Conferences and Consultations with Instructional Designer, Lisa Hammonds

Our very own Lisa Hammonds, Instructional Designer, presented at T-BUG (Texas Blackboard User Group) Conference this past week in Houston, TX. T-BUG is an organization for those who use Blackboard products and the group facilitates sharing of best practices and solutions to problems.

Lisa TBUG GraphicLisa’s presentation, “Blackboard Three R’s – Rewards, Retention and Rubrics,” highlighted how to incorporate Blackboard’s achievement, retention center and rubrics features to increase communication with students, engage students with course content and keep them on track for success.

On November 7th, The Center for Digital Education, in conjunction with the North Texas Community College Consortium and the National Convergence Technology Center, will host the 10th Annual Texas Community College Technology Forum. This event will provide an opportunity for Texas education technologists to convene and discuss trends, innovations and best practices in administrative, instructional and research computing technology. Lisa will be sharing flipped classroom strategies as she presents, “Have Students Flopped in Your Flipped Class?”

Lisa will be presenting both of these workshops in the CETL lab to all faculty and staff members who are interested, so be sure to register. If you can’t make the allotted time or have other instructional design needs, please contact the CETL to set up an individual consultation with Lisa.

Framing for Critical Thinking


“Glasses” by Thomas Hawk.



  • Setting up a frame for your class, perhaps through an essential question or two, is a good way to help students make connections and deeply learn material.
A key element of critical thinking is making connections. This ability is captured in Bloom’s Taxonomy as synthesis, but even if you have some issues with Bloom’s (like me), it’s hard to argue that seeing how things fit together is a component of thinking. This is especially true when those things don’t obviously relate to one another. Seeing relationships where none obviously exist is an important thing. It’s also a hard thing, especially for students new to a class or discipline.
While we want students to develop the ability to discern these relationships on their own, giving them some initial schema for doing so is a good idea. It helps them see that the relationships exist, at least in one particular way, and challenges them to understand how the material fits into the schema. It also asks them to develop their own sort of schema and, one hopes, challenge the existing schema in some way.
Kevin Brown’s article in the most recent issue of The Teaching Professor newsletter discusses the importance of “framing” a class. Framing a class provides students with some sort of structure by which to organize and interpret the class material. As Brown notes, we do this all the time in upper division classes; he uses the example of a course on the 19th century British novel called “We’re All Monsters”. The course title gives the students an initial lens to see the rest of the material. Presumably, most of the reading will deal with the monstrous nature within all of us. That theme will be explored throughout the course, used as an organizing principle for the material and the readings. It may even show up as part of (or all of) the final exam. I can see a final paper prompt being something like “Describe the developing view of the monstrous aspect of human nature within 19th Century British literature, using at least three of the novels we’ve read this semester”. That may not be the best prompt for the course’s final exam (it doesn’t ask for much analysis, I think) , but it works to tie together everything within the course, including the initial title. Brown also makes the point that we often frame our upper level classes this way, through creative titles and structures, but we often don’t do this with our introductory courses, which we often treat as a big information dump.
As a personal example, I had to take two science classes as part of my undergraduate degree. I vaguely remember a biology class my sophomore year, but I vividly remember the geology course I took my junior year — “Our Changing Planet”. I don’t remember all of the various facts about plate tectonics, strata formation, and such, but I do remember that the course had a distinct frame. The geology course worked very hard to show how climate and landforms influenced one another and how a change in one often brought about changes in the other. In other words, the class told a story of the dance between climate, oceans, and land and how that dance played out over the past few million years.
What sort of story are you trying to tell with your classes? How can we frame our course to show these critical connections exist between the elements of our discipline?
Image Credit: “Glasses” by Thomas Hawk. Used under Creative Commons license.

Teaching Non-Traditional Students: An Asset-Based Approach

If you were unable to attend the live webinar yesterday, please check out the recording along with the handouts. This Magna Online Seminar you will learn how to face the challenges of an increasingly diverse campus by leveraging the assets that all your students bring to the classroom. You will also learn how to design inclusive, accessible courses that enable non-traditional and traditional students alike to succeed and thrive.


Click the links below to access the recording of this presentation and seminar materials. (You may also copy and paste the URLs into your browser’s address bar). On demand access will be available for 30 days after the live presentation date.

Link to the presentation:

Link to PowerPoint Handouts:
Link to Supplemental Material:
Link to Critical Reflection Worksheet:
Link to Discussion Guide:

App of the Week – Stickyboard 2

Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 1.47.39 PMThis week’s app of the week is Stickyboard 2. It is a tool to create advanced organizers by creating sticky notes on a digital board and then annotating on that board. It could be great for note taking and for brainstorming sessions. The free version only allows users to have one board. The paid version ($4.99) allows for multiple boards, colors, and choices for typefaces. When you are done you may share the board via social networks or email. To download the free version for iOS click HERE. To download the paid version click HERE. To learn more about this app, watch the video below. If you have used this app in your life or in your classroom please let us know by commenting on this post! We would love to learn about your personal experiences and we would love to share them with other Texas Wesleyan folks!


Teaching Thought: Take a Breather — The 10-2 Lecture Method

  • Taking a short break every ten minutes or so when lecturing or presenting new material can help students better learn the material.

In last week’s post, I pointed toward some research that suggested students who write their notes by hand learn the material better than those students who take notes via laptop. This week, I want to continue on a similar path, but suggest a teaching strategy that dovetails nicely with handwritten note taking. It’s easily incorporated, takes very little time or planning, and could produce big gains for your students.

After every ten minutes or so of lecturing, pause for two minutes and instruct students to review the notes they’ve been taking for the past ten minutes.

That’s it. No fancy dances, no scheduled social media posts, no reworking of the syllabus. Just a short break every so often during the lecture where you explicitly instruct students to review what you’ve just told them. I first learned of this strategy, often called the 10-2 Lecture Method (for 10 minutes of lecture followed by 2 minutes of student reflection) at the AVID Summer Institute. I like it for a number of reasons. First, it’s based on the research that suggests the key to learning, especially basic mastery of new concepts, is frequent and persistent review of material. This simply begins that review immediately after encountering that new material, giving some time in class for that process of learning to really begin. I always picture students taking that new stuff, which is sitting unorganized at the front of their brain, and beginning the process of sorting and organizing it, boxing it up to put on the conveyor belt to long-term memory. Maybe that’s a bad metaphor, but the idea that that sort of processing needs to begin early is a sound one, I think.

Second, pausing gives students (who are handwriting their notes, remember?) time to catch up. They can finish jotting down whatever it was you were just saying without risking falling further behind in their note taking. It’s a simple benefit, but one that is important, especially for students who may not be used to taking notes by hand or taking such comprehensive notes.

Third, students can use the processing time to formulate questions. I can easily envision a classroom routine where, after the two-minute pause, the instructor always begins again with “Okay, what questions do you have about what we’ve just gone over?” Maybe they realize they’ve got some gaps in their notes as they review them during those two minutes; they can ask for clarification of a key concept or ask for you to restate a definition. Even better, perhaps they are able to formulate a challenging question to a key idea or concept, something that goes beyond mere clarification of what is known to asking the why and how questions that are so important to critical thinking. Regardless of the types of questions they come up with, taking a breather allows them time to actually generate them. Coupled with a routine expectation that the lecture restart with student questions, this could become a powerful tool to generate student participation and encourage learning.

Forth, it’s easy. It does not require much from the instructor other than mentally noting that one needs to pause every so often. Just look at the clock, stop, wait two minutes, then ask for questions and start again. Sure, you could try to be a bit more precise in your timekeeping by using your phone or watch to keep track of time. I’ve made a bit of a gag in my classes by using wacky alarm tones on my phone to signal transitions. They always giggle at the quacking duck that tells them their time is up. You could also incorporate more community building activities as part of the review or debrief. It would be a simple matter to instruct students to spend one minute reviewing their own notes and then one minute checking on the notes of their neighbor. This technique easily dovetails into a Think-Pair-Share if you want to make the break a little longer.

In any case, the 10-2 Lecture Method is a simple thing to try in your classes that could lead to some big learning gains.

If anyone is already doing something like this, or tries the method and wants to report, just let me know in the comments below!

About the CETL

The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Texas Wesleyan University (CETL) promotes a student-centered university by providing resources and professional growth opportunities to faculty on enhancing instructional practice, integrating technology, and promoting essential student skills.

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