Friday, September 16, 2016

Transformational Learning Opportunity (TLO) Workshops

Transformational Learning Opportunity (TLO) Workshops

The Office of Undergraduate Studies and the Office of Faculty Enhancement (OFE) will be hosting two workshops to help faculty plan for Transformational Learning Opportunities (TLOs) and to apply for the TLO Grant Program. The first session will provide an overview of the program and foundational perspectives. The second session will provide a hands-on workshop for developing effective assessment strategies.

The TLO Application Deadline for projects taking place in 2017-2018 (July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018) is Friday, October 28, 2016. Find more details on the TLO Application webpage.

Designing Successful Transformational Learning Opportunities (TLOs)
Friday, September 30, 2016, 12:30-2:00 p.m.
Social Sciences Building 51, Room 1205
RSVP to or contact Dan Richard with inquires.
Faculty and staff interested in applying for Transformational Learning Opportunity (TLO) funds are invited to attend the TLO workshop titled, "Designing Successful Transformational Learning Opportunities (TLOs)." This session will provide an overview of the TLO concept, some examples of past successful TLOs, and guidelines for applying for financial support.   

Manageable and Meaningful Assessment of Transformational Learning Experiences
Tuesday, October 4, 2016, 1:30-3:00 p.m.
OFE/FA Conference Room, Building 16, Room 3108 
RSVP to or contact Dan Richard with inquires.

UNF Faculty who apply for TLO funding design a wide variety of truly transformational learning experiences for students. Designing an assessment plan both enhances the TLO application and provides an important way to maximize student benefit from the experience.  Yet assessing transformational learning objectives can be difficult because the objectives can be difficult to define, and because TLOs may not include graded assignments in the same way as other classes do. This workshop will help participants define transformational learning objectives and develop manageable assessment strategies for determining the impact of the TLO experience. Faculty and staff interested in applying for Transformational Learning Opportunity (TLO) funds are especially encouraged to attend.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Teaching for Robust Understanding (TRU) and Deep Learning

One of the most difficult tasks for instructors is to fully engage their students with classroom material. Encouraging a deep and lasting understanding of the underlying structure of material - also known as "deep" learning - has been shown to lead to higher quality learning outcomes than rote memorization of concepts - "surface" learning (Chin & Brown, 2000). Deep learning, however, is difficult to encourage in practice.

In order to assist teachers with this, Alan Schoenfeld, an education researcher at UCLA-Berkeley, has developed a tool called the Teaching for Robust Understanding (TRU) framework. Although initially designed specifically for teaching math, Dr. Schoenfeld has broadened its applicability to other fields. The TRU framework lays out five characteristics of classrooms that promote deep engagement with class material. The five dimensions of powerful classrooms are:
  1. The Content
    • The content of classrooms should be clear and concise and reflect the most current understanding of the subject matter at hand
  2. Cognitive Demand
    • The material should be difficult enough to encourage critical thinking and problem-solving, but not so difficult as to overwhelm students
  3. Equitable Access to Content
    • The classroom should allow for and encourage all students to engage with the material by expressing their opinions and asking questions about the content
  4. Agency, Identity, and Authority
    • The students themselves, rather than the teacher should be the source of the ideas being discussed
  5. Use of Assessment
    •  The instructor should be aware of the students' level of understanding of content and adapt the lessons to meet the students where they are as opposed to where they should be based on a set timeline
According to Schoenfeld, these dimensions are not new, but rather a condensed version of the current state of the literature on teaching. The idea behind the framework is to focus on "how students experience [the lesson], not on what the teacher is doing." This is an important distinction in that the students themselves are given the space to generate ideas and discuss their problem-solving strategies with each other rather than strictly following the teacher's lead.

The research team has provided a number of publications and presentations on the project and their findings. The main recommendation from these findings is for teachers to look carefully at the learning experiences provided for students, whether these experiences encourage "deep" learning as opposed to surface skill-based practice and whether student-level assessment can support targeted support for student misconceptions. With the right framework, teachers can find the right balance between academic challenge and enriching, engaging student learning experiences.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Evidence for Teaching Excellence Webinar

Beyond the ISQ: Evidence for Teaching Excellence
Tuesday, May 24, 2016, 12:00 noon to 1:15 p.m.
Location: Online (webinar through BlueJeans technology)
Pre-registration is required: contact

Each semester, students complete the Instructional Satisfaction Questionnaire (ISQ) regarding their experiences with the instructor and the course. Faculty frequently find additional information necessary to fully evaluate their teaching practice. Current conversations regarding annual evaluations as well as around promotion and tenure have resulted in a desire to provide evidence of teaching excellence that extends beyond these student satisfaction questionnaires. In the current webinar, Dan Richard, Director of the Office of Faculty Enhancement, and Krista Paulsen, Chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, will discuss options for using alternate forms of evidence for teaching excellence and will provide some examples of how these alternative forms can be used in annual evaluations, promotion and tenure, and other aspects of continuous improvement.
Pre-registration for the webinar is required.
For instructions and connect codes, contact

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Saturday, April 9, 2016

How Can Profs Keep Students' Attention? Put Them in Charge

It's important for faculty to work their hardest to ensure their courses, especially when they are long or comprised of tedious or difficult subject matter, hold their students' attention and keep them engaged. Because it can be so easy for students to drift mentally in class (research purports that college students retain only 10% of material covered in lecture-based courses), it is critical that faculty employ new and creative ways to hold engagement high and get students involved and thinking critically.

Raymond Benton, Jr., a professor at Loyola University Chicago, has managed to put a new spin on an active-learning classic. In what is known as a "jigsaw classroom", students are divided into subgroups within the class, with each subgroup learning a specific topic that they then teach to the rest of the class. Each subgroup member becomes an expert in their allotted area, and the subgroups must educate each other in order to complete an overarching assignment that all groups must complete as a class.

In Benton's version, the "jigsaw classroom" puts students in control of more than learning and communicating information in a given course topic. In an example he provides, a small class of students are given three assigned readings, all of which teach student must read before class, and are randomly assigned to a reading group and a discussion group. In each reading group, the students discuss one of the three articles thoroughly, comparing their own conclusions and understandings of the article. They become experts in that one article, knowing that the other group members will ask questions about that article they will be responsible for answering. Next, they discuss what they did not fully understand about the other two articles and form a list of questions for the other groups. The students then move to discussion groups, in which article "experts" are represented equally, and ask and answer questions and engage in conversations about the articles. Students then reconvene in their original reading groups to compare the answers they received from other groups and share how they answered questions about their group's article. Finally, the professor regroups the entire class to have a class discussion debriefing what they learned about all the articles.

This method is rich with opportunities for active critical thinking and deep levels of processing that will allow students not only to pay attention, but also to engage with the course material in ways they would not remotely approach in a traditional lecture.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Reforming Physics Education: What’s the story?

2015-2016 UNF Physics Colloquium Series presents:

Reforming Physics Education: What’s the story?
Dr. H. Vincent Kuo
Teaching Professor of Physics, Colorado School of Mines
Friday, April 8, 2016
2:00-2:50 p.m. 
Science & Engineering Building, Building 50, Room 1202
Refreshments will be provided

 Much has been argued in recent years for the benefits of experiential learning environments, but how are such contexts operationalized? What are the elements that can characterize such reforms? In this talk I will discuss the differences between teaching and learning environments, present some examples of what the physics education and research communities had contributed in this arena, and describe the adaptation that Colorado School of Mines had implemented, as well as identify some of the unintended consequences of our implementation.
All those interested in teaching within the STEM disciplines or those interested in teaching innovations in general are encouraged to attend.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Altitudes - Reaching to New Heights

Over 15 years ago, the Office of Faculty Enhancement was founded at UNF by efforts of the Faculty Enhancement Committee of the Faculty Association, and the efforts of the Founding Director, Dr. David Jaffee. We recently discovered the original newsletter from the founding of OFE. The thoughts of the Director at that time seem to ring true today.

"While the OFE mission statement points to the central objectives and activities, there is an underlying premise that drives the work of this office – that academic faculty do not stop 'developing' after they gain employment in the academy. Like other professionals, faculty members continue to learn, and experience intellectual and professional growth, throughout their academic career. The purpose of the Office of Faculty Enhancement is to provide the resources and support and an environment that advances all forms of continuous professional development in the various faculty roles of educator, learner, scholar, and researcher."
 - from Altitude, an OFE Newsletter, Volume 1, Issue 1, 2000, by David Jaffee, Founding Director

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Monday, April 4, 2016

Alternatives To Traditional Final Exams Encourage Student Engagement, Learning

When students leave college classrooms at the end of the semester, what are they really taking away with them? Too often, courses culminate in a student turning in a traditional multiple-choice final exam, quietly muttering "Thank you" to the professor, and walking out of the lecture hall having learned little of substance that will stay with them for more than a couple months. The suggestion to exchange final exams for semester 'finales' may seem far-fetched, but the idea might have practical value.

The most common reason students walk out of a course without having learned meaningfully is that they never made course material relevant to themselves. Past research indicates that students experience greater levels of motivation to learn when their teachers make content personally relevant to the students. Personalizing knowledge by putting it into one's own context is all that it takes for students to understand more deeply, rather than just hearing information, memorizing it, and regurgitating it without having ever really thought about it.

There are plenty of examples as to what a semester "finale" might look like. In general, they all focus on giving students an ultimate experience they can use to make course material personal and practical for them- something they can take with them into their future. The idea is to get students thinking,especially on the last day, so they can leave the course still mulling over what they've learned and how it can continue to apply to their intellectual life. Presenting students with just one particularly novel, perplexing question, for example, and asking them to solve it within a confined time is one way to change the final assessment paradigm. Perhaps instead of a final exam, the last day of the course could be a rubric-outlined debate or a collaborative assignment.

The point is, there is a serious lack of genuineness and creativity in the way most professors assess their students at the end of their courses. Final exams as they stand now often make the end of the semester feel more like a chore than a crescendo of an academic experience. By adding a little novelty, a little intrigue, and a little excitement, professors can create an end of the semester assessment that students will be talking about, and thinking about, long after the course is finished.

How do you add creativity and engagement in your final exams?

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