Category Archives: General Announcements

Welcome Back: Fall 2012 Edition

We hope everyone had a great summer, and looking forward to another great fall semester at Penn State. After a summer of planning, the Schreyer Institute is excited to once again offer a wide variety of workshops, presentations and seminars for Penn State faculty and graduate students. This year, we are specifically focusing on the theme ‘Student Engagement’ in the vast majority of our programs. Throughout the semester, members of the Institute will be taking to this blog to discuss various aspects of student engagement, so be sure to bookmark this page, keep abreast of current topics and add your voice to the discussion. Some specific resources you might find valuable include:

Schreyer Events – a listing of all our events for each month of the semester. Be sure to check this page periodically as we continue to update the page with more events.
Drop-In Consultations – something new we’re trying this semester. Our consultants will be in a building near your, excited to engage in conversations around teaching and learning. Have questions about crafting exams? Syllabus creation? Assessing team work? Feel free to drop in at a location near you. You can also email us any time ( to schedule an appointment to speak to a consultant.
Yammer Group – like many other units across Penn State, the Institute is experimenting with Yammer to share resources and facilitate discussions around teaching and learning. You can find us by logging into Yammer, then searching for “Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence”, then click ‘join’. Or try this link
Once again, welcome back and have a great fall 2012 semester!

Offerings Galore

At the Schreyer Institute, we try to offer a varied schedule of workshops, and I think we succeed. Just in the next week, our workshops include the following:

–Assessing Student Learning at the Program Level: Three Faculty Members Share Their Plans

–Discussions and Strategies: Working with TAs in Large Classes

–Getting through the Stack: Grading for Learning

–Best Practices for Designing Effective Multiple Choice Tests

–Evaluation in Three Acts (for faculty at Penn State Fayette)

One thing I’d like to point out: If you or your department would like us to customize a workshop for your particular participants, we’d be happy to do so. Just email us at For more details about the events listed above, or other upcoming events, go to our events page.

Dr. Spanier on Leadership

The Schreyer Conference on Student Leadership Development is taking place today, and Dr. Spanier provided the opening address.  Being the President of Penn State for over a decade, as well as his past experiences, gives Dr. Spanier an incredible amount of experience in leadership to share with the audience.
Dr. Spanier mentioned that he receives 20-30 requests to ‘learn how to be a great leader’ from students, faculty, professors and industry personnel each year.  People seem to be looking for a formula for leadership, Dr. Spanier remarked.  
“There is no formula for how to be a good leader. “
Leaders don’t ‘take the elevator’ to their role, they have to be willing to put in the hard work, to take the stairs.
Leaders have to be willing to get involved in everything, even if it’s beyond the scope of a job description.  Dr. Spanier recounted that he’s never asked anyone that reports to him to do something he’s not willing to do, or hasn’t done in the past.
Being a good leader involves good character and skillsets, and critical thinking is an underlying key to leadership.  A good leader must be able to take any issue and examine it from every angle.  Adding a bit of poignant humor, Dr. Spanier briefly mentioned how the media and politicians today want to publicize ‘leaders’ that are radically on opposite ends of the spectrum on many important issue our society faces.  This is unfortunate, because we need good leaders to be able to see these issues from a variety of angles if we ever want to arrive at the best solutions.  Dr. Spanier pointed out that this ‘style’ or type of leadership that we find in politics would never work in the corporate world, or in academe.  
Dr. Spanier closed with a story about the Prime Minister of Bhutan, a small country in South East Asia.  The Prime Minister was a graduate student at Penn State, and during his studies he was asked by his department to be a representative at the Graduate Student council and other graduate student events.  Eventually, he was asked if he would be the president of the Graduate Council.  Now, in public discussions, the Prime Minister readily admits that he would not be in the position of leadership he is in today if it were not for the leadership experiences found at Penn State.
“Very often, small gestures have grand consequences”, Dr. Spanier remarked, and asked all in attendance to encourage our students to get more involved with leadership opportunities both with the University, as well as with local communities.

