News and Announcements

Some Basic Questions about PowerPoint Slides

Maryellen Weimer, PhD, July 8, 2019

PowerPoint has become so commonplace in classrooms that instructors rarely give it a lot of thought. For that reason, it may be time to revisit some PowerPoint fundamentals.

In this article Maryellen Weimer, Penn State professor emeritus, provides valuable and thought-provoking questions we might ask about our use of slides to teach courses in all disciplines at all levels. Check it out!

The Teaching Professor

Improv & Pedagogy Group Returns This Fall

SITE proudly sponsors the Improv & Pedagogy Faculty Learning Group for another year. This highly popular teaching community continues to draw participants from multiple disciplines and departments, who report immediate application of the skills they learn in the group to their classrooms and workspaces. Find out how by attending one of their three meetings this semester.

  • Friday, September 13th
  • Friday, October 25th
  • Friday, November 15th

All three meetings will be held at 3 Dots Downtown (corner of Beaver & Pugh) from 11:30 – 1 pm. Lunch will be provided. Afterwards, we'll chat about improv & pedagogy, and people will be invited to perform. Come for all or part of the festivities. This will be a no-pressure environment and will be a ton of fun!

Meetings are open to anyone in the Penn State system interested in improv and learning. No experience with improvisation is required! Spring dates will announced prior to this semester's end.

Don't miss out on this unique teaching and learning experience! Email to join today!

New Teaching Events Calendar Now Available

Do you have trouble keeping track of what teaching-related events are available when and from where? You're not alone. The University has recently introduced a new calendar for Office 365 Outlook users. The Teaching Events calendar is a collaboration of units responsible for providing teaching events and resources for faculty and graduate instructors.

Instructions for adding the Teaching Events calendar (Old Outlook for Web)

Screenshot of adding a calendar. Instructions can be found at

Screenshot of adding a calendar. Instructions can be found at

Screenshot of adding a calendar. Instructions can be found at

Instructions for adding the Teaching Events calendar (New Outlook for Web)

If you are using the New Outlook, you should select "Import Calendar" (which will open a new page) then select "from Directory," and type Teaching Events and it should appear.

Screenshot of adding a calendar. Instructions can be found at

Instructions for adding the Teaching Events calendar (Outlook for Desktop)

Screenshot of adding a calendar. Instructions can be found at

Smith Joins Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence

Staff Photo of Adam SmithPlease join us in welcoming Adam Smith, assistant research professor of Teaching and Learning Scholarship, to the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence.

In his new role, he hopes to advance conversations to promote diverse perspectives in the classroom, promoting a culture of dialogue around difficult classroom conversations. In addition, Smith is interested in the role of transparency in assignment design and as it relates to teaching more broadly, with a growing body of research suggesting that this can affect how students perceive the environment as welcoming or not. Finally, he remains committed to the value of faculty self-care to improving outcomes in and out of the classroom, having co-presented this work at multiple national conferences.

Prior to coming to Penn State, Smith served as an instructional consultant at Texas Tech University and Texas A&M University. "Dr. Smith brings a wealth of experience working with faculty at research institutions," commented Angela Linse, executive director and associate dean of the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence. He has worked extensively with graduate students through Texas Tech’s TEACH and Groundwork programs, both designed to help assist graduate instructors through workshops and one-on-one coaching and consultation. Through this program and others at Texas Tech, he is a firm believer in the power of peer observation, believing that we can learn from each other in ways that can surprise us. "Adam’s multi-disciplinary background in the Arts and Social Sciences will complement the disciplines represented by the faculty on our instructional consulting and research team," Linse added.

In addition to his work in faculty development, Dr. Smith also maintains a musical life as a teacher and performer. As a pianist, he has performed both solo recitals and in ensembles such as jazz, Zydeco, and tango. He believes that staying in touch with the day-to-day challenges of teaching and learning through music helps him relate to the issues faced by faculty in all disciplines.

Penn State Faculty participate in Human Flourishing Retreat

The Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, along with the Office for General Education, is a proud sponsor of the HUMAN FLOURISHING RETREAT, held May 15-17, 2019 at the University Park campus. Faculty from across Penn State gathered together for an intensive three-day workshop to learn more about human flourishing; an innovative new curriculum intended to support the mental, physical and spiritual well-being of Penn State students. HDFS 108N: The Science and Art of Human Flourishing will be offered as an inter-domain general education course for students at participating campuses.

Led by Robert Roeser, Bennett Pierce Professor of Caring and Compassion, and Siri Newman, Program Coordinator for PEACE, the group is working with researchers at the University of Virginia and the University of Wisconsin-Madison to develop a robust and evidence-based set of teaching materials that bring together studies from the sciences, humanities, and social sciences; and integrate these perspectives with a set of practices, including yoga and meditation, drawn from a wide range of cultural contexts.

Group photo of retreat participants

The Schreyer Institute’s Laura Cruz (far left) was on hand to support on-going research and grant activity related to the course. The workshop received support through a Bringing Theory to Practice grant from the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).

