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Congratulations! You have made it to the end of another semester in one piece. You deserve to catch your breath and enjoy some time-off. In addition to getting some rest, we encourage you to set yourself up for future success by taking advantage of the Kaneb Center resources.  To help you hone your pedagogical prowess over the next few months, consider:

Reading Groups. The Kaneb Center purchases books on teaching and learning for small informal reading groups. Faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars are all welcome and invited to sign up for a prearranged group or to propose their own group. These groups are a great place to gather new ideas on teaching and to meet colleagues from across the university who are interested in teaching and learning. Learn more and sign up by Monday, May 20 at 10:00 am.

Graduate Courses on University Teaching and Learning. Enrollment is open for short, credit-bearing summer graduate courses on university teaching and learning in various fields. They are taught by experienced Notre Dame faculty. Courses must meet minimum enrollments at least a month prior to the start date in order to run.  Contact the individual course instructor or krudenga@nd.edu with further questions. Visit University of Notre Dame Summer Session for more info. Tuition support is available for graduate students. Submit a summer tuition scholarship application online.

Individual Consultations. Schedule a one-on-one consultation with a member of the Kaneb Center staff to discuss any teaching needs. We are happy to help you review CIFs, discuss your course plans for the fall, develop new types of assessments or other learning activities, consider the integration of technology into your course, or discuss any other pedagogical questions or concerns.

Kaneb Center Library. The Kaneb Center library holds hundreds of books, videos, and other materials on a variety of teaching and learning topics. Visit our library and check out some great selections for your summer reading!

From all of us at the Kaneb Center, we wish you a happy, restorative, and productive summer!

*Today’s post comes from “Tomorrow’s Professor”. This post is written by Linda C. Hodges,University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and is from the National Teaching and Learning Forum, Volume 28, Number 1, December 2018*

As we design active learning experiences or flipped classes, it’s easy to focus primarily on choosing appropriate preparatory assignments and creating worthwhile in-class learning activities. These aspects are, in a sense, the first and second acts of a three-part performance of instruction. What we sometimes emphasizes is how to make sure that students come away from each session having achieved our goals for their learning—and realizing that they have. This finale is known as the denouement in performance, and just as it is critical for our understanding of a complex play, it is also essential for helping our students make meaning out of the chaos of an active learning experience.

Strategies to Help Students Recognize What and How They Learned

One obvious way to emphasize what students should take away from class is for the instructor to review and summarize at the end. Letting the students take charge of this last act in the session can provide a potent reminder of their own power as learners. When doing so, instructors may choose whether the form of abstraction is individual or group-based. When using groups in large classes, debriefs can often be aided by various technologies.

The strategies below can each be adapted to focus more on individual or on group engagement.

  • Pre-/post-quizzes. In this approach, faculty ask students several questions on that day’s topics at the beginning of class, and students answer using personal response systems, polling software, or low-tech color-coded cards. Students are then asked the same questions at the end. Inevitably, students perform better on the post-quiz, thus explicitly demonstrating learning. Technology options allow for students to answer these quizzes either by choosing letters or entering words. If students enter words, some systems can generate a word cloud. Comparing beginning and ending clouds creates a strong visual image of how students’ thoughts have changed as a result of the session. Pre-/post-quiz strategies engage students individually, yet allow them to see group results.
  • Summarizing/debriefs. Just as in a traditional lecture, summarizing the day’s takeaways is important in consolidating learning at the end of an active learning session.In small classes, we can simply ask students to volunteer ideas that we then capture on the board or via the presentation software. We can engage more students, however, by requiring them to do this in groups. Students can record their thoughts on portable or individual whiteboards or flip chart paper, or via various engagement technologies that gather and project student group responses.
  • Reflection exercises. Depending on the topic of the day’s session, what may be as important as content for students to come away with is a sense of self-knowledge. This observation is especially true if one of our course goals is to promote students’ abilities to self-regulate. The classic one- minute or muddiest point paper can be made communal through group response using any of the methods noted earlier. These exercises ask students to assess their learning progress in the moment. We can also adapt the Critical Incident Questionnaire to be a session-ending reflection, asking students when during class they were most or least engaged (Brookfield, 1995), raising students’ awareness of their own waxing or waning attention during class activities.