Congratulations to a Couple Hardworking Graduate Assistants!

We are extremely proud to announce that two of our Graduate Assistants, Beate Brunow and Jimmy Xie, have recently accepted job offers!

beate.jpgBeate will be joining Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina as an Assistant Professor of German.  Her teaching duties will include courses in German and in the Humanities.  Working in the Schreyer Institute complimented Beate’s experience teaching in German and Women’s Studies here at PSU and strengthened her experience around teaching and learning.

“My assistantship as a graduate instructional consultant at the Schreyer Institute proved invaluable to being a competitive candidate on the job market. Besides adding teaching experience and workshop presentations to my CV, my work at SITE also provided insights into the terminology and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Being part of the consultant training, consulting independently with instructors, and becoming a certified trainer for student centered discussion are just a few of the many opportunities I had at the Schreyer Institute.”

jimmy.jpgHui “Jimmy” Xie will be leaving the Institute to join California State University at Northridge as an Assistant Professor.  Jimmy predominantely spent time working with me on Institutional Research projects, but also assisted with activities around the scholarship of teaching and learning.

“The discussions and assistantship work with the Schreyer Institute enriched my knowledge about teaching and learning. I’ve also become more familiar with undergraduate education, advising, and administration through interacting with university offices and committees. I believe these make me better prepared for the job market and my new position at California State.”

Everyone from the Institute wishes you both the best of luck as you start your careers at Wofford and California State, Northridge. 

If you (or graduate students you know) are interested in a GA appointment for Fall 2011, please keep an eye on our homepage for details.  We plan to post opportunities in the coming weeks.

William Schreyer

We unfortunately heard the news yesterday that William Schreyer, for whom the Schreyer Institute is named, passed away earlier this week.  An incredibly generous alum, Mr. Schreyer supported many Penn State students.  In some instances the support came through gifts to Institutes such as ours, as well as the Schreyer Honors College.  In other instances, the support was more direct, as Mr. Schreyer provided several scholarships as well as mentoring for students hoping to land a career on Wall Street.

Penn State will certainly miss the enthusiasm, guidance, and many other elements that William Schreyer contributed to our University.

Institutional Research Conference

I recently attended the North East Association for Institutional Research (NEAIR) conference in Saratoga Springs, NY.  I wanted to share some thoughts, based on the presentations I attended. 

One overarching theme was the impact of the rising use of adjunct faculty teaching courses.  Many institutions have data showing how many courses adjunct teach, salary comparisons and hiring trends, but very little work has been done focusing on what impact this has on student learning outcomes.  Very hot topic now, and could use a lot of research around this to better understanding the complexities of the situation.

Scott Jaschk, co-founder and editor for Inside Hither Ed, talked about online learning as a space begging for more research.  One item he discussed that I found interesting is the idea of “What constitutes a 3-credit online course?”  Most universities have a formula for calculating credit hours.  For instance, Penn State’s Division of Undergraduate Studies defines a credit hour:

Penn State credits are awarded on a semester-hour basis. For the average student, 1 credit represents a total of at least forty hours of work in class activities and outside preparation. The distribution of time between class activities and outside preparation varies depending on the type of course. Typically, courses which involve lecture, discussion, or recitation require 12.5 classroom hours per credit. Therefore, the distribution of time is usually about one-third formal in-class instruction and two-thirds out-of-class preparation. For laboratory courses, the distribution of time is very different. For each credit, approximately 25 to 37.5 hours are spent in laboratory instruction; in addition, out-of-class preparation is required.

This definition drives a great deal of policy decisions.  Yet we do not have anything similar defining how this formula changes or applies to online learning.  How does 12.5 classroom hours per credit lend itself to online courses?  To hybrid courses?  This question should be answered with the help of research examining online learning…not by simply guess work.

These were the themes of the first 1/2 of the conference, which provides plenty to think about for now!  I’ll revisit this next week, posting some notes from the second half of NEAIR. 

Faculty Communities Hub

The Schreyer Institute is in the process of growing the online Faculty Communities Hub (PSU authentication required), a project stemming from Faculty Senate committee work from 2006 to 2008.  The Hub is designed to bring together faculty members across disciplines and geographic locations, allowing people to create, share and collaborate around a wide variety of topics, including courses, committees and research. 

The Faculty Communities Hub was demonstrated last week at the Faculty Senate meeting, which prompted me to explore some of our use statistics.  Some of the highlights:

  • 487 users
  • 32 new users in the last week
  • 212 communities
  • 72 communities visited this month

When you have a minute, please stop by and join any community that interests you.  All your feedback is welcome, as we continue to work on improvements to functionality and ease-of-use.

Talks by Dr. Jeremy Black, U of Exeter History prof.

I saw in the CDT an announcement of some talks that sound really interesting, but that might also give Institute consultants an opportunity to become a little more visible in The College of the Liberal Arts.  Receptions follow all talks.

Mon Oct 11, 5:15 pm, Paterno Library, Foster Auditorium
Western world relations with Africa

Tue Oct 12, 4:30 pm, Paterno Library, Foster Auditorium
War and Instability in the 21st Century”

Wed. Oct 13, 4:30 pm, 262 Willard
“Slavery: An Introduction to a Theme in World History”

2010 Teaching Fellows Award Winners

I had the pleasure of attending the Alumin Association’s dinner last night in recognition of the three 2010 Teaching Fellow Award recipients.  Not only were this year’s winners in attendance, several winners from 2000 to 2009 were also present.  Getting so many like-minded faculty together to talk about teaching left my head swimming with great ideas to apply to my teaching in the future.

The award winners each gave a speech after dinner and a few things stood out regarding each recipient.

Dr. Janet Lyon, Associate Professor of English
Janet talked specifically about the syllabus, and how the syllabus is a carefully crafted document and having a reason for every single line and where it is placed.  Janet also spoke about the importance of movement in a classroom and the ability to read body language and facial cues.  One of my favorite quotes of the night:

It is the height of rudeness to move forward in a lesson when a student doesn’t ‘get it’.

Each reward recipient received a grant of $9,000, and Janet plans on graciously using her funds to buy 9 very mobile projectors for her department, allowing her colleagues access to projectors for classes around the university.

Dr. Oranee Tawatnuntachai, Associate Professor of Finance
Oranee provided a moving speech, detailing her mother’s determination as a student, sitting in elementary school classrooms at age 14, with other students half her age.  This determination was distilled in Oranee, as she detailed her own struggles through her Doctorate program and teaching in general, always with her mother continuing to encourage her not to quit and strive for excellence.  Oranee mentioned her focus on under-performing students, detailing that these students deserve a great deal of our attention to keep them on track for their future.

Dr. Matthew McAllister, Professor of Film/Video & Media Studies
Matt echoed Janet’s words around the importance of a well crafted syllabus and movement in the classroom.  What I found interesting was that Matt (someone in a media field) elects not to use PowerPoint. “Some people use it very well, but I’m not one of them.”  To put this in perspective, Matt teaches courses of 300-350 students.  He does use a computer, but instead of PowerPoint he simply uses things like Word Processing programs to construct things during class with the help of his students.  “Everyone has an opinion on media” he says, so getting students to contribute in such a large settings is possible.

Upcoming events from the Schreyer Institute

We have a lot of great events in the coming months here at the Institute. Our New Instructor Orientation is currently underway, as well as two interactive workshops designed for Teaching Assistants. You can check out some of our events in the August newsletter

Throughout the summer I occasionally posted tidbits of data regarding the use of technology for teaching and learning, specifically blogs and wikis.  We’re almost done with the first draft of the report and hope to release that shortly.  Also look for a workshop session towards the end of the Fall semester, where we will walkthrough some of the results and show examples of different pedagogies instructors are leveraging with these emerging tools.