The final days of the semester can be a great time to engage students in reflective thinking about their own learning. End-of-term reviews often focus solely on course content, but you can also use this time to prompt student "metacognition," or thinking about their own learning, asking students to notice how they learn best, assess their strengths and weaknesses, and plan future approaches to learning. Such reflective thinking is an important component of learning that can easily be overlooked in the rush to cover content. But by helping students develop metacognitive habits, you can help solidify their learning in your course, increase their ability to make use of it in future courses, and enhance their capacities as self-directed learners.

What are some effective ways to prompt metacognition in the final days of the term? Good ideas we've heard at CRLT include:

  • Review your syllabus, reminding students of your learning objectives for each unit or assignment. Have them write a 'minute paper' assessing their mastery of each goal.
  • Invite students to analyze one of their first assessments of the term, considering how they would approach the assignment or test differently now. What knowledge, skills, or habits of mind they have developed that were not evident in the early part of the semester? 
  • Collect advice from current students for future students who take the course. What were their most and least effective study strategies or writing practices? What were the most challenging concepts to learn and how did they (or could they have) overcome those challenges? 

Of course, these activities not only help students assess and plan their learning--they can also help you understand in greater detail what students have gained from your course. For additional ideas about teaching metacognition (including bibliographies of the research into how it improves learning), check out these resources:


If you teach using presentation software such as Google Slides or PowerPoint, do you ever wonder whether your slides are more of a distraction than an aid to learning? At CRLT, we regularly consult with instructors who want to maximize the instructional value of their slides but aren't sure how to do so. 

In this CRLT video, Assistant Director Rachel Niemer identifies some common problems with instructors' use of presentation slides and provides concrete strategies for effective slide design, drawing insights from research on how attention, memory, and recall work in a learning environment. One of the most popular videos on our website, her presentation on "PowerPoint Supported by the Science of Learning" offers guidance on:

  • How to create slides so that students can focus on what is most important
  • When it's most effective to use slides vs. when it's best not to
  • How to create slide presentations efficiently by using a simple template that minimizes distractions and focuses attention on key concepts 

For more on teaching strategies informed by the science of learning, click on the tag below.  Read more »


GSIs across campus are being recognized for their excellent teaching this month. CRLT warmly congratulates winners of Rackham's Outstanding GSI Award and the College of Engineering's Richard and Eleanor Towner Prize for Outstanding GSIs. Selected from large pools of nominees, all of these instructors have demonstrated extraordinary commitment, creativity, and overall excellence in their teaching.

The four Towner awardees were honored at the College of Engineering's Student Leaders and Honors Brunch on March 16. Rackham will be hosting an awards ceremony to honor its nineteen prize-winners, along with outstanding faculty mentors, on April 14. For more information, including the names and departments of all of the winners, see this Rackham page and this College of Engineering page


As memories of Spring Break fade and we head into the final stretch of winter term, it's a great time to think about student motivation. How effectively are your courses engaging your students and motivating them to learn? 

While it can sometimes feel that students simply choose to be engaged or apathetic for their own reasons, the research on motivation clearly indicates that instructor choices significantly affect students' investment in learning. And motivation plays a key role in how effectively students master course material. As Susan Ambrose and her co-authors argue in How Learning Works (Jossey-Bass, 2010), research shows that people are motivated to learn when they:

  1. See the value, either intrinsic or extrinsic, of learning the particular material or skills, and
  2. Believe they can succeed.

What teaching strategies do these motivational factors suggest? To help students appreciate the value of the learning goals in your course, you can: Read more »

Engaged learning is a key focus of University of Michigan's teaching efforts, given the power of active, immersive approaches for promoting student learning. Service-learning, fieldwork, and other forms of what is often called 'experiential learning' allow students to make discoveries about course content, connect realms of knowledge and experience, and think critically about their own actions. 
Given the practical and logistical challenges often involved in setting up such experiential learning opportunities, how can instructors maximize the student learning that results? Several questions can be useful to consider carefully while planning such a student experience: What kinds of preparation will help students reap the greatest learning rewards of such activities? How can an instructor best connect an immersive activity to the learning goals of the course? How can the teacher effectively prompt students to reflect on their experience to promote learning?

At the U-M School of Nursing, Clinical Assistant Professor Michelle Aebersold has led the way with integrating a powerful form of experiential learning—care for simulated patients—into the undergraduate curriculum, paying careful attention to all of those questions. In this video, Aebersold explains how she structured the simulations to enable nursing students at the Clinical Learning Center to practice key skills and apply their knowledge in a realistic but controlled environment. In these exercises, a few students interact with a state-of-the-art, high-fidelity mannequin or live simulated patient while instructors behind a two-way mirror control the patient responses (breathing and heart rate, for example). Classmates observe the activities through live closed-circuit video. 
Discussing the key components that make these simulations powerful learning activities, Aebersold highlights three elements that research supports as good practice for any kind of experiential learning: