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Feb 22, 2012

Make Your PowerPoint Memorable With Images


Ever receive an email with one of those High Importance icons brightening your Inbox? The icon, being more visual than the printed word, indicates something powerful to the brain. Maybe that’s why those gold stars we all craved on our elementary school papers meant so much to us.

Humans are visual learners. Most of us have learned to apply that principle to our PowerPoints (PPTs), but we’d like to suggest another addition to your PPTs that is sure to improve deep learning and student learning outcomes.

In Learning to Think Things Through (2009), Gerald Nosich defines fundamental and powerful concepts as “those basic concepts that lie at the heart of a discipline or course” (198). Beginning each class with the key concept(s) you’ll be discussing is an excellent way to provide a framework for the day’s material.

So here’s our tip for making those key concepts—and your PPTs—memorable. One way you can minimize PPT clutter while magnifying student learning is through images. On your PPTs, get in the habit of starting each day with a slide that lists those key concepts. And to make your students metacognitive, let them know these introductory concepts are key by adding an image beside them.

For instance, since we want to hammer our students over the head with key concepts, we accompany them with an image of Mjollnir, so whenever they see the hammer of the Norse god Thor beside a key concept, they know—in their terms—it will be on the test.

Now what would happen to student learning if every course in our discipline, our college, or even our university adopted the same PPT symbol? That’s an inquiry for another time.

  • Nosich, Gerald. (2009). Learning to Think Things Through. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall.
  • New York Public Library Digital Gallery (“NYPL Digital Gallery provides free and open access to over 700,000 images digitized from the The New York Public Library's vast collections, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints, photographs and more.”  
  • U.S. Government Photos and Images ( treasure trove of images in different areas. “Some of these photos and images are available for use in the public domain, and they may be used and reproduced without permission or fee. However some photos and images may be protected by license. We strongly recommend you thoroughly read the disclaimers on each site before use.” 
  • The Morgue File (“Public image archive for creatives by creatives. ... Free images for your inspiration, reference and use in your creative work, be it commercial or not!” See for a summary of their usage policy. 
  • The Commons on Flickr (“The key goals of The Commons on Flickr are to firstly show you hidden treasures in the world's public photography archives, and secondly to show how your input and knowledge can help make these collections even richer. ... Under "The Commons," cultural institutions that have reasonably concluded that a photograph is free of copyright restrictions are invited to share such photographs under their new usage guideline called "no known copyright restrictions." 
  • Stock.XCHNG ( by Getty Images, this site contains nearly 400,000 free stock photos, searchable by keyword/categories or tags.


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

Feb 15, 2012

Focused Listing

Have you ever wondered, at the end of a class session, if your students are leaving class with a real grasp of the day’s content? 

The Focused Listing activity from Classroom Assessment Techniques (2nd edition) can help with this dilemma.  Preparation and follow-up for a Focused Listing activity is minimal, and the potential payoff is big: you quickly learn what the students recall from the class, and you have an opportunity to correct popular misconceptions and areas of confusion. 
First, run through the activity yourself:
1)    Set a limit for the number of items to record (5-10) or the amount of time allotted (3-5 minutes) to create the list.
2)    Write down the main ideas from the class session. Completing the Focused Listing yourself will allow you to confirm whether the main ideas of the day’s class are in fact the most important points, and creates an answer key you can use when reviewing student responses.
3)    Check that your limits are realistic, and revise if necessary. Keep in mind that your students may identify a smaller number of concepts or require extra time because they are novices with the material. 
At the end of a class session, have the students complete the Focused Listing activity. Collect their anonymous responses and review the answers by sorting them into “on target” or “still confused” piles to determine how well students are recalling the main points.
At the beginning of the next class session, review your findings with the students.  List the main ideas from the previous class as you had listed them previously, and be sure to include some of the ideas students provided that were not on your list, but were still relevant. When students see their work included in the summary, it’s a powerful motivator! If there are one or two concepts that very few students identified, take a minute or two to review them.
The Focused Listing activity can help students in several ways:
  • Paying attention
  • Concentration
  • Memory skills
  • Listening skills
  • Note taking skills
  • Study skills
  • Factual recall of the course
  • Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2 ed.). San Francisco: 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 sponsored by Western Kentucky University.
David Sacks
Faculty/Instructional Consultant
University of Kentucky

Author: francine_glazer

Feb 08, 2012

Grade Mechanics Quickly, While Helping Students Learn


When you give your students a writing assignment, tell them that you will be grading them on mechanics by choosing only one page (but you don't tell them which page) from the assignment to note their mechanical errors. On that page, you will be putting a check in the left (or right) margin in line for each error without identifying what the error is or correcting it.

You set the standard in your rubric of how many errors on the page will affect the grade in what ways (e.g., 0-5 errors = 20 points gained for mechanics, 5-10errors = 15 pts. gained, 10-15 errors = 10 pts., 15-20 errors = 5 pts., more than 20 errors = 0 pts.)

After returning the graded assignments to your students, make the required follow-up assignment of identifying and correcting all the mechanical errors (or as many as students possibly can) they have made on that page to gain back points they lost. They will get credit only for accurate correction. So students are motivated to get the mechanics right the first time, you should give them only half the value of the points they lost for each correction.

