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Graduate school offers many opportunities for students to talk about and present their research, but often provides fewer opportunities to discuss teaching. For those planning an academic career, the reality is that, in many jobs, at least some portion of your time will consist of teaching and interacting with students. Thus, whether you are just starting or are finishing your graduate work, now is a great time to think about how your teaching can impact your job search preparations. Here are a few teaching tips for Notre Dame graduate students at all levels to prepare for the academic job market.


Evaluations of your teaching are one of the primary pieces of evidence used to prove to potential employers that you can successfully fulfill the teaching obligations of the position. During your time in graduate school, seek opportunities to teach a lab, tutorial, discussion section, or independent course where you will receive official teaching evaluations. (At Notre Dame, these are known as Course Instructor Feedback forms, or CIFs.) Potential employers will often request student evaluations of teaching, so having an official record with strong evaluations will go a long way towards proving you can teach effectively. If you are a teaching assistant or deliver a guest lecture in a course without CIFs, it can also be a good idea to ask the instructor of record to distribute their own student evaluations of your teaching. Though they are not official evaluations, they offer at least an informal assessment of your teaching capabilities. Another valuable type of evaluation is to ask a professor to observe your teaching and write specifically about their observations in a letter of recommendation.

Teaching Certificates

An additional way to signal your commitment to quality teaching is by attending workshops on teaching and learning and by earning one of the teaching certificates offered by the Kaneb Center. After attending five qualifying workshops and writing a brief reflection statement, you are eligible to receive the Striving for Excellence in Teaching certificate. The Kaneb Center also offers an Advanced Teaching Scholar certificate and the newly re-designed Teaching Well Using Technology certificate. All three look great on your curriculum vitae or resume.

Teaching Philosophy and Portfolio

As you gain experience as a teaching assistant or instructor of record, take notes on strategies and techniques that work well or that you would like to try in your teaching. Consider assembling your notes into a formative teaching portfolio, including a list of highlights from each semester of your teaching, examples of feedback on student work, letters of recommendation you have written, sample assignments, and anything else you may want to save for the future. This portfolio can be adapted to be submitted as part of a job application and will include materials to help you devise and articulate your teaching philosophy. As you assemble your portfolio, consider what you want your students to learn, how you help them learn it, and how you assess their learning in your classes.


If you are applying for jobs teaching courses that you do not have experience teaching, you might consider writing a high quality syllabus for the topic to indicate that you have thought about how you would teach the class. It is also helpful to think about courses you could potentially teach and to gather syllabi from others in the discipline to see how those classes are taught elsewhere. Having syllabi drafted will also reduce course preparation time once you begin your academic career.

Services and Upcoming Workshops

The Kaneb Center is an excellent resource for graduate students preparing to go on the academic job market. We offer individual consultations to discuss your teaching needs or to review your evaluations, syllabi, and other teaching materials. We also offer a number of workshops to promote teaching excellence and to give you experience talking about teaching. Some of our upcoming workshops that are especially relevant for the job market include:

Recommended Teaching & Learning Books for The Job Market

Procrastination is one of the most common issues affecting students today. A recent study reports that ~95% [1] of students claim they suffer from at least some form of procrastination. As educators, we occupy an important role in our student’s lives and we have the opportunity to help students get a handle on academic procrastination.

There are many excuses students make to explain their tendencies to procrastinate, e.g. being busy or the claim that they work better under pressure. However, one of the most common reasons for procrastination is “fear of failure” [2]. This fear can easily turn into procrastination, because by delaying the start of the assignment, the student is then able to externalize their fear. If they receive a poor grade, the student can say to themselves that their failure is not their fault, rather, they just ran out of time.

While a lot of the methods to combat procrastination require that the student is willing to change [3], as instructors, we have a lot of power to help students when we are designing assignments and classes. Three simple ways to help prevent procrastination are shown below.

  • Splitting assignments: Procrastination sometime arises because students are not able to split a large assignment into smaller pieces. This weakness can be treated by breaking up the work ourselves and assigning a number of deliverables over the course of a few weeks or months. If the term paper is due December 1st, then we can help students structure their time by having the topic due in early October with an annotated bibliography of 5-10 sources due by early November.
  • Awareness/Mindfulness: While splitting up the assignment does help, it does not prepare the student to develop this important life skill. Thus, spending time explaining to the students why you are doing this and encouraging them to be mindful about their choices will further help your students see how to tackle large assignments themselves.
  • Interventions: Strunk and Spencer [4], showed that a small intervention at the beginning of the semester could be effective at decreasing a student’s proclivity to procrastinate. The researchers did this by talking with students who had turned in their first assignment late. They explained various strategies for minimizing this behavior and then observed those students throughout the rest of the semester and saw that instances of procrastination went down for the experimental group as compared to the control.

These are just a few ways to help structure your class and assignments to help students control their procrastination. Below, you will find a few sites that offer a number of strategies and tips to help overcome procrastination which may prove helpful to provide to students either during an intervention or perhaps on a policy sheet at the beginning of a semester.

  1. Procrastinus
  2. Princeton: Avoiding Procrastination
  3. Oregon State: Managing Procrastination
  4. 20 Tips to Reduce Academic Procrastination (PDF)



[1] Steel, P. (2007). The nature of procrastination. Psychological Bulletin, 133(1), 65-94.

[2] https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/fear-of-failure.htm

[3] Grunschel, C. & Schopenhauer, L. (in press). Why are students (not) motivated to change academic procrastination? An investigation based on the Transtheoretical Model of change. Journal of College Student Development.

[4] Strunk, K. K., & Spencer, J. M. (2012). A brief intervention for reducing procrastination. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 16(1), 91-96.

It’s the start of the third week of class and you’re teaching a discussion-based course. You’ve attended a Kaneb workshop on leading discussion and remember hearing that if students don’t speak on the first day of class, they’re more likely not to speak at all. So on the first day, you had students partner up to get to know each other and then introduce their partners to the class. In the several class days since, you’ve made a concerted effort not to answer your own questions and silently count to ten after you ask a question to give plenty of time for students’ answers. You’ve called on one or two silent students directly to encourage them to speak, but you feel uncomfortable doing this too often because putting them on the spot can feel awkward. Yet still only about half the class speaks up regularly. You’re not sure what else to do and are secretly hoping the problem solves itself, but are pretty sure that’s not likely to happen, and aren’t sure what else to try next.

We’ve all been there. It can be a challenge to get quiet students to talk! They often struggle with perfectionism, shyness, and performance anxiety; they may simply have a natural bent for quietude. Rest assured, though, there are plenty of techniques to foster speaking up in class, and it’s important to challenge all students to learn how to participate successfully in a group environment. For very talkative students, this may mean learning to stop speaking sometimes and for quieter students, challenging themselves to speak up a little more. In this post, I’ll run through a number of suggestions to encourage quiet students to contribute. Try one or try them all—though maybe not all on the same day!

From the beginning, engineer an environment that encourages students to speak. Arrange the classroom in a circle to foster conversation. On the first few days of class, employ small group discussion activities so students get to know and trust each other. It’s O.K.—desirable, in fact, especially in the early days of class—if your students do a little personal socializing, not strictly assigned discussion, in those small groups. Explain on the syllabus what role discussion plays in your class and make it a significant part of the participation grade (perhaps even assigning a daily grade), because discussion is a vital part of classroom learning and you truly want to hear what your students have to say. Be clear in your own communication with students, and demonstrate empathy and caring. Get to know their names and a little bit about them. Explain in some detail what discussion is like in your classroom: consider describing particular behaviors you want to see from students and the preparation you expect them to do. Here are a few examples:

Behaviors you might ask of students:

  • no need to raise hands—just start talking, as long as you don’t talk over others
  • show respect for others’ points of view, especially when you disagree (you, the instructor, can perhaps demonstrate a few good responses, such as “I can see where Sarah’s coming from, but I see it differently” or “Jack’s point was insightful; I’d like to offer an alternative,” and model these in your own contributions to discussion)
  • pay attention and respond to the group dynamics to encourage everyone to speak: if you are talking a lot, try limiting yourself to two or three comments per class period. If you are not talking at all, or very little, challenge yourself to make one or two comments per class period.
  • remember that it’s absolutely fine to be wrong and sharing unfinished ideas is welcome—perfectly polished answers are not the goal. Exploration is!

Preparation you might expect of them:

  • prepare readings in advance
  • bring in answers to discussion questions circulated ahead of time
  • bring in questions that came up during the reading
  • write response journals and post them on the course website/blog or email them to the class in advance


As you move through the semester, you’ll likely find that you want to troubleshoot, tweak, and improve your discussions. Even if you incorporated all of the strategies above you’d likely still have a quiet student or two in your group. When you encounter that, consider some of these strategies:

  • distribute and discuss a tip sheet for dealing with fear of public speaking (see Grinnell College link below). Reassure all students that fear of speaking up is completely normal and share with them a few techniques to try out.
  • bring in a provocative question about the material and, starting on one side of the room and moving to the other, ask every student in turn to give a short answer
  • 1- or 2-minute freewrite. This can be useful in a variety of settings: you can ask students to write for 2 minutes about anything on their minds about the day’s material, or you can ask them to reflect on a particular question. You can also use the quick freewrite at any point when discussion stalls, or if students seem to want to talk but are struggling to get answers out.
  • ask for non-verbal participation sometimes: give students flashcards or use a technology service so that they can vote yes/no or give numbered answers in response to questions.
  • know your students’ names and call on them directly. If they don’t have an answer to give, even when you do call on them, let them know that’s O.K. and move on to someone else.
  • add more humor! Show a funny clip, have gregarious students act out a skit, tell some jokes, illustrate your point with an amusing story. Laughing together is a wonderful way to warm up the room.
  • give a “self quiz”: at the start of discussion, ask students to write down the most interesting thing about the day’s material and one question about it. Take volunteers or pick students (or both) to share their answers and get the discussion going.
  • have students sign up to give mini-lectures on discussion material on various days
  • finally, don’t forget to acknowledge the effort quiet students are making when they start speaking up in class. Even if the contributions they offer are really off-base, you can find something to praise while guiding them towards a more correct answer: “You make a great point here, Shawna. Have you thought about idea X? How might that affect your answer?” or “I can tell you’ve been spending time with the material, Jeremy. Let’s all talk more about the interesting idea you brought up. What do other people think?”

The takeaway point: you will encounter quiet students who need encouragement to speak. Be respectful and kind with them, and try a few different techniques. You may not convert the very quiet into gregarious participants (nor is that, perhaps, a desirable goal), but you’re sure to see success if you help them take small steps.


Resources and Further Reading

Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking (Crown Publishers, 2012).

Handout, “Raise Your Voice! How to Speak up in Class,” Grinnell College

The Chatty Professor, “Want to Find Your Voice in Class? Speak UP!”


The first week of class is already over, and the semester is off and running, ready or not.  How was the first day?  Did you make any mistakes? Is there anything you would like to do over again?  Well, you cannot get that first day back again, but there are still many things you can do in the first three weeks to shape your class in productive and positive ways.


1) Keep learning your student’s names (Don’t give up!): taking the time early in the semester to learn the names of your students goes a long way to creating a positive learning environment.

  • Get to class fifteen minutes early so that you can meet and greet each student as they come in.
  • With a blank piece of paper, create a seating map by writing down each student’s name on the paper approximately where they are seated in the classroom. Use this map throughout the class to call on students.
  • Use the “online photo” feature of insideND to match faces and names. If you are a T.A., ask your professor to print student face shots for you.
  • While students are working on an active-learning assignment (such as a think/pair/share), go around the classroom and work on memorizing student names.
  • Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Tell your students ahead of time that you will probably make mistakes.


2) Establish a positive classroom community: the tone of the classroom is often fixed after the first few class sessions, so early on work really hard to establish the “climate” you would like to keep for the rest of the semester.

  • Learn student names (see above), and expect students to learn each other’s names.
  • Model humility and respect, and explicitly ask students to treat each other in the same way.
  • Get as many students involved as possible. Students will learn that their participation is expected and valued.
  • In the first couple of classes introduce the types of activities and assignments you would like students to do on a regular basis during the semester. If introduced later, such things will be met with more resistance.
  • Encourage questions and wait long enough (10 seconds) to allow students to actually ask.
  • Start and end class on time.
  • Stick around after class and meet with students.


3) Establish your authority as the instructor:

  • Stick to your policies and expectations early, and students will learn that you cannot be pushed over.
  • Early on, err on the side of being “too strict” and “too formal;” it is easy to become less strict and more informal as the semester progresses. Going the opposite direction, from casual to formal, is a lot more difficult.


4) Address students’ concerns:

  • If you have not already done so on the first day of class, require students to fill out a survey in which students may air their concerns and fears about the class.
  • At the next class, let students know that you have heard them and do your best to address their fears and concerns.
  • When applicable, let students know that their concerns are shared by others in the class.


5) Give feedback early and often: don’t wait until the first exam to evaluate your students’ progress.  In the first few weeks of the semester establish a precedent of regularly assessing your student’s comprehension.

  • End class sessions with a low-stakes, self-diagnostic quiz which covers the day’s material.
  • Tell students that this is a chance to see whether they have comprehended the day’s learning goals.
  • Immediately afterwards, have students grade each other’s quizzes; quiz grading is another form of active learning!
  • Expose students early to the types of questions that you intend to give them on their exams.


Additional resources:

101 Things You Can Do in the First Three Weeks of Class” by Joyce T. Povlacs, Teaching and Learning Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Colorado State University’s teaching page.

For more tips and extensive Bibliography, see: Barbara Gross Davis “The First Day of Class,” pages 37-47 in Tools for Teaching (Jossey-Bass, 2009); available at the Kaneb Center’s Library.

Cf. Linda B. Nilson, “The First Day of Class,” pages 43-50 in Teaching at Its Best: A Researched-Based Resource for College Instructors (Jossey-Bass, 2010); also available at the Kaneb Center’s Library.





Students are back in the residence halls, syllabi are (mostly) written, and somewhere, right now, a professor is planning the first day of class. A few minutes for the syllabus, then letting out early? Maybe go around the room and check attendance before they leave? While the first class may seem unimportant, it can actually be a critical time to set a positive tone for the rest of the semester. Here are 7 tips to help you “rock the first day”:

  1. Show up early and greet students as they walk in. Arriving early gives you a chance to survey the classroom and get familiar with any technology you might be using during the semester. As students enter, welcome them and begin building rapport with them. This demonstrates that you are approachable and care about their individual success.
  2. Introduce yourself to the students, and have them introduce themselves too. You can create a more collaborative environment by learning everybody’s names early on in the semester. There are plenty of ideas online for effective icebreakers to help students make connections with one another, and you might consider having students make nametags too. At Notre Dame, if you are listed as an instructor for the course, you can download students’ photos before the semester by accessing Online Photo on the Academic tab of InsideND.
  3. Collect relevant information from your students. Have them fill out a notecard with information about their major, relevant coursework, why they are taking the class, or anything else you might need to know to create a productive learning environment. You can then refer back to these notes as needed without having to remember what students said in the first class of the semester.
  4. Teach something on the first day. If the class is project-based, have them complete a minor project on the first day to give them a feel for how the rest of the semester will be. Completing a learning activity on day one indicates that this is a course where learning occurs every class period. Try using a “real-world” example to motivate students’ interest and leave them wanting to know more.
  5. Promote discussion and student interactions from the very beginning. With each successive class that does not provide an opportunity for students to participate, they become increasingly less likely to speak up. Even if you are not leading a discussion-based class, provide some time for students to ask questions and talk to one another. Students will feel more comfortable asking the critical questions later on in the semester.
  6. If your course is part of a series or dependent on students’ prior knowledge, consider having students fill out a questionnaire or ungraded quiz to assess entry-level competence. This is a good way to remind students of the ideas or skills they need to succeed in your class, as well as for you to gauge the level of understanding students are bringing to the course.
  7. Communicate your expectations to your students. Have a syllabus or policy-sheet available, but consider discussing the details of it at the end of class, after your introductions and teaching activity. At the beginning of the class you are still making first impressions; make your impression one of passion for the subject matter and commitment to the students and their education. While you should always cover the most important parts of the syllabus (such as the learning goals, the expectations, any important administrative or safety details), you could also assign an online quiz on the syllabus to ensure that students have read and understand it.

Good luck to all teachers and students in the first week of classes!

Additional Resources

Successful Beginnings for College Teaching: Engaging Your Students from the First Day by Angela Provitera-McGlynn

“Here’s Your Syllabus, See You Next Week: A Review of the First Day Practices of Outstanding Professors” by Iannarelli et al.

“Make the Most of the First Day of Class” by the Eberly Center at Carnegie Mellon University

“101 Things You Can Do in the First Three Weeks of Class” by Joyce Povlacs Lunde

“Teaching the First Class” by the Yale Teaching Center

In last week’s blog post we discussed generating learning goals and planning assessments for your course. Now that you’ve decided what you want your students to learn and how you’ll evaluate their learning, it’s time to translate these plans into a syllabus and a semester of learning activities.

Syllabus Design

In addition to serving as an informational resource for students, many view the syllabus as a form of contract between the teacher and the student: what does each need to do in order for students to accomplish the established learning goals? Directing each section of the syllabus back to the goals you set is a useful way to go about writing a learning-centered syllabus. Begin by spending some time thinking about the types of students that will be taking the course. Are they majors or non-majors? Are they first-year students or students preparing for graduation? Then begin planning what topics, materials, and activities will best facilitate the students’ abilities to accomplish your learning goals.

Next, it’s time to begin writing your syllabus. The syllabus is a chance to communicate your expectations for your students and to answer students’ questions before they ask. A good place to get ideas for formatting or sections to include is to look at syllabi of courses similar to yours or used by professors whose teaching skills you admire. At the top of the syllabus should be the course information and your contact information (email, office location, office hours, etc.), followed by a description of the course and your learning goals. Additional sections that commonly follow include (but are not limited to): a list of course materials, a list and/or description of assignments, grading information, a schedule of readings and assessments, additional resources for students, and a list of course policies. Among the policies that should be addressed are accommodating students with disabilities, attendance, the honor code, inclusivenesstechnology in the classroom, late work, and extra credit. Most syllabi also include a statement reserving the right to make changes to the syllabus if it is in the best interest of the students.

Lesson Plans

One of the most time-consuming parts of designing a course is planning a semester’s worth of reading assignments and course activities. A helpful way to begin is to obtain a copy of the academic calendar and see how many class meetings you have and other university events to take into consideration. Next, plot out when you would like your course assessments to occur. For example, how long will the students need to develop the prerequisite knowledge to write their first paper or turn in a particular lab report? In the meantime, continue reviewing course materials that will help prepare students to meet the learning goals of the course and begin grouping them in a framework that makes sense (for example, chronologically, into broad theories, moving from theory to application, or vice versa).

Once you have an idea of the topics you want to cover and the materials to use, you can begin plugging reading assignments into the calendar. Remember that, sometimes, less reading is more. When assigning textbooks or other readings, also consider the quality, accessibility to students, length, and price. You might also think about how the readings will prepare students for your lectures, classroom discussions, or other activities. In sum, choose the readings that best reflect your learning goals: ones that will help the students meet your expectations for them in the course and ones that will enhance and extend your teaching in the classroom.

One Last Step: Revise

After you’ve filled in all the necessary information for your syllabus, read over it one or two more times. Assess the tone of your syllabus; do you seem approachable and concerned with student learning? You should be able to explain how each component of the syllabus contributes to the central component: the learning goals. Also look for any errors or areas to add more clarification. And if you want additional feedback on the style, a new assignment or course design, or any other part of the syllabus, consider setting up an appointment with the Kaneb Center for a private, individual consultation.

Best of luck as you finish writing your syllabus and preparing for the fall semester!

Additional Resources

The Course Syllabus: A Learning-Centered Approach by Judith Grunert O’Brien

Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses by L. Dee Fink

Teaching What You Don’t Know by Therese Huston

Understanding by Design by Grant P. Wiggins

What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain

With the start of the semester fast approaching we will spend this week’s post examining a simplified introduction to Backwards Course Design by focusing on determining learning goals and planning out assessment styles for a new class. And make sure to come back next week, when the topics of syllabus creation and lesson planning will be discussed.

Planning a class is tough. Figuring out lectures and topics to cover, choosing between papers, projects, quizzes, or just a final, setting up a flipped classroom or relying on the traditional lecture model, there are so many choices. Into this confusing maelstrom comes the ideas of Backwards Course Design, where instead of getting stuck in the minutia, the course objectives are established first and from there the rest of the decisions begin to fall into place. The Kaneb Center typically offers a workshop series in the Spring semester that will go deeper into these topics, but for this post we will hit the highlights on choosing learning goals and determining assessment options based on those goals.

Learning Goals

When thinking of learning goals, or learning objectives, it is helpful to imagine that you are already done with the course. Try to list off three to four goals you would want your students to have completed by this point. These are your learning goals. When designing learning objectives, instead of using words like think or understand, it can help to use active words like create, analyze, or compare. An example of a poor learning goal for a Calculus I class would be:

  • At the end of this class, the student will understand what a derivative is.

This can immediately be improved by restructuring the goal to the following:

  • At the end of this class, the student will be able to calculate derivatives and apply them to various real-world applications.

A very helpful source for educationally-related active words is Bloom’s Taxonomy, which is beyond our current scope, but a helpful diagram can be found here (PDF).

A few more examples of appropriate learning goals are shown below.

  • At the end of this class, the student will be able to identify and evaluate the strength of a thesis in a variety of mediums. (Composition)
  • At the end of this class, the student will be able to explain trends of chemical properties by referring to the periodic table. (Introduction to Chemistry)
  • At the end of this class, the student will be able to compare and contrast social structures and examine their impact on themselves and the world. (Introduction to Sociology)

With these learning goals in hand, you now have a direction for designing assessments for the class. Additionally, while we suggest only having three to four objectives defined for the class as a whole, it is very useful to establish additional learning goals for individual lectures, assignments and projects. The justification for condensing the course into only a few goals is to help keep the direction of the course focused.


When considering assessments, it is important to remember the two primary types, formative and summative. Formative assessments are intended to provide feedback and help inform the students about their competence in a subject, while summative assessments tend to be used more for assigning grades and rankings, i.e. summarizing a student’s ability. Any assessment can include aspects of both types, but some fall on one side much more heavily. For example, a final exam where the student will likely only see his or her grade and never see the graded exam is overwhelming a summative assessment, whereas weekly quizzes for minimal points, where the intention is that it is used as feedback for learning is primarily a formative assessment.

