News & Announcements

Career Moves: Preparing Yourself for Work that Matters

Photo of Thomas Tobin

Angela Linse, Executive Director and Associate Dean of the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, participated in a sponsored session at the 42nd Annual Conference of the premier professional society in the field of instructional and faculty development, the POD Network in Higher Education in Montreal, Quebec, from October 25-29.

The session included a panel representing broad experience with positions and career moves in the faculty development profession. Participants discussed the rewards of a career in faculty development, similarities and differences between faculty and faculty development positions, strategies for job-market success, and skills, knowledge, and expertise needed to successfully engage in this work. They also explored emerging opportunities within the field.

Interpreting and using student ratings data: Guidance for faculty serving as administrators and on evaluation committees

Angela Linse, SITE's executive director and associate dean, has a new peer-reviewed publication "Interpreting and using student ratings data: Guidance for faculty serving as administrators and on evaluation committees," in the international journal Studies in Educational Evaluation. The article is an open access publication available at

The article is about the accurate interpretation of student ratings data and the appropriate use of that data to evaluate faculty. Its aim is to make recommendations for use and interpretation based on more than 80 years of student ratings research. As more colleges and universities use student ratings data to guide personnel decisions, it is critical that administrators and faculty evaluators have access to research-based information about their use and interpretation. The article serves as the source for an informational report to the Penn State University Faculty Senate on March 14, 2017 (Appendix R).

Using Journaling to Critically Think about Theory, Research and Practice

Roxanne Atterholt, MPRYC, CFLE, instructor and internship coordinator, Human Development and Family Studies Program, Penn State Shenango

Development from observation

As an Instructor for the Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) 229 course, Infant and Child Development, the basis of a theory and research log assignment was conceived from two notions. First, the necessity to align learning with the HDFS Program goal that students will demonstrate the ability to evaluate and apply research and theory to practice and policy. Second, a realization that students were generally understanding foundational theories in a shallow manner without being challenged to critically think upon origins, research and impact. Certainly, they could recite key terms, but a higher level of thinking was not being required.

Synthesizing ideas

Work then began to explore how other educators addressed what was thought to be a common phenomenon. Most certainly, numerous resources were available that discussed how to promote higher levels of thinking along with assignment examples. A hybrid idea emerged in which students would develop a journal containing theoretical concepts in addition to their own ideas about what they were learning, to foster `thinking like a researcher’ by collecting, organizing, analyzing, and interpreting information. It was envisioned that students, using structured assignment criteria, could demonstrate understanding of theoretical concepts, draw connections, discuss differences, critique research and ultimately develop their own personal perspective on infant and child development.

Encouraging deeper understanding

As theory is taught during the semester, students are prompted to record their initial understandings, questions, and the perceived strengths and weaknesses of each. Near the conclusion of the semester, student groups use class time to discuss their compiled ideas, critiques and perspectives. In addition, assignment rough drafts are presented for peer review to improve or clarify aspects of their work based on feedback. Perhaps most remarkable is that students are challenged to not simply understand the material but also to analyze, evaluate and create their own ideas about how these theories have impacted their thinking and could influence future practice with children and families.

Exploring the Assignment

HDFS 299 Infant & Child Development
Theory & Research Log


Given the many developmental theories that exist, you are likely to find some more interesting and plausible than others.

The assignment is to construct a directory of theoretical concepts while developing your personal perspective on infant & child development.


For six theories, include if they are best known for social, emotional, intellectual, moral or physical development of children, then briefly explain these theories. Describe each with enough detail so that comprehension is evident by listing important concepts, principles and research findings. Include what you find to be most important about the theory and also what you believe to be inadequate or questionable. It is essential that you discuss how thinking and/or future practice has or may be affected by this theory.

The majority of the assignment’s content must be on analysis, critique, comparison, applications, strengths, weaknesses, and potential impact on work with children and families.


When preparing the log, use Times Roman 12 point font with 1 inch margins that align with APA formatting. A reference page that corresponds with in text citations must be included. A cover page is required.

The assignment does not have a page requirement. The task is to address the above criteria in a comprehensive manner. The Theory & Research Log assignment must be submitted to Turnitin.

Pulling it all together

It is suggested that this particular assignment has been effective as a result of several factors. Students are encouraged to include theories and research that are personally meaningful and/or of the most interest to them. Moreover, the assignment offers a high level of challenge and stimulation in that students are encouraged to distinguish the relevance of theory and research into their daily professional and personal lives. Finally, through clear expectations, high support and peer review, students are encouraged to reason in a deeper way.

FaceAge: Perspectives on Aging (HDFS 497)—a novel approach to classroom learning

A final report from 2016-17 SITE Teaching Project Grant recipient Amy Lorek, Director of Education and Engagement, FaceAge project

We received many positive comments about the course and the reflections written by students indicated that they had both a meaningful and good learning experience. It was such a positive experience that we expect to offer the course again. With outstanding SITE assistance, guidance, and support for this course, we believe that we are at the beginning of a successful endeavor.

Quote extracted from youtube video

A fruitful recruitment effort produced 15 undergraduates and 14 older adult community members to form the student body for the course. Together class members discussed the experience of aging, childhood, adulthood and many other topics. We also spent time learning how to improve listening and storytelling skills and then applied this knowledge to working on a creative project. We had a wonderful 8 weeks together during the spring 2017 semester. A robust description of the course was created and posted on Penn State News. A video of the course was also created and is available on YouTube (silent visual presentation with text quotes from student participants).

