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Vol. 2, No. 3

Your Source for Teaching & Learning News and Information

Spring 2009

p h b Campus News

Long Beach: Departmental Team Takes a Redesign Journey

Drs. Clorinda Donato and Claire Martin
Drs. Clorinda Donato (left) and Claire Martin
Department of Romance, German, Russian Languages and Literatures
CSU Long Beach

How often do you witness an entire departmental curriculum team engage in faculty professional development activities together? This January, CSULB’s Department of Romance, German, Russian Languages and Literatures did just that when they undertook a strategic curriculum redesign effort aimed at expanding the curriculum by offering more distance and blended courses and maximizing classroom space. An entire team took a three-week faculty development seminar in blended learning called Designs4Learning 100 (D4L 100). And don’t tell anyone, but the College Dean joined in the fun!

Eagerly, professors Clorinda Donato and Claire Martin are already applying their newly acquired knowledge and skills. Each expressed a unique learning scenario for which technology held the promise of a viable and potentially better solution than traditional course delivery methods. Their stories are shared here with the hope of sparking ideas for other CSU faculty.

Professor Donato was faced with an off-site demand for her course in the History of the Italian Language. Students throughout the state need this course to complete their teaching credential, but only two campuses, CSULB and SFSU, offer it with any frequency. Dr. Donato discovered the Elluminate Live! in her D4L 100 course materials and has expanded her CSULB classroom to include six off-site students. Halfway through the course, both on-site and off-site students have enthusiastically embraced their expanded classroom.

Dr. Donato found additional benefits associated with her expanded classroom, including:

  • Expanding interactivity: The off-site students are often more willing to answer questions since they can write their responses to the white board and speak their responses.

  • Enriching the learning environment through two distinct cohorts: The off-site students are native Italian speakers, whereas the on-site students are not.

  • Improving peer modeling of a native language: The on-site students are modeling the off-site native speakers’ written and oral skills.

  • Increasing student preparation: Students are more prepared and attentive, presumably due to the performance-like environment and the carefully-timed execution of the course delivery.

Dr. Martin, who also participated in D4L 100 with her departmental peers, explains: “My experience this semester has been both exhilarating and frustrating due to two factors: I prepared two new courses in a 20% blended format while taking D4L 100; moreover, I had to socialize my students to undertake the online activities in such a way that they would prove useful to them.”

Dr. Martin found numerous benefits associated with teaching and learning in a blended environment, including:

  • Addressing the needs of all learning types

  • Allowing shy students and careful thinkers the time to articulate their ideas and then share them with their classmates

  • Pushing the limits of what is expected of students and faculty

  • Helping students think more critically due to the need for precise communications that are both public and permanent

  • Promoting livelier pacing through a wider variety of learning activities

  • Increasing students’ sense of community that is not professor dependent

Both professors indicated that what they’ve enjoyed most are the creative experiences associated with course redesign. CSULB’s D4L 100 was developed by Dr. Terre Allen, Professor/Director of Faculty Development through the inspiration of CSU’s Transforming Course Design Project and the CSU Institute for Teaching and Learning.

Discipline Research Project All Participants’ Workshop

Discipline Research Project teams
Discipline Research Project teams, representing ten (10) CSU campuses and the Chancellor’s Office, address critical issues in student learning of Social Justice, Information Literacy, and Chinese Language, March 27 and 28, 2009.

High Impact Practices and Undergraduate Research

Poster Presentation

Registration area Undergraduate research is a growing part of the CSU’s teaching and learning landscape. In this high impact educational practice, students work closely with faculty mentors on research and scholarly programs. An important aspect of undergraduate research is for students to have multiple opportunities to present their research results, thereby building oral and written communication skills.

An affordable undergraduate research conference is sponsored each fall by the Southern California Conferences for Undergraduate Research (SCCUR), open to undergraduate researchers from all disciplines across the nation. CSU students and faculty mentors comprise the largest single group of participants at SCCUR. Last year, hosted at Cal Poly Pomona, it attracted 814 student researchers and faculty mentors, with 299 (36%) coming from CSU campuses. The next SCCUR event will be held November 21, 2009, at CSU Dominguez Hills.

