Here are some ways to apply what you've learned ...

Professional Development

In the Classroom
  • Quick Ideas for Engaging your Class:

    • Idea # 1 - Before you begin the lesson, ask the students to flag each time you discuss:
      • Why?
      • What?
      • How?
      • If?

    Students should note observations on a sheet of paper separate from their notes. A quick word or two is fine. Students can be divided into four groups to look for these questions if there will be many occurrences of each. During the last 5 - 10 minutes, ask each student to share one of the question and answer sets they noted. You can write them on the board, placing them in order according to your lesson. You might ask each student to submit their observations on paper.

    • Idea # 2 - Start each class with a series of quotes reflecting the lesson's theme. For a lesson on stress reduction, taking risks, or before a test, you might use:
      • Risk  "A ship is safe in the harbor, but that's not why ships are made." Unknown
      • Mistakes  "Mistakes are their own instructor." Horace
      • Failure  "If the Student fails, the step was too big." Suzuki

    • Idea # 3 - Engage visual-nonverbal learners by offering a 1 - 3 minute video presentation related to the topic. You can do this with digital images and PowerPoint, or a VHS tape you made in 5 minutes or less from the news the night before. You might include:
      • Images and diagrams
      • Current events that relate to the topic
      • Images of you demonstrating or acting out something
      • Humor, including cartoon images.

    • Idea # 4 - Writing to learn assignments, by Laury Fischer, Diablo Valley College:
      • STARTING THE CLASS: Have a question on the board to stimulate that day’s discussion/lecture.
        • What question do you have about last night’s reading?
        • What examples of cognitive dissonance did you see on the way to school today?
        • What is the most important element of last night’s reading that you would tell someone who forgot to read?
        • MID-CLASS: In the middle of class, have students summarize the lecture/discussion so far. If there’s been a dispute or too much quiet, have the students write their thoughts as a way to cool things down or re-stimulate conversation. Write questions about the material so far.

    • Idea # 5 - 5-minute classroom research projects, by Laury Fischer
      • With five minutes to go at the start or end of class, hand out 4x6 notecards.  Students fill these in anonymously.  Use prompts to direct the students.  You might ask:
        • Write one thing that intrigued you about last night’s reading.
        • Write one question you have about a concept we’ve been studying,
        • If you could ask the instructor one question about this unit’s work (or make one statement), what would it be?

    • Idea # 6 - “Know, Think, Wonder”, by Laury Fischer (This takes 10 minutes.)
      • On the day you are beginning a unit, ask students to divide a paper into three columns and list what they know for certain is true about the topic (2) what they think is true, but aren’t really sure (3) what they “wonder” about. Start the class with what they know. Collect the papers. (Note: I started a unit on the Renaissance once with this technique and was startled by both how much students already knew, but more by how much they “knew” that was wrong. It certainly helped me shape the unit. For the rest of the unit, I incorporated all three facets of the assignment into the lecture-discussion, acknowledging students’ contributions to this development.

    • Idea # 7 - What to ask to end a class by Laury Fischer:
      • Describe tonight’s homework
      • Write one question you have about today’s lecture (lab, project)
      • What’s the most interesting fact (theory, concept) you remember from today’s class?
      • What was the most confusing thing about today’s class?
      • Write one memorable thing a student said in today’s class
      • If someone missed today’s class, what are the two most important things you should tell him about today’s meeting?

      These writing to learn assignments help you learn something about your teaching and help you develop and revise assignments to address students’ concerns. Sometimes we learn that what we thought was remarkably clear, is not? Sometimes a question hadn’t occurred to us, but is worth class time response. Sometimes we discover why the students don’t do their homework correctly.

      Anonymity allows the students to be honest while not worrying about correctness or finding the right answer. Sometimes just reading a sample of them will tell you what you want to know. The size of the card prevents the students from writing more than you want to hear.

  • Writing Across the Curriculum

IDEA # 1 - Tips for Creating Good Writing Activities and Assignments by Karen Carlisi, Pasadena City College

The following suggestions can help you to design interesting and motivating writing activities and assignments implementing the principles of WAC:

  1. Use writing assignments to encourage students to think about subject matter. The purpose of WAC is to teach students to think.
  2. Design writing assignments that encourage students to discover new relationships and to restructure the frames which shape their ways of understanding the course content.
  3. State clearly what thinking and writing tasks are expected. Otherwise, and even in spite of it, students may make up their own.
  4. Create a "cross-discipline" prompt which allows students to apply knowledge from different subjects or classes, although it may not require such application.
  5. As each assignment is introduced, reinforce the objective of "writing to learn" and de-emphasize "writing for evaluation".  Also, explain the specific objectives of a particular assignment and how that assignment helps to achieve the objectives for the course.  For example, journals help students explore their own thinking, while other assignments, such as summaries, help them improve their reading skills. Process logs teach them about data-collection techniques, while synthesis of journal articles improves their analytic skills.
  6. Give students an assignment sheet that guides them through the thinking and writing processes. The assignment sheet can include information on the audience (e.g., peers, field professionals), purpose (to demonstrate, illustrate, or persuade), and genre (research proposal, critique).
  7. Provide students with suggestions on how to get information, organize their first draft, edit, and even use a word processor.
  8. Find out if students have done the kind of writing required for an assignment. For example, students may be familiar with analysis of short stories and novels, but unfamiliar with analysis of the methodology in a research report. Help them to apply what they already know to the new kind of writing. Clarify the requirements for the kind of writing that is unfamiliar to them.
  9. Let students know how much and what kind of written feedback you will give them.
  10. Inform students whether you are available for conferencing on the assignment and whether or not they can revise what they hand in.
  11. When you ask students to revise an assignment, clarify what they should address in a revision and give examples of effective revision.
  12. Imagine how you would do the assignment. This will help you to discuss predictable problems and suggest useful strategies.
  13. Whenever possible, ask students to think about relationships between theory and practice, principles and experience, facts and their applications.
  14. Encourage students to draw on assigned readings, class discussions, and personal experiences as "data." They don’t necessarily have to go to the library to develop an understanding of what "research" is.
  15. Make the assignment interesting and inspiring so that students are motivated to write. Challenge their imaginations to "play" with the subject and yet treat it seriously.
  16. Before students begin writing, discuss and give them a written criteria for evaluation. Also, give them assignment guidelines. Continue the discussion as students proceed through the assignment.
  17. Use examples of student work from previous classes that represent varying skill levels. Design an activity in which students assess the models using the criteria given.
  18. Share your own writing with students when it serves as an effective example of professional writing.  For example, show them your summary of a philosophical critique, or your observation log done on a geological field trip. Even if it is in rough draft form, it demonstrates the value and relevance of the writing process.
    IDEA # 2 -. Guidelines for formal writing assignment, concept by Laury Fischer, Diablo Valley College:

Before you begin a formal writing assignment pass out a worksheet asking students to quickly identify aspects of their assignment by writing a very brief answer to each topic. Download a Word document which includes the following topics:

  • Audience
  • Purpose
  • Voice
  • Rules
  • Process
  • Criteria
  • Writing to learn assignments
    • STARTING THE CLASS: Have a question on the board to stimulate that day’s discussion/lecture (What question do you have about last night’s reading? What examples of cognitive dissonance did you see on the way to school today? What is the most important element of last night’s reading that you would tell someone who forgot to read?
    • MID-CLASS: In the middle of class, have students summarize the lecture/discussion so far. If there’s been a dispute or too much quiet, have the students write their thoughts as a way to cool things down or re-stimulate conversation. Write questions about the material so far.
  • Collaborative Activities (by Bonny Bryan, Santa Barbara City College)

Rarely does a class session of mine slip by without some collaborative activity. Part of my task is to foster in my students a sense of "buy in." The more connected they are to each other and the more they feel a sense of community, the more they feel accountable-to their peers, to the material, and to the class.

I am quite sure none of the following is new (I am not a big fan of reinventing the wheel). I have learned a great deal from watching others in action and from my own trial and error. I try different collaborative activities each semester and tailor those I can rely on to fit particular groups.

For Panel Presentation ideas that foster collaboration click here.

  • Facilitating Class Discussions by Jack Ullom Santa Barbara City College
Activity 1
Design a graphic organizer that delineates the four areas of a Developmental discussion. Then pose a question to be discussed by small collaborative groups (four in each group) who write in their individual responses to the question in each of the four areas of the graphic organizer. Have groups share the finished product and turn in the graphic organizer for credit. Be sure the organizer has the name of the contributor for each area.
Activity 2
Create a discussion question that is introduced by a common or personal event and then by a controversial event. Ask the students to state facts in support of their hypotheses. Question the students about the question to solicit: information, analysis of the information, and evaluation of the information.
Activity 3

Take one single topic and design a comparative, evaluative, and critical question on that topic.


Building Campus Community
  • Build a lunch group to discuss teaching and learning in your discipline.  Invite members of your discipline (or department) to join you in a discussion of one of the topics you learned about in this lesson. 
  • Find out who the experts in learning are on your campus.  You might start with your psychology department or faculty development office.  Ask one of those "experts" to host a discussion.