Telling Berkeley’s story about teaching and learning, across campus and in the public sphere.

Teaching is at the heart of what we do—feeding our collective hunger for knowledge and knowledge sharing. In an effort to enhance teaching-focused dialogue on the Berkeley campus, the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) brings you the Berkeley Teaching Blog. See our guidelines and submission policy.

January 20, 2015

Let’s play a little Jeopardy-style game. The category is “Grade Disputes, Questions, and Re-Considerations.” Here’s the answer:

A Delorean, a hot tub, a mailbox, and a phone booth

What’s the question?

“There’s one week left in the semester and I can no longer mathematically earn an A in this course – how can I get an A?”

Pattern shifting is the active pursuit of uncovering new purposes and potentialities for engaging students in learning. A very simple re-ordering can reveal relatively easy methods to teach more from your strengths and more actively engage students in the class.

November 30, 2014

RRR Week always brings with it the challenge of figuring out what to do with/for students that will be helpful in preparing them for whatever final exam or capstone project is required in your course. Sure, anyone can encourage students to read, or hold an extra office hours or plain old review session.

“Our romantic notion of the professor is so tied to a sense of the transitive mind, a mind that, in a sense, is always at odds with the body” – bell hooks (1994, p. 137)

November 29, 2014

As we approach the end of another semester, it is common for students to turn in drafts of papers, projects, and assignments for some kind of review before the final product is due. It would be typical for a blog, then, to note something like the top 10 or top 5 ways to promote student development through feedback that both instructs and motivates.

November 18, 2014

With the possible exception of presentations, there are few things that happen in a student’s academic career that stress them out more than final exams. One source of frustration for both students and faculty alike is when faculty believe an exam has been written fairly and yet students have done poorly.

August 25, 2014

Oh, god, I'm going to quote Mr. Spock, from the episode "Is There in Truth No Beauty?"

Dr. Miranda Jones: The glory of creation is in its infinite diversity.

Spock: And the way our differences combine to create meaning and beauty.

August 8, 2014

I carried out an experiment in teaching Physics in a flipped environment:  students listened to my recorded lectures on their own schedule, and we did conceptual problems in the classroom, using clickers to facilitate peer instruction.  This left time in class for microlectures on topics in Unsolved Problems in Physics and Astrophysics — the beating heart of Physics as Physicists experience it.  A pool of ungraded quantitati

May 15, 2014

Summer is approaching, graduation is at hand, and on a campus like Berkeley, faculty colleagues are understandably relieved and excited…very excited.  No class. No office hours. No professional time split amongst priorities. It is research time.

April 20, 2014

“Learning from mistakes is probably the most familiar form of learning for every human being. Every time we make a mistake, i.e., we suffer from an inconvenience due to our behavior, we try to modify our knowledge about the world in order to avoid suffering again in the future for the same reason.“

-Giordana & Serra, 2001

March 17, 2014

Last year, a faculty member in a great state of dismay visited me. He had received his student mid-semester evaluations and they were, in his words, “disheartening.” He went on to tell me how brutal they were; how the students attacked some statements he made in class, questioned his feedback on work, and disliked the readings he selected. I asked him how many students were enrolled – 70 students.

February 13, 2014

Chagrin:  “Ugh, I have to learn another LMS?”

Procrastination:  “Develop my class first, worry about this later.  Wow, my bathroom sink really needs to be cleaned.”

February 10, 2014

It’s 2pm on a Tuesday, and as you walk into your classroom to set-up to teach, filing past the herd of students from the previous class making their way out, you overhear a couple students talking excitedly about the questions posed during the last hour. Another group of students shuffling out debates the best way to solve a particular equation.

January 20, 2014

Theory, argument, archive. Method, stakes, implications. These are among those things that graduate studies in the Humanities aim to teach. Add in an attention to, and an accounting for, silences, obfuscations, gaps, missed opportunities, and the like, and you have the makings of a fairly standard heuristic for effective graduate reading in the service of effective scholarly writing.

January 15, 2014

1. Every talk needs a story.

The introduction should introduce your audience to the problem you’re trying to solve. By the end of it, your audience should know what the problem is and be convinced that it’s an important problem worthy of your time and effort. Establish what you hope to accomplish.

November 20, 2013

Since I get asked this question a lot, including by the media, I thought it’d be useful to blog it.

What MOOCs have I taught?

October 17, 2013

"If you can’t prove what you want to prove, demonstrate something else and pretend that they are the same thing. In the daze that follows the collision of statistics with the human mind, hardly anybody will notice the difference." 

-D. Huff (1954)

October 1, 2013

Since 1975, course evaluations at Berkeley have included the following question:

Considering both the limitations and possibilities of the subject matter and course, how would you rate the overall teaching effectiveness of this instructor?

1 (not at all effective), 2, 3, 4 (moderately effective), 5, 6, 7 (extremely effective)

August 19, 2013

1. They aren’t you.

A large part of your job is diagnosis. Every complex concept requires a grasp of many prerequisite concepts, which you’re already so comfortable with that it’s easy to pretend that everyone else is, too. You’re going to need to identify which of these concepts is holding the student back.

July 18, 2013

The emerging field of Mind, Brain and Education – a confluence of neuroscience, cognitive science and education – has sparked my interest for some time.