Facilitating Learning

Excerpt: Facilitating learning is a broader topic than teaching. It includes designing effective and efficient programs, selection of appropriate course content and materials, the design of the course, classroom and online dynamics, and the art of content delivery in many different venues and with many different teaching styles. This article is a compilation of many interviews with faculty from many disciplines, providing powerful testimonies and detailed implementation strategies for what has worked well in their classrooms. By studying this article and its linked resources, and by using the associated shared files, you will be able to: • Enable students to participate in selecting and sharing resources for courses that will help them succeed. • Explain strategies that can help students progress through the curriculum efficiently and measure the overall effectiveness of scheduling and advising processes. • Explain the impact of student motivation on learning and success. • Evaluate a wide variety of pedagogical strategies including lecturing, the flipped classroom, student focused teaching, modelling and simulations, game-based learning, collaborative learning, experiential learning, and metacognition. • Design more effective online and blended learning experiences.


Learning is a very personal process, with each learner having strategies that work best them. The trick is to get the learner to apply these strategies diligently and consistently to an appropriate body of knowledge and experiences. No matter how good the instruction, learning does not occur if the learner does not engage personally with the materials and work at it. We cannot teach to create learning – we must facilitate each learner’s personal journey toward wisdom. The synonyms for facilitate– ease, enable, simplify, smooth, help, aid, assist and expedite, provide some insight into this approach. The job of the institution in facilitating learning is therefore to:

  • Assemble and make easily accessible, an up-to-date body of knowledge leading to a set of competencies accepted by society (employers, graduate schools, learners) as appropriate for a credential in a field.
  • Design, and guide the learner along an effective and efficient path to achieving the competencies.
  • Motivate the learner, stimulating and maintaining interest in the subject matter, ultimately creating a self-directed seeker of knowledge.
  • Provide opportunities for the learner to actively engage with the content material.
  • Provide flexible access to learning through a variety of modalities including face-to-face, blended, and online.
  • Provide opportunities for metacognition.
  • Measure and certify learning achievement.
  • Hire and retain the right people to manage, assess and continuously improve all of the above (see article on Building a World Class Faculty).

Each of these points is examined in this article.

An exhaustive treatment of the art of teaching is beyond the scope of this article and has been addressed in many other publications. What is offered are video interviews of faculty who have implemented best or unique practices in their teaching. These videos often include footage of the practice in action within the classroom. They are compiled by major pedagogical approach, however, most touch on multiple aspects of teaching so where appropriate, the links jump to the relevant section of the interview. These videos were recorded around 2010. Faculty titles and positions were accurate at that time but may have changed since. These links are indicated with the video camera icon shown to the left.

Assemble an Appropriate Body of Knowledge and Set of Learning Outcomes

Developing an appropriate set of learning outcomes for a course is addressed in Defining What, Where, and When We Want Students to Learn. Once they have been defined the appropriate learning resources can be assembled. When developing a course faculty often review many of the textbooks and journal articles relevant to the field, review notes from courses they may have taken or from other faculty who have taught the course, develop handouts or web pages in the learning management system, select a textbook, and provided references or links to key articles and information on the Internet. When first developing a course, this requires a lot of time and effort, but putting together the correct set of resources, selected by a knowledgeable expert in the field, is an important and often underappreciated part of a faculty member’s job.

Enable Students to Participate in Course Resource Selection

Each faculty member’s resource selections and approach are biased by personal learning style which may only align with the learning styles of a proportion of students in their courses. Other approaches, and a selection of resources based on different learning styles, would be helpful to these students, but logistically difficult and time consuming to provide. In the following section I provide what is essentially a crowdsourcing solution to this challenge.

The Internet provides access to a phenomenal set of resources for learning. There are organizations such as Merlot, that specialize in brokering the exchange of learning resources between faculty. Several top educational institutions, such as MIT, have made their online courses and even videos of lectures publicly accessible. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have been developed by many institutions, often to showcase their best instructors and courses. Several commercial providers have evolved to support MOOC delivery such as Udacity, edX, and Coursera.

