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Sep 10, 2014

Making the Most of “Reporting Out” After Group Work

Have you seen the following scenario take place? Students are engaged in some form of group work in class; think/pair/share, working through an assignment, or simply brainstorming ideas in small groups. The students may start out slowly, but soon they are actively engaged, everyone is sharing their ideas and the class is filled with energy.

Then, it’s time for “reporting out” the learning. Very quickly the energy is sucked from the room. Students don’t pay attention because they are busy thinking of what they will say, there is a lot of repetition, and some students simply tune out.

After observing this in several classes, including my own, I’ve come to realize that, as instructors, we often do not give much thought to the debriefing aspect of such activities. Yet this is where important aspects of the activity occur: students compare findings, learn additional insights, and recognize patterns in the concepts at hand. If we keep in mind the importance of reflection in actually learning from our experiences (Dewey, 1938), we recognize that the debriefing time of an active-learning group activity is where the class as a whole has a chance to reflect on their collective ideas and make meaning from the experience.

Here are a few suggestions about how to make debriefing time less about individual reports, and more about deepening the learning and making meaning from the activity.

  • Think through those 2–3 things you would really like students to get out of the activity and thus what is best suited for reporting out. The analytical or insightful aspects of an activity are better suited for sharing as a class than the repetitive or procedural aspects.
  • Don’t let the groups report out in a predictable order. As long as you’ve created a safe classroom environment, you can randomly choose groups to speak, and return back to previous groups, to keep them engaged in the discussion.
  • If the activity has multiple parts, discuss one aspect at a time. For example, “first let’s see what all the groups thought about the first question, then we’ll move on to the next one.”
  • Rather than asking each group to report in full, after the first group or two has a turn, ask the next groups to share only new ideas. Or have them compare and contrast their responses with previous groups.
  • To really get the reflection going, don’t have them report out at all. Perhaps as a group they fill out a concept map or matrix to turn in to you, and then the follow up discussion revolves around larger issues or application of the concepts. What insights did they gain from trying to create the concept map as a group? What disagreement occurred within their group? How would they apply their takeaways to a new scenario?
  • To deepen the learning even further, consider debriefing the process itself. Did they gain new insights by discussing this topic with others? Do they see the issue or concept differently now?

By viewing the reporting out aspect of a group activity as a distinct, yet vitally important, reflective component, we recognize it requires some thought and planning to fully maximize its benefits.


  • John Dewey, Experience in Education (New York: Touchstone, 1938).

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.

Bridget Arend, PhD
Director of University Teaching
Office of Teaching and Learning
University of Denver

Author: francine_glazer

Sep 03, 2014

Design Motivating Courses by First Identifying Why Students are (and are not) Motivated

When we think about how to motivate students, we might assume our students will be motivated by the same goals and values that motivated us, but often that is not the case. If we try to motivate students with the wrong incentives, students disengage from classes and assigned learning activities, avoid doing more than the minimal work needed to get by, fail to use mentoring and tutoring opportunities we create, do not employ effective study strategies we suggest, or behave defensively, feigning understanding and avoiding tasks they believe might challenge their ability to perform. In the long run, all of these behaviors undermine students’ ability to learn.

Ambrose et al. (2010) discuss three factors that influence student motivation in a course. No one factor is definitive; the three work interactively to determine student motivation. If we want to structure our courses to motivate students, we must attend to all three factors:

  • The value a student places on the learning goals.
  • Whether the student expects he/she can achieve the learning goals.
  • Whether the student perceives support in the class – does the student believe course activities and supportive resources will help him/her achieve the learning goals?

Ambrose et al. (2010) describe strategies instructors can use to leverage each factor and improve student motivation.

Establish the value of your learning goals

  • Connect course content and skills to student interests.
  • Create problems and tasks that address real-world problems.
  • Connect content and skills in your course with other courses in the curriculum and describe the connections repeatedly in your course.
  • Explain how skills students acquire in your course (e.g., writing clearly) will contribute to their professional lives.