Class time is a precious commodity, and as instructors we are often hesitant to take time to teach learning processes. We know, however, that many of our learners today are not familiar with the mental gymnastics required for deep learning. Framing our class sessions to explicitly model the key stages of learning (i.e., planning, practicing, monitoring, and reflecting) can cultivate students’ abilities to internalize these processes as they head off to work on their own.

Teaching with Cases

There are many ways of structuring in-class time, but, as an instructor, I know how easy it is to fall back on just a couple. I’m almost always short on prep time, and the stakes of trying something new feel high, so I often dust off an old slide deck, find an outline, and start lecturing, even though there’s a decent amount of evidence that this isn’t the most effective learning strategy for my students.

In an effort to implement more active learning in my classroom, I’ve been experimenting this semester and last with the case method, a discussion-based learning strategy that allows students to process and synthesize complex conceptual materials and collaborate — with me and one another — to help make sense of the messy realities that come with applying the material we cover in class to real world scenarios.

What is The Case Method?

The Case Method unfolds in three steps. First, students are asked to prepare for a particular lesson by reading, analyzing, and working through a case study. In my class, they are encouraged to work in groups, and required to take notes on their preparations. The second step occurs in class, where students are prompted to summarize key features of the case, and presented with a series of questions that set up a broader, more open-ended class discussion. Throughout this time, the instructor guides and directs conversation, making sure to clear up confusions that arise, and hitting key points from that day’s lesson. Finally, students are asked to debrief in some way, usually by journaling about the activity for a short time and sharing their understanding of the case post-discussion.

The method can be implemented more or less formally, and more or less frequently. For example:

Amanda is teaching a business class in which students are supposed to learn principles of retail loss prevention, and how to write policies that balance a concern to minimize theft with broader concerns regarding social justice. She gives her students a 10-page case study to prepare before class, along with 5-7 discussion prompts. In class, she has a student give an overview of the case, and then starts a class discussion based on the prompts she provided.

Paul is teaching a class on applied ethics, and wants students to think about what the rational response is to persistent disagreement of different kinds. After lecturing for 20 minutes, he has students break up into small groups and gives them a handout with three, short cases. Each group is assigned a case and asked to read and discuss it amongst themselves. For the last 30 minutes of class, each group leads a 10 minute discussion on the case they were assigned.

These examples help illustrate how the case method is implemented, as well as its flexibility: it’s a learning strategy that can be modified to fit almost any discipline and learning environment.

Why Should I Try the “Case Method”?

One reason, referenced above, is because it is an example of a more active learning strategy. Research suggests that students internalize and retain information better when they are engaging it actively, as they are in the case method. In the case method, the role of instructor shifts from guru to guide: instructors ask probing questions and guide discussion, but spend less overall time talking. Likewise, the role of student shifts from scribe to collaborator: students are asked to take more initiative and responsibility, and collaborate with the instructor and each other to make sense of the day’s lesson.

There are more practical reasons for adopting this method, too. Because the case method requires students to apply course concepts in situations more closely resembling situations in which they’d actually use them, this method can increase their practical comprehension and help them build skills that are transferable outside of the classroom. It’s also, if done well, a fairly efficient way of maximizing the impact of your lessons. Because students are presenting and analyzing much of the content you’d otherwise be presenting and working through, you can free yourself up to teach higher-level concepts and skills.


Implementing the case method is a bit of a commitment, and it certainly will take some getting used to. But if the description and benefits detailed in this blog post resonate with you, I encourage you to give it a shot; it can be an excellent, and high impact, way of engaging students for deeper learning.

(photo provided by picography.co via CC0 license)

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit! – Aristotle


I recently listened to Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business and was captivated both by his intense look at how personal habits are developed, as well as surprised at exploited by others for gain. This really got my attention and had me reflecting on how I go about my daily work, those elements that make up my routines, and why so much is totally unaware to me. Personally, taking a periodic look at my professional and personal habits can help me fulfill that ultimate goal to become the best version of myself. And for those of us devoted to the profession of teaching and the improvement of learning a self-assessment of habits can be equally valuable when discussing the next iteration of a course or workshop to identify hidden instructional habits and how tweaks may have an more positive impact on our students’ learning.

