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In This Issue


Q & A :
Open-book testing
Book Review: Brookfield revamps his classic

What's New:
* ANGEL 7 is coming!
* Schreyer Box Lunch sessions
Fall Workshop Schedule
Teaching Tip



Previous Issues

September/October 2006 : Preparing for the First Day

July/August 2006 : Social Computing

May/June 2006 : Faculty Roles in Student Retention

April 2006 : Using Discussion Boards Effectively



Contact Me
Suzanne C. Shaffer, M.Ed.
Instructional Design/eLSS

Penn State York
ISTC 202







Volume 1 Issue 5 November/December 2006

teacher at computer
Teaching and Learning at Penn State York

Best Practices,  Teaching Tips,  Ideas,  Resources, What's NEW!


Mid-term is here and as a result, assessment is on our minds. This issue of the newsletter will examine several different aspects of assessment including:

  • AAHE's Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning
  • Outcomes Assessment: an Introduction
  • Classroom Assessment Techniques
  • Technology & Assessment
  • Assessment of Learning Spaces

In addition, this issue contains:

  • Book Review: Stephen Brookfield's classic, The Skillful Teacher, is revamped for a second edition (September 2006)
  • ANGEL 7 is coming May 2007 with significant changes to the look and feel of ANGEL - What can you expect from the changes?
  • Q & A - Is open-book testing a valid assessment method for undergraduate courses?
  • Upcoming fall workshops

Feature Article: Assessment

    Assessment is such a large topic that deciding what to cover is a challenge. With that said, there are certainly topics that are moving towards the front of our consciousness in terms of institutional and classroom practices. This issue will include information on: best practices for assessing student learning; how outcomes assessment differs from other types of assessment practices; formal and informal testing practices; the role of technology in assessment management; and assessing learning spaces relative to student learning and engagement.

Read the Article

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Q & A Open-book testing, or closed; that is the question...

I was recently asked what I thought about the validity of using open-book exams in undergraduate classes. The question revolved around the notion that students are learning in an age where they need to not only develop background knowledge, but also develop skills to manage and use information in efficient and effective ways. Does the memorization of facts and figures still have a role to play in our educational practice?

This challenging series of questions/thoughts  generated some great conversations about the nature and purpose of undergraduate education including:

1. What is the nature and purpose of an undergraduate education and its relationship to assessment practices? While critical thinking and higher-order thinking skills (analysis, synthesis, evaluation) are definitely developed during the undergraduate education, certainly knowledge building is also required. A firm knowledge base (vocabulary, historical background and framework, and other fact-based knowledge bits and pieces) is required before students can start to build on that foundation with higher-order applications. Open-book assessment might not necessarily show instructors that students have mastered that base knowledge.

2. How do the types of assessments used, impact how students study? Often, there is a direct correlation. If you want students to show you that they know the facts before you move onto more critical thinking activities, multiple choice quizzes and tests are a good way to ensure that they have spent some time with the factual basis for the course. This is, of course, not where you want to end up in terms of learning, but it is a good place to start. Higher-order thinking skills build on the factual base. The good news is that ANGEL quizzes can automate much of this process for you and your students. Use ANGEL quizzes for self-testing and low-stakes testing to allow you and your students to monitor their learning progress with factual information.

3. What are your learning outcomes for your students? Always strive to align the assessment type to the learning outcome. Usually part of the learning outcome is an increase in knowledge about the subject. Use closed-book quizzes for fact-based knowledge.  Exams that require more analysis and application of the factual information can then have that open-book style, requiring the application and or synthesis of the learned factual information.

After much deliberation, my initial thought remained - there is a factual base that students need to actually memorize and know, and they acquire that knowledge base (along with many other skills) in their undergraduate classes. Assessment types drive the way that students study. If you want students to have a fluency with your content, begin with closed-book testing of facts. Then move into assessment types that require students to apply and manipulate the knowledge they have acquired. 

Thanks for the question!

