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For my first post to the CTL blog, I wanted to share some resources with the larger UVM community as a follow-up to my Sound (Teaching) Bite this week that offered a few strategies and tools for educators to help students assess their own learning styles and abilities to read, comprehend, understand, and learn course materials.

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The focus on getting students in gear for learning is really about preparing students to become their own active learning agents—accountable for and engaged in the process of learning.

As with creating courses, the course objectives are the first step. Before we go there, here are some guiding questions I shared to help with this discussion:

  1. How do you know if your students are understanding, comprehending, and learning their course reading material?
  2. How do you get your students to do the readings?
  3. How do you know your students are learning and absorbing content? 
    Guess what? They may not know either!
  4. How do I help students be accountable for their learning process? I propose that with consistent assessment and evaluation deeper learning can happen.

So how do we do this? Remember, as mentioned above: 

Evaluation needs to connect to learning objectives.

As you start this process, ask yourself, why are you evaluating? 

To make sure that students prepare for classroom discussion? (formative)

To prepare students to succeed on class exams? (summative)

Here are a few tools for evaluating student learning: 

  • Anonymous quizzes for “just in time teaching” (JiTT) – formative assessment
  • Readiness assessment tests (RATs) or online mid-semester and end-of-year survey (ungraded) – formative assessment
  • Pre- and Post- exams (graded) – formative and summative assessment
  • Using iClickers in the classroom – formative assessment

Examples and resources for preparing students to succeed and help them get to know their learning process:

Reader’s Guide
Developed by Tiffany F. Culver, PhD this reading guide is a great tool that you can adapt and give to students as a helpful roadmap to help them figure out what they are reading. It is broken down into 3 parts: Planning (preparing students to focus), Reading (how to read – techniques to help with retention), and Evaluate (promoting critical thinking). This 1 page guide (2 sided) is helpful to all students and makes reading accessible and efficient. It also makes me wish I had something like this when I was in college! 

Reading Strategies
In this blog post, MindTools authors provide helpful tips and resources for pulling out the important information when reading (including info on mind-mapping for active reading). What I like about this post is that it breaks down the process of “Reading Efficiently by Reading Intelligently” and looks at how the technique for reading efficiently changes based on the type of material that is being studied and provides tips along the way.

Using Reading Prompts to Encourage Critical Thinking
In this article on Faculty Focus, Maryellen Weimer, PhD reviews highlights from Terry Tomasek’s book, The Teaching Professor and takes a look at  using reading prompts to help students read and write more critically. The prompts in the book are organized into six categories to assist students connect to and analyze what they are reading. Here are the categories: Identification of problem or issue, Making connections, Interpretation of evidence, Challenging assumptions, Making application and Mechanics.  

Making the Review of Assigned Reading Meaningful
In this article, Sarah K Clark, PHD gives us 4 strategies to promote meaning making when reviewing assigned readings both in the classroom and at home. I really appreciate her candid writing about the importance of engaging students, especially when it comes to assigned readings. Sarah shares techniques and ideas that have been helpful to her in her class: The Top Ten, Secondary Sources, Journaling, and Divide and Conquer (for larger size classes)

Key Terms: Assessment
In this blog post from the Bok Center at Harvard University, assessment is highlighted and examined in reference to student learning. This post offers some assessment-related tips to get you started in measuring student learning.
Here is another from the Bok blog that speaks directly to the question “How Do We Measure [Student] Learning?”

Authentic Learning
Marilyn M. Lombardi talks about the important role of assessment in relation to successful teaching and learning in this EduCause Learning Initiative paper – Making the Grade: The Role of Assessment in Authentic Learning.
Here is a clip from the abstract that captures the heart of this paper, “Educators who strive to bring authentic learning experiences to their students must devise appropriate and meaningful measures to assess student learning and mastery of concepts at hand.” 

More information about Assessment—Formative and Summative by Richard Swearingen at Heritage University, take a look at

*Don’t forget about the
Writing Center at UVM, and the
UVM Learning Co-op in L/L
These are helpful resources on campus to share with your students to help enhance their writing skills and to get assistance with studying. 

By providing students the tools and resources to guide their learning, they can begin to assess their own process, making themselves active agents in their own learning process. Which in-turn helps students by giving them a sense of what skills they may need support to strengthen in order to succeed. 

Next Steps:

If you would like to sit with a member of the CTL to talk about ways to use these tools to assess your students, request an appointment by emailing If you would like to contact me (Henrie Menzies) directly, send me a note at

A recent New York Times article on effective study techniques also points the way toward good course design that supports learning and retention of material and concepts. For me, the real “takeaway lesson” of this article was that diversity of stimulus associated with learning is a key element in information retention. How many of us throw up our hands when we get students in advanced classes who have forgotten basic ideas from their intro sequence? Reading this article, it becomes even clearer that weaving key concepts throughout our courses, testing students’ knowledge of the same concepts frequently, and linking concepts to each other are all important aspects of increasing learning and retention of those concepts as students move through their coursework.

Here’s the link:

We’ve come to expect innovative ideas from CHNM and this week has been no exception. Funded by a grant from the NEH, the One Week/One Tool project’s intent was to bring together twelve practitioners in the digital humanities to decide on, and develop, a useful tool. The project was announced in June 2010 and the event was held in late July. True to the premise, Anthologize was delivered at the end of the One Week. There were several finalists that we hope will be developed in future.
Anthologize is a plugin for the WordPress blog application. It allows one to collect their own blog posts, or import blog posts from others, combine them, and produce a text. Currently the text formats are ePub, PDF, TEI, and RTF. An active community has sprung up around the project, contributing bug reports and feature suggestions. Work will continue on what promises to be a simple but useful tool.
There are several educational uses that immediately spring to mind:
1) Bringing together class blogs from a course
2) Collecting individual student’s blog posts as a ‘takeway’ for students
3) As an assignment or class project, having students search and compile posts on a topic
4) For organizations, an easy way to compile news and updates from the year as a document for use in applying for, or continuing, grant funding
5) Using WordPress as a drafting space, then compiling the results as a TEI document for forther markup and processing (Your WordPress postings do not have to be publically posted: you can build Anthologize documents from drafts)
6) Teaching students the importance of creating their materials digitally, especially using standards like TEI. Digital, done right, means multiple opportunities for repurposing.
7) Pulling together blog postings for a quick ebook that can be downloaded to your ereader device for offline reading.
8) Building course packs or readers of relevant articles
9) Building a CV or portfolio of your own work, or teaching your students to do the same for their own eportfolios
I’m sure we will all be thinking of more as the program develops. Meanwhile, here is a short video of Anthologize in action. It’s done without audio overlay as a way to show how easy it is to use, though I’ve also highlighted some of the current bugs that are already being addressed.
Unnarrated Screencast of Anthologize
If you are at UVM and would like to try it, contact me and I’d be happy to get you started (, Center for Teaching and Learning, UVM).

Perspectives on intellectual property in higher ed vary widely and the one expressed by this speaker (15 min. video) favors the open education movement and places the idea of information as personal property to be protected in an historical context that’s both controversial and interesting. I’d be curious to hear thoughts and reactions to it from our community.

The speaker is Dr. David Wiley, Associate Professor of Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University, at TEDxNYED, a March 2010 conference on new media and education held in New York City.

Because of some recent trouble with spam filtering, we’ve had to turn the comments feature off, but please feel free to email me ( and I’ll post your reply.

The Center for Cultural Pluralism will celebrate its 10 year anniversary on January 29, 2009. The Center has announced their spring programming, which includes guest speakers Dr. Lee Kneflekamp speaking on “MicroAgressions in the Classroom” (Jan. 30) and Dr. Scott Page, “The Science of Complex Systems and Systems Scholarship” (Feb 2009). For a full list of films, workshops and events visit their web site.

The Office of the President and the Office of the Associate Provost for Multicultural Affairs and Academic Initiatives are hosting a multi-day celebration honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Most notably, human rights advocate and community activist Martin Luther King III will speak on Thursday, Jan. 22 at 4 p.m. in Patrick Gymnasium. For details about all events, please visit the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Academic Initiatives web site.

This fellowship program is designed as a seminar to help faculty develop a strong background in service-learning pedagogy. By developing a service-learning course, participants will strengthen service-learning knowledge and skills. Fellows will meet every other week during the Spring 2009 semester for 2 hours and commit to offering a service-learning course within a year of completing the program.

To learn more about the program, visit the CUPS web site

Applications for the Fellowship program are due November 7,2008.

oxford_union.jpgThe Economist (Economist.Com) is sponsoring a series of debates on the future of education. Each debate topic considers the educational impacts of technology, globalization, and changing nature of social relationships. The third (and final) debate, which runs from from January 15th through January 25th, focuses on “social networking,” specifically on the proposition :

Proposition: Social networking technologies will bring large [positive] changes to educational methods, in and out of the classroom. .

The debate is based on an online variant of the Oxford Debate rules – each speaker has three chances to advance his view – an opening statement, a rebuttal, and a final summary. Observers (who must register) may participate, mainly though a discussion with the moderator who will raise relevant points to the debaters. In addition, Observers may also vote for the side of the proposition they most agree with.

Read the rest of this entry »

UVM is participating in Focus the Nation, a national educational initiative of faculty, staff, students and community members at over a thousand colleges, universities, and high schools in the United States. The goal is to collaboratively engage in a nationwide, interdisciplinary discussion about “Global Warming Solutions for America.”

UVM Focus the Nation events will take place Sunday, January 27 – Friday, February 1, 2008. Events will include faculty lead Teach-Ins, workshops, round table discussions, and visually engaging “Image Events” such as carbon calculators and art installations. UVM students are taking the lead on organizing these events – no small task! If you would like to develop a workshop or teach-in please email or

For a schedule of events (continually updated), please visit UVM Focus the Nation.

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