Respond to the Seminar: Why Is It So Hard to Talk About Difficult Topics, Such as Race, and How Can We Get Better at It?

Use this space to continue the dialogue about this workshop. Leave a reply below.

Date: Thursday, February 12, 2015
Time: 10:00 am – 11:20 am
Place: 320 Laws Hall

Presented by Stephen John Quaye, Educational Leadership

In today’s diverse and global society, one of the most important skills for educators to develop is talking about and facilitating dialogues about topics that are difficult, such as racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege. Learning how to participate in these dialogues as well as facilitate them is important, especially because people often hesitate to do so for fear of saying the wrong thing, appearing ignorant, or offending someone. In this workshop, the presenter will integrate three principles—stories, dialogue, and context—to engage participants in learning helpful skills for engaging in and facilitating dialogues about difficult topics.

In Recognition of Part-Time and Adjunct Faculty Contributions

Greetings, colleagues,

According to recent statistics, Miami University has over 260 part-time or adjunct faculty teaching at the Regional campuses. The MUM CTL aims to serve all educators on our campus. As a reminder, the following CTL services and programs are also available to part-time and adjunct faculty, who:

– Can request funding for Teaching Initiatives
– Are encouraged to participate in CELTUA’s Part-time Educators Program (PEP), where participants in any CTL, E-Learning or CELTUA pedagogical session earn $25 in professional development funds
– Can request a Small Group Instructional Diagnosis (SGID) for any of your classes
– Are eligible for the annual Middletown Excellence in Teaching Award
– Can nominate yourself to serve on the CTL’s Leadership Collaborative

Today, February 25, has been designated by the Ohio Part-Time Faculty Association ( and New Majority as “Adjunct Dignity Day,” and so presents a continuing opportunity to acknowledge colleagues, raise awareness, and show appreciation for their work that is so crucial to our mission. Please join the MUM CTL in recognizing the extraordinary contributions made by part-time and adjunct faculty across Miami University.

For part-time and adjunct faculty only:
Send us an email at or drop by the CTL office in 11 Johnston by March 6, and we will enter you into a drawing for a $50 gas card in honor of your contributions.

Thanks – Miami couldn’t do it without you!

Invitation to a Conversation: Why “Filling the Pipeline” Won’t Increase Diversity in STEM Disciplines

An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education for February 23, 2015, suggests that increasing the numbers of minority science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) Ph.D. graduates will not alone diversify academia in the STEM disciplines.

In a study the article cites, “underrepresented minorities and women showed disproportionately low interest in pursuing an academic career at a research university upon completing graduate school” compared with their white and Asian male counterparts.

Academic politics is one reason for this trend, the article says: “[W]omen and underrepresented minorities, who tend to find the academic environment less supportive,” seem to be more wary of the perceived subjectivity of the tenure process.

Another reason is that minority graduates simply feel that in academic positions they will be spending more time seeking research funding than in being able to work with students.

All of this suggests that “it will probably take more than a robust pipeline of prospective scientists to increase the diversity of STEM disciplines.”

To read the full article, go to:

To join the conversation on this blog, click “Leave a Reply” below.

Get Formative Student Feedback on Your Teaching With an SGID

Are you interested in feedback on how well your teaching goals align with students’ perceptions of what they are actually learning? A small-group instructional diagnosis (SGID) is a procedure in which a trained facilitator visits your class to talk to students and then provides you with constructive feedback. The SGID is a valuable way to gain affirmation of what you are doing well (probably a lot!) as well as constructive formative suggestions for improving both your professional satisfaction and students’ learning.

Among the benefits of SGIDs that instructors have cited are “finding out early what was working for students and what was not” and “providing an accessible and enjoyable forum for my class to freely discuss my teaching.” The SGID also allows triangulation for better analysis of one’s teaching when used in conjunction with student evals. and peer observation.

Because of its formative purpose, the SGID is scheduled before midterm so that there is adequate time for the instructor to make any desired changes in the course. Please note that the last day to do an SGID for spring semester 2015 is March 20. Spaces are limited to one SGID per instructor per semester, so schedule as soon as possible to make sure you don’t miss out!

To read more about and schedule an SGID, go to
For more information, contact CELTUA at or 529-9266.

Resources for Addressing “Coverage” Versus Learning

Craig E. Nelson, Professor (Emeritus) of Biology, Indiana University, and faculty development consultant, has written widely on the concept of “coverage” in college classes. He maintains that “coverage is indeed a major barrier to effective teaching” and has termed breaking free of the tyranny of coverage “the most difficult step” in becoming a great teacher (see: Nelson, C. E. [2001]. What is the most difficult step we must take to become great teachers? National Teaching and Learning Forum 10[4], 10-11).

