UMass Amherst is home to an impressive community of talented, dedicated, thoughtful, and innovative teachers. Recognizing that a teaching culture flourishes most when practices and stories are shared, the CTL has created this space to highlight faculty pedagogical strategies and successes. If you have a faculty success story, please consider sharing it with us at email@example.com!
We often hear that faculty are concerned their students are only focusing on their grades and not on the process of learning. Jason Hooper, Senior Lecturer of Music Theory, shares how he uses the alternative grading approach called ungrading in his upper-level music theory course to encourage creative risk-taking.
Faculty are rethinking how they assess student learning and experimenting with alternative grading approaches. Jennifer Fronc, Professor of History, discusses how she uses labor-based contract grading in her junior year writing courses to foster an intellectual community between her and her students.
How do we ensure students are retaining what they are learning in class? Asking students to explain concepts to others is one way to encourage deeper learning and better retention of course material. Read more about how Stephanie Padilla, Assistant Professor of Biology, uses oral exams to evaluate student learning while building their communication skills at the same time.
Active learning strategies promote deeper learning and help students work through difficult concepts and/or problems. Asking students to explain their thinking behind their response to a question to a peer is a particularly powerful way of active learning. Yet, many instructors struggle with scaling up such interactive student engagement in large classes. Read how Dr. Rachid Skouta, a lecturer and an adjunct Assistant Professor in Chemistry and Research Assistant Professor in Biology, uses iClicker questions for interactive peer instruction in his large Organic Chemistry classes with up to 300 students.
Exams aren’t the only way for students to show what they have learned in a class. Project-based assessments offer students opportunities to go deep with a topic of interest and, thus, foster student motivation and a longer period of engagement. In addition, project-based assessments require students to use higher order cognitive skills. Dr. Beth Jakob, Professor in Biology and Associate Dean for Student Success, Graduate School, explains how she has replaced the exam-based assessments in her 500-level course of about 50 students with creative, multimodal student projects to foster her students’ interest, creativity, and joy for learning.
Many instructors seek ways to help students engage more effectively with course readings. One method that some have found particularly helpful is the reading guide – an outline that helps students navigate a reading, respond to key concepts, and track their understanding. Dr. Youngmin Yi, Assistant Professor in Sociology, explains how she uses reading guides to help students develop a personal relationship to course material.
You may have heard about colleagues using contemplative techniques in their teaching, but wondered what exactly happens. Lena Fletcher, Chief Undergraduate Advisor and Senior Lecturer in Environmental Conservation, and co-leader of the CTL’s Contemplative Pedagogy Group, explains how she uses short meditations in her large classes to deepen engagement with challenging course concepts.
Many people know that Open Education Resources (OER) help students save money. But a recent project created by Elkie Burnside, Assistant Director of the Writing Program, and her colleagues, shows that OERs have the potential to engage students and faculty in a meaningful collaborative process of text creation. Read more about Elkie’s motivations, excellent work, and collaborative approach to improving student learning.
Hyeyoung Park, Assistant Professor in the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing, uses exit tickets as an informal Classroom Assessment Technique (CAT), which provides her with important feedback from her students, while also fostering connections with her students and prompting her students to reflect on their learning.
Bogdan Prokopovych, Lecturer of Management, wanted to maximize student participation in his course evaluations, as well as to make the process meaningful both for his teaching and for his students learning about assessment practices in their industry. With a few simple changes to his approach to evaluations, he was able to get more students involved in the process, and get better feedback about teaching and learning in his course.
What are the benefits of reaching out? The CTL interviewed Steve Petsch, Associate Professor in the Department of Geosciences, about some success he has found in engaging students who may be falling behind in his 200-person General Education course. Reaching out personally to students has helped them feel cared for and learn professional communication habits. Read more about Steve’s strategies and the impact of his outreach.
Wondering how to inspire academic integrity in test-taking? CTL is highlighting the excellent work of Mzamo Mangaliso, a faculty member in the Department of Management and former Lilly Fellow for Teaching Excellence. Faced with the problem of students cheating on his exams, Professor Mangaliso revised his approach to teaching by educating his students on ethics, writing exam questions that stressed higher order thinking, and making savvy changes to how his tests are administered. He analyzed his exam results and it’s working wonders! Read more on academic integrity and test taking.