Blog Archive

Have you ever wondered how best to increase student engagement and community participation in your classroom? If so, then this video is for you! Watch as DU professors Ronald DeLyser (Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering) and Matt Gordon (Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering) discuss how they are using “Team-Based Learning” (TBL) in a first-year engineering course. TBL is an engaging classroom activity designed to build healthy team competition for student groups. It’s an activity that also encourages students to socially interact with one another, which is a desire of most first-year students. In Professors DeLyser and Gordon’s TBL activity, students use scratch cards and a series of course related questions to measure if individuals and teams can correctly identify weekly learning objectives. At the end of each week, team cards are collected and tallied so that one team can be crowned the “Top Team” of the quarter.

If you are interested in utilizing either Team-Based Learning activities or the scratch cards highlighted in this video, please contact us for more information.

 

The Office of Teaching and Learning can assist faculty with the development of learning experiences that are accessible and inclusive of ALL students and adhere to Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles. Take a minute to watch this short video that will briefly explain Universal Design for Learning. Although the video is targeted to K-12 teachers, the basic principles of Universal Design for Learning also applies to higher education. Take a look!

Why go through all this effort?

There are over two million students that have a disability on college campuses throughout the United States. If you create your content using UDL principles, the content is not only accessible to students who may have a disability, but will also support English Language Learners, students who may be struggling in your class, and students accessing your course using a mobile device, laptop, tablet, etc. Universal Design for Learning principles also support effective teaching and inclusive excellence practices. View this video to learn how UDL supports diverse learners in higher education.

How can I get started?

Click on the headers below to expand each section for step-by-step instructions about how to design your course materials to be accessible to all students.


Audio and Video

Use the following steps to increase the accessibility of your audio and video content.

While evaluating videos to use in your course, select videos that include subtitles or transcripts and that reflect diversity. Providing subtitles for video ensures that content is not only accessible to students who may have a disability, but will also support English Language Learners, students who may be struggling in your class, or students who prefer to read. View the video below to learn how to filter YouTube search results to show only videos with subtitles.

 

By law, the University must accommodate students that have officially requested course materials to be accessible. In general, designing all course materials to be accessible by all people is best practice.

View this knowledge base article for step-by-step instructions for requesting and applying captions to your video and audio content, and for instructions on creating your own captions using YouTube.

 


Images

Use the following steps to increase the accessibility of images.

  • Be aware of the contrast between the color and size of images or text, and the background. People with low vision often require a higher contrast to be able to see content effectively.
  • Test images to ensure that none of the meaning is lost when the color is removed – either by printing the image in black and white only, or using an online tool like Vischeck to simulate color-blindness.
  • When incorporating text along with an image,  be sure to create the text within a text editor rather than including it as part of the image. Text that is a part of an image often becomes pixelated and unreadable when enlarged by programs that accommodate for low vision.
  • Add alternative text (ALT tags) that describes the information, meaning, or function that is represented in all images.
  • Avoid the use of images that rely on specific cultural references to understand, or images that may be misinterpreted.
  • Take care to use images that enhance comprehension.
  • Images like animations, diagrams, maps, charts, or illustrations are especially helpful for those with learning disabilities or reading disorders when used to; focus attention, chunk content into segments, encourage linking of new ideas to previously learned information, or draw attention to critical features and key ideas.
  • Avoid flashing or strobing images as they can cause seizures for users with photosensitive epilepsy.

The suggestions above are based largely on the work of WebAIM.org. Explore their Accessible Images guidelines for even more helpful ideas!


Canvas

Use the following steps to increase the accessibility of your Canvas course.


Documents & Presentations

Use the following steps to increase the accessibility of documents.

  • Always use the official heading options provided in the program used to create the document (MSWord, Excel, etc.).  Be sure to follow proper nesting for headers rather than choosing one just because it looks nice, as this will result in a document that doesn’t make sense semantically to viewers using screen readers. For example; there should be main heading (or, “H1 tag”) for each individual document. H2 tags should be used for all in-document headers. H3 should be used for all first level sub-headers, H4 for sub-sub headers, and so on.
  • Never rely on color alone to communicate information.
  • Avoid using “Click Here” to identify links. Instead, use descriptive titles that identify the information being linked. For example, rather than stating “Click Here for more information for prospective students about the University of Denver”, the link should read, “For more information, please see the University of Denver Prospective Students website.”
  • Avoid using underline formatting for text that is not a hyperlink.
  • Clarify all vocabulary, syntax, and graphics used to increase comprehension.
  • Present information in a variety of formats whenever possible.
  • Include as many display or playback options as possible in order to provide viewers with the ability to make helpful adjustments like changing image size, adjusting color contrast, etc.
  • Use standard document formats (e.g., MSWord) that are compatible with assistive devices.

