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Autobiography - Get to know your colleagues

In these "intellectual autobiography" interviews, a side project of Sam Mulberry to get to know his fellow colleagues, Sam asks how each person arrived in their field, how their education has shaped their teaching and scholarship, for books that describe them well, and what their ideal college or curriculum would be.

iStudio: Innovation Studio

Schedule Like Beethoven: Organize Your Work Day Like a Genius, from Innovation Studio workshop and panel with Susan Brooks, Sam Mulberry and Wayne Roosa.

Tomorrow's Professor Newsletter

Stanford University's newsletter Tomorrow's Professor provides many useful ideas and resources for professors. Subscribe to receive the newsletter

1 Minute Teaching Tips

#1 - “The 4-Minute Summary”

By Sara Wyse (Biological Sciences)

Evidence shows that when students summarize content, they are more likely to recall it later. By including a quick 4-minute summary in your classes, students get practice communicating and recalling content in their own words and it is repeatedly a top student comment on IDEA as a strategy that helps students learn.

To implement, come up with 4 statements or questions for students. Each student in a team of four is given a number (1-4) and the statements are likewise numbered 1-4. Each person takes 1 minute to respond to the statement or question to their team. You can follow up on a specific question with the entire class after the discussion, if desired.

The 4-Minute Summary is versatile: use it at the beginning of class to recall what you talked about the day before, use it in the middle of class to break up a lecture at a natural transition point, use it at the end of class to summarize the take-home messages of the day. Getting students to summarize and recall aloud is powerful; be ready for more questions and clarifications following these 4 minutes!  

For more, see The 4-Minute Summary at CourseSource.

#2 - "Anticipation Guide"

By Jay Rasmussen (Education)

Students, whether traditional age or adult, have historically struggled with determining importance as they spend time in our classrooms and encounter various content pieces we provide. This struggle is often based on a lack of broader knowledge of the discipline. Helping students determine importance is an area we can assist. In addition to sharing clear learning objectives (targets) and summarizing techniques such a “The 4 Minute Summary” (Teaching Tip #1), an “Anticipation Guide” is a wonderful tool to help students focus their attention on essential understandings.

Begin the process by writing a series of 3 to 10 statements or questions (T-F, short answer, essay) related to key content. Then, students individually or in small groups respond in writing to each item. Once the learning experience has been provided (e.g., lecture, readings, discussion, etc.) the students then return to the same "Anticipation Guide" items and confirm or change their responses. This activity serves as a wonderful introduction/closure for any class session (face-to-face or online) and it provides meaningful repetition of important content.

#3 - "Generative Conversations"

By Sean Dikkers (Education)

For years in my own classroom I wanted conversations to be generative of new thought. Readings, lectures and solid questioning techniques were a foundation for this, but I wanted an environment where students became more collegial and felt the agency to comment, build on, or challenge ideas. Two techniques have help me move this ongoing goal along:

  • First, after students ask content questions about any content in class, try to pause and consider if you would expect anyone in the class to know the answer. If so, instead of simply answering, ask, "Does anyone in the class want to take a shot at answering that question?" This can encourage distributed expertise in the room and sends a clear message that the goal of the class is the ability to speak into the content. Not only can they be experts, but you are waiting for it. Where their answers may be incomplete, I can always had small nuances after 1-2 students have given it a try - or praise them when they give a great answer.
  • Second, a closely related strategy is useful when students finish sharing content or presenting in class. Prior to giving any feedback ask the rest of the class if they would have any points or thoughts they would add to the presentation (not critique, but construction) - or if they can think of any future reading/media that would be complimentary. In cases where the class is silent, I can model the kind of feedback that I am hoping for.

Both have served my class conversations well!

#4 - "ChecBric"

By Jay Rasmussen (Education)

The "ChecBric" is a simple to use assessment tool that can be paired with any existing or newly created assignment. It combines components of a checklist and rubric and hence the name. The ChecBric should be introduced to students when an assignment is given, collected when the assignment is turned in by students, and ultimately completed and returned to the students by the instructor along with the assignment.

