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Written by: Kate Tennis, Korbel School of International Studies

Photo of Kate Tennis

Photo of Kate Tennis

In International Relations and many related disciplines, we pride ourselves in producing strong writers. Most of our upper-level courses require students to produce long papers. While students learn a lot, it is difficult for them to showcase their work; in today’s crowded information environment, few people have the time or patience to read lengthy writing.

I didn’t want to lose the benefits of learning to write these longer papers, as I believe that the research, analysis, and writing skills are invaluable. However, I wanted to help students transform what they learned into a format that was more succinct and digestible—a portfolio piece that they could share with potential employers, colleagues, and even friends and family.

To meet these goals, I decided to try “One New Thing” in a 3000-level course on Current Issues in Human Security. The final project I assigned for the course was a 10-15-minute podcast, produced in small groups. But these podcasts were grounded in research that students conducted individually and presented as a traditional writing assignment in Week 8.

Students submitted a research plans in Week 3, dividing themselves into 2-3-person groups and describing how each member’s individual research project would help them collectively explore a single facet of human security in their final podcast. I then had a number of smaller assignments throughout the quarter where they were required to develop specific portions of their individual or group work.

I do not have a background in audio production, so benefited enormously from the support of the Office of Teaching and Learning and the Digital Media Center. Specifically, Rich Path in the Office of Teaching and Learning generously took time to teach me about me about recording and editing software, and provided an in-class recording demo. And Anna Winter at the Digital Media Center taught a fantastic workshop, introducing my students to audio editing in Audacity. Huge thanks to both of them.

How did it go?

Overall, the podcasts were very successful. The students brought a wealth of content from their individual research papers, and were excited about presenting this information in an acoustically compelling and interesting way. I devoted the last two class periods to “listening parties” where we played the podcasts and used them to generate conversations and Q&A for the groups about the topics that they studied. This gave students the opportunity to take ownership of their knowledge and recognize themselves as experts in their topical areas.

What lessons have I taken away from this process?

Most importantly, I loved watching students merge their individual and group work—but this required more support and planning than I had expected. While some groups had little trouble finding like-minded group-members and envisioning the links between their projects, some groups had less obvious affinity between their interests, and I played a larger role in helping them structure their collaborations.

Second, the idea of combining a longer traditional writing assignment with a shorter portfolio piece is one that I plan to carry into all of my future courses—it was hugely successful. But not all students were equally motivated by the audio format. Podcasts are currently a booming medium—leading to a “rebirth” or “second golden age” of radio. Indeed, many of our course “readings” were in the form of podcasts. So most students were excited to work in this format, but I got feedback from a couple who would have preferred to have had an alternative medium as an option.

Finding a sense of belonging in a chemistry class is one factor in facilitating a positive experience in a first-year college student. In order to build a sense of feeling like part of a group along with ownership of class material, I provided an opportunity for first-year students to teach their peers one subject in General Chemistry Lab II in Winter 2018.

In January, first-year students were asked to identify and write down on a sheet of paper one topic they felt they would be comfortable teaching to the class. Toward the end of the quarter, the students then taught their chosen topic to the small groups that they worked with throughout the quarter.  This allowed them the opportunity to rigorously study a topic that they were interested in as well as learn from, and provide feedback to, the other students. The students were asked to provide three pieces of feedback after each teaching session: one thing they learned from listening to their classmates’ presentations, one thing they felt their classmate did really well, and one thing they felt their classmate could improve upon.  Using the same groups during the quarter allowed them to feel very comfortable with each other by this point and led to successful teaching sessions and good feedback.  Following a similar exercise in Fall 2017, one student inquired whether this fun-activity would be repeated in Spring 2018.