The suggestions above are based largely on the work of 3PlayMedia and WebAIM.org. Explore their Tips for Making Online Documents Accessible, and Links and Hypertext guidelines for even more helpful ideas!

Use the following steps to increase the accessibility of presentations.

  • Consider differences in the audience’s ability to see, hear, move, speak, and understand presentation content, and respect those needs by preparing for them ahead of time.
  • Provide multiple alternative formats of materials whenever possible (i.e. verbal or audio, text-based, pictures, diagrams, etc.).
  • Ensure that any handouts or materials paired with the presentation are also accessible.
  • Be prepared to provide materials ahead of time upon request.
  • Consider accessibility issues when featuring audience participation (i.e. polls, activities, group projects, etc.).
  • Speak clearly at a consistent pace and avoiding the use of jargon, acronyms, or idioms.
  • Describe visual elements of the presentation within the audio, or provide enhanced transcripts that include the descriptions.
  • Provide quality captions and transcripts for all audio elements.

The suggestions above are based largely on the work of the Web Accessibility Initiative (W3C). Explore their How to Make Presentations Accessible to All guidelines for even more helpful ideas!

Guides and Other Resources:

The following resources provide step-by-step instructions for creating accessible documents and presentations.


Teaching Strategies

Use the following Universal Design for Learning core principles to create a more inclusive and accessible classroom.

Provide multiple means of representation by:
  • using advance organizers, analogies, or multiple examples; chunking content into segments; encouraging students to link new ideas to previously learned information; or drawing attention to critical features or key ideas.
  • clarifying vocabulary, syntax, and graphics; and by avoiding the use of images that rely on specific cultural references to understand or that may be misinterpreted, for example.
  • presenting information in a variety of formats (i.e., visual, audio, tactile); enabling variable display or playback (e.g., changing image size/color contrast); providing captions for video/audio materials; or using standard formats (e.g., MSWord) that are compatible with assistive devices.
Provide multiple means of action and expression by:
  • using a variety of approaches to assess learning and performance.
  • keeping learners motivated via offering choices for navigation of material, incorporating student interests, providing options for self-regulation, etc.
  • familiarizing students with institutional policies and resources for advocacy and referral.
Provide multiple means of engagement with regard to expectations for:
  • student-to-student and student-to-instructor interaction – by offering choice of modality for expression of knowledge, ideas, and concepts (e.g., written responses, audio recordings, visual representations, etc.).
  • student-to-content interaction – by selecting software and content that enables multiple means of navigation (i.e., hand, voice, keyboard, etc.), and by providing alternative requirements when physical elements like timing are involved.

The suggestions above are based largely on the work of the National Center for Universal Design for Learning. Explore their UDL Guidelines for even more helpful ideas!


How can I learn more?

View the Universal Design for Learning Canvas course.
Contact DU’s Disability Service Program
Visit OTL’s Creating an Inclusive Classroom teaching resource page
Visit the National Center for Universal Design for Learning
View Oliver Schinken’s Lynda.com course titled, How to Make Accessible Learning.

Who to contact?

Contact the Office of Teaching & Learning at 303.871.2084 or email otl@du.edu if you have questions or need to assistance.

The statements below have been collected from various centers across campus to assist you when creating your syllabus. It is highly recommended that you adjust and personalize the statements to match you particular course and teaching approaches.

These statements help set the tone of your class and demonstrate your willingness to engage with students as individuals. The bottom line with many of these policies is that students should let you know by the end of the first week of class if they need a particular accommodation.

 

Students with Disabilities/Medical Issues

If you qualify for academic accommodations because of a disability or medical issue please submit a Faculty Letter to me from Disability Services Program (DSP) in a timely manner so that your needs may be addressed. DSP is located on the 4th floor of Ruffatto Hall; 1999 E. Evans Ave.303.871. / 2372 / 2278/ 7432. Information is also available on line at http://www.du.edu/disability/dsp; see the Handbook for Students with Disabilities.

Religious Accommodations Policy 

University policy grants students excused absences from class or other organized activities or observance of religious holy days, unless the accommodation would create an undue hardship. You must notify me by the end of the first week of classes if you have any conflicts that may require an absence. It is your responsibility to make arrangements with me in advance to make up any missed work or in-class material.

Honor Code/Academic Integrity

(Additional academic integrity statements can be found here)

All work submitted in this course must be your own and produced exclusively for this course. The use of sources (ideas, quotations, paraphrases) must be properly acknowledged and documented. For the consequences of violating the Academic Misconduct policy, refer to the University of Denver website on the Honor Code (www.du.edu/honorcode). See also http://www.du.edu/studentconduct for general information about conduct expectations from the Office of Student Conduct.

Inclusive Learning Environments

(developed by the Faculty Senate)

In this class, we will work together to develop a learning community that is inclusive and respectful. Our diversity may be reflected by differences in race, culture, age, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, and myriad other social identities and life experiences. The goal of inclusiveness, in a diverse community, encourages and appreciates expressions of different ideas, opinions, and beliefs, so that conversations and interactions that could potentially be divisive turn instead into opportunities for intellectual and personal enrichment.

A dedication to inclusiveness requires respecting what others say, their right to say it, and the thoughtful consideration of others’ communication. Both speaking up and listening are valuable tools for furthering thoughtful, enlightening dialogue. Respecting one another’s individual differences is critical in transforming a collection of diverse individuals into an inclusive, collaborative and excellent learning community. Our core commitment shapes our core expectation for behavior inside and outside of the classroom

Title IX

Gender violence can happen to anyone regardless of race, class, age, appearance, gender identity, or sexual orientation.  The University of Denver is committed to providing an environment free of discrimination on the basis of sex (gender), including sexual misconduct, sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking.  The Center for Advocacy, Prevention and Empowerment (CAPE) provides programs and resources to help promote healthy relationships, teach non-violence and equality, and foster a respectful and safe environment for all members of the University of Denver community.  All services are confidential and free of charge.
For assistance during business hours, call 303-871-3853 and ask to speak to the Director of CAPE.  After hours, please call the Emergency & Crisis Dispatch Line at 303-871-3000and ask to speak to the CAPE advocate on call.

Student Athletes

If you are a student-athlete, you should inform me of any class days to be missed due to DU sponsored varsity athletic events in which you are participating. Please provide me with an absence policy form by the end of the first week of class. You will need to make up any missed lectures, assignments, and/or exams.

Use of Technology in the Classroom

Access to the Internet can be a valuable aid to the classroom learning environment. You may be encouraged to use a laptop, smart phone, or other device to explore concepts related to course discussions and in-class activity. Keep in mind, however, that these technologies can be distracting – not only for you, but to others in the class. Please avoid the temptation of Facebook, texting, or other off-topic diversions.

Online and Web-supported Classes

It is your responsibility to procure reliable, readily-accessible Internet service in order to fulfill course expectations.  I am under no obligation to accept late assignments or waive required tasks (e.g., discussion participation) due to lack of online access or malfunctioning computer hardware.  Please consider identifying an alternative Internet source in case of technical problems. Look here for a list of computer labs on the DU campus .  Computer support is available from the University Technology Support (UTS) Help Center.

 

November 3, 2014 – November 3, 2014

Upper Floor of Anderson Academic Commons

View MapMap and Directions | Register

Description:

Have you been meaning to work on those rubrics you need for grading, or for that signature assignment in your course? Take this opportunity to explore general guidelines and best practice for using rubrics. You will work with colleagues and get some hands-on advice for developing and implementing your rubric.

Participants should bring with them a rubric in development, or an assignment in need of a rubric.

Facilitated by: Rob Flaherty and Bridget Arend

 

Register

Past Workshops and Resources

Visit our Canvas page for information related to Canvas workshops

The OTL also offers customized workshops for departments and units throughout the year.

Spring 2015 Workshops

Teaching and Learning Week 2015
Click here to view nearly 20 workshops and associated resources from Teaching and Learning Week 2015

Roundtable Discussion: Alternative Methods for Rewarding Teaching at DU
Facilitators: Paul Olk, Daniels College of Business, and Bridget Arend

Faculty panel: Using group work to enhance intercultural perspectives in DU classes
Presented at DU’s Internationalization Summit
Facilitators: Bridget Arend, OTL; Dan Baack, Daniels College of Business; Christopher Edwards, University College; and Margie Thompson, Dept of Media, Film & Journalism
Handout

Dealing with the Unique Challenges of Assessing Graduate Programs
Facilitator: Rob Flaherty

Authentic, Transformative, Integrative: Understanding the Value of Culminating Experiences
Facilitators: Rob Flaherty and Virginia Pitts

The Practice of Enoughness: Finding Work/Life Balance
Facilitator: Jason A. Weisberger

