News and Announcements

Fall 2017 Graduate Student Online Teaching Certificate (GOTC)

Registration for the Fall 2017 Graduate Student Online Teaching Certificate (GOTC) opens August 1 and closes noon (Eastern) on August 31. The program, which starts on September 11, introduces the basics of online teaching through an asynchronous, instructor-led, five-week course designed to replicate an online academic class.

All current Penn State doctoral and masters students and post docs are eligible for this free, non-credit professional development.

Questions? Contact Larry Boggess or Shawna Cassick.

The Student Engagement Network (SEN) Grant Program is now accepting applications for Fall 2017!

The SEN will be awarding grants of up to $3,000 to support student engagement experiences. Examples include financial support for unpaid internships or research opportunities, living expenses, travel costs, and conference fees. Grant funding can also be used to compensate a student working fewer hours in order to be involved in a student club or organization on campus.

The application will be open August 16 through September 1. If you have questions about the grant program or how to apply, visit SEN in 102 HUB-Robeson Center, email them at, or call, (814) 863-5995.

2017-18 Teaching Transformation & Innovation Grants Awards Announced

We're pleased to announce the recipients of our 2017-18 Teaching Transformation & Innovation Grants.

  • Project Title: A Visual Design Interface for Course Content Knowledge Mapping and Engagement
    Peter Aeschbacher, Landscape Architecture, College of Arts and Architecture

    This project integrates information design with course design to produce a new, visually-based type of course content presentation that serves as a dynamic, comprehensive mapping of course content, an interface for navigation, and as a device to foster students' active, critical engagement with content.

    The test bed for the development of this design artifact is a general education course on the history of ideas in architecture and cities over the past two millennia. When typically presented as a declarative knowledge endeavor, such courses require little deductive, inductive, or abductive reasoning on the part of learners. Applying a 'generative diagram' approach from information design to course content information presentation and navigation can impact not only syllabus design but course design itself as it provides a new paradigm for navigating content in face-to-face and online courses.
  • Project Title: Integrating 21st Century Skills into Manufacturing Simulations
    Faisal Aqlan, Industrial Engineering, Penn State Erie
    Qi Dunsworth, Director, Center for Teaching Initiatives, Penn State Erie
    Mary Kahl, Communication, Penn State Erie

    To improve problem-solving skills among engineering students, this project will integrate the teaching of the 21st century skills into manufacturing simulations in IE470. IE470, Manufacturing Systems, is an undergraduate course taught by Dr. Faisal Aqlan. It requires hands-on experiments using prototypes of real manufacturing systems such as the car factory simulation kits provided by The LeanMan Company, and the manufacturing assembly workstations. Student teams will work on solving a series of problems and develop several manufacturing simulations to improve the performance of the manufacturing system (“lean manufacturing”). Students will learn how to think about their thinking and how to work in groups to benefit their projects throughout the semester. Student metacognitive skills, group working skills, and manufacturing systems performance will be assessed.
  • Project Title: Ecological Tourism: Design of a Resort Hotel & Landscape on Jekyll Island within a Sensitive Ecological Coastal Preserve
    Timothy Baird, Architecture and Landscape Architecture, College of Arts and Architecture
    Christine Gorby, Architecture, College of Arts and Architecture

    Professors Baird and Gorby will conduct a follow-up to their successful collaborative studio from fall 2016 with a compelling new program and site—the design of an eco-resort hotel situated in the ecologically sensitive native coastal dune and prairie landscape on Jekyll Island off the coast of Georgia. This studio will address issues of public versus private space, social equity relative to public open space access, ecologically sensitive design that deals with seal level rise and its inherent problems of beach erosion and property loss, and carrying capacity of sensitive landscapes.

    The principals have significant experience mentoring upper level students' independent projects for authentic sites in a variety of mostly Mid-Atlantic cities.