In addition to being a very usable tool for instructors and students, the ChecBric has multiple advantages: it requires students to attend to the assignment criteria, it helps develop self-assessment skills in students, and it allows an instructor to "weight" different criteria in an assignment as they wish.

Here is how it works for any given assignment:

  1. Determine what the criteria for success will be by writing a 1-2 sentence criteria statement in each row of the tool. The statement should make it clear what the student must accomplish and how well it should be accomplished. For example, "The central thesis of the paper was supported by multiple forms forms of evidence." The "how" part of the criteria statement is the quality indicator and stems such as the following can be used: The _______ were supported by. The ______included _______. The _______demonstrated _______. Include as many criteria statements as necessary for any given assignment.
  2. Determine the weighting you wish to assign each criteria by assigning point values. In the model below and Word.doc template you can simply change the point values as needed. You may wish to eliminate point values for each individual criteria and use a single holistic score.
  3. When students have completed an assignment require them to self-assess on each criteria by adding their point values and add their own reflective comments about their performance the assignment. They then turn in the ChecBric along with the assigment. The tool can be modified to include a comment section after each criteria statement if you wish.
  4. When you receive an assignment, complete with the student completed ChecBric, you assign points for each criteria statement and then complete the instructor comment section. This is a time to identify what the student did especially well and to provide and explanation about why any points were deducted for each of the criteria.

Students have responded well to this assessment tool and appreciate receiving a consistent form of specific feedback. I suggest that you try this tool with one assignment, tweak the model based on your experience, and make the instrument your own!

#5 - "Mindtool Database"

By Jay Rasmussen (Education)

A "Mindtool Database" is an assignment model to consider that allows students to rehearse/consolidate learning and determine importance in new material they encounter. Additionally, the model provides the instructor with valuable information about student learning retention. The actual database is a single document that students create and submit approximately three times during a given course.

Consider the following steps when creating a Mindtool Database assignment:

  • determine 3-5 ways that students typically learn in your course (e.g., readings, lectures, assignments/homework, discussions, group work, lab work, simulations, case studies, videos, service learning, presentations, etc.). Each of these learning experiences can be referred to as a field.
  • craft a simple assignment that reads something like this...."The purpose of this assignment is to help you identify and retain for your own records the most critical course content. This is an ongoing assignment that you will turn in on (Date, Date, Date). The following fields are required for each Database submission: (list fields here). The Database should be developed using concise language to reduce size. Use bullet points and include at least three or four entries for each field. Create one document for the entire assignment and use different colored fonts when submitting work for each of the three due dates. See completed student sample with three entries.
  • require students to turn in (hard copy or electronic) their Database on each due date. Respond to each student in writing by adding comments in dialogue style (e.g., "I love your insight about _________. Have you thought about _______?" As you provide these comments imagine you are having a face-to-face conversation with each student.
  • consider what learning is really "sticking" with your students as your review each of the three submissions. Are you seeing many comments about important course content? If so, pat yourself on the back because the learning experience associated with this content is effective. Are you seeing few Database entries about important course content? If so, consider how you might make the learning experience associated with this content more powerful.

I've used this assignment model many times. Students respond well to it and it provides me with invaluable formative assessment information as a course unfolds. As mentioned in previous One Minute Teaching Tips, start small with this idea in one course and modify the approach to make it your own.

#6 - "Mastery Concept"

By Jim Hurd (Anthropology, Sociology, and Reconciliation Studies)

I quiz over student readings before discussing the material. I tell the students that the Moodle quiz will have two grades: zero and mastery. Mastery is defined as 8 out of 10 correct. I will ask mostly for word answers, rather than multiple-choice (this will enhance learning and aid retrieval practice). One of the questions will be a review question. Immediate feedback provided. They will have two chances to take the same quiz, but the questions will be randomized. This is open-book, but time is limited. I recommend that the two attempts be spaced (Moodle can do this), for better learning and retention. A little forgetting is valuable when one is practicing retrieval of information.