Winter 2015 Workshops

When Voices get Hot: Preparing Yourself for Constructive Dialogue in the Classroom
Presented at the DU Diversity Summit
Facilitators: Bridget Arend and Nicole Joseph, Morgridge College of Education
Workshop Handout

Departmental Excellence in Teaching Panel Discussion
Presenters: Sharon Lassar, School of Accountancy, Dean Saitta, Department of Anthropology, Nick Galatos, Department of Mathematics, Tiffani Lennon, Colorado Women’s College
Departmental Excellence in Teaching Initiative

Are they really learning? Methods for gathering formative feedback to improve teaching
Facilitators: Bridget Arend and Rob Flaherty
Samples of Classroom Assessment Techniques

Why don’t my students come to class prepared?
Facilitator: Bridget Arend
Motivating students to come to class prepared

Fall 2014 Workshops

Developing Rubrics for Assessment and Grading
Facilitators: Rob Flaherty and Bridget Arend
Developing Rubrics

Engaging Faculty in Inclusive Excellence
Facilitator: Chayla Haynes, Assistant Professor, University of Northern Colorado

Methods for Encouraging Self-directed Learning: Assignment Wrappers
Facilitator: Bridget Arend
Assignment and Exam Wrappers

How Research on Learning Can Inform Our Teaching
Facilitator: Virginia Pitts

Using Canvas for Assessment
Facilitators: Rob Flaherty & Ryan Shiba
Resources (you must be logged into Portfolio to see additional materials)

Assessment as Scholarship
Facilitator: Rob Flaherty
Resources (you must be logged into Portfolio to see additional materials)

Instructional Video Workshop
Facilitator: Alex Martinez

 

2013- 2014 Workshops

Voice for the Professor
Facilitators: Anne Penner and Greg Ungar, Assistant Professors in the Department of Theatre

Identifying and Designing Student Assignments for Program Assessment
Facilitator: Rob Flaherty  

Beyond Student Evals: Alternatives for Evaluating Teaching Effectiveness
Facilitator: Bridget Arend
Evaluating Teaching Excellence Toolkit

Advancing Your Assessment Program Workshop
Facilitator: Rob Flaherty
Resources (you must be logged into Portfolio to see additional materials)    

Using Video for Student Feedback
Facilitator: Alex Martinez

Using Top Hat in a Biology Course
Blog Post: Faculty Showcase: Using Top Hat in a Biology Course
Top Hat Webinar

Facilitating Student Groups
Facilitators: Roberto Corrada, Cindi Fukami, Nancy Sasaki
Blog Post: Advice about Facilitating Student Groups
Basic Cooperative Learning Structures
Overview of Cooperative Learning

Is there an app for that? iPads for Teaching & Research
Facilitators: Kathy Keairns, Carrie Forbes, Rafael Fajardo, David Thomson, Chris Brown
Blog Post: Is there an app for that? iPads for Teaching & Research
Google Spreadsheet

Strategies for Working with Challenging Students
NSM difficult students 2013
Difficult Students Syllabi Examples

 

Prior Workshops

Managing Difficult Students
Facilitators: Alan Kent, Executive Director of Health & Counseling Center, Jacaranda Palmateer, Director of Counseling Services
Blog Post: Managing Difficult Students/Situations
Managing Difficult Students

Teaching Chinese Students: Implications for the Classroom
Facilitators: International Student and Scholar Services and the Office of Teaching and Learning
Blog Post: Teaching Chinese Students-Webinar Reflections
NAFSA Webinar Handouts
NAFSA Webinar Slides

Teaching International Students
Blog Post: Teaching International Students
NAFSA Webinar Slides
International Student Statistics
Teaching Chinese Students Small Group Discussions

Secrets of Effective Presentations
Facilitators: Bridget Arend, OTL and Carol Zak-Dance, Colorado Women’s College
Blog Post: Presentations/Lectures
Evaluation Checklist
A Presentation about Presentations

How Learning Works: Part II
Facilitators: Bridget Arend, OTL and Ginger Maloney, Morgridge College of Education
How Learning Works Part II Handout
How Learning Works Part II

How Learning Works: Part I
Facilitator: Bridget Arend, OTL
How Learning Works Part I Handout
How Learning Works Part I

Fostering Critical Thinking in Online Discussions
Facilitators: Bridget Arend, OTL and Kim Hosler, University of Northern Colorado
A Guide for Identifying and Eliciting Cognitive Presence

Managing Laptops and Mobile Devices in the Classroom
Managing Laptops and Mobile Devices in the Classroom

Effective Grading: Saving your sanity & that of your students with rubrics & expectations
Grading Tests & Assignments

 

Many college faculty have heard of Bloom’s Taxonomy and have probably used one of the many helpful lists of accompanying verbs to craft measurable learning objectives. The six categories in Bloom’s Taxonomy for the Cognitive Domain (revised in 2001) – remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create – has been the go-to resource for writing learning objectives for over 50 years, assisting countless educators.

The goal of using Bloom’s Taxonomy is to articulate and diversify our learning goals. So why has the writing of learning objectives, considered to be an essential aspect of creating effective and engaging learning experiences, too often been viewed as an uninspiring task? Shouldn’t this be where our passion as teachers comes through? Could it be we are focusing on a limited aspect of learning?

Blooms Taxonomy has been used for so long because it makes sense and is useful, but perhaps it is time we move beyond Bloom to explore all they types of learning we are trying to achieve in a college-level course.

Luckily there are other taxonomies we can use. In fact, Bloom’s taxonomy of the cognitive domain is only one of the taxonomies created by Bloom and his colleagues. A quick Internet search will uncover the work begun by Bloom and furthered by other scholars in the psychomotor and affective domains.

Additionally, L. Dee Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning Outcomes goes beyond cognitive processes and includes other aims of teaching. Fink’s taxonomy contains six aspects of learning:

  • Foundational Knowledge – understanding information and ideas
  • Application – developing critical, creative, or practical thinking skills
  • Integration – making connecting between information, ideas, perspectives or real life
  • Human Dimension – Learning about oneself or others
  • Caring – Developing new feelings, interests, or values
  • Learning How to Learn – Becoming a better student, inquiring about a subject

Similarly, Wiggins and McTighe’s backwards design model describes Six Facets of Understanding:

  • Explain – provide justifiable accounts of phenomena, facts, and data
  • Interpret — tell meaningful stories, make subjects personal or accessible through images, analogies, and models
  • Apply — effectively use and adapt what they know in diverse contexts
  • Have perspective — see and hear points of view critically; see the big picture
  • Empathize — perceive sensitively on the basis of prior indirect experience
  • Have self-knowledge — show metacognitive awareness; perceive the prejudices, projections and habits of mind that shape and impede our understanding

Both of these taxonomies start with the foundational knowledge necessary for deeper learning, and allow us to tease out the type of thinking we want students to be doing. But both go beyond cognitive processes and application of knowledge to also explore some of the larger goals of our courses. Nearly all courses including some affective goals, whether it is a deeper appreciation of culture, or simply to change someone’s deep dislike of math or feelings of inadequacy about writing. And nearly all courses should include some metacognitive aspects, helping students develop the habits necessary of a lifelong learner in the 21st century.

Once we have clarified and articulated all the various objectives in our course, we can then choose the most appropriate teaching and assessment methods. For example lectures and presentations are well suited for the transfer of foundational knowledge and could be useful for some cognitive processes, but are not effective for promoting application skills or perspective taking or self-discovery. I was fortunate to co-author a book with former DU Professor Jim Davis where we provided yet another categorization that can help instructors determine which teaching methods are best suited for which learning objectives:

  • Building skills – supported through practice and feedback
  • Acquiring knowledge – supported through presentations and explanations
  • Developing critical, creative, dialogical thinking – supported through question-driving inquiries and discussions
  • Cultivating problem solving and decision-making abilities – supported through problems, case studies, labs, projects
  • Exploring attitudes, feelings and perspectives – supported through group activities and team projects
  • Practicing professional judgment – supported through role playing, simulations, scenarios and games
  • Self-discovery and personal growth – supported through reflection on experience

Which taxonomy you choose, or how you mix them together, might be a matter of personal choice. But articulating our goals beyond what we are used to describing will allow us to capture the entirety of what we are teaching, and perhaps become more passionate about our work. It’s worth a look into some of these other taxonomies, beyond Bloom, that can help us with these larger goals.

 

References:

Anderson, L.W., Krathwohl, D.R., Airasian, P.W., Cruikshank, K.A., Mayer, R.E., Pintrich, P.R., Raths J. & Wittrock, M.C. (2001) A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, New York: Longman.

Bloom, B.S., Engelhart, M.D., Furst, E.J., Hill, W.H. & Krathwohl, D.R. (1956) Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals; Handbook I: Cognitive Domain, New York: Longmans, Green.

