Please consider attending the Innov8 “Big Ideas, Short Videos” Friday talk series, tomorrow, May 3, 2-3 pm, 104 Classroom and Business Bldg

From Andrew Hamilton’s Innov8 shop, we’ve got this Friday talk series, which will feature one of the CTE’s founding Board members, Dr. Cathy Horn.  Here’s a description of the series:

The Innov8 series highlights and promotes academic innovation at UH and beyond in eight-minute talks. These talks are supported by blogs, discussion boards, and links to other resources here, but they stand on their own as well.

We’ve created a truncated format in which our speakers have to do something unusual to get their messages across. We’ve asked them to inspire us. We’ve asked them to tell a story. We’ve asked them to show us how they are helping to create the future of higher education through teaching, research, service, and policy. We’ve asked them to innovate.

For more information, here’s remaining schedule for the talks this year.

Tomorrow’s sessions will include:


Ioannis Pavlidis
Eckhard-Pfeiffer Professor of Computer Science
Director of the Computational Physiology Laboratory

Performance What?
Prof. Pavlidis will present pilot results from an ongoing study of stress’s role on exam performance. The study is funded by the National Science Foundation and aims to uncover the source of exam behaviors and to develop orthotic interventions. The emerging picture, although far from complete, is fascinating. Preliminary evidence suggests significant sympathetic engagement only when the level of the exam matches the preparation of the student. Sympathetic excitation is measured via wearable physiological sensors that monitor pulsation, breathing, and transient palm perspiration. It appears that such physiological measurements can assist in the quantification of the exam’s effectiveness, reshaping long-standing performance evaluation philosophies.



Ognjen S. Miljanic
Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Impacting Education through Technology: From Distance Learning to Customized Hands-On Models
This talk will briefly illustrate the diverse strategies we use at UH to engage students with different educational backgrounds, different interests, and different future ambitions. It will chiefly focus on two recent initiatives: (1) the preparation of a valuable distance education tool for sophomore Organic Chemistry Classes, known as eLectures, and (2) the introduction of a new course on Energy and Sustainability that is being co-taught with a UH College of Business professor Joseph Pratt. In addition, I will also discuss how we engage undergraduate students in original research in Chemistry labs, and how I plan to use 3D printing to produce customized models for teaching physical organic chemistry.



Catherine Horn
Associate Professor of Educational Psychology

High Impact Teaching
Educational research has sought to understand what makes a teacher “good.” This talk will introduce three important lessons from that body of research: high impact teaching; the relevance of asking good questions; and the importance of care. We will discuss how to leverage best empirically based practices to create a classroom where learning occurs and students succeed.



Donna Pattison
Associate Professor of Biology

A Comprehensive Program to Boost Student Success in Large Enrollment Introductory Biology Courses
We will discuss a comprehensive program developed to improve student success in our large enrollment freshman level introductory biology lecture courses. We will discuss strategies and activities used to actively engage students in their own learning in the lecture hall, early intervention and advising for struggling students, and our hands-on, group-oriented, peer-led recitation sessions. We will also discuss how we have incorporated study skill lessons into various parts of the curriculum. By providing these enhancements to the basic lecture course structure, we hope to increase the number of students that successfully complete the course and positively impact long term retention and graduation rates.


Hope to see you there,




Michael Wesch on “Knowlegeable” vs. “Knowledge-Able”

CTE member Lindsay Schwarz recommended this suggestive video of KSU Anthropologist Michael Wesch at TEDx, talking about the difference between being “knowledgeable” and being “knowledge-Able.”

As he discusses in a few examples, today’s information environment makes it both supremely easy and supremely difficult to

  • Connect
  • Organize
  • Share
  • Collect
  • Collaborate
  • Publish

So what does this state of affairs suggest for contemporary students and their teachers?

And for the some further thoughts about technology and teaching, see this.