It is challenging for faculty to find course material in the sea of information that is the Internet, let alone customize its selection based in students’ learning styles. However, students will search out this content if their instructor’s approach and resources do not work for them. We can leverage this effort by asking students, preferably in an online course evaluation survey delivered at the end of the course, to list resources other than those provided by the instructor, that helped them succeed in the course. This information could then be made available to subsequent students taking the course. Ideally, the course survey system could even enable the students to rank the usefulness of each resource, much like many commercial sites support ratings, and the system would sort them by the average rating. The most effective resources would therefore bubble up to the top of the list. This would be a great learning tool for students, encourage them to participate in course surveys, and even provide new resources that the faculty could incorporate into the course.

Design an Effective and Efficient Path Through the Learning

In Defining What, Where, and When We Want Students to Learn, a processes for developing a rational curriculum through curriculum mapping is described. The intent of this process is to ensure that there is a sequence of courses that builds through the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, and that an appropriate amount of duplication of outcomes is planned into the curriculum to reinforce difficult concepts without compromising the ability to deliver new material. In Managing Course, Program, and Faculty Information to Help Students Make Better Enrollment Decisions, the advantages of clearly communicating learning expectations to our students is addressed. With proper advising, these efforts should lead to an effective curriculum that is efficiently completed in an appropriate number of credit hours. Allowing for students who may change majors or transfer between institutions with some loss of credits, a good metric that can be used to gauge our ability to design and guide our students through our programs efficiently is the average number of credits completed by the students that do not apply to the degree or Liberal/General Education requirements for the degree they received. This should be a key performance indicator used to monitor all programs, college/schools and the institution as a whole.

Improvements in efficiency can be achieved within a well-planned program in two ways, by awarding credit for prior learning (see Evaluating and Rewarding Student Learning) and by adopting a competency based approach to learning achievement. The competency approach awards credit for achievement of learning outcomes instead of a defined amount of seat time in a classroom, or completion of a defined amount of work in an online course. However, for this to result in increased efficiency, each student must be able to work at his or her own pace and move on to work on new competencies as soon as each is achieved. This flexibility is much easier to implement in online programs where the competency approach has been most broadly adopted e.g. Western Governors University. Providing academic terms that are shorter than the traditional 16 weeks, six and eight-week terms for example, enables an institution to offer more start opportunities for students within a year. Staggering and overlapping their start dates can make it easier for students to quickly sign up for new courses and derive the promised efficiency.

Competency based programs are challenging to implement in any cohort-based model in which a group of learners are expected to work together to move through the course or program. Another challenge is that they provide students with non-traditional transcripts which list the competencies achieved instead of courses completed. This can cause challenges with transcript evaluation if the student does not complete the entire credential at the same institution and needs to transfer credits to a non-competency-based program.

Within individual courses, one of the most effective design approaches is called backward design – named thus since it is the opposite approach to that traditionally used by most faculty. Once learning outcomes are defined the course evaluation process is then defined. This ensures that evaluations are closely tied to outcomes and drive the content selection rather than the other way around. Finally, the content for the course is selected to match the evaluations. This approach ensures congruence between content, evaluations, and outcomes, and ensures that all content is relevant and may be on the test.

Patricia Aceves, the Director of The Faculty Center at Stony Brook, discusses backward course design and the benefits of clearly defining course learning goals and outcomes/objectives. She also addresses how a teaching and learning center can assist faculty with developing pedagogical skills, and skills for the scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL). http://tinyurl.com/yt-Aceves

The Art of Teaching

Provide Opportunities for the Learner to Engage with the Content Material

Many students will cram information into short-term memory to pass an exam. Deep learning, the learning that fundamentally changes a person or their long-term knowledge, provides much greater value-add because it persists. “As an assistant professor I thought it was my responsibility to cover as much material as I could within the allotted credit hours. With experience, I realized that it is the learning that persists six months after the course has ended that matters most, and that repeating critical take home messages was worth reducing the scope of the material covered.(1)Graham Glynn Ph.D. reflecting on his initial experience as a faculty member.  Deep learning occurs by focusing on understanding and not memorization. Active engagement with the instructor, peers and the material, leads to this understanding. This section of the article addresses some of the strategies that support that active engagement.

