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Teaching Tip of the Week Archives

View the tip each Friday in the Faculty/Staff Weekly Update. 

Week Ending 4/15| The Last Class Session: How to Make It Count

In the article of the same name, Dr. Maryellen Weimer, offers ideas ready for you to insert into your last day of class. The activites listed would be enriching to both students and you the faculty
instructor. The article also provides ideas for the first day of class too, so save this article until next semester! Read the full article 

Week Ending 4/8 | The impact culture has on academic integrity understanding

An article published in International Educator by Marian Kisch discusses the wide variety of challenges and offers tips and solutions to assist faculty inthe classroom. A few of the top tips are:
- be proactive in communicating with international students,
- be conscious of topics that presume an understanding of American history, politics, and systems,
- clarify class policy expectations,
- provide examples of successful coursework, and
- recognize that language proficiency is not usually the barrier to academic success.    
Read the complete article

Week Ending 4/1 | Do you know how to sort columns in the BlackBoard Grade Center?

Sort your Grade Center columns and rows to easily find what you're looking for by following these steps.
1. Click on any column header to sort rows by the data in that column. Click once to sort ascending and again to sort descending. Any column can be used to sort.
2. Use the Sort Columns By dropdown to sort your columns by category, due date, date created, points possible, or alphabetical by name.
3. Use the Order drop-down to determine the direction of the column sort--descending or ascending. 

Week Ending 3/25 | Reward What You Value

Make it clear to your students that grammar, spelling, and good writing are expected in all assignments, and, if appropriate, let students know how poor writing will impact their grade. Explain how good and poor writing is a reflection on the author.  Tell students that you will warn them one time when they have spelling and/or grammatical errors. After that, points will be deducted and the papers will be returned for correction before receiving a final grade.  Then, be consistent in applying this expectation. Randomly select a student(s) whose assignments have been submitted free of error and award an extra point for good writing. 


Week Ending 3/18 | Improved Teaching and Learning Through Research

 In the article Improved Learning in a Large-Enrollment Physics Class, Deslauriers, Schelew, and Weman looked at variance between new cognitive psychology and physics education practices (e.g. pre-class reading assignments and quizzes, in-class clicker questions, etc.) versus the traditional, sage on the stage methodology.  They found that student attendance and engagement had increased in the section taught using the new teaching practices. A potential flaw in the study is that novice teachers implemented the new, research-based education while more seasoned educators taught using traditional teaching approaches.

Week Ending 3/4 | What happens when your students lead in-class discussions?

In an article published today from Faculty Focus, Dr. Peter Moe describes how he became a part of the discussion group which led to his students synthetizing their comments and each student tying together the common themes. One of his “rules” was to be silent at least 10 minutes into the discussion. Read the entire article  

Week Ending 2/27 | Transferring Concepts

A common goal in teaching is for students to transfer newly acquired concepts or principles. To accomplish this, it is important to practice those concepts in new situations.Have students practice with a variety of examples, or, ask students to develop their own examples.  Discuss their examples in class so that

Week Ending 2/19 | Nine Ways to Improve Class Discussions

This article of the same name, by Maryellen Weimer, PhD, offers great tips that you can use now to improve the discussions occurring in your classes. Here are a few:
- Shorten the time you spend on discussion and be more focused.
- In lectures and the remainder of the class time, refer to central discussion points.
- Have students suggest topics for in-class discussions.
Read more

Week Ending 2/12 | Improved Teaching and Learning Through Research

In the article The Construction of Knowledge in Classroom Talk, Drs. Atwood, Turnbull, and Carpendale explored the nature and value of discursive classroom engagement in higher education.  They found that some forms of dialogic involvement were more effective than others for facilitating understanding in the classroom (e.g. types of talk that engendered perspective-taking resulted in greater mutual understanding).  Further, the authors posit that styles of discussion often evolve in a proportionate manner to academic trajectory, stating that most first-year dialogic interaction was disputational or cumulative, where fourth-year discourse was largely exploratory.  Tip courtesy of CIDDE 

Week Ending 2/5 | Rubrics Come in More Than One Size

When grading assignments, the word “rubric” can conjure up visions of an analytical grid that demands that student work fall into pre-categorized cells. Some faculty want an extra option for rewarding students that goes beyond the basic criteria.  They prefer to award the “A” to truly superior work and seek options outside of being confined to predetermined cells. Faculty may forget that rubrics can also consist of checklists that are defined by criteria, but the criteria are met with a point-range assigned by the instructor. These holistic rubrics contain a description of the criteria, but allow more room for faculty discretion. In assignments requiring multiple iterations, the holistic rubric is often used for grading the last submission.
Learn more about rubrics  

Week Ending 1/29 | You know how you feel about students using technology during class. What do students think?

