Richard Felder
Richard Felder
Professor Emeritus, North Carolina State University
Rebecca Brent
Rebecca Brent
President, Education Designs, Inc

Discover how to introduce active learning into your course and still cover your entire syllabus. In the slide deck below, we show you step-by-step how to introduce active learning into your class using a well-tested and easy-to-implement strategy. The information contained in this deck is derived from our new book, Teaching and Learning Stem: A Practical Guide.


What are your strategies to encourage active learning? Let us know in the comments below.


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Richard M. Felder is a STEM education expert and Professor Emeritus at North Carolina State University. Rebecca Brent is President of Education Design, Inc., and an expert consultant in faculty development.


Write Questions, Right Answers

Posted Aug 24, 2016
    Terry Thompson
Terry Thompson
Professor of Biological Sciences, Wor-Wic Community College

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As educators, we teach students who possess a broad range of study skills. Some have developed excellent practices, but many struggle by unnecessarily employing ineffective and inefficient study methods. I believe that, among the many jobs we as educators are responsible for, teaching students how to study effectively is vital. While it can be easy to think that good study habits should have been learned earlier in a student’s academic career, taking the time to either teach or reinforce best practices can alleviate many of the issues we encounter in the classroom. One of the techniques I train students to use is question writing.


This study technique requires individual students, or study groups, to ask questions. Asking the right questions is not easy and it will take practice on the part of the student to master. I ask my students to attempt creating questions at multiple cognitive levels: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation.


I begin by breaking the class into teams. Then, working as a group, they write questions that would fit in each column of the chart below. Students also must use each of the different rows for their questions, rather than just repeating the same question type. Then, students need to correctly answer the questions they have created. As they work, students check off the number used, so the grid looks a little like a bingo card when the group is done writing six questions.




















































Explanation of the Activity and Modifications to Use with Students:


  • The question matrix is designed so that as students move down the rows and from left to right across the columns, they are moving through the different cognitive levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
  • The numbers of the matrix are there so students can keep track of and communicate which rows and columns they have already used. Typically, with a group of four students, I ask them to write six total questions on a unit or topic, so each row and column is completed.
  • I will sometimes define a particular topic for the activity; other times I leave the topic open to anything we have already studied so far in the unit or semester.
  • I will sometimes require students to write Multiple Choice questions with four or five possible answers rather than open-ended or short-answer type questions, thus helping students realize how hard it is to write good MC questions. It also prompts discussion of various test-taking strategies for MC tests.
  • For some classes, one incentive for writing good questions during this activity is that I will use some of the better ones on their test. In that case, I will scan and post all the groups’ questions on our LMS for their studying. They appreciate when they see one of their questions on the test.
  • If I am going to do this activity in class several times over the semester, I keep each group’s matrix, so when they work in the same team on the next unit/topic, they get the matrix back and can't reuse any of the question "numbers" they used before. But they still have to ask a question from each row/column intersection. Since we have four units in my Anatomy and Physiology class, that still leaves some "numbers" unused, but they have practiced writing questions at all cognitive levels, and there will be variation among the groups.


For my Anatomy and Physiology hybrid class (web-based and in-person format), I have used the question matrix as an individual online formative assignment instead of a group activity. Students write their questions across the row/column matrix and submit their numbered questions to me with correct answers, or post them as part of an online discussion. I can then convert their questions into an LMS quiz that the students can take for bonus points as they are studying before the unit test. In this case, since the students submit their questions with the matrix number, I can easily keep track and make sure they don’t use the row/column number more than once over the semester.


Terry Thomson is a Professor of Biological Sciences at Wor-Wic Community College.


Image credit:wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock


    Douglas Petrick
Douglas Petrick
Physics Teacher, Pittsburgh, PA

track.jpgBoth my mother and stepfather were educators at the collegiate level, but I never truly considered “the family business” as an option. I don’t think I had an aversion to teaching―I just figured I wanted to try something else, take a different path. Math and science came easily to me, so I assumed that an engineering career would play to my strengths.


Looking back, I made a lot of assumptions. My reluctance to consider teaching was an aversion based on a distorted view of how one becomes an educator. I assumed that because I did not participate in science club or math league or spend spare time researching scientific theories (for which at that time I did not have the passion or drive to pursue), then I did not have the knowledge necessary to teach others. I assumed that teachers, and those who wished to teach, were gifted and driven in ways I was not.

Behind these assumptions, a bigger issue was attempting to remain hidden. I lacked self-confidence. I couldn’t fathom being able to teach someone anything, let alone math or science content. My frame of reference was one in which the criteria for becoming a teacher were created by me and self-imposed, primarily because I believed I wouldn’t be any good at teaching. Besides, every career inventory I took in high school told me that engineering was the right career choice for me because I enjoyed doing science and math, I scored above average mathematics on my SAT, and got into a great engineering program at Penn State. What was there to question?


So, off I went to Happy Valley to study Architectural Engineering. I earned good grades and especially enjoyed classes where I had a chance to present information, either to individuals or a group. It wasn’t until my senior year that I began to question if I would actually enjoy making a living as an engineer. I never verbalized my doubts to anyone, and I hoped that maybe once I started getting paid to do engineering everything would to fall into place.


Upon graduation I earned a job at an innovative design-build construction company in Atlanta. This company had a healthy working atmosphere, treated its employees very well, and believed in promoting from within, but something wasn’t right. Could I see myself there at age 40…50…60?


