ink penWelcome to my blog at Penn State York. This is the place where I reflect on what I’m learning within the course of my day as an instructional designer.

I try to post every time I try something new – or learn something significant. It has been a big change for me professionally to actually document my learning. I have found it to be a very useful professional practice that allows me to review and reflect continually on what I’m learning and how it can be applied to what we do in higher education. Taking the time to think about what I’m learning, and writing it down, has changed me as a professional in this field.

It is a practice that I value and see as integral to my own learning process. It not only gives me the space to reflect – but a venue to share and invite feedback!

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Bb Pilot

The Blackboard pilot launch is here! We have several faculty from our campus participating in the pilot. I’ll be going to UP Aug 12-14 for Bb training. Stay tuned!

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20+ Apps

Thanks to Jeffrey Bradshaw at the Network of Trainers event at UP on the 16th!! He gave us a run down of 20 cool apps for the classroom – ooooh the possibilities! Most are free; many have PC, Mac, iPad, or Android options.. Check them out and have some fun!

When you click the link below, fast-forward by clicking on any of the apps listed on the left margin.


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ELLI Updates

A big shout out to Vicky, Keira, and Zoe from the UK at VitalPartnerships!!

We’ve been putting our heads together about how to get the word out to folks in the US about how the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory has been used. Since we had such good results with our students from last fall, they’ve kindly asked me to share some of our experiences with other interested parties on this side of the Atlantic. We’ve done a few test runs with webinar software and thinking about doing a Q & A in early fall to start the ball rolling.

I’ve made a short video about our experience here: Get in touch if you need a transcript of the video.

A more detailed video about how we approached the learning dimensions to come! Details from last year’s project can be found here

Fall 2015, I’ll be using ELLI again with my paired college reading course that this year we’ll pair with an intro to anthropology course. Should be another interesting semester!

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Spencer Foundation Small Research Grants

Every day is a new learning opportunity. I submitted a small grant to the Spencer Foundation to purchase a set of iPad Minis to use in my fall college reading course (Fall 2015) for later use by other faculty. It was a great experience, working with Lisa Wiedemer in University College Grant Relations. What a tremendous help she was! Now we wait and cross our fingers!

Title: Using a Paired Course Model and Reflective Exercises on a Mobile Device to Improve First-Year Success for Underprepared Commuter Students

Interested in submitting a small grant (<$50,000.00) to Spencer? See their guidelines


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GRIT and New Student Orientation

We are trying out the use of the GRIT survey (Duckworth @ U. of Pennsylvania – https://sites.sas.upenn.edu/duckworth) with our new students. Every student coming through New Student Orientation (NSO) this year is watching the Duckworth Ted.com video and taking the GRIT survey. Our hope is to use the data to see if we can build a predictive model to more quickly identify students at risk, based on their GRIT scores and other admissions data. Stay tuned…

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Network of Trainers & Learning Design Summer Camp 2014

Just about to head up to UP for our annual summer events: Network of Trainers event and Learning Design Summer Camp 2014. I’ll get a chance to learn some new things and also present a new abbreviated workshop on incorporating reflection which I hope will be well-received.

I’ve been practicing to get it into the 30 minute time frame! Here are the recordings in 8-10 minute chunks:

Title: Using self-knowledge and purposeful reflection to encourage positive change in the college years

Experience without reflection can soon be forgotten – this session presents a variety of ways to create reflective activities that are purposeful, meaningful, and can lead to positive change.

Part I – Intro, Goals, Background:

Part II – Examples:

Part III – Try it! Self-knowledge & Crafting Reflective Responses:

Part IV – Action Planning, Coaching, and References:


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Ethics Resources

The question of students’ ethical behavior came up last year a few times in conversations with faculty, so I wanted to gather some resources in case people wanted to embed some activities/discussions into their classes.Please let me know what you are already doing in this area – I would love to hear from you!
I’ll build this out into a resource webpage, too, so for faculty experts in the area, a request: please share any resources you use now or know about (comment here or shoot me an e-mail scs15@psu.edu), and I’ll add them to the webpage as well as give credit for the contribution! Thanks!! Also, please get in touch, as I’d benefit tremendously from a conversation with you!
Where does this fit into what we do? From the draft of our most recent strategic plan:


Education is the foundation of an enlightened, productive, and prosperous society.

  • The best education produces knowledgeable, critical, creative, and ethical students.

1) Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University has some great resources! See their approach at
http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/decision/#sthash.z6ZSz5HU.dpbs including an app!

2) They also have 2 MOOCS starting August 18th – They are free, open, and can be completed any time through July 2015.  Suggested completion time is 4 weeks each – They are self-paced.


Find out more and register at  http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/focusareas/business/moocs.html#sthash.3N2JpHz6.dpbs

3) AAC&U VALUE Rubric on ethical reasoninghttp://www.aacu.org/value/rubrics/ethicalreasoning.cfm which could be used to assess students in this area.

4) Possible Conversations in Teaching topic in the fall – Any interest??????

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Shippensburg 2014: Innovations in Faculty Development Symposium

Barb Eshbach and I presented something we are calling “springboarding” which is a model of faculty professional development in which faculty members who are interested in learning a new approach or process shadow an existing project, participate in the project, and then springboard into their own project, using lessons learned in the springboard project. This style of PD works well for complex, multifaceted processes such as a SoTL projects or re-design of F2F into online or blended courses. Here is the presentation which was well-received.

Here are a few great ideas that I gleaned by attending the conference that I’d like to share:

1) Serving Adjuncts – Into the Driver’s Seat: Enabling Adjunct Faculty Leadership in Faculty Development Programming

A rich array of Saturday events, pre-semester trainings, adjunct leadership opportunities, monthly dinner conversations, driven by adjuncts, for adjuncts. In addition, faculty mini-grants, conference travel, online course development funding, faculty excellence awards, and mentoring opportunities make College of Southern Maryland a great place for adjuncts! http://csmd.edu/dlf/ I’m meeting with our campus ADAA soon to see if we can replicate some of this goodness on our own campus!!!

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Lilly Conference 2014

This was a really wonderful event once again – I can’t recommend this conference highly enough. This was the first year I started to feel a sense of community here which was nice – recognizing old friends – Leslie Felbain who came to our campus last year to present Teaching as Performance – and the folks who did the lightening round tech demos. Barb Eshbach and I presented the ELLI project that we did with Jorge in the fall and had a few folks really interested – from CUNY. Serendipity…..a presenter from U. of Bristol was there who actually works with Ruth Deakin Crick and knows ELLI- Dr. Phil Langton – talking about GRIT as a predictor of student success.

So what can I share from what I learned?

1) For those thinking of publishing in SoTL – a new open access journal at SUNY Plattsburgh called The Common Good.

Editor-in-Chief: Becky Kasper, Ph.D., Director of SUNY Plattsburgh Center for Teaching Excellence
Managing Editor: Jessamyn Neuhaus, Ph.D., Associate Professor, SUNY Plattsburgh History Department

They just sent out a call for papers for a special issue on Using Popular Culture in the Classroom – deadline January 1, 2015 – contact Jessamyn Neuhaus at neuhauj@plattsburgh.edu

2) Threshold Concepts & Troublesome Knowledge: A Transformational Approach to Learning with Ray Land – keynote – Durham University UK

http://www.ee.ucl.ac.uk/~mflanaga/thresholds.html for more detailed info

* Threshold concepts take you into a new intellectual spaces – which in turn opens up access to new concepts

* Integration of new understandings starts to happen in the unsettling liminal state which follows – the betwixt and between stage – encounter with knowledge that unsettles you – feel sense of loss – feels like a state of in-authenticity or mimicry as the brain tries to integrate the new knowledge

Oscillation happens between states – knowledge – being – language..epistemological and ontological change

Troublesome knowledge is a provoker of change – it cannot be assimilated with what is currently known – it is the instigator of new learning and ontological change – instructors should look for trouble -should cause this kind of trouble….

This is not a hotel.. it is a gymnasium and you have to work!

* Episteme: the underlying game – ways of knowing in the disciplines

What can faculty do?

  1. Help students to tolerate uncertainty as they go back and forth through the states of uncertanity
  2. Be a provoker of change!
  3. Identify the jewels in the curriculum – what are the threshold concepts – revisit them throughout the curriculum – learning is recursive
  4. Realize it takes time for the changes that will occur – epistemological and ontological change
  5. Listen for understanding – students can help you identify the concepts that are hard!

Threshold Concepts and Transformational Learning (2010) Edited by Jan H. F. Meyer, Ray Land and Caroline Baillie; Sense Publishers, Rotterdam, 2010
[Educational Futures: Rethinking Theory and Practice, Peters, M.A. (Ed), Volume 42]
The majority of chapters in this book are developments of talks first presented at the Threshold Concepts Conference: from theory to practice, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, 18th – 20th June 2008.

Follow on Facebook – search Threshold Concepts

3) What’s in a 1st Year Toolbox – Parson’s School of Design The New School University - Mariah Doren

How has the notion of “foundational” knowledge and skills [in the arts] changed over time?

