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Ideas for Excellence in the Classroom:

Read and discover resources filled with advice, ideas, forms, and underlying pedagogical theory that can help you in your teaching.

Teach Your Course:

Teaching Methods

This section contains information about active learning, lecturing, leading class discussions, cooperative and group learning, using writing assignments, designing research assignments, using case studies, and team teaching.

Teaching Situations

This section addresses different contexts for teaching: the first day of class, large classes, motivating your students, teaching labs & studio classes, teaching first year students, teaching controversial topics, and working with TAs. It also contains a link to an award-winning interactive resource, "Solve A Teaching Problem."

Discipline-Specific Ideas

This section provides links to teaching advice -- resources and methodology -- aimed at specific disciplines. Check these out to get ideas from others in your field.

Pedagogical Theory:

The concrete suggestions in the other sections is backed up research and pedagogical theory.

These sources discuss the basic building blocks that underlie the practice recommendations.

Three Minute Teaching Tips:

SMU professors share some ways they engage students in critical thinking.

Listen to podcast
In this podcast, Sheri Kunovich highlights how she uses visual sociology projects in her upper level courses by requiring students to go beyond quick observations of social life.   
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David Son shares an in-class activity called "Think, Pair, Share," that helps promote students’ active engagement and provides more opportunities for students to think and engage in the classroom. 


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Robert Krout shares an assignment from his Survey of Music Psychology course where he challenges students to transfer and apply terms and concepts being learned in class. 



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Lynn Stokes shares a "Warm Up" assignment from her Introduction to Statistics Course. In this assignment, students discuss statistical concepts without using numbers. This process helps Lynn assess their understanding of the applications discussed in class.

Using Technology to Enhance Teaching & Learning:

Technology provides numerous tools that teachers can use in and out of the classroom to enhance student learning.

Faculty members should consult SMU's office of Academic Technology Services, which provides many kinds of support, including hands-on training in using classroom technology. (Click here for classroom-specific information about the setup in many campus buildings). SMU's STAR (Student Technology Assistant in Residence) Program is also available to help with short-term instructional technology projects.

There are also numerous on-line resources about using technology to enhance teaching in a number of different ways. For example, Teaching with Technology 2, from the Learning Technology Consortium, offers 17 peer-reviewed essays on using different kinds of educational technology, and the book can be downloaded for free. MERLOT is a huge, peer-reviewed, multi-disciplinary resource for learning and online teaching. Here's a curated list, from to Zotero, of free online tools that you can use in your teaching. Below are links to resources on using specific types of teaching and learning tools.

Sometimes it's helpful to provide visual aids to complement teaching, stimulate discussion, or allow out-of-class teaching. Tools designed for this purpose, such as PowerPoint, can be used well or used badly. Click here for resources that provide advice for thoughtful use of PowerPoint, as well as a few additional presentation tools.  


Other Tools:

One way to encourage student engagement is by using electronic devices that allow students to record their answers to multiple choice questions and allow you to instantly display the results. The anonymity encourages participation, and their answers help the teacher know when further discussion is needed. Use of clickers can also serve as a catalyst for discussion. Click here to learn more about using response systems effectively.

Clickers allow teachers to poll attitudes, check comprehension, stimulate discussion, and more. And everyone loves a toy!

Teaching with a Classroom Response System (overview from Vanderbilt)

Classroom Response Systems: A Teaching with Technology White Paper (Carnegie Mellon)

How to Use Clickers Effectively (University of Colorado Science Education Initiative provides this video)

Clicker Bibliography (more than 280 entries on every conceivable topic from Derek Bruff, Vanderbilt)

Socrative (student response system that works with any internet-connected device, allowing multiple question types, quizzes, exit tickets, and more. No clicker necessary because students use their own devices)

Poll Everywhere (classroom polls with images, equations, and more using student smart phones or laptops)

Technology can support student collaboration on creating new knowledge, reflecting on what they are learning, or working together to achieve a deeper understanding of course material. These articles provide ideas about their use and misuse.

Online tools provide many new options.  Students can collaborate on projects, collect and synthesize information, and write for different types of audiences.  Here are some examples.

Online Collaboration Generally:

Teaching in the Cloud: Using Online Collaboration Tools to Enhance Student Engagement (discusses jointly edited Google Docs, Google Sites, wikis, cloud storage of video projects, crowdsourced research, Google Spreedsheets for data aggregation, Piazza, and class blogs; also considers issues of IT support, ease of use, and student privacy).


Vanderbilt's Center for Teaching provides this helpful overview.

