Weekly "Teaching and Learning Tips" -- Collectively Supporting Learning

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Tip Table of Contents:

Dr. Micaela Szykman Gunther working with wildlife students in the field

Tip #45 Starting with Inspiration

What are you doing as an educator that no one else knows about?

We believe it’s a fundamental responsibility of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) to help share your work as an educator. The CTL would like to highlight your inspiring “story” in 2019. We are excited to launch our “Inspiring Stories” series that you will find through Teaching and Learning Tips and other CTL resources/events. Let us know what you are doing and we will help share your work.

For example, Rafael Cuevas Uribe (Fisheries) shared his story about restructuring his ichthyology course around cumulative quizzing after participating in a CTL reading group focused on the book “Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.” Cumulative quizzing is based on dividing the course up into multiple quizzes rather than having specific high stakes tests. Like the course, the quizzes were cumulative and questions are similar to those that would be on exams. For example, instead of having a mid-term and a final exam, the course may be built on nine quizzes that have cumulative scoring structures. This change is putting the testing effect into practice: regular “practice at retrieving new knowledge or skill from memory is a potent tool for learning and durable retention” (Brown, Roediger, & McDaniel, 2014, p.43). Rafael put this insight to practice in the labs for his ichthyology (study of fishes) class and saw an increase in the average grade for Lab Exams. “Conclusion: Cumulative quizzes worked for my class.” Does this solve all of the challenges associated with student success and performance in the class? No, but it is an example of what we as educators do regularly: make real time and informed adjustments to our course and teaching to help students learn.

Our purpose here is to highlight the breadth of what educators are doing about which others may have no idea. We find Rafael’s story inspiring because it exemplifies an instructor taking an evidence-informed approach to his teaching to see if it makes a positive difference.

Help us tell your story so we can collectively inspire others.
Inspiring Resources to Start Your Semester
Tip #44: Managing Expectations


Contributed by Enoch Hale, Ph.D., Director Center for Teaching and Learning & Academic Technology

Throughout my years of teaching, I find myself in a wide range of emotions at this point in the semester.  Admittedly, this is the first semester I have not taught in years, so different emotions have surfaced; however, being one semester removed from the classroom is not so distant that I have forgotten what it feels like as the course comes to an end.  One of my historically typical emotions I wish to highlight here is frustration. Frustration I often feel due to unmet expectations. Frustration that I was not able to get to the depth of the subject that I find intriguing. Frustration with a multitude of requests for grading exceptions.  Frustration that I wasn’t able to connect with all students in a way that helped all of them be successful without sacrificing rigor. Frustration that I have to do this again and don’t have a clear idea of what I can and will do differently. I am speaking for myself, my history. I am not generalizing or projecting my emotional reactions onto others.  I am being vulnerable as a way to say that teaching is a challenge particularly in relation to expectations I have long held.

There is a sense in which every course we teach is built on expectations.  We work to make them as clear as possible in an attempt to manage student expectations.  My frustration, however, is a consequence of my thinking so I must ask: What am I doing to manage my expectations in ways that do not compromise the teaching and learning values upon which I base my work as a teacher, a thinker, and a human?  If anyone has any good ideas, please read the last paragraph of this post.  In the meantime, I work to regularly remind myself of the big picture.

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education is a reminder of one dimension in the big picture.  Sara Goldrick-Rab and Jesse Stommel presented me with an opportunity to revisit this picture in an article titled: Teaching the Students We Have, Not the Students We Wish We Had.  After reading this piece, I closed my email and sat back at my desk to reflect on my thinking as an educator, as one who works with faculty, as a part of this system we call higher ed.  If nothing else, it’s food for thought.

One purpose of these tips is to help translate abstract ideas into practical application.  It is in this orientation that I ask: What do you do well that meets students where they are?  Personally, I am also interested in how you teach in ways that you find personally rewarding.  After all, educators are just as much a part of the learning ecosystem as are students. I invite you to send the CTL your ideas. We want to begin to record the excellent work that is currently being done so that we can share broadly.  In this sense, we are a tremendous resource for furthering student success, so please share your ideas, artifacts, activities.

Tip #43: What Are Faculty Saying About Course Evaluations?

It’s course evaluation season! The time when students offer feedback on their learning experiences during your course(s). This is an opportunity to share with your students the importance of their feedback, as well as consider the value to you as an educator.

What some of your colleagues find valuable about Course Evaluations:

  • “I use student evaluations at the end of each semester as a tool for reflection. It’s helpful for me in determining whether the learning opportunities in my classes allow for optimal student engagement. Sometimes the student evaluations reflect what I already know, but other times they tell me something new. Last semester I modified one of my major course assignments based on student feedback. I wanted to provide opportunities for authentic student engagement. Student evaluation feedback gave me a better understanding of how the project was lacking.” - Libbi Miller, School of Education

  • “In addition to using student course evaluations to modify assessments and work to improve my communication on content, I've found them very valuable for the professional development plan (PDP) that is included in my Retention, Tenure, and Promotion (RTP) file. I summarize the constructive feedback, provide my reflection, and describe what I am doing/will do to address the student concerns.” - Amy Sprowles, Biology

  • There are a couple of key items in the Likert section that I look at, such as "amount of time per week I spent preparing for this course" and "activities/materials helped me better understand the course content" that I use to gauge if workload expectations are on target and that students are understanding the purpose of the materials and activities as building blocks. I honestly really only focus on these if it's a new course or I've made a big change.  I usually skim "the instructor..." questions to make sure I wasn't off my game, but there are usually few surprises here - these things if they're out of line are usually expressed during the course itself. Where I really spend my time is in the comments. There's always bound to be one or two comments along the line of "this class was a complete waste of time", as well as "loved this class", which I consider outliers. But the responses like "the activities really helped me understand the concepts", "instructions could have been more clear", or "some of the readings seemed a little off topic" are the ones that I really focus on. These let me know if students are connecting assignments to course goals, if an assignment needs to be re-tooled or a reading replaced, or if something in the structure of the course is causing an obstacle to learning.  I'm always glad that some students take the time to really offer constructive feedback, and when I remind them to do the evals, I always let them know that their comments are used to improve the course.” - Amy Rock, Geography


Tip #42: I'm Anxious About (and For) iGen

Contributed by Julie Alderson, Department of Art

When I think about all of the things I worry about around my teaching - How do I make my content exciting and relevant to everyone? How do I get that quiet student to fully engage in class discussion?  Does that essay prompt even make sense?!? - the thing that freaks me out the most, honestly, is the concept of iGen.

Our colleague at San Diego State University, Psychology Professor Jean Twenge has lead a national conversation about our current crop of students – those born between the mid-90s and early 2010s. (See “Move Over, Millennials: How ‘iGen’ Is Different From Any Other Generation.”)  A recent article in the The Atlantic addresses similar issues: “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?”  I find myself in many ways feeling disconnected from my students and unsure how to reach them.  Their experiences, beyond our racial and ethnic differences, are so very different than mine. What can I do?

In a teaching tip from Stanford University about the creativity of iGens, it notes that “Research shows that students in virtual settings are more likely to share opinions, feel less threatened to seek help from peers or teachers, are more motivated to learn, are more self-reliant, and feel less pressure to perform compared to students in real-world settings such as the classroom.”  How can we leverage technological and pedagogical tools to help students more effectively demonstrate what they’re learning? What might that look like? Wouldn’t it be fun to try?

We’ve been speaking in the CTL about providing resources around this topic of the iGen student.  We’re working to create additional resources on the CTL website describing the issues and challenges our iGen students face.  Look for future conversations and workshops to discuss and share the strategies you use in your courses to facilitate learning with this generation of students.

For now, I’m going to ask them about their experiences, their expectations, their shortcomings, and strengths. I’m going to start the conversation. It may be a discussion on Canvas, or a face-to-face check-in once a week. I might even use Stephen Brookfield’s Critical Incident Questionnaire. I don’t know yet. I do know we’re not the same, but I believe we can find middle ground. What will it take for both of us to move?”

Twenge, J.M. (2017). iGen: Why today's super-connected kids are growing up less rebellious, more tolerant, less happy--and completely unprepared for adulthood--and what that means for the rest of us. New York, NY:  Atria Books.

Tip #41: The Intersection of Teaching, Learning & Technology

Contributed by Kim Vincent-Layton, Center for Teaching and Learning

How can technology support teaching and learning?

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to explore this question with a group of Humboldt teaching credential candidates.  We used the TPACK theoretical framework (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge) to guide our thinking around creating engaging, equitable learning experiences. In essence, TPACK provides educators with the autonomy to make informed choices around practice and technology to best support the learning content. In small groups, these teachers designed and presented lessons that identified the interplay between content, pedagogy, and technology. A reflection of this activity produced a variety of ideas and questions. Here are a few:

  • Almost anything can be used as technology
  • TPACK is useful in connecting to "real world" experiences
  • There are many collaborative learning opportunities with TPACK
  • How to take risks in teaching
  • How can a tool such as Google drawing, be used for co-creation of ideas?
  • How can technology be distracting in learning?
  • As educators, how do we adapt, evolve and thrive?
  • How do we help our learners thrive?
  • How can student choice be cultivated through TPACK?

These thoughts helped to inspire ideas and thinking in both our practice and our students’ learning. As educators, we are constantly shifting and adapting as new knowledge and ways of thinking emerge. TPACK gives us the the opportunity to create new forms of knowledge that might not otherwise exist by exploring the intersection of three primary forms of knowledge: content, pedagogy, and technology. The TPACK framework provides access and enhances student learning through the interplay of these primary forms of knowledge (Koehler & Mishra, 2009).

How does TPACK inform our teaching? While we can have a deep understanding of each individual primary form of knowledge, it is the intersection that is key. It’s about intentionally choosing the pedagogy and technology that will best support the content in ways that enhance learning. Let’s look at an example:

The What: The discipline (CK - content knowledge) is biology and students are given a case scenario to learn about muscle physiology.
The How:
Perhaps flipped learning (PK - pedagogy knowledge) is the method chosen to help learners engage with the case scenario before they come to class. This would be an intersection of CK and PK, which gives students further access to understanding the content and applying their knowledge/thinking.

The Sweet Spot: Add technology (TK - technological knowledge), such as PlayPosit, to create interactive videos that create further engagement in course content and help prepare students for reflective discussion (helping students learn how to learn (Ambrose, Bridges, DiPietro, Lovett, & Norman (2010)). In this context, we have TPACK - the intersection of all three forms of knowledge to create deeper understanding.

TPACK cultivates thriving experiences! At the Center for Teaching and Learning, this framework guides our work in partnering with educators to create impactful learning experiences that not only inspire, but create opportunity for further innovative thinking. What are the some of the ways you use technology? Please share by sending us an email, ctl@humboldt.edu, or drop by the CTL (Library third floor) for coffee/tea so we can explore together.


Ambrose, S., Bridges, M. DiPietro, M., Lovett, M., & Norman, M. (2010). How Learning Works: 7 Research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Koehler, M.J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70.

Tip #40: Teaching Feedback Options

Contributed by Enoch Hale, Director, Center for Teaching and Learning

How do we gain a better understanding of the student experience in our class? What services, tools, and resources are available to help me make strategically informed decisions about the curricular, pedagogical, technological, structural, and logistical dimensions of my course? How might I think about my teaching in a way that informs my RTP and/or might lead toward scholarship?

The CTL is one resource that works with faculty to put the finger on the pulse of the teaching and learning context. Moreover, the CTL can act as a resource to help faculty and departments contextualize, implement and assess approaches to augmenting end of the course student evaluations. Ultimately, the Center is here to assist in any way that fits with the instructor’s desires, needs, and schedule. In that spirit, we have curated a list of teaching feedback and evaluation options that provide lenses into studying the work we do as educators.

How to Use This Resource

The Teaching Feedback Options Resource provides direct links to best and evidence-based practices for teaching feedback and assessment from different venues in higher education. Resources are organized according to focus:

  • Course Level Assessment
  • Teaching Observation & Feedback
  • Curriculum Analysis & Assessment
  • Pedagogy
  • Summative Evaluation & Teaching Portfolios
  • Other Online Tools

Each section has a brief description. Teaching is a multifaceted endeavor. The What, Why & How of instruction and learning are interlinked and often difficult to tease apart. However, if we value high quality teaching and learning, then it deserves concentrated, systematic and scholarly attention. Two of the most important lessons we have learned from studies on evaluating teaching in higher education are that (1) “teaching must be judged using a learning perspective” and that (2) “excellent teachers develop their abilities through constant self-evaluation, reflection, and the willingness to change” (Bain, pp. 167, 172). It is in this spirit that we have constructed this document. Please contact the CTL or Enoch Hale, Ph.D. directly (enoch.hale@humboldt.edu) to explore how this work can be contextualized, implemented and assessed within your instruction and department.

Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Tip #39: Building Relationships with Students Matters: Understanding Basic Needs

Contributed by Ravin Craig, Health Education, Chant’e Catt, and Jen Maguire, Social Work

The truth is students need food and a good night’s sleep to succeed in courses. By building relationships with students through listening to their stories before and after class and during office hours and advising, we can hear about what they may be struggling with that create real barriers to academic progress. When students know we care enough as faculty and staff to make sure they have food and a roof over their head, we provide evidence many students may need to believe they are welcome and belong here at Cal Poly Humboldt, and that they are not alone as they strive to achieve their dream of earning a college degree.

In the past few years we have been working hard to learn about the extreme conditions many students tolerate to earn a college degree. In a recent CSU study, prevalence rates for food insecurity and homelessness were severe, and at Humboldt even more so (Crutchfield and Maguire, 2018). The findings presented below are from surveys Humboldt students took as part of a system-wide study examining CSU students’ basic needs insecurity. Surveys were taken by 16.6% of Humboldt students (n=1,415) and are generally representative of the Humboldt student body.

  • 45.8% of Humboldt students reported food insecurity in the past 30 days. National prevalence rates for food insecurity among U.S. households in 2016 was 12.3% (Coleman-Jensen, Rabbitt, Gregory, & Singh, 2017).

  • 19% of Humboldt students reported experiencing homelessness one or more times in the last 12 months based on the combined Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Education definitions.

  • We also learned that food insecurity and homelessness influenced most facets of student life, including academic struggle, long work hours, and negative impact on mental and physical health.

Frankly, talking about students’ access to adequate nutritious food or a safe place to sleep at night gets a lot more complicated when we think about inequality and the cumulative disadvantages associated with poverty and racism.

  • In the same study, but with the full CSU sample (N=24,537), we found that students who identified as Black and African-American and first-generation to attend college experienced the highest rates of food insecurity (65.9%) and homelessness (18%).

If we build authentic relationships with students, they can trust us enough to ask for help. Then we can refer them to Basic Needs resources when needed and other important supports, such as the Cultural Centers for Academic Excellence or A.S. Clubs, to help students develop a network of people who can be ‘family’ away from home.

We put together a list of supports for when you find yourself with a student who needs emergency access to food, housing or confidential health services. The list is not comprehensive, but enough to get students started.  


  • Humboldt Oh SNAP! Student Food Programs: Oh SNAP! is a student driven health education resource to help students get access to nutritious low cost/free food, and is dedicated to ending student hunger. We offer free nonperishable food, CalFresh application support, nutrition and cooking education, fresh farm stand, gardening classes, food reclamation, and our new pop up thrift store. The pantry hours are from 9am to 5pm, closed noon to 1pm Monday through Thursday and closed noon to 2pm on Fridays. The farm stand is Wednesdays at 1:30pm and our cooking classes are Wednesdays at 5:30pm. All Oh Snap services are located in the Recreation and Wellness Building room 122. Email ohsnap@humboldt.edu, or go to hsuohsnap.org for more info. Follow @hsuohsnap on Instagram to stay updated!

  • Humboldt Off-campus Housing Liaison: Contact Chant’e Catt by phone 707.826.3451 or by via email at housingliaison@humboldt.edu The Off-Campus Housing Liaison helps with a multitude of housing questions, and situations including supporting students who are transferring from afar, even transitioning from on-campus living to off-campus. The liaison helps students having roommate issues, or may be houseless. Chant'e offers, rental listings, roommate listings, legal resources, and referral, support with rental the application process, mentorship, and connection to community resources on campus and throughout Humboldt County.  

  • Wellbeing Map: The Interactive Wellbeing Map is a tool to help students in making connections, finding community, and building a healthier life at Cal Poly Humboldt. Health is not a linear process, there is no start or end on our journey to building positive relationships to our body & community. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need tools and resources to guide us. The Map has been created using the technology used in our classrooms, Canvas, and can be accessed by visiting wellbeing.humboldt.edu

  • Campus Assistance Response and Engagement (CARE Team): To assist you in accessing on and off campus resources. Specifically, resources such as food security, housing needs, mental health, medical services, alcohol and other drug treatment, and other basic need resources are shared. The general purpose of CARE is to be a safe and trusting campus resource to assist and support students navigating with non-academic needs and issues. If you have any questions, you can contact the CARE Services Coordinator, Rob Keever by phone at (707) 826-3504 or go to the Office of the Dean of Students in Siemens Hall 211.

  • Basic Needs Security Syllabus Statement: If you are having difficulty affording groceries, accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or lack a safe place to sleep at night, and believe this may affect your performance in this course, then I urge you to notify me if you are comfortable in doing so.  This will enable me to provide you with resources. You may also contact the Campus Assistance Response and Engagement (CARE), Oh SNAP! Student Food Programs, or Chante’ Catt, Humboldt Off-campus Housing Liaison for support.


Coleman-Jensen, A., Rabbitt, M. P., Gregory, C., & Singh, A. (2017). Definitions of Food Security. United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Retrieved from https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/definitions-of-food-security/

Crutchfield, R. M. & Maguire, J. (2018). California State University Office of the Chancellor Study of Student Basic Needs. Retrieved from http://www.calstate.edu/basicneeds

Tip #38: Strategies for More Productive Peer Reviews

Contributed by Jessica Citti, Learning Center

Have you planned peer review of a writing assignment for your class only to have students murmur vague pleasantries and write “good job" or "maybe add a comma” on their classmates’ drafts before falling silent? While faculty might see the value in peer review, having students comment on drafts doesn’t always work out as expected (Nilson, 2003).

There are ways to make peer review more useful for students. Peer review is a valuable tool to give students an audience for their writing, encourage multiple drafts, and help students see ways to approach an assignment (Lundstrom & Baker, 2009; Bean, 2011). Peer review also shows students how writing is a social practice that takes place within and for communities (Adler-Kassner & Wardle, 2015) and encourages metacognition and self-regulated learning (Hattie, 2009; Henry & Ledbetter, 2011).

Constructive peer review requires planning ahead and preparing students for what to expect. When built into the revision process and aligned with course learning outcomes, peer review offers an opportunity for students to share challenges they face while writing and engage in the “collaborative task of problem-solving,” an intellectual experience that can lead to stronger papers as well as increased understanding of course content (Henry & Ledbetter, 2011, p. 8).

Strategies for More Productive Peer Reviews

Before assigning peer review, discuss the importance of revision and feedback for all writers. Share your own experiences of giving and receiving feedback on writing projects. Acknowledge that sharing one’s drafts can be uncomfortable, but even the most skilled writers revise their writing and seek feedback (Adler-Kassner & Wardle, 2015).  

Consider the goals for the assignment and for your peer review sessions. What do you hope students will learn and demonstrate through this assignment? Who are the audiences for their texts, and how do their classmates fit within this audience? What are you hoping students will learn through the peer review session about the assignment, about being critical readers, about writing and communicating in this course and in your discipline?

Encourage students to share previous peer review experiences. Based on these experiences, have students generate examples of productive and unproductive feedback.

Create a commenting sheet or set of prompts that students can follow during the peer review session. These prompts should align with the goals of the assignment and your course.  

Consider using descriptive, rather than evaluative, prompts to guide peer review (Nilson, 2003). For example, closed-ended questions such as “Is the paper clearly written throughout?” provoke evaluative, one-word responses, while imperatives such as “Highlight (in color) any passages that you had to read more than once to understand what the writer was saying” or “Outline this essay on the back of this sheet” show the writer what readers see in their texts and allow them to make decisions about what to revise (Nilson, 2003, pp. 35-36).

Encourage students to position themselves as interested readers, not as teachers, editors, or judges (Straub, 2005). Explain that, as readers, they should focus on global issues (argument, organization, analysis, ways to approach a specific part of the assignment, etc.) rather sentence-level concerns such as punctuation or word choice, especially in early drafts that will be revised multiple times (Straub, 2005).

Before holding a peer review session, practice as a class or in small groups using a student essay from a previous semester (with the student’s permission). Use your commenting sheet or prompts to model the types of feedback they can provide.

Include planning and reflection (metacommentary). Have students include a short memo or letter to their reviewers reflecting on their drafts. These reflections might include what the writer thinks is working well, what needs more attention, and what questions they have. In memos or cover letters on final drafts, students can address what they learned (or didn’t learn) through peer review and explain their revision choices.

Incorporate shorter or alternative approaches to peer review. For example, hold five- or ten-minute pair-shares, “speed-dating”-style, or whole class reviews of tentative thesis statements, research questions, method sections, hypotheses, introductions, etc.

Peer Review Resources: 

Peer Writing Support at HSU:

The Humboldt Writing Studio is staffed by undergraduate and graduate students from a range of majors who are trained to help their peers with drafting and revising writing projects. Free consultations available by appointment and drop-in, in-person and online. Open Sunday - Friday. Campus Events Field 2, 707-826-5217.

The Writing Studio also offers SkillShops on revision strategies, starting writing assignments, writing with sources, and other topics. For more information about how the Writing Studio can support faculty and students, contact jessica.citti@humboldt.edu.


Adler-Kassner, L. & Wardle, E. (Eds.) (2015). Naming what we know: Threshold concepts of writing studies. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.

Bean, J.C. (2011). Engaging ideas: The professor's guide to integrating writing, critical thinking, and active learning in the classroom. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York, NY: Routledge.

Henry, J. & Ledbetter, L. (2011). Teaching intellectual teamwork in WAC courses through peer review. Currents in Teaching and Learning, 3(2), 4-14.

Lundstrom, K. & Baker, W. (2009). To give is better than to receive: The benefits of peer review to the reviewer's own writing. Journal of Second Language Writing, 18(1), 30-43.

Nilson, L.B. (2003). Improving student peer feedback. College Teaching, 51(1), 34-38.

Straub, R. (2005). Responding--really responding--to other students’ writing. In W. Bishop & J.

Strickland, Eds. The Subject is writing: Essays by teachers and students (pp. 136-46). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann/Boynton-Cook Publishers.

Tip #37: Connnecting with Students in an Online Classroom

Contributed by Christine Dobrowolski, Kinesiology and Recreation

Building relationships with students will improve learning and help ensure student success. Relationship building may feel like a challenging task in an online environment when we rely on written text to interpret feelings, expressions, mood, and engagement.

Techniques for connecting with students:

  • Create a learning community. Build a community of learners on the first day of class. Start with an icebreaker discussion that allows students to introduce themselves, share their nickname, provide background information, and discuss their learning and professional goals. Encourage students to add a picture to the discussion forum and create a profile. Be active in the forum during the first week.
  • Share your story. Create a faculty information page on Canvas that includes your academic interests, your professional background and your personal interests. Students want to know who you are, as a person.

  • Adopt a personal tone. Tone is defined as a writer’s attitude toward the reader. Our readers are our students and we want to express a positive attitude in our written communication to form better connections.

  • Take notes. With more and more students in each course and class caps increasing, it may feel like an overwhelming task to get to know a new set of students every semester. Keep a spreadsheet with all student names, nicknames, interests and professional goals. When students are addressed by a preferred nickname, instead of their formal name, they feel as if their instructor made an effort to get to know them. Refer to the spreadsheet throughout the semester to address students’ professional goals as they apply to the material. Throughout the semester consider recommending books, providing links to research in a particular field of study, or to professional websites or academic leaders in a particular field as they relate to student interests.

  • Share experiences. Students assimilate new information when they can connect course content to past experiences. Ask students to share their personal and professional experiences in discussions as they relate to the course content. Engage in the discussion by sharing your own personal experiences.

  • Recognize student effort. Provide specific and unique feedback to students. Active learning involves the recognition of, and response to, student effort. Consider sending messages to students who earn the highest grades on an assignment or exam, congratulating them on the quality of their work.

  • Check-in. From time to time check in with students who might be falling behind with their work. Email, message, or call them. Some students may reach out to you, but others may only respond if the instructor initiates contact.

  • Ask for feedback. Survey students for constructive feedback about the course. If students have the opportunity to provide ongoing feedback about what they feel is working or not working, they feel like they have a say in the learning process. Anonymous feedback surveys can be valuable tools to gain student feedback.

  • Create videos. Instructor-created videos provide a more engaging learning environment and are easy-to-create with the Canvas video tool. The video tool can be found within the toolbar of the announcements or within the SpeedGrader feedback area. A video announcement that includes current events or course updates is an easy way to engage learners. Other video tools include YouTube, Camtasia, and Screencast-O-matic. Be sure your videos are captioned or have a transcript available.