This recent Inside Higher Ed article, by Carl Strausheim, summarizes findings of a new report on what students actually spend their time on on their laptops and other technological devices while in the classroom.  The findings may surprise you.
Read the complete article.

Week Ending 1/22 | Improved Teaching and Learning Through Research

In the article Linking Simulation-Based Educational Assessments and Patient-Related Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, Drs. Brydges, Hatala, Zendejas, Erwin, and Cook aimed to provide substantiation for the use of simulation-based assessments as surrogates for patient-related outcomes in the workplace.  By reviewing existing literature on simulation assessments used by health professionals, Brydges, et al. concluded that simulation-based assessments often correlate positively with patient-related outcomes.  However, thought validity evidence was favorable, “studies often included only correlational evidence.  Tip courtesy of CIDDE. 

Week Ending 1/15 | The “Future Uses” Paper

requiring students to reflect more deeply on the materials is  to develop a “future uses” paper. Have students identify the three most important skills or concepts that they learned, explain why they consider them important and how they will be able to use them in the future. Students can be creative in developing their paper, perhaps interviewing practitioners or others that can help inform them of the utility of what they have learned. Read article [Nelson, L. (2013). Creating Self-Regulated Learners. Stylus Publishing: Sterling, VA.] Tip courtesy of CIDDE.

Week Ending 1/8 | Diversity Makes You Brighter

This recent New York Times Op-ed article begins with the news of the day,  when in December 2015 affirmative action in college admissions was in front of the Supreme Court again. The article continues with the  findings of experiments conducted by the article authors (Sheen Levine, Professor of Management at the University of Texas at Dallas and David Stark, Professor of Sociology at Columbia University). A few of the summative points are below.
“When surrounded by others of the same ethnicity or race, participants were more likely to copy others, in the wrong direction.”
“Diversity improves the way people think.”
“By disrupting conformity, racial and ethnic diversity prompts people to scrutinize facts, think more deeply and develop their own opinions.”
“Ethnic diversity is like fresh air: It benefits everybody who experiences it.”
Read the entire article and become brighter in the New Year! 

Week Ending 12/18 | Improved Teaching and Learning Through Research

In the article Technology Enhanced Assessments in Complex Collaborative Settings, Drs. Webb and Gibson argue that technology-enabled, collaborative learning settings can be a “rich context for assessing higher order skills” contingent on clear targets for the purpose and design of the assessment and the transparent inclusion of technology as “part of the collaborative problem solving task.”  In these instances, technology enhanced assessments, are defined by their integration of authentic learning, in digital media, with “embedded, continuous measure of performance, learning, and knowledge,” which creates “highly detailed, high resolution data records,” so that learners and teachers can use the information to improve their learning and instruction.  The researchers found that assessments in these contexts can provide important data about “the actions, communications, and products created by a learning in a designed task space.” Webb, M. & Gibson, D. (2015) Technology enhanced assessments in complex collaborative settings, Education and Information Technologies 20(4), pp. 675 – 695, doi: 10.1007/s10639-015-9413-5. Tip courtesy of CIDDE. 

Week Ending 12/11 | Stump the Chump

Scholars recommend that you model your thinking and  talk out loud about your thought processes in order to help your students develop self-regulatory skills. Begin by stating what you already know about a problem and afterwards, explain your reasoning.  This activity becomes particularly motivating if the students first come up with the problem for you to solve. After you have modeled this process, ask students to pair up and problem solve out loud to each other, providing feedback after each person finishes. Nilson, L. (2013). Creating Self-Regulated Learners. Stylus Publishing: Sterling, VA. Tip courtesy of CIDDE.

Week Ending 12/4 | Check out Twiddla for an online interactive white board

With this online tool you can collaborate with others, no downloads needed, via a white board. Images or documents can be uploaded too for collaboration.
Read more about this online tool and others from Emergining Ed Tech> (link to:

Week Ending 11/13 | Students having issues accessing your feedback on assignments in CourseWeb?