Davis, J.R. & Arend, B.D. (2013) Seven Ways of Learning: A Resource for More Purposeful, Effective, and Enjoyable College Teaching, Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Fink, L.D. (2003) Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Wiggins, G. & McTighe J. (2005) Understanding by Design, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

The Hybrid Course Design, Development, and Delivery (Hybrid 3D) Workshop is for faculty who will be teaching a hybrid course within the coming academic year.  The purpose of this online, self-paced workshop is to prepare participants to design, develop, and deliver hybrid courses that maximize student learning. 

This workshop can also support faculty members in designing and developing courses using the “flipped” approach.

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What would I gain from the Hybrid 3D Workshop?

In this workshop, participants will:

  • Identify ways in which they might capitalize on the unique opportunities afforded by the hybrid approach to improve student learning in their own courses.
  • Design a peer-reviewed hybrid module(s) that incorporates face-to-face and online components in ways that will promote student learning, and that can be used as a template for designing an entire hybrid course.
  • Build a hybrid module in Canvas, based on the initial design, that guides students through module activities, and that can be used as template for building an entire hybrid course.

How is the workshop structured?

This workshop is designed to allow participants choice in how they go through it.  As such, there are three ways in which participants can engage with the workshop activities/materials; they can:

  • Go through the activities/materials in sequence, and complete and submit all of the assignments for points to receive a certificate of completion
  • Go through the activities/materials in sequence, and complete the activities as they see fit for their own learning (even getting feedback along the way), but not submit the assignments for points
  • Use the workshop materials simply for reference, but not complete the assignments.

The workshop consists of three modules:

  • In the first module, participants learn about ways in which the hybrid approach can improve student learning, and review real life examples of how others have incorporated the hybrid approach into their own teaching.   Participants start identifying ways in which they might utilize the hybrid approach to improve student learning in their own courses.
  • In the second module, participants are supported in designing at least one module/topic for their own hybrid course, getting feedback along the way, using the instructional design process sometimes referred to as “backwards design”.
  • In the third module, participants use Canvas to develop the modules/topics they designed, and create an action plan describing a strategy for incorporating the hybrid approach moving forward.

What is the time commitment?

The estimated time to complete the entire workshop is roughly 25 hours.  Participants can spread that out over how ever many weeks they choose; most participants will choose to take the workshop over a period of 4 to 6 weeks.

When is the next workshop and how can I register?

Given that this is a self-paced workshop, you can take it at any time.  However, you will get the most out of it if you take it with at least one or two other people.  If you are interested in enrolling in the workshop (on your own or with others who you know are interested), or if you would like to find out if/when there are others already others planning to take it, please contact Virginia.Pitts@du.edu.

How can I learn more?

For more information about the workshop, please contact Virginia.Pitts@du.edu.

About 11% of the DU student population consists of international students. International students are by no means a homogenous group, and nearly 90 different nations are represented at DU. Each student is unique, however there are some strategies that can help international students be more successful in their time here at DU.

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Chinese Students

More than half of the international students at DU are Chinese. Chinese students are more diverse today than a decade ago, but still tend to bring with them a worldview that includes respect for authority and avoidance of conflict. This worldview often clashes with U.S. classrooms that expect participation in discussions and active learning activities. In addition, although DU has recently taken steps to alleviate this issue, some Chinese students have lower English language skills than preferred.

International Student Experience in the Classroom

Strategies for Teaching International Students

There are some steps that instructors can take to better engage and support international students (as well as domestic students):

Classroom content/understanding

  • American college students have a vocabulary of approximately 20,000 words that took them 18 years to acquire. It can be very challenging for international students to bridge this gap. Trying to understand content while taking notes can be very difficult.
  • Talk slowly and clearly, give additional explanations for foundational concepts, clarify meanings of slang and cultural references (some students might not speak up, ask them to  write down their questions and talk with them after class).
  • Use consistent patterns for presenting information (explain learning outcomes, what do you know about it, how does it fit with rest of material).
  • Allow time for brainstorming (some cultures stress reflection before speaking). Give them time to provide a considered opinion.
  • Be careful and aware if your content relies on precision, one mistaken definition may disrupt learning an entire concept.
  • Consider sending class notes/outlines ahead of time and/or allowing international students to record lectures.
  • Hold individual conferences/meetings with students, send follow-up emails to provide information in writing, or encourage them to use office hours.

