Published: Dec. 5, 2018

The year is nearly over and we look forward to opportunities unfolding in spring 2019 and beyond. And there are some good ones.

ASSETT will launch our third cohort of Faculty Fellows. One of the best aspects of the Faculty Fellows program is bringing together committed, experienced, and engaging faculty around the issues of advancing our teaching and learning in the College of Arts & Sciences at CU. This program aligns well with renewed emphasis, announced from the Academic Futures visioning process, for Creating a Common Student-Centered Approach to Learning [PDF]. Faculty Fellows are a diverse selection of faculty from across the college dedicated to realizing student-centered learning with innovative and effective teaching practices and curriculum, often aided by educational technology.

I want to highlight two aspects of ASSETT as productive pathways for achieving excellence in teaching. First, ASSETT offers a Visualizing Instructional Practices (VIP) service that employs observational protocols to generate data useful for revision of teaching strategies and curriculum. Moreover, the observation data create a platform for fostering faculty development through mentoring that can become part of teaching dossiers evaluated during promotion and tenure decisions.

Second, ASSETT supports the scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL). One important aspect of education is promoting our activities and accomplishments beyond the vibrant CU community and making our efforts public. There are a variety of ways of reporting the good work we do, including publishing SOTL in the peer-reviewed literature. I discovered, for instance, adopting simple strategies of documenting what happens in the classroom as a means for data-driven revision of teaching strategies and curriculum can form the basis for a publication: this is something ASSETT can help you achieve.

Finally, I’ll sign off with a brief description of a useful strategy for developing a supportive and interactive learning community in the classroom. Two-stage exams involve having students take an exam once individually and then repeat the same exam again in small groups.  I’ll quote Carl Weiman’s paper describing two-stage exams:

Exams are typically individual problem solving in isolation, in stark contrast to problem solving in the real world and in courses that stress collaborative learning activities. As cognitive psychologist Dan Schwartz puts it, “If you ask someone else for help on a problem in an exam, you are cheating, but if you don't ask someone for help on a problem in the real world, you are a fool.”

Two-stage exams emphasize formative assessment in a context in which students are motivated to learn through peer instruction. Try one out in your classroom as an easy and fun way to generate productive engagement.

Have a great winter, a great break, and see you next year.