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Online Resources for Best Practices


Multi-faceted Directories

MERLOT "is a curated online collection of free and open online teaching, learning, and faculty development services contributed and used by an international education community."  Membership is free. There are several ways to individualize the many offerings of the website, such as exploring a specific Academic Discipline Community or mining the Academic Support Community under Pedagogy for suggestions to specific teaching challenges.

SERC (Science Education Research Center) at Carleton College was founded to improve education in the earth sciences and beyond. Working with participants from over 1,000 institutions, SERC has created a very large collection of pedogagic resources.  A good place to start is the Pedagogy in Action portal, which links to "Teaching Methods" and ready-to-use "Activities."

Teaching Large Classes

MERLOT Pedagogy Portal on teaching large classes includes successful practices from five universities.  This page also features a link to other teaching material related to large classes.

UT-Austin presents a framework for teaching large classes based on Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. Of the seven videos at this site, we suggest in particular the one on team-based learning  (titled “Develop Reciprocity and Collaboration Among Students”) and on grading writing in large classes (titled “Give Prompt Feedback ”).

Lecture Strategies to Increase Learning

MERLOT Pedagogy Portal on lecture strategies.

Collaborative Learning

Collaborative learning ideas from Cornell University Center for Teaching Excellence.

A multi-faceted SERC (Science Education Resource Center) website on different types of collaborative groups, how collaboration increases student learning, and practical, uncomplicated classroom techniques for collaborative learning.

A specialized example of collaboration is team-based learning.  This UT-Austin site includes a video of teams in action and description of the 3 components for successful team-based learning.

Teaching Novice Learners

The Novice Brain:  4 ways that novice learners' mental structures differ from experts, and how it affects their learning.

Five strategies for designing instruction for novice learners:  the examples are framed for workplace training programs but their application to college students, especially first- and second-year students is apparent.

This PDF summarizes 5 differences in problem-solving that research has found between expert and novice learners.

Chapter from How People Learn:  Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (National Academies Press Open Book, 2000) on how problem-solving strategies used by students (novice learners) differ from expert learners.  Includes examples on learners in math, physics, and history.

Classroom Assessment Tools (CATs)

This teaching guide from Vanderbilt U. succinctly answers:  What are CATs? Why & how should I use CATs? and Where can I find more CATs?

This PDF is an easily accessible description of 10 CATs with step-by-step procedures.  Written by the authors of the standard reference for CATs (Thomas Angelo & Patricia Cross, Classroom Assessment Techniques, 2nd ed.  Jossey Bass, 1993),  also available in the TLC library in Milne 208.

Tips on CATS implementation from GW University Teaching & Learning Center:

  • Start off simple by choosing a technique that easily fits your teaching style and classroom time limits.
  • Conduct at least one CAT before the first major assignment, so that you can intercept any problems or questions before the fact.
  • Don't feel obligated to do a CAT every day or every week. You'll create information overload for yourself and "survey overload" for your students.
  • When you do any CAT, explain its purpose and your goal clearly to students.
  • Report your findings to your students and let them know what you plan to do in terms of their feedback.

Case Method/Problem-based Learning

University of Delaware PBL site
"Problem-based learning (PBL) is an instructional method that challenges students to work cooperatively in groups to seek solutions to real world problems. These problems are used to engage students' curiosity and initiate learning the subject matter." This site includes sample problems, syllabi, and links to other sites.

University at Buffalo (SUNY) National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science "... the use of case studies holds great promise as a pedagogical technique for teaching science, particularly to undergraduates, because it humanizes science and well illustrates scientific methodology and values." This is a very rich site which includes a database of cases for your use, and many related links.

Overview of PBL teaching strategy from Cornell University Center for Teaching Excellence

Using Technology in Teaching

Just In Time Teaching: "Students respond electronically to carefully constructed web-based assignments that are due a few hours before class, and the instructor reads the student submissions 'just-in-time' to adjust the lesson content and activities to suit the students' needs...Students come to class prepared and already engaged with the material."

EDUCAUSE is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology. Published a 2016 Report on student technology use.