Group projects/participating in discussions

  • Promote smaller conversations among students in the classroom, for example, talk to your neighbor for a few minutes, or use writing prompts to give all students time to compose their thoughts.
  • Assign diverse groups rather than letting student select groups (but also be careful of isolating international students too much). Keep the groups stable over the quarter to allow relationships to develop.
  • Encourage domestic students to help create a space for sharing of multiple voices and to support international students. Appeal to their future careers – they will benefit by having experience working with people from all over the world. Explicitly ask domestic students to list the benefits of having international students and brainstorm what they could do to support and welcome them.
  • Provide examples from international student contributions and remind everyone the value of these contributions.
  • Create group projects with a fair division of labor. Group projects with a written deliverable often results in unequal division of labor, especially when there are very different language skills. Focus group projects on the concepts and discussion/process, with the deliverable/outcome being something everyone can share (choose a position to defend, recommend a course of action, choose option A/B/C as a group, etc.)
  • Provide groups with some basic information about communication and decision making differences. Create guidelines and ground rules for group projects.
  • Look into the many resources about effective group practices (for example: best practice in effective group work).

Language/grammar/writing

  • Don’t lower standards. However, certain English language mechanics are very difficult for non-native speakers. In addition, language skills often get worse when concepts discussed are more difficult.
  • In your grading, distinguish between global writing issues (more important) and common errors (less important or harder to correct).
  • Also, distinguish between assignments where the thinking/process issues are most important (and grammar is less important), and those assignments that need to be polished/summative/final where grammar issues are important.
  • When grading papers, select just one paragraph or page to grade for grammatical issues and ask student to revise rest of paper, don’t edit it all for them.
  • Visit these resources from The Writing Program: Working With International Student Writers and Guidelines for Responding to the Writing of International Students

Expectations for Learning

  • Get to know your international students – how to pronounce their name, what brought them here, what are their interests and strengths.
  • Be explicit about rules and expectations, especially unwritten rules (who to go to for help, guidelines for plagiarism, expectations for active learning/participation) show examples, model and walk through the rules.
  • When using active learning methods, explain why and the expectations for students.
  • Provide ongoing feedback on student progress, on how well they are meeting learning goals.
  • Ask them to reflect on their learning process – which learning and study strategies are working and which are not? What do they struggle with and how could they adjust their strategies to be successful?

Academic integrity

  • Academic integrity norms are different in some cultures. International students don’t necessarily understand how to paraphrase, or the mechanics of how to translate things into their own words.
  • Communicate standards about academic integrity and walk through examples with students.
  • This plagiarism test from Indiana University might be helpful to use with students.
  • View additional resources about promoting academic integrity.

Additional Resources

Teaching International Students: Strategies to Enhance Learning

Teaching International Students: Pedagogical Issues and Strategies

The Promise of Your Course

Many educators feel that a key to effective and efficient course design is to develop and understand the PROMISE of your course. Why should a student take this course? What will they “get out” of it? Will they gain a more critical or informed way of appreciating the world? A set of skills applicable to their future career? Mastery of a set of concepts that are foundational for more advanced learning?

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Students appreciate knowing why they are being asked to learn something. According to Mary Clement’s recent article Three Steps to Better Course Evaluations, “I recommend making invisible expectations explicit. I regularly start class by saying, ‘We are learning this because …’ When students understand why and how the material is relevant to them, they find more motivation to study and end up rating the course more highly.”

If the promise of a course is not clear, it’s often more difficult to articulate learning outcomes that are based on student learning rather than content areas.

For many years, courses were designed based on content areas, by listing the topic areas to be “covered” and breaking that down by the number of class meetings. Today, learning is understood as a much more complex process, and much of the content that used to be available only in the college classroom is now widely available online for free. The classroom is no longer the place to dispense information, but rather the place to help students learn how to use, apply, and understand information.

Today, course design is instead achieved by focusing on student learning goals–what college instructors want their students to learn, to know, and to be able to do by the end of the course. Instructors are asked to focus their course design efforts on what the students are doing in class as much, if not more so, than on what the instructor is doing.

Writing Learning Outcomes

Once the promise of a course is understood and articulated, it is easier to talk about the student learning goals, which are typically written out in the form of learning outcomes.

The task of writing learning outcomes often causes confusion and frustration among faculty members. It can be difficult to articulate in just a few statements all the complex learning that we want to occur in our courses. It is easy to get caught up in the distinctions between terms such as objectives, goals, measurable learning outcomes, or terminal course objectives. However, the bottom line is that it is useful for both instructors and students when the general desired outcomes of a course are stated and shared. Here are some tips and resources about writing learning outcomes.

