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Nov 09, 2011

Guide Your Students Toward More Effective Study Habits

Research on learning suggests that students who think about the process of learning are likely to learn more deeply andretain information longer, but students with poor study habits are less likely to reflect on and change their study habits (Fu and Gray, 2004; National Research Council, 2001, p.78). Since your students may not necessarily havegood study habits, it helps to make them aware of what works and what doesn’t. Here’s one easy way to do just that.

When you return exams, give each student an index card. Ask them to write, anonymously, the grade they received on the exam along with the ways they prepared for it, and return the card to you as they leave class that day. Specifically, what techniques did they use: re-reading their notes, reviewing flash cards, drawing diagrams, solving problem sets? Did they spread their studying out over several days, or cram it all in the daybefore the test? Did they study alone or in groups?

Sort the index cards into piles by grades. Then type up the study strategies. At the next class, give your students the list, so they can see what the “A” students did, the “B” students, and so on. Grouping study habits by ‘grade earned on the exam’ will help students realize which study habits are more effective, and which are less so.

  • Ambrose, S.A., Bridges, M.W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M.C., and Norman, M.K. (2010). How Learning Works: 7 research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Fu, W.T., and Gray, W.D. (2004). Resolving the paradox of the active user: Stable suboptimal performance in interactive tasks. Cognitive Science, 28(6), 901-935.
  • National Research Council. (2001). Knowing what students know: The science and design of educational assessment. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

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 sponsored by Western Kentucky University.

Molly Baker
Director, Teaching and Learning Center
Black Hawk College

Author: francine_glazer

Nov 01, 2011

Communicate High Expectations

“Every truth has four corners: as a teacher I give you one corner, and it is for you to find the other three.”  ~ Confucius

A good course is designed with two layers of expectations. First are the expectations of the program, course, or assignment. Letting students know exactly what you expect gives them a roadmap for the program, course, or assignment, and helps them to succeed. This can be accomplished through the syllabus, through assignment guidelines and rubrics, and with oral or written feedback. My best advice for helping students to succeed in your course is to give them clear guidelines as to what constitutes good performance, preferably at the same time that you make the assignment. This can be done with a rubric or by sharing exemplars of excellent, good, and sub-standard work.

The second layer is that of motivating the students to do their best work. With guidance, encouragement, and constructive feedback, we can help our students to realize their potential and, potentially, limitless possibilities. Go beyond just providing additional resources or suggestions for further study, and challenge your students to stretch themselves. 
‚óŹ      Tinto, V. (2011). Taking Student Success Seriously in the College Classroom. White paper presented at the Spring Plenary Session 2011 of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. Retrieved 10/18/2011 from

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 sponsored by Western Kentucky University.
Penny Lorenzo
Assistant Dean of Faculty, School of Legal Studies
Kaplan University/Kaplan Legal Education

Author: francine_glazer

Oct 26, 2011

Storytelling, Creativity, and Classroom Management

A perennial problem faced by many faculty members is students who arrive late to class. I’ve found a way to encourage students to arrive on time, while exercising their creativity.

As one of the preliminary exercises in creating an animation, I ask the students to first read a series of short stories and then write a factual account of something that they have experienced that has made an impact on them. They are then instructed to set their written story aside and "perform" the story as a storyteller. This is a standard exercise commonly used in many classes that involve creative expression.

Based on this idea, I have developed a storytelling assignment in dealing with students that come to class late. When a student comes in after the class starts, all class activity stops and the tardy student is required to tell the story of why he or she is late. They cannot, however, tell the truth! Instead, they must invent and deliver a story on the spot that makes the class respond as an audience. The story must be entertaining, fantastic, emotional, or in any other way, engaging. The class then votes by showing a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down. If the vote goes in the student's favor, then they will simply be marked late.

If they do not succeed in their efforts then they are marked as unprepared. This exercise has forced all the students to be prepared with at least one good story and has completely eliminated the issue of lateness.

The exercise gets even better if I am ever late to class, since the rule also applies to me. The first time that I announced this policy, the inevitable happened. Heavy traffic made me late to the next class but I had my story ready to go and thankfully did get a thumbs-up.

Prof. Peter Voci
MFA Director/Fine Arts Chair

Author: francine_glazer

Oct 19, 2011

Glogster and Audio Essays

Here’s a link to an online tool called “Glogster” ( ). I use this tool as part of a writing assignment that challenges students to find their writing voices through a “no-writing” writing assignment. The students must use heavy description and narration to pull this one off, because in this case, the audience will listen to (not read) the essay. Of course, all “drafts” are audio drafts, and they’re shared with others in the class—as listeners who provide audio feedback to their trio of writers. Once they’ve received audio feedback, they then must incorporate active listening (using their peers’ comments and critiques) to improve their essay. They must submit their final draft to the instructor (in both written form and in a polished audio form). This exercise causes students to become attuned to their own voices, literally—as well as to make the connection between the writer’s voice and the necessity to become comfortable with having new thoughts and ideas that no one else has possibly thought of before.

