Adopting a “Growth Mindset” for Your Own Practice

by the Reinert Center Staff
POD Logo

Last week, several members of the Reinert Center staff attended the annual conference of POD – the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education, the premier professional society for people who do what we do.  Much of the conference focused on the field of educational development – the research, practices, and habits of mind that guide teaching center professionals – and we found ourselves stretched and challenged and nurtured as we learned new ways to think about our own practice.  However, a number of sessions also were targeted specifically for a teaching audience; these sparked numerous ideas we wanted to share with the faculty and graduate instructors we serve.  Here, we offer a few highlights.

Creating Low-Tech, High-Impact Connections

Chris Grabau

One of my favorite takeaways while attending POD came from a session titled, “Low-Tech, High-Impact Asynchronous Development for Busy Faculty.”  Led by staff from Western Kentucky University and the New York Institute of Technology, the session presented a few low-tech ways to facilitate substantive dialogue among faculty.  By utilizing “push technology” tools like Google Groups and listservs, faculty can facilitate a discussion via email with a small group of people for a set period of time.  Unlike a meeting or webinar, the email-based format is familiar for faculty and can provide an opportunity to participate in a way that is conducive to busy schedules.  I really like how this low-tech, asynchronous approach creates a new forum for discussion, but I also think it would be useful for faculty to learn for themselves.  Consider this: It could be a useful strategy to better engage with students, create graduate reading groups, or even facilitate discussion within different departments and interests.


Fostering Student Learning through Inquiry

Jerod Quinn

One of the workshops that really caught my attention was one called, “Freedom to Explore: Helping Faculty to Support Student Learning Through Inquiry,” presented by Susan Shadle and Andy Goodman of Boise State University. A question or issue stimulates inquiry-based learning. It involves students in the construction of new knowledge and understanding. In inquiry-based learning, the teacher’s role is one of a facilitator and there is a move towards students’ self-directed learning. The facilitators of the workshop had us work through two different examples, one from poetry and the other from anatomy, to demonstrate that inquiry-based learning is not discipline-dependent. Shadle and Goodman outlined four basic types of inquiry, each with its own range of difficulty:

  • Information-responsive asks, “What is the existing answer to this question?”
  • Information-active asks, “What is the existing answer to my question?”
  • Discovery-responsive asks, “How can I answer this new question?”
  • And discovery-active asks, “How can I answer my question?”

The workshop facilitators also offered a framework to begin thinking about how to get started creating inquiry-based learning projects. This seems like a great approach to help students learn to build their own knowledge base and encourage lifelong learning. Consider this: If you are thinking about flipping your classroom, an inquiry-based framework could help answer the question, “So, what do the students do during class?”


Addressing Diversity in the Classroom

Michaella Thornton

“How do we manage our discomfort when confronted with cultural issues we may not know how to discuss?” This was a key question posed in this special-interest group session. The dozen or so college-level educators and faculty developers who attended this meeting had many thoughtful ideas, two of which really struck me:

  1. The role of “localizing content” in learning, and
  2. Why crafting a collection of community-based personal identity narratives may help the larger college or university begin an important conversation of who the learning community is and what it often takes for students, faculty, and staff to get here

“Localizing content” is the process of contextualizing and customizing topics, concepts, and questions by having faculty and students translate what these ideas may look like within disciplines, learning communities, and various identities. For instance, Penn State Harrisburg’s Faculty Center storytelling project, World Wide Narratives, asks students, faculty, and staff to share personal stories to discover what others’ journeys in higher education look like and sound like to begin a larger, more inclusive conversation about diversity. SLU offers two similar opportunities for students, Share Your Story: First-Generation College Student and Una’s “Tell Your Story” initiative. Consider this: Teach and model to students how and why “localizing” a discipline’s values, contexts, and key concepts is vital to both their understanding of a discipline’s concepts and materials and for better understanding and discussion of how cultural issues affect teaching, learning, and our communities: be it on- or off-campus or online.


Moving from “Failure” to “Learning”

Debie Lohe

One really noteworthy session was the last workshop of the conference, “Flipping the Mindset: Reframing Fear and Failure as Development Catalysts,” facilitated by Diane Boyd (Furman) and Traci Stromie and Josie Baudier (Kennesaw State).  This session took Carol Dweck’s notion of fixed and growth mindsets as a springboard for inviting us to shift from thinking about “failure” to thinking about “learning”.  People with fixed mindsets often have trouble with failure – and failure, the workshop facilitators reminded us, is simply a mismatch between expected outcome and actual outcome – whereas those with growth mindsets experience such occasions as opportunities to stretch themselves, to evolve, to learn.  In the session, participants were challenged to think of a recent experience that didn’t go as planned and to apply an IDeAS framework: Identify what didn’t go as planned; Debrief about the expectations we had for the initial experience and what we did to get back on track; Analyze how it felt, how we reflected, and whether the experience was part of a larger pattern; and finally to Strategize what we might do differently in the future.  This very Ignatian approach to reflecting on experience seems well-suited to SLU faculty and to reflection on teaching.  Consider this: Think of a recent experience with your students where you thought they would do one thing, but instead, they did something else. Apply the IDeAS framework to reflect on the experience and to identify things you could do differently in the future to achieve a different result.

If you want to brainstorm some ways these insights might inform your own teaching practice, please contact us at or share your thoughts in the comments section.

*Image courtesy of

Connecting the Dots of Practice: How One Program Improved a Collaborative Wiki Assignment

Visual representation of connecting dots. Image courtesy of Hyperakt

Visual representation of connecting dots. Image courtesy of Hyperakt.

by Kim Levenhagen, Assistant Professor, Physical Therapy

A year ago my colleagues and I in the Program in Physical Therapy piloted a wiki project to thread concepts from earlier and current coursework.  We have continued with this project, albeit with some improvements.  This project stretches the students to scaffold previously learned information in order to move from recall to application into clinical practice.  The objective of the wiki project is to assist the students in recognizing “why” the content is pertinent for their future practice.  Because each medical condition is multifaceted, the wiki assists the students to recognize the complexity of the disease process and all of the factors that impact patient care.

For those of you unfamiliar with a wiki, it is a website in which a community of users can add and delete content collaboratively.  Wikispaces is a secure dedicated wiki website that remains private until the collaborators are invited by the designer.  No one outside of the classroom has access unless invited.  For this wiki project, four students are randomly selected into a group and assigned a topic/pathology.  The students are required to recall, integrate, and apply information when discussing the pathophysiology, diagnostics tests, pharmacologic treatments, and implications to physical therapists.  The students are assessed on content, citations, ease of navigation, and grammar.  Students are required to collaborate and integrate key concepts necessary to developing their clinical reasoning utilizing technology.

Last year, I reflected on several barriers, which resulted in the limited success of the project.

These included:

  1. Poor understanding of the purpose or value of the project
  2. Poor recall of previously learned concepts
  3. Inability to accept imperfection and learn from their errors

After meeting with a focus group and reflecting on comments from a mid-year review by the Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning and on course evaluations, my colleagues and I implemented several changes.  The following will reveal lessons learned and the steps we took to improve the project.

We made a number of changes early in the semester to improve student understanding regarding the purpose of the project.  These changes included an email sent collectively to the students explicitly stating the purpose of the wiki project.  In addition, we developed detailed directions on each of the course webpages and syllabi.  On the first day of class, we provided an overview of our expectations and resources to address frequently asked questions from the previous year.  We enhanced the rubric to model our expectations for the project.  Finally, we provided a sample project with a sample rubric.  This sample project illustrated common errors and how points would be deducted.  As a result of these changes, we have had fewer questions regarding the purpose or how to complete the project.  The projects are improved with enhanced content and details.   Students have stated the project assists them in realizing the importance of the course content in becoming better practitioners.   Overall, the student feedback reflects a more positive experience with the changes.  As one student commented, “Great way for many people to view created ‘web-pages’ and an easy way to work as a group on a project since we have such different schedules.”

To assist with recall, I had several students, who were physiology tutors, and had successfully completed the course, construct study guides or mini Tegrity lectures on previously learned concepts.  A study by Cortright et al (2005) found that peer instruction enhances meaningful learning of information and therefore, improves a student’s ability to problem solve.  Students who had previously completed the course guided and enhanced the learning of students currently enrolled in the course.  In addition, these students, acting as peers, could provide insight on why the content would be meaningful for future coursework and clinical practice.

We attempted to address student imperfections and learning from errors by providing more written feedback.  The students receive feedback from each course coordinator through a collaborative rubric on Blackboard Learn.  This technique helps to clarify expectations from content experts.  In addition, students provide feedback on the collaborative learning experience, which facilitates the development of self, and peer assessment.  As students move toward clinicals or employment, it is imperative they develop the skills to receive formative feedback and implement this feedback into their daily practice.  Our goal is to have students move from reflection on action to reflection in action by the time they graduate.  This project allows for students to begin the process for critical thinking by giving real-world relevancy in a safe environment.

The wiki project offers flexibility of access and fosters autonomous student learning.  Although we utilize wiki spaces for a pathophysiology course, it can be applied to any course content.  The implemented changes have guided the students towards greater success in problem solving.  This use of technology provides the students a multimodal approach to learning.  By modeling expectations and explicitly stating objectives, we can focus students on their development through integration of coursework into current practice.

To read about Kim’s earlier wiki-teaching experiences, please visit her December 2012 blog post, “Helping Students Connect the Dots Using a Wiki”

2013 James H. Korn Award Recipients

DSC_0055The Reinert Center is proud to announce this year’s recipients of the James H. Korn Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award, the Teaching and Learning Team from Interprofessional Education.

Members of the team include:
Irma Ruebling (Director of the IPE Center), Rebecca Banks (Social Work),  Judy Carlson (Nursing),  Ginge Kettenbach (Physical Therapy),  Kathy Kienstra (Radiation Therapy), Mary Kreiger (Library), David Pole (Community & Family Medicine); and Nina Westhus (Nursing).

The research conducted by the Interprofessional Teaching and Learning Team included assessment of student learning outcomes and the assessment of the knowledge, attitudes and skills of students in relation to interprofessional practice. The team also completed a comprehensive plan that included quantitative and qualitative methods to examine the effectiveness of the core curriculum in shaping attitudes, knowledge, and skills for future health care providers as well as longitudinal tracking of students through the educational experience, including the classroom-based, team-based simulation, and clinical components.

The James H. Korn Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award is an annual award established in recognition of Dr. Korn’s many contributions to research on teaching and learning. Professor emeritus in Psychology, Dr. Korn is deeply committed to scholarly teaching; he was also a member of the faculty committee that first established the Reinert Center in 1997.  Faculty from across the university nominate their peers for the award, and a committee of faculty decide the winner each year.

This year’s award-winning team of scholar-teachers was honored at an award ceremony and reception on the evening of Tuesday, November 5, 2013.

A call for nominations for the 2014 award will be circulated in May, 2014.

The Reinert Center Recognized as a Finalist for POD Innovation Award

Open Studio thumbnailby Michaella Thornton, Assistant Director for Instructional Design, Reinert Center

Last week in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the 38th Annual POD Network Conference, Reinert Center Director, Dr. Debra Rudder Lohe, presented her findings on “The Open Studio: Extending the Traditional Workshop” as one of 24 POD Innovation Award nominees.  The creative idea that Debie shared with others in Pittsburgh, focused on how the Reinert Center creates,  “dedicated time for faculty to apply lessons learned to their own teaching situation” after Center-sponsored events, workshops, and facilitated conversations.

The “open studio” concept was judged by a committee of POD Network members and assessed on four criteria: originality, scope and results, transferability, and effectiveness. Of the 24 projects nominated for this award, the Reinert Center was one of five finalists. This is quite an accomplishment considering that the POD Network is the organization dedicated to “advancing the research and practice of educational development in higher education since 1976.”

Congratulations to Debie and the Center for being selected as finalists for the Innovation Award!  Special thanks to Chris Grabau and Jerod Quinn, instructional designers, for designing the excellent supporting materials for this project (e.g., poster and one-sheet). And special thanks to all the SLU faculty who have attended an Open Studio session and provided feedback on the experience.