Help students develop expectations that they can achieve the learning goals

  • Determine the appropriate level of challenge for students in your course and design assignments at this level. Assignments that are too easy sap motivation as much as do assignments that set unrealistic demands.
  • Create assignments and assessments that align with learning goals. Describe the relationship between learning goals and assessments in a rubric in which you describe the learning outcomes for an assignment and articulate your expectations for performance.

Create a supportive structure and communicate the role of this structure to students

  • Create early, short, low-stakes assignments to give students an opportunity to practice skills and develop confidence in their ability before they tackle a larger, high-stakes assignment.
  • Provide constructive feedback and opportunities to use it. Feedback should identify strengths, weaknesses, and specific suggestions for actions students can take to improve the quality of their work.
  • Describe effective strategies for learning course material and explain why these strategies work.
  • Stereotypes about “talent” depict academic success as a manifestation of an unchangeable characteristic and undermine motivation when students encounter an early set-back. Students cannot alter their “talent” but they can alter their work habits. Emphasize the value of variables students can control: hard work, good time management, and practice guided by constructive feedback for success. Give explicit examples of these strategies in action.


  • Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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, Ph.D.
Director, Center for University Teaching, Learning, and Assessment
University of West Florida
Pensacola, FL
(850) 857–6355 or 473–7435

Author: francine_glazer

May 07, 2014

Weekly Teaching Notes Index, 2013-2014

Below is a list of all the Weekly Teaching Notes from the 2013–2014 academic year, with direct links to each one. Weekly Teaching Notes will break for the summer and resume again in the fall.

At the Center for Teaching and Learning, we are here throughout the summer and are eager to assist you with your teaching, course design or redesign, scholarly writing, and preparing your reappointment/tenure/promotion portfolios. (All consultations are voluntary and confidential.) To make an appointment with us, please email Jea Ahn (instructional Designer, Old Westbury) at, Olena Zhadko (instructional designer, Manhattan) at, or me at We will be delighted to work with you!

Also this summer, we are offering our first summer book club. Here’s how it works: Once you let us know you’re interested, we will send you a copy of this summer’s book, Blended Learning: Across the Disciplines, Across the Academy. The book is yours to keep. We’ll each read the book independently over the summer, and then convene over lunch early in the fall semester for a conversation about it.

Register for the book club at by completing the online form at:

Course Design

Activities to Make Lectures Interactive

How Do We Know Our Students Are Learning?

Course Design Tip Sheet - Planning to Teach

5 Tips to Help Structure Courses to Engage Students

Beyond Bloom: Expanding our Ideas about Learning Objectives

Student-Faculty Interaction: A Key to Better Learning

Why Students Don’t Read: Strategies to Increase Student Preparation for Class

“What a Tangled Web We Weave” … or Not?

Novel Strategies to Encourage Careful Reading and Energized Discussions

Teaching with Technology

Teaching with New Media

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

Catch Up on Missed Classes with VoiceThread

Blended Courses that Work

Bridging the Geographical Divide: Teaching in a DL Classroom

Found Metaphors: A Strategy of Applied Creative Thinking

Visualizing Data When You’re Not an Artist

Metacognition: Thinking about Learning

The Power of Tests to Teach

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

Help Students Learn from their Mistakes

Techniques to Help Students Think About Their Learning

Peer and Self-Evaluation of Participation in Discussion

Assessment: Demonstrating Learning

NYIT Faculty Talk About How We Know Whether our Students are Learning

Get Your Students’ Perspectives

Prior Knowledge Check

Dealing with Academic Dishonesty in the 21st Century

Learning Spaces

Space for Learning

Learning Spaces - Social Presence and Interaction

NYIT Faculty Discuss Learning Spaces: Physical, Virtual, Social, and Intellectual

Indices to Previous Years

Weekly Teaching Notes 2012–2013 Index–2013_index/

Weekly Teaching Notes: 2011–2012 Index–2012_index/

Weekly Teaching Notes: 2010–2011 Index–2011_index

Author: francine_glazer

Apr 30, 2014

Blended Courses That Work

Blended courses replace part of the “seat time” with “online time” - anywhere from 30 - 80%. The immediacy of anytime-anywhere learning, combined with the structure of regular face-to-face meetings, can be a powerful way to learn. In fact, there’s good evidence that blended courses, when properly designed, can be even more effective than traditional face-to-face courses (DOE, 2010).

There are many different ways to design an effective blended course. In the recent online workshop about Learning Spaces, Nick Bloom (Associate Professor, Social Sciences) described a strategy he has used successfully:

“Here is a personal approach that takes a good bit of preparation, but once in place, is both very effective and easy to maintain. In essence, one is creating a ”multi-media textbook“ that can be renewed and updated every semester. I use this method for humanities/urban studies type classes. It can even be shared with other instructors teaching the course by cloning it into their blackboard ”shells."

"The process begins with the development of a recorded lecture series I have created using Camtasia (but any screen capture technology will do–Powerpoint, Zoom, etc.). These screencasts are then linked in Blackboard by week/theme. Here is one of my lectures (works best in Safari or Explorer: you may need to right click and save): I have prepped over 50 of these lectures over the years and they are stored on the NYIT Iris site. They can be added and created at any point before, during, or after the semester.

"Here is what a student’s workload in my typical class looks like:

  1. EVERY WEEK: Independently watch an MP4 lecture video, linked multi-media, or even Netflix documentary. Read the accompanying pdf file.

  2. In-class quick quiz on the assigned materials (10 minutes max, basic questions seeing if they have reviewed the material: part of participation grade)

  3. Class (1.5 hours) is a detailed discussion of SELECTED and COMPLEX topics from the videos/reading. Almost no traditional lecturing at all, or maybe a mini-lecture on related topic. I find that students need this class time to clarify many issues which are quickly discussed in screen capture lectures, a film, etc. It is also a good time to challenge them about what they think of the materials. We always sit in circles, even larger classes.

  4. After class, students complete a detailed set of Blackboard questions about the lecture, class discussion, etc. They usually have 2–3 days to complete these. I use SafeAssign to check for plagiarism, or you can also use Turnitin. Students quickly learn to not cheat. I formerly had students complete these detailed question sets before class, but the quality of answers is so much better after a class discussion that I switched despite the greater uniformity of responses.

“Some students find the weekly work overwhelming, but most good students like the mix of in-class discussion plus assigned multi-media. Students from abroad like the videos and ask for more of them so that they can slowly review them.”

Summer Book Club

Are you interested in learning more ways to blend a course? Join your colleagues and the CTL staff in our first summer book club! Here’s how it works: Once you let us know you’re interested, we will send you a copy of this summer’s book, Blended Learning: Across the Disciplines, Across the Academy. The book is yours to keep. We’ll each read the book independently over the summer, and then convene over lunch early in the fall semester for a conversation about it.

Register for the book club at by completing the online form at:


  • Blended Learning Toolkit, University of Central Florida. Accessed 4/29/2014 at
  • Glazer, F. S., editor (2012). Blended Learning: Across the Disciplines, Across the Academy. New Pedagogies and Practices for Teaching in Higher Education. Stylus Publishing, Sterling, VA.
  • U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development (2010). Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning studies.

