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



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

VIA Flavorwire: Learn from the Best: 10 Course Syllabi by Famous Authors


If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to have taken courses from some famous writers (like UH’s own Donald Barthelme), culture blog Flavorwire posted copies (complete with student annotations) of authors like novelist David Foster Wallace, Barthelme, novelist Zadie Smith, poet W.H. Auden, and cartoonist Lynda Barry.

Honors for the toughest reading load has to go to Auden, who seems to have assigned over 6000 pages to his University of Michigan juniors, seniors, and graduate students, though admittedly he did drop The Education of Henry Adams and Faust, pt I (for lack of time?).  Honors for toughest tone goes to Lily Hoang, who informs her writing students: “This is a graduate workshop. If you don’t know what this means, I suggest you go buy a book on fiction.”  Prize for best illustrations goes to cartoonist Lynda Barry, who distributed this syllabus page:


Read the whole thing, and have a good weekend.