Thursday, 4:00 – 5:40 pm

Classroom Location: Academic Learning Commons Room 4100

GRAD602_Spring2014_Syllabus (Downloadable Link)

Instructor Information

Jeff Nugent, o) 804.827.0563 (m) 804.920.2098
Office: Academic Learning Commons, 4102J
Office Hours: By appointment
CTE: http://www.vcu.edu/cte/aboutus/bios/nugent.htm
Email: jsnugent@vcu.edu
Blog: http://www.jeffnugent.net/blog
Links: http://www.diigo.com/user/jeffnugent
Twitter: http://twitter.com/jeffnugent

Britt Watwood, (o) 804.828.1896 (m) 804.335.7578
Office: Academic Learning Commons, 4102H
Office Hours: By appointment
CTE: http://www.vcu.edu/cte/aboutus/bios/watwood.htm
Email: bwatwood@vcu.edu
Blog: http://bwatwood.edublogs.org
Links: http://www.diigo.com/user/bwatwood
Twitter: http://twitter.com/bwatwood

Laura Gogia,
Office:  Academic Learning Commons, 4102V
Office Hours:  By appointment
Email:  gogialp@vcu.edu
Blog:  http://laurascoloringbook.blogspot.com

Course Description

Course Description
Contemporary higher education faces both unique challenges and amazing opportunities in the 21st century. Key among them is the preparation of faculty members who have the knowledge and skill to engage today’s students, and support learning in educational settings being shaped by digital technologies. Of central importance is the development of university faculty members who are not only subject matter experts with skills in pedagogy, but who also understand the importance of critical reflection at the intersection of pedagogy and subject matter knowledge in the development of teaching practice.

This course is designed to provide students in the Preparing Future Faculty Program with an introduction to contemporary instructional practices and exploration of relevant issues that can serve as both a foundation and a process for continued growth and development in understanding teaching and learning.

The course is organized into three (3) modules.   Each module provides an introduction to key ideas, questions and practices on a topic, and serves as a starting point for further study and learning.

Module I

This module begins with an exploration of beliefs and perspectives we hold about teaching. We start with the notion that our beliefs, assumptions and values about teaching significantly shape decisions we make about teaching practice. An important part of this module is to engage in the exploration of the tacit theories we hold about teaching in general and higher education specifically. Through a series of activities and discussions each student will begin to articulate their sense of personal identity as a teacher, and further, to consider what it might mean to be a scholar teacher. As a closing activity for this module, each student will be asked to create a draft for a “statement of teaching,” which will be revisited and hopefully modified throughout the course.

Module II

This module builds on the conversation begun in Module I, by extending the conversation to include beliefs and perspectives we hold about learning. We will consider contemporary findings from the research in the learning sciences, and ask questions about the extent to which this knowledge should inform teaching practice. Through readings and discussion, this module seeks to raise awareness about how people learn, and to stimulate further thinking about how our understanding of learning and learners might be a primary focus of teaching. As a closing activity for this module, each student will revisit their draft “statement of teaching,” and develop a second draft that takes into account knowledge and ideas related to our understanding of learning.

Module III

In Module III we shift our attention to the use of digital technology and the ways in which it can be meaningfully used in education. We will begin with consideration of how the World Wide Web and emerging digital technologies are changing the landscape of learning in higher education. Subsequent sessions will consider key instructional contexts / issues and explore the ways in which digital technology might enhance learning. Specific attention will be given to the ways in which we explore, select, use and assess the use of technology in teaching…along the way, we will build upon a conceptual framework that can serve to inform and support decision making in this domain.

Throughout all modules, students are encouraged to actively make connections among key ideas and practices in order to develop a meaningful foundation to support future growth as a critically reflective teacher.

Learning Goals

Learning in this course will be facilitated through exploration of perspectives we have about teaching and learning, consideration of how theory informs practice, discussion about key issues and questions, the reading and sharing of relevant resources, and individual reflection and writing. Collaboration, creativity, innovation and intellectual rigor are highly valued! Through regular and engaged participation, learners in the course will endeavor to:
Develop the habits of mind that support a scholarly approach to teaching.

  • Develop the habits of mind that support a scholarly approach to teaching.
  • Develop specialized knowledge and skills that lie at the intersection of subject matter knowledge, pedagogy and digital technology.
  • Develop the skills and attitudes associated with being a critically reflective teacher.

Expectations for Learning in the Course

We are of the view that the beliefs and assumptions we hold about how learning works can often determine teaching practice and shape the design of formal coursework. The institution of school and the complex relationships that come with being students and teachers also contribute significantly to shaping what it means to learn in this context. This course is designed to provide you with the opportunity to examine your own beliefs about learning and to begin developing a philosophy of teaching that questions and seeks to align those beliefs in practice. Below we outline some of the core beliefs we have about learning, and we will endeavor to put them into practice as we learn with you in this course:

  • Learning is an active and social process that involves learners in the shared construction of new ideas and understanding.
  • The construction of new ideas is significantly shaped by the prior knowledge of the learner. That is, learners use existing mental models (prior knowledge) to understand and make new meaning.
  • Individuals make meaning through interactions with each other and their environment. Knowledge is therefore a human product that is socially and culturally constructed.
  • Teachers and learners are equally involved in learning from and with each other. This requires the building of relationships that value inquiry, collaboration and the consideration of multiple perspectives.
  • Effective teaching with technology develops from many opportunities to apply your learning over time in a variety of contexts. Your learning in this course will serve as a foundation for thinking critically and reflectively in these contexts.

Key Course Activities

 Your engagement in course activities will provide you with the opportunity to be both a learner and a teacher. Key course activities are outlined below:

1) Development of a Learning Journal

An essential part of your learning in this course will be the development of a Learning Journal. Your learning journal will be in the form of a blog, and will serve as a primary space for you to reflect, question, comment, critique and share your ideas about what we are reading, discussing and learning in the course. The writing in this space will be accessible on the open web, and we hope will provide you with the opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue about both the process and content of our work together. By engaging with your colleagues and the public, you are expanding your horizons as a future academic and exploring what it means to shape your digital identity as a scholar in a new media environment. You are free to use your own name on your blog and to specifically reference GRAD 602, but you are not required to do so. In other words, if you prefer you can use a pseudonym for your blog and just let us know the URL so we can link to it. As with all aspects of digital identity, you should think carefully about whom you want to be on the web and make choices about what you share and what you do not. Below are some guidelines to help you think about the creation and development of your learning journal:

  • Your most important thinking and learning will likely take place outside of formal class meetings, your blog is the space to capture and share this thinking.
  • It is our hope, that through your committed reflection and writing, you will experience both community (closer connection with your fellow learners) and culture (participation in the wider blogosphere). You should see your writing / reflection as contributing to and participating in a larger conversation about teaching and learning in higher education.
  • You should endeavor to develop a weekly posting “habit” that you engage in throughout the course. To ensure that everyone receives some feedback about their journal posts, you will be part of a group of three (3) students who will provide regular feedback to one another. In addition, you should regularly read and comment on other posts of your fellow learners in the course that you find of interest.
  • While your learning journal will be one way you demonstrate your learning, we will not grade individual posts or number of comments. We will consider your blog holistically as evidence of your commitment to learning in this course.

You are welcome to use a blogging service of your own choosing (e.g., WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, etc.). If you do not have a blog, we recommend the following hosted blog sites and are prepared to provide guidance and support for their use in the course:

A complete collection of web-based tutorials on setting up and using WordPress is available here: (http://www.atomiclearning.com/highed/wordpress-36-training?cn=vcu)

2) Exploring the Scholar as Teacher

We believe that the practice of teaching is a craft that develops through a combination of learned skills, experience, engaged scholarship and reflection on practice. This view of teaching suggests the development of expertise in a unique knowledge domain – similar to the knowledge that constitutes subject matter expertise. We also believe that creation of a teaching identity is an important part of the development of this knowledge, and often involves exploration of one’s own philosophies of teaching, learning, and knowledge.  What does it mean to learn to teach? How is knowledge of teaching both separate from and complimentary to content matter expertise?  Moreover, how is scholarship integrated into teaching identity and the practice of teaching?

We have identified some books that we hope will facilitate your exploration of these and other questions. Some authors accentuate empirical research while others emphasize philosophical frameworks, but most tend to circle back to the actual teaching experience, telling the stories of one or more teachers in their pursuit of better understanding teaching and learning. Our hope is that these books will offer a variety of opportunity for our discussions regarding the changing roles of teachers, students, classrooms, content, and process in higher education.  They will also help you explore the concept of the scholar-teacher and how you might begin to define that as part of your future practice.

As part of your learning about teaching in GRAD 602, you will be asked to:

  • Select and read one (1) of the books listed below.
  • Author a 5-7 page reflective book review.  The review affords you the opportunity to critique the text through a review of key ideas, raising questions, and discussing how the book shaped, challenged, or informed your emerging identity as a teacher and/or scholar-teacher.

Ambrose, S. et. al. (2010). How Learning Works: 7 Research-based Principles for Smart Teaching. Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series. Jossey-Bass, Inc. Written for university-level educators, this book identifies seven principles underlying learning as identified by researchers in a variety of fields, ranging from organizational behavior to cognitive psychology to anthropology.   These principles are explored and applied in many relevant, in-classroom examples.

Bain, K. (2011). What the Best College Teachers Do. Harvard University Press.  This book is the culmination of a fifteen-year study of nearly one hundred college teachers regarding their most effective teaching strategies.  In stories both humorous and touching, Bain describes examples of ingenuity and compassion, of students’ discoveries of new ideas and the depth of their own potential.

Brookfield, S. D. (1995). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series. Jossey-Bass, Inc.  Building on adult learning theory as well as his own extensive teaching experience, Brookfield thoughtfully guides teachers through the processes of becoming critically reflective about teaching, confronting the contradictions involved in creating democratic classrooms, and using critical reflection as a tool for ongoing personal and professional development.

Palmer, P. J. (2010). The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life. John Wiley & Sons. This book builds on the premise: “Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.”  Using his own experience, Palmer guides readers through the inner work of teaching in order to help them connect more deeply with their vocation, colleagues, and students to create better communities of learning.

Weimer, M. (2013). Learner-centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice. John Wiley & Sons. This is a comprehensive introduction to learner-centered teaching in the college classroom.  It includes up-to-date examples of practice in action from a variety of disciplines, a chapter on the research supporting learner-centered approaches, and an in-depth discussion of how students’ developmental issues impact the effectiveness of learner-centered teaching. Learner-Centered Teaching shows how to tie teaching and curriculum to the process and objectives of learning rather than to the content delivery alone.


**Publication Option – We believe there is value in contributing to the wider body of knowledge of what it means to learn to teach, and that the narrative of emerging teacher identity is an important source of information in our shared pursuit of understanding teaching and learning in higher education. At the close of the course, you will have the option of contributing to a collection of reflective book reviews authored by your peers in GRAD 602. These collected reviews will be published as an eBook and made openly available on the web. We hope you will make a contribution to this publication by agreeing to share your review.

3) Attendance and Participation

Because we place importance on building community in the course, we believe that your regular and consistent engagement in the community is critical to your learning. We will rely on you to not only learn the material for yourself, but to also help each other learn, understand, and apply the material in a variety of ways. Participation in the course will be marked by active learning, discussion and group activities, in both face-to-face and online settings. Your presence, preparedness and regular participation in these settings are essential for optimal learning. If you miss more than three (3) class sessions, you will not be able to pass the course.

This being said, we also recognize that life intervenes – for all of us – and we have to deal with responsibilities that will prevent us from full participation on a given occasion. We will endeavor to be as flexible as possible in understanding these situations as they arise, and ask that you let us know in a timely manner so we can best support you.

4) Self-Evaluation

An important part of your growth as a teacher and a learner is your ability to self-evaluate your performance and understanding. Throughout this course you will be asked to self-evaluate your work and your learning. A required component of successful course completion will consist of a self-evaluation of your work in the course and overall achievement of the learning goals. Rubrics will be provided to assist you in the assessment of your learning and performance in a holistic and meaningful way.


Formal grading for this course will be determined on a “pass / fail” basis. Your grade will be based on a holistic assessment of your active participation in all course activities, and the contributions you make in support of the learning of your peers. Ultimately, our expectation is that you care about your learning and will strive to do excellent work.

We also believe that ongoing and timely feedback is a crucial support of learning. Throughout the course you will both receive and provide feedback about how you are learning.

Your work and engagement in each of the following activities are required for successful completion of the course:

  • Actively participate in all class activities (face-to-face & online).
  • Actively maintain your Learning Journal through regular / weekly reflective posts, and through regular commenting on the posts of your peers in the course.
  • Complete a 5-7 page paper that synthesizes the book you selected (due May 1st).
  • Complete a course reflection / self-evaluation (due May 8th).

Course Materials

Books – This course will require you to purchase one (1) book of your choosing (see previous section on Exploring Scholar as Teacher). All other course readings will be freely available as links or file downloads from the GRAD602 course site. You will also be writing some of the reading material for this course through the development of your Learning Journal (blog).

Accounts for web services – Throughout the semester you may be asked to set up and maintain accounts for web-based services and software applications. All of these services are free, but you should be comfortable managing multiple user accounts. More importantly, you should understand that as you participate in these spaces you are leaving a digital footprint that contributes to your online identity. If you have questions or concerns about this please speak with your instructors directly.

Course Topics (Weekly Overview)

The schedule below reflects a general overview of key topics that we plan to address over the spring semester. However, given both the nature of this course, and our own philosophy of teaching, this schedule will be somewhat fluid. In order to ensure that we are meeting your needs / interests, we invite you to share with us your own interests and expectations so that we can do our best to integrate them into the course where appropriate. In addition, our work with digital media can often involve unanticipated technical challenges. So, although the syllabus itself will not change, the course schedule may require revision from time to time. As a result, please visit our #GRAD602 WordPress site for schedule updates, detailed information about course readings, and links to resources and specific assignment descriptions that are linked to specific weekly topics.


Class Sessions



Session 1

 January 16

Introduction to Teaching, Learning and technology in Higher Education

  • Review course design / goals, learning journals, book selection.
  • Identification and discussion of key issues / ideas in teaching, learning & technology in higher education
  • (Assignment: Complete TPI http://www.teachingperspectives.com/drupal/)

Session 2
(Module I)

 January 23

Exploring Perspectives of Teaching

  • Discuss ideas from completion of Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI)
  • Examine beliefs, values and implicit assumptions of the role of teachers
  • (Assignment: Select book for Critical Reading)

Session 3
(Module I)

 January 30

Understanding Knowledge Growth in Teaching

  • Explore and discuss knowledge domains in teaching
  • Consider Lee Shulman’s concept of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) as model for understanding knowledge growth in teaching


Session 4
(Module I)

 February 6

Conceptualizing Scholarly Teaching

(Guest Instructor: Dr. Enoch Hale)

  • Who is the teacher scholar?
  • What are the characteristics, traits and dimensions of scholarly teaching?
  • Small group concept mapping
  • Identification of relevant SoTL journals
  • (Assignment: DRAFT I statement of teaching)

Session 5
(Module II)

 February 13


What do We Know About How People Learn?

  • Examine beliefs about learning
  • Consider and discuss key examples and findings from HPL literature
  • To what extent should knowledge of HPL inform teaching practice?
  • (Assignment: Read selected book / post to your Learning Journal)

Session 6
(Module II)

 February 20

Conceptualizing Ways of Knowing

  • Examine beliefs about and definitions of knowledge
  • Consider differences between positivism and constructivism
  • Connect personal epistemologies to assumptions about teaching and learning
  • (Assignment: Read selected book / post to your Learning Journal)

Session 7
(Module II)

 February 27

Considering Models of Learning

  • Explore taxonomies and models as narratives of how learning works
  • Discuss Bloom’s taxonomy, SOLO Taxonomy, Shulman’s table of learning, Fink’s taxonomy of significant learning
  • Aligning personal perspectives of teaching and learning
  • Assignment: Read selected book / post to your Learning Journal)

Session 8
(Module II)

 March 6

What Does Good Learning Look Like?


(SGID for portion of session)

  • Envisioning formal and non-formal learning
  • Classroom and web-mediated learning
  • Case studies
  • (Assignment: DRAFT II statement of teaching+learning)

Spring Break, March 9-16


Session 9

 March 20

SGID Debrief

  • Discussion of SGID process
  • Review feedback / findings from SGID activity
  • Course assessment practices

Session 10
(Module III)

 March 27

Digital Technology and the Changing Landscape of Learning

  • Clay Shirky clip
  • Identification of key issues and ideas
  • Introduction of TPCK
  • How do we make decisions about using digital technology to enhance or augment teaching & learning?
  • (Assignment: Read selected book / post to your Learning Journal)

Session 11
(Module III)

 April 3

Web Supported Course Sites: Platforms of Participation?

  • Review TPCK
  • Identify example LMS systems
  • Discuss role and adoption of learning management systems (LMS)
  • Consider pedagogical implications of LMS technology
  • Explore alternative platforms
  • (Assignment: Read selected book / post to your Learning Journal)

Session 12
(Module III)

 April 10

Developing Learning Content: Creation and Curation

  • Identify and discuss example uses of digital technologies that support development of learning content
  • Consider curation as an act of developing learning content
  • (Assignment: Read selected book / post to your Learning Journal)

Session 13
(Module III)


Exploring New Forms of Communication and Collaboration

  • Identify and discuss example uses of digital technologies that support course-based communication and collaboration
  • Consider how networked communication can shape learner interaction.
  • (Assignment: Read selected book / post to your Learning Journal)

Session 14
(Module III)

 April 24

Using Digital Technologies to Support Assessment

  • What is the role and function of assessment in learning?
  • Distinguish b/t formative and summative assessment
  • Consider use of digital technologies to support assessment
  • (Assignment: Read selected book / post to your Learning Journal)

Session 15

 May 1


Making the Case

(+ Course Reflections)

  • The final class session will present a case for discussion and synthesis of major ideas discussed in the course.
  • (Assignment: Submit Exploring the Scholar as Teacher reflective paper.)

Finals Week

 May 8


  • (Assignment: Complete and email course reflection / self-evaluation to instructors)


Course Policies

Laptops / Smartphones in the Classroom: We encourage the meaningful use of laptops and smartphones to support learning. If you have a laptop / smartphone you may use it during class to support activities directly related to learning in the course. Computing activities not directly related to learning in the course are discouraged during class time.

Email Policy: Electronic mail or “email” is considered an official method for communication at VCU because it delivers information in a convenient, timely, cost effective, and environmentally aware manner. This policy ensures that all students have access to this important form of communication. It ensures students can be reached through a standardized channel by faculty and other staff of the University as needed. Mail sent to the VCU email address may include notification of University-related actions, including disciplinary action.

Please read the policy in its entirety: http://www.ts.vcu.edu/kb/3407.html

VCU Honor System: Plagiarism and Academic Integrity

 The VCU honor system policy describes the responsibilities of students, faculty, and administration in upholding academic integrity, while at the same time respecting the rights of individuals to the due process offered by administrative hearings and appeals. According to his policy, “members of the academic community are required to conduct themselves in accordance with the highest standards of academic honesty and integrity.” In addition, “All members of the VCU community are presumed to have an understanding of the VCU Honor System and are required to:

  •  Agree to be bound by the Honor System policy and its procedures;
  • Report suspicion or knowledge of possible violations of the Honor System;
  • Support an environment that reflects a commitment to academic integrity;
  • Answer truthfully when called upon to do so regarding Honor System cases, and,
  • Maintain confidentiality regarding specific information in Honor System cases.

Most importantly, “All VCU students are presumed upon enrollment to have acquainted themselves with and have an understanding of the Honor System.” (The VCU Insider).

The Honor System in its entirety can be reviewed on the Web at http://www.provost.vcu.edu/pdfs/Honor_system_policy.pdf or it can be found in the current issue of the VCU Insider at http://www.students.vcu.edu/insider.html.

In this class, because coursework will be collaborative at times, particular issues of integrity arise. You should not copy or print another student’s work without permission. Any material (this includes IDEAS and LANGUAGE) from another source must be credited, whether that material is quoted directly, summarized, or paraphrased. In other words, you should respect the work of others and in no way present it as their own.