Grading: Grade for these quizzes will be the percent of quizzes mastered during the semester (e.g., 7 out of 10 quizzes mastered = 70%).

Then I ask for five-minute in-class essays on a 3x5 card, also graded zero or mastery, after we've discussed the material. One re-do allowed. I print the format for this on the card, with the grading rubric on the back. Both the quizzes and the in-class essays are low-point activities, so I can emphasize that their main purpose is retrieval practice and testing memory.

Rationale for these two mastery activities:

  1. Frequent (self-) assessment and feedback.
  2. Sends a signal that one needs to aim for mastery, deepen learning.
  3. Freedom to fail at the first attempt.
  4. Reality check of student knowledge.
  5. Retrieval practice for long-term retention.
  6. Better reading and better discussions.

I have received almost no blowback using this method. Student comment: "You really have to read!"

#7 - "Google Doc Review"

By Melissa Cordes (Biological Sciences)

In the past I have made “study guides” for students before exams at their request. Usually it’s not much more than a list of topics that we’ve covered in the last several weeks. I inevitably get emails asking me to explain things in greater depth, or give examples, etc. Other students probably don’t look at it at all.

I have now started to take the exact same study guide, usually not much more than a bulleted list of topics, and post it as a Google doc to the class. This has been EXTREMELY well received. It becomes a massive collaboration in the class, allowing students to ask questions to each other, draw diagrams and add them to the doc, come up with example questions themselves, as well as pose questions to me in a group (mostly anonymous) setting. Instead of receiving emails from my class of 40, I simply click over to the document and check for anything that they’ve highlighted in red for me to verify or answer. Most of the time, they answer the questions themselves before I even get there.

Just as an example, for an exam this week, I originally posted approximately a two page list of topics, some of which are copy and pasted review topics from my lectures. With the exam tomorrow morning, the document has become a 14 page knowledge base as of this moment, with 15 students currently viewing the document. It becomes an amazing resource for them, but also for me! I am able to scroll over it and see where they are struggling, or where the group knowledge has taken a wrong turn. When writing the exam, I pull their study guide up on one screen, and type questions on the other. This way I can alert them to any gaps in the knowledge. I usually don’t type any answers for them, I just redirect them and let the class as a whole figure it out.

The students are able to get great feedback from their peers, “study” with people that they may not otherwise, and I get VERY few emails with questions since it’s such a dynamic document. It’s also a lot less frustrating to spend a Saturday morning writing an exam, when you can see that at least a third of your class is studying for that exam as you type :)

#8 - "Walk and Talk"

By Jay Rasmussen (Education)

Some of the most effective teachers at Bethel are predictably unpredictable. By this I mean that they continually bring slightly nuanced strategies, versus wholesale instructional changes, to the classroom. Walk and Talk is a slightly different approach to engaging all students in meaningful dialogue surrounding course content. This approach is especially welcome by students as courses come to a close and they’ve often grown tired of hearing the same voices in whole group discussion.

Here is how it works:

  • Provide all students with a slip of paper containing a partner discussion prompt related to any of the following: a higher-level question, a topic you wish them to summarize, a case study to respond to, a dilemma or problem to solve, a situation to analyze, an opinion to form, questions to generate, etc.
  • Have them find a partner. I often ask them to find someone they don’t know well.
  • Explain that they will need to leave the room and walk and talk with their partner and discuss the prompt you provided. Tell them they’ll need to return to the room and be prepared to report what their partner said. Give them a return time and have them set a phone alarm as a reminder.
  • When the class returns you can then hear from as many or few persons as you wish. The comments, generally well thought through, may serve a catalyst for comments or new content you may add.


  • Student learning deepens when they must make their thinking visible
  • New voices can easily be brought into whole group discussion
  • Instructors are better able to gauge what students do/don’t understand and what misconceptions they might have
  • Students can learn to find their own voice related to difficult content and concepts
  • The physical act of walking and change of pace and location can often bring fresh thinking
  • A positive classroom community is nurtured


  • IT TAKES 10-20 MINUTES – be sure this is a valuable time investment in terms of helping students accomplish essential course objectives

#9 - "Concentric Circles: A First Day Class Activity"

Within the first 30 minutes of starting any new course instructors communicate (either overtly or covertly) what they value in terms of student engagement in the classroom environment. If you value active student engagement and community building you may wish to consider my favorite first day activity - Concentric Circles. Given the space needs of this activity, it tends to work best for classes of 30 or less.

Here is how it works:

  • Determine a space in your classroom or adjacent area where students can stand in two circles facing each other.
  • Prepare 5-6 questions that will allow students to start connecting with classmates and that relate to the course content. For connecting with others I’ve used questions like this: “Describe how your best friend would describe you? What are two passions you have in life and why are these passions? What is something very unusual about you?” For connecting with course content I’ve use questions like this: “How would you summarize what you know about _____? What are you most excited about learning? What are worries or concerns you have about learning about ________?”
  • Ask students to count off by twos and have the “ones” stand in a circle, back to back, facing outward. Then, ask the “twos” to stand directly in front of a “one” – this then forms the second circle.
  • Explain to the group that you will ask 5-6 different questions and they’ll have a chance to respond to each question with a different person in the circle opposite them.
  • Have students introduce themselves to each other, ask the first question and give adequate response time for each student to answer, and then ask them to rotate clockwise to the next person.
  • Continue the same process (i.e., rotate after each question) and then you may wish to have them pray for the last person they spoke with.


  • This sets a tone of student engagement in the classroom
  • You’ve communicated that community and the social aspect of learning is important
  • The physical movement provides a nice break for students from typical first day activities (e.g., looking at syllabus, etc.)
  • Listening to student conversations provides valuable initial insights about individual student personalities and their knowledge/attitudes related to the content area


  • The activity does require that you find adequate space
  • The time investment is 10-15 min.

#10 - “Momentum Maintainer for Lively Whole Class Discussion”

By Susan Brooks (English)

Often, my favorite class sessions are when students work in groups. The room is full of lively conversation, new ideas, and engaged energy. After this group time, it’s customary for the groups to share their ideas with the class. That’s when the energy seems to drain from the room. As I ask each group to report out, they mutter something about their conversation, and the rest of the students politely listen as they think about what they are going to say when it’s their turn to share. In addition, there never is quite enough time to fully process what each group has to say, so this portion of my class ends up being a dry, rushed litany of the obvious—an unfortunate contrast to the earlier lively group discussions.

Using a shareable document has allowed me to help groups maintain that momentum. Before the group discussion, I set up a Google document where groups can record their ideas as they work together. Instead of having each group verbally review, I project the document on the screen and give students a few minutes to look over their classmates’ notes and comments. Then we continue the discussion as a large group. Sometimes I choose something interesting from the document that seems important to explore or clarify. Sometimes I ask the students, “What questions or comments do you have for Group 1?” or “What patterns do you notice in these group responses?” Instead of starting over, the document allows us to extend the conversation.

In my juvenile literature class, we used this Google document for each group to record their ideas about a particular text for children that featured Native Americans. Each group completed answers to the same questions, but looked at four different texts. The document made it very easy to compare these texts and moved us forward to the more theory-based questions at the end of the document. This provides a seamless transition from the group work to the whole class discussion and a springboard into further discussion rather than simply a review. The energy of the group work is maintained and the discussion becomes richer with this simple collaboration tool.

#11 - "Spotlight"

By Jay Rasmussen (Education)

Learning theorists dating back to Vgotsky (1968) and Bandura (1977) have documented that learning is a social construct and that effective instructors recognize this and promote meaningful student-to-student interaction within their learning environment (F-2-F or online). Spotlight is an easily used and well received strategy that allows students to become known and to know others.

