Category: Collaborative Teaching Ideas

The posts in this category will primarily describe various collaborative teaching ideas which might be useful in the classroom.

3 New Google Drive Features Teachers Should Know About

I know some of you are using Google documents for collaboration purposes with your students and I thought you would find this article from Educational Technology Interesting.  I particularly like the first feature which allows for easy inclusion of citations in the documents.

Check out the article: 3 New Google Drive Features Teachers Should Know About

Visual Teaching Strategies

by Dr. Cynthia Wilkins

Rently I had the opportunity to present a webinar on the topic Visual Teaching Strategies.  I opened with an overview of John Hattie’s theory of visible learning (Click HERE for more information on his theory).  In the webinar some examples of teacher actions and instructional techniques along with their effect sizes were presented.  Some of these techniques were considered “tried and true” but were surprising in that the effect size was much lower than expected.  The webinar moved into a presentation of characteristics of the millennial student – how their lives are different from earlier generations of students, and how teaching can be adapted to accommodate these differences.  Four examples of how technology can be effectively integrated into college-level instruction were presented. At the end of the webinar I answered some of the questions which had been posted when participants registered for the webinar, such as how modifications to PowerPoint and other presentations could be modified to reduce the cognitive load, or overload, on students with a goal of helping them retain more information.

Participants responded to points in the webinar via chat messages with questions and ideas.  A one page summary of effective PowerPoint development ideas and a PowerPoint of ways to integrate technology into instruction were offered to the participants and I would be happy to send this to you if interested (email:

Visual teaching strategies is a perfect match for the adult studies program as it meets the learning style of most adults.  I hope you will take time to watch the webinar.

Great Example for Classroom Use

I just say this post on a blog that I’m following and wanted to share it with you:  Steve Jobs on Communicating Your Core Values

The reasons why I’ve re-posted it here through the link above are:

  1. It is about a key figure in our current economy/society discussing a major brand which our students can identify with.
  2. It speaks to the fundamental importance of core values which can provide an interesting discussion.
  3. In the last sections of the article the author turns to a discussion of message and presentation, which is relevant for marketing/branding discussions.

One way I might use this in class is to either print out copies of the article or have prepared a QR code of the link to put on the screen so students can easily look it up on their mobile devices (How to easily create QR codes).  Divide the class into groups of 3-4 and assign each group to analyze the article.  Assign one group to focus on the core values and cross relevance to their lives/occupations.  Assign another group to focus on the manner of presenting the message and discuss how Job’s approach in delivering the message contributed to the Brand, potential effects for the company and then cross relevance to their own companies and their message. You can duplicate these groups if you have more students.  Then bring the class back together to debrief each topic: the core values, and the message. Remember if you don’t debrief the time spent in these groups and add your observations it is not as effective.

I’m sure you can think of other ways to use this article – please respond to this post with your ideas so others can benefit.



Teachers Guide to Using Google Forms

The article below comes from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning.  They do an great job on providing information to educators about technology that will enhance the classroom experience, as well as ideas about how to use technology more effectively for teaching.

This particular article deals with Google forms.  You may remember this being touched on in one of our webinars: Google Docs in the Classroom.   Google forms is a powerful application for conducting polls, gathering information, etc.  I think if you take the time to read through this guide a lot of ideas about how you can use it will come to mind.

If you have any questions or would like some personal instruction on using google forms, or just want to brainstorm on a teaching idea, don’t hesitate to contact me:

Teachers Guide to Using Google Forms

Google Forms is a powerful tool with huge educational potential for teachers and educators. Besides being free and easy to use, Forms works across different devices and is seamlessly integrated with other Drive services such as Docs and Spreadsheets. As a teacher, you can use Forms for a variety of purposes including: planning an event, making surveys and polls, creating quizzes, collecting feedback and other information from students and many more.  READ MORE

Although this is a separate article from Educational Technology, it bears on the above in that it shows you how to set up forms so that you can be notified when students submit responses to the form(s) you have created.

Read about this here

Strategy for Using Peer Reviews to Improve Student Papers

By Kim Priesmeyer
Full Time Faculty, Belhaven Houston

As an instructor who assigns a lot of writing, I’m always looking for ways to engage students in peer review.  However, just telling students to “peer review each other’s papers” can be unproductive, or even worse, dull.  Typically, students don’t know what to do with those papers, and comments can be uninspiring.

