Small Teaching Tip 22: Top Ten Teaching Tips
Best Practices, Small Teaching Tip, Teaching Advice

Small Teaching Tip #22: Top Ten Teaching Tips

I’ve been writing the Small Teaching Tips series for three years and in that time, I have amassed a huge collection of blog posts, books, and articles dedicated to making small, progressive improvements to one’s teaching. There’s no need to make time-consuming, labor-intensive changes to your teaching in order to see incredible results. As author of the book Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning, and TLTCon 2020 keynote speaker, James Lang argues: “fundamental pedagogical improvement is possible through incremental change.” So I’d like to dedicate this post to my top ten favorite tips and hopefully inspire you to try a few in your own classes.

Let your students get to know you

Tell more stories/use more examples

Give students more control

Demystify office hours

Craft a learner-centered syllabus

Prioritize student collaboration

Design with brain science in mind

Always be learning / watch other teachers

Practice self-reflection

Take care of yourself

Image of person holding a wrapped gift with the text 3 Ways to Reduce Your Stress This Holiday

3 Ways to Reduce Your Holiday Stress

The holiday season is right around the corner and, for many of us, that means heightened stress levels. Errands, chores, travel, family tension, and paying for gifts can all contribute to our stress and anxiety. But have no fear! Try these tips to have a calmer and merrier holiday season.

Lower your expectations

This seems a bit grim, but many of us want the holidays to be perfect.  Perfect food, perfect decorations, perfect family togetherness. But this expectation puts a lot of pressure on yourself and your family, and often leads to exhaustion and conflict. Try to take a step back and be realistic. Get rid of the “have-tos” and the “should dos.” Being flexible and focusing on what really matters will drastically lower your stress.

Schedule self-care

It’s essential that you protect your energy during the holidays.  Don’t be a martyr — if you hate baking, buy a pie instead of making one. If you need space, make a hotel reservation for your family rather than having them stay at your home. It’s also important to set aside time to decompress.  How you practice self-care is very personal and may take trial and error to identify a few practices or activities that make you feel calmer, happier, and healthier. But it’s worth the experimentation. Once you find something that works for you, schedule time to do it just like you would a doctor’s appointment.

Give to others

One of the best ways to feel less stressed and more grateful is to give to others through small acts of kindness. Volunteer, donate, or participate in a community event. Even small gestures, like holding the door for a stranger, has the potential to reduce stress and increase feelings of positivity.

While a stress-free holiday may be unlikely, by lowering your expectations, scheduling self-care, and giving to others, you can have a more peaceful and joyful winter season. 

Small Teaching Tip 21: It's Time for a Syllabus Redesign
Best Practices, Small Teaching Tip, Teaching Advice, Web 2.0

Small Teaching Tip #21: It’s Time for a Syllabus Redesign

If you’re like most faculty, you receive an inordinate number of questions from students that they could have easily answered themselves if they only consulted the syllabus.  For years, I’ve pondered the question: why don’t students read the syllabus?  The answer I’ve come up with after a lot of research and talking with students is that syllabi are boring. Yep, I suggest it’s as simple as that.  As I’ve written about before, syllabi tend to feel cold and sterile like those Terms of Service agreements no one actually reads. In addition, their format hasn’t changed much in the past twenty years to reflect the amazing technological advancements in graphic design and information transmission.  Should it truly surprise us that students avoid reading these inhospitable documents?

In other blog posts, I’ve suggested ways to make your syllabus more welcoming, engaging, and learner-centered.  Today, I’d like to offer two tips specifically regarding the format of your syllabus.

Construct Your Syllabus Like an FAQ

Students likely ask you the same questions from one semester to the next:  Do you accept late work? What is your attendance policy? Can I buy the textbook used or a previous edition? How am I going to be graded? Can I take the final exam early so I can leave campus sooner?  If you’ve been paying attention to these repeat questions, you’ve already compiled a list of FAQs (frequently asked questions) that students seem to care the most about. To encourage students to locate answers themselves, make the information as accessible as possible.  Organize your syllabus into distinct segments with very clear headings so students can scan the pages and quickly find what they’re looking for.  You can also make your syllabus more reader-friendly by using bulleted or numbered lists and constructing shorter paragraphs. These organizational features create greater white space, which is easier on the eyes, and also makes the text seem less dense and, therefore, less intimidating.

Create a Digital Version of Your Syllabus

Rather than presenting students with a Word document or PDF, consider creating a digital version of your syllabus. What do I mean by “digital”?  I’m referring to creating your syllabus using a Web 2.0 application and hosting it online.  For example, creating your syllabus using Google Docs, Google Slides, Populr, WordPress, or Piktochart.

There are numerous reasons to create a digital syllabus.  First, it transforms a traditionally static document into a dynamic and responsive experience.  You can embed links to web pages, documents, or videos, allowing you to share more information while preventing “syllabus bloat.”  Secondly, using an online tool makes it easier to “spice up” your syllabus with color and graphics (such as memes and gifs) which make your syllabus more inviting to students.  Third, a digital syllabus is likely more mobile-friendly than a Word document or PDF.  Most students want to access your syllabus (and other course materials) on their phones but relying on tools designed to create print materials often do not display well on mobile devices.  Finally, the fourth reason to create a digital syllabus is that it is easily shareable.  You can post the link to your syllabus just about anywhere — in an email, on your department’s webpage, on your own professional webpage or blog, and even on your department’s social media accounts to encourage greater visibility which could increase enrollments.

An Important Note About Accessibility

If you decide to experiment with digital syllabi, it’s important to keep accessibility in mind.  You want to ensure all students can consume the information contained in your syllabus regardless of ability.  For example, if you include images in your syllabus, you should also add “alt text” that describes the image so screen readers can detect that information and relate it to the user. I recommend keeping on hand the old version of your syllabus, which is completely text-based, in case you have a student who is visually impaired. If you are unfamiliar with screen reading software or the specific needs of our students with disabilities, I encourage you to reach out to the folks in Disability Services.

Now that I’ve convinced you to create a digital syllabus, check out these examples for inspiration:

Want to learn more?  If you are a graduate of the Distance Education Readiness Course, you can participate in the Distance Education Extension Program and access the “Crafting a Learner-Centered Syllabus” mini-course. If you haven’t taken the DE Readiness Course yet and want to know more, please visit

Overcome your fear of public speaking
Others, Presentation, Research

Faculty Focus: Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

Fear of public speaking is very common, with an estimated 1 in 4 people reporting being anxious when presenting ideas and information in front of an audience. Some folks report being more scared of public speaking than death! While fear helps to protect ourselves in risky situations, it can also get in our way. In the case of public speaking anxiety, fear can prevent us from sharing our research and ideas within academic circles as well as with the larger community. Developing effective public speaking skills will help you advance your career and share your ideas with the world.

