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Apr 19 / otl

Educational Development Grant Award Winners Announced

The Office for Teaching and Learning offers various grants and awards that can be utilized for the professional development of Wayne State faculty. Receiving a grant is an honor, and individual recipients are not the only beneficiaries, but also the student body and the University as a whole benefit when grants are awarded.

Educational Development Grants can be used for a wide variety of teaching related experiences, such as:

  • application of new technologies in the teaching of specific courses
  • development of new techniques to enhance instruction, to enrich resource materials, and to provide new learning experiences in specific courses and programs
  • development of new courses to support new programs or new areas of study
  • improvement of evaluation procedures within a given course or program
  • development of new techniques in such areas as advising, counseling, and library usage
  • innovative use of our urban environment to provide a resource for certain courses or programs.

Faculty and academic staff as defined by the WSU/AAUP-AFT Agreement are invited to apply for awards under this provision.  Proposals are evaluated by the Educational Development Grant Selection Committee and judged according to their quality and the degree to which they promise to contribute to the educational mission of the University as perceived by the Committee.

The Educational Development Grant Selection Committee is pleased to announce the 2018-2019 winners:

Director Sangeetha Gopalakrishnan, Foreign Language Laboratory
Senior Lecturer Alina Klin, Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
Senior Lecturer Laura Kline, Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
Lecturer Julie Koehler, Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
Associate Professor Krysta Ryzewski, Anthropology
Lecturer Kim Schroeder, Information Sciences
Project: Developing an Online Interdisciplinary Undergraduate and Graduate Digital Storytelling Course

Assistant Professor Mohammadreza Nasiriavanaki, Biomedical Engineering
Project: Portable Biomedical Signals & Systems Laboratory

Associate Professor John Heinrichs, Management & Information Systems
Project: Importance of Mobile First – ISM 5670: Mobile App Development with Swift!

Lecturer Takisha LaShore, Social Work
Academic Services Officer III
Shantalea Johns, Social Work
Project: Let’s Get Ready: A Realistic Preview of Social Work Education

Congratulations to the 2018 – 2019 Educational Development Grant Winners. We are looking forward to seeing you accomplish your teaching and learning goals with your award.

Have you ever received a teaching grant? How did it help you?






Mar 27 / otl

2018 Innovations in Teaching and Learning Luncheon: “The Unwritten Rules of College: Creating Transparent Assignments that Increase Underserved College Students’ Success”

Dr. Mary-Ann Winkelmes, Director of Instructional Development and Research and an Associate Graduate Faculty member in the Department of History at the University Nevada, Las Vegas was our guest speaker on Tuesday, March 20th 2018. The 5th annual Innovations in Teaching and Learning Luncheon was co-hosted by the Office for Teaching and Learning (OTL), the Wayne State University (WSU) National Science Foundation – funded WIDER/SSTEP Grant Program, and the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. As a part of this luncheon, Provost Keith Whitfield acknowledged the attendees for their commitment towards teaching and learning.

Why transparency?

Keynote speaker Dr. Mary-Ann Winkelmes engaged the over 150 attending faculty members in a lively conversation that centered on the following question: How can we help students succeed in college?

More students than ever before have access to higher education, but yet, historically underrepresented students, such as first generation students and minority students, do not encounter “equity of experience.” Not all students who enter college understand the “unwritten rules of college” which can lead to the following problems:

  • Dr. Mary-Ann Winkelmes presenting TILT

    Dr. Mary-Ann Winkelmes presenting TILT to WSU faculty at the Innovations in Teaching & Learning luncheon

    Underrepresented, first generation, and low income students are half as likely to graduate college in 4 years.

  • The gatekeeper mentality is unsustainable – we can’t expect that everyone already knows the unwritten rules of college; we need to teach them these rules and we need individuals who “think outside of the box” for future research that is innovative.
  • High-achievement in high school can frustrate college success – even students who were excellent students in high school have problems transitioning to expectations in college.
  • Well-prepared novices don’t think like experts – you are an expert in your field and you know why you are teaching the class the way you are teaching it, help your students to see those connections.

Making your assignments more transparent has a significant effect on all your students’ learning but especially benefits traditionally underrepresented and first-generations students.

