Classroom Feedback – Formative Self-Evaluation Technique for Teachers

Teaching is a hard job, a noble professional and personal commitment. Just like any other profession, its performance is evaluated on constant basis. In the academic world, one of the most common ways is through course evaluations done by students at the end of each semester. How effective teaching is can be determined via formative and summative assessment. Formative assessment of learning (directly) and of teaching (indirectly) happens all the time throughout the length of the course work. This is what course design is about: structuring the delivery of instruction and aligning every instructional chunk with an appropriate assessment technique in order to measure the level of knowledge and skills that are to be acquired. Summative evaluation is tied to the course learning outcomes and reflects overall student academic achievement per course (on a local scale) and per degree (on a global scale).

On one hand, test scores and grades are an indicator of student success, on the other, formal feedback (course evaluations) provide learner perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of applied instructional strategies within a course or a program. These two indicators cross-check and reflect results from already completed actions. This is summative evaluation of learning and teaching.

What about formative evaluation? Teachers assess students’ learning progress as part of their pedagogy. What is not widely adopted is direct evaluation of their own teaching efforts during the run of a course. This could be done by cross-checking results from self-assessment and from surveying students. Doesn’t it make sense to evaluate how good a teaching practice is just like we evaluate how well learners master a skill as they complete an assignment? The focus has always been on the direct result of student performance, which is the main indicator of teaching mastery. As a consequence, a mandatory implementation of formative self-assessment of teaching in class has never gained much ground until recently.

Many subject matter experts find out what teaching techniques work and what don’t throughout their professional experience and in communication with students and colleagues. Over time effectiveness of certain instructional strategies outweighs and defines SMEs teaching methods and preferences. Sometimes, however, the strategies successfully implemented once, no longer work the way they did initially. Faculty may not notice the negative impact until after the end of a course. Or, as it happens more and more often nowadays, proactive teachers who implement innovative pedagogical techniques and educational technologies need feedback prior to the overall course evaluation in order to see on the go what does not work as excepted and how it can be modified before it is too late.

One way of implementing formative classroom assessment is to use a midway survey. It is a preferred technique among educators who like the informality and the immediacy of feedback they get from students. This method works in two ways: first, it addresses the quality of learning and teaching by determining whether and how well the course design is aligned with the actual learning process. Second, it addresses students expectations and concerns. A midway survey provides a channel for communication that may reflect any otherwise undetected learning gaps; it provides with an opportunity for the teacher to identify patterns of logistical or other problems in class that can prompt her to modulate her role of a leader and mentor. The attached template is an adapted example of a midway survey, created by Dr. Wayne LaMorte who teaches both at Boston University Medical School and in the BU online Health Communication program.

Another way of assessing the effectiveness of teaching techniques is by utilizing a survey with open-ended questions like the “critical incident questionnaire” developed by Dr. Stephen Brookfield. It is an anonymous survey that students must complete at the end of each class. At the next class, voiced out concerns regarding learning or events that happened in the last session are responded to by the professor.

A third option is Robert Marzano’s Exit Tickets. These are instructional strategies successfully applied as formative classroom assessment. He developed four exit ticket prompts for constructive feedback:
1) Students level of understanding in class: “How would you rate your level of understanding of today’s learning?”
2) Students level of effort: “How would you rate your effort in class today? What could you done differently to help yourself learn better?”
3) Focus on instructional strategy effectiveness: “What activity did you like the most and what the least at today’s class? Why?”
4) Open communication to the teacher: “What should I [the teacher] be doing differently to improve your understanding of the content?”

Exit tickets are an immediate, more informal feedback than course evaluations; they can be done several times a semester or at the end of every class. Completion of the four questions (tickets) is required and even counted as attendance in class. The exit tickets can be given in any format , e.g. post-it notes on a wall, one-piece paper questionnaire submission, or as an online survey using the free online survey tool

Exit Tickets provide faculty with valuable insight on students’ meta-cognitive processes. By aligning teacher and student viewpoints, faculty can improve their lesson plans and gain experience sooner and more effectively than they otherwise would if they were analyzing course evaluations post factum. An interesting example was given recently at the Teaching Professor Conference in Boston by presenters Deborah Theiss and Angela Danley, two teachers from University of Central Missouri. They emphasized the importance of transparency of applied pedagogical methods and the connection between learning goals, learning objectives, and learning activities. Teachers, they said, should not only focus on the learning processes and steps, but provide more clarity on the overall learning goals and show students the big picture, share with them not only the immediate learning goals, but inspire them to expand their own learning aspirations and efforts. They gave an example with the exit ticket that asks about student self-evaluation on effort. By “effort” these two teachers meant knowledge application as an end result. For students however, effort simply meant the time spent on a task. Such survey outcomes can definitely be an eye-opening method for faculty to improve their own teaching approaches on a granular level, which may ultimately affect their overall teaching expertise in a positive way.

Posted in Classroom Technology, Evidence-Based Instruction, ID 101, Teaching Tips, Tech Tips | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Is a Flipped Classroom?

A flipped classroom is a format where instruction delivery does not happen in class, but asynchronously off campus most often in the form of digitally recorded lecture materials. In addition, learning activities (quizzes, papers, or projects) can be tied to the subject matter as assignments for completion prior to class meetings. The time spent in class is dedicated to more learning activities such as discussions, group projects, presentations, practice exercises and/or lab sessions.

Flipping the classroom means making learning student-oriented. Students invest more time assimilating new knowledge in learning communities and focus their efforts on developing relevant skills by collaborating with other learners. The idea of flipping is to use these diverse techniques of active learning more effectively in order to help students better understand, analyze, apply, evaluate, and synthesize new information. As Charles A. Hill says in his “The Benefits of Flipping Your Classroom” article: “Focus on the synthesis and application of knowledge will find considerable favor with employers who deride the lack of a more competency-based approach in much of higher education.”

Using Bloom’s taxonomy terms, understanding, analyzing, applying, synthesizing, and evaluating are cognitive levels of learning that can be performed better when knowledge and skills are practiced in social context as in a classroom environment. The construction of knowledge is based on recalling and internalizing of information. In dynamic learning space, experiences become anchored. On the flipped side (no pun intended) remembering – the lowest taxonomy level of learning – can be attributed to covering the basics. Students are introduced to a learning topic at their own time and convenience by watching, reading, and listening to a lecture. They may complete a quiz as a learning practice for information recall, but in class they further deepen the level of acquiring knowledge while interacting with others, by receiving more attention on problematic or not yet well-understood aspects and thus keeping their learning personalized. Learners also receive immediate feedback from peers and instructors, which can speed up and solidify their learning.

By flipping the classroom and doing more learning activities with others, students also improve their meta-cognitive abilities or learning skills, which ultimately enhance their ability to successfully transfer knowledge to other academic disciplines and professional environments.

What is the difference between blended learning and flipped classroom as learning environments? These terms overlap in meaning. In blended learning flipping the classroom is not a requirement, although more often than not instructions or demonstrations in the form of lectures and videos are assigned as out of class activities. Learning is blended if classroom sessions are skipped due to assignment of learning activities done out of class. In contrast the flipped classroom requires regular class attendance.

Both blended learning and flipped classroom also refer to the use of technology with face-to-face teaching. This means that faculty has to invest more time and effort in planning, designing, and especially developing their courses, if they are going to use technology to prepare learning materials and activities. Emmanuel College provides technical training on “Flipping the Classroom” via Atomic Learning. This 30-minute technology-based videos focus on lecture capture: what hardware and software is needed along with demonstrations on video and audio recording and editing. Feel free to contact a member of the ATIG group for individual training on any of the tools offered in the Atomic Learning sessions.

Posted in Classroom Technology, ID 101, Innovation, Teaching Tips, Teaching with Technology, Tech Tips | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

iPads in Your Classroom

“Powers of Minus Ten,” an award-winning iPad app that allows students to explore human biology down to the molecular level.  

As you may have heard, ATIG has 41 iPad minis (and a few full size iPads) available for you to borrow for up to a semester for use in your course.  This may lead you to wonder — how could I use iPads to enhance student learning and engagement?  A good way to approach this idea is to analyze the iPad use as you might any other learning activity.  And a good basis for that analysis is with reference to Bloom’s taxonomy.

