Answering the same student questions over and over... An inbox full of student emails... Too little peer-to-peer interaction in your classroom... If these challenges sound familiar to you, you may want to check out the online discussion platform, Piazza.

A recent CRLT study of University of Michigan students and faculty (from Winter 2013) found that Piazza is a great tool for answering student questions, reducing email volume, facilitating student interaction between classes, and increasing the number of students participating in class discussion.
 
Available through CTools, Piazza can help you promote student engagement outside the classroom while keeping the workload manageable. Instead of emailing you with questions after class, students can post questions to Piazza, and other students or GSIs can answer them. As the instructor, you can also answer questions, endorse select student answers, provide feedback, edit student responses, and view reports of student participation. One key strength of Piazza is the ease of organizing questions: you can create tags or folders for each lecture of assignment, so students can easily find out if the question they have has already been answered. 
 
If you are a faculty member who is interested in learning more about Piazza or would like to try it out in your class, join the CRLT on September 23rd at 8:30am for Emerging Tech: Piazza, a workshop where you will get a hands-on guided tour of Piazza and learn about potential uses for it in your classroom. If you are a GSI and would like to learn more about Piazza, CRLT will be hosting Next Steps with IT on October 4th at 9am. This workshop will cover the use of multiple classroom tech tools including Piazza and M+Box.
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CRLT is currently accepting applications for the Lecturers' Professional Development Fund (LPDF), a grant specifically for U-M's Lecturers.  If you are a Lecturer on the Ann Arbor campus with a continuing appointment, you are eligible to apply for a grant of up to $2000 to fund professional development opportunities related to your teaching or scholarship.  For example, the funds could be used to support:

  • attendance at a professional meeting
  • purchase of computer hardware or software
  • travel expenses associated with accessing resources at other institutions
  • editorial, graduate student, or work-study assistance.  

Applications for the grant are due on September 24th at 4pm.  Details about how to apply can be found on our LPDF application page. Prospective applicants can also view the reports from previous LPDF recipients to get a sense of the range of projects that have been funded in the past.  

Every year, CRLT provides over $300,000 to U-M's instructors to support improvements to teaching and curriculum.  For more information about the range of grants available from CRLT, click hereRead more »

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With the beginning of the semester just around the corner, many instructors are strategizing about how best to start productive classroom conversations. Students who speak even briefly at the beginning of a class meeting are more likely to participate in discussions going forward, and a well-chosen icebreaker can help everyone join in. As quick, low-stakes, and often fun activities that involve students at the beginning of a session, icebreakers can be a good way to learn about who's in the classroom, reduce anxiety, and engage all students in thinking together about course content.  

CRLT provides examples of icebreakers and guidance for using them in the Handbook on Departmental GSI Development. We also recently polled our Graduate Teaching Consultants (GTCs) to gather a list of their favorites. Here are some good ideas we received when we asked the GTCs to "tweet" us a particularly effective icebreaker they have used, seen, or heard about: Read more »

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To welcome new instructors to the University and help prepare them for their first teaching assignments at U-M, CRLT will be offering orientations for new faculty and new GSIs in the last week of August. These programs are all designed to help new instructors meet colleagues from across the campus, learn about the resources available for teaching, and hit the ground running when the teaching term begins. Our work with U-M instructors has convinced us that when teaching is going well, other aspects of faculty or GSI work life are more likely to fall into place. So we take great care to design orientations that make the best possible use of participants' time and cover the topics most salient to getting a good start in the classroom, lab, or studio.

All of us at CRLT are excited to welcome new instructors to campus and to help you get the tools you need to succeed. We look forward to meeting you! Read more »

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Whether you're starting a course from scratch or revamping something you've taught many times before, careful planning is key to successful teaching. CRLT offers many resources to support U-M instructors in their course planning as the beginning of the semester draws near.

  • The resources on this Course Design and Planning page focus on course design. Do you tend to begin your course planning by asking, "What material do I want to cover?" or "What do I want my students to learn?" Research shows that instructors best promote student learning when they start with the second question, organizing course content, class activities, and assignments around a clear set of learning objectives. The Course Design and Planning resources explain this research and walk you through the process of applying it to your courses.
  • The resources on this Strategies for Effective Lesson Design page focus on preparing individual class meetings. This page outlines steps for developing learning objectives, structuring relevant learning activities, and checking student understanding along the way.  
  • CRLT Consultations are available for U-M instructors at any point in the course planning process, whether you want to explore new approaches to teaching the subject matter, brainstorm about integrating technology into a course, or apply principles of course design.   

Even small changes can produce big impacts on student engagement and learning. And whether it's enhancing a key assignment, tweaking a class activity, or introducing active learning into one lecture session, a well-planned shift can also fuel your own excitement about the new semester.

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