Transparency in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education – TILT

Dr. Winkelmes’ solution is not only compelling, but simple: Explain to your students why they receive an assignment (the purpose), what they are expected to do (tasks), and how they will be evaluated (criteria).

Here is the simplified “TILT Template” (for a more detailed description, refer to the TILT “Checklist for Designing a Transparent Assignment” handout)

Dr. Mary-Ann Winkelmes presenting TILT

Dr. Mary-Ann Winkelmes presenting TILT to an engaged audience of WSU faculty

  1. Purpose – What is the long-term relevance of the assignment? What is the connection to the learning outcomes of the class?
  • Skills – What skills do students practice when completing the assignment?
  • Knowledge – What knowledge do students gain by completing the assignment?
  1. Tasks – What steps do students need to follow to compete the assignment? How should they do it? What are some common mistakes to avoid?
  2. Criteria for success – How will students be evaluated? Is there a checklist or rubric? Provide annotated examples of previous student work.

Make a simple tweak with a big difference

We challenge you to become part of WSU’s commitment to support our diverse student body that will benefit from more transparent assignments.

The challenge: Change two (2) assignments in a class you are teaching to the TILT format – that’s it!

The OTL is here to support you

Attend one of our upcoming TILT workshops or schedule an individual consultation with one of our consultants to make a small but effective change in your teaching.

  • Redesigning assignments to be transparent for all students: Thursday, April 19th, 1:00-2:30pm
  • Redesigning assignments to be transparent for all students: Friday, April 27th, 10:00-11:30am

Email the Office for Teaching and Learning at or call at 313-577-0001 for more information or to schedule an appointment.


To learn more about TILT, you can view the following resources:

Feb 9 / otl

Mid-semester Assessment – A Student-Centered Formative Assessment

Would you like to get timely feedback from your students regarding their perception of what is going well and what could be changed or improved while the course is in progress? Whether you are teaching for the very first time, teaching a new course, testing out new teaching and learning strategies, or using CANVAS – Wayne State University’s (WSU) new Learning Management System, for the first time, timely student feedback can help you make small adjustments to the course to better meet the needs of your students.

The Mid-semester Assessment Program (MAP) run by the Office for Teaching and Learning (OTL) allows you to receive students’ voluntary and confidential feedback in your traditional, hybrid, or online course. During the Winter 2018 semester, MAPs will be conducted from Monday, February 12th, until Friday, March 9th.

How does the MAP work?

  1. After you fill out the registration form an OTL consultant will reach out to you to review your goals and answer any questions you may have.
  2. The next step is the data collection. Students are asked to answer two questions: “What is going well regarding their learning in the class?” and “What suggestions might the students have to improve their learning in the course or to improve the instructor’s teaching of the course?”
    1. For traditional courses with 70 or fewer students, an OTL consultant will visit the class to collect students’ feedback.
    2. For traditional courses with more than 70 students or those offered online or at satellite campuses, students’ feedback will be collected anonymously through an online survey. An OTL consultant will provide the survey link for you to distribute to the students.
  3. Within a week after the data has been collected, you will have a follow-up meeting with your OTL consultant to review students’ aggregated feedback, discuss key themes, and identify one or two helpful instructional strategies and resources that you can implement in your course.

What do WSU instructors think about the MAP?

“The MAP is a unique opportunity to listen what the students think about the course, but feel uncomfortable to say directly to the professor.” Wayne State Instructor

“Having MAPs to help figure out what was working or not within a semester was very useful when I first began teaching as a primary instructor. It took me a couple of years to learn how to teach, and that feedback was invaluable.” Wayne State Graduate Teaching Assistant

MAP registration is now open. Have you registered for your MAP this semester?

Jan 25 / otl

Small Changes to Assignments Mean Big Improvements in Student Learning

College can be a challenging place for students as they move from novice (high school) to expert (college and beyond) level thinkers.  Assignment design can be pivotal for students, especially in foundational courses, as they are introduced to the University setting; with students either grasping the assignment or faltering.  This make-or-break structure is particularly relevant to students from marginalized groups.

The Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TILT) project from University of Nevada, Las Vegas provides a framework to design assignments that maximizes student success.  By making these small adjustments to the structure of assignments, researchers observed significant increases in students’ academic confidence and sense of belonging – both strong predictors of student success and increased persistence, with greater gains for historically underserved students.  These findings have been demonstrated across eight Universities across the country.

Overview of the TILT Framework

The TILT framework makes learning more transparent as students develop confidence and the core competencies necessary for academic success.  TILT is research-based and comprised of three component parts employed during assignment design:

  1. Purpose: Help students grasp the assignment by providing an understanding of what they should take away from the assignment. Focus on the knowledge and abilities they should still have five years from now.
  2. Tasks: Provide a clear set of tasks for students to accomplish.
  3. Criteria: Provide a rubric upfront that gives students a clear idea of how you will be evaluating the assignment and/or include annotated examples of successful past work to help students calibrate their approach.

How You Can Participate

All instructors are encouraged to join in!  If you are interested in learning more about TILT, please attend the upcoming TILT workshop with the Office for Teaching & Learning on Wednesday, January 31, 2018 at 1:30 PM in room 150 of the Purdy/Kresge Library; or contact to schedule a consultation.


Leave a comment below!  What other strategies do you use to make your assignments as clear as possible for students?

Jan 8 / otl

Helping Students Learn Canvas

You have set up your course in Canvas and are ready for the semester to start. You may have some questions lingering in the back of your mind: 

How will my students learn Canvas?  

 When students log in to Canvas, they will be prompted to follow a link to self-enroll in the CANVAS Student Training Course to get to know how to use CANVAS. The course has three modules:

  • Module 1: gives an overview of the learning management system and also reviews Canvas’ mobile application.
  • Module 2: reviews a few commonly used tools: Discussions, Assignments, Quizzes and Grades.
  • Module 3: reviews Office 365 and Respondus LockDown Browser / LockDown Monitor.

What can I do as an instructor to motivate my students to take the course?

You can assign the course to students by providing a link to the course. Furthermore, you can make this a required, graded assignment, by assigning a few points to the course to motivate students to take the course.

Canvas Assignment for Students

Canvas Assignment for Students

The assignment can be found in the Canvas Commons area. From the Global Navigation Menu, in Canvas, click Commons :

  1. Select Assignment
  2. Then, enter Badges
  3. The following should appear:

To load the assignment into your course, please follow these instructions.

Additionally, consultants in the Office for Teaching and Learning (OTL) are available to meet with you in person, by phone, or virtual meeting spaces (e.g., Skype) to discuss strategies for helping students learn Canvas. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the OTL at 313-577-0001 or email

Dec 14 / otl

New Class for Graduate Students Launching in Winter 2018: Intro to College Teaching

Are you a GTA at WSU and the thought of having to teach makes you panic? Are you overwhelmed when you start putting together your syllabus and have no idea what “learning outcomes” are?Graduate Teaching Assistants sharing their course design

Panic no more – we can help!

The Office of Teaching and Learning (OTL) and the Graduate School are pleased to announce an introductory class on college teaching for graduate students next winter semester:

GS 7900 Introduction to College Teaching and Learning. The one-credit class will be taught in a hybrid format – both in-person and online – and provides an introduction to the principles of college teaching through an examination of proven methods for teaching effectively. The class offers opportunities for the development and improvement of participants’ instructional skills from both a theoretical and a practice-based understanding of excellence in teaching.

Graduate Teaching Assistants sharing their course design. Topics include:

  • Designing your class – from syllabus to final exam:
    What learning outcomes should be included when designing a new class? What framework should be applied to design lessons that reflect the course’s learning objectives?
  • Active learning and assessments:
    What evidence-based teaching methods can I use to enhance my students’ learning in my classroom? How do I design exams and other assessments that are effective and align with my learning outcomes?
  • Technology:
    How can I successfully incorporate educational technologies in the classroom? What are some fun tools I can use in class that support student learning?Register Today for GS 7900: Introduction to College Teaching and Learning
  • Career development:
    What should be included in my diversity statement, teaching philosophy, and teaching portfolio?

We especially encourage new GTAs who have never taught and PhD’s that are preparing to enter the job market to take this class. Graduate students from all disciplines are welcome!