If your students are reporting that they cannot access the feedback that you have left them on an electronically-submitted, assignment, they may just not know where to look. The student view of their grades shows them the name of the assignment, the date on which it was graded, and their score. In order to access the uploaded document itself, which includes all of the feedback and markup inserted by the instructor using inline grading, they must click on the name of the assignment. This will then open their submission and any feedback, comments or markup left by the instructor will appear. Tip courtesy of CIDDE 

Week Ending 11/6 | Specifications Grading

Several faculty on campus are using different aspects of Specifications Grading.  Specs grading is one approach that draws its strength from the literature on competency-based grading.  If you are interested in learning more about Specs Grading, contact []
Teaching tip courtesy of CIDDE

Week Ending 10/30 | Learn how to use a new tech tool in less than 5 minutes!

Thanks to this Emerging EdTech blog you can read a short into about what each tool does and then view a short three minute video on how to use it.
Two of the tools highlighted are:
-          Socrative: a free student response system (aka clickers) that has free downloads of the app so students can use their smart phones in class,
-          Snip: a screen capture and whiteboard tool embedded in Microsoft Office were videos can be saved as MP4 files for distribution, and
Learn more on the Emerging EdTech site

Week Ending 10/23 | Improved Teaching and Learning Through Research

In the article Teaching Critical Thinking, Drs. Holmes, Wieman, and Bonn found that students who were repeatedly encouraged to make quantitative comparisons between datasets were twelve times more likely to spontaneously propose changes, or improvements, to their experimental methods than their peers in a control group.  The authors further posit that modeling, and frequently reinforcing, critical thinking with regards to empirical data results in clearer and more sophisticated methodological reasoning.   Tip courtesy of CIDDE

Week Ending 10/16 | CourseWeb Grade Center Tips

CIDDE has a Knowledge Base for faculty with over 100 articles and tips. Below are tips focused on three functions of the Grade Center that can help when something unexpected happens in CourseWeb:
Grade History: The Grade History page acts like a log file that records all of the changes that occur to grades within a course, and displays all the data for grade submissions.
Delete or Clear Grades: During your grading tasks, you may need to delete a grade or revert a grade back to its previous state. For example, you can reset a test to give a student who experienced technical problems another chance.
Override Grades: The roles of instructor, teaching assistant, and grader are allowed to change grades in a course. When you change grades, the new data is automatically figured into existing weighted, total, or calculated grade columns.
Tip courtesy of CIDDE.

Week Ending 10/9 | ROPES - Developing Guidelines for Discussion

Place the acronym ROPES on a chalkboard and ask students for words representing each of the letters that could make up discussion guidelines. When a student suggests a word (e.g. “Respect” for “R”), ask the class why that word is appropriate and if there are other “R” words that are better.
Tip courtesy of CIDDE.

Week Ending 10/2 | Did you know about all of these resources CIDDE provides to assist you with accessibility of course content for students?

Accessibility Resources: - Offers closed caption decoders and assistive listening devices to the University community at no cost.
- Installs and supports display devices in classrooms and lecture halls that open and display captioned content.
- Installs (within 24 hours) assistive listening devices at the request of an instructor, student, or Disability Services.
- Provides copies of Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 for loan.
- Assists faculty and students with the creation of captions for instructional videos.
- Licenses and supports streaming media applications that feature captioning.
- Support for blind, deaf and other users with disabilities.

Week Ending 9/25 | Looking for an easy way to create an exam in Word and upload it to CoruseWeb?

Respondus is a powerful tool for creating and managing exams in Blackboard. It can convert exams created in Microsoft Word to a format that can be uploaded to Blackboard, or convert an exported exam from another learning management system (such as Canvas or Moodle) into a Blackboard-readable and importable file. Respondus 4.0 is now available for faculty use at the Educational Technology Center in Alumni Hall, B-23.
Read more

Week Ending 9/18 | Improved Teaching and Learning through Research

In the article The Impact of Text versus Video Communication on Instructor Feedback in Blended Courses, Drs. Borup, West, & Thomas found that both text and video feedback have valuable attributes. On the one hand, text feedback was perceived by both students and facilitators to be efficient and organized. On the other hand, video comments were perceived by both parties to be more thorough and supportive - all while producing positive, affective responses.
Tip courtesy of CIDDE

Week Ending 9/11 | Reverse Outlining Student Essays

Thompson Writing Studio at Duke.
Tip courtesy of CIDDE 

Week Ending 9/4 | Are you thinking of "flipping" your classroom? 

A recent survey from Faculty Focus provides highlights of the benefits to students and challenges to faculty who are flipping their classroom.
Read more |  Learn more about the flipped classroom from CIDDE

Do you have a teaching tip to share?

Contact Robin Leaf for your tip to be shared with your Pitt Public Health colleagues. 

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