    This field site is an eco-tourism project spearheaded by the State of George on Jekyll Island. Currently, that area is undergoing tourism re-development and George is committing funds for its development. Curricula materials, methods and knowledge-gained from this pilot project will be transferable to similar coastal environments.
  • Project Title: Involving Students in the Design and Execution of Actual Microbiome Research Projects for Faculty Requiring this Expertise
    Terrence Bell, Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology, College of Agricultural Sciences

    This research project is central to student learning. It is useful to learn microbiome analysis tools, but these change. It is more useful to learn how to learn new tools and apply them to actual scientific research, rather than a class project with no incentives, outcomes, or impact.

    This project will serve faculty lacking experience in microbiome research. They provide a scientific question of interest to their lab that can be answered with microbiome sequencing. After lessons on experimental design, students will brainstorm a more specific question, hypothesis, and redesign. Candidate designs will be presented to the guest faculty member, and will require revisions. Once approved, students will execute most of the project. The main course assignment is a written article, in which students produce/interpret figures based on approaches learned in the course. Ideally, this will lead to publications, student presentations, and preliminary data for faculty.
  • Project Title: The Penn State Food Network: Using Videos to Teach Cooking Skills and the Science of Cooking
    Mary Dean Coleman, Nutritional Sciences, College of Health and Human Development
    Jennifer Meengs, Nutritional Sciences, College of Health and Human Development

    This project involves the incorporation of instructional videos for scientific principles of cooking class that involves a lecture and a laboratory component. The grant will provide funds to purchase video equipment and software that will be used to create videos that demonstrate cooking skills and explain chemical reactions that occur during cooking to assist students with their preparation for the foods lab and to enhance their understanding of the lecture material. The completed videos will be shared with students taking NUTR 320: Science and Methods of Food Preparation, to enhance their learning in the classroom and their preparation for the foods lab. In the future, we expect these videos will also be used in our NUTR 119: Basic Food Preparation course.
  • Project Title: Soaring to New Heights with BIRD
    Hailley Fargo, Library Learning Services, University Libraries
    Victoria Raish, Online Learning Librarian, University Libraries

    BIRD is created by MUV Interactive, and is a wearable unobtrusive interface that perches on your finger. Using BIRD allows the users to interact with content on any screen, manipulate digital material, and collaborate with others. Integrating BIRD into one-shot library instruction sessions has the potential to increase collaboration between students and between students and the instructor, increase levels of engagement, promote student ownership of learning and create a high-impact environment. To assess the impact of BIRD, the PIs will have a control and an experimental group. BIRD is a new technology, so the PIs will identify the ways in which this technology will be mediated situationally. Three librarians will conduct the same lesson plan in English 015 classes and either use BIRD or not. All groups will take a pre and post assessment test, resulting in quantitative data for analysis. This data will measure collaboration, engagement, motivation, and impact of the library session.
  • Project Title: Voices from the Field: Career Exploration for HDFS Students
    Kathryn Hynes, Health Development and Family Studies, College of Health and Human Development
    Marc McCann, HDFS Internship Director, College of Health and Human Development

    The HDFS department will develop a series of high quality videos of interviews with human service professionals to embed in 200 level World Campus courses. Short, engaging videos will be paired with text-based information about careers and links to career exploration resources to create a series of “Career Spotlights.” Early career exploration will help students take advantage of the many opportunities in the HDFS degree to select their courses and to apply theory and research of practice. Helping students draw direct connections between what they are learning and what they hope to do will increase engagement, motivation, and learning outcomes.

    Career Spotlight videos will be shared with HDFS faculty for use in course and internship offices at all Penn State campuses. On video filming days, we will maximize impact by hosting interactive career panels at the University Park campus. The panels will be broadcast for World Campus student participation and recorded for those who cannot attend.
  • Project Title: We Are Healthy Campaign
    Beth Potter, Microbiology, School of Science, Penn State Erie