Motivate the Learner

This author has worked with hundreds of faculty members to help them improve their pedagogical skills and interviewed many more for Innovations of Education, an online talk-show about teaching and learning. All good teachers a common trait – no matter what approach they take to teaching, the thing they do best is stimulate the interest of their students in the course subject matter. Once students are interested they remember the material better, pursue answers to their questions independently, ask more questions in class, and generally engage with the material more intently. Motivated students will even succeed despite poor instruction! This may be why lectures, considered by most scholars of pedagogy to be one of the least effective methods of engaging students with content, are still effective – a great lecturer stimulates interest within the students!

Tom Hemmick, a Professor of Physics at Stony Brook, uses several strategies to make his lectures more engaging. He consciously demonstrates his passion for his field during his lectures which he finds gets the students excited and engaged. He makes personal connection with the audience using eye contact, and even uses this to re-engage students who are not paying attention. He varies the pace, tone, and volume of his voice during a class. He uses storytelling to relate the theory to real world experiences. He also discusses how to create stories that are appropriate to a field. Tom uses humor to lighten the stress in the classroom. He suggests faculty get some formal or informal training in the performing arts to improve their teaching. He finds that movement around the stage, into the audience, and gesturing creates a connection with the students. Dr. Hemmick uses his mistakes as great opportunities for teaching, as students tend to remember those events. He also commonly admits that he doesn’t know an answer and attempts to work out solutions with the students. He believes that once attention is established, it is important to use it to determine if students are grasping the material. He suggests that instructors identify students in the audience who have obvious body language or behavioral “tells” that indicate they do not understand the material, and use them to monitor the class. He also uses frequent questions as a diagnostic of student understanding. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Hemmick

Marcy McGinnis, a Professor of Journalism at Stony Brook, teaches broadcast voice and presentation classes in the television studio. She discusses how she tries to “light a fire” within her students to get them excited about the course. She talks about teaching by example, and how she provides positive feedback to her students as they perform on camera. http://tinyurl.com/yt-McGinnis


While lecturing is considered one of the least effective mechanisms for content delivery, it is still one of the most common approaches used in teaching. Studies of attention span indicate that lectures should be kept short and broken up with interactive activities. Technology can be used to make lectures more effective as demonstrated in many of the following interviews.

Joe Lauher, a Professor of Chemistry at Stony Brook, describes how he and a team of his colleagues transformed their organic chemistry course. This course is taught to over a thousand students each year in a lecture hall that seats 560 students. Joe discusses how the introduction of clickers has engaged his students by forcing them to think about and discuss the content with fellow students during the large lectures. In particular, he discusses how questions posed to the class can be written to generate discussion. In addition, he and his team have used portable computer equipment to enable them to leave the stage and mingle with the audience, while still controlling the presentation and writing on the screen. He discusses how “teaching from the floor” has changed the intimacy of the class and his knowledge of the students. Joe is joined by Nancy Wozniak, a Learning Architect at Stony Brook. Nancy discusses active learning, and how professional staff can provide support for making courses more student centric. http://tinyurl.com/yt-lauher

Manny London teaches small freshman seminars and MBA classes on leadership, communications, team work, and social entrepreneurship at Stony Brook. He requires his students to learn communication skills by using a presentation style called Pecha Kucha in which they use images to convey concepts and use only small amounts of text in the slides. The class also uses a presentation manager called Prezi which is hierarchically organized rather than linear like PowerPoint. The students are encouraged to use props, simulations, and games in their presentations. Dr. London finds that students for whom English is a second language find this form of presentation much easier to grasp. He also encourages the use of web technology to improve networking and communications between the student teams, and with the instructor. Manny encourages new instructors to adopt the role of learning facilitator – providing guidance and resources grounded in real world examples and experiences. Dr. London is joined by Dr. Patricia Aceves who discusses a presentation style called Presentation Zen. Patricia talks about where to find appropriate and copyright approved images to use in presentations and how to avoid presentations that encourage the audience to read material along with the instructor. http://tinyurl.com/fb-mlondon

Imin Kao teaches both graduate and undergraduate classes in mechanical engineering. He records a significant amount of his course material and posts it on a video podcast server. As he encounters frequently asked questions from the students he records and publishes an online podcast to address the questions. This reduces the need for students to wait until his office hours for assistance. Dr. Kao uses portions of the videos during class to change up his presentation style, deliver perfected lecture material, and show demonstrations of equipment that are not easily brought into the classroom. Imin explains the benefits of having course material recorded and accessible to the students, and describes the equipment needed to prepare a podcast. Students are also expected to produce a video podcast as a term project. One important criterion for the video is that the viewers should learn something other than the material presented during the class. As part of the process students review each other’s work. This format improves the student’s communication skills and enhances their learning experience. http://tinyurl.com/fb-Kao1 http://tinyurl.com/yt-IKao

