Sign up for OSU Teaching Workshops

Oregon State MU QuadOSU’s Keep Teaching team, the Center for Teaching and Learning, and Academic Technology are collaborating to offer workshops and webinars to help you prepare your Winter 2021 courses. Sign up today!

Using Canvas to Give Better Feedback to Students - Wondering how you can give your students more efficient and effective feedback through Canvas? Are you looking for ways to incorporate opportunities for formative assessment in your remote courses? This workshop is for you! The Keep Teaching team invites anyone teaching at OSU for a 90-minute workshop: 3 p.m., Mon., Nov.30.  Register:

Canvas Course Checklist - Are you a new user seeking the best approaches to using Canvas? Has it been a while since you set up a course in Canvas and you’re looking for a refresher on pre-term tasks? Or have you been using Canvas for a while and wondering if you’re getting the most out of the toolset? OSU’s Academic Technology invites you to this 90-minute webinar: 10:30 a.m., Tue., Dec. 1.  Register:

Designing your Canvas Site for an Improved Student Experience - Are your students saying they can’t find things in your Canvas site? Have you wondered whether it’s a good idea to post course materials in Canvas Files? (hint: it’s not!) Then come to this session to view exemplary Canvas course sites that illustrate a student-oriented structure. The Keep Teaching team invites new and intermediate Canvas users to this 90-minute workshop: 2:00 p.m., Tue. Dec. 15.  Register:

Building Instructor Presence: The Little Things Matter - Have you wondered what it looks like to “show up” for your remote students? Are you seeking ways to up your instructor presence game? Come to this workshop to learn how much the little things you can do to be present matter to your students. The Keep Teaching team invites anyone teaching at OSU to this 90-minute workshop: 2:00 p.m., Thur.
Jan. 7. Register:

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Join the Winter ’21 Blended Faculty Learning Community

Marys PeakThe Winter ’21 Blended Faculty Learning Community, sponsored by CTL and Academic Technology, will help OSU faculty enhance their teaching, with a focus on applying effective practices for blended learning–in remote, blended, hybrid or flipped courses–and the use of educational technology. Participants will explore and develop solutions for significant pedagogical challenges, and will share their solutions with the OSU community.

Instructors and tenured/tenure-track faculty who teach credit-based Corvallis and Cascades campus courses are eligible to apply. Faculty with minimal experience designing blended courses or who have not yet engaged in OSU teaching-related professional development are particularly encouraged to apply. See the Call for Proposals and apply by Dec. 4.

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Supporting Students’ Finals Prep

By Marjorie Coffey, Asst. Director, Academic Success Center & Writing Center (ASC &WC)

Waldo Hall at OSULast spring, I shared ways instructors could encourage and support students as they finished up their first term of remote learning. The most recent OSU Remote Learning Experience Student Survey tells us that remote learning still presents significant challenges for students, even if the remote experience might feel more routine. For many students, remote learning is more time-consuming, more isolating, and subject to technological difficulties. We’ve heard this echoed in our work with students at the ASC & WC.

The strategies I shared in spring are still relevant today. Creating opportunities for connection, communicating early about finals, and sharing encouragement and resources can help students understand expectations around finals and connect with resources to support their success.

I’d like to expand on these and share a few additional strategies you can use to support students as they finish fall term.

Encourage Planning Ahead

The term flies by after the break. Making space for advance planning can help students start week 10 with a clear path forward. Here are a few ways support planning:

  • Collaborative Lerning Activities for Remote Study GroupsShare the ASC’s Finals Survival Guide (fillable PDF) and give students time in class to plan backwards from the date of the final.
  • Schedule a Writing Center virtual tour for your remote class session, then give students 5 minutes after the presentation to schedule their writing consultation.
  • Invite students to connect during office hours or set up new office hour times for students to ask questions specifically about the final or end of term.
  • Facilitate process for students forming remote study groups. Many students value study groups but are finding set-up challenging. Opening a Canvas discussion board or chat where students can opt into groups can make the process easier. You could also share collaborative learning activities (above) students could engage in when they meet.

Create Flexibility

Being flexible with finals and due dates give students space to complete work at a time that works for them and their environment after the break. Here are a few ways flexibility could show up:

  • If you have a timed final, give students a time range during which they can complete the final (e.g., anytime Monday through Thursday of finals week).
  • Make the final optional if students have demonstrated knowledge corresponding with learning outcomes throughout the term. Students could choose between keeping the current grade or taking the final and having that score factored into the final grade.
  • Create options for the final, so students can choose how to demonstrate knowledge (e.g., project, multiple choice, written or video essay). Need ideas? Check out CTL Sparkshops and Tuesday Teaching + Tech Talks or request a consultation to identify assessment possibilities.

Address Technology Concerns

Even with the best of plans, technology issues are a reality of remote learning. Discussing technology explicitly before finals can help students prepare. Here are a few ways to engage in that conversation:

  • Answer “What if…?” questions in advance like “What if my internet goes out during the final,” or “What should I do if I’m having trouble uploading an assignment?”
  • Share what technology is needed for the final, explain how students can access technical support, and highlight different ways to connect (e.g., phone, email, help ticket).
  • Provide multiple ways for students to contact you (e.g., email, Canvas message, chat, discussion board, etc.) if a technology issue arises.

Connect Students with ASC & WC Resources

We also invite you to keep Academic Success Center & Writing Center resources in mind as you encourage students to plan ahead. Here are a few resources you could share:

  • Strategist Live ChatASC Workshop series – Invite students to register for 50-minute workshops on topics like Test Prep & the Science of Learning; Time Management Finals Edition; and Concentration, Distraction, & Effective Study Sessions.
  • DAM Good Self-Care Packet – Remind students of the importance of their well-being as they finish up the term.
  • Live Chat with a Strategist the ASC website – Encourage students to talk through their finals plan and study strategies with a Strategist.

Thank you for being a source of support and compassion for students as they finish up the term! If you’d like to connect about additional resources for your course or for individual students, please feel free to contact the ASC ( We’re always happy to hear from you!

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Reimagining Assessment in the Pandemic Era: Comprehensive Assessment of Student Learning

The Latin root word for the term assessment is assidere which means to sit down beside (Stefanakis, 2002; Swaffield, 2010). The picture of an expert sitting down beside a novice exemplifies the act of providing needed structure to facilitate learning success. In the past decades, this learning-centric focus of the meaning of assessment seemed to have taken a back seat to the accountability focus of assessment as a measurement of student knowledge and ability. If measuring student knowledge and ability is the goal of the accountability paradigm of assessment, grades are its currency. The orientation of the university teacher as a partner in student learning has shifted to that of a judge of how much knowledge a student has acquired (Farias et al., 2010). Grades are good, but a problem arises when students are oriented to associate assessment with grades more than learning.

Then came the pandemic. The seismic effect of COVID-19 resulting in an unprecedented move to remote instruction refocused attention on improving assessment practices to alleviate student stress and anxiety, emphasize learning, and redress inequities in student success. In June 2020, the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) conducted a survey to examine the assessment-related changes that institutions made in response to the shift to emergency remote instruction due to the pandemic (Jankowski, 2020). Out of the total 813 responses received, 787 respondents—97%–indicated that they made changes to their assessments practices due to the pandemic. Furthermore, the most-frequently mentioned change pertained to “modifications to assignments and assessments and flexibility in assignment deadlines” (p. 6).

Given the current mindset to modify assessments, the question is, What are the components of robust, comprehensive and holistic assessment practices? The answer to this question requires an expansive notion of what assessment entails (Stanger-Hall, 2012). The simple classification of assessment as formative and summative is helpful. However, in the current pandemic era with the attendant need to address concerns about inequities and include student voices in assessment, it is imperative to expatiate the erstwhile classification. This is how:

  • I present 8 components of a viable assessment practice in the Comprehensive Assessment of Student Learning resource. In addition to the classification of assessment as formative and summative, the components encompass assessment practices that are focused on providing options and choices to diverse students to demonstrate their learning in authentic and alternative situations (Burton, 2011; Montenegro & Jankowski, 2017).
  • In the Reimagining Assessment resource, I present 7 strategies for rethinking tests and exams as a pathway to deeper learning. One criticism of summative assessment is that it happens at the end of a learning unit or course, students receive a grade which is an indirect evidence of learning (Suskie, 2009). A grade does not translate into the actionable feedback needed to improve learning and performance on subsequent exams. (Tan, 2013). The strategies point to the fact that students’ exam experiences can be intentionally modified to maximize the potential for learning beyond the test.