To assist with this process, I ask students to decide on an item of technology (new or old) that they’d be seriously lost without, and after great deliberation, they’re required to design and voice their thoughts in descriptive statements and phrases, to create an audio essay of the item, as well as their relationship to it. Theonly limitation of this assignment is that they cannot call the item by itsname. Instead, they have to create a nickname for it. That nickname is the title of the audio essay.

For example, students who have described their relationships to their smart phones have titled their essays thusly: “Noki-Doki” (reminiscent of the Nokia phone); “i2-phone-home” (for an essay about a text-driven student’s addictive relationship to texting on his iPhone, and his parents’ surprise when he stopped texting for a day, using the phone for real conversation, for a change). In another essay entitled “Cupped, Not Sipped” (which focused on a student’s relationship with a favorite coffee cup, and his real love of COLD coffee beverages), the student revealed his vast knowledge of Starbucks coffee and his significant relationships created with others through “the fruit of the bean.”

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 sponsored by Western Kentucky University.

LaNita Kirby, Dept. of English
Rowan-Cabarrus Community College

Author: francine_glazer

Oct 11, 2011

Using SafeAssign as a Teaching Tool

I honestly believe that most students who plagiarize do not do so deliberately or maliciously but because they don’t understand summarizing, paraphrasing, and documenting well enough to avoid it. I have found a way to improve students’ understanding. SafeAssign is a plagiarism detection program that is built into Blackboard (turn it on inCourse Tools). While many faculty use it as just a way to catch student plagiarizing, I use it as a teaching tool for students, as well.

I use SafeAssign in both my face-to-face and online courses. First, I create a “SafeAssignment” in Blackboard (in a Content area, Evaluate-Create SafeAssignment), where students can submit their drafts before a set deadline. This works best if it’s the day before you want them to use it in a face-to-face class. I reserve a computer classroom/lab so that we can have an interactive activity with the output from the program. Students (and I) get a report that shows what percentage of their papers are plagiarized, or usually simply not cited correctly. This tool highlights incorrectly or not-at-all cited passages and links them back to their original sources. In my face-to-face courses, I have students form pairs or trios to look over each other’s papers and reports to correct their citation errors… or to see if they can spot the errors the program has made.

The program is not perfect—it does mark correctly summarized or paraphrased and cited passages as plagiarized from time to time. This is sometimes due to the student using a citation format with which the program isn’t as familiar (I’ve had the most problems with CSE, ACS, and AEEE), but more often it is due to the information being cited in an article that SafeAssign has found but that the student did not use (the student found the info in another source and cited it correctly).

Students get quite competitive to see who can get the lowest percentage reported on the draft, and they get defensive when the software ignores signal phrases that help to correctly cite a source or fully correct citations. Cries of “But Dr. Mills! I’m right!” are often heard in the computer lab on the days that my students review their drafts. Since this is part of their peer review process (points attached!),it’s rare that I have students miss these sessions.

In my online classes, I encourage students to download the reports and upload them to the discussion board for help solving any part of the reports they don’t understand. I make this optional for them, but at least half of each class always participates. For the final paper in one course—a research paper—I make it extra credit if they do it and add an entry to their research journal about what they learned about their papers from the reports. 

Additionally, I also use SafeAssign to submit suspicious “final” copies of papers if I can’t find the original source via a quick Google search, but I have had fewer plagiarism cases since I’ve started using this tool. The main problems with SafeAssign are the lag time (you don’t instantly get the report back—sometimes you may wait for hours) and the occasional inaccuracies. A thinking human being (you!) still needs to read and consider the results, which often leads to great in-class(and discussion board) conversations in my classes. As long as SafeAssign gets students excited about working hard to document correctly, even if it turnsdocumentation into a game for them to master, I’ll keep using it!
For help in setting up SafeAssign within your Blackboard shell, contact TBLS—staff members are available on both New York campuses each week. (Contact information is available at 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 Consortiumsponsored by Western Kentucky University.

Wren Mills, Ph.D.
Instructional Coordinator
Faculty Center for Excellence in Teaching
Western Kentucky University

Author: francine_glazer

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Preston T. Volman Preston Volman
Campus: Manhattan
Major: Computer Science
Class Of: 2016
Janeille Calnick Janeille Calnick
Campus: Old Westbury
Major: Architecture
Class Of: 2014
Thu Ha “Gracie” Le Thu Ha "Gracie" Le
Campus: Old Westbury
Major: Occupational Therapy, B.S./M.S.
Class Of: 2016