  • Be responsive. Respond to student inquiries and concerns within 24 hours. Address their frustrations and concerns in a personal tone prior to providing more formal resolution advice. Students connect with instructors in different ways. Use a variety of engagement methods to encourage active learning.


Abrahamson C. E. (2011). Methodologies for motivating student learning through personal connections. Forum on Public Policy, 1-14.

Diekelmann N., & Elmora, M. (2005). Being a supportive presence in online courses: Knowing and connecting with students through writing. Journal of Nursing Education, 44(8), 344-346.

Milner, R.H. (2011). Five easy ways to connect with students. Harvard Education Letter, 27(1).

Tone in Business Writing. Purdue Online Writing Lab. https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/652/1/. Last accessed April 10, 2018.


Tip #36: Supporting Our Students

Contributed by Christine Mata (Interim Dean of Students), Roger Wang (Interim Assistant Dean of Students), and Robert Keever (CARE Coordinator)

Students of Concern

It is important to distinguish when a student is in distress, in crisis, or in an emergency even though all require attention. This will help you better determine whether they require a referral to resources or to call 911. A student in distress would be concerning, but is not in a life threatening situation and they have no imminent safety risks to themselves or others.  A student in crisis would be more urgent, but is not life threatening and may have some potential safety risks to themselves or others. A student in an emergency would be in a life threatening situation and is an imminent safety risk to themselves or others.

Some common signs of distress for student could include:

  • Sudden change in personal hygiene or appearance
  • Dramatic weight gain or loss
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Social or academic withdrawal
  • Disjointed or incoherent thoughts
  • Complaints from others on campus
  • Student isolating themselves from others
  • Excessive tardiness or absence
  • Constantly falling asleep in class or work
  • Intense emotions

When interacting or intervening with students of concern request to see the student in private as this may help minimize embarrassment and defensiveness.  Briefly acknowledge your observations and perceptions of their situation and then express your concerns directly and honestly.  Listen carefully and try to see the issue from the student’s point of view without necessarily agreeing or disagreeing. Be sure not to judge or label the student or shame them for their actions.  Take steps to provide them resources or referrals but only involve yourself as far as you want to go. At times, in an attempt to reach or help a troubled student, you may become more involved than time or skill permits.  However, this does not mean that you may abdicate your reporting responsibilities (i.e., child abuse, sexual assault and other forms of sexualized violence as well as other forms of discrimination).

Disruptive Students

Creating a positive learning environment for all students is a core goal of Humboldt faculty. Sometimes we can run into obstacles and must work through them. One instance is disruptive student behavior in the classroom. This can create a barrier for the learning environment for all students in the classroom as well as an obstacle for the instructor’s teaching progress related to the course content. It is important to identify and address disruptive behavior as it is outlined in the Behavior Policy. Disruptive student is defined as behavior which interrupts, obstructs, or inhibits the teaching and learning processes. The faculty member determines what is disruptive and has a duty to terminate it. Disruptive behavior may take many forms:

  • persistent questioning
  • incoherent comments
  • verbal attacks
  • unrecognized speaking out
  • incessant arguing
  • intimidating shouting
  • inappropriate gestures

Faculty have the authority and responsibility to establish rules, to maintain order, and to eject students from the course temporarily for violation of the rules or misconduct. If a disruption occurs, faculty must meet with the student privately (e.g. during office hours) and put the student on notice that the behavior is disruptive and any further behavior of this type will result in a referral to the Office of Student Rights & Responsibilities and/or possible removal from the course. If you are uncomfortable speaking to the student alone, ask your department chair or another faculty member to be present in the meeting.

In cases where a student exhibits abusive behavior, is physically abusive, or threatens physical abuse (e.g. directed profanity; physical disruption of the classroom, or threatening behavior), a verbal warning from the faculty member is not necessary. University Police (dial 911) may be requested to escort the student from the class, and an interim suspension may be imposed by the president. Office of the Dean of Students: (707)826-3504


Tip #35: Creating Community in Our Learning Spaces

Contributed by Kim Vincent-Layton, Center for Teaching and Learning & Academic Technology

Creating a supportive learning environment begins and continues with community. Community is a group of individuals who come together for a common purpose. Creating a space where everyone feels welcome, valued, and connected to others impacts the learning (Ambrose, Bridges, DiPietro, & Lovett, 2010). With this feeling of connection, students are more likely to attend and participate in class, have increased motivation, and are more likely to graduate from college. (Kangas Dwyer, Bingham, Carlson, Prisbell, & Cruz, 2009; Sawyer, Braz, & Babcock, 2009; Elliott, Gamino, & Jenkins, 2016).

One of the first steps in creating community is getting to know your peers and instructor. Consider the diverse perspectives and experiences that your students bring when they arrive to the classroom. How might students’ from different race, class, gender, experience, etc., learn as part of your classroom? How can you provide a space that supports multiple voices and perspectives?  Implementing community best practices is an essential part of today’s inclusive classrooms.

Starter List of Strategies:

  • Co-create ground rules that provide clear expectations and sets the foundation for the community. Consider coming to class with a ‘starter list’ of ground rules (e.g., One Mic Guidelines are a great start), and then open a discussion with students.
  • Cell Sharing. Each student in a small group shares a photo, song, or video from their mobile device that they think best represents them. Each person shares why they chose their selection.
  • Common Ground. Student pairs have 1 minute to find 6 things they have in common. Each pair joins with another pair and has 2 minutes to find 6 things that they all have in common.
  • Mini Group Quiz. Students work together to finish as much as they can in the allotted time.
  • Speed Friending. Create two rows of chairs facing each other. Students sit in chairs and have a 2-3 minute conversation based on a few prompts.  Students in one row move to the next chair every 2-3 minutes.
  • Buddy System. Have students exchange contact numbers with at least one other peer.

How do you create community in your learning spaces? We’d love to hear your strategies!
Send us an email at
ctl@humboldt.edu so we can create a shared collection.

Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M.W., DiPietro, M. & Lovett, M.C. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Chickering, A.W., & Gamson, Z.F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. American Association of Higher Education Bulletin, 39(7), 3-7.

Elliott, D., Gamino, M., & Jenkins, J.J. (2016). Creating community in the college classroom: Best practices for increased student success. International Journal of Education and Social Science, 3(6), 29-41.

Kangas Dwyer, K., Bingham, S. G., Carlson, R.E., Prisbell, M., & Cruz, A.M. (2009). Communication and connectedness in the classroom: Development of the connected classroom climate inventory. Communication Research Reports, 21(3), 264-272.

Sawyer, J.K., Braz, M.E., & Babcock, J.L. (2009). To get-to-know-you or not to get-to-know-you: A two phase study of initial engagement activities. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 21(2), 187-196.

Tip #34: Do Your Students See Your Class as Chindōgu?

Contributed by Enoch Hale, Ph.D., Director Center for Teaching and Learning & Academic Technology

This is my first, but not last, contribution. My name is Enoch Hale, and I am the new director of the Center for Teaching and Learning & Academic Technology. Why Chindōgu?

Well, it’s the beginning of the semester and having taught in higher education for many years, I intimately understand how important it is to properly orient students to one’s course: its requirements, its schedule, and the nature of its intellectual work.

Chindōgu (珍道具) can be defined as “the Japanese art of inventing ingenious everyday gadgets that seem like an ideal solution to a particular problem, but are in fact useless.” Of course, Chindōgu is much more culturally involved; however, it does present an interesting metaphor that we can use to think about perspective.

How do students see the work you design and the instruction you deliver? Do they see it as an obstacle to matriculation? As a series of checkboxes? As irrelevant to one’s major or, worse, life? As silly? As disconnected?--- Or, as an opportunity to grow? As an lens by which to view natural and social phenomena? As a series of deeply engaging experiences? As relevant to their majors and lives? As exciting? As inspiring? As productively challenging?

This metaphor suggests another question: How do you orient students to the type of intellectual work that characterizes the course(s) you design? In other words, what are the range of methods you enact to get students to see the course as you intend it to be?

What’s in your toolbox? (a.k.a. - A few suggestions)

  • What’s the professor’s job? What’s the student’s job?
  • Have students map the course using only the syllabus. From expectations to the range of topics, from types of assignments to types of engagements, you may catch a glimpse of how students interpret the purpose, structure, and value of your course.
  • Model the type of intellectual work you want students to do and which is appropriate for their developmental levels. For example, ask questions as you wish students to ask questions: Ask for examples, for metaphors, for illustrations, for elaborations.
  • Establish ground rules for interaction. What would it look like in your context if students participated in this process?
  • Use the power of metaphor to help students think through the key point of each lecture.

To conclude, I used the concept of Chindōgu as part of a keynote address at Humboldt's Professional Development Day kick off event last Friday. It was framed around broad notions of communication, so I encourage you to explore how your faculty and staff colleagues engaged with this metaphor.


  • Ambrose, Susan A.. (Eds.) (2010) How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Fink, L. Dee. (2003). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Nilson, Linda Burzotta. (1998). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors. Bolton, MA: Anker Pub. Co.
  • Ritchhart, Ron; Church, Mark; Morrison, Karin. (2011). Making Thinking Visible. Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass.
Tip #33: Wrapping up the Year

As we wrap up the year, it’s an opportunity to reflect on our individual practice and recognize the many incredible ways that we’ve ‘touched’ our students. It’s also an opportunity to think ahead about how and what we might do differently in the coming year.  Remember last week’s tip on taking risks? Where might you take a risk in your practice?

Given that our Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is wrapping up its first year, we are reflecting on the first 33 published Tips. This final tip, is to encourage each of you to reflect on your practice, consider some of the following resources to help you wrap up your semester, and invite you to reach out over the summer for additional resources to support any new and exciting things you’d like to try next year. We’d love to hear from you!

End of the Semester Resources

Five Tips for Fall Preparation

New Syllabus Policy Resources

Tip #32: Creating Risky Learning - For Yourself and Your Students

Contributed by Julie Alderson, Center for Teaching and Learning

As we race (limp?) to the end of the semester we often work hard to help our students reflect on their learning over the course of their time with us (see last week’s tip – Making the Last Day Meaningful).  It’s also important to consider what WE have learned, particularly as we’ve tried new teaching strategies, engaged in new conversations in the classroom, or introduced new course material.  The reality is that sometimes the new things we try don’t go well. Taking risks with your teaching means going out on a new and untested limb. Unfortunately, sometimes that limb breaks and you fall crashing down.  Sometimes right in front of your students.

These risks, and the lessons we learn from them, can bring some of the most exciting and engaging moments in the classroom.  And when you take risks, you model for your students that risk-taking is a good thing! It’s particularly powerful when you deploy something new with them through a spirit of radical transparency – “I’m trying something I’ve never done before here.  I have no idea how this will go! Let’s see!” – followed by a reflection with them about what worked, and what didn’t. Showing our humility, vulnerability and humanity helps build relationships with our students, and makes clear that we ourselves are lifelong learners.  We show them that grappling with learning and making mistakes is part of the educational journey, both for them and for you.

If you want to reach out to the CTL over the summer for additional resources to support any new and exciting things you’d like to try next year, we’d love to hear from you!


Tip #31: Making the Last Day Meaningful

Contributed by Kim Vincent-Layton, Center for Teaching and Learning

Think back to your first day of the semester and our tip on the First Day of Class...

Setting the tone for the learning environment on the first day is just as important on the last day of class. The last day is not only the culmination of our students’ unique experiences, but also an opportunity to reflect on our teaching. Creating opportunities to reflect by looking back and then looking forward helps students transfer their learning to new experiences (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000).  The meaningful moments that we plan for our last day can have a great impact on our students in terms of closing the learning loop (Lang, 2015).

These last learning moments can take place in a variety of formats, e.g., discussion, writing, creating portfolios, drawing concept maps, game show, final review session, advice to future students, etc. Most important is the opportunity to reflect on how far they have come as this is a celebratory moment!

Here are some ideas to consider in making the last day experience meaningful for you and your students:

  • Reflection: Reflect back to the beginning (revisit the course outcomes and celebrate how far they’ve come) and share what they are walking away with.

  • Relevance - What aspects of what they learned are relevant to their lives now and in the future?

  • Synthesis - This is the process of identifying pieces of the learning and coming up with common themes and issues and how they fit together or do not fit together.