Wikis in Higher Education (University of Delaware report)

Wikify Your Course: Designing & Implementing a Wiki for Your Learning Environment (advice from Educause)

50 Ways to Use Wikis for a More Collaborative and Interactive Classroom (an imaginative list from

Andri Ioannou & Anthony R. Artino, Jr., Wiki and Threaded Discussion for Online Collaborative Activities: Student Perceptions and Use, Journal of Emerging Technologies in Web Intelligence (report on a case study in a graduate class)

Teaching with Wikipedia (Indiana University Bloomington's Center for Innovative Teaching & Learning has these suggestions for using the mothership of wikis)

Wikimedia Outreach, Education/For Educators (advice, forms, and help from Wikipedia itself)


Student Expectations for Technology and Uses of Blogs (Vanderbilt's teaching center overview of blogs)

Eight Strategies for Using Blogs in a Course (Chris Clark at Notre Dame's teaching center writes a really useful teaching with technology blog. This is one example)

Class Blogs:  Options & Three Strategies (discusses learning goals, ways to use blogs, need for student training, ways to assess student blog-writing)

Lessons from a First-Time Course Blogger (a blog, of course, from Baruch College CUNY)

Blogging 101 ("The Buzz," the blog of the Vancouver Learning Network, compares 4 platforms)

Pedagogy and the Class Blog (reflections on grading and assessing blog posts from "Sample Reality," the blog of an English professor at George Mason)


Professors Use Twitter to Increase Student Engagement and Grades (from Faculty Focus)

The Twitter Experiment: Twitter in the Classroom (reporting on and demonstrating Twitter experiment in a class at UT Dallas)

Educause, 7 Things You Should Know About Backchannel Communications 

Revisiting Twitter as an Educational Tool (using Twitter to help students engage with each other and with the outside world -- and for your own professional development, from the University of Oregon's teaching center).

Other Online Collaboration Tools:

Piazza ("Piazza is a free online gathering place where students can come together to ask, answer, and explore under the guidance of their instructors. With Piazza, you can easily answer questions, manage course materials, and track student participation.”)

Using Xtranormal Against Straw Men (a professor describes assigning students to make Xtranormal videos to demonstrate the ability to realistically grapple with counterarguments).

Jeffrey R. Young, Students Endlessly Email Professors for Help. A New Service Hopes to Organize the Answers (Chronicle of Higher Education's Technology blog)

Google Drive

Technology can also clarify and stimulate thought through transforming words into pictures. Here are some tools to help lead your students to think more critically by encouraging them to visually structure information.

Is a table worth a thousand words?  Visualization tools can help you make information clearer to students, either by providing you with clearer visuals or, better yet, assigning them to use visuals to make connections.

Introduction to Information Visualization Tools (what are they? how can teachers use them effectively? help from Carnegie Mellon)

46 Tools to Make Infographics in the Classroom (help your students deepen their understanding by showing connections, mapping, creating timelines, etc).

A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods (examples and comparisons to help choose the right tool for the job, laid out like the Periodic Table, from

Best Tools and Practices for Concept Mapping (great resource from NspireD2, the teaching with technology blog from Notre Dame)

Classroom Assessment Tools: Concept Maps (video from the Center for Instructional Innovation, Western Washington University)

A Quick Look at Instagrok (web-based tool that creates a web-like visualization based on semantic relationships between terms, and also serves as a search engine) (remember Stranger in a Strange Land?)



How can we make the best use of the classroom time we have with our students? Sometimes a great way to move them toward higher levels of understanding is to move the lecture out of the classroom, and use in-person time for interactions that require applying, synthesizing, and creating. "Flipping" doesn't have to use technology, but tools such as videos, podcasts, online quizzes and the like can help in and out of class activity work together. These resources explain the theory underlying this teaching method and provide practical suggestions for making it work.

What do you want students to do out of class, and what do you want to do when you're all face-to-face? 

Two short videos (here and here) from UT Austin explain and demonstrate the flipped classroom model.

Digital Learning Toolbox provides numerous tips and tools for Flipping Your Class.

5 Best Practices for the Flipped Classroom (from Edutopia)

Flipped Classroom FAQ (from the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching & Learning)

First Day Questions discusses how to prepare your students for the flipped classroom experience, improving student evaluations as well as student performance (from the National Teaching & Learning Forum)

Flipping the Classroom (Vanderbilt teaching center discusses theory behind flipping & evidence of improved learning)

Exploding the Lecture (Inside Higher Ed report, including embedded sample video)

Flipped Classroom: Traps and Before the Lecture (on the background your students need for that online lecture, from the "Learner-Shaped Technology" blog)

Flipping Out? What You Need to Know About the Flipped Classroom (from the GradHacker blog at Inside Higher Ed)

Hybrid Courses Master Class (multiple resources from the University of Utah's teaching center)

Flipping the Classroom: Simply Speaking (video gives clear demonstration and examples)

Harvard's Eric Mazur, a major proponent of the flipped classroom and peer instruction, explains why in this workshop.