Martin Schoonen teaches geochemistry at Stony Brook. He uses student response systems (clickers) iteratively to show the impact of information on student opinions during debates and discussions. He also uses the response systems to quantify student participation during the discussions for the class participation part of their grade. He shows videos that are for and against issues, and has the students vote on and debate the arguments. He finds his video material on sites like YouTube and news sites like the New York Times. Martin has his students identify articles of interest to the course in the popular press, and add links to the articles in the course Wiki. Students then present to the class on why they chose the article, and its relevance to the course, etc. http://tinyurl.com/fb-Schoonen
Dick Laskowsli and Bob Eckel teach in the College of Business at Stony Brook. They use real-world examples and storytelling to help students understand application, within the business world, of the theory they learn in the classroom. They believe that stimulating student interest is key to effective learning, and that teaching is a form of theater. They discuss the importance of socialization and the use of ice-breakers, especially for group work. Dick addresses the challenges of synchronous video conferencing for course delivery. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Eckel

Flipping the Classroom

Traditionally, class time has been used for content delivery and students ask questions of each other, and the instructor, outside of this time, usually at the end of class or during office hours. Flipping the classroom reverses this process – content is delivered outside of classroom which then focuses on interactive activities.

Rod Engelmann teaches physics to life science students in a large lecture setting. Rod was an early adopter of classroom response systems (clickers) which he uses extensively to pose questions to the students, to determine dynamically if the students are getting the concepts of the course, and to deliver classroom quizzes. He delivers his course content on DVD which must be reviewed by the students before coming to class. Students must also complete a quiz on the material prior to attending the class. Rod then uses the performance on the quiz, and student email questions about the material, to guide the discussion in the classroom. Rod also uses Maple TA, software that analyzes symbolic responses (the formula) to math problems, to deliver and grade homework online. Attendance at lectures has increased significantly as a result of these modifications. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Engelmann

Bill Collins, a Professor in Neurobiology and Behavior at Stony Brook, discusses the use of automated lecture recording systems in his biology course. This course is taught to over 1200 students each year in a large lecture format. He describes how the system is implemented, and the impact it has had on his teaching. Bill discusses student reactions, their use of the recordings, and the impact on their attendance at live lectures. He also discusses how having the recordings enables him to change what is done in the classroom. He reviews his plans to use the recorded material for mini courses, to deliver the course remotely at a remote campus, to link back to material from follow on courses, and to develop a video FAQ for the course. The potential use of recordings to teach the course without the faculty member, and intellectual property rights are addressed. Bill is joined by Anthony Bozzanca, a computer support technician who covers the technical details of the system that is needed to get faculty started. He describes the multiple formats the content can be delivered in, and how each can be viewed with a variety of devices. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Collins

Art Lekacos is Director of Graduate Education in the College of Business at Stony Brook. Some of his MBA courses are delivered in a blended mode, part face-to-face and part online using synchronous technology. Face-to-face time is used for team activities and collaboration. Art also discusses how he uses browser-based video conferencing to synchronously deliver short lectures to students in the program. The lectures are recorded and added to an archive posted within Blackboard for review by the students, or for viewing by students unable to attend at the scheduled time. Art also uses the system to bring experts in the field into his classroom, for student teams to work remotely on business analysis problems, and to teach students in Korea. Art uses Adobe Captivate to create tutorials on software such as Microsoft Excel. He has found that the use of multimedia has, in the opinion of his student’s, added interest to the content. He is also motivated by the fact that he employs the technologies that students will need to use in their working lives. Art is joined by Jennifer Adams, who provides information on getting set up with video recording and conferencing technologies. http://tinyurl.com/fb-Lekacos http://tinyurl.com/fb-Lekacos2

Focusing on the Learner

At Stony Brook, the faculty who really focused on student needs and the quality of their learning experience were the most frequent recipients of teaching awards. The cynic may say that popularity with students probably had a big influence on the selection process, but it is more likely that their empathy led to more effective pedagogy.

