College and University Teaching

Laura McNeill

Final Project

Hi Everyone!

Dr. Major graciously allowed me to record a video overview of my final project for College and University Teaching.

Here’s a look – and it’s only 4 minutes long!

You can also connect with me on Portfolium and view my work there. My page is

Hope everyone has a wonderful summer!



Final Project Update

In preparation for presenting my final project poster, I am uploading and organizing my artifacts in Portfolium (see below!).  Over the next week, I plan to also add:

  • UA Courses & Details
  • Professional Organizations
  • Jobs I’ve held and responsibilities
  • Add additional artifacts from my positions at UA and SHC
  • Organize the existing artifacts properly

I look forward to sharing my final project and getting feedback for improvement!


Personal Learning Environment

Here’s a look at my Personal Learning Environment created in Popplet. Use the link or view the PDF to see the details.

Personal Learning Environment {PDF}

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 9.46.53 AM.png

Looking forward to seeing everyone else’s PLEs. I’m sure you will all have some great ideas to share!


Teaching Observation

I was fortunate to be able to observe two of my favorite professors at UAB. Carleton Rivers teaches nutrition to UAB graduate students and Deek Cunningham is an instructor in the UAB occupational therapy department.

I’ve attached my observation forms here, as they are quite lengthy!

Carleton Rivers Teaching Observation

Deek Cunningham Teaching Observation


Review: Classroom Assessment Techniques

Classroom Assessment Techniques by Angelo and Cross is not a book about testing students. Rather, Angelo and Cross set out to help individual college teachers “obtain useful feedback on what, how much, and how well their students are learning.” (p 3) Specifically, the authors are attempting to assist instructors bridge the gap between what is being taught and what is being learned – what the authors call a “a continuous flow of accurate information on student learning” throughout the semester – before it is too late to solve any problems or issues.

I found it enormously helpful for the authors to explain their purpose of classroom assessment, their seven characteristics of classroom assessment (formative, context-specific, etc.), and their seven basic assumptions of classroom assessment, upon which they designed their model of classroom assessment (explicit goals and objectives, formative feedback, intellectual challenge, etc.).

The Teaching Goals Inventory is one area that I will explore before I begin teaching this summer, as I believe, as the authors suggest, that it will be helpful for me to become more aware of what I would like to accomplish, to locate assessment techniques, and to provide a starting point for discussion of teaching and learning goals.

Before entering into the second section of the text, which provides 50 specific classroom assessment techniques in areas including course related knowledge and analysis as well as critical thinking and problem solving, I found it helpful that the authors pointed out how they selected each individual classroom assessment technique (CAT) to include in the textbook. Their seven criteria included:

  1. Is it context-sensitive?
  2. Is it flexible?
  3. Is it likely to make a difference?
  4. Is it mutually beneficial?
  5. Is it easy to administer?
  6. Is it easy to respond to?
  7. Is it educationally valid?

The authors are quick to point out that while each of the seven criteria had to be met for the CAT to be included in the text, not every CAT would be equally effective for every situation, as not every instructor will have the same teaching goals, even for the same course.

Each of the 50 different classroom assessment techniques (CATs) are discussed in terms of applicability, step-by-step instructions, level of difficulty, and field in which the CAT may be used. Each assessment follows a format that includes 14 points including a description of the technique, its purpose, the exact steps to follow to implement it and the pros and cons of using it.

Many of the activities provide quick and easy ways to identify your students’ misconceptions, and to make sure everyone is on the same page. The very commonly used “muddiest point,” “minute paper,” and “one-sentence summary” are among the assessment techniques ones that I will consider implementing over the next several semesters, as well as the annotated portfolio as a way for students to collect and house samples of their work to show potential employers. I also have an interest in using classroom opinion polls as a way to gather information about when and where to start teaching, and and double-entry journals as a way to establish not only a student’s ideas and assertions about assigned course readings, but also as a way to discover why a reading or certain information is personally significant. I believe that both of the latter exercises would be excellent ways of gaining insight and understanding without the pressure or stress of a group project or individual presentation, making it (hopefully) more authentic.

The final section covers what the authors have learned from six years of work with classroom research and what they believe the next steps will be in this area of education, including classroom research by dedicated social scientists as well as relating teachers’ personal theories about learning with formal theories advanced through decades of research.