  1. Talent lens – you either have it or you don’t
  2. Creativity can be uncovered through introspection
  3. Dispositions – becoming an effective thinker (critical and creative – engaged in real world problems), effective actor in the world (entrepreneurial, setting goals) – with effective relationships (emotional intelligence, teamwork, ethics)

Learn what you need as it becomes relevant to a project – deep disciplinary dive vs surfing a content landscape

Taught at Pasron’s thru a paired course “Words & Works” = “Critical Studio” – ideas to think about translates into a project to “make” everyday + writing – language of rich descriptions. Writing + making and writing + gestures. ex…. create a prosthetic object that extends or limits a gesture – perform with it – write about it.

4) Critical Thinking as “Defamiliarization”

  1. Take a familiar object and make it “strange”
  2. Student struggles to “see” it in the new way
  3. Formation of new critical persepctive

Example – Shklovsky = http://www.thenation.com/article/172675/making-strange-victor-shklovsky#

Cause them to doubt what they have taken for granted…

5) Are you Flipping Engaged? Kim Van Orman SUNY Albany

What do you do during in-class time when flipping?

Suggests only 10% of the course be flipped to start – 3 lessons – and do one very early on in the course, so students know what to expect.

  1. Students “do” the content ahead of time – readings and/or SHORT videos (10 minutes max)
  2. Students take a quiz in CMS
  3. Critical “tinkering” – get them to “play” with content – make authentic mistakes – Team-based learning/activity in class – Michaelson’s 4S’s: Significant problem, all students have same problem, students must make a specific decision/judgment, simultaneously report out
    Devl. process: see it – mimic it – tinker with it – play with it – fight over it – slowly learn how to use it
  4. Do debrief of conversation
  5. THEN show the answer

Examples of tasks

  • given a study, predict the results and why
  • given a graph with data – assign list of labels to the bars of data – explain why
  • report out – m/c, ranking, best answer, single value, sequence, limited word test: in 10 words or less, describe…, sorting, what does not belong

6) Peter Seldin – keynote – College Teaching: Myths, Evaluation, Improvement

Great teachers:

  • take risks
  • are themselves
  • bring a positive attitude to class

Percentage of types of info used in teacher evals comparison (1983 to 2013)

*************************************1983                        2013

Student Ratings                                                 68%                       96%

Classroom observations                                   19%                        62%

Review of Teaching Materials                        20%                        44%

Self-evaluations                                                25%                         70%

 7) Group Homework and Take-Home Exams -in a science info literacy course Dr. Carol Anelli – Ohio State University

* Homework assignments are designed to be completed by individuals but OK to work cooperatively

* Group contract for take home exams that regulates attendance at meetings, communication policy of group, completion of tasks on time, agreement about final upload of exam, non-compliance policy, dissension form for group  members who want a different answer than the group’s

* Peer-assessment form

* Self-assessment form

* Pre- and post-course questionnaire – course expectations, baseline knowledge, course satisfaction, self-reflection

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Spring/Summer Presentations

Well, we just finished an extended road trip, presenting our findings at various conferences. Copies of the presentations are below:

Learning Design Summer Camp (July 17, 2014); Using self-knowledge and purposeful reflection to encourage positive change in the college years; Penn State University; State College, PA.

Innovations in Faculty Development Symposium (June 3, 2014); Co-Presenter: Barbara Eshbach, Head Librarian, Penn State York; Springboarding as a Faculty Professional Development Model; Shippensburg University; Shippensburg, PA.

The Lilly Conference on College Teaching & Learning (May 30, 2014); Co-Presenter: Barbara Eshbach, Head Librarian, Penn State York; Building Lifelong Learning Attributes in First-Semester Students Using the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory (ELLI); Bethesda, MD.

Center for Teaching Excellence Business Professor Teaching Summit; (May 15, 2014); Co-Presenter: Dr. Samir Shah, Associate Clinical Professor in MIS, LeBow College of Business, Drexel University; Measuring of Student Growth as Lifelong Learners in Global Information Systems Classroom Projects; Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA.

John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Excellence: Gateway Course Experience Conference (March 24, 2014); Using Adaptive Learning Technology and Reflective Exercises to Improve First-Year Success in a Paired Developmental College Reading/Environmental Science Course; Indianapolis, IN.

Teaching & Learning with Technology Symposium; Penn State University; (March 22, 2014); Co-Presenters: Barbara Eshbach, Head Librarian, Penn State York & Dr. Jorge Santiago-Blay, Biology Instructor, Penn State York; Using Adaptive Learning Technology and Reflective Exercises to Improve First-Year Success in a Paired Developmental College Reading/Environmental Science Course; State College, PA.