–Tania Wyss

Dr. Yolanda Anyon and Heather Kennedy were awarded a One New Thing mini grant to support an innovation in the CommScreenshot of Lesson Plan videounity and Positive Youth Development (CPYD) course offered by the Graduate School of Social Work. The course provides students an opportunity to learn about evidence-based, strengths focused approaches to working with children and adolescents.  Prior to the One New Thing award, the major assignment for the course was for students to create a mock lesson plan for a hypothetical after school program. One challenge with this assignment was that students struggled to integrate anti-oppressive approaches and cultural considerations into their lesson plans. There were also several limitations to this assignment format. First, without an audience for the students’ work, the assignment lacked relevance and real world applicability. Second, the lessons were not connected to each other, so students did not learn how to sequence and scaffold learning opportunities for youth.

To address these challenges, Anyon and Kennedy brainstormed ways the course assignment could be improved, deciding that many of the challenges identified would be addressed if the lesson plans were responsive to a real need by an organization serving diverse youth. We therefore contacted our partners in Denver Public School’s (DPS) Whole Child Supports in the Division of Student Equity and Opportunity to identify a potential venue for our students’ work. They articulated a need for a curricular resource that would provide their youth with an opportunity to explore their identities and build stronger relationships with adults in their school.

In partnership with DPS, Heather revised the course assignment so that the final project for the Winter, 2017 section of the class involved students creating a sequenced curriculum of 10 lesson plans focused on identity development and relationship building. She facilitated a participatory action research process with students to guide them in the development of the ten session curriculum. CPYD students chose the overarching topics of each lesson, decided how they would be sequenced, and designed the activities that constituted each lesson. Students worked in pairs and developed one lesson each.

CPYD students submitted several different versions of their lessons and talked with one another in staff meeting-style discussions to make sure the curriculum flowed and was cohesive. In class, each pair presented part of their lesson and received feedback both on their facilitation style and the content of their assignment. Students were encouraged to consider both universal design principles and anti-oppressive practices within their individual lessons. At the end of the quarter, once the curricula was at a stage of near completion, the CPYD students met with a youth board called the Youth Partnership for Health, to get feedback on their ideas.  The students revised their lesson plans based on this feedback before their final submission.  Ms. Kennedy and Dr. Anyon then worked with a graphic designer to format the curriculum so that it looked professional, and presented it to DPS.

In the next quarter (Spring 2017), Ms. Kennedy worked with Dr. Kristen Atkinson (instructor) to revise the final assignment for that section of the course so that it would build on the project completed in the winter.  Students were tasked with creating 12-20 minute online training modules that would accompany the curriculum and to prepare adult facilitators (e.g. after school program providers) for delivering the lesson plans. To prepare for this assignment, CPYD students first watched and critiqued a variety of online trainings. Then, in pairs, they each chose a topic (brainstormed by students in the winter section) that would be the focus of their module. Each pair researched their respective focus area and drafted an outline of their online training. Then, students each recorded the training using either Zoom or Screencast-o-matic, received feedback from their peers, and integrated these suggestions into final versions of the recorded trainings.

The curriculum and online training modules have been shared with DPS, and also have been provided to other youth serving agencies and youth work practitioners. Both are available on portfolio:

How did it go, and what did you learn? 

The students in the Winter 2017 quarter were initially frustrated with aspects of the assignment that were ambiguous because it was new, and overwhelmed by the pressure of creating a cohesive product for an actual client. Over time, however, the students commented how the project was both rewarding, because they were making something that was real, and daunting and tiring, for the same reason. At the end of the quarter, the students were very proud of what they had created. The multiple layers of choice and voice they had in the classroom was different than what they had experienced previously. The students reported that they appreciated the ability to make substantive choices in the design of the curriculum, even if that was also a central challenge they faced in completing the assignment.

The Spring 2017 quarter students also initially felt that their responsibilities of summarizing evidence, making it meaningful for adults, and creating an interactive training on a new software was quite challenging. Given that this was the second time allowing students to make substantive choices and have a very present voice in the classroom decisions, we were able to normalize those sentiments at the outset. After some initial anxiety abated, the students saw the value in what they were making and their work exceeded our expectations.

