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Developing Higher Order Thinking Skills – Part I

This one-hour interactive webinar examines a variety of techniques and tools available to assess higher order thinking skills. The focus is on developing and assessing higher levels of learning as described in Bloom’s taxonomy i.e., analyze, evaluate, and create. We explore the implementation of problem-based and project-based learning, inquiry learning, experiential learning, use of e-portfolios and peer evaluations as instructional approaches that allow students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in multiple ways. The webinar engages the audience in a discussion of the many ways that faculty can assess students’ performance.
Facilitated by  Paula Bigatel and Louise Sharrar. – November 5, 2014

Developing Higher Order Thinking Skills – Part II

In “Developing Higher Order Thinking Skills Part II”, we will continue our dialogue with additional ways to assess students’ higher order thinking skills (HOTS) and tools to use to assist in the feedback and grading process. We’ll discuss ePortfolios, digital badges, structuring discussions, and rubrics. We’ll conclude with the reminder of how important it is to align assessments with learning objectives and instructional activities.
Facilitated by  Paula Bigatel and Louise Sharrar. – January 21, 2015

Make Group Work Enjoyable. Find Out How!

This webinar will consist of a guest panel that has extensive experience with group work and managing team processes both in the undergraduate and graduate online learning environments. We’ll learn from their experiences some best practices on designing and implementing strategies to make group work more effective and productive, maybe even enjoyable!! We’ll share many examples and focus on such aspects of group work such as the role of the instructor/facilitator, evaluation of group work, peer assessments, team contracts, team conflicts, common pitfalls, etc. Please share in this dynamic exchange and bring your questions.
Facilitated by Paula Bigatel and Louise Sharrar. Guest panel features Janet Duck and Michelle Kline. – March 18, 2015

How to Drive Motivation and Retain Students

On Wednesday April 22nd, our faculty development unit invited participants to attend a webinar on motivation. We had a guest panel consisting of two faculty members, Dr. Brian Redmond (Psychology, University Park) and Lisa Bertin, MBA (IST, Shenango) and one undergraduate student, Paulina Erices (online psychology program) that provided us with their insights and experiences with motivational strategies.

Paulina gave us such great feedback on what motivated her or de-motivated her in the courses she took. For example, she felt for the most part faculty motivated her by allowing her choice in topics for her projects and assignments. Furthermore, she felt there were a variety of ways that she could demonstrate her understanding of course content. What de-motivated her was being constrained in her learning approaches and not having her opinions heard/respected. We spent some time on motivational theories and models and how they could be translated into online classroom practices.
Facilitated by Lisa Bertin, Paula Bigatel, Paulina Erices, and Brian Redmond. – April 22, 2015

Serving Those Who Serve

Penn State World Campus is sending faculty and staff on a mission: to learn how to best support military and veteran students at Penn State. We’ve created a mission-oriented online professional development course titled Serving Those Who Serve. The course covers aspects of military life and culture; Penn State policies and best practices for serving the military audience; links to available support resources; video interviews with faculty, staff, and students; and finally, scenarios that encourage participants to apply lessons learned to real situations Penn State military and veteran students have faced.

This webinar will introduce you to the course as we discuss the challenges military students face and share ways that Penn State supports them both in and out of the online classroom.

Facilitated by Todd Bacastow, Professor of Practice for Geospatial Intelligence, Dutton e-Education Institute; Kristin Bittner, Instructional Designer at Penn State Public Media, WPSU; Ginny Newman, Assistant Director Defense Sector Education, Penn State; and Andrew Tatusko, Assistant Director for World Campus Faculty Development. – May 20, 2015

Make Group Work Enjoyable. Find Out How!

In the second running of this webinar, we had a new guest panelist and a new student representative answering questions about how experience the management and assessment of group work. The emphasis this time was on the undergraduate student experience, both traditional age students and adult learners in the online and face-to-face classroom. Bart Pursel from ITS was our new guest panelist and his insight into working with traditional age students contrasted somewhat with Michelle Kline who was our return panelist from the Bachelor of Science in Business program. Michelle’s audience is the adult learner in an online program most or whom work and want to see real world connections to their professional work lives. Her audience experiences more barriers to conducting group work because many are busy with family and work obligations as opposed to traditional age students who are full time students who do not typically work. Linda Chadwick, our student representative, could attest to the challenges of working full time and going to school. She shared many experiences, positive and negative, with group work, which all of us could learn from.

Despite some negativity about group work, the guests and the participants learned about ways to improve some negative aspects of group work by using team contracts, clearly articulating expectations, providing guidance on how to function well as team members, and grading group work that takes into account an individual grade (based on peer evaluations), and a group grade.

Facilitated by: Paula Bigatel and Louise Sharrar along with our guest panel of Bart Pursel, Michelle Kline and Linda Chadwick. – June 17, 2015

Strategies to Make Academic Integrity Work as an Educational Process

How do we make academic integrity part of our students’ educational experience? How do we manage situations where academic integrity is violated? This webinar will discuss resources and strategies to prevent plagiarism and will also discuss the process involved for when students violate university policy.

Presenters: Dawn Amsberry, Reference and Instruction Librarian; Joann Dornich, Educational Program Associate, World Campus; and Karen Feldbaum, Associate Director Office of Student Conduct. Facilitated by Andrew Tatusko, Assistant Director for Faculty Development – August 19, 2015

How Can I Help Students Develop Critical Thinking Skills?

In this presentation, we discussed ways to promote critical thinking in online courses. Our focus was on making thinking visible. We started with a memorable quote:

“We should be teaching students how to think. Instead, we are teaching them what to think” (Clement and Lockhead, Cognitive Process Instruction).

The problem is we focus on the delivery of massive amounts of information rather than teaching students how to critically evaluate and sift through what they are consuming.  An important aspect of this process of evaluating information is the fact that students filter information based on beliefs, biases, personal experiences and prior knowledge, which results in multiple perspectives. If we can get students to reveal their assumptions based on their beliefs, etc., we are helping them develop awareness of how they arrive at conclusions and judgments about what they consume.

We also discussed many examples where students would be actively demonstrating what they are learning through activities such as:

  • Active listening or reading online lectures
  • Completing online labs – home experiments
  • Homework assignments – problem-solving, practice quizzes, online discussions
  • Performance-based learning activities – case studies, research, role-play, interviews, reflective journaling, projects, etc.
  • Using rubrics – peer assessments
  • Writing assignments
  • Exams – multiple choice and essay questions that focus on higher order thinking skills

An important component in developing critical thinking skills is the type of questions you ask students that prompt critical thinking. We talked about how to probe students with questions that focus on why students arrive at certain conclusions and asking them for rationales and justifications for their decisions and judgments/evaluations – whether that comes from analyzing and evaluating a journal article, op ed piece,  movie, YouTube video, etc.  We also had a discussion around how to phrase probing questions such that students don’t get defensive when you are asking them to explain how they arrived at certain opinions e.g., “Help me understand what you are thinking…”

We shared resources such as:

Critical thinking rubric: http://www.eiu.edu/learninggoals/pdfs/KansasStUni-CriticalThinkingRubric.pdf

The Critical Thinking Community website: http://www.criticalthinking.org/  (check out “Socratic Teaching”)

Bloom’s Taxonomy Critical Thinking Cue Questions:


Brookfield, S. D. (2011). Teaching for critical thinking. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.