Thinking back to the learning goals you have identified, a good place to begin planning assessments is by determining how the learning objectives can be measured. Taking the Calculus example from earlier, homework and quizzes where the use of derivatives are required would be an effective way to measure students’ progress as they practice calculating and using derivatives. For the composition class, assignments where the student must identify or eventually create thesis statements would be a way to measure the learning goal. Deciding on quizzes or papers or tests only mattes as a point of personal preference, departmental policy and grading time. The end result should be a ruler upon which to measure the success of a student in fulfilling the class learning goals

Additionally, one important component to always include is a rubric. Having an objective scale to use while grading is of the utmost importance because it allows for transparency and consistency in grading. iRubric (link) provides a number of helpful templates along with a number of sample rubrics, if you do not have much experience creating your own.

Ultimately, the primary role of the assessment should be to measure the student’s progress along the stated learning goals. If an assessment fails in that capacity, then it should be reworked or replaced.

Once you have your learning goals and general ideas for assessments determined, creating a syllabus is much simpler, which will be covered in next week’s blog post, along with tips on lesson planning.


As another semester draws to a close and summer is upon us, now is the perfect time to wrap up your courses on a strong note.  To help you do so, make sure to:

  • Reflect Upon the Semester and Take Notes on It.  Are there some things you thought went really well this semester or are there things you’d like to tweak before the next time you teach it?  Now is the opportune time to reflect upon your semester and to write down your thoughts.  These notes will be invaluable to you the next time you teach the class and, despite your best intentions, it may be difficult to remember the specifics in a few months (or years!).
  • Submit Grades.  Grades need to be submitted online by 3:45pm on Monday, May 11th, 2015.  For more information on how to do so, check out the Office of the Registrar’s webpage.
  • Review your CIFs.  Once you’ve submitted grades and CIFs are released, you can access your student evaluations at http://cif.nd.edu/.  Are there any constructive suggestions you can incorporate into future courses?  For help interpreting your CIFs or for tips on how to address these evaluations, consider scheduling a consultation with the Kaneb Center.

This summer, we also encourage you to take advantage of the Kaneb Center’s resources.  To help you hone your pedagogical prowess over the next few months, consider:

  • Joining a Reading Group.  The Kaneb Center purchases books on teaching and learning for those interested in engaging in small, informal reading groups over the summer.  We have a list of recommended readings, so if you wish to organize a group with your colleagues or meet some new friends, we have plenty of great books to get everyone talking about teaching.
  • Participating in a Pedagogy Journal Club.  The Kaneb Center is also considering starting a weekly Pedagogy Journal Club.  This would be a meeting, approximately one hour long, where recent pedagogical research would be shared and discussed.  (A sample variety of education journals can be found here.)  If this is something you would consider joining, please email Joseph Michalka so that interest can be measured and meeting times can be arranged.  Additional information on the journal club will be forthcoming.
  • Scheduling a One-on-One Consultation with Kaneb Staff for your Fall Classes.  Want to get a jump start on prepping for your Fall courses?  Come see one of our staff members who can help you fine-tune your syllabus.  In these consultations, we can also help you develop assessments, craft rubrics, and review your CIFs.
  • Taking a GRED Course (or Two!).  If you’re looking to hone your skills in a course devoted to teaching and learning, check out Kaneb’s Graduate Courses on University Teaching and Learning (GRED).  Just make sure to apply for a tuition waiver through your academic unit and contact Joanna Sherbun if you have any questions.
  • Checking out a Book from Our Library.  What goes better with sunshine and a cold beverage than one of Kaneb’s many books on teaching and learning?  Come check out our library for tons of great summer reading options.

From all of us at the Kaneb Center, we wish you a happy and productive summer!

It’s hard to believe, but the last day of class – April 29th- is just around the corner! Have you thought about how you want to end the semester? We typically put a lot of thought in to the first day of class, but sometimes fail to put the same effort into the last day. Below are some ideas to consider when planning for the last day to end on a strong note.

Take care of final announcements and administrative duties. This may include reminders regarding the date and location of the final exam or any final assignments, updated office hours for finals week, or CIFs. You may also want to discuss how you use the feedback from students when planning future courses.

