Resources to help facilitate difficult dialogues in the classroom

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214by Chris Grabau, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

With the recent events surrounding the Stockley verdict, renewed conversations related to race, privilege, class and equity can make their way into the classroom.  Facilitating dialogue and creating an equitable learning environment can be a challenging task even for the most seasoned faculty member.

Last year, the Reinert Center focused our efforts to create and compile resources related Inclusive Teaching (A statement from Reinert Center director about Inclusive Teaching can be found on our blog, The Notebook [LINK]).  While a complete list of our resources related to inclusive teaching can be found on our website [LINK], below are a few practical “just in time” resources that may be useful to help facilitate dialogue and to establish a more inclusive learning environment within and outside of the classroom.

Resource Guide on Difficult Dialogues

Creating Inclusive Assignments

Implementing Reflective Assignments

Avoiding Microaggressions in the Classroom

Using Ground Rules to Support a Diverse Learning Environment

Active Listening to Support inclusive Teaching

We recognize that all not all strategies are suitable for all instructors or teaching situations; therefore, the Reinert Center staff are available to consult one-on-one [LINK]  with instructors about how to facilitate helping students with difficult issues.  All consultations are confidential and we are available to serve you.

Fellowship, Award, and Symposium Open Calls

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214The Reinert Center currently has 3 separate calls open that you might be interested in.

Innovative Teaching Fellowship- Call for Applications

Each semester, the Reinert Center awards a small number of Innovative Teaching Fellowships to full-time, permanent teaching faculty who will teach in our highly-flexible, technology-rich classroom, the Learning Studio.

Innovative Teaching Fellows spend the first semester of their fellowship working closely with Reinert Center staff to (re)design a course to be taught in the Learning Studio.  The course is then taught in the Studio during the second semester of the fellowship period.  The fellowship comes with a course release to support course (re)design work and various kinds of support from Reinert Center staff, including both pedagogical and technical support.

To learn more about this fellowship, including information about the current Call for Applications, click here [LINK].

James H. Korn Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award- Call for Nominations

One of the goals of the Reinert Center is to promote faculty inquiry and scholarly research on teaching and learning. In 2006, the Center established the James H. Korn Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award in recognition of Psychology Professor Emeritus James Korn’s many contributions to research on teaching and learning. One award of $500 is given to the home department of the awardee(s) to be used as professional development funds for the awardee(s).

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) involves researching questions about teaching activities and student learning by formally studying the teaching and learning activities of one’s course; answering those questions by assessing student learning and effectiveness of teaching strategies; and publicly sharing results of this inquiry in a setting that invites peer review, such as a publication or conference presentation.

For award criteria and nomination instructions, click here [LINK].

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Symposium- Call for Proposals

We invite faculty and graduate students to submit a 500-word proposal for a poster presentation on a current (in-progress) or recently completed Scholarship (or Research) of Teaching and Learning project.  New research as well as research already presented at national or local conferences is welcome.

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) involves researching questions about teaching activities and student learning by formally studying the teaching and learning activities of one’s course; answering those questions by assessing student learning and effectiveness of teaching strategies; and publicly sharing results of this inquiry in a setting that invites peer review, such as a publication or conference presentation.

The goal of the symposium is to showcase the SoTL work being conducted by Saint Louis University faculty and graduate students, and to promote a community of SoTL practitioners.

For more information, including proposal submission instructions, click here [LINK].

Intentional Change

Reinert Center RIT_circle_2014_solid_082214by James Fortney, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

George Slavich and Philip Zimbardo suggest that a variety of instructional methods, ranging from experiential learning to problem-based learning, “share important underlying characteristics and can be viewed as complimentary components of a broader approach to classroom instruction called transformational teaching” (Slavich & Zimbardo, 2012, p. 569). One of the theoretical underpinnings of transformational teaching they highlight is intentional change theory (Boyatzis, 2006). Emerging from the management literature on organizational behavior, intentional change theory describes an iterative cycle of discoveries that support “desirable, sustainable changes in a [student’s] behavior, thoughts, feelings, or perceptions” (Slavich & Zimbardo, 2012, p. 579). By situating intentional change theory in the context of teaching and learning, the authors identify specific techniques for instructors who wish to create transformational learning experiences for their students. They include:

  1. Helping students formulate a personal and professional vision for the future
  2. Fostering hope that students can realize their desired future
  3. Aiding students in identifying their strengths, weaknesses, and ways they can improve
  4. Establishing individualized development plans for students
  5. Engaging students in learning activities that invite them to practice news ways of thinking, doing, and being
  6. Cultivating a supportive learning environment where students promote these goals and encourage intentional change for each other

Intentional change theory offers one window into the multifaceted landscape of transformative teaching and learning. What are some of your reactions to these practices? When and how might you engage your students in some of these activities and/or interactions? Is there anything you dislike about the authors’ recommendations? What challenges or issues might they provoke for you and your students? In what ways are you already using some of these techniques in your teaching? Why? Can you think of ways to be more intentional in choosing to do so?

As we begin to unpack this year’s theme, theoretical perspectives like intentional change theory can help identify, name, and describe instructional methods you are using (or would like to use) in your teaching. What other windows into transformative teaching and learning do you see? Perhaps there is a particular theory from your discipline that can be of use here? Share your comments, ideas, and reactions in the space provided below.



Boyatzis, R., & McKee, A. (2006). Intentional change. Journal of Organizational Excellence, 25, 49-60.

Slavich, G. M., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2012). Transformational teaching: Theoretical underpinnings, basic principles, and core methods. Education Psychology Review, 24, 569-608.

Beginning Anew, Renewing Our Commitments

Icon squareby Debie Lohe, Director, Reinert Center

New academic years are filled with promise. All choices are open to us. We aim high, sure that the hectic pace of the old year has passed and we can finally achieve our most aspirational goals. It doesn’t take long for the calendar to fill and our best hopes to be tempered by the stack of essays to grade, the publication deadlines, the committee meetings. . . .

As we begin a new year, the Reinert Center team is renewing its fundamental commitments to our core values [LINK] and practices [LINK]. We are also looking back on our first twenty years as a formal teaching center and ushering in our third decade of service to SLU faculty and graduate students. This milestone is exciting for us. It gives us opportunities to reflect on our history.  (You can read more about that in earlier blog posts here [LINK] and here [LINK] or on the History page on our website [LINK].) Perhaps even more importantly, it creates new energy to reflect on our future, on the future of higher education, the future of teaching and learning at SLU. As we renew our founding commitments, we’ll also continue to explore new ways to fulfill our vision to form and transform teachers, learners, and learning environments.

As you begin anew, we invite you to reflect on what it means to engage in the work of formation and transformation. For many of us, the vocation of teaching is partly about this commitment to formation; it is about helping learners grow as humans, not just about helping students learn course content. This year, the Reinert Center will focus a series of events and online resources on different aspects of transformative learning — what it is, what conditions create the potential for it, what methods and course designs promote it, and what technologies can support it.

We believe all learning involves change, but transformative learning occurs when learners themselves are changed by their learning experiences. In the classroom, this means students learn to master the content and skills needed for success in a discipline, and they also experience this learning as a shift in perspectives, in frames of reference – about themselves, their beliefs, and their actions. We believe the commitment to creating transformative learning experiences is fundamentally Ignatian. It is not limited to students, nor is it about influencing learners’ ideological views. Its purpose is to create meaningful learning experiences that have the potential to go beyond content and skills to foster in the learner a desire for more – and deeper – learning.

If you’re interesting in exploring – or contesting or expanding – ideas about transformative learning, stay connected during the year. We’ll hold various events [LINK] connected to this theme and develop new online resources (which we’ll post to our theme webpage here [LINK]). We even invite you to share your own reflections on transformative learning in this blog.  (Contact the Reinert Center at if you’re interested in contributing a guest blog post.

Before your committee meetings and essays and publication deadlines begin to pile up, take a moment to renew your commitment to student-focused, transformational teaching. If we can support you in that commitment, don’t hesitate to call upon us.

Accommodation and Course Design

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214by James Fortney, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

A recent article from ChronicleVitae discusses the benefits of focusing on accommodation when writing or revising syllabi for a new semester. David Goobler (2017) argues, “We’re wrong to think of accommodations as exceptions that detract from our normal way of doing things. Accommodating students is our normal way of doing things.” He provides many helpful resources for designing courses that are inclusive of all students, emphasizing Universal Design for Learning as “a central part of our pedagogical work.” My favorite resource is Tulane University’s Accessible Syllabus, a site dedicated to promoting student engagement and agency through accessible images, texts, rhetoric, and policies on course syllabi. Included are numerous examples of ways to re-write your syllabus in support of this pedagogical goal. Ask yourself, “How can I be more flexible to adapt my course to students with varying needs? What can be changed and what can’t?” (Goobler, 2017). Focusing on questions like these now (rather than later) can have a tremendous impact on student learning.

In addition to the resources listed above, the Reinert Center has several teaching tips on our website that give attention to accommodation and inclusive course design. Each resource offers starting points for specific practices that promote equitable learning environments for all students. If you have specific questions about any of these resources or would like to schedule a teaching consultation to discuss accommodation and course design, please contact the Reinert Center or fill out this consultation request form.


Goobler, D. (2017, August 8). Now is the time to think about accessibility. Retrieved from

Book Review: The Slow Professor

The Slow Professor

by James Fortney, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

If you are looking for an interesting (and motivating) book to dig into before the semester begins, I recommend picking up a copy of The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy (Berg & Seeber, 2016). The authors challenge the frantic pace of pedagogical and intellectual work in higher education, calling for a “slow movement” where academics make time for reflection and dialogue. They emphasize the importance of advocating for deliberation over acceleration by engaging in ongoing practices of reflection, open-ended inquiry, and dialogue. These practices are beneficial to faculty and students alike, cultivating time and space for deep learning to occur. The second chapter of the book focuses on teaching, offering several examples of pedagogical techniques like pausing, breathing, laughing, listening, pacing, and narrating to help slow things down a bit. Although the book itself is a quick read, the information in that chapter will be the most useful for re-thinking course design, class facilitation, and assessment through a “slow professor” lens. Other topics addressed by the authors include time management, research, collegiality/community, and collaborative work. By threading these topics together, Berg and Seeber (2016) provide a powerful analysis of “the temporalities that govern our work” (p. 13). If you find time to read it, I encourage you to share your thoughts and reactions in the comments section below.

The beginning of a new academic year is an exciting time. We are so fortunate to be here, together, pursuing truth and seeking excellence in teaching, research, health care, and service to our communities. Try to slow down a bit. Take care of yourself. Breathe. Enjoy it.

Reviewing the Characteristics of Effective Teachers

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214by Gina Merys, Associate Director, Reinert Center

The August/September 2017 issue of The Teaching Professor Newsletter reviewed two recent studies that looked at the most important teacher characteristics as identified by students. While the studies do not reveal solid evidence about any characteristic’s direct bearing on student learning, one of the studies (Gerhard, 2016) does open a window on the correlation between the characteristic of “sociability” (i.e. “talkative” and “interactive”) and student engagement. What the author of the study found was “perceived instructor sociability exerts influence beyond the culture it creates in the classroom: it also significantly impacts student behaviors necessary for both skill-building and performance” through the impact it has on “performance engagement” and “skill engagement” (Gerhardt, 2016). The article was quick to point out, however, that this is not a call to become the people students think they want us to be. Rather, it is to be more “responsive to their needs as learners. [… and] to explain how our choices relate to our teaching and their learning” (The Teaching Professor).

Studies like these are important work as we continue to think about the ways in which we measure teaching effectiveness. Given that students and instructors continue to have different views on how various teacher characteristics may or may not influence learning, as well as the gap between the perceived feeling of having learned and the actual evidence of knowledge or skills gained, continued research on multiple facets of teaching and learning are necessary components of building a comprehensive program of measuring teaching effectiveness.

To discuss teaching characteristics or measuring teaching effectiveness, make an appointment for a consultation with one of our staff members through the following form [LINK].

Instructors at Saint Louis University have access to the review article referenced here, “Reaffirming the Importance of Teacher Characteristics” as well as all issues of The Teaching Professor through our institutional subscription. If you would like to access it, please contact the Reinert Center ( for login instructions.



Gerhard, M.W. “The Importance of Being …Social? Instructor Credibility and the Millennials.” Studies in Higher Education. 41 (9), 1533-1547.

“Reaffirming the Importance of Teacher Characteristics.” The Teaching Professor Newsletter. Magna Publications: August/September 2017.

Facilitating Independent Study Courses

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214by James Fortney, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

Back in June, I wrote a blog post about designing independent study courses that listed several strategies for working with students to help create a course to support their goals for learning. With the start of fall semester quickly approaching, I wanted to share a few tips and resources to help you facilitate an independent study course. The University of Waterloo’s Center for Teaching Excellence recommends four tips for you to keep in mind:

First, recommend learning resources such as books, journals, people, organizations, or library materials. You may have started this conversation during the design phase of the course, but be aware of additional resources the student may need throughout the learning process. But be careful not to overwhelm the student! Only suggest resources that you feel are essential to helping the student meet their goals for the independent study course.

Second, allow the student to take the initiative in asking for assistance with learning. Do not hover, micromanage, or insert yourself into the learning process. Empower the student to learn how to learn independently.

Third, meet regularly with the student to review progress, share ideas, and encourage learning. What “regularly” means will vary depending on the student, the course, and the timeline to submit final grades. When I supervised an independent study course on a 12-week quarter system, we had six scheduled meetings (one every two weeks). We certainly had additional meetings during office hours, but they were not required and did not impact the student’s final grade. During each scheduled meeting, the student either turned something in for evaluation or prepared a reading for discussion. Both learning activities were part of the assessment plan we agreed to during the design phase of the course. Which brings me to the final tip…

Evaluate the student’s work based on the criteria described in the course syllabus. For some students, their entire grade may be based on a final paper, research proposal, or project. For other students, it may be a mix of required meetings, reading responses, blog posts, or periodic updates/check-ins online. But whatever happens during the semester, stick to the original plan for how you will assess the student’s independent work.

As you begin facilitating any independent study course, consider the four tips described above and ask yourself the following questions. When and how will you recommend learning resources to the student? How will you make yourself available as resource for information? How will you meet with the student to review progress? What will happen during those meetings? How will you evaluate the student’s work?

If you would like to discuss independent study courses or specific facilitation tips from this blog post, please contact the Reinert Center to schedule a teaching consultation.

Recommendations on how to create videos to encourage student engagement

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214by Chris Grabau, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

At the first Association for Computing Machinery conference on “Learning @ Scale,” researchers Guo and Rubin presented an empirical study on how video production techniques from videos affects student engagement (2014).  Their study analyzed viewing data from 6.9 million video watching sessions gathered from four EdX MOOC courses in order to identify best practices for online educational videos.  They used the data to measure engagement by investigating “how long students watched videos, and whether they were able to answer post-video assessments.”  It is one of the largest empirical studies investigating how video techniques influence student engagement.

Results from the study help identify a number of key characteristics that seem to make online educational videos more engaging for students.  Below is a list of their findings and a few recommendations on how you may incorporate these practices into your video design. They are as follows:

  • Shorter videos are much more engaging. Try chunking video lessons into short, 6 minute segments.  Chunking videos can also be accomplished by making shorter videos and by creating pauses within a longer video.  Use the pauses to have students answer review questions and prompting them to return to the video after they have answered the question.
  • Videos interspersed between an instructor’s talking head and slides are more engaging. Consider using video capture tools (like Tegrity) that allow the instructor’s head to be present at various times within the video.  Switch between slides and the instructor at key moments throughout the video.
  • Videos with a personal feel are more engaging than high production studio recordings.  Do not worry about recording videos in a high-quality studio, but be sure to make videos free from distractions.  Choose an informal setting that also allows you to capture audio free from extraneous noises.
  • Drawing tutorials are more engaging than PowerPoint slides. When recording demonstrations, introduce motion into your recordings by using a computer tablet.  Similar to the video recordings created by Khan Academy, the continuous “visual flow” of the tablet-based recordings combined with the instructor’s voiceover encourages sustained student engagement.
  • Instructors who show high enthusiasm and speak fairly fast are more engaging. Be yourself and bring out your enthusiasm for the subject while you are recording.  Instructors do not need to worry about making the perfect recording.  Focus on presenting the material in a natural cadence that demonstrates to students how exciting your course material can be.
  • Students engage differently with lecture and tutorial videos. Students tend to watch lecture and tutorial videos differently.  Researchers discovered that students watch tutorial videos an average of 2-3 minutes, regardless of their length.  However, students re-watch tutorial videos more frequently than lecture based videos.  Their findings suggest that students jump throughout tutorial videos in order to re-watch relevant parts.  In contrast, students expect lecture videos to be a continuous stream of information that is optimized for “first-time” viewing.  Therefore, construct videos with some consideration on how students may watch them.  For example, when creating tutorial videos, consider adding titles for each step in order to accommodate for skimming and re-viewing.

