Category Archive: Teaching and Learning

Apr 25

UNG at the 2017 USG Teaching and Learning Conference

On April 5-7, 2017, the University System of Georgia (USG) hosted the USG Teaching and Learning Conference at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education in Athens, Georgia. Faculty, staff, and students gathered to share their research, experiences, and other work related to Best Practices for Promoting Engaged Student Learning. Irene Kokkala, Director of Distance Education & Technology Integration (DETI), is a founding co-director of this system-wide conference.

The University of North Georgia (UNG) was well-represented with forty-five UNG faculty, staff, and students chosen to present their work at the conference. Their presentations highlight UNG’s commitment to academic excellence and contribute to the teaching and learning communities of UNG and USG.

The following faculty and staff presented their work at the 2017 USG Teaching and Learning Conference:

“A Tale of Two Labs: Adapting Field Biology Labs into Online Formats”
Eleanor Schut

“Addressing STEM Undergraduate Deficiencies Reading and Writing Scientific Literature Using a Learning Community”
Evan Lampert and Steve Pearson

“An Integrated First-Year Cohort Experience”
Tom Cooper, Alison Hite, Phillip Mitchell, Nathan Price, and Robert H. Scott

“Biology Boot Camp: A Peer-Assisted, Active Learning Program Designed to Increase Student Engagement and Promote Critical Thinking in Biology”
Cathy Whiting

“Building Meaningful Bridges: Innovative Approaches to Learning Communities”
Rosaria Meek, Lance Bardsley, Dan Cabaniss, and Michael Kemling

“Cheating on Online Exams: How to Recognize, Foil, and Prevent It”
Margaret Williamson, Katherine Kipp, and John Williams

“Conditional Feedback: Using Google Drive to Encourage Revision Effort”
Matthew Horton

“Empowering Faculty, Staff, and Students: Applying Growth Mindset to Writing Instruction”
Diana Edelman and Jim Shimkus

“Engage Me! Free or Low-cost Web-based Technology to Interact and Engage Students in Your Classroom and online Courses”
Jim Wilkison and Ching-Yu Huang

“Excel Spreadsheets as a Tool for Teaching and Learning Quantitative Courses Online”
Christine Jonick

“False Assumptions: the Challenges and Politics of Teaching in China”
Laura Getty

“Heightened Critical Thinking: Requiring a Prospectus and Annotated Bibliography in the Research Paper Process”
Donna Gessell

“Ideological Exploration: Responses to Zakaria’s In Defense of a Liberal Education”
Tanya Bennett

“Implementation of a Biology Resource Center” (Cancelled)
Jeanelle Morgan

“Innovative Publishing: Developing Low- and No-Cost Textbooks with UNG Press”
Bonnie Robinson and Corey Parson

“Learning to Talk/Talking to Learn: Using Critical Dialogue to Promote Critical Thinking Learning Communities”
Patrice Prince with students, Chelsea Belezaire, Alexis Schubiger, and Sarah Williams

“Problem-Solving in the Literature Classroom: Creative Responses to Literary Texts”
Leigh Dillard and Macklin Cowart with student, Callie Bryant

“Research Tools for SoTL”
Rebecca Rose

“Spark and Sway”
John Williams

“SoTL Communities of Practice for Research on Teaching and Learning”
Mary Carney and Laura Ng

“The Process of Building OER Materials that Promote Student Engagement” (Listed in email from Marie Lasseter)
Patty Wagner

“The Research Consultation: Teaching Students Critical Thinking Skills Outside of the Classroom”
Virginia Feher, Sean Boyle, Randall Parish, and Karen Redding

“Using a Collaborative Laboratory Exercise to Connect Different Sub-disciplines of Biology”
Swapna Bhat and Evan Lampert

“Yelling Whitman: Teaching Prosody by Performance”
Samuel Prestridge, Esther Morgan-Ellis, and Laura Ng

Apr 18

Lesson Plan Template for Scaffolding Student Learning

As an educator at the University of North Georgia (UNG), I spend my time with preservice teachers, preparing them for K-12 classrooms. The information that I share with my preservice teachers can also be valuable for instructors in higher education. I have discovered that many of our preservice teachers are apprehensive about the program when they transition into teacher education. The angst is largely based on what to expect as they navigate their classes in the program. Let me share one approach that I have found to be invaluable in reducing anxiety and preparing instructors to teach their own classes.

Many of us who teach, whether in higher education or K-12, experience some anxiety about lesson delivery. Over time, many become comfortable with the content, specifically the knowledge base that Shulman (1986) refers to as content knowledge. However, some educators eagerly want to learn how to execute the various segments of their lessons. For instance, many preservice teachers are more concerned about how to teach the content (Jackson, 2015) than the content itself. Schulman (1986) classifies the ability to teach content as pedagogical knowledge. Having knowledge about the content is critical to teachers’ instruction; however, Ayers (2015) posits that having sufficient knowledge of content does not automatically suggest that a teacher can adequately deliver instruction of the content. In answering the call for concern, I decided at the start of the academic year that I would do my best to help ease this particular anxiety. I wanted to create a template that our preservice teachers and instructors could utilize, which aligns with state standards, reflects pedagogical framework, and includes pertinent instructional language to support preservice teacher instruction. Guided by Intern Keys, which are standards used to rate teachers on several performance indicators including professional knowledge, instructional planning and instructional strategies (Georgia Intern Keys), I designed a strategy lesson plan template (See appendix).

There are multiple goals for creating the lesson plan template. For one, I wanted the template to mirror a framework of how teachers could teach students about strategic reading. Harvey and Goudvis (2007) describe strategic reading as “thinking about reading in ways that enhance learning and understanding” (p. 23). While it is important for preservice teachers to demonstrate a command of subject matter (Georgia Intern Keys), it is also necessary to provide a framework for them to launch a lesson, from introduction, through teaching and closure, which is clear, sequential and makes sense (Georgia Intern Keys). As a result, I incorporated Pearson and Gallagher’s (1983) gradual release of responsibility model for instruction in the lesson plan template. Gradual release of responsibility is an instructional framework which promotes modeling of a strategy, followed by guided, collaborative, and independent practice respectively. I also wanted to provide language prompts that preservice teachers could borrow as they model and provide guided as well as collaborative practice for their students.  I adapted and added sentence starters from Harvey and Goudvis’ (2007) as well as Harvey, Goudvis, Muhtaris & Ziemke’s (2013) texts. Harvey and Goudvis (2007) state that what and how teachers speak “shapes and expands thinking” (p.36). To this end, it was critical to have the Pearson and Gallagher’s instructional framework and Harvey and Goudvis’ language prompts in one document. Additionally, I hope that instructors at the university would be able to utilize the template as a teaching tool to support preservice teacher learning. Vygotsky (1986) describes zone of proximal development as the scaffold more experienced peers offer to help learners reach their full potential.

Here, I explain the layout of the lesson plan template in detail and provide rationale for each decision. One of the Intern Keys for excellence is beginning a lesson by connecting students’ previous learning to new information (Georgia Intern Keys). As such, the language prompt I include first in the template for introduction is “last week…or yesterday,” which indicates a commitment to connecting students’ previous learning. Next, I include the stem question “have you ever,” which is a method of eliciting responses from students, thereby linking their background knowledge to new learning. In keeping with the pacing and sequence of a typical lesson, the teaching segment follows with a stem statement which introduces the day’s lesson with the phrase “Today readers, we will be.”  Teachers are then prompted to define the comprehension strategy that they are teaching (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983) by including potential key words or sentence starters. Best practice suggests that teachers not only tell, but show students how to engage in a target strategy (Harvey & Goudvis, 2007; Pearson & Gallagher, 1983), thereby making comprehension instruction explicit and meaningful. After this, preservice teachers are cued to do a Think Aloud (Davey, 1983), where they “verbalize their own thoughts” as they model the target comprehension strategy to their students (p. 45). In keeping with a gradual release of responsibility (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983), the template further includes opportunities for students to engage in guided practice, before participating in collaborative and independent practice. Examples of the language prompts within the template are “try it with me,” “try it with a partner,” an adaptation of turn and talk, which is a collaborative strategy that affords opportunities for all students to participate in the lesson (Harvey & Goudvis, 2007). The template culminates with closure, which allows students to share how they used the strategy. Pearson and Gallagher (1983) highlight that the gradual release instructional model is important to effective teaching and student independence. Offering language prompts within the lesson plan framework allows greater opportunities for refining teaching practice and increasing confidence.