Congratulations to this year’s Teaching Excellence Award Winners! UPDATED WITH PICS

UH honored its best researchers and teachers (often the same people) at its award dinner the other night.

Mike Harold,  M.D. Anderson Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and chair of chemical and biomolecular engineering, was awarded the University of Houston 2013 Esther Farfel Award, which comes with a $10,000 cash prize, and recognizes faculty excellence in research, teaching, and service.

Also noteworthy was this year’s Distinguished Leadership in Teaching Excellence Prize, which was awarded to Joe Pratt (History and Business). Here is a picture of Joe receiving the prize from a much shorter person:


Here is the description of the Prize and its expectations:

This award is given to a previous Teaching Excellence Award recipient who in 10 years or more of teaching has made sustained and significant contributions to education. In the subsequent academic year of the award, the recipient will mentor other faculty and serve as an adviser to the Center for Teaching Excellence. The recipient is honored with a trophy and a prize of $25,000, divided into a $15,000 cash award and $10,000 in departmental support.

We are looking forward to working with Joe Pratt in the coming year.

Here are the other award-winning teachers honored the other night, with descriptions of their prizes:

Career Award
This award is given to a faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in teaching over the course of his or her career of 20 years or more at UH. The recipient is honored with a trophy and a $12,000 prize.


* David P. Shattuck, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Teaching Excellence
This award is given to faculty in recognition of outstanding achievement in teaching. Recipients are honored with a trophy and an $8,000 prize.


* Richard H. Armstrong, Modern and Classical Languages
* Ann C. Christensen, English
* Thomas J. George, Finance
* Sapna Kumar, Law
* Thomas William Lowder, Health and Human Performance

Provost’s Core
This award is given to faculty in recognition of outstanding teaching in the core curriculum. Recipients are honored with a trophy and an $8,000 prize.

* Francesca D’Alessandro Behr. Modern and Classical Languages

Innovation in Instructional Technology
This award is given to faculty in recognition of outstanding achievement in teaching using innovation in instructional technology. The recipient is honored with a trophy and an $8,000 prize.

* Gangbing Song, Mechanical Engineering

This award is given in recognition of outstanding teaching by faculty instructors, clinical faculty, research faculty, artist affiliates and lecturers. Recipients are honored with a trophy and an $8,000 prize.


* Bret J. Detillier, Information and Logistics Technology
* Patricia Dorsey, Sociology
* Paige K. Evans, Mathematics
* Kelly Y. Hopkins, History
* Aditi Marwaha, Pharmacological and Pharmaceutical Sciences
* Iain Morrison, Philosophy, Honors College
* Michael R. Newman, Accounting and Taxation
* Chad M. Wayne, Computer Science

Graduate Teaching Assistant
This award is given to graduate students in recognition of outstanding teaching. The recipients are honored with a trophy and a $3,500 prize.


* Zachary Hall, Marketing and Entrepreuneurship
* William Russey, Biology and Biochemistry
* Micki Washburn, Social Work

Group Teaching Award
This award recognizes clusters of faculty in both formal and informal programs who demonstrate a strong commitment to teaching and student success, who have worked together collaboratively to improve student outcomes and who demonstrate effective and innovative teaching. The award is presented to up to two groups. Each teaching group is honored with a group trophy and a prize of $30,000.

Health and Human Performance Group

* Lisa Alastuey
* Charles Layne
* Rebecca E. Lee
* Prashant Mutgekar
* Anne Ogborn

Computer Science Group

* Chang H. Yun
* Jose Baez-Franceschi
* Zhigang Deng
* Olin Johnson

In the future, we would like to feature some of the practices and insights of UH’s most distinguished faculty.  Do you have any ideas about how we might document and disseminate the best teaching practices at UH?  If so, please share them with us, here or in an email to



Thank you for attending the 4/18/13 Faculty Resource Workshop on “The Critical Multiple Choice”!

