Education Research International, 1–16.

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.

Freya Kinner, Instructional Developer
Coulter Faculty Commons
Western Carolina University

Author: francine_glazer

Nov 20, 2013

Help Students Learn from their Mistakes

Testing is primarily used for assessment purposes. It is a way for a teacher to determine if students have mastered the required material. After exams are graded they are often returned to the students with the intention that students will review their incorrect answers and understand their errors. In reality, most students just look at their grade and file the exam away. They never follow through to understand what they did wrong or to learn the concept they missed.

Rather than reviewing exams in class and providing students with the correct answer, have students make “corrections” on their exam. This strategy will help to ensure that they not only understand why their answer was incorrect but also better understand the concepts. When making corrections, require the students to provide the following:

  • the correct response
  • a detailed explanation as to how they derived their answer. This includes all steps and calculations (if applicable to your discipline)
  • a detailed explanation of any relevant concepts
  • for multiple choice questions, an explanation as to why all of the other choices are incorrect.

Consider assigning a point value to this exercise, and allowing the students to earn some extra credit on their exam. For example, each question that is corrected, with detailed explanations, might earn back 1/3 the original number of points. As a result, students will be more likely to engage in this activity and complete the assignment.


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.

Cecile M. Roberti
Assistant Professor
Community College of Rhode Island
Department of Business Administration

Author: francine_glazer

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Kevin LaGrandeur Kevin LaGrandeur, Ph.D.
Associate Professor & Director of NYIT Technical Writing Programs
Department: English
Campus: Old Westbury
Melanie Fiume Melanie Fiume
Campus: Old Westbury
Major: Health Sciences, B.S.
Class Of: 2016
Vinny Caccavale Vinny Caccavale
Campus: Old Westbury
Major: Communications Arts, B.F.A.
Class Of: 2014