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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.

Writing the teaching philosophy statement is often one of the most dreaded aspects of the academic job search.  However, with increased understanding of what makes a strong document, the writing process becomes much easier.  Below is an excerpt from an exemplary teaching philosophy statement, written by Dr. Joshua Enzer, a former graduate student in chemical engineering at the University of Notre Dame and a current Lecturer in Chemical, Biochemical & Environmental Engineering at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

College instructors are designers; they are engineers of education.

The model of instructor-as-information-transmitter is widespread, but research in teaching and learning indicates this mode is not the most effective. Many instructors do not believe that students are empty receptacles waiting to be filled with knowledge. These instructors are not speech-writers, they are not entertainers, and they are not self-important sages leading a flock of believers. These instructors are designers: designers of significant learning opportunities, designers of authentic, motivating, relevant problems and discussions, designers of effective methods for assessment and feedback.

Fortunately for me, my training is in chemical engineering, in which I have been tasked to design effective solutions to complicated problems. Designing effective courses and curricula is analogous to designing a chemical process, though if we view students as the raw feed and course content as unit operations, we are ignoring the important human element:  every student is a person with different experiences, motivations, experiences, and goals for the future. However, this doesn’t change the fact that my teaching philosophy is more of a design philosophy, and I will present my ideas in that way. I believe that effective course and curriculum design is absolutely essential to producing knowledgeable, responsible, and effective engineers.

A well-designed course breaks down into three major components, each equally important, and each absolutely interconnected to the others: (1) learning-related goals, (2) significant activities, and (3) meaningful feedback and assessment.

As you can see here, Dr. Enzer starts his teaching statement by orienting readers to his area of research: engineering.  Beyond making a great connection between his identity as an engineer and a teacher, his opening statement draws the reader in and leads well into a main component of his teaching philosophy; namely, that instructors are designers and that he has strong beliefs about course and curricula design.  Moreover, he then goes on to break these beliefs about course design into three major components, which are subsequently expanded upon in subsequent paragraphs (not included here).  It is obvious from reading even these first few paragraphs of Dr. Enzer’s teaching statement that he is thoughtful and reflective about his teaching and has developed a clear identity as an instructor.  Overall, the document is beautifully written, flows effortlessly, and presents numerous examples to support each claim.

For more tips on writing a teaching philosophy statement and other excellent examples, be sure to register for the Kaneb Center’s upcoming workshop as part of the Preparing for the Academic Job Market series.

Teaching Philosophy Statement Tip:

  • Keep a log of “good teaching moments” on your computer to help yourself later when putting together job materials.  Trying to produce these moments off the top of your head months (or even years!) after they happen is likely to leave you frustrated.  However, if you keep a running list, incorporating lots of examples into your teaching statement will be a breeze.
  • Additional tip: It’s also a good idea to do this to keep track of the Kaneb workshops you’ve attended, along with a few notes about what you took away from each workshop.  This way, when preparing to write your two-page essay for the Striving for Excellence in Teaching Certificate, you won’t struggle to remember which workshops you attended and when.

Did you know Notre Dame has numerous helpful teaching resources available to you?  Here are some worth exploring:

NspireD2:  This blog run by the Kaneb Center’s Assistant Director, Chris Clark, is here to help you explore new ways of incorporating technology into teaching and learning.  If you’d love for posts to come right to your news feed, you can also ‘like’ them on Facebook.


Remix and Remix-T:  Looking for ideas for how to cultivate media-rich learning experiences?  These websites are here to help you (and your students) use media effectively for exciting and innovative educational experiences.  For the student side, check out Remix and for the instructor side, take a look at Remix-T.


Kaneb Center Library:  The Kaneb Center has hundreds of books on teaching and learning available for you to check out.  Whether you’re looking for insight on “Teaching What You Don’t Know,” “How Learning Works,” or working up the “Courage to Teach,” we’ve got you covered.


Learning Technology Lab:  This division of the Kaneb Center will help you identify and integrate appropriate tools and strategies into your teaching.


Workshops:  Throughout the school year, the Kaneb Center offers a variety of workshops to help you hone your skills as an instructor.  If you haven’t already, take a look through the list and register for those which look interesting to you.  Please note: workshops fill up fast!  If a workshop is already full, we can put you on the wait-list.  If you register and find that you cannot attend, please let us know so that someone from the wait-list may attend.

Want to keep up with the Kaneb Center with social media?  Check us out on Twitter and Facebook!