What causes public speaking anxiety?

Before we discuss speech anxiety management, it’s important to understand what causes this apprehension. Basically, an evolutionary, physiological mechanism in your body called the fight-or-flight response takes over. When faced with a situation you perceive as threatening, your mind sends a message to your body that you are in an emergency situation and the body responds with surges of adrenaline. This adrenaline energizes you to either fight the threat or to run away from the danger. Unfortunately, your body doesn’t distinguish between physically threatening situations, where you might actually need the extra adrenaline, and psychologically threatening experiences, where the physical symptoms only add to your stress. Thus, when you perceive a public speaking situation to be scary, your body reacts and you experience anxiety. Symptoms of speech anxiety include blushing, accelerated heart rate, perspiring, dry mouth, shallow breathing, shaking, churning stomach, forgetfulness, and nervous “ticks” such as playing with jewelry, tapping fingers, clutching the podium, or twirling hair. Thankfully, scholars from a variety of disciplines have developed techniques to manage speech anxiety. 

How can I manage my public speaking anxiety? 

Change your self-perceptions

The goal is to change how you perceive yourself and your abilities. The saying “mind over matter” is actually quite true. Simply put, if you think you’re a terrible public speaker, you are very likely to perform terribly. These repeated negative thoughts become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As simple as it may sound, replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts is a very effective technique to reduce speech anxiety. This is called cognitive restructuring or reframing. Speakers who think negatively about themselves and the speech experience are much more likely to be overcome by speech anxiety than speakers who think positively. So whenever a negative thought creeps into your mind, immediately force yourself to think positively.

Try following this three-step plan: (1) Whenever you have a critical thought, acknowledge it without judgement. (2) Next, replace that negative thought with a positive thought. For example, instead of thinking “I’m an awful public speaker,” think “No one’s perfect, and I’m getting better with each speech I give.” (3) Finally, focus on the things you do well. Think about all the things you like about yourself that have nothing to do with public speaking—traits that, in the grand scheme of things, are far more important than public speaking skills. Concentrate on these strengths rather than obsessing over your perceived weaknesses. Speech anxiety is often the result of a lack of self-confidence. For many, this comes from fearing harsh judgment by others. Feeling this way can cause us to simplify the situation into two categories—perfection or complete disaster. But thinking this way will only make you feel worse. By using cognitive restructuring, you can begin to stop this extreme thinking and realize that perfection is next to impossible and disaster is highly unlikely.

Visualize success

Another cognitive restructuring technique is called visualization, which takes place prior to your speech and involves the speaker imagining himself/herself in a hypothetical public speaking situation. The goal of this method is to vividly imagine delivering a very effective speech. Simply put, you imagine yourself performing successfully in a situation that causes nervousness and anxiety. Repeatedly visualizing a positive performance has been shown to reduce fears of public speaking because the positive image eventually replaces the negative one. 

Visualization is a very popular ritual for athletes because it helps them perform successfully. Allyson Felix, an Olympic track and field sprinter, routinely uses visualization: “Visualization involves thinking through every detail of a performance so when the time comes, you know exactly what your next move is.” In a study of basketball players, researchers divided a team into three groups: one group practiced free throws, a second group practiced visualization, and a third group practiced both visualization and free throws. Which group do you think performed the best? The third group who practiced visualization in combination with skills training scored the most free throws. So by thoroughly practicing your presentation as well as practicing visualization, you are on the road towards more confident public speaking. 

Understand your physiology

As mentioned previously, there are many physical symptoms of speech anxiety – sweaty palms, rapid heart rate, shaking, and so on. But there are ways to manage these symptoms so you can feel a bit calmer once you get to the podium. Nervous speakers tend to take short, shallow breaths. This induces more anxiety because you are not fully oxygenating your body. To break this habit, practice taking slower and deeper breaths. To know if you are breathing deeply, place a hand on your chest and a hand on your stomach. If your chest rises more, you are breathing shallowly and not taking advantage of all the oxygen your body is capable of taking in. When you breathe deeply, you use your diaphragm and your stomach will expand. Deep breathing also circulates nitric oxide through your body, which has a stress-reducing effect. Think about how emergency medical technicians provide individuals with oxygen when they experience shock. The increased oxygen and nitric oxide flowing through your blood has a calming effect on your body.

In order to take deep breaths, you must have good posture. When you hunch over, your chest collapses and your lungs compress, reducing the amount of air you take in. As a result, less oxygen gets to the brain, leaving you fuzzy-headed. Throwing your shoulders back and standing up tall can also trick you into feeling more confident. Researchers at Ohio State University found that people who slouched reported feeling less qualified to handle a task than those who had good posture. So stand up tall and take those deep, relaxing breaths. You’ll not only look more confident, you’ll feel it too.

Nervous energy can cause you to shake, bounce, or jiggle due to the extra boost of adrenaline pumping through your system. Physical activity is one of the best ways to reduce tension. Before arriving to give your presentation, simply taking a relaxing walk, doing jumping jacks, or some other movement can be enough to release some of the extra tension in your body. Before you approach to the podium, try gripping the edge of your chair seat and gently squeeze the chair. Feel the muscles in your hands and arms tense, then quickly relax. Notice how the tension rushes away.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

Nothing beats preparation for relieving anxiety. If you have invested a considerable amount of time and effort into creating and practicing your speech, you will feel more confident about it. That confidence will inevitably come out in your delivery. Jim Loehr, Ed.D., author of the Power of Full Engagement, has devoted thirty years to helping professional athletes manage their stress and energy. He notes that 90% of successful athletes’ time is spent preparing and only 10% performing. The same can be said for public speaking. Most of your time should be spent preparing your speech in advance. Procrastinating will only hurt you: 

“Procrastination is a way for us to be satisfied with second-rate results; we can always tell ourselves we’d have done a better job if only we’d had more time. If you’re good at rationalizing, you can keep yourself satisfied this way, but it’s a cheap happy. You’re whittling expectations of yourself down lower and lower.” —Richard O’Connor, Ph.D. 

Even more tips

Before you speak: 

  • Work especially hard on your introduction. Research has shown that a speaker’s anxiety level begins to drop significantly after the first 30 seconds of a presentation. Once you get through the introduction, the rest of your speech should progress more smoothly. 
  • Before moving to the podium, imagine speaking to one person at a time. This can help you focus on communicating with your audience rather than performing for them.
  • Scientists have long known that the brain cements memories during the hours you’re asleep. Sleep deprivation temporarily reduces levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a protein that’s crucial for storing new information. Therefore, staying awake until 4am on the day of your speech, trying to memorize every word, will not serve you well. Practice your speech thoroughly, in advance, and then go to bed early. While you sleep, your brain will store your speech into memory. 
  • It’s also important to eat before a speech. Having low blood sugar will make you feel sluggish and queasy. If you have butterflies, I don’t recommend eating something heavy or greasy, but you should definitely eat something with both carbohydrates and protein.
  • To bring about physical relaxation, tighten your toes, calves, and thighs – then relax them. Clench your fists, tighten your arms – then relax them. When you relax your muscles after tightly clenching them, you should feel blood rush into these areas. Imagine that rushing feeling is the tension being eliminated from your body. 
  • Right before walking up to the podium, try this exercise from psychologist Lucy Jo Palladino, Ph.D. First, find an object that has four corners such as a window or a piece of paper. Focus on the upper left-hand corner; inhale for a count of four. Next, hold your breath for a count of four as you look at the upper right-hand corner. Then, gaze at the lower right-hand corner, and exhale for a count of four. Finally, look at the lower left-hand corner and smile. Repeat a few times.

When you speak: 

  • Do not worry that the audience will notice signs of your inner turmoil. Most of the nervousness that you feel is not visible. 
  • Communicate in a conversational style. Try to use gestures and facial expressions that you regularly make use of in normal conversation. Pretend you’re talking with a group of friends. This will make you appear approachable and natural.
  • Even though it may make you more nervous in the beginning, make eye contact with your audience members. Remember that they are individual people, not a blur of faces. If looking people directly in the eye is intimidating to you, try looking just above their eyes, at the middle of their foreheads (as long as you’re not close to them). From their perspective, it will appear like you are looking right at them. But do strive to make direct eye contact with at least half of your audience. 
  • The audience does not know what you plan to do during the speech; thus, they will be slow to pick up on any mistakes. Since they do not know exactly what you planned, it is easier to make adjustments during the speech without jeopardizing your objectives. Remember – you are the expert on your speech topic. 
  • SMILE! Even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing, smiling can trick your brain into thinking you’re actually feeling good. Research suggests that smiling releases endorphins and boosts serotonin, which can lead you to feel the emotion you’re projecting. 

Regardless of which techniques you use to manage your anxiety, none are as effective as being well-prepared. Preparation is the number one way to reduce speech anxiety because the more time and effort you put into the speech, the better you will feel about it. By implementing these tips and techniques, your next speaking engagement will surely result in a mic drop moment! Best of luck!

Small teaching tip 20: integrate public speaking into any class
Presentation, Small Teaching Tip, Teaching Advice

Small Teaching Tip #20: Integrate Public Speaking into Any Class

The belief that people fear public speaking more than death has become so readily accepted that Jerry Seinfeld’s joke about preferring to be in the coffin than giving the eulogy is now cliché.  Unfortunately, this fear prevents us from honing our oratory skills since we typically recoil from opportunities to practice. But practice we must! And as educators, we should encourage students to strengthen their oral communication skills as well, regardless of our disciplines.

Why does public speaking matter?

It is not sufficient for new college graduates to simply have knowledge of an academic subject; increasingly, it is necessary for students to gain additional skills which will enhance their future success. These include: the retrieval and processing of information, planning and problem solving, and written and oral communication skills.  At a liberal arts institution, these skills are part of our mission. Unfortunately, however, communication skills are frequently reported by employers as one of the most notable deficiencies observed in new college graduates. We may be preparing whip-smart students who understand disciplinary content, but are we preparing them to communicate that information?

Including more opportunities for public speaking in your classes is essential for preparing students not only for their future careers, but also for their role as active, competent citizens.  In addition, integrating more public speaking can differentiate your assessment by providing students with another way to demonstrate their knowledge other than papers or exams. There’s quite a bit of research indicating that quizzes and exams, especially those that contain simple recall questions, promote surface learning (1, 2).  Students cram, then promptly forget the material (3).  But preparing a presentation encourages deeper, longer-lasting understanding. Speeches and presentations put students into the role of teacher and requires them to understand their material well enough that they can explain it to others.

How do I incorporate more public speaking into my classes?

Many faculty are pressured to cover a lot of material in a single semester and public speaking takes time.  But try to think about presentations in a variety of ways. There isn’t one single type of public speaking or one way to provide students with the opportunity to hone their oral communication skills.

While formal, prepared presentations are one of the best ways to improve both skill and content knowledge, giving students the chance to speak in front of the class in a more informal way is also beneficial.  Think about your current in-class activities and assessments. Is there a way portions of those could require students to talk in front of the class? For example, role plays in language courses or presenting lab reports in the sciences.  Impromptu speaking is also an effective, informal opportunity for students — learning to think on their feet is a valuable skill. It also helps boost confidence because students realize that if they can speak for a couple minutes without any preparation, surely they can present effectively with days or weeks of practice.

Also, keep in mind that speeches don’t need to be ten minutes long.  In the business school, for example, brevity is valued and when students give pitches, they are often limited to 1 or 2 minutes.  This is actually more challenging than preparing a ten-minute talk because students have to understand the information so well that they can condense it to the most important information and explain it clearly yet succinctly.

Another strategy to reduce the class time used by speeches is to make them team presentations.  This gives students the opportunity to practice their oral presentation skills while learning other “soft skills” such as cooperation, time management, and conflict negotiation.

Finally, if you simply do not have class time to devote to presentations, consider having students give speeches outside of class and record them.  There are a variety of tools available that allow students to upload their videos and receive feedback from instructors and classmates, such as Voicethread.

While it may be challenging to find time to integrate public speaking opportunities into our classes, I think it’s a challenge worth accepting.  Let’s prepare our students to eloquently communicate their knowledge to the world!


  1. Stanger-Hall, K. F. (2012). Multiple-choice exams: An obstacle for higher-level thinking in introductory science courses.  Life Sciences Education, 11, 294-306.
  2. Simkin, M. G., & Kuechler, W. L. (2005). Multiple-choice tests and student understanding: What’s the connection?  Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 3, 73-98.
  3. Weimer, M. (2102, November 19). Deep learning vs. surface learning: Getting students to understand the difference. Faculty Focus blog:
Small Teaching Tip 19: Creating a More Engaging and Effective First Day of Class
Best Practices, Small Teaching Tip, Teaching Advice

Small Teaching Tip #19: Creating a More Engaging and Effective First Day of Class

Over the years, I’ve written a few blog posts about using the first day of class more effectively.  But since it’s been a while and a new semester is upon us, I thought I’d revisit this topic. So here are a few ideas to spice up that first day (or first week) of class:

Don’t let students go after five minutes

What’s the point of meeting if nothing is going to be accomplished the first day?  I used to think students would perceive me as “cool” if I let them go after only a couple minutes.  Not so.  Most students felt their time was completely wasted.  Put yourself in their shoes.  If you were asked by a colleague to come to campus for a meeting then, after just a couple minutes, they said “Eh, let’s just continue this conversation later,” you’d likely be frustrated.  Take advantage of the opportunities the first day presents to build connections and start forming a supportive learning environment.

Don’t make the first day of class “Syllabus Day”

Avoid reading the entire syllabus to students.  This is a waste of everyone’s time.  Students who care about their learning will read the syllabus on their own.  If you’re wary of putting that onus on students, ask them to sign a syllabus contract or include a syllabus quiz the first week (which is very easy to accomplish using the OAKS quizzing tool).  Perhaps more importantly, write a syllabus that students might want to read rather than one that looks like a Terms of Service agreement.  David Gooblar, lecturer at the University of Iowa, wrote about this in Chronicle Vitae: “Your Syllabus Doesn’t Have to Look Like a Contract.”  If interested, this rubric ( may help you critically examine your syllabi.

Introduce yourself as a human being

If students are so inclined, they can look up your bio on the department’s webpage.  They can Google you.  So instead of telling your academic story, consider telling a more personal story.  Share your hobbies and passions or something students would never guess based on their first impressions of you.  This is more than being personable; it’s about being authentic.  When I introduce myself to the class, I share quirks and pet peeves.  These usually get a chuckle and make me seem like a human being rather than a lecturing and grading robot.  I once had a professor who played a piece of music he wrote as a way to introduce himself.  I still remember him vividly 12 years later.

Establish intentions

Rather than spending time listing policy after policy, consider setting intentions for the semester and involving your students in this process.  What do you hope they accomplish and what do they want to learn?  What do you expect from them and what can they expect from you?  Is there a way both parties can be satisfied?  Here are some ideas I have tried in my own classes:

  • Ask students to think about their favorite classes and the classes they hated.  Then (without revealing identifiable characteristics), ask them to generate lists of qualities that made the classes awesome or terrible.  Students love this activity and it always results in a fruitful discussion of expectations.  It also provides fantastic insight into the minds of both students and professors, which leads to better understanding and empathy.
  • I also ask students to compile a list of what they would like from me.  Punctuality, availability, and fairness are usually mentioned and these are qualities that I already deem important.  But because students composed the list themselves, it gives them the sense that I’m willing to share my power and that I’m open to their perspectives.
  • Consider establishing a classroom code of conduct.  Some of you may find this infantile, but I believe it’s one of the best and easiest ways to establish a respectful classroom culture.  When students generate the rules, they’re more likely to own them.

Focus the first class on making connections instead of giving directions

Rather than spending 50 or 75 minutes telling students what they can and cannot do in your class, spend time getting to know one another.  That first day tells students a lot about who you are and what kind of teacher you will be.  If you spend it giving them “do’s and don’ts” they won’t learn much about you except you like rules.  According to Joe Kreizinger from Northwest Missouri State University, focus the first class on:

  • connecting students to instructor: put your teaching philosophy into student-friendly language and explain how you approach classroom management and student learning.
  • connecting students to content: explain why this class matters and how it applies to your students’ current and future lives.
  • connecting instructor to content: tell students the story of how you discovered your discipline.  How did you know it was the field for you?
  • connecting students to students: icebreakers can be corny, but they are also effective at forcing students to talk to one another rather than stare at their cell phones.

Build icebreakers into the entire first week, even beyond

Most professors include some type of “getting to know you” activity on the first day.  But the class roster doesn’t solidify until after the add/drop deadline. Therefore, I suggest icebreakers are even more important during the third and fourth class periods.  This doesn’t have to take much time.  I typically incorporate self-introductions into roll call, asking students silly questions to make them chuckle.  I’m consistently surprised by the number of times students find unexpected connections: “Seamus Finnigan is my favorite Harry Potter character too!!!”  Some students may be grumpy about icebreakers, which is understandable considering they do them in every class, but that encourages me to find new ones each semester.  For example, I’ve had them do “speed dating,” play 6 degrees of separation, and go on scavenger hunts.  There are so many possibilities!  Google “icebreakers that aren’t lame” or ask your colleagues how they facilitate introductions.

Showcase course content

Some of you may disagree with me on this point as well, but sometimes we have to convince students to buy what we’re selling.  The first day is all about introductions and the course content should be included.  But rather than provide a regurgitation of the course catalog description, pitch the course as something students will find exciting and, yes, applicable to their lives.  And just as important, tell students why this is content you love and why this is a course you want to teach.  Enthusiasm is contagious.  I also recommend you start teaching the first day.  Students may look at you with incredulity, but it communicates that you take the course and their learning seriously.  In contrast, if you let them go after ten minutes, it communicates the course isn’t important.  So use this time to jump in and provide an outline of the fantastic content you’ll be sharing.

The first day of class is ripe with possibilities. Make the most of it and it will set you up for a successful and enjoyable semester!

Small Teaching Tip 18
Small Teaching Tip, Teaching Advice

Small Teaching Tip #18: Increasing Students’ Use of Office Hours

Many faculty lament how few students take advantage of office hours. Often, undergraduate students do not perceive office hours to be beneficial unless something has gone wrong, such as a failing grade. But interactions between students and faculty outside the classroom (particularly mentorship-type interactions) have been shown to increase retention, student satisfaction, engagement, a sense of belonging, and overall academic performance. So, how can we change students’ perceptions and increase their use of office hours?

Explain What Office Hours Are

Since most of us have been in academia for many years, we forget that undergraduates are academic novices who are unfamiliar with our lingo and norms. Many students, particularly first-year and first-generation students, do not know what office hours are.  When I asked my freshmen students a few semesters ago what they thought office hours were for, multiple students stated they are hours when professors are working and shouldn’t be disturbed! So, during the first week of classes, make sure you explain what office hours are for and even provide examples of what you could do together (e.g. review drafts of papers, talk about the readings, work through practice problems, etc.). Hopefully, this will clarify the purpose of office hours and make them feel more welcoming.