Among Nelson’s tenets of coverage vs. learning are the following:

• Reducing coverage typically increases learning. Extra coverage typically decreases learning.

• Limiting coverage fosters deep (vs. surface) approaches to learning and allows for active learning, attention to misconceptions, and critical thinking.

• Reducing coverage in lecture makes it possible to use the time for interactive processing.

Nelson offers some steps towards reducing coverage:

Prioritize Content: Design a course for one-half of available time—this forces prioritization.

Add Flexibility: Designate several periods on the syllabus as “spare.”

Scaffold: Highlight texts by distributing exam-ready study questions (vs. with lectures).

References/Resources for Reducing Coverage and Increasing Learning

• Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2007). Teaching for quality learning at University (3rd ed.). Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.

• Knight, J. K., & Wood, W. B. (2005). Teaching more by lecturing less. Cell Biology Education, 4, 298-310.

• Nelson, C. E. (1989). Skewered on the unicorn’s horn: The illusion of a tragic tradeoff between content and critical thinking in the teaching of science. In L. Crowe (Ed.), Enhancing critical thinking in the sciences (pp.17-27). Washington, DC: Society for College Science Teachers (National Science Teachers Association.

• Nelson, C. E. (1999). On the persistence of unicorns: The tradeoff between content and critical thinking revisited. In B. A. Pescosolido & R. Aminzade (Eds.), The social worlds of higher education: Handbook for teaching in a new century (pp. 168-184). Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.

• Nelson, C. E. (2009). Dysfunctional illusions of rigor: Lessons from the scholarship of teaching and learning. To Improve the Academy, 28, 177-192.

• Rhem, J. (1995). Deep/surface approaches to learning: An introduction. National Teaching and Learning Forum 5(1), 1-5.

• Rhem, J. (2009). Deep/surface approaches to learning in higher education: A research update. Essays on Teaching Excellence, 21(8).

• Sundberg M. D., Dini, M. L., & Lee, E. (1994). Decreasing course content improves student comprehension of science and attitudes towards science in freshman biology. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 31(6), 679-693.

Source: Nelson, C. E. (2014, November 2). Re: Coverage [Electronic mailing list message]. Retrieved from

Respond to the Seminar: Understanding Chinese Names

Use this space to continue the dialogue about this workshop. Leave a reply below.

CELTUA Seminar: Understanding Chinese Names

Presented by Felice Marcus, Associate Director, American Culture and English Program; and Mengxue Xie (a.k.a. Juliana), Miami student

In light of the rapid increase in the number of Chinese undergraduates on Miami’s campus, this workshop will help faculty connect with international students through the crucial first step of addressing them correctly. Participants will leave this session able to comfortably pronounce the Chinese names they encounter on their class rosters, and to correctly address individuals from China.

Also highlighted in this workshop are cultural and identity issues around the adoption of “American names”. Do students embrace English names to feel more culturally integrated? Or do they feel compelled to go by a different name for the convenience of teachers, classmates and US peers? Should we address students by their native or American name, and how do we make that decision?

Advice for Before and After Giving the First Exam of the Semester

Many instructors likely have had their students clamor for a “study guide” for an upcoming exam—especially the first exam of the semester. While it is open to debate what students really envision a study guide to be (key terms to know? example questions? what concepts they most need to focus on?), perhaps what is really reflected in these requests is a need for more general guidance on how to study and succeed in your particular course.

One approach to the study guide concept is to provide study suggestions compiled from former successful students about how they prepared for the exam. Such recipes for success are likely to be warmly received by students, especially since they are coming from their peers: “If these students were able to do well using these strategies, then so can I.” So, consider soliciting your students for their ideas about how to succeed on your exams so that you may pass these valuable suggestions on to future students, adding to and revising them as the course changes.

Once students have taken the first exam in the course, it may be important to spend some time debriefing with them. That first exam is often a “wake-up call.” Those students who did not do as well as they had hoped or expected may be inclined to get discouraged. In addition to reviewing the results, what can we do as instructors to keep students from giving up in despair after a disappointing exam performance?

One suggestion is to provide a checklist for students to complete about their study habits. Students answer “yes” or “no” to whether they did various things that the instructor recommends will help them succeed. If they answer “no” to one or more items, suggest to them that doing these things may help improve their performance next time. Having students respond to a checklist—so that they must say what they are or are not doing—may be more effective than simply giving them a list of study “do’s and don’ts.” Students may be more likely to use such a checklist if the instructor posts it on the course website and directs them to it, or even attaches it to all students’ exams when returning them. This way, no one is singled out for a poor performance, and all have the same opportunity to improve as they feel the need.

To read more about this strategy, see Felder, R. M. (1999). Memo to students who are disappointed with their last test grade. Chemical Engineering Education, 33(2), 136-137.

Some students will, of course, refuse to heed even the most well-intentioned advice and will need to learn from a disappointing experience what to do different next time. But that does not mean we shouldn’t be proactive and at least offer students the tools for success.

New Issue of the Journal on Excellence in College Teaching Focuses on Maximizing Student Attention

Journal Cover shrunkA new issue of the Journal on Excellence in College Teaching is now available online at the Journal website:

Volume 26, number 1 (2015) focuses on Attending/Attention as a Principle of Learning. The issue’s articles offer evidence-based practices for maximizing student attention.

The articles in this issue are:

Qualitative Analysis of Animation Versus Reading for Pre-Class Preparation
in a “Flipped” Classroom
, A. M. Persky

Pedagogical Perspectives for the Online Education Skeptic, P. E. Brewer & E. C. Brewer

Does Academic Discipline Moderate the Relationship Between Student-Faculty
Interaction and College Outcomes?
, Y. K. Kim et al.

Teaching on Purpose: A Collegium Community Model for Supporting Intentional
, J. M. Robinson et al.

Measuring and Improving the Climate for Teaching: A Multi-Year Study, J. S. Lyon et al.

The Impact of Thought Self-Leadership Education on Graduate Students’
Perceptions of Ethics and Cognitive Competencies
, A. A. Filipova

Smartphones in the Classroom as Impediments to Student Learning, C. K. Synnott

For those who are not aware, the Journal is a peer-reviewed venue published four times a year at Miami University by and for faculty at universities and two- and four-year colleges to increase student learning through effective teaching, interest in and enthusiasm for the profession of teaching, and communication among faculty about their classroom experiences. It answers Ernest Boyer’s (1990) call for a forum to present the scholarship of teaching and learning. The Journal provides a scholarly, written forum for discussion by faculty about all areas affecting teaching and learning, and gives faculty the opportunity to share proven, innovative pedagogies and thoughtful, inspirational insights about teaching.

We invite you to use the Journal as a resource for teaching and learning. On the website, click “Issue Archive” to access all issues of the Journal published since its inception in 1990; to locate teaching and learning topics you wish to research, click on “Search Archive.” This electronic version of the Journal is provided by funding from the Committee for the Enhancement of Learning, Teaching, and University Assessment (CELTUA) for all Miami faculty and staff.

For information about submitting manuscripts or other inquiries, click “Submitting Manuscripts” on the website ( or contact Gregg Wentzell, Managing Editor, at the Center for the Enhancement of Learning, Teaching, and University Assessment, 317 Laws Hall, on Miami’s Oxford campus (telephone: 529-9265; e-mail:

Enjoy reading, and watch for the next issue of the Journal (volume 26, number 1), due out in spring 2015.

Mark Your Calendar for CELTUA’s Spring Seminars

The Center for the Enhancement of Learning, Teaching, and University Assessment (CELTUA) on the Oxford campus is excited about our upcoming spring semester seminars.

February 4Chinese Names, from 10:00-11:15 am in 320 Laws Hall

February 12Difficult Dialogues, from 10:00-11:20 am in 320 Laws Hall

February 19How to Be Understood By Everyone in the Classroom: Adapting Instruction for International Learners, from 10:00-11:30 am in 320 Laws Hall

March 3 – Culture Shock: Through the Eyes of Miami’s International Students, from 3:30-5:00 pm in the Great Room, 212 MacMillan Hall

March 9 – Listening to our Students: What We Have Learned From Doing Small-Group Instructional Diagnoses, from 3:00-4:00 pm in 320 Laws Hall

March 19Alternative Pedagogies, from 10:00-11:30 am in 320 Laws Hall

April 1Teaching Critical Thinking, from 10:00-11:00 am in 320 Laws Hall

April 6 – Alumni Teaching Scholars Symposium, from 9:00 am-1:00pm in Laws Hall

Please RSVP to if you are interested in attending any of the seminars. Be sure to indicate which seminar(s) you will be attending.

