College teaching syllabus

The last time I taught UA’s college and university teaching course, it looked something like this:

AHE 603 College & University Teaching

Spring 2012

  • Instructor:                  Dr. Claire Major
  • Office:                         328C Graves Hall
  • Office hours:              Mondays 2:00-3:00 and by appointment
  • Phone:                        (205) 348-1152
  • E-mail:              
  • Class Location:         330 Lloyd Hall                      
  • Class Time:                Mondays 3:00-5:00


Catalog Description

 3 credits. An intensive study of the issues, policies, and principles associated with teaching in higher education. Topics include history and philosophy of college teaching, internal and external influences on instruction, faculty and students, instructional models and methods, documenting and assessing teaching, and instructional improvement.

Course Overview

This course is designed for doctoral students in the higher education program or in any department or program at UA. Participants will learn research-based principles and strategies for effective course design and teaching, and will ground their philosophy of teaching on educational research as reflected in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) movement in higher education.

Intended Participants

This course is intended to serve students who have an interest in exploring teaching in higher education at the community college, college, and university level. This course is designed to help prepare future college professors for their roles as teachers and to help current two-year and four-year college instructors to continue to increase their effectiveness as teachers. This course is also intended to respond to the expanding interests and needs of two related groups of graduate students:  (1) current or future academic or nonacademic administrators in postsecondary education who wish to increase their awareness of the most important issues and practices related to the effectiveness of college teaching and (2) future higher education scholars with special interests in issues related to college teaching.

Course Methods

This course is a doctoral-level seminar. Merriam Webster defines seminar as a group of advanced students studying under a professor with each doing research and all exchanging results through reports and discussions. This semester, for our research project we will do research papers about different instructional approaches used at the college level.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, you should be able to

  •  Identify elements and dimensions of teaching effectiveness
  •  Compare different perspectives on learning
  •  Identify primary literature and key resources on postsecondary teaching;
  •  Evaluate a wide variety of traditional models and styles of college teaching
  • Evaluate a wide variety of developing and emerging models and styles of college teaching
  • Assess current and emerging practices of assessing teaching and learning in higher education
  • Learn to conduct and present original research on college teaching

College, University, Program and Course Policies

 Conceptual Framework of the College of Education

This course supports the conceptual framework of the College of Education:

The College of Education prepares practitioners who understand the purposes of education and have the ability to engage in the ongoing processes of reflection and dialogue that lie at the heart of socially-responsible, theoretically-informed, and research-based effective practice. The College of Education Conceptual Framework can be viewed at

 Higher Education Administration Program Goals

The mission of the Higher Education Administration Program is to provide academic preparation and professional development for those individuals who have and will assume positions of leadership in two- and four-year colleges and universities. This preparation includes the development of scholarly abilities, research, and practical administrative abilities. Graduates of the program are expected to enter leadership positions in some type of higher or postsecondary education or related agency, such as governmental authorities or agencies, foundations, or human service organizations. As an interdisciplinary field, the study of higher education relies on the disciplines of economics, history, philosophy, and psychology along with studies in organizational theory, management and marketing, and leadership. This course intends to support the mission of the program.

Policy on Academic Misconduct

 “All acts of dishonesty in any work constitute academic misconduct. The Academic Misconduct Policy will be followed in the event of academic misconduct. “Plagiarism is the act of representing the words, data, works, ideas, computer program or output, or anything not generated by the student as his or her own. Plagiarism may be inadvertent or purposeful; however, plagiarism is not a question of intent. All suspected incidences of plagiarism must be reported by the course instructor to the Assistant Dean. Plagiarism is considered a serious act of academic misconduct and may result in a student receiving an F in the course and being suspended from the University. For more information, see

Statement of Equal Treatment and Disabilities

The instructor and students in this course will act with integrity and strive to engage in equitable verbal and non-verbal behavior with respect to differences arising from age, gender, race, physical ability, and religious preferences. If you are registered with the Office of Disability Services, please make an appointment with the instructor as soon as possible to discuss any course accommodations that may be necessary. If you have a disability but have not contacted the Office of Disability Services, please call 354-5175 or visit Osband Hall, 22 Research Drive, to register for services so that course accommodations can be made in compliance with University policy.

Statement on Multicultural Components

Students in this course are encouraged to examine the role that cultural diversity amongst students, faculty, staff, and the communities served by higher education institutions may play in the way that academic programs and instructional program assessment plans are designed, implemented, and analyzed. In particular, students are encouraged to consider the effect that different aspects of the design and evaluation of learning outcomes and services, as well as the methods used for the reporting of outcomes data may have on the diverse constituencies that our colleges and universities serve. Discussions of the implication or applications of readings to diverse populations are particularly encouraged.

Attendance Policy

Attendance, class participation, and completion of all assignments are critical for success in the course.

Grading and the Evaluation of Student Work

All work completed in this course is being completed in preparation for the award of an advanced degree, and advanced levels of work are expected. Grades will reflect the quality and character of the work, format of the written work, and depth as well as breadth.

An “A” (91-100%) represents above average or exceptional work that goes clearly above stated guidelines. It should demonstrate advanced level thinking that goes beyond a regurgitation of thoughts from the class to incorporate original thoughts clearly developed and building on the conceptual foundation developed in the course. It should be well-stated and show a mastery of the educational topic of discussion.

A “B” (81-90%) represents expected graduate student work. It has a clearly defined and adequate thesis, but lacks depth and clarity of insight or new thought that exemplifies superior work.

A “C” (71-80%) exemplifies work below the expected level. Problems in such work include poor construction of ideas, show a lack of clear understanding of the topic, or contain formatting weaknesses that detract the reader from the purpose of the paper.

All written assignment must follow the guidelines of Manual for the American Psychological Association.



Required Text

McKeachie, W. and Svinicki, M. (2010). McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers. 12th or 13th edition. Houghton Mifflin.

Recommended Texts

Angelo, T. & Cross, K.P. (1994). Classroom assessment techniques: a handbook for college teachers. 2nd edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Davis, B. (2001). Tools for teaching. Jossey-Bass.

Palmer, P. (1998). The courage to teach: exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Pregent. Richard (2000). Charting your course: how to prepare to teach more effectively. Madison: Atwood Publishing.

Weimer, M.E. (2002). Learner-centered teaching: five key changes to practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Additional Reading Requirements

In addition to the readings in the text, your will read a range of other articles, which you will gather on your own accord. The rationale for having you gather your own articles is to help you improve your library research and electronic search skills.

Due Dates

All due dates are explicitly stated in this syllabus. Students are expected to plan ahead in order to meet these deadlines. Any student submitting a late assignment must submit with the assignment a written explanation for the delay. The written explanation should include: (1) the date the assignment was due, (2) the date the assignment was submitted, (3) reason(s) for the delay, and (4) proposed penalty (if any) for the delay.

General Course Requirements

Reading and Participating (10%) 

Readings will be assigned from the course text.  As you read, reflect upon the following questions:

  • What are the most important ideas expressed?
  • What connections between theory, research, and practice are evident?
  • What are the strengths and limitations of the ideas presented?
  • To what extent are our experiences similar to or different from the ideas expressed?
  • How can the readings help inform scholarship and professional practice?
  • What inquiry might be pursued to challenge or advance the ideas presented?

Weekly Reports (20%)

You will select an instructional approach on which you will become an expert (I will provide a list of options). Each class session, you will provide a brief report about a specific aspect of your approach as indicated in the schedule (see table below). Each report should be a written brief of approximately 500 words. It should contain citations. The report should be printed in APA format. You should send the report by email to me and also provide copies of your report for members of the class (21 copies).

Interviews with expert faculty members (20%)

For this assignment, you will conduct interviews with ten expert faculty members, with expertise indicated by at least one of the following accomplishments 1). received a teaching award based upon the method, 2) published a book or article about the method; 3). presented a session at a teaching conference about the method. Interviewees should come from a range of disciplines. If possible, have representatives from each of the following fields/disciplines: humanities, social sciences, hard sciences, professions (e.g. education, business, health professions). They also should come from a range of institutional types; if possible, the interviewees should include a representative from each of following institutional types: two-year college, comprehensive/master’s university, research university (select no more than three participants from the University of Alabama).

We will agree to a common interview protocol prior to conducting the interviews.  At least three of these interviews should be synchronous (phone, face to face, or skype); the rest may be done asynchronously (email).  You should record and transcribe verbatim the synchronous transcripts; asynchronous transcripts kept. We will work with the data in the class session on March 10, so be sure to bring your transcripts to class on that date.

Poster presentations (20%)

This assignment requires you to develop a poster presentation of what you have learned about your teaching method, particularly during your interviews with expert faculty members. Please note that this presentation does not simply mean printing out a copy of your paper and pasting it to a board.  It requires showing about the method, while you are telling about it. It should be well organized, easy to read (no small text), and be visually appealing and accessible.

Final Original Research Paper (30%).   

Your final paper will be a research paper (Due May 30). You will use information you have gathered during your weekly reports to develop the introduction and literature review of the paper, and in addition, you will report the results of interviews with faculty who have expertise with the method.  Your final paper should have the following components:


  1. Description of your teaching method
  2. Essential features/elements/steps of the method


  1. History of the method
  2. Learning theory that supports your method

Literature review

  1. Studies comparing method to other instructional method
  2. Studies comparing what works within methods


  1. Research question: How do expert faculty do what they do best?
  2. Description of interviewees
  • Number of interviews conducted
  • Disciplines or field
  • Institutional type
  • Format (synchronous or asynchronous)
  • Length of interviews
  • Questions (we will agree upon a set of questions to use for all interviews)


  • Why they chose the method
  • How they learned to use it
  • How they apply/do the teaching method in their courses
  • How they monitor learning while teaching
  • How they grade
  • How they use technology
  • How they solve common problems/  dealing with difficult students
  • How they reflect on teaching and prepare for the next course

Discussion and conclusion

  • Tying the findings to the literature
  • Suggestions for practice
  • Suggestions for future research


Assignments are as follows:

Session Date Topics   Readings   (McKeachie) Deliverables
Jan 23 Introduction   to the courseWhat is effective teaching?How does   university culture support or discourage good teaching? Chapter   2 Introduction
Jan 30 History   of college teaching None Weekly   report:History   of your method
Feb 6 Traditional   teaching methods 5.   Facilitating Discussion: Posing Problems, Listening, Questioning
6. How to Make Lectures More Effective
Weekly   report:Tentative   list of interviewees 
Feb 13 Contemporary teaching   methods 14 or 16. Active Learning: Cooperative, Collaborative,   and Peer Learning Weekly   report:Description   of your approach: what is it, what is it for? 
Feb 20 Contemporary teaching   methods 15 or 17. Problem-Based Learning:   Teaching with Cases, Simulations, and Games Weekly   report:Steps or   essential elements of your approach—how to ‘do’ the approach
Feb 27 Theoretical   bases of college teachingLearning   theoriesLearning   styles 11 or 12. Motivation in the College Classroom
20 or 23. Teaching Students How to   Become More Strategic and Self-Regulated Learners
21 or 24. Teaching Thinking
Weekly report:Learning theories that support your   approach
Mar 5 Technology and teaching 17 or 18 & 22. Technology and   Teaching Weekly report:The ways in which your approach has been   adapted in technological environments or in which technology is used to   facilitate
Mar 12 Spring   break
March 19 Research   on college teaching None Weekly report:What the research says about whether your approach works 
March 26 Working with data on   teaching None Weekly report:Interview transcripts
Apr 2 How do expert teachers do   what they do best None Poster presentations
Apr 9 How do expert teachers do what they do best None Poster presentations
Apr 16 Working with diverse   students 12 or 13.   Teaching Culturally Diverse Students
13 or 14. Dealing with Student Problems and Problem Students
Weekly report:Problems typical of your approach and   how one deals with them
Apr 23 Assessment, grading,   scholarship of teaching 7. Assessing, Testing, and Evaluating
8. Testing: The Details
9. Tests from the Students’ Perspective/Good designs
8 or 10. What to Do About Cheating
10 or 11. The ABC’s of Assigning Grades
Weekly report:What assessment approaches are   frequently paired with your approach