Luckily for you Teddy Hristov, ATIG’s Senior Instructional Strategies Specialist, recently attended a program at the Teaching Professor Conference in which specific iPad applications were associated with the various levels of Bloom’s taxonomy.  This handout provides some examples, but is certainly not exhaustive.

You might use this approach by deciding what level of the taxonomy is appropriate for your students, and then selecting an associated app.  For example, if your students are ready to Create – the highest level of the revised taxonomy – you might choose to have your students use the iPad tool “Explain Everything” to create an original instructional module on a topic.  Or, you could have your students use “Book Creator” or “Creative Book Builder” to write and publish their own book about a topic.

Are your students are at an earlier stage of their learning, where finding strategies for Remembering key facts and concepts is essential?  Here, you might choose applications that help drill students on their knowledge, such as ChemPro: Chemistry Tutor or Timeline Civil War, or a more generic tool such as one of these flashcard apps.  You could even borrow them to use with a polling application to test your students’ Understanding of key concepts.  

ATIG staff are here to help you identify and evaluate apps and work with you to craft iPad-related assignments that will offer your students meaningful educational experiences.  Contact us for more information!

Posted in Classroom Technology, iPads, Teaching with Technology | Tagged , , | 25 Comments

VoiceThread: A Tool for Presentation, Peer Review, Reflection, and More

VoiceThread featuring an image of Shakespeare

A VoiceThread lets your students comment on any image, video, powerpoint slides or document.

VoiceThread is a tool that offers new ways for your students to interact with content and with each other.  Here’s how it works: You (or a student) set up the VoiceThread by uploading a “prompt”, which can be an image, a video or a document to which you want a response.  Voicethreads can center on a set of powerpoint slides, a pdf, an image of a historical document – virtually anything visual.  In the illustration, you see an image of Shakespeare used as a prompt.

Next, students are invited to respond to the image, video or document by recording a comment.  Comments can be recorded via webcam, audio, telephone, or simply by typing text.  While the student is commenting, he or she can even mark up the image with arrows or text or zoom in or out.  The markups will display only when the comment is played by others.  Here are some nice examples from the University of North Carolina of different ways to use VoiceThread.

For more information on using VoiceThread at Emmanuel, go to the How-To@Emmanuel site on ECLearn, or contact the ATIG team at

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Faculty Spotlight: Melanie Leussis – Using ECLearn (Canvas) Badges to Foster Learning

Instructor:  Dr. Melanie Leussis, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Courses:  PSYC 2801/2802 – Research Methods and Statistics I & II

About the Project:  The American Psychological Association (APA) has outlined a very specific and extensive set of rules governing writing in psychology known as APA format.  The guide for this set of rules is currently almost 300 pages!  Students in psychology are expected to use this format for all writing assignments.  Faculty members in psychology generally agree that teaching APA format to students, while important, is also time consuming and a poor use of classroom time as the material is so dull and dry.  It is not a thought-provoking or discussion-worthy topic.

APA ECLearn Badge

APA ECLearn Badge

This project evolved from a desire to find an alternate way to teach this required material to students without sacrificing valuable classroom time. The use of badges offered a method for teaching the basics of APA format through an online medium embedded within ECLearn. At the end of the online mini course in APA format, students are automatically “rewarded” with an online badge that denotes their mastery of the rules for APA format.

Goals:  The main goal of the current project was to develop a method that would allow APA format rules to be taught outside of regular classroom time.  Badges provided one means to automatically reward students after they complete a set of requirements. In this case, students could earn the APA format badge after watching a series of videos about APA format and successfully completing an online quiz indicating they had learned the material in question. The APA format badge can now be used by all psychology faculty in their classes, although it is a requirement in the core research methods classes that all psychology majors must take.

Technology Requirements: The use of badges can be fully integrated into ECLearn.  The badge itself was designed and set up through Canvas badges, and included the specifics of what students needed to accomplish to earn the APA format badge. New material the students were expected to learn was presented using readily available modules from Atomic Learning, with the link to these videos embedded in the assignment page on ECLearn.  After viewing the videos, students completed an online quiz in ECLearn to test their knowledge (90% or higher required to pass).  Upon completion of the specified requirements, the badge can be automatically awarded to students within ECLearn.