One way in which pedagogy can be customized for students is by being aware of learning styles and multiple intelligences. Instructors tend to teach using the learning style that works best for them. For example, this author has a bias for visual learning which may be evident by the numerous figures and diagrams used in these articles. Even complex diagrams are preferable to text but may be overwhelming for readers with other preferred styles. While it is not practical to customize a course for a particular learning style, awareness of one’s bias and the existence of other styles in the student body can enable the instructor to mix a variety of approaches into the course.

Stephanie Wade discusses what learning styles are, how they impact a student’s ability to learn, and why it is important for faculty to understand the learning styles of their students. In her teaching she exposes students to many different styles and has them reflect on each to determine which ones work best for them. She discusses the impact faculty bias toward a particular learning style can have on the students and encourages faculty to try teaching in learning styles that differ from their preferred one. She encourages the students and other instructors to explore and take risks with their teaching. Stephanie has found that if the learning is planned and explicitly explained to the students as part of the learning objectives for the course, it is more readily accepted by the students. One teaching approach that she describes in detail is mobile public post draft outlining. Stephanie is joined by Nancy Wozniak, a Learning Architect at Stony Brook, who discusses various tools that faculty can use to assess their styles. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Wade

Joan Kuchner is a recipient of both the SUNY Chancellor’s Award and the Stony Brook President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. She discusses why it is important to teach to the whole student – recognizing that they have complex lives that impact their ability to learn, but also to bring experiences to the classroom. She shows empathy for the student’s situation so that she can improve the connection between herself and the student. She believes mutual trust and respect is critical for learning to occur and knowing student names is important in developing that relationship. She also believes that the instructor should show respect for the students by giving them choices rather than hard policies, making them responsible for, and part of the decision-making process about their own learning. Instructors should respect the students enough to give them time to reflect on and respond to questions posed in the classroom. If students are expected to share personal information in the class, then the instructor should also share this kind of information about themselves. Joan believes that it is important to convey passion for the subject matter – to exaggerate emotions and tones when addressing the audience. She personalizes learning by involving all the students in conversations with individual students. She uses objects to help model the discovery process and then applies this process to concepts and ideas. Dr. Kuchner believes that the secret to good teaching is to enjoy your work and transmit that feeling to your students. You should also encourage students to share their learning to give it meaning. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Kuchner

Richard Larsen, a Linguistics Professor and recipient of the SUNY Chancellors award for teaching, discusses the challenges of transitioning from graduate to undergraduate education. He addresses the importance of putting oneself in the shoes of the learner when designing a course and selecting a teaching strategy. Richard uses a continuous improvement approach and is constantly trying new methods to engage his students. He also emphasizes the importance of instructor enthusiasm to maintain student interest. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Larsen

Lee Miller, an Associate Dean at Stony Brook, discusses the impact that the transition to college and living away from families has on the first-time student. Impulse control and self-discipline are two major issues that he addresses. College classes differ from high school in that content is generally not repeated and work outside the classroom is essential for success. Faculty need to be very clear and explicit about their expectations, and not assume that students understand the level of work expected. In addition, he believes that faculty generally try to teach too much and should decide on the important elements of the course and repeat these more often. Lee discusses strategies to improve faculty-student interactions. He also discusses an interesting self-reflective approach to mid-semester assessments, and how faculty can handle negative comments about them and the course. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Miller

Inquiry and Problem-Based Learning

Instead of providing students with the information they need for a course, the inquiry-based learning approach provides them with a set of guiding questions that lead them to relevant materials and appropriate conclusions. Problem, or case-based learning as it is often called, provides real world examples of challenges that the students have to analyze, and derive solutions for.