One way to bring energy and effectiveness to the process is something called Round Robin Peer Review (also available on the Faculty Resources tab under “Other Resources).  It’s pretty easy for any instructor to use, and it can be modified for any assignment depending on the requirements.  It keeps students and papers moving, and it gives peer reviewers a specific focus.  Here are the basics:

  1. Pass out the peer review form and have each student write his name at the top where it says “writer’s name.”
  1. Tell students to pass their paper and their form to the right. They should now be holding someone else’s paper and form.
  1. Inform students that they will be given 10 mins. to critique just the first category on the peer review form. Set a timer.
  1. When the timer goes off, students will pass the paper and form to the right. The next peer reviewer will critique only the second category for 10 mins.  And so on…

Ways to modify for your course:

  • Change the categories to peer review
  • Set different time limits for each session
  • Provide critique expectations (for example, I might require a three-sentence critique minimum)

Ways to coach students before the process begins:

  • Model the process with a couple of volunteers
  • Provide examples of “critique” comments that are specific and useful
  • Tell students it’s OK for the peer reviewer and writer to communicate during the process
  • Prepare students for constructive criticism: it’s not about complimenting each other; it’s about improved writing
  • Tell students they’re not required to make suggested changes, but they must at least consider them
  • Give students permission to write on each other’s papers; peer review isn’t always neat and tidy

Give it a try and let me know your thoughts.  You can email me at

Collaboration is More Than Busy Work

I know there are some who are reading this whose opinion of collaborative exercises is low, that is assuming they read this at all!  I have to confess that I have seen some collaborative exercises/assignments that really were nothing more than busywork, or worse.  It is a fact that any collaborative exercise or assignment that doesn’t have clear learning outcomes probably fits that description.

However, I’m glad to say, that is not the norm.  When well designed and thought through, collaborative exercises/assignments are powerful tools to achieve student learning, particularly with adults.  There are quite a few posts in this category already here on the faculty blog (simply click on the Collaborative Teaching Ideas link under Categories to the right) and many more examples of excellent activities can be found by searching the web.

But I want to reinforce the importance of having clear learning outcomes before adding these activities.  I’ve said this before and I truly believe it, collaborative teaching can feel like controlled chaos, and sometimes only marginally controlled!  Without the boundaries of clear learning outcomes, the can quickly activities deteriorate into a waste of classroom time.

It takes some time to effective plan and implement these activities – which is one of the reasons I think many Instructors eschew them entirely or find them ineffective when they do try them.  Planning the outcomes, and then designing the activity so that it achieves the outcomes, including the debriefing which is a big part of the learning, can make connections for adult learners that just don’t happen through lecture.

So here is the process I use:

  1. What is the subject or topic that I want to reinforce/teach?
  2. What do I want the student to walk away knowing? This is the learning outcome and I put this down in a clearly written sentence.
  3. Think about what learning activity can I use which will get the students to engage the topic or subject.  Sometimes it is a hands on experience, other times it requires movement, other times it can be problem based or through role playing or debates.  There really are so many options that it is hard to list them all.  I have included a longer list under Faculty Resources/White Papers titled Collaborative Teaching Options.
  4. Work out the plan for implementing the exercise in class including resources you need to bring with you and how much time it will take.  It usually takes a few times to get the time figured out correctly.
  5. Conduct the exercise, being cognizant that things can drift out of control and you need to stay engaged and provide direction.  It is not “Practice that makes Perfect,” but “Guided practice that makes perfect.”
  6. Debrief the exercise and hone in on the learning outcome by asking questions that direct the students to think about the exercise in relationship to what you wanted them to come away with.  You may want to plan your debrief questions ahead of time.
  7. Refine the exercise for the next time you use it.

I hope you’ll give it a try.  It can be amazingly rewarding to see the light come on in a student’s eyes as they engage in the debrief and make a crucial connection to their life.

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Foster Critical Thinking

by Elizabeth Juneau
Co-presenter with Dr. Jerald Meadows
Webinar:  Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Foster Critical Thinking

Bloom’s Taxonomy was named for Benjamin Bloom, who created the taxonomy in 1956, revised in 2000. The taxonomy has different domains, but our focus is the cognitive learning domain. The cognitive domain has seven levels:

  1. Knowledge/Remembering- Basic recall and remembering of facts
  2. Comprehension/Understanding- Understanding of facts and ideas
  3. Application/Applying- Making use of the knowledge and information; problem solving
  4. Analysis/Analyzing- Examining and breaking apart information; making inferences and giving evidence to support a claim
  5. Synthesis/Evaluating- Making a judgement regarding the information; defending opinions and judgements
  6. Evaluate/Creating- Producing and generating ideas independently using knowledge and information; thinking abstractly

When using Bloom’s Taxonomy to plan lessons, begin with your end in mind. What is the goal for your lesson? Your unit? Do you want to cover more than one level in a lecture? What about the end of your course? What do you want your students to gain? By utilizing Bloom’s Taxonomy, you can create a road map of where you want to go throughout the course of your individual lectures, modules, and course as whole.

I currently teach sixth grade gifted students in Alabama. For the month of October, our focus in English was Edgar Allen Poe and scary stories, discussing character and plot development, figurative language, and analysis of a piece of literature. I knew, by the end of the unit, I wanted my students to create their own scary story (Level 6) to demonstrate mastery of the skills. I then used each level to scaffold my lessons to get my students to that level. Here are some sample questions I used to guide them through the levels of Bloom’s:

  1. Knowledge/Remembering: Tell me the main events in “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Masque of the Red Death”
  2. Comprehension/Understanding- Compare and contrast Montresor of “The Cask of Amontillado” and Prince from “The Masque of Red Death”
  3. Application/Applying- Sketch a picture of the Prince’s apartment according to the description in “The Masque of the Red Death.” Interpret what each color room represents.
  4. Analysis/Analyzing- Which story do you feel makes the best use of figurative language to create a feeling of uneasiness and suspense? Cite evidence from the text.
  5. Synthesis/Evaluating- Were Prince’s actions in “The Masque of the Red Death” noble? Why or why not?
  6. Evaluate/Creating- After several weeks reading selections by Poe, discussing plot and character development, mood, and tone, students will write their own scary/suspenseful short story.

Bloom’s Taxonomy also creates a level of accountability for the instructor and the students. By clearly laying out the goals for you students at each level, they can see how each part of the course works together and then how to relate what they are learning to other aspects of their coursework. As you move through your course, you can relate the information to other courses, recall back to previous levels if students are stuck “Remember this from a week ago, try thinking about it in a new way…”, and also reference the information and knowledge with clues to say “This bit of information will be used later in in your project this way….”

It is important to remember, the goal in using Bloom’s is to guide your learners up through the taxonomy, gaining and utilizing their knowledge at each level. You can’t skim over levels, then you may run the risk of students not fully grasping the information or knowing how to apply it. As students move forward, mastering each level, they are able to take control of their learning, take control of the information and knowledge presented, the student can be empowered, growing a student in their knowledge, but growing as an individual who is capable of so much more than we or they can believe.

For other information about using Bloom’s to enhance your Collaborative Learning Strategy (CLS) check out this matrix of verbs which identify the level of Blooms.  Also, if you weren’t able to attend the webinar, please check it out at the link above.

SWOT Analysis using a Zig Zag Activity

Although I posted this link several months ago, I think now with the revised curriculum and the emphasis on collaborative learning activities I would bring it back.  SWOT Analysis is one of the basic strategic planning tools used by businesses.  There are a lot of great, short, videos on Youtube which describe what a SWOT analysis is and how to conduct the analysis.  My favorite can be found at this LINK.  The short video below incorporates the SWOT analysis into a classroom activity that promotes student involvement. It is not professionally created but I think you will get the message.  I created the video using a free ipad app: bcontext 

It can seem to be a little chaotic but this activity enhances student engagement and provides a wealth of opportunities for the Instructor to discuss the process as well as the subject of the SWOT analysis.  I think if you try it you will find you will enjoy it.  Save this activity for the latter part of your class period and allow an hour to 90 minutes depending on the size of the class.  You will also need some large poster paper which you can get from the Dean at your campus and four markers.  If you are doing this online, set up four collaborative pages in Canvas, one for each letter (SWOT) and have groups move through in rotation on four consecutive days.  You can set up a separate discussion forum to debrief the experience or compile into a fifth collaborative page.

