The Weekly Teaching Note

From the Cal Poly Pomona Faculty Center for Professional Development

Archive for February, 2009

A Student’s Perspective

Posted by weeklyteachingnote on February 24, 2009

This Weekly Teaching Note is contributed by a first-year student (not at this university).

“A truly worthwhile assignment allows the student to be creative and invites the student to draw from personal experiences and interests. Every student is different. A student is more likely to even attempt an assignment if it can be related to his or her personal life. Characteristics such as the major/minor, hobbies, and extracurricular activities can all play a role in the excitement one might feel about an assignment. I am more likely to have fun with an assignment and get much more out of it if it can relate it to my individual interests.

“An assignment I had in the past that I consider worthwhile was to create a cognitive map of [the university town]. Beyond creating the map, I had to describe the various locations I depicted and why those places were important to me. I felt this assignment involved a lot of imagination and serious concentration. I am not originally from the city the university is located in, and the city is much larger than my hometown. I had to be selective in which locations I wanted to show: I knew I could not logically draw half the city on a single sheet of paper (I didn’t know what was located in half the city anyway), so I drew areas that held the most importance in my life at the time. With this assignment, the professor expected every student’s map to be different, and was able to learn about each student as an individual.

“Some assignments can be enticing to a student even if there is no actual credit involved for doing them. It has a lot to do with how the assignment is presented. One assignment I received a while back involved listening to everyday conversations, the radio, TV, and any other form of communication to record similes, metaphors, and clichés. The assignment, though only offered for extra credit, was completed by the majority of the class simply because it was something they could so easily fit in their busy lives. It was not hard to jot down the different sayings one heard from day to day, and most didn’t even need the extra credit. The assignment was worth the time and energy because the students could learn about grammar and have fun at the same time.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy

Posted by weeklyteachingnote on February 17, 2009

Since the initial development of Bloom’s Taxonomy of learning objectives, a great deal of new understanding has occurred in the realm of educational psychology. Some scholars in the field felt it was time to revise Bloom’s classic taxonomy of cognitive processes.

The taxonomy was revised to include 6 new names to describe the levels of cognitive processing:

  • Remember : The learner retrieves factual information .  A sample performance statement could be – “Recall the importance of subject X.”
  • Understand : The learner develops meaning from presented information .  For example, “Compare subject X with subject Y.”
  • Apply : The learner implements the material in a particular manner .  For example, “Show how subject X can be used in this setting.”
  • Analyze : The learner breaks the subject matter down into parts and interpret how these parts are interrelated .  For example, “Distinguish between subject X and subject Y as they relate to concept A.”
  • Evaluate : The learner makes a judgment based upon certain criteria or standards .  For example, “Determine whether or not the conclusion of person B is appropriate given the discussion held in class.”
  • Create : The learner places the parts of the subject matter into a different form. For example, “Based upon ideas we have discussed in class, generate a new way to look at subject X”

and to include a knowledge dimension that includes four types:

  • Factual Knowledge : This type of knowledge focuses upon basic information required to show proficiency with a specific discipline .  Examples include vocabulary, symbols, and formulas.
  • Conceptual Knowledge : This type of knowledge focuses upon the connections of the basic information within a larger structure . Examples include theoretical ideas and organization of ideas into timelines or categories.
  • Procedural Knowledge : This type of knowledge focuses upon the implementation, or putting into action, the material that has been learned .  Examples include subject-specific skills and techniques.
  • Metacognitive Knowledge : This type of knowledge focuses upon a broad understanding of cognition, as well as one’s own cognitive processes . Examples include how to outline or categorize information in a manner that works best for the learner, or awareness of the learner’s strengths and weaknesses for writing reports and presenting information to the class.

The cognitive process dimension and the knowledge dimension are arranged in a grid pattern — students can be asked to develop ideas that would combine, say, Evaluate from the cognitive process dimension with Procedural knowledge from the knowledge dimension.  The cognitive processes focus on the actions to be done while the knowledge dimension focuses on the objectives to be accomplished.


Anderson, L.W., & Krathwohl, D.R. (Eds.). (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives . New York: Longman.

Contributed by:

Lorin W. Anderson and David R. Krathwohl
Teaching & Academic Support Center (TASC)
University of Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky
(859) 257-2987 ext. 256

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Digital Storytelling

Posted by weeklyteachingnote on February 10, 2009

Looking for an alternative to the 8-10 page research paper? In digital storytelling, students interact with course material through the media of narrative, still pictures, and music.  There’s no shortage of writing in this assignment, but added to that is group collaboration, creativity, practice with fairly common software (iMovie or Moviemaker), and—thanks to YouTube—a great opportunity to “publish” student work.  The Center for Digital Storytelling ( can provide more information and some examples, but they have broken down the process into 10 steps for students to follow.  Add Step 11, a written reflection, to increase the amount of writing in the project.

