Month: March 2016

Seeking WebEx Teaching Consultations, March 2016

Did you know that the faculty development services that the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) offers are now available to the regional campuses?  If you have questions about designing a course, using HuskyCT, incorporating active-learning techniques, preparing presentations, improving your spoken English, or other teaching-related concerns, you can now tune in to CETL’s faculty drop-in hours via WebEx from your office computer and even from home.

WebEx is an online conferencing tool you can use anywhere you have internet access on your computer; if you can get online, you can meet with others and share data, presentations, and online demonstrations.  Anyone with a NetID can use the WebEx Community, and WebEx allows you to not only talk face to face but collaborate, with screen and document sharing.

Use this tool to connect with CETL representatives who specialize in such instructional design topics as writing student-centered objectives; designing online discussion prompts; hybridizing flipping, or blending a course; developing rubrics for grading; creating authentic assessments; and much more.  Or meet with educational technology specialists who can help with web design, HuskyCT, GoogleApps, Respondus, Pinterest, and other technologies for teaching.

CETL’s WebEx drop-in hours are currently scheduled for

  • Mondays, 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.
  • Thursdays 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.

Please note that these WebEx hours are also live drop-in hours; come visit us in the ROWE 319 Teaching Innovation Room.  If you’d like to tune in and talk with a CETL representative, simply log in to the WebEx Drop-In Hours “personal room” during the hours listed above.  Visit UConn WebEx for details on how to attend a WebEx meeting.

If you have questions about this service, please contact Suzanne LaFleur.

Responding to Student Writing, March 2016

This is the time in the semester when many of us get bogged down with student papers.  On the one hand, we want our students to produce detailed culminating papers that represent rigorous academic work on a subject; on the other, we wonder how we can possibly do justice to reading, responding to, and grading them all.

Tom Deans of the university Writing Center offers the following recommendations, which build on three assumptions: (1) that more effective and reflective learning is our foremost aim, not just cleaner texts; (2) that the teaching of writing is a complex process that happens in a matrix of relationships; and (3) that writers typically need different kinds of feedback at different stages in the writing process:

  • Put more time and energy into formative comments on drafts than on summative feedback on final submittals
  • Help students discern two or three priorities for revision
  • Never line-edit an entire student text
  • Try marginal comments that emphasize readership
  • Require students to do self-assessments

The Writing Center also suggests these tips:

  • Focus your formative commentary on higher order concerns.
  • Make several sample student papers available to your class.
  • Affirm what is going right or what seems promising as much as you critique what needs work.
  • Distribute evaluation criteria or a grading rubric with your assignment.  Students should know in advance how you will assess their writing.
  • Call students on when they are playing it too safe, restating the obvious, listing points rather than building an argument, retreating to the 5-paragraph theme, etc.
  • Remind students that attention (or lack of attention) to style and proofreading is not just about following nit-picky rules; even a few surface errors invite readers to question the intelligence and commitment of the writer.
  • Responding to student writing need not always be done in writing.  Fifteen-minute individual conferences or recorded audio comments can stand in for a page of written comments.

If you would like more information on responding to student writing, view this week’s 20-Minute Mentor video, “How Do I Give Feedback that Improves Student Writing?” which is available through Sunday, March 27th.

You are also invited to attend the Writing Center’s April 1st Lunchtime Seminar on “Responding to Student Writing: Are There Better Ways to Grade?” How can requiring students to submit brief cover letters or self-assessments with their papers both reduce your grading time and nudge your students to take more responsibility for their writing? How much commenting is too much? Are you aware of the benefits of audio responses to drafts? We’ll broach these and other questions as we explore strategies for responding to student writing–strategies that promote learning even as they lessen the time and anxiety of grading.

Conducting Effective Classroom Discussions, March 2016


In case you haven’t heard, discussions aren’t just for literature class anymore!  Discussions about practical applications of study can be accomplished in all disciplines—even math and statistics.  Studies show that when students manipulate and interact with the facts they are learning, those facts become grounded and sink in more deeply.

Classroom discussions can take different forms, but seminar-style discussion (including Socratic questioning and the Harkness philosophy) aims at a substantive and probing analysis of a specific topic and includes issues and perspectives that will challenge students’ thinking.  This style can take some time to learn to orchestrate, but it is a valuable tool for encouraging student engagement (with one another and with texts) and higher-order, critical thinking.

Refer to the following links for help integrating discussions in your classroom: