This idea of the eight-minute lecture can also be useful to the faculty member interested in, but also concerned about, inverted teaching.

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In "The Eight-Minute Lecture Keeps Students Engaged," a brief but informative article on Faculty Focus, Illysa Izenberg, a lecturer for the Center for Leadership Education in the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, discusses her use of this data-driven pedagogy. According to Izenberg, there have been a number of studies supporting what we all fear: namely, that our students don't remember those brilliant oratories we deliver with passion and zeal. More useful, though, is the data suggesting that students will remember information presented in eight- to ten-minute chunks.

Such data is useful not just for the traditional classroom, but also for faculty members considering inverted or flipped teaching. Whether delivering lecture content in the class (the traditional model) or outside of it (the flipped model), faculty should contain their presentations within that eight- to ten-minute frame. Whether sitting in an uncomfortable plastic desk or running on a treadmill or vacuuming the carpet, the student is going to remember what you say after that ten-minute mark.

This idea of the eight-minute lecture can also be useful to the faculty member interested in, but also concerned about, inverted teaching. The common advice for anyone interested in this recent trend, which you can hear from Aaron Sams, one of the coiners of the term "flipped classroom," in our most recent podcast, is to start small. The eight-minute lecture might be one way to start small. Try it out in with one class session, following Izenberg's advice. If it works, try it with another session, but this time, record the eight-minute lecture ahead of time and put it online for the students to watch before coming to class.

As with any pedagogical shift, talk to your students about it ahead of time. Izenberg points out that part of the success she finds with her eight-minute lectures is that her students know what's coming -- they know they are about to receive just enough content for them to remember. Let your students know what you are doing and why you are doing it, and make sure they understand what you expect them to do in response.

What? The Center for the Advancement of TEACHING, is telling me to spend less time on my teaching?

We all know that Xavier is a premier undergraduate university.  This is largely in part due to the dedicated faculty who put teaching first in order to help students achieve their goals.  However, we as faculty have goals too, and some of those goals extend from the classroom.  It is our job to balance those goals and obligations so that each facet of our careers can thrive.  So to that end, what are the best practices, and easiest pitfalls, that new faculty can fall into?

Dr. Robert Boice, Professor of Psychology at SUNY in Stony Brook, NY, has done extensive research polling and following hundreds of faculty members across disciplines and institution types and then charting their success in the tenure and promotion process.  Overwhelmingly, the most common problem among faculty was not spending enough time on scholarly writing (proposals and papers) but that was linked hand-in-hand with being over prepared for their classes.  When faculty were reporting spending nearly 30 hours a week preparing for class, it is clear that some other aspect of their job was going to suffer for it.  However, not all faculty suffered from this lack of balance.  Boice identified 5–9% of new faculty as "quick starters," who in their first few years were well on their way to promotion and tenure especially with respect to scholarship. Moreover, they also scored in the top quarter of peer and student ratings of teaching; so their scholarly success was not achieved at the expense of their students.

You can read a brief article from Chemical Engineering Education summarizing his findings here:

And if you think this might be helpful, you can find Dr. Boice’s book here (among other places):

However, at Xavier, it can be quite easy to quickly achieve a balance.  As I mentioned, one of our greatest assets, and your greatest resource, are our faculty.  Here are some tips to leverage the resources you have in order to prepare a better class, in a reasonable amount of time, leaving sufficient time for scholarship:

  • Ask for and accept help from senior faculty.  If someone has taught a course that is new for you, odds are they are happy to share their notes, slides, test, etc.  Certainly you will want to make the courses you teach your own, but there is no need to spend hours reinventing the wheel (or at least reinventing the diagrams on a PowerPoint slide).
  • Do not be afraid to protect your writing time. We all want to have “open door” policies to our students and be generally available to them, but that does not mean you need to be on call 24/7.  Do not fear your student evaluations suffering if you close your door sometimes to write.  As long as you are available without fail for your classes and office hours as promised, no one will fault you for attending to other parts of your job. (I personally was reluctant to do this years ago, and speak from experience that there was no negative effect on my student evaluations.)
  • Visit CAT. OK, you knew this one was coming.  There are many faculty resources here in CAT including a staff that is eager to help you, not only with your teaching, but with incorporating your teaching into your job as a well-rounded (and successful!) Xavier faculty member

-Stassi DiMaggio

I recently attended the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) conference on Transforming STEM Education: Inquiry, Innovation, Inclusion and Evidence. It was an information-rich conference which highlighted the amazing initiatives currently taking place in the field of STEM education.To give you a taste of the veritable smorgasbord of information provided at the conference, I have prepared a summary of the sessions I attended in the whirlwind two days that I was at the meeting.

Please feel free to contact me if you want to discuss or learn more about any of the topics included in the summary. Bon appétit!

The science of teaching and learning on math education is crystal clear – there is an undeniable and intimate link between reading comprehension and math achievement. Back in 1998, middle school math teacher, Peter Fuentes, enlightened us to the fact that effective reading, and all of the behaviors that go along with it, is a fundamental skill on the road to success in mathematics.

We must acknowledge that reading in a mathematical context (i.e., word problems, mathematical textbooks) is inherently different than other types of reading. The content presented in a math setting is often information-dense and compact. Additionally, math concepts can be abstract and difficult to concretize. Another complicating factor is the fact that math has its own language that some students may find difficult to master. Some terms are unique and students must become conversant with terms and symbols that are new to them. Some terms are familiar, but used with completely different meanings. In these circumstances, it is not difficult to understand why some students view math as a frightening and mysterious subject that they have little chance of understanding.

Fortunately, the math education literature has provided a variety of instructional techniques to improve students’ math reading comprehension and retention skills. These include math journaling, math-specific vocabulary exercises, and integration of math vocabulary and concepts into other subjects (e.g. language). We can look to a middle school ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher to see one of these techniques in action. In a journal exercise, she provides the students with a list of lesson-related math vocabulary words. Students are then required to write a paragraph using as many as the words as possible. This exercise requires students to demonstrate a level of understanding of targeted concepts sufficient to construct meaningful writings.

The example above is seen in a middle school context, but the idea can be expanded and scaled to any level of math education. It is important to for us to help students to embrace the language of mathematics. With fluency, students can approach math problems (word and otherwise) with an understanding and confidence that leads to improved math performance. The following sources may be useful for a better understanding of the relationship between reading and math.

  • Fuentes, Peter. (1998) Reading Comprehension in Mathematics. The Clearing House, 72(2), 81-88.


When I think of teaching, I think of classrooms filled with eager students who are ready to absorb the knowledge saturating the room. I further envision students using that knowledge to advance humankind to new and exciting heights. Okay. My vision may be somewhat fanciful, but we, as teachers, have the ability to spark a curiosity and a desire to learn in our students that no one else can. The quality of our teaching is a powerful factor in maintaining the interest of our students and supporting their achievement in their chosen fields of study and beyond.

We take seriously the influential power that we have over our students’ educational experience. We read about, and meet to discuss with our colleagues, those teaching tools and techniques that will be most effective in helping our students to learn. We learn about all of the latest pedagogical approaches being used in classrooms around the world. We hear phrases like “flipping the classroom”, “problem-based learning”, “team teaching” and “integrative learning”, and we willingly conduct the research necessary to determine if these ideas can be successfully incorporated into our teaching process. Then, we begin to incorporate the practices that we believe will work. We find that some work better than others, some work only for a finite period of time and some don’t work at all.

Our willingness to see what works, and what doesn’t, makes us better teachers.  At a given time, any of a number of pedagogical strategies can work in a classroom, but it is important to understand that their effectiveness can ebb and flow. Students may transition from or outgrow a particular method of teaching or a particular method may lend itself to one discipline and not another. The important part is to try. If it works, that’s great. If it doesn’t work, then try something else. In either case, always share the hits and the misses with others so that they can benefit from what we’ve already learned. Ultimately, it is the students who benefit.

It is a safe assumption that some form of the old tried and true lecture will always be a part of teaching, but never be unwilling to transform the learning experience with new and innovative practices. Conversely, appreciate when a practice is not supporting the goal of educating students. In The Flip: End of a Love Affair, we are reminded of the power of pedagogical tools and the even greater power of understanding when we should move on to the next one.

Download Conversation #9

Mano Singham

A conversation with Dr. Mano Singham of Case Western Reserve University on teaching, learning, and the authoritarian syllabus.

That element of choice and trust between the teacher and the student I think are important aspects of creating a good learning environment, and I think the authoritarian syllabus tends to work against it. Authoritarian syllabuses can achieve certain things. You can get people to do things. But you can't get them to want to learn. That was my epiphany, if you like.

Links referenced in this episode:

  • Death to the Syllabus! by Mano Singham in Liberal Education, Fall 2007
  • "Moving away from the authoritarian classroom" by Mano Singham. Change, May/June 2005, pp. 51–57. [PDF courtesy of the author]
  • "How my course syllabus is created" by Mano Singham. [PDF courtesy of the author]
  • Mano Singham's Web Journal: Thoughts on science, history and philosophy of science, religion, politics, the media, education, learning, books, and films.

We're proud to announce this podcast is a finalist for a POD Network innovation award. We hope to see you at the conference.

Download Conversation #8

Arthur Zajonc

A conversation with Dr. Arthur Zajonc of Amherst College on teaching, learning, and contemplative inquiry.

While we may begin with the "pause that refreshes," if we leave it only at that then it's seen only as a break from learning. I'm really keen on it being seen also as a means of learning. That is to say, we school our attention — that's long been a part of the contemplative traditions, the deepening and stabilizing of attention — then, if we can bring that deepened and stabilized attention to the work at hand, it's going to be far more productive. And in addition, if one can take up a practice such as this contemplative inquiry practice, we add to that an enhanced learning capacity. So not only attention is schooled but also a new modality of inquiry is also offered to the student.

Links referenced in this episode:

A tip of the hat to the good folks at TalkShoe who helped us with some technical problems.

...continue reading "Conversation #8: Contemplative Inquiry"

Download Conversation #6

Ray Barnhardt

Native ways of knowing have been documented now over the last dozen years or so in ways that teachers can recognize and acknowledge in their teaching and utilize as strengths in the classroom.... So when you're teaching science, you use the traditional knowledge, that people have developed over millennia to survive in a very harsh environment, to demonstrate that science is something that's practiced every day in the community. And you can find situations in the community where you can demonstrate the subject matter that would otherwise be taught from a textbook, and that's called for in the state science standards, but starting with something that's there in the community that students can relate to. And that has been one of the few if not the only approach that has made a significant difference for native students, to capitalize on their strengths, rather than punish them for their differences.

A conversation with Dr. Ray Barnhardt of University of Alaska Fairbanks on teaching and learning across cultures.

Links referenced in this episode:

...continue reading "Conversation #6: Across Cultures"

Download Conversation #5

Tracy Zinn

I tell my students that one of my goals for every class that I have is that I want them to be uncomfortable at times. I say that if they're comfortable with everything we've discussed and it doesn't sound new to them or unusual then they're not learning in the class, and that in order to grow and develop we have to have some growing pains, and so we have to have some discussions that push our boundaries a little bit, that make us a little bit uncomfortable... Thinking sometimes hurts.

A conversation with Dr. Tracy Zinn of James Madison University about teaching, learning and classroom discussion.

Links referenced in this episode:

  • Innumeracy by John Allen Paulos
  • QQTP: Connor-Greene, P. A. (2005). Fostering meaningful classroom discussion: Student-generated questions, quotations, and talking points. Teaching of Psychology, 32(3), 173-175. [order]
  • Types of Questions Based on Bloom's Taxonomy (from Honolulu Community College's Faculty Guidebook)

...continue reading "Conversation #5: Classroom Discussion"

A conversation with Dr. Suzie Baker of James Madison University about teaching, learning and technology.

Download Conversation #1

Links referenced in this episode: