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All posts in Teaching & Learning

Peer Evaluation

Peer evaluation can be an effective teaching tool, not only for evaluation, but also to help students acquire key skills in your courses. It entails asking your students to evaluate one another’s performance in specific course-related tasks, according to guidelines which you provide to them, either informally or as a . . . Read more

Encouraging Students to Complete Assigned Readings

Edit your course reading list. Does every item on the list contribute to the learning objectives you want your students to achieve? If not, remove it. If a long reading contains an important section, identify those pages and eliminate the rest. Students are more likely to complete the readings when they . . . Read more

Classroom Video Recording

For instructors seeking to enhance or document their teaching, we offer a classroom video recording service. Faculty tell us that they learn a lot by watching themselves from the perspective of their students. If you would like to review your video for feedback, a confidential consultation is available with a . . . Read more

Classroom Assessment Techniques

Classroom Assessment Techniques, or CATs, are short, ungraded, anonymous assessments that let teachers learn about their students’ attitudes, knowledge, and reactions to instruction. Instead of being aimed at assigning grades, CATs are formative and aim to improve instruction and learning.  Many informal assessments can be administered in a short period . . . Read more

Groups Can Engage Students at Different Levels

Like many instructors and teaching assistants, I deal with students who have diverse levels of prior knowledge―both within a particular discipline (e.g. freshman versus senior science majors) and across disciplines (e.g. science majors versus humanities majors). The situation is problematic and makes it challenging to design effective assignments and conduct . . . Read more

Flipping the class: Improving Critical Thinking and Analytical Skills in a Large Introductory Cell Biology Class

The Swanson School of Engineering, Bioengineering program, has experienced a surge in enrollment in the past six years. This increase in enrollment, coupled with a new emphasis on critical thinking and analytical skills development in bioengineering students, prompted Lance Davidson to rethink the delivery of his introductory cell biology course. . . . Read more

Exploring physical chemistry using mobile devices

Sean Garrett-Roe, Department of Chemistry, thought very carefully about last year’s course evaluations and acted on them.  While maintaining his primary goal of prompting students to critically evaluate fundamental principles of physical chemistry, Garrett-Roe restructured the delivery of his course material. While the time demands involved in shifting from a traditional . . . Read more

Sociology Students Attack Global Problems

After many iterations of one of her course, “Global Issues and the United Nations,” Jackie Smith, Department of Sociology, observed how disappointed her students were with the ineffectiveness of international organizations charged with resolving the most critical global issues of our time – poverty, environmental degradation, climate change. Her response to . . . Read more

From Teaching to Learning: Faculty continue to find new ways to use Bloom’s Taxonomy

Many instructors find that Bloom’s Taxonomy is an excellent tool to help them write clear learning objectives that are useful for planning all phases of instruction.  Developed in the 1950s, the widely implemented taxonomy identifies six cognitive levels, increasingly more complex, and provides examples of verbs that communicate explicit ways that learners . . . Read more

Strategies for Learning Student Names

Student: “Hello, Professor Smith!” Professor Smith: “Hello….you!” Student: “Do you have my paper?” Professor Smith: “Sure!  Uh, well, what was your last name again?” Student: “It’s, Smith, remember?  Just like yours?” Professor Smith: “Oh, right, of course.  Yes, I remember your last name; just remind me of the first?” Student: . . . Read more

Conference Highlights University’s Culture of Assessment

“A lot of energy has resulted from reflective conversations throughout the University about what we’re teaching and how we’re teaching it,” commented Provost Patricia Beeson who opened the first annual University of Pittsburgh Assessment Conference January 18 at the University Club. An ongoing culture of assessment, which Beeson said is . . . Read more