Food for Thought Teaching & Learning Seminar Series


On-line Tutorial and Resource for On-Campus IQPs

Wednesday, August 24, 12-1:20pm, Higgins Labs Rm. 102

PRESENTERS: Sue Vernon-Gerstenfeld and Creighton Peet, Interdisciplinary & Global Studies Division

If you are thinking of advising or will be advising on-campus projects, this on line resource may make your advising easier. Come and explore it with us. It contains tutorials for the students in the areas of library use, development of the background chapter and methodology chapters of the report, choosing an appropriate methodology, grading, rubrics for performance, information and assessment tools for group dynamics, information on oral and written presentations and much more.


Do Project Grades Reflect Student Achievement?

Monday, September 19, 12-1:20pm, Campus Center, Hagglund Room

PRESENTERS: Bland Addison, Rick Vaz, Craig Wills  

Is there reason to be concerned when 75% of all IQP and MQP grades are As? This discussion will focus on project grading. Bland Addison will describe the Faculty Review Committee’s experience with project grade appeals, and particularly perceptions of variations in grading standards. Rick Vaz and Craig Wills will present historical trends in IQP and MQP grades, respectively, and compare them with data from faculty reviews of project reports. These data will be used to generate open discussion around the following questions:   How might we explain disparity between project grades and independent faculty assessment of project reports? What is or should be the basis for project grading? What are typical IQP and MQP grading quandaries? Do we need more clarity and uniformity in our project grading criteria?


Making the First Day of Class Truly First Class

Thursday, October 20, 10am-noon followed by lunch, Higgins House Great Hall

PRESENTER: Chrys Demetry, Director, Morgan Teaching & Learning Center

Experts in pedagogy stress the importance of the first class meeting for setting the stage. In this workshop we’ll use multimedia case stories of the first day of college classes as a launching point for discussion of possible goals and strategies for designing the first class meeting: establishing motivation for the course, framing the entire course, establishing expectations, reviewing essential administrative requirements, assessing students informally, and creating a comfortable classroom climate. The intended audience for this workshop during the A-B break includes returning faculty as well as new faculty.  




Responding to Student Writing

Presenter: Lorraine Higgins, Director, Writing Across the Curriculum

Writing is an excellent way for students to learn both the content and conventions of their disciplines, but many instructors blanch at the thought of reading and commenting on stacks of student papers. Responding to student drafts can be time consuming and frustrating, especially when students repeatedly seem to misunderstand or ignore instructor comments. In this workshop, participants will review several styles of written commentary, considering how the type, placement, and quantity of comments on student drafts can affect their revision and learning. Participants will learn and practice with a “reader-based” approach that has the potential to 1) reduce the time you spend marking student papers, 2) model for your students how to better anticipate and respond to a reader's needs, and 3) help your students become less dependent on your editing and directive feedback.

How Are WPI Students Learning Professional Ethics?

Presenters: Lance Schachterle (HUA), Steve Bitar (ECE), Ted Clancy (ECE), David DiBiasio (CHE), Amy Zeng (Business)

Faculty, professional societies, and accreditation agencies all agree that undergraduates studying to enter the professions should get a solid grounding in the ethical codes governing behavior in those professions. WPI gathers data on student subjective responses about how well they learn in all subject areas through the annual EBI survey (administered to graduating engineering seniors) and the triennial NSSE survey (administered to all first and fourth year students). In reviewing those data, the Undergraduate Outcomes Assessment Committee (UOAC, a sub-committee of CAP) has seen over the years that, compared to students at comparable institutions, WPI students report higher than average learning in technical subject areas but marginally lower learning in all societal topics including professional ethics.

This FFT will begin with a review of these data from UOAC, followed by discussions from faculty in ChE, ECE, and IE about how they incorporate learning of professional ethics in their programs. Students in these three engineering programs do rate learning of professional ethics strongly relative to our peer institutions. The goal is to assist all faculty to consider how they present professional ethics by exchanging best practices.

The Integration of Communications Technology with the Keller Method for Teaching and Learning in Graduate Courses

Presenter: Richard D. Sisson, Jr., Dean of Graduate Studies

When I arrived at WPI in 1976 several courses were being successfully offered using Individually Prescribed Instruction (IPI), a pedagogy derived from the "Keller Method" (F.S. Keller, J. App. Behavior Analysis, 1968). Each course was divided into units or modules. Each module had clearly defined learning objectives, learning activities and self evaluations. The students worked through the modules at their own pace within the seven week course schedule and took an assessment (i.e. exam) when they were ready. Faculty office hours were available for questions. No lectures were schedule for IPI courses. One of the most important parts of each module’s learning activities were video tapes of faculty lectures on the learning objectives. In many cases several faculty were recorded lecturing on the same subject. Initially these were actually 8mm tapes. We progressed to VHS in the early 80s.

I would ask you to consider the development of a modified Keller - IPI pedagogy for your graduate courses. Your lectures could be easily captured and edited to 10 – 15 minutes of YouTube-like sessions using the communications technology available at WPI. Once the lectures were captured you would only need to update as required by you. Your course could be reorganized into modules with learning objectives, learning activities and self assessments for each module. All of the course materials could be available on myWPI or another web site. You could give evaluations (tests) at whatever frequency is best for your course. These evaluations could be available on line.

This approach may be used for on campus courses, ADLN courses, off campus CPE courses and blended courses. The students would be asked/required to watch the lectures, read the assigned materials and do the homework before each class meeting. If this approach is used, how would you effectively use the class time? Review homework? In class, student led problem solving sessions? Project team meetings and reporting? I look forward to discussing this approach with you.

Fostering Virtual Discussions: For Distance Learners or Extending Classroom Conversations

Faculty and Student Panelists: Vance Wilson (School of Business), Susan Brennan (EVS ’13), Patrick Ford (CE ’13), Marco Peschiera (MBA, ’11)

Attend this session and learn from faculty and students on their perspectives using technologies that facilitate asynchronous student discussion and idea sharing. A panel of faculty and students in various disciplines will discuss the virtues of discussion forums and what works. We will also explore new multimedia methods for online conversations. Kate Beverage from the Academic Technology Center will share tips for using online discussion boards and best practices from other institutions.

So What’s Your Problem? Helping Students Write Effective Problem Statements

Lorraine Higgins, Director, Writing Across the Curriculum

Many WPI projects ask students to engage in problem-based inquiry and require them to begin with a specific and well-articulated problem statement. Students often wrestle with this initial phase of research. They soon learn that a problem is often not a given; rather it is rhetorically constructed. A good problem statement is persuasive: What’s the problem and from whose perspective? Why is research on the problem so important? Who should care and why? A good problem statement is also generative: What do and don’t we know? What do we need to do to find out? Good problem statements provoke interesting questions that focus and guide subsequent research. In this workshop, Lorraine Higgins will illustrate several heuristics that can help students articulate effective problem statements in writing. After looking at some examples, participants will use these strategies to develop problem statements and questions for their own research, creating instructional examples they later may share with their students. 

Classroom Flips: Rethinking the Use of Class Time

Chrys Demetry, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director, Center for Educational Development & Assessment

A variety of research shows the potential for classroom-based "pedagogies of engagement" such as cooperative and problem-based learning to enhance student learning outcomes. However, pressure to cover content has been a real or perceived barrier to their widespread adoption in foundational science and engineering courses. Increasingly, content-delivery technologies may mitigate these challenges. In this presentation I will describe two versions of a "classroom flip" instructional strategy in which lectures were moved from inside class to outside class in a large enrollment introductory materials science course. My goals in the most recent course redesign included making room for higher-level material selection assignments, explicitly addressing lifelong learning skills, and increasing student "time on task" outside of class. Using WPI's Echo system, I pre-recorded multimedia "microlectures" which students viewed as daily homework, replacing print-only lecture notes that had been provided to students in previous course offerings. After taking a quiz on the basic content, students worked on higher level problem sets in assigned teams during class, while I provided coaching and circulated to answer questions. Evaluation measures include comparisons of student reports of time-on-task, class attendance statistics, lecture access statistics, breadth and depth of content coverage, exam grades, and student ratings of instruction. A subset of these will be summarized along with lessons learned and directions for future work.