Student Conduct in the Classroom:

According to the Faculty Guide to Student Conduct in Instructional Settings, “The instructional program at VCU is based upon the premise that students enrolled in a class are entitled to receive instruction free from interference by other students. Accordingly, in classrooms, laboratories, studies, and other learning areas, students are expected to conduct themselves in an orderly and cooperative manner so that the faculty member can proceed with their [sic] customary instruction. Faculty members (including graduate teaching assistants) may set reasonable standards for classroom behavior in order to serve these objectives. If a student believes that the behavior of another student is disruptive, the instructor should be informed.” Among other things, cell phones and beepers should be turned off while in the classroom. Also, the University Rules and Procedures prohibit anyone from having “.in his possession any firearm, other weapon, or explosive, regardless of whether a license to possess the same has been issued, without the written authorization of the President of the university…” For more information, visit the VCU Insider online.

Certainly the expectation in this course is that students will attend class with punctuality, proper decorum, required course material, and studious involvement.

The VCU Insider contains additional important information about a number of other policies with which students should be familiar, including Guidelines on Prohibition of Sexual Harassment, Grade Review Procedure, and Ethics Policy on Computing. It also contains maps, phone numbers, and information about resources available to VCU students.

Students with Disabilities:

SECTION 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as amended, require that VCU provides “academic adjustments ” or “reasonable accommodations” to any student who has  a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.  To receive accommodations, students must request them by contacting the Disability Support Services Office (DSS) on the Monroe Park Campus (828-2253) or the Division for Academic Success on the MCV campus (828-9782).   More information is available at the Disability Support Services webpage  or the Division for Academic Success webpage.

If you have a disability that requires an academic accommodation, please schedule a meeting with me at your earliest convenience. Additionally, if your coursework requires you to work in a lab environment, you should advise me or department chairperson of any concerns you may have regarding safety issues related to your disability. This statement applies not only to this course but also to every other course in this University.

Statement on Military Short-Term Training or Deployment

Military students may receive orders for short-term training or deployment. These students are asked to inform and present their orders to Military Student Services and to their professor(s). For further information on policies and procedures contact Military Services at 828-5993 or access the corresponding policies at http://www.pubapps.vcu.edu/bulletins/about/?Default.aspx?uid=10096&iid=30704 and http://www.pubapps.vcu.edu/BULLETINS/undergraduate/?uid=10096&iid=30773.

Excused Absences for Students Representing the University

Students who represent the university (athletes and others) do not choose their schedules. Student athletes are required to attend games and/or meets. All student athletes should provide their schedule to the instructor at the beginning of the semester. The Intercollegiate Athletic Council (IAC) strongly encourages faculty to treat missed classes or exams (because of a scheduling conflict) as excused absences and urges faculty to work with the students to make up the work or exam.

Religious Observances: It is the policy of VCU to accord students, on an individual basis, the opportunity to observe their traditional religious holidays. Students desiring to observe a religious holiday of special importance must provide advance written notification to the instructor by the end of the second week of classes.

Important Dates: Important dates for the Spring 2013 semester are available at: http://www.pubinfo.vcu.edu/calendar/ac_fullViewNew.asp?aYear=2013&aSemester=2

Emergency Preparation: What to Know and Do To Be Prepared for Emergencies at VCU:

  • Sign up to receive VCU text messaging alerts (http://www.vcu.edu/alert/notify). Keep your information up-to-date. Within the classroom, the professor will keep his or her phone on to receive any emergency transmissions.
  • Know the safe evacuation route from each of your classrooms. Emergency evacuation routes are posted in on-campus classrooms.
  • Listen for and follow instructions from VCU or other designated authorities. Within the classroom, follow your professor’s instructions.
  • Know where to go for additional emergency information (http://www.vcu.edu/alert).
  • Know the emergency phone number for the VCU Police (828-1234). Report suspicious activities and objects.

VCU Mobile

The VCU Mobile application is a valuable tool to get the latest VCU information on the go. The application contains helpful information including the VCU directory, events, course schedules, campus maps, athletics and general VCU news, emergency information, library resources, Blackboard and more. To download the application on your smart phone or for more information, please visit http://m.vcu.edu.