ITL Masthead

Vol. 1, No. 3

Your Source for Teaching & Learning News and Information

Spring 2008

p h b    Campus News

Cal Poly Pomona's Symposium
Connects the CSU

Image: Barbara Mills at Cal Poly Pomona
Barbara Mills
11th CSU Regional Symposium on
University Teaching
April 12, 2008, Cal Poly Pomona

A round of congratulations and thank yous to Dr. Peggy Perry, director, Faculty Center for Professional Development, Dr. Victoria Bhavsar, her associate, and their Pomona colleagues for organizing and hosting the 11th CSU Regional Symposium on University Teaching.  Held at Kellogg West, this Symposium drew 150 faculty from 19 campuses and the Chancellor’s Office.  Two keynote presentations were made by Dr. Barbara Millis, recognized expert on cooperative learning in higher education, in addition to 42 concurrent sessions and 27 posters with CSU faculty—deemed outstanding by all reports.

Millis’ interactive lunchtime session was entitled Sequencing Activities to Promote Deep Learning.  Key elements that promote deep learning include the following:

  • Foster Student Motivation to Learn

    Students are more motivated to learn if they see the value of what they are learning.

    Implication -- Show students the purpose for what they are learning, why they need to know it, and how it relates to them personally.
  • Increase Student Active Involvement in Learning

    Students learn more deeply when they are actively, rather than passively, involved in learning new concepts. 

    Implication -- After students have listened to a lecture (passive involvement) about course material, ask them to give personal or media examples, to draw or diagram a concept, to role-play or perform a situation or sequence.
  • Increase Student Interaction with Others

    Students learn more deeply when they work with others, often their in-class peers, to learn new material.

    Implication -- Ask students to form dyads in order to share, explain, re-teach, support, question, or debate concepts with one another.  Monitor the interactions and take some notes on both academic understanding and social skills in order to feed strengths and suggestions back to the class once they regroup as a whole.
  • Develop Students’ Solid Knowledge Base

    Deep approaches to learning emphasize learning for understanding, and they are an integrative process.  When presenting new material, connect with students’ prior experiences and existing knowledge base versus presenting each concept as a separate entity.

    Implication -- Show students how the concepts they are learning fit together as an integrated whole.  One way to do this is by creating a graphic (e.g., diagram or flowchart) of the course concepts that shows how concepts fit together.  When sharing this graphic with the class (bi-weekly?), relate it to what students already know through life experience and the course to date, making it more probable that students’ knowledge base is solid, comprehended, and integrated versus being merely a string of inert facts. 

CSU Dominguez Hills: Unveiling the New BEAMS Monograph

Image: BEAMS
Cheryl Spector and Jim Cooper
Beaming at BEAMS Event
March 25, 2008, CSU Dominguez Hills

CSU Dominguez Hills hosted a Building Engagement and Attainment for Minority Students (BEAMS) event, attended by campus and community leaders. President Mildred Garcia welcomed guests, as each received a copy of the BEAMS monograph which detailed the process BEAMS institutions used to craft data-driven action plans to improve student success. More than 100 four-year Historically Black, Hispanic-Serving, and Tribal colleges and universities participated in the five-year program that produced best practices available for replication by institutions across the nation.

Download a free pdf version of this monograph.

Dr. Jim Cooper, CSU Dominguez Hills, shared components of their BEAMS action plan, including a speakers series on “Becoming an Engaged Community of Learners.” Interviews with an impressive cast of national higher education experts (e.g., Tom Angelo, Diane Halpern, Craig Nelson, and Vincent Tinto) are archived on the Center for Teaching and Learning Web site.

Dr. Cheryl Spector shared insights from CSU Northridge’s Academic First Year Experience, including the highly successful Freshman Common Reading Program. This year, students, faculty, staff, and administrators read and discussed The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, a collection of stories of American soldiers in Vietnam.


Review past issues at

Dr. Cynthia Desrochers
Director, Institute for Teaching & Learning
CSU, Office of the Chancellor, 6th Floor
Tarita Varner
Web Content, Institute for Teaching & Learning
CSU, Office of the Chancellor, 6th Floor


p h b    Teaching & Learning Tips

image: Fink
Dee Fink
Discipline Research Project Workshop
March 4, 2008

Dr. L. Dee Fink, internationally renowned
expert on Designing Integrated Courses for Significant Learning, provided a daylong workshop for 17 faculty from seven CSU campuses. Download a free pdf version of Dee’s best practices, IDEA Paper #42

Facilitating Graduation Rates
through Active Learning

When ITL’s Advisory Board was asked to generate ways in which ITL could play a role in facilitating graduation rates, providing resources on active learning was identified.

Active learning is defined as anything that involves students in doing things and thinking about the things they are doing (Bonwell & Eison, Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom, 1991).

Recognizing that the faculty time-crunch can be a hindrance to innovation, if you are just beginning to implement active learning, I suggest selecting a couple simple techniques to use throughout your lecture, also referred to as lecture breaks.

As classroom researchers, we look for links between our instruction and student achievement. Research on the brain and learning suggests that we might be wise to select a variety of active learning strategies in order to provide a rich and dynamic learning environment—as s(he) who is doing the work is growing the dendrites!

For research on increasing student achievement (and course retention) through active learning, see Don Paulson’s (CSU Los Angeles) article at the link below under the heading Departmental Pedagogy Session.

Simple Active Learning Strategies for
Individual Students

  • Structured Journal Writing
    (lined paper or 2 rotated blue books)
Students write at the start of each class (or end, randomly switching it up) for approximately 5-7 minutes on a specific topic, to explain, relate, debate, or summarize a class session, outside reading, or prior understanding of a concept soon to be taught. This last example will give you good diagnostic information about students’ current knowledge base which you can act on in class; however, this requires that either you read very quickly or have students do it online and submit to you before class. Is this graded? Probably pass/no pass or 2, 1, 0. Does this count? Absolutely! Perhaps 10 % of the course grade, no make-ups, 13 given over the term, 10 passes earns an A in journal writing.

  • One-sentence Summary
    (3 x 5 inch card)
Students write one heck of a long sentence on a card to summarize and integrate information. Next, you read through the cards after class (for class enrollments of 40 or more, you might read only a sample), and determine if you should re-teach the information or move to the next learning objective based on the accuracy of the cards’ content. Are these cards graded? Probably not. This is a Classroom Assessment Technique (CAT), one of many used as formative assessment tools to inform your teaching.

  • One-minute Paper
    (½ sheet of paper)
Check students’ understanding of course material by having them write short answers to a couple general or specific questions, for example: What are the two to three most important or significant things you learned today? What questions remain uppermost in your mind after today’s lecture? What was the muddiest point in today’s lecture? The clearest point? What else should I know about your learning in class today? Explain the difference between a monarchy, an oligarchy, and a democracy. [Note: The one-minute paper is another formative assessment tool.]

  • Concept Diagram
Some concepts lend themselves to drawing or diagramming in order to represent (and connect) key ideas. And some students are far superior at diagramming than their verbal and very literate professors! Ask students to visually represent course concepts. The very act of translating words into pictures pushes many a rote thinker closer to comprehension. Monitor the room in search of brilliance and nudge a few students to reproduce their diagrams on the board for all to view.

  • Problem Solving
Teacher-guided student-practice is almost always a good thing when students are learning something new; just as freshly poured cement quickly hardens, student errors, if practiced for very long without being caught, harden and become difficult to change. Therefore, consider allowing time in your class sessions for students to work through problems under your watchful eye, and then you can adjust students’ misunderstandings when they arise.

Most of these products can be shared in student pairs, or squares (two pairs of pairs), and voilà, you have group work!

For Your Departmental Pedagogy Session

Over the summer, distribute and read Dr. Don Paulson’s article on Active Learning and Cooperative Learning in the Organic Chemistry Lecture Class in the Journal of Chemical Education. If possible, meet the week before fall classes resume in order to share similar techniques used by your departmental colleagues, as well as student achievement results. Discuss additional strategies you plan to implement in the coming year.

p h b    Events

July 19-25, 2008

Bootcamp for Profs®

Timberline Campus, Colorado Mountain College, Leadville, Colorado
Directed by Dr. Ed Nuhfer, Faculty Development, CSU Channel Islands

p h b    Links

Division of Analytic Studies

This Chancellor's Office Division, headed by Dr. Philip Garcia, compiles student data from all 23 campuses of the CSU. One series of reports focuses on freshman outcomes sorted by institution of origin. Click on the link for Academic Performance Reports to see which CSU is most attended by your local high school graduates. Or, see two new sections on 6-year and 12-year CSU graduation rates.

Search Tomorrow's Professor Mailing List to begin your classroom pedagogical research. Scroll down this bountiful resource to find short substantive articles in the following categories: the academy, graduate students, academic careers, teaching and learning, and research. Note that there are 864 and 855 postings, respectively, on the last two categories alone. Read a recent Tomorrow's Professor article about the Parallel Journal Project by Dr. Nicole Howard (history), CSU East Bay. Subscribe to Tomorrow’s Professor, an online resource from Stanford University, and you will typically receive two short posts per week throughout the academic year.

CSU Institute for Teaching & Learning

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