High Impact Practices in Action

Collaboration courtesy of Berdea on Wikimedia Commons

By Roxanne Wilson

St. Cloud State University makes a positive, long-term impact on the lives of our students. We provide rigorous and relevant academic experiences with engaged, active learning opportunities in an intellectually vibrant, inclusive and diverse campus community.

Our graduates are well prepared to act as responsible global citizens and professionals who remain actively connected with our university, thanks in large part to our learning commitments:

  • Active and applied learning
  • Community engagement
  • Sustainability
  • Global and cultural understanding

High Impact Practices

As a new faculty, I reviewed LEAP high impact practices at http://leap.aacu.org/toolkit/high-impact-practices, which include:

  • First-Year Seminars
  • Common Intellectual Experiences
  • Learning Communities
  • Writing-Intensive Courses
  • Collaborative Assignments and Projects
  • Undergraduate Research
  • Diversity/Global Learning
  • Community-Based Learning
  • Internships
  • Capstone Courses and Projects

Putting Them Into Action

I found it somewhat daunting to think of integrating such a vast array of practices into my practice. I teach one of the first nursing courses and felt this was an opportunity to build the first year seminar concept, writing intensive learning, collaborative assignments and an understanding of research.

I met with each student on a one to one and learned their passion for nursing, their dreams for their profession and background. As an assignment, I had them learn how to use professional literature to write a paper outlining how they could use their college course and work experiences to achieve this dream. The required paper is in APA format, which I assigned in sequential segments through the class.

I had students work in groups to build collaboration. One of the groups worked with the writing center to learn APA and then worked with Writing Center staff to teach back. They created an APA song to help bind the building blocks. It was not generally successful for teaching APA as the song was too long and the students were inhibited. However, the group built a bond and the students were very interested in the overall concept. Next year, I intend to select musical students and work with the music department to make it shorter.

What high impact practices have you tried?

What were the outcomes of those practices?

About the author: Roxanne Wilson is Assistant Professor of Nursing.


What I’ve Learned From “Learning Assessment”

By Roxanne Wilson

What is Assessment?

Assessment is the systematic collection of evidence about student learning in order to improve that learning. Assessment occurs on many levels, such as the individual or student level, the course level, the program level, and the institutional level.

Helpful Resources

Angelo and Cross argue in their classic Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers that “through close observation of students in the process of learning, the collection of frequent feedback on students’ learning, and the design of model classroom experiments, classroom teachers can learn much about how students learn, and more specifically, how students respond to particular teaching approaches.”

The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning provides multiple resources for classroom assessments as well as workshops during the fall and Spring Convocations by faculty leaders who are utilizing various assessment techniques to document student learning.

Getting Personal

As new faculty, the review of resources is helpful as a starting point. The greater question is how to create and synthesize opportunities to understand how your teaching is impacting the student’s learning.  I initially found I wanted students to have a positive impression of me. I felt somewhat uncertain about how the overall distribution of learning over a semester would be experienced by students. I was uncertain how stringent to be with expectations or how to apply feedback from students to adapt my teaching.

For example, one student was very thorough emailed me multiple times with errors in the material from the textbook, deadline questions and other details. As I listened carefully, agreed with some of the nuances and then “fixed them,” I found I was actually confusing other less-detailed students.  At the end of the semester, I came to the conclusion that I should ask for specific feedback at intervals, answer questions in class (versus emailing) and look for patterns.

I am also consistently assessing student learning based on my experiences, student feedback and from peers.  Self reflection includes taking time to listen, soliciting feedback and putting those thoughts together over time. In my second semester, I took a more measured approach to see what the patterns were. I evaluated how I might approach last-minute versus first-minute styles of students:

  • First-minute students often wanted detailed instructions, which might not leave space for critical thinking.
  • Last-minute students wanted the “basics,” which also doesn’t leave space and time to learn critical thinking.

Teaching and directions that are respectful but still leave room to think are a direction I am headed.  I am learning from experienced faculty. I asked for feedback from my colleagues. I read my evaluations across classes to look for trends in strengths or weaknesses. I asked students in class what they think would improve the course or my teaching in an anonymous survey and in-class. I asked instructors at the next level what skills they were observing that were different than previous years and where I could target my focus.


What is effective in assessing learning?

Tips for new teachers in focusing on the most pertinent feedback.

About the author: Roxanne Wilson is Assistant Professor of Nursing.

Syllabus and Inclusivity

Image of male and female icons in a rainbow of colors.

Photo courtesy of www.sheldon-hess.org.

By Lalita Subrahmanyan

I’ve been lately thinking about how our syllabus, which is considered our “legal contract” with our students, demonstrates our teaching philosophy, a component of which is how we think about inclusivity.

Accessibility Statement

Most universities require all faculty to include an accessibility statement in their syllabus. At SCSU our Student Disability Services office provides excellent resources for faculty including sample statements.

Sample Statement

I  really liked the following statement I found from Eastern Michigan University because of how it was personalized by the faculty member to be sensitive to student needs:

“It is my goal that this class be an accessible and welcoming experience for all students, including those with disabilities that may impact learning in this class. If anyone believes the design of this course poses barriers to effectively participating and/or demonstrating learning in this course, please meet with me (with or without a Student Disability Services (SDS) accommodation letter) to discuss reasonable options or adjustments During our discussion, I may suggest the possibility/necessity of your contacting Student Disability Services to talk about academic accommodations. You are welcome to talk to me at any point in the semester about course design concerns, but it is always best if we can talk at least one week prior to the need for any modifications.” Eastern Michigan University.Accessibility or Inclusiveness?

Is an accessibility statement sufficient to help students feel connected and engaged in the course? Or should we be crafting a statement of our willingness and expectation of inclusiveness? Inclusivity of perspectives, of identities, orientations, opinions, styles, preferences? If so, what might that look like?

I’d like to hear from you!

About the author: Lalita Subrahmanyan is Professor of Education and Director, CETL.

Learning and the Brain

Brain By dierk schaefer

Brain By dierk schaefer

How does the brain impact learning?

Recent research on how the brain processes information may have significant implications for teaching and learning. According to Clemons, for successful brain-based learning to occur “everyone involved in the learning process (online course developers, educators, students) to understand the structure of the brain and consciously focus on learners needs and styles to evaluate and improve the course format and delivery system.”


  1. Six Tips for Brain-Based Learning Emphasize feedback and embrace the power of novelty are two tips that resonated with me.
  2. The 2013 CETL Spring Forum featured Dr. Stephen Carroll who shared his work on meta-cognition. For more about his work and for the slides he used in his presentation and workshop, please go to http://metalearninghabits.org/slides-for-st-cloud-lecture/.
  3. [ebook] How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, Eds., 1999)  I found the chapter on how novices differ from experts particularly interesting with regards to how I teach library research.
  4. In 2011, CETL sponsored a special workshop on Learning and the Brain and recorded the sessions.
  5. The New Science of Learning: How to Learn in Harmony with Your Brain by Terry Doyle and Todd Zakrajsek.

What about you?

  • What’s one way you could incorporate how the brain works into your teaching?
  • Do you teach differently to freshmen than you do to seniors? How so?
  • How do you create a safe classroom environment for learning?
  • What resources have you used to learn about the brain?

About the Author: Robin Ewing is an Associate Professor in the library and is currently the assessment librarian.

Want to try student peer review in your class? Check out these resources.

Photo from college.library


What is student peer review?

Student peer review, sometimes called peer editing, is a teaching strategy that requires students to provide constructive feedback on each other’s work. Here are some resources to get started:

  1. Introducing Students to Peer Review of Writing
    Richard Chisholm introduces peer review to his students by first having them practice on a piece of his own writing.
  2. How to Plan and Guide In-Class Peer-Review Sessions – Washington University in St. Louis
    This guide provides guidance on how peer review can fit into your syllabus from the scheduling to the grading.
  3. Using Peer Review to Help Students Improve Their Writing – Washington University in St. Louis

Already using peer review? Consult these resources on how to improve the process.

  1. Improving Student Peer Feedback [StarID required to access]
    Linda Nilson describes the potential pitfalls of peer review and offers advice on overcoming the challenges.
  2. Peer Editing Could Use Some Revision [StarID required to access]
    Trela Anderson describes how to improve peer editing and decrease student frustration.

What about you?

  • How would you prepare your students for peer review?
  • How could peer review improve your students’ learning?
  • Would peer review increase or decrease your grading load?

About the Author: Robin Ewing is an Associate Professor in the library and is currently the assessment librarian.