Going Far Together: The Benefits of Participating in a Faculty Learning Community

“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”

Faculty learning communities (FLCs) provide a fail-safe place for university educators with a common interest in innovative teaching and learning practices to go far together. FLCs are interdisciplinary groups of 6 – 15 faculty members who engage in a long-term collaboration focused on building community, engaging in scholarly teaching, and promoting the scholarship of teaching and learning (Cox, 2004; 2014; Engin & Atkinson 2015; Rands , Bender, Gillette & Orgler 2017). The benefits of participating in a FLC are inherent in the three keystone elements that comprise its definition.

Community Building

University faculty members tend to work in isolation particularly when it comes to the closed-door activity of teaching. Indeed, universities provide several professional development opportunities for faculty members to come together to discuss evidence-based instructional best practices through workshops, seminars and brown bag luncheons. However, interactions among faculty in these professional learning offerings are short-term (Bhavsar et al. 2018). FLCs provide a long-term opportunity for faculty to engage actively in the process of discussing and reflecting on innovative instructional practices in a supportive environment.

FLCs, as communities of practice, thrive on the human need to connect around shared interests and experiences. They do this by limiting membership in order to build a cohesive, supportive group. Members meet regularly; biweekly or every three weeks to share ideas about best practices in specified teaching-related topics. As important as discussions of best practices are, the greater part of the functioning of FLCs is to build supportive relationships among participants. Cox (2014) outlined ten qualities that are crucial for community building in FLCs. They ranged from “trust and safety” to “collaboration” and “enjoyment” (p. 19). With regard to enjoyment, Cox advocated that FLC members enjoy social moments together, and of course, food and snacks should be staple at every meeting. The sense of trust and safety that characterizes community building in FLCs encourages participants to share teaching successes and vulnerabilities in a safe and trusting discursive space.

Engaging in Scholarly Teaching

Scholarly teaching denotes critical reflection on systematically collected research on a teaching-related topic with the purpose of effecting positive change in student learning (Porter &Kustra, 2011).  FLC participants come together to discuss innovative, evidence-based practices for addressing commonly shared teaching and learning problems or issues. The sense of community that is developed within the group creates the impetus for participants to throw open the classroom door, so to speak, and peer into one another’s teaching space.

When colleagues from different disciplines and with varying levels of teaching experience come together to investigate research-based strategies for addressing a shared teaching problem on a continual basis, the eventual outcome is student learning success (Cox, 2014). Moreover, the process of sharing, analyzing and reflecting on teaching practices is a self-renewing, professionally invigorating experience for the participants themselves. Participants in a FLC on using iPads as a teaching and learning developed their confidence and knowledge of how to apply the technology in the classroom (Engin & Atkinson, 2015). Participants in a first-year faculty learning communities on teaching effectiveness and scholarship felt 100% confident in their teaching effectiveness compared to 74% level of confidence among non-participants (Bhavsar et al. 2018). Furthermore, Cox (2014) identified participants’ “increasing awareness of differing teaching and learning styles” as one of the outcomes of Miami University’s FLC program (p. 10). The preceding reports exemplified Kelly’s (2008) comment, “No matter how long you have taught, there is always something you can learn from colleagues” (p. 1).

Promoting the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Boyer (1990) advanced the scholarship of teaching as an integral element of the work of the professoriate. The name has been updated to represent the interdependent relationship between teaching and learning (Kern, Mettetal, Dixson & Morgan, 2015). Scholarly teaching and the scholarship of teaching and learning are interrelated, but they are not identical. FLC participants come together to investigate evidence-based practices for solving a teaching-related problem within the context of a particular institution. The goal is to advance teaching excellence and student learning success.

Promotion of the scholarship of teaching and learning happens when the peer-reviewed product of the research inquiry of a FLC becomes part of the knowledge base in teaching and learning in higher education (Porter & Kustra, 2011; Kern et al. 2015; Cruz, Cunningham, Smentkowski &Steiner, 2019). To illustrate, Rands et al. (2017) described the trajectory of a workshop–the Team-Based Learning (TBL) Workshop—into a TBL FLC and eventually, into TBL Scholars. The TBL Scholars group comprised TBL FLC members who wanted to advance their interest in TBL practices to scholarship. Rand et al. reported that the Scholars Group’s contributions to the knowledge base in team-based learning consisted of posters, presentations and workshops at conferences, peer-reviewed articles, and four funded grant proposals. This is the essence of the power of FLCs to help faculty go far together in a community of practice that sustains scholarly teaching and the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Do you want to tap into the benefits of FLCs?

Look out for upcoming CTL FLC proposals! Also, see the Call for Proposals for Spring 2020 pilot of The Applying Learning Technology Community — @ALT Community http://blogs.oregonstate.edu/osuteaching/2020/02/11/call-for-proposals-spring-2020-pilotthe-applying-learning-technology-community-alt-community/


Bhavsar, G. P., Grote, K., Galvan, M. C., Tyutina, S. V. Guan, S. A., & Stapleton, L. D. (2018). Evaluation of first-year faculty learning communities on teaching effectiveness and scholarship: An exploratory study: The Journal of Faculty Development, 32 (2), 23-29.

Boyer, E.L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Princeton, NJ: Jossey-Bass.

Cox, M. D. (2004). Introduction to faculty learning communities. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 97, 5-23.

Cruz, L., Cunningham, K., Smentkowski, B., & Steiner, H. (2019). The SoTL scaffold:            Supporting evidence-based teaching practice in educational development. To Improve the   Academy, 38(1). 50-66

Engin M. & Atkinson, F. (2015). Faculty learning communities: A model for supporting curriculum changes in higher education. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 27(2), 164-174.

Rands, M.L., Bender, H., Gillette, M.T., & Orgler, L. (2017). The role of faculty learning communities in supporting team-based learning. The Journal of Faculty Development, 31(3), 61-67.

Kelly, R. (2008). Faculty learning community brings together diverse group to discuss asynchronous learning and trends. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/faculty-development/faculty-learning-community-brings-together-diverse-group-to-discuss-asynchronous-learning-and-trends/

Kern, B., Mettetal, G., Dixson. M.D., & Morgan, R. K. (2015).The role of SoTL in the academy: Upon the 25th anniversary of Boyer’s scholarship reconsidered. Journal of the Scholarship for Teaching and Learning, 15(3), 1-14.

Porter, M. K. & Kustra, E. D. H. (2011). The relationship between scholarly teaching and SoTL: Models, distinctions and clarifications. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 5(1), 1-18.

Funmi Amobi is an instructional consultant and college liaison in Oregon State University’s Center for Teaching and Learning. Funmi provides consultations to faculty in individual and small group settings to support teaching excellence and student success. Join Funmi for Spring 2020 CTL LINC Sparkshop Lunch Series.  To schedule a Sparkshop call Funmi @ 541 737 1338 or email: Funmi.Amobi@OregonState.edu

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To OSU Faculty Engaged in Teaching, Learning or Evaluation of Teaching

In fall 2019, the Advancement of Teaching (AOT) Committee of the OSU Faculty Senate proposed a framework to represent principles encompassing multiple approaches and practices to instruction. The Quality Teaching (QT) Framework document is currently under review, and the AOT is seeking your input.

We invite you to attend a public forum to provide comment. Currently, fourteen forums are offered to solicit feedback about and influence revisions of the document. Each forum targets attendance from a specific interest group (based on roles at OSU) but any member of the community may attend any session.

The interest groups include:

  • learning as undergraduates
  • learning as graduate students
  • teaching in non-classroom settings
  • teaching in classroom settings
  • evaluators of teaching
  • professional development providers of teaching

Before electing to participate please keep in mind the following:

  • The forums are intended to collect feedback about the document content as a product or tool.
  • The forums are not intended to discuss how the tool will be used (wrt: promotion, tenure, teacher evaluation, etc.).
  • There are face-to-face and Zoom forums for each interest group.
  • Each forum is limited to 1 hour.
  • Face-to-face forums are limited to 40 participants; Zoom 12.
  • Please review the QT Framework prior to attending a forum.

*Alternatively, or in addition to participating in a public forum, community members may complete a Qualtrics Survey to provide input.

All feedback is sought by March 13 in which all substantive feedback will be incorporated. The final working draft of the QT Framework will be presented to Faculty Senate for discussion in Spring 2020 with intent to adopt the QT Framework university wide by June 2020.

Please use the following links to:

Thank you,

Advancement of Teaching Committee, Faculty Senate


QT Framework: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1IKjzE2WOKOlofI-SSRf2KDQe0IkAsb_yFMk2AGTnqLw/edit?usp=sharing

Attend a public forum: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yJE3rovJc4elwwUyYzKD-p5ccUpqkejA2fXbgIQL0GQ/edit?usp=sharing

Complete the Qualtrics Survey: https://oregonstate.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2glQNA3DcitCZ8x

Track the QT Process:


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RAP ON: Making Metacognition Visible

[This is part of our series of Research Advancing Pedagogy (RAPblogs, designed to share the latest pedagogical research from across the disciplines in a pragmatic format]

The word metacognition is bandied around a bit. If you have been paying attention to the output of cognitive science it would be a hard one to miss. It is not often that you get to see a through measure of it in a classroom setting. One recent classroom based study ambitiously measured many different elements of metacognition and some key other factors as well. Here is what they did. Be prepared, there are some surprises in here with important implications for what students should know about this concept.

What did they do? In one of the most comprehensive studies of metacognitive behaviors, Hong and colleagues (2020) examined the study behaviors and exam scores of 1,326 undergraduate students. The students agreed to have they class information be used and took a large face-to-face biology course. The study spanned semesters over two years and was a basic introduction, designed to serve as prerequisite for upper level health science courses.

The students completed one survey at the beginning of each semester and this information was used to predict their exam scores in the class. The survey was hosted on their learning management system (LMS). CANVAS, BlackBoard, and Desire2Learn allow something similar too. The survey was used to collect basic information such as age, ethnicity, and year in school, and also the key variables of interest in the study. The researchers measured motivational variables including self-efficacy, achievement goals, task value, and cost. In a seemingly sneaky component, the students’ learning behaviors were scrutinized. The researchers got access, also with student permission, to the logs of student accesses to digital resources on the course site and collected exam scores after each semester. Students took four exams on paper. Each exam was multiple-choice and also had a few short essays.

Curious as to how the researchers measured metacognition? The researchers tapped into students’ metacognitive monitoring processes by looking at how and when students looked at the syllabi and study guides. These materials focus students on key content to be learned and specify the level of understanding needed for each content unit assessed by an exam. These can be used for planning study. Students could also monitor their learning by completing ungraded self-assessment quizzes. These low stakes, well no stakes assignments gave students a way to rehearse knowledge and obtain correctness feedback. Students could also monitor performance by checking grades (i.e., clicking on My Grades to view current points earned). In short, the LMS traces which monitoring tools the students used by capturing the frequency of students’ accesses. Notice how the key components of self-regulation– planning, monitoring, assessing- are all available for students in your LMS.

What did they find?  The complete study has a lot of interesting findings regarding how motivation is related to metacognition, but for our purposes, let’s hone in on planning and monitoring. The researchers found that students in the class could be divided up into two main groups. The first was a group only practiced self-assessment through repeated monitoring of their performance on ungraded quizzes. These quizzes were designed to also students to judge whether they knew the content. What is curious about this set of students is that they focused on self-assessment quizzes alone, almost not engaging in other available metacognitive processes.

A second group of students engaged only in planning using exam resources and checking of grades, with nearly zero self-assessment quizzing behaviors. Self-regulation gurus, would expect that the different types of metacognitive  behaviors- planning, monitoring, and judging – would be highly related, but that was not the case.

The proof of the pudding? The groups that showed metacognitive activity did better on their exams (see Figure 2 below). Low scores in the group showing little metacognitive processing is not surprising. We told you so.  It is odd that the real life classroom data showed a separation of planning and evaluation from monitoring via self-assessment, where the two groups also performed differently on the exams.

What does this mean for us?  Sadly, the majority of the students in this study (75%) made little use of LMS resources designed to aid their metacognition. More students need to know that everything they do on their course sites can be monitored. We instructors can tell when they looked at a page, how long they looked at it, when they took a quiz, and a whole host of other factors. The next time students go into their LMS (or think of putting it off), they should remember their action and inaction is visible to their professors. Perhaps knowing this information students may be less likely to put off use, but more importantly, perhaps they can leverage the tools at their fingertips to improve their metacognition to plan, monitor, and evaluate their own learning.

Hong, W., Bernacki, M. L., & Perera, H. N. (2020). A latent profile analysis of undergraduates’ achievement motivations and metacognitive behaviors, and their relations to achievement in science. Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/edu0000445

About the Author:
 Regan A. R. Gurung, Ph.D. is Interim Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Oregon State University and Director of the General Psychology program in the School of Psychological Science. Homepage
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Call for Proposals (Spring 2020 pilot): The Applying Learning Technology Community — @ALT Community

The Spring 2020 pilot of the Applying Learning Technology — @ALT Community will provide an opportunity for faculty participants to meet regularly to learn about and reflect on their teaching, with a focus on effective uses of learning technologies.  Community participants will investigate and provide learning technology solutions to a significant teaching-related problem of their choosing, as well as present/showcase their project deliverable.

OSU’s Center for Teaching and Learning and Academic Technology will provide $500 in professional development funds to faculty who:  

  • Fully participate in all meetings and online learning activities.
  • Create a plan for implementing their project deliverable in a Fall 2020 face-to-face course.
  • Present their project deliverable at the final (Showcase) meeting in June.
  • Serve as an ambassador for effective uses of ed tech within their academic unit.

The @ALT faculty learning community will include 5 face-to-face meetings as well as online learning activities.
Meetings will be Wednesdays, 2:00-3:30 p.m., on Apr. 8 and 22, May 6 and 20, and June 3.

Space is limited for the Spring 2020 pilot; selection of participants will be based on the faculty member’s proposal. Individual or teams of instructors and tenured/tenure-track faculty who teach on-campus (or on-campus hybrid), credit-based courses are eligible to participate. All proposals will be considered. Faculty with minimal experience implementing instructional technology or who have not yet engaged in OSU teaching-related professional development are particularly encouraged to apply.

Proposal Guidelines: 

Submit a narrative proposal of 1 full page, including these items in the following order:

  1. Your contact information and position title
  2. A description of your experience with learning technologies, such as Canvas, Top Hat, or Gradescope. Instructors with little experience or comfort using these technologies in their teaching are encouraged to apply.
  3. Identify a challenge in your teaching that might be addressed by incorporating a new technology tool or by changing the way you’re currently using a particular tool.
  4. Identify a course to be taught in Fall 2020 in which the ed tech solution will be implemented; provide the course designator and expected enrollment in the course.
  5. One or two sentences on each of the following topics:
  • Why you are interested in participating in the Spring 2020 pilot of the Applying Learning Technology – @ALT Community
  • Preliminary ideas for how instructional tech tool(s) will address the identified challenge
  1. Additionally, submit a statement from your supervisor that includes both:
  • Support for your participation in the Spring 2020 learning community pilot
  • Approval to implement your project deliverable in the identified course in Fall 2020.

Submission of Proposals 

Announcement of Award 

Decisions will be announced Tuesday. March 3, 2020. Upon acceptance, the instructor and the academic unit will sign an MOU with The Center for Teaching and Learning.  After satisfactory completion of the MOU requirements, funds will be transferred to the academic unit via an index designated in the MOU.

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Where Are All the Men?… In Higher Education Human Sexuality Courses

About the Author:  Kalina Lamb is a Health Psychology PhD student at Oregon State University researching sexual minority health and religion and health topics. She is passionate about health equity and inclusive education.  This is part of our series of Research Advancing Pedagogy (RAPblogs, designed to share the latest pedagogical research from across the disciplines in a pragmatic format

It’s no surprise that comprehensive sex education can lead to a number of positive outcomes including reduced STI incidence and unwanted pregnancy.1,2 What is surprising, however, is that not everyone may be benefitting from this type of education equally.

Beginning in adolescence, young men and women are treated differently when it comes to sex education.3 Compared to teenage boys, teenage girls tend to receive more comprehensive sex education both from their parents and their schools, and they tend to receive this information earlier.3 It would be one thing if we found that men were just slow to learn or engage with these topics, but these differences in quality and timing of education may be persisting and extending into the higher education spheres.

What did they do and find?

In a recent study, researchers at Clemson University4, found that women outnumbered men across 58 human sexuality courses taught at 51 four-year universities and colleges. The average female to male ratio in human sexuality courses ranged from 3/1 to 6/1. Furthermore, subsequent analyses of a subsample of these courses at Clemson University specifically revealed these differences were not adequately explained by the predominantly female majors (e.g., psychology and social sciences) in which these courses are typically housed.

Some potential reasons for these male to female discrepancies in human sexuality classes could be gender roles (e.g., masculinity norms) and stereotypes about human sexuality course content.4 Men may tend to believe that they don’t “need” human sexuality education, or that it’s a course that covers topics more oriented towards women. Regardless of what men believe about their own sex education, there may be practical benefits to increasing male enrollment in human sexuality courses. Specifically, instructors anecdotally report that class discussions are better when more men are enrolled.4 Furthermore, comprehensive sex education can improve academic success and prevent dating violence in youth; increasing male enrollment in human sexuality courses could lead to improvements in these areas on college campuses as well.

So what does this mean for practice? There are several solutions that institutions may wish to consider if they want to increase male enrollment in human sexuality courses:

  • Increased Marketing: Universities may benefit from promoting human sexuality courses to their students in a way that makes it clear that this course can benefit everyone. Departments that house human sexuality courses may want to consider targeted and purposeful recruiting efforts to enroll more men into these courses.
  • More Online Human Sexuality Courses: An interesting finding from the study was that offering more online human sexuality courses may increase male enrollment.4 This may be a good option to increase male enrollment, as it overcomes some masculinity concerns and provides some privacy and anonymity.
  • Making Human Sexuality a “Bacc Core”: A more extreme (but probably worthwhile) option to consider would be to make these courses required for all undergraduate students. Much like students are required to enroll in a history course, a math course, and a writing course to complete their general education or baccalaureate requirements, institutions may wish to consider adding Human Sexuality to the list.