SMU's Jose Bowen, Dean of the Meadows School of the Arts, calls it "Teaching Naked."  He explains why it's necessary in this video, and describes it in detail in his new book.  His blog also contains a number of resources and ideas.

Whether for a flipped class or just as a resource for your students, you may want to create a podcast that conveys information students need for initial learning or review. SMU's Academic Technology Service can provide instruction on creating podcasts, and will loan you a podcasting kit. These articles discuss how to make and use podcasts effectively.

Maybe you want students to listen to information before they come to class.  Maybe you want to make a recording available to them for review.  There are many reasons to create podcasts.

How to Create and Deliver Audio Podcasts (advice from the University of Wisconsin about technique, equipment, and software)

Teaching & Learning with Podcasting (also from UW, matching your podcast to your teaching & learning goals)

Eight Basic Voice Recording Tips
(from NspirD2, a teaching with technology blog from Notre Dame)



What could be more engaging than a good game, used well? These articles discuss why a game may lead to deeper learning and give some examples of their use in higher education.

James Paul McGee (U Wisconsin), Why Are Video Games Good for Learning?

Overview of research on the educational use of video games (University of Copenhagen, Center for Computer Games Research)

Games in the Classroom (reporting on, and linking to, a series of articles in ProfHacker)

Using Games in the Classroom (courtesy of Texas Tech)

Reacting to the Past (from Barnard: elaborate games set in the past, in which students are assigned roles informed by classic texts in the history of ideas) (video example of Reacting to the Past class, Henry VIII game)

Jane McGonigal, who was a Tate Lecturer in the fall of 2012, even believes that video games can help teach students to solve serious real-world problems.  Check out her TED video for inspiration.

SMU's Guildhall, although not specializing in educational games, offers a Masters degree in Game Development. 

Thinking about buying a tablet computer that will provide lots of computing power, and also provide lots of teaching options (including lecture capture)? 

Check out this review of Windows 8 tablet computers by SMU's own Paul Krueger, co-facilitator of last year's faculty learning community on Teaching with Technology.

20 Types of Tablet Tools for Teaching (helpful list compiled by NspireD2, a teaching with technology blog from Notre Dame)

Seven award-winning education apps (also from NspireD2)

Thinking about creating your own tablet-based textbook? Learn more about iBooks Author.

Eleven ideas for mobile media capture (NspireD2)

iPads Transforming the Field Notebook (article is about work, but would it work for education?)

25 Essential iPad 2 Apps that Will Help You Graduate [from] College Faster (advice for students, but useful for faculty)

Dropbox and Shared Classroom Tablets (article is about high school, but ideas could also be useful in higher ed)

Teach research and group collaboration skills with the Scavenger Hunt with Friends app.

Ideas for using QR code scanners in teaching (those are those little square boxes).

iPad Studies at Abilene Christian U Dig Deep into Learning Outcomes (university is studying mobile device usage and impact)

Want to try some in-class use with a small class?  The Touch Learning Center in Fondren Library provides technical support, encouragement, moveable desks, 15 iPads, and a 70-inch LED TV monitor.

Teaching online, whether in a hybrid course or a wholly-online course, requires different techniques and different tools. Without the F2F contact, professors will need to be even clearer about setting and articulating expectations for digital work and participation. Encouraging interaction between professor and student and among students is an additional challenge, as is monitoring student learning as the course progresses. The online environment requires the use of basic technologies to digitize course materials as well as mastery of the university's learning management system. And various tools like Skype allow synchronous communications, while blogs and Twitter can encourage asynchronous interaction.

Converting Face-to-Face Courses to Online Courses Taking Advantage of the Hybrid and Online Environments

Using course components that are online rather than face-to-face creates both new challenges and new opportunities. Here are a few resources to help start that journey.

Duke's Online Teaching Guide (from technology to pedagogy, and useful examples)

West Virginia University's Tips for Teaching Online (ideas on what works and what does not from colleagues who have tried it)

UMass provides this extensive guide to Teaching and Learning Online (communicating clearly, creating community, and assessing student learning)

University of Central Florida offers a Blended Learning Toolkit, a step-by-step guide to getting started with hybrid/blended courses.