Simply put, Spotlight is designed to allow students to introduce themselves to a larger group.

Here is how it works:

  • During the first week of classes, 2-3 students at a time are asked to introduce themselves when the spotlight is on them.
  • The instructor can then provide a basic framework to guide the introductions.
  • The spotlight can then be put on several groups of 2-3 students during different portions of class time in the early stages of the course.

#12 - "Mind Mapping"

By Jay Rasmussen (Education)

A Mind Map (MM), at times referred to as a concept map, is a visual representation of the connections between several ideas or pieces of information. This powerful instruction/assessment tool is extremely versatile in that it can be used in multiple ways and with multiple purposes during the span of a course. The underlying benefit to the student is that the depth and rate of learning increases when thinking is made visible.

This specific teaching tip describes how MM can be used at the start of a course to activate student knowledge related to a given topic/theme/concept/practice/etc. The tip also suggests an implementation strategy whereby the instructor can gain valuable information about prior knowledge of students.

Here is how it works:

  • During the early portion of the course provide each student with a large piece of paper or poster board.
  • Write a single topic, theme, concept, practice, etc. on the board and ask students to write this in the center of their paper or poster board.
  • Ask students to write what they know about the central topic using subcategories branching off the central topic. Encourage students to use difference shapes and/or colors for subcategories to make the map more understandable to others. It’s also helpful to encourage students to show linkages between subcategories using lines and you may wish to suggest they use symbols or drawings on the map as well.
  • Once the maps are created, ask students to verbally explain their map to a peer. Move about the room and listen to these discussions as they unfold.
  • Once the discussions are completed, ask students to write their name on their map, collect these, and then review as a means of gaining understanding about prior knowledge.
  • After some instruction has been provided about the central topic, return maps to students and ask them to add (and partner discuss) their new learning related to the previously represented knowledge. This process can continue several times if you wish.
  • Collect the maps once again as a means of understanding what learning really “stuck” with your students and the connections they’re making.

Here are some thoughts shared about the process by a former student…

"I really loved using the mind maps within class. Mapping out important ideas and main points really helped me organize my thoughts and see how various themes can be brought together. It also encouraged me to listen to other people's perspectives and visualize how their beliefs and my beliefs could be brought together through the mind map. Making connections between thoughts aided me in understanding the content and how it could be applicable to me as a learner. Because I am both a very visual and hands-on learner, the combination of coming up with creative images and physically drawing and writing on the board helped me in remembering the important information that I learned."

#13 - “Listening Teams: A Complement to Lectures”

By Jay Rasmussen (Education)

The addition of this simple strategy to any teaching repertoire can serve multiple purposes during a lecture or mini-lecture. In addition to helping students stay focused during instruction, the strategy encourages critical thinking, makes student thinking more visible, and adds a valuable interactive component to class.

Here is how it works:

  • Before beginning a lecture divide the class into 3-4 groups of equal size. The grouping can be based on multiple types of thinking one would like to encourage in students. For example, one group, the "Questioners," are responsible for asking at least two questions about the material covered in the lecture. A second group, the "Agreers," is responsible for telling which points of the lecture they agreed with and explaining why. The third group, "Nay Sayers," is responsible for commenting on points they disagreed with and explaining why. The fourth group, "Example Givers," is responsible for giving specific examples or applications of the material.
  • At about the 20 min. point in the lecture ask each person to prepare a comment based on their previously assigned Listening Team role. Then, if the groups are small enough in size, the instructor can ask each group to stand up, huddle together, and decide on one comment to share with the larger class. If the class is too large to allow for group huddles, the instructor can call on a few volunteers to share their comments from each Listening Team.
  • As each Listening Team shares comments the instructor is then free to respond directly to the comments, add a small portion of additional content, ask follow questions, simply listen, or respond in other ways as appropriate.