Whether you are recording videos for an online course or creating supplemental material for an on-ground course, consider these suggestions to help encourage student engagement.  And, as always, please feel free to schedule a consultation with someone in the Reinert Center to discuss ways to engage students with video-based course content.



Guo, P. J., Kim, J., & Rubin, R. (2014, March). How video production affects student engagement: An empirical study of MOOC videos. In Proceedings of the first ACM conference on Learning@ scale conference (pp. 41-50). ACM.

Embodiment and Teaching

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214

by James Fortney, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

I was 23 years old when I taught my first undergraduate course at the University of Utah. My age, I feared, would prevent me from being taken seriously by my students and potentially undermine my credibility as a teacher and scholar. In an attempt to thwart such ageism, I did my best to look and sound more experienced than I was. I wore black-rimmed glasses, donned tweed blazers and striped neckties, and used lots of big words like ‘epistemology,’ ‘heteronomativity,’ and ‘deconstruction’ during each class. While my contrived performance of age may have made me feel more confident in front of my students, I was not fooling anyone. As Roland Barthes (1978) reminds us, “I can do everything with my language, but not with my body. What I hide by my language, my body utters” (p. 44).

My age was (and continues to be) always visible to my students — and at that time, being 23 years old did impact how I taught. Different situational factors throughout my teaching career have prompted awareness of my “teaching body” in similar ways with regard to ability, gender expression, markers of social class, sexual orientation, and even fitness/health. One of the interesting things about online teaching, for example, is that it makes you acutely aware of how much your body matters to your teaching because you are suddenly confronted with its visible absence. And the fact that our bodies change over time reminds us that their relationship to our teaching will also change, often in unexpected, uncomfortable, and potentially difficult ways. The bodily realities of instructors may include many situations seen and unseen and many situations beyond easy categorical description (Freedman & Holmes, 2003). We teach in and through our bodies, thus it seems productive to consider how bodies have been talked about and conceptualized in pedagogical research. It is also useful to reflect on your “teaching body” and how its various embodied identities (e.g., age, health, gender) impact your teaching.

Listed below are three resources to get you started. Freedman & Holmes (2003) provide a nice primer on embodied pedagogy through several personal essays that work to discard the idea that the teacher has no body. Importantly, each author emphasizes the impact of different bodily identities on the teacher-student educational dynamics. The other two books are written by tenured professors who both experienced physical disabilities toward the end of their careers. The late Robert Murphy (1990) chronicles his slow progression into quadriplegia and the impact it had on his identity as a teacher and scholar. Christina Crosby (2016) offers a deeply vulnerable account of a bicycle accident that rendered her paralyzed. She invites readers to acknowledge the dependencies of all human bodies by “diving into the wreck” of fragility, grief, and loss to find new ways of teaching and living on. Together, these texts invite critical consideration of how all bodies marked by difference “negotiate [the] space of authority that is the classroom” (Fredman & Holmes, 2003, p. xiii). Disability, pregnancy, and overall bodily fitness/health are particularly compelling accounts because of their shifting and often unexpected impact on teaching.

Embodied pedagogy cuts within and across a large amount of scholarly literature. The information in this blog post and the resources listed below represent only a sliver of that content. My hope is to return to this topic in future blog posts so that we can begin to see its breadth of relevance and importance for any discussion about teaching. I encourage you to share your reactions to this post in the comments section below. Please also feel free to schedule a teaching consultation with someone in the Reinert Center to discuss embodiment and teaching.


Crosby, C. (2016). A body, undone: Living on after great pain. New York, NY: New York University Press.

Freedman, D. P., & Holmes, M. S. (Eds.) (2003). The teacher’s body: Embodiment, authority, and identity in the academy. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Murphy, R. F. (1990). The body silent: The different world of the disabled. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.



Barthes, R. (1978). A lover’s discourse. New York, NY: Hill & Wang.