David Ferguson, the chair of the Technology and Society department at Stony Brook, discusses the importance of making connections with, and between his students, to help them succeed in his courses. He encourages them to be reflective about their own and other student’s responses to questions. One of his favorite methods of teaching novices is to model the process of expert problem solving in the classroom, while vocalizing his thought process as he does so. He is willing to divert planned classroom activities in lieu of getting students to think about the content. David discusses what to do when a student asks a question that the instructor does not know the answer to, and provides mechanisms for faculty to turn this to their advantage. He encourages students to develop “person on the street” explanations of concepts – in essence having them teach to learn, and to bring real world examples into the classroom to make learning relevant. In designing a course, he encourages faculty to think about the most critical things a student should know a year after the course ends and put most of the course effort there. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Ferguson

Paul Bingham and JoAnne Souza teach a large lecture and online course called The Biology of Human Social and Sexual Behavior. JoAnne is a communications specialist who partnered with Paul to improve the course. They discuss how they enable critical thinking, problem solving, and student engagement within the course content using technology. Paul also discusses how he encourages students to doubt and question course content as a mechanism for critical thinking. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Bingham

Kathleen Shurpin, a Professor of Nursing at Stony Brook and recipient of the SUNY Chancellors award for teaching, uses classroom time to help students address a research problem using guided questions in a group process. Students use computers during class time to do research. The questions guide the student to information that helps them solve clinical problems. Students group share the processes they used to find the information. As part of the process, Kathleen teaches the student about information evaluation and reliability. http://tinyurl.com/yt-shurpin

David Hanson and Troy Wolfskill teach chemistry to large student groups at Stony Brook. Using process oriented guided inquiry-based learning (POGIL), students are given a model (equation, table of data, etc.) to explore with a set of questions as guidance. Guiding questions are divided into different levels — information, conceptual (requires understanding), algorithmic, application, and problem-solving levels (requires analysis and synthesis). This approach emphasizes process skills over memorization. David and Troy developed a software system called LUCID (Learning and Understanding through Computer based Interactive Discovery) which has templates for the guided inquiry model, provides instant feedback, and can analyze responses for learning outcomes. Students work in groups in large class meetings (300-600) and in small group recitation sections (30). Large classes use informal groups (unassigned membership). Recitation sections use formal groups with assigned roles (manager, recorder, spokesperson, and strategy analyst). The strategy analyst reflects on how well the team is working together, could improve, what they have learned, and what they find confusing. Throughout the class Dr. Hanson posts questions for the groups to work on, and gathers their feedback using clickers. The biggest challenge to implementing the course redesign was the perception of colleagues and getting them onboard with new teaching approaches. They discuss student resistance to change, such as the expectation that faculty are being paid to teach and not make students work. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Hanson

Charles Haddad, a journalism faculty member, teaches writing in a small workshop setting. He uses the Socratic Method to teach critical thinking, and pushes as much of the work toward the students as possible. Writing provides him with a mechanism for insight into the thinking process of his students. In essence, his aim is to teach the students how to use the craft of questioning by using a series of guiding questions to lead them through the critical analysis process. Charles strongly believes that the writing process can be used to teach critical thinking in many other disciplines. He uses peer review and public analysis of students writing to illustrate good and bad work, and to teach students to be critical of their own work. Another mechanism he uses is to have the students convert a piece of good writing to bad, thereby becoming more aware of the characteristics that made it good in the first place. Professor Haddad is joined by Nancy Wozniak, who discusses the use of rubrics to assess the quality of writing. http://tinyurl.com/yt-haddad

Michael Nugent, a professor of business at Stony Brook, incorporates real problems from the business world into his courses. He contacts former students and current employers of graduates to get these problems. In the interview Michael defines the characteristics of good problems for use in a course. He uses Facebook to maintain connections with graduates and invite former students to give guest lectures. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Nugent

Modelling and Simulations

It is not always logistically or financially viable to incorporate real world experiences into a course. Simulation technology and computer models can replicate those experiences in the classroom, and even have some advantages over the real thing, especially in terms of repeatability and safety.
Christopher Gallagher, a medicine faculty member, uses sophisticated medical mannequins to train residency students to treat patients in emergency situations. The mannequin exhibits most of the physiological properties of a real patient such as respiration, heart beat and blood pressure. Injuries can be simulated, and medication administered to the mannequin. These highly realistic simulations lead to a high degree of student learning and retention. Students also work with actors to simulate emotional situations and doctor patient interactions. Rare situations that are unlikely to occur in practice can be simulated. In addition, events that unfold slowly in the real world can be compressed and repeated to give the students multiple experiences or replays. http://tinyurl.com/fb-Gallagher1 http://tinyurl.com/fb-Gallagher2

Michael Nugent uses simulations to immerse student in the operations of a fictitious company, discusses how this affects the dynamic within his classroom, and how student learning has been affected. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Nugent1

Joshua Bowman, a professor of business at Stony Brook, uses tools from simple props and film clips, to sophisticated simulation software such as Wolfram-Alpha, to help students grasp mathematical concepts. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Bowman2

Game-Based Learning

Games have been used in the classroom for many years. Quiz games, like Jeopardy, are easy to set up and project, and can be played by groups of students competing against each other, engaging the whole class. Many instructional software developers are creating games, hoping to tap into the recreational gaming craze among our students. However, games do not need to be sophisticated or expensive, and faculty can easily develop simple board games based around their subject matter.