Banta, T.W., Lund, J. P., Black, K.E., & Oblander, F.W. (1996). Assessment in practice: Putting principles to work on college campuses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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Book cover

Book Review: The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom, 2nd Edition, by Stephen D. Brookfield

Brookfield has updated this classic text for the September 2006 release to include new sections about on-line learning, diversity, and understanding contemporary students.  View the TOC and read an excerpt from the book here.

This text provides sound advice on such topics as:

  1. Understanding contemporary classrooms
  2. What students value in teachers
  3. Lecturing creatively
  4. Preparing students for discussion
  5. Giving helpful evaluations
  6. Responding to resistance
  7. Surviving emotionally
  8. Responding to the politics of teaching
  9. Teaching online

In the opening chapter, Brookfield compares teaching to the uncertainty of white-water rafting. Teaching is a complex act with interspersed periods of exhilaration, success, and seeming defeat. He urges teachers to value their own experiences in the classroom and to draw upon them in critically reflective ways in order to understand and improve upon their teaching practice.

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What's New?

ANGEL 7 is coming - May 2007

While the functionality isn't changing that much, the look and feel of the ANGEL interface is changing significantly. Take a look at this screen shot of the new ANGEL "dashboard" with the Content manager open within a course.

ANGEL photo

Overview sessions will be scheduled in early Spring 2007. I am told that a practice server will be in place at some point for faculty to get a feel for the new interface. As a campus, our challenge will be the timing of the transition, which is tentatively scheduled to take place at the end of the UP semester. We will, however, have already begun our Summer I session. Talking to other IDs who have gone through this process before, they are recommending that faculty, interested in using ANGEL with their courses in Summer I, keep the course set-up simple until after the transition is completed. As more recommendations are made clear, I will pass them along to you.

One-Stop-Shop Location for Teaching Resources

Don't forget the teaching & learning resources pages and workshop listing. You'll find the site at:

There are links to discussions, teaching resources, and other items of interest, arranged topically for easy navigation. You can also find this page by going to the Faculty/Staff pages on the PSY webpage, and clicking on the Teaching Resources link, then the Teaching & Learning Resources link.

Upcoming Workshop highlights:

Schreyer Box Lunch Series: Academic Integrity: Promoting an Environment of Trust in the Classroom - 11/14/2006 - MCB 31B 12-1:30 via Polycom - Lunch is provided. However, you MUST register for the event at


Feature ::  Q & A :: Book Review :: What's New :: Fall Workshop Schedule :: Teaching Tip


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Teaching Tip

    Recently, I listened to a podcasted symposium on Hip-Hop from Princeton University (discussing Hip Hop and its role in 9/11 and Katrina disasters) where one of the speakers asked the question, What are the conditions under which we can be more courageous and compassionate? This struck me quite powerfully as a question I would like to ask my students (under the guise of getting more writing practice - but also to help me understand them better - What is important to them? How to make what we are studying relevant and meaningful?

 I stand in the front of the room and look at their faces, seemingly more interested in getting the grade than in really meeting the content and being changed by it. My constant question in the classroom is how to get that light bulb to go off - To realize that their time with us is not just about getting the diploma and a better-paying job, but to actually become something new and meaningful in the process - to be changed by the process - not just to get through it in the most efficient manner.

L. Dee Fink, in her book, Creating Significant Learning Experiences (reviewed in the September/October issue of this newsletter), highlights the importance of designing  assignments to include not only content knowledge, but also a caring dimension - helping students develop new feelings, values, and interests; helping them to learn about themselves and others; and also connecting what they are learning to other ideas, people, and realms of living. In other words, to go beyond who they are, to be touched by their educational experience, and to grow intellectually, humanly, meaningfully, and lastingly.

Consider adding some of these other dimensions into your course activities and let me know how it goes.

Princeton University Hip-Hop Symposium, October 6, 2006. Retrieved from the Internet October 16, 2006 at

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