Nicholas Dagen Bloom, PhD
Associate Professor, Social Sciences
New York Institute of Technology

Author: francine_glazer

Apr 23, 2014

NYIT Faculty Discuss Learning Spaces: Physical, Virtual, Social, and Intellectual

“When I started putting the lecture materials online and giving the students exercises to do in class, it felt very strange to be “doing nothing” while the students were working on exercises. Eventually, I realized I was still lecturing, I was just doing it in between class sessions as opposed to during class sessions. I think it’s much harder to put together and post a good set of videos than it is to throw together some power points and recite them in front of the class. I was concerned that the students wouldn’t feel like they were getting their money’s worth if I didn’t stand up in front of them and talk, but that hasn’t been the case.” – Rich Simpson, SoECS

Last month, the Center for Teaching and Learning offered its fourth online workshop, on the topic of learning spaces. Virtual and social spaces are taking their place alongside the physical classroom as a locus for learning. As a result, we are compelled to expand our concept of where and how learning occurs. And what happens if you don’t have an “optimal” learning space? What if your classroom is small, or poorly lit? What if the students in a blended course don’t engage in the online component? What if the students don’t seem interested in working with each other? Interested in these and other questions, 21 NYIT faculty and staff members – from campuses in Central Islip, Manhattan, Nanjing, Old Westbury, and Vancouver – exchanged resources, ideas, and teaching strategies. Here are some highlights from the conversation.

Physical Space:

Workshop participants discussed the rooms in which they teach, describing a wide spectrum of layouts. Cheryl Hall, SoHP (NY), described how she is able to rearrange her rooms for different activities: “Since my courses vary in scope, the purpose of physical space varies for each. For lecture-based courses, the traditional classroom works well. However, when the lecture changes into a case study format, where students problem-solve in small groups, we modify the space accordingly. In addition, when our students are engaging in lab/practical sessions, the Physical Lab accommodates for that need and easily transitions from traditional classroom to the lab space.”

Not all classrooms are that flexible! One participant posed the question of how to get students to work in groups in rooms that are not conducive to rearranging the furniture. Sumiao Li, CAS (Nanjing), responded: “I actually have not had much problem turning such a space into a more interactive one. Some of my strategies are lecturing from the back of the classroom, walking back and forth in the isles, asking students to partner with whoever sit close, or by asking those in the front row to kneel on their chairs or to stand up behind the folded-up chairs so that they can face the students in the next row. Students are quite open to all of these methods.”

Rich Simpson, SoECS (NY), contrasted physical and virtual spaces: “For me, the biggest difference between physical learning spaces and virtual learning spaces is that physical learning spaces are shared synchronously (all the students are in the same place at the same time) while virtual learning spaces are asynchronous. Of course, our DL classrooms fall right in the middle, in that the students are ”together“ at the same time but not in the same physical space. In the DL classrooms, the biggest challenge I’ve had is finding activities that students can do together while in separate classrooms. I’ve had some luck with shared Google docs that everyone in the class can edit simultaneously, quizzes on, and polls with” Rich added that he uses student performance data from online quizzes to determine the content of a short lecture at the beginning of each class, to address any points of confusion before the students proceed to work on activities.

Virtual Space:

James Wyckoff, CAS (NY), pointed out that the ability to contribute to a conversation at different times can “expand” space and extend discussions beyond the limits of the physical classroom. He makes extensive use of social media in his classes, both as a form of communication and as a way to enrich the course with new materials. Danielle Apfelbaum, Library (NY), commented that his strategy “is priming [the students] to use social media in a constructive, professional way. So many important academic and professional conversations are taking place via Twitter; it’s an easy way for students to discover, follow, and (hopefully) participate in them.”

Rich Simpson brought up some of the challenges inherent in using virtual spaces: “Outside of class, the biggest challenge with virtual spaces seems to be fostering student interaction. Forums and message boards are pretty limited, and it’s rare to get many detailed discussions. I’m interested in using things like wiki’s and online mind-maps to foster some more constructive interaction, but I haven’t had a chance to try these in an actual class, yet. … I think the teacher’s role in shaping the social space of virtual environments is under-appreciated. Students know how to behave in a classroom setting. Many of them have little or no experience in a virtual learning environment. This is likely to change as more students get exposed to learning technologies in K–12, but for now it’s still an issue.”