University College’s (UCOL) Michelle Kruse-Crocker applied for a One New Thing mini grant to review the articles and textbooks for their two main research courses. Staff and instructors worked together to update the readings to reflect more diversity and inclusion. This blog post summarizes the process and outcomes of the project.

1. What were you trying to change or solve?
The two main University College research courses -4905 and 4910- contain a variety of articles and textbooks used to deliver information about types of research and social science methods exploration. The Research Practices and Applications course was taught using an outdated text that contained some publisher constraints. In addition, prior student evaluation feedback indicated and that text did not contain a diversity or inclusivity focus. Allison O’Grady, University College Senior Instructional Support Specialist, collected course evaluations from 16 sections of the research courses that allowed for a view of the quantitative and qualitative data about teaching materials and readings to help inform our discussions about new material choices. Results indicated that students were not completely displeased with the current readings, but no mention of diversity or inclusion appeared as a highlight or important factor related to the readings, although that is a goal within our unit. Therefore, we were at a crossroads of needing a new text and seeking an opportunity to select new course materials from a more inclusive and diversity-focused lens.

The goal: Determine feasibility for faculty and the program director to make changes to the reading materials for University College’s two main research courses that enrich the students’ exposure to diversity of thought, various population samples, and authors’ backgrounds.

The following were the operational definitions paraphrased from the Association of American Colleges & Universities, which helped to focus the reading group.

  • Diversity – Individual differences and group/social differences.
  • Inclusion – The active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity in ways that increase awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathetic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and institutions (AAC&U, 2017).

2. What did you do?

Articles were selected by our group (all readers are Master Teachers at University College). Each article was selected for one or more of the following items: the author’s diversity, the sample diversity, or the diversity of the professional fields represented that reflect those that our students are engaged with studying while at University College. All articles were read by the group and examined through a Diversity and Inclusion in Course Readings Rubric, developed for Research Practices and Applications (4910) by Valentina Iturbe-LaGrave, Assistant Director for Inclusive Teaching Practices at the OTL. The rubric served as an inquiry tool for categorization of the authors or reading by the following criteria: Race, Gender Social Class, and Sexual Orientation. Our UCOL program assistant, Genna Madic, conducted research about each article’s authors to determine what form of diversity they represent in terms of demographics and divergent thought. We created a chart to track different aspects that contribute to author’s diversity – knowing these were surface level based assumptions to some degree. All readers were provided with the readings’ authors’ information. A determination of whether a reading or course material content met the rubric criteria led to the addition or subtraction of the reading from our reserve of potential course materials. This process was challenging and led to much discussion about meaning and intent of the project and if the readings aligned with the overall course outcomes. However, we did decide that the readings chosen can easily be incorporated into curricula because they included research conduct, the role of IRB and ethical boards, and how to recognize and evaluate ethical situations in practice as they relate to author diversity, sample diversity or inclusion, and diversity of thought.

3. How did it go, and what did you learn?
In the end, new readings were found and selected to add to the research courses to help foster a variety of ideas and inputs for students to gain exposure to diversity of thought, various population samples, and authors’ backgrounds. However, the difficulty for all readers was the application of the rubric. The readers felt it did not fit our exact purpose nor was it clear to each reader how to interpret different criteria. Based on readers’ feedback and not the rubric, they felt that the end result was a set of articles that truly did “increase awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathetic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and institutions” (AAC&U, 2017).

When we started this evaluation process, we thought it would take only a matter of two to four weeks. However, it took much longer due to the back and forth discussions about interpretation of rubric language. We did find that when embarking on updating and changing readings for this class or others in University College the issue of diversity and inclusion has now been raised to the fore. This is a worthy exercise to complete for any course.

Written by: Andrew L. Detzel, Daniels College of Business

Between Winter and Spring quarters of 2017, I taught three sections of FIN 3300, an introductory course in Investments that is required for Finance majors and elective for non-Finance business majors. I am a strong believer in rigorously grading participation to incentivize it. However, keeping track of many students’ participation is naturally challenging. During these two quarters, I experimented with the use of “exit tickets” to facilitate assessment of participation.