Consider Your Students’ Schedules

Given the number of responsibilities that faculty have, most of us choose office hours based on our schedules. While this, of course, has to be done to some degree, consider the times when your students are more likely to be available. For example, it’s not likely that the average undergraduate will come by your office at 8:00 AM.  But they may be willing to come by at 3:00 PM. Try selecting times that maximize the number of students who can meet with you, recognizing the constraints that today’s college students face such as working part- or full-time jobs, participating in internships, or commuting to campus.

Involve Your Students in Scheduling

If the goal of office hours is to provide students with support and guidance, we need to ensure we are truly being student-centered when designing them. Have you ever asked your students why they don’t come by your office?  I have and the most common response was “I have class when your office hours are.”  Thus, at the beginning of the semester, I ask for students’ feedback about where and when I should host office hours. Simply consulting my students significantly increased their visits to my office. This could be accomplished in many ways, such as using an OAKS survey, Google Forms, or PollEverywhere (your instructional technologist would be delighted to help you with this!).

Meet Somewhere Other Than Your Office

Some students, particularly first-year and first-generation students, may feel intimidated meeting with a professor in his/her office. But holding your office hours in more open and neutral spaces, like a coffee shop or the library, could put some students at ease. This doesn’t mean you have to host all office hours outside your building, but experiment with an hour or two in a centrally-located place on campus that might be more student-friendly.

Try Virtual Office Hours

Let’s face it — we all have lazy days when we just don’t want to leave our homes. Students are the same. But offering office hours using a web conferencing tool like Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Skype could encourage students to participate from the comfort of their dorm or apartment. Using a web conferencing tool could also allow you to host occasional office hours in the evenings, which could benefit all students but especially student athletes, students with families, and those who have full-time jobs.

Stage Your Office

Much like realtors recommend we “stage” our home when it’s for sale, we should make our offices inviting to students. When it’s time for office hours, limit distractions in your mind and your space.  For example, clear off your desk so students don’t have to look at you over a huge pile of books or so the manuscript you’re reviewing doesn’t grab your attention. If you share an office, try to stagger hours with your office mate so your students have privacy. Silence your cell phone. Turn away from your computer. Have a chair ready for students to sit in. If possible, set up your office furniture so that students sit to the side of your desk rather than across from you. This may encourage them to perceive your interaction as a collaboration rather than an occasion to be scolded, interrogated, or spoken down to. These little gestures not only help you focus but also make students feel welcome rather than like they are interrupting you.

Encourage Group Sessions

Frustratingly, students who need the most help are often the least likely to come to office hours. For some of these students, their confidence has been shaken and they feel ashamed about their performance. For other students, they know they need help, but they aren’t sure what questions to ask or how to articulate what they’re struggling with. These students may view office hours as “too scary” or “too embarrassing.” One way to encourage students to get support is to reframe office hours as simply a study session opportunity. You could use an empty classroom or a space in the library and encourage students to drop-in to work on homework. If students want help, they can ask for assistance. Otherwise, you could float around the room, moving from group to group. This “study hall” format may feel less threatening to some students.

For example, Professor Megan Condis has had a lot of success by making office hours a required group activity. She asks three or four students to work together on an assignment, and then, in order to receive the maximum amount of credit on the assignment, requires that all the members of the group attend a meeting in her office to review their work. She reports her students are much more likely to show up at these meetings when they are experiencing a bit of peer pressure. This exercise may also reduce the anxiety some students feel when meeting with professors one-on-one.

Your Turn

Office hours are one of the best ways to engage students outside of the classroom and can be when we as professors do our most meaningful work. When students understand the purpose of office hours and are able to take advantage of them, they can have an incredibly positive effect on their learning and overall growth. If you’re struggling to get students to visit office hours, give one of the above tips a try and let us know if it made an impact.


Condis, M. (2016, November 1). Making office hours matter. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from:

Griffin, W., Cohen, S. D., Berndtson, R. Burson, K. M., Camper, K. M, Chen, Y., & Smith, M. A. (2014). Starting the Conversation: An Exploratory Study of Factors that Influence Student Office Hour Use. College Teaching, 62(3), 94–99.

Kim, Y., & Lundberg, C. (2016). A Structural Model of the Relationship Between Student-Faculty Interaction and Cognitive Skills Development Among College Students. Research in Higher Education57(3), 288–309.

Small Teaching Tip 17: Crafting a Learner-Centered Syllabus
Best Practices, Small Teaching Tip, Teaching Advice

Small Teaching Tip #17: Crafting a Learner-Centered Syllabus

Historically, a syllabus has been defined as an outline of the topics to be covered during a course. But in the past twenty years, the functions of our syllabi have expanded greatly. Common functions faculty cite include serving as a contract, listing required textbooks, detailing policies and procedures, and describing the focus of the course.

One important but overlooked role a syllabus plays is that it’s the first point of interaction between you and your students. The words you choose provide a window into your beliefs about teaching, learning, and your discipline. Since the syllabus is the first point of contact between instructor and students, it sets the tone for the rest of the semester. And first impressions are very powerful.

If syllabi serve such important functions, why do we have to goad students into reading them?

In my experience, first as a student, then as a faculty member, and now as an instructional technologist, syllabi are usually not very engaging or welcoming. Their tone tends to be cold and sterile, like a legal contract. They resemble those Terms of Service agreements that no one actually reads. Not only are syllabi often unattractive, dictatorial, and cold, their format hasn’t changed much in the past twenty years to reflect the amazing technological advancements in graphic design, information transmission, and Web 2.0 applications.

So perhaps the answer to our question is that many students recoil from our syllabi because they’re so uninviting and inaccessible. Simply put, from a student perspective, a boring syllabus is the precursor to a boring class.

One solution is to make your syllabus more “learner-centered.” Through content, appearance, and tone, a learner-centered syllabus communicates to students that faculty care about their success, view learning as a collaboration, and make it clear that students will not be treated as passive receptacles for information. Instead, they will be treated as active, contributing participants. A learner-centered syllabus requires faculty to focus more on what will help student intellectual development as well as viewing the syllabus as a community builder.

We need more empirical research on this topic, but the studies we do have indicate that learner-centered syllabi tend to contribute to positive outcomes. Students who read learner-centered syllabi are more likely to believe the professor expects them to be successful. They are also less likely to drop the class, are more likely to approach the instructor for assistance, and more likely to believe the instructor cares about their learning.

So where do you begin?  Here are a few ideas for getting started creating a learner-centered syllabus:


It’s important to be conscious of the words you choose because they are the most influential variable impacting student perceptions. Using warm, positive, and supportive language is an easy way to start building rapport. You don’t have to be bubbly or saccharine in order to communicate to students that you care about their learning. One of the simplest ways to make students feel like active contributors is to use more inclusive pronouns, such as “we,” “us,” and “our,” rather than relying only on “you” or stating “students will/students will not.”


Another aspect of learner-centered syllabi is their transparency.  A colleague of mine calls the lack of transparency on many syllabi playing “find the cookie.” In this metaphor, the cookie equals the steps to success. So if you’re playing find the cookie, you are being too vague, confusing, or indirect.

It shouldn’t be a mystery how students will achieve the learning objectives, how they will be evaluated, and how they can be successful in your class.  Remember that students are still disciplinary novices. They may not pick up on or understand certain norms or expectations that we as experts recognize so easily.

There are often particular elements, topics, or assignments that students find more difficult than others. Consider giving students a heads-up about these components and providing advice about strategies that can help them succeed. You could also include a section about helpful resources students can turn to.  Perhaps this is where you include information about campus resources such as Disability Services, the Center for Student Learning, the Counseling Center, and the Library. Also consider adding outside resources, such as websites that provide practice tests or flashcard generators. Including this information is not simply useful, it also communicates to students that you care about their success.


Syllabi typically focus on what instructors expect from students. We often spend pages and pages telling them what they should and should not do. Learner-centered syllabi include policies and procedures, but also outline what students can expect from their instructor.  This communicates that the course is a joint effort and a community. During the first week of classes, you could set aside time for students to discuss what teachers and professors have done in the past that has helped or hindered their learning. Students and instructors could then negotiate which ideas will become expectations of the instructor.

Shared decision making

A learner-centered syllabus could also mean allowing students to have some say in course policies and procedures. For example, depending on the course and the students, you could be flexible regarding assignment weights and options and consult the students on those decisions. You could also leave a class period open on the schedule and allow the students to vote on which topics will be covered that day. While first-year students might not have the maturity to make these types of decisions, juniors and seniors may thrive when given some choice in how they will demonstrate their learning.


Most of us likely use black and white Word documents with 12-point font and maybe some bold or italics thrown in for good measure. If you were a 19 year old, would you want to read your syllabus?

We are members of a visual culture in which knowledge is increasingly conveyed in images and decreasingly conveyed in lengthy text. Raised on television, video games, and social media, our students are part of a generation that is leading this shift. We may grumble about this, but we can’t ignore the cultures our students are growing up in or what they perceive as normal.

Keep in mind, young people aren’t the only ones who appreciate visuals.  Our brains are image processors, as much of our sensory cortex is devoted to vision. And research has demonstrated that images are more likely to be noticed and remembered. Incorporating visual elements on your syllabus can make it more eye-catching and engaging.  

One way you can create more visual and interactive syllabi is to use digital tools like Google Docs, Populr, WordPress, Adobe InDesign, or Canva. One benefit of hosting your syllabus online is that the document comes alive.  By adding hyperlinks, even embedding video, you make your syllabus an interactive experience. This is not only more engaging, but it allows you to share significantly more information with students without making a 20-page syllabus because you can link to other websites. If that sounds too “techy” for you, there are many newsletter or magazine style templates that you can use in Microsoft Word to make your syllabus more aesthetically pleasing.

But please keep in mind that adding color, graphics, attractive fonts, and other visual elements does not guarantee a well-designed and engaging syllabus. It’s vital that clarity and readability are not negatively affected. Also, if you decide to include visuals, you must consider how accessible the document is. For example, screen reading software may not be able to read the image, chart, or table you’ve included in your syllabus. So I recommend keeping on hand the old version of your syllabus which is completely text-based in case you have a student who is visually impaired.

Your Turn

I encourage you to take a moment to look over one of your syllabi and consider how students might perceive you based on what they read. Through your choice of language and tone, what signals are you sending to students about your class, your discipline, and you as a professor?  Does the document encourage community-building or is it solely instructor-focused?

When examining your syllabi, adopt an open-minded and curious perspective.  Scan your syllabus for the norms it represents and the attitudes it communicates. Then determine one element you could change to make your syllabus more learner-centered.

Want to learn more?  If you are a graduate of the Distance Education Readiness Course, you can participate in the Distance Education Extension Program and access the “Crafting a Learner-Centered Syllabus” mini-course. If you haven’t taken the DE Readiness Course yet and want to know more, please visit

Image of students sitting around a table talking with the words Structured In-Class Discussion Formats Small Teaching Tip #16
Best Practices, discussion, Pedagogy, Small Teaching Tip, Teaching Advice

Small Teaching Tip #16: Structured Discussion Formats

“I’m tired of looking out at a sea of blank faces.”

“There’s nothing but crickets when I try to get a discussion going.”

“It’s like talking to a brick wall!”

How many times have you lamented the quality of discussions in your classes? Facilitating engaging conversations is one of the most challenging aspects of teaching.  Even the most brilliant lecturer can be stymied by an unresponsive class.

Often, class discussions fall flat because we fail to remember that students are academic novices. They are not subject matter experts and they are unfamiliar with academic discourse. When it comes to in-class discussions, students benefit from clearly stated instructions, explicit expectations, and structure. Here are a few popular structured discussion formats to try:

After lecturing, ask students to jot down their responses to a prompt you provide on scrap pieces of paper or in a Google Doc. After a few minutes, ask them to turn to their neighbors and share their ideas. Finally, bring the entire class together and have the pairs report what they discussed and use what arises as a jumping off point for an entire class discussion. This simple exercise gives students the chance to think and talk through their ideas before being put “on the spot” in front of the entire group. This is essential for students who struggle to participate in discussions because of introversion, social anxiety, or learning disabilities.

In this exercise, instructors seat students in two concentric circles. The inner group of students discuss a topic while the outer group listens and take notes. Then, the groups switch roles and the outer group summarizes the inner group’s ideas and builds on them. This discussion format helps students practice active listening and argumentation. Another version of the fishbowl is problem-based, in which the central group is charged with solving a problem and the outer group listens and acts as researchers and advisors.

Gallery walk
Place large sheets of paper around the room each with a different prompt (e.g. question, problem, brainstorming task). Assign a few students to each sheet of paper.  Give the groups 5 minutes to respond to the prompt. The groups then rotate to a new sheet and build upon the previous group’s comments. After all the groups visit each sheet, everyone walks around the “gallery” to read all the responses. This can then serve as a springboard for a larger class discussion about conclusions and questions that arose.

Stand where you stand
This exercise works for discussions about questions that don’t have a single answer and, thus, can be debated. Assign a different theoretical or analytical perspective to each corner of the classroom. Ask students to stand in the corner of the room that represents their position on the issue.  As a small group, they should formulate evidence-based arguments to support their position that they think will convince others to agree with them. Each group then presents their arguments and students are given the opportunity to move to a different corner if they were convinced to change their mind. Students can articulate why the arguments did or did not change their opinion on the topic, which can lead to a discussion of effective argumentation and persuasion.

This exercise is a great use of peer teaching. In preparation for class, each member of a small group completes a different reading on a particular topic (that they find themselves or that the instructor assigns). In class, each student shares a summary of their reading and his/her analysis with their team. During this “reporting out” and subsequent discussion, students become budding “experts” on a specific topic. After a period of time, each student then moves to a new group to teach their speciality to their classmates.

Instructors can also incorporate other sources of knowledge, such as student’s own experiences. For example, students could analyze how a recent experience aligns with or deviates from the theoretical perspective they examined or the results of the research they read.  Students could also complete a “webquest” by seeking examples online (e.g. memes, cartoons, quotes, video clips) and using them to supplement their small group discussion.

Collaborative autoethnography
Based on the qualitative research method designed by Heewon Chang, this exercise privileges students’ lived experiences and encourages significant self-reflection. Students use both their own stories and scholarly sources to analyze a larger societal context. This exercise could take multiple class periods, or could even become the overarching structure of a course. It involves 6 stages:

  1. Students collectively explore a particular phenomenon, problem, or question as a small research team. Based on research and their personal stories related to the phenomenon, students generate an initial set of questions to explore further.
  2. Students then individually reflect on these questions and write their own responses.
  3. They then share their reflections with their team, which collectively identifies commonalities, differences, and remaining questions.
  4. Those themes and questions are discussed in class, benefiting from the insights of classmates and instructor. What arises from those conversations becomes the next set of prompts for further research by the team.  
  5. This cycle of researching, reflecting, and sharing is repeated until no new discoveries occur (or the time allotted for the exercise runs out)
  6. The team then writes about their overall findings, often building models to explain the phenomenon explored.

These ideas are great for face-to-face classes and, with the help of technology and some creative thinking, a few could also be adapted for online courses. I also recommend the book Creating Engaging Discussions: Strategies for Avoiding Crickets in Any Size Classroom and Online by Jennifer Herman and Linda Nilson. And for more help improving discussions, check out these posts:

Do you have other suggestions for facilitating engaging class discussions?  Please share!

Image of a young person hidden behind a large stack of books with the heading What I Learned from Make it Stick. Practical applications from the science of learning.
Make It Stick Monday, Pedagogy, Small Teaching Tip, Teaching Advice

What I Learned from “Make it Stick”

Much of our understanding about how we learn is flawed.  The typical advice given to students is single-minded, focused repetition, reflecting the belief that if we expose ourselves to something enough, we can burn it into memory.  This is called “massed practice” by cognitive scientists and “cramming” by students. Given this advice, it should come as no surprise that one of college students’ most commonly reported study habits is to re-read their textbook or their notes.  Unfortunately, this and other forms of massed practice are some of the least-effective methods of learning!  As Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel write in their book Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning:

“The fact that you can repeat the phrases in a text or your lecture notes is no indication that you understand the significance of the precepts they describe, their application, or how they relate to what you already know about the subject” (p. 16).

However, despite the research demonstrating that simple repetition does not lead to long-term retention, we rely on massed practice because it can produce quick results. But it’s an illusion of mastery — the retention of information is short-lived and does not encourage the application of knowledge to novel situations.  Most students don’t know this, and many aren’t bothered by it as long as they can pass the exam. So it’s our responsibility to help students see the benefits of using the following research-supported techniques to improve their learning.

Spaced Practice

When faced with an exam, many students engage in cramming or pull “all-nighters.” While this practice may help some students pass, the information is quickly forgotten. In contrast, spaced practice divides studying into installments, allowing time to elapse in between.  One of the best ways for students to employ this technique is to study their notes and quiz themselves each week (not after every class or waiting until midterm time).  Why does this work? Embedding new information into long-term memory requires a process of consolidation, during which neural connections are progressively strengthened and new information is linked to prior knowledge.  Research indicates that allowing yourself a little time time “forget” is a good thing because it then requires extra effort to retrieve the piece of information from memory. And the more often you retrieve that information, the stronger those neural connections become.

Interleaved Practice

The typical way we teach is to cover one concept until most of the students have learned it, then move on to the next concept.  Consider the typical textbook — it is organized around massed practice, with each self-contained chapter dedicated to one concept.  But interleaved practice means you shift back and forth between different concepts or skills. For example, one week you learn how to find the volume of a spheroid; then the next week, you learn how to find the volume of a cone.  The week after that, you move onto another concept, eventually coming back to the spheroid.

Students may become frustrated by this alternation because they leave a concept before they’ve fully mastered it, only to return to it later.  Yes, it can feel messy; but the rewards are substantial. For example, one study found that while massed practice resulted in students scoring higher on tests taken immediately after learning a concept, interleaved practice resulted in significantly better performance weeks later, indicating long-term retention.

Varied Practice

Varied practice means employing multiple methods or approaches. For example, a baseball player uses varied practice to hone their batting skills by asking for random pitches, thus improving their ability to identify and respond to each pitch.  This is opposed to asking for 15 fastballs, then 15 curveballs, then 15 change-ups, which would be a form of massed practice. Neuroimaging studies suggest that different types of practice engage different parts of the brain and this encourages greater consolidation.  By using a variety of techniques, you are broadening your understanding of the concepts and the relationships between them.  For example, rather than self-quizzing yourself with flashcards that are always in the same order, shuffle them each time and then ask a friend to quiz you.

Although the research strongly supports spaced, interleaved, and varied practice, it’s important to recognize that they require significantly more effort and feel slower.  This can be frustrating to students and they may be tempted to go back to their “old ways” of massed practice. For example, research has demonstrated that even when participants have performed superiorly using spaced, interleaved, and varied methods, they still believe they learn better using massed practice!

So it’s important for teachers, coaches, and parents to share the research with students and spend time explaining the benefits of these approaches.  In Making it Stick, Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel suggest emphasizing the following fundamentals when talking with students about learning:

  • Some struggle is okay.  When learning requires effort, you’re actually learning more.
  • In contrast, when learning seems easy, it’s often superficial and soon forgotten.
  • Our intellectual abilities are not solely dependent on our genes.  When learning is effortful, it actually changes the brain, making new neural connections and increasing intellectual ability.
  • You learn better when you struggle a bit with a new problem, trying to solve it on your own before being shown the answer.
  • Failures are an essential part of learning.  It is through our mistakes and setbacks that we discover essential information about the concepts and ourselves, which help us to master the material.

Instructors can stress these fundamentals in their classes by incorporating “desirable difficulties.”  When learning is easy, students don’t retain information and are less able to apply that information to novel situations.  But designing your classes to be “trial by fire” swings too far in the other direction. Making a few small changes to your teaching can help you find that desirable midpoint, where greater effort leads to greater learning.  Give these strategies a try:

Incorporate frequent quizzing.  This requires students to continuously practice memory retrieval, which encourages greater consolidation, known as the “testing effect.”  But before you start quizzing your students, there are a few important stipulations.  First, make the quizzes count towards the course grade. While we would love our students to complete quizzes simply for the joy of learning, most require extra incentive.  That being said, the quizzes should be relatively low-stakes.  The purpose of these quizzes is to practice retrieval, not to have an anxiety attack each week.  Keep in mind that one need not use quizzes to achieve these goals.  Writing exercises, problem sets, and other forms of assessment can also be used.

Second, avoid the pop quiz.  Pop quizzes are only effective at intimidating students into coming to class.  For most students, they do not encourage actual learning. But quizzes that students know about in advance do.  Rest assured, these assessments do not need to be lengthy or require labor-intensive grading (there are countless instructional technologies that can help facilitate this process, including OAKS).  

Third, design quizzes to be at least partially cumulative.  This requires students to reach back to concepts covered earlier in the term, developing deeper understanding and more complex mental models.  Remember: greater retrieval efforts equal greater learning.

Finally, occasionally assign quizzes that students complete before they learn new material.  This may seem strange, but a pre-quiz encourages students to consult their previous knowledge to help them grapple with new ideas.

Encourage memory retrieval during class.  You don’t need to use daily or weekly quizzes to encourage memory retrieval and consolidation.  During lecture, every few minutes, ask students a question that requires them to connect the dots between a new concept and a previously learned one.  Their first instinct will be to consult their notes or flip through their textbook, but tell them to resist this urge and take a moment to think. It’s important that you actually give your students enough time to think and also ask them to write down their thoughts.  Does this mean you won’t cover the same amount of material in a single class period? Most likely. Does this mean you’ll have to prepare thoughtful, purposeful questions in advance? Yes. But you’ll be encouraging your students to actually learn, rather than sit passively like zombies. I think that’s a worthwhile exchange.

Another, more active, strategy is to ask a question you know students struggle with and often come up with competing answers.  Ask volunteers to write those answers on the board (maybe narrow them down to three options). Next, ask students to vote on the answer they think is correct by holding up that number of fingers.  Students then find someone who is holding up a different number of fingers and share how each arrived at their answers.  During that discussion, the students are encouraged to come to a consensus and be able to articulate why they think their answer is correct. This exercise encourages students to retrieve information learned from previous classes, practice metacognition, and engage in peer teaching.

Incorporate more metacognition activities.  Thinking about how we think is an essential component of learning.  Such reflection requires us to retrieve previous experiences and knowledge, connect them to new experiences, formulate alternative perspectives, and visualize outcomes.  All of these cognitive activities lead to stronger learning.  One simple way to incorporate metacognition into your classes is to ask students, after completing a major assignment, to write a paragraph about how they prepared and what they would do differently next time.  This process involves retrieval (What did I do? How did it work?) as well as generation (How could I do it better or differently next time?) and elaboration (How can I explain my thinking to another person?).

Provide practice tests.  Students can (and should) practice memory retrieval outside of class as well.  Self-testing is often disliked by students because it requires more effort than simply rereading the textbook or copying their notes over and over.  But the greater the effort, the deeper the learning. Encourage students to use the Leitner flashcard system, participate in a study group (that actually studies), and provide students with practice tests.  If you provide corrective feedback on these practice tests, even better. This allows students to identify gaps in their learning and prevents them from retaining incorrect information.  Practice tests are also a useful teaching tool because the results enable you to identify areas of struggle or misunderstanding.

I hope this post has illuminated the research on how we learn best and has provided at least one strategy that you can incorporate into your classes to achieve that “desirable difficulty” and improve student learning.  You don’t need to completely restructure your entire course to incorporate this information. As James Lang argues in his book Small Teaching, fundamental pedagogical improvement is possible through incremental change.


Brown, P. C., Roediger, H. L., & McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Make it stick: The science of successful learning. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Butler, A. C., & Roediger, H. L. (2008). Feedback enhances the positive effects and reduces the negative effects of multiple-choice testing. Memory & Cognition, 36, 604-616.

Callender, A. A., & McDaniel, M. A. (2009). The limited benefits of rereading educational texts. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 34, 40-41.

Cepeda, N. J., Pashler, H., Vul, E., Wixted, J. T., & Rohrer, D. (2006). Distributed practice in verbal recall tests: A review and quantitative synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 354-380.

Gilovich, T. (1991). How we know what isn’t so: The fallibility of human reason in everyday life. New York: Free Press.

Goode, M. K., Geraci, L., & Roediger, H. L. (2008). Superiority of variable to repeated practice in transfer on anagram solution. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 15, 662-666.

Leeming, F. C. (2002). The exam-a-day procedure improves performance in psychology classes. Teaching of Psychology, 29, 210-212.

Lyle, K. B., & Crawford, N. A. (2011). Retrieving essential material at the end of lectures improves performance on statistics exams. Teaching of Psychology, 38, 94-97.

McCabe, J. (2010).  Metacognitive awareness of learning strategies in undergraduates. Memory & Cognition, 39, 462-476.

Richland, L. E., Kornell, N., & Kao, L. S. (2009). The pretesting effect: Do unsuccessful retrieval attempts enhance learning? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 15, 243-257.

Roediger, H. L., Agarwal, P. K., McDaniel, M. A., & McDermott, K. (2011). Test-enhanced learning in the classroom: Long-term improvements from quizzing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 17, 382-395.

Roediger, H. L., & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). The power of testing memory: Basic research and implications for educational practice. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1, 181-210.

Rohrer, D., & Taylor, K. (2007).  The shuffling of mathematics problems improves learning. Instructional Science, 35, 481-498.