User Blogs
Full Blog Posts
Apr 12, 2011

Using Concept Maps

Student learning of new concepts requires connecting the new concept to old learning. Understanding grows as layers are added through connections to old ideas, and deepens as old ideas are rearranged through sudden insights.
This process can be made more explicit by using concept maps—a graphical representation, like an organizational chart, of a central idea.
To build a concept map for a particular topic, the creator identifies a central idea or focus question for the map. After recording as many ideas that fall within the focus question as possible, he or she then orders them approximately from the most inclusive to the most specific concept. Finally, he or she arranges these associated ideas in a meaningful way on his/her map to show relationship hierarchies, drawing in various types of links, such as solid lines for strongly connected ideas, dotted lines for weaker ideas, a line with a slash mark on it for opposites, etc. The system doesn’t matter so much as that it is individualized by the student to represent his or her construction of that concept. And it is a map “in progress”. Rather than being “finished” it evolves with the students’ understanding.
Concept maps are particularly powerful in illustrating a student’s understanding of relationship and interconnectedness. They can immediately reveal misperceptions.
Students may have difficulty at first creating something that requires so much active thought, but with practice and encouragement they can improve. They may have particular difficulty understanding or making explicit relationships between different concepts. They may feel everything is related to everything, but their task is to choose the most salient/important links.
Creating a concept map for a chapter is a great way to study once the process has been practiced and understood. Creating an accurate concept map does require some understanding of the material so you would probably use them in the middle to end of a topic, rather than at the beginning (unless you want to do a pre-post comparison).

  • Examples of concept maps are available at
  • More can be learned about educational applications of concept maps at
  • Software is available (links at the site above or try FreeMind (, a free software I have used.  Or you can create one using post it notes or a large blank piece of paper.
  • Also try Tufts University’s Visual Understanding Environment, Here’s the description from their web site: “The Visual Understanding Environment (VUE) is an Open Source project based at Tufts University. The VUE project is focused on creating flexible tools for managing and integrating digital resources in support of teaching, learning and research. VUE provides a flexible visual environment for structuring, presenting, and sharing digital information.”
  • For in depth understanding, this paper is good: “Novak, J. D. & A. J. Cañas, The Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How to Construct and Use Them, Technical Report IHMC CmapTools 2006-01 Rev 01-2008, Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, 2008, 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 Consortium sponsored by Western Kentucky University.

Sally L. Kuhlenschmidt, Ph.D.
Director, Faculty Center for Excellence in Teaching (FaCET)
Western Kentucky University

Author: francine_glazer

Apr 05, 2011

Evaluating Students on Class Participation

Do you want to include class participation in your grading but find it difficult to grade participation fairly?
Develop a rubric to evaluate student participation. Suggested criteria for a rubric include:
·      How often did the student participate during class?
·      Were contributions relevant to the topic under discussion?
·      Did the student appear to be adequately prepared? Did contributions reflect or apply the content of course readings?
·      Did the student contribute new ideas?
·      What was the quality of evidence of critical thinking in the student’s contributions?
·      How well did the student listen to the contributions of others? Did the student engage in civil behavior during discussions (avoid interrupting others, use respectful language, etc.)?
Share your participation rubric with students during the first week of the class. Invite student comments and suggestions for revisions (within acceptable boundaries).  This strategy will clearly communicate your expectations for effective participation and promote student acceptance of these criteria.
Evaluating participation in every class session can become burdensome and encourage student participation merely for the sake of earning points that day. Instead, use the rubric to evaluate participation and provide feedback to students once a month.  This strategy allows you to base your evaluation of participation for intervals of time that will be manageable for your ability to recall student behavior.  It also provides students with feedback about their early participation and will allow them to make corrections and improve participation across the term.

  • California State University rubric for information literacy:
  • University of West Florida rubric for class participation in a seminar discussion:  
  • Roblyer, M. D. and Ekhaml, L. (2000). How Interactive are YOUR Distance Courses? A Rubric for Assessing Interaction in Distance Learning. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 3(2). Accessed 4/5/2011 at
  • Roblyer, M. D. and Wiencke, W. R. (2003). Design and use of a rubric to assess and encourage interactive qualities in distance courses. American Journal of Distance Education, 17(2):77-98.
  • University of West Florida, Center for University Teaching, Learning, and Assessment’s collection of rubrics:
  • Walvoord, B. E. and Anderson, V. J. (2009). Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment in College. Jossey-Bass, 2 edition.

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.

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

Author: francine_glazer

Mar 29, 2011

Seven Principles for Developing Assignments and Providing Good Feedback

The feedback we give our students can have a tremendous influence on how effectively they learn.  Here are seven principles to keep in mind when designing assignments and providing feedback to students.
1.     Help students understand what you define as “good work.”
Give the students examples of what you expect from them. Consider providing them with the scoring rubric you will use when grading the assignment.
2.     Help students to reflect on what they learned
Students learn best when they have opportunities to practice their skills. Have students read and evaluate each others’ work. Have them give feedback to each other in order to begin a conversation about the work.
3.     Provide students with evidence of what they are learning.
Give students timely, corrective advice that fits within the scoring rubric for the assignment.
4.     Engage the student in discussions, with you and with peers, about their learning.
Have the student identify comments that they found particularly helpful Ask the students to explain why the feedback was useful and how they applied it.
5.     Provide positive motivation for the students.
Give students the opportunity to revise and resubmit one or two selected pieces in which the student makes adjustments based on the feedback they received.
6.     Encourage students to move beyond their current levels of understanding to the desired level of understanding.
Give students feedback on their work-in-progress that includes some action items. Consider a two-part assignment in which students submit a draft followed by a final product that incorporates feedback they received in class.
7.     Offer students the opportunity to give you feedback that can shape and enhance your own instructional practices.
Give students the opportunity to tell you which aspects of the assignment were the most difficult. You can gather student feedback anonymously, with a “minute paper” (Angelo and Cross, 1993) in class or with the survey tool on Blackboard.