An exit ticket is simply a half sheet of paper with two questions on it. Students must fill one out each class to get participation credit for that day. The first question is: “What was the most interesting thing you learned today or what is one concept you are still confused about?” The second question is: “What was your most valuable one contribution to the class today?”

The second question is the main assessment tool for grading participation. I instruct them to be brief describing their contribution, but specific enough that I can judge the contribution’s quality. Students earn full credit if they ask a substantive question, or offer a nontrivial insight or answer to a question in class discussion. They earn partial credit if their contribution falls short of that.

The first question has several purposes, including helping students answer the second question. First, it forces them to pause for a moment and reflect on what they have experienced during the class time, which by itself increases their engagement with the material. Second, this question offers students a chance to participate indirectly—and earn some credit—by identifying confusion that may have prevented them from participating during class. Finally, this question also helps identify points of confusion that I the instructor can fix in future classes, which of course promotes engagement and participation.

The exit tickets were somewhat successful and worked roughly as one would expect. Relative to prior quarters teaching the same course, I observed a noticeable increase in participation among the segment of students who would not normally be inclined to actively participate and participation scores increased on average. Student evaluations also overwhelmingly conveyed appreciation about my encouraging of participation, although two student comments expressed dissatisfaction being graded with exit tickets.

While exit tickets are simple and effective, they have their limitations that should be considered before use. First, they incentivize everyone to contribute something to class discussion, but some students will do only that and then reduce their effort for the rest of class once they have. Of course, this is often an improvement from nothing at all. A second issue is that some absences are excusable and perhaps students cannot be expected to make a stellar contribution every single class. I recommend dropping two or three ticket scores when computing final course grades.

Overall, exit tickets are worth a try if they are consistent with your teaching style.

Feeling stressed out? Many professionals deal with stressful work environments. If the stress is ignored, it could lead to negative coping habits or burnout. In this video, Francis Agyakwa, MSW Adjunct Faculty at the Graduate School of Social Work demonstrates how he teaches his social work students to deal with work stress by drumming. This activity was supported and funded by the OTL OneNewThing Mini-Grant program.

What were you trying to change or solve? Identify the aspect of teaching and/or learning that you were attempting to improve or the challenge you were attempting to address by implementing your project.

This past Winter quarter (2017), I taught Health Disparities, a new course in the Counseling Psychology Department. The course is an elective, with only 50 minutes of class time per week. It was challenging to think of a framework that would take fullest advantage of every student’s talent and ability to contribute to addressing health disparities. I knew that student active participation in class would be key to their learning, but I struggled to see how to fit lecturing plus discussion of materials and hands-on activities in 50 minutes.

What did you do? Briefly explain your technique/strategy/idea/tool/activity. Include a description of what the students did differently (for example; how they interacted with you, each other, and/or the learning environment) and your role.

In consultation with OTL, we decided that a flipped classroom model was the best way to approach the course. Every week, students viewed short video lectures at home, before the class session, and in-class time was devoted to development of and participation in a quarter-long photo voice project. The video lectures were the key ingredient of the class. They were created with Zoom and posted on Canvas. Students could easily access them and complete follow-up associated quizzes (also on Canvas). During class sessions, I functioned as a coach or facilitator, encouraging students in individual inquiry and collaborative effort as the photo voice project unveiled. Progressively, students felt more empowered to run the class when we were in the classroom. Results of the photo voice were posted in a class-generated DU Portfolio at the end of the quarter.

How did it go, and what did you learn? Describe how the students responded, what learning improvements you see or can infer, the aspects of the method that were most difficult or surprising, and the potential challenges that others might face. What advice would you give to someone and/or what would you do differently next time?