Colleagues share their last day of class moments:

  • At the end of the semester, I like to give my students the opportunity to collectively reflect on their learning and consider shifts or changes in their thinking. I then like to use the “once around the room” strategy to give every student in the class the opportunity to share their ideas. - Libbi Miller, Education

  • On our last day of class we do a Jeopardy style/Family Feud game where students are asked trivia questions that cover the entirety of the key concepts and important information we learned throughout the semester. Many of these questions we have gone over and answered throughout the semester and we have reviewed and discussed them in class before. Whichever group ends the game with the most points receives 20 points extra credit. The second place group gets 10 points extra credit and the third 5 points extra credit. It is a nice way to show how much they have learned throughout the semester. It's also a lot of fun. - Cutcha Risling Baldy, Native American Studies

  • The professor sharing what s/he learned in the class, reflecting back to students to model how teachers are also learners, and that students teach us as much if not more than we teach them. From ways I might change my course plans/assignments/etc based on their feedback, to new ways of approaching the material, to new insights from discussions we've had and things they've shared.   Showing how we are always changing and learning, that teaching courses is dynamic and shifts all the time, seems essential to student-centered pedagogy. Another idea I use is to bring things full circle for students to self-assess their learning in the class. If it's paired with a "what do you hope to learn/achieve in this class" reflection done at the beginning of the semester, students can look at those original answers and see/discuss with each other and as a class whether they've achieved those things they wanted to. - Sarah Ray, Geography

  • Something I've done in the past is to take a group photo on the last day of class or a multi-day workshop (not just from students' desks). I've found this is a nice way to end by getting everyone together and emphasizing the cohesiveness of the group. This is one way I express my gratitude for a great class and to demonstrate how valuable students are to me. - Brandilynn J. Villarreal, Psychology

Bransford, J.D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R.R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Lang, J. M. (2016). Small changes in teaching: The last 5 minutes of class. Chronicle of Higher Education.

Other Resources:

Tip #30: Humboldt Student Snapshots: Helping Students Find Their Voice Through Digital Storytelling

Contributed by Tim Miller, Library

Have you been thinking about assigning a video project? Are you interested in helping your students develop digital literacy skills? Do you want to help your students share their stories and find their voices?

“Student Snapshots” is a collection of video stories from Cal Poly Humboldt (HSU) students in their own voice. These stories are about the experiences of students as they live in Humboldt County and explore both the county and the Humboldt campus. Student Snapshots are quick 1-minute stories that share your unique experience from your own vantage point.

What have been your experiences navigating Humboldt County? In what ways do you feel--or not--like a member of the community? Your story is important and you have something to share with Humboldt and beyond. If you have never made a video before, this is your chance to learn how. We will help you learn how to film and edit a video--you can even borrow the equipment from the Humboldt Library, or use your own devices. You will be in complete control of your story and your video.

We will be gathering these stories over the next few years; by sharing your voice, you will be helping to build an anthology of student stories, told by students themselves. Our goal is to build communication and understanding between Humboldt students and the Humboldt community.

We will be screening the first Student Snapshots at this year’s IdeaFest at 4:00 pm on April 19th, 2018 in the Center for Teaching & Learning Classroom (Library 317). The Student Snapshots screening will be in conjunction with We Are Your Community, a poster and video project by Masters of Social Work students Erin Youngblood-Smith and Amy Mathieson sharing posters and video interviews about the experiences of African American students with the community.

These projects create a foundation for the campus and community to better understand how Humboldt students experience the university and surrounding areas. Join us to learn how you can add your story to these projects and share your experiences with us through our interactive photo booth and testimonial posters.

View the Snapshots and learn more about the project:

Integrate digital storytelling into your course

If you are interested in aligning this project with your course or promoting it with your students, please get in touch with the Digital Media Lab (dml@humboldt.edu). We will be continuing this project during the 2018-19 year and hope to build a video library of students’ stories.

Tip #29: Helping Graduating Students in Their Transition

Contributed by Loren Collins, Academic and Career Advising Center

I've had the privilege of working with graduating students from almost every program on campus in the past seven years and have worked with capstone courses from at least a dozen majors.  These students all shared one thing in common, a mixture of expectation and anxiety about their next steps and their life after college. Many of these capstones were already embracing a number of high-impact practices by allowing students to share common intellectual experiences, participate in intensive writing, research, take part in collaborative projects, and complete a culminating project.  There is another high impact practice that is a perfect fit for this kind of experience and has the potential to complement these other activities and that is working on professional portfolios and capturing the professional accomplishments of your students through compiling them in resumes, cover letters, collections of their best work, and mock interviews.

Our faculty in the CAHSS Career Curriculum Committee have been engaged in and creating curriculum that targets career development for their students and have prepared a variety of these kinds of assignments to give graduating seniors an edge in the job market, plan for their next steps, and begin to articulate their college experience in a way that does their disciplines the justice they deserve.  Of particular interest for the capstone experience are assignments that help them to survey their experience and market that experience to potential graduate schools and/or employers. These include lesson plans and assignments for:

  • Portfolios

  • Mock Interviews

  • Resumes and CVs

  • Cover Letters

  • Statements of Purpose

  • Networking and Informational Interviews

  • Reflection Essays

Thanks to the work by Dr. Alison Holmes and Morgan Barker, we have a selection of rubrics available in Canvas for working with students on their resumes, cover letters, and mock interviews.  It is easy to add these components into your course as "flipped" classroom exercises, optional assignments, or embedded requirements for your students. The Academic and Career Advising Center has begun surveying students to gauge the value they place on these kinds of classroom activities, and although the results are yet to be fully analyzed, the overwhelming response has been that these kinds of activities help them to make sense of their time here, plan for their future, and are essential to them in preparing them to embark on their next journey.


Tip #28: Helping Students Succeed in General Science Classes Through Supplemental Instruction

Contributed by Arianna Thobaben, Learning Center and School of Education

Did you know Humboldt has a Supplemental Instruction (SI) Program?  Help students succeed in general science classes by encouraging them to join!

What is Supplemental Instruction?

Supplemental Instruction (SI) is a program run through the Humboldt Learning Center that offers peer-led review sessions for bottleneck science courses. Students voluntarily enroll in a 1-unit CR/NC class and are expected to attend two 50-minute sessions a week. Humboldt offers 70+ sections annually and has over a decade of data supporting its value to students.  

SI courses have a strong representation of underrepresented groups (URG) and first generation students; success rates are significant for all who attend. There is a very strong correlation between success in SI and success in the content class. In fact, a larger percentage of students who attend SI achieve As compared to students who don’t take SI.

Humboldt's SI program started in 1996 and follows the International Center of Supplemental Instruction’s research-based model developed by the University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) and is led by a UMKC certified Supplemental Instruction Coordinator.

Share the news:

SI is offered for BIO 102, 104, 105, 340; BOT 105; CHEM 107, 109, 110, 328; PHYX 106; and ZOOL 110. In the 2016 -2017 academic year, the program served over 920 students, which is approximately 20% of those enrolled in the core classes.  Even if you don’t have an SI section attached to your class, you can still adopt some of the impactful tenants of the SI program into your pedagogical practice.

What makes SI so impactful?

SI sessions are based on research supporting the effectiveness of collaborative, active, and peer-to-peer learning. SI sections are led by trained student leaders who earned high grades in the SI-attached course. These SI leaders communicate regularly with the lecture faculty and with the SI Coordinator.

  • SI sessions give a structured environment to actively grapple with difficult material. While students are exposed or introduced to the material during class and through readings, they don't necessarily know how to process that new knowledge.
  • SI embodies creative activities so that students can practice retrieving and rehearsing content and problems. Through recall and rehearsal, they better understand their gaps in knowledge and can work with others to fill in those gaps (Brown, Roediger, & McDaniel, 2014).
  • SI leaders are perceived as less intimidating than faculty, so students are more willing to ask questions and take chances.
  • SI teaches effective and transferable study skills.
  • SI is collaborative: students in SI teach and learn from one another. Although the SI leader is there to guide activities, the role of the leader is not to lecture, but instead create collaborative and active learning activities (Laal, Naseri, Laal, & Khattami-Kermanshahi, 2013; Bruffee, 1993).
  • SI is purposeful about creating a community of learners. Community promotes risk taking in answering and asking questions, helps students form study groups outside of SI, and in general, helps students feel connected to the university and their peers (Elliott, Gamino, & Jenkins, 2016; Tinto, 1997).
  • SI is fun. SI leaders go out of their way to develop novel activities to challenge students and get them excited about the subject.

Faculty feedback about SI:

“Supplemental instruction is a fantastic resource for both the students who take it and the students who teach it. Physics is an inherently difficult subject and as such many students need extra help. SI provides a low-stress environment where students can help, and learn from, their peers, providing them with the support and confidence they need to succeed in my course... Working with the SI instructors has also been a great experience, many of whom are already dedicated to the craft of teaching. It's wonderful that they get valuable hands-on experience as they delve deeper into the subject at hand.” - Tyler Mitchell, Ph.D.;  Physics 106

“SI is highly beneficial to students! It allows them to review material in a friendly, low-stress environment because they are not graded and because the lessons are led by peer undergraduates. The small class setting builds community among the students and that has been shown to improve their performance and grades…”  - Mihai Tomescu, Ph.D.; Botany 105


Brown, P.C., Roediger, H.L., & McDaniel, M.A. (2014). Make it stick : The science of successful learning. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Bruffee, K. A. (1993). Collaborative learning: Higher education, interdependence, and the authority of knowledge. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Bruner, J. S. (1996). The culture of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Elliott, D., Gamino, M., & Jenkins, J.J. (2016). Creating community in the college classroom: Best practices for increased student success. International Journal of Education and Social Science 3, 29-41. Retrieved from www.ijessnet.com.

Laal, M., Naseri, A.S., Laal, M., & Khattami-Kermanshahi, Z. (2013). What do we achieve from learning in collaboration? Social and Behavioral Sciences, 93, 1427-1432. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.10.057

Tinto, V.  (1997). Classrooms as communities: Exploring the educational character of student persistence. Journal of Higher Education, 68, 599-623.

Tip #27: Giving a "Voice" to Presentations and Your Students

Contributed by Armeda Reitzel, Communication

Are you looking for a way to make your powerpoint or Google slide presentations more exciting and interactive?  Would you like to share more of your personality and build community? Do you want your students to engage with the material on the slides through discussions? Would you like an engaging tool for students to create?

The answer to these questions comes down to an app, an app that is available to use in Canvas or without: VoiceThread!

So what is a VoiceThread?

A VoiceThread is a multimedia slideshow that invites interaction and collaboration.   Comments may be made via a webcam, text, audio file and/or voice. A VoiceThread is like a graphic novel that allows both the author and their audience to share ideas, questions and feedback.  VoiceThread supports threaded conversations. The media can be videos, photographs, charts, and other images that are put into a slideshow with text captioning and/or audio voiceover. Documents can be uploaded into the slideshow.  There is a lot of room for creativity in a VoiceThread presentation.

For a quick eighty-second definition of a VoiceThread, watch the video “What’s a VoiceThread anyway?”  As the video states at the end, a VoiceThread is capable of “transforming media into interactive discussions, simply.”    

How can I use VoiceThread in my course?  

VoiceThread is very versatile.  It can be used in a face-to-face, hybrid or online course.  If you want to see some examples of VoiceThreads in different disciplines, check out VoiceThreads in Higher Education.  A great guide with lots of suggestions is How to Humanize Your Online Class with VoiceThread.  Here’s an example of Dr. Reitzel’s Quotation VoiceThread assignment that she uses in her Communication 100 class.

VoiceThread can be used to present new information and/or review a presentation done in class in a fun and interesting way.  It is even a great way to give directions to assignments and feedback on students’ work.

VoiceThread can be used to create community in a course.  Instructors could make a VoiceThread introducing themselves to their classes.  It can be a way for students to introduce themselves to their peers and their instructor.  For example, a VoiceThread assignment can be used as an ice breaker. VoiceThreads provide great forums for focused discussions among peers.  It is a natural way to get and keep a discussion organized and thoughtful. Students can comment directly on the slide that they are talking about.  They can respond to the comments and questions of peers directly in a threaded discussion. A group VoiceThread project is a terrific way for students to work together to present information to the rest of the class.  


Scholarly Articles on VoiceThread:

  • Lofton, J. (2010). Using VoiceThread for Online Communication. School Librarian's Workshop, 30(3), 9.
  • Pecot-Hebert, L. (2012). To Hybrid or Not to Hybrid, That is the Question! Incorporating VoiceThread Technology into a Traditional Communication Course. Communication Teacher, 26(3), 129-134
Tip #26: May the Force Be With Us!

Contributed by Andy Stubblefield, Chair of WASC Self-Study Committee, Professor of Hydrology and Watershed Management

Unless you’ve been living on Mars, you’re well aware that WASC Review is coming soon to a campus near you! As we gear up for our WSCUC (WASC Senior College & University Commission) visit this week, you might be wondering, how can I help support the reaffirmation of our accreditation?  Well, you probably already are, through the amazing work you’re doing now in your classroom. Our WASC self-study highlighted things like Klamath Connection and the redesign of Chemistry 109, but there are so many more examples of our faculty implementing high impact practices to support student learning and success.  

