Vol. 8 Issue 1
Print Version


Welcome back to a new academic year!

This year, I’ve finally gotten my act together and included updates from the Nittany Success Center, Advising and Career Development at Penn State York, and PSY Library, key partners in the teaching and learning process! Be sure to check out their updates at their individual tabs!

In the past year, I was able to attend several really excellent conferences, and I wanted to share what I’ve learned through this newsletter and also through sessions this fall and spring, so read on and stay tuned!!! Please get in touch if you have an idea for a workshop, or if you’d like to present something yourself. There is always room for more!!!

Last June, thanks to a grant from the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, I was able to attend some really wonderful sessions at the Lilly Conference in Bethesda, MD and present the experience from last fall’s paired college reading/psychology course. Below are some of the highlights.

Teaching as Performance was a highlight and favorite! Leslie Felbain is head of the MFA Performance Program at the University of Maryland, College Park.  She led a very interesting session on how different aspects of performance – like being grounded, using articulation effectively, and being authentic – can improve classroom presence. She has kindly agreed to drive up early in the fall for a lunchtime session with us. I would like to encourage strong attendance, as this is something really interesting and special to which we might not normally have access. I’ll keep you posted.

Round Robin Technology Session is a really fun and efficient way to be exposed to lots of educational technologies in a short amount of time. Presenters are stationed around the room. Participants divide themselves evenly among the presenters. At the sound of a bell, presenters begin. They have 7 minutes to present a technology and how they are using it in their class. They must give participants a chance to try it out. The bell rings at the end of 7 minutes and people move clockwise to the next station. This process repeats until all the stations have been visited. This was a high energy session that people really enjoyed. Participants got lots of ideas in a very efficient time frame. Get in touch if you have a 7-minute idea you’d like to share at this event. We need both presenters and participants to make it successful!

Culture Bump  was another session of interest at Lilly. The researchers behind Culture Bump define it as occurring when two or more people enter a situation with different expectations about a behavior. It can be caused by: communication styles, behaviors involving the use of time, space or speaking, physical objects such as clothing or artifacts, or even the architecture or decor of a location.  The session gave practical instructions on becoming aware of culture bumps and positively navigating them when they occur using language and strategies that felt natural and egalitarian.

The last day of the conference was packed with great sessions, including one on Transformative Teaching by Tamara Rosier which really caught my attention.  I can’t imagine many people who teach who don’t also expect students to be changed as a result of their classes.  This notion of transformation and my role as an instructor in that process has been on my mind all year as a recurrent theme, appearing most recently in our lifelong learning project of the summer/fall.  Along these lines, I want to highlight Dr. Cora Dzubak’s recent article on the role of reflection in learning. Take a look! It contains excellent background and solid rationale for incorporation into your teaching.

In preparation for a fall pilot on our campus, my head has been full of work with the  Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory (ELLI) which we’ll be integrating into the paired LL ED 005(College Reading) and BiSc003 Environmental Science courses in just a few weeks! With the help of Barb Eshbach and Jorge Santiago-Blay, we had a really great kick-off training here in July with 26 faculty and staff from 6 campuses and one faculty  member from E-Town (whom I met at the Lilly Conference!) As a result, projects are now happening at York, Mont Alto, Berks, and maybe Hazelton in the fall semester. York participants were: Annie Haines, Karen Sheehe, Sukhdeep Gill, LeighAnn Myers, Chuck Gaston, Andrew Caldwell, Fulgentius Lugemwa,  Kerry Magni, Jorge Santiago-Blay, Barb Eshbach, Cora Dzubak, Patrick Tanner, and Rauthild Orleth-Diener. Read more about our pilot which also includes the use of adaptive learning technology in the section on faculty projects.

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) is a skill set that I’ve been trying to build since we had Maryellen Weimer on campus several years ago. It is a good fit for many faculty who find themselves asking questions about what works (and doesn’t) in the classroom .  In her August 17th blog post  for Magna Publications, Weimer summarizes an SoTL article recently published in Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature,  Language, Composition, and Culture (2012), providing a very clear description of what an SoTL project looks like.

This is such a useful piece of scholarship. It illustrates everything that so justifies teachers making systematic, scholarly inquiries into aspects of instruction of concern to them. There’s an intriguing question. “My students aren’t very good readers. Why is that? What strategies are they using when they read?” [Substitute  your own question here.]There’s an exploration of relevant research. Are things known about reading strategies that might be useful? There’s an interesting and robust methodology used to gather data. Analysis of the data is systematic. And what emerged from the data is discussed. We are privy to what the researcher learned—what surprised her—and we find out what she plans to do about the results and what she recommends we do. All this and the article is written in a style that is easy and interesting to read. This is one of those articles not to miss for multiple reasons.

If you have an interest in doing SoTL projects, let me know. I am interested in starting a group in the fall to meet regularly to discuss possible projects and processes. Read Weimer’s entire blog post and the article it summarizes at the reference below.

Manarin, K. (2012). Reading value: Student choice in reading strategies. Pedagogy, 12 (2), 281-297.

Excellence in Gateway Courses
The John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education   (group that pioneered the work on the First Year Experience, Foundations of Excellence programs) sponsored the first annual Conference on Excellence in Gateway Course Completion April 13-16 in Indianapolis, IN.  I was able to attend this wonderful conference and learned many things that could be useful to us on campus.

What are “gateway” courses and why do they matter?
Gateway courses are those courses that are:

  • credit bearing
  • at the foundational level (either developmental or entry to major)
  • high risk to students (high D,F,W,I rates 30% or greater)
  • high enrollment (institutions define what this means to them)

These courses have the greatest impact on student success (and institutional retention rates).  Not surprisingly, retention in these courses is strongly correlated with successful degree completion. The conference topics looked at maintaining high standards while supporting students in these courses through re-design. Read more including examples in different content areas and a video of one of the keynotes, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, President of UMBC, who will be speaking on campus August 28th at the Pullo! Don’t miss it. He is dynamic and inspirational!

What’s in the rest of this issue?

I hope everyone has a great semester.  Get in touch if you need anything. Please read on in the other sections – lots of important updates and information of interest related to teaching and learning!!

Thanks for your support, and as always, get in touch with ideas and/or topics you’d like to present or see happen on campus related to teaching and learning.  Use the comment section below or e-mail me directly scs15@psu.edu.


Suzanne C. Shaffer, MEd., MSEd.
Instructional Designer
Penn State York Campus
1031 Edgecomb Rd.
York, PA 17403
ISTC 209