Using various types of assessments to facilitate the greatest possibility for diverse students to demonstrate their learning, not just their test-taking abilities, and reimagining exams as a pathway to learning could ease test-induced anxiety and stress. Consequently, the alleviation of exam stress and anxiety could be a collateral for reducing the incidences of cheating (Darby, 2020; Supiano, 2020).


Burton, K. (2011). A framework for determining the authenticity of assessment tasks. Applied to an example in law. Journal of Learning Design, 4(2), 20-28.

Darby, F. (2020). Seven ways to assess students online and minimize cheating. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Farias, G., Farias, C. M., & Fairfield, K. D. (2010). Teacher as judge or partner: The dilemma of grades versus learning. Journal of Education for Business, 85, 336 – 342.

Jankowski, N. A. (2020). Assessment during a crisis: Responding to a global pandemic. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.

Montenegro, E., & Jankowski, N. A. (2017). Equity and assessment: Moving towards culturally responsive assessment. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.

Stanger-Hall, K. F. (2012). Multiple-choice exams: An obstacle for higher-level thinking in introductory science classes. Life Sciences Education, 11, 294-306.

Stefanakis, E. (2002) Multiple Intelligences and Portfolios. Portsmouth: Heinemann

Supiano, B. (2020). Students cheat. How much does it matter? The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Suskie, L. (2009). Assessing student learning: A common sense guide (2nd edn). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Swaffield, S. (2011). Getting to the heart of authentic Assessment for Learning. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 18(4), 433-449.

Tan, K. (2013). A framework for assessment for learning: Implications for feedback practices within and beyond the gap. ISRN Education, 2013, 1-7.

Funmi Amobi is an instructional consultant in the Center for Teaching and Learning. She facilitates sparkshops for faculty in informal gatherings and by invitation to college and department meetings.

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Leveraging Zoom Tools to Engage Students

Oregon State Memorial UnionStudent engagement is indispensable in the current remote and blended teaching and learning environment. James Lang, author of the well-known Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning, speaks to this challenge in the newly published Distracted: Why Students Can’t Focus and What You Can Do About It. “We will not succeed in teaching today’s students unless we make a fundamental shift in our thinking: away from preventing distraction and toward cultivating attention.”

Lang goes on to posit three principles about attention: Attention is an achievement rather than a given in educational settings, attention is still attainable (despite the manifold distractions clamoring for the attention of our students), and it must be intentionally cultivated to be achieved in our classrooms.

So how can we cultivate our students’ attention in the remote “classrooms” of today, where our Zoom class session competes with all the other stimuli in which college students are marinated as they navigate COVID-era life? Fortunately, Yale’s Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning has produced an Engaging Students through Zoom guide that describes practical techniques to leverage the basic Zoom tools to enable active learning. Rather watch than read? The Yale Zoom guide is accompanied by five short videos that bring the techniques to life. Highlights from the guide:

  • Polling – Zoom polls may give us insights into student readiness for learning based on prior knowledge or could be used to see if students have grasped material right after it is presented or can solve a quick problem. Polls are usually best created in advance, though they could also be created on the fly during a class session.
  • Chat – Zoom chat is a great place for real-time interaction and Q&A. Keep in mind that both instructors and students can ask and answer questions in chat. It can be used to break up a lecture, to get feedback, to assess whether students are following and understanding the content of a session. Continuously monitoring chat while presenting can be taxing, so it’s wise to pause periodically and catch up on any chat questions.
  • Nonverbal Feedback – Zoom nonverbal feedback includes the basic items students can deploy in the participants’ tab such as yes, no, go slower or faster, thumbs up or down, clapping, need a break, and away. More broadly, there is the “raise hand” feature in the participants’ tab and the clapping and thumbs up reactions that pop up over a student’s video thumbnail. Though Zoom nonverbal feedback is rather different from the nonverbal reactions we rely on in the physical classroom, it can be valuable in gauging the temperature of the room and levels of engagement.
  • Screen Share – While Zoom screen sharing is usually thought of principally as a means of instructor slide presentation, there’s great potential for student screen sharing. For example, individual students or small groups can make a formal presentation to the class or share a poster or infographic.
  • Whiteboard – The Zoom whiteboard can simulate many activities that are traditionally done on a classroom whiteboard and, with solid structure provided by the instructor, the whiteboard can be a productive collaborative space for students.
  • Breakout Rooms – Zoom breakouts can be ideal for collaboration, group problem solving, or discussion, particularly in larger classes. In considering the utility of breakout rooms, remember that it’s possible for students to screen share, use a Zoom whiteboard and use chat within their small group  as well. Breakouts work best with clear structure, deliverables and time limits.

For an additional timely take on sustaining student engagement during synchronous remote sessions, see Samantha Clifford’s new Faculty Focus piece, Encouraging Student Engagement During Synchronous Meetings: Preventing Midterm Dropoff.

Need assistance with Zoom? See OSU Zoom Help videos, request a Tech Keep-Teaching Assistant, or see the OSU Zoom Teaching overview.

Interested in learning more about Zoom pedagogy? See these practical resources from the OSU Center for Teaching and Learning:


Clifford, S. (2020, November 4). Encouraging student engagement during synchronous meetings. Faculty Focus.

Lang, J.M. (2020). Distracted: Why students can’t focus and what you can do about it. Basic Books.

Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning. (n.d.). Engaging Students through Zoom.

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Register Now: Blending Your Teaching with Instructional Media Workshop

OSU campusWondering how to make your remote or blended classes more engaging? Always wanted to create more media to enliven your classes?

Join the Center for Teaching and Learning and Academic Technology for an intensive hour-long session that will empower you to develop media that supports your teaching and to blend your synchronous sessions and asynchronous learning activities on Canvas. Let the experts from the Faculty Media Center (FMC) show you how you can use your laptop to leverage OSU-supported online tools to harness the power of media!

When: Sign up for either 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 17, or 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

Where: Register now and we’ll send you the Zoom link prior to the workshop.

Questions: Contact FMC.

We look forward to seeing you on the 17th or 18th!

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Are You IN(clusive)? POC Student Perspectives on Race & Racism

POC Student Event

Dharma Mirza (She/Her/Hers) is a Student Office Worker at the OSU Center for Teaching & Learning. Dharma is a senior studying Public Health, Queer Studies, and Medical Humanities, and hopes to pursue an MAIS and MPH at OSU when she graduates. Dharma also works doing community outreach and education on topics such as anti-racist organizing/education, health equity, and LGBTQ+ issues.

This summer we began a project here at the CTL to help engage our faculty/staff with issues of race and racism in education, the Are You IN(clusive)? Read, Reflect, Reform Book Club. CTL provided participants with a copy of either Cyndi Kernahan’s Teaching About Race and Racism in the College Classroom or Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum’s Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? and placed participants into small reading groups. Both texts are available as e-books at the OSU Valley Library.

We started this program in response to wider movements for racial justice springing up all over the nation regarding the unjust death of George Floyd, among others. The program aims to help foster inclusive educational practices and ensure that we are doing our best to support our Black and marginalized students here at Oregon State. Due to the pandemic we have arranged digital spaces via Canvas to facilitate small-group discussions about the books, and the program will culminate in a live zoom meeting with one of our authors Cyndi Kernahan, followed by a group discussion on Beverly Daniel Tatum’s book, on Friday, November 20th. We are also working to provide anti-racist educational resources in the group and highlight OSU-specific resources to help empower our participants.

