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Technology in the Classroom

There are many great ways to incorporate technology into the classroom to enhance students’ learning experiences. We’ve listed a few options below. What is your favorite way to incorporate technology in the classroom?

  1. In Class Polling – There are many great resources that allow in class polling. You create a poll online and students use their cells phones or computers to answer the poll in class. Real time data is available to show the class. Check out Poll Everywhere or Top Hat Monocle to get started.
  2. Blogs – Check out this post on using blogs in the classroom. Notre Dame faculty, staff, and students and can create free blogs here.
  3. YouTube – Showing relevant Youtube videos in class can be a great way to keep students engaged in the classroom while demonstrating an application or example of a topic that was covered in class.
  4. Creative Presentations – Tired of using the same old powerpoint presentations? Use Prezi to create a zoomable campus to add some variety to in class presentations.
  5. Comics – “Developing an idea within the confines of a comic is more challenging than it might seem. Explaining or illustrating a concept concisely in three or six panels is one way to have students demonstrate their understanding.” Use Pixton to make online comics and check out this post for more information.
  6. Classroom Chat Rooms- Today’s Meet is a resource that allows online discussions. Here are some ideas on how incorporate Today’s Meet in the classroom.
  7. Customized Videos – Check out this post on how to use Animoto to create videos for your class.
  8. Digital Bulletin Boards – Use lino to create a digital bulletin board for your class.
  9. Word Clouds – A word cloud is a visualization of text. Words that are used more frequently in the text are larger in the word cloud. Check out this post on word cloud sites and ideas for using word clouds in the classroom.
  10. Google Docs – Use Google Docs to create a document that all students have access to, so that they can work together to write a document. This is a great way to have the student work together to make a class study guide.
  11. Google FormsGoogle forms creates an online form and collects responses. Check out 12 Ways to Use Google Forms in the Classroom.
  12. Computational Software – Mathematica software is available for download on the OIT website. This computational software can be used to visualize mathematical functions and scientific data.

Are you interested in learning more about using technology in the classroom? Check out NspireD2 and the Kaneb Center’s Teaching Well Using Technology Certificate program.

Six Thinking Hats

The following entry from the 2014-2015 Teaching Issues Writing Consortium: Teaching Tips was contributed by Debi Griffin, Assistant Director of the Faculty Development Center, Bellarmine University

Creative thinking and critical thinking are both important aspects of problem solving. The “Six Hats” exercise described below provides a framework for students to practice both.

Six Thinking Hats is a technique developed by Edward De Bono. This parallel thinking technique provides a structure for students to explore six distinct perspectives of a complex issue or scenario. The group exercise can easily be adapted to many disciplines.

Using “high school drop-out rates” as a sample topic, the “Six Hats” and perspectives are represented as:

  • White Hat: focuses on data, facts, information known or needed. (e.g., What is the current high school drop-out rate in our state? How does the rate in our community compare to the national data? What specific programs are currently in place?)
  • Black Hat: focuses on difficulties, potential problems, why something may not work. (e.g., What issues contribute to the drop-out rate? What are obstacles to improvement? What mistakes do we need to avoid?)
  • Red Hat: focuses on feelings, hunches, gut instinct, and intuition. (e.g., Do you have any emotions around this issue? Put yourself in the shoes of a high school student considering dropping out and imagine your fears and concerns.)
  • Yellow Hat: focuses on values and benefits: why something may work. (e.g., What are we doing right?)
  • Green Hat: focuses on creativity: possibilities, alternatives, solutions, new ideas. (e.g., What’s a new approach? If we reduced the drop-out rate by 25%, how could that impact our community?)
  • Blue Hat: focuses on process control, timing, next steps, action plans. (e.g., What’s the next logical step? Who needs to be included?)

A quick Google and YouTube search for “Six Thinking Hats” will supply dozens of charts, images, videos, and exercises using this technique. You can also find an excellent slide show by Edward de Bono on the Six Thinking Hats technique.


DeBono, Edward (1999) Six Thinking Hats: An Essential Approach to Business Management, Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company.