This is actually one of my top “go to” strategies when lecturing. I hope you find success with it in your classroom setting!

#14 - “Vocabulary Tool for Multilingual Learners”

By Jessica Samens (Communication Studies)

For many students, learning academic language can be challenging. For multilingual learners, the challenge is even greater. The vocabulary tool described below is a valuable and easily created tool that serves to build academic language for all learners.

Here’s how it works.

  • I assign vocabulary words as a small point assignment or offer as extra credit. I often do both as it helps students develop discipline related language.
  • Each student can select a word from a work bank I provide. In an online post, they must then include the definition from a discipline-based source—a short explanation of the word—and demonstrate how the word is used in academic writing. Depending on the class, each section can be altered to fit needs.
  • If a required assignment, I work the definitions into mini-class presentations before exams. Each student presents the definition and participates in the study session.
  • After postings, I (or a TA) double check to make sure the definitions are accurate and then enter these into a shared glossary. Because this glossary is a highly used resource for writing assignments and exams, accuracy is key.

I have found an increased use of academic language in the classroom after using the glossary for a semester. Language accessibility is difficult for many, providing a tool can be helpful.

#15 - “Mind Mapping: A Study Tool”

By Jay Rasmussen and Danny Swensen (Education)

As mentioned in One Minute Teaching Tip #12, a Mind Map “is a visual representation of the connections between several ideas or pieces of information.” This powerful instructional tool is extremely versatile in that it can be also be used by students in/outside class for review purposes before a test or final exam.

Suggested in-class practices:

  • Determine the critical topics you’d like students to review. List these on the board or screen.
  • Divide the class into groups of four and assign each group one or more topics.
  • Provide each group with enough poster boards for each topic or provide them with board space if available.
  • Ask each group to write what they know about each topic using subcategories branching off the central topic. Encourage students to use difference shapes and/or colors for subcategories to make the map more understandable to others. It’s also helpful to encourage students to show linkages between subcategories using lines and you may wish to suggest they use symbols or drawings on the map as well.
  • Ask each group to display and discuss their visual representation of the content when the maps are created. Comments/questions/corrections can then be added by the instructor or class.
  • Encourage students to take pictures of each map if they so desire.

Suggested outside-class practices:

  • Determine the critical topics you’d like students to review. Provide students with this list.
  • Encourage students to create and discuss their own maps for each topic in self-selected small groups (2-4 persons) or individually. As mentioned before, ask students to list the topic in the center of the map with subcategories branching off. Encourage students to use difference shapes and/or colors for subcategories to make the map more understandable to others. It’s also helpful to encourage students to show linkages between subcategories using lines and you may wish to suggest they use symbols or drawings on the map as well.

What the research says:

A meta-analysis (Nesbit & Adesope, 2006) that considered 55 studies involving 5,818 participants found that in regard to knowledge retention and transfer, mind-mapping activities were more effective than teacher-directed instruction, having student read passages of text, and having student participate in class discussions. This was true across a large range of subject areas, educational levels, and environments. The authors indicate that the benefits observed were primarily the result of increased student engagement during mind-mapping activities.

What the students think:

We have also seen the benefits of using mind-mapping activities in our classrooms as well. One of our students described why mind maps were effective in regard to her learning:

“In order to fully understand a concept and accurately apply it, I need to engage with it more than merely hearing in it in a lecture and writing it down. Mind mapping has helped me do just that. First, creating a mind map assists me in consolidating my thoughts into concise, meaningful terms or phrases. Second, visualizing those terms and phrases by assigning colors and/or images allows me to more easily learn and recall them. Additionally, after completing a mind map, I am able to clearly recognize any holes or mistakes in my learning and understanding, especially if done in a group context. Creating a mind map in a group setting allows multiple perspectives to be addressed and connected to other’s perspectives.”

Nesbit, J. C., & Adesope, O. O. (2006). Learning with concept and knowledge maps: A meta-analysis. Review of educational research,76(3), 413-448. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4124424