Review course material. It is popular to use the last day of class as a review day to prepare for the final exam. Online polls like surveymonkey.com can be administered to the class ahead of time to determine which material to review. Creating a concept map containing the major topics/themes from the course is another great way to review material.

Review course learning goals. Class time can be used to go over the learning goals established at the beginning of the semester. This is a great way to focus the student’s attention while they prepare for their final exams.

Have students reflect on their learning. Another option is to give students time in class to write about their learning. You can ask them to write about their main takeaway from the course and/or what they think they will remember from the course a year from now or 5 years from now.

For more ideas check out the following resources:

  1. The Last Day of Class from UC Berkely’s Center for Teaching and Learning
  2. Teaching Tip: Ending a Course from Ball State University

Debates can be an effective and engaging way for students to analyze different concepts and to develop critical thinking and public speaking skills. They are also a useful technique for achieving greater participation in class and for discussing controversial issues in a structured environment. The Kaneb Center recently hosted a workshop on using debates in the classroom; below are some of the highlights from the workshop:

Choosing a Debate Question

To have a fruitful debate, choose an open question with two (or more) sides that can be reasonably supported with academic evidence. A great place to start is with major debates and schools of thought in your discipline or a moral or ethical question involving the subject matter you are teaching. The question should be simple enough for a non-expert to debate, yet complex enough that students will be able to develop multiple arguments to support their side of the issue. Another helpful way to choose a topic is the fact-value-policy framework. Here are some examples:

  • Fact: “Genetically modified foods are safe to eat.”  This is a disputed statement that allows students to debate the definition of “safe to eat” and the science behind whether the foods are harmful to humans or not.
  • Value: “Preemptive war can be morally justified.” In this statement, students could draw on different societal values and principles to discuss the morality of war.
  • Policy: “Public universities should allow funding for student groups that promote a specific religion.” Policy debates include questions about whether the policy in question is desirable or effective and whether the policy-enacting agency should be the one to make the policy.

Of course, these three types of debate questions often overlap. Use this flexibility to choose a question that is most relevant to your particular course and to your students.

Setting up the Debate

It is important to keep your learning goals in mind as you decide what type of debate to conduct, what question(s) you will use, what roles the students will have, how they will be assigned to teams, and how the debate will be graded. Once you have everything planned, be sure to clearly communicate the information to the students to allow them to fully prepare for the debate. You may also want to provide your students with assigned reading, directions for researching the topic on their own, and the debate rules and etiquette guidelines.

Debate Formats

Classroom debating is an extremely flexible teaching method, so there are many different formats you can follow, depending on your own learning goals and objectives for the class. We’ve outlined several (for individual students, small groups, the full class, or online) in our workshop handout, and many more format suggestions are available online.

Most debates begin with a short period of individual or group preparation, which is a great time for the teacher to listen in on the preparations the group is making and offer suggestions or answer questions before the debate starts. It is also helpful to end the debate with a debriefing stage when the arguments made by both teams can be assessed and students can discuss their ideas independent of the side they were assigned to or chose to argue.

The debate also often includes a time for teams to make opening and closing statements, where they have uninterrupted time to develop their arguments. Other potential debate components include a rebuttal, where Team B can respond to the arguments made by Team A, or a cross-examination, when teams can question each other in a more free-flowing style. In debate styles with smaller teams, this could also be a time for students in the audience to question their peers on the evidence they have used to support their arguments.

Give Debate a Try!

Debate can be a fun and useful active learning technique, and is a great way for students to develop many important skills. For more information about using debate in the classroom, see the resources below. The Kaneb Center also offers individual consultations for Notre Dame faculty and graduate students if you are interested in discussing incorporating debate or other active learning techniques into your course plans.

Additional Resources

Many Sides: Debate Across the Curriculum by Alfred Snider and Maxwell Schnurer

The Debatabase Book: A Must-Have Guide for Successful Debate by Robert Trapp

“Debating the Evidence: An International Review of Current Situation and Perceptions” by Rodie Akerman and Ian Neale

International Debate Education Association


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