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Sep 07, 2011

Engage Students in Your Course by Providing a Larger Context


Students enroll in courses for many reasons, some intrinsic, some extrinsic. They might be curious about a topic or discipline. They might have heard positive comments about an instructor from other students. Or the course might be required, either for all majors in a discipline (or relateddiscipline) or as an option to meet a graduation requirement.
Students who register for a course for intrinsic reasons arrive on the first day excited and motivated to engage in the course. Students who register primarily because a course satisfies a requirement might be resistant to engaging in the course. How can we engage and motivate students who are ambivalent about the course?
Students often select a major without fully understanding the breadth of the field. Sometimes, students regard required courses as obstacles, without recognizing the relevance of the knowledge and skills acquired in those courses to their future careers. The first day of class is a good opportunity to place the course in the context of the major and clarify the importance of the learning outcomes associated with that course for development of professional skills in the discipline.
Courses that function as service courses to a variety of majors may present additional challenges. It can be helpful to learn the intended careers of your students, and to use that information when selecting specific examples to discuss in class. Including applications that are relevant to the future careers of your students will add variety to the course content and will help keep your students engaged throughout the term.
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

May 09, 2011

Weekly Teaching Notes: 2010-2011 index


Below is a list of all the Weekly Teaching Notes from the 2010-2011 academic year, with direct links to each one. If you’d like to explore any of these topics in more detail, please contact Fran Glazer at the Center for Teaching and Learning.
Starting the semester:
Semester Beginnings
Setting the Tone for Your Class: Guiding Students Toward Effective Study Strategies
Newsletter Format for a Course Syllabus
Encouraging Student Attendance
Course design:
Balancing Flexibility and Fairness through Course Design
How Experts Differ From Novices
Importance of Students’ Prior Knowledge
Brief Hybrids: A Small Step Towards Integrating Technology
Do No Harm: A Dose of SoTL
Learning by Writing
Sample Writing Assignment for an Introductory Science Course
Helping Students Write Better in all Courses
Teaching Writing in the Disciplines
Visual and Media Literacy:
Visual Literacy: What do you See?
Media Literacy
Seven Principles for Developing Assignments and Providing Good Feedback
Evaluating Students on Class Participation
Using Concept Maps
Using Quotations to Prime Class Discussions
Developing Creative Classrooms
Student teams:
Working With Student Teams: Structured Problem Solving
Working With Student Teams: Send-a-Problem
Successful Strategies for Teams: Team Member Handbook
Team Teach with a Student
Tips for Group Work
Wrapping things up:
Simple Stress Relief
Recall, Summarize, Question, Connect, Comment (RSQC2)
The Last Day of Class

Author: francine_glazer

May 04, 2011

Recall, Summarize, Question, Connect, Comment (RSQC2)

As the semester nears its end, it’s useful to have the students review what they’ve learned as a way to help them integrate all the topics. It’s also useful to us to gather information on which parts of the course might require revision over the summer. Here’s an activity that you can use for both these purposes. It can be completed in or out of class and can be a great way to generate discussion in an online or blended course.

This activity will help you look back over the semester, reflect on the course, identify the four or five most important points you have learned, and tie them together. It is similar to the Take-Home Lessons activity, but slightly more structured. By completing this activity, you will:

  • reinforce and synthesize the material covered.
  • personalize the material, adapting it to your own specific needs.
  • gain a multitude of perspectives on the unit's subject and how it could be useful to you.
  • provide insights to the instructor to understand what parts of the course have been effective and what may need to be taught in more depth the next time.


1.    Recall: Make a list - in words or simple phrases - of what YOU recall as the most important, useful, or meaningful items you've learned this semester. Choose three to five main points from your list and rank them in order of importance.
2.    Summarize: Summarize the ranked items in your list into one summary sentence that captures the essence of the course.
3.    Question: Write one or two questions that still remain unanswered.
4.    Connect: Explain in one or two sentences the connection(s) between your summary and the major goals of the entire course. (You may want to look back at the course goals and the student learning outcomes as listed on the syllabus to complete this section.)
5.    Comment: Write an evaluative comment or two about the course. Here are a few possible comment stems you can use as starting points: "What I enjoyed most/least was..." or "What I found most/least useful was..." or "During most of the course, I felt..."

If the course is online or blended, you can add the following two steps:
6.    Post your completed RSQC2 activity to the appropriate forum on the Discussion Board.
7.    Respond to at least two of your classmates' posts.