To help bring in the perspectives of students, I am excited to be offering a facilitated discussion on the books, and contextualizing my own struggles navigating higher education as a biracial person of color. I hope to also draw on my diversity education work in the OSU and Corvallis community over the past few years. My experiences as a first-generation Muslim immigrant and biracial student of color have informed my scholarship, activism, and community programming. So many BIPOC and immigrant students are disenfranchised due to the legacies of anti-Black racism and white supremacy in higher education, so I hope that engaging these critical POC-student perspectives will help to facilitate meaningful discourse on racial inequities in our campus community.

Please join us next Friday, 11/6 from Noon to 1:00pm (Pacific) on Zoom. (See Zoom Details below)

This event is open to all. We hope that you can join us, even if you are not a part of the Reading groups.

Live Captioning will be provided. For accessibility requests/concerns, or if you would like more information about our book club, please contact OSU Student workers: Kelby Hahn at or Dharma Mirza at

Zoom Meeting Info (Links to an external site.)

Password: OSUCTL

Phone Dial-In Information
+1 971 247 1195 US (Portland)
+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
+1 301 715 8592 US (Germantown)

Meeting ID: 962 7329 0664

Join by Polycom/Cisco/Other Room System





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Requesting, Receiving & Responding to Student Feedback

Kiri WagstaffDr. Kiri L. Wagstaff is an Associate Research Professor at OSU in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a Principal Researcher in machine learning at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

What is the best way to solicit, analyze, and act on feedback from students about your course?  Kenton Hokanson, a microbiology instructor, and Lyn Riverstone, an academic technology expert, shared ideas with us about timing, content, and interpretation of student feedback.

Right now is an excellent time to consider asking your students for mid-course feedback.  Unlike the end-of-term student evaluations (eSET), feedback obtained at this point has the opportunity to be acted upon within the current term.  Invite students to help make it “their” course.  You can find out which assignments were the most difficult, why students aren’t doing the reading, and what obstacles they’re facing but otherwise would not volunteer to share.  You’ll then have the opportunity to fine-tune the course and show students that you value their input and experience highly enough to take action.  CTL provides an excellent 3-page document that is rich with ideas to get you started:

Inviting feedback can allow you take the temperature of your students and identify hotspots within the course.  But feedback isn’t just about the negative; you can also ask about what’s working well.  I enjoy asking students to share one thing they’ve learned or a skill they’ve gained since starting the class.  Asking for student preferences for the midterm exam review format may surprise you!  The process also does not have to be time consuming (Davis, 1993).  Consider asking for the single “muddiest” point covered so far, or within a single class meeting.  Try soliciting “start/stop/continue” feedback: what should I start doing?  What should I stop doing?  And what should I keep doing to help with your success in the class?

You can collect this feedback with anonymous surveys or in-class polls (Wong, 2020).  Midcourse feedback can also come from peers in the form of a “supportive observation” (invite a fellow instructor to sit in and watch for specific aspects you want feedback on) or a Small Group Instructional Diagnosis (SGID) in which you leave the (Zoom) room and another instructor solicits individual feedback in a live conversation, then invites the rest of the class to vote on which comments resonate for them as well.  I was intrigued to learn that CTL offers both peer services; find out more here:

Positive feedback can send you sky-high, while negative comments may feel burned into your brain.  It’s helpful to look for themes rather than outliers in either direction.  One option is to ask a trusted friend or colleague who is not involved in the class to read through the feedback and summarize it for you from their more objective viewpoint.  Excel spreadsheets are one tool to help aggregate quantitative responses and also to look for subpopulations who may be struggling for common reasons.  A good question to help prioritize individual comments is “Can I do anything about this?”  Often, the answer is yes, but some things are beyond your control.  Let them go.

