Fostering Self-Regulated Learning

Self-regulated learnersby Debie Lohe, Director, Reinert Center

So many of our frustrations with “today’s students” stem from their not-yet-well-developed ability to function as self-regulated learners.  We could debate the reasons – cultural, generational, developmental – why many undergraduates have not yet cultivated a strong sense of self-regulation in their approach to education, but it may be more fruitful to explore ways we can contribute to their development in this important area.

This is the basic premise of Linda Nilson’s Creating Self-Regulated Learners: Strategies to Strengthen Students’ Self-Awareness and Learning Skills (2013), and it’s well worth a read this summer as you work to develop new courses and reimagine old ones.

At once “a handy compendium of activities and assignments” and “a call to weave self-regulated learning into course design” (107), this book offers specific guidance on ways faculty can help students cultivate strong self-assessment and meta-cognitive abilities.  Nilson explains that self-regulation “encompasses the monitoring and managing of one’s cognitive processes as well as the awareness of and control over one’s emotions, motivations, behavior, and environment as related to learning” (5).  As such, it demands that learners develop their ability to effectively plan, monitor, and evaluate their own learning.

At just over 100 pages, the book is packed with usable, relevant, common-sense activities, ranging from readings to assign students (like Learning (Your First Job), Learning to Learn, and Study Guides and Strategies), to pre-and post-reading activities (chapter 3), to in-class activities to promote engaged learning during lectures (chapter 4).

If you are looking for concrete ways to help students take more responsibility for their own learning, Creating Self-Regulated Learners: Strategies to Strengthen Students’ Self-Awareness and Learning Skills is worth a look.


Share your own strategies for promoting self-regulated learning in the comments section.  To discuss ways you might make self-regulation a goal in your own courses, come and see us.


Book image courtesy of

Online Teaching and Learning Institute

PrintOn June 2nd through June 5th, faculty from across the University attended the 2014 Online Teaching and Learning Institute (OTLI) at The Learning Studio in Des Peres Hall.  The four-day institute examined effective practices and pedagogy for teaching online.  Members of the CTTL staff facilitated discussions on course design, assessment tools, and university-supported academic technologies.  KimScharringhausen from Information Technology Services also presented an overview of Blackboard’s quiz tool tool.

While the Institute is a great opportunity for faculty to learn more about online course design, another benefit of OTLI is the cross-disciplinary dialogue that takes place throughout the week.  Faculty gain valuable insight from colleagues on what online practices work well in other academic disciplines.  The conversations often help provide new perspectives on teaching as well as generate useful tips on how to engage students online.

Afternoon breakout sessions provide an opportunity to address specific technical and course design questions.   At the end of the Institute, attendees leave with a plan for how to expand their online teaching presence.

Although the next OTLI session won’t be until next summer, Reinert Center Instructional Developers are available to meet with faculty to talk about online course design at any time.  To schedule a consultation, simply complete the consultation request form, which you can find using the following link:

“You say Tomato, I say Tomato…”

3843988724_180a4462a8_mby Sandy Gambill, Senior Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

Are you spending some time reflecting on your spring semester and wondering why the group projects you spent so much time designing fell short of your goal?

We may think we’re designing collaborative projects where students are working together towards a common goal, however, students often view these group projects as cooperative, splitting up tasks and then merging the individual work into a final product that can seem disjointed.

Here are a couple of resources to help you better strengthen the collaborative objective.

Cooperation vs. Collaboration

Towards Better Group Work: Seeing the Difference Between Cooperation and Collaboration.”

Photograph available via Flickr.

One More Thing Before Summer


by Jerod Quinn, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

I’m going to hold off declaring that summer is officially here for just one more moment. I know the residence halls are empty, the grades are all turned in, dissertations have been defended, and that course evaluations are arriving in our mailboxes. But before officially diving headfirst into summer I want to encourage you to do one more, very important thing before locking your office for the next couple months. Now is the perfect time to reflect on the just ended semester and think about next fall. I can audibly hear your collective groan of disapproval, but hear me out.

Read more…

From Cheating to Learning

Lang bookby Debie Lohe, Director, Reinert Center

It’s easy to assume that student cheating and violations of academic integrity norms are on the rise.  With students’ increasing use of technology and the increasingly blurry lines around re-use of existing creative works in our broader culture (just look at musical “sampling”), many worry that students’ understanding of “ownership” and “original” intellectual work is deteriorating.  Certainly, pass through any academic department on any college campus, and you’re apt to overhear someone say things like, Students today just have no regard for academic integrity! Or, We just live in a cheating culture now, and there’s nothing we can do about it.  But the good news is, there are things we can do about it.

In his new book, Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty, James M. Lang (SLU alum, faculty member at Assumption College, and regular columnist for the Chronicle of Higher Education) provides a rationale and a roadmap for doing just that.

The book is driven by a powerful message: shift your focus from activities that prevent cheating to those that promote learning, and you create a learning environment that can reduce cheating.  Lang begins by exploring the recent literature on cheating (students are not, by the way, “cheating more” today than they did in the past) and placing that literature alongside research about how learning actually works (for one thing, learners have to be involved in their learning).  This leads him to four broad categories of practice that can result in what he calls “The (Nearly) Cheating-Free Classroom”:

1 Fostering Intrinsic Motivation

2 Learning for Mastery

3 Lowering Stakes

4 Instilling Self-Efficacy

The middle section of the book is devoted to these categories of practice.  For each, Lang offers concrete examples of strategies and activities used by actual faculty members to promote learning and reduce cheating.  Finally, at the end, he broadens his focus to include larger-scale initiatives and campus-wide approaches to creating a culture that privileges learning over preventing cheating.

If you’re interested in shifting your own focus from preventing cheating to promoting learning, come see us in the Reinert Center.  We’d be happy to help you explore small, concrete strategies that can have a large impact.

Book cover image courtesy of

Upcoming Initiatives related to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)

PrintThe Reinert Center is currently accepting proposals and nominations for two important SoTL initiatives.  Please see below for more information.


The Paul C. Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning
Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Symposium

Deadline: Friday, May 23, 2014

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

For more information on the symposium and participation guidelines, please visit our website.



James H. Korn Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award
Deadline: Friday, May 23, 2014

The Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning is pleased to invite nominations for the 2014 James H. Korn Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award.

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 Award for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in recognition of Psychology Professor Emeritus Jim Korn’s many contributions to research on teaching and learning.

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 information on award criteria and nomination procedures, please visit our website.


End with the Beginning in Mind

CTTL_introbannerby Debra Lohe, Director, Reinert Center

It’s time.  You’re wrapping up another academic year.  Saying goodbye to graduating students.  Feeling relieved that the day-to-day demands of the spring term are winding down.  Looking ahead to the slower pace of summer, to the research you can finally get back to.  You aren’t really thinking about next year …. Yet.

After you get a bit of distance from final papers, exams, presentations, and projects, take a moment to reflect on what worked in your teaching this year, and what didn’t.  A few questions can guide your reflection:

What new discoveries did you make about teaching?

What do you wish you’d done differently?  Why?

How might you begin next year differently to accomplish more of what you hoped for?

Finally, how might you create even more engaging and inclusive learning environments for your students?

As you reflect, jot down any immediate insights, then tuck them away for later.  Capturing your immediate last impressions now will offer you a starting point when you begin thinking about next year.

From the Reinert Center, we wish you a productive, restful summer.  We’re here all summer long, so please come and see us if we can help you explore new ideas for teaching your course, engaging your students, or assessing their learning.

Congratulations Spring 2014 Certificate in University Teaching Skills Recipients!

DSC_0017The Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning honored 16 Certificate in University Teaching Skills recipients and 11 Foundations Certificate in University Teaching Skills recipients at our Spring Ceremony on Friday, May 2, 2014.  After warm welcomes from Dr. Debra Lohe, Director of the Reinert Center and Dr. Michael Lewis, Associate Vice-President for Faculty Development, keynote speaker, Dr. Shawn Nordell, professor in the Department of Biology, spoke about the rewards of risking failure in teaching and learning to the recipients, friends, and family in attendance.

During Nordell’s address, she reflected on the idea that faculty and students alike learn a great deal from failure.  Drawing from her experiences teaching in the Learning Studio as an Innovative Teaching Fellow this semester, Nordell discussed how the hypotheses students make about animal behavior often fail when the students witness that actual behavior out in the field. Because Nordell creates space for failure in her class, however, students are able to learn much more from their experiences and to see their knowledge grow through perseverance. That perseverance, she states, then also translates into recognizing the value of feedback on writing and patience in composing multiple drafts of papers as well.

As Lohe reminded the attendees in her closing remarks, the requirements for the Certificate in University Teaching Skills are themselves learning experiences that help participants to make deliberate and intentional choices about teaching, much like the ideas shared in Nordell’s address.  Friday’s ceremony acknowledged the time and commitment these participants gave to earning one of the Certificates. We also celebrated the dedication to teaching and learning, shown by those faculty members who served as teaching mentors.

For more information about our certificates visit

2014 Learning Studio Symposium

PrintOn Wednesday April 16, Innovative Teaching Fellows presented at the Paul C. Reinert, S.J. Center for Transformative Teaching & Learning’s 3rd annual Learning Studio Symposium.  Past and current Innovative Teaching Fellows shared their experiences with course redesign and with teaching in the the Learning Studio – Saint Louis University’s award-winning, state-of-the-art teaching space designed by a team of faculty and students as part of the Herman Miller Learning Spaces Research Program.

Faculty who presented at the Symposium included:

  • Robert Cole, Ph.D., Educational Studies, presented on how he incorporated Twitter and other technology in order to demonstrate how students in his course for preservice teachers will incorporate technology in their teaching.

  • Shawn Nordell, Ph.D., Biology, shared the ways the Learning Studio resources helped facilitate her students in conducting original animal behavior research with digital technology for the analysis, storage, and distribution of their research.

  • Ajlina Karamehic-Muratovic, Ph.D., Sociology, presented on a collaborative research project she ran through her entire course on The Sociology of Mental Health.

  • Bobbi Shatto, Ph.D., MSN, RN, CNL Nursing, showed how she incorporated a flipped classroom model in order to assist students in the Transition to Practice Program utilize technology to help bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world.

  • Palash Bera, Ph.D., Decision Sciences and Information Technology Management, discussed how the studio afforded an opportunity to work with large amounts of data in a collaborative working environment for a highly technical Business Intelligence course.

  • Daniel Bustillos, JD/Ph.D., Health Care Ethics, presented on the successes and challenges of incorporating film in an introductory honors course on medical ethics course.

  • Mary Gould, Ph.D., Communication, discussed how creating an immersive learning environment for students helped facilitate working with an outside non-for-profit company in her Digital Storytelling: Community Media Production course.

  • Alyssa Wilson,Ph.D., Social Work, reflected on her investigation of the effects of exposure-based learning in a Principles and Concepts of Behavior Analysis course.

After the symposium, attendees met to talk more about the Innovative Teaching Fellowship to as well as teaching in the Learning Studio.  Cookies were provided by the Sweet Potato Project, which was featured as part of a student project in Dr. Mary Gould’s communication course.

Upcoming videos from the symposium will be posted on the Reinert Center Vimeo page.

For more information about the Innovative Teaching Fellowship and the Learning Studio, visit the CTTL website.  The next call for applications will be announced in late August, 2014.


What’s On Our Minds Lately: The Instructional Design Team

Printby Chris Grabau, Instructional Designer, Reinert Center

As a part of the Instructional Design team at the Reinert Center, we encounter a lot of interesting artifacts related to teaching and learning.  From new and exciting commentary on pedagogy to the latest trend in educational psychology, the amount of information found by the ID team creates a lot of great water cooler conversations.  Here is just one of the topics we have been discussing lately:

Creativity and the Brain:  What We Can Learn from Jazz Musicians

Charles Limb, associate professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at John’s Hopkins University, has been doing some interesting research investigating brain scans of jazz musicians.  Jazz music relies on the musicians’ ability to create sophisticated improvisations, which Limb suggests may provide a nice window into investigating creativity.  For his study, Limb created a plastic keyboard that can be brought into an MRI scanner and asked musicians to improvise while being scanned.  He found that when the musicians started improvising on the keyboard, their brain scans revealed that parts of the brain responsible for syntax are active while the limbic areas of the brain – the areas responsible for semantic cognition or meaning – were deactivated.

Limb’s scans show that when improvising, the brain shuts off “self-censoring” components in order to generate new ideas without restrictions.  The process suggests that improvisation creates an experience for the musician that is similar to what Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls, Flow.  Flow is an event where a person is performing at her/his optimal level of experience.  Time slips away and a perfect balance is struck between the challenge of the task and the skill of the individual.  Athletes often describe this experiences as being “in the zone” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).

Limb’s discovery could suggest that creativity may be an essential feature of the human brain.  In fact, the creative function of the brain may have contributed to allowing the species to adapt repeatedly over the course of human history. “Very early on there’s this need for the brain to be able to come up with something that it didn’t know before, that’s not being taught to it, but to find a way to figure something out that’s creative,” Limb said. “That’s always been essential for human survival (Schwartz, 2014).”  Limb’s research may help describe the neurological process for “flow,” and it may also help further research to investigate how human brains can be developed.

If creativity is a hardwired component of cognition, how can Limb’s research help faculty with teaching?

Perhaps a greater understanding of how and when creativity occurs may inspire faculty to adopt teaching strategies that result in a little less directed and restrictive learning environment.  “It doesn’t have to be so directed all the time,” Limb said. “We’ve taken a lot of the joy out of things that used to be joyful.”  The results could be a learning experience where students are free from self-censoring and encouraged problem solve and to develop new ideas.   (Schwartz, 2014; López-González, 2012).

If you already use strategies to promote more self-directed learning, share them in the Comments section.



Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow (1st ed.). New York: Harper & Row.

López-González, M., & Limb, C. (2012). Musical creativity and the brain. Cerebrum: The Dana Forum On Brain Science, 2012.

Schwartz, K. (2014). Creativity and the Brain: What We Can Learn From Jazz Musicians. Mindshift / Big Ideas. Retrieved from