CHE's Teaching Newsletter Seeks Teaching Experimenters and Innovators

Are you trying something new in your classroom or on your campus this fall? The Chronicle of Higher Education's Teaching Newsletter wants to hear about it!

They say, "If you're willing to let us follow you throughout the experience (not literally, of course — we'll give you space!) and possibly write about what you learned from it, fill out this form."

Teaching is a free newsletter produced by Chronicle journalists "who cover teaching and learning, and contains a mix of short articles and links to other material, in The Chronicle and beyond." Topics include teaching, assessment, and engagement strategies; innovative grading practices; teaching first-generation, adult, and traditional undergraduate and graduate students; "taking the sting out of student evaluations"; and podcasts and other resources on teaching and learning.

Subscribe to receive Teaching weekly by email, and visit their website to catch up on past issues.

Keeping it Real - Teaching with Archival Materials Workshops

This fall, SITE teams up with University Libraries to present workshops on teaching with archival materials from a critical pedagogical perspective.

In "The Power of Primary Sources: Integrating Archives into the Critical Classroom," Julie M. Porterfield, Instruction & Outreach Archivist at University Park,Photo of Julie Porterfield, provided by Porterfield. shares examples of integrating critical pedagogical techniques and new elements of social justice, diversity, and inclusion into your classrooms by utilizing primary sources as a tool for meeting critical learning outcomes. Instructors new to and practiced in critical pedagogy are welcome to attend. Participants will discover the pedagogical potential of primary resources in archives and special collections libraries and experiment with primary source analysis in order to analyze its usefulness as a critical pedagogical technique.

Porterfield serves Penn State University Libraries as both the Instruction & Outreach Archivist and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Library Liaison. Her work focuses on women and feminism in archives, archival outreach to campus and community groups, and teaching archival and primary source literacies with critical pedagogical techniques. Read more about her work in Social Justice and Activism in Libraries: Essays on Diversity and Change (2019) and Pennsylvania Libraries: Research & Practice (2018). Additionally, she is an active member of the Reference, Access, and Outreach Section of the Society of American Archivists, serving as its Chair for the 2019-2020 term.

Register and find full details for the September 24 face-to-face or October 22 Zoom session at our Events page.

  • Tuesday, September 24, 12:15 - 1:15 p.m.
    Mann Assembly Room, Paterno Library, University Park
  • Tuesday, October 22, 12:15 - 1:15 p.m.
    Online via Zoom

Do your students struggle with key concepts or skills?

Most of us know of at least one place in any given course where our students typically struggle with a key concept or skill.

Joan Middendorf and David Pace at Indiana University developed a method to enable faculty to do something about these "bottlenecks"—places where students get stuck:

Decoding the Disciplines is a process for increasing student learning by narrowing the gap between expert and novice thinking and a link to their website.

Schedule a customized workshop on this method for yourself and your colleagues. For your own personal consultation, contact us at

STEM faculty who believe ability is fixed have larger racial achievement gaps and inspire less student motivation in their classes

By Elizabeth A. Canning, et al. | Feb 1st, 2019

STEM faculty who believe ability is fixed have larger racial achievement gaps and inspire less student motivation in their classes. Faculty members who espouse fixed mindset beliefs endorse the idea that intelligence and ability are fixed, innate qualities that cannot be changed or developed much. In contrast, faculty who espouse growth mindset beliefs endorse the idea that ability is malleable and can be developed through persistence, good strategies, and quality mentoring.

Read more…

Using the USA2 Framework to Make Informed Instructional Technology Decisions

By Suzanne David, MA, and Maria Fernandez, MS

Many instructional technologies do not achieve high levels of use in an institution. Others are adopted but quickly abandoned. Technologies fail for myriad reasons, but many failures can be avoided if a comprehensive evaluation process is used before adoption. We developed the USA2 framework to guide institutions in asking the right questions before adopting a new technology. In addressing utilitysecurityaccessibilityusabilityscalability, and affordability, the framework covers the critical issues schools must be examine when deciding whether to adopt a new technology.

Read more…

Enacting the Work of Language Instruction, HIGH-LEVERAGE TEACHING PRACTICES

This is a short excerpt from the ACTFL publication Enacting the Work of Language Instruction HIGH-LEVERAGE TEACHING PRACTICES by Eileen W. Glisan and Richard Donato. It shares practical strategies for high impact language teaching.

SRTEs Go Mobile!

This semester students can choose to submit SRTEs using the new mobile friendly web version for phones and tablets. No app download is necessary, upon sign-in students will see this option when they have active SRTEs to complete. Students may find it convenient to respond to open-ended questions using the voice-recognition built into their mobile devices.

Screen shot of mobile icon from SRTE tool. 
Screen shot of Mobile SRTE icon.

When students choose the mobile option, they will see only one question at a time, rather than the entire SRTE form on their screens.

The regular web version SRTE is still available for students with laptops or without mobile devices.

Faculty will also be able to use the mobile version to check response rates for courses with active SRTEs. Those faculty who are concerned about response rates will be interested in taking advantage of this new functionality by asking students with mobile devices to complete their SRTEs during class.

Faculty: please remember that if you set aside class time for students to complete the SRTE, you need to leave the room.