Tell the students to make their corrections on the actual page of the paper in a different color ink (or pencil) than black and the color you used. Give them three to four days to complete this follow-up assignment and provide them with references to one or more sources of English-language/writing handbooks. (The web has a variety of them.) Of course, you really don't care who or what they consult to identify and correct the errors.

When you collect these corrected pages, you need only look at the number of checkmarks you made in the margin and the number of correct corrections made. And the students will remember errors they looked up and corrected and won't want to repeat the errors again.

On the next paper, select another page for this procedure. Chances are that you won't see a student repeating the same errors. This second (and the third and the fourth) time around, you will catch new errors, and your students will teach themselves additional mechanics lessons.


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

Feb 01, 2012

Tips for Gathering and Responding to Student Feedback

“Students say that the experience of having their opinions, reactions, and feelings solicited regularly, and addressed publicly, is one crucial reason for their coming to trust a teacher.” – Stephen Brookfield, The Skillful Teacher, pg. 49.

One of the best ways to find out if students are learning is to ask them. Whether you use an in-class activity or an out-of-class assignment, there are several efficient and effective ways to gather student feedback in order to gauge their learning. Check out a few options below:

Option # 1: The Minute Paper
At the beginning or the end of class, ask students a question about their learning and have them write for one minute in response. Possible questions include: what is the most challenging concept we have covered thus far in the course? What questions do you still have about topic X? or What has been your favorite activity of the course thus far? Student responses to these questions can help you shape your use of content, help you gauge students’ understanding, and influence your choices for the next time you teach the course.

Option # 2: The Cover Letter
The next time your students hand in an assignment, ask them to provide a “cover letter” in which they talk about the process of the assignment. You might ask your students to discuss particular obstacles they encountered or “ah-ha” moments they experienced. This kind of feedback helps both your students and you focus on the process of learning in addition to the final product.

Option # 3: “One-Month-In” Feedback
About one-fourth of the way into the semester, ask students to respond anonymously to three questions: what is helping them learn? What is hindering their learning? And what about the course would they like to see change? Make sure to respond to this student feedback in the following class and talk about patterns that you noticed in what is working and what might need adjustment in the course.

For each of these options, one of the most important things that you can do is respond. Make sure to spend a few minutes at the beginning of the next class meeting summarizing what you learned and responding to concerns raised by the students. Whether or not you make changes, students like to know that they have been heard.

  • Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Brookfield, S. D. (1990). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. Jossey-Bass Inc. Publishers, San Francisco, CA.

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.

Kathryn Linder, PhD
Assistant Director, Center for Teaching Excellence
Suffolk University

Author: francine_glazer

Jan 24, 2012

Use an Annotated Syllabus to Track Your Thinking about Course Design

Annotated syllabi are artifacts that begin with a simple course syllabus and then grow in scope and in depth as instructors add annotations and links to additional materials. How can they be useful to us? The annotated syllabus is an ideal format for prompting and tracking the reflection that is part of course design, and it can be used as well to make public the intellectual work that goes into teaching, just as a course portfolio does. But there are also more immediate and tangible benefits that come from keeping an annotated syllabus.

It is not uncommon during the middle of the semester to realize that there are small changes that we can make, or maybe altogether better ways to design an assignment or an in-class learning activity. It may be too late at those moments to implement the change during that same term, but we want to be sure to capture for the next time we teach the class not only what the precise change is, but also what our rationale for the change is. An annotated syllabus can be the living document that allows you to track your ideas, impressions, or observations about course design.

Annotated syllabi, likewise, can provide entry points in which to “dig down” and excavate your assumptions about course design, where you ask questions like “is this textbook really accomplishing what I want from it?” or “does my policy about class participation motivate students to give their best?” or “is my grading rubric as clear as it can be about different levels of performance?"

One of the great advantages of an annotated syllabus is that there are no prescriptive prompts—each annotated syllabus is unique in the direction it takes. You simply annotate where you have questions, where you are considering changes, where you want to explain the scholarly thinking that informed an aspect of your course design, or where you want to assess how well students are achieving a desired outcome.

To begin your annotated syllabus, you can save your syllabus in Word under a different file name and then use the “comments” feature under the “Review” tab to begin adding annotations. Or try Google Docs if you want to be able to access your annotated syllabus from any computer and perhaps eventually make it public.

  • Ken Bain (2004) What the Best College Teachers Do. Harvard University Press.
  • Donald Finkel (2000) Teaching With Your Mouth Shut. Boynton/Cook.
  • Maryellen Weimer (2002) Learner-centered Teaching: 5 Key Changes to Practice. Jossey-Bass.
  • Maryellen Weimer (2010) Inspired College Teaching. Jossey-Bass.
  • Samples of annotated syllabi are 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.
Mark Potter, Director
Center for Faculty Development
Metropolitan State College of Denver

Author: francine_glazer

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Christian Barton Christian Barton
Campus: Old Westbury
Major: Physical Therapy, D.P.T.
Class Of: 2015
Patrick Karle Patrick Karle
Department: Communication Arts
Campus: Nanjing
Michael Uttendorfer Michael Uttendorfer
Assistant Provost and Associate Professor
Department: Instructional Technology
Campus: Old Westbury