For more information about last year’s SCCUR 2008 conference, please see

Review past issues at

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

p h b Teaching & Learning Tips

High Impact Practices and General Education

Ken O’Donnell
Ken O’Donnell
Associate Dean for Academic Program Planning
CSU Office of the Chancellor

For decades we’ve known what makes undergraduate learning stick: teaching that involves students on more than one level, as the social, intellectual, emotional, and at times improvisational co-creators of their own learning. We bring about this full-spectrum learning with practices like study abroad, internships, service learning, ePortfolios, and faculty-student collaboration, frequently in the major.

But too often general education courses are left behind, conceived as straight lecture, delivered en masse, and tested by rote recollection.

Why? Because the big bland GE courses have financed the deeper learning later, where it matters.

Recent research suggests we have it backward: these “high-impact practices” -- when applied early in the undergraduate career, e.g., to coursework in general education -- improve retention and completion for all students. These benefits may be disproportionately high for those who are first-generation, ethnic minority, or economically disadvantaged.

That means bringing more of these practices to general education could have big dividends financially, by improving persistence and time to degree. It could also change the lives of those we most want to reach.

But can we change ourselves and our conception of general education? Last summer, in two important ways, the CSU answered yes! First, we rewrote our general education executive order, updating it to include not just content areas but also essential skills, a call for civic and global engagement, and integrative learning. EO 1033 explicitly adopts these Essential Learning Outcomes from the AAC&U initiative Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP).

Second, we accepted an invitation from the AAC&U to participate in a tri-state collaborative to connect high-impact practices to general education. Give Students a Compass invites every California State University to find new ways to infuse cutting-edge teaching and learning into some of our most traditional curriculum, general education.

On April 1, CSU Chico used one such innovation in a session it calls a Town Hall Meeting. Students in half the sections of English 130, freshman composition, participated in a culminating series of evening roundtable discussions on the research subjects that interested them most -- unscripted, un-moderated, and student-led. In its three years of operation, the Town Hall Meeting has grown to include hundreds of participants, turning an ungraded exercise into a high-stakes, very public event. Years later, students remember the experience as formative, “the time when they felt themselves become college students,” in the words of program co-designer Thia Wolf, CSU Chico’s Director of the First-Year Experience Program.
Ken O’Donnell
Students Katie Trumbly and Jeff De Gennaro lead a discussion on healthcare reform at the Town Hall Meeting that wraps up English 130 at CSU, Chico.

At San José State, courses in English composition anchor a different kind of effort -- one to partner with one of its primary two-year “feeders,” Evergreen Valley College. Associate Dean for First-Year Programs Debra David saw first-hand the benefits of learning communities and civic engagement for San José’s natives, and wanted to do more for the transfer students. So over the next two terms, SJSU will partner with EVC to create a stronger kind of transfer pipeline, anchored in the second-semester composition course taken by EVC students just before they transfer. A service-learning component, linked classes, advising, and peer mentoring both before and after transfer will create a “transfer year experience;” a control group in the same cohort will provide the benchmark.

Are you:

  • Working on GE redesign on your campus? Get ideas from the GE innovations at other California State Universities, at the website for the GE Affinity Group. Prepare for the rough road ahead with a copy of the recently updated how-to manual, Revising General Education and Avoiding the Potholes.

  • Looking for deeper ways to connect GE on your campus with GE at local community colleges? Consider joining the ePortfolio California project, sponsored by California Virtual Campus and developing “interoperability” specifications to help make ePortfolios portable across platforms. One day ePortfolios could bring vivid evidence of your transfer students’ prior learning to the desks of faculty and advisors.

  • Curious about the kinds of high-impact practice that can be brought to a single course or section? See High Impact Practices, which argues for their benefits, particularly for underserved students.
p h b Events

April 24, 2009 (Friday), 12:30 – 2:00 p.m.
ITL Spring Webinar Series
Topic: Student Engagement in Learning
Facilitator: Dr. Ed Nuhfer, CSU Channel Islands
Campuses: East Bay, Pomona, San Francisco, SLO, Sonoma, and Stanislaus
To register, contact your campus faculty professional development center

April 24, 2009 (Friday), 12:30 – 2:00 p.m.
CSU Chico Spring Webinar Series
Topic: Teaching Unprepared Students: Interweaving Assessment and Teaching
Facilitators: Dr. Kathleen F. Gabriel
Campus: CSU Chico.
To register, contact Laura Sederberg

May 1, 2009
Faculty Development Council Meeting
Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

May 2, 2009
12th CSU University Teaching & Learning Symposium
Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

p h b Links

The IDEA Papers Provide Summer Reading

CSU Impact The e-newsletter of the Center for Community Engagement