Here are a few examples to celebrate:

  • Mari Sanchez, Psychology, has focused on efforts to make class material meaningful to students in their everyday lives and encourages them to actively make connections of their own to their own lives and knowledge. These practices serve as a helpful way to study and encouraged with extra credit incentives where points are awarded if they share the connections they have made with the class in a Canvas discussion forum. These practices are research based and are found to help student understanding and retention of the class material.
  • Suzanne Pasztor, History, has redesigned History 312 (World History for those aspiring to teach) to include a series of smaller assessments both low and high stakes formats to get at what these future teachers really need to know and practice. In addition, including guided discussions in class and online provides students analytical writing practice with opportunity for re-grades on their work. She has also redesigned History 328 (Women and Gender in Latin America) to include Student Panels where students “teach” a scholarly article to a peer group giving opportunity for analytical thinking and oral presentation skills.
  • Eileen Cashman, Environmental Resource Engineering, and Micaela Szykman Gunther, Wildlife, have led a collaboration of faculty and the Academic and Career Advising Center in submitting a $1.5 million proposal to NSF this spring to provide professional development and paid summer internships for 60 students in order to promote retention and graduation in STEM fields.
  • Loren Collins, Political Science/Academic and Career Advising Center, has Political Science 482 students participate in a “major mapping” activity where they write in an unordered fashion, all the courses, projects, theories, authors, books, activities, etc. that they can remember through their time within their major. This is followed by looking for knowledge, skills, and common themes from their maps to make meaning through rich discussion on what they have gained from their majors. In mock interviews, students pull from this activity as they practice how they would summarize their education and experience outside of Humboldt and in their future careers.
  • Over 85 faculty participated in a 12-hour training on the theme: Creating Change for Equity. The purpose of these Student Success Summits is to create a community of practice focused on developing a culture of shared norms and values that establish an inclusive learning environment, one that prohibits anyone from being disadvantaged or unjustly treated because of social identity or status.
  • Sarah Jaquette Ray, Environmental Studies, has incorporated career planning and as a result, students have much greater investment in the campus and community, better performance in coursework, and better relationships with faculty. She feels their sense of agency and purpose is greatly increased, decreasing their anxiety. She wonders “is it our job to create good, disciplined ecological subjects, managers of resources? Or something else?  How can Environmental Studies students operate within existing systems while being deeply critical of them? (M. Foucault, Timothy W. Luke, etc).”

When we think about accreditation and what it means to our students, I encourage you to think about the successes in your classrooms and your students’ engagement and learning. What comes to mind? These are the stories that we need to celebrate as a campus community.  If you get stopped on the quad by a member of the WSCUC Review Team, tell them about what you celebrate in your own teaching. Your voice in this process is incredibly important. Thank you for all that you do!

Tip #25: Microaggressions Matter

Contributed by Christine Mata, Student Rights & Responsibilities

What are microaggressions? Why do they matter? These are great questions. You may think microaggressions are the new buzz word but this concept has been in existence for over 40 years. The term was coined by Chester Pierce in 1970 who was a Professor of Education and Psychiatry at Harvard University. He used microaggressions to describe “the subtle, stunning and often automatic and non–verbal exchanges which are ‘put downs.’” Dr. Pierce developed the concept of microaggressions to demonstrate the mental and physical impact these subtle slights have on people. Although Dr. Pierce focused on race, other researchers expanded this concept in the field of education, psychology and even to demonstrate that microaggressions can affect other targeted social identities

We tend to discuss microaggressions from a racial lens because race is an extremely salient aspect of our identity. However, microaggressions can affect all social identities and can intersect with multiple identities. Racial microaggressions are “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.”

A few things to remember about microaggressions:

  • Micro-aggressions (simplified) - Statements or behaviors, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults based on race and other social identities. Remember to focus on impact not intent. We can have good intentions yet cause harm in  the process through language, behavior and assumptions (to name a few). They occur in the classroom, workplace and day-to-day life.
  • There are different levels:
    • Micro-assaults (often conscious) – Explicit racial comments meant to hurt the intended victim through name calling, avoidant behavior or purposeful discriminatory actions
    • Micro-insults (unconscious) – Behaviors or comments that convey rudeness, insensitivity, and demean a person’s heritage or identity
    • Micro-invalidation (often unconscious) – Comments or behaviors that exclude, negate or nullify the thoughts, feelings or experiences of a person of color
  • They impact mental health: Research indicates that experiencing large amounts of microaggressions lead to distress, anxiety, depression and physical issues (Sue et al., 2007).
  • The harmful impact of microaggressions:
    • Many are subtle and escape recognition by both the perpetrator and target.
    • Make people feel excluded, like second class citizens and sometimes unsafe.
    • Over the course of time microaggressions lead to mental and physical health issues.
    • Affect retention of students, staff and faculty of color.
    • Microaggressions can interact across other identities (gender, race, ability, religion, sexual orientation, immigration status, social class, age….etc)


Minikel Lacocque, J. (2012). Racism, College, and the Power of Words: Racial Microaggressions Reconsidered. American Educational Research Journal, 50(3), 432-465.

Nadal, K. (2014). The Adverse Impact of Racial Microaggressions on College Students' Self-Esteem. Journal of College Student Development., 55(5), 461-474.

Sue, D., Lin, A., Torino, G., Capodilupo, C., & Rivera, D. (2009). Racial Microaggressions and Difficult Dialogues on Race in the Classroom. Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology, 15(2), 183-190

Sue, Derald, Rivera, David, Watkins, Nicole, Kim, Rachel, Kim, Suah, & Williams, Chantea. (2011). Racial Dialogues: Challenges Faculty of Color Face in the Classroom. Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology, 17(3), 331-340.

Sue, D. (2010) Microaggressions in everyday life: race, gender, and sexual orientation


Franklin, Jeremy. "Racial Microaggressions, Racial Battle Fatigue, and Racism-Related Stress in

Higher Education." Journal of Student Affairs at New York University 12 (2016): 44.

Nadal, KL. 2012. Featured Commentary: Trayvon, Troy, Sean: When racial biases and microaggressions kill. Communiqué, American Psychological Association.

Sue, D., et.al. 2007. Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life. American Psychologist, 62(4): 271–286

Tip #24: Supporting Student Success Through Open Educational Resources

Contributed by Kyle Morgan, Library

Multiple studies have reported students not buying textbooks due to cost. These students report lower grades and longer graduation rates.  The solution: Open Educational Resources.

What are OER?

Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning, and research resources that permit free use and repurposing.

Why use OER?

  • Improved student success: “…the cost of textbooks is negatively impacting student access to required materials (66.6% did not purchase the required textbook) and learning (37.6% earn a poor grade; 19.8% fail a course).”

  • Improved graduation rates: Because of the cost of textbooks “students reported that they occasionally or frequently take fewer courses (47.6%); do not register for a course (45.5%); drop a course (26.1%), or withdraw from courses (20.7%).” 1

  • Improved class design: Requiring students to buy a textbook means an obligation to use that textbook and teach to its goals. Conversely, OER can be edited and organized to fit your own goals for the class.

  • Elevated profile of a course or department: A course or department offering zero-cost textbooks will be able to market this to current and incoming students.

Where to find OER?

The Cal Poly Humboldt Library OER Research Guide lists OER content by department. Contact a librarian to locate additional resources or an instructional designer to integrate them into your course.

How to create OER?

Integrating students in OER development is a high-impact practice with real-world deliverables. Here is a sample assignment modeled on a capstone course offered by Professor Scott Paynton:

  1. Organize the class into teams, assign textbook topics, and set goals and deadlines.

  2. Direct the teams to build resource lists and bibliographies. Test students for content knowledge.

  3. Use Google Drive for the creation and curation of content. Weekly team presentations can help monitor progress and allow for peer advice.

  4. Have teams conduct peer-review on each other’s finals drafts using a predefined rubric. Allow teams time to integrate edits and resubmit for final grading.

  5. If needed, revise and refine across multiple courses or internships, then publish with Humboldt Press.

1 Research provided by the 2016 Florida Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey. Studies by the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission and Student Public Interest Research Groups corroborate the findings.

Tip #23: Connecting to Community Using the Library’s Special Collections

Contributed by Carly Marino, Library

On Thursday, March 1st from 3-5pm the Library is celebrating the grand opening of the new Cal Poly Humboldt (HSU) Special Collections, a premier research center for the study of Northwestern California. Special Collections is an interdisciplinary laboratory for students to learn how to use primary source material and conduct original research by investigating archival maps, photographs, diaries, and manuscript collections documenting the history of Humboldt County.  Every semester, thousands of Humboldt students use these collections to explore Humboldt’s communities and their own place within it.

Why encourage students to conduct research in Special Collections?

  • Researching a local topic can help students learn about the community in which they live. Feeling connected to Humboldt County can help fuel a student’s desire to stay at Humboldt.

  • Students develop information literacy skills and learn how information is found, produced, and evaluated. Students can see the entire research process demonstrated in the collections housed in Special Collections, from data sets and research notes to the editor’s comments and the final published article.  

  • Students can engage in inquiry-based research and formulate research questions  based on their own experiences in the community or based on the primary sources found in Special Collections.

  • By participating in semester-long projects and internships, students can work to digitize material and design digital exhibits. This type of work encourages students to become empowered content creators.

How can you incorporate Special Collections in your course?


Association of College and Research Libraries. (2015). Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education

Bahde, A., Smedberg, H., Taormina, M., & Yakel, E. (2014). Using primary sources: Hands-on instructional exercises. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Hinchliffe, L., & Prom, C. (2016). Teaching with primary sources. Chicago, IL: Society of American Archivists.  

Tip #22: Inspire Your Teaching and Your Students’ Learning Through Facilitated Feedback

Contributed by Kim Vincent-Layton, Center for Teaching and Learning

Mid-semester may not seem like the time to make changes in your classroom, but it is actually the perfect time to inspire your passion for teaching through facilitated student feedback. The mid-semester evaluation (MSE) is facilitated by a trained graduate student who elicits anonymous feedback from your students as they discuss how the class helps them learn and how it might be enhanced/improved to help them be more successful. Students who provide feedback that results in course changes have been shown to experience improved attitudes about the course and/or instructor (Keutzer, 1993).  

Consider the many benefits to faculty and students

  • Discovery of favorite aspects of a course
  • Empowers the student voice in their learning experience
  • Insights for timely course adjustments that impact students’ experience
  • Allows for risk-taking in teaching
  • Improves end-of-the-semester evaluations (Cohen, 1980; Murray, 2007)
  • Improves learning and class climate through work with a trained facilitator and the CTL
  • Only takes 20-30 minutes of class

Feedback from Humboldt faculty who have participated in MSE

  • This service [MSE] was helpful to understand the needs of my students while maintaining a rigorous course with quality assignments. For instance, I made changes to a homework assignment that I had introduced in the Spring 2016 semester for my Learning and Motivation courses. This new assignment was inspired by comments from the student evaluations from the previous semester. The changes I made to the assignment were well received, as evidenced through my student evaluations. It is important to students that their instructors acknowledge their thoughts and suggestions as it empowers them to take a more active role in their own education. This in turn may make students more invested in the class. I was happy that my students noticed and appreciated my efforts to work with them, as one student’s evaluation comment says, “Dr. Sanchez is a  teacher that is really open to feedback from her class. Throughout the year she allowed her students to provide feedback and she listened. I noticed that she would change some of the class structure to help the flow. She has done an amazing job!” (Spring 2016).” - Mari Sanchez, Psychology

  • "The mid-semester evaluation process was very user-friendly, informative, and felt like class time well spent. It was helpful to get student feedback when there is still time in the semester to respond and make changes. In response to student feedback through these evaluations, I now write more on the whiteboard, talk more slowly, and hold review sessions before each exam. These evaluations are nice in that you feel compelled to make changes and respond to the critiques because the students know you heard their feedback and expect to see some adjustments.” - Lucy Kerhoulas, Forestry and Wildland

  • “Mid-Semester Evaluations helped me to see the students’ perceptions on course strengths, weaknesses, and needs. Once I had it, I incorporated them into my next half of teaching and finally my overall evaluation was 4.5 out of 5.0. Therefore, MSE is really important to instructors to get the feedback from students early and then improve the teaching the next half of the semester.” - Buddihika Madurapperuma, Environmental Science Management

Interested in an MSE this semester? We are excited to co-inspire with you! Please contact the CTL at ctl@humboldt.edu and provide your department, course name, enrollment, days/times course meets, and preferred time(s) for an MSE facilitator to come to your class.



Cohen, P. A. (1980). Effectiveness of student-rating feedback for improving college instruction: A meta-analysis of findings. Research in Higher Education, 13(4), 321-341.