  • Start with the end in mind. What are the main goals of your course for students? What is it that students should be expected to do, or to know, or to apply, by the end of your course? What are those main concepts you want students to retain years after taking your course?
  • Ultimately, try to write the objectives from the student’s perspective and tie them in to the promise of your course. Rather than just focusing on the content areas, what do you want the students to be able to do, to understand, or to know, and why is it important that they do so?
  • Most courses outcomes consist of a mix of knowledge, skills and attitudes. Think about not only what knowledge students should gain, but what skills they will be developing (critical thinking skills, creative thinking skills, application skills, psychomotor skills, etc.) and what attitudes they might be changing.
  • Clear learning outcomes help you align your content, assignments, and grading practices and help you focus on the essential components of the course, rather than trying to fit everything in.
  • Connect your course outcomes with your programs’ outcomes, with your Graduate degree outcomes, or with the University of Denver Undergraduate Student Outcomes.

Learning Outcome Examples

(Adapted from Walvoord and Anderson, Effective Grading, 1998)

  • Western Civilization I…describe basic historical events and people, argue like a historian does by using historical data as evidence for a position
  • Economics…use economic theory to explain government policies and their effects
  • Physics…explain physical concepts in your own words
  • Speech Pathology…synthesize information from various sources to arrive at intervention tactics for the client

MATC 1200: Calculus for Business and Social Sciences
Generously shared by Deb Carney, Dept of Mathematics

Students should be able to:

  • Relate the concept of the limit to the definition of the derivative
  • Describe the concept of the derivative as an instantaneous rate of change
  • Apply the concepts of the limit and the derivative to solve calculus problems
  • Interpret real-world situations in terms of related calculus concepts
  • Use and apply mathematical models including logarithmic and exponential functions

Additional Resources

Many instructors find the resources below to be helpful when writing learning outcomes.

The main idea is that most courses should focus on more than just knowledge/remembering outcomes and strive to develop more complex thinking skills among students.

 

Learn More

Contact the OTL if you would like someone to review and assist you in writing course learning outcomes.

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A well prepared course syllabus shows students that you take your courses and your teaching seriously. The syllabus is an essential communication tool between you and your students. It helps clarify course assignments and expectations. Additionally, the process of creating a course syllabus helps you organize your content and formulate the essential learning goals of the course.

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Below are some general guidelines to keep in mind when developing your syllabus.

  • Gain student buy-in. Students are curious individuals who want to learn, but the value of your course may need to be spelled out for them. What are the exciting questions you will explore? What ideas, perspectives, or knowledge will they gain? What practical or life-long skills will the students gain? Think about the benefits of your course from the student’s perspective include this in your syllabus.
  • Articulate learning outcomes. Create 3-6 general course objectives or outcomes. Think about the essential concepts, knowledge, and disciplinary ways of thinking that your students should learn by the end of the quarter (and that you would be embarrassed if they did not!).
  • Use your main learning outcomes to structure the course. Try not to get caught up in the “coverage problem” of listing topics and trying to get through as much material as possible. Remember depth over breadth is almost always better for student learning. Rather, keep your focus on the essential course outcomes and the different ways students can achieve them.
  • Describe your assignments in detail. List the purpose and expectations of your assignments as well as the logistics of when, where, and how they are due. The more detail you provide, the less time you will spend answering these questions in class. Keep track of students’ questions throughout the year and incorporate them into next year’s syllabus.
  • Don’t expect your students to know your expectations or preferences. Tell them and refer back to the syllabus throughout the quarter.
  • Make sure they read the syllabus. Many students are used to being read the syllabus on the first day of class, so they don’t bother to read it themselves. Some faculty members only answer questions from those who have read the syllabus, or give a short syllabus quiz reinforcing the important details the first week of class.
  • Set guidelines and expectations for due dates and classroom behavior, but avoid making the document too authoritative. If you want to encourage students to think creatively and freely in your course, you do not want to start off with a dictatorial and condescending syllabus.
  • Talk with other faculty members in your department about expected student workloads, sequencing of courses, faculty expectations, and students’ general entry-level knowledge.
  • Post your syllabus on Blackboard or Canvas. DU is a laptop university and students expect to find syllabi and course materials online. If you post your syllabus, do not make changes once the course starts without notifying students.
  • Share your passion. Although your syllabus should be descriptive and informative, it does not have to be a dry and daunting document. Be sure to convey your enthusiasm about your field and pique students’ interest in your course.

In general, a good syllabus provides a comprehensive overview of the course and provides students with the guidelines they need to be successful.

Sample Policies to Include in Your Syllabus

Below are links to some sample language and policies you may use in your own syllabi.

Additional Resources

Learn More

You can schedule a teaching consultation anytime if you would like support developing your syllabi.


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