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Teaching Academy

Success Shorts 2011

Below are some brief teaching tips with references or links for each idea in case you want additional information.  So, glance through these strategies and take a closer look at any that intrigue you.  If you wish to receive a new tip weekly via e-mail (fall and spring semesters), e-mail and ask to be subscribed to “Success Shorts.”
October 26, 2011

Formative feedback from your students early or mid-semester appears to have an additional, even unexpected, benefit aside from allowing you to make changes mid-semester: encouraging students to ask more questions.  Aultman proposes a three-part evaluation in which you have students (1) ask questions about course content, (2) rate instructor effectiveness in several areas (including clarity and preparedness), and (3) suggest ways of improving the class.  She was intrigued to discover that this process resulted in more student engagement evidenced through asking more questions before, during, and after class.

Aultman, Lori Price
2006 - An Unexpected Benefit of Formative Student Evaluations. College Teaching 54(3):251.

October 26, 2011

On September 27, 2011, I attended Paul Yoder’s Major British Writers course. The students in this upper division course were discussing Shakespeare’s King Lear on the day of my visit. From the moment I walked in to the classroom, I could tell that Paul has a great rapport with his students. There was a lot of conversation about life in general before class started and when things did get underway, Paul asked the students what they would like to do that day. The conversation throughout was interesting, engaging, and challenging. The students felt entirely comfortable in the class and Paul knew every one of them by name. I learned so much from shadowing this class and from the conversation Paul and I had afterwards. Following is a list of highlights I would like to share and keep at the forefront of my own mind as I adjust my teaching:
• Love what you teach and teach what you love. You can really tell that Paul loves the material he is teaching. My favorite quote from the class was when Paul said of a passage in King Lear: “That soliloquy just rocks.” His enthusiasm for the material rubs off on the students and discussing it is such a positive experience in class as to be almost joyful.
• Allow the students to play a role in directing the course. This is a particularly difficult area for me because I love my outlines and have a detailed and specific plan for what I want to accomplish every class period. But when the students have a little bit of the control over where class goes that day, they are more invested in it, have more of an incentive to do the readings, and may be more likely to learn something. I think this may be easier to do in an English course than a Political Science course, but I am resolved to have at least a few days each semester where I assign students challenging and interesting readings and hold a less-structured conversation about them in class.                                 • A little rowdiness is okay. There were times when people in the class were talking over one another in their enthusiasm for the material. Things never got out of hand, but the class was loud and even a little raucous at times. I have been struggling in one of my intro classes about walking the line between having a welcoming classroom environment where everyone feels comfortable speaking and maintaining order (and some degree of authority from the professor?) in the classroom. Paul’s class was similar to mine in terms of enthusiastic students and loud talking, but he worked with it instead of trying to subdue it. He sometimes just lets the students go until they wind down and then he brings it back to the point he wants them to focus on. Paul really values the contributions that students bring to the class, saying “we are manufacturing knowledge.” It is worth a little rowdiness sometimes to get to this place. I should allow for some controlled chaos and, even if we don’t get to cover every single thing, the students will love the class and the material and that will keep them coming back and learning.
• The Yoder Crucifix. This is one my favorite simple tips I learned from Paul. The basic idea is that body language matters. When you ask students if they have questions, make sure that you look like you are ready and willing to accept and answer questions. Paul does this by spreading his arms out when he asks for questions (thus, the student-
dubbed “Yoder Crucifix”). Students see an open professor who welcomes questions instead of one that is closed off and unwilling to answer. After attending this class, I officially join the ranks of the thousands of Paul Yoder fans out there. He is a great professor and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to shadow him.

Rebecca Glazier shadowing Paul Yoder

October 21

In an article about the lack of student accountability, two researchers recommend linking class attendance to grades and communicating to students both the reasons for the policy and the consequences of poor attendance.  They argue that many students do not realize that “knowledge is not just about reading the book and being tested on it; it is the conversations we have about that knowledge that give it meaning,” and those conversations should be central to a college education.  Students may also not realize that statistical studies show that they perform poorly on exam questions dealing with material covered on days they missed class–even when they get notes and even when they’ve read the assigned material.

Hassel, Holly, and Jessica Lourey
2005 - The Dea(r)th of Student Responsibility.  College Teaching 53(1):2-13.

October 14, 2011

Especially if you have foreign students in your classroom, make it explicit that asking questions and approaching the instructor are appropriate.  Many of these students come from cultures where asking questions and seeking further help from an instructor are inappropriate, disrespectful, and often taboo.  Dr. Alan Lytle, Director of UALR’s Intensive English Language Program, has additional suggestions in his publication Adding Diversity While Decreasing Adversity.

October 6, 2011

This week you get two tips in one: (1) Eat in the faculty dining room (DSC-G) for lunch and get teaching tips from colleagues.  (2) This week those of us at lunch with Dr. James Fetterly of Teacher Education learned from him about, which allows you to record yourself along with your Power Point presentation and then embed it all in Blackboard.   Students see you on half the screen and the presentation on the other half.  And it’s free.