Submitted by:
Debi Griffin, Assistant Director
Faculty Development Center
Bellarmine University

Inquiry Based Learning

Are you interested in incorporating active learning activities in the classroom? Do you want to promote critical thinking and problem solving skills? You may want to consider Inquiry Based Learning!

What is Inquiry Based Learning?

In this experiential teaching method, the instructor facilitates learning though student problem solving. A lecture could be used to pose a problem or question. The instructor then guides the students through the process of discovering ways to solve the problem rather giving a traditional lecture where the instructor tells the students how to solve the problem.

Inquiry-based learning (IBL) is a method of instruction that places the student, the subject, and their interaction at the center of the learning experience. At the same time, it transforms the role of the teacher from that of dispensing knowledge to one of facilitating learning. It repositions him or her, physically, from the front and center of the classroom to someplace in the middle or back of it, as it subtly yet significantly increases his or her involvement in the thought-processes of the students.

– E. Lee May of Salisbury State University

Why use Inquiry Based Learning?

There are many benefits to Inquiry-Based Learning. Some of the benefits listed by the Centre for Excellence in Enquiry-Based Learning (EBL) include:

  • Fundamentally, students are more engaged with the subject. Learning is perceived as being more relevant to their own needs, thus they are enthusiastic and ready to learn.
  • Students can expand on what they have learned by following their own research interests.
  • EBL allows students to develop a more flexible approach to their studies, giving them the freedom and the responsibility to organize their own pattern of work within the time constraints of the task.
  • Working within and communicating to a group are vital for a student’s employability. Self-directed learning not only develops key skills for postgraduate study, but also leads to original thought that contributes to larger research projects, papers and publications.
  • For teaching staff, developing an EBL module helps to understand the learning process and the changing needs of students.

How can I use Inquiry Based Learning in my classroom?

Consider the following when planning an Inquiry Based Learning activity:

  1. Think of a question or problem you would like to pose to the class. This should be a challenging problem where the students do not know the solution right away.
  2. Decide if you want the student to work on this individually, as small groups, or as an entire class.
  3. Come up with a few ways that you might help to facilitate the problem solving process if the students get stuck. It may help to establish guidelines for problem solving.
  4. Discuss your plan with a colleague or schedule a consultation with the Kaneb Center to get feedback on your plan before implementing in the class room.

For more information on Inquiry Based Learning, check out these resources:

Centre for Excellence in Enquiry-Based Learning

Benefits of Experiential Learning

The Academy of Inquiry Based Learning

University of Florida – Inquiry Based Instruction


Psychologists have identified two distinct forms of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic.  Intrinsic motivation refers to an inherent interest in pursing a topic (“learning for learning’s sake”).  These individuals find a subject enjoyable and they naturally desire to learn mastery of it.   Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, refers to a desire to pursue a subject for reasons outside of the individual, such as rewards, grades, parental or instructor approval, etc.  These individuals are motivated to learn a subject not because they want to learn it, but because learning the material will get them good grades, parental praise, or because jobs in that field pay well; all of which are external rewards.

As an instructor, there are multiple ways for you to foster intrinsic motivation in your students.  Some of these include:

  1. Create a student-centered classroom.  When students are involved in their own learning, they are more intrinsically motivated.  Allow students to have a say in the course where possible and try to incorporate an active learning activity every 15-20 minutes.
  2. Promote a mastery goal, rather than a performance goal.  If students are motivated to gain mastery, rather than simply aiming for a performance goal, they are more likely to invest more effort into their own learning.  Therefore, try to foster in students a goal of becoming fluent in Spanish, rather than having them focus on getting an A in the class.  In addition, de-emphasize grades and emphasize the intrinsic rewards of learning.
  3. Encourage students’ actions, not their character or person.  By using statements of encouragement like, “your answers showed thought” as opposed to “you are a good thinker,” students are more likely to remain intrinsically motivated (Ginott, 1972).  Focus on their effort, not their innate ability.  With that, avoid using statements that suggest that innate ability is all that is required to complete a project.  Direct students’ attention to the process of completing the project and the effort involved, rather than on the end product.
  4. Provide learning goals.  Research has shown that when teachers give learners a goal, students experience a boost in self-efficacy (Bandura, 1988; Elliot & Dweck, 1988; Schunk, 1991).  By providing clear learning goals at the beginning of class or before an activity, students may be more intrinsically motivated to work toward those goals.
  5. Have high, but realistic expectations for students.  Davis (2009) noted that instructors’ expectations can have a powerful effect on students’ performance.  She notes that standards should be set high enough to challenge students and motivate them to do their best without being so high that students feel they are unattainable.  If students believe achievement is within their grasp, they will work toward that goal.