Beyond Classroom Accommodations: Enriching the Learning Environment for Students with Disabilities

Dale Snyder, Director of Academic Advising and Disability Services

Have students in your class ever presented you with a classroom accommodation form and you wondered what to do or how to have a conversation with the student about his or her disabilities? Have you wondered if there was a more effective way to interact with the student in and out of the classroom whether it be in your role as a professor or an advisor? The answers to these questions as well as some helpful tips and strategies will be discussed at this FFT.

Johnny Can't Read, Revisited: An Overview and Discussion of the State of Reading on College Campuses

Jennifer deWinter, Assistant Professor of Writing & Rhetoric; Christine Drew, Associate Director for Research and Instruction; Lorraine Higgins, Director of Writing Across the Curriculum

In 1955, Rudolph Flesch's Johnny Can't Read set off alarm bells about an impending literacy crisis in the US. Although public conversation about student reading ability has continued every decade since, today that conversation centers not around early reading acquisition and the influence of television but on an entire generation's reading habits, especially the use of new media. On college campuses across the US, faculty complain that Generation Y students don't seem to be reading much outside the classroom (apart from text messages) and that they are unmotivated and unprepared to read primary literature at the college level. Critics claim that students' literate practices (and even their brains) are being shaped (or "eroded") by new media. This workshop will promote discussion on the issue of student reading: Is there a problem with reading on college campuses, and if so, how should faculty respond? Workshop leaders will briefly examine popular claims that our student's don't or can't read anymore, reviewing recent scholarship that may shed light on the specific kind of reading that may be required of college students and the complex array of factors that may influence their ability to master college-level reading. After a brief overview of the issues, the remainder of the workshop will be devoted to smaller discussion groups. Participants will be asked to consider the reading habits and strategies that might be used to foster reading across all disciplines at WPI.  


Is There a Case to Be Made for "Teaching Naked"?

Steve Bitar, David Spanagel, Janice Gobert, Destin Heilman, Jill Rulfs

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education discusses the decision of a Dean at Southern Methodist University, Jose Bowen, to remove computers from classrooms. He is urging his colleagues to "teach naked," a phrase he coined to describe class time that is technology-free and focused on discussion. He further argues that such classes are actually more engaging to students. How do faculty at WPI feel about Bowen's concept of discussion-oriented classes free of PowerPoint and other technologies? More broadly, how might we best use our face-to-face time with students, and what is technology good for? Come participate in a dialogue, moderated by Professor Jill Rulfs with panelists Steve Bitar (ECE), David Spanagel (HUA), Janice Gobert (SSPS), and Destin Heilman (CBC), to share your thoughts on the article and how to make decisions about use of technology in the classroom. 

Innovations in Project Reports

Chris Brown, Chrys Demetry, Mike Elmes, Lorraine Higgins, Scott Jiusto, Rick Vaz

The multiple purposes and audiences of  IQP and MQP reports sometimes make their genre unclear. One purpose of project reports is for students to practice writing in a context-appropriate genre, but a report might also document IQP and MQP learning outcomes more broadly in ways that aren't naturally integrated into a traditional article or report. For sponsored projects, the reports that are submitted to meet WPI's needs may be unwieldy for sponsors or research communities to use. This session will highlight some faculty initiatives to shift or augment the content and/or medium of project reports in an attempt to: a) enhance student learning; b) document the multiple dimensions of student learning; and/or c) serve, reach, and engage multiple stakeholders.

Scott Jiusto (IGSD) will describe his ongoing efforts to transform IQP reports for the Cape Town Project Centre into a multimedia atlas that will serve as a reference and research tool for the community and project teams going forward. Mike Elmes (MG) will discuss how the project report process might be used more deliberately to help students increase their capacity for written reflection. Chrys Demetry (ME) and Rick Vaz (IGSD) will show examples of brief written assignments on teamwork and culture learning that were incorporated as appendices in Bangkok IQP reports. And Chris Brown will talk about how he guides students to learn about and anticipate intellectual property in MQP reports. Lorraine Higgins will serve as respondent and lead discussion about these experiments and other ways in which we might add value to project reports.    

© 2009, Steven J. McDonald

Steven J. McDonald, J.D., General Counsel, Rhode Island School of Design

A practical, informative, and even entertaining discussion of basic copyright principles as they apply in and to higher education generally and to online learning and digital materials specifically.  Topics to be addressed include: 

  • An overview of the copyright framework
  • Fair and other educational uses of copyrighted material
  • Teaching with the TEACH Act

About the Speaker: Steven J. McDonald is General Counsel at Rhode Island School of Design and previously served as Associate Legal Counsel at The Ohio State University.  Steve has experience with a wide variety of copyright-related issues, including the development of intellectual property policies, guidelines, and educational materials; IP licensing; and alleged infringements of copyrighted materials both on and off the internet.  He began his legal career in private practice at Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, where he represented CompuServe in Cubby v. CompuServe, the first online libel case, and he also has taught courses in Internet law at Ohio State's College of Law and at Capital University Law School.  He is a Fellow and past member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of College and University Attorneys and the editor of NACUA's The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act: A Legal Compendium.  In State, ex rel. Thomas v. The Ohio State University, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that he really is a lawyer.  He received his A.B. from Duke University and his J.D. from The Yale Law School. 

Teaching First Year Students: Particular Challenges and Opportunities

First year students come to college with a variety of backgrounds, competencies and expectations of college work. This diversity can pose challenges to the instructor, but also offers some unique opportunities. A panel of faculty with extensive first year experience will be on hand to answer questions about the range of challenges and their responses to them.  Participants include Tom Keil (PH), Carolann Koleci (PH), John MacDonald (CBC), and John Goulet (MA).  Kris Wobbe (CBC and Associate Dean for the First Year) will moderate.

Getting Results: New Directions in the Teaching of Lab Report Writing

Ally Hunter, Biology & Biotechnology; Lorraine Higgins, Writing Across the Curriculum

The lab report is often the genre in which WPI undergraduates in the sciences and engineering are initiated to writing in their discipline. With a grant from WPI's Educational Development Council, Ally Hunter is introducing an explicit "learning to write" component in the biology laboratory curriculum. In this session she will describe preliminary assessment data including student-reported problems with lab report writing, information from Teaching Assistants, and writing help session observations. Hunter is using these assessment data to redesign the curriculum so that students build reports over the term with a sequence of scaffolded writing assignments.

Lorraine Higgins will continue the session by presenting strategies for writing the RESULTS section of the lab report, responding to common challenges students face as they approach this task. She'll address the following questions and provide materials that can be adapted for classroom teaching: What are the distinct features of the RESULTS section? How should RESULTS be connected to other sections of a lab report? How is the RESULTS section a type of argument? How might quantitative information be integrated verbally and visually to support the researcher's claims?

Teaching Effective Data Communication: A Learner-Centered Approach

Craig Wills, Computer Science Department

The communication of data has become such a fundamental skill in today's society, yet students receive little, if any, guidance on how to present data as they begin to run experiments or perform calculations and simulations.  This presentation seeks to motivate work for improving the visual communication skills of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) undergraduate students.

The long-term goal is to develop educational material to support the effective communication of data, in the form of graphs, tables and other data presentation mechanisms, across the STEM disciplines using a learner-centered approach.  The presenter will both present ideas for doing so as well as seeking to build upon the experience of attendees.

The Why and How of Rubrics, or How Do I Get an A?

Chrys Demetry, Director, Center for Educational Development & Assessment

A rubric is an assessment tool that lays out the criteria for various levels of achievement on an assignment or performance task. Rubrics support and deepen student learning by clarifying expectations, focusing students more on performance standards and progress and less on grades, and providing them with informative feedback in an efficient way. In addition, students can evaluate their own performance and compare with the instructor's assessment, enhancing their ability to monitor and judge their own work using professional standards. Rubrics also assist instructors by making subjective grading less subjective, less time-consuming, and more consistent.  In this workshop, participants will learn about various types of rubrics, examine and share some examples, and construct or refine a rubric for use in their teaching.

Under-functioning Student Project Teams: Perspectives and Solutions

Charlie Morse, Director, Student Development & Counseling

Students working together on project teams often encounter interpersonal difficulties which can derail project success and cause significant amounts of aggravation for students and faculty advisors alike. Learning how to recognize and work through these team difficulties may be one of the more important facets of students' educational experience in their time at WPI. What is the faculty/project advisor role in supporting this most difficult aspect of their educational experience? What are some perspectives, tools and resources which faculty can turn to when their project groups are struggling?

This practical and interactive session will focus on topics including:

  • Common sources of conflict and tension between project team members.
  • Determining the degree to which problems within groups have to do with poor team dynamics vs. individual under functioning.
  • Empowering and supporting student efforts to resolve team issues.
  • Faculty's role in working with under functioning teams.
  • Assignments and exercises to get students talking about their group dynamics.

Preventing Plagiarism

Lorraine Higgins, Director, Writing Across the Curriculum

This workshop takes a proactive approach to the problem of plagiarism. Although we will touch upon ways to detect and deal with plagiarism when it happens, the workshop will  focus on prevention. We'll discuss  what constitutes plagiarism in various contexts and the reasons why some students may plagiarize.  We'll also present materials for teaching students about the ethics of and strategies for acknowledging sources in academic research.

Plagiarism 2: Detection and Response

Jes Caron and Erin DeSilva (Academic Technology Center); Philip Clay and Greg Snoddy (Student Affairs); Lorraine Higgins (Writing Center)

A previous workshop, Preventing Plagiarism, identified reasons why students plagiarize and introduced techniques for teaching students about the purposes and conventions of written citation. Proactive instruction is only part of the picture, however. Part 2 of the workshop will focus on technology currently used to detect plagiarism, will explore policies and strategies for handling specific cases when they arise, and will invite participants to share their own strategies for detection and response.

Getting WPI's Academic Content "Out There"      

Kate Beverage, Mary Beth Harrity, Mike Buckholt, Jill Rulfs

Recent news headlines have focused on institutions of higher education that post academic content in an open environment, available to anyone in the world.  Initiatives like MIT's OpenCourseWare, Yale's Open Courses, and YouTube/EDU highlight the need for a discussion at WPI on whether we should be sharing some of our own academic content with the world.  Additionally, what is appropriate for an "open" model, and how do we address concerns, such as copyright and intellectual property related to posting "open" academic content?  What technologies exist at WPI that can be used to facilitate the process of posting content?  Join us for a discussion on these issues and hear from faculty who are already exploring how to share their content with external audiences.  

Food for Thought Luncheons, 2008-09

One Year Later: A Follow-up on Lecture Capturing

Jon Abraham (MA), Kate Beverage (ATC), Mary Beth Harrity (ATC), Tom Keil (PH), Dale Snyder (Academic Advising)

Lecture capturing has grown substantially in its second pilot year at WPI. Come learn more about the technology and how WPI faculty are using it to capture their courses. In addition, we'll also discuss how other institutions are using lecture capturing to attract and retain students and how WPI can promote lecture capturing to enhance learning in challenging or high-impact courses.

Developing 3-D Spatial Skills for Engineering and Science Students

Sheryl A. Sorby, Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Michigan Technological University, and Program Director, Division of Undergraduate Education, National Science Foundation

The ability to visualize in three dimensions is a cognitive skill that has been shown to be important for success in engineering and other technological fields. For engineering, the ability to mentally rotate 3-D objects is especially important. Unfortunately, of all the cognitive skills, 3-D rotation abilities exhibit robust gender differences, favoring males. The assessment of 3-D spatial skill and associated gender differences has been a topic of educational research for nearly a century; however, a great deal of the previous work has been aimed at merely identifying differences. Dr. Sorby has been conducting research in the area of spatial skills development for more than a decade aimed at identifying practical methods for improving 3-D spatial skills, especially for women engineering students. This presentation details the significant findings obtained over the past several years through this research and identifies strategies that appear to be effective in developing 3-D spatial skills and in contributing to student success.

Engaging Engineering Examples Employing Everyday Experiences

Eann A. Patterson, Professor and Chair, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Michigan State University

Students have a preference for teaching methods that include discussion and problem-solving, working in teams, and visual presentations. Student success is a multiplicative function of ability and motivation, with the latter significantly enhanced by guest speakers, field trips, student clubs and relevant/appealing applications or examples. Traditional examples employed to illustrate basic engineering concepts often appear irrelevant and abstract to students, particular those from under-represented groups in engineering. This lack of perceived relevance to their experience of life can be very discouraging to students, leading to a lack of motivation causing poor recruitment, performance, and retention. The use of thematic coherence and sets of lesson plans based around real-life examples will be discussed and illustrated. Thematic coherence has been shown to promote good academic progress and to counter academic procrastination, an inverse form of motivation. Pilot studies at a number of universities have demonstrated that examples based on real-life or everyday experiences enhance students' interest and learning.

 Promoting Lab Literacy: Supporting Students as They Write Lab Reports

The lab report presents a number of challenges to students learning to engage in the work of science and engineering. Faculty and writing instructors from WPI and MIT will diagnose typical problems students experience as they write lab reports and will introduce techniques faculty and TAs can use to support them in the process.

  • Lorraine Higgins (Director of Writing Across the Curriculum, WPI) will introduce lab report writing as a rhetorical genre that faculty can teach explicitly through direct modeling in the classroom;
  • Jane Kokernak (Lecturer, Writing Across the Curriculum, MIT) will discuss where and how the writer-based prose typical of novice academic writers shows up in student lab reports and will suggest ways to make students more sensitive to readers' expectations for scientific writing;
  • Neal Lerner (Director, Training in Communication Instruction Program in Writing & Humanistic Studies, MIT) will demonstrate how students can analyze report introductions from across disciplines as a way to tease out the conventions of their field;
  • Ally Hunter (Lab Instructor, WPI) will overview changes to lab report writing instruction in Biology, including new TA training, norming sessions on lab report grading, explicit classroom instruction, and online models.

Communicating Well with Students

Erin DeSilva (ATC), Moderator; Faculty Panelists: Fabienne Miller (MG), Rob Lindeman (CS/IMGD); Student Panelists: Amanda Debaie (ME '09), Ishita Tyagi (BME '10), Renee Walker (ECE '10)

Have you ever...

  • noticed how an email or discussion board post can easily lead to a misunderstanding?
  • been addressed "Yo", "Hey" or "blank" in an email?
  • been overwhelmed by managing the amount of electronic communication when teaching a class?

Join us for this Food for Thought to explore these and other barriers to communicating well with your students. Faculty and student panelists will lead an interactive discussion on experiences, lessons learned, and strategies for setting communication guidelines with students. Topics will include, but aren't limited to: leveraging technology to organize communication and promote collaboration, manage time. The ATC will present current research on effective communication strategies, as well as follow up on the WPI-specific issues with resources to continue this process.

The Challenge of Moving from Prescriptive to Open-Ended Labs

Kristen Billiar (BME), Moderator; Panelists: Sharon Johnson (IE), Bob Kinicki (CS), Fred Looft (ECE)

Current educational literature suggests that challenge-based laboratory learning (i.e., inquiry- or problem-based learning) increases student motivation and retention of key concepts. On the other hand, prescriptive (a.k.a., cookbook) lab assignments are, or are perceived to be, simpler to implement and grade and require less time for the students and instructors alike. The goal of this workshop is to discuss the general concept of open-ended lab assignments and to generate ideas of how participants can modify current prescriptive labs to make them more open-ended without requiring excessive additional resources including precious instructor time.

Project Advising Tool Swap

Holly Ault (ME), Chrys Demetry (ME), Allen Hoffman (ME), John McNeill (ECE), Kent Rissmiller (IGSD), Rick Vaz (IGSD), Sue Vernon-Gerstenfeld (IGSD)

In this session presenters will share documents, rubrics, assignments, and assessments that they have developed over many years of project advising. Participants will come away with some concrete ideas to apply in both IQP and MQP advising, including various ways of structuring weekly meetings and progress reports, communicating with students about the quality of their work, and monitoring teamwork and individual contributions.

Helping Students Write from Sources: Strategies for "Reframing" Information

Writing Across the Curriculum Series

Lorraine Higgins, Director of Writing Across the Curriculum

College students are often asked to develop written arguments that address the questions and problems raised in their courses and projects. This intellectually demanding task requires them to research information from multiple sources and to "reframe" that information around their own claims and organizing structures. This workshop explores some of the difficulties students face as they work with and write from sources texts, and it introduces a number of notetaking, planning, and other pre-writing strategies that can support students and help them avoid the unfocused knowledge dumps and list-like summaries we sometimes see in their drafts. Specifically, the workshop introduces how annotated bibliographies, notetaking matrices, mind maps, and peer planning techniques can be used productively when writing from sources.

Using Clickers to Engage Students and Enhance Learning

Kate Beverage (ATC), Jon Abraham (MA), Kristen Billiar (BME), Mike Buckholt (BB), Jill Rulfs (BB)

Clickers can be used to...

  1. Promote active learning
  2. Check for student understanding
  3. Encourage discussion
  4. All of the above and more!

Classroom response systems (or "clickers") are being used in many WPI classrooms. Clickers allow instructors to ask questions and gather students' responses during a class. Come learn about the Classroom Performance System (CPS) and how faculty at WPI are using it in their classes.

Classroom Assessment Techniques

Chrys Demetry, Director, Center for Educational Development & Assessment and Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering

Have you ever had this sinking feeling when reviewing student work on an important assignment, lab, or exam: I wish I had known earlier how much they did not understand. Classroom assessment is an approach designed to help instructors find out early what students are learning and how well they are learning it so that adjustments can be made. Classroom assessment differs from grading in that it is formative and informative rather than summative and evaluative, and it is often but not always done anonymously.

This workshop will introduce a number of techniques that require relatively low levels of time and energy for instructors to prepare and analyze the information collected. Participants will review a sampling of techniques that can be used to assess the following: students' background knowledge, understanding and application of knowledge; analysis and critical thinking skills; synthesis and creative thinking; problem solving processes; and reactions to instruction. Each participant will leave the workshop with an initial plan for adapting at least one technique in a current or upcoming course.

Grading Flexibility at WPI

Joseph Fehribach (MA) and other members of the Committee on Academic Policy

Over the past year or so, the Committee on Academic Policy (CAP) has received a number of requests to, for example, allow +/- grading, allow F as a failing grade, or allow multiple grades for single-term, one-unit projects. All of these ideas come under the general heading of giving the instructor/advisor more choices in how to assign grades. This Food for Thought is a general discussion of these and other ideas for how to improve grading flexibility.


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