    This project incorporates a service-learning project within the biology curriculum by having students enrolled in Introduction to Microbiology Laboratory (MICRB202) organize and implement a health rally for the Behrend campus community. The rally will focus on two currently relevant topics, proper handwashing and vaccinations. Though handwashing is a very easy and effective way to keep the rate of infections low, studies still show that many neglect to wash their hands or do not properly wash their hands. In regards to vaccines, their effectiveness in protecting us from certain diseases has been overshadowed by negative criticisms initiated by an error prone study in 1998. As part of the service-learning project, students will develop activities to demonstrate the importance of handwashing and vaccinations as well as conduct surveys before, during, and after the rally to understand if it was effective in increasing awareness of the importance of handwashing and vaccinations.
  • Project Title: COMSOL-Multiphysics Software
    Ola Rashwan, Mechanical Engineering, Penn State Harrisburg
    Issam Abu-Mahfouz, Engineering, Penn State Harrisburg
    Ma’moun Abu-Ayyad, Mechanical Engineering, Penn State Harrisburg
    Amit Banerjee, Mechanical Engineering, Penn State Harrisburg

    Penn State Harrisburg’s Mechanical Engineering/Mechanical Engineering Technology programs average 120 senior students/year. An important method of assessing our students’ design skills is through capstone projects. Capstone projects are multi-disciplinary in nature; they involve different mechanical and electrical components. Mechanical engineering students always find difficulties in visualizing the interactions among these components at the early development stage of their projects.

    Funds from this grant will be used to purchase multi-physics software COMSOL, which will enable students to visualize, devise, analyze and validate the performance of their system components before constructing their prototype that would save them time and cost. Also, it will enhance the students’ design and modeling skills by being able to envision the system response when the individual parameter(s) change(s). Students will learn this software with minimal formal instruction through online tutorials.
  • Project Title: Faculty Development for Holistic Education Minor
    Deborah Schussler, Education Policy Studies, College of Education
    Gaby Winqvist, Prevention Research Center, College of Health and Human Development
    Robert Roeser, Human Development and Family Students, Health and Human Development
    Christopher Uhl, Biology, Eberly College of Science
    Jeremy Engels, Communication Arts and Sciences, College of the Liberal Arts
    Siri Newman, Prevention Research Center, College of Health and Human Development

    Penn State offers students an outstanding education, but many students are missing an adequate context in which to understand those educational opportunities with respect to themselves, society, and the natural world. Although students are well prepared to answer the “what” questions, many students have not yet discovered their “why.” They have not found a strong sense of purpose. Therefore, a newly proposed interdisciplinary minor in Holistic Education, which will provide students dynamic, multifaceted experiences to guide them in discovering a sense of wholeness within their own lives. Faculty members teaching courses in the minor will attend a full day workshop that introduces the curricular and pedagogical aims of the new minor and engages them in the types of reflective and experiential activities that will be expected of students. Subsequent meetings will further enhance faculty development.
  • Project Title: Measuring Student Resilience using the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory (ELLI)
    Suzanne Shaffer, Educational Technology Services, College of Information Technology Services

    What impacts student success? It is a combination of factors including academics, circumstances, and personal attributes that students bring with them to the classroom. Each semester, I seek to improve the college readying course I teach (LL ED 005) to address the issues that stand in the way of student success. Course goals are evenly divided between developing college-level reading acumen and learning attributes that impact success. Since 2013, I have worked with students to improve learner attributes using the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory (ELLI), which measures seven dimensions of lifelong learning (Deakin Crick, Broadfoot, & Claxton, 2004, Deakin Crick & Yu, 2008). This project represents the final (and most important) project in a series using ELLI—with a specific focus on building students resilience. Funding is requested for a campus license to use ELLI for this final project to measure changes in resilience.
  • Project Title: Anatomy and Physiology Visualization and Recall Enhancement Activities
    Lola Smith, Biology, Eberly College of Science

    The proposed interactive activities are for Anatomy and Physiology courses to enhance student visualization and recall processes. There are two types 1) students place printed statements and/or terms in the correct order, 2) students place printed items onto a colored flow chart, which suggests the organization of information. The activities will follow information presentation using PowerPoint. The specific activities are divided by types as follows:

    Type 1: Muscle contraction steps: Students are given a sheet of paper with the steps printed in the correct order and are asked to read over the steps at least twice to become comfortable with the wordage. Next, the students are directed to turn that paper over and are given 18 strips with 1 or 2 statements on each strip. The statements are the steps in the process of muscle contraction. Then, in pairs, small groups, or individually, are told to put the cut out statements in the correct order. The ordering process is repeated until no corrections have to be made by verifying with the printed page.