To read more about the “open studio” concept, and why the Reinert Center uses this approach, please click the following link: POD2013_Innovation Award Onesheet.

Teaching the Graduate Seminar

Printby Gina Merys, Assistant Director, Reinert Center

In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, “Student-Centered Graduate Teaching,” the author asks, “if most academics want to teach graduate students, why do so few of us think hard about how to do it?” (Cassuto, 2013). While I disagree with the premise that instructors of graduate seminars do not diligently plan their classes, I do think there is something to his question. It gets to the heart of a real concern; not that we do not think about how to teach a graduate seminar, but that, as compared to scholarship on undergraduate pedagogy, there is precious little scholarship about graduate pedagogy. As Cassuto points out, the graduate seminar has become the last space where it is acceptable to still function with teacher-center teaching, over-filling the course with content to the point that students cannot really learn the material, or using the “beach-ball method” whereby with little planning or solid goals, the instructor throws out an idea and lets it bounce randomly from student to student, relying solely on their ability to catch and throw ideas to sustain the discussion.

In an effort to begin a new conversation about strategies for teaching graduate seminars, I offer “Six Ideas for Teaching Graduate Students” collected by Berkeley’s Center for Teaching and Learning:

1. Clearly establish learning goals for a seminar. Faculty often do this for undergraduates, but mistakenly think that a graduate seminar should be more free-flowing or organic.

2. When appropriate and feasible, work with the students to set the direction of the class.

3. Ask students to write a short “intellectual autobiography.” This is a deeper form of the first day questionnaire that is used in undergraduate classes. Some graduate students are fresh from undergraduate experience, while others are older with a variety of experiences. It is helpful for both the instructor and the other students to understand the variety of backgrounds in the class.

4. Even if the material is new to most students, don’t lecture in a seminar. Depend on their doing background reading so that the time can be spent in discussion and analysis. For some topics, assign a presenter and a respondent, students who will be responsible for kicking off the discussion.

5. Make sure that students understand the context in which this course is set. Surveys have indicated that graduate students, even those who have been in a program for several years, do not understand the processes involved in a graduate program.

6. Consider the various roles of the faculty member. In any graduate seminar, the faculty member is not only teacher, but also frequently student, as well as mentor and advisor.

“At no level—least of all at the level of graduate education—do I think of my primary mission as the conveying of information that can as easily be read in books, presented on tapes, or called up from databases. I am always aiming to teach how to do something, to teach a mode of action. On the level of graduate seminars and the advising of dissertations, the formulations of the questions themselves and of appropriate methods for answering them become the principal focus of attention for student and teacher alike.” –Anthony Newcomb, Distinguished Teaching Award Winner, 1989, UC-Berkeley

Share your thoughts and ideas about teaching graduate seminars in the comment section.


     Cassuto, L. (2013, November 4). Student-centered graduate teaching. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from

University of California at Berkeley’s Center for Teaching and Learning. (n.d.). Teaching graduate students. Retrieved from

Why Won’t Students Read for Class?

Textbook imageby Debie Lohe, Director, Reinert Center

This question arises frequently in conversations with faculty from all disciplines and at all levels of teaching.  Although we’re quick to blame our attention-deficit culture – they’re too busy texting! – the fact is many students don’t do the reading for our classes because we haven’t actually taught them how.

Rather than “why won’t they read?” perhaps the more interesting question is “why don’t they?”

While there are many answers to this question, here is one of mine:

They don’t “do the reading” because they don’t know what we mean by “do the reading”.

As experts in our fields, we are pros at what I think of as “reading strategically.”  We skim when necessary, picking out the important concepts and data almost effortlessly.  We skip when necessary, reading past multiple examples for concepts we have already grasped.  And finally, we read with a motive in mind: typically we seek out the material we read because we know it will help us answer a burning question or prove a hypothesis or more fully appreciate the complexities of a topic.

Disciplinary novices don’t read this way – unless we teach them to do so.  And if they don’t know that this is what we mean by “reading,” they may see the task as motivated by a completely different goal: to put their eyes on every single word on every single page and to remember them all.  That’s a pretty daunting task, especially if they have to “read” for every course.

