November 26, 2019
Volume 4, Number 8
Culminating Course Projects that
Don't Overwhelm
A college student early in the semester:
“This is such a large project. How am I ever going to get it done?”

A course instructor at the end of the semester:
“There are so many projects. How am I ever going to get them all graded?”

College students need opportunities to apply key principles and solve authentic problems related to academic content. Often, this takes the form of a culminating course project near the end of the semester. But when such projects are not carefully planned, both students and instructor can become overwhelmed. Students may procrastinate, submit sloppy work, or plagiarize; instructors may resort to grading holistically (“This one’s an A”) or avoid assigning major projects altogether.

Course instructors can design culminating course projects that challenge and don’t overwhelm by using three instructional strategies:
  • Chunking involves teaching one manageable section of content and then asking students to immediately apply it by completing a succinct, directly-related task.
  • Frequent feedback involves guiding in-progress student work by providing specific information that describes how closely the work accomplishes its intended purpose.
  • Opportunities for revision allow students a chance to tweak, polish, or completely re-do their work based on the in-progress feedback they receive before the final version is due.

I use these strategies to guide junior-year teacher candidates through the semester-long process of designing a five-day instructional unit plan. Beginning the second week of the semester, students complete weekly assignments that progressively “build” their instructional unit. The first assignment requires them to identify a topic, theme, and essential question; the second assignment requires them to describe the students they will be teaching; the third assignment requires them to identify learning standards and write SMART learning objectives for their unit. By Week 5, they are selecting instructional materials. By Week 10, they are writing lesson plans and designing assessments.

Each time a “chunk” of the instructional unit plan is submitted, I review it and assign a holistic score of 1 (fully completed, even if revision is needed), .5 (partially completed), or 0 (significantly incomplete or not submitted). I also offer narrative feedback with specific suggestions for revision. In this way, I am able to provide timely, individualized instruction for each student in addition to the whole class instruction provided during class time; and students can make necessary revisions before moving on to the next assignment.

Near the end of the semester, teacher candidates submit their entire instructional unit plan, which consists of all previously-submitted assignments, revised and polished. Although the final project is 20-25 pages in length, I have already seen each section once, and students have had an opportunity to make revisions based on the feedback I provided. Because the final version of the instructional unit plan is a second draft, it is much easier for me to grade, and students are much more likely to excel!

Cirillo-McCarthy, E. L. (2014, October 11). Revision strategies to encourage strong student writing. Retrieved from
Dalto, J. (2013, November 19). How to write SMART learning objectives. Retrieved from
Malamed, C. (2019). Chunking information for instructional design. Retrieved from
Nordquist, R. (2019, February 13). Holistic grading (composition). Retrieved from
Wiggins, G. (2012). Seven keys to effective feedback. Educational Leadership, 70 (1), 10-16. Retrieved from

– by Helen Bittel, Associate Professor of English, Director of the Center for Transformational Teaching and Learning, Marywood University
Trust: Gather & Share Event
The FCTL is offering "  Gather & Share  " events on the 1st Monday of each month, from 3:45pm - 4:45pm in ADUC 310. The objective is to have a "topic" area and share a couple of ideas and then have folks gather and share about the topic.

The Next Gather & Share Event:
Topic: Failure
When: Monday, December 2, 2019; 3:45pm – 4:45pm
Where: ADUC 310
Educator: FCTL
Synopsis: Join FCTL in exploring “Curiosity” at this “Gather & Share” event. Come ready to “chat it up” with your colleagues on this important topic. Refreshments will be served.
Registration: click here to register
Blackboard Buzz
Exam Overview (Student)
The exam is important for both the teacher and the student. We hope that this YouTube video will help you and your students make better use of the online exam function.

The blackboard system has a master page to remind the students of the exam time and specific information for each course. Students learn how to take a test online by locating the test in their course, understanding how the timer works for timed tests, saving answers, who to contact if there are problems.

This YouTube video demonstrates how the exam feature works. Email for additional information and on-campus support.
What I Love About Teaching Campaign
Hello Educators!

We are looking for your response to the question "What do you love about teaching?"

Click the link below to share your response:
12th Annual Conference on

Higher Education Pedagogy

 February 5-7, 2020  

Virginia Tech / Blacksburg, Virginia, USA


For information about conference registration and associated fees, visit the conference website:

If you have an interest in attending this conference as part of an MSU cohort, send an email identifying your interest (why), what you hope to gain from the conference, and what you will be willing to share with the MSU community upon your return to
Call for Proposals: The 2020 Pedagogicon
May 15th, EKU
Proposals Due: February 16th

The conference theme, “ Students as Partners in Teaching and Learning,” encourages us to examine and promote students-as-partners strategies for teaching and learning that encourage deep, transferable academic experiences.
Do you have an exceptional strategy to share? Do you have a new theory or practice that might enhance teaching and learning, faculty development, educational practices, or student engagement at your institution and beyond? Presenters are encouraged to engage their audience, so preference will be given to those submissions that specify how this engagement will be provided. The conference will host an opening session on transparency in learning and teaching.
Threads might include but are not limited to:
  • Use of technology to enhance students-as-partners in teaching and learning
  • Creative instructional techniques that engage students in partnership experiences
  • Faculty development initiatives, programs, and processes that promote students-as-partners in teaching and learning
  • New ways to use Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) to enhance student partnerships in teaching and learning
  • Strategies for incorporating diversity, culturally responsive pedagogy, and/or inclusive excellence into students-as-partners teaching and learning models and designs
  • High-Impact Educational Practices that enhance students as partners in teaching and learning
  • Student perspectives on partnerships in teaching and learning.

Presenters will also have the opportunity to submit their work for consideration in the annual Proceedings, to be published in late 2020. 

Submit proposals online at
19th Annual  Posters-at-the-Capitol
March 5th, Frankfort

Posters-at-the-Capitol  an event hosted collaboratively by Eastern Kentucky University, Kentucky Community and Technical College System, Kentucky State University, Morehead State University, Murray State University, Northern Kentucky University, University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, and Western Kentucky University, is intended to help members of Kentucky’s legislature and the Governor better understand the importance of involving undergraduates in research, scholarly, and creative work. It provides undergraduates with the opportunity to engage in scholarship, research, and creative work that is important to their educational experience and professional development. We encourage faculty to have their students participate in  Posters-at-the-Capitol to help those in Kentucky who fund higher education understand why these experiences are so important. 
Ambassadors for Excellence in Teaching
Morehead State University