This template offers not only a strategy lesson plan for preservice teachers, but also exemplifies a methodical approach to help students practice and assume more responsibility for comprehending course material. It teaches students to strategically approach their reading instruction. Additionally, the template offers all educators an opportunity to deepen their understanding of lesson planning frameworks. This innovative tool may help reduce anxiety in implementing and teaching lessons. With practice, educators will gradually internalize the sequencing, pacing, and necessary language of a lesson and ultimately possess stronger self-efficacy towards administering strategy lessons and, potentially, other lesson structures.



Ayers, C. A. (2016). Developing Preservice and Inservice Teachers’ Pedagogical Content
Knowledge in Economics. Social Studies Research and Practice, 11(1), 73- 92.

Davey, B. (1983). “Think Aloud: Modeling the Cognitive Processes of Reading Comprehension.”
Journal of Reading, 27(1), 44-47.

Jackson, Annmarie, “Language Teacher Development: A Study of ESOL Preservice Teachers’ Identities, Efficacy
and Conceptions of Literacy.” Dissertation, Georgia State University, 2015.

Georgia Intern Keys, Candidate Assessment on Performance Standards, 2013

Harvey, S. & Goudvis, A. (2007). Strategies that work: Teaching comprehension for
understanding and engagement
. Portland, Maine: Stenhouse Publishers.

Harvey, S., Goudvis, A., Muhtaris, K. & Ziemke, K. (2013). Connecting comprehension &
technology: Adapt and extend Toolkit Practices. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Pearson, P.D., & Gallagher, M. (1983). The instruction of reading comprehension. Contemporary
Educational Psychology
, 8(3), 317-344.

Shulman, L. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational
Researcher, 15
(4), 4-14.

Vygotsky, L, S. (1986). Thought and language. Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of



Strategy Lesson Plan Framework

A.  Introduction/Activator
Connection to previous learning/ activate to concept:
”Last week/yesterday we . . .”
“Have you ever . . .”
“Turn and talk to your partner about what you remember about . . .”

B.  Teaching/Instructional Strategies & Learning
Purpose/goal of the lesson:
“Today, we are going to . . .”
“I’m going to teach you how to . . .“

Strategy Definition (prompts will vary based on strategy):
“When good readers make predictions, they . . .”
“Visualizing means . . .”
“Context clues will help readers . . .”

Modeling/Think Aloud:
First, I want you to watch me as I show you how to . . .”
“I am going to read some of the book. Watch how I stop and Think Aloud about what will happen . . .”

Guided Practice:
“Try it with me. As I read, I want you to… make a Prediction . . .”.   (Repeat again)

Collaborative/Independent Practice:
“Try it with a partner . . .”
“Try it on your own . . .”

C.  Closure
Summarize Strategies/Share:
“Turn and Talk with your partner about your prediction . . .”
“During my reading, I made a prediction . . .”

Apr 10

Finding Time for Research

In any given week, University of North Georgia (UNG) faculty will attend meetings on such a range of topics that our neural cortex becomes a bit like pudding. By Friday of last week, I wanted a way to redeem the meeting-pudding with which I found my mind filled. The way I chose to do so is by acknowledging the ever-apparent commonality between all meetings; they are all about trying to improve the University. I saw a sub-theme of the scholarship of teaching and learning. It is no surprise; we are under pressure to improve our teaching and our research, simultaneously. It made sense why my thoughts would go there. If you are lucky enough to work in a department with resources and structural systems dedicated to research, this is an easier task to accomplish. For the majority of faculty at UNG, however, we must find the way to make our little domain in this teaching machine also produce research.

Two options exist, the first is break the machine. That is, drop your responsibilities to teaching and service, for a while or indefinitely, if convenient. Making this easier choice would be the incorrect thing to do. For the committed educator, a system where research is supported by teaching, and vice-versa, is the only choice.

The second – and correct – option is to develop a mechanism that attaches a second gear to your place in the machine. This option is vastly preferable to the first. After all, UNG’s goal is to produce quality people. There is no doubt; we are primarily a teaching institution. If our students are not achieving at their highest, we have become irrelevant in our profession.

How I am fighting to be successful with the second option research project?

First things first. Learn.

I’m relatively new to this type of research. So, I keep finding new information that helps me rethink what I am doing. Here are two selected articles that are guiding me in choosing research methods in general and in the writing of a qualitative case-study specifically.

Using Constructivist Case Study Methodology to Understand Community Development Processes: Proposed Methodological Questions to Guide the Research Process is a little thick on the tongue, but the article’s premise is a decision tree about how we chose research models and how to frame research projects. I copied the questions almost word for word and systematically have been working through them on each research topic. The first author, Laucker, is actually a student, and Paterson and Krupa are her advisors. As a teacher education professor, I’m always impressed with explicit modeling of scholarship in the classroom.

Five Misunderstandings About Case-Study Research by Bent Flyvbjerg, helped shape my thoughts around how case-study approaches would work best as a starting place in my independent research at UNG. It also dispelled some nasty concepts that were holdovers from my PhD training in the biomedical sciences. A light went off after reading this, and I recognized that my role in scholarship is one of empowerment. Using a co-written case-study approach is empowering to our students and makes for a more dynamic expression of classroom teaching. I think almost all faculty have at least one student who is causing them to excel in teaching practices, or who are asking tough questions in class. Work with them and make something bigger from that interaction. More about this idea in Step 3.

Second. Plan.

Organize your time appropriately. , so focus on the crucial tasks of making your teaching process a research process. I have dedicated times in my busy weekly schedule when nothing, except my spouse, is allowed to interrupt. Email and text notifications are turned off. The door is closed. A timer is set. I have only one item on my agenda and I will focus on that one item. When something comes to mind as I work, it gets jotted down for later.  If planning isn’t your strong suit, I highly recommend Textbook & Academic Authors Association’s blog to help focus your productivity. A great recent topic by Noelle Sterne covers 6 techniques to jumpstart writing efficiency and productivity.

Third. Collaborate.

Pick people you think you can work with. Don’t know who that is? Experiment with different people. Tell them the writing relationship is on a probationary period. If your partnership goals haven’t been met by a mutually agreed upon time, it is worth considering forming a different partnership. There are some faculty and students who I have greatly enjoyed talking with, we have similar research interests, but we can’t seem to accomplish anything together. There are no hard feelings; some work habits don’t mesh. No worries. Keep building those partnerships.

In your scholarship, don’t forget that Center for Teaching, Learning, and Leadership (CTLL) is on your side. Everything from helping you form a writing group to working on copyright issues is within their expertise. A quick recommendation from the CTLL blog: Diana Edelman did a piece about the Benefits of Faculty Writing Groups that is well worth considering. CTLL also offers Write@UNG, a faculty development program which focuses on research and writing skills, led by Michael Rifenburg. Check out his blog.

What is most important to remember is that we are all in this together. Every faculty and staff member wants to improve the University. If they didn’t, I’m sure that they can find adequate replacement salary elsewhere. Work as a team and continue to share your passion for teaching. When we are actively engaged in the scholarship of teaching, our students benefit. Make the most of your opportunities.


Feb 13

Priorities and Pedagogies: Reflections on Writing Instruction

Teaching composition is often compared to drudgery because the grading load can be intense and because writing pedagogy seems stuck in a rut. In the minds of many instructors, the only way out of the rut is through trickery: special topics courses, special genre courses, and so on. In an essay entitled “Are We Teaching Composition All Wrong,” Joseph Teller dares to shake up the proverbial apple cart with some tough questions and some intriguing answers. Posted at the Chronicle of Higher Education website last month, Teller’s essay has generated a bit of chatter.

He emphasizes a number of significant ideas:

  • Composition courses must focus on process, not just product.
  • Students should compose essays that tackle complex issues rather than imitate rhetorical modes (as in the much-maligned “current-traditional” pedagogy of years past).
  • Writing and reading instruction should be combined in the same course.

Teller identifies these ideas as examples of “pedagogical orthodoxy,” ideas that composition theorists and practitioners rarely if ever call into question. While I agree that composition instructors would benefit from heightened self-reflection, I disagree with his assertion that these principles are impractical, that they don’t hold up to experience in the classroom. Based on my experience, Teller presents a false choice between addressing “complex issues” and imitation – these practices are distinct and may represent contrasting pedagogical assumptions, but they are hardly mutually exclusive.

On the other hand, Teller is correct that too many instructors focus more on reading than on writing. Themed courses may well be taught as composition courses, but they may also be taught as literature courses masquerading as writing courses. The pet interests of an instructor (theoretical, political, etc.) may also prove a distraction from writing instruction. For years, I was guilty of talking much more about the readings during class meetings than giving the focus where it belonged, on writing. Only after long reflection did I begin to reprioritize my first-year composition (FYC) courses, and I’m still working on that issue. Many composition instructors were trained in literature programs, so their tendency is to focus more on reading than on writing. Only through careful reflection and solid training in FYC pedagogy may we avoid this familiar pitfall. In A Rhetoric for Writing Teachers, Erika Lindemann shows how instructors may construct courses that provide balance between content (reading) and writing activities and assignments (252-80).

Perhaps more surprisingly, Teller seems to underestimate the possibilities for revision. In fact, he asserts that revision does not really happen that often. From my experience, that is true only part of the time. Many students in my FYC classes do attempt to revise, and some of their revisions prove effective. They are often not as effective as the revisions produced by more experienced writers, but they are a start. But for students to succeed in revision, instructors must prioritize iterative feedback. It’s one thing to offer summative commentary on the grade for a final draft of an assignment, but it is another to offer clear and helpful advice to a student during the revision process.

Teller also seems content to believe that workshopping is by and large a waste of time. While I don’t doubt that many students give too little attention to workshops, this strikes me as an overreaction to the tendency of many FYC students to misunderstand the role a reader may have in shaping the priorities of revision. Some students may not take the workshop exercise as seriously as they should, but that is no reason to abandon the practice. A thoughtfully structured workshop will help to maximize its potential. Richard Straub offers excellent guidance on this issue in his article “Responding-Really Responding- to Other Students’ Writing.” A peer review workshop may not in fact result in obvious improvement of a specific piece of writing, but this activity introduces students to reading practices that will enable them to evaluate their own work within the context of a course and in the future. While not as efficient as an instructor’s feedback, the workshop still has many benefits for student writers.

As a writing instructor, I know all too well the ruts of pedagogy. I do not agree with all of the solutions that Teller has offered to the problems that he identifies, but he is to be commended for encouraging his colleagues to take nothing for granted.


Works Cited

Lindemann, Erika. A Rhetoric for Writing Teachers. 4th edition. Oxford UP, 2001.

Straub, Richard. “Responding – Really Responding – to Other Students’ Writing.” The Subject is
Writing, edited by Wendy Bishop, Heinemann, 1999. pp. 136-46.

Teller, Joseph. “Are We Teaching Composition All Wrong?” The Chronicle of Higher
, 3 October 2016,
Composition/237969. Accessed 25 November 2016

Feb 01

Enabling ALL Students via Analytics

Eric Westervelt, an educational correspondent for NPR, wrote a very interesting article in the Learning & Tech section entitled “The Higher Ed learning Revolution: Tracking Each Student’s Every Move.” In the article, he makes points normally found in discussions regarding the use of data to identify at-risk students in time to help them.

Then, he moves on to say something astounding in its obviousness: “A lot of times, the discussion will be about students who might be behind or at-risk, but it’s also true for students who are really excelling academically. They also need special kinds of attention.” In other words, if we’re concerned (as we should be) with the impact of one-size-fits-all education on those students who are at-risk, why don’t we use the same models to look for students who are outliers at the other end of the distribution? Those of us who have been in the classroom know the students I’m talking about – the quiet ones that sit in the back of the room, volunteer little, and represent a challenge as you can’t remember them until you hand that first A back in class four weeks into the semester. If our role as both teacher and mentor is important to the formation of our students, we are just as responsible for identifying students with special abilities that stay quiet as we are with those who are at-risk. Westervelt provides an interesting look into this topic.

On a closing note, I also want to take a moment and encourage our LEAP team’s work with High Impact Practice dissemination and the opportunities provided for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. My particular background in machine learning has included application of modeling techniques to discovering heart issues. The same techniques can be applied to the data sources mentioned by Westervelt to provide fairly deep models of student behavior. Here’s hoping that deep modeling of student behavior and predicted outcomes will share the same academic acceptance as work done in other fields. It should, as a focus on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning will help bring to fruition the ideas discussed by Westervelt.

Jan 09

Governor’s Teaching Fellows Program

Two faculty from the University of North Georgia (UNG) participated in the selective 2016-2017 cohort of the Governor’s Teaching Fellows (GTF) Program, a statewide initiative advancing instructional excellence in Georgia’s colleges and universities. Michallene McDaniel, Associate Professor of Sociology, is part of the 2016-2017 cohort, and David Smith, Associate Professor of Media Studies, completed the summer 2016 program.

“Although I have been in teaching for almost 20 years, I believe there is always something new to learn about this profession,” said McDaniel. “I view my participation in the Governor’s Teaching Fellows Program as an opportunity to brush up on changes in technology that benefit teaching, and to become familiar with the latest findings on effective teaching methods that lead to better student learning.”

Established in 1995 by Zell Miller, governor of Georgia (1991-1999), GTF provides Georgia’s higher education faculty with expanded opportunities for in-depth study of research-based pedagogies. The program is offered through the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Georgia (UGA). More than 75 different disciplines, professions, and teaching areas have been represented, and they have come from over 45 institutions statewide: large and small, public and private, everywhere from the northern mountains to the Florida state line and between the Atlantic coast and the Alabama border. To date, 32 Fellows have represented UNG in the GTF Program.

“I was introduced to new ideas and tools like Nearpod, which I found to be interesting and helpful. Throughout this semester during my Film Appreciation courses, I will be putting into practice the ideas I developed during GTF,” Smith said.

According to the University of Georgia’s Institute of Higher Education’s website, a candidate’s selection is based upon “the basis of their teaching experience, their interest in continuing instructional and professional development, their ability to make positive impact on their own campus, and a strong commitment by their home institution.”

“I consider myself to be very fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in GTF this academic year, and lucky to work at an institution and for a department that supports professional development opportunities for educators,” said McDaniel.

Other recent UNG fellows in the program have been Rosaria Meek, Assistant Professor of Spanish; Laura Ng, Associate Profesor of English; and, Jennifer Graff, Associate Department Head and Assistant Professor of Visual Arts.

Applications for the UNG GTF 2017 Summer Symposia and 2017-2018 Academic Year Symposia is now open. For more information, please visit the CTLL GTF webpage.

Sep 02


The Write@UNG is a new multifaceted faculty development program that stretches across five campuses and enriches scholarly productivity through a focus on research and writing skills. Workshops are facilitated by Dr. Michael Rifenburg, Department of English, CTLL Faculty Fellow for Scholarly Writing and sponsored by the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Leadership.

Click on the image below to enlarge.


To register, please here to view all the upcoming Write@UNG workshops.

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