Outcome:  The use of badges allowed Dr. Leussis to 1) automate the process of teaching dry background information that students are required to use in psychology – specifically the rules for writing in APA format, and 2) provide a template for teaching APA format that the entire psychology faculty can make use, the APA badge. In general, the use of badges to teach APA format complemented traditional classroom teaching methods, allowing more time in class to be devoted to less mundane tasks than learning a set of rules for writing format.

Interested in using Badges in your courses? Wanting to know more about Atomic Learning training videos? Contact ATIG with questions.

Posted in EC Learn, Faculty Spotlight, Innovation, Teaching with Technology, Tech Tips | Tagged , , , , , | 49 Comments

Enhancing Motivation to Learn

There is no doubt that student motivation to learn is derived from personal goals. Whether these goals are directly related to the purpose of learning provided is a different story. As Dr. Margery B. Ginsberg says: “Across cultural groups, all students are motivated, even when they are not motivated to learn what a teacher has to offer (Ovando & Colier, 1985).”

So here comes the question of the role of the teacher and the instructional plan on which a course is built on and how these two critical elements affect student motivation.

Dr. Reymond Wlodkowski has written a book on the subject, called “Enhancing Motivation to Learn.” He has developed a Motivational Framework for Culturally Responsive Teaching, which is based on the constructivist learning theory that states that people learn from other people and from their own environment. Yes, there is internal cognitive learning process, but knowledge is socially and culturally constructed.

In his book, Dr. Wlodkowski shares that until 10-15 years ago in the field of psychology, there was dominating understanding of the motivation to learn as an internal individualistic process. The following is an excerpt that reflects his opinion on the changed notion of what motivation to learn is:

“We are more aware that to help a person learn may require understanding of person’s thinking and emotions as inseparable from the social context in which the [learning] activity takes place.”


“Motivation is inseparable from culture… Colleges are becoming learning environments with increasing numbers of culturally diverse students. … Teaching that ignores student norms of behavior and communication provokes student resistance, while teaching that is responsive prompts student involvement (Olneck, 1995).

Engagement in learning is the visible outcome of motivation. Our emotions are a part of and significantly influence our motivation. In turn, our emotions are socialized through culture. …Without sensitivity to culture, we, as teachers, may unknowingly contribute to the decline of motivation among our students.”

The Motivational Framework for Culturally Responsive Teaching is “respectful of different cultures and is capable of creating a common culture within a learning situation that all students accept.” It makes both teacher and learners more aware, informed and responsible about themselves, others, and their learning. This affects positively learners’ motivation.

The motivational framework offers a combination of four motivational conditions to build an instructional/lesson plan. These four conditions are used as guidelines for selecting learning activities. In his book Dr. Wlodkowski describes 60 instructional strategies, which he calls “motivational strategies.”

The four motivational conditions are:

  • Establishing Inclusion (start of the lesson) – creating a learning environment in which adults feel capable, respected, accepted, and connected to one another. Probably here is the place to mention the five pillars of a motivating teacher according to Dr. Wlodkowski: expertise, enthusiasm, empathy, clarity, and cultural responsiveness.
  • Developing attitude (throughout the lesson) – creating a favorable disposition toward the learning experience through personal relevance and choice. That means a positive attitude toward the subject, the instructor (learner’s relationship to the teacher bears strongly on learner’s feeling of inclusion,) learning goal (attainable – provide big picture of what the studying will achieve,) self-efficacy (students need to believe they can learn what they want to learn and learn from their mistakes). It’s important for teachers to seek first to understand – to understand their students’ prior knowledge of topic, educational abilities, general learning preferences, and cultural background.
  • Enhancing meaning (throughout the lesson) – creating challenging learning experiences that include learners’ values and perspectives, past experiences, emotions, and goals.
  • Engendering competence (end of the lesson) – creating understanding that students are effective in learning in something they value – this relates to the adult learners being self-directed, responsible for their own lives, pragmatic – they want to learn something that is relevant and useful, meaningful to their current lives or immediate futures. Being competent at something they value is closely related to the transfer of knowledge from learning environment to performance environment, and the relationship between competence and self-confidence is mutually enhancing.
4 Motivational Conditions

(click the image to zoom in)

Dr. Wlodkowski doesn’t forget to mention the notion of fun. He says that a student is most motivated when she is willing to learn something she values, she has the desire to succeed at her learning, and she enjoys the process.

The motivational framework for culturally responsive teaching can be integrated with instructional planning by converting the four motivational conditions into questions:

  • How do we create or affirm a learning atmosphere in which we feel respected and connected to one another?
  • How do we make use of personal relevance and learner volition to create or affirm a favorable disposition toward learning?
  • How do we create engaging and challenging learning experiences that include learner perspectives and values?
  • How do we create or affirm an understanding that learners have effectively learned something they value and perceive as authentic to their real world?

By answering these four questions and selecting motivational strategies provided with the framework, a teacher can develop an instructional plan that enhances students’ motivation to learn. The more harmonious the elements of the instructional design are aligned, the more likely is for learners to sustain intrinsic motivation.

Contact ATIG for examples of instructional plans built on the motivational framework for culturally responsive teaching.

The motivational framework was developed by Dr. Ray J. Wlodkowski and Dr. Margery B. Ginsberg in 1995. They both are experts in adult and professional learning. Each has written several books and has won awards in the field of Adult Education. To learn more about their work, visit:

Posted in Innovation, Teaching Tips | Tagged , , , , , , | 39 Comments

Faculty Spotlight: Xiaowei Zhao – Using PowToon to Create Online Presentations

Instructor: Xiaowei Zhao, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology

Course: PSYC1501 General Psychology

About the Project: The skill of delivering good presentations is very important for students’ success both at school and for their future career. It needs to be honed from the very beginning of their college years. However, given the relative larger size of 1000-Level class (35 students per section at Emmanuel) and the time limit, traditional oral presentations might not be easily practiced.

In addition, we are in a computer and Internet era now, after graduation, many of the students (even from social science) may face technology challenges in their career. As a “computer guy” Dr. Xiaowei Zhao strongly believes that an in-depth training on information and technological literacy is a MUST and a PLUS for our students to better prepare them for the challenges at their future workplaces.

Finally, General Psychology is an important requirement for all psychology majors, and usually the first psychology course they take at the College. A challenge of teaching this course is how to ensure these new college students to have a clear understanding of several fundamental psychology concepts in a relatively short period.

Facing these challenges, beginning from the Fall semester of 2013, Dr. Zhao has integrated an online presentation (explainer video) project. Students are asked to prepare a short animated digital presentation to explain an interesting phenomenon in general psychology. By doing this project, students can get a better understanding of the topic and learn how to present it in an efficient/interesting way. Students’ performance on this project is evaluated by the instructor and their classmates in terms of accuracy, clarity, depth, and organization/design.


1) To train students on their presentation skills in their first year of college
2) To improve students’ level of information and technological literacy, and
3) To enhance students’ understanding of basic psychology concepts

Technology Requirements: The platform of this project is, an online program to create and present animated presentations. It is easy to use, with a large library of animations/visual effects, and most importantly, free!


This is a 10-weeks project and the instructor helps students to build their familiarity/confidence on this project step by step.

Week 1: Introduce the project: Students are shown a task statement created via PowToon to get a “taste” of it.


Week 2: Students create a free PowToon account, get familiar with the tool. Many thanks for ATIG to provide a guideline (PowToonInstructionGuide)

Week 3: Students choose a topic, start research on it

Week 4 – 6: Students work on creating a StoryBord (A concept borrowed from the film industry) of their topic. A template parallel with a sample presentation is provided. Feedbacks are provided.

Week 7-10: Students work on the technical details. Assistances are provided by the instructor. Two most challenging things at this stage are: 1) students record voice over for the presentation (in mp3 format, and 2) synchronize their sounds with the transition of the slides. Free software like Audacity is very useful.