  • 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.

Francine Glazer, PhD
Assistant Provost and Director,
Center for Teaching and Learning
New York Institute of Technology 

Author: francine_glazer

Apr 27, 2011

Developing Creative Classrooms

When IBM’s Institute for Business Value recently (2010) surveyed 1500 chief executives to find out the qualities CEOs value most in today’s business marketplace, the quality that rose to the top of the list was not dedication, a sense of humor, or technical expertise. Creativity is seen as the skill that helps businesses respond to changing customer relationships and operational problems.  In A Whole New Mind (2006), Daniel Pink emphasizes creativity as the basis for workers adept at what he calls “high touch” and “high concept,” and concludes that right-brained people will rule the world of the future. In The Creative Workforce (2008), Erica McWilliam stresses the same skill as the cornerstone of a twenty-first century education.
Yet even as the evidence mounts as to the importance of creativity, we see gifted programs cut from public schools and creativity not a showcased part of college curriculums.  Creativity must be seen on a par with those other skills businesses claim they need colleges to be teaching—i.e., team work, critical thinking, and communication (identified in a 2007 AACU survey as the big three). Interestingly, even the influential Foundation for Critical Thinking has started linking critical and creative thinking as part of the same process.
How many of you have creativity listed on your syllabus as a student learning outcome? If you have, do you intentionally teach creative thinking?  Have you thought of how to assess creative thinking in your field?  Obviously, in recent years business has jumped aboard the creativity bandwagon traditionally driven by the arts and humanities, but what about the sciences, health, education, and so on?  Every field needs creativity, and it has a place in every field.
In “Kubla Khan,” Coleridge compares the creative thinker to a demon. In “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” Shakespeare notes the similarity between the poet and the madman.  The point is that most of us are afraid of the unknown, and sometimes college professors develop creativity-phobia.  The greatest enemy to fear is knowledge.  We are going to have to start to learn and teach creativity in the college classrooms.
Practically speaking, to teach creativity, you need to model it.  You must also turn your classroom into a creative hothouse.  And you must learn some simple process techniques, such as brainstorming, piggybacking, and perception shift.
Start with the basics.  You need to adapt the definition of creativity to your field.  The two key ingredients of creativity are novelty (it must be innovative) and usefulness (it must serve some purpose, solve some problem).  Most experts break creativity down into four categories (mnemonically recalled by the alliterative “P”):

  • Product (an invention)
  • Person (characteristics of a creative mind)
  • Process (steps to creativity that can be taught)
  • Press (environment)

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes,” claims Scott Adams of Dilbert fame.  In so pronouncing, Adams suggests the biggest change we can make to our classrooms—we can allow our students to take risks.  But before they do, we have to.

  • AAC&U. (2007). College Learning for the New Global Century. Accessed 4/24/2011 at   
  • Azzam, A. (2009). Why Creativity Now? A Conversation with Sir Ken Robinson. Educational Leadership 67(1): 22-26.
  • Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. (1816). Christabel, Kubla Khan, and the Pains of Sleep.
  • “Growing Creativity” Iowa State University Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, accessed 4/24/2011 at   
  • IBM. (2010). Capitalizing on Complexity: Insights from the 2010 IBM Global CEO Study. Accessed 4/24/2011 at   
  • McWilliam, E. (2008). The Creative Workforce: How to Launch Young People into High-Flying Futures. University of New South Wales Press.
  • Paul, R. (2008). Thinker's Guide to the Nature and Functions of Critical & Creative Thinking. Foundation for Critical Thinking, 1 edition.
  • Pink, D. H. (2006). A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. Riverhead Trade.
  • Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night's Dream – Act 5, Scene 1. Lines: 3-23.

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.

Hal Blythe and Charlie Sweet
Teaching and Learning Center
Eastern Kentucky University

Author: francine_glazer

Apr 20, 2011

Simple Stress Relief

That time of year is upon us, when many of us have piles of papers and exams to grade, year-end reports to submit, and just a general seemingly unbearable amount of chaos in our lives.  Even when we "take breaks," it's usually not to actually relax but to just complete other tasks that somehow don't seem as daunting as the ones from which we are taking said breaks.  
Over the past few years, I've realized that one of the many benefits of yoga (which I teach) is that I can slow down and refocus and relax at any time, anywhere, even during the last few weeks of the semester.  Even in my office.  Anywhere I am, I can truly take a break.  And I'm more than happy to share some ideas with you of how to do this to help you through this frenzied season.


My students always express frustration at their first attempts at meditating and surprised at how hard it can be.  That is why one of the first things I do with them when "teaching" meditation is to introduce them to the concept of listening meditations.  These can be done anywhere, any time.  They are perfect for rejuvenating the mind when you've graded one too many papers or exams in one sitting, don't have time to get out of the office and regroup, but truly need a mental break. With these, there is no need for that "perfect silent space" we may conceive that we need when we want to find a moment's peace.  Instead, I tell them, just sit comfortably upright or stand tall in Mountain pose (feet shoulder-width apart, palms forward, shoulders rolled up and back and down away from the ears, tail bone tucked, a bit of a bend to the knees, with the belly button pulled in). Then, close your eyes and allow the noise to happen—just don't give it your full attention.  
You may notice certain sounds, like a door slamming or a phone ringing, and you may even give them those names. Sometimes we just give these things names of our feelings of them: loud, pleasant, harsh, annoying.  If we do name them, don't dwell on them, just let them pass.  The sound is there, and trying to ignore it will just frustrate us more. Instead, as with any meditation, focus on the breathing you're doing: in through the nose and out through the nose, slowly, in complete awareness of how that air moves through your body.  Notice how the chest rises and falls, how the abdomen expands.  Take slower, deeper breaths, eventually filling the chest fully and holding it for a moment before slowly letting it out and again holding for a moment before restarting the cycle. You may find it helpful to focus on doing this to a count of four or eight, pausing at the top and bottom of each breath to notice how that fullness and emptiness feels.  
My students have told me this is a great way to settle down and clear their minds right before a test or right after a heated discussion.  They have even said they use the technique to calm them before they go to talk to professors, and they love it because they can do it wherever and whenever.  No mat required.

STIFF BACK RELIEF: Cats and Cows  

If you're like me, you may find that you sit at a desktop computer for hours grading papers electronically or sit in a chair doing the same with real papers. The head, neck, shoulders, and back can get so tired, and there is a simple yoga flow of two asanas (poses) that can help to reinvigorate those areas: cat and cow.  Start down on all fours, making sure your knees are stacked under your hips and that your wrists, elbows, and shoulders are in alignment, too, and flatten the back like a table top with the belly button pulled in. (You may want to close your office door first!) This is called "neutral spine."  Inhale into cow, dropping the stomach the floor, tipping the head to look up and raising the tail bone high.  Then exhale into cat, reversing the stretch by moving through the spine to arch the back like an angry cat, slowly dropping the head and tucking the tail bone under.  Flow through these poses with your breath.  In class, we do at least 5 flows between the two, sometimes 10 if the students say they've been particularly stressed or have been writing papers a lot during the week.  When you are done, finish the flow by sitting back into child's pose, sitting your hips back on your heels, stretching your arms in front of you or wrapping them around your legs to reach for your feet, and letting your chest and head rest as low as is comfortable for you.  


Another way to loosen the back, shoulders, and neck is the asana known as rag doll.  If your balance is lacking, you may want to do this over the back of a stable (not rolling!) chair. From a standing position, with feet hips' width apart, take a deep breath in, and then as you exhale, roll forward vertebra-by-vertebra into a forward fold, arms dangling down loosely.   Then, grasp opposite elbows-- right elbow in left hand, left elbow in right.  Make sure you gently drop the head and let it hang, releasing all tension in the neck and jaw and back and shoulders.  
If you still feel tense through your neck, gently and slowly shake your head "no" and nod it "yes." If you feel tension through the back and shoulders, you can gently sway from the waist, twisting first to the left as you inhale and then to the right as you exhale: all movement in yoga is tied to the breath, so don't move without breathing, and never hold your breath in a pose. When you feel relaxed, don't sit right up: slowly inhale and exhale as you roll up, one vertebrate at a time to avoid a head rush.

Simple meditative and yogic practices can make our lives easier in so many ways, and this time of year, we especially need those little things that can make life less hectic.  Well, that and an automatic paper-grader.  If you find one of those, let me know!

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.

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

Author: francine_glazer

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Stephanie Wilches Stephanie Wilches
Campus: Old Westbury
Major: Nursing, B.S.
Class Of: 2014
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Manager, Desktop Support
Office: Information Technology and Infrastructure
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Ely Rabin Ely Rabin
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Department: Department of Neuroscience and Histology
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