Spots are limited – register today!


Sep 15 / otl

Teaching Handbook

Are you looking to incorporate some new teaching and learning strategies to help you be at your best as a teacher? Is your goal to engage students and build a strong community of learners regardless of the environment – traditional, hybrid or online – in which you are teaching? The Office for Teaching and Learning (OTL) has designed the Teaching Handbook, an online resource meant to help all Wayne State University (WSU) instructors open the conversation about course design, student-centered teaching methods, and assessment.

For example, if your goal is use evidence based teaching methods to engage students, the Student-Centered Classrooms section of the Teaching Handbook will help you get started by providing suggestions for activities for the first day of class and examples of evidence-based teaching methods, such as think-pair-share, one-minute papers, or effective use of clickers. The Leading Discussions sub-section lists some of the benefits of leading discussions in a classroom, provides some strategies for implementing discussion, and includes resources for improving classroom discussions. Additionally, the sub-section Using Groups to Enhance Student Learning provides guidance on how to support students’ learning through groups and a video on how one WSU professor uses groups to enhance learning. Lastly, instructors can save time and help students make the best use of their time by creating clear instructions on the assignments. The Making Assignments Clear sub-section offers concrete strategies for designing clear assignments such as describe the purpose of the assignment, break instruction into steps, provide need-to-know information rather that nice-to-know, and use a rubric. Clear assignments will help students make the best of each assignment, and have an overall better experience in the course.

The Teaching Handbook is a great place to get ideas and find resources, but it is only the beginning. Consultants in the OTL are available to meet with you in person, by phone, or virtual meeting spaces (e.g., Skype or Blackboard Collaborate Ultra) to further discuss student-centered teaching methods and any of the other topics found in the Teaching Handbook. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the OTL at 313-577-0001 or email

Have you visited the Teaching Handbook? What is your favorite student-centered strategy that you found? Use the comments section below to let us know how you have incorporated student-centered strategies in your course.

Apr 12 / otl

Teach Students How to Learn

Dr. Saundra McGuire presenting to WSU faculty and staff

Dr. Saundra McGuire presenting to WSU faculty and staff

Dr. Saundra McGuire, the Director Emerita of the Center for Academic Success and retired Assistant Vice Chancellor and Professor of Chemistry at Louisiana State University (LSU) was our featured speaker on Tuesday, March 28th 2017.  The campus wide forum on teaching and learning was co-hosted by the Office for Teaching and Learning and the Wayne State University (WSU) National Science Foundation – funded WIDER/ SSTEPS Grant Program. As a part of this forum, Provost Keith Whitfield addressed participants on the importance of meeting students where they are, emphasized that what may have worked 10 years ago may no longer be sufficient and that new strategies are called for in today’s classrooms. Dr. McGuire engaged a diverse audience of over one hundred and fifty Wayne State faculty, senior academic leaders, and academic staff members on the topic of engaging students in their learning. McGuire, author of Teach Students How to Learn, led participants through a series of highly interactive exercises in a workshop that exemplified how the use of simple learning strategies, such as introducing students to the study cycle and Bloom’s taxonomy, can significantly improve students’ academic success.

Dr. Saundra McGuire presenting to WSU faculty and staff

Dr. Saundra McGuire presenting to WSU faculty and staff

As a follow up to Dr. McGuire’s presentation, we have included several tips and strategies suggested by Dr. McGuire to help students acquire simple, effective learning strategies:

  • Emphasize that students’ actions, not their intelligence, will determine their success
  • Establish high expectations and show students how to meet those expectation on the first day of class
  • Provide early opportunity for success so that students can build confidence in their ability to excel in the course
  • Assign students real0world tasks to help them develop a senses of belonging to the larger university community
  • Clearly articulate assignment expectations to students and provide rubrics and examples as possible

To access the presentation used by Dr. McGuire, click here (PDF) or here (PowerPoint).

Faculty and staff engaged in Dr. Saundra McGuire's presentation

Faculty and staff engaged in Dr. Saundra McGuire’s presentation

Additionally, consultants in the Office for Teaching and Learning (OTL) are available to meet with you in person, by phone, or virtual meeting spaces (e.g., Skype or Blackboard Collaborate) to discuss strategies for helping students how to learn. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the OTL at 313-577-0001 or email

Use the comment section below to let us know what tip and strategies you have found most useful when you anticipate needing to respond to a range of student readiness in a course!


