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.


CIRTL Coffee Talk with FREE LUNCH!!

Dear Faculty & Students:

The University of Houston is a member of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning network The CIRTL network consists of 23 universities with a shared mission of training science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, the future STEM faculty, to be better instructors in order to improve undergraduate STEM education. UH-CIRTL is partnering with the UH Center for Teaching Excellence – Division of TA Resources to provide additional program offerings designed to give STEM graduate students and post-docs a competitive edge in teaching and research mentoring.

Coffee Hour  “Teaching at a primarily minority institution”
Thursday, Mar. 28, 12:00-1:00 pm CT
Location: 326 Farish Hall

Is teaching at a historically black or Hispanic serving institution different from teaching at other institutions? What kinds of skills, understandings, approaches, sensitivities or strategies are helpful? Hear three perspectives on this very large topic and begin to explore some of the rewards and challenges of teaching at a primarily minority institution. Bring your experiences, perspectives and questions.

UH’s own Dr. Imani Goffney (Curriculum and Instruction), will share her experiences of teaching at a primary minority institution.

~ Join Dr. Goffney along with your fellow graduate students and post-docs 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 326 Farish Hall (located on the 3rd floor of Farish Hall in the CITE computing lab suite 300).  Doors will open at 11:30 pm, and Dr. Goffney will remain in the lab after the session until 1:30 pm for an extended discussion and Q/A. Come enjoy a FREE lunch as you mingle with Dr. Goffney, students, and faculty!

Please RSVP (by Tuesday, March 26 at 5pm) to Hibah Salem at ( to ensure your seat!!

This Coffee Hour will also be facilitated through Blackboard Collaborate with the following faculty members from the CIRTL Network:

Tabitha Hardy, Post Doc, Institutional Research and Academic Career
Development Award (IRACDA) Fellow, University of Alabama at

Dr. Keri Mans, MERIT Postdoctoral Scholar, Department of
Neurobiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Event Flyer:

To join a Coffee Hour~
Sessions take place in the Blackboard Collaborate room.
·         The room opens one hour before each session.
·         Headphones are required to prevent audio feedback, which can occur when using computer speakers (provided by CITE Lab)
·         A microphone is also required (provided by CITE Lab)
·         Additional information, including a participant tutorial, is available at the Blackboard Collaborate<; page.

A teleconference line is also available as a back-up: 1 (855) 947-8255 , passcode: 7457 063#

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

Thanks for attending the DTAR “Writing” Workshop, 8 March 2013

Small Group Discussion_What is Writing

Small Group Discussion_What is Writing 2

We All Teach Writing” – so begins the DTAR instructional module on writing. The idea is that no matter our discipline, no matter the level of our students, we are brought together by the need to teach writing in our classrooms. So how do we teach it, even if we’re not English majors?

DTAR hoped to help answer that question with the 8 March TA workshop, a workshop focused on teaching writing. To work along with the “Teaching Writing in Your Classroom” instructional model, the workshop moderators focused on two overarching ideas: 1) learning to write and 2) writing to learn.

To begin the conversation about writing, small groups of TAs were asked to discuss what writing looks like in their specific disciplines, noting what forms it takes, how it’s taught, and how we talk about it. The small group discussions yielded two perspectives of the topics – with TAs discussing writing as both the teacher (in requiring writing assignments from students) and the student (in being required to write as graduate students).

As Sarah Fish, DTAR’s Graduate Assistant, wrote ideas on the board, the participants noted overlap between themselves and their students. We all stress about our writing assignments – though our stresses comes from different places; several audience members cited the pressure to create “publishable” writing, though our students may feel pressure to create writing that meets certain research formats. Members of the audience also commented that they are more likely to give their students clear guidelines for structure and content, but as graduate students, we often get instructions more along the lines of “write this assignment.”

To transition from what writing looks like in our disciplines to how we might better teach writing to our students, a panel of English PhD candidates – Allison Laubach Wright, Claire Anderson, and Sarah Fish – offered advice for incorporating the writing process (and thus learning to write) and writing as a thinking process (and thus writing to learn) into the classroom.

Wright began with what she referred to as a “textbook definition of process.” In this model, shown in the shape of a triangle, students often see the process as linear and explained through the ideas of Invention, Drafting, and Revision. Invention signals pre-writing work (i.e. brainstorming and outlining), drafting means writing out content, and revisions suggests that written material should be reviewed for content, style, and mechanics. She closed with noting that seeing the process as linear is problematic for students because writers tend to work more recursively, which is where Anderson stepped in.

Anderson began her presentation noting that the linear process – going from Invention to Drafting to Revision – doesn’t work for her, nor does it work for her students. “Despair is a big part of my process,” she told the audience, “and self loathing.” The textbook definition of process was a good starting point, but there are several ways we can disrupt that and help our students. To do this, Anderson offered three examples of “Re-Invention”:

  • Return to Diagrams – If we use diagrams to help students organize thoughts, then they should come back to those diagrams at a later time in the writing process to see if their ideas have changed.
  • Write Responses to Questions outside the Bounds of the Assignment – As brief activities related to the writing assignment, we can have students free-write to 1) “suggest evidence that would strengthen an author’s thesis,” 2) “write from an opposing point of view,” or 3) “consider how [the students] might perceive a piece of writing if it appeared in a different context.”
  • Reverse Outline – If students have already completed a draft, they can create a reverse outline in order to see what ideas actually make up their draft. This activity is a way to check for content and development of an idea.

Final presenter, Sarah Fish, emphasized the idea that writing can also help students with thinking through course material – whether it be a lecture, a textbook reading, or the requirements for a writing assignment. She acknowledged that any additional in-class writing could potentially take away from instructional time, so she offered five activities that she had modified or developed to get students writing while also thinking about course material:

  • 60 Second Mad Dash – Students have to write for a non-stop 60 seconds about upcoming lecture content.
  • Summary Haiki – Students write summaries of course content in haiku form.
  • De-Motivational Poster – Students create a summary of a topic with an image, and this activity works best if students are reading/discussing a topic that might need an infusion of humor.
  • Exit Slip – Students write a brief note about course content before leaving the class session.
  • Summary Tweet – Students summarize a lecture, reading, or idea for an assignment that is 160 characters or less.

To close the workshop, participants returned to their small groups to discuss what the panelists had mentioned and what could happen in the classroom. The audience was encouraged to consider how the material might have to be modified in order to fit the needs of the specific disciplines, and even more, how participants might need additional information to develop writing in their classrooms. Sarah Fish offered her email address to attendants, and Allison Laubach Wright encouraged everyone to make graduate writing appointments with her in Writing Center.


L. Morgan suggested Socrative as a free service to gather informal feedback from students.
C. Anderson provided her handout on disrupting a linear writing process.
S. Fish presented her information in Prezi form.

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, focusing on “Managing Conflict,” will be held on Thursday 11 April 2013 at 12:30 p.m. in 306 M.D. Anderson Library.

VIA Sherman Dorn: The Institutional Dilemmas of Online Education . . . .

USF Professor Sherman Dorn has some interesting perspectives on why online education cannot be treated as a “monolith,” and the difference that this makes for the perennial question of whether online education can generate significant revenue for institutions over and above their face-to-face classes:

The lesson here is that the organization of classes online (or blended) is affected by the same institutional constraints that affect face-to-face classes, making it unlikely that online education can be a significant “money-maker” for institutions.

Read the bullet points here.


Needs Assessment Survey Regarding Teaching and Training of Graduate Students; UPDATE: Deadline Extended to April 8

UPDATE: Please note that the Deadline for response has been pushed back to April 8.

Dr. Andrew Hamilton and CTE are co-sponsoring a Needs Assessment survey, which we hope you’ll answer, whether you are a graduate student, faculty member, or direct supervisor of TAs.

Here’s the notice, which you may have also seen in your email. Please take the time to respond at the links below, so that we can get a better sense of the campus-wide needs for TA support.  All responses will remain anonymous.

Thanks, DM


Dear Colleagues,

We’re writing to ask you to complete a needs assessment survey related to teaching and professional training of graduate students.  At present the University has no campus-wide TA or professional training requirements, even in basic policies and procedures.  While the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) offers TA training that is open to all graduate students, and many academic units also train their own TAs, these and other efforts have been largely discrete and on the basis of voluntary time, interest, and inclination. Recently, several units have expressed interest in scaling up these training efforts as a means to improving and enhancing undergraduate learning, preparing graduate students for the job market, meeting the demands of the accreditation process, and informing TAs more fully about University policies and expectations. In order to make that work fully meaningful, the first step in this effort is undertaking a university-wide needs assessment. This needs assessment is a way to determine what is working, what is not, and what faculty and TA supervisors, as well as graduate students, would like to see, if anything, from an expanded TA training program.

Please complete the survey at the appropriate link below by April 1.  All information collected through this needs assessment is and will remain anonymous.

For faculty and others who supervise TAs directly:

For faculty and central administration:

For graduate students:

Questions about the survey or its processes should be directed to Tamara Fish (tfish@Central.UH.EDU / 713-743-8040)

With best wishes,

Andrew Hamilton
Executive Director, Academic Innovation
UH Academic Affairs

Catherine Horn
Assoc. Professor, College of Education
Faculty Board of Directors, UH Center for Teaching Excellence

David Mazella,
Assoc. Professor, English
Director, UH Center for Teaching Excellence

VIA NYTimes: Financing for Colleges Declines as Costs Rise

Just so we’re all clear about this . . . .

State and local financing for higher education declined 7 percent in fiscal 2012, to $81.2 billion, according to the annual report of the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, and per-student support dropped 9 percent from the previous year, to $5,896, in constant dollars, the lowest level in at least 25 years.

And heres are the key paragraphs, which tie rising costs to degree completion rates:

Over the last 25 years, the share of public university revenues coming from tuition and fees has climbed steadily to 47 percent past year, from 23 percent in 1987. And with ever-higher tuition, full-time college attendance is out of reach for an increasing number of students, which bodes ill for their chances of completing a degree.

“We’ve developed a culture that says part-time study is O.K.,” Mr. Lingenfelter said. “But the more you go to school part time, the less likely you are to finish. We should be providing enough assistance that students can pay attention to their education, and not making a living for a short period of time, so they’ll be prepared to make a good living for a long time.”

Read the full NYTimes article from Tamar Lewin here.


Resources for Dealing with Student Issues of Concern

Dr. Heidi Kennedy, of Academic Program Management, sent this notice out, and I’m redistributing this list of resources so that everyone reading the blog has it to hand:

( )
Tel: 713-743-5454
CAPS offers various free and low-cost services to eligible UH current students (and employees, view their fee schedule for details ).
For after-hours, counselors may be contacted on a 24-hour crisis basis through the UH Police Tel: 713-743-3333

Recognizing and Referring Students in Crisis
Dealing with Disruptive Student Behavior
brochure published by the Dean of Students Office ( )
CART: Conduct Assessment & Response Team
CART coordinates University assests and resources in order to assess and respond to UH students who exhibit threatening and concerning behaviors.

The UH-DPS website contains an information resource page.
Emergency: call 911
UH-DPS – Non-emergency: call 713-743-3333