There is also an extensive list of resources at the end of the book, including the Teaching Goals Inventory, Self-Scorable Worksheet, and comparative data on the Teaching Goals Inventory from both community colleges and four-year schools. Overall, I believe this is a valuable and easy to use reference for instructors with varied levels of experience.

Review: Teaching at Its Best

I found Teaching at Its Best by Dr. Linda Nilson to be another great resource in preparation for college and university teaching. True to the book’s description, Teaching is “an essential toolbox of hundreds of practical teaching techniques, formats, classroom activities, and exercises, all which can be implemented immediately.”

In particular, I believe that the author set the right tone at the beginning of the book by stating well-researched principles about how people learn. Those include that people “learn when they are motivated to do so by the inspiration and enthusiasm of other people in their lives” (Feldman, 1998), they learn “when they are actively engaged in an activity, a life experience,” as well as when they “receive the material multiple times but in different ways,” and that people “learn better when the material evokes emotional and not just intellectual or physical involvement.” Keeping these principles in mind is of utmost importance, in my opinion, no matter what subject is being taught, despite differences in student body profile, and aside from whatever tools and/or technology is being used to convey the information.

Though the book contains a plethora of useful techniques and recommendations, I found the following the most interesting and impactful for what I would like to achieve with students:

  1. Writing Outcomes – Ensuring that an instructor has crafted a measureable statement of exactly what students should be able to do after completing the course, as well as criteria for assessing the performance (p 18)
  2. First Impressions – Laying out expectations, thinking about “class activities that model the level of student engagement you have in mind for the rest of the term” (p 45)
  3. Motivating Students – The text references Bandura’s Social Cognitive Model (p 54) which states that the more value students give to our learning material, relative to meeting other needs in life, the more motivated they will be to learn.” Nilson references giving students control and choice, which I strongly believe positively motivates students by allowing them to “buy into” the process and outcome.
  4. Teaching Methods – I found the list of teaching methods in Chapter 11 to be a solid resource for connecting methods with learning outcomes, including suggestions like role play, project based learning, case studies, and fieldwork (p 106-107).
  5. Experiential Learning – Taking the teaching methods concept further, Nilson expands upon how to successfully execute teaching methods like debates, panel discussions, press conferences, role playing, etc. I found this particularly valuable in that research documents that such experiential learning methods…ensure “higher student motivation, more learning at higher cognitive levels, greater appreciation of the subject matter…and longer retention of the material” (Berry, 2008).

While there are many positive sections of Nilson’s text, I do feel that the book was lacking in at least two areas: Formative feedback and online learning.

  1. Formative Feedback – While the text covered summative feedback in great detail, the book devoted less than a page to formative feedback. I believe that a chapter dedicated to formative feedback is in order – or at the very least, least several more pages of research and information about the benefit of providing students feedback about their work in progress. Doing so allows students time to think, rework, and correct any “missteps,” receive constructive criticism from the instructor, and have the opportunity to clarify points that were unclear, all which help maintain student engagement and motivation.
  2. Online learning – Although the text was written in 2010, I would have expected more of the information to focus on both face to face and online learning. While there is some mention of online coursework, more information on online techniques, formats, activities and exercises would certainly be of benefit to readers.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and will definitely keep it as a resource. I look forward to seeing what the fourth edition of the manual might include.

Final Project Proposal

I will be completing my teaching portfolio for the final project. I will be using Portfolium, which is a product relatively new to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Portfolium has a LinkedIn feel, with sections and room to display projects and videos. It also allows colleagues to connect and follow with one another.

My teaching portfolio will include the following sections:

Introduction – This section will include my photo, a banner, a short bio, contact information, and my current degree program, as well as the link for anyone to access my Portfolium, my email, social media contacts, and other contact information.

Artifacts – These include projects created with Articulate 360, WordPress, Wix, Prezi, Camtasia, Adobe Premiere, Piktochart, including videos, interactive websites, blog entries, YouTube, PPT, instructional lesson plans, grant applications, as well as Canvas and Blackboard courses I have developed and/or taught.

Work Experience – This will highlight my Instructional Design positions and any teaching and/or workshop experience.

Courses and Certifications – These will include my courses from the PhD in Instructional Leadership and Technology, as well as my Masters Degree in Interactive Technology.

Publications – Here I will showcase my published work, including articles, books, essays, etc.

My Curriculum Vitae – This will include the presentations I have given for various institutions and conferences, as well as grants received, papers published or in progress, conference presentations, and poster presentations.

Teaching Philosophy – This section will include the Teaching Philosophy developed for AHE 603.

Connections – I will use this area to connect with my colleagues in education and industry.

There are also sections for accomplishments, clubs, affiliations, and programs, which I will fill in as appropriate.

This is a new program for me, so I am still learning my way around. I believe that every student at UA was given access to this free tool, so I encourage you to check it out as well!

My Link:

Student Interviews: Teaching Effectiveness Assessment Method

With student interviews, the researcher works with the faculty member to create a list of interview questions around a question/issue/topic. The researcher then interviews individual students and asks them to respond to the themes.

According to Merriam and Tisdell (2016), “in education, if not in most applied fields, interviewing is probably the most common form of data collection in qualitative studies.” In my research areas of interest – student engagement and instructor formative feedback – I have developed specific questions which I will test and refine for my future dissertation work (I will share them below) but none of those questions, no matter how exemplary they are, will work to obtain meaningful data (or information) if the method with which I capture them is faulty.

Care must be taken to craft objective, non-leading questions, and ask those questions to students once you have addressed the subject of the research, and ensured they are comfortable with supplying you information. Researchers should attempt to maintain a polite, professional, yet friendly space, use open body language, and pay attention to the student and his or her replies (rather than typing on a laptop or scrolling through a phone). Effort must also be taken to record the replies verbatim, helps ensure the validity of the research (using a video recorder, audio recorder, etc.). Questions that only yield a yes or no answer should be avoided; open-ended questions yield more detailed answers. Follow-up questions and probes can be used to delve deeper into the student’s responses.

Prior to the interview itself, any gatekeeping and barrier (noise, language, culture, consent, etc). issues must be addressed. Once the interview is complete, field notes should include descriptions, observations, direct quotations, and observer comments (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016).


Research Question (draft, in progress)

What factors of instructor formative feedback positively impact student engagement in online courses?

Introductory Questions

  • What is your name?
  • What is your major, and your year/level (sophomore, junior) in school?

Interview Questions (draft, in progress)

  1. What does it mean for you to engage with course material?
  2. How important is engagement with course material to you? Why?
  3. How do you know you have “engaged” with course material?
  4. Can you describe a time when you really engaged with course material?
  5. What happens if you don’t engage with course material?
  6. Any other thoughts about engagement that you would like to share?
  7. Changing gears…what does the term “formative feedback” in online learning mean to you?
  8. How does “useful and meaningful” formative feedback help you perform as a student?
  9. Can you describe an example of “useful and meaningful” formative feedback an instructor provided you?
  10. What, if anything, did receiving this “useful and meaningful” feedback help you accomplish in the course?
  11. What happens if an instructor does not offer “useful and meaningful” formative feedback on an important paper or project?
  12. Do you feel that you can ask instructors for formative feedback?
  13. Any other thoughts about formative feedback that you would like to share

Teaching Philosphy

My teaching philosophy is drawn from constructivism (Driscoll, 2005; Ertmer & Newby, 1993), Gagne’s theory of instruction, Bandura’s self efficacy theory, and Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education (1987), as well as from pedagogy and best practices of instructional design.


Constructivism is a theory that equates learning with creating meaning from experience (Ertmer & Newby, 1993). Constructivists contend that what we know of the world stems from the interpretation of experiences; creating meaning as opposed to acquiring it.

Learners do not transfer knowledge from the external world into memories; rather they shape a comprehension of the world based on individual experiences and human connections. According to Lee (2016), “constructivism states that learning is an active, contextualized process of constructing knowledge rather than acquiring it…knowledge is constructed based on personal experiences and hypotheses of the environment.”

Gagne’s Theory of Instruction

Gagne’s Theory of Instruction is a process that starts with gaining the attention of the students (Driscoll, 2005). The instructor is also responsible for assessing and implementing behavioral modifications, which can assist students in reaching their full potential. Instructors may use techniques such as encoding, chunking, and retrieval, which can be crucial to developing a student’s cognitive information processing.

Behavioral reinforcements may also be utilized, especially if they are found meaningful and motivational to the learner. Learning activities designed by an instructor should help students to problem-solve, interact in communities of other learners, provide occasions for self-study, leadership, and cooperation, as well as assist students in determining how learning is connected to their own goals and objectives.

Bandura’s Self-Efficacy Theory

As with any learning theory, challenges to learning exist and must be considered. Instructors can use Bandura’s self-efficacy theory to identify students lacking motivation to learn. Practices that can be implemented include approaching material in unique or innovative ways, varying the instructional presentation, building on learners’ previous experiences, providing opportunities for students to achieve goals, providing learners with some degree of control over their own instruction, using positive reinforcement, and providing learners opportunities to use and demonstrate or problem-solve with new skills or information (Driscoll, 2005).

Instructors must also pay attention to distractions in the physical environment, such as noise, heat, distractions, lighting, and time of day. Most students will benefit from an instructor addressing and solving these issues to the best of her or his ability.

Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education

Chickering and Gameson (1987), first introduced to focus on undergraduate education, is equally applicable to graduate instruction, and provides a solid conceptual framework for the goals of my teaching philosophy. Chickering and Gamson also assert that good educational practice does the following:

  • Encourages student-faculty contact
  • Encourages cooperation among students
  • Encourages active learning
  • Gives prompt feedback
  • Emphasizes time on task
  • Communicates high expectations
  • Respects diverse talents and ways of learning

Instructional Technology

Instructional technology is much more than the initial definition of planning, producing, selecting, utilizing, and managing learning modules and objects. Instructional design should be thought of as “the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources” (Branch, 2004).

Instructional designers have been charged with “translating principles of learning and instruction into specifications for instructional materials and activities” (Smith & Ragan, 1993). To achieve this goal, according to Ertmer and Newby, “a designer must have the ability to diagnose and analyze practical learning problems … (as well as) have an understanding the potential sources of solutions (i.e., the theories of human learning) (2013).” Designers should have an ample collection of instructional approaches available, along with the ability to discern when and why to use each, considering the demands of the task with an instructional strategy that has the highest chance of helping the learner (Ertmer & Newby, 2013).

As suggested by Warries (1990), a selection based on strong research is much more reliable than one based on “instructional phenomena.”

Teaching Philosophy

Using these educational theories and my knowledge of instructional technology, my goal is to empower learners through reasoning, critical thinking, understanding, practical use, and real-world application of knowledge.

I believe that students must be active participants in the learning process. This includes students participating during designed learning activities, but also includes taking responsibility for their own learning inside and outside of the classroom. The learner should be motivated to self-regulate learning by having some control over their own learning, setting developmentally appropriate and attainable goals, while being allowed to demonstrate and apply new knowledge. Reflective thinking should be encouraged in order to deepen the connection made between new knowledge and prior knowledge (Driscoll, 2005).

By providing a safe, positive learning environment in which students can experiment, question, and try new things, it is my hope that students will build confidence in their own abilities and begin to self-appraise and reflect on new knowledge. I will also strive to incorporate a variety of instructional technology tools that will stimulate curiosity, promote engagement, and encourage interaction with peers and the community.

Finally, it is my goal to remain a life-long learner, continuing to research, test, and utilize the latest, most interactive, and impactful instructional technology tools in order to provide an exemplary, valuable, and innovative learning experience for students.


Branch, R. M. (2004). Personal communication.

Chickering, A. W. &  Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. AAHE Bulletin, 39, 3-7.

Constructivism (2017). Learning Theories. Retrieved from

Driscoll, M.P. (2005). Psychology of learning for instruction. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon: Pearson Education.

Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50-72.

Lee, J. (2016). Constructivism. Learning Theories. Retrieved from:

Reiser, R. A. (2007). What field did you say you were in? In R.A. Reiser, & J. V. Dempsey     (Eds.), Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (2nd ed.). Columbus Ohio: Pearson Education, Inc.

Seels, B., & Glasgow, Z. (1998). Making instructional design decisions (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Smith, P.L., & Ragan, T.J. (1993). Instructional design. New York: Macmillan.

Warries, E. (1990). Theory and the systematic design of instruction. In S. Dijkstra, B. van Hout Wolters, & P.C. van der Sijde, (Eds.), Research on instruction: Design and effects (pp. 1–19). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology.

Blog at

Up ↑