Teaching on/and Sexual Violence

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214by James Fortney, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

From March to November 2017, the freestanding blog “Conditionally Accepted” will feature a series of weekly posts about sexual violence and higher education. Published first on the Inside Higher Ed website, authors are invited to contribute intersectional perspectives and personal accounts of sexual violence across institutional contexts (e.g., teaching, research, and policy). Each entry supports three primary goals, “to amplify the voices of survivors of sexual violence that occurs in academic contexts, to aggravate the academic status quo that facilitates sexual violence, and to advocate for meaningful change in classrooms, research, departments, and at conferences” (“Conditionally Accepted,” 2017).

The following blog posts are particularly useful for instructors who are teaching about sexual violence and/or looking for supportive ways to respond to students who have experienced sexual violence:

  1. Teaching Rape Culture” (3/10/17)
  2. Teaching about Sexuality, Violence and Power” (3/17/17)
  3. Responding to Students’ Trauma Disclosures with Empathy” (4/7/17)
  4. Talk with Students about Sexual Assault” (4/7/17)
  5. Addressing Sexual Violence in Science” (4/14/17)

These entries are willfully vulnerable in ways that encourage the awareness, reflection, and action needed to create structural and culture changes in higher education. I recommend taking time to read and consider them in the context of your own teaching. If you would like to discuss ways to navigate the topic of sexual violence with your students, please feel free to schedule a teaching consultation with someone in the Reinert Center. You may also wish to share your thoughts on this topic with others in the comments section below.



Conditionally Accepted. (2017, May 1). Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/users/conditionally-accepted


6th Annual Learning Studio Symposium

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214On Wednesday April 19, 2017, Innovative Teaching Fellows presented at the Paul C. Reinert, S.J. Center for Transformative Teaching & Learning’s 6th annual Learning Studio Symposium.  Past and current Innovative Teaching Fellows shared their experiences with course redesign and with teaching in 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:

  • Amber Knight, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Political Science, presented thoughts about how the space of the Learning Studio impacted her course, Universal Design in Practice.
  • Jeffrey Wickes, PhD., Assistant Professor in the Department of Theological Studies, presented on key aspects of designing and teaching his course, “Music, Poetry, and Religious Identity.”
  • Dr. Simone Bregni, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Italian and the Coordinator of the Italian Studies Program in the Department of Languages presented on his course, ITAL 1200, Intensive Italian for gamers.  His presentation explored the challenges and the successes of developing a content-based, focus-interest-driven hybrid/blended elementary intensive language course through backward design and scaffolding.
  • Amber Hinsley, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication, detailed how her students used the physical transformability of the classroom to create collaboration spaces that fostered greater engagement in her course, Social Media as Professional Tools.
  • Cathleen Fleck PhD., Associate Professor in the Art History Program of the Fine and Performing Arts Department, presented on a new course she created, ARTH 2070 Art and the Body.  The course examined the study and depiction of the divine and human body in art from medieval to modern times as a general introduction to art history with a focus on how art and science interact and on how the body has been perceived in art.
  • Chris Carroll, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering within Parks College of Engineering, presented on how wireless presentation capabilities of the Surface Pro coupled with skeleton files changed the dynamic of his course, Structural Analysis.
  • Dyan McGuire, Ph.D., J.D., Associate Professor in the Criminology & Criminal Justice Program in the School of Social Work, shared some highlights of her course, CCJ 2050: Multiculturalism for the CJ Professional, and the Learning Studio helped support the content of her course.

After the symposium, attendees met to talk more about the Innovative Teaching Fellowship to as well as teaching in the Learning Studio. 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, 2017.


Resource Guide: Two Paths to Student-Created Rubrics

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214by Gina Merys, Associate Director, Reinert Center

Using rubrics to aid in the assessment of written assignments can be an inclusive teaching practice, when students have access to that rubric before beginning a project. Including students in the creation of that rubric can increase students’ agency in their learning as well as enhance the rubric’s usefulness for learning.

Below are two possible ways an instructor could include students in creating rubrics for written projects.

Path One: Starting with a Draft

One approach to student-created rubrics is for students to begin by working with a draft rubric the instructor has already created for the specific project. This method is especially helpful for students who have not had much experience with rubrics or who are new in their role as college students. The draft rubric provides a baseline for structure, organization, and standards while promoting an expectation for alteration.

An example project for this path

Students read through the draft rubric in groups identifying the key terms as well as those terms that are unclear. Then, each group makes revisions to the rubric as they see fit. The instructor compiles those suggested revisions into a second draft rubric and submits it to students for one more round of revision, this works well as a whole class activity. Then, the instructor submits a final rubric to the class for approval.

Path Two: Starting with Learning Objectives

A second approach to student-created rubrics is for students (either individually or in small groups) to begin by working with the learning objectives of the project and create a rubric that assesses those objectives. This method often works best with upper-level or graduate students who have more experience translating project expectations into an artifact of learning and have had more practice working with rubrics to achieve those expectations.

An example project for this path

Students read and discuss the project’s learning objectives and guidelines set by the instructor. They identify the key concepts and skills embedded within the objectives and describe what it might “look” like to achieve the ideal version of those concepts and skills, keeping in mind all alternative ways to achieve that ideal, within the guidelines of the project. Once they have described the ideal, they then describe the    less successful alternatives and why these alternatives would be seen as achieving lower degrees of success. Instructors could either choose to allow students each to use their own rubrics, after a process of revision and approval in cooperation with the instructor, or to compile the rubrics in some way and return the compiled version to students for further stages of revision and final approval.


Stevens, Dannelle D. and Antonia J. Levi. Introduction to Rubrics, 2nd Ed. Sterling: Stylus, 2012.

Walvoord, Barbara E. Assessment Clear and Simple, 2nd Ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010.

For more information or to discuss how you might incorporate these ideas into your courses, contact the Reinert Center at cttl@slu.edu.

Strategies to Enhance Empathy Development in College Teaching

inclusive teaching banner_FINALby Chris Grabau, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

The ability to practice empathy has become a popular topic lately.  As an important component for inclusive teaching and a crucial interpersonal skill necessary for a the 21st Century job market (Markham, 2016; National Research Council, 2013), empathy is often defined as a combination of behaviors that include affective perceptions, cognitive processes, and effective communication practices.  In short, empathic persons can practice and prioritize a very basic human need; the need to be understood (Rogers, 1957).

Empathic individuals exhibit many behaviors including an ability to accurately perceive feelings and attentively listen without judgement (Wiseman, 1996).  Empathy is considered a crucial component to the development of emotional intelligence and has been attributed to greater academic and career success (Anders, 2013; Goleman, 2006; Jones, et al., 2014).

Although there are a number of effective evidence-based teaching strategies to help develop empathy behaviors in K-12 education, a growing body of research on empathy development in university teaching is starting to emerge.  In 2016, Everhart, et al., published a white paper identifying five strategies for integrating empathy into the university service-learning experience.  Although their report is not an exhaustive list of the available techniques to increase empathy in university student learning, their universal teaching strategies may help inspire opportunities for empathy development within any discipline.  Their strategies include:

Strategy 1: Give students experiential opportunities for building empathy.  Create occasions in which students can develop personal connections with others through hands-on experiences and direct interactions.  Also, create opportunities for indirect service by creating projects designed to connect with the outside community.  Projects may include creating websites, research reports, or other marketing materials.

Strategy 2: Incorporate empathy into students’ reflection.  Include empathy-related questions into students’ formal or informal reflection activities.  Have students take an “empathy self-assessment” at the beginning and ending of the semester that prompt students to reflect on their empathic perspective related to the course.  Also, consider adding an empathy component to the “What? So What? Now What?” reflection heuristic to help students reflect on their empathic awareness.

Strategy 3: Teach the empathy toolbox.  Model behaviors that promote empathic communication.   During classroom discussions, practice active listening and other evidence-based strategies to promote inclusive classroom discussions.  Finally, consider incorporating “cognitive complexity” as a focal point for class discussions and reflections.  Help students see that situations, social issues, and even individuals are complex and often defy simple definitions or explanations.

Strategy 4: Assess and reimagine classroom culture and design.  Consider how classroom design influences student engagement.  Create small group circles for in-class discussions or a series of circles for larger classes.  Sit among students instead of standing in front of them during discussions.  Also, bring the “outside-in” to class discussion by incorporating real world perspectives into classroom discussions.   Finally, incorporate learning activities that encourage self-awareness, perspective-taking, and interpersonal engagement.

Strategy 5: Add empathy to your learning objectives and graded coursework.  Treat empathy as a valuable component to learning.  Include empathy as one of the goals for your course, or include empathic learning as an explicit objective in class assignments and projects.  Show that empathy matters to your profession.  Assign informal writing devoted to empathic development or provide additional readings addressing empathy and your academic field.

If you would like to discuss how to incorporate empathy development into your teaching, please complete our online form to request a consultation or call us at (314) 977-3944.


Anders, G. (2013). The Number One Job Skill in 2020. linkedin.com. Retrieved 11 April 2017, from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20130611180041-59549-the-no-1-job-skill-in-2020

Everhart, R., Elliott, K., Pelco, L. E., Westin, D., Briones, R., & Peron, E. (2016). Empathy activators: Teaching tools for enhancing empathy development in service-learning classes.

Goleman, D. (2006). Emotional intelligence. Bantam.

Jones, S. M., Weissbourd, R., Bouffard, S., & Kahn, J., & Ross, T. (2014). How to build empathy and strengthen your school community. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Markham, T. (2016). Why Empathy Holds the Key to Transforming 21st Century Learning. MindShift. Retrieved 11 April 2017, from https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2016/11/16/why-empathy-holds-the-key-to-transforming-21st-century-learning/

National Research Council. (2013). Education for life and work: Developing transferable knowledge and skills in the 21st century. National Academies Press.

Rogers, C. (1957). The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic change. Journal of Consulting Psychology 21, 21-103.

Wiseman, T. (1996). A concept analysis of empathy. Journal of advanced nursing, 23(6), 1162-1167.

Giving Students Agency: A Resource Guide

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214by James Fortney, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

Feeling a sense of agency, or “the intention and capability to take action with respect to one’s learning,” can be an empowering experience for students (Clarke et al., 2016, p. 30). However, many instructors find it challenging to design courses that give students multiple opportunities to act in this way. When developing a course, consider how its structural components (e.g., policies, assignments, deadlines, expectations, etc.) might work to foster a greater sense of agency for your students.

Here are three ideas to get you started:

  • Give students options. Create opportunities for students to make choices about their learning throughout the semester. For example, if you assign ten reading response papers with one due at the beginning of each week, ask students to only turn in eight of those papers for an actual grade.
  • Involve students in creating rubrics. Create opportunities for students to help identify and define criteria for their assessment. One way to do this is to involve students in creating rubrics for course activities, assignments, or projects. By helping develop their own assessment tools, students may have a greater understanding of the assignment and feel more empowered to complete it.
  • Ask students for feedback. Create multiple opportunities for students to give feedback about their learning throughout the course. Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching offers several strategies for gathering this type of feedback from your students (e.g., in-class, online, and group feedback). You can also contact the Reinert Center to request a Small Group Information Feedback (SGIF) session, a short focus group with students initiated at the request of an instructor and intended to collect anonymous feedback that can be acted upon in the current semester.

For more information or to discuss how you might incorporate these ideas into your courses, contact the Reinert Center at cttl@slu.edu


Clarke, S. N., Howley, I., Resnick, L., & Rosé, C. P. (2016). Student agency to participate in dialogic science discussions. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 10, 27-39.

Hyslop-Margison, E. J. (2004). Technology, human agency and Dewey’s constructivism: Opening democratic spaces in virtual classrooms. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 20, 137-148.