Regardless of whether the solution is an extreme or more practical one, higher education institutions should be taking a closer look at their Human Sexuality courses and doing something to encourage male enrollment.


  1. Guttmacher Institute. (2017). American Adolescents’ Sources of Sexual Health Information.
  2. Szydlowski, M. B. (2015). Sexual health education and academic success: Effective programs foster student achievement. Advocates for Youth.
  3. Martinez, G., Abama, J., & Copen, C. (2010). Educating teenagers about sex in the United States. Hyattsville, MD: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 44.
  4. King, B. M., Burke, S. R., & Gates, T. M. (2019). Is there a gender difference in US college students’ desire for school-based sexuality education? Sex Education. 1-10.
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Apply Now for Your Spot in the Spring Hybrid Learning Community

Cherry trees blooming on OSU's MU QuadEach term Oregon State University offers well over 100 hybrid courses that blend classroom and online learning.

All Corvallis teaching faculty are invited to apply to participate in the Center for Teaching and Learning’s Spring 2020 Hybrid Faculty Learning Community and redesign Corvallis on-campus courses as hybrid courses. Professional development funding provided.

Proposals are due Feb. 12. See the Call for Proposals.

If you have questions or want to find out more about this opportunity, drop in to Milam 215 during any of the following times: Wed., Jan. 29, 10-10:30 am or 3-3:30 pm; or Thurs., Feb. 6, at 10-10:30 am or 3-3:30 pm; or email CTL@oregonstate.edu

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Show Your Work: Teaching Philosophies & Portfolios

by: Shannon Hampton, Instructor
College of Business, Design and Innovation Management

What is the value of having a teaching philosophy and a portfolio? Today we learned in the T4 Presentation: Teaching Philosophies and Portfolios, the answer to this question and many more. 57% of people applying for faculty positions are using a portfolio in place of or in addition to a CV or resume.

Seldin (2006) describes the teaching portfolio as “a collection of materials that document teaching performance…. It is flexible enough to be used for tenure and promotion decisions or to provide the stimulus and structure for self-reflection about areas in need of improvement” (p.3).

Once we’ve answered the why, we learned about the what- What do we put in this portfolio and where to start? As a new instructor with just one term under her belt, this seams daunting. Choosing a tool is suggested as a great place to start and I feel confident that I can do this. Some are using the campus Canvas tool to house their portfolios however we are told there are limitations to who can view it and it’s not easy to transfer outside of the university. Other options we learned about are google sites, Wix, Padlet, EduClipper (now called Participate), Weebly and Digication.

Next work on the design and layout, easy for a designer, maybe not for others but even google sites comes with easy tools to use and layouts from which to choose. One way to organize is to include all the 6+ Principles of University Teaching:

Principle #1: Consider the Audience
Principle #2: Plan
Principle #3: Enhance Engagement
Principle #4: Teach
Principle #5: Assess
Principle #6: Reflect

Now include artifacts and essays as well as your current teaching philosophy. It’s better to show what’s important and an evolution and not just the high scores and the wins. My first win is the layout I created in google sites at the conclusion of this talk and my next win will be starting a statement of my teaching philosophy that I can include in my portfolio. I’ve shared my philosophy verbally, but I think there is such value in documenting it and having an artifact to share with students as I introduce myself to them and the course they are about to experience. I hope to make myself and the material more accessible by first developing and then sharing this document.

As this portfolio evolves, I can see that it will be a valuable tool for communicating who I am as a teacher and what I have accomplished, my goals and even what I need to work on in the future. Broken down into parts it is less daunting and more fun than I expected going into the talk. One of my philosophies: “Progress, not Perfection” is in play as I building this communication tool over the next few terms.

References: Seldin, P. (2006). Evaluating faculty performance: A practical guide to assessing teaching, research, and service. Anker Publishing Company.

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Two Heads Are Better Than One: Tips for Making Group Work Work

Group work is a critical element of active learning (Freeman et al. 2014; Brame & Biel, 2015, Hodge, 2017; Tombak & Altun, 2016). The benefits of group work range from promoting learning, metacognition and academic success to developing social interaction, communication, and critical thinking skills. These skills are greatly valued in the workplace (Hodge, 2017; Weimer, 2013). However, it is important to point out that not any kind of group work will produce these benefits. Also, research alludes to student resistance to group work (Deslauriers et al. 2019; Hodge 2017, Sprague, Wilson & McKenzie, 2019). Why are students reluctant to engage in group work given its potential to promote learning and the development of valued transferable skills? The answer may reside in the gaps that are inherent in how university teachers structure, configure, implement, and debrief group work.
Structuring Group Work: What’s in a name? The term group work is often used to describe any form of instructional activity that involves students working together. However, group work falls under two categories: informal and formal cooperative learning groups (Brame & Biel, 2015). In informal cooperative learning, students work collaboratively in pairs or in small groups to retrieve and process knowledge. This type of group work reinforces individual and collective learning during a class period. The groups are casual and the assessment of group work is generally low stakes and non-graded. In formal cooperative learning–the focus of this piece–students work together over an extended period of time in structured groups to solve complex problems, answer controversial questions or complete multifaceted projects for a grade.
Configuring Group Work–Guiding Principles: Groups work most productively when the principles of positive interdependence and individual accountability are applied to the activity (Tombak & Altun, 2016; Scott, 2017; Sprague, Wilson & McKenzie, 2019). Positive interdependence denotes that the learning task cannot be completed by one person alone. Therefore, the contribution of each group member is required for success. Individual accountability means that  “an individual public performance is required” of each group member (Kagan, 2011, p. 2). It is incumbent on the university teacher to establish the ground rules for interaction, communication, and completion of tasks in order to produce work that represents the best performance of the group. In the absence of careful monitoring of the ground rules of group engagement, the deleterious effects of social loafing, free riding and lone wolf tendencies will derail group effectiveness (Orlando, 2017; Weimer, 2014; Hodge, 2017).
Configuring Group Work–The ‘Why’ Question: It is crucial to present a defensible discipline-specific rationale for group work to students at the outset. Moreover, it is paramount to help students identify the pertinent knowledge, understandings, and skills that can be attained through successful group work activities in the discipline or field of study. Better still, these outcomes must be clearly delineated in the student learning objectives of the course.
Implementing Group Work: Some evidence-based tips for implementing group work include:
 Be proactive in presenting a clear description of the task and why it requires group work.
 Explain how expectations associated with principles of positive interdependence and individual accountability will be implemented to guide the process and product of group work.
 Design complex, multifaceted and authentic tasks that call for all group members to contribute to the completion of tasks.
 Teach the skills for handling group dynamics, communication, presentation and peer
evaluation. Help students develop a group contract to establish the guidelines for team
 Form heterogeneous groups. “In most professional contexts, people don’t get to choose their project partners” (Weimer, 2014, p. 2).
 Keep group sizes small. Groups of 4 – 5 students are considered to be most effective.
 Help students break the task into manageable segments. Establish a deadline for the completion of each component and require frequent progress reports on product and process.
 Provide opportunities for students to work on group task during class time so you can circulate, observe group interactions and the contributions of each member, answer questions and provide feedback (Brame & Biel, 2015; Hodge, 2017).
 Develop a rubric for assessing the product and process of the group work. Establish the weights for group grade and individual grade in the course grading system.
 Keep students accountable for their individual performance and to the group. Use self-assessment and peer-evaluation to monitor and review the quality and quantity of group members’ contributions (Scott, 2017; Sprague, Wilson & McKenzie, 2019).
Debriefing Group Work: At the end of the group project, it is important to close the loop of the learning together process by prompting students to reflect on the group experience (Brame & Biel, 2015; Hodge, 2017). The prompts for a reflective paper should address areas such as group process, the impact of group work on student learning, individual contributions to the group task and recommendations for improving group dynamics. Closing the loop also requires the university teacher to reflect on the structure, configuration and implementation of group work, and develop an action plan to inform future group work assignments.
Formal group work places time, coordination, motivation, group dynamics and intellectual costs on the university teacher and students. These costs can be harnessed to support the process of learning together through intentional structuring, configuration, implementation, and debriefing of group work. Besides, the benefits of a well-crafted group work task far outweigh the challenges.

Brame, C.J. & Biel, R. (2015). Group work: Using cooperative
learning groups effectively. Retrieved from http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/setting-up-and-facilitating-group-work-using-cooperative-learning-groups-effectively.

Deslauriers, L., McCarty, L. S., Miller, K., Callaghan, K., & Kestin, G. (2019). Measuring actual learning versus feeling of learning in response to being actively engaged in the classroom. PNAS Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(39), 19251–19257.

Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M. P. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America, 111(23), 8410–8415.

Hodge, L. C. (2017). Ten research-based steps for effective group work. IDEA Paper #65. Retrieved from https://www.ideaedu.org/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/IDEA%20Papers/IDEA%20Papers/PaperIDEA_65.pdf

Kagan, S. (2011). The “P” and “I” of PIES: Powerful principles for success. Kagan OnlineMagazine. Retrieved from www. https://www.kaganonline.com/

Orlando, J. (2017). A solution to the free rider problem in group activities. Retrieved from https://www.teachingprofessor.com

Scott, G. W. (2017). Active engagement with assessment and feedback can improve group-work outcomes and boost student confidence. Higher Education Pedagogies, 2:1, 1-13. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/23752696.1307692.