Let’s look a couple of teaching areas where a change in habits can perhaps lead to more engaging classes and ultimately an increase in performance and learning.

Keeping Course Goals and Objectives Alive

In What the Best College Teachers Do Ken Bain acknowledges the importance of planning your courses backwards al a Grant Wiggins and Jay McTigue in Understanding by Design (both available from the Kaneb Center Library), just as Stephen Covey’s mantra from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People suggests we should always “begin with the end in mind”.  As teachers, we must have a habit of connecting each class meeting, assignment, or activity to the big questions of the course and how individual components of student engagement with the material align to partially fulfill respective course goals. It’s important to ask how do our activities and assignments provide connection to the knowledge, skills, or attitudes we are seeking in our students? We want students to continually reflect on why they are with us each class and how each class meeting and assignment leads them closer to fulfilling the course destination. Doing this also helps instructors design more effective assessment activities to better evaluate student evidence of learning throughout the length of the course.

The Beta Mindset and Taking Chances in the Classroom

Many established professors also have the habit of teaching a repeatedly offered course using the same notes (slightly updated), class format, textbook, etc. from semester to semester and year to year. We’ve heard the proverbial if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! But changing things up can be risky and uncomfortable and at the same time exciting! Teaching innovation professor and blogger John Spencer advises and encourages fearless risk-taking in the classroom through a “beta mindset” in which one is open to trying something out, accepting whatever initial results (good or bad) then refining and readying for the next version to be used again. Most valuable to this method is making refinements based on student feedback. Though sometimes shocked for changing the classroom routine, most students appreciate doing something fun and different with purpose. The bottom line is student learning may blossom when faculty change it up, get innovative and not to wait until it’s perfect. Just go for it!

Our oldest son on a cold, October day in 2014.

We’ve known for years the importance and value of good personal habits to improved performance and results so much so that Stephen Covey enriched his life personally and financially from them! If you only encounter intermittent waves in your normally smooth classroom and learning environments, take a chance anyway and step out on those waters with new habits that result in unanticipated waves of student success!

* Today’s post comes from the 2018-19 Teaching Issues Writing Consortium, a collaboration of over 40 institutions of higher-education. This post is written by Zeenar Salim, of The Aga Khan University, Karimabad and Karachi*

Do you have concern around students attending classes without pre-reading? Ever wondered how can you make them read? Students in higher education are expected to comprehend the text, connect their prior experiences with the text, evaluate the text, and consider alternative viewpoints to the text. Reading prompts is considered to be a way to motivate students to read. It improves students’ comprehension and critical thinking skills by engaging them actively with the reading material.

Provision of reading cues/prompts helps the learners to actively read, analyse their own thoughts during and after reading to expand, clarify or modify their existing thinking about the concepts or idea at hand. The reading prompts can be categorized into six categories a) identification of problem or issue b) making connections c) interpretation of evidence d) challenging assumptions e) making applications, and f) taking a different point of view. Sample question for each category are as follows:

  1. What is the key issue/concept explained in the article? What are the complexities of the issue? (Identification of problem or issue)
  2. How is what you are reading different from your prior knowledge around the issue/topic? (Making connections)
  3. What inferences can you draw from the evidence presented in the reading? (Interpretation of evidence)
  4. If you get a chance to meet the author, what are the key questions that you would ask the author (Challenging assumptions).
  5. What are the lessons that you have drawn for your practice, from this reading? (Making application)
  6. Write a letter to your friend who has no expertise in this subject area, explaining him the theoretical concept presented in the article? (Taking a different point of view)

Generally, students are asked to complete the reading prompts before the next class by writing a paragraph-long response to each question. Teacher may ask some or all questions depending upon the learning objectives of the session and may adapt the question(s) to gauge specific information around the text. For sample questions and detailed literature around reading prompts, please read Tomasek (2009).

Reference: Tomasek, T. (January 01, 2009). Critical Reading: Using Reading Prompts to Promote Active Engagement with Text. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ896252.pdf

Submitted by:

Zeenar Salim

Associate, Network of Teaching & Learning Office of the Provost The Aga Khan University, Karimabad and Karachi

Website: https://www.aku.edu/qtl/teaching-tips/Pages/home.aspx

Staying Motivated

While we have covered the difficulties of keeping up student motivation in previous posts (strategies for increasing student motivation , feedback for learner motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and keeping students motivated), another factor to consider at this point in the semester is how you as an instructor can keep yourself motivated. Only you can know what truly inspires or drives you, but here are some suggestions that might help remind you how to do your best work every day.

  • Ask someone to observe you. The Kaneb Center offers this service from a professional perspective, but you might also consider asking a colleague from your own department. A classroom observer may encourage you in the areas you have mastered or suggest strategies you may not have considered. In either case, the feedback can provide a boost of confidence and inspiration at a time of year where your classroom experience might become stale.
  • Set daily intentions for yourself. Take some time each night to sketch out the goals you have for the next day. It’s important to set a realistic number of goals, so that you have the satisfaction of finishing off your list instead of the frustration of facing a number of incomplete tasks. Successfully managing a to do list like this can be a great source of momentum and a good confidence builder. While you may have used a strategy like this in your research or personal life previously, it can also go a long way toward helping you feel motivated and in control as an instructor.
  • Once you have taught for a few semesters, you probably have some positive messages from students scattered throughout your inbox and maybe your course evaluations. Consider starting a file to collect these messages for future perusal. The words your students use to describe how well you do your work or how you have affected their lives are the perfect confidence booster to help you finish the semester strong.
  • Update your workspace. Sometimes something as simple as a little redecorating can lift your mood and improve your focus. Whether you have an office, carrel, or a desk, there are ways to make your workspace personal. Images of favorite people, places, and things can be just the external prompt your internal motivation needs!
  • Take care of your health, physical and mental. Recreation isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity for the life of the mind. Ensuring that your body and your mind receive the rest they need is crucial to avoiding burnout. It may seem that there is simply no time to see to these needs, but investing time in these important matters will help avoid numerous problems in the future.

For years, the Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning at Notre Dame has had — in addition to a full time staff — cohorts of graduate student (and some postdoctoral) “associates,” who support and assist with the development of programming. These “PGAs” (Postdoctoral and Graduate Associates) are selected to serve at the beginning of each year, and often continue to serve throughout their career at Notre Dame. I became a PGA two and a half years ago, at the outset of my fourth year in grad school, and am still serving in the role as a postdoctoral fellow. Here, I’ll detail some of the most important things I’ll take away from my experience as a PGA. Because we’re actively seeking applicants for this role in the upcoming academic year, I’ll put some more information about the role itself, and how you can apply, below.

Lessons Learned, Experience Gained

I’ve learned a lot during my time as a Kaneb associate, but I’ll try to distill and share some of the most valuable here:

  • Teaching, and learning, and learnable skills. The myth persists in higher education that teaching is inexplicable and learning is magic, but my time at Kaneb has convinced me otherwise. I, myself, have made massive gains in my skills as a teacher, just by paying attention to a bit of the current literatures on learning and pedagogy, and by listening to the experience-based insights of my colleagues. If I wasn’t fully committed to having a “growth mindset” before taking the position, I certainly am now after just a couple years in it!
  • There are just a few key principles and best practices one had to master to become an excellent teacher. It’s not easy, of course, but it is relatively simple. Listing the principles and practices can sound a bit trite, but things like “engage students through active learning” and “make sure assignments and assessments are aligned with meaningful learning goals” truly represent almost everything I’ve learned about teaching throughout my time at Kaneb. Because teaching is a craft, of course, internalizing and exemplifying these things is difficult and hard won through experience, but it’s amazing to me how far just a few basic principles and practices have taken me.
  • Sometimes teaching how to teach is the best way to articulate your own teaching philosophy. I’m a philosopher, so I’m allowing myself one very meta point. But here’s what I’m talking about. In leading Kaneb workshops, some of which I took over from other PGAs or from the Kaneb repertoire, I’ve learned a lot about myself and my own teaching commitments. For instance: I’ve long believed lecturing to be one of the best ways to teach, and that belief has showed up in my approach to teaching throughout grad school. In teaching workshops on “active learning” and how to “flip classrooms” (pedagogical buzzwords I had to familiarize myself with prior to teaching such workshops), I acquired a much broader picture, and now understand that my original belief was based largely on what worked for me as an undergrad, and that, according to the literatures on this topic, I was a huge outlier! I still lecture, and still think there are effective ways of doing it, but my exposure to more teaching theory — and to the experiences I’ve encountered as a PGA — have helped me work through this previously knee-jerk commitment, and come to a more nuanced position.
  • Teaching is best pursued in community. As I’ve detailed elsewhere [link], during my time at the Kaneb Center I started a community for first time teachers, and I can’t recommend this highly enough. The community I’ve enjoyed as an associate, as well as those that I’ve joined or created in my role, have been absolutely key in supporting my success and enthusiasm in the classroom.

I could, of course, go on and on, but I’ll stop here for now and just make a pitch directly: if you’re thinking about getting involved in efforts to promote good pedagogy on a college campus, at Notre Dame or elsewhere, I highly recommend it. My experience had been invaluable to me, and it’s something I will carry into every sphere of my personal and professional life.

More About the Role, and How to Apply

Most basically, PGAs are around to promote and support ongoing programming. We help plan and lead Notre Dame’s yearly TA Orientation, teach and plan existing pedagogy workshops and series, and help develop, design, and implement new programs and workshops. For instance, this year I taught Kaneb’s “Foundations of Teaching” in the fall, am planning a workshop on using case studies in the classroom, and have developed and led a weekly Teacher’s Learning Community, where first time teachers come together each week to troubleshoot and learn the craft together.

If you’re interested in this position, Kaneb is now accepting applications for this role; you can email krudenga@nd.edu for more information.


Today’s blog was originally posted by Justus Ghormley on the Kaneb Center’s blog in February, 2016. It is reposted here with minor revisions.

One semester a student came to me disappointed about his grade on an exam. He told me that he had studied for nine hours yet felt unprepared for the exam. I asked him to describe to me what exactly he did during those nine hours. He explained his review strategy: he reread all of his notes from class; identified unfamiliar terms and concepts; and then memorized definitions for each of these terms and concepts. While he had stored in his brain a huge treasury of relevant information, he did not know how to use this information. The exam required him to do more than just regurgitate memorized facts or recognize familiar concepts; instead my student was challenged to relate familiar concepts to unfamiliar concepts and to synthesize distinct ideas.

My student’s struggles prompted me to ask two different questions: (1) what was I doing during class time to prepare my students for the higher level of learning required by my exams; and (2) what should my students be doing outside of class to prepare effectively for an exam. Apropos to the first question, there are a host of strategies for prompting higher levels of learning in the classroom such as the use of in-class writing assignments, concept mapping, and guided discussions. In addition to utilizing such strategies, I suggest preparing students for exams by requiring them to solve questions and problems during class time that are similar to those that will show up on the exams. In other words, early on and throughout the semester, expose students to the kinds of tasks and puzzles that you hope they will be able to accomplish and solve by the last day of class.

With regard to the second question, if students are to perform well on their exams, it is important to teach students how to study and review class material effectively. Consider the following tips:

  • Invite, inspire, and require students to review subject matter from class early and often.
  • Encourage students to review their notes from class as soon as possible after class is over. Explain that students learn more effectively when they review newly learned material promptly.
  • To motivate such prompt reviewing, for each class period, consider assigning a review problem/question that is due twenty-four hours after the class.
  • Require students to come to class prepared to recall the main points from the previous class. Tell students that as a part of their grade, you will call on them at the beginning of class to summarize the previous class.
  • Offer frequent low-stakes, self-diagnostic quizzes (or short practice tests) that expose students to kinds of questions and the higher level of learning that will be required on the exam.
  • Grade these quizzes in class and talk through the correct answer.
  • Encourage students to form weekly study groups for discussing class content. Consider offering extra credit to students who commit to meeting in such a group.
  • Urge students to practice discussing ideas and answering questions from class out loud and on paper. Explain to them that putting their thoughts into words (both spoken and written) will force them to think about class concepts on a deeper level.