Lindgren, R., & McDaniel, R. (2012). Transforming online learning through narrative and student agency. Educational Technology & Society, 15, 344-355.


For more information or to discuss how you might incorporate these ideas into your courses, contact the Reinert Center at cttl@slu.edu

Discovering Student Metacognitive Learning Strategies Using the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214by Chris Grabau, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

Understanding college student’s internal motivations toward learning can provide useful insight when both designing and teaching a course.  While there are a growing number of tools designed to investigate student motivations towards learning, the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ) offers a social cognitive perspective to investigate metacognitive learning strategies. Developed in 1991, by Paul Pintrich, David Smith, Teresa Garcia and Wilbert McKeachie, at the University of Michigan, the MSLQ is a reliable open-source survey instrument designed to “assess college students’ motivation orientations and their use of different learning strategies for a college course.”

The MSLQ investigates a general cognitive perspective on motivation and self-regulated learning.  The instrument includes 81, 7-point Likert-type questions that are separated into two broad categories: motivation and learning strategies. Although each of the two categories are divided into 15 sub-categories related to motivation and learning, the survey is modular allowing the instrument to be customized to suit the specific needs of the instructor or researcher.

Listed below are a few sample questions in order to get a sense of the metacognitive-themed questions included in the MSLQ instrument:

  1. I prefer class work that is challenging so I can learn new things.
  2. Even when I do poorly on a test I try to learn from my mistakes.
  3. Compared with other students in this class I think I know a great deal about the subject.
  4. I worry a great deal about tests.
  5. Understanding this subject is important to me.
  6. When I study for a test, I try to put together the information from class and from the book.
  7. When I do homework, I try to remember what the teacher said in class so I can answer the questions correctly.
  8. I ask myself questions to make sure I know the material I have been studying.
  9. It is hard for me to decide what the main ideas are in what I read.
  10. When work is hard I either give up or study only the easy parts.

Although the MSLQ may take a little effort to learn to administer, the manual provides instruction on how to utilize and amend the instrument in order to suit the needs of the instructor or researcher.

Using an instrument like the MSLQ at the beginning of a course may offer insight into students’ motivation towards learning, attention and memory.  The results may also inform course design, lesson creation, and instruction.  Additionally, an instrument like the MSLQ may help provide an opportunity for students to reflect on their own metacognitive strategies for learning.

The manual for the MSLQ is in the public domain and is available online.  The instrument can be used for valid research purposes as long as it is appropriately cited.  If you would like to discuss how to incorporate metacognitive learning strategies into your course design, please complete our online form to request a consultation or call us at (314) 977-3944.



Duncan, T. G., & McKeachie, W. J. (2005). “The making of the motivated strategies for learning             questionnaire.” Educational Psychologist40(2), 117-128.


Pintrich, P., Smith, D., Garcia, T. & McKeachie, W. (1991). A Manual for the Use of the Motivated          Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, National Center for Research to Improve Post-Secondary Teaching and Learning.


A Few Texts for Teaching To and Within the Jesuit Catholic Mission

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214We frequently get asked for recommendations on books to help people learn more about mission-focused teaching and Ignatian pedagogy. The following is a short list of five texts that can help anyone from novice to expert learn a little bit more in this area of teaching.

Bergman, Roger. Catholic Social Learning: Educating the Faith That Does Justice. New York: Fordham University Press, 2011.

Combs, Mary Beth and Patricia Ruggiano Schmidt, Eds. Transforming Ourselves, Transforming the World: Justice in Jesuit Higher Education. New York: Fordham University Press, 2013.

Eifler, Karen E. and Thomas M. Landy, Eds. Becoming Beholders: Cultivating Sacramental Imagination and  Actions in College Classrooms. Collegeville, Liturgical Press, 2014.

Gannett, Cinthia and John C. Brereton, Eds. Traditions of Eloquence: The Jesuits and Modern Rhetorical Studies. New York: Fordham University Press, 2016.

Traub, George. W. A Jesuit Education Reader. Chicago: Loyola, 2008.

If you would like to discuss ways to incorporate mission-focused approaches or Ignatian pedagogy in your courses, schedule a consultation with someone in the Reinert Center.

The Graphic Syllabus

inclusive teaching banner_FINALby Debie Lohe, Director, Reinert Center

The syllabus is a fraught document. It needs to do different kinds of work, for different kinds of audiences, and often these differences seem downright contradictory. Although a dominant metaphor for the syllabus is that of a contract, other metaphors also apply – and often resonate more with faculty: the syllabus as promise, invitation, roadmap.

A tension always exists between the practical matters of a course and what matters most in that course. For many of us, what “matters most” has little to do with the policies and procedures portions of a syllabus; rather, we care deeply about the arguments being made in the course, the story being told about our discipline or some aspect of our field. For students, it can be difficult to see the things that matter most to us. Certainly, they struggle to really understand the underlying structure of a course. As Linda Nilson explains in The Graphic Syllabus and Outcomes Map [LINK], these things are “usually hidden, at least to the novice, by the linear, piece-by-piece way that students encounter the topics throughout the semester” (28).

To help students better understand the deeper structures of a course (and by extension of a topic of study), Nilson recommends the graphic syllabus — a visual representation of some portion of the syllabus that can convey structures and connections between/among course material and that can spark student engagement in some new ways. Finding alternative ways to represent a course can be as simple or as complicated as an instructor wishes to make it. Concept maps offer nice schematics, as do graphic organizers and what Nilson refers to as “visual metaphors.” Here are links to some examples:

Concept Map:


Graphic Organizers:


Visual Metaphors:


As you can see, there’s a kind of “mapping” of the relationships and interconnections of course content, though none of these examples will fully replace, say, a linear course calendar. You might think of the graphic representation as a supplement to your overall syllabus, not necessarily a replacement for a detailed accounting of what’s-due-when. The graphic offers students a way of conceptualizing the course and its contents. (Click these links to see a Before version [LINK] and an After version [LINK] of a text and graphic representation of a course calendar.) Some instructors even ask students to “map” the course at the end of the term, as a way of helping students see – and represent – their learning in the course.

If you’re feeling the need for a new way to talk about or represent what matters most to you in your courses, consider adding a graphic representation.

Book Review: Democracy and Education Reconsidered

admin-ajaxby James Fortney, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

John Dewey’s seminal Democracy and Education is arguably one of the most influential books on education published in the twentieth century. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of its publication, a recent volume proposes “ways of revising Dewey’s thought in light of the challenges facing contemporary education and society” (Garrison, Neubert, & Reich, 2016, p. 1). In Democracy and Education Reconsidered: Dewey After One Hundred Years, the authors work to reconstruct and re-contextualize Dewey’s educational philosophy through various themes, theories, and teaching situations that speak to the democratic issues of our time. Specific attention is given to matters of educational diversity, such as class, race, gender, and disability that were not directly touched upon in Dewey’s original work.

On the contribution of Dewey’s work to the topic of educational diversity, the authors write,

Democracy and Education is essentially a program against discrimination in all possible            forms. Dewey was critical of all forms of social injustice in his time and he often             addressed issues of inequalities that threaten democratic living together…His insistence     on the idea of equal opportunities in society and education and his powerful definition            of education as personal and social growth that must include all in a democracy stand        against exclusions, divisions, and compartmentalizations that obstruct communication     and exchange between individuals, groups, and societies. It is a strong argument for   living in and with diversity” (p. 192).

For Dewey, education and democracy must never be separated. The inclusive and sustainable participation of all people in education is foundational to a functioning democratic society. The authors of Democracy and Education Reconsidered carefully reconstruct and re-contextualize the enduring relevance of this core philosophy. For readers already familiar with Dewey’s work, the “reconsidered” volume offers a fresh perspective on his ideas for education today. For those new to Democracy and Education, it is a concise overview of the thematic contributions of Dewey’s one-hundred-year-old text for both the philosophy and practice of education.