    A similar activity is done with the steps to tissue repair except with this activity there are four bold printed, capitalized statements (these are the steps to tissue repair) that students put in the correct order first, then they are asked to place the remaining printed statements (process statements) under the correct step.

    Type 2: For this activity, the students start with a printed, blank, colored flow chart of the organization of the nervous system or the immune system. The associated terms are printed but cut out to fit the size of the blocks on the flow chart. The students are asked to place the term/terms in the correct location in the flow chart.

    I had the students complete a short survey rating the effectiveness of this activity. Overall, even students who are taking the course a second time indicated that the activity was very helpful.

    After inquiring with my (Spring 2017) students, our A&P tutor, and our campus instructional designer (Robin Gill), I determined that it would be advantageous to have these activities in three formats: 1) in class version on regular size paper, 2) large laminated, magnetic print for use on the white board in the CUE tutor center, and 3) a digital version for use within a course management site (CANVAS, etc.). The digital version would be a drag and drop style format. Students would drag the statements into positions, if it was not in the correct order then the program would pop it away and the student would choose another statement or term.
  • Project Title: Curator’s Workshop: A New Course Offering for a Growing Field of Inquire
    Ann Tarantino, School of Visual Arts, College of Arts & Architecture

    Art 497: Curator’s Workshop is a hands-on experience in curatorial practices and exhibition design. Students will research on historical and contemporary curatorial practices, gain and understanding of how curators function within institutional settings and alternative spaces, practice curatorial writing, and collaboratively design and implement an exhibition in a campus gallery space. Curator’s Workshop provides students with a timely opportunity to engage with a growing field of cross-disciplinary while offering practical skills and experiences.
  • Project Title: Workshops for Faculty: Improving Pedagogy through Improve Theatre
    James Tierney, Economics, College of the Liberal Arts
    Andrea McCloskey, Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education
    Samuel Tanner, Division of Education, Human Development, and Social Sciences, Penn State Altoona

    Improvisational theater (improv) teaches useful classroom skills. Improv emphasizes the importance of listening, the benefits of collaboration, and the necessity of accepting vulnerability and risk taking as a part of the learning process. We are a cross-discipline group of faculty, and we have developed a sequence of improv workshops. These workshops will invite instructors from all backgrounds and disciplines to reflect on their pedagogy in relationship to principles and practices of improv. We will bring disciplines to reflect on their pedagogy in relationship to principles and practices of improve as a teaching practice which can help them reflect on teaching, create new ways to exist in the classroom, and inspire creativity. These benefits will enhance the learning experiences of many PSU students. The eight series sequence will include a visiting professional improviser for one session, culminate with a public performance, and will serve as a pilot for additional professional development models.

Faculty Receive Grants to Attend Lilly Teaching Conference

Each year, we offer competitive grants for faculty members of any rank to attend the Lilly Conference on College and University Teaching in Bethesda, MD. This year's grant recipients were Patricia Buchanan, Statistics, Eberly College of Science; Crista Crittenden, Biobehavioral Health, College of Health & Human Development; Joan Smeltzer, Mathematics, Penn State York; and Sophie Wisniewski Penney, Outreach, College of the Liberal Arts. Grant recipients were accompanied by SITE Instructional Consultants Chas Brua and Mary Ann Tobin. Two additional Penn State faculty who attended the conference are Deirdre Folkers, Information Sciences & Technology, Penn State York, and Mary Ann Walters, Business and Economics, Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus.

Photo of Penn State faculty attending the 2017 Lilly Teaching Conference

Lilly-Bethesda 2017 focused on "Evidence-based Teaching and Learning," and featured plenary sessions on dynamic lecturing, transparent pedagogy, metacognition and active learning, and academic integrity. Attendees appreciated the opportunity to meet faculty members from other institutions across the United States, as well as the content of the sessions and plenaries. Penney reports upon the value of the conference, saying that it “expanded my thinking and shifted my perspective in ways that will benefit my students.”

Grant recipients are expected to share the knowledge and teaching strategies they gain as a result of attendance, and Buchanan is already planning “to start with dynamic lecturing,” which she believes will be of great use in her upcoming, large enrollment courses.

For information about this grant opportunity or any of the others offered by SITE, visit our grants page, send us an email message, or call 814-863-2599.

Desirable Difficulties

This posting on the Learning Scientists Blog talks about Desireable Difficulties, the idea that students learn best when they are challenged at just the right level—not too easy and not too difficult. The concept is challenging in and of itself because whether students are challenged at the "desireable" level is determined after the fact.

Learn more about this learning theory from its originator and from others who have tried to apply it in different learning contexts.

Inclusive Teaching: What does it mean and what can we do about it?

In a report presented to the University Faculty Senate on January 24, 2017, Addressing Issues of Classroom Climate and Bias in the Classroom, the senate committee on Educational Equity and Campus Environment (EECE) recommended that the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence make available resources to help faculty address issues of classroom climate and implicit bias. An appendix to the committee report includes a worksheet from our workshop “Teaching Inclusive Courses.” The Inclusive Teaching worksheet, as well as other resources and materials, are available in our Tools & Resources repository. Simply visit the link and enter the search term "inclusive teaching" in the search box. While the worksheet may be used individually by faculty, it is not a checklist, nor a prescription. This is an activity designed for a workshop. No one faculty member would be likely to use every strategy, nor would using all of them guarantee an inclusive learning environment. Faculty find the activity more useful within the context of the workshop, which is designed to encourage discussion among participants. The workshop includes other activities and generates interest in the research that prompted development of these strategies. The workshop also serves as a forum for faculty to give voice to their own questions.

Our inclusive teaching workshops are available at the request of any program, department, campus or college, without cost and at the convenience of the faculty. Penn State Altoona, the College of Agricultural Sciences, and the STEM Teaching Group, which includes a sampling of faculty from three colleges, have participated in earlier iterations of this workshop. We refine the workshop every time we conduct it, whether here or at other institutions such as the University of Connecticut’s College of Medicine and the University of New Hampshire. We have presented the workshop and its unique design at number of conferences including the annual conference of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) in 2016.

Our inclusive teaching workshops are designed with faculty in mind. The design is founded on the assumption that most faculty are already aware of the importance of diversity and inclusion. However, fewer faculty are aware of how the lack of inclusion can have a negative impact on students’ learning and faculty teaching. Experience indicates that even the most caring faculty may not know what actions they can take in their own courses or how to respond to inadvertent or overt biases expressed in the classroom. The workshop design ensures that faculty walk away from the workshop with strategies they can use in their next class session, but also includes information about the underlying issues and why they matter in all courses and all disciplines. This workshop does not pretend to have all the answers, but does provide assurance that faculty can take actions that matter, and it opens the door for future discussions and deeper explorations.

Penn State's All In Image

As President Barron, the ECEE, and President’s Council on Racial and Ethnic Diversity have noted, we continue to hear reports from students that they experience implicit biases, stereotype threat, and micro and macro aggressions in our classrooms. Research indicates that a negative classroom climate can hinder students’ learning, and faculty teaching. Even if you cannot attend a workshop, come talk to us about inclusion, diversity, teaching, and learning.

Other important information provided during the recent senate meeting includes the university’s Report A Bias Incident, webpage hosted by the Office of Educational Equity, and that the Office of Affirmative Action offers a variety of training activities for the Penn State community.

Do not hesitate! Invite us to bring this workshop to your faculty! Contact us at or 814-863-2599 for more information.

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.