Center for Effective Teaching

Helpful Resources

Course Design and Assessment

Planning for a new course or restructuring an existing course can be overwhelming. CET offers a two-day workshop on course design, usually the first Thursday and Friday of each August.

Establishing meaningful learning goals is the first step in effective course design. These learning goals define what students should know and be able to do once they’ve completed your course.

Carnegie Mellon University, Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation
Basic information on establishing learning objectives for your course, as well as links to information on how clear learning objectives enhance student learning, action verbs to consider when setting learning objectives, and sample learning objectives for a diversity of courses.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Teaching and Learning Lab
Basic information on establishing learning outcomes based on the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that students should gain in your course and links to two learning taxonomies that can help you frame your learning objectives.

Stanford University, Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning
Thought questions that can help you begin to generate learning goals for your course and provides example learning goals from a diversity of courses, as well as a link to more information on how setting learning goals fits into the overall process of course design.

University of Texas, Faculty Innovation Center
Frames learning outcomes as being generated from the big ideas and essential questions that center your course; from these big ideas come often unmeasurable student understandings and from those understandings come assessable student learning outcomes.

The second step in the course design process is selecting and organizing course content that will support the learning goals that you’ve established. Although this process relies heavily on your expertise in the field that you’re teaching, it is essential to make critical decisions about what content is necessary to include in your course. Less content leads to more learning as you are able to spend more time providing students with opportunities to practice and apply course material (see information under Teaching Techniques and Strategies for assistance in developing these opportunities).

Carnegie Mellon University, Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation
Helpful tips for deciding on course topics and organizing course material in an effective semester schedule.

University of Waterloo, Centre for Teaching Excellence
Tips for finding, selecting and organizing course content.

The final step in course design is determining how to assess whether students have achieved the learning goals that you have established for your course. An effective assessment plan should include both formative assessment (low stakes activities that provide feedback to students on how close they are to achieving a learning objective) and summative assessment (final assignments or examinations used to assign course grades). Developing good formative and summative assessment is a broad topic; the following websites should get you going in the right direction, but we encourage you to consider signing up for a CET consultation if you need further assistance developing your assessment plan or finding resources to assist you in designing specific assessment activities.

University of Texas, Faculty Innovation Center
Comprehensive information on assessment, including links to pages on planning your assessment strategy, assessing during learning (i.e., formative assessment), assessing at the end of learning (i.e., summative assessment), writing good questions, providing feedback to students and effective grading.

Carnegie Mellon University, Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation
Information on using assignments and exams for summative assessment, classroom assessment techniques for formative assignment, assessing group work and effective use of rubrics.

University of Texas, Faculty Innovation Center
This course design grid provides examples from different disciplines showing the link between learning goals, class activities that reinforce learning, and formative and summative assessments.

Vanderbilt University, Center for Teaching
Description of classroom assessment techniques that can be used as formative assessment for students during class sessions.

University of Waterloo, Centre for Teaching Excellence
Examples of “low-stakes” writing assignments that can be used in or out of the classroom to enhance learning and allow instructors to provide feedback on student learning prior to longer, summative essays.

University of Waterloo, Centre for Teaching Excellence
Questions to consider regarding the role of examinations in the broader course design, focusing on why the exam is being given, what is to be assessed and how to design fair exams.

Vanderbilt University, Center for Teaching
Important tips for writing good multiple choice questions, as well as information on writing questions that test higher order thinking skills.

Stanford University, Teaching Commons
Resources on designing effective problem sets, papers, projects and presentations.

University of Waterloo, Centre for Teaching Excellence
Useful questions to consider when designing an effective assignment, including how it fits into the overall course design and the resources that will be necessary for student success, as well as tips for writing the assignment description that will be given to students.

Washington University in St. Louis, The Teaching Center
Tips for providing useful feedback on students’ written work and effectively incorporating peer review of student work into your course.

University of Waterloo, Centre for Teaching Excellence
A list of assignment and test types that can act as effective assessments across a diversity of courses.

Teaching Techniques and Strategies

There is no “one size fits all” approach for deciding on the best teaching techniques and strategies to use in your classroom. Instead, you should adopt those strategies that you feel will best allow students to achieve the learning goals for your course and play to your individual strengths as an instructor. Generally, it is important to provide regular opportunities for students to actively apply and synthesize course material, rather than simply presenting information for an entire class period. The diversity of teaching techniques that may assist you with achieving your learning goals is vast, but we’ve included resources on four of the most commonly encountered issues: planning a class session, incorporating active learning into each class period, effective discussion techniques and effective lecture techniques. We encourage you to sign up for a CET consultation to further discuss the teaching strategies that might work best for you or to obtain additional resources on strategies not included here. The CET also has books covering a diversity of teaching techniques that are available for faculty members to borrow.

University of Illinois, Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning
Useful tips for beginning a class session, organizing the body of a class session while periodically checking for student understanding and ending a class session.

University of Waterloo, Centre for Teaching Excellence
Steps for designing a class session around your goals and associated learning activities, while keeping time management in mind.

Active learning refers to a diversity of different techniques that you can use in your classroom to actively engage students in thinking about the course material.

Harvard University, Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning
Explanation of the benefits of active learning, examples of active learning strategies and a tip sheet for successfully incorporating active learning into your classroom.

Stanford University, Teaching Commons
Provides an overview of categories of active learning and the benefits students obtain from these strategies.

Stanford University, Teaching Commons
Descriptions of numerous techniques that can improve student engagement both inside and outside the classroom.

University of Waterloo, Centre for Teaching Excellence
Descriptions of numerous active learning techniques that can easily be incorporated into your classroom.

Stanford University, Teaching Commons Comprehensive resources on effective discussion techniques, including leading a discussion, getting students to talk in class and sample small group activities.

Washington University in St. Louis, The Teaching Center
Extensive resources on steps to take before, during and after a discussion; examples of effective discussion strategies; and common mistakes to avoid.

University of Texas, Faculty Innovation Center
Links to steps for planning an effective discussion, strategies that can be used for whole-class and small-group discussions, and structured learning activities for discussion-based classes.

Carnegie Mellon University, Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation
Excellent and comprehensive information on effective discussion techniques, including questioning strategies, maintaining direction and focus, ensuring student participation and synthesizing the major ideas that students should learn from a discussion.

Washington University in St. Louis, The Teaching Center
Excellent advice and tips for making lectures more effective learning tools and ensuring student engagement.

Carnegie Mellon University, Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation
Information on structuring lectures, holding students’ attention and incorporating interactivity.

Vanderbilt University, Center for Teaching
Tips for creating effective and engaging visual aids and making lecture more interactive through incorporation of active learning techniques.

Stanford University, Teaching Commons
Quick checklist of items to keep in mind when designing your lectures.

Almost all instructors will, unfortunately, find themselves dealing with issues of classroom incivility, cheating and/or plagiarism at some point during their career. It is important to deal with these issues in a timely, consistent and compassionate manner. Faculty members should know that they are not alone in dealing with these issues; the Center for Honor Enrichment and Community Standards (CHECS), the CET and department chairs can all be useful resources.

Christopher Newport University, Center for Honor Enrichment and Community Standards
CHECS provides support for faculty dealing with all forms of academic misconduct; the website includes contact information, links to flowcharts describing the steps involved with cases of misconduct, advice for faculty members and FAQs for both students and faculty.

University of Illinois, Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning
Comprehensive resources on dealing with cheating and plagiarism, addressing classroom incivility and creating an inclusive environment in your classroom.

Carnegie Mellon University, Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation
Causes of and solutions for classroom incivility.

Harvard University, Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning
Information on using classroom contracts effectively and dealing with “hot moments” when discussing volatile concepts or when students disagree.

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