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Nov 01, 2011

Communicate High Expectations

“Every truth has four corners: as a teacher I give you one corner, and it is for you to find the other three.”  ~ Confucius

A good course is designed with two layers of expectations. First are the expectations of the program, course, or assignment. Letting students know exactly what you expect gives them a roadmap for the program, course, or assignment, and helps them to succeed. This can be accomplished through the syllabus, through assignment guidelines and rubrics, and with oral or written feedback. My best advice for helping students to succeed in your course is to give them clear guidelines as to what constitutes good performance, preferably at the same time that you make the assignment. This can be done with a rubric or by sharing exemplars of excellent, good, and sub-standard work.

The second layer is that of motivating the students to do their best work. With guidance, encouragement, and constructive feedback, we can help our students to realize their potential and, potentially, limitless possibilities. Go beyond just providing additional resources or suggestions for further study, and challenge your students to stretch themselves. 
‚óŹ      Tinto, V. (2011). Taking Student Success Seriously in the College Classroom. White paper presented at the Spring Plenary Session 2011 of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. Retrieved 10/18/2011 from

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.
Penny Lorenzo
Assistant Dean of Faculty, School of Legal Studies
Kaplan University/Kaplan Legal Education

Author: francine_glazer

Oct 26, 2011

Storytelling, Creativity, and Classroom Management

A perennial problem faced by many faculty members is students who arrive late to class. I’ve found a way to encourage students to arrive on time, while exercising their creativity.

As one of the preliminary exercises in creating an animation, I ask the students to first read a series of short stories and then write a factual account of something that they have experienced that has made an impact on them. They are then instructed to set their written story aside and "perform" the story as a storyteller. This is a standard exercise commonly used in many classes that involve creative expression.

Based on this idea, I have developed a storytelling assignment in dealing with students that come to class late. When a student comes in after the class starts, all class activity stops and the tardy student is required to tell the story of why he or she is late. They cannot, however, tell the truth! Instead, they must invent and deliver a story on the spot that makes the class respond as an audience. The story must be entertaining, fantastic, emotional, or in any other way, engaging. The class then votes by showing a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down. If the vote goes in the student's favor, then they will simply be marked late.

If they do not succeed in their efforts then they are marked as unprepared. This exercise has forced all the students to be prepared with at least one good story and has completely eliminated the issue of lateness.

The exercise gets even better if I am ever late to class, since the rule also applies to me. The first time that I announced this policy, the inevitable happened. Heavy traffic made me late to the next class but I had my story ready to go and thankfully did get a thumbs-up.

Prof. Peter Voci
MFA Director/Fine Arts Chair

Author: francine_glazer

Oct 19, 2011

Glogster and Audio Essays

Here’s a link to an online tool called “Glogster” ( ). I use this tool as part of a writing assignment that challenges students to find their writing voices through a “no-writing” writing assignment. The students must use heavy description and narration to pull this one off, because in this case, the audience will listen to (not read) the essay. Of course, all “drafts” are audio drafts, and they’re shared with others in the class—as listeners who provide audio feedback to their trio of writers. Once they’ve received audio feedback, they then must incorporate active listening (using their peers’ comments and critiques) to improve their essay. They must submit their final draft to the instructor (in both written form and in a polished audio form). This exercise causes students to become attuned to their own voices, literally—as well as to make the connection between the writer’s voice and the necessity to become comfortable with having new thoughts and ideas that no one else has possibly thought of before.

To assist with this process, I ask students to decide on an item of technology (new or old) that they’d be seriously lost without, and after great deliberation, they’re required to design and voice their thoughts in descriptive statements and phrases, to create an audio essay of the item, as well as their relationship to it. Theonly limitation of this assignment is that they cannot call the item by itsname. Instead, they have to create a nickname for it. That nickname is the title of the audio essay.

For example, students who have described their relationships to their smart phones have titled their essays thusly: “Noki-Doki” (reminiscent of the Nokia phone); “i2-phone-home” (for an essay about a text-driven student’s addictive relationship to texting on his iPhone, and his parents’ surprise when he stopped texting for a day, using the phone for real conversation, for a change). In another essay entitled “Cupped, Not Sipped” (which focused on a student’s relationship with a favorite coffee cup, and his real love of COLD coffee beverages), the student revealed his vast knowledge of Starbucks coffee and his significant relationships created with others through “the fruit of the bean.”

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.

LaNita Kirby, Dept. of English
Rowan-Cabarrus Community College

Author: francine_glazer

Oct 11, 2011

Using SafeAssign as a Teaching Tool

I honestly believe that most students who plagiarize do not do so deliberately or maliciously but because they don’t understand summarizing, paraphrasing, and documenting well enough to avoid it. I have found a way to improve students’ understanding. SafeAssign is a plagiarism detection program that is built into Blackboard (turn it on inCourse Tools). While many faculty use it as just a way to catch student plagiarizing, I use it as a teaching tool for students, as well.

I use SafeAssign in both my face-to-face and online courses. First, I create a “SafeAssignment” in Blackboard (in a Content area, Evaluate-Create SafeAssignment), where students can submit their drafts before a set deadline. This works best if it’s the day before you want them to use it in a face-to-face class. I reserve a computer classroom/lab so that we can have an interactive activity with the output from the program. Students (and I) get a report that shows what percentage of their papers are plagiarized, or usually simply not cited correctly. This tool highlights incorrectly or not-at-all cited passages and links them back to their original sources. In my face-to-face courses, I have students form pairs or trios to look over each other’s papers and reports to correct their citation errors… or to see if they can spot the errors the program has made.

The program is not perfect—it does mark correctly summarized or paraphrased and cited passages as plagiarized from time to time. This is sometimes due to the student using a citation format with which the program isn’t as familiar (I’ve had the most problems with CSE, ACS, and AEEE), but more often it is due to the information being cited in an article that SafeAssign has found but that the student did not use (the student found the info in another source and cited it correctly).

Students get quite competitive to see who can get the lowest percentage reported on the draft, and they get defensive when the software ignores signal phrases that help to correctly cite a source or fully correct citations. Cries of “But Dr. Mills! I’m right!” are often heard in the computer lab on the days that my students review their drafts. Since this is part of their peer review process (points attached!),it’s rare that I have students miss these sessions.

In my online classes, I encourage students to download the reports and upload them to the discussion board for help solving any part of the reports they don’t understand. I make this optional for them, but at least half of each class always participates. For the final paper in one course—a research paper—I make it extra credit if they do it and add an entry to their research journal about what they learned about their papers from the reports. 

Additionally, I also use SafeAssign to submit suspicious “final” copies of papers if I can’t find the original source via a quick Google search, but I have had fewer plagiarism cases since I’ve started using this tool. The main problems with SafeAssign are the lag time (you don’t instantly get the report back—sometimes you may wait for hours) and the occasional inaccuracies. A thinking human being (you!) still needs to read and consider the results, which often leads to great in-class(and discussion board) conversations in my classes. As long as SafeAssign gets students excited about working hard to document correctly, even if it turnsdocumentation into a game for them to master, I’ll keep using it!
For help in setting up SafeAssign within your Blackboard shell, contact TBLS—staff members are available on both New York campuses each week. (Contact information is 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 Consortiumsponsored by Western Kentucky University.

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

Author: francine_glazer

Oct 05, 2011

On the Use and Abuse of Lecture

For over 500 years, lecture has been associated with teaching in higher education. The word itself derives from the Latin lectus and hints at the ancient and venerable origins of the practice. In the medieval university, texts were rare and beyond the economic reach of most students. Texts were therefore read aloud so that others could hear and take notes on them. In the renaissance universities, the practice no longer always involved reading aloud, but referred to an instructional discourse given publicly. 

In nineteenth century America, orators like Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Jennings Bryan grafted rhetorical skills honed at the pulpit with the academic tradition and raised lecture to an art form, a means of public enlightenment and even entertainment. The Chautauqua or polished, engaging, public lecture became, according to Roosevelt, "the most American thing in America."

During the same period and starting with Johns Hopkins, America imported the German model of the research university, associating irrevocably the academic ability of a scholar with their ability to ‘hold forth' on their subject. The lecture became the sine qua non of academic life and the de facto instructional job description of the professor. Even in the minds of those who had not perfected the skill, lecture is what was meant by instruction in higher education.

Yet in recent years, lecture as the default mode of instruction in higher education has come under increasing scrutiny and criticism. Research on human learning and the resulting emphasis on collaborative and engaged learning in the classroom have raised questions about the appropriateness of lecture as a pedagogical technique.

Is lecture antithetical to effective learning and teaching? The most correct answer is, "That depends." There are times when it is most appropriate for us to use expository instructional methods like lecture.

On the other hand, the endemic one-sidedness of lectures and the temptation lecture provides to focus on the process of instruction rather than the process of learning means that we must be very careful. Lecture is too often the preferred means of instruction, not through any process of planning, design, or choice, but through an habitualreversion to the historical default.

When used properly, lecture can be an effective and enjoyable pedagogy. When used incorrectly or over-used, it can become a stumbling block to learning. If and when you decide to lecture,

  • Be sure that the instructional purpose and material is well suited to the lecture format. Use lecture to create initial motivation in students, dispense largely informational material, or frame a discussion in a particular way.

  • Design your class period to be broken into mini-lectures of no more than 10-15 minutes, punctuated by activities that help students focus, process, question, and re-engage. This interactive lecture makes use of such tools as concept tests, clickers, quizzes, peer mentoring and many, many more Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) interwoven with the lecture.

  • Verify that you have or can develop the presentational and rhetorical skills needed to effectively carry a lecture. Carefully prepare the lecture ahead of time, selecting key points, means of transitioning between ideas, examples and stories to use. Develop a presentation style that is pleasant and clear, avoiding distracting mannerisms while appropriately integrating humor, graphics, or other presentational aids.

  • Make sure that lecture doesn't become a default instructional methodology, but is always selected to fulfill specific instructional goals for its strengths over other, and potentially more effective, instructional options.


  • Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2 ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Bain, K. (2004). What the Best College Teachers Do. Harvard University Press.
  • Nilson, L. B. (2010). Teaching at Its Best: A Research-Based Resource for College Instructors (Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education). Jossey-Bass, 3 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.


Devan Barker, Instructional Development
Brigham Young University Idaho

Author: francine_glazer

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Jim Martinez Jim Martinez, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department: Instructional Technology
Campus: Manhattan
Zehra Ahmed Zehra Ahmed (B.S. '04)
Assistant Professor
Department: Physician Assistant Studies
Campus: Old Westbury
Anthony Ungaro Anthony L. Ungaro
Campus: Manhattan
Major: Interdisciplinary Studies, B.S.
Class Of: 2014