Keutzer, C.S. (1993). Midterm evaluation of teaching provides helpful feedback to instructors. Teaching of Psychology, 20, 238-240.

Murray, H. G. (2007). Low-inference teaching behaviors and college teaching effectiveness: Recent developments and controversies. In R. P. Perry & J. C. Smart (Eds.), The scholarship of teaching and learning in higher education: An evidence-based perspective (pp. 145-200). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

Tip #21: Supporting Our Multilingual Students

Contributed by Contributed by Tyler Bradbury, Center for International Programs

It isn’t always evident if our students speak English as their primary language, but we can be sure that there are multilingual students in our classes. How can we enhance our teaching so that we are making lectures and materials accessible for these students? The good news is that many of these strategies make materials more accessible for ALL students!

Quick and easy ways to help students:

  • Provide instruction that appeals to multiple learning styles.

  • Be sure to have visual references and cues such as presentation slides, notes on the board, or lecture notes that can be annotated by the students. This helps students keep up with the lecture and information.

  • When showing video, use the CC option to provide English subtitles.

  • Instead of full class discussions, consider small group discussion where students feel more comfortable speaking up and asking questions. International students especially can be self-conscious of their ability to make themselves understood (because of language or pronunciation).

  • Ask yourself if there is a reason for a time limit on your Canvas quizzes. Could the time-limit be increased or removed altogether?

  • Allow for resubmission of essays for improved grades.

  • If there are comprehension problems, don’t speak louder, slow down and speak clearly.

Tips that may challenge you and your teaching:

  • If you have a large group who speaks the same primary language, consider encouraging group discussions in their primary language.

  • For international students, do your research and be aware of the cultural teaching styles they are accustomed to. Find out if collaborative learning, class discussion, and freely questioning the instructor are styles they have experienced before or if they need help adapting.

  • Increase your formative, low-stakes, evaluations, don’t rely solely upon structured quizzes and exams to give you an idea of how students are grasping materials.

  • Reflect on how imperfect English affects your grading and if it should.



Creese, A., & Blackledge, A. (2010). Translanguaging in the bilingual classroom: A pedagogy for learning and teaching? The Modern Language Journal, 94(1), 103-115.

Lightbown, P., & Spada, N. (2013). How languages are learned (Fourth ed., Oxford handbooks for language teachers).

Tip #20: Learning as a Journey: Early, Low-stakes Assignments

Contributed by Kim Vincent-Layton, Center for Teaching and Learning

Should we be giving students more tests? Well, yes, and no.  In order for assessments of learning to be effective, they must be “frequent, early, and formative” (Tinto, 2012). Offering opportunities for students to practice and receive critical feedback right from the start helps to guide their learning. Given that early, low-stakes assignments influence future performance, rather than past, we can understand where our students are before and during their learning. This in turn helps us in creating opportunities to further grow their self-efficacy by identifying misconceptions and gaps. This approach has many benefits to both instructor and student.

Benefits for Students

  • Motivates and increases class attendance
  • Opportunity for active and reflective evaluation and control of their own learning (Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick, 2006)
  • Opportunity to translate prior knowledge/experiences to course topics (Kift, 2009)
  • Increases engagement, specifically for those who might be at risk for failure or withdrawal
  • Builds skills and confidence with specific, timely, feedback that empower them to make adjustments (Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh, & Whitt, 2010)
  • Increases opportunity for practice, recall, and retention of information
  • Increases self-efficacy
  • Opens communication with the instructor that can lead to more meaningful conversations and connections
  • Fosters deep learning (Bain, 2014; Nilsen, 2010)

Benefits for Faculty

  • Personalizes the learning experience by modifying instruction based on students’ learning
  • Opens communication with your students that can lead to more meaningful conversations and connections
  • Connects to bigger course concepts to help student scaffold their learning
  • Identifies students who may need additional support, e.g., students on academic probation, students not attending class, students who would benefit from other support such as writing, etc.
  • Directs students to additional resources if needed
  • Contributes towards helping students not only be successful in their courses, but also make significant progress toward their degrees

Examples of Low-stakes Assignments

  • Drafts
  • Peer review
  • Group work
  • Quiz
  • Discussion
  • Self-assessment
  • Quick Write
  • Muddiest Point
  • Journal/reflection

Examples at Humboldt

  • Initial map quiz (assesses prior knowledge and provides practice) - Brittany Sheldon, Art. “On the first day, when I asked my 42 students in 104K if any of them knew anything about Africa or African art, one person raised their hand. This is nothing against them - it's the usual response. So today they are going to get a blank map of Africa and they are going to fill in all the countries they know. (they won't be graded, but will receive attendance/participation credit). Then they will have map labeling components on their midterm and final so they can see the progress they've made.”

  • Clicker Quizzes (regular, ongoing practice with feedback) - Chris Harmon, Chemistry. “I do a clicker quiz every Friday that consists of five multiple choice questions. Students get two minutes per question (timed) and the quiz is open discussion/open notes. We do this for the last 20 minutes of class and discuss the results afterwards.

  • Practice and Reflection - Whitney Ogle, Kinesiology. “I have two assignments due in the first week of class for KINS 484: Motor Learning and Development.  The first assignment is a baseline handwriting assignment where students test their ability to write with their non-dominant hand.  This is part of an ongoing assignment throughout the semester where the students receive a 1 for turning in the assignment or a 0 if they do not turn in the assignment.  This semester, I gave the students time in class to complete the assignment so they all received a 1/1 for the assignment, starting the semester with a 100%.  The other assignment is a one-page reflection where they find a picture of themselves and describe the senses they were using to complete the task and classify the task and environment.  I enjoy this assignment because I get to learn more about the students, the students typically do well on the assignment, and it helps the students feel embodied in the course content.”



Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Cambridge: Harvard UP.

Kift, S., (2009), First year curriculum principles: Program coordinator checklist, Articulating a transition pedagogy.

Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J., Schuh, J.S., and Whitt, E.J. (2010). Student success in college: Creating conditions that matter. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Nicol, David J., & Macfarlane‐Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and self‐regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education, 31(2).

Nilson, L. B. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Tinto, V. (2012). Completing college: Rethinking institutional action. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Tip #19: Got Rubrics?

Contributed by Christine Dobrowolski, Kinesiology

Have you ever wished for a simple and systematic grading system that provides clear expectations for students, yet saves you time when grading? Here’s a solution for you, the rubric tool in Canvas! Creating rubrics in Canvas is easy, and utilizing rubrics in SpeedGrader makes grading efficient.

Rubrics positively influence student learning, improve student performance, support self-directed learning, and contribute to effective assessment (Wolf & Stevens, 2007). sample rubric

Advantages of Using Rubrics

  • Rubrics set clear expectations for students
  • Rubrics help students monitor their progress
  • Rubrics allow students to recognize their strengths and weaknesses
  • Rubrics allow instructors to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of a class
  • Rubrics help instructors identify areas that need more instructional time
  • Rubric save instructors time when grading

Creating a Rubric in Canvas

To create a rubric, start by going to an assignment you’ve created, scroll down and click “+ Rubric”. Or, in a discussion, click on the gear icon and select “add rubric”. Fill in the criteria and descriptions for the assignment and click save to finish. You can use the same rubric for similar assignments or modify a template rubric to fit a variety of assignments.

SpeedGrader allows you to use rubrics to assign grades, view and sort submissions, and easily move from one student submission to the next. Within SpeedGrader you can provide annotated and written comments, create video feedback, and use the speech-to-text recognition tool.

Tips for Canvas Rubrics

  • Write out your criteria and descriptions in a text document; cut-and-paste text into the rubric.
  • If using multiple rubrics, create a template rubric and rename for each assignment.
  • Use descriptive titles for criteria; include details in the ratings descriptions.
  • Clearly delineate between ratings.
  • Check “use this rubric for assignment grading” when finished; you can still write free-form comments.



Allen, D. & Tanner, K. (2006).Rubrics: Tools for making learning goals. CBE Life Sci Educ, 5(3), 197–203.

Panadero, E., & Jonsson, A. (2013). The use of scoring rubrics for formative assessment purposes revisited: A review. Educational Research Review, 9(1), 129-144.

Wolf K, Stevens E. (2007). The role of rubrics in advancing and assessing student learning. The Journal of Effective Teaching, 7(1), 3-14.

Humboldt Quality Learning and Teaching (QLT) Best Practice Guide. Assessment and Evaluation of Student Learning (2.4).

Tip #18: Rock Your First Day of Class!

Contributed by Kim Vincent-Layton, Center for Teaching and Learning 

What do you remember from a “first day of class” as a student? Did you know that the first day of class sets the tone for the rest of the course (Nilson, 2003)? As you enter your classrooms on the first day, consider some of the following tips to set the tone for the learning space.

Communicate prior to the first day of class

  • Send an email that welcomes students and invites their energy to the learning environment. Include a brief ‘welcome video‘ to help them get to know you before class begins
  • Offer an online Syllabus Quiz, a brief overview of the course, expectations, materials, etc., so that students already have a sense of what is expected on the first day and can jump right into an icebreaker

Create an inviting, inclusive classroom

Be authentic and get to know your students

  • Share a personal story, e.g., your first day of class as a student
  • Create a Student Info Sheet to collect information about the students’ year in school, major, learning goals for this course, career objectives, what helps them learn, etc. (this is also useful in forming groups/teams)

Establish expectations and requirements

  • Describe the learning outcomes (what do these really mean to the student?)
  • Share expectations of you as instructor
  • Provide opportunities for feedback at regular intervals to help students know where they are ‘at’ in their learning


Desrochers, C. G. (2008). Making your first class meeting truly first class! CSU Institute for Teaching & Learning.

Lyons, R., McIntosh, M., & Kysilka, M. (2003). Teaching college in an age of accountability. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Nilson, L. (2003). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (2nd ed.). Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing.

Tip #17: The Inclusive, Learner-Centered Syllabus

Contributed by Lisa Tremain, English and Janelle Adsit, English

Consider the difference: the policy-oriented syllabus versus the learner-centered syllabus.  An inclusive, learner-centered syllabus sees this text as the start of a conversation that will continue throughout the semester. The syllabus is the students’ invitation to participate in that conversation. Rather than a mere statement of course policies, the syllabus becomes a highly motivating way to open the semester. In order to build a learner-centered syllabus...

Use inviting and affirming language.

  • Consider the student audience. Using the second-person “you” in your syllabus, e.g., “In this class you will work collaboratively to investigate….”

  • Emphasize positive over punishing language with phrases such as “I encourage you to…” or “One of the best ways to engage yourself in this course is to…”

  • Help students to envision their success in the course. Use language that already assumes their success. This should include describing your role as instructor, and what you will do to foster student success. It can also depict students as actively shaping their learning experience (e.g., “The texts I’ve selected for you to read can inform the projects you create this semester.”)

  • Include a simple “preferred name and gender pronouns” statement, such as “you will have the opportunity to let our classroom community know your name and gender pronoun and anything else you would like to share.”

Example from a 100-level history course syllabus:

Policy-oriented Syllabus

Learner-centered Syllabus

Course Objectives: Each student in the class is expected to achieve the following learning objectives. You must demonstrate knowledge and skills based on the following...

How You’ll Know You’re Learning: We’ll use the following course objectives to focus our work together. The following learning objectives are a way of describing and naming what you learn this semester…

Build from what students already know or expect.

  • The syllabus is a teaching tool. As you would with any other assignment or exercise, build from what the students already know and be explicit about what you want them to achieve.

  • Consider the fact that many college students experience “impostor syndrome,” where it is difficult for them to visualize or believe in their success.  This means that they might demonstrate or assume a passive role. Use the language of the syllabus—such as active verbs—to counteract impostor syndrome.

  • Don’t overwhelm your audience. A syllabus should be easy to navigate. It’s a document that students will use for reference throughout the semester, and it should be easy for them to find the information they need when they need it. Throughout the document, use a conversational tone, and avoid terminology that students will not know on day one.

  • Pose interesting questions, and explain the “so what? factor” of the course. Use the syllabus as an opportunity to explain why the course content matters. The syllabus is the first opportunity to get students excited about the course. A learner-centered syllabus will leave students eager to get started.

Example from a 100-level history course syllabus:

Policy-oriented syllabus

Learner-centered syllabus

Course Description: This course emphasizes the major political, social, economic and intellectual developments in the United States from the Civil War to the present.

A Bit About the Course: You’ve probably studied U.S. history before, exploring the major themes, events, and people who have shaped this country. Your other history courses may have been focused on certain historical facts. Facts have an important place in this course, but I expect that you will find our time together to be different from your previous history courses in useful and challenging ways.

Assess your syllabus before distributing to students.

  • Consult with former students to provide feedback and shape language that aligns to their understanding and experience of the course.