Fac Res Mult Choice 4-18-13 c

Thanks to everyone who came to our latest Faculty Resource Workshop. Lindsay Schwarz (Pharmacy), Tony Frankino (Biology), Donna Pattison (Biology), and James Garson (Philosophy) spoke on “The Critical Mulitple Choice: Using Multiple Choice to Foster Critical Thinking,” and the audience included faculty members from every discipline. Some were interested in how to improve their multiple choice (MC) questions, but others were looking for new ways to use MC.

Fac Res Multiple Choice 4-18-13 a

Lindsay Schwarz started things off with the question, where do we learn to write multiple choice questions? By taking MC tests, of course. Because so many of us think of MC as information recall only, we must have taken some bad tests. Lindsay, therefore, led us through best practices that link MC questions to course objectives, explaining how to move up Bloom’s taxonomy of learning domains. Lindsay recommends creating a test blueprint that maps out how much lecture time is devoted to each topic and then creating MC questions that mirror those time ratios. Even the types of questions can be based on the test blueprint: if she asks students to do critical thinking on three of the test topics, then those topics should use critical thinking questions. The point is that if instructors use good questions that connect to course lectures and objectives, then students will think that the course met its objectives.

Lindsay then went through methods of analyzing test data received from University Testing Services. The extended item analysis shows how the top, middle, and bottom performing students scored on each question. The analysis can help explain whether the question is valid and which distracters were easily omitted.

Lindsay ended by mentioning the advantages and disadvantages of MC questions. One disadvantage, she said, was that MC cannot be used to assess writing. The rest of the room began to discuss this idea with one participant saying that it is not appropriate to assess something that was not specifically covered in class lectures. Therefore, it is not okay to assess writing unless the class teaches writing. Therefore, it isn’t a disadvantage of MC that is doesn’t assess writing. Another participant claimed that assessment of writing is different from testing content, and that engineering assesses writing in many different classes that don’t actually include lectures on writing.

Fac Res Mult Choice 4-18-13 e

Tony Frankino then spoke about how he uses MC questions to foster critical thinking through his use of graphics to teach evolution. Instead of asking students to merely interpret or recall a formula, he asks questions that force students to recall, identify, interpret, and apply their knowledge. He uses CASA, as well, to switch response orders, but he retains distractor groupings. He reuses questions on the final exam, but they won’t see the same question twice because he has different versions of the same questions, each with different answers. He may have four different versions of each question. One participant asked about using different level questions from Bloom’s taxonomy for each topic, but Tony claimed that such a tactic penalizes the student twice if they don’t know a single answer or topic. Tony also uses “None of the above” for all of his MC questions, and versions of each question include “None of the above” as the correct answer. So it is always a choice, and it can’t be eliminated quickly.

Donna Pattison then led the group through a series of poorly written MC questions. The questions didn’t link to goals or objectives of the course, included opinions, used different structures or length for answers and distracters, or included clues such as article usage in the questions themselves. She then went through some best practices and mentioned why she doesn’t like the questions included in textbook question banks. Those questions don’t sound like the professor, so the students are at a disadvantage when they have been taught by someone other than the one that wrote the question.

Discussion after Donna’s workshop moved into ESL and how much professors should tailor their questions for these students. Donna mentioned that she encourages asking questions about words and language during the tests themselves, but another participant claimed that some students have been “beaten up” for asking questions, so they don’t. Tony Frankino then mentioned that one of the disadvantages of using CASA for his tests is that he can’t be there to answer questions. Then the discussion branched into whether professors give exams back to students, and there is no consensus there. Some do, and some don’t.

Fac Res Mult Choice 4-18-13 d

To wrap things up, James Garson presented briefly about his use of MC questions in a class on critical thinking. He asks students to make a diagram and then asks multiple choice questions about their diagram. In essence, he has made the rubric for the diagram into a question. Students are, in fact, self-reporting their diagram. He uses MC questions in way that suggests that the answer isn’t the point; instead, the critical thinking skill to arrive at the answer is what is important.

Lindsay then brought up MC questions with clickers where students are polled with correct answers, and another participant mentioned and, which allow real-time polling, as well. Another option to allow for discussion of MC questions is, where students discuss questions asynchronously.

Overall, it was a great workshop, and everyone seemed interested in more workshops on writing multiple choice questions and innovative methods for their use. A future Faculty Forum will take up the topic again, we’re sure.

Chad A. Wilson

Please consider attending a CIRTL workshop, Apr. 25th, 12-1:30, 324 Farish Hall, on “Tenure and Promotion: What You Should Know, and What You Should Ask” (w/free lunch!)

“Tenure and promotion: What you should know, what you should ask”

Thursday, April 25, 12-1 pm; Lunch and discussion 1:00-1:30pm (please arrive at least 15 mins prior to the session)
Location: 324 Farish Hall

UH’s own Dr. Don Foss (Psychology), will share his experience in building an academic career.  Come learn the tools for navigating tenure and promotion.  This session is ideal for those considering careers in academia as well as assistant professors who have already embarked on their careers.

**Join Dr. Foss along with your fellow faculty, post-docs,  and graduate students in a learning community as this session is broadcast from the UH campus!

**A limited number of seats are available for this live session in 324 Farish Hall (located on the 3rd floor of Farish Hall in the CITE computing lab suite 300).
** Doors will open at 11:30 am for attendees to check-in, and Dr. Foss will be available after the session until 1:30 pm for an extended discussion and Q/A.

Come enjoy a lunch as you mingle with Dr. Foss, students, and faculty!

Please RSVP (by Tuesday, April 23 at 5 pm) to Hibah Salem at ( to ensure your seat!!

This session will also be facilitated through Blackboard Collaborate with the following faculty members from the CIRTL Network:
Philip Cohen, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Dean, Graduate School, Professor, Department of English, The University of Texas at Arlington

Daniel Mosse, Professor, Department Chair, Department of Computer Science, University of Pittsburgh

Event Flyer:

For questions regarding UH-CIRTL, please contact the Program Assistant, Hibah Salem at (

Thank you for attending DTAR’s Managing Conflict Workshop!

Heidi Kennedy Conflict DTAR

Managing conflict in the classroom isn’t necessarily something that TAs learn in their course requirements, but it is a topic that pops up in all of our classrooms. From how to deal with students and cell phones to larger issues of heated arguments, we often learn about how to manage conflict by living it out. We learn what to do after the fact.

When DTAR put together the workshop, a major priority was connecting TAs to the information they would need in order to better understand their places in the university and what resources were available to help develop as teachers more capable of handling the conflicts in the classrooms in ways that were legal, ethical, and safe. For this reason, the workshop brought in the expertise of Heidi Kennedy, Director of Academic Program Management; DuJuan Smith, Assistant Dean of Students; and Thomandra Sam, Psychologist with Counseling and Psychological Services.

Heidi Kennedy began the workshop with a brief Conflict Management Styles Quiz, a quiz that began with TA reflection on individual preferences for conflict management. After taking the quiz, participants scored their answers to determine whether there styles were Collaborating, Competing/Controlling, Avoiding, Harmonizing/Accommodating, or Compromising. Attached to each style were both the pros and cons. Kennedy stressed that it was important to know what our strengths were with managing conflict and when we might need to get help from others.

In addressing conflict types, Kennedy mentioned that she considers conflict on a scale of green, yellow, and red – much like a stoplight. Green conflicts are conflicts that allow for the time to solve them. Yellow conflicts include more pressure from an immediate concern. And red conflicts are urgent and need immediate attention. She offered that her experiences support that teachers tend to see more green conflicts in the classroom, with yellow and red being less seen.

