Instructor Guidance

Also see...

» More on learning goals on the Learning Goals page

» More clicker resources on the UBC Clickers page

» Videos on effective use of clickers and group work at the Video page

» Information on promoting student engagement and buy-in at the Framing Project page

» SEI papers and publications at our Publications page


Course transformation guide

Course Transformation Guide (NEW). Many of the resources on this page are included in our Course Transformation Guide, a guide for instructors interested in transforming a course, and their instruction, to use research-based principles and improve student learning. Included are reviews of key principles in teaching and learning, and research-based recommendations on instructional techniques.


Assessments & course alignment

Creating good homework problems (and grading them) (NEW). This 2-pager gives tips on how to create effective homework problems. The essential features for making homework a major contributor to student learning are: (1) there is challenging and prolonged practice of the components of expert thinking the student is to learn, (2) the student is motivated to invest the necessary time and effort, and (3) the student gets feedback on their practice that gives them guidance as to how they can improve. (2 pages; Sept. 2015)

Using Group Exams in Your Classes and Tips for Successful Two-Stage Exams (NEW). Group exams are an easy way to reinforce the material tested in your exams, increase retention of content and student satisfaction, all while basing grades on student effort. By Brett Gilley, Francis Jones, Erin Lane, Josh Caulkins and Sara Harris, CWSEI.

Preclass-Reading Assignments; Why they may be the most important homework for your students. (NEW)
We usually think of homework as a task, such as a problem set, in which students apply what they have learned in class. But homework can prepare students to learn in future classes. Here we discuss the benefits of pre-reading assignments, report on what students think about pre-reading, and give tips on how best to implement pre-reading assignments to make them effective. (2 pages). Written by CW-SEI.

Assessments That Support Student Learning
2-page summary of key points and factors from the review paper “Conditions Under Which Assessment Supports Student Learning,” including CWSEI suggestions on implementing good assessment and feedback without spending excessive time marking.

How to Prepare Better Multiple-Choice Test Items: Guidelines for University Faculty
An excellent guide for the creation of good multiple choice test questions, including discussion about when and how multiple choice tests are best used and avoiding common flaws. (Brigham Young University Testing Center)

Rubric for evaluating student presentations
Rubric for peer evaluation of students' "News Reports" presentations in EOSC 310, prepared by Sara Harris in Earth and Ocean Sciences with input from many others.

Course Alignment
A 2-pager on promoting course alignment by developing a suite of questions targeting a learning goal that can be used in different settings to measure student learning. Prepared by Françoise Bentley and Teresa Foley, Integrative Physiology Dept., University of Colorado-Boulder.

WSU Critical and Integrative Thinking Rubric
An excellent guide developed at Washington State University for rating critical and integrative thinking.

SITAR (Student Interactivity and Teaching Activity Report)
This teaching observation tool includes data collection and visualizations specific to clicker questions, student engagement in clicker discussions, and other active learning techniques.


Student engagement techniques

NEW! Evidence-based science education in action (CWSEI)
This is a new collection from CWSEI, showing clips from UBC science and math classrooms, along with commentary pointing out key aspects and strategies, including labs, two-stage exams, worksheets, tutoring strategies, mathematical proofs, active learning in physics, and synthesis activity in geology.

NEW! Faculty Teach Sheet
Create an Environment Where You MOTIVATE, ENGAGE, and RESPOND. Former CWSEI STLF Josh Caulkins took page 9 ("What All Instructors Should Know") from the SEI Course Transformation Guide (below), cooked it down and prettied it up to produce this "Teach Sheet" for faculty he works with at the University of Rhode Island. (1 page)

NEW! Evidence-based science education in action (6-8 minute videos)
Wondering how to manage small group activities in a large lecture hall? Heard about 2-stage exams, but want to see the logistics? This video collection shows clips from university science and math classrooms, along with commentary pointing out key aspects and strategies.

NEW! iBiology Scientific Teaching Video Series - active learning module (produced by
A collection of videos that provides current and future undergraduate biology instructors with the rationale and tools to design and implement active learning in their classrooms. The videos range from about 3 min to 16 min long and feature biology faculty at a variety of colleges and universities. Don't miss the 3 videos under the Tools section.

Motivating learning (NEW)
A 2-pager on how to motivate students to engage in course material and activities.

Creating and implementing in-class activities(NEW)
A 2-pager on using activities as part of a lecture period, including how to get students motivated and logistical suggestions.

Basic instructor habits to keep students engaged
A 2-pager by Carl Wieman with tips on keeping students engaged in the classroom, particularly in large lecture theatres

What all instructors should know
prepared by UBC CWSEI

What Not To Do; Practices that should be avoided when implementing active learning (NEW)
We and others have written about how to implement active learning in the university classroom, but we have noticed some practices by well-meaning instructors that we feel should be avoided. (2 pages)

What All Instructors Should Know About Learning [PowerPoint version ] [Audio] [Video]
Carl Wieman's UBC talk on March 19th, 2008.

First Day of Class
Recommendations for Instructors on establishing the course environment and student buy-in early in the Term in courses using interactive techniques. (updated July 2009)

Group Work in Educational Settings
A short description of different approaches to student group work and their benefits, requirements, and implementation logistics, prepared by CU-SEI and UBC-CWSEI staff & associates.

Teaching Expert Thinking
A guide for using invention activities to develop expert thinking (prepared by Wendy Adams and Carl Wieman, CU-SEI and UBC-CWSEI, and Dan Schwartz, Stanford School of Education). Materials on Invention Activities can be found HERE.



More on clickers at the UBC Clickers page

Clicker Resource Guide
An instructor's guide to the effective use of personal response systems ("clickers") in teaching, prepared by CU-SEI and UBC-CWSEI staff & associates. (updated June 2009)

Classroom Response System ("Clickers") Bibliography (Vanderbilt Center for Teaching)
A very extensive bibliography on clicker use and research (with links to digitally available papers).

Thought Questions: A New Approach to Using Clickers
A 2-pager on a different way to use clickers: the question is open-ended and the voting is on whether the students agree or disagree with other students’ answer and rationale. Prepared by Teresa Foley and Pei-San Tsai, Integrative Physiology Dept., University of Colorado-Boulder.


Learning goals

More on learning goals on the Learning Goals page

Learning Goals/Objectives Examples
Good examples of learning goals: developed by departments involved in the Science Education Initiatives at UBC and the University of Colorado.

Learning Goals - Computer Science
Learning goals developed for 5 UBC Computer Science courses.

factors to help students succeed

NEW! Improving Learning by Reducing Unnecessary Mental Load
Strategies for reducing unnecessary cognitive load to enhance learning during class. This document is the compiled and edited product of the students in Carl Wieman’s 2014 Stanford course in Science Teaching and Learning, with special thanks to Jennifer Crosby. (2 pages)

Considering the Student Perspective: Factors that Undergraduates Perceive as Influential to their Academic Performance in Science
A 2-page summary based on research conducted by Ashely Welsh for her Master's Thesis (includes recommendations for faculty)

Study skills development: How to Get the Most Out of Studying - Video series
by Professor Stephen L. Chew, a cognitive psychologist at Samford University
This is a very good resource for undergraduate students and instructors that discusses common misconceptions about learning and how to study effectively. This is a series of 5 videos, each about 7 minutes.

Study skills development: Improving Classroom Performance by Challenging Student Misconceptions About Learning
by Professor Stephen L. Chew, a cognitive psychologist at Samford University, Association for Psychological Science April 2010 (V. 23, No. 4, item 14)
A nice short article that discusses many of the points made in his video series How to Get the Most Out of Studying (above).