A New Taxonomy of Learning Goals

Helping faculty think through what they value in the context of their courses is my favorite part of course design. But I have to confess that the traditional taxonomies I use when doing so have never made much conceptual sense to me. So after many years of introducing these categories with the caveat that we shouldn't think too hard about them, I finally decided to create my own. I didn't think the world needed yet another taxonomy of learning goals, but I thought I would do a better job talking with faculty if I could present the alternatives in my own vernacular. And it turns out they liked it enough to insist that I share.

Posted on May 15, 2017 .

Spotlight on Exceptional Teaching: CTE Teaching Studio

This week members of the Rice University faculty are invited to join in a campus-wide celebration of teaching during the 2nd annual Faculty Owl Days.  To start off the week we are introducing a new year-round initiative here at the CTE to celebrate the excellent teaching that takes place at Rice - the Teaching Studio. The Teaching Studio is a virtual space in which faculty can share their experiments, lessons learned, as well as tried and true practices with course design and pedagogical strategies.  

Posted on September 19, 2016 .

Recognizing Great Teaching: National and Disciplinary Teaching Awards

Here at Rice’s Center for Teaching Excellence we believe that it is important to recognize great teachers, support them in their growth, and learn from their experiences. One of the many ways we do this is through Rice’s internal teaching awards as well as nominations for teaching awards at the state and national level. In our efforts to support the nomination of Rice faculty for external teaching awards we have put together a comprehensive list of external teaching awards for faculty four-year institutions.

Posted on September 8, 2016 .

How Much Should We Assign? Estimating Out of Class Workload

"How much should I assign?" is one of the most basic questions teachers ask when designing and revising their courses. Yet it is also one of the most difficult to answer. To help instructors better calibrate their expectations, we've created a course workload estimator that incorporates the most important insights from the literature on how students learn.

Posted on July 11, 2016 .

What is the Error Climate of Your Course?

Error climate has emerged as an important consideration for teachers in college classrooms.  Read more about this new research and take the Error Climate Inventory for College Instructors to assess the error climate of your courses.

Posted on July 6, 2016 .

Addressing a "Threat in the Air": How Stereotypes Affect Our Students and What We Can Do About It

It has been well documented that the threat of possibly satisfying or confirming a stereotype can interfere with an individual’s performance on a variety of tasks, including but not limited to academic performance. Yet the research also demonstrates that targeted classroom interventions such as providing students with sense of belonging to a broader community, highlighting positive role models in a field or discipline, and asking to students affirm what they value about themselves have been shown to help eliminate the effects of stereotype threat.

Posted on June 6, 2016 .

The Metaquestion: A Different Approach to Course Design

Thinking about designing a new course or revising an existing one? In this post I share one the fundamentals of course design that I return to time and again when working with student instructors, seasoned faculty, as well as graduate student enrolled in the CTE's certificate program:  the metaquestion.

Posted on March 9, 2016 .

Meaningful, Moral, and Manageable? The Grading Holy Grail

In December of 2014, I stumbled upon an article by Linda Nilson about something called "specifications grading." I wasn't sure whether or how it would work, but in the spring of 2015, I threw out my traditional script and made yet another attempt to reimagine my grading. And here is what I've learned.

Posted on February 16, 2016 .

Looking Back on the Backwards Survey

In November 2012, CTE Faculty Fellow and Associate Professor of History, Caleb McDaniel, wrote a brief essay about his plans to teach his United States history survey backwards—by starting in the present and working his way back to 1848. After teaching it twice in slightly different forms in 2013 and 2015, he recently reflected on his experience in his personal blog. In this post, we are pleased to re-share Caleb's extensive and thoughtful analysis with our readers.

Posted on August 21, 2015 and filed under Humanities, Case Studies, Course Design.

Building Social Connections Through Discussion for Better Learning

Learning is a social process mediated by collaboration with others. Given the sociability of learning,  how can we maximize student interaction and set up a social context in our classrooms for meaningful and productive learning? While there are lots of ways to encourage and support interaction among students, class discussions are perhaps the most intuitive way for many faculty and students. In this blog post I offer some tips and tricks for creating good discussions in any classroom.

Posted on August 13, 2015 .

Lessons from a Toy

In a fascinating article from 2011, a team of psychologists and cognitive scientists from UC Berkeley, the University of Louisville, MIT, Stanford, and Harvard report on an experiment they conducted with 85 children between the ages of 4 and 6.  The children were divided into four groups, with each group experiencing a different experimental condition.  Each condition involved the use of a specially designed toy. I was drawn to this study because I think it has implications for higher education.  Although our brains change and mature dramatically as we age, the mechanisms by which we learn do not necessarily shift as much as we might think.

Posted on August 6, 2015 .

Academic Blogging and Student Evaluation Click Bait: A Follow-Up

A few weeks ago, we published a piece in which I argued that nearly everything written about student evaluations on the internet is a form of academic click bait, and that there is often little-to-no relationship between the viral success of these pieces and the quality of their arguments. I was, of course, aware of the irony of making such claims on the internet, particularly via a blog post that intentionally avoided the literature I called on all of us to read. And as this piece got a great deal of attention in the days after it was posted, I couldn’t help but smile as my intuition on these matters was confirmed.

Posted on July 28, 2015 and filed under Evaluation.

Teaching the Storm: Pedagogical Lessons from Alice Goffman’s "On the Run"

Alice Goffman's book On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City received more attention than most top sociologists at the pinnacle of their careers could hope for. However, the positive reviews that On the Run enjoyed early on were quickly joined by criticism and controversy. Ultimately, the On the Run controversy raises important pedagogical questions for us.

Posted on July 16, 2015 .

More Than Mindsets: Why Vygotsky Still Matters

If you've been anywhere near higher education over the last few years, I would bet that you've heard of Carol Dweck's work on mindsets.  James Lang recently wrote a column in the Chronicle of Higher Education outlining Dweck's theories and discussing why they are important for faculty to know about and to use in the classroom, but there might be more to the story of student learning.

Posted on July 14, 2015 and filed under Learning Research.

Do Student Evaluations of Teaching Really Get an "F"?

It's been a bad year for student evaluations. In the space of two weeks in October, both NPR and the Harvard Business Review published pieces summarizing studies that were critical of their use. With provocative titles like "Student Course Evaluations Get an F" and "Better Teachers Receive Worse Student Evaluations," these pieces were (and continue to be) widely shared and much discussed among academics.

Posted on July 9, 2015 and filed under Evaluation.

Student Ratings of Instruction: A Literature Review

As Co-Chair of the Committee on Teaching's Subcommittee on Teaching and Course Evaluations, I performed a review of the research literature on student ratings of instruction. In this post, you will find a screencast of my presentation of this material to the full Committee on Teaching, along with a bibliography of the most important works on the subject.

Posted on February 1, 2015 and filed under Evaluation.