Recording the lectures is somewhat time-consuming. Yet, the video lectures were surprisingly easy to create and upload, despite my initial anxiety. Students reported liking the online lectures, as they were brief but comprehensive and easily accessible for them. They also were excited to work collaboratively on the photo voice project and have space/time to share their photos every week. Therefore, I feel encouraged to continue recording some of my lectures in the future, to save class time for hands-on activities.

Roncoroni, Julia , Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Counseling Psychology Department
Morgridge College of Education
University of Denver



What were you trying to change or solve? Identify the aspect of teaching and/or learning that you were attempting to improve or the challenge you were attempting to address by implementing your project.

Because my Career Counseling course had been transitioned to an online course, I felt there were several things that were being missed that I needed to find a way to bring back. For example, I missed demonstrating career counseling techniques or interventions during class periods. Students had provided feedback that watching me show how to complete a career card sort or work through a career genogram were incredibly valuable. During class periods, I would also invite students to practice the interventions with their peers. While students could be practicing on their own time, I had no way to confirm that! Finally, students accompanied myself to a homeless shelter during their last class period where they would conduct a career counseling session with at least one technique or intervention that they learned in class. Their final papers were case conceptualizations based on these sessions. I perceived that these things would be difficult to include with the new online format, but I realized that variations of these things would still be possible with the support of the Office of Teaching and Learning.

What did you do? Briefly explain your technique/strategy/idea/tool/activity. Include a description of what the students did differently (for example; how they interacted with you, each other, and/or the learning environment) and your role.

Prior to the OTL OneNewThing mini grant, my lectures included no videos related to the techniques and interventions in career counseling (unless I was able to track one down on YouTube!). My proposal was to create a series of videos of myself demonstrating career counseling techniques and interventions for students to have a better understanding of the material. Specifically for the grant, I started with one video of a career counseling intervention – a card sort.  Learning how easy it could be through completing the experience myself, I asked my students to record a part of their mock career counseling session that would demonstrate a technique or interventions so I would be able to better evaluate their understanding of the course content. These short clips were uploaded to DU VideoManager by the students.

How did it go, and what did you learn? Describe how the students responded, what learning improvements you see or can infer, the aspects of the method that were most difficult or surprising, and the potential challenges that others might face. What advice would you give to someone and/or what would you do differently next time?

As I mentioned, the card sort video was surprisingly easy to create (with the support of the Office of Teaching and Learning, of course!) so I was encouraged to ask the students to complete their own videos! I provided them with information from the Office of Teaching and Learning that had helped me create that video and instructed them where to upload their videos. Based on feedback from the students, they enjoyed my video on the career counseling intervention and they appreciated the feedback that I was able to provide on their short clips! I am really looking forward to adding more videos and continuing to assign the video clip of students’ career counseling interventions for their final assignment!

Skills Card Sorting

Jessica D. Bartley PsyD, LCSW, CC-AASP
Behavioral Health Consultant/Staff Psychologist
Health and Counseling Center
University of Denver


Photo by Taryn Allen and Alex Parker

Written by: Erika Trigoso, Department of Geography and the Environment

The FSEM I teach is entitled Geography and Genealogy and the main objective of the class is to provide a detailed overview of genealogy in relation to the geographic, religious, economic, political and social processes that shaped the migration choices of our ancestors. The course focuses on intensive research of a variety of primary and secondary sources such as Ellis Island records and census records.

Within this learning framework, as part of an OTL OneNewThing grant, in the Autumn 2015 term I developed a final research project that helped to sharpen the students’ research skills while engaged in a service learning project related to the historic preservation of older properties in Denver. The project consisted of pairing student teams with community members interested in applying for historic designation status based on three categories: geography (location contribution to city of Denver’s character), history (association with the historical development of the city or with a person or group of persons who had influence on society), architecture (possesses distinguishing characteristics of an architectural style).