Fundamental and Powerful Concepts for Ensuring Student Learning

By Charlie Sweet, Teaching & Learning Center, Eastern Kentucky University; Hal Blythe, Teaching & Learning Center, Eastern Kentucky University; L. Dee Fink, Dee Fink & Associates; and Gregg Wentzell, CELTUA, Miami University

In Learning To Think Things Through: A Guide to Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum (Pearson, 2001), Gerald Nosich defines a fundamental and powerful concept as “one that can be used to explain or think out a huge body of questions, problems, information, and situations. All fields have F & P concepts, but there are a relatively small number of them in any particular area” (pp. 105-106). Such concepts become useful as they help to concentrate a feast of ideas into a bite-size pill.

Recently, the four of us wondered if major issues in the burgeoning field of faculty development could be reduced to one of Nosich’s fundamental and powerful concepts. In specific, we were discussing student learning and what students could do in each class in each class meeting. Years ago we had come up with a simple acronym to help students take ownership of their learning, ARTS:

Attend class. As Woody Allen once noted, half of life is showing up.
Read the class material. And this idea came along before reading skills started to drop.
Take notes. Active fingers aid an active mind.
Study. With the recent NSSE surveys indicating college seniors slipping to a mere five hours per week, perhaps we hit on something.

Given the recent advances in neuroscience, what should millennial students be doing beyond ARTS to ensure their learning is more deep than shallow? We produced a response we call the Four R’s.

One, students must RECEIVE information. Their minds must be open to taking in new information whether through lecture, assigned reading, group presentations, or even flipped classroom videos. In essence, students will learn best when they can make connections between this new information and old knowledge in order to construct this hybrid known as new knowledge.

Two, students must RETRIEVE this information in order to solidify the connections between old knowledge and new knowledge (Dee likes to call this “practice”). In Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (Harvard University Press, 2014), Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel point to research in cognitive psychology that emphasizes retrieval practice, “recalling facts or concepts from memory” (p. 3). The more often students retrieve from memory, the deeper the learning, the stronger the connections. Constant retrieval tells students what they do and don’t know as well. In-class activities can promote retrieval—discussion, daily quizzes, papers.

Three, students must RATE the information through meaningful and immediate feedback. In short, the student must develop critical thinking skills to assess the information. Instructors provide help–such as going over the correct answers for the a quiz, commenting on individual and group responses, and even notes on papers and tests–but students can also initiate that feedback by asking questions both in-class and through email and visitations to the instructor’s office.

Four, students must REFLECT on that information. Each reflective act necessitates retrieval and may result in an alteration of the newly-constructed knowledge. Making flashcards where the key concepts are on one side and the correct responses are on the other provides immediate feedback and a time for students to reflect on what they know, don’t know, and knowledge they would somehow change. Instructors can aid that learning by having students reflect orally and on paper, such as short, end-of-class comments on what they found the most interesting or difficult concept of the day. Sometimes instructors can ask leading questions that force student reflection on knowledge connections.

In short, instructors can aid student learning, but ultimately, the students will deepen their learning by following the four R’s of Receive, Retrieve, Rate, and Reflect.

About the Authors:

Charlie Sweet ( ) is currently Co-Director of the Teaching & Learning Center (2007+) at Eastern Kentucky University. Collabo-writing with Hal Blythe, he has published well over 1000 items, including 15 books; of his 11 books with New Forums Press ( ).
Hal Blythe ( is currently co-director of the Teaching and Learning Center for Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to the 11 books he’s published with New Forums Press ( ), Hal has collaborated on four books on a variety of subjects, over 1000 pieces of fiction/nonfiction, and a host of television scripts and interactive mysteries performed by their repertory company.
L. Dee Fink is a nationally recognized expert on college teaching and faculty development. After receiving his doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1976, he accepted a faculty position at the University of Oklahoma. In 1979 he founded the Instructional Development Program at the University of Oklahoma and served as its director until his retirement in May 2005. He was president of the Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network in Higher Education (2004-2005), the primary professional organization for faculty developers. At the present time he works as a national consultant in higher education. He is the author of Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses (Jossey-Bass, 2003) and co-editor of Team-Based Learning: A Transformative Use of Small Groups in College Teaching (Stylus, 2004). More information can be found on his website:
Gregg Wentzell is Assistant to the Director of Miami University’s Center for the Enhancement of Learning, Teaching, and University Assessment. He earned his Ph.D. in English at Miami in 1993 and was awarded the Sinclair Fellowship. He is managing editor of the Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, a peer-reviewed international forum for the scholarship of teaching. He has over 20 years of college teaching experience and teaches part-time in the English Department. In addition to providing editing support for various Center projects, including being Lilly Conference Publications Manager, Gregg does faculty consulting on teaching and writing. He presents seminars on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning both on-campus and at teaching and learning conferences. He has experience with and has participated in faculty learning communities.