Thomandra Sam followed with a presentation about helping students by re-thinking approaches to managing the classroom. She offered three pieces of advice for teachers, advice that she thinks helps prevent major conflicts from occurring. First we can give students a way to feel like they have control in a situation by engaging them in conversation. Second, we can offer ways to make the student feel valued, even when dealing with conflict. She encouraged participants to let students explain their perspectives and follow that with statements like, “This is what I heard you say.” The moment of summarizing can help bridge communication and avoid any hasty reactions from teachers. Third, she encouraged consistent behaviors. She said that students who think that there is favoritism are more likely to increase tensions in a classroom.

Thomandra Sam Conflict DTAR 13

She stressed that a lot of conflict can be avoided if teachers are reflective about their conflict styles as well as how they approach the classroom environment, and she hoped that her information gave the audience a tool kit of material to work from. She also directed the audience to a CAPS pamphlet titled “Helping Students of Concern.”

DuJuan Smith offered information geared toward what to do when a conflict has escalated, specifically in relation to the Dean of Students Office. He encouraged teachers to review the Student Handbook and use that as an active part of the classroom conversation about conflict management because the handbook does explain material related to disruption in the classroom. He introduced the audience to the process used by his office, noting that teachers can file incident reporting forms as well as email the office. He told the audience that it was important to document everything relating to conflict, and that we could email his office as a beginning step in documentation, especially if we didn’t want to fill out the forms that students can later read.

Thomandra Sam Dujuan Smith Conflict DTAR 13

As he closed he offered four pieces of advice for teachers: 1) document everything, 2) avoid conflict in front of other students, 3) be a role model for the behaviors we want to see in our students, and 4) set high expectations from the beginning.

To end the panel, Heidi Kennedy returned to emphasize the importance of what the other panelists had said and how it might help. She spoke to the need for forgiveness in the event that students crossed a line with us, that we needed to consider what we would do the next day. And she reminded people that they are allowed to ask for the time needed to make decisions, especially about complicated moments of conflict. At the close of the session, the three panelists reminded participants that they can come to specific campus offices for help.

Audience Conflict DTAR 13audience conflict dtar 13

The workshop ended with small-group reflections on three conflict scenarios provided by Kennedy. During the group conversations, participants discussed solutions to the conflicts based on what the panelists had said. In scenario one, a student was upset and distracted in class, and this is the result of a recent break-up. In scenario two, a physical conflict erupted in another classroom. And in scenario three, a student had been not participating for the last two months, fixated on a particular online discussion board posting, and then left class one day, yelling negative comments. The small group discussions were lively as the members worked through what could be done in response as well as noting that scenario three was something that needed more immediate attention sooner.


Academic Affairs — Academic Program Management Contacts

Dean of Students — Main Page

Counseling and Psychological Services — Main Page

Participation in DTAR workshops is one requirement for the CTE Certificate of University Training for graduate teachers. For more information on the certificate, contact The last DTAR workshop for the semester (which focuses on developing the online teaching portfolio and does not count toward the certification) will be held on Friday 3 May 2013 at 12:30 p.m. in 212 Building #499 (where the Writing Center is).

Please attend our Faculty Resource Workshop, April 18th, 1-2:30pm, on Developing Critical Thinking in the Multiple Choice Format

Center for Teaching Excellence Faculty Workshop

Event Date:
Thursday, April 18, from 1:00-2:30pm

Event Location:
M.D. Anderson Library, Room 306 (Faculty Senate Offices)


The Critical Multiple Choice:  Developing Critical Thinking with Multiple Choice Format
This workshop provides a hands-on forum to help you design and evaluate multiple choice questions so that they engage your students’ critical thinking abilities.
We will cover basic principles of effective question design, as well as novel approaches that focus on fundamental pedagogical goals.

Please bring some of your own multiple choice questions to use in the workshop, and we will provide feedback and discussion on the best strategies to develop effective questions in your field.

For RSVPs or questions regarding this workshop, please contact Prof. Jim Garson at garson@Central.UH.EDU.