McGuire, S.Y. (2015). Teach Students How to Learn. Sterling, VA: Stylus.




Feb 6 / Carl Sorgen

Teaching a Range of Academic Readiness

How can you turn the challenge of teaching students with a wide range of academic readiness into an opportunity?

Lecture Course

Connect learning to students’ prior knowledge, experiences, and interests.  Helping students to make meaningful connections with what they already know provides a foundation on which to build new knowledge and skills. They are more likely to apply the course content in meaningful ways.

Vary your assessments.  If possible, give students choices in how they demonstrate their mastery of the course content where appropriate.  Allow students to submit their assignment as a blog post, a journal entry, an experiment, a short video, an article, a poster, to name just a few options. Through this type of assessment students have more flexibility to work on their interests and needs, and then share their findings with the group.

Vary your instructional strategies.  Some instructors on campus have found it beneficial to incorporate more active learning strategies to effectively teach students with different academic readiness. For example, project-based learning helps students to deepen their understanding of a topic while working interdependently with peers as a part of a small group.

Consultants in the Office for Teaching and Learning are available to meet with you in person, by phone, or virtual meeting spaces (e.g., Skype or Blackboard Collaborate) to discuss strategies for teaching students with a range of academic readiness. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the OTL at 313-577-0001 or email

Use the comment section below to let us know what strategies you have found most useful when you anticipate needing to respond to a range of student readiness in a course!

Jan 19 / Carl Sorgen

Facilitating Hot Moments in the Classroom

As educators, having difficult conversations in the classroom can be a transformative component of teaching and learning that can help students grow. For many students, university life brings experience that can expose them to multiple points of view and peers from many different backgrounds. While a diversity of ideas and people is a central attribute of the Wayne State University experience, instructors may value some tips on how to facilitate “hot moments” in the classroom.  These strategies can help instructors approach difficult topics in a manner productive for everyone.


What helps?

  • Get to know your students and help them get to know each other before taking on a controversial topic. This will also allow you to anticipate potential issues and plan accordingly.
  • Establish your expectations for the classroom climate by clarifying appropriate classroom behaviors. For example, with your students, create discussion guidelines (e.g., don’t shout, raise your hand, let people finish their thoughts, don’t hog air time, etc.).
  • Confront the potential for conflict in a direct way: students know when you are honest.
  • Link the discussion topics to learning outcome goals related to your course / discipline and make sure this link is transparent to students.
  • Actively facilitate the discussion by using multiple methods to make sure everyone has a chance to form and express their perspectives (whether they talk, or not). Use brief writing exercises, voluntary dyad discussion partners, etc.  Normalize the experience that students may feel strongly and differently about the topic. If you feel comfortable, gentle humor can help re-center a heated discussion, as that will give students a chance to stop and reflect. Strive to remain personally neutral and play devil’s advocate to facilitate multiple points of view.
  • Ask supporting questions to help students explain their opinion, and encourage students to clarify their point of view.
  • After class discussion, follow up with students to make sure they got the right take-aways.


Faculty Support:

To hear a podcast from faculty colleagues around the country sharing strategies they use in the classroom to make discussions of difficult topics helpful and productive, click here.

The Office for Teaching and Learning (OTL) staff is available to consult with instructors on teaching strategies and learning-related outcomes associated with addressing sensitive and emotionally charged issues when these emerge in the classroom in either anticipated or unplanned ways. We are available in person, by phone, or virtual meeting spaces (e.g., Skype or Blackboard Collaborate).  To schedule an individual consultation, click here or call (313) 577-0001.

Our colleagues in the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) at the University of Michigan have prepared a useful resource, Responding to Difficult Moments. Should you decide to invite a discussion, it may help to review these guidelines for difficult topics.

Additionally, Lee Warren, from the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard University, describes a series of concrete strategies instructors can implement to facilitate learning in the midst of emotionally charged topics in Managing Hot Moments in the Classroom.