Additional Resources:


Be sure to check out the Kaneb Center’s upcoming workshops (and keep an eye out for the Spring schedule).  Intrinsically motivated?  Come to our workshops to learn about teaching for the sake of learning.  Extrinsically motivated?  If you attend 5 workshops and write a 2-page reflective essay, you can earn a teaching certificate.

In addition, please consider applying for the Kaneb Center’s Graduate Associate position (information below).

Call for Applications: 2015 Kaneb Center Graduate Associates 

The Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning seeks graduate students with Notre Dame teaching experience to serve as Kaneb Center Graduate Associates for the spring of 2015 and the 2015-2016 academic year. Kaneb graduate associates facilitate workshops on effective teaching, develop teaching resources, and contribute to other activities to help graduate students develop as teachers.


Graduate associates will receive training (required) to prepare them to serve as workshop leaders and mentors. In addition, they attend weekly meetings with Dr. Kristi Rudenga, assistant director of the Kaneb Center, during which they contribute content and ideas for Kaneb Center program planning. Throughout the semester, Kaneb graduate associates contribute 6-10 hours per week, depending upon availability, and receive a stipend commensurate with hours worked ($3600-$6000 per academic year). 


Applicants should be at least in their 4th year of graduate study while holding this position. 


To apply, please submit the information below to kaneb@nd.edu by November 7, 2014. 

  • Name 
  • Address 
  • Phone 
  • Email 
  • Department 
  • Current year in Graduate School 
  • Description of professional development activities (teaching workshops, panel discussions, reading groups, etc…). 
  • A 1-2 page summary of your teaching experiences, strengths, and strategies. 
  • Description of a workshop or seminar you would like to implement. These may be current programs that you will revise or programs that are brand new to the Kaneb Center.

With the semester half over, many students may be experiencing the dreaded mid-semester slump.  However, there are tons of great activities you, as the instructor, can incorporate into your classroom to pull students back in.  In Teaching What You Don’t Know, Therese Huston notes multiple wonderful activities that instructors can have on-hand to nip lackluster student engagement in the bud.  To name a few:

Activities of Two to Five Minutes

Comparative Note-Taking

  • In pairs, have students take 1-2 minutes to compare their notes with a neighbor.  This will help students whose attention was waning to re-focus, as well as give them an opportunity to rework notes that aren’t clear while ideas are still fresh in their minds.  Once students have had time to talk with their neighbor, open the floor for questions and take a few minutes to clarify ideas which were unclear to students.

Intentional Mistakes

  • Individually or in pairs, have students find and correct the errors in an incorrect proof, weak argument, inaccurate statement, or illogical conclusion which you have presented to them.  This is a good way to draw attention to the common mistakes that students often make or a topic that students often find confusing.  Once students have composed their notes, have them share their suggested corrections and reasons why the original is wrong with the class.

Activities of Seven to Fifteen Minutes


  • As the name suggests, this activity includes asking students a question and giving them a minute or two to think about it and possibly jot down a few ideas.  Then, students pair off and compare their answers with one another.  Finally, after a few minutes, bring the class back together and ask a few students to share what they learned.  This activity is a handy one for those moments when you pose a question to the class and are met with only a few blank stares.  By giving students time to not only compose their thoughts but also to compare those ideas with another student, they are more likely to share their ideas with the larger class.

Activities of Fifteen to Thirty Minutes

Video Predictions

  • For this activity, either before watching a video or pausing at a key point, ask students in small groups (3-4 students each) to predict what they think will happen.  Groups should write their predictions on a single sheet of paper (requiring the group to work together) and should provide specific details about what they expect will happen in the video.  This will serve to focus their attention and, after which, they watch the video to see if they predicted correctly.  Whether students were able to predict what happened or not, have them explain their thought processes that led them to think that would happen and, if their expectations were inaccurate, have them talk about why it didn’t work out as they expected.  By contradicting students’ expectations, they’re likely to learn a lot from the experience.

Additional Resources:

This Fall Break, take a BREAK and FALL into a good book!  What better way to spend Fall Break than with one of the many books on teaching and learning from the Kaneb Center’s extensive library?  If you have a specific pedagogical question, we can also help guide you to some helpful selections.

Beyond brushing up on your knowledge of pedagogy, if you’re looking to diversify your teaching portfolio and gain additional professional development experience, you should consider applying for the Kaneb Center’s Graduate Associate opening (see the call below for more information).


Call for Applications: 2015 Kaneb Center Graduate Associates 

The Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning seeks graduate students with Notre Dame teaching experience to serve as Kaneb Center Graduate Associates for the spring of 2015 and the 2015-2016 academic year. Kaneb graduate associates facilitate workshops on effective teaching, develop teaching resources, and contribute to other activities to help graduate students develop as teachers.

Graduate associates will receive training (required) to prepare them to serve as workshop leaders and mentors. In addition, they attend weekly meetings with Dr. Kristi Rudenga, assistant director of the Kaneb Center, during which they contribute content and ideas for Kaneb Center program planning. Throughout the semester, Kaneb graduate associates contribute 6-10 hours per week, depending upon availability, and receive a stipend commensurate with hours worked ($3600-$6000 per academic year).

Applicants should be at least in their 4th year of graduate study while holding this position.

To apply, please submit the information below to kaneb@nd.edu by November 7, 2014.

  • Name 
  • Address 
  • Phone 
  • Email 
  • Department 
  • Current year in Graduate School 
  • Description of professional development activities (teaching workshops, panel discussions, reading groups, etc…). 
  • A 1-2 page summary of your teaching experiences, strengths, and strategies. 
  • Description of a workshop or seminar you would like to implement. These may be current programs that you will revise or programs that are brand new to the Kaneb Center.


Have a wonderful Fall Break!

With midterm exams just around the corner, it is important to begin thinking about test construction.  Regardless of question format (multiple choice, short answer, essay, etc.), the best tests are constructed using “backwards design.”  This assessment philosophy is driven by well-developed learning goals/objectives (for either a teaching unit, course, or program) that state with clarity what the student should understand and be able to do.  Therefore, questions on an exam should be used as supportive evidence of whether students are meeting unit or course goals/objectives outlined in the syllabus.  In other words, exam results should provide acceptable evidence of student competency of leading to completion of course outcomes.  With this idea in mind, we have compiled a list of short tips and resources to help you construct your midterm exam.



  • Write an exam to assess what students do know, not what they don’t.  When designing an exam, focus on what you want students to have learned, rather than trying to find holes in their understanding.  Take some time to think about the most important concepts or skills from your course (e.g., ones you hope your students will still remember in 5 years) and formulate questions to assess students’ knowledge of those.
  • Use the course goals/objectives from your syllabus as a starting point.  Since the course goals in your syllabus outline what students should be able to do or what they should learn by the end of your course, design your test to assess their progress with these objectives.  Direct assessment of students’ progress will also allow you as the instructor to see where they’re at on this journey and what (if anything) needs more work to help students get there.
  • Consider adding a performance task.  Performance tasks, as noted by Jay McTighe, require students to apply their knowledge to new situations as a means of measuring whether or not they understand underlying concepts.  Therefore, rather than asking students to produce a definition or formula, have them apply what they learned by interpreting new data or in a new context.  When students can extend their understanding to new situations, they likely have gained a deep understanding of course material and by using a performance task, we can assess whether or not they have done so.
  • Decide on whether to use a objective or subjective test method.  Callahan and Meixner note that objective methods (multiple choice, true-false, matching) and subjective methods (essay, short answer) each have their advantages and disadvantages.  Considering such, it is up to you as the instructor to determine which (or which combination) best suits your course objectives.  Also make sure that whatever test you design can be completed during your designated testing period.


