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 firstname.lastname@example.org!
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.
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.
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.
Did you know that many students – not just deaf or hard-of-hearing students – benefit from captioning of presentations? Live captioning might be easier and more reliable than you think, according to Michele Cooke, Professor in Geosciences, who has conducted a study with undergraduate student Celia Child (Bryn Mawr College) on auto captioning built into widely available software. Read more and watch their video, in which they demonstrate the effectiveness of strategies that use artificial intelligence based auto-captioning tools to greatly improve live presentation accessibility.
For the past few years, Elizabeth Porto, Senior Lecturer II, has been showing students' brief introductory videos during class over the first few weeks of the semester. In addition to building community over time in an inclusive and memorable way, her students learn how to introduce themselves professionally and personally, an important goal she held for her students. Read more about her approach, goals, and next steps.
How do you keep students motivated and engaged in large online classes? Many instructors worry that students in their large classes feel disconnected and disengaged. Amanda Woerman, Assistant Professor in Biology tackled this issue by providing students with a variety of ways to actively participate during the synchronous portion of the class and through asynchronous engagement activities. Read more about her strategies, tips, and next steps.
How do you design a class that gives students a variety of ways to participate and succeed? Memnun Seven, Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing, did just that by choosing a flexible course design. In spring 2021, her undergraduate class was one of the few taught in person and, because the enrollment of the course (66 students) exceeded the 40-person classroom capacity limit, she adopted a "hybrid" or "flipped" form of instruction. Her approach to the planning, design, and teaching of this course illustrates ways that instructors can effectively implement flexible learning opportunities.
How does one create videos that students want to watch? Sophie Horowitz, Assistant Professor in Philosophy, teaches large introductory courses of 100+ students with teaching assistant-led discussion sections. In the spring 2020, she made the switch from in-class lecturing to engaging her students with the course content through brief pre-recorded videos. Read more about the design and impact of her pre-recorded videos, including a short video in which she talks about her strategies and tips.