As part of the course, student partners were tasked with creating a video or audio cast lasting about 2.5 minutes. We had a wide range of products yet each reflected the journey, topic, and connection that each undergraduate-community member partner set found meaningful.

As course instructor, my goal for the partner projects was to facilitate collaboration and creativity between community members and their Penn State student partner. Partners achieved those goals and had meaningful messages to share even though they had limited class time and personal technical skills to develop the end product.

Students may someday find themselves working alongside someone of a different age cohort with vastly different life experience. Community members helped the undergraduate students learn how to share ideas clearly, listen effectively, be respectful, and collaborate successfully with someone who is not their own age and with the added pressure that it mattered (grade assigned). Community members likely learned from students as well. The project was merely a vehicle for engagement and lesson learning. It was graded as such.

Photo of student and senior partners meeting. Image courtesy of Dennis Maney

Even though the goal was not a professional video, instead emphasis was on the connection and storytelling of the partners and we were extremely successful at partners finding meaningful stories to connect them. Since I was a novice in the video production domain, I learned quite a bit about how to facilitate the production of the videos. I relied on the expertise and good care of a technical support assistant whom I hired as part of this grant. Together we regularly listened to our students and adapted our approach as we learned of their challenges and worries. Each partner set produced a wonderful summary of their experience together; we later learned that the end product did not completely reflect what they had envisioned. Fortunately each video file plays well on a small computer, however, not every file translated to showing the work on a large projector and audio system. The primary challenge was that in some cases the audio volume was not carried over from small delivery (laptop/personal computer) to a large room platform. To follow up on class presentations, we posted the files on YouTube (private group post) so that students and community members could watch the videos again as they wished and with improved audio ability. We will be able to build on the knowledge we gained to improve both the process and product.

By attending a SITE workshop on “Student Centered Discussion” I learned about a tool that I used to structure intergenerational class discussions. The tool was modified for use in this course but the application of the tool assisted individuals participating in cross generational groups to have robust discussions. Community members needed help with focusing (and curbing) their discussion contributions; and undergraduate students needed help finding the courage to speak to communicate their ideas. The discussion tool helped each person with their individual needs and the tool’s process facilitated group structure that aided the experience of the discussion. Although the tool was designed for use with young adults, I found that I could customize it to use with older adults in order to facilitate intergenerational exchange. I will likely continue to use this teaching tool in my other courses.

Many partners collaborated to make this course a reality. Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence provided both the resources and momentum for other partners to join the effort. The Department of Human Development and Family Studies made room in a full curriculum to try out a new approach for students and advisors found students to enroll. Osher Lifelong Learning Institute was instrumental in publicizing and recruiting for this course. I expected that we would have to work hard to make the minimum enrollment needed for this course (8 students). We had an enthusiastic response from both students and OLLI members with a classroom of 29 total people…a sign that perhaps this sort of experiential learning focused on the application of content (aging/human development) and personal growth is welcomed by both students and older adults. The novelty of undergraduate students and community members in the classroom together to teach and learn from each other every week was a risk that each collaborator group and individual took to engage with this course. When we began, students and community members (and instructor too) were jittery with that risk of coming to a new kind of classroom learning experience. By then end of the course we celebrated new friendships and the new perspectives we have for both older and younger adulthood. We celebrated that an exchange took place rather than one-way teaching or learning.

OLLI and HDFS are both open to holding this course again in the spring of 2018. We are now working to make that happen. In addition, the curriculum that was developed with this course will be used as part of FaceAge engagement efforts during the 2017-2018 Penn State commonwealth campus tour. Andy Belser, creator of the FaceAge film (inspiration for the course), is the new Penn State Laureate and he will travel throughout Pennsylvania this coming year and use portions of the curriculum with Penn State students (and community members) at the commonwealth campuses. We solicited feedback from all of the course participants on how to improve class and course delivery and we will work to incorporate specific suggestions into the curriculum and its delivery.

Erie Regional Colloquy on Academic Integrity a Success

May 10, 2017

The Centers for Teaching and eLearning Initiatives (CTEI) at Penn State Behrend hosted the 8th regional colloquy on May 10. Focusing on building a culture of academic integrity, the full-day event included an interactive workshop, a panel discussion, and demonstrations of technology tools faculty can use to detect dishonest behaviors. More than 40 people participated in person or online.

Photo of Thomas Tobin

Dr. Thomas Tobin, speaker and author on copyright, academic integrity and distance education, led the half-day workshop in the morning. “I gained a lot of perspective on AI”, one participant wrote. “Enjoyable interaction, thought-provoking”, said another. The workshop encouraged instructors to be explicit with the type of originality they expect to see in student work. While recognizing there is no panacea to solve all AI problems, it urged educators to make more efforts on preventing dishonest behaviors, especially among the students on the fence.

Behrend faculty members, AI committee members and administrators joined together to hold the panel discussion. This eclectic array of individuals provided an all-encompassing outlook on academic integrity at Penn State. Along with the participants, the panel discussed actual violations that they’ve experienced and explained how they went about handling it. This compilation of strategies, University policies and preventative measures provided many options for faculty to consider when setting up their courses.

To conclude the day, members of the CTEI team demonstrated technology tools to help reinforcing academic honesty. The tools were: Turnitin, which assists with plagiarism detection in digitally submitted writing assignments, NetSupport, which allows faculty to monitor and interact with individual students working on lab computers, and Canvas features that permit randomization of questions and interaction logging during online quizzes.

The Erie Regional Colloquy is sponsored by Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence. For more information about this event, please contact Qi Dunsworth, director, Center for Teaching Initiatives at Penn State Erie.

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.

Workshops & Seminars