September 29, 2011

To improve student peer feedback, Linda Nilson recommends moving away from evaluative questions to identification and personal-reaction feedback.  Instead of questions such as “Is the central idea clear throughout the paper?  Is the paper well written?  Is sufficient background provided?” she suggests alternatives such as “Paraphrase what you think is the thesis of the paper.  List the supporting evidence.  In each paragraph, underline the topic sentence.  What did you find most compelling?”  Especially when writers receive feedback from several peers, they have valuable information about how clear and convincing their writing is as well as some clues to help them revise their work.  

Nilson, Linda B.
2003 - Improving Student Peer Feedback.  College Teaching 51(1):34-38.

September 23, 2011

What can you do about the same person answering questions when you ask for class participation?  Wait for at least three people to raise their hands before calling on someone, and to anyone who has already spoken that day, politely say, “Thank you, but we need to hear from others.”  For more on this strategy and for other ideas about improving participation, see the following link:

September 28, 2011
I had the opportunity to shadow Dr. Dave McAlpine on September 21, 2011 in his LANG 4322/5322 class.
The course is designed to prepare teachers of foreign languages to teach grades pre-K through adult. I
found both the content and the pedagogy used interesting. Our follow-up discussion was September 26,


  • Students were engaged in the discussion and some very passionate about the material discussed.
  • Dr. McAlpine had the class agenda and homework assignments on the board.
  • He used the student response system based on the readings assigned from the previous week.
  • He engaged students in the discussion based on the questions.
  • He called students by name (they had nameplates to assist him) and tried to involve all students in the class.
  • He effectively handled the “too talkative student” by calling on others and graciously moving on when her comments were too lengthy. He was very respectful but I assume this student tries his patience. She would mine.

When students did not know the answers, he assisted them to make them think about the answers.
Dr. McAlpine also divided the students into groups to complete a class exercise. This class meets
once a week and group works helps breaks up the long class.


During our meeting, we talked about many things regarding UALR and I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion.
I will summarize our discussion on pedagogy. He provided me a copy of his syllabus.

  • I asked if the student response (i-clicker quiz) were graded and why he did not show the answers. Dr. McAlpine said that he did use the in-class assessments as part of their grade (12 percent). He found that if he showed the answers, there would be less discussion. Students answering incorrectly were intimidated and would not engage in the discussion.
  • He uses the list on the class board to remind students of what they have done and where they aregoing. It guides the lecture.
  • Dr. McAlpine shared his “student friendly” syllabus, which he learned from ATLE. It is colorful and not intimidating.
  • He places PowerPoint slides on blackboard before class.
  • He also shared a technique of writing students after the class. Through blackboard, he writes an email to his students summarizing what they did in class and reminding them what is next. He shared an example with me. In that email, he also praised and encouraged the students.


I appreciate Dr. McAlpine for taking the time to talk with me and share his teaching practices. While I too
have been teaching many years, I enjoyed talking about teaching and learning how he uses the techniques
to assist his students. I have several “take-a-ways” that I can implement in my current class. It is a hybrid
graduate marketing principles class for students that do not have business backgrounds and are in the

•Use the student response system to review readings from the previous week.

While I cannot use it as part of the grade at this point, I can gauge their understanding of the
material. Currently, I give them an index card to ask about things they did not understand. I review
those questions and then material I consider more difficult before moving on to the client project
they are conducting.

•Use the “reminding” technique on where we have been and what is next.

Because this course is based on a marketing strategy model, I will use the model to show where
we have been and where what is next. I have done this in the past, but had not done it for this
current course.

•Begin the follow-up email after class.

I think this will be particularly helpful in the hybrid environment to keep the students engaged.

I will be teaching Marketing Research in the spring, which can be an intimidating course for some students. I will implement the “student friendly” syllabus and use the student response system with a small grade attached to encourage reading. The follow up email may be helpful and I will consider using it as well.

This was a good experience for me. You can teach this old dog new tricks.

Jane P. Wayland

September 15, 2011

Mind mapping is a strategy designed to promote critical thinking and student engagement.  Using extra large paper, students draw a picture in the middle of the paper to represent what they view as the key concept for the mind map.  They then draw branches and sub-branches from the center out, adding words and pictures as they go.  

Details can be found at

September 8, 2011

To encourage students to read what you’ve assigned them to read, “directly and immediately use and reward what you assign,” is the recommendation of anthropologist Cathy Small, who studied undergraduates by living as one for a year.  Make the assigned reading a focus of discussion or give a quiz or find some other way to send the message to students that it’s worth their while to do the reading.  Waiting to deal with assigned readings or not using them at all sends the message to students that they can get away with not reading.

Small, Cathy
2008    Applying Anthropology to Teaching Anthropology.  General Anthropology 15(1):1-4.

September 1, 2011

Do you have the sense that students ignore your feedback on their writing?  Maryellen Weimer suggests that you have students request specific feedback–which they might then pay attention to–by asking them the following:  “Identify the part of the paper you had the most trouble with and ask a question about it.”

August 25, 2011

Consider giving students some control over their class participation by having them display one of three colored name cards each day: green if they are willing to be called on even for difficult questions, yellow if they want to deal with only relatively easy questions, red if they do not wish to talk that day.  You can assign points for the colors students decide to use each day.  

Litz, Reginald A.
2003    Red Light, Green Light and Other Ideas for Class Participation-Intensive Courses: Method and Implications for Business Ethics Education.  Teaching Business Ethics 7:365-378.

Updated 10.27.2011