Cheryl Hall described some of the benefits: “There are times that the space seems to ”come alive“ with the infusion of technology, even when the course may be occurring in a virtual space. For example, when I am using Zoom to interact with my students during their off-site clinical rotations, our casual discussions have come alive with the use of ”screen sharing“ of written questions or when providing tutorials for accessing professional/clinical resources. It’s so interesting to see how their interactivity with me and one another increases as the virtual learning space becomes more dynamic, rather than simply just showing up on the screen, as part of a course requirement.”

Social and Intellectual Spaces:

Social space is also important, whether in a physical or a virtual setting. Students who are comfortable with each other are more likely to challenge each other intellectually. Amy Bravo, Career Services (NY), points out that “Working in career services, we regularly get feedback from employers that our students have pretty strong content knowledge, but they lack ”soft skills.“ Among those are communication, confidence, team work, assertiveness and problem solving. I have found that by creating a social space within the classroom or in the community whereby students work on a real world problem affecting the public good, these skills are developed rather organically. I help guide that development via online technology like BB, YouTube, Jing, ZOOM and Facebook–whatever works for my particular group.”

One participant asked for suggestions on how to work with non-native English speakers who are struggling with required reading and writing assignments. Monique Taylor, Campus Dean (Nanjing), provided some good suggestions: “I am a great fan of using op-ed, short news and opposing viewpoints (especially in abridged forms found in course readers) for in-class reading. Just like thinking, reading for academic purposes is something I try not to take for granted with students. I do think with questions that dissect (title, chapter headings, initial paragraphs, concluding words, quotes chosen etc) we can help students tease meanings both surface and deep from texts we assign. Students also can use these short reading exercises as a starting point for thinking about how and why an issue matters, how various actors and institutions represent themselves and advance arguments/stake out positions. Pieces like this can be used to map back onto longer assigned essays and chapters as well as say provide answers to what would XXX theorist or author think? Students can practice at writing their own op-eds or position pieces representing groups or agencies that matter most in their intended professions.”

Dan Quigley, CAS (NY), offered ideas on both writing and thinking: “First, one thing you can do is to get them to think of writing more as a process. You might, for instance, allot class time to get them actually to do the writing in class…I use a ”5 minute forced timed writing.“ Students are given a prompt and told to write for 5 minutes without lifting pen from paper or for the fingers to stop moving on the keyboard. If they can’t think of something to write, they write, ”I can’t think, I can’t think…“ until something comes out. What usually comes out isn’t very good, so I then have them ”loop“ back on the original effort. I tell them, take one idea from what you just wrote and do another 5 minute forced writing on that topic.

So, while we are discussing learning spaces for our students, are we also thinking about carving out ”alone“ space, quiet reflective time for them? One would assume naturally that this should be done at home, but is that always possible? If they live in a dorm, is that a ”place“ to stop and think? To link this back to Amy’s question, can we designate class time and places for this to happen? So, instead of ‘Let’s all break into our groups,’ it might be ‘OK, find a corner to be in by yourself and think through this question…no talking!’”


Monique Taylor summed up the two weeks nicely: “I have really enjoyed talking and learning with you over this last stretch of days. The non-linear ways that our questions and dialogue have wended are for me a great example of how virtual space as a learning environment serves us–global colleagues in a global university–particularly well. I would say we all have lessons learned here that will work their way back to our own physical and virtual class spaces.”



Olena Zhadko, PhD
Manager, Course Development
Center for Teaching and Learning
New York Institute of Technology

Author: francine_glazer

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Jonathan Voris Jonathan Voris, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department: Computer Science
Campus: Manhattan
Laurie Harvey Laurie Harvey
Director of Client Services
Office: Information Technology and Infrastructure
Campus: Old Westbury
Leigh Overland (B.Arch. ‘76) Leigh Overland
Class of 1976
Profession: Architect and owner of Leigh Overland Architect LLC