Additional Resources


For more on backwards design, also check out our blog post on the Fundamentals of Course Design.

Were you unable to attend the faculty panel on different types of institutions? Don’t worry! Check out the workshop recap below:

Cassie Majetic, Assistant Professor of Biology at St. Mary’s
Kelcey Parker, Associate Professor of English at Indiana University South Bend
Zachary Schultz, Assistant Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry at the University of Notre Dame
Kathryn Waltz-FreelDean for the University Transfer Division


  • Panelist Backgrounds. Prof. Majetic worked as a visiting assistant professor before becoming an assistant professor at St. Mary’s, a liberal arts college that values the “teacher scholar model” where faculty spend a significant time teaching in addition to working on their research. Prof. Parker is an associate professor at Indiana University South Bend (IUSB), a regional university that allows faculty to go up for tenure with a teaching emphasis or a research emphasis. Prof. Schultz did a postdoc at NIST and was then a research fellow at NIH before starting his current position at Notre Dame. Prof. Waltz-Freel started as an adjunct professor before becoming a full time professor. She then worked as Chair of Academic Skills and is now the Dean of the University Transfer Division at Ivy Tech Community College.
  • How to standout when applying for each type of position. Many of the panelists stressed the importance of being a good fit in the department. Prof. Parker indicated that job candidates can address this in their cover letter by saying how they fit with the department, type of institution, and the region. At a research university, applicants can stand out by having publications in top journals, and having success in acquiring outside funding for research. At community colleges, it is important to be able to present material in innovative ways during a teaching demo. It is also important to be aware of the challenges that first generation college students face and to be willing and able to teach students who struggle. For liberal arts colleges, it is advantageous if your previous work experience is aligned with the goals of the university, so it is better to have teaching experience than to have done many postdoc positions with no teaching.
  • What constitutes productivity. For more research oriented positions: publishing first author papers, presenting at conferences, and successful grant writing. For more teaching oriented positions: having positive teaching experience, receiving teaching awards, and attending teaching conferences.
  • Service Requirements. When going up for tenure, faculty at St. Mary’s are evaluated for their teaching, research, and service. A specific service requirement is not set, and faculty tend to spend more time with teaching and research than service. There are many things that can count towards service such as community outreach and serving on an advisory board. Important service contributions at Ivy Tech can include being involved in professional organizations, especially in ways that demonstrate leadership, and representing the college while being connected to the community. In a research position at Notre Dame, service can mean being involved in committees and helping out with departmental needs. Many of the activities listed above also count towards service at IUSB.
  • Additional Tips. Make sure that your letter writers know you well. Don’t schedule too many interviews close together – you will be exhausted. During an interview try and be the most polished version of yourself – be professional and true to your personality.

Good luck with job applications!!

The following entry from the 2014-2015 Teaching Issues Writing Consortium: Teaching Tips was contributed by Claudia J. Stanny, Ph.D., Director Center for University Teaching, Learning, and Assessment University of West Florida


When we think about how to motivate students, we might assume our students will be motivated by the same goals and values that motivated us, but we will often be mistaken. When we try to motivate students with the wrong incentives, students disengage from classes and assigned learning activities, avoid doing more than the minimal work needed to get by, fail to use mentoring and tutoring opportunities we create, do not employ effective study strategies we suggest, or behave defensively, feigning understanding and avoiding tasks they believe might challenge their ability to perform. In the long run, all of these behaviors undermine students’ ability to learn.

Ambrose et al. (2010) discuss three factors that influence student motivation in a course. No one factor is definitive; the three work interactively to determine student motivation. If we want to structure our course to motivate students, we must attend to all three factors:

  • The value a student places on the learning goals.
  • Whether the student expects he/she can achieve the learning goals.
  • Whether the student perceives support in the class – does the student believe course activities and supportive resources will help him/her achieve the learning goals?