  • Consider having former students write a letter to the next class—providing their peers advice and ideas about what to expect from the course. Use these students’ letters to inform what you say in your syllabus.

  • Join or create opportunities for informal peer-to-peer feedback within or across majors to discuss syllabi design with a focus on inclusivity and learner-centered language.

Strategically present and engage students with your syllabus on the first day of class.

  • Do not read the syllabus to your students. Instead, design an interactive activity that helps students engage the syllabus. For example, have students read through the syllabus as an early homework assignment and come to class with three “takeaways” and two questions.  Have students teach takeaways to each other and hold a discussion that fields students’ questions about the syllabus.

  • Let your syllabus model what you want students to do as thinkers in the class.  For example, point out that parts of the syllabus (e.g. the schedule or components of assignments) may be revised. This models both flexibility and revision; both are skills we want our students to be able to employ as learners.

  • Explain your syllabus policies in terms of your own boundaries and needs. For example, “Work that is submitted late is very difficult for me to manage, in terms of my work load. Because of this, I ask that you not submit late work, and I’ll need to deduct X number of points if work is submitted late.”

  • Identify what in the syllabus is negotiable and up for discussion. Use the syllabus to prompt a discussion of community agreements among all members of the course.


Tip #16: Finals Week – The Home Stretch!

We have arrived at FinalsWeek! As our students gear up for this last push, consider passing along the Academic and Career Advising Center’s Finals Week Tips and Resources and the link to the Humboldt Library Brain Booth where students can take a ‘brain break’ between finals. Here at the CTL we are particularly proud to look back on our first 15 weeks of Teaching and Learning Tips. We’ve covered everything from resources to supporting students of concern to introducing inclusive teaching strategies in the classroom. As you begin course planning for the spring, consider incorporating Semester on a Page or reflection exercises into your classes. For these and more, see the CTL Tip archive.

Have a wonderful, restful break! And as always, let us know how the CTL can support your work!

Tip #15: ‘Tis the Season for Grading!

Contributed by Mario Torres, Academic Technology

As we wrap up the semester, you may find yourself dealing with last minute grading questions. The Academic Technology team has been hard at work creating Humboldt specific Canvas guides to make your final grading process as smooth as possible. Below is a link to a compilation of Canvas grading resources. If these guides don’t meet your grading needs, please feel free to contact the campus Canvas support team: ctl@humboldt.edu or (707) 826-4461.

Have you tried using Canvas SpeedGrader?

As an instructor, SpeedGrader allows you to view and grade student assignment submissions in one place using a simple point scale or complex rubric. You can use SpeedGrader to:

  • Sort submissions by student and hide student names for anonymous grading
  • View submission details for each student, including resubmitted assignments
  • Use rubrics to assign grades  
  • Leave feedback for your students
  • Track your grading progress and hide assignments while grading
  • View submissions in moderated assignments


Tip #14: What Are Inclusive Teaching Strategies?

Contributed by Dr. Ramona Bell, CRGS and ODEI

Inclusive teaching strategies refer to any number of teaching approaches that address the needs of students with a variety of backgrounds, learning styles, and abilities. These strategies contribute to an overall inclusive learning environment, in which students feel equally valued. “Even though some of us might wish to conceptualize our classrooms as culturally neutral or might choose to ignore the cultural dimensions, students cannot check their sociocultural identities at the door, nor can they instantly transcend their current level of development… Therefore, it is important that the pedagogical strategies we employ in the classroom reflect an understanding of social identity development so that we can anticipate the tensions that might occur in the classroom and be proactive about them” (Ambrose et. al., 2010, p. 169-170).

Some benefits of inclusive teaching are:

  • You can connect with and engage with a variety of students.
  • You are prepared for “spark moments” or issues that arise when controversial material is discussed.
  • Students connect with course materials that are relevant to them.
  • Students feel comfortable in the classroom environment to voice their ideas/thoughts/questions.
  • Students are more likely to experience success in your course through activities that support their learning styles, abilities, and backgrounds.

How can you teach inclusively?

Be reflective by asking yourself the following:

  • How might your own cultural-bound assumptions influence your interactions with students?
  • How might the backgrounds and experiences of your students influence their motivation, engagement, and learning in your classroom?
  • How can you modify course materials, activities, assignments, and/or exams to be more accessible to all students in your class?

Resources (Contributed by Cheryl Johnson, ODEI)


Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M.W., DiPietro, M. & Lovett, M.C. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Armstrong, M.A. (2011). Small world: Crafting an inclusive classroom (no matter what you teach). Thought and Action, Fall, 51-61.

Hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress. New York, NY: Routledge Press.

Kaplan, M. & Miller, A. T. (Eds.). (2007). Special Issue: Scholarship of multicultural teaching and learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, (111).

Warren, L. (2006). Managing hot moments in the classroom. 

Salazar, M., Norton, A., & Tuitt, F. (2009). Weaving promising practices for inclusive excellence into the higher education classroom. In L.B. Nilson and J.E. Miller (Eds.) To Improve the Academy. (208-226). Jossey-Bass.

Tip #13: Supporting Students Before and After the Break

Contributed by Humboldt Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

Support starts with the guideline: “Assume nothing”

  • Don’t assume the student went anywhere for the holidays.  If they did go home, don’t assume it was necessarily a positive experience.
  • Holidays can be very mixed for our students.  Some go home to happy loving families and others go back to more difficult scenarios—homes where they experienced trauma or neglect….or back to parent/s that have very different political views that can feel negating of a student’s very identity (e.g., LGBTQ) or life’s passions (e.g., environment, civil rights/social justice).
  • Some students have no home or don’t have the finances to travel.  They may feel “stuck” here and “abandoned” by their friends who have left for the holidays. Others may welcome the quiet time and see it as a chance to catch up on their studies and Netflix binge watching.

It takes patience, understanding, and adjustments for these transitions. Here are a few things you might consider to support your students (and you!):

Before leaving for break

  • Suggest they start a day or two before the break is over to reset and get back into the swing of their routine (set alarms!)
  • Find time for socializing/reconnecting with friends before classes are back in session
  • Take a moment to go over their schedule/planner for the last few weeks
  • Write a few goals for the last few weeks of the semester

Returning from break

  • Send a class announcement in Canvas or email at the end of the break that lets students know that you are looking forward to seeing them and that they only have three weeks left
  • Offer an opportunity to ease your students back into Humboldt life, e.g., routines, invite to office hours to reconnect, tell students that you care about their wellbeing, leave room for students to have their own unique experiences
  • Recommend the student practice good self-care and engage in routines.  If someone is having trouble adapting back to campus, it is not the time to stop going to class or to come home to an empty fridge or ignore sleep.
  • Remind students to finish strong, e.g., motivational activity in groups to reconnect to peers, self-reflective activity
  • Provide an opportunity for students to review previous academic achievements and provide feedback


Tip #12: Reflection Facilitates Deeper Learning

Contributed by Loren Collins, Academic and Career Advising Center

Humboldt currently has thirteen Service Learning courses serving in our community this semester if you include three of our newest Service Learning courses that are piloting a community based portion.  As we are entering the final third of the semester the assignments in these courses are beginning to turn to reflection and requiring students to connect the content of their courses and the meaningful experiences they have had in the community.

Reflection is a core component of all Service Learning because it facilitates the deep connection between meeting a community need, the content of a course, and the personal growth and learning for the student involved.  For example, Mitchell (2008) captures the power of reflection in learning about issues related to social justice when she talks about how simple service can become a deep learning experience when you connect it to critical analysis and engagement.  A student serving food at a food pantry learns a lot about the structures of inequality and social justice when they begin to reflect upon the conditions that lead to the need for food pantries in the first place or reflect on their own positionality as a service provider faced with community needs. Combined with relevant course content, this kind of learning carries impact and reflection serves to drive it down deep.

Of course, reflection is not just for Service Learning or for topics related to social justice.  It can be a valuable teaching tool for any learning experience and applied to any type of course content.  Please see the attached “Reflection Collection” activities for getting started with reflective activities in your own classroom.  If you have great activities of your own we invite you to share them with us at CTL.

Contributed by Loren Collins, Academic and Career Advising Center

Bloomquist, C. (2015). Reflecting on reflection as a critical component in service learning. Journal of Education for Library & Information Science 56(2). 169–72.

Mitchell, T. D. (2008). Traditional vs. critical service-learning: Engaging the literature to differentiate two models. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 14(2).

Mitchell, T.D. (2014). How service-learning enacts social justice sensemaking. Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis 2(2). 6.

Teaching and Learning TipTip #11: Do We Really Know Our Humboldt Students?

Contributed by Kim Vincent-Layton, Center for Teaching and Learning

What if it were true that Humboldt seniors….

  • Spent an average of 15 hours per week preparing for class
  • 60% received prompt and detailed feedback from faculty
  • 82% rated their educational experience as “excellent” or “good”
  • 8 out of 10 reported that they experienced high-impact practices (pedagogy, hands-on, service learning, capstone, etc.)
  • About 64% seniors and 78% of first year students indicated they 'never' or 'sometimes' discussed course ideas, concepts or other course related things outside of class with faculty
  • Over 90% are Millennials/Generation Y (born between 1980-2000)

What if it were true that Humboldt faculty...

  • 64% spent between 1-4 hours per week on improving their teaching
  • About 37% are Baby Boomers (born between 1943-1964), about 38% are Generation X (born between 1965-1979) and about 25% are Millennials/Generation Y (born between 1980-2000)

If these were true...what does this mean and how might we think about learning and student engagement in new ways? Come find out about these and other important data to bust the myths and corroborate the findings this Friday, November 3, in Goodwin Forum 9:00 - 11:00 am. Dr. Lisa Castellino, Associate Vice President of the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, will share the findings from Humboldt's participation in the 2017 Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE) (perceptions of instructional staff) and how this contextualizes the student responses to the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE).

Did you miss the NSSE presentation in September? Watch the recording: NSSE Presentation by Dr. Lisa Castellino

Teaching and Learning Tip Tip #10: Tips on Advising Student Athletes

Contributed by Duncan Robin, Athletics

Your advice could impact a player’s eligibility and their career.

Did you know? There are over 400 student-athletes at Cal Poly Humboldt in any given year. That’s over 5% of our student population. Student-athletes are enrolled in over 37 different majors and participating in over 60 options/concentrations. On average, student-athletes have higher GPA’s and better outcomes than other students.

Why do Student-Athletes have better outcomes on average? To remain eligible to play, they must keep progressing towards degree, and maintain acceptable GPAs despite traveling for 20-30 days a term, and participating in their sport for up to 20 hours per week. Athletics also runs study halls that are mandated for many athletes.

Tips on advising student-athletes:

  • Please keep major contracts up to date with the registrar’s office.
  • Make sure students are enrolled in at least 12 units each term.
  • Units must be degree applicable as described on their DARS.
  • Remember, these students must pass at least 24 degree-applicable units a year.
  • If you anticipate a shortfall in units, please help them find a summer option.
  • Please fill out mid-term, student evaluations.  These are critical for advising athletes.
  • Contact Athletics with any questions.  The NCAA requirements are numerous!
Teaching and Learning Tip Tip #9: Low Tech Ways to Implement Universal Design for Learning into Your Classroom

Special Announcement: Join the Center for Learning & Teaching (CTL) Celebration, October 26th 3-5pm, Library third floor. Find out more about the CTL, be part of the future vision, and meet all the partners in this fun event with food and prizes.

Contributed by Jayne McGuire, Kinesiology and Recreation

You may have heard about Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as a framework for learning that reduces barriers for students who experience disabilities.  If so, you are definitely on the right track. UDL, which was developed to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people, is based on scientific insights into how humans learn.  The UDL guidelines focus on three brain networks: Engagement, Representation, and Action & Expression.  When these networks are activated, learning is optimized.  UDL is often associated with technology, but there are plenty of low-tech ways to activate each of these network.  Here are some ideas for each area:


  • give students choices
  • vary assignments so that the opportunities remain fresh and exciting
  • build in opportunities for reflection
  • look for ways to apply your content to daily situations
  • create a learning environment where student feel safe and willing to take risks


  • present information in several different ways
  • look for content in current media
  • highlight big ideas
  • always start with a review
  • clarify vocabulary

Action & Expression

  • use active learning strategies every class
  • provide opportunities for student to share what they understand with each other
  • engage students in goal setting
  • teach students how to monitor their progress
  • consider having student complete a grading rubric when turning in assignments

Explore UDL further with these links:

Teaching and Learning Tip Tip #8: Did You Receive (and are you wearing) Your "1 in 10" Button?

Contributed by Cassandra Tex, Student Disability Resource Center

October is Disability Awareness Month and the Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC) created and distributed buttons to help raise awareness to the fact that approximately 1 in 10 individuals is living with a disability.  That’s right…approximately 10% of the population have a disability which means that you, as a member of the Humboldt community, can expect that approximately 10% of our students will have one or more disabilities.