For a bibliography on teaching study skills:

Consider the study skills handouts prepared by Dartmouth College:

and their learning strategies videos:

Also, consider Joe Landsberger’s very popular collection of study guides and learning resources:
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Get a Teaching Well Using Technology (TWUT) Certificate: During spring break, get a jumpstart on the Teaching Well Using Technology certificate or finish the entire program in a week! These hands-on sessions are designed to help you begin working on the Teaching Well Using Technology Certificate. Each session prepares you to complete one of the modules required for the certificate. It is a great time to get work done on your own or in a group. For more information and to register, click here.

Read a book on Pedagogy: Spring break is a great time to relax, crack open a book, and learn something new about teaching. Here are some of our favorites that we think you may enjoy as well:

Sign up for some Kaneb Center Workshops: The Kaneb Center still has a number of workshops upcoming in the second half of the semester. Take a moment to browse the list and find a workshop that fits your needs and schedule.

Wishing you a restful and productive break!

Grading Rubrics

This blog post is partially based on the Kaneb Center’s workshop on rubrics: https://kaneb.nd.edu/programs/workshops-we-can-offer/using-grading-rubrics/

Imagine you’re staring at a pile of essays to grade — or presentations, or projects, or lab reports. It’s a mixed bag. Some are written superbly well but are riddled with factual errors and leaps of logic. Others hit all the points spot-on, but misspellings and run-ons abound. Some presenters speak eloquently about their first point, use up their whole presentation time, and have to cram the most relevant material into the last five minutes. Some projects are technically correct but only skim the surface of the issue at hand.

How to make sense of all this — and assign it a grade?

One tool that will simplify the grading of any assignment is the grading rubric. A grading rubric not only breaks your grading process into smaller, more manageable steps, but also communicates your expectations — and the learning goals of the assignment — more clearly to your students.

A grading rubric has two essential parts: the criteria of the assignment and the levels of mastery for each criterion.

First, what are the criteria of your assignment? In other words, what dimensions of learning does this assignment test? Content? Delivery? Writing skill? Organization? Use of sources?

Next, what scale will you use to assess your students’ level of mastery? Some examples:
Advanced/Intermediate High/Intermediate/Novice
Mastery/Partial Mastery/Progressing/Emerging

Once you have determined both the criteria and levels of mastery for the assignment, choose a format in which to present your material and compose descriptions of each level of mastery for each criterion. Perhaps the most straightforward format is a table:

Exceeds Expectations

Meets Expectations

Below Expectations


Clear, compelling analysis of the material. Ample use of evidence, no factual errors.

Analysis is largely accurate and clearly supported with evidence; few if any factual errors.

Significant factual errors or misinterpretation of the material


Speaker varies volume to fit message, keeps a smooth pace, keeps audience actively engaged

Easy to hear speaker, consistent pace, keeps audience attention and eye contact

Difficult to hear speaker, too slow or too fast, little connection with audience


Excellent, clear organization; seamless transitions from one part of the argument to the next

Solidly organized, relatively clear. Possibly a rough transition or two.

Meanders, lacks clear structure or organization

When you finally turn to that pile of student assignments, you can readily assess each assignment using the descriptions you have already written up — and students, with the rubric in hand, will have a clear idea of what they can do to improve their work next time.

For more resources about how to compose a grading rubric, take a look at Effective Grading by Barbara Walvoord: https://www.amazon.com/Effective-Grading-2e-Barbara-Walvoord/dp/0470502150.

For some examples of rubrics for a host of different assignments, including papers, projects, oral presentations, and class discussion, see: https://www.cmu.edu/teaching/assessment/assesslearning/rubrics.html

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