Ambrose et al. (2010) describe strategies instructors can use to leverage each factor and improve student motivation.

Establish the value of your learning goals

  • Connect course content and skills to student interests.
  • Create problems and tasks that address real-world problems.
  • Connect content and skills in your course with other courses in the curriculum and describe the connections repeatedly in your course.
  • Explain how skills students acquire in your course (e.g., writing clearly) will contribute to their professional lives.

Help students develop expectations that they can achieve the learning goals

  • Determine the appropriate level of challenge for students in your course and design assignments at this level. Assignments that are too easy sap motivation as much as do assignments that set unrealistic demands.
  • Create assignments and assessments that align with learning goals. Describe the relation between learning goals and assessments in a rubric in which you describe the learning outcomes for an assignment and articulate your expectations for performance.

Create a supportive structure and communicate the role of this structure to students

  • Create early, short, low-stakes assignments to give students an opportunity to practice skills and develop confidence in their ability before they tackle a larger, high-stakes assignment.
  • Provide constructive feedback and opportunities to use it. Feedback should identify strengths, weaknesses, and specific suggestions for actions students can take to improve the quality of their work.
  • Describe effective strategies for learning course material and explain why these strategies work.
  • Stereotypes about “talent” depict academic success as a manifestation of an unchangeable characteristic and undermine motivation when students encounter an early set-back. Students cannot alter their “talent” but they can alter their work habits. Emphasize the value of variables students can control: hard work, good time management, and practice guided by constructive feedback for success. Give explicit examples of these strategies in action.



Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Peer Review in the Classroom

Believe it or not, we are starting the fifth week of the semester. As paper deadlines approach, it is a good time to plan activities that help students improve their writing. One option is to hold a peer review session in class.  This is a great opportunity for students to improve their written assignments while also giving constructive feedback. In order to make the most out of this in class activity, it is important to carefully plan out the peer review ahead of time.

Tips for peer review in the classroom

  • Choose an appropriate writing assignment and timeframe. Groups of three tend to work well so that students get feedback from two of their peers. If you would like the students to finish the peer review in class, it is best if the writing assignment is on the shorter side (3 to 5 pages).   Longer assignments can be used as well, but it is likely that the students will need to finish the review outside of class. The peer review should be done at a time when the students still have ample time to edit their papers based on the feedback they receive from the peer review. Doing the peer review too close to the final deadline can discourage students from making major changes to their papers.
  • Set clear guidelines. It is helpful to give specific instructions for the peer review. You may want to model a peer review session in class to demonstrate how to review a paper in a constructive way. It is also a good idea to handout a detailed rubric to guide the students along the peer review process. 
  • Communicate the purpose of the peer review session.  In The College Fear Factor: How Students and Professors Misunderstand One Another, Rebecca Cox interviews students in a community college composition class. Many students were not eager to participate in an in class peer review session. After conducting interviews, Dr. Cox concludes that, “the fear of exposing their inadequacies to their peers played a role in some students’ reluctance to participate.” This could also be a relevant concern for students at Notre Dame. To circumvent this potential issue, clearly explain that the purpose of the peer review is to use feedback to improve their written assignments, and explain the importance of using constructive feedback. Setting clear guidelines in terms of how to give specific feedback with the goal of helping the writer will also help to create a safe environment.
  • Decide how to grade the session. When the students participated in an ungraded peer review session, “students were able to treat the peer review as an optional activity without fear that their lack of participation would detract from their final grades.” As a result, they placed little value in the activity. Dr. Cox notes that students often interpret grading policies to signal what is important in the course.  If you decide to assign a grade for the peer review session, the Teaching Center at Washington University in St. Louis suggests the following grading rubric:

                             Brought 2 copies of paper to class: 5 pts
                             Provided peers with specific, constructive written feedback: 0-5 pts
                             Participated actively in discussion of each paper: 0-5 pts
                             Wrote specific response to peers’ feedback: 0-5 pts
                             Total score for each peer-review session: 0-20 pts.



Cox, Rebecca D. “College Teaching.” The College Fear Factor: How Students and Professors Misunderstand One Another. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2009. 92-113.

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