The fact is, our students often don’t know that reading a geology textbook is a fundamentally different act than reading a novel, or a procedure manual on flying an airplane, or primary research papers in biology.

If you find yourself frustrated with students who “won’t” read for class, ask yourself how you would like them to read.  Then, tell them that.  A little guidance on how to read strategically might just do the trick.

Do you have other ideas about why students don’t or won’t read for class?  Do you have strategies for getting them to do it?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Closed Books Exams: Relic or Relevant?

Printby Sandy Gambill, Instructional Designer, Reinert Center

ProfHacker, a blog about “teaching, technology, and productivity” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, never fails to make me think.

This week, coming off midterm exam period at SLU, they have me thinking about closed book exams.

Are closed book exams still relevant in a world where memory has been offloaded to a device in your pocket?  What are we testing with closed book exams?  Join the conversation at

Can creative thinking be taught?

DSC_0003by Debie Lohe, Director, Reinert Center

This was the underlying question at Dr. Russell Carpenter’s workshop last week on Applied Creative Thinking.  Dr. Carpenter’s work suggests it can, and his recent book, Teaching Applied Creative Thinking, helps us to better understand how we might do so.  As I’ve reflected on the workshop and on the strategies laid out in this book, I’ve also been thinking about why it’s important to try.

Along with coauthors Charlie Sweet, Hal Blythe, and Shawn Apostel, Carpenter presents nine creative-thinking strategies that can be applied across a broad range of disciplines and contexts: perception-shifting, piggybacking, brainstorming, glimmer-catching, collaborating, going with the flow, playing, recognizing patterns, and thinking metaphorically.

For each strategy, the authors provide definitions, examples, and what they call “tactics for implementation” – specific kinds of activities and exercises faculty can adapt to help students to think more creatively.  Often, these strategies require students – all of us, really – to think in new ways about what class time is for and to live with a bit more fluidity and ambiguity than we might generally be comfortable with.  But the discomfort produced by fluidity and ambiguity is crucial to deep, transformative learning, particularly of the sort we aim for in the context of a Jesuit education.

No matter what our disciplinary background, no matter how specialized our work, creative thinking strategies can help us get outside of our own perspectives and imagine that fixed and certain ideas are changeable.  As teachers, we all know how powerful learning can be when students’ perspectives suddenly shift, when they find an unorthodox solution to an entrenched problem, or imagine an alternative reality and then work to make it so, or feel empathy for someone who seemed, only moments ago, radically “other” to them.

St. Ignatius privileged the role of the imagination in his prayer life and in the Spiritual Exercises.  For him, the work of the imagination was not separate from spiritual life: it was an essential element of the spiritual life.  Imagination was the cornerstone of deep connection and meaningful discernment. For those of us teaching in Jesuit universities, it also is an essential element of Ignatian pedagogy.

Do you have activities or exercises you use to get students thinking creatively?  Share them in the comments section on this blog.

Want to learn more about how you can integrate applied creative thinking in your own teaching?  Stop by the Reinert Center.  We’re always happy to help you imagine alternative ways of teaching – and of managing the discomfort that comes along with that!

Piloting New Technologies in the Classroom

Printby Michael Lewis, Associate Vice President for Faculty Development, Associate Professor of Chemistry

This past summer I was offered the opportunity to pilot the use of a chemistry molecular drawing application for iPads in the course, Principles of Organic Chemistry II.  The application itself, ChemDraw, is not new; it is the standard in the field of Organic Chemistry.  However, the iPad version is new, and the company that owns the software saw this as an opportunity to expand into the area of higher education.  All students were provided with iPads containing the ChemDraw program from the software company.  I don’t want this blog post to focus so much on the details of the pilot; as expected, there were issues, but overall it went relatively well.  Rather, I want to discuss the broader topic of piloting a new technology in the classroom.

The most important consideration I had going into the pilot was that the technology did not get in the way of the overall learning goals of the course.  Certain topics had to be covered, and the pilot technology could not prevent or hinder those topics from being presented to the students in a manner conducive to learning.  Of course, this is a fairly low bar.  I’m basically saying I did not need the technology to add anything to the course; I just needed it to not get in the way.  Still, given the considerations I will discuss below, meeting this low standard was sufficient.  Ideally, I was hoping the pilot technology would add something new and useful to the course that enhanced student learning, and I believe this happened.

While the above consideration was paramount, the excitement in participating in the pilot was due to the pedagogical opportunity to work with the software developers to improve the product moving forward.  The application was in a decent form in terms of having added value for the course, but there was significant room for improvement.  I was able to suggest changes to the company that will make the product more functional to instructors using it to teach Organic Chemistry, as were the students in the course.  Perhaps more importantly, I was able to convince the company to broaden the platform beyond iPad to a web-based application.  This will make the ChemDraw application much more accessible; almost all students have a mobile device that can access the internet, though not all of them will have an iPad.

Related to the consideration of making the software better for use in an Organic Chemistry course in general, I was also cognizant of optimizing the product for the purposes of my teaching approach.  Specifically, last Spring semester I taught an Organic and Biochemistry course for Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy students, and I flipped the classroom; student acquisition of the basic content of the course was moved outside the class period, and we used the class time to work and discuss example problems.  The course went very well; however, in reflecting on how the course could be improved it lacked in making the class discussion inclusive for all students.  Not surprisingly, large numbers of students did not participate in the discussion, and although class participation increased throughout the duration of the course, there was certainly room for improvement.  The ChemDraw application immediately struck me as a possible solution, since it allowed students to draw answers and email them to me in real time.  So students who were not comfortable raising their hand to discuss the material could draw structures, and I could share them with the class anonymously.  Thus, for me, the greatest benefit to participating in the pilot was finding, and helping develop, a product that will truly benefit SLU students in future courses I teach.

There are quite a few considerations in participating in a pilot.  While it is imperative the piloted technology not inhibit the content delivery, I believe it is important to enter the pilot with the possibility for tangible benefits to the instructor and to SLU.  I went into this pilot hoping to find a solution to the primary issue I had in flipping the classroom: significantly enhancing the number of students participating in the class discussion.  I feel confident the piloted technology will help address this issue, and I was able to suggest modifications to the application that will help make it possible.

The Art and Science of Learning



by Gina Merys, Assistant Director, Reinert Center

During the 2013-2014 academic year the Reinert Center is focusing on the theme, The Art and Science of Learning.  During both the fall and spring semesters, we will be offering programs and events highlighting approaches to and research on knowledge making.  We will focus on a broad range of topics, including: Ignatian Pedagogy, using learning technologies, service learning and more.

For instance, on Thursday, October 10, 2013 we will be hosting Dr. Russell Carpenter who will be conducting a workshop for faculty and graduate students entitled, “Applied Creative Learning: Innovative Approaches for Teaching and Learning.”  This interactive workshop will introduce the idea of applied creative thinking while distilling research on creativity and whether creative thinking can be taught. Participants will be prompted to consider the place of creativity in their own disciplines and will be introduced to practical strategies for teaching students to think creatively. This session will provide hands-on “play” time for participants to identify practical ways they can teach students to think creatively in their own disciplines.  Register by clicking here.

Additionally, we are offering a new series of one-hour brown bag Teaching with Technology Forums; a series of short interactive sessions aimed at exploring how technology might be used in support of a teaching goal.  For information about individual session topics and to register visit our events page.

Several of our Effective Teaching Seminars focus on aspects of the theme as well.  One such ETS session entitled, “Creating an Effective Learning Environment,” will be facilitated by Drs. Ann Hayes and Darina Sargeant (Physical Therapy).

We will also have more offerings focused on the theme for the spring semester, including our annual, day-long Winter Institute on January 9, 2014.  This year’s Institute will feature Dr. Donna LaVoie (Psychology, and Assoc. Dean of Arts and Sciences) as our keynote speaker as well as several faculty led breakout sessions on a variety of topics.

Stay informed about all of our programs and events by visiting our events page; we add new offerings quite frequently.