Sprague, M., Wilson, K. F., & McKenzie, K. S. (2019). Evaluating the quality of peer and self-evaluations as measures of student contributions to group projects. Higher Education Research and Development, 38:5, 1061-1074. Retrieved from https://do1.org/10.1080/07294360.2019.1615417.

Tombak, B. & Altun, S. (2016). The effect of cooperative learning: University example. Eurasian Journal of Educational Research, 64, 173 -196. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.14689/ejer.2016.64.10.

Weimer, M. (2014 a). A lone wolf approach to group work. Retrieved from https://www.teachingprofessor.com

Weimer, M. (2014b.). 10 recommendations for improving group work. Retrieved from https://www.teachingprofessor.com


Funmi Amobi is an instructional consultant and college liaison in Oregon State University’s Center for Teaching and Learning. Funmi provides consultations to faculty in individual and small group settings to support teaching excellence and student success. Funmi holds a doctorate degree in secondary education with major emphasis in curriculum and instruction from Arizona State University.  As a reflective practitioner, she is a life-long student of the scholarship of teaching and learning.  To schedule a Sparkshop call Funmi @ 541 737 1338 or email: Funmi.Amobi@OregonState.edu


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The art of connecting: Emotionally intelligent teaching

by: Xiangyou Shen, Visiting Assistant Professor
College of Forestry, Department of Forest Ecosystems & Society

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

The lasting and powerful impact of emotions, as illustrated in the quote by Maya Angelou, is the first message that Dr. Shauna Tominey stressed in her illuminating teaching talk on emotionally intelligent teaching. She drew us into this fascinating topic by drawing parallels between college and early childhood classrooms, a setting she conducts much of her work. This comparison brought a number of insights to our attention. Just as in preschools, college students thrive when they have positive and supportive relationships; the brains of young adults are not fully developed yet they are expected to “make good choices and demonstrate self-control” (Aamodt, & Wong, 2011); it takes creativity and diverse, purposefully designed learning activities to keep students focused and engaged; and engaging college students on a personal level is challenging because of low instructor-student ratios commonly seen on campus and the lack of incentive for teachers to invest in developing differentiating instruction.

Diving into the topic, Dr. Tominey presented a variety of instructional practices designed to enhance emotional awareness among students and the instructor and create a supportive classroom environment. These techniques include mood meters, using students’ names in large classes, setting class expectations, and strategically reaching out to students. Throughout her presentation, Dr. Tominey skillfully demonstrated how to create emotionally supportive learning environment through engaging, interactive lecture as well as intentional group activities. The latter guided the audience to reflect on a number of critical issues, such as the role of different emotions in driving learning, the challenge in reading emotions, particularly of learners from diverse backgrounds, and the importance of assessing and addressing students’ emotional needs.

Many of the techniques introduced in this talk can be used as effective tools in face-to-face instruction. With my first teaching assignment, an online course, in mind, I paid special attention to several practices that can be used to support the teaching of Ecampus students. In particular, I found Day 1 course survey to be instrumental for both online and offline instruction. To help myself get to know my students whom I may only have the chance to meet virtually, I plan to incorporate a brief “tell me a little about yourself” survey in my welcoming email to the class at the beginning of the term. Qualtrics or Google form can be good platform choices because they allow the results to be exported as an Excel sheet that is easy to manage and edit. For example, after downloading the sheet, I can add a column called “note to myself” to record individualized information, a useful tip from my Reflective Teaching Mentor (RTM) Kathrine McAlvage, Assistant Director, Course Development and Training at Oregon State University Ecampus (RTM is a component of New2OSU program offered by OSU’s Center for Teaching and Learning). I can continue to add information to this working document throughout the term and use it as a cheat-sheet to facilitate my future interactions with the students.

Connections should be a two-way street. I will also endeavor to help my students feel connected with me by sharing about myself through either the welcoming email or a welcome video (OSU’s Faculty Media Center can be a great resource in creating multi-media content) to be posted on the course website.

A key take-home message from Dr. Tominey’s presentation centers on the importance of creating a safe, caring, and supportive classroom community. This notion is consistent with an increased body of research linking social-emotional learning to a number of positive students’ outcomes (Konishi, & Wong, 2018). Online learning can be isolating absent face-to-face interactions available in traditional on-campus classroom settings. To help foster a supportive online class community for my students, I plan to include in my course design a) an “introduce yourself to the class” exercise in Week One to help students get acquainted among themselves (information shared here can be different than what students shared with me), b) weekly group discussions wherein students are assigned to a different group each week to maximize their contact with different classmates throughout the term, c) establishing ground rules for positive, respectful, and productive online communication, and (d) being responsive to students’ feedback and modeling how to give and receive feedback throughout my communication with the students.

While I am yet to find out how well these measures are going to work in my Winter 2020 class, I feel inspired and encouraged by what I learned from Dr. Tominey’s talk. Learning can not be reduced to a mere cognitive task. It is a process intrinsically tied to feelings and emotions. By practicing emotionally intelligent teaching, we help students leverage the power of emotions to propel their learning for better academic achievement, responsible decisions, positive relationships, and improved emotional well-being.


Aamodt, S., & Wang, S. (2011). Welcome to your child’s brain: How the mind grows from conception to college. Bloomsbury Publishing: New York, N.Y., USA

Konishi, C., & Wong, T. K. Y. (2018). Relationships and School Success: From a Social-Emotional Learning Perspective. Health and Academic Achievement. https://doi.org/10.5772/intechopen.75012

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Eating your Peas, like Active Learning, not Preferred but Better for You.

[This is the first in a series of Research Advancing Pedagogy (RAP) blogs, designed to share the latest pedagogical research from across the disciplines in a pragmatic format]

“I wish he would just lecture instead of all this active learning stuff. I just want to sit back and take notes.” – Overheard walking behind two students exiting a large lecture class.

The sentiment raised by the students in the anecdote above is not an anomaly. Many students seem to abhor interacting in a classroom. Unfortunately, just like parents nudging their children to eat more greens and less fried food, what is disliked, IS better. Active learning pedagogies are linked to better student learning outcomes (see Freeman et al., 2014; Hake 1998). A lot of the research is correlational in nature as it is difficult to do head to head comparisons of active versus passive learning. Difficult, but not impossible.

How nice would it be to compare how the same students learn the same material when taught using active learning versus passive learning? This is exactly what Deslauriers and colleagues did (2019). Students enrolled in physics classes at Harvard received instruction- chalkboard lectures, demonstrations, quizzes- from their primary instructor for 12 weeks of a 15-week semester. Then things took a twist.

What did they do? All the students then spent two class meetings with one of two different instructors (A or B). In the first class, half the students, randomly assigned, received instruction using an active learning method – students solved problems in groups before getting solutions. The other half received instruction on the same material using a passive learning method – students received the solutions of the problems. For the second class, students instructed with the active method got the passive method and vice versa (see the figure below).

What did they find? Students reported on how much they liked the classes, how much they felt they learned, and took a test to see how much they actually learned. The bottom lines:  1. Students rated the quality of instruction in the passive section higher than the active section, 2. Students FELT they learned more when taught in the passive style, and 3. Students actually learned MORE in the active class.

This study had many strengths. Researchers randomly assigned students to type of instruction and checks established there were no differences in students between conditions. Both the experimental instructors were experienced and skilled and novel to the students. The content covered in both sections were identical and experimental instructors did not see the test of learning. The statistical analyses and controls suggest strong internal validity.

[For full resolution result figures and the materials used go here]

What does this mean for us? Yes, this was one study, on one set of students who were Harvard students. Yes, this was one way to define ‘active learning”. We also do not know if the differences in feelings of having learnt and actual learning will stay the same after a period of time. Will the students come to realize that that the active learning was better in the long run? As our parents say, “You’ll thank me later”.

These qualms aside, this study is one of the first well-controlled comparisons. Instructors hear students complain about active learning and may feel pressured to give in and be passive. Active learning also takes more work to set up in the first place. This study adds to the larger body of work to demonstrate that the effort to use active learning strategies is worth it but student impressions should be addressed.  Instructors should make the reasons for using active learning clear. Acknowledging that while needing more cognitive energy (for all involved), active engagement exercises relate to better learning. Perhaps show students the data from this study (below) and provide them with an early gauge of their learning or lack thereof, give an early assessment.

Yes, there are many ways to get students to be active and not all methods may work (Bernstein, 2018). Scholars should now go beyond “if” active learning works to more systematically and critically analyze “why” and “what” works and how to better implement such strategies.

About the Author: Regan A. R. Gurung, Ph.D. is Interim Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Oregon State University and Director of the General Psychology program in the School of Psychological Science. Homepage

Bernstein, D. A. (2018). Does active learning work? A good question, but not the right one. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 4(4), 290–307.
Deslauriers, L., McCarty, L. S., Miller, K., Callaghan, K., & Kestin, G. (2019). Measuring actual learning versus feeling of learning in response to being actively engaged in the classroom. PNAS Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(39), 19251–19257.
Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M. P. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America, 111(23), 8410–8415.
Hake, R. R. (1998). Interactive-engagement vs. tradition methods: A six-thousand student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses. American Journal of Physics, 66,  64-74.

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