Finally, students’ performance on this project is evaluated by the instructor and their peers in terms of accuracy, clarity, depth, and organization/design.

Many students demonstrated great creativities and understandings of the topic. Some good examples could be shown upon request.

Students generally thought it as a challenging but interesting project and a positive experience. Below are some selected students’ feedbacks regarding the project (Notes: More may come after the finals):

I wanted to let you know that I think it is a great assignment and helps us learn more about particular topics and how to make a proper presentation.

Interested in using PowToon in your courses? Contact ATIG with questions.

Posted in Faculty Spotlight | Tagged , , , , | 18 Comments

Snow Days, Sick Days: How to Incorporate Online Content into your Courses

New England has seen its share of snow days this season, resulting in scheduling disruptions and missed classes. Here are just a few ideas for making up lost face-to-face class time with fun and impactful online learning activities:

Record a lecture

Using only screen-capture software and a microphone, you can record a class lecture and PowerPoint for a missed class day and post it to ECLearn.

If you want to build your online lecture quickly and easily, ATIG has tutorials for both Screencast-O-Matic and Jing. If you’d prefer more complex tools, including embedded quizzes, check out Camtasia for Mac and PC.

Moderate an Online Discussion

Web-based discussions are a great way encourage participation, even if members of your class can’t be in the same place at the same time. Learn about how easy it can be to set up discussions in ECLearn here.

ECLearn features a synchronous (live) discussion tool called Conferences. Invite your entire class to participate, or meet with smaller groups.  Present your slides, share a whiteboard and more.  You can even record your presentation.  Find out more in ECLearn’s documentation.

Encourage Collaboration

ECLearn offers web-based groups and online collaboration tools too.  You’ll also find plenty of worthwhile free collaboration tools outside of ECLearn.

Google Drive provides a shared file system for collaborative editing in text documents, spreadsheets, and more. Another free Google product called Hangouts is an easy way to hold a video conference including a screen-sharing feature with as many participants as you’d like.

Popplet is a great visual brainstorming tool, helping groups would through ideas and plan complex projects together.

For even more ideas, check out our Blended Learning Essentials course – contact ATIG. We are here to help implementing your ideas!

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Tool Spotlight: CommentPress

Looking to incorporate peer review within your WordPress site? Look no further.

CommentPress is a plug-in for WordPress that allows signed in users and “anons” (anonymous people) to write a comment next to a selected piece of writing. The feedback is then sent immediately to the person who is being critiqued. For example, if I visited your site that had CommentPress enabled, I would be able to click next to where I want to comment on regardless if I am affiliated with the site or not. My comment will then be sent to the person who wrote the piece of writing that I was giving feedback on. Another plus CommentPress provides is comfort to those who wish to remain anonymous while simultaneously creating an environment for feedback. The idea of anonymous peer review is seen as an advantage for some students because they do not want to be affiliated with harsh or weak feedback. CommentPress eliminates these fears which has not been implemented before in WordPress.

Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 2.00.16 PM

Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 2.00.22 PM

Click here to go to the CommentPress website to learn more about the tool.

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iPads in the Classroom


You can now project presentations and course materials from your iPad to classroom projectors! Reserve an Apple TV and HDMI cable from ATIG and we’ll walk you through setting it up.

What can you use an iPad for in the classroom?

Displaying course materials in a wide range of media seamlessly:

  • Presentations using apps such as Prezi, Keynote, and Google Presentations in Google Drive
  • Videos on YouTube, Vimeo, and MediaCore within ECLearn (read more about MediaCore here:
  • Documents and course readings saved to cloud storage apps Google Drive or Dropbox
  • Create an iPad “magazine” for your course using Flipboard


  • Popular apps for interactive reading like Inkling or Subtext allow a whole group to read and comment together
  • Explain Everything   is an interactive whiteboard tool used to record audio, video, writing, and even your screen. This tool integrates with cloud storage as well, so you can show shared files from Google Drive to Dropbox.
  • Other collaborative brainstorming tools like Popplet have iPad apps as well.

In case you don’t see what you need here, Educause has a more in-depth list of Apps for Education:

Do you have ideas about integrating iPads into your course? Contact ATIG – we’re here to help!

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