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What’s Happening Summer 2014?

Well, this is finals week…tomorrow is graduation. Another academic year has come and gone, but before we can catch our breath, the activities of the summer are almost upon us!!

Here’s what’s coming up!


Flipping the Classroom Summer Cohort

Session 1 (June 13th) – 9:00 – 11:00 am
Participants prepare by reviewing overview of flipping before the session (websites and short video). During the session, we will start to talk about applications + the book + goal setting
Session 2 (June 20th)  – 9:00 – 11:00 am
A. Walter Arnold presents his experiences flipping the classroom
B. Start unit re-design session
C. Round robin debrief
D. Determine group needs regarding technology + plan for Week of June 23rd tech training
Week of June 23rd (I know it is FTCAP) but we can plan on these sessions later in the day – tech sessions as needed
Session 3 (July 11th9:00 – 11:00 am
A. Round robin presentations of design so far
B. Pairing and assignments to partners of the “at home” work to be completed in prep for session 4
Session 4 (July 18th)
A. Partners “do” the flipped “in class” session activities
B. Round robin debrief with everyone.

SENCER Summer Institute

Dr. Jorge Santiago-Blay and I will be traveling to The University of North Carolina at Asheville for 5 days in early August to attend the SENCER Institute. We’ll be working on a gen-ed science course re-design – either environmental science or human genetics, using the SENCER principles.


1) Spencer Foundation (not to be confused with SENCER – above) small grant application submitted to University College Grant Relations to purchase a set of iPad Minis for use in the classroom – June 2014

2) Advisory Board grant submitted and awarded received to purchase another year of the campus license for using ELLI. Because I am helping VitalPartnerships by talking to folks who are interested in using the tool in the US – explaining how we used it – they are giving us the upcoming year campus license and the advisory board grant them will be used starting in summer 2015.


1) Shaffer, S.C., Eshbach, B.E., Santiago-Blay, J.A. (2014). Fostering first-semester success for academically at-risk students in a   science general education course using a paired reading course model. Manuscript submitted for publication to Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, March 2014.

2) Shaffer, S.C. (2014). Building Student Capacity for Reflective Thinking. Manuscript submitted for publication to The Common Good: A SUNY Plattsburgh Journal on Teaching and Learning, June 2014.

Presentations galore!

Pathways 2014! Hundreds of 7th grade girls will be on campus for a day of exploring STEM careers. Barb Eshbach and I are doing our Gadgets, Gizmos, and Gigabytes session which we tweak every year… This year, they’ll explore QR Codes, Tellagami videos, Augmented Reality and binary code in a quasi game format using iPad minis.

Drexel’s Business Faculty Teaching Summit – Dr. Samir Shah and I are presenting work on using reflection to help students build a soft skills set of aptitudes making them ready to work successfully in a global world.

Lilly International Spring Conference – College and University Teaching and Learning: Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning – May 30, 2014 – Barb and I are presenting our project (with Dr. Jorge Santiago-Blay) using the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory (ELLI) with first semester students.

Innovations in Faculty Development Symposium – Shippensburg University – June 3, 2014 – We are presenting the idea of Springboarding as a faculty professional development model.

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Gateway Conference 2014

The John N. Gardner (institute that was foundational in bringing an understanding of the importance of the FYE to the national conversation) Annual Gateway Course Experience Conference March 23-25, 2014 was again well worth the investment to attend (in spite of terrible travel in and out of Indianapolis!)

See my post from last year to get an understanding of the term “gateway” course.

Again, excellent keynote speakers and worthwhile sessions (from diverse institutional contexts) on helping students succeed through gateway courses. Handouts and presentation links here.

1) Jennifer Keup’s presentation on the National Resource Center First Year Experience (FYE) and Students in Transition (SIT) was fabulous. As the Director of the center, Jennifer was articulate and well versed in the research behind best practice as well as current and future trends in both areas. The center is part of the the University of South Carolina and blends the best of research and dissemination to multiple audiences of important lessons learned in the field. Access their resources at http://sc.edu/fye/. Of particular recent interest is their new publication: 2012-2013 National Survey of First-Year Seminars: Exploring High-Impact Practices in the First College Year

2) Onondaga Community College presented  Post-Freshman Summer Bridge Program which was really interesting! Students in challenging STEM gateway courses (think A & P, biology, chem, physics, math, computer science) who were not successful during the first year, re-take the gateway course in a 6-week summer intensive program with intensive support. Tuition, textbooks, and lunch were provided for all accepted participants in the program. During the program, students attend class, then attend a 1-hour recitation where a tutor reviews the material. Students then attend a group session for the next hour where they solve problems in groups. A third hour is provided for one-on-one assistance as needed. Wellness sessions and academic coaching sessions were integrated into the program. Chemistry II and Calculus I were offered in the first year with 86% and 94% success rates. Fifty percent of students in the program continued in the following fall semester into advanced STEM courses. Success is being tracked.

3) Roadmap to Hispanic Students’ Retention & Academic Success in Gateway Courses – U. Texas at Brownsville – Mandatory paired courses and supplemental instruction using peer tutors (with careful faculty oversight) for students in gateway courses. Tutors receive 25 hours of training, must have 3.0 GPA and be referred by faculty members. Tutors are paid. Students needing tutoring are placed in mandatory learning communities consisting of 2 linked courses with tutoring for each course. UT Brownsville fall-to-fall retention rate for non-paired students 61% versus 77% retention for students in paired courses.

4) Co-Requisite Experience at Ivy Tech - I saw the ALP model presenters from CCBC last year at Gateway which supported the suggestion to pair our first semester ENGL comp course with a support course with great first semester success. Ivy Tech is working on integrating a complete co-req model across the vast institution. Math and English success rates are not as compelling as they would like in the first iteration. However, this could be due not to the co-req model, but because earlier in their history, they had to cut the number of developmental courses in the sequence, shortening the amount of time students have in developmental courses. I suspect that this could be confounding their findings and they may need to go back to an extended model. I don’t know if funding or political pressure will allow for that in the end…

I should also mention that the conference last year, really set the stage for the project we carried out this past AY on pairing courses, and led to our presentation at this year’s conference and a paper submission… very productive with lots of impact.


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Springboarding in SoTL

As we worked on our paired course project (just submitted our first paper – yeah and fingers crossed!), it occurred to us how to articulate our librarian’s role in the project. Since 2010, I had been trying to build SoTL interest on campus. This paired course project is the first formal SoTL project to get through the pipeline. There is so much to learn from IRB requirements to setting up the project and planning for data collection, to presenting and publishing the findings… It requires an understanding of statistical analysis as well… so I realized that I was learning a lot in the last year and a half and the best way to teach someone is to show them… So we invited Barb Eshbach, our Head Librarian, who is now on the tenure track, to join us as a “springboard partner”. We intended this to mean that she would be with us every step of the way, learning and helping in the project. In so doing, she would be better positioned to start her own project this spring, having learned through our mistakes and successes! It has worked out wonderfully. Now she will invite a springboard partner to join her on her project… and on we go!!!

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SoTL Project moving ahead!

We got an impetus to move forward quickly with the paper portion of our fall paired course project. A call for papers from the Journal of Excellence in College Teaching on innovations in STEM curriculum seems like a really good fit for our paper!! A March 1 deadline means we have to get the lead out… originally we planned on writing it this summer, but we have to at least try for this. Still need to add the discussion, conclusion and fold in the lit search. The really amazing and powerful thing in this part of the project is the insights that keep coming as we work on a section, step back to talk about it, and move forward again. Amazingly rich learning opportunity. What’s next? Get the presentations done…upcoming PSY practice run, TLT Symposium, John Gardner’s Gateway Course Conference, and the Lilly Conference.

2 grant applications submitted to help us continue this work next year.

A few more days of burning the midnight oil, and a milestone will be under the belt… Then I can start writing up a How-to guide for other faculty interested in doing an SoTL project. I can’t say enough about the richness of the learning.

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Video Lectures to get through the Winter Snow Days

Will all these snow days (and the weather outlook this week), you may be worried about falling behind in your classes – but no need! There are many ways these days to record a lecture and keep students up to speed.
1) You can record in Adobe Connect which has the capability to simultaneously show PowerPoints, have a white board, screen share to demo a software, or show about a website. The recording produced a link which you can send to your students along with an activity that you devise to have them work with your content.
2) Screen-cast-o-matic – a free screen capture application that also records your voice and/or video. You set the size of the recording screen(drag the handles to set the size) and designate the microphone, and you get 15 minutes of recording time per video. The output is a video file or direct upload to Youtube – You give your students the Youtube line and that’s it! http://www.screencast-o-matic.com/
3) If you are using an iPad or tablet, you already probably know the multiple ways to record a lecture or whiteboard with the apps available – so if you know of any good apps that you want to share, please add it as a comment here -
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