  • Angelo, T. A. and Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers (Josse Bass Higher and Adult Education). Jossey-Bass, 2 edition.
  • Nicol, D. J. & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education, 31 (2) pp. 199-218. Available through NYIT’s online databases at   
  • Walvoord, B. E. and Anderson, V. J. (2009). Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment in College. Jossey-Bass, 2 edition.

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.

David Sacks
Faculty/Instructional Consultant
Teaching and Academic Support Center
University of Kentucky

Author: francine_glazer

Mar 22, 2011

Successful Strategies for Teams: Team Member Handbook

by Frances A. Kennedy, Ph.D. with Linda B. Nilson, Ph.D

Teamwork is one of the skills most prized by prospective employers. It’s important to remember that our students don’t necessarily come into college knowing how to work effectively with others, and to construct team assignments in a way that helps them learn not only the content, but also the necessary interpersonal skills. This week’s teaching note showcases a set of resources that will help your students do exactly that.
Published in 2008 by the Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation at Clemson University, Successful Strategies for Teams is an 88-page resource designed to guide students through the potentially treacherous waters of completing a major group project.  It will equip them with techniques and templates that corporate experience has proven highly effective in making teams more productive, efficient, and successful.  Specifically, these techniques help teams organize information, organize and run effective meetings, and generate useful member contributions.  
This handbook promises a wide range of learning outcomes for students: to recognize different team player styles and what each contributes to the team; to organize a new team with clear ground rules, roles, and responsibilities; to organize and run effective team meetings that stay on track; to practice sound project and time planning; to solve problems effectively by follow a series of steps; to apply qualitative and quantitative analysis techniques to solving problems; and to know when and know how to use the appropriate organizational, data collection, and analysis tools.
The various sections address why students should learn to excel at teamwork, the stages of team development, team player styles, mental models of teamwork, teamwork skills, ways to troubleshoot group problems, and tools for organizing, problem solving, and collecting and analyzing information.
The book is freely 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 Consortium sponsored by Western Kentucky University.

Linda B. Nilson, Ph.D., Director
Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation
Clemson University

Author: francine_glazer

Mar 16, 2011

Importance of Students’ Prior Knowledge

“. . . the contemporary view of learning is that people construct new knowledge and understandings based on what they already know and believe . . ..”

Implications for Teaching and Learning

“A logical extension of the view that new knowledge must be constructed from existing knowledge is that teachers need to pay attention to the incomplete understandings, the false beliefs, and the naive renditions of concepts that learners bring with them to a given subject. Teachers then need to build on these ideas in ways that help each student achieve a more mature understanding. If students' initial ideas and beliefs are ignored, the understandings that they develop can be very different from what the teacher intends.”

Try the following strategies to determine if your students understand the material, and to uncover possible misconceptions:

  1. Have students put a key concept into their own words.  You might even identify a particular audience. (Examples:  Explain the concept of “corporation” to high school students; Explain an “irrevocable trust” to a group of retirees.)
  2. Have students offer their own applications and/or examples for a key concept (Examples: Stephen Covey recommends “Win-win performance agreements”: give two specific applications, one related to current news and one related to your own life. Give a concrete example of the concept “due process.”)
  3. Have students formulate ways to show relationships (Example: concept maps)
  4. Have students summarize the main points after 15 minutes of lecture or demonstration. Stop part way through your presentation and ask students to summarize your main points so far. Keep the papers anonymous. If students are confused, ask them to write questions they need answered. Collect the papers and quickly sift through them to confirm and clarify the important points for everyone.
  5. Have students summarize the main points at the end of class by using a “Minute Paper.” Ask students to respond to two questions: What is the most significant thing you learned today? What question about the material is foremost in your mind that you would like answered next time we meet? You can keep the responses anonymous, or you can use them for attendance by having students sign and turn in their responses. After class, review student comments, sort them by categories, and use them to structure a review for the next class session.


  • Academy of Art University, Feedback in a Flash! Accessed 3/9/2011 at
  •  Angelo. T. A. and Cross K. P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers, 2nd ed. Jossey-Bass.
  •  Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.). (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education National Research Council. 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.

Barbara Millis
Teaching and Learning Center
University of Texas at San Antonio

Author: francine_glazer

Page 23 of 27 « First  <  21 22 23 24 25 >  Last »
Alan Fairbairn Alan Fairbairn (M.A. '90)
Associate Professor
Department: Hospitality Studies
Campus: Old Westbury
Ely Rabin Ely Rabin
Assistant Professor
Department: Department of Neuroscience and Histology
Campus: Old Westbury
Trish Hannon (M.B.A. ‘06) Trish Hannon
Class of 2006
Profession: Chief operating officer for Baystate Medical Center and senior vice president for operations at Baystate Health