As a thought for our students…

Consent, explained with trying to give someone tea.


How to write an email to your professor

Timely and useful article to follow up on our discussion of student writing:

Two things

First: Thank you. This teaching community has made my whole semester better. I’ve implemented new learning tools and thought about my job in a positive way constantly.

Second, I saw this article and wanted to share. There’s a North Carolina bill that would expect all public universities to require all professors to teach 4-4. I cannot imagine the issues this would cause.

Somehow, it brings to mind the importance of our continuing to learn from each other and to work together.

So will people be around this summer? I’m always up for coffee!!


PS- My husband informs me I’m wrong, time-wise, we’re closer to T-Rex than T-Rex is to a stegosaurus. He’s been studying dinosaurs in the Witmer lab for 14 years, so I trust him! None of this means that humans ever co-existed with T-Rex… Sigh.

Ping-Yuan’s Presentation

Hi, everyone, Here is my presentation: The Role of Writing in Students’ Learning. Ping-Yuan

Video of Todd Zakrajsek’s Public Talk

Hello All,

Here’s the link to the video of Todd Zakrajsek’s lecture, “The New Science of Learning: How to Learn in Harmony with Your Brain” —


Teaching Goals

What constitutes Meaningful Learning? What would you like your students to remember of your classes in five years from today? Is there any common ground that connects the STEM world (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medicine) with other areas of teaching?

As a preparation for our next meeting, please think of your favorite course. Write down the ONE most important long term goals of your teaching. I hope that we will find fertile ground for an interesting discussion.

If there are common goals in teaching, there might be a way of measuring / quantifying the efficiency of your efforts. In other words, assessment tools for teaching could be developed. I attached an article about “Navigating the Landscape of Assessment”. Even though it is written for chemists, it emphasizes a number of points that are important in any teaching subject.

The author of the article will give a public presentation at Ohio University on Monday, April 6, at 4:10 pm in 235 Walter Hall. She is a highly regarded chemical education researcher working at Miami University in Oxford, OH. Her research motto is: “advancing chemistry education research one assessment tool at a time…”. Her lecture will be about “Measuring Meaningful Learning in the Undergraduate Chemistry Laboratory”. Everybody is welcome to attend.

The role of writing in students’ learning

In our last meeting, I would like to discuss the role of writing in students’ learning. To me, two aspects in student writing are worth considering. The first is the pedagogical goals of writing assignments. The second is how to grade them to the end of helping students write better and think more critically. Having taught all levels of History courses (1000 and 3000), including the Junior Composition “Historical Research & Writing,” I continue to struggle with encouraging deep learning through writing and an effective and responsible way of providing truly useful feedback. A constant source of frustration is that students tend to ignore my comments and feedback that could further their learning. Or, if they have read my comments, few have sought clarification or additional advice on strategies for improvement. Some react quite strongly to my feedback on the technicalities of writing. In a humanities discipline like History, writing is an essential vehicle of both low- and high-level learning, from summarizing and explaining to analyzing and synthesizing. Writing is at once a major tool of assessment of learning and a means for students to demonstrate learning outcomes. A pedagogically sound evaluation of student writing has to come full circle by providing constructive feedback not only on the content, but also on the technical aspects of writing—citation style, syntax, punctuation, and structure—all of which contribute to effective communication. And effective communication, both written and verbal, is an essential competency in most white-collar jobs. Especially at a time when the value of a liberal arts education, and the humanities in particular, is severely challenged, one of the claims for the legitimacy of the History major is that it cultivates excellent writing and critical thinking skills. However, in my experience, students in History classes, non-majors in particular, do not consider the instruction of writing critical to their learning. “This is not an English class!” I end up compromising on my grading, shortening the length of writing assignments, and evaluating student writing based primarily on the content, which oftentimes is conveyed with unclear or incomplete sentences. I will present an evolution of my writing assignments at different levels of courses, the rationale behind some of the assignments, my grading strategies, as well as ways of incentivizing students to write better. Here are a few topics I’d like to discuss with the group:

  1. Not all disciplines or subjects are writing-intensive or require much expository writing. But students write in one form or another for all classes. What types of writing do your students engage in in your field? How do these writing exercises contribute to the students’ 1) overall understanding of the subject, 2) analytical or critical thinking skills (or the application of concepts), and 3) written communication?
  2. If your courses are fairly heavy in writing, what learning objectives do your assignments serve? What are your methods of grading these assignments?
  3. How do you motivate students to take seriously your feedback on their written works?

Here are a few short articles for food for thought:

  1. Writing objectives using Bloom’s taxonomy–the correlation between writing and different levels of learning:
  2. Ten tips for effective and efficient grading:
  3. A strategy for grading student writing:
  4. A cynical view on student writing:
Finally, for your entertainment:


Adi’s text for Thursday: Schools without Scholarship?

Hello everyone,

Attached is the article “Standards: Schools without Scholarship?” from Lowering Higher Education: The Rise of Corporate Universities and the Fall of Liberal Education. Lowering Higher Education – Schools without Scholarship It is a bit dense, and addresses a Canadian audience, but there are many topics I will be drawing from in my presentation, including:

  • unpreparedness of students entering our courses
  • student disengagement
  • grade inflation
  • weakening academic standards by instructors

I thought that the overwhelming trend to award “BA-lite” degrees would also foster some interesting discussion.

In addition to the topics mentioned in the text, I would also like to discuss briefly:

  • the consequences of the Q2S (quarter to semester) conversion (dropping from four to three class hours per week and dropping from 30 weeks of instruction [ten weeks x three quarters] to 28 [two semesters x 14 weeks])
  • the consequences of RCM (How much can we lower our standards to attract students to / keep students in our disciplines?)

Please try to draw some examples from your own disciplines about how you and your department leadership are trying to address these issues and what results (positive or negative) you have experienced.

In case I am not able to attach the file directly to this post, it is also available at:


Todd Zakrajsek’s Presentation

Hi Everyone! In preparation for his talk to our faculty learning community, Todd Zakrajsek has asked that we read his blog post on The Scholarly Teacher (cached version):

See you all Thursday 02 APR, 3-5, in Gordy 109. Herta