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Teaching Tips

If you'd like to discuss a teaching tip below, please look for it on our Facebook Group page - just send a request to join if you haven't joined yet!

If you'd like to share a teaching tip, feel free to post it on  Facebook, or if you'd like it to go out in an email and appear below, please forward it to Thanks!

 "Getting Better as Teachers" written by L. Dee Fink and appearing in the NEA Higher Education Advocate, Vol. 29, No. 1, January 2012 
 "Feedback without Overload" written by Douglas L. Robertson and appearing in the NEA Higher Education Advocate, Vol. 31, No. 1, January 2014
From  Ken Bain's What the Best College Teachers Do.:
Bain talks about a "promising" syllabus, that is, one where "the instructor would lay out the promises or opportunities that the course offered to students...would explain what the students would be doing to realize those promises" and, would summarize "how the instructor and the students would understand the nature and progress of learning"; most important, a promising syllabus avoids "the language of the students a sense of control over their own education" (p. 74-75).

What distinguishes a promising syllabus is its tone. Of course, a promising syllabus includes the typical information students need to know about the course (for example, course description, student learning outcomes, materials needed, credits and hours, etc.), but has the tone of "promise" as opposed to "requirements," and invites students to be active - not passive - participants in their own learning
To learn more about the promising syllabus, here are some resources:
Here's an article, Structure Matters: Twenty-One Teaching Strategies to Promote Student Engagement and Cultivate Classroom Equity, suggested by Loretta Brancaccio-Taras - thanks, Loretta! It was written by a biologist, Kimberly D. Tanner, from San Francisco State University, and appears in the journal CBE - Life Sciences Education. Although directed at instructors of biology, this article identifies 21 teaching strategies that can be used to "promote student engagement and cultivate classroom equity" (3) - strategies which are NOT discipline specific and can easily be generalized across disciplines.

Teaching Tip #5 invites you to explore TBL, the subject of our Winter Workshop, facilitated by Billie Franchini of SUNY Albany. Information on TBL can be found at the Team-Based Learning Collaborative Website and Billie's PowerPoint slides are posted on our KCTL facebook group. Also, since a number of folks expressed interest in a TBL FIG, we are planning to start one. If you are interested in joining, please "like" our TBL FIG comment on facebook or email us at

The workshop gave us a lot of information about the pedagogy - both theory and practice - and I found it useful for us as instructors, even if our intent is not to do a full-fledged TBL course. But something that really stood out for me were the The Four Principles of Critical Thinking Practice, which guide activity design:

1. Students don't have to know everything before they can do something.
2. "Discuss" is a vehicle - not a destination.
3. Students can only integrate new knowledge when their prior knowledge is made visible.
4. Not all "practice" is created equal.

What I really loved about the TBL activities demonstrated these principles and how their structure drove such great conversations - conversations our students need to have with each other, but which are not always easy to motivate. Check it out! :)

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