Swot Analysis Using Zigzag Exercise

View more presentations from Rick Upchurch

Using Case Studies to Enhance Learning in the Classroom

Case Studies have been a tried and true teaching methodology from the beginning of instruction.  Every great teacher has used case studies to bring their students into contact with real life applications of the subject being discussed.  Jesus used mini, or condensed, case studies for the same purpose. Dr. Paul Fritz from Trinity College has a great article on “How to Use Case Studies as Jesus Did” that I encourage you to read.  The Bible itself is full of case studies on a variety of subjects, in fact The Good Book on Leadership is a book entirely devoted to case studies drawn from the Bible.

The graduate curriculum re-design has left space intentionally for collaborative activities to be used in the classroom.  On the list of recommended activities is the use of Case Studies.  However, finding a case study for use may not be easy.  To that end, I’ve asked the wonderful people at our library to provide some easy to find FREE case studies which can be searched on a variety of topics for use in the classroom. They have provided me with this short tutorial which will guide you to resources available through the Belhaven University Library.  I had to stop the tutorial at several points to make sure I could follow, as it auto-progresses through a presentation, but there is gold there if you follow the steps presented.  Of course there are many other paid sources of case studies, such as the book I listed above.  A search on Amazon or similar will turn up many options.

I’ve also gone ahead and prepared a Case Study Analysis model for your use in the classroom.  This is merely to provide a resource to you in case you don’t already have a model for students to use in analyzing case studies.  It is a simple model but should enable your students to get started in the right direction and open up opportunities for learning to take place.  You can find it on the Faculty Resources tab of this Blog, under the White Papers:  Case Study Analysis.

Using this collaborative time may feel a little chaotic at first, but if you have thought through your Collaborative Learning Strategy, I’m confident you will find that both you and the students will be stronger for the experiences. Check out other collaborative ideas at this site by clicking on the category Collaborative Teaching Ideas in the right navigation bar.

Project Teams – Using Canvas to Improve Outcomes

There are already some great posts on this blog about Team Projects and I encourage you to read through them by clicking on the category: Team Projects.  What I want to do in this post is to summarize some of the key points made in the webinar: Using Canvas to Facilitate Team Projects which can be found under Faculty Resources.

Canvas has a rich environment for project teams, which they label “groups.”  Becanvas1fore getting started, however, I highly recommend going to your personal settings within Canvas and take care of two tasks:  First, make sure you have uploaded a picture and bio.  Students should expect their canvas2Instructors to have completed this task and they can read through this information, enhancing your credibility.  Second, go to settings and “Register” your Google Drive (gmail) account.  This does not give Canvas access to your Google Drive documents, but it does facilitate your ability to set up collaborations with your students.  Students should also be encouraged to register their Google Drive so that they can access the collaboration features available in Canvas.

Now that you have taken care of these housekeeping items.  Here is a general checklist which will get you started in using Canvas to facilitate team projects. Let me strongly suggest you also watch the webinar as well for greater details.

  1. Under the People navigation link, click on +Group Set and give it a name.  Group Sets are basically types of groups, e.g. Project Teams.  Think about the options listed there before you click on save. There are good reasons to choose one option or another and the video will help with that.  If you don’t start the groups, then they will not be available to students.  YOU ARE KEY TO MAKING THIS WORK.
  2. If you chose to set up the groups manually, give each group its own namecanvas3.  You can set up as many groups as you like.  Once the group is set up you can manually drag members into the groups or use the + by their name to select the group where you would like them.  Setting up a group leader is as easy as clicking on the gear icon by a name and selecting “set as group leader.”  This is usually a good idea as it gives the group better autonomy to move around within the site.
  3. Once the groups are set up you can access the group’s page by clicking on the gear icon by the group name and selecting View Group Home Page.  From here group members can post announcements, start discussions, store files, start collaborations, and conferences
  4. Conferences can be created and left open ended, but remember to click on Start so the groups have access.  This allows them to set up regular meeting times which you can join to see how they are progressing.  Please consult the webinar video for more details.
  5. Collaborations make use of Google docs, which is why you need to register your Google Drive.  The Instructor should start one shared document within each group.  This allows you, as owner of the document, to be able to easily see who is contributing and how the group is using this resource.

There is a lot more I could say, but if you watch the webinar you will get the hang of it pretty quickly.  Experiment, practice, encourage your students to participate.  I think you will find this breathing some new energy into the team projects.