Not All Disabilities Are Visible

When thinking about disabilities, most people think of individuals who are blind and use a white cane or individuals who use wheelchairs.  However, not all disabilities are apparent or visible.  In fact, many if not most, disabilities are non-apparent which means that you will not know if an individual has a disability simply by looking at them.  Psychological, learning, and health-related disabilities are non-apparent disabilities and are the disabilities with which the majority of students with disabilities at Humboldt are living.

Things You Can Do

Faculty, here are things you can do to ensure that you are meeting the needs of all of your students, including students with disabilities:

  • Consider structuring your curriculum, activities, and assignments using the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).  See the UDL tip next week!
  • Notify the Bookstore of your textbook adoptions for the upcoming semester before the established deadline
  • Ensure the documents you create such as your syllabus, PowerPoint presentations, exams, etc. are accessible
  • Ensure videos used in your classroom or posted in Canvas are captioned
  • Ensure documents posted to Canvas or instructional-related websites are accessible (i.e., text-based PDF files…not image-only PDF files )
  • Speak clearly while facing the class (do not lecture while facing the whiteboard or screen)
  • Ensure the accessible furniture provided in each classroom (height-adjustable table and chair) is easy for students to access and not moved to the corner “out of the way” or to a different classroom altogether
  • Consult with the SDRC if you have questions or concerns about accommodating a student with a disability

We Would Like to Hear from You

In our SDRC spring survey, an overwhelming number of you asked for training and resources to assist you in supporting students with disabilities.  Please look for an upcoming survey to let us know what specific resources and trainings you'd like. We appreciate your feedback!


Teaching and Learning TipTip #7: Creating Significant Learning Experiences by Engaging Career Aspirations in the Classroom

Contributed by Loren Collins, Academic and Career Advising Center

Last year, more that 15 majors and 30 classes included career exploration, field-specific research of job opportunities, resume development, informational interviews and/or mock interviews within their courses. More than 300 students participated in practice interviews and more than 400 participated in creating resumes related to their fields of interest.  This is a result of the innovative work of a number of our colleagues here at Cal Poly Humboldt. Over the past few years faculty have been experimenting with and designing lesson plans that integrate career preparedness into their syllabi and coursework. Humboldt is ahead of the game for the time being as faculty are dedicating a little bit of time and effort toward helping students translate their experience in the classroom to their future aspirations. What makes Humboldt unique is the scope of our project and our approach to custom designing our career education to fit each participating major.

In Creating Significant Learning Experiences, Fink (2013) presents a taxonomy for significant learning experiences and states that for learning to occur there needs to be a lasting change in the learner that is important to their life.  Fink outlines six kinds of significant learning:

  • Foundational Knowledge

  • Application

  • Integration

  • Human Dimension

  • Caring

  • Learning how to learn

We can address at least five of these areas by simply leading students through activities that require them to explore their future aspirations, career opportunities and requirements, and how their education connects to real life scenarios.  These kind of classroom activities helps our disciplines speak directly to student interests and the underlying concerns they have for their future.  Faculty that have implemented these kinds of assignments have significant returns on these investments and cite that students often become more committed, confident, and purposeful in their chosen pathways.

The CAHSS Career Curriculum Committee has drawn on the work of 8 members of CAHSS Faculty and staff from the Academic and Career Advising Center to provide you with resources that can help you easily integrate these kinds of experiences in your own courses.  We also encourage you to share with us any of your own activities and innovations.


Humboldt's Academic and Career Advising Center and the College of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences’ Career Curriculum Program: http://www2.humboldt.edu/acac/curriculum

Fink, L.D. (2013). Creating significant learning experiences: an integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

McDow, L.W. & Zabrucky, K.M. (2015). Effectiveness of a career development course on students’ job search skills and self-efficacy. Journal of College Student Development 56(6), 632–636.

Mills, A.G. & Sutera, J. (2012). Case Studies of curricular approaches. New Directions for Student Services 2012(138), 75–90.

Folsom, B. & Reardon, R. (2003). College career courses: design and accountability. Journal of Career Assessment 11(4), 421–50.

Teaching and Learning Tip Tip #6 Design Your Learning Through SkillShops

Contributed by Sarah Fay Philips, Library

Pick up a new skill, learn about a new technology, and help prepare yourself to reach your personal, academic and professional goals.

Co-Curricular Learning

SkillShops are 50-minute drop-in workshops focused on introducing and developing a wide range of skills and are designed to support learners through the encouragement of play, discovery, and social interaction. During the 2016/2017 academic year, Humboldt SkillShops attendance topped 1,600 and included 22 partners from across campus who facilitated workshops. Although SkillShops began as a program by the Library, it is now a cross-campus collaboration that offers students, staff and faculty an engaging personalized and professional learning experience.

Each SkillShop is assigned to one of five themes: Personal Growth, College & Study Skills, Leadership & Career, Technology & Digital Media and Finding & Using Information. This next week will include SkillShops on a wide range of topics including:

Students, faculty, and staff are invited to design their learning by attending a relevant SkillShop! Visit the full calendar to pre-register.

Integrate SkillShops as a Class Assignment

You can assign students to attend SkillShops to develop their understanding of topics needed for your class or discipline. You can also work with us to have specific SkillShops offered at a time in the semester that coincides with an assignment. Interested in how you can use SkillShops for your class or to help your students? Contact us with any questions, requests or ideas you may have: skillshops@humboldt.edu. If you are planning on offering extra credit to your students who attend SkillShops, you can have them track their attendance and get a snapshot of their learning by having them fill out a worksheet asking them to reflect on what they learned at the workshop and how they will use their new skills.

Online SkillShops

This semester we started offering online, asynchronous SkillShops. All students, faculty and staff are invited to enroll in these SkillShops through Canvas:

  • Getting Started with WordPress
    You'll create a basic blog with your first post and About page in this online SkillShop.

  • Getting Started with Camtasia
    In this online SkillShop you will create a short screen capture with several edits to enhance your video.

  • Research Basics
    Learn how to get started with searching in online databases. You will create a short bibliography of the sources you find.

SkillShops Leaderboard

Check out the SkillShops Leaderboard where students, faculty and staff vie for the top spot! Attending a SkillShop earns you 100 points. Creating a digital project about a SkillShop earns you up to 200 points. Sign up to compete on the Leaderboard now!

Skilled Learners

A Skilled Learner takes 5 SkillShops in a semester in at least three different categories (Personal Growth, College & Study Skills, Technology & Digital Media, Leadership & Career and Finding & Using Information). Once you have completed the 5 SkillShops you can apply for the Skilled Learner Certificate. Your name is added to the Library website. In the semester you complete the certificate you and your fellow Skilled Learners are invited to a party to celebrate your accomplishment.

Share Your Expertise

SkillShops are facilitated by faculty, staff, administrators and student leaders on campus. Contact skillshops@humboldt.edu if you have questions or ideas about sharing your passion and expertise for a topic as a SkillShop.

Teaching and Learning Tip Tip #5 Supporting Our Students Through Challenging Times

Though the situation continues to be fluid and quite confusing, we wanted to send along information on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for this week’s teaching and learning tip.  Please see these helpful student resources provided by Tessa Pitre and Laura Hahn in the English Department, and the Scholars Without Borders Program at HSU:

Our role in supporting our students is to help them navigate this difficult time – to acknowledge and help them manage the anxiety they are likely feeling.  In a message to faculty last week in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Dean Lisa Bond-Maupin noted “the complexities of our students' needs and experiences.”  She went on to give some excellent advice as to managing these complexities:

I understand as a long-time faculty member myself how difficult it can be to determine how to best support our students within our roles and in our classrooms. I wish someone had told me that it is okay to let students know that I am not sure how best to be there for them - that I don't fully understand what they are going through or what the answers are - AND that I care about what they are experiencing.

Other notable activities to be aware of on campus include Scholars Without Borders in the Multicultural Center.  They are a great resource, and will also be providing free DACA renewal legal help.  

Resources for Faculty

Teaching and Learning TipTip #4: Helping Students Learn How to Learn

Contributed by Kim Vincent-Layton, Center for Teaching & Learning

Did you know that the brain is not fully developed until about age 25 (Giedd, Blumenthal, Jeffries, Castellanos, Liu, Zijdenbos, Rapoport, 1999)?!  How can we support this development in our college students and what are some of the optimal conditions for learning? Brain-based learning is a fascinating science of understanding how we learn. When one begins to understand how they learn, they can then understand how to most effectively adapt and transfer to new contexts for successful learning (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000). According to Doyle, 2011, the human brain is designed to explore and learn. This is made more effective with practice. Practice over extended periods of time helps our neurons become stronger and faster, because these make permanent connections/memories in our brain that later help us to transfer this knowledge to new learning (Doyle & Zakrajsek, 2013).

What helps our students learn (Doyle & Zakrajsek, 2013):

  • Sleep is vital - 7.5-9 hours of sleep per night is ideal (memories are made during sleep)
  • Exercise improves learning (also improves motivation)
  • Multi-sensory learning increases probability of retaining information
  • Practice, practice, practice (“the more work your brain does, the greater the number of connections established”)
  • Real-life, meaningful and authentic learning induces dopamine, which has been shown to help learners retain new information
  • The brain is social; we evolved to collaborate with others
  • Feedback is a key element in creating a growth mindset (mindset: understanding a learner's belief in their own abilities/traits to learn) (See Mindset: How You Can Fulfill Your Potential by Carol Dweck)


Look for upcoming CTL Teaching & Learning Tips on: Metacognition, Mindset, and Transference


  • Bransford, J.D., Brown, A. L., and Cocking, R.R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

  • Doyle, T (2011, March). How Brain Research Findings are Changing Our Understanding of Learning. Keynote presentation at the Lilly West Conference Series on University Teaching and Learning: Evidence-based Teaching and Learning, Pomona, CA.

  • Doyle, T., & Zakrajsek, T. (2013). The new science of learning: how to learn in harmony with your brain. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

  • Giedd, J. N., Blumenthal, J., Jeffries, N. O., Castellanos, F. X., Liu, H., Zijdenbos, A., Rapoport, J. L. (1999). Brain development during childhood and adolescence: a longitudinal MRI study. Nature Neuroscience, 2(10), 861–3.

Teaching and Learning TipTip #3: Academic Concern for a student?

Contributed by: Tracy Smith, RAMP

Use the Humboldt Early Alert software platform, “Skyfactor Mapworks”!! Check out the Camtasia video links below to see how to access our early alert system, Skyfactor Mapworks, and how to notify the Mapworks Central Coordinator about an academic concern you have for a student (the student must either be an advisee or current coursework student). The coordinator will contact support personnel and let them know the referral exists. The author of the referral will receive an email indicating when the referral has been closed (coinciding with verified attempts to contact the student of concern or verification of interaction regarding the note of concern).  Referrals are visible to professional advisors, RAMP Mentors and faculty advisors; please use professional, and non-judgmental language and recognize this system is not designed for issues of concern addressed by the Dean of Students and the CARE system.

Questions? Please contact Tracy Smith, Director, Retention through Academic Mentoring Program (RAMP), and Skyfactor Mapworks Central Coordinator, 826-5251, tracy.smith@humboldt.edu

Teaching and Learning TipTip #2: Semester on a Page

Contributed by Su Karl, Learning Center

The beginning of the semester can be overwhelming for both students and faculty alike. Semester-on-a-Page can help you and your students plan out the semester before you get in too deep. The at-a-glance calendar includes important university deadlines and can be downloaded as a PDF or Word document. Encourage your students to add major class deadlines and exams so that they have a visual of how the semester lays out--and can plan accordingly. (Faculty also find it useful to plan out their semester too!)

Teaching and Learning TipTip #1: Explore Your Center for Teaching & Learning (CTL)

Welcome to the new Center for Teaching and Learning!

The Center provides opportunities for learner-centered, culturally relevant experiences through campus and community partnerships. The CTL is Humboldt's commitment to inspiring and innovating teaching excellence.  You will find a variety of programming throughout the year that supports continuous learning.

This is the first Teaching & Learning Tip in a series of weekly tips that you will receive as we launch Phase I of the Center. In these tips, you will find out about all things ‘teaching and learning’.

Explore the CTL Website:

  • Find a resource
  • Engage in one of the many programming events - check out the Events Calendar
  • Request a consultation with CTL staff and/or drop by the CTL on the third floor of the Library
  • Send feedback to the CTL - what would you like to see?
  • Submit a tip! Take a look at the T&L Tip Submissions.

We are excited to be on this teaching and learning journey with the campus community and look forward to all that we can do togethe