Teaching college-age students brings with it a host of logistical issues, not the least of which is deciding what to do about attendance.  With their burgeoning independence, many students desire the ability to come and go as they please.  However, as instructors, we want students in the classroom for the classes we spent so much time to prepare.  To help you decide what’s best for your classroom (because there’s no one “right” attendance policy), let’s explore some of the benefits and drawbacks of attendance policies for both instructors and students.



  • Students desire the freedom to decide their schedules and may feel that inflexible attendance policies hinder their independence.
  • Students who don’t want to be in class but feel like they have to may distract other students.


  • Attendance policies teach responsibility and discipline.  Most jobs have attendance policies, so having one in college may serve as practice for the “real world.”
  • Students who come to class have been shown to perform better on exams (Marburger, 2004).



  • Have to spend time keeping track of students.  With a strict attendance policy, you will need to take attendance every class.  For large class sizes, this is incredibly time consuming.  Moreover, with students who arrive at class late or those who need to leave early for some reason, juggling an attendance sheet while teaching requires considerable time and effort.
  • Students, concerned about their grades, will contact you frequently about getting absences excused.  Managing emails from students asking for an absence to be excused takes considerable time and effort on the part of the instructor.


  • More students come to class if they know it impacts their grades (Golding, 2011).
  • Having an attendance policy doesn’t necessarily negatively impact teaching evaluations compared to when no attendance policy is utilized (Golding, 2011).
  • Student feedback is imperative to modifying and improving teaching (Sleigh & Ritzer, 2001).


  • Whatever you decide is right for your classroom, set clear guidelines.  Make it clear in your syllabus what is expected of students with regards to attendance.  Will attendance be taken at every class?  Or will pop quizzes be given a few times throughout the semester and those who are absent will miss points on those?  What’s your policy regarding handing in assignments if class is missed?
  • To encourage students to come to class, regardless or whether you have a strict attendance policy or not, do not post full PowerPoint slides online.  By leaving out some slides on purpose (and telling students you do so), students understand that by missing class, they’re likely missing a significant portion of class material that they can’t simply extrapolate from the textbook or the posted slides.


Benefits of Attendance Policies | Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Attendance Policies | Texas Tech University Teaching, Learning, & Professional Development Center

Encouraging Student Attendance | Association for Psychological Science Teaching Tips



Welcome back! As the new school year begins (and with it, your new courses), it’s a good idea to consider how you’re going to rock the first day. Here are some tips to start the semester off right:

  1. Although many students view the first week of classes as “Syllabus Week,” consider sending out your syllabus early and asking students to read it over before the first class. If students read it over before class and bring with them any questions they may have, you will have more time on the first day for actual course content. Then, on the first day, spend time reviewing just the main points and move into course content.
  2. Wait until after the first class to go over the syllabus in depth.  You could even ask students read the syllabus outside of class and then take an online quiz on its content.
  3. Arrive to class early to get set up and settled, so that you don’t start off by rushing. This will also give you some time in case any minor issues arise before the lecture stares.
  4. Introduce yourself to the students, and if the class isn’t too large, let the students introduce themselves as well. This will help to create a welcoming environment.  Conducting an ice-breaker on the first day helps students become comfortable with each other and should facilitate discussion.
  5. Set Expectations. Let the students know what you expect of them. How much time will they put into this course? What are the major assignments? etc.
  6. Consider giving the students a Background Questionnaire.  You can gage the student’s prior knowledge with the course content by asking them to rate their familiarity with different terminology or concepts that will be addressed in the course. These can be multiple choice questions with answers ranging from “I’ve never heard of that” to “I consider myself an expert”.
  7. Students should be active on the first day. Plan activities that will give them a sense of what a typical class will be like.

How are you going to rock the first day?


Are you interested in learning more about discipline-specific teaching and learning in the university setting? The university offers short credit-bearing summer graduate courses on university teaching and learning in various fields!  Consider taking one of this year’s courses:

GRED 60501: Teaching Engineering Tutorials and Laboratories

GRED 60601: Preparing for an Academic Career in Physics, Math, and Engineering

GRED 60610: How to Teach Effectively and Prepare for an Academic Career in the Humanities and Social Sciences

GRED 60612: Effective and Exciting Teaching in Social Sciences and Humanities

GRED 60640: Designing and Teaching Your First Biology or Chemistry Course

GRED 64600: Teaching and Learning Online

For more information visit: http://kaneb.nd.edu/programs/gred/  and see the 2014 brochure at http://kaneb.nd.edu/assets/127381/2014_gred_brochure.pdf

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