I did my personal career inventory—meaning I took the time to think about what drove me and what gave me satisfaction. I recognized that I valued human connections and took pleasure in helping others grow in knowledge. Only by giving myself a hard, honest gut-check was I able to reframe my thoughts about my career and teaching. Lack of confidence had blinded me to the fact that teaching is the human-to-human transmission of knowledge—not about whether I participated in math club or devoured obscure research in my spare time as a teenager.


At the age of twenty-five, I quit my comfortable job and went back to school for my teaching degree. Fast forward to August 2016, and my life is completely different from when I started my teaching journey over sixteen years ago. I am married, have three children, teach high school full-time, coach all three sports seasons, and have a more positive outlook on life because I am doing something I’m passionate about. I got my first teaching job at Upper St. Clair High School, just outside of Pittsburgh, and teach there to this day.


I’ve taught a host of different math and science classes in my career , from General Science to AP Physics, and even Calculus.  Having the courage to change course and get out of my comfort zone taught me great lessons—lessons I now try to pass along to my students.  Physics is about actions and reactions, and so is life. Calculus teaches us about the trajectories of objects. Life has a trajectory, too. And both of these subjects show us that it takes a force to actuate change.


Young people often see permanence in impermanent things. The idea of becoming is foreign to them. At their age, we all thought we were—end of story. But the truth is, everyone is a work in progress. How do we become better teachers, siblings, parents, partners, mentors, coaches, and spouses?  We each have to learn to deal with subtle, and some not-so-subtle, outside forces that push things forward, adapt, evolve, and grow. Inertia takes hold only when we resist the forces that can change our lives. The ability to acknowledge that  there are forces that continually propel us forward—and that even small modifications in our lives can yield large movements—enables  us to teach our students lessons within lessons. “Solving for X” takes on a whole new meaning when we take the time to consider our journeys and guide students beginning with their own evolution.


So, that’s my story. What was your journey as an educator? Drop me a note in the comments section. I would enjoy connecting with you.


Doug Petrick holds an Architectural Engineering degree from Pennsylvania State University and a Masters of Arts in Teaching from California University of Pennsylvania. He is currently a high school Physics teacher at Upper St. Clair High School in Pittsburgh. Doug will be regularly contributing to a series for educators on Wiley Exchanges offering practical advice and instructional strategies.


Image credit: Admin5699/Shutterstock

7 Tips to Get Students Motivated

Posted Aug 12, 2016
    Christopher Ruel
Christopher Ruel
Community and Social Marketing, Wiley


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Motivating students can be a challenge. Here are some brief tips from educators who have found a measure of success, sometimes by implementing just a small change.  Is your classroom an environment where students feel comfortable? Are you recognizing your students as individuals? Try these tips, or leave a comment about the ways you motivate your own students.


    Christopher Ruel
Christopher Ruel
Community and Social Marketing, Wiley

woman at computer and dog.jpgRecently, we shared a list of titles educators were reading this summer. That list was a mix of pleasure reads and more serious topics. Now, as a new academic year is set to begin, we bring you a number of articles and books educators have read and found very helpful in their professional development. We hope you find value and a few practical ideas you can use this coming year.


"We live and breathe on email. This article gives you something good to think about as you try to develop your "work/life" balance! I told my team that we might initiate EFT (Email Free Thursday)! This would allow us a dedicated day for projects and focused work while leaving Friday to catch up on email and prepare for the following week.” How to Be A Success At Everything - Brad Prince, Associate Dean at Richards College of Business at University of West Georgia


“I used this study to support the creation of an accounting internship course. Like many of you, our mission at Schoolcraft College is to transform lives, not just teach subjects. I found it interesting how education can lead to a happy, more purposeful life long after college has ended.” Great Jobs, Great Lives - Michelle Randall, Associate Professor of Accounting at Schoolcraft College

“I found this book very informative for those looking to teach STEM disciplines differently.” A New Biology - Maryam Bamshad, Associate Professor at Lehman College

Here is an article about the flipped classroom and how it improved grades by a whole letter grade!” Flipped Learning Improves How Students Perceive Ability To Learn Physics - DeAnna Kirchen, Accounting Professor at Santiago Canyon College

“This is really interesting in terms of teaching/coaching/leading. What resonated with me is that you need to be "doing what you preach" on a daily basis. You need to be able to execute what you write up on paper and not be afraid to take chances. If you want your students to step outside of their comfort zone, you have to create a culture and environment that models that. Good food for thought.” Cultures Beat Policies Every Time - Doug Petrick, High School Physics Teacher at Upper St Clair High School

“Our online demand for undergrad classes is going up, but see the following.” Supply is up in online ed but demand is down — now what? - Sandra Byrd, Professor at Missouri State University

I thought the following article was interesting - there's a lot in here.” Lessons About Online Learning  - Chris Hromalik, Associate Professor of Spanish at Onondaga Community College

"I like learning how we learn.” What Is Math Rigor? - Joseph Vignolini, JK-12 Mathematics Chair at Flint Hill School

Training in realistic expectations was supposed to adjust students' expectations of how hard STEM classes were going to be but ended up working in paradoxical ways: students became more confident (over confident?) and optimistic, and their GPA went down. "Realistic Expectations" might not be the panacea after all.” Encouraging Realistic Expectations in STEM Students: Paradoxical Effects of a Motivational Intervention  - Susana Velez-Castrillon, Assistant Professor of Management at University of West Georgia

Have you found a great article or book that has changed the way you think about your role as an educator or the strategies you use when teaching your courses? Put a link in the comments below to share with your colleagues.


Image credit: Hero Images/Getty Images


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