Telling Berkeley’s story and sharing evidence-based strategies on teaching and learning.

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March 19, 2018

March 18, 2018

January 10, 2018

I have it right now this very instant --- your Attention.  You’ve given it for a few minutes but if this content doesn’t continue to earn it, your Attention will move on.  It can’t help it.  The Brain is a data-seeking missile constantly gathering key information about surroundings in order to assess what is vital to your survival.  If it determines the information on this page isn’t relevant, your Attention will automatically shift to something seemingly more important (perhaps that text message on your phone).

I’m not speaking of lying or delivering fake news, I’m talking about an actual story. Consider this: A story communicates something, by definition, and can entertain, amuse, delight, divert, provoke, offend, disturb, disappoint, but in all, a story can instruct. There’s a lot of background to storytelling—the what and how to use in lecture, but let’s first discuss the why.

January 2, 2018

Robert Frank says any course, but especially an introductory course, can have no more than five big ideas [The Economic Naturalist, Basic Books, 2008] not fifty (and by the way, professor, none of them is your cutting edge research!). He claims trying to cram too much material into a syllabus actually decreases learning: that students acquire knowledge and skills when the menu is selective and they get to actually use the material, not just have “too much stuff” told to them, during the course.

October 29, 2017

August 14, 2017

Once upon a time, a Syllabus was written.  It was beautiful and contained most of nearly 50 possible information elements that every Syllabus could have.  It was reviewed by the curriculum committee, revised and finally approved.

It waited anxiously for the semester to begin.

April 25, 2017

I want to talk about thinking as teaching.  Let me start with a story.

December 13, 2016

Forgive the over simplistic dualism of the title. Of course we can be, and almost always are (or should be), both teacher and learner at the same time. But, as a semester’s end approaches and a break is in sight, it’s time to consider how to spend that now vacant “teaching” time.

October 20, 2016

It’s October which is National Cyber Security Awareness Month so we’ve all heard from our IT colleagues about how we should avoid being lured into a moneymaking scheme, being hacked, or having a ransom note for all our data suddenly appear on our computer screen.  But it’s the everyday disasters that we create for ourselves that should put fear into our hearts.

Part 1 in this blog series ( discussed the opportunity digital pedagogy provides to reflect on why you teach the way that you do and to explore current learning theories.  In addition it listed a few books that you might find interesting in further developing your teaching practices.  

October 19, 2016

Being located in such proximity to Silicon Valley and the start-up culture that permeates the region means the term “innovation” gets thrown around quite often. But,what does innovation mean for teaching and learning? We can often see it easily when embodied in a new financial app, or furniture product design. It gets trickier when we look at pedagogy.

August 17, 2016

August 5, 2016

As a new semester approaches, and demands on your time grow exponentially as classes commence, it's important to exert some sense of control over the chaos that ensues. The best way to do that is to utilize teaching time savers - 8 of which are highlighted here - that may not just save some time, but add value to teaching and learning as well. Work smarter, not necessarily longer...

May 18, 2016

For the last several decades many in the field of Education focused on what word should precede the word “learning”.  Should it be “traditional”, “online”, “blended”, “hybrid”, or in some cases, just a letter, like “e”?   Many of those same words have also been put in front of the word “teaching”.

Let’s see a show of hands: Are you a great teacher? (hint: you can be)

  • Have you ever felt like not matter how hard you try, the students just aren’t getting it?

  • Have you ever felt like teaching is a constant uphill challenge, that rarely let’s up - and you’re still waiting to see the other side?

  • Have you ever felt like being an “excellent” teacher is somewhere between elusive and impossible?

April 8, 2016

This note describes a method for critiquing student work (and colleagues’ drafts, come to think of it) that greatly increases the efficiency of the process compared to written comments.  I discovered it by accident, when I graded a bunch of papers on a portable dictating machine while traveling, back in the day when professors didn’t have laptops but did have assistants. I gave the tape to mine to transcribe.

This memo describes a mechanism for evaluating class participation in courses where it matters, refined and developed over a couple of decades but surely not perfected. 

February 23, 2016

The concept of early and ongoing check-ups is simple, and applies readily to our teaching in the form of feedback. It’s early in the semester, but it's never too early to do a thorough systems check to make sure the students, course, and you are ready for takeoff (or need to circle back for a quick fix).