The community partners were recruited via City Park West / Park Hill Neighborhoods Next Door and Facebook websites. The project involved a field trip in which the students met the community partners and collected information and pictures of the property. The students went to the downtown Denver Public Library to further investigate property records with the aid of librarians. The students also conducted research via (a required class tool) to research the property’s census records and occupant’s biographies. The main goal was to provide our community partners with a complete report to be used as part of the historic designation application.

The students were quite engaged with the project once they visited their assigned properties and got to meet the property owners and collect information in situ. The students had the chance to polish their recently acquired research skills with primary and secondary sources of information, and to participate in old fashioned field trips and library research.

This was a great opportunity for the students and for me as the instructor. We got to experience service learning while contributing to the preservation of the geographic/historic/architectural character of Denver. Many of the out of state students were able to learn in depth about Denver’s development as a city and got to enjoy the unique downtown architecture which is threaten by rapid urban development and infill. The students got to immerse themselves into old Denver.

Some of the challenges were that the properties were very different from each other. Some properties had lots of available information, while others were lacking. Some had significant advantages historically/architecturally in comparison to the others. It was somewhat difficult to provide a comparable experience for all students. Next time, we would like to partner with a city councilman who is seeking to conduct research of historic properties along Colfax Avenue. Due to the large number of properties involved it will be easier to provide all students with a similar and meaningful experience. It will be also beneficial to have the city of Denver as our project partner since the results will be incorporated in the larger Colfax Avenue Development Project.

There were several interesting research results: 1) matching a property to a previous owner who was the first City of Denver librarian, 2) linking a property to a former presidential candidate, 3) determining that one property owner was the founder of the Jewish National Hospital. To complete the loop, we are eager to learn if any of the community partners were successful in obtaining historic status for their houses.

gsswIn the spring quarter of 2016, the Western Colorado Master of Social Work (MSW) Program at DU offered a new course entitled: “Contemporary Social Work Issues in Western Colorado.” The course focuses on environmental justice as a core social work practice area and was developed so that students could learn about the disproportionate burdens of environmental injustices in communities across the Western Slope of Colorado. The class provides an opportunity for students to critically explore, analyze, and discuss current environmental justice disparities and relevant social work interventions in their home communities.

As part of their coursework, students reviewed environmental justice theories and perspectives as they bear on place-based case studies from the region—from oil and gas development in Western Garfield County, to the implications of food waste in Grand Junction, to the damming of the Colorado River in Hot Sulphur Springs. The students were then asked to write and record original podcast episodes and blog posts surrounding their research and experiences. You can read the student blog posts: and listen to their original podcast recordings:

The purposes of the blogging activity were threefold. The ability to effectively communicate environmental justice concerns is an important skill to cultivate for professional social workers. Staying informed about innovative communication strategies in an increasingly digital age is an ethical imperative for social workers across the world. Additionally, this regional program in Western Colorado, with mainly online and hybrid courses, needed a better way to connect distance students both socially and academically.

In reflecting upon their blogging and podcasting experiences, students agreed they were able to achieve these goals. Brooke Lightner, Western Colorado MSW student and Steamboat Springs resident appreciate the new learning experience. Brooke states: “I really enjoyed writing the blogs…It felt risky putting my voice out there, but the rewards were far greater. I think there is a compelling argument to be made that teaching MSW students about this new technology, how to use it effectively and creating an opportunity to reflect on the ethical issues surrounding those methodologies, is not only essential for the marketability of students post-graduation, but the responsibility of a progressive social work program. This is especially important for those who work with youth – we must be savvy in current means of technology in order to foster the relationships necessary to do good work with our clients. Overall, I want to say how grateful I am for the innovative approach this class took in our learning. Not only was the content extremely valuable, but also the assignments were designed such that we had the opportunity to practice a style of communication that is practical for the 21st century.”

This project was part of a OneNewThing grant from the Office of Teaching and Learning, led by Rachel Forbes, Western Colorado MSW Program Director and Assistant Professor of the Practice of Social Work at DU. The program will offer the Contemporary Social Work Issues class again in Winter Quarter 2017.

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