Save the Dates

PrintThis semester has moved at a rapid fire pace, so before you get completely booked up after spring break, we’d like to take this opportunity to cue you in on some upcoming development opportunities

Online Teaching and Learning Institute: This is a week-long institute offered every summer for full-time faculty who want to develop online or blended courses. This summer’s session will be held June 2 through 6. Registration opens on March 17, as soon as we come back from spring break, and is limited to 12 participants. Watch the Reinert Center blog and the daily Newslink email for more information.  To learn more, visit

3rd Annual Learning Studio Symposium: Always a highlight of the spring semester, the Learning Studio Symposium is an opportunity for the Reinert Center’s Innovative Teaching Fellows to discuss the courses they have taught in the Learning Studio. This year’s symposium will be on the afternoon of April 16 and registration will open on March 24. (Since the event is held in the Learning Studio, seating is limited and priority is given to full-time faculty who are eligible for Innovative Teaching Fellowships.) To learn more, visit

Close Only Counts in History and Horseshoes

by Flannery Burke, Ph.D., Associate Professor in History and Fulbright Roving Scholar to Norway

Here are three historical mistakes I may have conveyed in the course of teaching American culture to high school English classes in Norway as a part of that nation’s Fulbright Roving Scholars program.  Which is most egregious?

1)     Abraham Lincoln served as President until 1868.

2)     The Navajo insisted on passports to pass through their nation in the 1970s.

3)     I married a University professor while a student at Bryn Mawr College.

I made the last mistake when introducing myself.  I explained that Bryn Mawr students prized academics over socializing.  I said that at Bryn Mawr we had a race and whoever won the race would be, according to superstition, the first to get her PhD.  “Whoever lost the race,” I’d say with a little smile, “Would be the first to marry.” “What did we care about?” I asked.  “Studying,” answered a student. “What didn’t we care about?” “Boys,” answered a student.  So far so good.  Students were interacting with me.  Some of the shyer girls were smiling a bit.  Maybe they would talk later.  Then, I made it too complicated.  “I was not the first to get my PhD, but I did get it.  I was not the first to marry, but I did get married.  I even married a University professor!  So I got to have my cake and eat it too.  Do you know that expression in English?”

Students often do know the expression, but an English-speaking teaching assistant told me later that I had given the impression that I had married one of my Bryn Mawr professors while I was a student.  “Better fix that,” she said.

Where to begin exactly?  There is no such race at Bryn Mawr – rather, the superstition involves lanterns that Freshmen receive from upper classes.  The lanterns become heirlooms, symbols of our education and the light of knowledge we received in university.  The superstition is this: whoever’s lantern goes out first will be the first to marry.  Whoever’s burns longest will be the first to receive her PhD.  It’s got more potential as a metaphor, but I find it too complicated, especially for non-native speakers.  And I like the idea of young women learning that marriage and serious study are not mutually exclusive.  So I say it’s a race.  But I’m wrong, and I know it, and apparently even beyond my knowing mistake, I’ve also left the impression that I married and received a PhD at the tender age of 19.  Should I just stop telling the story?

I’ve never been called on mistake #2.  Most of my students have probably never even heard of the Navajo.  If they have, they may very well mispronounce the name with a “y” sound in place of the soft, Spanish “j.”  I use the Navajo example to introduce the largest tribe in the U.S.; to introduce the proper pronunciation of their name; and to teach the idea of sovereignty – a very complicated idea to explain to non-native speakers.  By repeatedly referring to the “Navajo Nation,” and by bringing in a word that I know most students will recognize: “passports,” I try to convey the idea that indigenous people strive for sovereignty.  But it’s a complicated idea, and I have no evidence, aside from a vague memory that I cannot verify quickly, that I am correct.  Should I just stop telling the story?

Mistake number 3 only happened once, mercifully.   It was early in my time as a Fulbright rover, and I was teaching a lesson on woman suffrage that I usually use with my university students.  I was looking at a timeline that included the date of adoption of the fourteenth amendment– the amendment granting men citizenship rights regardless of race.  That date is 1868, and I absent-mindedly read it off the page as I answered the question. But what followed was even more concerning for this professor of American history.  No one corrected me.  The question came from the instructor, and, while I worked students through the timeline, he found online a commonly-forwarded near-conspiracy theory comparing the presidencies of Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy.  This was his “source” when he reminded me several minutes later of the actual date of Lincoln’s assassination: 1865.   Does it matter if Norwegian students can quickly and easily name the date of Lincoln’s assassination?  Does it matter that no one (not even me!) immediately caught my error?  Does it matter that the source that brought my full attention to the question perpetuates illogical and hysterical conclusions?

Teachers speak often of “balancing” content and pedagogy as if we put both on a scale and wait until the two sides reach an equilibrium.  Adding a role-playing exercise here; subtracting a lecture with PowerPoint there.  “You can be the sage on the stage or the guide by the side,” a teacher once told me.  But that is never how it actually goes down in the classroom.  The two can be a jumbled mess or a delicate and nuanced mélange, but however they appear, they are always tied, always mixed.  Getting the facts right are just a tiny part of the whole.  The briefest of lectures involves split-second decisions regarding word choice that can make students conclude that slavery had little to do with the American Civil War.   The decision to use a historical document that has been translated from another language or decoded, the Code of Hamurabi or the Zimmerman Telegram, can utterly transform students’ understanding of the document itself, regardless of whether they encounter it in a role playing exercise or in their textbook.

History requires nuanced thinking and comfort holding complex, and even contradictory, ideas together. And every teacher will tell you that you are always modeling for your students the skills that you want them to display.  How do you share those complex ideas without just mixing up your students?  How do you prepare them to answer a simple question when you’re whole point is that there are no simple answers?  My fellow university instructors speak of “not doing violence” to the subject matter as they prepare their syllabi.  As they hack away at the number of pages of reading and writing and ditch the war of 1812 for a deeper conversation about the Great Awakening, they shudder to think what students will actually learn in the miserly 15-week semester.  As one teacher here told me, “I just wish there was more time to reflect.  For the students and for me.”  “The clock is the tyrant in the classroom,” I responded with a laugh, but I knew what she meant.

“Just stop worrying about the history,” one teacher here tells me, smiling.  After all, I am in English classes here in Norway.  “It went fine,” says another. “Don’t analyze.”  But it’s my way.  I worry.  I analyze.  I teach history.

One often hears of the humility that comes from studying history.  Usually such statements call our attention to the wide sweep of the past — from the big bang to the present moment.  The point of such reminders is to recognize that we are small in the infinity of the universe.  More rarely one hears of the humility that comes from historical study, the recognition that no matter how deeply one digs in the archives, one can never find all the sources because some of them no longer exist and because some people did not have the influence to leave a record of their voice.  The point of such reminders is to recognize that we will never have total knowledge; we will never have the whole story.  We will never have all the answers.  But it is rarer still to hear of the humility that comes from history teaching: the pain as we tear our subject matter apart; leave aside the decades of scholarship our peers have put into the questions we’re asking; abandon the hope that students will see the same beautiful dance of inquiry and disciplined answer that we are trying to share; and embrace the meager satisfaction of knowing that even when we’ve done our very best, we only come close.


FlanneryBurkeFlannery Burke is associate professor in the Department of History at Saint Louis University and currently serving as a Fulbright Roving Scholar in Norway.  She specializes in environmental history, the history of the American West, cultural history and gender history. Dr. Burke has been involved in the scholarship of teaching and learning history since 2004, and has served on the writers committee drafting K-12 common core standards for social studies.

Why Are Concepts So Hard?

by Shawn Nordell, PhD, Associate Professor, Biology

“Conceptual understanding” is a learning objective commonly seen in primary, secondary and post-secondary courses as well as throughout the educational literature.   Indeed, there is an emphasis in many disciplines to design a curriculum that promotes students’ conceptual understanding within a discipline rather than simple procedural knowledge or rote learning.   Core concepts can be a keystone of understanding for the student and once understood can transform the students’ learning.

But what exactly is a concept? It turns out to be a term that is not easily defined.   Several dictionaries agree that concepts refer to an abstract idea but agree on little else.  A recent survey of faculty attending a workshop at a pedagogical conference also resulted in a large degree of variation in the definition of a concept.  One commonality was that concepts are different from definitions and statements in that a concept should have some sort of explanatory power.   Using an example from my own discipline, the statement that “behavioral genetics is the study of the genetic and environmental influences on behavior” is a definition of the term “behavioral genetics.”  As such it lies low on the hierarchy of critical thinking skills.  However, the phrase, “the environment influences gene expression and behavior” is a true concept that allows us to understand how variation in the environment can lead to variation in the behaviors of individuals that we observe.   Concepts allow us to synthesize our understanding of a topic and use that to explain some process.  Articulating the key concepts in our disciplines is a challenging task for instructors, so I can only imagine how challenging it might be for our students.

Not surprisingly, students have trouble recognizing concepts.  Recently, Betsy Angeli and I designed a study to determine whether students could discern between recall, conceptual, and application types of questions.  We used modifiers from Bloom’s Taxonomy to describe each type of question.  Specifically, we asked students whether a question asked them to a) identify, recognize or recall; b) classify, compare, or explain; or c) apply, analyze, or predict.  These modifiers refer to a) remembering facts, b) understanding concepts, and c) applying knowledge.  These represent a wide range of levels of cognitive complexity.  We included all three types of questions in each weekly quiz in laboratory sections in an introductory biology course.  The question types were randomly ordered each week.   We also made sure not to include the modifiers in the question itself.

We found that recall questions were correctly identified over 90% of the time, and application questions were correctly identified almost 50% of the time.  However, conceptual questions were correctly identified less than 15% of the time.   It seemed that students also may not have a clear understanding of concepts!  It is important to note that, at the beginning of the semester, students were introduced to Bloom’s Taxonomy of learning and given discipline-specific sample questions for each level as an introduction to the types of assessment they should expect in the course.

So why did we get these results?  It is possible that our questions were not clearly designed and that our modifiers perhaps were somewhat ambiguous, but given the very small number of students who correctly identified conceptual questions that does not seem to be the clear answer here.  Perhaps, it is more likely that concepts are a challenging cognitive task and one that we should address more substantially and clearly, both for ourselves and our students.  If we seek to enhance conceptual learning in our students, we need to think about how best to accomplish this.  One approach is to identify core concepts up front at the beginning of class and organize the class activities around those concepts.  Another approach would be to allow students the opportunity to develop the core concepts from their class activities.  Either way, it will be useful to come full circle and discuss how the core concept allows us to deepen our understanding of the topic.  Clearly identifying specific concepts, illustrating those with examples, and providing opportunities to apply concepts are all critical elements for students’ development of their learning.

How do you teach for “conceptual understanding”?  Share your ideas in the Comments section.


Shawn Nordell is an Associate Professor in the Biology Department and a Senior Faculty Fellow for the Reinert Center.  She is currently studying the effect of cognitive complexity on student learning.





Collaborating with your SLU Research Librarian

by Rebecca Hyde, Research & Instruction Librarian, Pius XII Memorial Library

It’s easy to assume students learn about research and library resources before they ever get to your class, but think about the last time you assigned a research project. Were you happy with the quality of the information and the sources your students used? Could your students differentiate between a primary and secondary source? Did you have to field multiple questions about what resources were relevant or appropriate?

Students struggling to find sources for a research assignment may never tap into library resources. They’re starting their research on Google and may be finishing it there. In addition to missing out on top quality resources, the students’ research strategy is often inefficient and they may lack crucial information evaluation skills. Every department is assigned a faculty research librarian who can partner with you to help address these kinds of issues.

In a research intensive course, consider asking your subject librarian to guest lecture for a class or a series of classes. This allows for research instruction specific to the subject and assignment, as well as time for the students to get hands-on practice while an expert is available to answer their questions. Even those students who have attended an introduction to library resources aren’t necessarily fluent in research practices or sources specific to their major and they probably aren’t aware there is a librarian with expertise in their field available to help guide them through the research process.

Think of the class visit with a research librarian as a refresher for you, too! It’s probably not in your schedule to keep up on all the latest resources available to you through the library, or the hottest new digitization project, data repository or research tool that may save you significant time in your own research.

If your course does not have a significant research component, but you want to instill research knowledge and practices for future courses in the major; consider collaborating with your librarian on an assignment to build the students’ research skills in ways that are relevant to your field. Faculty research librarians can provide advice, be a sounding board for your ideas or work with you to develop assignments that meet your course learning objectives related to information literacy and research.

For all your classes, consider including the contact information for your department’s research librarian in the syllabus. Most students do not know what a librarian can do to assist them in finding quality sources, but they value the opinion of their professors and with your suggestion they are more likely to seek out help from a research librarian.

There are research librarians at Pius XII Memorial Library, the Medical Center Library and the SLU Law Library. If you haven’t met your department’s research librarian, give them a call today!


RHydeRebecca Hyde is a faculty research & instruction librarian at Pius XII Memorial Library. She is the subject librarian for Political Science, Urban Planning and Real Estate Development, Government Information, and the School for Professional Studies.

Motivating Student Writers to Revise

writingby Debie Lohe, Director, Reinert Center

Recently, I was invited to facilitate a workshop with faculty on working with student writers.  It’s a topic very close to my heart; for almost 15 years, I taught composition classes to undergraduates at all levels, and I served for a time as director of a composition program.  It’s also a topic many instructors want to talk about, for various reasons.

Sometimes, they’re frustrated by what they see as students’ inability and/or unwillingness to write appropriately for an academic setting.  Sometimes, they’re stymied by their own unmet desire to grade flawless, grammatically-perfect prose.  Sometimes, instructors are just at a loss about how to motivate students to take their own ideas and writing seriously.

For many of us, writing = thinking.  As Laurel Richardson has written, “I write because I want to find something out.  I write in order to learn something that I did not know before I wrote it.”  However, John C. Bean (in his wonderfully useful Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom), and numerous others, have pointed out that this is not the relationship most undergraduates have to writing.  Instead, they write in order to show their instructors that they “know” things, that they can provide the “right” answer; they don’t, as Bean says, see knowledge as dialectical, the way most academics do.

Perhaps one aspect of helping students to move to a more dialectical way of thinking about knowledge – and particularly, about what they know – is to motivate them to engage writing as a tool for thinking.  But this is hard to do when so few student writers revise in a deep way. For many of us, writing isn’t the act that matters; RE-writing is.

So, how can faculty promote a culture of revision for their students – and perhaps motivate student writers to revise more?  Here are five suggestions:

Scaffold writing assignments: Break down longer writing assignments into smaller tasks and ask for bits and pieces building up to the final deadline.  Providing a small bit of formative feedback on those tasks can help, too.

Allow re-writes: Maybe not always or without constraints, but for students who truly miss the mark – or who truly take up the call to revise – provide an opportunity for deep and substantive revision to improve their grades.

Share your work/experience: Often, it’s hard for students to believe that even professionals and academics write in messy, chaotic phases before the finished product is complete.  Sharing your own writing struggles or even drafts of your own works-in-progress can be valuable in promoting a culture of revision in your classes.

Set a “fake” deadline: On the day essays are due in your class, ask students to flip them over and write a quick self-assessment on the back: maybe 2-3 things they think they did really effectively in the paper and 2-3 things they would do to the paper “if only they had 2 more days.”  Then, give them two more days, and require them to make substantive revisions, based on the areas for improvement they’ve already identified.  (An alternative: ask students to identify “the one fatal flaw” in their essays; then send them away to address it.)

Grade “responsively”: When reading student essays, try to de-emphasize “correctness” and privilege instead responding to each writer’s ideas. Years ago, I read some wonderful advice: stop “grading” essays, and start “reading” them.  If we take students’ work seriously, we should try to inhabit a reader-ly perspective, rather than a grader-ly one.  Indeed, if we want students to better understand that they have readers, we must demonstrate that someone is actually listening to their writer-ly voice.

Of course, these are just a few broad suggestions.  You probably have other tried-and-true strategies for motivating student writers to revise.  If so, please share them in the Comments section.

If you’d like to talk about these (or any other) strategies for working with student writers, come see us in the Reinert Center.

Justice in Jesuit Education

Ignatius statue copyby Jacob Van Sickle, Graduate Assistant, Reinert Center

At the Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning, we take the Jesuit identity of Saint Louis University very seriously. “Ignatian pedagogy” is an oft-repeated and discussed idea in our publications and workshops, and its principles thoroughly imbue our programming. Hopefully most if not all instructors at SLU have come into contact with these principles and reflected upon how they might use them to improve learning outcomes in the classroom. But a “Jesuit education” is about more than the pedagogical tools employed to deliver discipline-specific content; it also has something to say about the right use of that content.

In the year 2000, Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, then Superior General of the Society of Jesus, delivered a landmark address entitled “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education” at Santa Clara University. In it, he raises the question, what is the “whole person” that Jesuit institutions seek to form? His answer: “Tomorrow’s ‘whole person’ cannot be whole without an educated awareness of society and culture with which to contribute socially, generously, in the real world… Students, in the course of their formation, must let the gritty reality of this world into their lives, so they can learn to feel it, think about it critically, respond to its suffering and engage it constructively. They should learn to perceive, think, judge and act for the rights of others, especially the disadvantaged and the oppressed.” In other words, we educators in the Jesuit tradition are not to be in the business of producing well-oiled machines—people who can efficiently and effectively “do the work” of their discipline but without regard for the larger human context in which they operate.

The “whole person” is not a self-sufficient entity. So educating the whole person will involve more than enabling the individual to do things, full stop. It will enable the person to do things in the service of humanity. This is a daunting task. But the Ignatian tradition holds a promising avenue of approach: confidence in the goodness of human nature. What our students need most from their education is an awareness of the problems that face humanity, and they will rise to the occasion. But this cannot be simply a “textbook” awareness, an “academic” understanding (in the worst sense of the word). It requires, in the words of Fr. Kolvenbach, letting “the gritty reality of this world into their lives.”

Spurred on by the sentiments expressed by Fr. Kolvenbach and others, faculty and administrators at Jesuit Universities across the nation have developed a remarkable array of responses to the call for justice in education. Mary Beth Combs and Patricia Ruggiano Schmidt have recently edited a volume of collected essays entitled Transforming Ourselves, Transforming the World: Justice in Jesuit Higher Education that gathers many of the best examples of the progress made in our institutions in the last decade and a half.  This book is a great source of inspiration and ideas for bringing students of a wide array of disciplines into contact with the “gritty reality” of the world so that students not only learn the content of a course but also begin to discover possibilities for its meaningful application in the service of justice. I highly recommend it as a starting place for thinking about whether and how to make your course and/or program a more transformative, justice-centered endeavor. For those who wish to brainstorm possible immersion projects for their courses, the Reinert Center staff is always happy to help.  SLU also has an outstanding Center for Service and Community Engagement, which can help connect you with community partners well-suited to the projects you have in mind. All of these resources can ease the process of getting students immersed into the “gritty reality of the world” so ready to hand in our own back yard.

Teaching with Technology Forum

PrintThe Reinert Center has started a new series aimed at helping faculty and graduate students consider ways to incorporate technology into the classroom. Each semester, we’ll offer three short sessions focusing on one teaching issue or strategy involving technology.

Seating is limited and advanced registration is required. Register online here:

The sessions for this semester are as follows. All are from Noon to 1:00 pm in Des Peres 213.

February 19, 2014: Using Poll Everywhere for Simple Instant Feedback

Poll Everywhere is an online tool offering instructors a simple way to poll students for understanding or opinion. Students can respond instantly and anonymously to instructor created polls by using any device they own.


March 19, 2014: Collaboration with Google Docs

This session will explore strategies and techniques to use Google Docs in support of collaborative student projects.


April 9, 2014: Social Bookmarking for Classroom Use

Online Tools such as Pinterest make it easy to gather, organize and share information. This session will look at quick, easy tools to facilitate resource development for classroom use.

Faculty Invited to Submit Applications for Innovative Teaching Fellowships

PrintFaculty Invited to Submit Applications for Innovative Teaching Fellowships


This year, all applicants will be required to take part in a Pre-Application Workshop and a Pre-Submission Instructional Design Consultation.


The Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning announces the next call for applications to teach in the Learning Studio, an experimental, technology-rich classroom located in Des Peres Hall. Applications are due Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. For a comprehensive overview of the Innovative Teaching Fellowship program, the revised application process and updated application forms, visit the Reinert Center website

Applicants are required to attend a Pre-Application Workshop, held during the week of Jan. 27-31, 2014, and sign-up for a required Pre-Submission Instructional Design Consultation, held during the week of Feb. 10-14, before interested faculty members’ applications will be considered complete.

Registration is required to attend a Pre-Application Workshop. Interested faculty should register for one of the following sessions online by 5 p.m. on Friday, January 24, 2014:

  • Wednesday, January 29, 2014 from 10-11 a.m.
  • Wednesday, January 29, 2014 from Noon-1 p.m. 
  • Thursday, January 30, 2014 from 1-2 p.m.
  • Friday, January 31, 2014 from 11 a.m.-Noon

All Pre-Application Workshops will take place in the Learning Studio in Room 213 of Des Peres Hall.

For this call, completed fellowship applications should be emailed to Mary Cook at or delivered to Pius XII Memorial Library, Suite 221 by no later than 5 p.m., Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. Successful applicants will be notified by 5 p.m. on Monday, March 3, 2014.

The Learning Studio is a state-of-the-art teaching space designed by a team of Saint Louis University faculty and students as part of the Herman Miller Learning Spaces Research Project. The Learning Studio provides flexible furniture combined with a range of innovative features and technologies, and seats up to 25 students at a time. By leveraging the instructional design assistance provided by Reinert Center staff and the unique features and technologies in the room, full-time faculty teaching in the space will have a chance to experiment with innovative teaching strategies to create engaging and interactive learning experiences.

Current, full-time, permanent SLU teaching faculty interested in developing instructional approaches that effectively optimize the use of the Learning Studio’s features and technologies are invited to apply for the Innovative Teaching Fellowship.

The Fellowship includes funding for a one-semester, one-course reduction in teaching load to allow the recipient time to redesign an existing course or to design a new course to be taught in the Learning Studio in the semester immediately following the course release. For this call, the course-release semester would take place in the fall 2014 and fellows would teach in the Learning Studio during the spring 2015 semester.

Priority consideration will be given to applications that:

  • Include creative ideas for maximizing the use of the Learning Studio space and technologies to support student learning;
  • Contain a method for assessing the impact of the proposed (re)designed course;
  • Identify ways to serve as an instructional model for use by other SLU faculty; and
  • Identify possible ways to contribute to the research on teaching in innovative, technology-rich spaces.
  • Are from full-time faculty who have not previously received the Fellowship; please note: No faculty member may receive an Innovative Teaching Fellowship in two consecutive years.

To download application forms, visit the Reinert Center website, and to learn more about the Learning Studio and its amenities, visit at the Learning Studio website

Reflections on the Winter Institute


Last week, the Reinert Center hosted its annual Winter Institute, a day-long series of workshops focused on our theme for the year, The Art and Science of Learning.  In spite of the snowy morning, approximately 75 faculty and graduate students turned out to learn more about how learning works and how they can structure engaging, effective learning experiences.

The morning began with a lively keynote address by Donna LaVoie, Ph.D., Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Psychology.  The keynote, entitled, “What Makes for Effective Teaching? A View from Cognitive Science,” was intended to summarize how adult cognition works and to provide a conceptual basis from which to choose effective instructional strategies .  As Dr. LaVoie explained, research has long shown that active learning is important, but many of us don’t always understand why that is so.  Central concepts from the literature on the interplay between attention, working memory, and long-term memory can help to answer that question.

LaVoie’s keynote address served as a touchstone for the rest of the day, which featured breakout sessions from SLU faculty:

Jennifer Ashley (Aviation Science), Russell Blyth (Mathematics and Computer Science), and Sarah Patrick (Epidemiology) engaged participants in a robust discussion on the topic of “Crafting Learning Experiences: Experiential, Problem-Based, and Active Learning.”

Amber Hinsley (Communication), Milta Little (Geriatrics), and David Pole (Interprofessional Education) shared their experiences assigning and assessing critical reflection in the classroom in a session entitled, “Revisiting Reflection: Critical Reflection at SLU.”

And Lenin Grajo (Occupational Science and Therapy), Kasi Williamson (Organizational Studies), and Lisa Willoughby (Psychology) described the role of personal context, personal experience, and personal values in shaping one’s teaching philosophy in “The Teaching Philosophy in Action: Shaping Classroom Practice.”

Finally, the day closed with an interactive workshop on “Assessing Non-Traditional Projects,” facilitated by the Reinert Center’s Gina Merys and Debra Lohe.

If you’d like to listen to Dr. LaVoie’s keynote, you can find the audio on our Audio Resources page on our website.

If you were unable to join us, or just wish to learn more about topics discussed, the following references might be useful:

A Faculty Focus Special Report on “Effective Strategies for Improving College Teaching and Learning,” Weimer. (LINK:

How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching, Ambrose et al. (2010).  (LINK:


Beyond the Semester’s End

Printby Debie Lohe, Director, Reinert Center

Another semester is coming to a close.

You have stacks of exams and papers to grade, final grades to calculate.

You have holiday shopping to finish, pending travel plans and family obligations.

You’re tired, and cold …. maybe you have a cold.

At this point in the academic year, it’s easy to feel worn down, easy to feel you didn’t live up to the high hopes you had, only four short months ago, for the deep, transformative learning you were going to foster in your students.  In this last stretch of grading, it can be tempting to read students’ papers and exams for what isn’t there – to focus on where they fell short.

But I find that it’s more interesting to read for what is there, to look for traces of all that your students have learned, how many things they can synthesize, how far they’ve come in four short months.  It’s even more interesting to imagine what they’ll be able to do next, beyond this semester and this one course, because they’ve learned these things.

This week, as you finish up your grading and begin to recover from the fall semester, I hope you’ll play “detective” while reading your students’ work.  Identify concrete things you can see them doing, and think back to the concrete things you did to get them there.  See if you can identify what you’ve learned along the way.

The evidence that you’ve had a transformative effect on your students is all around you this week, in the stacks of exams and papers and projects.  See the act of reading them as a small reward.  Let it carry you into next semester with renewed energy and passion for teaching.

From everyone in the Reinert Center, we wish you a restful, peaceful season.