If you would like to discuss Dewey’s educational philosophy and how it might inform your own teaching philosophy and practice, you can complete our online form to request a consultation or call us at (314) 977-3944.


Garrison, J., Neubert, S., & Reich, K. (2016). Democracy and education reconsidered: Dewey after one hundred years. New York, NY: Routledge.

Learning Styles Mini-Literature Review

inclusive teaching banner_FINALby Sandy Gambill, Sr. Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

The idea that individuals learn in different ways has been around for centuries. “As early as 334 BC, Aristotle said that “each child possessed specific talents and skills” and he noticed “individual differences in young children.” (Reiff, 92.)

Research on learning styles in the 1970s (Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model)  and 1980’s (Honey and Mumford’s Managerial Model) coalesced in the 1990’s as Neil Fleming developed The VARK Questionnaire. VARK deals with  four primary learning styles. Visual learners prefer to see diagrams, maps and graphics. Auditory learners prefer lectures or hearing explanations. Those who have the read/write style, prefer information written out, while kinesthetic learners prefer active learning experiences such as simulations or demonstrations. These four styles can overlap in individuals who have multimodal style.

The VARK Questionnaire is presented online as an interactive tool that lets you answer a few questions to determine your preferred learning style. For example, my results came back visual: 6, aural: 2, read/write: 8, and kinesthetic: 4, meaning that I have a “mild read/write learning preference.” Once you have completed the questionnaire, VARK suggests study strategies matching your style.

Many teachers have used VARK with their students, so it is not unusual to encounter a student in a class who is very vocal about having a learning style and feeling they can’t learn in other ways. Although the terms learning style and learning preference are used interchangeably in the literature, it is important to help students draw a distinction if they believe their style is set in stone and they can’t learn in other ways.  For example, students who  believe they can only learn through a visual style may question why you are not using PowerPoint or posting your notes online, even if that doesn’t fit with the pedagogy of the course. You may need to have a conversation with them about study strategies for their course, such as making their own diagrams from their notes.

VARK also features a teaching style questionnaire. Contrast my results here with my learning style preference: visual: 3, aural: 8, read/write: 5, kinesthetic: 2. This indicates I have a “mild aural teaching preference,” which is really at odds with my read/write learning preference. In fact, as a learner, I scored lower in the aural category than any other. As a teacher with an aural style, I need to think about what I like as a learner and make sure I’m not just saying something in class once and expecting students to get it. Tasks such as remembering to put assignments in writing, rather than just talking through them in class become very important.

While the jury is still out on whether or not learning styles actually exist, or that mapping your instruction to specific learning styles helps learners, (Pashler, McDaniel, Rohrer, and Bjork, 2008), there is growing interest in learning styles as a tool to create a more inclusive classroom.  Consider having your students use VARK to determine their learning style. Then take the teaching style questionnaire yourself. Are your teaching strategies in sync with the way your students believe they best learn? If not, how can you bridge the gap?

If you want to learn more about learning styles, explore these resources.

  1. Reiff, Judith C., Learning Styles. What Research Says to The Teacher Series.

  2. David Kolb http://learningfromexperience.com/

  3. Honey and Mumford: https://www.talentlens.co.uk/assets/lsq/downloads/learning-styles-questionnaire-80-item.pdf

  4. Neil Fleming’s Vark: http://vark-learn.com/

  5. Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence. Pasher, McDaniel, Rohrer and Bjork. Psychological Science in the Public Interest.

  6. Learning Styles and Pedagogy in post 16 learning: a critical review . Learning and Skills Research Center.

This blog post is part of the Reinert Center’s 2016-2017 focus on Inclusive Teaching. To learn more about the year’s theme, and about programs and resources associated with it, see our webpage on Inclusive Teaching [LINK]. To talk with someone about how you can design and teach courses in more inclusive ways, contact the Reinert Center at cttl@slu.edu.