Gary Mar teaches philosophy at Stony Brook. He uses puzzles to teach students how to recognize and improve thought processes, and problem based learning and recreational logic games to build student interest and confidence. Gary believes that getting students involved in play can reduce stress, leading to better learning. He believes that they are drawn into course content and, as a result, invest time in extracurricular course related activities. Students also tend form a community of learners around game play. http://tinyurl.com/fb-GMar

Collaborative Learning

Students group work is a powerful approach to learning and developing essential skills for work life. Group activities can be part of the classroom with simple exercises such as having a group come to consensus on, and report the answer to, a question. They can also work on complex assignments and projects outside of class, and even across multiple courses, as some of the examples below demonstrate.

Joseph McDonnell, the Dean of the College of Business at Stony Brook, discusses the educational philosophy adopted by his College. The faculty designed a set of multi-course team projects that are assigned within block-scheduled courses. They take these courses simultaneously, which enables faculty to cooperate on project design across the disciplines, and to actively connect concepts across courses. Students peer evaluate team mate’s contributions to encourage active participation by all members. http://tinyurl.com/yt-McDonnell2

Ayesha Ramachandran teaches an introductory English course in which pre-med students, who have little interest in the subject, are enrolled. She was unhappy with the course dynamic, so she conducted a mid-course assessment, and made changes that significantly improved student engagement and satisfaction. For example, Ayesha replaced a final exam with the performance of a play and describes the impact that this had on student learning. Because of her success with the drama course, she now adds some type of collaborative work to all of her courses. Ayesha is joined by Nancy Wozniak. They discuss the dynamics of student group work, including the use of rubrics for peer assessment and student roles within groups. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Ayesha

Lori Scarlotos, a Professor of Computer Science at Stony Brook, discusses the impact of learning-by-doing through group projects. She addresses the project selection process, the guidance and constraints she provides to the groups, and the group formation process. Group dynamics and grading are also addressed. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Scarlotos

Wendy Tang teaches a capstone course in engineering, and Gerrit Wolf teaches an innovations in business course. They have created opportunities for students to collaborate on projects across the two courses. The engineering students develop new products for which the business students must determine marketability. The MBA students get exposure to the inventive process whereas the engineering students learn the impact of real-world market needs on design. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Tang

Michael Nugent, a professor of business at Stony Brook, has students work in teams sharing laptops within the classroom. They develop individual solutions that are then combined into a group solution. Group members are randomly assigned to simulate real world work scenarios in which work colleagues cannot be chosen. Within the groups Michael assigns roles such as a team leader. These roles are rotated so every student gets a chance at each role. Student groups present the results of their problems to the class and receive feedback from it. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Nugent2

Experiential Learning

Experiential learning essentially embodies learning by doing and takes on many forms including service learning and internships. The Association for Experiential Education has a good description of experiential learning on its web site whereas the National Society for Experiential Education provides some good guidelines for its implementation.

Margo Palermo, a faculty member in the School of Business, incorporates student’s own experiences in the classroom and partners with regional businesses to have students work on real business problems. Margo also partners with other academic departments to bring a multi-disciplinary approach to her course. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Palermo

Provide Opportunities for Metacognition

Teaching is a very metacognitive process. As instructors we must figure out what we learned and how we learned it, to transmit this to others. In the process, we often experience insights into our own material. By having students engage in a similar activity they to gain insights which result in consolidation of learning. Asking students to explain to themselves (reflection) or others, or by asking how they would apply the lessons learned in an activity to another situation, forces them to generate rules and processes that are independent of specific examples. Knowledge generation requires that learners integrate new information into their personal model of the World. However, it is important that this newly created knowledge be exposed to critique to ensure that it is correct. Reviewed reflection provides an opportunity to have the instructor or peers examine how each student interprets the new knowledge and offer corrections – an important part of the learning process.

