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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

Jan 17, 2012

Turnitin is now available within Blackboard

At the end of the Fall semester, SafeAssign had some technical issues that caused long delays in generating originality reports on student work. In order to enable faculty members to respond to student work in a timely manner, TurnItIn has also been integrated into Blackboard and assignments can be created and managed from within each course's Blackboard shell. 
In order to use either tool—Turnitin or SafeAssign—faculty must first turn on that tool within the course's Blackboard shell. For a demonstration of how to do this, please see the short video at   

To replace an existing Assignment or SafeAssignment with a Turnitin assignment: 

  1. Create a Turnitin assignment.
  2. Find the original assignment/SafeAssignment that you want to replace, and copy the instructions to the clipboard.
  3. Go to the Turnitin assignment and select 'edit,' scroll to 'optional settings,' and paste the instructions into the appropriate space (you will need to click the + sign for 'optional settings' in order to do this).
  4. Delete the original assignment (you must do this immediately before deleting the column in the Grade Center)
  5. Go into the Grade Center and delete that assignment column. (Note: you must delete the Grade Center column immediately after deleting the assignment from the content area.)
  6. While in the Grade Center, click the Manage button and select manage columns. Move the new Turnitin assignment column to where you want it.

Additional help materials for faculty:

Finally, please share these links with your your students:

For assistance in designing assignments, please contact the Center for Teaching and Learning ( or
For assistance in activating Turnitin or SafeAssign, setting options, and integrating with the Grade Center, please contact the HelpDesk at 800.462.9041.

Author: francine_glazer

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Brian L. Harper Brian L. Harper, M.D.
Medical Director
Office: Academic Health Care Centers
Campus: Old Westbury
Mar de Fez Maria del Mar de Fez Laso
Associate Professor
Department: Physics
Campus: Bahrain
Debojyoti Guharoy Debojyoti Guharoy
Campus: Vancouver
Major: M.B.A.
Class Of: 2014