Once you’ve digested the feedback you’ve received, it’s time to take action.  Responsive teaching includes adapting the course based on what you’ve learned from the feedback.  Take the time to formulate a plan for what you can change and how you will communicate it to the students.  It is not necessary to address every comment, but common themes or problem points are worth careful consideration.  Is there a Canvas component that isn’t working well?  Are students missing your announcements?  Are they hungry for more interaction during class time, and/or asynchronously?  Adapting the course, and telling the students why you’ve done so, can increase their motivation, build a stronger relationship from you to them, create a positive classroom environment, and even increase the end-of-term eSET scores (McGowan & Osguthorpe, 2011).

The power is yours to decide what questions to ask and what feedback would be most helpful to you right now.  Take a moment to think: What’s one question that would help me prioritize content for the next class meeting?  Go ahead and ask it today!


Davis, Barbara G. (1993) “Fast Feedback,” Tools for Teaching, Chapter 41, 345-354.

McGowan, Whitney R. and Osguthorpe, Russell T. (2011) “Student and Faculty Perceptions of Effects of Midcourse Evaluation,” To Improve the Academy, 29(1):160-172.

McKeachie, Wilbert J. and Svinicki, Marilla (2006) McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers.

Wong, Crystal O. (2020) “Three Ways to Use Student Feedback to Improve Your Course,”

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Teflon to Velcro: Making Content Stick

Phil Mann is an instructor teaching Art + Design concentration classes within the Renewable Materials degree program in the Wood Science and Engineering Department.


The Tuesday Teaching + Tech Talks session with Dr. Howes entitled From Teflon to Velcro: Making Content Stick centered around applying Chip and Dan Heath’s approach from their 2008 book Made to Stick, for creating lasting or “sticky” ideas to education. The Heaths outline 6 principles in their approach, represented in the acronym S.U.C.C.E.S.(s) standing for Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories. The approach stresses simplified messaging around ideas, and “violating schemas” or cultural and behavioral norms to generate curiosity in the audience. (Howes) According to the principles, ideas should use sensory language to make the idea concrete, and should be supported by external authorities or relatable statistics and details to lend them credibility.  In addition, ideas should be supported by emotional appeals and efforts to link ideas with self-interest and identity, and employ stories that serve both to inspire one to action and offer a pattern for that action. (Heath)

The SUCCES approach shares a great deal with tried and true processes for communication which many educators and others have used for generations. That said, it can be useful to see familiar concepts reframed and recontextualized, so it was helpful to me to compare the SUCCES method to my own approach to communicating ideas, as well as the ideas themselves.  As a teacher and practitioner of art and design, communication is at the heart of what I do and teach, so it is not surprising that the Heaths’ model resonates with me. After all effective art and design is often simple, rule-breaking, and by definition grounded in the sensory world. Furthermore, the best examples generate emotional responses in the viewer and they often serve as manifestations of the stories of the artist and the broader culture that they find themselves in, so it was not difficult to see how this model could be used to sharpen one’s approach to effectively communicating ideas.

My own thinking about my teaching has undergone a bit of a transformation lately after having read that the world of education has taken up the “design thinking” principles advocated by organizations like IDEO ( and the Stanford d. School (  While I teach this design methodology in my curriculum, I had not consciously made the connection between the subject matter and the delivery method. While I know the techniques that I had been employing in the classroom were certainly influenced by my training and experiences as an artist and designer, it wasn’t until recently that I had the time and space to reflect on my teaching and finally complete the loop. Armed with that realization I hope to reevaluate my teaching going forward and incorporate techniques like the creation of  the “curiosity gaps” that Dr. Howes discussed in her presentation. These gaps are generated through the use of unconventional or unexpected concepts (the U in SUCCES) that hold the audience’s attention by generating an intellectual need or “cliffhanger.” (Howes) Given the ever increasing demands for our attention in our everyday lives, techniques such as this that generate opportunities for engagement in the classroom will be critical to helping students retain important content.

Heath, Chip and Heath, Dan. 2008. pdf file.

Howes, Sartoris. From Teflon to Velcro Making Content Stick. Oregon State University, 29 September 2020. Recorded lecture.

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Transparency in Learning and Teaching: Begin with SMARTE and SMARTER Student Learning Objectives

In my work as an instructional consultant in CTL, I often discuss with faculty how to adjust the wording of course student learning objectives (SLOs) to exemplify measurable SLOs. This served as the initial impetus for creating an infographic to disseminate best practices for constructing student-centered and action-oriented SLOs. However, there is a lot more to the concept of developing student learning objectives than the need to comply with the administrative constraint to use a verb that describes an observable action (Dobbins, et al., 2016; Mitchell & Manzo, 2018).

SLOs are statements that describe what students will be able to do to demonstrate their learning (Maher, 2004). They signify the expectation of a change in students as a result of a learning experience. For this reason, taking the time to construct well-written and measurable SLOs is only valuable to the extent that the specified objectives serve as the foundation for assessing students’ learning and as a guide for structuring concomitant learning activities aimed at facilitating student success. Purposeful alignment of assessment, learning activities and assignments with SLOs provides internal structure, transparency and coherence to a course.

Well-written SLOs are not just appended to a course syllabus in order to fulfil an administrative requirement. Rather, they serve as a gateway through which students gain knowledge about how the parts of a course relate to each other, and fit together to give them a cohesive learning experience. Therefore, the greater purpose of this infographic is to underscore the need to make SLOs thrive as the solid base for making learning and teaching transparent in course design. To do this, I present the following approaches:

  • SLOs must be written in measurable and action-oriented terms to shape assessment and learning activities.
  • Measurable SLOs consist of a verb and the condition of learning, both of which are enshrined in the cognitive process dimension and knowledge dimension of the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy (Krathwohl, 2002).
  • Developing a course map or SLOs Alignment Table reinforces the application of the principles of backward design (Wiggins &McTighe, 2005). A course map serves two purposes. First, it focuses the instructor on meeting expected SLOs. Second, it makes the alignment of SLOs, assessment and learning activities transparent and evident to students. Merely listing SLOs on a syllabus may not have the same effect (Caruana, 2015).
  • Conventionally, SLOs are presented using a linear format. Using a flowchart to represent foundational, mediating and end-of-course SLOs will orient students to how their learning experiences interconnect and build on each other (Nilson & Goodson, 2018).

The terms student learning objectives and student learning outcomes are often used interchangeably leading to the frequently-asked question: What is the difference between the two terms? Student learning objectives describe what students are expected to learn (Krathwohl, 2002). Learning outcomes exemplify what is achieved or assessed in a course (Harden, 2002). These seemingly different definitions suggest that objectives focus on aspirations for student learning while outcomes point to the essential knowledge and skills that will be achieved and assessed. In the context of transparency of learning and teaching and the attendant need for the alignment of assessment and learning activities with SLOs, learning objectives function the same way as learning outcomes.


Caruna, V. (2015). How a Course Map Puts You on Track for Better Learning Outcomes. Faculty Focus.

Dobbins, K., Brooks, S., Scott, J. J. A., Rawlinson, M., & Norman, R. I. (2016). Understanding and enacting learning outcomes: The academic perspective. Studies in Higher Education, 41(7), 1217-1233.

Harden, R. M. (2002). Learning outcomes and instructional objectives: Is there a difference? Medical Teacher, 24(2), 151-155.

Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy: An overview. Theory into Practice, 41(4), 212-218.

Maher, A. (2004). Learning outcomes in higher education: Implications for curriculum design and student learning. Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism Education, 3(2), 46-54.

Mitchell, M. W., & Manzo, W. R. (2018). The purpose and perception of learning objectives. Journal of Political Science Education, 14(4), 456-472.

Nilson, L. B., & Goodson, L. A. (2018). Online teaching at its best: Merging instructional design with teaching and learning research. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Join me for a lively discussion of Transparent SLOs on October 16 from 12:00-12-45 pm. Information about sparkshops is available here.

Funmi Amobi is an instructional consultant in the Center for Teaching and Learning. She provides pedagogical support to faculty through 1:1 consultations, mini workshops (Sparkshops) on teaching-related topics, dissemination of infographics on evidence-based instructional practices, and co-facilitation of faculty learning communities.



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