David Ferguson, the Chair of the Technology and Society department at Stony Brook, uses a metacognitive approach to problem solving in his teaching. He encourages students to be reflective about their own, and other student’s responses to questions. One of his favorite methods of teaching novices is to model the process of expert problem solving in the classroom while vocalizing the thought process as he does so. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Ferguson

Louis Schmier is a Professor of History at Valdosta State University in Georgia. Lou uses extensive online journaling for metacognitive reflection in his history course. His Random Thoughts blogs have been appearing on the Internet in educational listservs since 1993. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Schmier

Providing Flexible Access to Learning Through a Variety of Delivery Modalities.

The proportion of student who are required to hold at least a part-time job while in college is quite high. This can make it difficult for them to schedule all the courses they need to progress through the curriculum in a timely way. Similarly, post-traditional learners often have full time jobs and life obligations that make scheduling difficult. Providing online or reduced face time (blended) courses and programs, offers these learners more flexible scheduling and enables them to take courses they might not otherwise be able to. The Online Learning (formerly Sloan-C) Consortium provides great resources and professional development in these areas.

Larry Ragan is the Director of Faculty Development at Penn State’s World Campus. Larry discusses the skills that faculty need to teach well in online and blended courses, how to select appropriate content for each delivery mode, and the relative strengths and weaknesses of each. The role of instructional design and other support staff in helping faculty be successful teachers is also covered. Larry addresses techniques used to create healthy interactions between faculty and students in the online environment, and how reflecting on learning can impact the learning process. Larry also covers his current area of research on competencies for online teaching success (COTS). He talks about the most important skills that are needed; understanding how teaching and learning occur in an online course, understanding the operational mechanics such as submitting grades online, and technology aptitude. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Ragan

Paul Edelson, the Dean of the School of Profession Development at Stony Brook, discusses the benefits of online course delivery. He addresses the suitability of online education for students, and the characteristics of a successful learner. Major differences and commonalities between face-to-face and online environments, and the challenges of transitioning between them are addressed. The use of rubrics, such as Quality Matters, to guide the online course design process is also discussed. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Edelson

Rick Gatteau, the Director of the Higher Education Administration program at Stony Brook, discusses his experience in converting a face-to-face class to an online accelerated format. His biggest challenge was the loss of student behavioral queues about their grasp of the material. Rick chose Blackboard discussion groups to replace face-to-face discussions. He designs discussion questions so that they facilitate in-depth dialog and analysis, and not just regurgitation of information. Rick found that all students were engaged by the online discussions and the quality of the discussion was higher than he had experienced in his face-to-face classes. He uses class participation points as part of the grade for the course. These points are greater in his online course than in face-to-face classes as the effort required is greater. He also requires students to respond to other student’s posts. He finds that it is important to establish rules of communication up front – civility and respect in discussions, etc. Student online presentations can be challenging and require learning additional technology and writing skills. His students use online survey tools to evaluate group performance and presentations. He addresses both the advantages and challenges of online course delivery. While they provide flexibility for both the faculty member and the students, they require multiple design iterations to become fully mature – especially for a first-time teacher. http://tinyurl.com/fb-Gatteau1 http://tinyurl.com/fb-Gatteau2

Dr. Paul Bingham and JoAnne Souza teach a large lecture and online course called The Biology of Human Social and Sexual Behavior. They discuss how they enable critical thinking, problem solving and student engagement within their course using technology. They also describe how they set up course discussion groups and encourage student participation in the groups, and why they think online courses can be superior to face-to-face teaching. http://tinyurl.com/yt-Bingham1



1 Graham Glynn Ph.D. reflecting on his initial experience as a faculty member.

CC BY-NC 4.0 Facilitating Learning by Graham Glynn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

CC BY-NC 4.0 Facilitating Learning by Graham Glynn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Categories: Chief Academic Affairs Office Staff, Dean’s Office Staff (Deans, Executive Deans, Associate/Assistant Deans, etc.), Department Chair Office Staff (Chairs, Assistant Chairs, Program Directors, etc.), Office Director’s Staff (Director, Assoc./Assist. Director, Coordinator, etc.), President’s Office Staff

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