  1. Write a script
    • 1 ½ double-spaced typewritten pages = ~3 minutes
    • Establish a point of view with the narrator
    • Make it emotional
  2. Record the script
    • Desktop microphones will do, but have students check campus resources
  3. Storyboard the script
    • Decide what should be showing for each part of the narration
  4. Gather images (about 20 should do, but good to have plenty to draw on)
    • Scan if necessary (at least 200 dpi, saved as JPG)
    • Digital images from Web (be sure not to violate copyrighted material)
  5. Edit images: Keep a folder with all the unedited, full size images as a backup—duplicate these when editing. Use Photoshop or other image editing software to crop as needed and perform image correction (contrast, brightness, color, etc). Save as JPGs
  6. Import images and sound file into iMovie or MovieMaker
  7. Place images (clips) onto timeline at appropriate spots
  8. Make transitions (fade in and out, dissolve, etc—easy to do in these programs)
  9. Add music if desired (avoid vocal music—it will distract from narrator)
  10. Upload to YouTube or another website and/or make DVD
  11. Write at least a three-page critical reflection paper that explains your project and its connection to content in the class.

This is a time-consuming project but one that students often find very rewarding.  Many of them share the YouTube link with friends and family – and how often does the typical term paper get viewed by an audience larger than one?

Contributed by:

Paul Quick and David Noah

The Center for Teaching and Learning

University of Georgia

Athens, Georgia

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Question Templates

Posted by weeklyteachingnote on February 3, 2009

Isadore Rabbi, a Nobel-prize winning physicist, tells a story of his childhood in the Jewish ghetto of New York.  When the children came home from school, their mothers would ask them, “What did you learn in school today?”  But Isadore’s mother would ask him, “What good questions did you ask today?”  Dr. Rabbi suggests he became a physicist and won the Nobel Prize because he was valued more for the questions he was asking than the answers he was giving (Barell, 1988).

Many questions we ask about our disciplines can be simplified into “templates.” When students do not know how to ask questions about a reading or activity, it may be because they have not realized that “thinking” can follow patterns that are applicable across a wide range of topics or situations.

These question prompts help students to develop critical thinking tools and to frame their own discussion questions.  Developed and researched by King (1992; 1990; 1995), these question prompts or stems are based on Bloom’s Taxonomy, a hierarchical way of analyzing levels of thinking.  The nature of the prompt requires students to come up with questions that go well beyond factual recall. Requiring students to email you the discussion questions or to post them to BlackBoard prior to a class session can encourage students to read assigned materials.

Process: Assign outside reading or conduct a short lecture on a topic.  Students use the generic question stems or prompts as a guide for formulating their own specific questions about the content.  You can email the following list to students (or post to BlackBoard), telling them how many questions, all with different prompts or stems, they should submit for discussion.  They fill in the blanks with appropriate content from the reading/lecture material.  You can encourage them to make the questions authentic, ones they truly want to discuss rather than ones they already have a pat answer for.

Generic Question Prompts/Stems:

Explain why ____.  (Explain how ____.)

What would happen if ____?

What is the nature of ____?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of ____?

What is the difference between ___ and ___?

Why is ____ happening?

What is a new example of ____?

How could ____ be used to ____?

What are the implications of ____?

What is  ____ analogous to?

How does ___ affect ____?

How does ___ tie in with what we learned before?

Why is ____ important?

How are ____ and ____ similar?

How does ____ apply to everyday life?

What is a counter-argument for ____?

What is the best ____, and why?

What is the solution to the problem of ____?

Compare ____ and ____ with regard to ____?

What do you think causes ____?  Why?

Do you agree or disagree with this statement: ____? What evidence is there to support your answer?

What is another way to look at ____?

What does ____ mean?

Describe ____ in your own words.

Summarize ____ in your own words.

After using the question prompts a few times, a good classroom exercise is to see if the group can generate more template questions for the discipline.


Barell, J. 1988, cited (p. 59) in Costa & O’Leary, Co-cognition: The cooperative development of the intellect. In Davidson, J.  and Worsham, T (Ed.) Enhancing Thinking through Cooperative Learning.  (Ed.) (1988, April). Cogitare: A Newsletter of the ASCD Network on Teaching Thinking, 3(1).

King, A. (1990).  Enhancing peer interaction and learning in the classroom through reciprocal questioning. American Educational Research Journal, 27(4), 664-687.

King, A. (1992).  Promoting active learning and collaborative learning in business administration classes.  In T. J. Frecka (Ed.), Critical thinking, interactive learning and technology: Reaching for excellence in business education (pp. 158-173). Arthur Andersen Foundation.

King, A. (1995, Winter).  Guided peer questioning: A cooperative learning approach to critical thinking.  Cooperative learning and college teaching, 5(2), pp. 15-19.

Contributed by:

Barbara J. Millis, Director

The TEAM Center

University of Texas at San Antonio

San Antonio, TX

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »